General Motors "is taking a more direct role" with LG Chem's LG Energy Solution, in solving the huge battery recall issue that affects all Chevrolet Bolt EV and Chevrolet Bolt EUV electric cars and paralyzed the production.

According to GM's representatives (via Reuters) the two companies are working around the clock to track down and fix the problems.

"At an investor conference on Friday, GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said LG is working with GM engineers to “clean up the manufacturing process” at LG battery plants and implement some “GM quality metrics.”"

“Experts from GM and LG continue to work around the clock on the issues,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said on Thursday. “We are determined to do the right thing for our customers and resolve the problem once and for all. Once we are confident LG can provide us with good battery modules, we will begin repairs as quickly as we can.”

GM has found two manufacturing defects in the battery cells supplied by its South Korean partner from two of its plants (one in South Korea and one in Michigan) - a torn anode tab and folded separator - which in some rare circumstances may lead to a battery fire.


New battery packs for "early" Bolt models

The problem concerns batteries in all Bolt EVs/EUVs (about 142,000) produced between 2017-2022. They must get new batteries - modules inside the pack, or an entire new pack.

We are not entirely sure about the details, but as of now, it appears that the early Bolt models will get an entire new battery pack replaced, while the newer cars, only the battery modules.

"GM has said early Bolt models will have their entire battery pack replaced, while newer models will have only defective modules within the pack replaced. Those new parts may not be available until after November."

The scale of the recall (about 142,000 cars and more than 9 GWh of batteries) is huge and will translate into $1.8 billion cost. Moreover, GM was forced to stop production of new cars until LG fixes the manufacturing lines and starts supplying defect-free battery cells. Shut down of the Orion Assembly plant production is extended to late September (around 1,000 idle workers).

New batteries might not be available until "after November" and then it might take a year to produce 9+ GWh of new cells just to complete the recall. LG produced over 33 GWh of batteries during the first seven months of this year (less than 5 GWh per month) at all its plants for all its customers, which means that it's not easy to provide the additional 9 GWh quickly.

Meanwhile, the owners are asked to use only 60% of the available battery State of Charge (SOC) window (between about 30% and 90% SOC), which reduces the range from about 250 miles to 150 miles. Moreover, the cars should be kept outside.

Chevrolet Bolt EV/EUV battery recall in brief

  • the full battery recall was announced on August 20, 2021
  • cause: manufacturing defects (a torn anode tab and folded separator) in lithium-ion battery cells (pouch type) supplied by LG Chem's LG Energy Solution may lead to a battery fire "in rare circumstances"
    Cells were produced in plants in South Korea and in Michigan
  • cars: about 142,000 cars (including about 100,000 in the U.S.)
    all Chevrolet Bolt EV (2017-2022)
    all Chevrolet Bolt EUV (2022)
  • remedy: replacement of battery modules or packs with new batteries
    temporarily: don't charge beyond 90% State of Charge (SOC) or discharge below approximately 70 miles (113 km) of the remaining range (which is close to 30% SOC, assuming roughly 250 miles of EPA range) and keep the vehicles outside.
  • estimated cost: $1.8 billion
    on average it might be about $12,675 per car (or about $190 per kWh)
    GM announced that it will pursue reimbursement from LG Energy Solution
  • estimated battery volume: 9.2-9.4 GWh
  • similar case: Hyundai recall of about 82,000 EVs (including 75,680 Hyundai Kona Electric)

According to Reuters' Factbox, one of the first reports of a battery-related fire in a Chevrolet Bolt EV comes from March 17, 2019 (it was a 2018 model year car in Belmont, MA). By August 26, 2020 the number of reports increased to 12 and at the time five were confirmed as battery-related.

GM's formal investigation started in August 2020, while in October 2020 NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a preliminary evaluation.

Initially, in November 2020, GM proposed a software fix that limited charging to 90% SOC. In April 2021 the company decided to additionally perform a diagnostic procedure and replace batteries that would be considered defective.

After a few more fires of cars that were double checked, a full recall was announced in August 2021.

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