As the battery-related recall expands to include every Bolt EV and Bolt EUV Chevrolet has sold in the U.S., the automaker and NHTSA have offered updated suggestions to Bolt owners to minimize the risk of fires.
One temporary remedy for the defective battery is that Bolt EVs should not be charged indoors, overnight, or to more than a 90 percent state of charge. They should also not be driven so that the battery shows less than 70 miles left in the pack.
But Recurrent, which can monitor battery usage from its subscribers, says that up to 30 percent of Bolt drivers are not following these rules.
The already large Chevy Bolt EV recall grew this week to include every unit that Chevrolet has sold in the U.S., even the new Bolt EUVs that use the same battery pack. The problem, as we’ve known since General Motors announced the initial recall in the fall of 2020, is that in rare circumstances the battery could ignite due to “defective battery modules.” The recall now involves 110,000 EVs, and their owners have been given specific guidance about how to take care of their vehicle while waiting for a full replacement to happen. The problem, according to battery-monitoring service Recurrent: about 30 percent of Bolt drivers aren’t following that guidance correctly.
As we’ve noted, GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have offered different fixes for this problem since it first announced a recall for 2017-2019 model year Chevrolet Bolt EVs in November 2020. At the time, GM said Bolt owners should not park indoors and also limit charging to at most 90 percent full (the setting can be adjusted using the Bolt’s Hilltop Reserve mode in 2017–2018 vehicles and Target Charge Level mode in later models). Then, in July, owners were told not to recharge their EVs overnight and to not drive so much on one charge that the battery drops to below 70 miles of remaining range. This month, the recall was expanded to include 2019 model Bolt EV and all 2020–2022 Bolt EV and Bolt EUV models. The total cost to GM is now estimated to be $1.8 billion.
The overall number of Bolt EV fires suspected to be caused by this defect is quite low. NHTSA started investigating the issue due to three fires and later said it was aware of four fires that started despite drivers following the suggested remedies. However, despite the potential seriousness of the problem, it appears not all Bolt drivers are listening to the company or NHTSA.
This insight comes to us from Recurrent, which monitors battery information from electric=vehicle drivers who subscribe to the service in order to analyze battery health. Recurrent has been watching 1000 Chevy Bolt subscribers since early August, and this week said its real-world numbers show that up to 30 percent of these Bolt owners are not following GM’s new charging guidelines to keep the pack below 90 percent full and above 70 miles of remaining range, which the NHTSA calls “deep discharge mode.”
“Our data is showing that a lot of Chevy Bolt owners are going to have to change their behavior,” said Recurrent CEO Scott Case in a statement. “For some, this could be a hardship if they have long commutes and require more range than the new guidelines allow, especially during the summer when hot temperatures and extra A/C usage affect battery performance.”
Recurrent says its subscribers represent “highly engaged and attentive owners,” and that, in general, they did respond to the new charge level guidance from GM, but there are still people who either don’t know about the safety suggestions or have decided not to follow them. The recall’s expansion to include 2019–2022 Bolt vehicles means it’s likely it will take even longer for GM to provide permanent fixes.
“Newer Chevy Bolt owners need to pay attention to this recall now,” Case said. “One hundred thousand batteries can’t get replaced overnight given supply-chain woes and high demand for new EVs so this will take some time.”
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