Chevy Bolt battery recall expanded by GM to every Bolt sold worldwide

GM is expanding the recall campaign for its Chevrolet Bolt EV to include every example of the car sold worldwide since its introduction in 2017 through model year 2022, to address a battery problem that has been blamed for multiple vehicle fires.

The Associated Press reported that the recall announced Friday adds about 73,000 Bolts from the 2019 through 2022 model years to a previous recall of 69,000 older Bolts. NHTSA’s announcment, however, said the recall affects an additional 59,392 model year 2019-2022 vehicles that were not covered in previous recalls. Autoblog confirmed with a GM spokesperson that the campaign now includes all Bolt EVs— and also the new Bolt EUV model — sold throughout the Bolt’s run.

GM said Friday the recall will cost it an additional $1 billion and is seeking at least partial reimbursement from battery supplier LG Chem.

Some owners’ cars have already been recalled twice for the same potential battery fire issue, and customers are still being urged to carefully monitor their cars’ state of charge and park them outside when possible. Specifically, GM advises owners to:

  • Set their vehicle to the 90% state of charge limitation using Hilltop Reserve mode (2017 and 2018 model years) or Target Charge Level mode (2019-2022 model years).
    • If owners are unable to set their vehicles to the 90% state of charge limitation mode, or if they feel uncomfortable making the change, GM is asking owners to visit a local dealer immediately to have the change made.
  • Recharge the battery on their Bolts after each use and not wait until the battery is almost run down (deep discharge mode) before charging it back up.

In April, GM announced that it had developed diagnostic software to look for anomalies identified in a November recall spurred by reports of multiple battery fires. Two people suffered smoke inhalation and a house was set ablaze.

GM and LG Chem together determined that batteries that caught fire were near a full state of charge. As a temporary fix, owners and dealers were told to make software changes to limit charging to 90% of a battery’s capacity. GM traced the fires to what it called at the time a rare manufacturing defect in battery modules which can cause a short in a cell, triggering a fire. 

The recall came after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the fires last year. The agency said in documents that the fires began under the rear seat while the cars were parked and unattended.

Engineers had originally determined that only Bolts with battery packs manufactured at LG Chem’s factory in Ochang, South Korea, from May 2016 to May 2019 posed a fire risk, but this recent expansion will include models with battery packs supplied by LG Chem’s Holland, Michigan, facility. Previously, these were not considered high-risk. 

The ongoing recall of the Chevy Bolt had already hit GM’s earnings prospects by $800 million, the company said, when it announced its second-quarter financial results. GM’s total losses in the quarter due to ongoing recalls company-wide was estimated at $1.3 billion, meaning the Bolt campaign alone accounts for more than 60% of GM’s current recall-related costs.

The Bolt recall is major but pales in comparison to GM’s recall of 2.7 million cars over faulty ignition switches that could cause the engines to stall — which was blamed for 124 people killed and 275 injured. That recall cost GM $5.3 billion. 

CEO Mary Barra has noted that the company’s new Ultium battery architecture being developed for future products such as the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq, is unaffected by the issue.