GM recalls 68,000 Chevy Bolt EVs after reports of battery fires

Roberto Baldwin/Engadget

You might need to take your Chevy Bolt in for major service. Detroit News and The Verge report that GM is recalling 68,677 Bolt EVs (50,900 in the US) to help it identify the causes of five battery fires between 2017 and 2019. The car maker has found some common elements behind the fires, including their origins at an LG Chem plant as well as charge levels.

The recall doesn’t cover 2020 Bolts that use an updated battery chemistry. GM doesn’t believe every Bolt is affected, but the company’s Jesse Ortega said it was “prudent” to take action while it investigated.

GM will try to “reduce the risk” of fires by flashing the Bolt’s firmware to limit charges to 90 percent capacity. The update should be available starting November 17th. The company should have a more definitive remedy in 2021, and is telling existing drivers to use either the Hilltop Reserve setting (2018 and earlier) or Target Charge Level (on 2019 models) to cap charge levels.

Battery fires in EVs are uncommon, but they also aren’t new. The NHTSA is already investigating Tesla over fire reports, while Audi and others have also recalled some vehicles. Those recalls were typically much smaller, though (Audi’s covered just 500 E-Tron units), while GM’s reflects a large portion of the Bolt customer base. If nothing else, this is a reminder that there are still a few lingering questions about EV battery safety.