Friday, 2 November 2012

Bad Karma.

Where is Ralph Nader when you need him?

 Approximately 16 of the $100,000+ Fisker Karma extended-range luxury hybrids were parked in Port Newark, New Jersey last night when water from Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge apparently breached the port and submerged the vehicles. As Jalopnik has exclusively learned, the cars then caught fire and burned to the ground. Our source tells us they were “first submerged in a storm surge and then caught fire, exploded.” This wouldn’t be the first time the vehicles, which use a small gasoline engine to charge batteries that provide energy to two electric motors, had an issue with sudden combustion. The vehicle, despite only being in limited production, has already experienced numerous fires due to equipment failures and electrical shorts. How, exactly, they caught fire after being submerged in sea water is unclear. It’s possible the salt water caused a short that led to a fire. Calls to Fisker and the Port Newark Container Terminal have not been returned as of publication time. 

 UPDATE: Fisker released the following statement: “It was reported today that several Fisker Karmas were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Superstorm Sandy. We can report that there were no injuries and none of the cars were being charged at the time. We have confidence in the Fisker Karma and safety is our primary concern. While we intend to find the cause as quickly as possible, storm damage has restricted access to the port. We will issue a further statement once the root cause has been determined.”

 The root cause is sounding a lot like either badly flawed basic design or issues with quality control, and it's not the first time these cars have been fingered as having serious problems. There have been repeated recalls over a number of issues; and while these are not necessarily connected with the drive system, it doesn't inspire confidence in the vehicle.

 I think it's fair enough to have a reasonable quantity of experimental primarily- or all-electric cars out on the road to gain experience, but the market isn't really going to go for them until you can pile two adults, two school-age kids, a dog and the luggage in, drive 400km to a holiday destination at highway speeds, and recharge inside five minutes for the final leg or the return trip.

Until such time as storage and recharge technology can match that requirement, all-electric cars and electric-dominant hybrids are going to be no more than playthings. On top of that, with a ticket price of over a hundred thousand US dollars, your reliability figures should be approaching a hundred percent, not wallowing in the "we're still trying to work out why it spontaneously catches fire sometimes" ballpark, and with recalls left, right and centre. Sensible people who cough up five-figure sums for cars* do so for makes that are both prestigious and reliable.

Asking (and continuing to ask) that sort of money for a bug-ridden prototype with multiple, ongoing quality-control and reliability issues is asking to fail. No wonder the US Government has (at least temporarily) pulled the Green teat out of Fisker's mouth. They deserve to fail for building worthless shit and fleecing the buyers for the privilege of owning it. Still, you know what they say about a fool and his money. Thing is, if they took out the battery/electric stuff, put in a bigger and gutsier petrol engine and paid a bit of attention to their QC in the redesign process, I reckon they could slash the price (and probably the weight too; as "subcompact" sports cars go, that thing is morbidly obese for the power it generates) and have themselves a nice little sporter that would sell like hot-cakes. Then they might be able to afford some basic research into getting the electric model right. "Green" energy investments (see "Solyndra" among others) haven't had a very good record so far, and if - as appears likely - things change on November 6 of this year, I suspect the whole concept of government money being pushed in this sort of direction is about to get shitcanned.

 Source here via here.

 * = If such people even exist. House prices where I live generally start at a hundred thousand dollars, and to pay that much for an automobile is in my opinion simply absurd. I used to work next to a Porsche dealership, and every day I'd walk past the place, looking at cars which I couldn't afford with my entire mortgage and wondering what sort of person would be so stupid as to take out a loan for that purpose. If you've got more money than God and a quarter-million plus for a used car is just petty cash to you, fine; otherwise, there are probably far better and wiser things you could be doing with money you've borrowed in the first place.

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