Hyundai 2019-2020 Kona Electric Vehicles May Pose Fire Risk for Owners
In February 2021, Hyundai issued a recall of Hyundai Kona Electric vehicles in model years 2019-2020. The recall covered all model year 2019 and 2020 vehicles made between August 28, 2018, and March 2, 2020. Since February 2021, the recall has expanded to cover vehicles in the United States, South Korea, and several other countries.
The recall focuses on problems with Kona Electric’s battery and electrical systems. These issues can cause severe vehicle fires. As problems with these vehicles continue to mount, owners are now looking for the compensation they need to address losses and injuries.
What’s Wrong With the 2019 and 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Vehicles?
The recall process began in 2020 when Hyundai recalled over 11,000 Kona Electric SUVs. The initial wave of recalls focused on 13 incidents in which a Kona Electric battery caught fire. The fires were believed to be connected to short circuits in the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries.
Over time, the recall has expanded to include more Hyundai Kona Electric vehicles in the US and other countries. To date, approximately 80,000 vehicles worldwide are believed to be affected by the recall.
To date, statistics on vehicle fires do not show that electric vehicles catch fire more often than vehicles with traditional gasoline or diesel engines. When an EV does catch fire, however, the results can be more dangerous than in a gasoline-powered vehicle.
EV battery fires tend to burn hotter and longer than fires fueled by gasoline or diesel. When a fire occurs, it may pose a higher risk of injury to people and cause more damage to nearby property. Fire crews that respond to an EV fire may also need more time to get the fire under control. Doing so may require more resources, such as water or special firefighting chemicals.
So far, all reported vehicle fires in 2019-2020 Kona EVs appear to have occurred in vehicles with batteries made at a specific LG Chem factory. These batteries appear to share a manufacturing defect that makes electrical shorts and resulting fires more likely. Hyundai noted that it worked with LG Chem to create the relevant software for the battery charging system as well.
Hyundai’s Technical Bulletin
In its February 2021 Technical Service Bulletin, Hyundai stated that “the battery system in certain 2019/2020MY Kona Electric vehicles may be faulty and/or contain software that may need to be updated. These conditions may increase the risk of an electrical short circuit.”
To address the issue, the bulletin instructs dealerships to perform battery replacements and software updates on affected vehicles. It also instructs dealerships on submitting warranty claims for parts still under warranty.
The bulletin states that dealers must perform the described repairs on all 2019-2020 Hyundai Kona electric vehicles before delivering them to retail customers. Dealerships must also perform the repairs on any 2019-2020 Kona that visits their dealership for maintenance or repairs, even if the owner did not bring their Kona to the dealership for battery problems.
Hyundai also notified dealerships to stop selling the 2019 and 2020 model year Kona Electric vehicles until the automaker could fix existing cars and better understand the source of the problem.
Although Hyundai stated that it is investigating the reported battery fires, the company has yet to report on a specific root cause. An article in the Korea Times noted that in an investigation into South Korean vehicle fires, Hyundai seemed to make conflicting statements – claiming that the problem was a manufacturing issue with the batteries and stemmed from “electrical problems in the battery pack assembly.” To date, Kona owners still have no clear answer from Hyundai regarding the problems with their vehicles.
What to Do If You Own a 2019 or 2020 Kona
In its recall report, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended owners of 2019-2020 Hyundai Kona vehicles to park outdoors, away from garages, houses, and other structures that could catch fire.
Owners of these vehicles should contact their nearest Hyundai dealership as soon as possible. Under the terms of the recall, Hyundai will fix the issue by replacing the battery and updating the vehicle’s software. If a fire occurs, move away from the vehicle and call 911 immediately.
Finally, consider seeking legal advice. Class action lawsuits are already underway to protect the rights of 2019-2020 Hyundai Kona owners. These lawsuits also seek compensation for Kona EV owners. If you’ve been injured or had property damaged by a vehicle fire, an attorney can help.
If you own an affected vehicle, don’t hesitate to talk to an experienced California lemon law attorney. A lawyer can help you understand your rights under California law and fight for any compensation you’re entitled to receive.
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