After Fires, Chevrolet Bolt Owners Are Warned: Don’t Park Indoors

Source: By Azi Paybara, New York Times • Posted: Monday, July 19, 2021

Even electric vehicles serviced in response to a recall last year may still be at risk, the vehicle’s manufacturer and federal safety officials said.

2019 Chevrolet Bolts at a dealership in Englewood, Colo.
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Two Chevrolet Bolt EVs recently caught fire after they were repaired as part of a recall last year that affected nearly 51,000 vehicles in the United States, federal safety officials announced on Wednesday.

Now, owners of Chevrolet Bolts from the model years 2017 through 2019 have been urged to park their vehicles outdoors after charging and to avoid leaving them while they charge overnight, the officials and the car’s manufacturer said on Wednesday.

The affected vehicles were originally recalled in November 2020 over concerns that some of them may contain high-voltage batteries “that may pose a risk of fire when charged to full, or very close to full, capacity,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said at the time.

As part of the 2020 recall, the car’s manufacturer, General Motors, offered to have software inside the vehicles reprogrammed so that batteries could only be charged up to 90 percent of their original capacity.

Then, two Chevrolet Bolt EVs that had been serviced as part of that recall caught fire. One fire occurred this month in Vermont. The other occurred in New Jersey, a spokesman for GM told CNBC.

The owner of the vehicle in Vermont, Timothy Briglin, a state legislator, said his 2019 Chevrolet Bolt caught fire early on July 1 while it was plugged in and parked in his driveway. Although a news release from the Vermont State Police said the vehicle was “plugged in and charging when the fire was discovered,” Mr. Briglin said that was inaccurate. He said the vehicle was plugged in at 8 p.m. with about 10 percent left in the battery.

“The Bolt’s charging system said it would reach 100 percent charge by 3:30 to 4 a.m., at which time charging would cease,” Mr. Briglin said. The vehicle caught fire at 6:30 a.m., he said.

Mr. Briglin also said officials from General Motors and the traffic safety agency would be in Vermont on Friday to examine his vehicle.

General Motors, the manufacturer of the vehicles, said in a statement on Wednesday, “Safety is our highest priority, and we are moving as quickly as we can to investigate this issue.”

On Thursday, a spokesman for General Motors referred to the company’s online statement, which encouraged owners of affected vehicles to get them serviced as the company investigates the problem.

The traffic safety administration said it was “looking into these latest fires.”

In March, nearly 380,000 Kia vehicles were recalled over concerns that electronic components inside certain vehicles could short-circuit and cause fires. Drivers of the Kia vehicles were told to watch for warning lights, a “burning/melting odor” or smoke from the engine compartment, in a safety recall report by the traffic safety agency.