Chevy Bolt Production Restarts With Upgraded Battery

The Chevy Bolt/Bolt EUV production line at the Lake Orion assembly plant in Michigan has started up again, having been shut down last November while General Motors addressed the fire issue associated with the batteries supplied by LG Chem, now called LG Energy Solution. According to GM Authority, production of replacement battery packs began last September, with the new batteries being installed first in existing cars. Now that there are enough battery packs and modules available for those vehicles, there are enough available to start producing new cars again.

GM is spending $4 billion to adapt the Lake Orion factory to manufacture the upcoming Chevy Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV electric pickup trucks. Production of the Bolt and Bolt EV will continue while the rest of that factory is being reconfigured.

About That New Chevy Bolt Battery

The Bolt originally came with a 60 kWh battery pack rated at 238 miles of range by the EPA. In 2020, the battery pack was upgraded to 66 kWh, which raised the EPA range estimate to 259 miles. All the new battery packs have 66 kWh of capacity, so owners of older models will have more range when their new battery packs are installed. Plus, the new packs will come with a new factory warranty.

Is that enough to offset the pain of the great battery fire schlamozzle and all those months of parking your car outside while charging? Will it erase the humiliation you suffered when other people steered clear of you in parking lots as if your car was radioactive? Maybe. Inside EVs contributor Tom Moloughney has a friend in New Jersey who owns two Chevy 2017 Bolts. Before the battery was replaced in the second car, he took it out for a 70 mph range test on February 27. The battery was charged to 100% (outdoors, managed of course) and the car 167.5 miles before the battery SOC dropped to 2 %.

A week later, with the new battery installed, the owner took the car out for a second range test. Same ambient temperature, same speed, same wheels and tires. The only difference was that Moloughney went along for the ride. This time, the car traveled 188.2 miles before the 2% SOC mark was reached — a 13.5% increase in range.

There are two lessons to be learned from this. One, owners of older Chevy Bolts will be able to go further after their battery is replaced than they could when their cars were new. Two, EPA range is not what drivers can expect out on the superslab unless they are schlepping along in the far right lane with the cement mixers and school buses.

The Takeaway

EVs are challenged by highway driving, and there is no way to sugarcoat it. My first road trip in my Tesla Model Y was just under 200 miles. I started at 95% SOC and ended with 11%. Granted, this was on Route 95 in Florida where the traffic moves along at 80 mph and above most of the time. Higher speeds reduce gas mileage in conventional cars noticeably, but they really hammer EV drivers when it comes to range.

There is too little information on this topic. EV drivers like to gloss over it. But the first question one always hears is “How far can you go before you need to recharge?” and the correct answer is “It depends.” It depends on average speed, ambient temperature, and whether your battery has lost some of its capacity as the years and miles pile up. It depends on whether you are driving in hilly terrain or traversing Nebraska. And so we default to throwing out the EPA number because it’s just easy to do. If you try to explain all the variables to a non-EV driver, their eyes soon glaze over and they start to drool.

The good news, then, is that owners of older Chevy Bolts get a better car than they started with. Now if anyone asks them how much range their car has they can cheerfully say, “259 miles” and leave it at that. Your mileage may vary. In fact, it will vary. Get over it. You’re driving an EV. Be happy!


 

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