Hyundai is recalling more than 11,000 Kona Electric SUVs to repair a defect that could cause the vehicles’ high-voltage lithium-ion batteries to short circuit and potentially start a fire.
The Korean automaker is warning drivers of 2019-2020 Kona Electric SUVs to park the vehicles outside and away from any structures until the recall repairs are made. The company has also told dealerships to suspend selling Kona Electric vehicles until the repairs are made.
Including vehicles already in use, the recall includes all 6,707 Kona Electric vehicles in use in the U.S. and 4,375 in Canada. Worldwide there are about 70,000 vehicles, all of which were made between Aug. 28, 2018, and March 2, 2020.
Hyundai says the LG Chemical lithium-ion batteries have unidentified “electrical deficiencies,” according to Green Car Reports. Although the automaker “is continuing to actively investigate this condition for identification of an exact root cause,” it suspects the problem could stem from damage to the battery cells and/or faulty battery management system (BMS) control software.
The defect has resulted in at least 13 fires in markets outside of the U.S. The automaker has been investigating the battery fires since 2019, including three incidents in Korea, one in Europe, and two in Canada. All of the fires occurred in parked vehicles that were fully charged.
The Korea Automobile Testing and Research Institute and Transport Canada are also jointly investigating the fires and possible causes.
In March, Hyundai launched a worldwide Kona Electric service campaign to upgrade the battery management system software for early detection of abnormalities in the battery while the vehicle is parked. The automaker created the software update with LG Chemical as a countermeasure while the investigation continues.
According to Green Car Reports, Hyundai engineers have not successfully duplicated a battery fire in the lab, but they did confirm that the software update could detect the early onset of an internal battery short-circuit. In such an event, a warning light will turn on and the battery management system will limit the electric power in the vehicles until the diagnostic code is cleared.
Hyundai expects the Kona Electric recall to start on Dec. 11, 2020. It will then begin contacting all registered owners of the affected vehicles.
In the meantime, owners with questions about the problem or recall can call 855-371-9460. Anyone who is unable to store their Kona Electric vehicle outside and away from structures may be provided a loaner car.
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