Hyundai Investigating Kona EV "Explosion" in Canada

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Over the weekend, CBC reported a Hyundai Kona Electric had exploded in Montreal — blowing the roof and door off its owner’s garage. Piero Cosentino claimed he saw black smoke coming from the building on Friday afternoon and quickly turned off the breaker to avoid further damage. Unfortunately that was enough, the car became engulfed in flames and popped.

“If we were in front of the garage door, we could have been in the hospital,” Cosentino said.

The damage to the building was extensive due to what was referred to as an explosion. Most of the initial reporting stated that the vehicle was not plugged in, citing claims from the owner, with local authorities faulting the car almost immediately.

“It was a fully electric vehicle, and there was nothing around that could have caused the explosion. We will be following up … closely with the owner to understand the problem in anticipation of other cases,” Louise Desrosiers, a Division Chief from the Montreal Fire Department, told CBC/Radio-Canada.

VÉHICULE ÉLECTRIQUE: La batterie d’un Hyundai Kona aurait explosé alors que le véhicule était stationné dans un garage résidentiel. La rue Montigny fermée à la circulation automobile le temps de l’intervention. L’explosion a projeter la porte de garage chez le voisin.

— Mathieu Wagner (@MWagnerRC) July 27, 2019

Subsequent reports have been less clear cut. “It is still too early to draw conclusions as to what may have caused the incident,” Gabrielle Fontaine-Giroux of the Montreal Fire Department told Automotive News. “The [department] is ensuring proper follow-up with electric vehicle experts.”

Presently, there’s no consensus as to whether the EV (purchased just months prior) was actually at fault or if it had truly been left unplugged. However the explosion claims appear legitimate. Photographs from the scene show the garage minus one door and roof. Meanwhile, the Kona was heavily charred in regions one would find the most meaningful electric components.

Thus far, the general rule has been that battery electric vehicles are no more of a fire hazard than gasoline-powered cars. But a recent “rash” of EV-related fires in China has drummed up concerns that the industry is not taking the proper precautions. While reports of lithium-ion batteries catching fire (most often due to overheating during charging spells) have gone up, there’s really not much to suggest this is a widespread problem damning the technology. It does encourage one to raise an eyebrow, however, as most of the incidents occur under mysterious circumstances during routine operations.

Hyundai Canada said it was in contact with the Kona’s owner and was also investigating the cause of the fire. “We are working with authorities and fire investigators in Montreal to understand the root cause of the incident, as this is not yet known. As is always the case, the safety of our customers is our first priority and we will push to fully understand the issue as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson explained.

Fire investigators hope to have something definitive soon.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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5 of 26 comments
  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jul 30, 2019

    Do Lithium Ion batteries actually explode (as in create their own oxygen like a high explosive) or do they just combust rapidly like gasoline or gunpowder? Serious question.

    • See 2 previous
    • Chuckrs Chuckrs on Jul 31, 2019

      @SCE to AUX You are certainly right on the energy spike. As the younger brother of a friend found out many years ago, an M80 will blow a finger clean off. Grew up in a rural area - the ag extension would sometimes hand M80s out for pest control. OTOH, the 18650s in a vape stick have killed a couple of guys this year by driving pieces of the stick into their skulls and there is a gruesome photo on the net of a guy who is going to need a lot of oral-maxillary surgery then followed by plastic surgery to replace a good size chunk of his lower lip.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 30, 2019

    Relevant movie quote: "Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it!" - Jeff Spicoli Alarmingly, the intact Kona in the picture above appears to be molting (one wonders what features were deleted to cover the cost of redundant taillight assemblies).

  • Hermaphroditolog Good hybrid cars use ICE implosion mode.Mercedes-EQXX uses implosion turbines (turboexpanders) for regeneration from heat losses.
  • Kosmo I, for one, and maybe only one, would buy a 5.0 L, stickshift variant of the sedan/hatchback that is Ford's "Not A Mustang EV" tomorrow.I'd buy the sportwagon version yesterday.
  • Akear I am counting the days when Barra retires. She has been one long nightmare for GM. People don't realize the Malibu outsells all GM EVs combined.
  • Redapple2 you say; most car reviewers would place it behind the segment stalwarts from Honda and Toyota,........................... ME: Always so. Every single day since the Accord / Camry introduction.
  • Akear GM sells only 3000 Hummer EVs annually. It is probably the worst selling vehicle in GM history.