GM Chevy Bolt EV battery fix could bring many owners more range than they originally had

Owners of 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV models have had to contend with a reduced driving range for many months, as GM attempted to find a remedy for a battery related fire issue that culminated with a plan to replace all battery modules

Now GM has confirmed that it’s stepping up by offering a significant range boost for those earlier Bolt EVs. 

In a communication to some owners sent over the weekend—spotted by friends of Green Car Reports—the automaker emphasized that the all-new lithium-ion battery modules installed in older Bolt EVs will offer “GM’s most advanced Bolt chemistry.” 

GM warranty communication on 2017 Chevy Bolt EV - August 2021

GM warranty communication on 2017 Chevy Bolt EV – August 2021

Their pending 8-percent boost in battery capacity is described as “resulting in a range improvement in equivalent driving conditions,” and includes a new 8-year/100,000-mile limited parts warranty covering the battery after the module replacement. 

“We will replace the modules in the 2017-2019 population with the latest generation cell chemistry, which would provide that level of range improvement,” GM spokesperson Kevin Kelly confirmed to Green Car Reports Monday.

That could be a very good deal for Bolt EV owners and drivers over the long run. 

For 2020, GM nudged up the range of the Bolt EV by about exactly that amount—to 259 miles, from the previous 238—through the use of a new, more energy-dense lithium-ion cell from LG. That brought the official energy capacity of the pack from 60 kilowatt-hours up to 65 kwh as currently labeled. 

The capacity and range boost for 2020 followed a running change to the cells partway through the 2019 model year, as GM switched production of the Bolt EV’s cells from Ochang, South Korea, to Holland, Michigan. GM initially said that only the earlier South Korean cells were affected by the issue, but earlier this month it expanded the recall to all Bolt EV models made to date—including 2020-2022 Chevy Bolt EV and new 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV models. 

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

Under a recall announced August 20 and posted in full by NHTSA last week, GM noted: “Defective battery modules will be replaced by GM, free of charge.” But it hadn’t said, exactly, which cells it would use as replacements.

As part of the recently expanded recall, GM also noted that owners are advised to set the Target Charge Level feature on the Bolt to limit charging to 90 percent. Beyond that, it advises owners to charge more frequently; to avoid depleting the battery to 70 miles remaining; to park outside after charging; and to not charge the vehicle indoors overnight. 

GM again advised that the affected modes “may pose a risk of fire when charged to full, or very close to full, capacity.”

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Last week’s recall included a stop-sale and hold on the delivery and use of all involved Bolt EVs that are in dealer possession—including new and used inventory, shuttle vehicles, and demos—and GM Certified Used Bolt EVs already in GM’s system will be de-certified, according to a recall document. 

Production paused

It’s also stopped building Bolt EV and EUV models. “We’re still working with LG on any potential modifications needed to the manufacturing process at their plants,” reported Kelly.

Automakers rarely single out suppliers in recalls, but GM made note that it was seeking reimbursement for the recall effort—now potentially at a total of $1.8 billion—due to two different defects in affected cells.

Those owners of older Bolt EVs have already been advised to set their maximum charge to 90% for months, and were called back to the dealership for the installation of “advanced onboard diagnostic software” that was supposed to detect those potential battery issues before they happened. But it didn’t stop the instances of fire. 

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV review update - Portland OR

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV review update – Portland OR

GM will be facing those hurdles, but there could be a consumer win in this. Batteries are the most expensive single component of electric cars, and once the cars are fixed, owners will in some respects have a new EV, without the new-EV payments.

Think of it this way: It’s not unusual to see 10 percent battery degradation after a few years of EV ownership. Now for the inconvenience, any range drop will be erased, and they’ll likely be getting more range than the cars did when new. For a company that’s depending on the reputation of its upcoming Ultium EVs for a decade of growth, that sounds like a smart move.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter