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Vancouver EV owner shares cautionary tale after car deemed ‘total loss’

An electric vehicle owner in Metro Vancouver is questioning the sustainability of EVs, after his basically new car was written off due to the cost of repairs.

Kyle Hsu is hoping his story serves as a warning to prospective EV buyers. He says he was left frustrated and saddened by what seemed to be an innocuous incident that scratched the underside of his car’s battery.

He tells CityNews he was in Kelowna recently for a vacation when he felt his 2022 IONIQ 5 electric vehicle “was not functioning very well.” That, coupled with lower temperatures, left him concerned, and ultimately made him decide to have the car towed back to the dealership in Richmond through a service Hyundai offered, Hsu says.

He explains once the car arrived at the dealership, he asked staff to conduct a standard service to address a recent recall of one of the car’s parts.

However, he says when the mechanics began working on his EV, they found scratches on the battery pack — the protective case underneath the vehicle that houses the car’s battery — and a gap between the battery cell and protection pack.


Kyle Hsu has been quoted $60,000 for a new battery after the battery pack on his Hyundai IONIQ 5 2022 got scratched. (Photo provided by Kyle Hsu)

But Hsu doesn’t know how the car would’ve become scratched, saying the service department at the dealership in Richmond told him, “‘You must’ve run over something’ … They told me it was road hazards.”

Due to the damage, Hsu says his eight-year warranty was deemed void, and the entire battery needed to be replaced at a cost of $30,000.

Following the advice of the dealership, Hsu says he took his car to his insurance provider, ICBC, to see how much of the cost he could claim under his policy.

However, a few days later, Hsu says he received a call from ICBC quoting him $60,000 to replace his car’s battery — $10,000 more than the car cost.

Hsu says ICBC informed him that a secondary Hyundai dealership in Vancouver quoted the insurance provider that the cost of replacing the battery would be about $50,000, plus labour costs and tax, bringing the total to $60,000 — double Hsu’s initial quote.

“I can only accept it, right? Because they told me that’s what Hyundai … quoted them. Their battery is so expensive, I was very shocked,” he said.

“If I’d ever known that … without a warranty, or after eight years when the warranty expired, I might need to spend at least $60,000 to replace a battery, I wouldn’t actually buy the car.”

Hsu adds the mechanics looking at his car from ICBC told him they were also shocked.

Due to the quoted price of the battery replacement, Hsu says ICBC told him his basically new vehicle was a “total loss” and he would have to say goodbye to it.

In an emailed statement to CityNews, ICBC explains when the Crown corporation assesses damage to a vehicle, “we look at the cost to repair the vehicle and its market value, or what the vehicle would have sold for just before the crash.”

ICBC says when a vehicle is considered a total loss, or a write-off, the corporation pays the actual cash value of the vehicle to the registered owner.

“In this situation, it would have cost more to repair the vehicle than its worth and it was deemed a total loss,” it said, adding that Hsu’s IONIQ 5 has been sold to a salvage buyer and is no longer in ICBC’s possession.

Owner doesn’t fault ICBC but questions sustainability of EVs

Now, Hsu says he’s concerned about the sustainability of owning an EV again in the future.

He doesn’t fault the insurer, with Hsu explaining from an insurance perspective, he understands the decision to write the vehicle off. But he says that sometimes, accidents, or unexplained incidents in this case, are “unavoidable.”

“You might lose your warranty in a bad situation. The battery cost is way more expensive than a new car. All my friends were laughing, [because] except for the battery, your car is trash — like, your battery is $60,000 … your car has no value.”

Hsu says he doesn’t understand how it can be sustainable to deem brand-new cars like his as salvage, due to what seems like a few scratches. In the future, he says he’d like to see more transparency by car dealers on the cost of repairing or replacing EV batteries.

“I just really want … potential buyers to be aware of the real replacement costs, not just how [dealers] advertise or how they post it online,” Hsu said.

Speaking to CityNews last week, Jennifer McCarthy with Hyundai Canada said the company is connecting with Hsu to assist him.

McCarthy shared that Hyundai had spoken to the dealership in question and offered to conduct an inspection “and provide information and support to Mr. Hsu.”

She added that a repair or replacement quote that large is rare, but each case is unique. In this case, McCarty said the Hyundai Canada team should have had the opportunity to assess the situation prior to the suggested replacement cost being shared with ICBC.

“In the past week, we have communicated to our entire dealer network that all battery replacement situations need to be reviewed by Hyundai Auto Canada. This will allow us to review each and every case and its unique situation. We will continue to communicate proactively with our dealers as we finalize new battery replacement quoting processes for customers,” she said.

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