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Volt-Style Battery Nightmare Before Christmas Haunts Fisker

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What holiday gift do you give Fisker Automotive, the company responsible for the world’s first plug-in hybrid sports coupe?  A Matchbox 2012 Fisker Karma perhaps?

But a public suggestion that the battery packs inside the $106,000+ Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid are at risk of a coolant leak which could lead to a short circuit or even a fire? 

That’s more suited to a halloween prank than a place on Santa’s sleigh

On Friday, just two days before Christmas, lithium-ion battery pack supplier A123 Systems warned that it had found a “potential safety issue” in battery packs it has supplied to Fisker Automotive.  It also supplies battery packs to General Motors and Daimler, among others. 

As reported in the Automotive News, A123 systems CEO David Vieau made the announcement on A123 Systems’ Investor Relations web portal, in which he detailed both the problem and how the company proposed to fix it

“Certain hose clamps that are part of the battery pack’s internal cooling system were misaligned, positioned in such a way that could potentially cause a coolant leak,” wrote Viaeu. “Over time, it is possible that in certain rare circumstances, this coolant leak could potentially lead to an electrical short circuit.”

2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

Enlarge Photo

As we’re all-too aware, it doesn’t take much for a short circuit to lead to a battery fire.

“We have developed a confirmed repair for this situation,” Vieau reassured. “In the short time since recognizing this potential safety issue, the root cause was quickly identified, a fix has been developed, and corrective action is well underway.”

Although Fisker has already made several hundred cars, only 50 or so privately-owned Karmas will need to undergo warrantied repairs to rectify the potentially dangerous safety issue. 

At the time of writing however, the battery pack repair is not listed on the official NHTSA safety recall database. There have also been no reported incidents involving fire or serious damage involving the incorrectly-assembled Fisker Karma battery packs. 

While the announcement from A123 Systems is a preemptive precautionary measure to eliminate any potential fire risks in the Fisker Karma’s battery pack, it is likely to heighten, not diminish the political storm surrounding electric car safety. 

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Comments (10)
  1. I cannot see how the safety of electrical cars would heighten when it isn't the electrical cars that are causing the problem, it is one battery manufacturer who got a hose clamp crooked. If A123 Systems can't correct the problem, then maybe the car manufacturers should go with another battery manufacturer. I think Tesla and Ford manufacturers their own batteries and they don't have a fire problem or too many safety problems.
     
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  2. Although it's possible that electric cars could have the same issue it does seem odd that it's only affected plug-in hybrids so far. Still it is stupid that this should cause a political storm as this happens to gas cars all the time. I just got a recall notice on my car, the issue involves the auxiliary water pump. The pump helps cool the engine by conducting heat away from the engine's turbocharger. The notice tells me this could lead to smoldering of the pump and an engine compartment FIRE could occur. If we weren't facing a presidential cage fight this year these minor battery issues would be.............minor.
     
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  3. Good point about gasoline-powered cars having similar kinds of issues. You never see headlines warning: "Gasoline-Powered Cars Filled with Highly-Flammable Liquid. Explosive Situation Requires Immediate Action."
     
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  4. People are always frightened by the new and unknown. Going to gas stations has become so old people do whatever the heck they want while they're there and there are almost no warning signs at stations anymore. People don't take into account that they are pouring flammable liquids while standing on top of an underground tank containing thousands of gallons of gasoline anymore only because they've become comfortably ignorant over time.
     
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  5. The article's cleverly alarmist headline totally overstates the point. This is not a "nightmare" for Fisker, nor does it "haunt" them. It's a minor hose misalignment issue that only potentially impacts 50 cars -- none of which experienced ANY issues with overheating, let alone short-circuits. This kind of writing is something I'd expect to see in the Drudge Report rather than Green Car Reports. Whose side are you guys on, anyway?
     
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  6. Actually this story is all over the web. Just Google "Fisker battery". Note that one of the first hits is an open letter from Henri Fisker addressing this issue. So yes, this pretty much is the kind of anti plug-in FUD fodder that is a nightmare to companies like Fisker.
     
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  7. Yes, articles about the battery issue ARE all over the web. But my point was, the headline of this article was the most over-the-top, most alarmist-sounding of all of them -- and it was from a supposedly objective (if not "friendly" ) source.
     
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  8. no mention of the 10,000s of GAS cars that catch fire annually in the US alone?
     
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  9. Actually, FYI, there are 250,000 to 300,000 gasoline fires in cars every year. :)
     
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  10. If anyone is interested in seeing a few car fires try http://www.wreckedexotics.com/ few people realize that most exotic sports cars are well known for suddenly catching fire.
     
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