Engine electrical wiring harnesses have traditionally been coated with a covering that is made from petroleum based plastic, this covering is called insulation. However, Hyundai along with a few other manufacturers (Toyota, Kia, Subaru and Honda) made an effort to change tradition and move in a “green” direction. That is they decided to go eco-friendly (and safe a few bucks in the process) and change their vehicle wiring harness insulation composition to a soy based “bioplastic” product. This new material will keep the plastic insulation out of landfills, be biodegradable and of course be cheaper to manufacturer.
That’s all good right? Not so, as it turns out a group of rodents or rats and mice, to be exact, found out about the new cache of soy based wire insulation being stored under the hoods of Hyundai automobiles everywhere. The rodents not only feast on the (yummy?) soy product but they also discovered it worked well as a nesting material. As the rodents joyfully repurposed this biodegradable, eco-friendly insulation, the Hyundai owners began to have issues with their cars; no start problems, dash lights coming on, functionality of sub-systems shutting down; all kinds of problems began sprouting up.
These Hyundai car owners and lessees returned to their local dealers with all sorts of complaints. Now you can imagine how many systems on a modern car rely on electrical power being sent through the wiring harnesses; from the main engine computer all the way down to the taillights there are miles of wires connecting all the systems
Now here’s where it gets complicated, Hyundai Motor America Inc refused to warranty the wiring and the repairs made would be with the identical eco-friendly insulated wiring. Subsequently a woman from California attempted to sue Hyundai Motor America Inc. for using the soy based insulation in their 2013 – 2016 cars. This after she had spent $500 on two repairs done a month apart. Her claim was Hyundai won’t warranty repairs, refuses to declare the rodent loving insulation defective and by reinstalling the same product, creating a continual cycle that causes Hyundai car owners to shell out thousands of dollars in repeat repairs. However, a few days after the case was heard in court it was voluntarily dismissed at the plaintiff’s request.
We haven’t heard the last about the use of soy and other plant based components in cars. The use of “bioplastic” is on the rise, driven by our desire to improve the planet by reducing greenhouse gases created when plastic breaks down, reducing our dependency on fossil fuel to make plastics and increasing our demand for renewable sourced material.