General Motors is serious about fixing its Chevy Bolt battery problem. Here’s my experience.
GM has confirmed at least 12 fires in 2017-2019 model year Bolts that happened when cars were parked (i.e., the fires were non-crash-related). This set off a wave of panic among Chevy Bolt owners as expressed in online forums.
Background: I leased a 2018 Bolt and was planning to do a lease buyout as I did with my 2013 Chevy Volt before that. The fires changed that. Though the chance of a Bolt catching fire is statistically very low, I wasn’t willing to risk it when my Bolt was at the service center for more than two months for a battery-related issue.
The beginning: 2.5 months at the dealer
It all began when the “MyChevrolet” app on my smartphone told me me this:
This is a general warning that applies to all owners of 2017, 2018, and 2019 Bolts in the wake of the fire incidents.
But in April I got a separate, scary warning (via a yellow “service required” light) about a battery problem unique to my Bolt.
That warning said I had a problem with my “battery charger” (again, this is separate from the warning in the image above).
The upshot was my battery would not charge when I plugged it in. So, I took it to the dealer immediately.
At this point I was worried.
Then worry turned into a trial of patience as my Bolt sat at the dealer for two and a half months waiting for a module after the first replacement module didn’t work.
That wasn’t the end of the waiting game.
In July, after I (finally) got my Bolt back with the new battery module, I decided to initiate a “buyback” or repurchase. In this case, a lease buyback.
In short, there are two levels you must get through to complete the buyback. The first level is long and tedious (it was for me at least). The second level is smooth and quick.
The first level dragged on for about two months. At times, my first-level rep wouldn’t respond to email queries or phone calls for weeks at a time.
Losing patience, I contacted someone else at GM. This sped things up.
I was bumped up to the second level. The second-level rep was responsive (answering queries typically within two hours) and moved the process along very quickly.
After I sent all the documents and photos of my Bolt that GM requested (via email), GM overnighted all the necessary paperwork to my dealer.
I set up an appointment at the dealer and “surrendered” my Bolt in September.
Standing at the dealer surrendering my Bolt was hard. Despite the risk, I had serious last-minute regrets about giving it back. It was cheap for an EV (thousands of dollars less than a Model 3), very quick, agile, quiet, and inexpensive to maintain. And it saved me gobs of money I would have spent on gasoline in Los Angeles.
Would I buy or lease another Chevy Bolt post battery fix? Absolutely.
General Motors took the fire issue seriously
I would because I’m confident that GM is vetting and fixing the battery issue responsibly and post-fix I’m confident the batteries will be a lot safer.
And GM didn’t hem and haw. It acted quickly and decisively soon after the first fires were reported. And in the end it did what was necessary. I mean, when you recall every single Bolt ever made including the newest (redesigned) 2022 Bolts*, that means you’re pretty serious.
That said, electric cars are still in their infancy. Gas cars have been around for more than 100 years, mass-market EVs for only 1o years. There are still a lot of kinks to iron out and any EV from any manufacturer can still be viewed as an experiment in progress — especially battery technology.
Improving battery efficiency, range, and safety is the Holy Grail for EVs. Just look at all the money that Tesla has invested in battery R&D and its gigafactories and all the money GM has dropped into its battery partnership with LG. Not to mention all of the R&D going to alternative battery tech such as solid-state batteries.
GM has demonstrated it is serious about getting through this incipient phase of EVs responsibly. Other manufacturers should follow suit when they have serious battery issues that will inevitably come up.
*When I went to the dealer to surrender my Bolt, the lot was full of brand-new unsold 2022 Bolts (over 20) that the dealer is not allowed to sell. No new Bolt can be sold until the new batteries have arrived and been installed.
Comments or suggestions can be sent to me via a direct twitter message at twitter.com/mbrookec.