My weeklong test of the 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV lasted 28 hours. That's when it broke down during an Electrify America charging session that left me stranded in rural Western Virginia.
A drive that should have taken about seven hours, not including two hour-long stops in Gallipolis, Ohio, and Wytheville, Virginia, turned into a 14-hour ordeal. It saw me abandoning a car that seems quite pivotal to the future of General Motors on the side of the road in small-town America.
Since then, I’ve spent much of my time trying to figure out what the hell even happened here, while pondering what might be one of the most catastrophic road trips I’ve personally had in recent memory.
This story starts shortly after the initial 2024 Blazer EV press event in San Diego. I wasn’t there for the model’s launch, but GM’s representatives offered me a week-long vehicle loan a mere few days after the early December launch. Of course, I accepted; an afternoon in southern California is far different than a week in the Midwest in December. I had all sorts of plans for the car, including a longer road trip from Ohio to North Carolina, which would show us exactly what the Blazer EV was capable of, as far as charging, range, livability, and consumption. You can learn a lot about a car after seven hours straight behind the wheel.
And it was to be a test of GM's Ultium battery-powered platform and software, the two prongs it's staked much of its electric, connected future on, despite a number of production challenges and delays this past year.
Sure, I had my reservations about the Blazer EV. I wasn’t convinced that removing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was as groundbreaking of a move as GM insisted it was. I hadn’t driven any Ultium-platform vehicles, despite my proximity to Detroit—you know, the world headquarters of GM. The GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq have never been available to me for testing. To further fuel my reservations, everyone I had talked to in person about the Lyriq, including an owner, attested to terrible software and quality issues that plagued their crossovers, sending them to service departments for weeks at a time.
A couple of anecdotes aren’t data, though. And one disgruntled owner with buyer's remorse and a viral social media post can easily make even the most reliable of rides sound like a new reincarnation of the Yugo GV. So, I approached the Blazer EV with an open mind. Reviews were mixed to positive on the car, and it had even won Motor Trend’s EV SUV Of The Year award. It couldn’t be bad, right?
First up, the Blazer was dropped at my house at about 60 percent state of charge, at my request. (Most of these press testers come to journalists like me fully charged, or close to it.) I insisted that the driver not recharge before delivery, so I could make sure everything was all OK before my journey—if there was a charging issue with the car I’d learn it here at home rather than hours away.
I took the Blazer EV to an Ultium-branded EVGo station near my house, but when I went to plug in, I neglected to pay close attention to where the charge port was located on the car, or how annoyingly short the cords on the charging stations were. Thus I had to move and reposition the vehicle a few times. Each time I stopped, placed the vehicle in park and exited, the Bluetooth would disconnect. When I’d quickly re-enter to reposition, the Bluetooth would reconnect.
When it reconnected to my iPhone 12, the Blazer EV’s stereo would blast the funky house and techno mixes I like to work to, at maximum volume. It certainly snapped me out of any of that 4:30 p.m. "it feels later than it is because the sun is already down" winter tiredness. But it did that to me four times in the five minutes or so it took me to correctly position the car in front of a charger.
I probably should have taken this as an omen. Yet, I assumed it was just some funny (if not very annoying) glitch, took a mental note of it, and continued preparing for my trip.
The next morning, I loaded up the Blazer EV and set off around 6:15 a.m. I left my house in downtown Columbus with about 95% charge and trekked to a nearby Sheetz Convenience store and gas station for a chai tea and coffee to keep me awake for the 471-mile journey. I had my road tunes and I installed Soundcloud and PlugShare on the car’s infotainment system. I was completely logged into the Google-based apps on the car ready to give the system an honest try.
I set off for my first stop, a DC fast charging station in Gallipolis, Ohio—a city right on the Ohio River, bordering West Virginia. I’d be charging earlier than I’d need to, at maybe 55 to 60 percent, but strategically it made sense since there were so few DC chargers on the route. Adding some juice there would allow me to head off uncertainty later.
After Gallipolis, I’d stop in Wytheville, Virginia for a full charge. Even with the weather and terrain, the Virginia charge should be enough to make it to my destination, the Hilton in North Raleigh, where the Blazer EV would be able to Level 2 charge at the hotel while I slept.
But I wouldn’t even make it that far.
The Infotainment Screen Goes First
Initially, the Blazer EV was just fine. But about 25 minutes outside of Gallipolis, there was a quick pause in the Bluetooth audio, and then the whole infotainment screen went blank. The heating, AC, and volume controls still worked, but all of the icons were missing. The gauge cluster’s Google Maps integration still showed my location, and I still had speed and range, so I figured the car was okay, and this was just a glitch.
I couldn’t press on without at least attempting to get to the bottom of the problem. There’s no real troubleshooting yet for the Blazer, but there is some for the Lyriq; it involves being in park, then holding the hang-up call button on the steering wheel to reset the Google Built-In system.
Ope! That worked, or at least worked for about 10 seconds. The infotainment screen said “Android booting…” and stayed steady for a few seconds, and then it (and the gauge cluster’s Google Maps) flickered on and off for the next 30 minutes.
I sat on the side of the road for the next 20 minutes, skimming through Lyriq forums and Reddit posts, hoping there was a quick fix and I could get back on the road. The consensus is that if the reset didn’t work, many Lyriq infotainment problems have been fixed when the vehicle goes into “deep sleep,” turning off many of its complicated computer modules. This would involve walking away from a locked vehicle for at least five minutes, something that wasn’t possible or safe to do on a busy freeway.
I contemplated turning around and calling it quits. However, I would need to DC fast charge anyway to get home, and I was so close to my first DC fast charging stop. It just made more sense to continue. The reset had also removed the directions I needed to get to the Gallipolis fast charging station. To add insult to injury, there was no way to input directions again because the main infotainment screen wasn’t working. I hastily plugged the address into my phone, and perched the phone near the vents, navigating to the DC fast charging stations via the tiny screen of my old iPhone.
When I arrived in Gallipolis, I plugged into the ChargePoint branded station. I got my phone out and started making calls and sending texts, it was time to inform both Editor-in-Chief Patrick George and Chevrolet themselves what was going on with the car. Patrick and I tried to figure out our next course of action via a phone call, but before we could nail down a plan, a GM representative gave me a ring. It appeared that the act of using call waiting shocked the infotainment back to life.
Suddenly, everything was working again. Once again convinced this was a simple weird one-off, we all agreed that it was probably the best course of action just to press on.
And for a short while, it was fine. I left Gallipolis, stopping in Charleston, West Virginia for a coffee and to get some petty cash for the West Virginia Turnpike tolls. I left Charleston and kept driving from there. I had driven more than two and a half hours away from Gallipolis before the infotainment screen died again in the same way as it had before; complete with flashing for 20 minutes, then finally settling on a blank screen.
I had kind of reached the point of no return here. I had driven too far to backtrack to Ohio. I was only about 40 minutes away from my second (and last) DC fast-charging stop in Wytheville. The car was performing fine mechanically. I didn’t have any drivability issues. It just was a crappy infotainment solution that wasn’t working correctly—annoying, and something I planned to report on, but not inherently a dealbreaker.
It made more sense to keep pressing onward, especially since the fast roads, cold temperatures, and steep terrain had taken its toll on the range. I had to charge in Wytheville. I didn’t have a choice.
Then It All Goes To Hell
With a non-working infotainment screen and a remaining range of about 50 miles, I rolled into the Electrify America station in Wytheville and plugged in between Lucid Air and Mercedes-Benz EQS. I hooked into the 350 KW+ charger and the Blazer EV started charging, shooting up 104 kW within the first few seconds.
“All right, this is great,” I thought to myself. The EA station was next to a few fast food joints, so I figured by the time I was done eating, the Blazer EV would be nearly done charging and I’d be good to go. I started to gather my things to walk to the Bojangles overlooking the charging station. But before I could walk away, I got a notification on my phone.
Electrify America said the car had completed charging. That was odd, I thought.
“It’s probably just some EA nonsense,” I said to myself. Electrify America chargers can be finicky, they’ve done this to me before on other makes and models, randomly disconnecting in the middle of a perfectly good charge. Without re-entering the car, I unplugged and re-plugged the Blazer EV. The charging restarted, but Electrify America said the Blazer EV would only draw 3 to 5 kW. Strange, but I was hungry. I figured the Blazer EV would ramp up speed later, so I walked away to get lunch.
Throughout my 20-minute lunch, the Blazer EV never crested more than 5 kW. I marched downhill back to the charging station, figuring it was more EA problems. In the meantime, the EQS had finished charging and left the station, leaving his presumably working charging station all ready for the Blazer EV.
I pressed “Stop Charging” on the now-working infotainment system (accepting an incoming call made the screen work again!), and then depressed the brake to start the car, ready to move the Blazer EV one stall over to a better working charger.
Before I could move the car, I looked down at the plethora of lights and messages in front of me. The car’s gauge cluster was lit up like a Christmas tree. “Service Vehicle Soon."
The Blazer’s EV’s electrical fault light, (a car with an exclamation point), a check motor and check battery warning, reduced power (yellow turtle), and check charge port lights were all illuminated. Plugging into a different charging station didn’t fix this either.
A glitchy infotainment is an ignorable problem, but now it was clear that this thing had a mechanical issue that goes deeper than Google Maps not working. The car wouldn’t charge faster than 5 kW on a DC fast charger, which meant I couldn’t hope to get enough range to make it to Raleigh in a reasonable amount of time.
Also, the amount of trouble lights made me uncomfortable with charging at all or driving too far in the first place. I was now stuck in Wytheville, VA, with a car that was as useful as a brick.
My journey with the Blazer EV ended at 3:29 p.m., in Wytheville, Virginia, 28 hours after I received the car from Chevrolet. The car was left at Wytheville’s only Chevrolet dealer, while I finished out my journey to Raleigh via the last unit the Wytheville Enterprise Car rental had: a 2021 Nissan Titan with 61,000 miles. Insult to injury, you might say.
An Unfortunate End
I’m not quite sure what to say here. The Blazer EV at least didn't catch fire and burn to the ground, but it did not pass the real-world test we had planned.
It’s not clear if the Blazer EV’s failure lies with the car itself, or the charging station; in the eyes of the average customer Chevrolet is trying to reach here, that distinction may not matter much.
Regardless, I’ve reached out to both GM and Electrify America to figure out what the hell happened. Both won’t have answers for a while, GM is bringing the car back to its Milford Proving Ground in Michigan. EA is also analyzing what exactly happened during my charging session.
GM did send over a statement on the incident, which says: "We have found that there are current fluctuations across public DC fast chargers, with a small number which can exhibit more than others. When fluctuations are more extreme, sensors within the vehicle may see that as a fault and reduce the rate of charging. We have identified the cause and have addressed it in an upcoming software update that will be available soon. To ensure our customers have a seamless experience, our team continues to work diligently with multiple charging companies to ensure compatibility with all our vehicles."
But it's no secret the Ultium platform's launch isn't going all that hot. For starters, there are very few of any of these cars on the roads, but the ones that are on the road seem to be plagued with problems. There's a whole bugs and quibbles thread on the Cadillac Lyriq forum that is approaching 100 pages. TFL's GMC Hummer EV bricked while off-road, necessitating a tow back home. Would the Blazer EV follow in the footsteps of those two cars? If my experience is anything to go by, then the answer unfortunately might just be yes.
This, obviously, is a pretty big black eye for GM. The Blazer EV and the GM Ultium platform are so integral to the future of GM, that for it to fail this way is no doubt very embarrassing for the conglomerate. Still, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you, the reader, exactly what happened on this trip.
In the meantime, I want to know: Do you have a Cadillac Lyriq or GMC Hummer? Or even one of the few Blazer EVs that have been sold so far? Have you run into serious issues while driving, charging, or using your vehicle? Let’s chat about it.
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