When you buy a new car, it comes with a warranty that protects you against potential defects and failures. However, you have to hold up your end of the bargain by getting the car properly serviced during the warranty period. Many owners get this done at the dealership for convenience. However, sometimes a regular service can come with an unwelcome sticker price, as some Hyundai Ioniq 5 owners are finding out.
The matter came to our attention via a Facebook post shared on Twitter. It featured an Ioniq 5 owner asking about whether a $1,500 “Ion Flush” service was a legitimate thing for a dealership to perform. The post concerned his wife’s 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 with 30,000 miles on the clock. The owner had posted in an EV6 group for help given both cars are built on the E-GMP platform.
Right off the bat, this sounded suspicious—like someone using random battery terminology to justify a jumped-up service charge. The very name “ion flush” suggests something to do with flushing the battery, but there’s no way to flush the ions out of your car’s battery. The lithium ions in a conventional EV battery move between the cathode and anode and back again through the electrolyte. There’s no way to flush the electrolyte, or the ions themselves, out of the system, so it’s all nonsense, right?
brb gonna go call the local ford dealership and schedule an ion flush ???? pic.twitter.com/CmUqixWlau
— m*tt (@jffxns) January 20, 2024
Indeed, that seems to be what got the owner and many others questioning the matter. The reality is more complex, and it comes down to interesting engineering decisions on the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and a poor choice of terminology by the dealership. In any case, the owner told us he and his wife did pay $1,500 for this service. Was that an overcharge, or is it legitimate? Let’s explore.
It’s Special Coolant That Is Expensive And Has To Be Replaced Frequently
On the Hyundai Ioniq 5, there isn’t one cooling circuit, but two. While it’s not unusual for an EV to have multiple cooling circuits, which can sometimes be merged via valves, on the Ioniq 5, the two are completely separate. One cooling system is for the motors and inverter and other electronic components, and uses Hyundai’s regular pink coolant. The other coolant system is specifically for the high-voltage traction battery. It uses a special blue coolant which is formulated to have much lower electrical conductivity, and goes by the Hyundai part number 00232-19111 or 00232-19113. Sandy Munro has a video diving deep into the cooling system of the Ioniq 5 (see above), looking at the dual circuit setup.
Also interestingly, the initial formulation of Hyundai’s low-conductivity coolant was called BSC-1 (part number 00232-19091), and was the subject of some crystallization issues. It was later replaced by BSC-2 with the 00232-19111 part number.
This blue coolant needs to be changed at 35,000 miles as per official documents. Indeed, as the owner told us, the “Ion Flush” was referring to flushing this battery coolant. But how does a coolant flush come out to $1,500? Let’s learn more about the coolant, and what’s going on here.
Conventional wisdom is that the special coolant is a belt-and-braces protective measure, intended to prevent the risk of a battery fire in the event of an internal coolant leak. The idea being that a conductive coolant could cause a short between cells, heating the battery to the point of thermal runaway. That makes sense, but at the same time, there are a great number of EVs on the market that don’t use low-conductivity coolants. Indeed, like the Kia EV6—the sibling to the Ioniq 5 built on the same E-GMP platform. It uses a conventional coolant throughout. We’ve queried Hyundai on the specifics, but the industry scuttlebutt is that the Ioniq 5 was developed first between the two, and Hyundai wanted to be extra cautious with the launch of its important EV SUV. It’s also worth noting this coolant isn’t exclusive; it’s also used in the Hyundai Kona EV.
It’s this special blue coolant that is at the root of things. For the 2023 Ioniq 5, the official service schedule says to replace the low-conductivity coolant at 35,000 miles, or 36 months. For the 2022 model, it’s scheduled at 35,000 miles or 36 months in the manual, but 40,000 miles on the Hyundai website. In both cases, the owner’s manual notes that it can be changed early with other maintenance jobs for convenience. In contrast, the standard coolant used in the Ioniq 5 has a much longer life, lasting 120,000 miles.
I’ve got a theory as to the quicker change interval for the low conductivity coolant. One is that it loses its low conductivity in just a few years, even if its cooling capacity remains. Thus, to meet spec, it has to be changed regularly. Or it could be that it suffers degraded performance in multiple other ways that I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Regardless, The Autopian has reached out to Hyundai for comment on the matter.
So, at 35,000 miles, give or take, an Ioniq 5 needs its low-conductivity coolant replaced. Not checked, not inspected, but replaced. Depending on the model, it requires anywhere from 9.3 to 12.6 quarts of fluid for a full change. It bears noting that this is expensive coolant. Hyundai’s conventional coolant can be had for under $30 a gallon in single quantities, and dealerships are likely paying far less than that. In contrast, the special blue coolant sells for $60 and up in many cases. Over the border, it sells for $137.89 CAD at one online retailer, or roughly $102 USD. It bears noting that a full flush needs three or more likely four bottles, so you’re up for hundreds of dollars just to cover the coolant for the service.
The Coolant Flush Isn’t That Simple
Beyond that, changing the fluid is involved, too. As per Hyundai’s service instructions, getting to the drain plug involves removing the front bumper among other things. The coolant then has to be slowly added to the reservoir under the hood, before the electric water pump is activated via service tools to cycle fluid through the system. The initial activation turns the pump on for 30 minutes, as it can take quite some time to fill the battery and remove air from the system. Hyundai notes that several cycles may be required to fill the system completely. Reports from owners suggest they have been quoted 1.5 to 3 hours labor for the coolant replacement.
So, add up four bottles of coolant at $60 each, and three hours of labor at $130 each, and you’ve got $630. This is line-ball with reports from forums. One owner quotes $805 CAD in 2022, or roughly $600 USD, not counting 1.5 hours of labor, so figure it comes out somewhere between $700 and $800. Another owner quotes just $260, but the full procedure was not carried out, with the dealership instead just changing out one jug’s worth of coolant rather than fully replacing the fluid. Meanwhile, one Californian says he was quoted $849 by Norm Reeves Hyundai just last month, while Laguna Hyundai apparently quoted a similar full flush at just $289.
So, it seems there’s a great deal of variability. Varying costs clearly play a role—for the coolant, for labor rates, and the number of hours the shop is charging, which doesn’t always correlate with how long the job actually takes.
The $1,500 that the owner quoted, though, that got us on to this in the first place? That seems like a high figure. Perhaps calling it an “Ion Flush” is a strategy to help justify that figure. At this stage, the closest figure we’ve found to that is a Norwegian by the name of SpoonFC, who posted that the service cost the equivalent of $1350 USD back in 2022.
Update 02/07/2024: Hyundai responded to our queries regarding this story. The company noted that it estimates a typical cost of $720 for replacing the low-conductivity coolant in the Ioniq 5’s battery cooling loop. However, it notes that it’s not always straightforward, and that this is not an exact figure. “Hourly rates vary by dealership, and it may have taken the technician more than the recommended repair time to flush the coolant. This is where the price fluctuation could be coming from. Additional services may have been performed,” advised a Hyundai spokesperson.
As for the purpose of the coolant, the spokesperson explained that it was selected as an “extra level of protection and safety” for the high-voltage battery. As for the name of the service? “The term ‘Ion Flush’ is not a term associated with Hyundai Motor America. The shop manual calls it out as low conductivity and invertor coolant replacement,” said the spokesperson. Speculation suggests that this may have been service tech shorthand, writing “ION FLUSH” instead of something like “IONIQ 5 LOW-CONDUCTIVITY COOLANT FLUSH” which led to confusion.
Depending on your service situation, it could be a serious factor to consider before buying an Ioniq 5. This service is required every 3 years or 35,000 miles, and it’s not something you’d have to do if you bought a Kia EV6 instead. If you’ve got a dealership charging a few hundred bucks, it’s not so bad. If they’re charging $1,000, or $1,500? Or more? It’s really cutting into any savings you might have made by going with an EV. We’ve asked Hyundai itself for a representative price so owners can have a better idea of what the service should really set them back. However, the dealership model means that by and large, it’s out of the company’s hands.
In any case, there’s a few things to learn here. First up, using fancy confusing terms for regular service items doesn’t inspire trust. Indeed, the owner went straight to a Facebook group to see if he was being taken for a ride. Second, if a car has a weird point of difference that’s going to cost a customer money down the line, they’re hardly going to be jumping for joy when that comes up later on. As always, you’ve got to do your own research to get by, it seems.
Image credits: Hyundai, eBay