Hyundai has already recalled over 77,000 Kona EVs over fires. So far sixteen of them have gone up in flames. Now make the 17. One of the Kona EVs that was in the recall for fires has now caught fire too. Now there are more questions being raised about what Hyundai is doing and how this could happen.
This latest fire happened in South Korea. The Korea Transportation Safety Authority is investigating what happened. This according to the Korea Herald. It is standard procedure for South Korea’s National Forensic Service to handle car fires so the inclusion of the KTSA indicates this is now a more serious investigation.
Batteries were expected to be recalled, instead new software was flashed
This recall has had a lot of back and forth. What was expected to be a replacement of the battery packs ended up flashing new software instead. There have been some cases where Hyundai chose to replace batteries after an inspection. The particular Kona that caught fire after it was recalled had only received the new software flash.
At issue now is whether a software flash can actually fix a batch of bad batteries catching on fire? Hyundai is already in the middle of a class-action lawsuit by Kona owners in South Korea. They cite depreciation and from the publicity and safety concerns. Kona EVs affected in the original recall were built between 2017 and 2020. In the US, we didn’t get our first Kona until 2019.
All of these mirrors a similar cause and effect surrounding the Chevy Bolt. It, too, was having cases of fires when Bolts were fully charged. Between 2017 and 2019 five fires were reported. GM recalled the Bolt and applied a software update to address the problem. At the time GM said it would do a more thorough update later this year.
When the recall of Bolts was announced GM said it suspected defective batteries
When the recall of Bolts was announced GM said it suspected batteries were defective according to an Automotive News story. Those batteries were made by LG Chem, now called LG Energy Solution. The Hyundai Kona also is built with batteries from LG Energy Solution. And Bolt owners also filed a class-action lawsuit similar to the Kona suit in South Korea.
All of this concern is about what is considered to be a very small percentage of fires relative to cars produced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated in the past that the incidents of EV fires is actually lower than with gas-powered vehicles. But there is one big exception.
Electrical fires are much harder to put out. That’s because they burn much hotter. There have also been instances where EV fires are put out, only to reignite sometimes weeks after the initial fire. So EV fires can be creepy to deal with.