Hyundai Kona Recall Issued Over Lithium Ion Battery Problems, Fire Concerns

A recall has been issued for certain Hyundai electric vehicles, following at least 10 reports where cars caught on fire due to a defect in the lithium-ion battery, which could be prone to short circuiting and overheating.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the Hyundai Kona recall on October 16, after determining the lithium-ion may short circuit after it is fully charged, increasing the risk of a fire and injury hazard.

According to the recall investigation, Hyundai first learned of the issue in March 2019, after receiving at least three warranty claims out of the Korean market that suggested 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.

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Hyundai collected field parts for further analysis to determine the root cause and found the high-voltage battery system may have internal damage to battery cells or a faulty battery management system. The ongoing investigation concluded that both scenarios could increase the risk of an electrical short circuit when the battery is fully charged.

Hyundai received an addition seven Kona vehicle fires reported out of the Korean and European markets. By October 7, Hyundai determined a safety recall was necessary to prevent further instances of vehicle fires.

The recall impacts approximately 77,000 Hyundai Kona Electric vehicles from model year 2019 through 2020, which were manufactured between August 28, 2018 and March 2, 2020.

According to the NHTSA, 6,707 impacted vehicles were distributed for sale throughout the U.S. while another 70,000 vehicles were sold in the Korean, European and Canadian markets.

Hyundai announced it will be notifying customers of the recall and will provide instructions on how to schedule a free repair at their local dealer, who will be instructed to update the Battery Management System (BMS) software and inspect and replace the Li-ion battery if necessary.

Customers are being asked to park the impacted vehicles outside and away from structures until the repair is complete. The recall is expected to begin on December 11, and customers with additional questions or concerns may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460 and reference the recall number 196.

Lithium-Ion Battery Concerns

Electric and hybrid vehicles have grown significantly in popularity across the globe, given the cost savings provided on fuel and reduced emissions into the environment. Specifically, the United States has seen a significant spike in electric vehicle sales in recent years, increasing by 79% in 2018, when compared to the year prior.

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.

One of the most challenging differences between electric vehicle fires and gas powered vehicle fires noted in the report is the potential for the lithium ion battery to reignite, even after it has been extinguished. Documents revealed that while many manufacturers, such as Tesla, build safeguards into electric vehicle batteries, if a charge remains in the battery a fire could reignite hours, and in some instances even days, after the crash.

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