Fisker Karma spontaneously combusts

Fisker Karma fireA Fisker Karma caught fire and burned to the ground, according to investigators and the car’s owner. The approximately $100,000 luxury extended-range electric vehicle did approximately $100,000 in damage to a garage and house in Sugar Land, Texas.

The owner reported smelling burning rubber as he pulled the Karma into the garage. Less than three minutes later, the car was on fire. As the above photo shows, the fire was pretty aggressive. The fire department is unsure of the exact cause of the fire, but is sure that it started with the Karma. “Yes, the Karma was the origin of the fire, but what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time,” said Robert Baker, the chief fire investigator of Fort Bend County. Fisker, along with several insurance companies, is joining the investigation.

While the company is not commenting on the potential source of the fire, it was quick to note that the Karma’s lithium-ion battery pack survived intact. Because of this, Fisker does not think the fire was caused by the batteries. “Based on initial observations and inspections, the Karma’s lithium ion battery pack was not being charged at the time and is still intact and does not appear to have been a contributing factor in this incident,” the company said. As with any new technology, Fisker has been an uphill battle to prove that its powertrain, which combines an electric motor with a gasoline engine-generator for charging the batteries, is safe.Fisker Karma

Last December, Fisker recalled 239 Karmas due to an improperly placed hose clamp, which could have caused coolant leakage and battery pack fires. Fisker blamed battery supplier A123 Systems, which delivered the entire battery pack as a sealed unit. The spontaneously combusting Karma in Texas was built after the recall; it wore temporary papers tags indicating that it was less than 60 days old.

The fire is one of several high-profile incidents that have cast doubt on the Karma’s reliability. In addition to the December recall, A123 replaced battery packs in an undisclosed number of Karmas after one of the cars, owned by Consumer Reports, died due to a defective pack.

Cars are complicated machines, so it is difficult to build an entirely new one from scratch. Virtually everything about the Karma, from its electric powertrain to the company that designed it, is new and unproven. With that much newness, glitches can be expected. However, Fisker needs to get these problems under control; a car that randomly bursts into flames is obviously unacceptable.

Fisker laid the blame for the two Karma recalls at the feet of A123, but if, as the company claims, the battery pack was not the cause of this fire, then the blame will probably shift to Fisker itself. The company wants to rapidly expand its sales and production capacity with the smaller Atlantic, but is it really ready? It is easier to control quality issues on a low-volume model like the Karma; until Fisker can consistently build reliable cars, it may want to hold off on building more unreliable ones.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Lack of domestic battery production could short German automakers’ EV plans

As automakers ramp up efforts to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles, this has increased the demand for battery production. However, analysts fear some companies could struggle with this demand, specifically German car companies.
Cars

Apple Car may make its debut in the middle of the next decade

Apple likely won't become a full-fledged manufacturer like General Motors or Ford, but the tech giant is diving into the auto industry pool. Here's everything we know about the company's automotive efforts.
Cars

NHTSA investigating Ford F-150 seat belt fires, may recall 1.4 million trucks

The NHTSA is investigating reports of fires in five Ford F-150 pickup trucks. The NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigation is exploring whether seatbelt pretensioners caused the fires during crashes and if a recall is necessary.
Cars

Volvo leverages the power of software to build more dynamic cars

Volvo has asked sister company Polestar to make its cars more dynamic to drive through a software update. Offered at an extra cost, the AWD optimization upgrade sends more power to the rear wheels when the driver turns on dynamic mode.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Product Review

Grins come standard: Mazda's 2019 MX-5 Miata will plaster a smile on your face

We take Mazda’s updated 2019 MX-5 Miata on a road trip from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco to experience the updates. With a revised engine and more power, the already awesome Miata gets even better.
Emerging Tech

This robot arm could soon recharge your electric car, no driver effort required

Researchers in Austria have developed a smart robotic charger that can automatically plug itself into any electric vehicle, no driver effort required whatsoever. What could be simpler?
Cars

Can BMW’s rebooted 3 Series regain gold standard for sport sedans?

The BMW 3 Series lost its way in 2012; once the gold standard in the sport sedan segment, it disappointed by not living up to BMW's promise of delivering the ultimate driving machine. Can the new model right those wrongs?
Cars

Learn how Ford trains the test drivers who develop its hottest performance cars

Out of 11,000 Ford test drivers, only about 20 have achieved the elite "tier-four" status that qualifies them to work on performance cars. Here's how those drivers earn their stripes.
Cars

Sporty electrified Infiniti Prototype 10 concept headed to Pebble Beach

Infiniti will unveil a new concept car at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The Nissan luxury brand won't say much, but promises an electrified powertrain and an emphasis on performance.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang Cobra Jet strikes as quickly as its venomous namesake

The 2018 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet is a purpose-built drag racer that will run the quarter mile in around eight seconds, according to Ford. It will be as rare as it is quick, with just 68 cars planned.
Cars

How to watch Formula 1 online

There are plenty of Formula 1 races every year, many of which take place in some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Check out our brief guide on how to watch Formula 1 online, if you're looking to keep up on the action.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.