Chevrolet Recalls Bolt EV After Battery Fires

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Chevrolet is recalling almost 51,000 Bolt EVs in the U.S. after reports that their battery packs may catch fire.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the all-electric Bolt in October after five reports of vehicle fires related to the vehicle’s batteries, including two reports of smoke inhalation and multiple reports of property damage—including significant damage to a home in Monroe, N.J.

In all cases, the fire appeared to have started under the rear seat while the vehicle was unoccupied, NHTSA documents say. A Chevrolet spokesman says the automaker had started its own internal investigation before NHTSA’s announcement.

Although Chevrolet says it does not yet have a permanent fix for the problem, dealers will have a software update available Nov. 17 that will reduce the battery’s maximum charge to 90 percent. Chevrolet says the batteries of the vehicles that caught fire were either fully charged or almost fully charged.

“We believe this action will reduce the risk of vehicle fire while we work to identify the root cause and determine the appropriate final remedy as soon as possible,” Bolt executive chief engineer Jesse Ortega said in a video provided by Chevrolet.

The automaker expects a full remedy to be ready in early 2021, at which point the charging limitation will be removed.

Owners are instructed to make an appointment with a Chevrolet dealer as soon as possible to get the software update. In the meantime, the automaker has given specific instructions that owners should complete immediately.

Owners of 2019 Bolts Are Instructed To:

• Push the green “Energy” button on the center display screen.
• Select “Charging.”
• Press “Target Charge Level.”
• Hit the minus button twice to move the pointer down two notches. Make sure to do this for both home and away locations if you use location-based charging.
• Once you plug in the vehicle, you will see the message “Target Charge Level Active.”

Owners of 2017 and 2018 Bolts Have Slightly Different Instructions:

• Push the green “Energy” button on the center display screen.
• Select “Energy Settings.”
• Select “Hill Top Reserve,” and set to “On.” A “Hill Top Reserve” message will appear when the car is on the charger.

Chevrolet says owners who are unable to change these settings should park their vehicles outside, away from structures.

The Bolt uses batteries supplied by LG Chem. The electric Hyundai Kona was also recalled earlier this year after 12 reports of its LG Chem batteries catching fire in parked vehicles.

The Details

Vehicles recalled: Over 51,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs from the 2017 through 2019 model years.

The problem: The vehicle’s batteries may catch fire.

The fix: Chevrolet dealers will perform a software update that limits the battery’s full charge level until a fix is available. The automaker says that its engineers are working on a fix that they hope to have ready early in 2021, at which point the battery charge limitation will be removed.

How to contact the manufacturer: The automaker has set up a web page to answer owners’ questions. Owners can also call 833-EV-CHEVY (833-382-4389).

NHTSA campaign number: NHTSA does not yet have a campaign number for this recall.