For the first time, a newly produced electric car has been cited by a fire investigator as the cause of a house fire. Previous house fires involving Chevy Volts have been traced to origins outside those EVs. A Sugar Land, Texas homeowner claims that last week his 2 month old Fisker Karma burst into flames minutes after he parked it in his garage, without plugging it in for recharging. He reported smelling burning rubber before the fire broke out. The fire destroyed the Karma, a Mercedes SUV and, most grievous of all to car enthusiasts, an Acura NSX, while doing an additional $100,000 in damage to the house, also brand new.
The Fisker was purchased in April, so it should already been repaired after a fire-safety related recall late last year. According to Autoweek, the chief fire investigator of Fort Bend County, Robert Baker, is certain that the Sugar Land fire started in the EV. “Yes, the Karma was the origin of the fire, but what exactly caused that we don’t know at this time…This looks just like golf cart fires we have down here.” About 50 electric powered golf carts burn every year in the Houston area. Baker’s remarks are preliminary and the investigation is ongoing, with over a dozen engineers swarming the fire scene. A formal report is expected soon. From the owner’s remarks about the smell of burning rubber and the fact that the Karma’s battery pack is still intact, if the Karma indeed turns out to have been the cause of the house fire, it’s likely that another one of the car’s systems, besides the power pack, was the origin.
It’s not surprising that Fisker responded quickly, trying to deflect blame, saying that the investigation is not complete, that the cause is not yet known and that the car’s battery pack does not appear to have been involved. What is surprising is that the company would so quickly raise the specter of possible insurance fraud on the part of an owner. In their statement, the EV startup alluded to “multiple insurance investigators” and “possible fraud or malicious intent”, while pointing to fireworks supposedly found “in or around” the destroyed cars. That goes well beyond playing defense. Fisker is either confident that foul play was involved or desperate enough over the company’s possible exposure to not care about getting sued for defamation.
Fisker statement below.
Last week, Fisker Automotive was made aware of a garage fire involving three vehicles, including a Karma sedan, that were parked at a newly-constructed residence in Sugar Land, Texas. There were no injuries.
There are conflicting reports and uncertainty surrounding this particular incident. The cause of the fire is not yet known and is being investigated.
We have not yet seen any written report form the Fort Bend fire department and believe that their investigation is continuing. As of now, multiple insurance investigators are involved, and we have not ruled out possible fraud or malicious intent. We are aware that fireworks were found in the garage in or around the vehicles. Also, an electrical panel located in the garage next to the vehicles is also being examined by the investigators as well as fire department officials. 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.
Fisker will continue to participate fully in the investigation but will not be commenting further until all the facts are established.