Second Fire in Four Months Raises Concerns about Safety of Fisker Karma Plug-In Hybrid

The charred remains of a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid that burst into flames last Friday are being examined by Fisker Automotive engineers. Today Fisker announced that they have come up with no evidence that would indicate the fire was caused by the Karma’s lithium-ion battery pack. Fisker engineers believe the fire originated outside the engine compartment.

Friday’s incident, which occurred while the Karma was left unattended in a Woodside, California parking lot, is the second case of a Karma model catching fire since last May. In the earlier incident, a Karma was destroyed while it was parked in a residential garage in Sugar Land, Texas. The vehicle was reportedly not plugged in at the time of the fire and Fisker says the exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

There were no injuries in either of the fires.

In a statement, the California-based automaker said, “Continued investigative efforts will be primarily focused within the specific area of origin, located forward of the driver’s side front tire.”

Fisker engineers have enlisted the help of investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Services Group to help them identify the exact cause of Friday’s fire.

In an email, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokeswoman Lynda Tran said the agency is aware of the latest Karma fire. She said the agency “will evaluate the available information to determine if there are safety implications that merit additional agency action.”  The NHTSA has taken the official position that hybrid vehicles are at no greater risk of fire than conventional gas- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Last December Fisker preemptively recalled 239 Karmas due to a concern that the vehicles’ lithium-ion batteries could catch fire as the result of a coolant leak. No such fires were ever reported and Fisker says that all 239 vehicles have either had their battery packs replaced or repaired.

Last year Fisker lost access to some of the $529 million low interest loan it was given by the U.S. Energy Department in 2009. The loss of those funds caused the company to halt work on a new manufacturing plant it was building in Wilmington, Delaware. The new plant was reportedly going to make a new Fisker model.  Fisker has sold more than 1,000 Karma models in the U.S. since late last year.

The Karma plug-in hybrid sports sedan ranges in price from $102,000, for a basic model, to about $116,000 and has an EPA combined city/highway fuel efficiency rating of 52 mpg.

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