New technologies breed new worries, and electric vehicles are no different. While today’s internal combustions engines have had over one-hundred years of refinement, electric vehicles, with large, complex battery packs and motors, are new—and companies are pushing the boundaries of battery technology. Sometimes, that technology fails—and for one Chevrolet Bolt EV owner—more than once. Bradley Berman took to InsideEVs to detail how his leased 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV needed two battery pack replacements.
Berman took delivery of his 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier on June 16, 2017. On Aug. 8, 2017, less than a month after taking ownership, the Bolt abruptly stopped, leaving him stranded on the side of the road. The Bolt had just 1,746 miles on the odometer.
A few weeks later, General Motors diagnosed a low-voltage problem. The Bolt was fine until late 2018 when in October Berman began noticing diminished range. He didn’t get his Bolt to a dealership until last month when diagnostics showed another low-voltage problem with the car showing 11,940 miles on the odometer. What are the chances of a Bolt needing two battery replacements in just over a year? Rare.
According to Tim Grewe, chief engineer of electric propulsion systems at General Motors, who told Berman over the phone this second battery replacement is a “one in a million” chance. He continued to say that “we never want it to happen again.”
Early into the Bolt’s production, General Motors reached out to owners to warn them of an issue where a failing or malfunctioning battery cell(s) could cause an incorrect range to display on the vehicle’s computer. This is what happened with Berman’s first faulty battery pack, directly leading to a software update and recall, according to Berman’s interview with Grewe. The second failure was the result of subtle manufacturing variances during the manufacturing of the battery pack. According to Grewe, both incidents caused changes in the packs manufacturing process.
People will scrutinize over a case like Berman’s. New technologies will almost always draw both critics and supporters. Even during the Automotive News World Congress last month, GM CEO Mary Barra made the bold claim that the automaker has sold 200,000 EVs and not a single one has needed a battery replacement.
Turns out that’s only true if you measure battery replacements from normal wear and tear—not malfunctions. Thankfully, it appears GM and Crewe are working hard to keep any malfunctions to a minimum.