And it's furiously building them as we speak.
It’s been a rough summer for the Chevy Bolt. First GM’s cheerful little electric crossover was plagued with battery fires. Then the company thought it fixed the problem. Then it told owners not to park in their garages. Then it really found the problem and realized the LG batteries would all need to be replaced. That’s a huge outlay for a company, even one as big as General Motors. Thankfully, battery maker LG is shouldering some of the burden.
And when we say some, we mean $1.9 billion of the $2 billion cost to recall all 143,000 Bolts and Bolt EUVs to replace the batteries, GM said on Tuesday. Whatever deal GM had with the company, it was a good one. In fairness, it was a manufacturing defect on LG’s part that led to the fires.
GM and LG will continue their partnership making the Ultium batteries, remember the Bolts used its previous-gen tech. That includes new battery plants in Ohio and Tennessee. “LG is a valued and respected supplier to GM, and we are pleased to reach this agreement,” said Shilpan Amin, GM vice president, global purchasing and supply chain. “Our engineering and manufacturing teams continue to collaborate to accelerate production of new battery modules and we expect to begin repairing customer vehicles this month.”
So far there have been 13 fires from the two defects (folded separators and torn anode tabs), but GM recently noted that LG has since improved its lithium-ion battery manufacturing process. Why didn’t GM just replace the Bolts batteries with the new Ultium setup, considering the powertrain and electronics are fine? And that it would get a big chunk of range added? It would cost a lot more than the $100 million it’s out of pocket now considering the reengineering and new software.
GM does need to nail this. It has two EVs coming out very soon and a ton more in the next few years. If early-adopting Bolt owners get a sour taste in their collective mouths, or other GM fans decide not to participate in EVs, that could be a problem.
We talked to Dan Flores, GM communications manager, who said, “I'm not going to be able to put a timeframe to complete the recall, but understand we are working with LG to maximize their cell and module production. We don't have all the battery modules to complete the recall repairs. LG is shipping battery modules to dealers and recall repairs will begin in short order.”
A local Michigan dealer told us that a full battery replacement takes about a day in their shop, or around nine hours. So if GM can make quick work of this recall, there's no reason people won't flock to the rest of the lineup including the Cadillac Lyriq and the GMC Hummer, but more likely the Chevy Equinox EV.