The news world is deeply interconnected. Publishing anything often leads us to other stories that are as relevant as the original ones. When we told you Consumer Reports was downgrading electric cars' reliability due to the issues some of them presented, one of these problems involved the bearing of Kia electric motors. One reader called our attention to it and showed more buyers were concerned about that – including Hyundai Kona Electric owners.
The video above shows what the issue is: turn on the sound and pay attention to the clunking the electric motor makes. It almost sounds like a combustion engine in a way, as if a piston was moving up and down. The problem appears at low speeds and in cars with relatively low mileage.
It was posted at the InsideEVs Forum by the user blakehass, who said his Hyundai was making the same noise with only 1,600 miles on the odometer. Another user compares the noise to the one the “Wheel of Fortune” makes, which is an accurate way to describe it.
It was enough for other users to report similar situations in the Kona discussion: electriceddy, MLKFLOT, Gjpzee, Jamas, Everwary, Robbert, MKD, Ted Riecken, evchina, ElDiablo, R P, Alex2802, Rick2020Kona, EVOwnerFromDownThere, VanGoghsEar, ShawnX, Lukona20, and Danick Laliberté heard the same noise in their cars: 19 cases including blakehass.
In a Niro discussion, the issue was reported by wizziwig, who also posted the other two videos you can see in this article. TandM, hnajafi, Andre Laurence, Howard Ablat, Case, mfm989, Axle, daveinca, MartyDow, Jim Hindson, yvesalf, Raj_k, Hedge, Kia Guy, bubzki, Lektrons, JellyCat, FergyEV, TheDave, Andrew Le, VipercanF56, FrankM, and Nesh are the other 23 members that joined the list of affected Niro owners.
Digging deeper, the forum members and other discussions blame the E710 motor used by Kia vehicles and the E700 motor Hyundai puts in the Kona for the issue. In fact, the code for these components is respectively 36500-OE710 and 36500-OE700. Some of them believe that beginning with the same number could suggest these motors are the same, even if the Niro presents a different reduction ratio. That does not seem to be the case: Hyundai and Kia seem to refer to electric traction motors always with the 36500. We'll try to confirm that.
Among the forum members, Yuri Niro suggested a video in which the presenter mentioned that the motor bearings had a quality problem that caused the gearbox to vibrate, leading to failure. Forum members mentioned at least one case of a gearbox breaking on the road in a Niro Facebook group. Unfortunately, we were not able to locate that post and we do not understand a word of Ukrainian. Our readers that do may seize the video below.
The forum member Igor brought more information about it said that the technician that tried to fix the issue in Ukraine “removed one roller from the tapered bearing and found wear on the inner race, concluding that this was the result of poor-quality metal.”
While most people there are trying to get their Konas and Niros fixed, some mentioned they manage to resell their cars to the manufacturers as lemon vehicles. Some said the Korean companies would probably not recognize the issue, which would lead to a recall to replace the motors and the gearboxes. The truth is that some motors and gearboxes were already replaced for the owners that complained about the tapping noise.
The motors are being replaced with E711 and E701 or even E702 units, which would indicate respectively that the Niro and the Kona are getting revised powertrains. Kia itself told Consumer Reports only 2019 model year vehicles were affected and that it provided a modification to handle that. The reports at the InsideEVs Forum mention 2018 and 2020 vehicles that are also affected.
We asked Hyundai and Kia for an explanation on the issues until December 18 but received nothing so far. What we learned on this very day was that Hyundai would be considering to halt Kona EV sales in the South Korean market after two recalls.
The first one is related to multiple battery pack fires, most of them in Hyundai’s home market. The company is currently facing a class-action lawsuit because of that. The second recall relates to a software issue that affects the brakes of the Kona Electric, the Kona Hybrid, and the Nexo FCEV.
If that is not just a rumor, it would be a weird move from Hyundai. The company has recently revealed a dedicated EV platform – the E-GMP – and created a subbrand for its electric cars that will be called Ioniq. Halting sales of the Kona Electric may sound it is backing out of the EV market.
Should Hyundai confirm that, it may decide to do the same in other markets, especially if that relates to something the company cannot fix. Regardless of why, one thing the Korean company and Kia owe their customers is an explanation about the electric motor bearings issue and how they plan to solve it. We’re waiting.