Hyundai is preparing to issue a second round of recalls involving defective electric vehicle (EV) batteries, impacting nearly 80,000 Kona and Ioniq models which may be prone to short circuit and catch on fire due to manufacturing defects.
Hyundai announced a recall of approximately 26,699 electric vehicles registered in the South Korean market on February 24, indicating the previously recalled lithium ion batteries powering the vehicles may contain a manufacturing defect which could allow them to catch on fire, even after a software upgrade.
Problems with the lithium ion battery were discovered in March 2019, after the auto maker received at least three warranty claims out of the Korean market indicating certain Kona Electric vehicles had caught on fire while in the park position with a full state-of-charge in the vehicle’s Li-ion battery.
Following an analysis of field parts collected, Hyundai claimed the root cause of the issue was the high-voltage battery system may have internal damage to battery cells or the battery management system could be faulty. The investigation concluded that both scenarios could increase the risk of an electrical short circuit when the battery is fully charged.
After at least 12 vehicle fires were reported out of the U.S., Korean, and European markets, Hyundai determined a Kona electric vehicle safety recall was necessary to prevent further instances of vehicle fires. The recall remedy offered to customers involved a software update to the Battery Management System (BMS) and an inspection of the Li-ion battery.
However, at least three vehicle fires have been reported out of the Korean market involving Kona vehicles which received the BMS software update in the initial recall campaign. Regulators from South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), stated that despite the software upgrade offered, the Kona and Ioniq vehicles may still catch on fire, requiring a battery replacement.
Consumer safety group, Consumer Reports, reported this week that a spokesperson for Hyundai Motor North America announced their division would be taking similar action in the U.S. and Canadian markets to issue second round of recalls to replace the lithium ion batteries in 2019 through 2020 Kona and Ioniq hatchback electric vehicles.
Hyundai Motor North America reported that the details of the recall have not been finalized and an official announcement is forthcoming.
While lithium-ion-equipped electric and hybrid vehicles actually reduce the risk of vehicle fires, recent data released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggests the batteries can fuel hotter electrical fires which release toxic fumes and are harder to extinguish when they do occur.
The report outlines the challenges recognized in controlling lithium-ion battery vehicle fires as the U.S. vehicle market shifts towards electric. Within the report officials indicated lithium-ion batteries have greater energy density, allowing them to carry more energy in the same amount of space, which poses a greater risk of electric shock and fires exceeding 5,000 degrees.