Engine compartment design suggested as cause of Karma fire

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Fisker Karma

It has been suggested that the Fisker Karma fire was caused by the engine. Photo Credit: IndianHillbilly/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Not long ago, a Fisker Karma caught fire just after being parked in a Karma owner’s garage, though the batteries were ruled out as the cause. A former General Motors engineer believes the design of the engine compartment was the culprit in the Karma fire.

Disco inferno

Several days ago, it was reported that a Fisker Karma sedan burst into flames just minutes after being parked in the garage of its owner in an affluent suburb of Houston, Texas. The occupants of the house were thankfully unharmed, but considerable damage was done to the house.

The fire investigation team at the site, according to AutoGuide, determined quickly that the batteries were not the cause of the fire, as some might have suspected. One of the few other available plug-in hybrid cars, the Chevrolet Volt, had caught fire after the battery pack was damaged by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, though the conditions of the Volt fire were very difficult to replicate. The Karma’s battery pack didn’t burn and was found completely intact.

However, according to AutoWeek, a former General Motors engineering executive believes the engine compartment is to blame.

No room to breathe

Engines need air to operate as well as engine coolant; without the dual sources of cooling, the engine can get hot enough to ignite fuel or other combustible materials within the engine compartment. John Bereisa, the chief engineer for the General Motors EV-1 electric car and a key member of the team that created the Volt, believes the engine bay’s layout is what is to blame.

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In an interview with Automotive News, Bereisa noted that the Karma’s gas engine, which functions as a range-extending generator just like the Volt, is “shoe-horned” into the engine bay, fighting other components for space. The Karma is heavily laden by battery packs, electric motors and other components, meaning that a larger engine has to be used and also has to work harder to power the vehicle.

Could stand a diet

The Karma is indeed heavy, and the engine is fairly small. The engine in the Karma, according to MotorTrend, is a turbocharged Ecotec 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, sourced from General Motors that produces 260 horsepower. According to Fisker’s website, the unladen curb weight of the sedan is 5,300 pounds. A vehicle of similar size, the BMW 640i Gran Coupe, weighs 4,023 pounds, according to AutoBlog. The 6 Series engine also has 55 more horsepower than the the Karma’s.

The cause of the fire, according to AutoWeek, has not been determined yet, however.

Sources

AutoWeek

AutoGuide

MotorTrend

AutoBlog: http://www.autoblog.com/2012/05/08/2013-bmw-6-series-gran-coupe-first-drive-review/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+weblogsinc%2Fautoblog+%28Autoblog%29

Fisker: http://www.fiskerautomotive.com/en-us/karma/specifications


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