Filed under: Hybrid , Safety , Technology , Toyota , Fisker , Electric , Luxury Can Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters be blamed for the fiery destruction of 16 Fisker Karmas and a Toyota Prius ? On Halloween we guessed saltwater had somehow led to a short circuit that overheated the cars’ batteries and fire, which may be exactly what happened. “We can’t be certain exactly what happened at the port,” Russell Datz, a Fisker spokesman, tells the New York Times Wheels blog. “But we think being submerged in 13 feet of saltwater had something to do with it.” Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight tells Wheels that the Prius likely went pyro because “saltwater got into the electrical system.” Saltwater, as you probably know, is highly conductive and when it comes into contact with something like an electric car’s battery, could cause a short circuit and a fire. Daniel Abraham, chemical scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, gave the blog a more technical explanation. Salts in the water break into positive and negative ions that act as conductors and could have connected the batteries’ positive and negative terminals. Next came a short circuit and then, possibly, a fire. No one so far thinks the Karma batteries’ lithium cores were to blame. Even though lithium will burn on contact with water, the metal used in hybrid batteries is pretty well protected and isn’t likely the source of the fires. So still no official cause of the fires, but an investigation is ongoing.
Filed under: Safety , Ford , GM , Nissan , Toyota , Police/Emergency , Specialty , Fisker To help those effected by Hurricane Sandy cope with the natural disaster, automakers are stepping up in various ways. Known to us right now are contributions of aid or assistance by Ford , General Motors , Toyota , Fisker and Nissan . Toyota and Ford have opted to give in the most straightforward fashion: donations of money. Ford has announced that its own employees have collected $50,000 to donate, and Toyota has stated that it will contribute $1 million in support of relief efforts. Both companies have made these contributions to the American Red Cross. Other automakers have opted to offer tangible, on-the-ground resources to the relief effort. GM has pledged 50 utility vehicles, including Express cargo vans, Traverse crossovers and Tahoe SUVs, to the Red Cross. The vehicles will be fitted with 200 OnStar Hands-Free calling minutes and a month of turn-by-turn navigation. GM has also donated $250,000 to the Red Cross. Fisker Automotive has offered up its 3.2-million-square-foot Wilmington, DE facility as a staging area for rescue crews and power trucks.