GM announced that it will recall every Chevrolet Bolt manufactured to date, including the new electric utility vehicle models. This recall was initiated after five cars that had not been in any crashes caught fire. Chevy recalled another batch of Bolts in July after further investigation. Two manufacturing defects could have caused the problem simultaneously. Two manufacturing defects, a torn tab and a folded separator, created conditions that could cause a short in affected cells. According to an AP report, the company has so far identified 10 fires caused by faulty batteries. This latest recall covers 73,000 Bolts manufactured between 2019 and 2022, the current model years. It brings the total recall to almost 142,000 cars. More than 100,000 have been sold in the US. GM estimates that the initial recalls cost $800 million and that the new one will add $1 billion. GM stated that it will seek reimbursement from LG. To fix the problem, the automaker will replace vehicles’ batteries. This is a lengthy and costly process that will take a while. GM recommends that Bolt owners park their cars outside to reduce their battery’s charge to 90 percent. The company recommended that the estimated range not be below 70 miles. GM said it is working with LG Chem on ramping up production of replacement cells. The problem was initially traced to an LG Chem factory located in Ochang, South Korea. Both companies believed that the problem was resolved at that location. Investigators discovered that a fire erupted in Chandler, Arizona last week, involving a 2019 Bolt, prompting them to expand their scope. They also discovered that the problem was present in other LG Chem factories. This joint venture, worth multibillions of dollars, will produce the Ultium batteries that will be used in a variety of electric vehicles. The two companies announced the opening of two $2.3 billion battery factories in Ohio, Tennessee. The first will be in production next year. This is the second time that GM and LG Chem have partnered for high-voltage batteries. In 2008, GM selected LG Chem to supply the packs for its Chevy Volt plug in hybrid. It was widely believed that GM chose the Korean company due to its track record in the relatively new field lithium-ion batteries. It was probably the right choice, considering that A123, one of the competitors for this contract, suffered a bad reputation a few years later, when its batteries caused a string of Fisker Karma plug in hybrids to go kaput. But even LG Chem’s manufacturing experience and manufacturing prowess has not protected it from these high-stakes mistakes. Greg Less, technical director of University of Michigan’s Battery Lab, said that batteries are difficult. “If they weren’t difficult, everyone would be making them.” Battery manufacturers have struggled in recent years to balance the competing needs for cost, stability, performance, and cost when developing new chemistries. Cobalt is used in many lithium-ion cars to maintain stability while charging or discharging. Cobalt is costly and is most commonly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country is known for its poor human rights record, as well as substandard mining conditions. The cobalt is being reduced by electrochemists who have tried to swap it for nickel. This also increases the energy density. High-nickel batteries are more prone to fire. GM and LG have not released details about the Bolt’s chemistry. The Bolt’s ingredients are NMC 622. That is six parts nickel, two pieces manganese and two parts cobalt. This is similar to the other automakers’ use. As automakers try to iron out problems in their battery supply chains, there have been many recalls in recent times. BMW, Hyundai, Ford, and Hyundai all recall vehicles recently. Those recalls have been smaller than GM’s and range from manufacturing defects to software issues. However, it is not clear if EVs catch fire more often than internal combustion engines. Tesla released earlier this month a report that stated that fossil-fuel vehicles are 11x more likely to catch on fire than Tesla’s cars (as measured in fires per billion kilometres). However, 2019 data from London Fire Brigade shows that plug-in vehicles are more likely to catch fire than ICE cars (0.1 percent vs 0.04 percent). This is despite GM’s continued investment in electrification. In response to last month’s recall, GM spokesperson Dan Flores wrote that the company was working with its supplier and manufacturing teams to find the best way to expedite the replacement of the module capacity. “These teams are working around-the-clock on this issue.” Our Gear team has selected the best running gear, fitness trackers, and shoes (including socks) for you.

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