Fisker Automotive engineers have started to examine and test a Karma plug-in hybrid that burst into flames in a parking lot in Woodside, Calif., on Friday.
So far, the evidence suggests the fire was not caused by problems with the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components or exhaust routing, Fisker said today.
This is the second Fisker investigation of a Karma car fire in four months. In early May, a Karma was destroyed in a garage fire in Sugar Land, Texas. That car was not plugged in at the time, and the cause of that fire is still unknown, Fisker says.
The Karma involved in Friday's California incident was not charging at the time, and there were no injuries. The fire began outside the engine compartment.
"Continued investigative efforts will be primarily focused within the specific area of origin, located forward of the driver's side front tire," Fisker said in today's statement.
Engineers are working with investigators from Pacific Rim Investigative Services Group, a company that is owned and operated by former fire, insurance and police investigators, according to its Web site.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of the California fire involving the Karma, said Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for the agency in Washington. NHTSA "will evaluate the available information to determine if there are safety implications that merit additional agency action," she said today in an e-mail.
The incident comes as Fisker works to improve its finances and sales after losing access last year to a portion of a $529 million low-interest loan awarded by the U.S. Energy Department in 2009. Fisker, co-founded by auto designer Henrik Fisker, in February stopped work at a Wilmington, Del., factory where it planned to build a second car model after being cut off from the funds.
Fisker has delivered more than 1,000 Karmas in the United States. The car is able to travel as far as 50 miles on lithium-ion batteries before a gasoline engine is activated.
NHTSA in May held a forum on the safety of batteries in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, almost a year after a Chevrolet Volt caught fire after a government crash test.
The agency closed its investigation into that fire in January, after GM agreed to add battery-pack protection to Volts it had sold. Electric vehicles are no more prone to fires than other autos, NHTSA said.
From Reuters and Bloomberg reports.