2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Top Complaints and Problems – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical, brakes and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

The Chevy Bolt is General Motors first mass-production electric vehicle. Although the automaker previously produced the Volt, which is a hybrid, this is its first attempt at a true EV. Indeed, the electrified Bolt is novel in many ways. Among other innovative features, it packs a 60 kWh battery capable of producing a 238-mile range. But the new-fangled hatchback also comes with a list of problems, many of which stem from the fact it’s GM’s first legitimate EV. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Bolt’s main problem areas are the electrical system/propulsion, service brakes and visibility

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2017

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Electrical / Battery

Some owners complain the Bolt exhibits a sudden reduction in battery charge accompanied by a loss of propulsion. One moment, the car displays a full charge; the next second, the gauge reads zero and the vehicle dies.

On the NHTSA website, one owner writes, “Driving at 65 mph with 100+ mile range, car had sudden and complete lack of propulsion. Electronics in the car continued to work, but absolutely no propulsion. Could shift car to neutral. Car eventually towed to dealer.”

The Bolt uses a lithium-ion battery built from 288 individual cells that are divided into 12 modules. A group of computers – including one called hybrid powertrain control module 2 (HPCM 2) – monitor the battery.

Initially, GM blamed bad software inside HPCM 2 for the unexpected lack of propulsion.A customer satisfaction campaign (18097–03) instructs dealers to reprogram the module to fix the problem.

But reprogramming didn’t solve the concern entirely. So, another campaign (17297-02) was published that calls for replacement of the battery pack.

The document reads, “Certain 2017–2018 model year Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicles may have a condition in which the cells within the battery pack have low voltage. This condition is related to the state of charge of the cell group. Eventually, the difference in the state of charge of the cell groups (average vs. minimum) may exceed a threshold.”

According to the website Plugin Cars, just one faulty cell could result in a loss of propulsion. Although GM could service the cells individually, the manufacturer is playing it safe by replacing the entire battery pack.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Chevy Bolt Battery Problems:

I WAS DRIVING DOWN THE FREEWAY AT APPROXIMATELY 65MPH. AS I PULLED OFF THE FREEWAY ONTO A SIDE ROAD, THE “LOW PROPULSION” LIGHT CAME ON. I IMMEDIATELY LOST ALL PROPULSION AND COASTED INTO A PARKING LOT. I HAD THE CAR TOWED TO THE CHEVY DEALER. THE TECHNICIAN WAS ABLE TO START THE CAR ON MONDAY BUT AS HE DROVE IT INTO THE GARAGE, THE SAME THING HAPPENED, SUDDEN LOSS OF COMPULSION. THE DEALER DIAGNOSED MY CAR WITH CHEVROLET ENGINEERING AND HAD TO ORDER A TRANSMISSION, POWER HARNESS AND A 3RD MAJOR PART. THE SERVICE PERSON SAID THIS HAD HAPPENED TO SEVERAL OTHER 2019 BOLTS. THIS SUDDEN LOSS OF PROPULSION WAS A DANGEROUS SITUATION AND COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE HAD WE LOST PROPULSION ON THE FREEWAY, JUST 5 MINUTES BEFORE WE EXITED THE FREEWAY.

COMPLETE POWER FAILURE WITHOUT WARNING. BRAND NEW VEHICLE (82 MILES DRIVEN). OWNED LESS THAN 72 HOURS. CAR WAS DRIVING UP A VERY SLIGHT GRADE AT 35 MPH. DEALER DIAGNOSED IT AS A FAILURE OF AN EATON MANUFACTURED DRIVE MOTOR BATTERY HIGH VOLTAGE MANUAL DISCONNECT LEVER FUSE. FUSE WAS REPLACED AND CAR RUNS. DEALER OFFERED NO EXPLANATION FOR FUSE FAILURE OTHER THAN TO SAY THAT IT WAS PROBABLY A BAD BATCH OF FUSES. IDENTICAL COMPLAINTS HAVE BEEN MADE ON 2017 AND 2018 BOLTS SO THE CHANCES OF IT BEING A BAD BATCH ARE VERY SLIM. DEALER ALSO SAID THAT THERE WAS A TECHNICAL SERVICE BULLETIN ON POINT: 18-NA-225. I AM UNABLE TO GET A COPY OF THAT. CHEVROLET CUSTOMER SERVICE (1-800-222-1020) SAYS THAT THERE IS NO LONGER A BOLT/VOLT EXPERT ON STAFF. IT REFERRED ME BACK TO THE TECHNICIAN IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE PROBLEM IS NOT JUST A FAULTY FUSE, IT SEEMS THAT THERE IS AN UNDERLYING PROBLEM WITH THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM. DEALER WILL NOT TAKE THE VEHICLE BACK; PREFERS INSTEAD TO HAVE US HAVE 2 MORE COMPLETE POWER FAILURES WITHOUT WARNING BEFORE HE WILL CONSIDER THE CAR A “LEMON” UNDER OREGON’S LEMON LAW. THIS IS AN UNACCEPTABLE RISK.

Powertrain

Following that last fix involving the powertrain, it’s also clear that the troubles go beyond what’s already been illustrated.

One NHTSA complaint states “Got brand new vehicle on Sept 7th. On Sept 8th suffered loss of propulsion and inability to change gears. After driving for 20 minutes (50%+ charged) we reached our destination. I attempted to shift the vehicle to R in order to parallel park, however the vehicle was stuck with a message showing an inability to shift. We tried multiple times toggling the car on/off. After leaving for 10 minutes and trying again it worked, however with a Service Engine Light on. We continued to the grocery store. After leaving the grocery store and driving 10 minutes we suddenly while moving got a ‘Loss of Propulsion’ message. Pressing the acceleration pedal did not move the vehicle. We struggled to navigate to the side of the road after losing total power. We tried again turning the vehicle on/off being greeted with ‘Inability to Shift’ message. Eventually after 15 minutes it turned on and luckily we were blocks from a Chevy dealer. This was quite traumatic to go through with my mother-in-law and pregnant wife.”

In addition to this problem, Service Bulletin #080730026F points out that some vehicles move forward or rock when placed in Park. This action is combined with a clunking noise. The automaker claims that there is nothing to fear; this is a normal operation of the vehicle. Unless Bolt EV drivers don’t have a brain, many of them know that Chevy is making things up at this point. If the operation were so normal then drivers would have experienced the same action with every other car that’s been driven, but they haven’t.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Chevy Bolt Transmission Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2019 CHEVROLET BOLT EV. THE CONTACT STATED THAT THERE WAS AN ABNORMAL TICKING NOISE COMING FROM THE VEHICLE. THE NOISE SOUNDED AS IF IT WERE COMING FROM THE AREA OF THE CONSOLE/ GEAR SHIFT. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO CAMELBACK CHEVROLET WHERE IT WAS KEPT FOR TWO WEEKS TO HAVE A NEW GEAR SHIFT INSTALLED. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS MADE AWARE OF THE FAILURE AND DID NOT ASSIST. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 3,217.

Service Brakes

When it comes to stopping, modern vehicles feature a lot of functions that are supposed to make the process easier than ever before. Yet, all that’s seen with the Bolt EV is more instability.

Another one of the NHTSA complaints says, “The Bolt EV has a dangerous design problem when using regenerative braking. You don’t have to use the brake pedal to slow or stop. The car slows in relation to how quickly you release the accelerator pedal. The brake light only comes on when the accelerator pedal is fully released. The car will stop quickly at that point with the brake lights on during the last few seconds until at a full stop when the brake lights turn off. The vehicle remains at a full stop without any brake lights on once your foot is off the accelerator. When stopped you have to hold the brake pedal to keep brake lights on to warn following cars. This needs to be addressed to give adequate notice of changes in speed to following drivers to avoid collisions.”

It turns out this isn’t the only braking defect on the Chevy Bolt EV. There was also a massive recall labeled with NHTSA Campaign Number 18V576000. Over 200,000 vehicles have rear brake caliper pistons with an insufficient amount of coating. This problem results in gas pockets forming, which hinders the brakes’ performance. It turns out the Bolt EV isn’t made for everyday driving after all unless you enjoy visiting the dealership, having poorly functioning brakes or not being able to move.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2019 Chevy Bolt Brake Issues:

BRAKING FAILURES. AFTER DRIVING THE VEHICLE FOR A FEW MILES WITH NORMAL OPERATION OF THE REGENERATIVE BRAKING SYSTEM, THE CAR WAS IN MOTION (ABOUT 45 MPH) WHEN THE CAR’S REGENERATIVE BRAKING SYSTEM WAS REQUESTED BY COMPLETELY REMOVING THE FOOT FROM THE ACCELERATOR IN “L” MODE (THE “ONE FOOT DRIVING” MODE THAT AUTOMATICALLY BRAKES AS LESS PRESSURE IS APPLIED TO THE ACCELERATOR). THE CAR CONTINUED TO MOVE FORWARD AT FULL SPEED TOWARD A RED TRAFFIC LIGHT AT A NORMALLY BUSY INTERSECTION. AT THAT POINT I VALIDATED THAT THE CAR WAS IN “L” MODE AND DECIDED TO USE THE REGENERATIVE BRAKE PADDLE CONNECTED TO THE STEERING WHEEL. THAT ALSO FAILED TO ENGAGE, AND THE CAR CONTINUED AT FULL SPEED TOWARD TO THE RED LIGHT. AT THAT POINT I ENGAGED THE BRAKE PEDAL BRISKLY AND BARELY CAME TO A STOP BEFORE ENTERING THE INTERSECTION.

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