Here’s the original undertaking, posted on the Transport Canada website:
General Motors will notify owners by mail and replace defective battery modules.
Here’s the revised recall repair:
General Motors will notify owners by mail and advise you to take your vehicle to a dealership to install an advanced diagnostic software that will monitor the high-voltage battery and warn you if it detects a problem. If you see this warning, you should contact a dealership to arrange replacement of the affected high-voltage battery module.
For more info, visit the Chevrolet website.
GM’s updated vehicle software update will permit the car to monitor itself over the next 10,000 kilometres. If the batteries are deemed “healthy,” your Bolt is free and clear under the recall. The software will automatically restore full charging capability without necessitating a visit to a dealership. If not, the battery module (the pack that includes all the individual little batteries) will have to be replaced by GM.
It’s likely that only a small percentage of the battery modules from those years poses a risk of fire. The diagnostic software upgrade will avoid the enormous waste involved in replacing good battery packs and reduce the demand for critical electrical vehicle (EV) battery metals, which are in short supply worldwide.
Can GM’s Bolt software update really determine if the battery is safe?
The new software-based solution is likely an effective fix. Generally speaking, vehicle manufacturers have been more sensitive to fires in their EVs than in gasoline vehicles, because they want to ensure a smooth uptake of this new technology. GM implemented much better internal controls for identifying and correcting safety defects after a 2010 ignition key recall that was responsible for 124 or more deaths. GM’s field reporting, recall compliance, engineering and finance departments were all upgraded to find and fix safety defects more proactively. And, according to published reports, most of the financial cost of this recall is being covered by LG Chem—the battery maker. So, GM likely is not the primary beneficiary of the cost savings.
When did GM drop the warranty extension?
In June 2023, GM took the warranty extension off the table for Bolt owners receiving the software fix. As the owner of a 2020 Bolt, you will not receive the additional warranty coverage offered to the owners who got replacement battery packs, which was accompanied by a “reset” of the original 8-year/160,000-kilometre warranty. And you still won’t have a final answer about the health of your vehicle’s batteries, nor full charging capability, for another 10,000 kilometres. For a low-mileage Bolt driver, that could amount to another year of waiting for a definitive outcome.
Even if the original batteries on your Bolt are aging normally, degradation in the range of 3% to 4% annually is considered normal. So, the batteries on your Bolt are likely a little degraded compared to a Bolt that received a new module.
Doing it yourself is not a solution
One complainant to the Automobile Protection Association (APA) inquired about replacing their Chevy Bolt batteries at their own expense and claiming a reimbursement from GM. At $28,000 plus installation for a replacement battery module, this solution does not appear to be realistic. A better option would be to find a source that provides additional warranty coverage equivalent to what GM reneged on and ask the automaker to refund the cost of acquiring it. So far, the APA is not aware of any mechanical insurance provider for vehicles that offers that sort of coverage on a battery module.
What to do about the GM Bolt battery recall
There’s not much you can do about the revised Bolt recall, unfortunately. The APA recently requested that General Motors do the following two things:
- Offer to extend warranty coverage to eight years from the day of the recall repair regardless of which solution applies: Stage 1 software update or Stage 2 battery pack replacement. (That’s a no-brainer.)
- Offer meaningful compensation to owners for the inconvenience and diminished driving range that may ultimately last for two or more years. This could include a no-charge subscription to an in-vehicle service. Still, some owners will consider the inconvenience of parking outside over one or two winters is worth more than that.
For more info on this, visit apa.ca.
A similar EV battery recall was handled better
GM could take a page from Hyundai Canada’s playbook. Hyundai devised a clever solution for a similar battery replacement recall for the Kona EV. It offered owners $5 a day for every day their Kona EV had to be parked outdoors while waiting for replacement batteries. Complaints to the APA evaporated after the program was announced. Kona EV owners were strangely no longer in a hurry to be first in line for replacement battery packs! From the perspective of many Kona owners, $150 a month was good enough to cover the inconvenience.