GM says defect-free Bolt batteries are in production

General Motors said Monday it will begin swapping out new batteries for Chevy Bolt EVs in October in response to at least a dozen fires that have sparked a massive recall. GM has not said when it will resume production of brand new versions of the electric car.

The news comes as LG is making batteries for the Bolt again after shutting down in August. GM says it is working closely with the South Korean conglomerate to ensure the new cells are free from defects that led to at least a dozen fires in the automaker’s electric vehicle and a massive recall.

Owners of older bolts (model years 2017 to 2019) will have all modules in their battery packs exchanged for new ones. Owners of newer models are only allowed to have individual modules replaced, GM said.

GM said Monday that it will also allow dealers to begin installing new diagnostic software on Bolts in the next 60 days. The software continuously scans the batteries for signs of defects. If none are found, the software will eventually allow owners to recharge their vehicles to 100 percent, and drop some of the other safety guidelines GM drafted while it worked out the recall.

The first fix to the recall, announced in May, involved an earlier version of this diagnostic software, although at least two vehicles that received it still caught fire. GM didn’t go into much detail on Monday about how this new software differs.

In the meantime, Bolt owners should continue to adhere to those guidelines. GM says owners should park outside and away from their homes after charging, and not charge their vehicles indoors overnight. Owners should not charge their bolts more than 90 percent and avoid draining the battery below 70 miles of remaining range.

However, GM made a small adjustment to the guidance. As long as they follow the guidelines above, GM says owners only need to leave “enough space” between their Bolt and other vehicles, rather than 50 feet as recently advised. However, it did not define “sufficient”.

GM first issued a recall for the earlier models of the Bolt in November 2020 after a handful of fires. But it wasn’t until July of this year that it became known what the problem was. On rare occasions, some of the cells LG made had two distinct defects — a ruptured anode and a folded separator — which, when combined, allowed a Bolt’s battery to catch fire while charging.

LG ceased production of the cells in August, when GM decided to recall all model years of the Bolt. GM said Monday that production has resumed at two locations it operates with LG in Michigan, but the factories in South Korea were still not online.

The recall has already cost GM about $2 billion. The automaker has said it plans to recoup some or most of that amount from LG, though the two companies are collaborating on GM’s next-generation Ultium batteries and will operate multiple new battery plants in the US.