2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012
GM said Friday that it will recall 3,233 2013 model year Chevrolet Volts to remedy a problem with battery cell balancing that could cause the car to shut down in traffic.
The recall mirrors two service campaigns for the 2017 and 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EVs for similar behavior. Some 2017 Bolt EVs got new battery packs after some defective cells could cause the car to power down. Bolt EVs also got a software update to give drivers more advanced warning of the problem before that happens.
In its latest recall notice, GM notes that an update to the hybrid powertrain control module in 2013 Volts may have disabled the cell balancing function.
"An error in the software update may prevent the batteries in these vehicles from balancing the voltage among individual battery cells, which under certain circumstances can result in a low-voltage condition in one or more battery cells. If the voltage in a given battery cell falls below a certain level, the vehicle may enter a reduced power mode and notify the driver that propulsion power is reduced. If the vehicle continues to be driven after the vehicle enters reduced power mode, the vehicle may lose propulsion," the statement says.
A GM engineer discovered and reported the problem in the software, and found elevated reports of problems with cars that had received the software update.
No accidents or injuries have been reported as a result of the problem.
GM will issue a new software update to remedy the problem and will notify owners of the Volts involved to bring their cars in to receive the new update. No timeline has been released for when owners will be notified.
Although the affected Volts will enter a low-power "limp-home" mode before shutting down, defects that can result in a vehicle losing power on the road often lead to a recall.
UPDATED: To correct the characterization of the battery defect and customer service campaign in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which exhibited similar behavior and required a similar fix but has a different cause. GM voluntarily reached out to Chevy Bolt EV owners to remedy the problem, but did not issue a recall. GM spokeswoman Elizabeth Winter noted in an email: "Certain Bolt EV vehicles may have a cell quality defect. The new software for that vehicle customer satisfaction campaign increases the accuracy of the range estimation, in addition to providing more warning in the event of a cell low voltage condition. Bolt EV is not a recall, but we strongly encourage all customers to get the update as promptly as possible."