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GM recalls 68,667 Chevy Bolt EVs (’17-’19) citing unlikely potential fire risk

GM is announcing today that it is initiating a voluntary recall of 68,667 Chevy Bolt EV electric cars model year 2017 to 2019 over a potential fire risk. There have been 5 reported fires in close to 70,000 vehicles produced.

What you need to know if you are a 2017-2019 Bolt Owner:

  • There have only been 5 fires out of almost 70,000 cars on the road over 3.5 years
  • GM recommends that you don’t park your car in a garage at full state of charge
  • GM recommends that 2017-2018 Bolt owners set “Hilltop” state of charge or 2019 owners manually set to 90% when charging. Instructions are below. Some 2019 Bolts were made from LG Cells manufactured in Holland MI and those aren’t affected by this recall.
  • Chevy Dealerships will put a 90% top limit on the amount of charge (There is no OTA) until there is a long term solution found. You can enter your Bolt VIN here to start the process.

Last month, we reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was investigating three instances of fires that originated in Chevy Bolt EV vehicles without impacts from accidents.

The news came just as Hyundai was starting to recall all of its Kona Electric vehicles over a potential risk of fire.

Both the Kona EV and Bolt EV use pouch battery cells from LG Chem. Other EVs use LG Chem pouch cells built during this time.

Now GM announced today that it is in fact recalling almost all 2017, 2018, and 2019 Bolt EV vehicles, which amounts to 68,667 vehicles around the world, over 50,000 of which are in the US.

2020 Chevy Bolt EVs, which are equipped with updated 66kWh LG Chem battery cells, are not subject to the recall.

In a call with the media prior to the notice going to NHTSA and customers, GM appeared to be placing the blame with LG Chem – GM’s battery cell partner.

GM mentioned that there are 5 known instances of Bolt EV fires, 2 more than the NHTSA investigation.

The automaker is introducing a temporary fix by locking the 10% capacity in the battery packs.

Tesla is suspected to have used a similar tactic in earlier Model S and Model X vehicles – though without telling customers about it. Tesla used an OTA update that reduced the range of those vehicles. GM can’t do this via OTA, they confirmed with Electrek.

Owners of 2017-2018 Bolt EVs can do this themselves by instigating the “Hilltop reserve” function in the charging settings, but 2019 Bolt EV owners apparently have to do this manually.

In some 2019 Chevy Bolts, cells from Holland, Michigan (and not South Korea) were used. Those vehicles along with the 66kWh 2020 model year Bolt EVs are NOT affected by this recall and may proceed without any changes.

GM is expected to implement a more permanent fix by the end of the year and in the meantime, it asks owners to not park their cars inside garages.

To be fair, there’s no statistical evidence that shows electric vehicles catching on fire at a higher rate than gasoline-powered vehicles. There are over 200,000 gasoline-vehicle fires reported every year in the US alone

However, since electric vehicles represent an emerging technology, there’s an abundance of caution around the technology and a lot of interest when incidents like those happen.

Update: GM has produced a press release and video below:

As you may be aware, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into a few reports the agency received from Chevrolet Bolt EV owners about potential fires.  GM had already been investigating these reports prior to that announcement, in cooperation with NHTSA.

We wanted you to hear directly from Chevrolet about your vehicle and what you can expect from us. General Motors and Chevrolet have decided to voluntarily recall select 2017-2019 model-year Chevrolet Bolt EVs with high voltage batteries produced at LG Chem’s Ochang, Korea facility that may pose a risk of fire when charged to full, or very close to full, capacity.

The safety of our products is the highest priority for the entire GM and Chevrolet team.  We are working around the clock on our continued investigation. 

We will be providing our dealers with a software update beginning November 17, 2020 that will limit the charge for all the vehicles in this population to 90% while we continue to investigate the cause of these incidents.  In the meantime, we know that the safety of our owners and their families is paramount, which is why we’re asking owners to take the following steps now that will limit the charge capacity to 90% and reduce the risk of fire.

If you have a 2017 or 2018 model-year Bolt EV:

• Change the vehicle charge settings to use the Hill Top Reserve option

If you have a 2019 model-year Bolt EV:

• Change the vehicle charge settings to enable Target Charge Level at 90%

For instructions on how to activate these settings, please watch the video above.

If you are unable to successfully make these changes, or do not feel comfortable making these changes, we ask you to not park your car in your garage or carport until after you have visited your dealer.

We recommend scheduling a service appointment with your dealership beginning November 17 to update the vehicle’s battery software to automatically limit the maximum state of charge to 90 percent. Our engineers are working around the clock to identify a permanent fix and we intend to deploy a final remedy to remove the 90% limitation as quickly as possible after the first of the year, 2021.

For the 2017-2018 Chevy Bolt: Hilltop reserve Energy Settings

To view and change the Energy Settings, touch Energy and then touch Energy Settings. Use the arrows to scroll through the list. The following list of menu items may be available: . Location Based Charging This feature allows the charging settings to be remembered at the saved GPS coordinates for the home location. See “Location Based Charging” in Programmable Charging 0 124. . Hill Top Reserve : Select Off, On, On – Home Only, or On – Away Only. See “Hill Top Reserve” in Regenerative Braking 0 212

For the 2019 Chevy Bolt go to 2 minutes in the following video to set to 90%. From the manual:

2019 page 138 Target Charge Level This mode allows the charging range for the vehicle to be set based on what is needed. When at a public pay station and a full charge is not needed, the target charge level can be set to only get as much range as needed. If driving on a hill, the target charge level can be set to stop the charge before the battery is full to allow space for energy from regenerative braking when going down a hill. There is a minimum target charge level. Once this level is reached, – will be grayed out. Touch the Target Charge Level tab on the Charging screen.

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