Regrettably, a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt owner in Cherokee County, Georgia, gained an intimate understanding of why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM recommend parking and charging your Bolt outside. We don’t have many details, but via Inside EVs, the Cherokee County fire and emergency services got a call to respond to a home fire just after 9 a.m. The resident told the firefighters his smoke alarms started going off, and he traced the source to a 2019 Bolt parked in an adjoining garage. Firefighters doused the fire and got the car out of the garage, rescuing the situation soon enough so that the only secondary fallout was to a Dodge Ram parked alongside that “received some smoke damage.” The Bolt, however, was toast — another EV sacrificed to battery chemistry and rare defects.
Toward the end of August, GM recalled every Bolt and Bolt EUV ever sold around the world. Furthermore, the automaker advised every Bolt owner to take a few steps to lessen the chance of their car catching fire, such as setting the maximum battery charge to 90%, recharging the Bolt after each drive to keep the battery from running down — and, again, parking the car outside. As we’ve seen over the past few years with the Takata airbag inflator recall, however, the instructions only work when they’re followed. And even then, that doesn’t prevent fires, as Jesus Damian discovered when his Bolt went up in flames overnight while parked outdoors in Sacramento, torching the two cars next to it as well, one of them a Maserati.
GM has been deep in problem-solving mode trying to get the issue sorted, developing diagnostic tools to check each cell in each battery, instituting OEM quality control measures at the LG Chem plants that make the batteries at issue, and buying back some Bolts from owners. Bolt fires have already torched GM’s bank account for nearly $2 billion, and according to an Ars Technica report, the potential needle-in-a-haystack nature of the defect has made it hard to determine when the matter can be solved and remedied for good, as GM has proclaimed a lack of confidence in LG Chem.
So far no one has died in any of these spontaneous combustions, but two people reported smoke inhalation and one house went down in a blaze. If you own a Bolt, do yourself and your loved one a huge favor and park that puppy outside.