GM Will Start Replacing Defective Bolt Batteries in October
(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. and battery supplier LG Corp. of South Korea say they’ve found a fix to avoid battery fires in the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, signaling the potential resolution to a recall that has bedeviled the plug-in car for almost a year.
The two companies have improved their manufacturing process for lithium-ion batteries in the Bolt and larger Bolt EUV and have already started building the cells and packs at two plants in Michigan, GM said Monday. The Detroit automaker plans to start replacing the defective batteries in October.
If the solution works, GM and LG may be able to get beyond a dangerous and embarrassing recall that had Chevrolet dealing with impatient customers since July. While the two companies looked to find a solution, Bolt owners were told not to fully recharge or come close to depleting the batteries, and they had to park the cars outside and away from other vehicles.
“We’re grateful for the patience of owners and dealers as we work to advance solutions to this recall,” said Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president for Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, in a statement. “Resuming battery module production is a first step and we’ll continue to work aggressively with LG to obtain additional battery supply.”
LG may also add production so GM can replace more replacement battery modules and start producing the Bolt and Bolt EUV. GM idled the vehicle assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, in August when the automaker decided that the LG batteries weren’t safe.
The Detroit automaker has recalled all of the roughly 142,000 Bolts sold since 2016 and has taken a $1.8 billion charge to cover the costs. GM has been working with two LG units, LG Energy Solutions and LG Electronics, on the problem. Both units make different parts of the Bolt battery.
Shares in GM momentarily pared losses on the news but remained lower during a broad rout in the market. The stock declined 4.3% to $49.15 at 3:36 p.m. in New York.
The automaker also has a software diagnostic tool that will be installed in the next 60 days for Bolt owners. If Chevy has replaced the battery, owners can resume driving their cars at full charge. If they haven’t, but have had the diagnostic software installed, they can charge their cars to 80% battery capacity. The software will monitor battery performance and over time, owners will be able to fully charge those cars even if the modules have not been replaced.
Until the battery pack is fixed, GM still advises Bolt owners to charge the vehicle more frequently and avoid depleting battery below approximately 70 miles of remaining range. The company also says owners should park vehicles outside immediately after charging and advises them against charging the vehicles indoors overnight.
“We’re very confident this is a manufacturing defect that occurs during the assembly of the pack and the cell,” Tim Grewe, GM’s general director of Electrification Strategy and Cell Engineering, said during a call with reporters Monday. Grewe said that the two defects -- found in a folded separator and the torn anode tab -- are unrelated to each other, but it’s the interaction between the two that leads to the risk of fire.
GM is prioritizing customers based based on when their Bolt was built, as well as their driving and charging behavior. All customers who have cars made in 2017 through 2019 model years will get the new modules. Customers that do a “deep discharge” -- running the battery down to nearly zero and then charging it all the way back up--will also get priority.
GM also said that customers can park where they want but should leave the car away from other vehicles until the fixes are made. The company has told some customers to stay 50 feet away from other vehicles in parking lots and garages.
The automaker said it’s aware of 13 Bolt battery fires, including two overseas.
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