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November 18, 2020

EV-Related Fires, Recalls Grip Various Carmakers

Various carmakers are now realizing the potential problem of electric vehicles: fires. Ford, GM, Hyundai, and BMW are just some carmakers getting to grips with EV technology, and now they’re facing safety-related recalls for it.

The most unsettling one is Hyundai, where the Korean carmaker is now being sued in its home market over a string of battery fires. The lawsuit was initiated after a Kona EV caught fire and forced about 20 residents to evacuate their homes.

Hyundai has recalled more than 74,000 Kona EVs globally after 16 of them caught fire in two years. The carmaker is offering a fix—a software update—but plaintiffs say it’s not enough, and that they want their entire battery pack, the most expensive part of an EV, changed. The batteries are made by South Korean firm, LG Chem Ltd.

Battery packs from the same manufacturer also found its way on the GM Bolt. After five reported fires and two minor injuries, the American carmaker is now recalling 68,677 vehicles as well.

Problems surrounding the battery pack aren’t limited to those manufactured by LG Chem Ltd, either.

Both Ford and BMW have recalled vehicles using Samsung SDI Co batteries, citing cell manufacturing defects.

For LG Chem’s part, they say that a battery system is very complex and suggested that the problems may be caused by other components made by Hyundai’s suppliers. They deny that there is anything wrong with their battery cells. On the other hand, Hyundai suspects that internal damage to batteries may be to blame for the fires.

Regardless of the cause, this series of vehicle fires expose the challenge the industry faces in managing the risks of new technology, and the pressures to boost battery production and performance. 

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