Aug 23, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The EV revolution will hit speed bumps

Illustration of people pushing an electric car
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nobody said the transition to electric vehicles would be seamless, and the General Motors recall of every Chevy Bolt is the latest example of why it won't be.

Driving the news: GM's expanding Bolt recall over battery fire risks to include 2020-2022 models, and 2019 models that weren't covered by previous rounds.

  • The new recall of roughly 73,000 vehicles announced Friday will cost the auto giant $1 billion, GM said. That brings the total Bolt recall costs to $1.8 billion, per numerous reports.
  • GM's replacing defective battery modules over what it calls "rare" problems. The multiphase recall now covers every Bolt since the car's 2017 launch.

Why it matters: While lots of gas-powered cars are recalled, EV recalls are unwelcome at a time when automakers and the White House are looking to hasten the transition to cars with a plug.

  • EV sales have been surging, but they're still a tiny fraction of the market and will need to massively expand to reach President Biden's goal of 50% of sales by 2030.
  • GM is among several automakers to issue recalls over battery problems or other glitches. Others include Hyundai, Porsche and Ford (CNBC has a breakdown here).

What they're saying: "It’s an image hit, and not just for GM," Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs tells Axios.

  • Krebs notes that "GM is so committed to electric vehicles that I don't think it will do anything to derail that," and that she expects industry-wide EV sales to keep growing a lot.
  • However, she adds that it's too soon to know whether industry recalls will have any drag on sales as EVs move beyond early adopters.

Doug Parks, a top GM executive, said in a statement alongside the new recall that "as leaders in the transition to an all-electric future, we know that building and maintaining trust is critical."

  • "GM customers can be confident in our commitment to taking the steps to ensure the safety of these vehicles," he said.

The big picture: The recall comes as GM is pouring $25 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025, with plans for well over two-dozen new models.

  • One bright spot for GM is that its future models will use its Ultium battery propulsion system that's separate from the Bolt's batteries.
  • Meanwhile, GM says its pursuing reimbursement from LG Chem over battery defects behind the Bolt recall, and shares of the Korean industrial conglomerate are sliding.
Go deeper