By on July 30, 2019

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.

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.

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26 Comments on “Hyundai Investigating Kona EV “Explosion” in Canada...”


  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    I’m guessing the fire department was responsible forthe door being pulled away and a huge hole chopped in the roof to check for fires. This isn’t Hollywood.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I don’t know. The way the shingles are sagging over the left edge of the hole, it doesn’t look like it was sawn.

    • 0 avatar
      insalted42

      The reporter writes in the Tweet that the explosion “threw the door onto the neighbor’s property.” Whether this is true or hyperbole is hard to tell.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        It wouldn’t take much. The sections bow outward, the cable retainers snap off from the bottom corners of the bottom section, the bracket from the opener tears off, and the rollers and their axles pull out the carriers. It looks like an insulated door, but even those will blow off.

        I’ve seen pictures of them blown off by explosions before. When the fire department takes them off, they usually cut a hole in them first, then rip the door off. This one looks like it was blown off.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    A big problem is the conflicting goals of safety, weight reduction and increased energy/range, regardless of the specific lithium chemistry. Reduce the weight/volume of the electrical insulation and the cell case and passive/active cooling gets you more room for increased charge at the expense of safety. Happens with even the most mundane consumer batteries like the 18650 size and for batteries built into smart phones. You can find accounts of phones that caught fire in someone’s front pocket – ouchie – and accounts of vapers outright killed by their vape sticks. Those items are relatively low energy, but you are pretty much unprotected against pressure build-up from a shorted discharge and an explosion or fire. Car battery packs (in rougher service than phones and vape sticks) are at least armored against shorts and ‘venting’ but QA and fault tolerant design is really really important. With this car burnt to a crisp, I wonder if the cause can be definitively established.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    One would be surprised of the forensic capabilities that specialized fire investigators have.
    This one will be a tough one to solve, but they will narrow it down to at least a pair of possible root causes.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    If the car was unplugged, why would the first thing the article point to is the fact that the owner tripped the breaker? I suppose the charger could have failed, but my money is on the car was being charged, and he won’t admit to it for insurance reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      That’s a good question. We all know there’s some instability to lithium ion batteries, but could a bad charger do something like this? Kinda scary, especially with those out-in-the-open chargers at strip malls that anyone could fool round with.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Charging stations – whether public or private – are fairly dumb devices. The actual charging circuitry and controls are in the vehicle, tailored to the battery pack it has.

        There is a communication protocol established between the charging station and the vehicle (in this case probably a Level 2 charger), such that the charging cord is unpowered until the car and charging station agree that it’s OK to energize.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    Those are some cool (sorry!) photos. I don’t think the garage door could have been blown forward like that across the street, but if so, wow. Interesting to look at the Kona itself, too. Front tire looks completely unharmed.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I ‘m thinking if you have an electric car, it would be good to have your home and car insurance with the same company. That way they don’t need to spend a lot of time suing each other when a meltdown occurs.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Well if you’re going to name a car after part of an island with a volcano…

  • avatar
    IBx1

    That’s what you get for buying a hunday~~

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    What is it with Canada ? First, CANADIAN Chevy Silverados are being investigated for fires, (but not American ones),and now a CANADIAN Hyundai explodes ? Do you believe in co-incidences ? I do not. Is it something in the air up there ? And come to think of it, a Lincoln, converted to electricity by CANADIAN singer Neil Young caught on fire and nearly burned down his she-shed. ..er…garage.
    I think we are on to something here.

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    On second thought, maybe we could use this as a ‘teachable moment’ for ourselves. Someone should be working on harnessing the power of explosions to power our vehicles. If an explosion could be contained in a precise area, with perhaps one movable wall, the pressure on that wall could be used to EXPAND the ‘explosion chamber’ whereby the floating wall ‘moves’ in one direction and turns a sort of crank with its motion. Multiple explosions in similar chambers could be used to turn this ‘crank shaft’. The turning of this crankshaft could be used to rotate the drive wheels of the vehicle, perhaps using a chain and gear setup. Thus harnessing the power of explosions to create ‘motor-powered’ vehicles. Eureka !
    Of course many details would have to be worked out, such as how to set off the explosion, getting it to repeat upon command, and other things as yet unknown. But I think it could be done !

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I think this would work better with rapid combustion versus an explosion. If you could truly do it with an explosive you wouldn’t need that pesky intake valve to let air in as the “fuel” would manufacture it itself. Honestly most of the explosives I ever worked with would make pretty short work of an engine block in an enclosed space. I have actually seen the results of filling a cylinder bore with C4. You aren’t going anywhere but the morgue if you are in such a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      We looked at this, but internal friction results in horrendous overall efficiency (plus NVH issues from all the reciprocating mass).

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      The explosion is actually over-pressure due to chemical reaction followed by the cell case letting go. When it really matters, cell cases are designed with venting panels that fail before the cell case would rupture. It should always matter, but a lot of batteries don’t have venting. I have watched a short video of a deliberate short circuit – things looked fine right up to the point where the cell disappeared in a cloud of smoke. You would not have wanted to be in the room where that test was performed.
      Lastly, fun fact, an M80 has 23000joules of energy. A 2000mahr 18650 for your ‘tactical’ flashlight has about the same. When there is any sign that the batteries are damaged, recycle or throw them away.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Good explanation.

        But that 18650 will release its energy a lot more slowly than an M80. Fractions of a second count. That’s an important safety feature, which is why I’d rather be in an EV crash than an ICE crash with flammable gasoline splashing around me.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          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.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    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).

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