Nio recalls nearly 5,000 ES8 electric SUVs over fire risk

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Chinese automotive startup Nio is recalling nearly 5,000 of its ES8 high-performance electric SUVs after a series of battery fires in China and a subsequent investigation revealed a vulnerability that created a safety risk.

The recall affects a quarter of the ES8 vehicles it has sold since they went on sale in June 2018.

A Nio-led team of experts that included the supplier of the battery pack module, investigated a reported fire involving an ES8 in Shanghai. The team concluded there was a vulnerability in the design of the battery pack that could cause a short circuit.

The battery packs in the vehicles involved were equipped with a module specification NEV-P50. These packs were pressing up against voltage sampling cable harness due to improper positioning, Nio said. The insulation on the cable may wear out due to this repeated contact and cause a short circuit, Nio determined.

Nio said other ES8 vehicles that have experienced issues had the same battery pack.

The recall affects 4,803 models produced from April 02, 2018 to October 19, 2018 that are equipped with NEV-P50 batteries. The company will be replace the battery packs, a process that could take up to two months.

All NEV-P50 batteries in the battery swap network will also be replaced to ensure, Nio said. 

Vehicles with 70kWh battery packs produced after October 20, 2018 are equipped with the NEV-P102 modules and have different internal structural designs. These packs don’t have the same risk, Nio said.

The recall comes at an inauspicious time for Nio. Nio began deliveries of the ES8 in China in June 2018. And while deliveries initially surpassed expectations, they have since slowed in 2019. The company reported loss of $390.9 million in the first quarter.

Nio said it would shift its vehicle production plans, reduce in R&D spending and cut to its workforce by 4.5% in response to the weak quarter.

Other automakers with electric vehicles have issued recalls over fire risk. Earlier this month, Audi issued a voluntary recall in the U.S. for the E-Tron SUV due to the risk of battery fire. No fires had been reported in the 1,644 E-Trons that Audi has sold. The company issued the recall after it found that moisture can seep into the battery cell through a wiring harness. There have been five cases worldwide where this has caused a battery fault warning.

In May, Tesla started pushing out a software update that will change battery charge and thermal management settings in Model S sedans and Model X SUVs following a fire in a parked vehicle in Hong Kong. The software update, which Tesla said at the time was being done out of “an abundance of caution,” is supposed to “protect the battery and improve its longevity.” The over-the-air software update will not be made to Model 3 vehicles.