By Ben Foldy
General Motors Co. is recalling its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles to limit the battery's charging capacity, becoming the latest auto maker to fix its plug-in models because of fires related to the lithium-ion batteries.
The measure covers nearly 69,000 Bolts from the 2017-2019 model years, including about 51,000 sold in the U.S. GM said it was aware of five fires involving the cars so far, which resulted in two injuries from smoke inhalation.
Bolt owners shouldn't park their cars in their garages before bringing their vehicles to dealerships to limit the batteries' charging capacity to 90% until a permanent fix can be found, the company said. The auto maker is still investigating the defect's root cause but has found that the batteries were at or near fully charged in each of the fires so far, it said.
Safety is GM's highest priority, and the company is cooperating with federal regulators while also performing its own investigation, said Jesse Ortega, the Bolt's executive chief engineer on a call with reporters Friday.
Auto makers have been rolling out new plug-in models as the industry looks to accelerate its shift from gasoline-powered vehicles toward battery-powered ones.
But some of those rollouts have been disrupted by fires involving the vehicles' lithium-ion batteries. Hyundai Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG have each issued recalls for new battery-powered models in recent months, which have created headaches for companies' product planning and compliance costs amid tightening regulations on tailpipe emissions.
Researchers have said the risks of fires for electric vehicles are comparable to those in gas-powered ones, with an uptick to be expected as more cars and models hit the road. Still, the auto industry's troubles with lithium-ion batteries echoes those of other industries like consumer electronics and jetliners, which led to high-profile and expensive recalls and groundings as the technology proliferated over the past two decades.
Batteries and their supply have become increasingly important to the auto industry, with companies spending tens of billions to ensure the steady supply of high-quality batteries needed to execute on their plans. That has fueled rapid growth in battery manufacturing, with roughly 175 factories planned or under construction globally to meet demand, according to battery market research firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
The Ford, Hyundai and BMW recalls all implicated manufacturing quality issues at the companies' battery suppliers, the auto makers said.
GM said Friday that the batteries in the affected Bolts were all produced at one LG Chem Ltd. factory in Korea between 2016 and 2019. The issue doesn't affect some Bolts made during the 2019 model year with batteries provided by a different LG Chem factory in Michigan, the auto maker said. An LG Chem representative wasn't immediately available for comment.
Write to Ben Foldy at Ben.Foldy@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires