Hyundai has issued a recall of some 82,000 electric vehicles globally for a replacement of the battery systems due to a potential fire risk. This recall is one of the first mass battery pack replacements conducted by a major carmaker. With an estimated cost of around $900 million, this recall lays bare the complicated issue of how car and battery makers split the bill when such problems arise. In this case, the batteries for Hyundai's EVs were manufactured by LG Energy Solution, a division of LG Chem Ltd.
This recall primarily affects the Hyundai Kona EV, the carmaker's most-selling electric vehicle globally. In fact, this is not the first time that the Kona EV has been recalled. Late last year, the Kona EV saw its first recall for a software upgrade after a spate of fires. That included 456 Kona EVs from India as well. Soon after, one of the recalled Kona EVs caught fire in January. The South Korean authorities then launched a probe to investigate if the first recall had been adequate.
Lee Hang-koo, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade, said that, "It's very significant for both Hyundai and LG as we are in the early stages of the electric vehicle era. How Hyundai handles this will set a precedent not just in South Korea but also for other countries". LG Energy Solution was, however, quick to deflect the criticism. In a statement, it said that Hyundai had misapplied LG's suggestions for fast-charging logic in the battery management system, adding that the battery system should not be seen as a direct cause of the fire.
On the contrary, South Korea's transport ministry said in a statement that some defects had been found in some battery cells produced at LG Energy's factory in China. Hyundai has, however, not commented on the cause of the fires yet. Hyundai has said that an agreement on how to split the costs may be worked out next week. However, the carmaker will first wait for the results of the transport ministry's probe. The two firms appear to be at odds over the cause of the fire, particularly given the fact that reputational stakes are high.
Hyundai has also declined to comment on LG Energy's statement. The recall affects nearly 76,000 Kona EVs that were manufactured between 2018 and 2020, with about 25,000 of them being sold in South Korea. The recall also includes some Ioniq EV models and Elec City buses. So far, there have been 15 instances of fires involving the Kona EV - 11 in South Korea, 2 in Canada and 1 each in Finland and Austria. Hyundai has adviced Kona and Ioniq owners to limit charging to 90% until the battery has been replaced by the carmaker. As of yet, there are no details about the recall of the Kona EVs here in India.