As we suspected yesterday, the first official word from Fisker about the Karma that caught fire in Woodside, CA this weekend is that the li-ion batteries are apparently not to blame. Fisker has released a statement, which you can find below, that says that independent investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Group are looking into the cause of the blaze and that:

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
.

More information will be released when Fisker and the investigators have something to report. To see a video of the fire and read our original report, here you go.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (PDF), between 2005 and 2009, 1,150 spontaneous vehicle fires happened each year, half of those in passenger vehicles. So, just under 600 a year take place in an average year, out of a national fleet of around 250 million vehicles. Two Karma fires in four months is thus noteworthy, especially given the newness of the technology and general worries about the safety of li-ion batteries, but it's not something to panic about. We await further details of this investigation.
Show full PR text
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.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      BlackBeanChicken
      • 2 Years Ago
      I blame Bieber's hairspray...
      porosavuporo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Every next press release from Fisker will be accompanied by Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire ! Honest.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Spontaneous combustion due to Bieber Fever
      Classic_Engr
      • 2 Years Ago
      It is refreshing to see quite a few more intelligent comments here than those spewed on the regular AB site. While it is disappointing to read this news I really do hope that Fisker sorts this issue out quickly. The idea of commuting to work and back in a stylish executive luxury saloon comparable to one I already own yet without emitting any CO2 for the entire trip is an intriguing proposition to me.
      winc06
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is just a problem of a small car company. IC engines are enormously complicated and there is a long history of their bursting into flames. I have a friend whose Chrysler burned to the ground with the ignition off while she was having her hair done. That complexity is multiplied with a hybrid. Finding the problem will be difficult for the small, limited staff of a small company.
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ok, since I haven't looked under the hood of one of these beasts yet....what IS up there in the front left corner that could have started the fire?
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        A couple of interesting things from this photo that might give a clue. If you look at the fire photo: http://i555.photobucket.com/albums/jj456/letstakeawalk42/autos/7957b547.jpg And compare it to this photos: http://blogs.insideline.com/straightline/2011/12/suspension-walkaround-2012-fisker-karma.html The front tire looks like it burst/split on the front part of the tire. The tire itself looks like it was on fire, so it likely split at the location where the fire was burning the hottest and/or longest. If that is any indication of where the source of the fire may have come from, then we're talking about the front of the driver's fender area as opposed to the back part of the driver's fender area where the exhaust sits. I was able to see power steering hoses in that area by going through the link on the Jaloponik site. I was also able to see a coolant hose in that area, along with various electrical items. The front brake rotors and caliper themselves do not appear to have fire damage from what I can see, but brake fluid hoses are located there. A fine spray of any of these fluids can start a fire. Plenty of things for the investigators to look into.
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          rotation - You are right about the regen. I don't know what I was thinking there. For some reason I keep having to repost this? What the heck?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          The headlamp unit was also completely consumed in the fire. Perhaps an electrical arc?
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          LTW Yup, lots of stuff up there to start a fire. Also the side marker light in the fender, and the brake regen unit in the hub.
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          ABG -- I don't know why my post keeps disappearing on this?
          Ele Truk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          He parked on a burning road flare and didn't notice????
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          The tire looks like all of the tread burned off (including shoulder) and it's down to the carcass. As I think you mentioned in another post, that radiator thing up front is an intercooler, the LNF engine used is turbocharged and intercooled. Interestingly, there is a nitrile hose unburned just on the border of the shadow. That's not far away from the fire and still intact, so that would suggest to me the fire did start on the extreme corner of the car. I am quite receptive to Letstakeawalk's idea that it could be a headlamp. The headlamp should be off when the car is parked, but maybe the flyback (high voltgage source) for the headlamp is not drained to ground when the car is shut off and so it arced to something? PR: There's no front brake regen on the Karma as you can see in the link you sent. If a wheel cannot be driven it can't be a generator either. And given front brakes do most of the work on a car, it kind of hampers regenerative ability on RWD EVs like the Model S (and EREV like this). I guess as an alternative theory you will note the entire wheel well liner is missing or was consumed in the blaze. So I guess that's another theory for source of ignition.
        Dave D
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Well, actually I did look under the hood, but none of the interesting "bits" were up there as I'm an EV fan so all the cool stuff was elsewhere, at least for me.
      Anne
      • 2 Years Ago
      And the comments on this ABG forum spontaneously self combust too.
      Grendal
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anyone here think it was the batteries that caught on fire? I didn't think so. This is a deflection. At this point I'm just guessing, but I'll bet there is something in the engine compartment that under certain circumstances catches fire. Fisker needs to find out what that thing is and shield it better to prevent this from happening again. And I would seriously doubt that it is a battery but that doesn't mean there isn't a problem.
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        @ Grendal "At this point I'm just guessing, but I'll bet there is something in the engine compartment that under certain circumstances catches fire." It would seem that the fire investigators have ruled out the engine compartment as a source of the fire. Fisker has previously expressed concern about leaves and combustible material accumulating under the wheel arches. Unfortunately, all the statistic's seem to include the wheel arch area with the engine compartment and running gear. But one study highlighted the wide variations in the type of insulation materials used in wiring, and claimed that this could be the cause of 28 percent of motor vehicle fires. ( Flammable liquids in the engine area are only 21 percent.) The 'Topical Fire Report Series' [ www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v9i1.pdf ] provides interesting analysis of data collected by USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), and even Homeland Security ! Then again, 'Smoking_dude' could be right, this could just be an arson attack.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          A leaf fire under the wheel arches should not lead to a car fire. Leaves just don't burn that hot, the car should be able to survive that. Other combustible material, maybe. Also, there would be no leaves on the ground at this time of year in that area of California anyway (or any part of the US for that matter).
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @ Rotation You maybe right, I don't know, I'm not a fire expert. However, I think when they refer to 'leaves' they mean debris of all sorts that get mixed with leaves, and dirt. I would imagine that under certain circumstances such debris could remain under the car wheel arch for some time. I don't know how hot under a wheel arch can get, but decaying organic material (compost) can create enough heat to ignite other combustible materials, which in turn could cause electrical or fluid conduits to burn. Trying to isolate statistics for just wheel arch fires, (and there causes) is proving difficult. I have one figure, (but not very detailed) of 3%. So, I guess it's possible, not probable, but possible. Since nearly 50% of all Auto fires are reported as having no known cause detected, we may never know for sure ! Although in this case, it would really be good to know !
          Grendal
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @Marco Well just like your story of the insect that started a fire in Australia, Fisker needs to figure out what is causing something to catch on fire. Even if it is leaves (which doesn't really sound quite right) then Fisker needs to come up with a way to prevent the flammable leaves from getting into whatever area allows them to catch fire.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        It's not the batteries. Fisker is shining a spotlight on the batteries to deflect attention to the problems with the engine compartment itself. Notice that Fisker doesn't say a single word about the GM-sourced engine in either of these fires. That's because A123 is small, and unlikely to sue. GM is huge, and has no problem putting Fisker out of business with a libel / defamation lawsuit, both financially and technically. Make no mistake, GM is watching this closely, and their engineers have probably looked the car over very carefully. They probably already know the thermal faults with the car, and exactly what packaging-related compromises Fisker made that GM would never allow.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          "They probably already know the thermal faults with the car, and exactly what packaging-related compromises Fisker made that GM would never allow." Are you accusing GM of being co-conspirators of negligence?
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          @ SVX pearlie What's the matter with you? Has your hatred of Fisker made you that irrational ? The cause of both fires is yet to be determined, but in the case of this fire, the fire started outside the engine compartment ! But you just keep repeating the same disinformation, over and over, hoping it will be accepted as truth.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          No, I'm suggesting that GM could have build a more reliable (but less sleek) car.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          "No, I'm suggesting that GM could have build a more reliable (but less sleek) car." Well, yes, that is the general tone of your comment, but this is what you specifically wrote: "Make no mistake, GM is watching this closely, and their engineers have probably looked the car over very carefully. They probably already know the thermal faults with the car, and exactly what packaging-related compromises Fisker made that GM would never allow." 1. GM engineers have examined the Fisker Karma closely. 2. GM engineers know of problems with the Fisker Karma, and would never have allowed them in a GM product. To me, that sounds like a GM engineer had better step forward and make those issues known, before he gets called in before a Judge to explain why he was party to a negligent action. Hopefully, that GM engineer will have written documentation of when he told Fisker why their engineering was faulty, and why he wouldn't allow his product to be engineered in such a manner.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      These numbers don't make sense compared to some earlier data... http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/osvehicle.pdf "Vehicle fires fell to a record low. The total number of reported vehicle fires fell 6% from the 351,500 reported in 2001 to 329,500 in 2002. This was the smallest vehicle fire incidence since the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began tracking vehicle fires and losses with its current methods. After declining in the early eighties, vehicle fires began increasing in 1983 to a peak of 477,500 in 1988. The 9% drop from 1988 to 1989 was the largest seen since NFPA began tracking this data. Since 1980, reported vehicle fires have fallen 30%, compared to a 51% drop in reported structure fires and a 44% drop in fires of all types. Figure 1 shows the trend in vehicle fires since 1980."
        karlInSanDiego
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        There's verbal parsing going on. Spontaneous Vehicle fire is a very different situation from vehicle fire, which can involve a collision, fueling accident, or even starting a fire by inadvertently dripping oil on a hot exhaust manifold while topping off.
      Smoking_dude
      • 2 Years Ago
      This looks more like a Berlin style car fire. A crazy guy put a little block of BBQ igniter on the wheel lit it and ran away.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        By BBQ igniter block, do you mean paraffin BBQ cubes? I don't think those are sold in the US, at least not as BBQ igniters.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          They are not that difficult to make...
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          SVX Pearlie: You don't need to even make one. Just go to the grocery store and buy a Duraflame log. It's paraffin with sawdust mixed in. It'd actually work a little better. Hacking a hunk off might be a bit of a pain. And it burns a lot hotter than leaves. I'm sure that'd be an easy way to light a car up.
      ZenDriver
      • 2 Years Ago
      I keep looking at this photo: http://i555.photobucket.com/albums/jj456/letstakeawalk42/autos/7957b547.jpg And can't help asking: Could it be the ballast for those Xenon headlights?
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      A second statement from Fisker shows that they are focusing on the area in front of the wheel: "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."
    • Load More Comments