It gives us a strange feeling of already seen, because Hyundai had also put in place a temporary solution when another of their Konas caught fire. This led to the decision to replace all batteries and stop selling the Kona entirely in Korea.
From the looks of the video (below), appears to be at a dead end between 10am and 2pm. The fire spreads quickly from the bottom of the bolt to the rest of the garage. The exact location and circumstances are unknown at this time.
Inconceivably, the garage and the house were saved with what appears to be relatively minor damage, and no one was injured. The pictures of the consequences are below. The firefighters serving this area are from the Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service. Sincere congratulations and gratitude to all firefighters. Especially those who volunteer to do it and are clearly doing such a good job. Thank you!
The cause and circumstances behind this are still unknown, but this article will be updated once more information becomes available.
Really bad timing
The “final patch”, only battery software, has just been announced for the 2019 model year. We still have a month to wait for the 2017-2018 update to be released; these model years are not as currently protected. With this, fires are fresh on everyone’s mind. The big question remains: will a software patch be able to prevent more Chevy Bolt fires?
The available interim fix limits 95% of a full charge. This is conspicuously to avoid the situation where the fire can occur at or near full load. If this vehicle had the fix applied, it will serve to undermine confidence in the fix.
It is extremely unlikely that the Bolt owner has been able to get the final fix from Chevy in the last few days and, as we have noted, it is currently uncertain whether the owner performed the 95% limiter or the ‘peak of the hill ‘when charging. But now is a good time to discuss the benefits of OTA software updates. If it was a Tesla, the update could have come by air to make that car safer.
GM is aware
We’ve reached out to GM for feedback on the Chevy Bolt Fire. While investigating, they said:
GM is aware of the incident and an investigator is learning more about the specific situation of the vehicle.
GM quote on the Chevy Bolt Fire
Unfortunately, no further details are available. We will update once new information is provided.
The first question, of course, is: Did this Bolt apply the temporary (or permanent) fix? The temporary fix limits the load to 95% of the maximum (previous). We were told that would be enough to be safe.
It could have been a Bolt that was fully loaded and had neither of the two fixes in place.
Or, it could be something completely different, such as a fire that started on the outside of the bolt or a foreign object previously entering the battery case.
Although GM has alerted all owners on multiple occasions via mailers and phone calls, many have chosen to ignore the risk and not apply the fix. A few we interviewed mentioned a desire to retain the option of having a full line when needed. GM recommends in this case to limit the load itself. Use “hill” mode (approximately 88%) on the 2017-2018, or set the target charge level to no more than 90% (on the 2019 model year).
Either way, the big question remains: Will updating the software be sufficiently protective against these fires?
The majority of the Chevy Bolt EV owners Facebook group is confident that GM will provide a solution that will solve the problem. A significant minority surveyed, however, seem to believe that this is a hardware problem, and that software alone cannot fix it. Hyundai had a different problem, but chose to replace all of its batteries instead of trying the software route. Maybe GM should have done the same?
The other major question is: if the hotfix cannot protect against fire, will he at least warn the owner? It’s probably safe to say that the software will be able to detect at least some situations that could lead to a fire, and hopefully warn if a situation occurs that cannot be controlled. With their OnStar telematics, it is possible to alert the owner and possibly the authorities. In these situations, seconds count, so proactive notifications could literally save lives.
The timing couldn’t be worse. While we don’t know if either of the fixes were applied to the Bolt, it is sure to reignite the debate over the hotfix and shake people’s trust in it. The last thing they needed right now was another Chevy Bolt fire.
Assuming there’s at least the temporary fix, or the self-imposed load limit applied – that’s pretty bad. If GM’s assumption that this is happening at or near full load turns out to be incorrect, neither may the fix it is attempting.
Altogether, however, car fires do occur. With 174,000 fires alone (in 2015) in the United States, that’s about one every 3 minutes. No matter how safe your vehicle is, it always has the possibility of catching fire.
It’s also clear that EVs are less likely to catch fire overall, even with today’s Bolt fires. Tesla claimed that gasoline-powered cars are about 11 times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla. They refer to fires per billion kilometers traveled. With 300,000 Teslas on the road in 2019 and more than 7.5 billion kilometers driven at the time, around 40 fires were reported. That’s five fires for every billion kilometers driven, compared to 55 fires per billion kilometers driven in gasoline-powered cars.
While we don’t have the numbers for GM, proportionally about the same number of Teslas caught fire as Bolts. So the resulting numbers should be close to being the same – around 10 times more likely for a gasoline car to catch fire than a Bolt.
What do you think? Does this latest fire change your opinion about buying or driving an electric vehicle or a Bolt? Let us know in the comments.
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