The gods at GM have taken pity on us and showered us with the gift of a new traction battery, releasing us from our sins.
Where we left off in this saga was we were in the queue to get a new car courtesy of GM as a part of the battery safety recall. (See To Bolt or Not that is the Question—We Have a Failing Traction Battery.) We had no idea when this would happen. We were in Limbo.
In the meantime, I’d determined that our Bolt had a bad cell in the battery. There was the danger the car would shut down unexpectedly, say when we were driving in the backcountry or on a freeway in Los Angeles. Neither was appealing. On top of that we had a relative coming to visit and the risk of failure with three of us in the car was too much to take.
I took the car back into the dealer. This was my second visit in as many weeks. This time I was very specific and asked them to check the cell voltages and tell me if the car was safe to drive. This would only take a few minutes, so I waited–and waited. A couple of hours later I asked what had happened.
I was old the service technician had installed GM’s battery safety recall software on the car and fired it up. The software promptly found the bad cell, and shut the car down. Obviously, the car wasn’t safe to drive to the software.
This wasn’t what I wanted to hear. The car was now “bricked” (a battery that won’t work is not much more than a heavy brick) and wouldn’t move. The two technicians working on the car were now busy calling Detroit to find out how to get the car off the lift. It wasn’t going anywhere under its own power.
By now it was getting late and it was clear I wasn’t driving the car home. The dealership arranged for a Hertz rental, and off I went with a gasser. There were no Teslas at this rental location, though Hertz expected to get them in Bakersfield this summer.
I called the dealer the next day. They never called back.
I had the rental. They had our Bolt. I figured they’d call when something happened. And they did.
Bolt Battery Reassigned
They called early the second day and said that they had a battery in stock. The car it was assigned to never showed up and GM had authorized it to be reassigned to our car.
Because each battery must be accounted for and this is a massive recall affecting some 150,000 vehicles, you can’t just walk in and ask for a battery. There must have been a flurry of calls and emails from the dealer to Detroit to get the battery reassigned to our Bolt. I suspect that part of the reason is that our car was clearly unsafe to drive, it was already stuck on their lift, and they had the battery just sitting there unused.
The dealer rep went on to say that they would have the car done that day. I was surprised by this. They not only have to replace the battery but they must reinstall and test a series of software that monitors and controls the battery.
Nevertheless, they called at 5.00 pm and said the car was ready to pick up. I retrieved it the next morning—and drove it off.
When I got in the car, I immediately plugged in my OBD scanner and powered up Torque Pro on my phone.
The battery checked out. Our Bolt with 20,000 miles on it now had a 62.2 kWh battery. At a full charge, the average cell voltage was 4.14 V and the minimum voltage was 4.12 V for a difference of only 0.02 V, or well within the desired range.
While the Bolt is advertised with a 66 kWh battery, building, testing, and monitoring battery capacity is as much art as science. We measured the capacity of our previous battery as between 62-65 kWh when new.
After charging the car a second time, the OBD scanner was reporting 62.0 kWh and the calculated capacity was 63.4 so again well within the range of what we expect a new battery to have.
Nancy, my wife, is happy. She gets to keep the Oasis Blue color she wanted in a size and feel of a car she’s comfortable with. I am happy. We have essentially a new car after driving 20,000 miles.
I am surprised though that the original battery management software didn’t pick up the bad cell. I had to figure it out on my own. There was no message on the infotainment screen warning me to take the car in immediately. As the official service report stated, “No codes were stored in vehicle prior to programming.” That’s service technician jargon that the car had not detected anything wrong. Let’s hope that GM and its software engineers have learned their lesson from this.
The new battery and temporary car rental didn’t cost us a penny. The battery was replaced under Recall: N212345941-04. All told, the Bolt recalls are costing LG Chem ~$2 billion.