Where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and in a handful of cases across the country, you might also find some upset Chevy Bolt owners.
“I am not going to buy a Chevy-anything ever again after this,” Scott Virgin told News 6.
Virgin says he only owned his Chevy Bolt a few months before the battery caught fire, a scene Virgin caught on camera and posted to YouTube.
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“My son’s car seat melted in the backseat,” Virgin told News 6 investigator Merris Badcock. “I assumed I would have no problem with Chevy. I assumed that I would walk in, they would roll out a red carpet and I would pick out my next car.”
Virgin said that did not happen.
“I ended up owing $12,000 on this stupid car that lit on fire.”
Scott believes his Chevy Bolt was one of the first to catch fire over an electric battery malfunction, which later prompted General Motors to issue a nationwide recall of their entire Bolt fleet.
On Monday, a month after the third recall which encompassed the entire fleet, Chevrolet announced they had figured out “the root cause” of the “battery fire”, which technicians now have the power to fix.
The problem? There currently are not enough parts. Drivers will have to wait until mid-October for new parts.
While they wait, drivers are expected to follow a litany of guidelines some say make the car unusable.
“It’s very frustrating,” Marie Nelson said, a Daytona Beach Bolt owner. “It seems like every single week, we have new guidance coming out on how we can no longer really use our car in the normal capacity.”
According to Chevrolet, Nelson cannot charge her Bolt past 90 percent, and she cannot let the battery fall below 70 miles. Those changes, Nelson says, cuts her range by 40 percent.
Chevrolet also currently recommends drivers not charge their Bolts unattended, overnight or indoors, which means the garage charger Nelson paid for is essentially obsolete until her battery can get fixed.
If drivers cannot follow these guidelines, Chevy advises drivers to park 50 feet away from any other vehicles. “That leads us to the other issue,” said Nelson. “What do we do when we cannot observe these guidelines? What if something does happen? Am I going to be responsible?”
“There is nothing stopping these manufacturers from giving consumers loaner vehicles until this recall repair is made available,” said Jason Levine, the Executive Director for the Center of Auto Safety in Washington D.C. “Ideally, this gets fixed before it gets into the vehicle the first time around.”
Levine told News 6 he believes the time has come for more safety regulations surrounding electric batteries, following in the footsteps of other countries who have already begun making some changes.
However, Levine did not want to deter people from buying electric cars because of fire concerns, noting that fuel-powered vehicles also can catch fire too.
“It is important to have some context around these numbers. There are about 280 million registered vehicles in the United States. You have about 200,000 car fires every year that are powered by fuel that catches on fire in the US.
“There are about a million electric vehicles on the road, and you are talking dozens of these fires.”
News 6 reached out to Nelson’s local Chevy dealer to see if they would issue loaner cars to Bolt buyers affected by the recall. We have not received a response.
On Monday, General Motors also announced plans to roll out new software which will tell drivers of potential battery abnormalities.
GM says the software will be available in about two months and will help prioritize which cars need new batteries first.
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