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.

Cars

Has Apple rebooted its self-driving car program to develop autonomous vans?

The on-again, off-again Apple car is back on track, but it's not a sedan or a hatchback. It will arrive as an electric, autonomous passenger-carrying van, according to a recent report.
Smart Home

The biggest houses ever, from a personal skyscraper to a tech magnate's mansion

The only thing bigger than these giant homes is their huge price tags. There's a reason many of the owners are billionaires instead of millionaires. Check out the digs of some of the richest people in the world.
Home Theater

Reasons not to mount a TV over your fireplace (and other helpful tips)

Mounting a TV above your fireplace may be popular and it might even seem appealing, but we have some concerns. We've got a list of reasons why placing your digital picture machine over a fire should be avoided, if at all possible.
Cars

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Cars

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.
Cars

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.
Cars

Arizona city slammed with $10M lawsuit over fatal Uber autonomous car accident

The family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman struck and killed by one of Uber's self-driving prototypes, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Tempe, Arizona. They claim Herzberg jaywalked because she was confused by a brick…
Cars

Mercedes lets the sun shine in one last time with SLC Final Edition convertible

The Mercedes-Benz SLC convertible sports car is going out of production. Launched in 1996 as the SLK, the model has been a fixture in the Mercedes-Benz lineup across three generations.
Cars

Aston Martin’s next hypercar, due in 2021, will pack a hybrid powertrain punch

Aston Martin will follow up the Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR Pro with a new hypercar, code-named Project 003. The car will debut in 2021, with production limited to 500 units worldwide.
Cars

Apple opens up about its self-driving car program in letter to NHTSA

Apple has traditionally kept details about its self-driving car technology under wraps, but it has revealed details about the program in a rare instance of openness. The company takes safety seriously.
Cars

Tesla will release fully self-driving cars in 2019 — with a big asterisk

Tesla reaffirmed its goal of releasing a fully self-driving car by the end of 2019, but it warned the system won't work perfectly 100 percent of the time. Convincing regulators that it's safe to use will require some effort, too.
Cars

Consumer Reports bumps the Tesla Model 3 off of its list of recommended models

The Tesla Model 3 is one of the six new cars that have lost their coveted Recommended rating from Consumer Reports over reliability concerns. In 2018, Model 3 owners reported body trim falling off and problems with the car's glass.
Cars

Lyft’s Shared Saver service offers cheaper rides, but you’ll have to walk a little

Lyft has launched a new ride option called Shared Saver that offers cheaper rides if you're willing to walk a little. Shared Saver designates a nearby pick-up point and drops you off a short distance from your final destination.
Cars

Waymo’s self-driving prototype obeys a traffic cop’s hand signals

One of Waymo's self-driving prototypes successfully navigated a situation that leaves even some human drivers confused: An intersection whose traffic lights are down. It waited for the traffic cop to wave it on.