On Friday (1/14/22), my VIN came up in the Bolt battery replacement "lottery". I called Castle Rock Chevy, GM, etc. and they placed the order for my new pack, expected delivery time 7-10 days.
For those who are not familiar with the Bolt recall, two relatively rare defects were discovered resulting from manufacturing issues. Initially, like Hyundai, GM thought software might be effective in detecting conditions that led to fires (about 15 known fires out of 170K or so Bolts on the road). Initially, it was thought that US made cells were not prone to these defects. GM and LGES shifted Bolt battery manufacturing from South Korea to Holland, MI in early 2019, and the majority of fires were in Bolts manufactured in the twilight hours of manufacturing in SK.
In mid-2019, LGES and GM tweaked the cell chemistry to substitute aluminum (I think) for some of the Cobalt content in the cells and the result was a gain of ~10% capacity. With 2020 model year Bolts, they started advertising an increase in range from 238 miles to 259 miles as a result of the mods.
After a fire or two in Bolts with this new software and newer battery cells, the recall was expanded to include all model year Bolt EV and EUVs, with a promise of an entirely new (refurbished) pack and restarted warranty. Production was discontinued on 2022 model year Bolts. Within several weeks, LGES and GM determined methods to catch the defects in the QA process, and cell production was resumed, but new Bolt manufacturing has remained idle with an estimated restart of late February. The result is more cells available for replacement packs!
As 2019 models with SK batteries were the highest incident rate, GM gave priority to this "class" of the fleet and started replacing packs with the newly manufactured cells. All replacement packs therefore are made with the higher capacity cells, thus promising increased capacity and range for the older Bolt owners. To top it off, GM is restarting the 8 year, 100K mile battery warranty with the replacement packs, making the most costly component of these cars effectively new, and restarting the lifecycle clock for owners.
As of this past week, GM has shipped over 19K refurbished packs to dealers to install in owners cars. A majority of early 2019 model year Bolts already have these new packs, and 2017-2018 Bolts started to get notices that they had become eligible for the replacement packs. What started as a monthly batch of VINs moved into the eligible for replacement recall category in the initial phase became a biweekly batch, then about a week ago, they shifted to a weekly batch of status updates. The Service Manager at CR Chevy, someone I have spent considerable time chewing the fat with on previous recall SW updates shared with me, the pace of deliveries and delivery lead times is improving steadily.
Along the way, a few reports of problems following the replacement have emerged in online sites. GM has refined the recall remedy instructions and systems to reduce the chances of these problems, so future issues are going to be less likely. One of these was a computer glitch informing dealers to install the wrong BMS software update, the other a dealer tech error improperly refilling the battery thermal management coolant.
The replacement effort involves roughly a day of tech work, followed by topping off the pack before returning the car to the owner. Owners are asked to not charge in the 24 hours preceding bringing their cars in, and arriving with a state of charge under 70% or so. Apparently, this is for shipping\safety reasons, the recall instructions require the dealer to run the Bolt on high HVAC with all of the accessories on to burn off excess charge which adds considerable time. Further, the car must sit for a day before they touch it if it was charged within 24 hours of bringing it in.
In my personal situation, the timing really couldn't be better. My wife and I recently retired and will be taking some rather long trips in the Bolt starting in mid-February. The first leg of the journey will be CO to San Diego to spend time with family and friends and begin our retirement celebrations. That leg will be about 1200 miles. Next, we will travel to Virginia (DC Area) to spend more time with family, then a week in Williamsburg for some site seeing. That leg is expected to be about 2800 miles. Finally, in early April, we will return to CO with another 1600 miles of EV travel. All told, over 6000 miles.
Now, many people pooh pooh the Bolt as a long distance EV. The Bolt is only capable of 55kW peak DCFC charging speeds at relatively low (under ~50-55%) state of charge. In fact, our first Bolt trip in 2018 between Monument and Ouray along I-70 then Hwy 50\550 was a difficult trip. At the time, there were only two DCFC sites along the route, both 20kW DCFC (Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction). The trip was so painfully slow, my wife vowed to veto and EV trips until we retired and had more time on our hands.
Well, the time has come, and I am holding her to her pledge!
Fortunately, DCFC infrastructure is INFINITELY better in 2022 than 4 years ago, thanks to Electrify America and outstanding grant programs like Charge Ahead CO. In mapping out this trip, I have found few, if any gaps exceeding 100 miles. While I expect some of our stops may be 150-175 miles apart to optimize things, if there are circumstances requiring us to stop sooner, there appear to be options. I expect to use less than 40% of the DCFC chargers along most stretches of the journey.
So, what about slow charging? Since our Ouray trip, we have done a few shorter trips to Grand Junction\Palisade, and Steamboat Springs. I have "mastered" the art of EV Charging multitasking, meaning finding activities to occupy charging downtime makes the task seem quite trivial. On one trip, we stopped 3 times for DCFC and combined two of these with sit down meals. My wife despises fast food, so taking in a meal at Chili's and the like is more to her liking. Fortunately, this means it typically takes longer to eat a meal than to charge the Bolt to a reasonable level to continue the journey. We intend to add site seeing, shopping, entertainment and other activities in these longer trips, making sure to take the rush out of the trips.
Watch this thread for a post recall surgery recap if you are interested. And also watch for a recap of the trips in coming months.