It’s been almost a year since Piero Cosentino heard an explosion on July 26, 2019. His Hyundai Kona Electric was on fire, and his garage door was on the other side of the street. We are waiting for answers on what caused it ever since, but we finally have news. The investigations are still not concluded, but Transport Canada told us, “the high voltage battery area sustained the most damage.” And that speaks a bunch, even if not everything.
Transport Canada is equivalent to a transportation ministry. It is the government department in charge of regulations and policies for all kinds of transportation means in that country. We reached it thanks to the PR team of Montreal, which said the investigations were under that department’s responsibility. Hyundai also informed us of who was in charge of investigations. Transport Canada’s PR team was swift in getting us answers.
According to the department, the exact cause of the vehicle fire could not be determined because of how extensive the damage was. “Vehicle fires take time to investigate as the extensive fire damage often leaves little evidence to examine, and analysis of that evidence must be performed carefully.”
Anyway, it is clear the fire started at “the high voltage battery area.” But what caused it? That is what Transport Canada is committed to finding out.
“The investigation remains open, which involves reviewing the manufacturer’s update to the vehicle’s Battery Monitoring System to determine if there is any relationship between the update and thermal battery event prevention; monitoring and reviewing any other reports of fires in similar electrical vehicle, including those incidents that occurred in South Korea.”
Reading between the lines, Transport Canada wants to make sure the BMS update performed by Hyundai is not a way to mask an issue with the battery pack. A lawsuit in the US accuses Tesla of doing precisely that with the software updates 2019.16.1 or 2019.16.2 for the Model S and X. These updates capped battery voltage. Tesla did not say why that was necessary.
Hyundai has not declared any sort of defect that would demand a recall. It could be an isolated case, but a new fire happened last May 29 in Daegu, South Korea. In this incident, the Kona Electric was charging.
Transport Canada confirms that Cosentino’s Kona Electric was not charging, as its owner said. The car just caught fire and blew up. This Canadian customer probably had insurance to cover the damages on his car and his house, but that does not solve the matter. If a car defect caused the situation, Hyundai still owes Cosentino compensations for all the damages and trouble.
When Hyundai warned us about the BMS update, it also said it is “fully cooperating with Transport Canada.” The company also said that it will “promptly take any further action that is necessary” and that “details of potential Hyundai compensation will be settled” when the investigation ends.
Both the automaker and Transport Canada told us they would keep us posted. So will we as soon as there is any news, rest assured.
Canadian Hyundai Kona Electric Fire Images: RADIO-CANADA / MATHIEU DANIEL WAGNER
South Korean Hyundai Kona Electric Fire Images: SBS News