Chevrolet Stops Replacing 2020–2022 Bolt EV Fiery Batteries, Offers Diagnostics Tool

Chevrolet stops replacing the 2020-2022 Bolt EV fiery batteries 6 photos
Photo: Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services | Edited
2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Catches Fire in Canton, GeorgiaChevrolet Bolt EV FireChevrolet Bolt EV FireChevrolet Bolt EV FireChevrolet Bolt EV Battery Pack
Chevrolet notified 2020-2022 Chevrolet Bolt owners that they no longer replace the battery packs as part of the battery fire recall. Instead, the carmaker offered to install a software diagnostics tool to monitor the battery. As you'd expect, Chevy Bolt owners are not happy.
Once touted as a "Tesla killer," the Chevrolet Bolt EV didn't live up to its promise. Despite the relatively affordable price (for an electric vehicle), the Bolt EV didn't set any sales record. Instead, it was the go-to solution for those who wanted to drive an EV with a decent range and couldn't afford a Tesla. Its career was tainted when several Bolt EVs started bursting into flames in 2019 due to a battery defect.

After trying to dodge the problem for almost a year, Chevrolet attempted to fix it with a software update in 2020, but it didn't prevent the Bolt EVs from catching fire. It took another year before GM admitted that the batteries were defective and needed to be replaced. It also convinced the battery supplier, LGES, to pay for the battery replacements. Over 140,000 Chevy Bolt EV and EUV vehicles were affected by the recall.

Chevrolet stopped Bolt production and diverted all the battery cells LGES supplied to the recalled Bolt EVs. GM's deal with LGES might have included free battery packs because Chevrolet restarted Bolt production last April, even though it didn't make sense. Not only that, but the Bolt EV turned into a sales champion after its price was decreased way below the projected production costs. This makes me believe GM didn't have to include battery costs in the bill of materials.

Chevy Bolt battery replacements stopped completely

In the background, battery replacements for affected EVs ground to a halt. A report from last May shows that less than half of the 2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EV affected by the battery fire recall had the battery replaced. Only 1% of the affected 2020-2022 MY vehicles got a new battery under the recall. Now, it appears that GM has decided to stop battery replacement completely.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Battery Pack
Photo: GM
GM notified 2020-2022 Chevrolet Bolt owners that their batteries would not be replaced anymore. Instead, it will install a software diagnostics tool to monitor the battery pack and tell if it needs replacement. Based on a message shared in the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV Owners Group on Facebook, the software update should warn if it finds any defects in the battery pack. If the battery passes the tests, the software will remove the safety recall on the vehicle and allow the battery to charge to 100% again.

Reportedly, the change of heart was prompted after GM discovered that most replaced battery packs were not defective. According to Electrek, GM updated the recall documentation to the NHTSA in May to reflect the change. In a new 573 report, GM says that a battery replacement will only be offered to vehicles that GM has determined may contain defective battery modules. For all others, "the remedy is the installation of advanced diagnostic software that will monitor battery performance and identify defective battery modules that require replacement."

Another software update to put out battery fires?

GM issued a statement saying the diagnostics tool will monitor the battery for about 6,200 miles (10,000 km) to detect any potential issues. If none is discovered after this mileage, the battery will be allowed to charge to 100%. If an anomaly is detected, the software will alert the owner to schedule a battery replacement. The software tool needs to be installed at the dealership, and owners can already schedule an appointment. This method only applies to 2020-2022 Bolt vehicles, as the 2017-2019 model years will still get a battery replacement.

It remains to be seen how good this tool is at spotting defective battery modules. Things could get nasty if there's another battery fire because it couldn't catch a problem in time. GM is already part of class-action lawsuits because of the defective batteries. The carmaker should've also communicated better on this change to not annoy people who bought a used Bolt recently, hoping they would get a battery replacement. The new policy is likely to affect the resale value of those vehicles.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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