Fisker Karma Fire Due To Faulty Cooling Fan, Recall Underway, Factory Says

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Screen capture from video by Aaron Wood of fire in 2012 Fisker Karma in Wooside, CA, August 2012

Screen capture from video by Aaron Wood of fire in 2012 Fisker Karma in Wooside, CA, August 2012

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Well, that was quick.

On Saturday, just eight days after a fire badly damaged a 2012 Fisker Karma, the company has completed its forensic investigation, announced the cause, and started a recall for the part in question.

Fisker concluded that the fire was caused by an internal fault in a sealed low-temperature cooling fan, located forward of the left-front wheel.

That component, the company says, failed, overheated, and started a slow fire that spread to other components in the range-extended electric luxury sedan.

Fisker will replace the cooling fan in all Karmas sold to date, and add a fuse for extra protection.

Karma owners can expect to be contacted by their dealers even before they receive the formal recall notice, Fisker said.

Unusually, the Fisker press release included a statement by Rudy Burger, the owner of the Karma in Woodside:

“I have been incredibly impressed with the way Fisker has handled this incident.

"I have personally started seven technology companies and know from direct experience that the U.S. needs more innovative companies of this type, especially in the automobile sector.

“Fisker is a great company and one that I am personally planning to invest in. I look forward to getting behind the wheel of my next Fisker.”

Henrik Fisker, CEO & founder, Fisker Automotive, at 2012 Fisker Karma event, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

Henrik Fisker, CEO & founder, Fisker Automotive, at 2012 Fisker Karma event, Los Angeles, Feb 2012

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Burger is a managing partner at venture capital firm Woodside Capital Partners, which is not known to be an investor in Fisker Automotive.

Jeremy Gutteriez, the owner of an earlier Karma that burned in Sugar Land, Texas--destroying the car and damaging the garage and house it was kept in--has been far been less conciliatory.

Fisker's statement reiterated that the recent Woodside fire was not caused by the Karma's lithium-ion battery pack (the subject of its own recall), any other electric-drive component, the engine packaging, or the exhaust routing--as it had said in a Monday statement following the Friday fire.

The tight routing of the exhaust system had been suggested as a possible cause for the Texas fire, and that theory came up again following the Woodside blaze.

It was perhaps unfortunate for Fisker that the fire occurred in Woodside, California, a lovely and very, very pricey residential community for Silicon Valley's success stories.

That location may have contributed to its being captured in photos and on video, spreading instantly and virally across the web--the second fire out of 1,000 Karmas sold thus far.

The investigation into the Woodside blaze was conducted by Fisker engineers, working with a fire investigator from Pacific Rim Investigative Service Group.


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Comments (11)
  1. In the ideal case, this fixes the problem and that is that last we hear of flaming Fiskers. Let's hope.

    Thanks for the update John Voelcker.

  2. I have actually seen this happen before, one little fan goes and the car starts to over heat and possibly catches fire. So if this is the cause then it should be a fairly easy fix. Sadly this will add yet another recall to Fisker's reputation and the two fires. In the long run this shouldn't hurt them much and hopefully they can now move on and get the Atlantic into production.

  3. Weird explanation. It would appear than that it was basically an electric fan that caused the fire. Everybody owns equipment like cars, AC equipment, heaters, computers and so on that incorporate electric fans made by the cheapest supplier, yet fan related fires in homes and cars seem to be rare. Such bad luck for Fisker that their product should be affected by such a freak occurrence right where so many potential customers live and with a reporter on scene.

  4. That is because there is usually a thermo fault coding/prevention system that shuts down and/or alerts the operator. Yet, they still happen more frequently than you think.

  5. Hmmm...a cooling fan is basically an electric motor with a propeller attached to it right? So it's basically an electric motor that caused the fire. What are the odds of that? looking around my house I found at least 2 dozen electric motors tucked away in all sorts of appliances: there is billions of them around. If there were a serious chance of them causing fires it should be carnage out there, but I never even heard of electric motors causing fires. I reckon the chance of a proven concept like a fan motor causing a fire in one of only 1000 or so Karma's sold so far is statistically pretty remote. Therefore the chance we got the right explanation about what happened in Woodside seems statistically pretty remote.

  6. The thrust of your post notwithstanding, the fan in question was designed to maintain temperature in some component. It failed and the result was a fire. It happens. Inferior quality products (ex: bearings not machined to spec, hub out of balance, etc.), unit application outside of design specs or whatever the technical cause, hopefully Fisker will get it whipped.

  7. The way I read this report it was the fan itself that caused the fire, not high temperatures as a result of lack of cooling. Other reports on this event suggest the same. The fact that an extra fuse is supposed to fix this also suggests an oddly combustible electric fan.

  8. ...maybe the proper explanation is: the fan motor shorted, the circuit wasn't properly secured with a breaker, wires started smouldering and that caused the fire.

  9. Sometimes a thermal fuse is added to these systems to that if the temperature gets too high, for any reason, power is cut.

    I looked at my wife hot rollers (electrically heated) and found no less than four redundant safety mechanisms. Hard one lessons, I am sure for a product that costs about $20.

  10. I am actually worried about the design. I wonder if Fisker traded "quality" over "speed to market"...

  11. A fuse. Good thinkin'.

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