January 2022 Update: GM has extended the production pause through at least the end of February. Also, a new update is available for the onboard software of 2020-2022 model years. The update lifts parking (social distancing 50 feet!) and charging restrictions. In a strange twist, GM announced that owners of fully-repaired Bolt’s will receive “Chevrolet Certified” window clings for parking lot attendants and others to be able to verify that the vehicle is safe. Strange times for GM!
The newly redesigned 2022 Chevrolet Bolt has a lot going for it: sleek new looks, modern tech, a new larger variant, and most of all, a starting MSRP of just $31,000. But as you probably know by now, GM’s golden opportunity went up in smoke when Bolts began to catch fire, sometimes burning down entire homes. Once a great budget EV, the Bolt has been ordered to socially distance by at least 50 feet from any building until GM works its way through the $2 billion dollar fix to get these cars back on the road safely.
There is a fix on the way, and it’s a fix that we’d like to think can’t go wrong. All Bolts from model years 2017 to 2019 are due to receive an all-new battery free of charge, and 2020-2022 models will receive. Could the Bolt fire disaster turn out to be a good thing for consumers in the end?
The 2022 Refresh Breathes New Life Into GM’s First Dedicated EV
This is the Bolt’s first major refresh since it was unveiled in 2016. Back then, it harkened a new path for GM at a time when the future of electrified transportation was uncertain. Would EVs remain a luxury outlier for Tesla fans? Or would EVs end up appealing to the masses?
The 2017 Bolt arrived at dealerships to great fanfare, even going on to win both the North American Car of the Year and the Motor Trend Car of the Year awards in 2017. Following a few minor efficiency upgrades, by 2021 the Bolt was rated at 259 miles of range in the EPA test cycle. That’s a respectable figure even in today’s field of EVs. With the 2022 model year update came a shock to fans of affordable EVs: the 2022 Bolt had the same rated range, but it was listed for $5,500 less, new technology, curvy looks and all! It’s likely that the price drop was intended to reflect the loss of eligibility for the $7,500 federal tax credit.
Another unexpected announcement was the launch of the Bolt EUV, a larger sibling to the original compact Bolt. The new Bolt EUV is 6 inches longer with an extra 3 inches of backseat legroom. The EUV has a big tech advantage over the Bolt EV: it includes GM’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver assistance software. On paper, the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV looked like great deals. Even before the big refresh, efficiency, affordability and the former eligibility for the $7,500 federal tax credit lifted the Bolt to a spot in the top five in American EV sales for four years in a row.
Bolts On Fire: What Went Wrong?
The Chevy Bolt has had its weaknesses since the beginning, but they were always manageable. A peak charging rate of 55kW that continues to this day was always the biggest inconvenience. But you get what you pay for, right? Well, no consumer should ever be cornered into an affordable vehicle that turns out to be a massive fire hazard and safety risk.
Beginning in 2017, news reports emerged of multiple Bolts catching fire in parking lots and driveways. Eventually, so many Bolts caught fire that GM issued a fix in late 2020, but it failed to solve the problem. By early 2021, the pattern was clear, and a combo recall and stop-sale were issued for all Bolts (2017-2022 model years). Production of 2022 Bolts was halted, and remains on pause through January.
We now know the root cause of the battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolts, and it’s a defect that affects every model year in some capacity. A spokesperson for LG, the battery supplier for the Bolt, shared the cause with Consumer Reports. “GM and LG have identified the presence of two rare simultaneous defects, found in the same battery cell, made during the module manufacturing process.” GM explained that the cause is a torn anode tab and folded separator within the battery modules. What it comes down to is two very rare defects simultaneously occurring in the same battery cells.
GM Has a Fix, but it’s Costing the Automaker Billions
GM has to be furious with LG for supplying dangerous batteries to its car that was destined for mass appeal. There’s nothing appealing about buying a $30,000 fire hazard, not to mention the hassle of returning the vehicle for the recall. But it looks like the two behemoths have reached a deal. LG has agreed to compensate GM for the costs associated with the recall. When all is said and done (sometime in 2022), LG will be paying GM about $2 billion.
GM is going to replace all battery packs in 2017-2019 Bolts and will replace defective battery modules (partial replacement) in 2020-2022 Bolt EVs and EUVs. Repaired Bolts will come with a new eight-year, 100,000-mile limited warranty. GM will prioritize customers who have Bolts at the highest risk, but they’re not ready to release a timeline for completion, pending battery availabilty from the supplier. It’s looking like it may take a full year to complete the recall repairs.
As of December 2021, GM has started scheduling dealership visits to install a software upgrade for all eligible Bolts. The upgrade is “designed to detect specific abnormalities that might indicate a damaged battery in Bolt EVs and EUVs by monitoring the battery performance and alerting customers of any anomalies.” GM has not yet implemented over-the-air updates like Tesla, Ford and Volkswagen, so Bolt owners will have to visit a dealership to get the software fix.
YAA’s Take: Should You Consider the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV?
Don’t rush out to buy a 2022 Bolt. There’s a stop-sale in effect, so you couldn’t buy one even if you tried. Considering the immense resources GM has thrown at this debacle, once all Bolts are fixed, it’s highly likely that the Bolt will return to its former glory as a true EV bargain worth checking out. The automaker’s engineers MUST have thoroughly investigated and fixed the problems, right? Unfortunately, due to LG’s battery production backlog, the Bolt probably won’t be worth considering until 2023.
Let’s time travel to 2023 together and forget about the battery recall for just a moment. The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt offers 259 miles of range, a modernized interior and refreshing exterior, all for a base MSRP of $31,000. In several states, the effective price of a 2022 Bolt can easily fall under $27,000, even though it no longer qualifies for the federal EV tax credit. If revisions to the EV tax credit ever make their way through congress, the Bolt might even become a $20k car. That’s a steal! Proceed with caution and patience, and give GM and LG time to clean up their mess. Plus, there are dozens of other EVs arriving on American roads in 2022. The EV market is far different heading into 2022 than it was when the first generation Bolt arrived in 2016.
Even with the battery fixes, the Bolt still suffers from a poor charging rate of just 55 kW. If you roadtrip often, that will be an issue. Whereas the new 2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5 can recharge from 10-80% (over 200 miles of range) in just 18 minutes, the same charging session would take a full hour in a 2022 Bolt. If you’re on the market for a budget EV, the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt just might be worth a test drive, but not until GM wraps up the ongoing recall fixes. And that might take a whole year. Stay tuned to YAA for the latest EV information, car reviews and industry insights.
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