Hyundai only confirmed to InsideEVs the cause for Kona Electric’s battery pack fires on March 5. Yet, NHTSA documents show the company revealed the folded anode tab issue to the agency on February 23. At NHTSA’s recall page for the car, the recommendation to the 4,696 affected owners is to “park their vehicles outside and away from structures until the interim repair is complete.”
NHTSA’s chronology document repeats what Hyundai told us about the issue: the folded anode tab “could result in lithium plating on the anode tab to contact and short circuit to the cathode.” This was the cause of the fires. The investigation started in South Korea in March 2019.
LGES (LG Energy Solution) first brought that to our attention on February 26 to deny it was the cause. According to the supplier, no reproduction experiment was able to reproduce fires with the folded anode tab. LGES suspected a “misapplication of the BMS charging map” could be behind the issue. Yet, the supplier is allegedly paying up to 70 percent of the replacement costs.
As we said in previous articles, LGES also supplies batteries to the Chey Bolt EV, which had similar fire episodes initially attributed to the cell separators. GM was quick to mention its batteries had a different separator.
However, the company still has not contacted InsideEVs to explain the fire cause in its vehicles or where its batteries come from. If LGES’s Nanjing plant also supplies them, it is possible the folded anode tab could also be involved with Bolt EV fires.
Still according to NHTSA, Hyundai expected to start replacing the defective battery packs on April 30 in the US, but we have no confirmation about that yet. We will contact Hyundai to learn if the replacements have already started or not.
In the Defect Notice 573 Report, Hyundai reports that two units of the 2020 Ioniq Electric produced between November 8 and November 11, 2019, are also involved with the recall. That makes the Kona Electric answer for 4,694 battery pack replacements. They were manufactured between August 28, 2018, and March 2, 2020.