Fisker Karma burns down garage with two cars and part of house

1. Chevy Volt- Side impact causes car to catch fire.

2. Fisker Karma- NO impact incinerates three cars, garage, and nearly burns down house..

3. Tesla Model S- Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for our brave signature reservation holders ;)

When you configure your Model S, decline the exhaust system option.

It bears repeating. The more they overwork the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

I take no joy in this however, as it casts a shadow on all of us. Comparisons will be drawn, even though inaccurate.

But I don't like hybrids. Too much stuff packed in there, too many moving parts, too much complexity, too many things to go wrong.

It's karma.

@ Volker
congrats always the right answers ready
for everybody
( off topic :I was looking for your report from the Geneva Fair 2012 could not find it ...)

europe, thanks! :-) My reports from Geneva are here:

The thread is marked "private" (i.e., reservation holders only). If you are a reservation holder but are denied viewing it, send a note to Tesla. They usually fix this kind of issues quickly.

The post was intended to be tongue and cheek, however, I do appreciate the re-education on battery safety.

Frankly, I've always been more concerned with the likelihood of microprocessor failure affecting thermal monitoring and load distribution than of physical battery failure. Chip quality can be all over the map. Can anyone speak to this? Thanks in advance.

Chip quality "can" be all over the map, but chips are graded at at the factory into "perfect", which go into medical and other similar equipment, "research" which have a few more flaws but are good enough for laboratory work, "industrial" which go into high end servers and automotive, and "consumer" which go into cheap PCs. Industrial quality with error correction is actually very robust. One of the reasons why high end computers cost what they do is because of the better grade of chips used.

There is a category "military" which (at least in old days) got printed in chips. In my youth I was doing a school physics lab experiment where I was supposed to get square wave "rounded" with some components and I got square wave no matter what I did (within parameters of the experiment). Turned out that I had picked up the only military spec chip from the bin for that experiment. So on top of the quality control they also might have different electrical abilities for each category.

Interesting article.

"This isn't the first time Fisker has been in the news regarding safety issues. In March, the automaker announced its battery supplier was replacing the batteries in all of its 2012 Karma sedans due to a manufacturing defect discovered by supplier A123 Systems. According to the supplier, the defect could result in battery underperformance and decreased durability."

I didn't know that underperformance and decreased durability were 'safety issues'. Someone might get hurt taking a bat to the car I guess...

@EcLectric - regarding "underperformance and decreased durability" - this was the issue that caused Consumer Reports' car to stop, and isn't an accurate description.

The cause was that battery cells were squeezed too tight during assembly. The batteries used by the Karma are prismatic - think pouches of gel in metal pizza boxes, rather than round flashlight batteries. Due to one miscalibrated welding machine, some cells were made just a little too thick (but within tolerance for their testing of a single unit). When the cells were stacked together and squeezed into a battery module, the cumulative error made them too thick. This led the pouches to rupture and ooze electrolyte into the metal boxes containing them.

The effect was that the batteries would short out. The safety system detected this and shut down the whole battery. This shut down power to the whole car, which is a significant safety issue.

In addition, the Karma was recalled late last year due to a risk of the battery cover hitting the clamps holding on the battery coolant hoses when the cover was closed. This could theoretically lead to the clamps loosening, the hoses coming off and spilling coolant and causing a fire. No one actually encountered this problem, and no more than 50 customers had their cars at this time.

One other significant issue that may have been resolved was a software bug (see that caused a reboot while driving, resulting in the dash and headlights going dark. The problem seems to have been fixed with a software update.

I don't think any of that can accurately be described as battery underperformance or decreased durability.


1. The Chevy Volt suffered a side-impact simulation of being slammed against a pole strong enough that it cracked the battery compartment along the spine of the vehicle. The vehicle was then rolled over, to simulate being flipped as a result of the accident, or knocked over an embankment. The car was totaled, of course, but passed the test with a five-star rating because of how well the occupants would have survived.

Two weeks later, the vehicle was sitting in a row of wrecked cars and the battery had not been discharged. The non-conductive coolant dried out, forming crystals, which were conductive, which caused a short in the battery and triggered the fire. They were able to reproduce this in as little as one week by cracking a battery cell, exposing it to the coolant and letting it dry.

What I took away from this: if you get into a side-impact collision in a Volt, wrap it around a pole and then flip it, if OnStar doesn't send help, get out of the car sometime in the next 127 hours.

2. The most common rumor/hypothesis is that the source of the problem was the ICE engine. The owner parked it and within five minute it was in flames. It was not recharging, and given the Karma's limited all-electric range, the batteries would have been depleted (aside from a reserve, which may be 20%, but not fully charged at any rate).

The owner reported smelling burning rubber, and did not report ozone or other chemical smells that one might associate with an electrical or battery fire. That's far from conclusive in itself: hoses, belts, etc., would soon catch fire in a burning Karma, possibly masking the smell of an electrical fire if there was one.

According to the WSJ, Fisker Automotive today said the battery was not only intact after the fire but in "full working condition" - after seeing the photos, that seems a little hard to believe.

Nick, thank you for taking the time to go into some of the details! It is very important to educate people on the background of these fires b/c without knowing some details, those head lines leave a sore taste.

Fisker should push a headline: "Fisker's A123 battery survives gasoline car fire!"

P.S. Anyone who walks away from his car without popping the hood after smelling burning rubber should have been flunked out at the driver's license IQ testing stage.

I dunno, they only recently moved the driver's license IQ testing stage to only include the set of positive numbers.

Appreciate the added details Nick. Interesting, so now I've read three differing accounts of the Fisker and Prius events. I'm learning that there are quite a few competing versions of these stories that vary, not surprisingly, based on the agenda of the source. As a low P reservation holder, these issues are not academic to me. In my opinion, putting my loved ones in Model 1 of anything merits an additional layer of due diligence.

The real world test results I'd like to see (and perhaps they've been performed) are those of a model S driven at 70 mph for 1.5 hours on an 80 degree day ( trip to the beach?) with two adults, two small children, a frunkfull of beach gear and a light headwind. If an eighteen wheeler loses me in the sun and I roll upside down into a ditch, the minute that coolant stops circulating my umpteen thousand batteries (now hanging over my bruised head) may still have a considerable amount of residual heat to discharge. Are we better off than being in an ICE vehicle leaking gas and oil? I'm sure we are. Am I still concerned about potential flammable events secondary to impact effects on electrical system, battery, or materials? You bet. Will it stop me from buying the car? Not likely. I still believe when the first drunk teenager drives his dad's S into the ocean or local pond we'll discover something unforeseen about EV safety, but maybe not.

I realize Tesla has made more than good faith effort to make this an extremely safe car. Similar to new drugs, however, the potential hazards and risks usually don't show up until widespread distribution. As a pioneer you expect to take a few arrows. I may just drive a bit slower for awhile and watch more closely for indians.

- I still believe when the first drunk teenager drives his dad's S into the ocean or local pond we'll discover something unforeseen about EV safety

There is no safety issue here. A number of Prius have been driven into rivers and other bodies of water with no harm to the occupants. There's no reason to think that a Leaf, Volt, or Tesla will act differently.

@Robert22 - just as an FYI, here are my sources. It is sometimes hard to separate speculation and agenda from post mortem findings. When the latter's finally available, it never seems to get the headlines that rumors get. The concept of "news" is more about hearing what might be coming than understanding what actually happened. We don't have an institution or medium that's really suited to that - but that's a failing of civilization beyond the scope of this forum.

A123 Field Campaign - while the source is not independent, I think A123's done a good job on explaining what went wrong with their process.

NHTSA's statement on the Volt investigation - along the right-hand side, there are a set of links providing detail, including videos.

NHTSA's recall for the Karma's hose clamp issue. As I mentioned, while it says 239 vehicles were affected, no more than 50 had reached their customers. Fisker has a network of dealerships, and most of the cars were in the supply chain - at the time, their dealership to customer ratio was 1:1, so I imagine the service was prompt.


Look how safe ICE vehicles are! What makes you think your current car(s) are safer than an “S?”

Perhaps you are not cut out to be an early adaptor. Peace of mind is priceless and maybe you should wait a ‘safe’ period of time, say 10 years, until ALL the facts are in.

I still believe when the first drunk teenager drives his dad's S into the ocean or local pond we'll discover something unforeseen about EV safety, but maybe not.

Well, Model S has very low center of gravity so it might stay right side up in water, and since electric engine doesn't need air to operate it might be first in automotive history where car gets driven back to surface before occupants drown ;-)

@Timo - make that second - the Rinspeed Squba was an electric conversion of the Lotus Elise (sounds familiar) that could be driven on land, into water where it used water jets for propulsion, and then back up to land. It never went into production, but the prototype was fully functional.

As for the Model S, the high voltage safety cutoffs would probably kick in before you get too far, since it wasn't designed with driving around on lakebeds in mind. For armored vehicles designed for submersion, There is a problem with vehicle buoyancy - a car heavy enough to sink is still not heavy enough to gain traction in silt and mud. As a result, no one should try this at home (just in case anyone missed Timo's smiley).

If you find yourself trapped underwater in a Model S, retrieve your LifeHammer escape tool from the frunk and use it to cut free of your seatbelt, if necessary, then break the windshield glass to allow yourself to escape.

Don't forget that DC does not kill like AC... also water, pure H2O, is not conductive it is the other stuff in the H2O.... so Timo is right. A driver might actually be able to drive out after being submerged.... altho I am not going to test that in my S.

If I smell anything burning I check it out. In my house or car.
My mom owned a Fiero many years ago. When she smelled something burning she was able to stop a potential fire before it got past the smoldering stage. Pontiac blamed everything but the car. I remember after a number of the cars burst into flames it was because of "oily rags" the owners left in the trunk next to the engine.

A poptart in a toaster got stuck on my x-wife. She had actually put it in the toaster and fell asleep on the coach. She still woke up from the smell and put it out before any damage was done to the house.

On a side note. I am sick of gas cars with batteries thrown in getting compared to BEV. In my book they are still Hybrids/ICE and should be left in that category.

- On a side note. I am sick of gas cars with batteries thrown in getting compared to BEV. In my book they are still Hybrids/ICE and should be left in that category.

Agreed. If it's got an ICE and a battery, it's a hybrid. It might be a serial hybrid, a parallel hybrid, a combined hybrid, or a non-so-hybrid hybrid, but it's still a hybrid.

Funny replies today!

@Sudre_: I feel for you. My wife never fell asleep on the coach.

@Nick Kordich: If I get out of a submerged car far enough to get to the frunk (inaccessible directly from the passenger compartment), I'm not going back in to put on my seat belt, get it stuck and then cut it and smash the windshield. If I get a LifeHammer, I'll keep it in the glove compartment, thank you very much!

EdG. I am going to keep my LifeHammer in the enclosed, center console!


Thank you for the sources.


<< What makes you think your current car is safer than an S? >>

Well for one, I can hear it coming, which may prove to be an issue for the S, at least here in MA. But that's a topic for another day.

In addition my present car will upon sensing an accident, prime the brake assist system, lock the doors to prevent accidental opening during the accident, adjust the seats, close the windows and sunroof, and tighten the seatbelts. In the event of a roll over, the doors unlock and the the windows lower approximately one half-inch to facilitate exit or to allow safety workers to gain access easily. These features have been available and working since 2002.

<< Perhaps you're not cut out to be an early adaptor [sic]. Maybe you should .. wait 10 years until all the facts are in. >>

I think I still qualify as an early adapter. I've left behind most of my witless sarcasm.

Model S has five star safety rating. I think it has all those things you listed and then some.

Not hearing a car is non-issue. That's just people being afraid of change. People walk under trains that honk their horns without "hearing" them (they hear, they just don't listen). Pedestrian using his eyes and driver using his make this a non-issue. Electric cars are not completely silent, there is a tire rattle against the pavement. You might get surprised about how close it is when you hear it, but that just needs a bit time before people get used to it.

In places where ambient noise level is relatively high you can't hear modern ICE car either. Not at the distance where it still matters.

I misremember. Hadn't we decided the S, X, etc. would have twin ultrasonic beam emitters that gave a beat sound where they intersected, like an angry growling snarl, aimed automatically by Lidar sensors at any foolhardy pedestrians within range?


oh... I thought we had decided that pedestrians would be fitted with remote tasers and the Model S would initiate the taser if the pedestrian was about to step in the street when the car was within a certain distance. That should drop the person to the ground and prevent them from getting run over... actually I think it should be fitted on all cars.

X Deutschland Site Besuchen