Following fires, GM warns Bolt EV owners: Don't park inside or charge overnight

The vehicles in question are from the 2017-2019 model years.

Firemen extinguish an engine fire of an overheated vehicle in Markham, Ontario, Canada, on October 1...
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General Motors has issued a concerning warning to owners of its Bolt EV electric car: If your vehicle is a 2017-2019 model, don’t park it inside or charge the car unattended overnight. The automaker issued the alert following two recent incidents of Bolt EVs catching fire.

GM already issued a recall last year for the Bolt EV to deal with an issue in its battery pack that could cause them to erupt into flames. But the vehicles that recently caught fire had already been taken to a dealer and received repairs meant to address the issue. That suggests that GM hasn’t necessarily resolved whatever is causing the electric cars to burst into flames.

Two fires so far — “General Motors has been notified of two recent Chevrolet Bolt EV fire incidents in vehicles that were remedied as part of the safety recall announced in November 2020,” the company said in a statement to CNBC. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking owners of 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs who were part of the recall population to park their vehicles outdoors immediately after charging and not leave their vehicles charging overnight while we investigate these incidents.”

The Vermont State Police released this photo of a 2019 Chevy Bolt that burst into blames in the driveway of its owner. Vermont State Police/CNBC

Bad look, but — Of course, that suggestion is less than ideal. One of the biggest benefits of owning an electric vehicle is that it can be charged at home, overnight, meaning owners don’t have to find a charging station during the day and wait hours for their car to charge.

Also, it’s, you know, concerning when an automaker warns you that your car could spontaneously burst into flames.

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Electric car fires have made headlines periodically over the years as the vehicles become more popular and regulators around the world push the adoption of green transportation.

The biggest maker of electric cars, Tesla, has had its own problems with battery fires, though they remain quite rare. That company uses a metric of “fires per 1 billion miles driven” and says that between 2012 and 2020, there has been about one vehicle fire for every 205 miles traveled. Citing data from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, it claims that gasoline-powered cars are about 11 times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla.

Electric cars are still generally safer than gas cars, but one concern is that the fires they create are harder to put out. Tesla has even had to create special instructions for fire departments to use when extinguishing battery fires from its vehicles.

Early days — GM and the rest of the automotive industry is in a race to transition to electrified cars, and it will take time for them to develop the same expertise they have making gas-powered systems. It’s at least good that GM is taking issues with battery fires seriously, despite their continued rarity.

As of the beginning of 2021, GM has sold 88,000 Bolt EVs within the United States. It recently announced the 2022 model of the Bolt EV, and a larger “Bolt EUV.” The company is all in on electric with other cars announced including a battery-powered Chevy Silverado and an electric Hummer SUV.