American Elephants

Woopsie! by The Elephant's Child

Just when the news about Chevy Volts’ having a minor habit of catching fire died down, Bloomberg reports that the very expensive, very high-profile, very highly subsidized Fisker Karma luxury extended-range hybrid’s battery manufacturer has revealed a “potential safety issue”  in the cooling system of the batteries that it makes for the car. The uncomfortable subtext in the news is the $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy that subsidizes the assembly of the very expensive, very high-profile cars in Finland, creating many new jobs in that country — not ours.

A123 Systems, a leading producer of Lithium-Ion batteries that supplies Daimler and General Motors in addition to Fisker, said that hose clamps connecting parts of the Karma battery pack’s internal cooling system were not aligned properly, creating a the potential for leakage of the coolant, which might cause overheating and also possibly short-circuit the batteries, causing a fire.

Because current Li-Ion batteries are flammable, battery temperature control and cooling is a critical process. Concerns over EV fire safety were raised when a crash-tested Volt later caught fire in a NHTSA facility. Short circuits caused by leaking battery coolant is suspected to be the cause. While GM uses a different battery supplier, LG Chem, for the Volt, A123 will be the battery vendor for the EV version of the Chevy Spark subcompact, to go on sale in 2013.

The luxury hybrid car company has shipped 225 of the $102,000 Karmas to Fisker dealers. The only one I know of that they sold went to Leonardo DiCaprio.  I just don’t quite grasp why taxpayers are subsidizing a $102,000 car. Though if I’d just bought one, I might be a little irritated if it caught on fire.

ADDENDUM: Fisker and the NHTSA have just announced a recall for 239 Karmas.
Within the high-voltage battery, certain hose clamps may have been positioned incorrectly during assembly. if positioned incorrectly, the battery compartment cover could interfere with the hose clamps, potentially causing a coolant leak from the cooling hoses.
Consequence: If coolant enters the battery compartment, an electrical short could occur possibly resulting in a fire
So if you have one of the new Karmas in your garage, you might want to get in touch with your dealer.

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