General Motors Notifies Early Chevy Bolt Owners of Potential Battery Failure

By · August 24, 2017


A 2017 Chevrolet Bolt after an unexpected battery problem that left the car disabled. (Photo: Bradley Berman)

General Motors today began notifying a couple of hundred owners of the Chevrolet Bolt all-electric car about a battery problem that could leave them stranded. In an exclusive interview with PluginCars.com, Kevin Kelly, ‎senior manager for advanced technology communications at General Motors, said that the problem might affect less than one percent of early Bolt production models. The company is proactively reaching out to “fewer than a couple hundred customers” that could be impacted, according to Kelly. The remedy is to replace the entire battery pack, even if only one cell is faulty.

UPDATE: Also See "At Least 100 Chevy Bolt Drivers Have Experienced Complete Loss of Propulsion"

“We noticed an anomaly via data from OnStar and that led us to investigate the issue,” said Kelly. He said that the problem is caused by one or more of the cells malfunctioning and thereby providing a false reading of remaining range on the dashboard. Drivers could then be misled into thinking the Bolt’s battery pack has sufficient energy to complete a trip—only to experience the car run out of charge and abruptly stop.

Personal Experience

How did I become aware of this problem? The faulty battery problem happened to me on Aug. 8. That’s when I was on a routine local trip with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier that I have been leasing as my personal vehicle since June 16. The car had about 1,700 miles on the odometer.

On that Tuesday afternoon, the dashboard indicated approximately 100 miles of remaining range. (Because I was less than one mile away from home, I did not take note of the exact state of charge.) After a few seconds of a warning chime, the steering wheel shuddered, and the vehicle quickly came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. When I looked down at the dashboard, the indicated remaining range had abruptly changed to nine miles.

The behavior of the vehicle was not like driving an EV with a depleted battery, as I have experienced in other electric vehicles. In those cases—sometimes referred to as “turtle mode”—the power output is reduced, enabling the driver to travel at a reduced speed for a couple of miles or at least safely move to the side of the road before the battery is fully depleted.

Instead, in the Bolt, I was left behind the wheel of a disabled vehicle (in the middle of a curvy road where vehicles often zip around so-called blind corners). The car could be powered up but not shifted into Drive or Reverse. After multiple failed attempts to shift into Drive after restarting the car, I shifted into Neutral and rolled down a slight incline to reposition the car more safely on the side of the road (although blocking a neighbor’s driveway).

As you might imagine, it was an unpleasant experience—exacerbated by poor OnStar service and the tow-truck driver informing me that my Bolt was the third one he had picked up in recent days. The service at the closest Chevrolet dealership, approximately 20 miles away, was also lacking. It took about two days to diagnose the problem because, as the service manager informed me, the dealership only has one EV specialist—and that technician was busy working on other Bolt jobs in the queue (for unspecified repairs). It took nearly two weeks for a new battery pack to be shipped to the dealership and swapped into the car. The service record indicated: “Battery has a bad cell 25.”

It was surprising to learn that my Bolt—which has been performing well since a new complete battery pack was installed two days ago—is considered an “early” production unit. My lease began more than six months after the first sales of the model. In that time, about 8,000 Bolt units were purchased or leased. If one percent of those vehicles have a similar problem, then 80 Bolts could face similar issues. GM’s Kelly, who did not say exactly how many customers will be notified, promised to investigate the exact production date of my Bolt—which could help identify precisely which vehicles are affected.

Comments

· · 13 weeks ago

Wow, this is pretty serious. Please do keep us updated. Hopefully, it is a very specific period of production, or some other specific identifiable thing.

· · 13 weeks ago

Thanks, Neil. I'm hoping that GM shares more information about the problem so drivers can be aware of potential risks. Also, it seems like having the car abruptly halt--rather than going into a limp or turtle mode--is not a good strategy. Maybe that could be a software adjustment. I'll share what I learn here in the comments.

· · 12 weeks ago

2 days ago charging door open warning came on, but it was closed, then anti theft proplusion reduction mode came on and couldnt go more than 30 mph on i5 with big semi behind me. Drove to dealer, they did a check found 30 codes but service writer could not tell me what was done to correct. I think they did a full reset. Bought the bolt last june similar to you. Planning to trade it out when new nissan leaf comes out. Dealership ev culture very poor.

I5 exit 230 washington state Blake chevrolet in Mt Vernon.

· · 12 weeks ago

@Zhukhov. I agree that the Chevy dealership culture is terrible. I would say same thing about GM culture in general. I have not yet heard these words: "We are sorry this happened. How can we make it right for you?" It's not enough to switch the topic to Onstar's ability to remotely diagnose problems.

· · 12 weeks ago

Questions for Brad Berman:
1) What was the build date of your car?
2) When your car shutdown had you already driven for approx 200 miles, meaning the problem was in BOLT EV simply not reporting remaining range properly then as a result shut down abruptly?
(I realize that you didn't check state of charge just prior to the shutdown- per your article)
Thank you

· · 11 weeks ago

@cwwwilsonpa I don't know the build date of my car. That's what I was hoping that my contact at GM could confirm. But he hasn't followed up (as promised) after I supplied the VIN a couple weeks ago.

No, I had not driven the car for 200 miles--and I feel that it's unlikely that the car simply ran out of charge. In terms of how the car shut down, I think it was more likely a software issue or a severe battery failure. In other words, the explanation that the indicator simply showed the wrong number value doesn't match my experience.

· · 11 weeks ago

Wow that is scary. This has the potential to become another (but much, much smaller scale) GM faulty ignition switch disaster.
Nearly two years ago I was the proud new owner of a Tesla Model S (just the cheaper, slower version, a 70D) and I was having difficulties adjusting to the size and shape of the car. On this particular occasion I was determined to reverse into my garage in the minimum number of tries I was capable of (or at least less than the multiple attempts over a surprising long time period that it had taken me to garage my car in its first month).
So I swung the car across my suburban street (almost fully blocking the street), selected reverse, hoisted myself up clear of the seat to get the best possible view through the rear window and then the car stopped with the electric park brake fully on.
I was scared for my beautiful new car and when I was in it I was a bit scared for me also (the car was across the street on a semi blind sharpish bend). Anyway after some major panicking on my part I managed to get to talk to Tesla who walked me through releasing the park brake and with the help of a couple of nice guys the car was pushed back and into my driveway at which point I was able to return to the land of rational thought.
The problem was me in as much as I did not understand that the car had been designed to do this if any 2 of the following 3 conditions existed simultaneously i.e. (i) drivers door open, (ii) no weight on the driver's seat (iii) driver's seat belt not in use. Somehow I had contrived to always have at least two of those conditions true over the time it took to get through to Tesla (about 20 minutes of panic time). Although that full explanation did not reach me until I was talking to a Tesla technician/mechanic. At the time I just learnt not to take my bum out of the seat.
Anyway I'm very glad Brad Berman got through his incident unharmed.
That was a very good write-up Brad.

· · 9 weeks ago

My wife and I just leased a new Chevy Bolt EV a couple weeks ago, and everything was great until today the battery immediately went from 50% to 0 while my wife was driving on the freeway, and she had 10 seconds to get over to the shoulder and avoid getting hit by cars going 70. She's also 5 months pregnant, so having to wait around for a tow truck in the heat with freeway fumes wasn't great.

She's now being towed to the dealership but is afraid to drive a new Bolt. What at our options here? How should we approach this? Any help is greatly appreciated.

· · 9 weeks ago

@ddmiller - So sorry to hear that your wife went through the same thing I went through.

Having gone through it, and speaking with GM execs a few times, they will completely replace the battery pack. In the meantime, insist that they give you a loaner, which in my case was a rental from Enterprise. It took them about two weeks to do the swap. (Where are you located?)

I've had my Bolt back for about a month now and no problems. At first, I worried about the problem happening again--but at this stage, it feels like everything is back to where it was before.

GM told me that this is affecting less than 1 percent of owners, so we somehow pulled the bad card. I feel like the company is giving short-shrift to the seriousness of the issue but I'm not sure what else to do. Did they try to contact you in recent weeks to warn you about this possibility?

For now, I would say let them do the repair. Not sure what else can be done but I'm happy to either put you in touch with their communications people or consider other ideas.

· · 9 weeks ago

Thank you so much for the quick response and all your help. We're in Los Angeles. We weren't notified of any potential problem, but I don't know how we would've been, since we leased it a couple weeks ago. If they're aware of the problem, it's surprising to me that they're still letting dealerships sell these cars. They must not have as much of a handle on it as they claim.

Happy to have our exchange public on the site. Hope it helps this and others' situations.

My wife is afraid to drive this car ever again even if they fix it, given the traumatic experience, so I'm not quite sure where to go from here. She may change her mind over time. We got it to be the primary car for the baby on the way and were encouraged by the strong safety ratings, so that's now a tricky fork in the road for us.

If there are communications people you've had a good experience with and would be comfortable putting me in touch with, I'd love to get in touch with them to help figure out our options. I really appreciate the offer.

· · 9 weeks ago

I have had no problems with my Bolt that I purchased in July. Today I got an unexpected call from GM, telling me my battery needs to be replaced. They will have a battery shipped to my dealer in about a week, which is when I'm supposed to bring in my car. The woman told me I should just keep the charge above 1/3.

Since reading about your experience, and that of one of the commenters, I am quite nervous about driving myself and especially my daughter.

Tomorrow I will go to the dealer and try to get a loaner car sooner. Or I suppose a rental if I have to.

What do you think of the instruction to stay above 1/3? It seems this would not have spared you.

Is it safe enough to stay in the right hand lane (if I can bring myself to always do that?). There's at least a few seconds of warning or malfunction before it stops?"

· · 9 weeks ago

@ddeckert - I think it's best to check with GM about how much keeping the car above one-third state of charge will help. Based on my experience and understanding, the low-voltage issue can affect the car regardless of how much juice is in the battery. But again, it's best to follow GM's guidance.

I completely understand why the car would be disconcerting to drive after getting the call from GM. To me, it makes more sense that GM would offer to tow the car to the dealership for repair--and to drop off a loaner car for all the inconvenience and worry.

How the company responds to loyal early buyers of the Bolt will speak volumes about its commitment to electric vehicles.

· · 9 weeks ago

Today I had a limited window of time to see the dealer, so I went in right when they opened. The service manager I think knew my name from a phone message, but he hadn't had a chance to get up to speed on the issue. His first response was "we just don't have any more loaners." I pressed the issue, and he said he would need some time to speak with higher. So I took my daughter to school, the long (safer) way. When I got back, he was all set to get me a rental!

Upon checking in the Bolt, he had learned that first they had to access the battery and read the serial number, to confirm it was defective, before ordering the new one. I'm not sure how I will handle it if they say.. Oh, sorry, you're good!

I was skeptical when the GM phone rep said the actual work of the replacement would be a few hours. Service laughed and said would be a few days.

Well, so far, so good. I'm sorry for yours and Mrs ddmiller's experiences. But your sharing of them has helped me understand the seriousness of this.

· · 8 weeks ago

Brad, I had a horrifying experience today. 197 miles range and entering Freeway 85S from Stevens Creek Blvd in Cupertino, CA. It was about 8:15 PM. All of a sudden a warming popped up stating "Reduced Propulsion... " as I was taking the left turn to the Fwy 85S on ramp. Then after 2 secs I lost power. The range indicator on the instrument cluster was spinning down like a slot machine in Vegas... It came down to 12 miles from 197 miles. Now with my wife and 7 year old daughter in the car I was feeling pretty helpless. The car just did not want to move.

I had already read about your 100 miles to 9 miles experience via some autoblog in the internet. So I knew this was happening to me too. With the inertia of the moving car, I was able to enter the Fwy slowly and by the time I got a shoulder space to park it stopped completely. Now nothing happens. 12 miles remaining and it did not move.

Called 911 and AAA. The Highway Patrol was very kind enough to come and stand behind the car with flashing lights.

The tow truck came after 20 mins and towed the Bolt to Momentum Chevrolet in San Jose. Hope something comes up tomorrow.

· · 8 weeks ago

@mbarooah - I'm sorry that you experienced the same thing that happened to me and others on this thread. Please know that we are in touch with GM Communications folks to try to get the best understanding possible about what the company is doing, first, to avoid having other get into a dangerous situation--and, second, to take great care of customers who were put in harm's way.

I believe GM has the information it needs (from about a week ago) and now we are waiting for an update. Let's use this thread to continue to share information about what happened to our Bolts and how GM is addressing the problem.

· · 8 weeks ago

Update on my 2017 Chevy Bolt - 24th Sept 2017

The Service advisor called me yesterday and told me that with the help of GM specialist they were able to identify the issue with my Bolt stalling with 197 miles of charge indicator. The solution is that they need to replace the High Voltage Battery. The battery will come from GM and will arrive by Thursday/Friday. They will provide an update later this week.

A week without the Bolt and I figured out that I need a loaner. I drove to the dealer and mentioned this to the Service Advisor. He mentioned that he will make a request but he gave an impression that loaner cars are scare and it might be couple of days before they can give me a loaner. This is a bummer. I am still paying my monthly lease on the vehicle, it has a defect in about 6 months of purchase and they cannot provide me with a loaner car. I don't know whether I can go direct to GM on this.

Replacing the High Voltage battery.... is a very fast solution but is there a guarantee that the issue will not occur again. I am not convinced. Is my issue the same or a different one? No answer. At this stage I need clarity on the issue. I hope the advisor explains the root cause when I get my car back.

My concern is that a car with new technology can have bugs and issues. I am a software engineer and i understand that. But coming to a complete loss of power is unacceptable. There should be some safeguard on that. A crawl mode when "Reduced Propulsion" event gets detected. The warning flashed on the center console a couple of days before when my dad was driving the car. He mentioned it to me but he never accelerated like I did to enter the Freeway (he does not drive on the Freeways). He came home, charged it and then it was fine. In my case, I pressed the accelerator to increase speed for a Freeway merge. That killed it instantly.

A note of caution to all Bolt drivers is that if you ever see "Reduced Propulsion" warning message then immediately prepare for an abrupt stop. If on the normal streets pull over to the nearest parking lot. If on the Freeway move to the right and look for a shoulder area to stop. Don't ignore or wander what is going on.

I hope this battery swap turns out to be a good experience and I continue to enjoy the Bolt as I did for the last 6 months. I had referred about 5-6 people planning to move out of Nissan Leaf leases. However I don't want to publish anything on my social media as it will be a bad for the Bolt. The car is good and first time in a while I was thinking that GM at least is now ready to tackle the other car manufacturers with quality cars which are fun to drive.

· · 5 weeks ago

Hello everyone, thanks for sharing all the stories, seems like an not alone. Leased the bolt in August and it has 2400 miles, my wife has been driving this, on Thursday when she left at the parking lot, it had 160 miles as the range. After about 8 hours when she went back to the parking lot, the car wouldn't start, the range dropped to 11 miles. We called AAA for a tow and they said wait was 1 hr, i started driving to her office. After about 20 mins she went back to car and it started with the range back to 160 miles. The car had an exclamation mark. I told my wife to wait till I got to her office, then we exchanged the car and I drove the bolt home.
At home when plugged in for an overnight charge, we got a full charge with 250 miles, called dealership and they asked me to come Saturday morning. I have checking through my Chevrolet app the range, it keeps switching from 200 to 11 and back to 200.
Left the car at the dealership and advisor told me they got some code and are waiting for GM engineers to troubleshoot, hope to hear something on Monday. I have a loaner for now but hate going to gas station to fill up. My question is will GM replace just the cell assuming it's the battery related code or will they replace the entire battery? Was so happy thinking that I don't have to worry about maintenance and then this happened.
Luckily car didn't stall on a freeway... Thank God...

· · 5 weeks ago

@Raj - I'm glad to hear that you escaped any risk on the highway. BTW, I spoke with a GM customer rep last week and asked point blank: How can GM continue to sell Bolts knowing that they could put some drivers at risk (rather than doing a full evaluation of each car before selling it? And what are they going to do about customers that had the full battery replaced but still feel afraid to drive the car? That was about a week ago and no response.

Raj, I think it's easier and more fool-proof to replace the entire pack rather than an individual cell. These packs work as an entire system.

· · 5 weeks ago

@Brad - the service advisor called me yesterday and said that they checked with GM engineers and according to the code, the defective part is "Battery energy assembly module", no idea what that is. I asked him if it was the entire battery pack, he said he is not a technician but looks like some minor component and not the battery. I was like, as a customer I need to know what exactly you are replacing, he said he will have a better answer when the car is ready (seriously!!!). The parts are shipped from Michigan, hopefully it gets here today or tomorrow. May be by the end of this week I might get the bolt back. I wont let my wife drive it for few days till I gain confidence in their part replacement. Also, I called the 1800 chevy and complained about this, the rep told me that some customer liason based in Los Angeles would get back to me in 24 hours. Still waiting for the call.. Will keep the group posted on final outcome.

· · 5 weeks ago

@Raj - Thanks for the update. I'm still waiting for an answer. You would think that GM would bend over backward to make EV drivers happy. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

· · 4 weeks ago

@Brad got the car yesterday, per the code it was detected as EBCM electric battery control module, the car is running fine for now, with a full charge got 252 miles, GM local liason called to check, he told me the dealership didn't give any information about my car. Keeping my fingers crossed and hope wont have issues anymore. The overall cost was about $750 fully covered under warranty.

· · 4 weeks ago

Two night ago, I was in the 91Fwy Express lanes in Corona, CA, with about 86 miles of range showing, and got the reduced propulsion warning, then immediately the battery indicator dropped to 0% and I lost power. The section of freeway I was on had no emergency shoulder on the left and it was night time with traffic moving at 70+.I feared for my life if this car came to a stop in the middle of this section of freeway, so I turned on my emergency hazard lights and had to drive through the soft lane barriers (immediate minor damage to the front of the car) then was working my way across traffic to the right lane. Just prior to reaching the far right I was struck by a fast moving car on the right front as he passed. I was able to finish the coasting roll to the emergency lane on the right. We were both Ok, so we exchanged info and I waited on a terrifying section of freeway at night for an hour, praying not to be hit before I was picked up by a towtruck. I am really dissapointed, but feal luck to be unhurt. My car is at the dealer and they say it has something like 60+ error codes. Waiting to hear back.

Matt

· · 3 weeks ago

@Matt - sorry to hear that and am glad you are OK. This is really nerve racking, please keep us posted. Hope GM takes this seriously, @Brad how can we catch media's attention and make everyone aware of all the issues that drivers are facing. Any class action law suit for jeopardizing the lives of people?

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