Amid the catastrophic damage from Superstorm Sandy were 16 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrids. The cars caught fire while parked at Port Newark, New Jersey shortly after Sandy made landfall last week. Fisker has concluded that the Karma’s exposure to seawater is what caused the fires.
The Karmas were submerged in five to eight feet of seawater before the mysterious fire occurred. No one was injured, and none of the cars were turned on or being charged at the time. Fisker investigated the incident in concert with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to Fisker, only one Karma actually caught fire, but the blaze then spread to the rest of the vehicles with the aid of Sandy’s strong winds.
The company says water seeped into the Karma’s Vehicle Control Unit, causing a short circuit and a spark. The Vehicle Control Unit is part of the Karma’s 12v electrical system, which is powered by a standard car battery. The fire was not started by the car’s lithium ion batteries.
Fisker says the delinquent part is similar to ones found in other types of cars, and said that several non-hybrid cars from other manufacturers also caught fire after being submerged in floodwaters during Sandy.
Of course, any car that is submerged in water, especially corrosive saltwater, for several hours will be destroyed, whether it catches fire or not. Exposed electronics obviously aren’t meant to get wet, and water can become trapped in the nooks and crannies of bodywork, leading to rust.
The Karma Eco Chic’s animal-free interior, or any other type of upholstery, cannot survive being dunked in water either.
The fire really just adds drama to one small incident in the saga of Sandy; the Karmas most likely would have been totaled either way.
However, Fisker doing damage control after two other Karma fires. One car in Sugar Land, Texas burned to the ground, another, in Woodside California, suffered localized damage after a cooling fan went haywire. This time, though, Sandy seems to deserve the blame.