By Matt Posky on February 24, 2021
Hyundai will be recalling 82,000 electric vehicles sold around the world due to a presumed fire risk and its getting a little ugly, though that’s nothing new for the industry. Reports of the brand’s Kona Electric going up in flames (often while charging) started springing up in 2019, causing the manufacturer to call them back for a software update that was supposed to remedy the issue. But South Korean officials decided more needed to be done after one of the fixed vehicles caught fire in January. An investigation was launched and now Hyundai is on the hook for a 1 trillion won ($900 million USD) recall — including the nearly 40 billion won was spent on the initial software solution.
But how much of the blame does Hyundai really deserve when other manufacturers are having similar issues with their electric cars? Couldn’t the supplier be somewhat responsible? Absolutely not, explains battery supplier LG Chem.
You might recall LG Chem from the vicious lawsuit it just wrapped up with rival SK Innovation. It had accused the company of stealing industrial secrets and convinced the court to enact a delayed ban on SK batteries imported into the United States. While a clever way to secure an advantage on the market, it also showcased how vicious and political these battery battles could get.
There could be a smack of that going on here, too. LG has made it abundantly clear that Hyundai’s battery problems are the result of it failing to properly apply its suggestions when setting up vehicles’ charging and battery management systems. While investigators from South Korea’s transport ministry have reported seeing problems (defects) with cells manufactured at LG Energy’s China factory, the supplier seems to be avoiding much of the blame.
It maintains that this is a Hyundai problem and the automaker hasn’t done much to defend itself. The skeptic inside is screaming that this has something to do with South Korea not wanting to kill what’s about to become a golden goose. Battery demand is up and governments around the world are doing their utmost to pitch it up even higher, so there’s little for the country to gain by making two of its largest conglomerates look bad when one will suffice. We can only speculate on this, however, as the transport ministry’s investigation is ongoing.
According to Reuters, Hyundai will be footing the entire 1 trillion won bill. But it has since clarified that there have been discussions on sharing the financial impact with LG. But this doesn’t appear to be common knowledge or finalized.
The recall applies to nearly 76,000 Kona EVs built between 2018 and 2020, a smattering of Ioniq EVs and a few busses have also been included. Hyundai is recommending all owners limit battery charging to 90 percent of the total capacity until after the battery has been replaced.