GM tells Bolt owners to park 50 feet from other cars in parking garages, confirms 12 fires
Detroit — As it seeks a solution to a battery fire risk, General Motors issued yet another safety recommendation Wednesday for Chevrolet Bolt owners: If you're pulling into a parking deck, keep your car at least 50 feet away from other vehicles.
A customer's concern about the safety of leaving their electric vehicle in a parking garage led the automaker to provide the additional guidance to owners of the Bolts, all of which GM has recalled, spokesman Dan Flores said.
"In an effort to reduce potential damage to structures and nearby vehicles in the rare event of a potential fire, we recommend parking on the top floor or on an open-air deck and park 50 feet or more away from another vehicle," Flores said in a statement. "Additionally, we still request you do not leave your vehicle charging unattended, even if you are using a charging station in a parking deck."
Bloomberg first reported the latest Bolt customer recommendation Wednesday. GM previously told Bolt owners to only charge the battery to 90%, charge more frequently and avoid depleting the battery below about 70 miles of remaining range. They also should park the vehicle outside.
GM recently had to recall every Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV — more than 141,000 — after the batteries caught fire in a handful of the electric vehicles. GM and battery supplier LG Energy Solution are working to understand how two "rare" battery defects believed to be the cause of the fires occurred. The automaker has confirmed 12 Bolt battery fires, up from 10 when it issued its latest recall last month.
"We are aware of 12 GM confirmed battery fires that have been investigated involving Bolt EVs vehicles in the previous and new recall population," Flores said. "There have been three reports of injuries. We continue to share data with NHTSA."
The recall of GM's only electric products on the market comes as the automaker is vying to become a leading EV maker.
But the automaker is not producing any EVs right now. It's halted production of the Bolts until it feels confident again in LG's supply.
GM says the battery fires are the result of two "rare" manufacturing defects" a torn anode tab and a folded separator found together in the cells. The battery cells were made at two LG facilities — one in Korea and the other in Holland, Michigan. Battery packs are assembled at an LG facility in Hazel Park, Mich.
"We're still working with LG around the clock to resolve the issue," Flores said. "Both companies understand the urgency to move as quickly as possible, but, again, the most important thing here is we have to get this right."
LG Energy Solution President Denise Gray, who was a keynote speaker Wednesday at The Battery Show in Novi, only told reporters after her speech: "Right now our teams are working so hard together in order to work through all of this and I'm sure at a later time, as the information comes out they'll make sure it's available to you."
The Detroit automaker estimates the recall will cost $1.8 billion and is working with LG to sort out how much of the bill the supplier will front.
GM CFO Paul Jacobson said during RBC's Global Industrials Conference last Friday that GM is "engaged in high-level conversations with them about how we handle the financial accountability. We do expect that we will get reimbursement for that."
Though it is still working out the fix for the defects, GM says it will replace defective battery modules for Bolt customers.
"The number one focus right now obviously is to get the production line fixed, the manufacturing process cleaned up and get back into cell production and ultimately get a path for these vehicles to be repaired and ... do what's right for our customers," Jacobson said at the conference.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently told The Detroit News it "currently does not have any open investigations into fires alleged with LG batteries outside of GM" but added that it's "in touch with LG to identify other vehicles that may be impacted."