Fisker Fire Cause: Not Exhaust, Battery, Or Electric Drive, Company Says

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Fisker Karma on fire in Woodside, California

Fisker Karma on fire in Woodside, California

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While Fisker's new CEO may be getting headlines today, the company continues to grapple with fallout from Friday's fire in a 2012 Fisker Karma.

Over the weekend, Fisker had issued a statement saying it was investigating the incident.

Yesterday, the company issued a further statement.

In the release, Fisker said that its investigations have determined the fire did not start in the car's lithium-ion battery pack or its electric-drive components, or due to the car's exhaust routing.

In fact, Fisker said, the fire's origin appears to its investigators to have been outside the engine compartment altogether, forward of the left front tire.

The statement from Fisker Automotive reads as follows:

ANAHEIM, CA -- August 13, 2012: Fisker engineers, working with independent investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Group, have begun preliminary examination and testing on the Karma involved in a fire in Woodside, California Friday, August 10.

Evidence revealed thus far supports the fact that the ignition source was not the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or unique exhaust routing.

The area of origin for the fire was determined to be outside the engine compartment.  There was no damage to the passenger compartment and there were no injuries.

Continued investigative efforts will be primarily focused within the specific area of origin, located forward of the driver’s side front tire.

Further details will be announced after a full report is completed.

2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

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The Friday fire was the second time one of only 1,000 or so Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sedans has been damaged or destroyed by a blaze that appears to have started in the car itself.

No doubt there will be further releases from Fisker on the cause of the fire.

If you want to judge for yourself--and you know your way around photos of fire-damaged cars--GreenTech Media published several post-fire photos of the Fisker that burned.

It's worth noting that there are more than 250,000 fires each year the U.S. population of about 250 million vehicles.

Fisker's rate of two fires in 1,000 vehicles (0.2 percent) thus far is roughly double the national car-fire rate of 0.1 percent.

And those Fiskers have only been on the road for a year, versus the average age of the U.S. vehicle population, which is now more than 10 years.

With such a small population of cars, our comparison is almost surely statistically invalid.

Nonetheless, we doubt it's cause for much confidence among current Fisker Karma owners.


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Comments (16)
  1. What is up there? The headlights?

  2. Oh come on, the fire wasn't in the car, yah right. The front drivers side area is gone and a lot of the interal components are melted. Plus if you look at the edge of the hood there is soot that looks like it was deposited there by smoke coming out of the seam. The soot starts at the passenger side headlight and stops at the damage. Fisker's investigators seem like they were hired to keep Fisker's image clean, I want to hear the report from the local fire investigator, maybe the fires were started outside the car but both fires so far have very similar situations. Both were driven, parked, and caught fire soon after while sitting unattended.

  3. They didn't say it didn't start in the car, just not in the engine compartment. So perhaps it is a headlight or some other electronic components mounted on the driver's side fender.

    Doesn't really matter what it was, the car does seem to have ignited itself.

  4. I don't think this is it, but one of my friends asked if it could have been as simple as someone driving in front of the Fisker tossing a cigarette butt out the window?

  5. i would be horrified if a lit cigarette could start a car on fire.
    Given the risks, that would be truly awful engineering.

    Now this fire appears to have started high as the tire has very little damage. I suspect from the poor quality pictures a wiring harness fire in something feeding through the fender and catching the body panel on fire.

  6. I notice there are already 2 accounts of what happened. Some early reports mentioned that Mr. Burger emerged with his groceries from the grocery store only to find his car belching smoke after which he called Fisker for some reason.

    According to the Eric Wesoff report: "He (Mr. Burger) said that the car was smoking when he pulled it into the parking lot where the fire proceeded to melt the front left side of the vehicle body".

    I wonder what really happened, especially since the Texas fire isn't explained yet either and the Fisker research team emphatically mentioned the possibility of foul play for some reason.

  7. Good question. If the car was already smoking when pulling into Roberts Market, why did he go into the store and shop before calling someone? (911, whatever) Somehow, I don't think we have the full or otherwise accurate account of this story yet. It seems like some form of over-heating or rupture of a hose of some sort could have started a chain reaction somewhere under the hood.

  8. Isn't the answer obvious? When assigning blame, the answer is ALWAYS George W. Bush. I see him there, in the picture, hiding in the bushes on the grassy knoll behind the cars.

  9. No, we actually have Mr. Bush to thank for the Fisker Karma, without his Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program that resulted in a $169 million DOE loan for developing the Karma I doubt the vehicle would ever have come into existence.

    Of course cheap government loans for disruptive energy related technology are bound to make a lot of vested interests very unhappy and after Solyndra they seem to be focussing on Fisker to make it the next showcase to definitively kill off that program (that has long since ground to a halt BTW)and to prove the government shouldn't interfere in the market ever again like that. Bet they are pretty pleased with these fires.

  10. Perhaps something was rubbing against the wheel, or brake? I've seen tire rubber on a trailer smoke, then catch flame once stopped at side of roadway. Was surprised how quickly a tire could burst into flames! Luckily the owner had a fire extinguisher.

    Not saying friction heating was the source in this case… just a possibility until we know more of the facts.

  11. I would guess it is something in the brake wells are too hot and igniting a plastic part.

    Or it could the owner really hating the car and try to set it on fire to collect insurance money...

  12. There are two strange things that I heard. First, the car was smoking when the owner went in to the store. I don't know if I would leave my car when it was smoking.

    Second, when the car caught on fire, the owner called Fisker rather than the fire department. Why would you call the manufacturer.

    However, it might just be the "fog" of communications and the story makes more sense some how.

  13. With the Ferrari 458 fires, it was alleged the adhesive to glue a heat shield could have been the cause of fire. More details

  14. He may have driven through a patch of swamp gas on the way to the market.

  15. It is solved... Recalls!

  16. 3 days? That is got to be the fastest investigation ever...

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