Second Bolt EV recall announced after "fixed" cars catch fire: What to do

Chevrolet is recalling the Bolt EV for a second time, after more of the electric cars caught fire unexpectedly despite owners thinking they'd been repaired. The original recall was announced in November 2020, with around 69,000 of the EVs affected, after Chevrolet and the NHTSA were notified that several cars burst into flames.

Chevrolet owner General Motors blamed a certain batch of batteries, that had been manufactured for the Bolt EV by partner LG Energy Solutions. The flaw in that batch – which had been used in the 2017 and 2018 model year cars, and part of the 2019 model year production – led to new safety software being developed, along with some replacement of affected battery models.

Problem is, that fix alone appears not to have been enough. Chevrolet confirmed today that there's now a second official recall for the 2017-2019 Bolt EV, after another defect in the batteries has been identified. Its existence was exposed when two Bolt EV cars, that had been through the original recall fix, subsequently caught fire anyway.

This second fix will be far more complex – and more expensive for GM. It'll see Chevrolet replace the defective battery modules altogether, itself a logistics challenge since battery shortages are key bottleneck in EV production. As a result, owners of affected Bolt EV cars may have to wait to actually have the repairs carried out.

Owners of cars covered by the new recall will be notified when there are parts available, and the process can begin.

Ahead of second Bolt EV recall, how to stay safe

While they wait, there are some new guidelines for Bolt EV owners to minimize the risk of a fire. As before, GM is asking them to part their cars outside – rather than in a garage or carport – and not to charge them overnight in an unattended situation. That precaution is suggested "out of an abundance of caution," the automaker says.

If you have a 2017 or 2018 model year Bolt EV, you should head into the settings and enable Hilltop Reserve mode. That limits the car to a maximum 90-percent state of charge. Those with 2019 model year Bolt EVs should switch on Target Charge mode, setting it to 90-percent maximum.

If you don't feel comfortable making those changes, GM says, you should take your car to a dealer to have them enabled. There's a video showing how you can do it on GM's Bolt EV recall page.

However, there's now also a minimum level of charge that owners should avoid dipping below. GM is asking owners not to allow their Bolt EV to go lower than around 70 miles of remaining range.