General Motors Notifies Early Chevy Bolt Owners of Potential Battery Failure

General Motors today began notifying a couple of hundred owners of the Chevrolet Bolt all-electric car about a battery problem that could leave them stranded. In an exclusive interview with PluginCars.com, Kevin Kelly, ‎senior manager for advanced technology communications at General Motors, said that the problem might affect less than one percent of early Bolt production models. The company is proactively reaching out to “fewer than a couple hundred customers” that could be impacted, according to Kelly. The remedy is to replace the entire battery pack, even if only one cell is faulty.

Well, technically most people interpret “a couple of hundred” as at least 200, so if that many customers are being notified, that is about 2% of the cars, not 1% based on GM having sold around 9,500 through the end of July, but I won’t quibble.

On that Tuesday afternoon, the dashboard indicated approximately 100 miles of remaining range. (Because I was less than one mile away from home, I did not take note of the exact state of charge.) After a few seconds of a warning chime, the steering wheel shuddered, and the vehicle quickly came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. When I looked down at the dashboard, the indicated remaining range had abruptly changed to nine miles.

Umm, not good. This is the kind of thing that the press LOVES to blow up into a major calamity.

As you might imagine, it was an unpleasant experience—exacerbated by poor OnStar service and the tow-truck driver informing me that my Bolt was the third one he had picked up in recent days. The service at the closest Chevrolet dealership, approximately 20 miles away, was also lacking. It took about two days to diagnose the problem because, as the service manager informed me, the dealership only has one EV specialist—and that technician was busy working on other Bolt jobs in the queue (for unspecified repairs). It took nearly two weeks for a new battery pack to be shipped to the dealership and swapped into the car. The service record indicated: “Battery has a bad cell 25.”

To me this shows GM’s indifference to EVs. I really cannot see such a “meh” response if this had been a been a Caddy or and Impala. Also, I can’t say I am impressed with OnStar based on my own experiences. The service you get is very Jekyll and Hyde. Hopefully GM is telling the truth and this is isolated.