Can Hurricane Sandy's flood waters be blamed for the fiery destruction of 16 Fisker Karmas and a Toyota Prius? On Halloween we guessed saltwater had somehow led to a short circuit that overheated the cars' batteries and fire, which may be exactly what happened.

"We can't be certain exactly what happened at the port," Russell Datz, a Fisker spokesman, tells the New York Times Wheels blog. "But we think being submerged in 13 feet of saltwater had something to do with it."

Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight tells Wheels that the Prius likely went pyro because "saltwater got into the electrical system." Saltwater, as you probably know, is highly conductive and when it comes into contact with something like an electric car's battery, could cause a short circuit and a fire.

Daniel Abraham, chemical scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, gave the blog a more technical explanation. Salts in the water break into positive and negative ions that act as conductors and could have connected the batteries' positive and negative terminals. Next came a short circuit and then, possibly, a fire.

No one so far thinks the Karma batteries' lithium cores were to blame. Even though lithium will burn on contact with water, the metal used in hybrid batteries is pretty well protected and isn't likely the source of the fires.

So still no official cause of the fires, but an investigation is ongoing.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 72 Comments
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      Fisker never seems to get a break.
      FullAhead
      • 2 Years Ago
      @ Scr I have it on VERY good authority that these cars were in fact flooded. The interiors were totally trashed as many had popped their trunk or doors in the storm
      Rob Mahrt
      • 2 Years Ago
      So.. don't drive you car into an ocean?? Damnit!
      ZenDriver
      • 2 Years Ago
      Speculation: the mother of EV blog comments.
      Gregory Calise
      • 2 Years Ago
      What will happen to these electric cars after several winters of salted roads? Also, no one mentions the electric magnetic fields these cars produce. I can't imagine how your bodies electrical system would react after hours of driving an electric car. You would get that buzzing sensation. And the accumulation of this is not good for your health. In the past they used to put electrical heating arrays in home ceilings, but after many years, they found that it was having a very negative affect on people's health, so they stopped using them. I think more research should be done on this, but heck, we are getting poisoned from so many things these days anyway.
        lasertekk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gregory Calise
        Ever perform the electrolysis experiment in a chemistry class? Remember adding an electrolyte (salt) to speed up and increases the reaction? In this case, nature did it for us and increased the conductivity between the battery terminals by burying the car in 14 feet of salt water.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gregory Calise
        @ Gregory Calise If you go to 'Tin Foil Hat. com.' , you will find a very attractive range of tin foil hats to suit your every occasion!
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I do hope there is a warning sticker on all their cars.
        JamesC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Agreed, I smell a lawsuit after someone decides to go fishing in their plug-in
        dukeisduke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Yeah - "DO NOT LEAVE UNDER 13 FEET OF SEAWATER".
          tump
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dukeisduke
          "But, sir, the label said 13 feet of seawater and this was only 12, so I'm going to sue you."
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        [blocked]
      karlInSanDiego
      • 2 Years Ago
      Who's the brain surgeon that decided leaving 4000+ cars on the waterfront during Sandy was a wise move? What a waste. Almost as ridiculous as folks who left cars in underground parking when the storm folks were warning of a storm surge that would flood the subways. Get cars to higher ground if a hurricane is destined to flood them.
        FullAhead
        • 2 Years Ago
        @karlInSanDiego
        Are you the brain surgeon who can figure out to do with said cars at a working port that wasn't closed down until 18hrs before the storm? The cost of shutting down the entire operation in enough time to move the cars obviously exceeded the cost of the cars.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @karlInSanDiego
        They were busy with other things. They're just cars, and insurance covers it. If you were going to take such heroic efforts, I would think you might do it for people instead..
        Rocketboy_X
        • 2 Years Ago
        @karlInSanDiego
        Should we just park 4000+ cars in you driveway when there is danger then?
        Philipp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @karlInSanDiego
        Maybe Fisker couldn't sell them to endusers, so now the insurance company owns them.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      So I guess the moral of the story is that if you find yourself 13 feet under water, don't stay in your car.
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      I fail to see how this is a bad thing. The Fisker is heavy as **** and gets **** mileage (and ugly), plus the Prius would have inevitably been purchased by a moron who would try to hypermile everywhere.
        k_m94
        • 2 Years Ago
        @carguy1701
        The Fisker is heavy, and gets low mileage in full gas mode, which it wont be in most of the time (because it's really a range extended EV). I guess you cant expect a 2L turbo to be very efficient having to recharge flat batteries AND create enough generated electric power to move 5300lb at highway speeds. But my God the thing is good looking. I disagree with some things like the rhombus air vents and the fact that it would probably look skint with anything less than those gargantuan 22" wheels, but it's a rolling sculpture of falsely green, impractical, overpriced, burning beauty.
      lne937s
      • 2 Years Ago
      The lithium in lithium ion batteries is not in a metalic form. It is in the form of a lithium salt (usually lithium carbonate). Lithium salts do not combust when in contact with water any more than sodium salt does, even though metalic sodium also combusts when in contact with water. http://www2.uni-siegen.de/~pci/versuche/english/v44-1-1.html
      dexbusy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hmmmm... Maybe a car rushed to market so not given enough time to be engineered properly? And before all you Fisker fanboys go on with your ridiculous 'What, are they supposed to engineer cars to be driven under sea?!?' argument, this obviously shows that the Fisker is WAY more prone to fire than your average plug in. Toyota had, what, 2 out of a couple thousand? Isn't a Prius less than half a Karmas' price? A classic case of style over substance.
        raktmn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dexbusy
        How do you know that multiple Fiskers failed, or if just one failed and the flames from one started the rest on fire?
          k_m94
          • 2 Years Ago
          @raktmn
          dexbusy Because when expensive toys catch on fire we just sit there and wait for them all to burn down. Riiighht.
          dexbusy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @raktmn
          I don't, but judging by the picture why didn't the others right next to the burned ones also go up?
      Ducman69
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where's your God now?
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