The recall is prompted by the discovery that cadmium, a carcinogenic metal, is used in part of the cars’ charging systems. This means that all electric cars and plug-in hybrids in the Volkswagen range - the e-Golf, e-Up, Golf GTE and Passat GTE - are affected, as well as hybrid Audi and Porsche models.
Wirtschaftswoche reports that Volkswagen discovered the issue on 20 July and duly informed authorities of the problem. The chargers each contain 0.008 grams of cadmium, and although the parts pose no threat to users, being well insulated, the chemical’s environmental impact once the cars reach the end of their lives is cause for concern.
The part containing cadmium has been replaced with an alternative provided by a different supplier, ending a temporary hiatus in production of the affected cars.
The Golf and Passat GTE, however, have been off sale in the UK since the start of the year, with Volkswagen maintaining that unprecedented demand has caused a backlog of orders and a build-up in lead times.
Volkswagen released the following statement: “Volkswagen informed the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt KBA) verbally in advance on 12 July and in a written statement on 20 July 2018 that cadmium (0.008 grams per battery charger) was, in addition to silver, used to a small extent in a relay of the high-voltage battery charger from a specific supplier for the coating of electrical contacts. This was determined during material analyses commissioned by Volkswagen in an external and an internal laboratory.
An immediate re-examination of the material data sheets submitted to us by the supplier showed that they did not contain any information on the use of cadmium.
The relevant relay is installed in a fixed housing inside the battery charger, which itself is enclosed in a fixed housing. This enables Volkswagen to ensure that no cadmium can be released into the environment and that no consumer or service technician can come into contact with it.”