Monday, 13 September 2021 22:25

GM, LG Working Around the Clock on Bolt EV Battery Recall

Written by Mark Kane, Inside EVs


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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 [Sept. 10], 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,'" Reuters reported.


“Experts from GM and LG continue to work around the clock on the issues,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said Sept. 9. “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.


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


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


The scale of the recall---about 142,000 cars and more than 9 GWh of batteries---is huge and will translate into a $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. Shutdown of the Orion Assembly plant production is extended to late September, idling about 1,000 employees.


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 more than 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 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.


According to Reuters' Factbox, one of the first reports of a battery-related fire in a Chevrolet Bolt EV comes from March 17, 2019, in a 2018 model year car in Belmont, MA. By Aug. 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, 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.


We thank Inside EVs for reprint permission.


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