Two Charging Ford C-Max Energis Blamed For Fires In Florida – Video

AUG 12 2016 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 68

Blaze Consumes Garage

Blaze Consumes Garage

Approximately one year ago, in Palm City, Florida, a Ford C-Max Energi was charging in a residential garage when a fault of some sort occurred and a fire resulted.

However, it wasn’t until just recently that the fire was reported to authorities.

As it turns out, a second fire involving a charging C-Max Energi occurred just recently in the local area and the news report of this more current fire prompted the owners of the other C-Max Energi fire to report the year-old incident.

Here’s what WPTV5 reported on the second fire:

“Early Saturday morning a Ford C-Max was plugged into the wall when firefighters say the fire sparked somewhere between the car batteries and the outlet. Flames spread to the garage and the family’s boat.”

Here’s the video description:

“A Palm City couple’s garage was destroyed last August after they say their white Ford C-Max Energi electric car sparked a fire.”

Daniel Tortora, owner of the first C-Max Energi that caught fire, stated:

“I thought the house was going to burn down.”

“I went like an idiot, opened the garage door and saw the charge cord on fire.”

The C-Max Energi wasn’t destroyed in the blaze, but the owners no longer plug it in:

“I drive it but I do not plug it in.”

“I will be X-ing the days off on this calendar to get rid of this car and I will not be buying another Ford.”

Aftermath

Aftermath Of Second Fire

The local news station reached out to Ford for comment on the year-old fire. Here’s the response that the news outlet received:

Ford's Statement

Ford’s Statement

The more current fire appears to have a similar cause, which hasn’t been determined in either fire. However, speculation is that the charger is the source of the fire and not the car.

We’ll update this post if more information becomes available.

Source: WPTV 5

Categories: Ford

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68 Comments on "Two Charging Ford C-Max Energis Blamed For Fires In Florida – Video"

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Well, if the C-Max wasn’t dead in the US already, news of these incidents should finish it off.

Headline should read: Shoddy House Electrical Work Causes Fire (if were just going to jump to conclusions)

Poor Ford for getting caught up in what sounds like a circumstantial situation. Weird since the onboard is only a 3.3kW.

How do you now if it is shoddy installation work or shoddy lowest bidder charger? I remember Tesla also had issue with melting 240V NEMA adapters. Even 3.3 kW is more than enough power to start electric fire, it happens all the time with much less power. Some fires started with just shortened 9V battery left in pile of old batteries in a garage. And this is full 3.3 kW left in garage unattended for many hours. You don’t have household items at that power without permanent connection.

zzzzzzzzzz said:

“…full 3.3 kW left in garage unattended for many hours. You don’t have household items at that power without permanent connection.”

More EV bashing FUD from one of our (fortunately few) perpetual EV/Tesla bashers.

Our electric clothes dryer is just plugged into the 240 volt wall outlet. Is yours permanently wired into the wall? Doubtful…

Electric clothes dryers typically draw 3400 watts, up to 4000 watts.

More wikipedia fantasy… In North America Electric Clothes dryers for at least the last 40 years have drawn around 6000 watts, when plugged into 240.

Don’t believe me? Go to an appliance store and look at the nameplate.

The ‘charger’ they are talking about is the 1440 watt ‘charger brick’.

I too wish they could narrow down precisely where the start of the fire is – If it is the ‘charger brick’ I wouldn’t be surprised since Ford traditionally has had electrical troubles. But it looks like the charging rate when the fire started was Level One.

That’s exactly my point.

How do you know it was the charging station and not a poor outlet? How do you know this is a Ford thing. But that didn’t stop the news outlet from turning this into a news story.

Why does the owners not have co and smoke detectors in the garage I have C-MAX ENERGI and Ford Focus Electric and live in fl.I have three level 2 chargers in garage, with detectors in garage.None of chargers ever get even warm.Love both of the fords Excellent vehicles use common sense If you have plugins in garage put detectors in your garage that hook to detector in side house if they go off in garage it turns the one in house on also.HELLO!

Right. Of course, one story from an uninformed local news station is going to “finish off” the C-Max. And, of course, in the one case, it absolutely wasn’t the CAR, but that doesn’t matter to you, does it?

In the more recent case, we don’t have any information yet, but that doesn’t stop you from jumping to inane conclusions, does it?

That lady’s comment about “I won’t plug it in” is just stupid. If they truly believe the charging cord was the problem, they could always go buy a 3rd party charging cord like a clipper creak or something.

But honestly, this news piece appeared to be little more than anti EV propaganda. After all, if this had been a gasoline car catching fire, nobody would have cared.

Interesting that both these fires involved C-Max Energis, and both in Florida.

Makes me wonder if there is some issue with the OEM charging cords.

Or possibly the use of an extension cord. Given the number of people using off the shelf extension cords to connect heavy duty equipment like an EV for long durations just boggles the mind.

Good thing about the Gen 2 Volt’s stock charging cord is that it comes with a built in thermal sensor in the plug. If the temp exceeds a certain point, the EVSE will throttle down the charge rate.
GM probably had enough warranty claims for melted plugs that made them beef up the Gen 2’s EVSE, which is made by Clipper Creek.

The EVSE that comes with the Ford is ALSO a Clipper Creek, but probably doesn’t have the thermal shutdown circuitry (this is a guess on my part.) The thermal monitoring circuitry is not part of the standard so most EVSEs leave it out.

The EVSEs that come with most cars are derated as much as possible to save costs; the one that came with my Honda is absolute JUNK inside.

More than likely they hooked it up with the cheapest three conductor 16 gauge extension cord they could– and it was probably coiled up in a llittle coil on the ground to make it heat up as MUCH as possible.

#obJustification: I’m an Electrical Engineer.

The Ford OEM charging cord is definitely a lot more flimsy looking than the Volt cords. The wiring seems to be thinner too.

Whether an electrical engineer or not, stating that AWG #16 is ‘flimsy’ is wrongheaded.

All of the ‘connector cords’ I’ve had for my 2011 volt (I’m on my 3rd) has a #16 AWG cord to the car from the big box.

The only official rullings on this is that 13 amps is the maximum that may be put through this cord, so 12 amperes is safe.

Only Hospital-Grade #16 AWG cords have to be derated 2 conductor sizes or, in this case, 10 amperes.

Especially those who don’t understand different cable wire gauges.

You mean just about everybody around!

I’m also an electrician contractor and what people do is sometime amazingly dangerous.
This look like a possibility here.

I’m afraid most Americans (even those who somehow wind up intelligently buying a PHEV or BEV) are uneducated and lacking common sense, and often just plain stoopid. This election cycle is certainly proof of that.

I live in Florida. It’s very humid here. Outlets will corrode over time in an unaircondtioned garage. Any poor connection will create resistance and heat. An overused (sloppy fit) outlet can cause the same overheating. I’ve also seen a melted plug on a Focus Electric “Convenience Charger”, so Ford may have or had an issue with an EVSE.

That sounds like a very plausible explanation. Most people (even seemingly smart ones who do there own electrical work) don’t realize the problems that can occur when pulling 12A continuously (often overnight), especially from a substandard receptacle. I loaned my Leaf to a friend and he wanted to charge it using a cheap extension cord inside a reel (this would have generated excessive heat and probably melted the reel and cord, possibly starting a fire). This is one reason Nissan does not recommend using the L1 trickle cord except in emergencies, and recommends that an electrician install a L2. I have used my L1 for nearly 5 years without problems, but I specifically installed a new receptacle and mounted the EVSE to eliminate any weight pulling on the receptacle. I also have minimal driving needs, so only charge for about 2 hours per night. However, this does point out a problem with the shorter range PHEV vs longer range BEV. Many people with short range PHEVs will just use the vendor-supplied L1 EVSE and not bother with a $2000-$3000 L2 EVSE installation. That’s one of the selling points, nothing special needed.

Well, that’s the ridiculous part, it is a gasoline car. “Somewhere between the batteries and the outlet” does not exclude something getting stuck on the hot exhaust and starting the fire.

The charging cords get REALLY hot if you plug them in with any kind of gap or if you let them get hot…like a Florida garage. The OEM ones are not great. The ClipperCreek charging station we got stays perfectly cool at Level 2, though.

There is some irony that early OEM EVSEs have had more problems.

Still, the data needs to be viewed in context. The fires per billion miles for an ICE in the last report, which is several years old now, show 90 fires per billion miles driven. 30 fires per billion miles for collisions, and 60 fires per billion miles due to faulty equipment which is the category for these EVSE fires.

So no problem throwing in a year old case, please let us throw in all cases through 2010. I wish we had this data. I am guessing it would be well under 20 cases in the few billion miles now driven by PHEVs. The ICE will have at least 10x even after having the advantage of years to perfect.

Many of the PHEV incidents like these are rapidly being eliminated. The Tesla fires are completely gone after adding the extra undershield. The early EVSE designs causing such fires are also disappearing. So yeah. lets keep counting ALL the fires. This is a battle the inferior design of the ICE can not win.

Irresponsible to report “somewhere between the car batteries and the outlet.” But you know what. This means no one knows what to call an “EVSE”, they’ve probably been told “it’s not the charger”, and because of no other good descriptor a lot of folks now think its “Fords”, plug-ins, or “batteries” that are to blame.

Too bad

To be fair, even the article author said the charger, not the car, may have been at fault. I think the C-Max had an on-board charger, so the charger would be part of the car…

I work in the EV industry, and I can tell you there is widespread confusion as to what the charger vs the EVSE is. Most people see the EVSE and assume that it’s the equivalent of a wall-wart. Ford, on the other hand, is being (probably intentionally) vague here– most likely because the EVSE isn’t something they BUILT, it’s something they BOUGHT– and I’m sure they went with the lowest bidder on that piece of technology so the one they have is probably crap inside. They can say “the charger wasn’t at fault” and intentionally steer blame away from the Ford-branded EVSE included with the car, while actually talking about the actual charger, which is in the car. If the car is still driveable it is obvious that the EVSE or any extension cord was what caused the fire– and NOBODY is going to pay upwards of $40 (and that’s’ a Harbor Freight price) for an properly-rated extension cord unless they 1) know the reason WHY you need it or 2) are forced. It’s sad that “investigative journalism” these days consists of figuring out what headline will get the most clicks, or someone might have figured out what actually happened… Read more »

I want to subscribe to all of @All-Purpose Guru’s posts.

Indeed!

Too bad there’s no way to do that at InsideEVs, or at least not so far as I know.

The reporter gave all the info they were given – I desire slightly more specific information also, but if it is not there, they aren’t going to make it up.

People generically, even here, call the wallbox, whether wall mounted or inline-corded “Connection cord”, etc, a charger, or, semiproperly, a ‘charger brick’.

There is no sense speculating without more information.

In my own case with my 3rd ‘level 1 wallbox’ cord, in no case was there the slightest bit of trouble with the #16 AWG cord running at 12 amps.

I always thought you “EV industry” guys should advise people using the cord to unwrap them fully so that they can breathe.

That is the only slight fault I could find with the owner’s manual.

Incidentally, the OWNER’S Manual states that if an extension is used, it is to be #14, or #12.

Doesn’t sound like much of a force to me.

Anti EV propaganda

I fully charged my Volt using my Volt’s OEM L1 EVSE into a new dedicated 20A outlet right below the electrical panel. The plug got so dang hot I thought it was going to melt the outlet. My L2 EVSE doesn’t get warm…

I think all the weight of the the box inline with the EVSE make it not sit in the outlet correctly. Unfortunately there is a regulatory requirement that the cord can only be 1 ft.

There’s a reason why the EVSE has mounting holes. It’s NOT DESIGNED to hang from the plug.

You’re lucky you didn’t burn your house down…

So what am I supposed to use as a portable EVSE? Most outlets are more than a few inches above the ground and I am not going to mount the EVSE to the wall every place I ever want to charge. So that big heavy box is going to hang from the outlet or its getting plugged into an extension cord.

Hang that box up…

I installed a hook for tension release on the EVSE.

Or install a permanent EVSE which is far safer…

It’s not a regulatory requirement, AFAIK. Copper is expensive.

That said, it’s better to have a short stub and then you use an appropriate extension cord with the unit. Read “with a big enough gauge and the minimum length required.” Go buy a $40 10 gauge extension cord at Harbor Freight, and don’t coil it up so any heating can dissipate. Plug it into a dedicated outlet (but it sounds like you have that already,) preferably with 30A rated wiring.

The requirement comes from the National Electric Code.

NEC 2014

625.22 Personnel Protection System
The electric vehicle supply equipment shall have a listed system of protection against electric shock of personnel. The personnel protection system shall be composed of listed personnel protection devices and on structional features. Where cord-and-plug-connected electric vehicle supply equipment is used, the interrupting device of a listed personnel protection system shall be provided and shall be an integral part of the attachment plug or shall be located in
the power supply cable not more than 300 mm (12 in.) from the attachment plug.

James 3 question: What is the cord color for the pigtail that plugs into the wall?

2). Is the permanent wiring to this outlet aluminum? Is it back wired or is there a screw terminal or box lug on the recepticle?

3). Is the plug firmly grabbed by the recepticle?

I’d have this gone over quickly by someone you trust.

I’ve plugged in my 2011 volt at 12 amps into many random 15 ampere outlets, wired with #14 gauge wiring, and there is a slight warmth, but much less than the Nema 14-50P on a tesla S, for instance.

If it is desired to replace the recepticle, wrap the existing wire completely around the terminal screws, get them quite tight, and purchase only specification-grade or hospital-grade recepticals (5-15 R or 5-20 R).

The pigtail between the EVSE and the wall is black.

The receptacle is a newly and well installed Leviton preferred receptacle on a dedicated 12 AWG Copper, 20A circuit. The plug gets way warmer than the receptacle.

The real problem seems to be that the contacts on plug on the EVSE are pretty flimsy and that there is a lot of weight on the cord.

I only use the OEM L1 EVSE for charging at places I am visiting so it isn’t really possible to mount the EVSE.

‘Preferred grade’ may be just Leviton nonsense. Specification grade and Hospital grade are the only real categories of recepticles. A black cord indicates you have a #14 pigtail as opposed the original orange #16. This connector should fit snuggly to the outlet (you should have to really pull on it strongly to get it to disconnect), and should run no more than luke warm. If you can, make sure the outlet, if it doesn’t have box lugs, is not backwired, but sidewired using the terminal screws. The cheap junk backwired stuff (which usually only allows a solid #14 wire), just has a tongue blade which ‘licks’ the wire in just one little place, and 12 amps on it will overheat it… These things should never get a UL listing, or ‘recognition’, but then Underwriter’s Laboratories is a shell of the company it used to be. My entire 57 year old house is full of quality HUBBELL 2 prong duplex outlets, and even the very heavily used outlets in the kitchen are as good today as they were 57 years ago brand new. I have to really pull on the cord to get the plug out. The National Fire Protection Association… Read more »

James, if you are certain your recepticle is in good shape (you can test it by plugging in a 1500 watt portable heater for 3 hours),
then return the charger cord under warranty and demand a new one.

But as I say, the 3 I’ve had with my Chevy volt have never had the slightest problem, even the original #16 pigtail one. To repeat, the cord to the car has always been orange #16, or the third one, a black #16 – and absolutely no trouble.

My Ford fusion burned the plug of my house. I stopped using the level 1 Charger that it came with, installed a juice box. This just happened so we shall see if that helps. I took it to Ford and they said everything was fine. I had an electrician come out and he said everything was wired fine and he replaced the burned outlet…

Outlets are known to corrode over time and cause problem.

It is better to install a heavy duty outlet and inspect the plug to make sure there are no corrosion on the plug each time you insert…

Yes, pluging in your EVSE is like pluging in your heater or hair dryer for 12 hours…

I charged my Volt with a BMW i Level 1 charger and it melted my 20A rated wall outlet. Replaced the outlet and had the wiring checked. Started using an OEM Voltec Level 1 charger and I have noticed the plug at the outlet stays significantly cooler than the BMW one. Maybe some OEM Level 1 chargers are better engineered than others?

More like BMW paid more for the EVSE.

Most of the ones in cars in the US that I’ve seen are junk inside.

Sorry, got that backwards, my bad. You can buy expensive EVSEs or go with the lowest bidder.

“I will be X-ing the days off on this calendar to get rid of this car and I will not be buying another Ford.”

Comments like that rule out crappy house wiring, like the garage fire a couple years back in California.

“I drive it but I do not plug it in.”

While this emotional reaction is understandable, it’s not rational. It’s like your refrigerator caused an electrical fire, so you decide you’ll live the rest of your life without ever using a refrigerator.

I prefer my ice cream pre-melted, don’t you?

I don’t think anyone should be using L1. Too many variables with the integrity of the outlet. If you get a plug-in, invest in an L2.

I don’t think anyone should be driving. Too many variables with the integrity of the person. If you get a car, invest in a chauffeur.

Seems about as ridiculous, right?

With all new products, there just needs to be a little education. Unfortunately, the dealers I’ve dealt with didn’t even want to sell me a Volt (we’ve got two despite their best efforts) let alone educate me about them.

Perhaps Ford will step it up and get the word out that the crusty old rusty outlet in your garage may *not* be quite good enough to run at 12 amps for hours on end. But I doubt it. It’ll probably go more like this:

“Oh, I see you’re looking at a Fusion Energi…did you see the news were two Energi models magically burst into flames, nearly killing everyone within 10 miles? How about you look at this F-150 instead, we sell hundreds of them and NOT ONE has been on the news because it burst into flames.”

You can’t educate every consumer up to the level of licensed electrician. And it would be quite low level. Consumers just use whatever el cheapo charging equipment automakers provide. Automakers should be held responsible and pay for recalls, then maybe they will pay some attention.

L1 EVSE is perfectly suitable for many people. Why spend money on L2 EVSE if it’s not needed? We’ve been using the Panasonic version EVSE that came with our Leaf for 1.5 years with zero problems with the device. We did have a problem with builder’s grade (substandard) push-in wire 15 amp outlet that came with the home. I replaced this myself with a quality outlet having wires tightly connected to terminals. If one is not capable of doing this, then hire an electrician.

“We did have a problem with builder’s grade (substandard) push-in wire 15 amp outlet that came with the home. I replaced this myself with a quality outlet having wires tightly connected to terminals. If one is not capable of doing this, then hire an electrician.”

That action along sometimes separate the fire from non-fire…

What? you hit upon precisely the problem in most cases, that while houses ‘on paper’ are properly wired, even overwired; the cheap junk that is actually used could easily start a fire. Even professional electricians are guilty of this. I remember seeing one time a home depot video of a new connection leg some manufacturer put out, and they said always to use a torque wrench when tightening it. Out of 4 ‘professionals’, one of them got the connection 1/2 as tight as it should be. Of course, the manufacturer is also partly to blame because if you use 10% more torque than necessary the connector will strip, so electricians are conditioned not to overdo it. The solution here is to use a beefier connector. The worst scenario would be a cheap back-wired outlet with a cheap chinese made power cord where there was a lousy internal connection from cord to plug. I had to redo the connections in my Level 2 Schneider EVSE since it would OVERHEAT when charging my roadster at 30 ampers for 8 hours. When I complained – some engineer there said ‘It works with a Leaf and VOLT – that’s all we care about!’ and… Read more »

L1 isn’t the problem, but improper use is.
Have an electrical contractor install an hospital grade or marine grade 20 amps, 120 volts outlet and check for proper wiring and don’t let the EVSE hang on its own and nothing will happen, ever.
If you use it often at the same place, leave the EVSE plug in at all time.
Plugging and unplugging daily make loose contact that will heat up sooner or later.
But up there, why just not install L2?

Infrared imaging electrical inspection is still advised before you leave it over night.

240 V NEMA connectors melt all the time. They are not designed for plugging in and out repeatedly. Any dirt on plug causes higher resistance and heat, the heat may not melt it immediately, but it will make spring that make contact tight to loose its force over time. Eventually you will have totally loose contact, even if it will look clean & perfect, and electric fire unless you notice it in time.

Similar issues happen with wire screws or any other galvanic connections. If it is not tight enough from beginning, it will heat up at high constant power and metal will expand, making connection even loose and going downhill afterwards.

I bought me one of them new gas-oh-leen cars and the gas done up caught on farre.

I mean, I’ll drive it… but I ain’t putting gas in it no more!

+1, hahaha! Exactly!

Brilliant!

My 2011 owner’s manual with the VOLT summed the situation up perfectly.

The charging facility is a HIGH POWER device.

The recepticle should be verified good by a professional (er, or someone at least competant) before using this at 12 amps.

If there is a question as to safety in a GM product, use the alternate 8 amp setting, (which apparently is unavailable on fords).

Eric,

This is righteously good stuff for future follow up.

Is it improvisational jury-rigged wiring? (Their will never be a shortage of do-it-yourself, can-do enthusiasm)
Is it manufacturer oversight?
So many catastrophic outcome possiblities.

As an electrician, I constantly see the need to oversize wiring and minimize overloads.
Residential grade outlets can burn like briquettes;
circuit breakers can overheat and not trip.
It really sucks when customers ask me why their breaker panel feels hot to the touch or why they hear a sizzling and popping sounds coming from their water heater/dryer/furnace/AC circuit breaker,

“I drive it but I do not plug it in.”

Same as most plug-in hybrid drivers then.

The 120 Charge Cord is a very poor design with only 16 AWG wire. They get super hot and have caused problems before. FORD needs to fix this issue.

Yeah but Jim Stack, the problem cannot be the #16 wire. Volts have had #16 wire running at 12 amps for years with no issues. I suspect, from listening to the Ford Owners, is the ‘connection cord’ is some cheap Chinese made thing, that has a poor connection to the plug from the wires, and is overheating there. The women who said she is not going to plug in anymore until the lease is up, is SMART. She doesn’t want to risk another burned – down garage just to save $100 in gas. If indeed it is the cheap ‘connector cord’ that is bad, remind me to never get another FORD. LEVITON, although advertising all the time here, on IEVs, makes some real junk, and has, for the past 50 years. Some of the stuff may be good (their overpriced wallboxes seem ok), but there pull chain utility lights last exactly 3 weeks before the pull chain switch freezes in the off position. You can’t even fix your basement ceiling lights since they won’t sell you separate sockets anylonger. SO my only choice at my house was to put all the ceiling lights on a wall switch. It is too… Read more »

Just had my 2013 C-Max Enegi ‘convenience’ charger melt my receptacle and its plug casing after 4 years of constant use, rarely unplugging from the socket. Took it to Ford but sadly for PHEVs the cord is NOT in the special 8y/80K category of hybrid coverage (it IS for the Fusion EV!?). The dealer, letting me down gently before quoting over $700 to replace it, said this was ‘only’ the third charger with this problem that the dealership has seen. Whoa. Risk of three house fires, but only three at this dealership. Multiply that times dealerships nationwide. Yikes. Anyway, the unit is rated at 1440W, but I’m pretty sure that the car pulls more like 1.6-1.7kW through it continuously. Maybe after a certain amount of running at over capacity, it eventually fails. I logged an issue with nhtsa, but doubt it will get much play given zero deaths zero injuries in the reporting metrics capture. I saw this post and am just adding a voice of serious concern here as well.

I just had same (2013 Cmax Energi with >150,000 miles on it) — I was in the garage, noted a plastic smell, was looking everywhere– discovered the plug itself was hot and partly melted, specifically at the (2:00 position looking at the prongs) and it appeared it was due to slight arcing at that prong, i.e. loosely fitting plug/socket. This is the 120V/1440W charger that comes with the car. I strongly suspect this would be a fire source had I not discovered it. I’m thinking a change in the plug (a new plug in my case) would fix this, will look for something that has a positive-engagement and high amperage. The Charger itself is fine– its that plug and the risk of loosening contacts.