Audi recalls first electric SUV in US on battery fire risk

Volkswagen’s luxury brand Audi is recalling its first all-electric vehicle sold in the US due to a potential risk of a battery fire.

The company issued a voluntary recall of approximately 540 E-Tron SUVs because of a risk that moisture can seep into the battery cell through a wiring harness glitch, spokesperson Mark Dahncke said. The company isn’t aware of any fires or injuries because of the flaw, he said. A total of 1 644 E-Trons have been shipped to the US, and the remainder will be fixed before being handed to customers.

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’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.

Talks with German authorities about a potential recall in Europe are ongoing, Audi spokesperson Udo Ruegheimer said. Some 7 000 E-Tron cars might be affected worldwide, including 2 300 in Germany. Deliveries to China, the world’s biggest market for electric cars, will get underway during the second half of this year.

VW’s biggest profit contributor said it’s offering E-Tron owners loaner vehicles and an $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.

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