In an expansion of what was already the biggest recall in automotive history, GM has recalled nearly every Chevrolet Bolt ever made. Almost every single Bolt to come off the factory floor has been recalled due to a faulty battery that could result in in a fire in the internal components of the vehicle.
The initial Bolt recall was issued in November of 2020 when a factory defect in the LG-made batteries in some Bolt vehicles resulted in fires. Further investigation led GM to issue a second round of recalls in July of this year, citing evidence that the manufacturing failure had occurred in more vehicles than previously thought.
The failure is a bit complicated to explain but involves the presence of two simultaneous issues. The first is a torn anode tab, itself an unusual issue to have occur. The second, a folded separator, is also a bit unlikely but could occur in some batteries. The confluence of both issues at once, however, creates more than a slight inconvenience: it’s the perfect storm of conditions to create a fire hazard in the battery.
The Bolt recall has now been expanded to an eye-popping 142,000 vehicles. Only around 100,000 Bolts have been sold in the US, which has led some to note that this means the recall could easily cover every Bolt vehicle ever sold.
The recall is sweeping because it calls for the vehicles to have their entire batteries replaced. The battery is far and away the most expensive component of an electric vehicle, comparable in cost to the internal combustion engine in a traditional car. This recall, subsequently, is going to cost GM a lot of money.
The recall is likely to cost GM nearly $2 billion, according to recent reports. The cost of replacing that many battery units is expected to have a major impact on the company’s gross revenue, as they’ve now essentially lost money on every Bolt they’ve sold.
As electric vehicles become more popular and widespread, auto manufacturers will need to learn a way to make the batteries in these vehicles both safer and more cost-efficient. If they don’t, the costs of recalling the vehicles will outweigh the benefits of selling a popular variety of car.
There are major growing pains ahead for the future of electric vehicles, and no one is quite sure how to address it yet.