chevy bolt ev reliability
Steve Birkett's picture

Assessing Chevy Bolt EV Reliability After Almost 3 Years on the Road

GM’s first all-electric vehicle hit some dealerships in late 2016, so how is the Chevy Bolt EV’s reliability holding up as some early adopters hit six figures on the odometer?
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General Motors comes in for a lot of flak from many corners, but the reliability of its electric vehicles is not often one of those criticisms leveled at the automaker.

Despite the frequent and unsubstantiated assertion from critics that the battery will be the most troublesome part of any electric vehicle to maintain, long-term owners of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid report excellent performance from the electric portion of the much-loved car.

Relieved of the burden of so many combustion engine parts, it follows that the all-electric Chevy Bolt EV reliability is shaping up to deliver an even better record than its now-retired predecessor. Let’s explore several key aspects of the vehicle and see if the Chevy Bolt EV is a reliable car to drive so far.

Early Adopters and the Chevy Bolt EV
It’s fair to say that drivers of the Chevy Bolt EV are early adopters of unproven technology.

Although GM’s Voltec powertrain was established and widely respected by the time the Bolt EV came along in 2016, the automaker had no track record with all-electric cars -- the EV1 fiasco notwithstanding. In fact, the Bolt EV was the first of its kind for any manufacturer at this mid-range price point, with Tesla still a year away from widespread delivery of the Model 3 and the first-generation Nissan Leaf’s range unable to stretch past the 200-mile mark.

At the same time, Nissan experienced some criticism about its battery management system and premature pack degradation, fueling concerns that new electric models like the Bolt EV would see similar problems two or three years down the line.

Well, here we are almost three years later, ready and able to judge just how reliable the Chevy Bolt EV has been to date.

Chevy Bolt EV Recalls
As with most cars, the Chevy Bolt EV has seen a handful of recall notices over its three model years.
One of the most recent, posted in September of 2018, covered an issue with the brake pistons that could reduce braking performance. The recall involved various models across GM’s stable of brands, including the higher end Cadillac and GMC labels, and was easily fixed by a free service at a local dealership.

To find recalls specific to the Chevy Bolt EV, we have to travel further back to the 2017 model year (the car’s first) and an issue unique to electric vehicles. In the spring of 2018, GM issued a voluntary recall for the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV and some early production 2018 models, involving a software issue in the battery management system.

While that issue was also a relatively simple fix with a new software update delivered by dealers, it does highlight an ongoing limitation for General Motors and other legacy manufacturers: the lack of OTA updates. This was one of our three items for GM to fix on the Chevy Bolt EV last month and remains a feature that would quickly raise the company above its immediate rivals, as well as that little bit closer to Tesla.

Going back further still, to the earliest 2017 Chevy Bolt EV model year, we do begin to find more serious teething problems for individual owners, such as replacement battery packs and problematic charge ports.

I recall a handful of tales on various Bolt EV forums about owners noticing diminished range and visiting their dealership expecting a minor fix, only to be told that they would receive a completely new battery pack for the vehicle.
It’s important to note, however, that these were individual issues that never received a wider recall.

GM reportedly went out to around 100 early owners to diagnose and remedy the cell leveling problem, so that those who follow them would never experience the issue. They are isolated cases in the first year of a new vehicle, driven by new technology and a new drivetrain.

All things considered, out of more than 50,000 Bolt EVs sold to date, the relatively small number of battery-specific problems - and the fact that they have largely occurred in early production vehicles - can be taken as a positive sign that General Motors has a firm handle on the monitoring and maintenance of its EV platforms.

(Anecdotally, I drive a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV that falls into the early production category and have only good things to report about battery capacity and performance!)

General Wear and Tear
This is perhaps the most vulnerable category for Bolt EV on reliability, because Chevrolet is positioned as a more affordable vehicle brand. As such, the components used in the Chevy Bolt EV are cheaper and more susceptible to scratches, dings, and other minor malfunctions that are nonetheless annoying for the owner.

Having never been as active in owner forums as I am with those of the Bolt EV, it’s hard to judge just how much of the criticism is commonplace for any vehicle in this class and how much of it is specifically down to the Bolt EV.
It isn’t unusual, for example, to have a couple of posts every week about unidentified noises and minor frustrations with parts of the car. Needing to reboot the Bolt’s infotainment system or having a wiper settle in the wrong position might not seem like reliability issues, but they speak to a broader view of overall quality and upkeep.

In terms of Chevy Bolt EV reliability, though, very few of the reported issues around wear and tear restrict the daily operation of the vehicle.

Perhaps the only true glitch that I’ve personally encountered over 25,000 miles that would fall into this category is phantom signals from the blind spot detection system. These started to appear around 17,000 miles in and are genuinely distracting, as they take the driver’s eyes off the road for something that isn’t there. Again, though, this was quickly fixed at a routine maintenance visit to our dealership. The technician also noted it as an issue that has appeared on other non-electric Chevrolet models, laying this issue more at the door of the brand, rather than one specific to Chevy Bolt EV reliability.

Allowing for a certain degree of cost-cutting and the inevitable fact that this brand doesn’t come with the same robust build and attention to detail that a high-end automaker might bring, general wear and tear on the Chevy Bolt EV is roughly what one would expect to see.

Battery Degradation
Tracking battery degradation is not as simple as it could be on the Chevy Bolt EV. Whereas first-generation electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf offered a clear battery bar system and the Chevy Volt had a relatively low electric range that made it more noticeable when several miles disappear from a full charge, the Bolt has neither of these.

If I get fewer miles on a full charge than expected, it’s unlikely to show battery degradation. It’s typically because I’m going faster, using the HVAC system more often, or driving in significantly different temperatures than were experienced over the last full charge.

In order to accurately measure the Chevy Bolt EV’s reliability in terms of battery longevity, we would need to accumulate various data points from a broad section of Bolt EV drivers with diverse use cases. We know that General Motors has access to such data through its OnStar diagnostics system, as this is how the company flagged the isolated battery pack issues mentioned earlier.

Whether or not the automaker will share results with owners is another question, but CEO Mary Barra has proudly announced, on the topic of Chevy Volt and Bolt EV reliability, that no battery on these models has ever been replaced due to common degradation through everyday use.

For what it’s worth, the video below documents one high mileage owner’s attempt to calculate degradation and current battery reliability on his 2017 Chevy Bolt EV.

Again, it should be noted that this is just a single data point and other owners have questioned whether it can be applied to newer models. Measuring by range or available battery capacity can vary significantly across different vehicles and possibly even model years, as we can see from the improvement of battery management software in the 2019 Chevy Bolt EV.

Battery degradation is by its very nature a long-term concern and it really is too early to say for certain that the Chevy Bolt EV’s reliability in this area is assured. What we do know is that drivers with almost 100,000 miles under their belts report remarkably little degradation, even after potentially debilitating user habits such as regular DC fast charging and driving in extreme heat.

From what we know so far - and coupled with the proven reliability of the more complex Chevy Volt - the Chevy Bolt EV’s battery is carefully managed and can be relied upon to keep delivering more than 200 miles per charge well into the car’s life.

That being said, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into battery management and Chevy Bolt EV reliability in this area for a future story, so stay tuned if it’s a subject that interests you.

In summary, the Chevy Bolt EV has had its share of early battery teething problems specific to electric vehicles, as well as minor quibbles that would affect any vehicle, whether electric or combustion engine.

On its third model year, however, and backed up by the impressive track record of the Chevy Volt, Chevy Bolt EV reliability appears to be very good. General Motors has the battery pack management in a place that may feel conservative to some drivers, myself included, but which stands to deliver greater longevity to the car’s most critical component. The thermal management system is likely to negate some of the problems that afflicted the first-generation Nissan Leaf models and which continue to dog the brand to this day.

Here's more on why Nissan lost its lead as the premier non-Tesla EV brand.

A visit to any Chevy or GM electric vehicle forum should confirm the reliability of the Chevy Bolt EV, as well as highlighting a few niggling issues that owners still experience. In the grand scheme of things, the car's record is starting off very well given the troubles that more other manufacturers are facing.

If you drive a Chevy Bolt EV or a Chevy Volt, let us know in the comments how it’s holding up. See you in the next story where I am discussing what should be the minimum acceptable range for electric cars based on the case of 2020 Mini Cooper SE.

If you avoided the car on grounds of reliability, share what the problem was with us and if your alternative worked out as expected.


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Comments

Driving my 2017 Bolt EV now with close to 40k and LOVE this car! After attending Chevrolet training for the Volt I knew Chevrolet was on to something ! Almost purchased a Volt and very happy I waited for my special order Bolt EV Premier!
This entire site is an advertisement for GM products.....don't believe a word they say...GM is headed for the toaster.
And you state this confidently based on what exactly, while ignoring all the actual owners' comments and real-world reviews?
Based on this in the middle of the article: "Advertisement" The entire site is populated by a bunch of gushing customers and nothing but good news and dubious claims, each article simply another ad.
Glad to hear this. I was accused of being a Tesla shill when I suggested a few humble improvements to the Bolt EV I drive every day, so this balances things out nicely, cheers!
The BOLT is NOT a clean sheet BEV design. It is a mish mash combination of parts from other GM models, parts that were not specifically designed for a BEV yet were adapted to the BOLT. These are not million mile cars like Tesla models. The biggest reason they are not selling is that they look like a fancy tennis shoe. Just plain ugly. A BEV car from GM should have been an original BEV design based on a medium sized sedan with 4 doors and possibly a brief hatchback. This is what the public wants, ala Tesla Model 3.
I have a 2017 Bolt with 25,000 on the clock. No major issues, just the occasional center screen not booting properly and other small things. I have more complaints about charging infrastructure and wish my Bolt charged a bit faster. I look forward to the next generation of EV's and will not hesitate to buy another GM product. This is after I swore to never purchase a GM product after they destroyed my beloved Saab brand.
GM clearly makes some questionable choices, but the reputation of their electric vehicles speaks for itself so far. This comment section is already full of happy owners saying much the same as you and me. Almost 25,000 miles here too and everything still runs beautifully! Glad you could forgive them for Saab and start enjoying your Bolt EV.
I own a 2017 Bolt EV and also no major issue so far, just minor issues with the center screen, rear camera display. Have put 57,000 Km on it so far. Only items on wish list: 1. Better charging speed, given that newer charger capable of supplying 200KWHr or more, but the Bolt is still charging only at 41KWHr. 2. Less range loss in mid-winter would be nice Otherwise, it has served its purpose last 2 years and quite happy with it.
My wife and I have two 2017 Bolt EVs - one LT and one Premier - since early 2017. The LT has over 33k miles and the Premier has just over 34k. Best vehicles we have ever owned...period. Zero battery degradation and no other issues. They both drive and feel the same as they did when brand new. The only real maintenance has been having the dealer rotate the tires about every 8k miles and both had the software update to the battery management system done at the dealer in 2018 (in conjunction with a tire rotation). Great vehicles with spacious interiors (great for a family of four...has seating for five), great for everday driving, excellent acceleration, and have completed a few 1000+ mile roadtrips in each Bolt with no issues. The regenerative braking system is phenomenal - one pedal driving makes driving so easy! Hardly ever have to use the regular brakes. We went all electric with the Bolts because all the early driving reviews were very positive. Replaced two vehicles that got a combined 18mpg ('02 Yukon and '07 Impala)...have saved ove $8k in fuel costs in 2.5 years! (67k miles ÷ 18mpg = 3700gals; 3700gal × $3/gal = $11,100....67k miles @ 4miles/kW = 16750kW; 16750kW × $0.18/kW = $3015. $11,100 - $3015 = $8085 SAVINGS). That's just fuel savings...not to mention the savings in oil changes, tuneups, transmission fluid, and the other maintenance associated with regular gas cars. The Bolt EV is an amazingly reliable vehicle that is a blast to drive! GM realky did a great job.
The Bolt EV is very versatile and reliable - we love both of ours...we've had two since early 2017 and have been extremely happy with them.  The Bolts replaced two vehicles that had a combined 18mpg, so our fuel savings has been well over $8K during the combined 65K miles we have driven these past 2.5 years! (we have spent about $1,900 in electricity costs vs $10,800 we would have paid for gas at $3/gal). Great vehicles that also boast compatibility with Android Auto & Apple Carplay, great seating height & view of the road, excellent 240 mile range, HD rearviewmirror, surround vision for parking, great interior space, excellent acceleration, excellent safety rating and safety features (surround vision, pedestrian alert & automatic braking, blind spot detection, lane keep assist, etc), Android Auto and Apple Carplay! The list goes on and on. Excellent job by GM with the Bolt!
Sounds like you're laughing all the way (past the fuel pump and on) to the plug. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I drive a 2017 Bolt which I bought in November 2017. My specific car has been fairly problem free. I have had two issues. When the car reached about 6,000 miles, it developed a rattle and squeak in the front suspension. The problem was a bad bushing in the left stabilizer link. The repair was easy and done quickly by a Chevy dealer. The reason was an out-of-spec part which was a fault of the part’s supplier. Chevy has. TSB on the issue. The other issue is the infotainment system will rarely freeze, usually at initially powering on the car. The system will usually reboot itself within a few seconds and resume normal operation if a freeze occurs. The drivability and safety of the car appear to be unaffected. I’ve seen the issues above reported by other Bolt drivers on owners forums. Over all, these very few and not serious anomalies and seeming many fewer than would be typical of a Chevy product. I had a 1st generation LEAF which had many more problems that included very scary safety issues related to the electric power brake boost circuit. Thumbs up to the Bolt.
I have owned a Chevy bolt for over two years. So far my visits to the dealership are limited to Tire rotations and a software update. As far as reliability goes the only compliant I have is the touch screen console and its peripherals. Even that has a quick fix. Reboot.
Right, when the most trouble you have is the old IT Crowd "have you tried turning it off and on again?" it's a pretty sure sign that the vehicle is reliable. Thanks for sharing your experience of driving the Bolt EV!
We own two Bolts, a 2017 LT and a 2018 Premier. Excellent cars! The 17 has 37k miles and the 18 has 14k miles. No issues at all with the 18. The 17 had the blind spot indicators worked on, which consisted of new foil tape covering them, which is supposed to direct them outward only. We're an interesting use case. We live in rural Colorado, 4 miles off paved roads. Lots of mud, snow, dirt, etc. The only issue I've had to address as a result of where we live is removing the front undertray and clearing off a lot of mud that had accumulated. We've got the same rattles. Both sides of the dashboard have small panels and there are rattles under them, only noticable on our washboard roads. We're very happy with our Bolts. They do not represent a sketchy first release. Zero maintenance should always be included in total cost of ownership when compared with ICE vehicles.
Our '13 Volt has about 70k and still drives and charges like the day it came out of the factory.
My brother-in-law has a 2013 Volt that has around 50,000 miles on the clock and maybe a 15% loss in range. Still over 30 miles to a charge and plenty to get him around local city driving in Boston. A very versatile car that I'm sure helped GM pass the same qualities onto the Bolt EV.
I have had my 2018 Bolt EV for 15 months and 16,000 miles. I mostly drive it as a commuter car, but have made several long trips (500+ miles) as well. The car has been very reliable. The only service has been for the battery management update. The only "glitch" I've experienced is that once every few months the infotainment system takes a couple of minutes to boot, but the car drives fine when it's booting. I have kept detailed records of all operational costs, electricity and wiper fluid being the only things I've had to purchase. I installed a special electric meter in my house to measure exactly how much I use (purchase). I live in an area with very expensive electric rates ($0.21/kwh) so I use free electricity sources whenever available for charging (at work and select free public chargers). In comparing what I have spent on electricity, to what I would have spent on gas for a 25 mpg ICE vehicle I have saved over $1,200 to date. This vehicle is leased, at 12,000 miles/year and the premium I am paying for this lease compared to a comparable ICE car at 25 mpg (Trax Premier FWD), is $1,400 over the same time period, so I'm net $200 in the hole financially....But I enjoy driving this car much more than I would the Trax.
Glad you're enjoying it. It's really hard to go back to ICE once you have the instant torque and grounded drive of an electric car. I was forced back into a Ford Edge for a couple of drives recently and the wait for the power was interminable. I imagine any Chevy equivalent ICE would feel much the same way and I'm also happy to pay a little extra to have a lot more fun in the Bolt EV.
You can't get a TOU plan? 21 cents/kwh is nuts! Maybe consider solar?
FYI, everyone wants assurances of range and yet at 50k miles my 2017 Bolt needed new tires and Costco didn't have the OEM Michelin Engery Saver A/S tires in stock. What they did have were Dunlop Turanza QuietTrack tires and my range dropped 20% immediately after installation. The ride was noticeably softer and quieter, but with my nightly routine of a 90% charge, I'm now getting ~160 miles on the GOM rather than the ~200 miles. I guess I'll have to be choosier on my next set of tires...
Good point Tony, thanks. for the reminder. I don't think too many people have to replace the tires often, given the relatively light wear on them unless driving rough roads or hammering the instant torque on a regular basis. It's an interesting tradeoff, though, as improved traction helps to make more of the Bolt EV's power but obviously you take a hit on the range as you mention.
I've owned my Bolt EV since February 2017. 33K miles on the clock. All pretty much trouble free. Battery has been rock solid despite being an early build vehicle (built 11/23/16). One minor problem with the Lane Keep Assist camera that was quickly resolved by the dealership.
Thanks for sharing what you've seen. The electronics do seem to be one common source of dealership visits, although that's not exclusive to the Bolt EV and the trouble areas always seem to be fixed quickly. Key components like the battery are what most people ask about and we seem to be in good shape there, a few early replacements notwithstanding.
My cousin had just bought a 2018 Bolt when I moved in with him, and I came to.enjoy it so much that we now share ownership of it. He uses it in his window washing business and people often ask him about his ownership experience. The car has been absolutely reliable; however, he did spill a jug.of water in the rear cargo area and it shorted out the entire audio system. $1200 to repair at the dealer. Just be very careful with fluids in the car! Both of us enjoy the Bolt every day.
Ha, hard to lay that one on the car itself but I'm sure it was frustrating nonetheless! Glad everything else is working out well and that you're both able to enjoy the car.
I have a 2012 Chevrolet volt with 67,000 miles on it. The only service that's been done has been tire rotation, oil change and software updates. The only glitch is the check engine light pops on from time to time during hot weather and the code indicates a issue with the cooling system. And the weather goes back down into the 80s and the light goes off again. This happened 4 years ago and it was a software update fix so I'm hoping that is the issue again. The air conditioning works great!
My 2017 bolt has 70,000 miles. The car is great. When I first got the car I would see 250 miles of range on a full charge. I'm down to 220 but I've used it pretty hard. I also drive freeway at 75 miles an hour 120 miles a day with AC for half of that.
I have had my Chevy Bolt since early 2017 and have 115000 kms on it now and no problems or degradation to speak of, and I drive long distance every day even in a Canadian winter. I lose about 20%, of my range to the cold and snow tires in the winter but in the spring it comes right back to normal. Great car, build more EVs GM in all shapes and sizes please

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