Hang Tight’ is not Helpful Advice

“It’s sitting outside my home like a firebomb.”

“It’s unnerving at the very least. How can we possibly put a car in our garage that might catch on fire? I don’t feel secure parking a car outside given our tree coverage.”

These are real car owners responding to the battery issues with 2017-2022 Chevrolet Bolts.

Hang tight
“Issues’ is probably not the right word – the batteries on these vehicles can spontaneously combust. It’s that simple – these vehicles, all with batteries manufactured by LG, can catch fire while parked. Recalls have been issued. There is a fix but there’s also a problem – the supply chain issues so much in the news over the last six months, has slowed the availability of ‘the fix’ to a crawl. GM has been – slowly – replacing batteries on older models first. There’s no timetable for full battery replacements for all the vehicles effected. To every Bolt owner in line, GM’s advice is to follow three steps, which should keep the cars safe until that future date when it’s their turn to get a new battery:
  • Only charge the car to 90%.
  • Try not to deplete the battery below ‘at least a 70-mile range.
  • Do not park the car in your garage or charge it overnight.
If that doesn’t seem realistic, it’s because it’s not. A Bolt owner in Sonora may have put it best, “How is that realistic? If it’s your only vehicle how are people getting by? There are people like myself in fire-prone areas putting their families and homes at risk because there’s nowhere to charge and you can’t stay up all night to watch it charge. I am not sure why these cars are even on the road.” A Bolt owner in San Francisco followed GM’s safety instructions and parked his car on the street Swell away from his house ended up having to replace his charger after a rodent chewed through the cord. “Living with the existing restrictions per GM or for an indeterminable time would not be acceptable,” A Los Angeles Bolt owner told the Detroit Free Press earlier this month. Another Los Angeles County Bolt owner had what may be the perfect summation of the battery problem. His 2019 Bolt was recalled in November 2020. He followed the GM protocols and was one of the few Bolt owners to have his car repaired in May 2021. His dealer assured him that the car ‘looked good to go.’ In June 2021, he returned home from a camping trip with his family, plugged  in to charge the car in his garage and “within a short time smelled intense heat. I felt along the rims and bottoms of the car, the inside wasn’t hot, but the lower areas near the battery were really hot. I would chalk that up to a close call. If my property caught on fire, we could be the reason that all of our town burns off the map. I can’t sleep at night knowing the car outside our home could possibly catch on fire.” Another Bolt owner posted a photo of a sign on his office parking garage in Seattle on the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV Owners Group on Facebook that read: “Chevrolet Bolt EVs are strictly prohibited from entering this facility in conjunction with the recent recall due to fire-related safety concerns.” He had to park on the street two miles away. This would be a good place to remind everyone of what makes a vehicle a lemon under California’s Lemon Law. The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either that the vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts to get it fixed or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively. Substantial defects impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.” The definitions:
  • A defect that affects a vehicle’s use is one that prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven.
  • A vehicle’s value is diminished when the defect means the vehicle won’t sell for the price it normally would bring – if the defect wasn’t there.
  • Safety defects are defects that put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.
If you read what Bolt owners are saying (and many parking garages) it’s obvious that the car cannot be used as it was intended to be used – it can’t even be charged the way it was intended to charge. The safety issue speaks for itself but is greatly exacerbated by the environment risk – wildfires – in the West. GM’s advice to Bolt owners and lessees is to follow their guidelines and ‘wait it out.’ This is not useful advice and there is no reason to live with it.
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