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Fisker Hybrids Get Bad Karma From Superstorm Sandy 414

Posted by timothy
from the ok-ok-but-to-be-fair-it-was-raining dept.
New submitter slas6654 writes with this excerpt from Jalopnik: "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.' Apparently Fiskar super-duty lithium ion batteries are neither water-proof or water soluble."
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Fisker Hybrids Get Bad Karma From Superstorm Sandy

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  • by fredrated (639554) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:21PM (#41845383) Journal

    the 'submerged in water' use case?

    • by HexaByte (817350) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:31PM (#41845533)

      Well, I guess if you have a hybrid SUV, you better think twice before you use it to back your boat into the lake!

    • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:31PM (#41845543)
      On the upside, switching to EV's will seriously reduce the frequency of flood damaged cars being sold as 'working perfectly'
      • Switching to EV's might also reduce hurricanes which flood EV's in New Jersey. Just sayin'.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @04:23PM (#41846265)

          Only if you're not burning coal or oil to generate the electricity to charge that EV... Just sayin'.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:51PM (#41845837)

      "submerged in salt water" is a whole other beast. A nasty one.

      • by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @04:11PM (#41846107)

        If these batteries are partially exposed from below, they won't do too well in northern states in spring. Melting snow and ice combined with leftover salt used to try to melt winter snow and ice could easily splash up onto the batteries, and if it's been a heavy precipitation winter that could do a number on the batteries.

        http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/road-salt.php [dmv.org]

        • by compro01 (777531)

          I dunno about Fisker, but Saskpower has had a Mitsubishi i-MiEV driving around for over a year now for promotional purposes. AFAIK, there have been no problems with snow, salt, water on roads, etc., or at least no more than any other car has.

    • Salt water no less. Great for electronics!
    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:52PM (#41845855)

      "When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a Fisker in a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest Fisker in all of England."

    • by TWX (665546)
      I wouldn't be surprised if automakers actually test for it. Mainly because of things like we're seeing in this story.
  • FiskEr, not FiskAr (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:22PM (#41845399)

    Come on, editors, get your act together already.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:24PM (#41845427)

    The cars were totalled the minute they were submerged. If they were destroyed later, why does that matter?

    • by HexaByte (817350)

      Not necessarily. Many cars are flooded and restored.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:29PM (#41845503)

        You can drive them if you want, I will not be.

        A flooded car is a totaled car. No cars on the market are built for that.

        I am not going to be buying a flooded car or any other R title.

        • The point being, you can't look at a car and tell with confidence it's been in a flood. You can hide the damage and commit fraud by selling one.

          How do you 'hide' the damage these cars have? ;-)
          • by atheos (192468) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @04:00PM (#41845989) Homepage
            "How do you 'hide' the damage these cars have? ;-)" Easy, pop a kick panel and inspect any ground cables, and exposed metal above the floor level. These cars start rusting within days of exposure, and you can usually see a waterline once the carpet and/or kick panels have been exposed. I've had the not-so-pleasure of informing numerous people that their cars were submersed at some point in their history, and not a single person has responded with anything similar to "oh yea, I already know that".
          • by plover (150551)

            How do you 'hide' the damage these cars have? ;-)

            A salvage title, and a LOT of work. A friend of mine just sold a flood-damaged Harley Davidson he rebuilt from the frame up. You can tell from the paperwork that it was destroyed in a flood, but you can no longer tell just from looking at the bike.

            And he was committing no fraud: he was very proud of the whole summer's worth of work he put into that bike.

          • Bondo. Lots of Bondo.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        With a salvage title, sure. Otherwise it's fraud IMHO.

    • The cars were totalled the minute they were submerged. If they were destroyed later, why does that matter?

      It's still a safety issue. I didn't RTFA, but I'd rather not be in a car that catches fire when submerged in water. Granted, I have no plans of driving a car into such conditions. But I'd guess that most people who have ended up submerged in a car didn't either. Depending on the situation, you may need to wait until the interior of the car fills up with water to equalize the pressure before you can open your door, it would rather suck to be cooked to death first wouldn't it?

    • by PPH (736903) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:32PM (#41845557)
      Because they could have been parked in someone's garage and gotten flooded. And that would be the difference between some clean up work and a house burned to the ground (or water line).
    • It matters a whole lot if you're in the car when it submerges and catches fire. It also matters a whole lot if it's parked in your garage. Try calling your insurance agent and explaining how your house burned down because of the flood.

      Anyone remember high-school chemistry, where the teacher put some sodium in a bowl of water? Lithium is similar - although the reaction is nowhere near as intense, I still don't want to be sitting right on top of a huge stack of lithium batteries when they get submerged.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:35PM (#41845603)

        Actually lots of houses burn down due to floods. A gas line ruptures or electric power issues light the house up and then the fire Dept can't make it there due to the water.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:43PM (#41845717) Journal

        I'd be less worried about the lithium-water reaction(Li-ion batteries tend to be sealed, if only so the internals don't degrade even faster than usual, they are touchy things) and more worried about a short circuit anywhere near a battery pack punchy enough to run a car. At 330 volts, you don't need an ultra-low resistance path to get some serious current flowing, and serious current is something that large battery packs are more than happy to supply.

        Now, once the electrical heating breaches the seals and touches off a merry metal fire, you have additional problems...

      • Try calling your insurance agent and explaining how your house burned down because of the flood.

        Did you miss the story about the 6-alarm fire in Queens that burned down 80+ houses? Another newscaster in Jersey saw at least 26 individual fires during a helicopter flyover of the coast. Water is great for putting out fires, sure, but when it ruptures gas lines and creates electrical shorts it turns out that things burn down. There's also a video of a certain Con-Edison substation in lower Manhattan that had a less-than-optimal reaction to being submerged in water.

    • Something that happens in flooded streets are people driving in a foot or two of water (which the car can handle) suddenly entering a much deeper area because they cannot see the road lowering with the water above it.

      With a normal car, you then sputter to a halt, get out and or wait there for help.

      Or an alternate case, less likely but it does happen, is that an accident throws your car into a lake. It sucks, but you make your way out.

      Now enter a car that catches fire as soon as it's in deep water. Now you

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:43PM (#41845705)

        DO NOT DRIVE in a foot of water.

        A single foot of water moving sideways is more than enough to take your car off the road. If you cannot see the bottom do not drive through it.

    • by sunking2 (521698)
      Because 70% of the Earth is covered with salt water? However, on a half serious note it could raise the question of whether living near the beach could be an issue with sea spray accumulation over time.
    • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:56PM (#41845911) Journal

      How about building burns down because water main break cased water to pour into the underground parking garage and onto an electric car that burst into flames?

      Or how about Man burns to death as firefighters point out there isn't much point putting water on a car which is on fire because it slid into a pond, became submerged and is burning.

      Or maybe, Two first responders were injured after a car erupted in fire because it started raining while they were tending to an accident.

      I know a parked car without anyone around doesn't pose much of a threat. But I think in reality, that situation happens as much as or less then when it could be a threat to human life or property. So finding out why is somewhat of a concern I would think.

    • by Tailhook (98486) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @04:03PM (#41846031)

      why does that matter?

      There is an important difference between "totalled" and "erupt into a 1350 deg. C toxic lithium fire." Traditional gas/diesel cars don't usually do that when flooded, so a new and dramatic failure mode has been revealed. Something to note if you live in New Orleans or parts of Texas that see frequent flash floods and perhaps not the best thing to park in your integral garage.

      You didn't really fail to understand this did you? You'd just rather people not discuss concerns that emerge with the things you prefer.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:29PM (#41845507) Homepage

    Pretty basic chemistry going on here....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxhW7TtXIAM [youtube.com]

  • Misleading? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sez Zero (586611) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:30PM (#41845517) Journal
    It looks like several were close together, while others parked a little bit away were unscathed. Perhaps one caught fire and that burnt adjacent cars? They were parked pretty close, and there's a Karma in one of the photos that didn't suffer the same fate.
  • by Andy Prough (2730467) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:30PM (#41845523)
    We have flash floods every summer in Texas. Most cars that run into a few feet of water simply stall. If instead, your car explodes and kills all the occupants, then you've got a potential death trap.
    • Generally speaking if you're driving through FEET of water, perhaps you shouldn't do that?

      Yes I know flash floods happen, but the vast bulk of cars submerged aren't being driven at the time.
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Generally speaking if you're driving through FEET of water, perhaps you shouldn't do that?

        1. Idiots

        2. Since the water is usually not as clear as a swimming pool, it may not be obvious how deep the water actually is.

        MIX 1 and 2! Result: car driven into flood waters.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Why did you write Idiots twice?

          Driving through water is dumb, driving through water that you do not know the depth of is suicidal.

          • by oodaloop (1229816)
            You NEVER know the depth of water. If you've ever driven through a puddle, count yourself as an idiot. That could have been much deeper, and you wouldn't have known. See point 2 above.
        • If it's up to your hood, it's at least multiple FEET deep.

          As I said there would be instances where it's unavoidable but the VAST VAST majority are.
        • by Andy Prough (2730467) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:55PM (#41845901)
          That's the point of "flash" flooding. It's unexpected. Perfectly good drivers turn a bend in the road on a rainy night and run straight into a gulley with 4 feet of water. We've got a lot of country roads with no lighting and poor visibility. Happens every summer around here - except deaths are extremely rare. But - if your car exploded before you could get out? Very bad.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      If you are driving your car during a flash flood you are none too bright. Lots of ways to die in a conventional car that way.

      Most cars that ingest water don't just stall. They also manage to ruin the engine.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The point of "flash" in flash flood is that it happens extremely rapidly - one doesn't exactly plan ahead for it.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        How the fuck do you plan to avoid a FLASH flood, there genius?
      • If you are driving your car during a flash flood you are none too bright. Lots of ways to die in a conventional car that way.

        I'm going to assume that where you live, flash flooding is rather uncommon.

        One cannot predict when or where a flash flood will occur - hence the 'flash' in the name. So, to say that people who drive "during a flash flood" are "none to bright" only serves to prove your ignorance on the topic.

        Were we discussing regular, predictable flooding, I would wholeheartedly agree.

  • by DSS11Q13 (1853164) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:31PM (#41845545)

    It's a witch!

  • An understanding of somewhat basic chemistry makes this a "duh" moment. Lithium + water = everyone's favorite science class demonstration.

    Wouldn't be the first government stimulus project to go up in flames. Hopefully it'll be the last.
  • I wonder how much CO2 a burning hybrid produces?
  • I hardly know her!

  • by moniker127 (1290002) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @04:05PM (#41846045)
    Fisker does not represent what electric vehicles are capable of- they represent what you get when you combine lots of money with shotty engineering. So who does it better? Well, if you haven't heard of them- Tesla motors is making a lot of headway.
  • Does it make a difference whether they are inundated with any kind of water, or salt water?

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