More Than A Dozen Fisker Karmas Burn In New Jersey Port During Storm

5 years ago by Inside EVs Staff 15

A Defective Low Temperature Cooling Fan Previously Ignites a 2012 Fisker Karma In Woodside, CA

Last night, about sixteen Fisker Karma’s awaiting delivery from Port Newark in New Jersey caught fire (in a big way) after storm surge from Hurricane Sandy breached the facility.

A source to Jalopnik, who reported the story said the Karmas were “first submerged in a storm surge and then caught fire, exploded.”

Obviously, this is still at the very early stages of an investigation, and the fire/explosion represents a very rare (once in a lifetime) set of circumstances. However, Fisker really doesn’t need anymore Karmas catching on fire, as this would be the third incident this year.  (Video of previous fire in California that was eventually found to be a defective cooling fan)

Fisker Karma Fire In New Jersey (photo via Jalopnik)

UPDATE:  Fisker Statement on the event

“It was reported today that several Fisker Karmas were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Superstorm Sandy.  We can report that there were no injuries and none of the cars were being charged at the time.

We have confidence in the Fisker Karma and safety is our primary concern.  While we intend to find the cause as quickly as possible, storm damage has restricted access to the port.

We will issue a further statement once the root cause has been determined.”

UPDATE 2: Good news for Fisker.

Fisker (with the investigation witnessed by NHTSA representatives) said the fire was caused by corrosion from residual salt damage inside a Vehicle Control Unit that had been submerged in the storm.

That corrosion short circuited the unit, which then led to a fire when the Karma’s 12-Volt battery fed power into the circuit.  From there, storm winds spread the fire into the other 15-odd Karmas in the lot, and that the reports of explosions had been inaccurate.

Check out all the carnage pictures at Jalopnik.com here

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15 responses to "More Than A Dozen Fisker Karmas Burn In New Jersey Port During Storm"

  1. Schmeltz says:

    How does that even happen? Would hate to be the insurance company for those cars.

    1. Mark H says:

      What happens if you touch the positive and negative poles of a battery with a conductive object like for instance a screwdriver? It explodes! I think saltwater will do the trick on the car batteries (not just EVs) and the homes that caught fire as well. Minus the explosion I think any car that was under water is on the lemon wagon after that experience,

    2. Roy_H says:

      Some insurance policies exclude “acts of God”, i.e. natural disasters. My ex had her basement flooded. She did collect, but has never been able to purchase house insurance that includes flood insurance since.

  2. Joe says:

    A neighborhood underwater caught on fire during the storm as well. Hope we keep this in perspective.

  3. GeorgeS says:

    This is bad Karma.

  4. Dave R says:

    If anyone recalls, during the tsunami in Japan a whole parking lot full of regular cars caught on fire (there’s youtube video of it somewhere).

    Partially submerge a car in dirty, salty water and these things can happen – it just takes one car to light up given how close together they are.

  5. kdawg says:

    I like the one that’s parked next to the burned up ones, but *appears* undamaged.
    How does that commercial go… “Slight smoke damage? Show me the CarFax!”

  6. vdiv says:

    I would just like to know what were the $100K+ brand new vehicles doing sitting outside, especially when a hurricane was coming?

    Also these cars must have caught on fire AFTER the water subsided. Wonder if the salt water penetrated the cells or it was the short that caused the cells to overheat and explode.

    1. Roy_H says:

      Yes, I was thinking it must have been after the water subsided at least low enough for air to get at the vulnerable parts.

      I think that Fisker would have made every attempt to remove the cars in advance of the storm. If they were impounded, waiting for customs clearance, they would not have been allowed to move them.

  7. ClarksonCote says:

    This is still bad for Fisker. GM did a lot of water testing with the Volt, including battery submersion I believe. They need to ensure that water doesn’t cause a fire.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      One example of Volt water testing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkIrE89a1xU

      1. vdiv says:

        Yeah, but did they submerge the car and let it soak in salt water for a few hours?

        1. ClarksonCote says:

          I think they did do that to the battery, yes, though not the entire vehicle. However, I’m not certain. I would venture a guess, though, that they did more water testing than Fisker.

  8. Raymondjram says:

    My 1995 Buick Regal has a battery with side terminals, and my battery cables have plastic terminal covers, but the small bolthead is uncovered. Present vehicles use the old top terminals with exposed clamps. These top terminal batteries favor a short circuit and start a fire if exposed to salt water. So every vehicle in the world with a common 12 VDC battery and exposed terminal clamps are weakly protected. I recommend that GM return to the battery side terminals, and use better plastic insulation on the cables that can cover, seal and waterproof the connections. They have the experience to do so, since the HV DC battery terminals for the Volt have waterproof terminal covers. Then GM can post ads proving that their batteries will not short under saltwater, and will not start fires.

    I wonder, has anyone tried to drive a Volt under water? I trust it will move!

  9. Bill Howland says:

    gasoline powered cars don’t explode when they get wet, and hydrogen powered cars won’t either, unless they’re made by Fisker. The Hindenburg caught fire due to the Boron – Aluminum- Oxide skin. If it had been a helium blimp the result would have been the same. The Zepulin (sp?) company investigated and found the truth since they reduced the amount in subsequent skins and also improved the conductivity between panels to reduce sparking. This is similar to the solid rocket boosters Nasa uses for fuel.

    Of course, besides the Fisker, EV’s don’t catch fire either when they get wet. I test drove this prize automobile a few months ago, and they hadn’t even addressed the relatively simple ‘cogging’ problem at slow speeds. This is unacceptable in a 120K car.
    The other fire in a Fisker this year was due to apparently no one at Fisker knew what a fuse was for their electric radiator fan.

    Other people will say its due to salt water on old fashioned top post (100 year old) batteries, and that GM’s side posts should be brought back. These side post batteries have caused so many unnecessary connection problems that I sayg ‘good riddance’ and am glad they’re gone for good. 12 volts @ several inch spacing won’t cause a problem

    The proof is in all the non-G M gas powered cars that did not catch fire.