General Motors said on Wednesday that two recent Bolt EV fires occurred in vehicles that had already received the patch to prevent the battery from igniting, raising new questions about the recall announced last year. In the meantime, the automaker is warning owners of 2017-2019 model year Bolts not to charge electric cars overnight and park them outside in case they catch fire.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also issued the same warning to owners on Wednesday night. The security agency said it is still investigating the issue, investigating the two new fires, and owners can enter their VIN number here to verify if their Bolt is included in the recall.
GM recalled nearly 69,000 Bolt EVs in November 2020 after a handful of reports of fires that apparently started in electric vehicle batteries. The company warned homeowners at the time to park their bolts outside until it could determine the cause of the fires and find a solution, but said nothing at the time not to charge overnight. GM also released an interim software update that limited the maximum battery capacity of affected Bolts to 90% to reduce the risk of fire.
It wasn’t until May of this year, however, that GM finally shared its plan to fix the problem causing the fires. This ultimately involved Chevy dealerships inspecting battery packs, replacing any suspect battery modules, and installing new software designed to “detect potential problems with changes in battery module performance before problems arise.” This software is also installed on the revamped Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV.
The problem now is that this fix may not work. Two recent fires have occurred in vehicles that received the new software and verified by a dealer, including one in a vehicle owned by a Vermont state legislator. The other fire occurred this week in New Jersey, the company told CNBC. GM says it is still investigating the fires and is asking owners who did not get the fix to return their bolts to a dealership anyway. At least nine fires have been documented and the company has started buying back Bolts.
GM has been quiet about the cause of the fires throughout this process, but these Bolts from previous models use the same LG Chem cells that power Hyundai’s Kona EV, which has also been recalled following several reports of fires and canceled outright in South Korea.
Update July 14 at 6:30 p.m. ET: Added second paragraph with information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.