Due to new fires in South Korea, including that of a bus, Hyundai could be forced to replace LG batteries in tens of thousands of electric cars.
In recent months, Hyundai has been experiencing difficulties with the batteries of its electric cars. Since the launch of the electric Kona at the end of 2017, 15 examples have caught fire. The most spectacular case was that of July 2019 in Canada, where the car exploded in a garage.
In October 2020, the brand had already recalled more than 77,000 Kona in the world, including 25,000 in South Korea and 3,000 in France. It turned out that the crossover encountered a risk of short circuiting at the cell level. Despite the software update, the problems continue.
Two new fires revive the controversy
At the end of January 2021, a Hyundai Kona having followed the recall procedure encountered a fire start during a recharge. On February 15, in Changwon (South Korea), a Hyundai Elec City bus caught fire and was completely destroyed. Fortunately empty at the time of the incident, the vehicle was not injured.
However, the battery is once again singled out. Like the Kona, it would once again be the fault of the cells of the suppliers LG Energy Solution (formerly LG Chem) according to the Minister of Transport. However, the manufacturer denies being involved here.
The Korean authorities are thus pushing for a new, larger recall, not limited to the electric Kona.
A second and big inevitable reminder?
According to Aju News, the Korean manufacturer is preparing to replace the batteries of the Kona, but also of some 21,000 Ioniqs sharing the same components. The 263 Elec City electric buses could also integrate this operation. In total, this recall would include 100,000 vehicles in South Korea alone.
If this recall procedure were to be launched, it would cost an estimated 1 to 2,000 billion won, or 750 million to 1 billion euros. However, with no specific cause identified, it is still too early to know who will foot the bill between LG and Hyundai.
Besides the financial aspect, the replacement of the batteries would take 1 to 2 years in order to adapt the production. There is no question of a second recall outside of Korea yet, but we do not see the exported models escaping it.
The new European Kona spared
Good news for European customers, Hyundai had already sealed a partnership with another supplier. Since 2020, SK Innovation’s Hungarian factory has been manufacturing batteries for the electric Kona produced in Europe. Thus, these models avoid the risk caused by LG batteries.
In addition, the site TheElec said last fall that Hyundai would favor SKI batteries in place of LGs in other markets.