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Hyundai was sued because electric cars were on fire


KoreaHyundai was in trouble after a series of battery fires on electric vehicles, while General Motors also recalled nearly 70,000 vehicles using the same batteries.

General Motors (GM) electric vehicles use batteries from the same supplier to Hyundai, as LG Chem. For Hyundai, the relevant product is the Kona EV, while for GM it is the Bolt EV.

Kim, owner of a Hyundai Kona EV, a civil servant in South Korea, is among 200 people who signed a lawsuit against Hyundai last week. These customers claim compensation for a discount or other loss on their vehicle.

The Kona EV caught fire in the basement parking lot of an apartment complex in Daegu, South Korea, on October 4. Image: Daegu Fire & Safety Department

One of the lawyers said they wanted $ 7,200 for each plaintiff, but that number could increase during the trial process. The plaintiffs also wanted Hyundai to replace the entire battery pack – the most expensive part of the car – of the Kona EV, not just a software upgrade.

Sales of electric vehicles are increasing globally, thanks to technology that promises cleaner, more eco-friendly vehicles, at the same time the costs are also decreasing and the distance per charge increases. But the risk of car fire due to overheating of the battery could cause the industry to fall back.

The recalls also caused bad reputation as well as financial damage to Hyundai and other car manufacturers. Many manufacturers are promoting electric vehicles mainly due to increasingly stricter emissions regulations. The above problems can adversely affect the demand for electric vehicles.

“An unsafe battery pack is like a bomb,” commented Park Chul-wan, a Korean battery expert.

A series of fires involving automakers, including GM, BMW and Ford, exposes the challenges the auto industry faces in dealing with the risk of new technology and under pressure to increase production. battery capacity and performance.

On November 13, GM said that it was recalling 68,677 battery-powered electric vehicles from LG Chem, after five reported fires with two people with minor injuries. Hyundai has called for worldwide repairs of more than 74,000 Kona EVs after 16 vehicles burned in South Korea, Canada and Europe in two years.

The Korean safety agency is investigating the cause of the fire of the Kona EV, and depending on the results, Hyundai and LG Chem could face up to $ 540 million if they had to replace all the defective batteries.

In the notice sent ReutersHyundai said the cause of the fire is unknown but it could damage the inside of the battery pack leading to fire. The company also said it is investigating the same supplier as well as the transport ministry.

Kona EV with charging port at the front of the car.  Photo: Hyundai

Kona EV with charging port at the front of the car. Image: Hyundai

However, Hyundai believes that fixing the software can prevent a fire. “We are monitoring the post-upgrade (battery management system) situation and will continue to work to minimize customer inconveniences later,” the company said, adding that the problem is only present on some vehicles, and can be replaced for free.

To investigate the cause of the fire, GM recommends that Bolt EV owners change the charging settings on their vehicles, limiting them to 90% to reduce risk.

A representative from LG Chem said: “We will cooperate with Hyundai and GM to investigate to determine the exact cause”.

Hak Cheol Shin, chief executive of LG Chem said in October that the battery system is very complicated, assuming the cause is due to other components made by other Hyundai suppliers.

“As a supplier of a major battery system component, we feel a responsibility. But until the cause can be clearly identified, we cannot take appropriate action to address it. the problem, “said Hak.

For Ford, it recently replaced the battery pack for its plug-in hybrid Kuga because of the risk of fire, saying it could cost $ 600 million in the second half of the year, including the cost of meeting gas standards. waste in Europe.

Ford and BMW recalled battery-operated vehicles from supplier Samsung SDI, citing errors from battery manufacturing. Also representatives of Samsung SDI said that investigations are underway to find the cause.

Tesla was also investigated by the US safety agency for battery software upgrades in some vehicles after several fires.

While LG denies the battery is faulty, the plaintiffs are pressuring Hyundai to take decisive action. Shin, a 35-year-old woman, recalled having to push a stroller to carry a baby in October when a Kona EV caught fire and then burned down in the garage basement.

Before the fire, Shin believed that electric cars were good for the environment. But now, she confessed her worries and said she would stop buying: “The electric car has become something that scared me.”

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