Hyundai Australia has finally issued a recall notice for the electric Kona, several weeks after the first recalls were issued in some international countries after a series of fire incidents with it batteries.
As noted on The Driven here, here and here, over the last few weeks a recall program for the Hyundai Kona electric has been rolling out around the world, covering Korean-built Kona electrics using LG Chem cells manufactured up until March this year.
As all Kona electrics in Australia Hyundai Australia were Korean built and use the LG cells – it has been inevitable that Kona electric owners here would at some point be formally included.
It was, therefore, not unexpected that late on Friday (October 30), Hyundai Australia formally notified Kona electric owners of a safety recall being carried out for Australian delivered Kona EVs built between January 31 2018 and March 2 2020.
For Kona electric owners who did not get an email notification from Hyundai – you can use this link to check your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to see if it falls into the recall program. https://www.hyundai.com/au/en/owning/safety-recalls
According to the official notice, the safety recall “requires a software update of the high voltage lithium-ion battery management system (BMS).”
The fault is described as:
“The high-voltage battery system in the subject vehicles might contain electrical deficiencies, such as internal damage to certain cells of the lithium-ion battery and/or faulty battery management system (BMS) control software that could increase the risk of an electrical short circuit after charging the lithium-ion battery. This could increase the risk of vehicle fire and therefore serious injury to occupants, bystanders and property. We recommend the vehicle is parked away from flammable structures, for example not in a garage.
As a precaution it is recommend to only charge the high voltage battery to a maximum level of 90% capacity and then the charge cable to be disconnected (no overnight charging), this is an interim measure and only required until the safety recall has been carried out.”
In an additional document – Hyundai Australia make the following notes regarding the use of the vehicles after the inspection and software changes:
Q: Will this latest safety recall upgrade affect my charging capacity and driving range?
A: No. This recall does not affect the maximum charging capacity and/or driving range.
Q: Will my Kona EV do anything different once this software upgrade recall is complete?
A: Yes. In the Battery Management System software upgrade carried out in this recall, a new battery self-diagnosis logic is applied for both AC & DC charging. The Battery Management System will momentarily stop charging the battery and carry out a battery self-diagnosis –once all systems are checked, charging will automatically recommence.
The main effect of these software changes is to add a 10 minute ‘battery self-diagnosis’ step at the 80% and 90% points. For those charging overnight at home, that is unlikely to even be noticed.
This would be the same for most long-distance travellers using DC fast-charge. (This is because for the large battery size of the Kona sold here – 64kWh -the quickest way to travel using DC fast-charging is to not charge beyond 80%).
However, if a Kona owner wanted to DC charge beyond 80% – these software changes would add either 10 or 20 minutes to the charge time.
As a final note to affected Kona electric owners (and others worried about this new-fangled EV technology being a ‘fire hazard’), while this sounds dramatic, of the approximately 77,000 Kona electrics caught up in the recall, only around 13 have been reported to have caught fire due to the identified fault. On the other hand, every year over 200,000 petrol-vehicle fires are reported every year in the US alone.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.