After two Chevrolet Bolt EV owners reported a fire under the back seats of their cars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the cause.
Two owners of Bolt electric vehicles from 2018 and 2019 reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the cars caught fire under the back seats in the battery compartments while the cars were parked. Researchers from the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation then found a third affected car: a 2017 bolt with a similar combustion pattern in the back seat. Last week the federal agency opened an official investigation, a first for General Motors̵
This means that from 2017-2020 all bolts will be checked for a possible recall if a defective part or problem is discovered. During that time, Chevy has sold 77,842 bolts, which is a lot of cars with potential problems.
On the Bolt, the battery is located in the back of the car along the floor of the floor, as seen in these diagrams from GM when the Bolt first launched in 2017. In one of the fiery battery incidents, the car owner reported injuries from inhaling smoke. No further injuries or deaths were reported in connection with the vehicle fires. We asked GM to comment on the fires but haven’t received a response at the time of publication.
While electric vehicles are subjected to a detailed examination after a fire, gas-powered vehicles can catch fire even when parked and unattended. In 2006 and 2010 there were 152,300 vehicle fires per year and virtually no mass-market EVs on the streets. The NFPA information sheet states: “Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors that accounted for around two thirds of vehicle fires.”
So far, in its preliminary assessment, the agency has not found any cause for the electrical fires in the bolts. NHTSA will post any results or next steps on its website where Bolt owners can search their vehicle for reports, recalls and investigations. If something serious and common is discovered, General Motors will reach the affected car owners.
Earlier this year, Tesla and its electric vehicles were screened for sudden acceleration issues that affected 127 of its vehicles. This case is still open.