Audi recalls first electric vehicle in US on battery fire risk

Audi is recalling its 540 E-Tron SUVs in the United States due to battery fire risk. (Audi pic)

NEW YORK: Volkswagen AG luxury brand Audi is recalling its first all-electric vehicle due to the risk of a battery fire.

The company issued a voluntary recall of approximately 540 E-Tron SUV models sold in the US because of a risk that moisture can seep into the battery cell through a wiring harness glitch, spokesman Mark Dahncke said. The company isn’t aware of any fires or injuries because of the flaw, which affects a total of 1,644 models, he said.

The E-Tron, which went on sale in the US in April, is Audi’s first fully-electric car and one in a wave of contenders from traditional automakers looking to challenge Tesla Inc.’s dominance of the segment. While electric vehicles are no more prone to accidents or fires than gasoline-powered cars – and might be less so, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – the lithium-ion battery technology that powers them is still evolving, and there is no consensus on safe system design.

Audi said there have been five instances globally where a battery fault light turned on because of the moisture issue. It began contacting E-Tron owners in the US last week, prior to a warning from federal safety regulators, and should have a repair available by August.

“We are applying an abundance of caution as no such incidents have been reported globally,” the company said in a statement.

Audi said it’s offering E-Tron owners loaner vehicles and an US$800 cash card to cover gas or incidentals during the recall period, as well as free roadside assistance. There are still E-Trons unaffected by the recall available for sale, it said.