Fire probers blame Fisker Karma for garage fire in Texas

Article by Anita Panait, on May 10, 2012

Fire investigators are blaming the Fisker Automotive’s plug-in hybrid car, the Karma, for a garage fire at a newly built residence in Fort Bend County, part of the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area in Texas. The chief fire investigator for Fort Bend County, Robert Baker, told Autoweek that the Fisker Karma was the origin of the fire, although they have yet to determine the exact cause of the blaze.

According to Baker, there were three vehicles in the garage: a newly bought Karma, a Mercedes-Benz SUV and an Acura NSX. The driver just arrived home and parked the Karma in the garage. After less than three minutes, the Karma was in blaze, although the hybrid was not plugged in at the time of the fire.

Baker noted that the Karma’s battery remains intact. Baker compared the incident to golf cart fires that occurs around 50 times in a year. In a statement to Autoweek, Fisker Automotive said it remains unclear what caused the fire, adding there are conflicting reports and uncertainty surrounding the fire incident.

In December 2011, A123 Systems Inc. said it found a "potential safety issue" in the battery packs that it supplies to Fisker’s electric vehicles. It said that the coolant may leak due to “misaligned” hose clamps that forms part of the internal cooling system of the batteries. Other customers of A123, headquartered in Waltham, Mass., include General Motors Co. and Daimler AG.

In a memo on A123's investor-relations Web site, chief executive David Vieau remarked that the coolant leak may lead to an electrical short circuit. He added that the repair for the fewer than 50 cars has commenced. The battery packs for GM's Chevrolet Spark electric subcompact, which goes on sale in 2013, will come from A123. Since 2008, A123 has posted quarterly losses. It went public in September 2009.

Vieau also remarked said that A123 is expecting a "minimal financial impact" and clarified that its relationship with Fisker "remains strong.”

Fisker has been increasing the US deliveries of its Karma plug-in hybrid sedans, each priced at $102,000. Fisker, which also designs cars for Aston Martin and BMW, said that around 25 Karma units are built each day, which may increase to 60 a day.

The new Fisker Karma can operate purely on electric power, which is supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The Karma can travel up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) in all electric mode, and it can run 403 kilometers (250 miles) more thanks to its 175-kW generator driven by a 2.0-liter, direct-injection, and turbocharged gasoline-fueled engine. This makes Karma's total range in between recharging and refueling reach up to 483 km or 300 miles.

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Topics: fisker, fisker karma

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