Reports are still understandably sparse, but News Press is reporting that a fire at a home in a gated community in Estero, FL might have been caused by either an all-electric Smart Fortwo Electric Drive or its charging station. At the very least, the "Smart car was so badly torched that fire officials couldn't determine its make or model," the News Press writes (most likely, it was a second-gen Smart ED or a converted ForTwo). The fire ended up doing $200,000 worth of damage to a $500,000 home and there were no injuries. The local NBC affiliate has a video report of the fire, which you can watch below. One important detail in the station's report: the charger was installed by the homeowner not long before the blaze.

As is important to note whenever these sorts of stories pop up, gas-powered vehicles catch fire every day. And, after the initial flurry of reports, it sometimes turns out that the advanced powertrains were not to blame (see here or here). That doesn't mean anything in particular about this case, but it's worth remembering. As the local fire department spokeswoman told the News Press, "Whether it's a car or a toaster, everyone should follow the recommendations put out by the manufacturer. I can't tell you if that was the case here. We don't know."

*UPDATE: As readers here and elsewhere are pointing out, it looks like the "charger" was for the car's 12V battery and that this was a gas-powered Smart, not an EV. Until we know more, file this with all the many other ICE vehicle fires.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      amtoro
      • 14 Hours Ago
      There are many things that could have gone bad; the installation of the charging station is a good initial suspect as something as simple as not tightening the wire clamp in the circuit breaker, not pushing the breaker firmly into place or a defective circuit breaker can cause a fire. If the installation was done as per the NFPA code, the charging unit could have had a defect (however this is less likely if it is a UL certified station) When I leave home for a weekend or longer, I charge the car to between 50% and 80%, unplug the car, unplug the SPX PowerXpress charging station and turn off the circuit breaker. I also turn off the breakers for the bedrooms, office, bathrooms, garage opener and water heater, unplug appliances or turn off power strips and close the main water valve; that is just the way I was raised.
        Rick
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @amtoro
        Yee you are probably right the internal circuit protection must broken down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMy2_qNO2Y0
      Neutral President
      • 14 Hours Ago
      There's nothing that says it was a Smart ED. It may have just been a shoddy trickle charger for a regular car battery.
        Mart
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Neutral President
        Indeed. Talk of a small "data charger" arriving through UPS sounds like a trickle charger for the 12v under the floorboard of a regular Smart fortwo.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Neutral President
        The local fire officials called it a Smart EV. They were unable to determine though, if it was an actual Smart EV or an EV conversion. "Florida fire officials concluded on Tuesday that the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive's battery charger caused the blaze." The Insurance company is also investigating: "Aside from the fire official’s investigation, the homeowner’s insurance company is also currently examining the fire. In particular, the insurance company is conducting tests to determine whether the fire was caused by the car itself or the battery charger."
      Rick
      • 14 Hours Ago
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMy2_qNO2Y0
      Smoking_dude
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Who said this is was an electric smart? Only news-press writes about evs. Just LISTEN to the report: and read the 2nd article Her Husband installed a battery charger purchased online, on the little car. She sais it on the interview: "It was such a small device from what I recall, I remember recieving the box from fedex that morning" Even the small 120V cord for the smart is bulky and heavy. Well this sounds more than a crappy 12V charger to me. They hooked it up TO KEEP THE 12V STARTER BATTERY CHARGED! Most (light and cheap) 12V chargers are JUNK, they just ruin the battery, and even a chinese made trickle charger can ignite a car. so nobody knows anything, but most sources just write it is an electric car. not knowing anything!
        Mart
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Homeowner specifically calls it a data recharger, i.e. a USB recharging device plugged into the car for a phone/tablet, not a recharger for the 12v. I guess we'll have to wait for the fire marshall.
        Levine Levine
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        "Well this sounds more than a crappy 12V charger to me. They hooked it up TO KEEP THE 12V STARTER BATTERY CHARGED! Most (light and cheap) 12V chargers are JUNK, they just ruin the battery, and even a chinese made trickle charger can ignite a car. so nobody knows anything, but most sources just write it is an electric car. not knowing anything!" You sound like you know everything, making these hit-and-run statemements.
      Brian
      • 14 Hours Ago
      What makes this news on GarageFireBlog? FYI: Smart ED will not even go on sale until late spring 2013! Regarding "it was a second generation Smart ED".
        SVX pearlie
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Brian
        The second gen Smart car was available as all-electric "ED" version for lease (only), hence "second generation Smart ED". This could be one of those cars. The third gen Smart car will be available as an all-electric "ED" version for both lease and sale.
      Mart
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Listening to the homeowner again, (at about 1:10 and following), it sounds like she is suggesting a phone/handheld tablet/device recharger plugged into the accessory (cigarette lighter) rather than anything charging the car battery.
      SVX pearlie
      • 14 Hours Ago
      I'm looking at the wall between the garage and the home - metal framing, but it doesn't look like fire-resistant stucco or tile ... I wonder why code doesn't mandate stucco for that wall - it should!
      Rick
      • 14 Hours Ago
      LOL very Smart. Smart deathtraps like this never appeal to me, always have that nasty vision of one get squashed between two pick-ups in the tomato shaped car in a crash, and end up a squashed tomato, all that tomato ketch-up spurting out through the sunroof.
        tump
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Rick
        We can only hope that you get squished between two anythings.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Well, this is some fine journalism here.. as usual..
      mapoftazifosho
      • 14 Hours Ago
      My money is on the charging station or the installation of said charging station.
      Marcopolo
      • 14 Hours Ago
      " it sometimes turns out that the advanced sometimes turns out that the advanced powertrains were not to blame were not to blame" So far, no house fires have been definitely linked to EV power-trains !
      Letstakeawalk
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Surely Mercedes has a crew of engineers heading to the scene to meet the NHTSA investigators who will soon arrive.
        Rick
        • 14 Hours Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Smart owner had better get that screwdriver fuse out the fuse box quick.
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