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2012 Fisker Karma
A123 will replace all defective batteries made at the Livonia, Michigan plant

EV battery maker A123 Systems Inc. announced that it would be replacing all defective battery packs that were assembled in Livonia, Michigan for Fisker Automotive and other customers.

A123 said the replacement effort wasn't due to a safety issue, but it will spend $55 million on replacing all defective batteries made in the Livonia plant, which opened in 2010 after A123 received a $249 million grant from the Department of Energy and $125 million in state incentives.

A123 didn't specify all of the customers it plans to replace batteries for, but Fisker Automotive is definitely on the list. In December 2011, A123 found a safety issue with the batteries it provided to Fisker. More specifically, the hose clamps in the internal cooling system of the batteries were misaligned, which could cause coolant to leak. Furthermore, a coolant leak could lead to an electrical short circuit.
Shortly after discovering the problem, A123 said it had a solution and Fisker recalled more than 200 Karma plug-in hybrids to have the batteries fixed.

All seemed well after the fix, but earlier this month, Consumer Reports published a piece on its broken $107,850 Karma plug-in hybrid that it only had for a few days. The Karma, which had less than 200 miles on the odometer, became undriveable during a routine speedometer calibration test. The dashboard continuously flashed a warning message, and once parked, the Karma's transmission went into Neutral and wouldn't shift to any gear except Park and Neutral via its electronic shifter. Even after turning it off and restarting it, the Karma would only drive a few feet before doing the same thing.

The high-profile report caught sent some negative attention Fisker's way. After Consumer Reports sent its Karma to the dealer, it was discovered that the battery was the issue. According to the dealer, a "fault was found in the battery and inverter cable" and "both were replaced as a unit." Consumer Reports received its Karma back after one week, and said that it was "the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process."

Now, A123, which supplies EV batteries to Fisker, will be replacing all of the auto company's batteries as well as batteries it has supplied to other customers for a grand total of $55 million.

"There are five transportation customer production programs that have received products from A123 that potentially have defective cells," said David Vieau, A123 CEO. "We have sufficient liquidity to fund this campaign, but expect this situation will require us to adjust our fundraising strategy."

Not only will A123 replace all of the batteries for Fisker's 2012 Karma, but it will also up the battery warranty from 50,000 miles to 60,000 miles -- but in North America only.

"The entire Fisker team is committed to the complete satisfaction of our customers and their experience with our vehicles," said Tom LaSorda, Fisker CEO. "As a new technology start-up company, we have stepped up to many challenges in our short history as we have launched one of the most advanced electric vehicles with extended range in the world."

Sources: The Detroit News, Consumer Reports

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By semo on 3/27/2012 2:25:53 PM , Rating: 2
One of the big advantages of electric cars is that they are "simple" in the sense that there are a small number of moving parts.

These plug-in ICEs go the exact opposite way of actually making a complex machine even more complex by cramming in a set of batteries and an electric motor.

I like how Nissan kept the Leaf simple by air cooling the batteries. If people can swallow their pride and drive an ugly car then they can buy a sporty traditional ICE car and a Leaf for pretty much the same money as the Karma.

By Keeir on 3/27/2012 5:08:55 PM , Rating: 5

Leaf (NA) now all use a battery heating system. The next Leaf will have an even more sophisticated system. Liquid "cooled" systems are also liquid heated systems. So its not entirely a case of missing component... though the leaf has less than the liquid "cooled" type.

The Leaf's warranty also allows significant greater loss of battery capacity. Chevy Volt's warranty says at the end of 8 years/100,000 miles, the battery pack must 11.2 kWh of its original 16 kWh available (12.6 is drawn from the wall for a new charge with roughly 10.4-10.6 change in battery usage). Tesla Roadster also has a 30% reduction... but over 5 years/50,000 miles.

Leaf's air cooled battery warranty doesn't have -any- limit to the level of loss of capacity. This is troubling.

By semo on 3/28/2012 6:03:59 AM , Rating: 2
The Leaf batteries use air to regulate their temperature. I don't know what the next gen Leaf will use. Do you have a link explaining the liquid heat management systems on the Leaf?

Also, I am not aware of any issues on battery performance degredation yet. Even though Nissan, Tesla, GM ,etc.. have different wording, you can not comment on how they react to such issues until we hear from actual users' feedback. But I agree, Nissan's policy is useless.

By tng on 3/28/2012 9:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote: can not comment on how they react to such issues until we hear from actual users' feedback.
It has nothing to do with what users experience, it is just what Nissan, Tesla and Chevy have in the warranty for the batteries, they will replace batteries based on the warranty conditions not users experiences.

I have no doubt that when batteries begin to fail in these cars that even though the companies have built in the cost of the replacement in the original price, companies like GM will be hurting for cash to do it. Give it 10 years and we will see, hopefully they will have better replacements or newer tech by that time that will make it less painful.

By Keeir on 3/28/2012 10:44:13 AM , Rating: 2

When its 30 F outside, you can't use the "air" to warm up the battery.

The Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and Fisker Karma all use a Liquid Thermal Management System that both Cools AND Heats the battery.

The Leaf meanwhile in the US comes with a Battery Heater and Special Insulation that helps protect the battery in the winter. The next generation Leaf is going to use some additional features as well. My point was its not as simple as "Leaf has no Thermal Management System and those others have a really complicated one". The Leaf has chosen to use a simplified battery management system that will compromise the ability to keep the battery in the correct temperature range and lead to increased battery loss.

I don't know how much, but it will occur. Leaf's warranty just allows you to drive the Leaf at full motor power. It explicitly states it does not cover "gradual" loss of charge. And if you ever leave it in 120 degree external air for more than 24 hours, you void your warranty completely. While, I believe a typical Leaf will lose around 30% battery capacity between 7-10 years of age, the Leaf's warranty works out to be as much as 75% loss of range possible and the motor would still work at "full power".

I just can't recommend purchasing a Leaf under those conditions. As noted, Chevy Volt warranties that at the end of 8 years/100,000 miles, the battery pack will have a minimum level of 11.4 kWh of capacity left or they will restore the pack to at least this level. That's alot more comforting if your the type of person who -buys- cars rather than leasing them.

so-called "electric" cars
By Argon18 on 3/28/2012 12:34:32 AM , Rating: 2
i like how everyone is equating these so-called "electric cars" to "green" driving, as if it were truly getting something for nothing, transportation with zero emissions. what a joke. the majority of electricity in the united states is currently produced by coal. yes, coal. so these "electric cars" are nothing more than coal cars. And inefficient coal cars at that. what a joke. do like europe does, get a small hi-po turbo diesel that gets 50 or 60 or 70 mpg even, while producing *less* greenhouse gas emissions than a same-size gasoline engine. and it's a very mature technology, available today, no $55 million dollar battery replacements required.

RE: so-called "electric" cars
By Jedi2155 on 3/28/2012 1:11:27 AM , Rating: 3
Even if I ignore everything you're saying about electricity/coal being inefficient (compared to a combustion engine? no....not even). At least its all domestically produced energy. Even Fox has finally jumped on the bandwagon:

I've done a lot of calculations and determined that natural gas burned at a power plant (40-60%), is a lot more efficient than directly burning it directly in your engine (15-30%) when taking into account all the "losses" of electric transmission.

RE: so-called "electric" cars
By Jaybus on 3/28/2012 11:46:46 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, in the US, electricity is roughly 42% coal, 25% natural gas, 19% nuclear, 8% hydroelectric, 3% wind, 2% other renewable, and 1% petroleum. So it is officially 13% renewable, but if you consider that nuclear is zero emission and for all practical purposes renewable, then 32% of US electricity is from renewable sources and zero emission.

So, yes, EVs still require the burning of fossil fuels, but right off the bat they have a 32% advantage in the US. In France that advantage would be much greater, due to their extensive use of nuclear power.

But the real advantage of EVs is that they have room to grow. For example, the US has only 65 nuclear power stations. Should many coal plants be replaced with a few nuclear plants, the EV advantage would grow substantially. ICEs, on the other hand, have little room left for efficiency gains.

The problem is, there simply is no battery technology that is good enough....yet.

RE: so-called "electric" cars
By Keeir on 3/29/2012 6:10:09 PM , Rating: 2
do like europe does, get a small hi-po turbo diesel that gets 50 or 60 or 70 mpg even

European Testing overestimates the mileage of a car in comparison to the US EPA.

The highest efficieny VW Golf Diesel Model would return ~45 MPG combined cycle US EPA.

This is clearly inferior to the Prius (a slightly large car) at ~50 MPG US EPA. The Leaf and the Volt on US power are slightly better than the Prius.

Gasoline<Diesel<Hybrid<PHEV<Full Electric

That's how it works in most US states for GHG per mile.

Not inside the battery pack
By Shadowsite on 3/27/2012 12:34:09 PM , Rating: 1
it was discovered that the battery was the issue . According to the dealer, a "fault was found in the battery and inverter cable" and "both were replaced as a unit."

I believe this is a false statment, this cable is not typically located inside the battery pack, but between the battery and the inverter and converts AC/DC currents. the pack was replaced due to potential damage from that occurance. Those cables were supplied by Lear Automotive that created the issue from the consumer reports veh based on my understanding.

RE: Not inside the battery pack
By Manch on 3/28/2012 3:27:54 AM , Rating: 2
If they shared your understanding, I dont think they would be shelling out 55 million in battey replacements.

I'm willing to go out on a limb here and say they know the fault is their own and thats why they are replacing the battery packs.

On a side note, how in the hell did this car make it thru quality assurance/testing, if its having this much of an issue?

RE: Not inside the battery pack
By Shadowsite on 3/28/2012 9:12:22 AM , Rating: 3
the 55 million to replace the packs is for a different issue, one that is due to a faulty welder set up on one of the modules. These has several modules in the packs, not all of which may have been effected. That they agree is their issue, hense why they are replacing it.

the issue i commented on is the issue with the consumer reports veh, not the 55 million battery replacment. That problem was not due to the battery fault, but an issue with the connection system between the battery and the inverter. I am positive they share my understanding.

and my guess is it was rushed through the design phase, typically we have 4-5 years to work on a veh platform with existing designs to go off of. this veh was brand new, new concept, and little to base as a reference for the systems that have issues. I dont believe this was given sufficiant time to work the issues out and was rushed to the market due to timing contraints put on them for the gov loans.

RE: Not inside the battery pack
By nicjones on 3/28/2012 6:48:32 PM , Rating: 2
The car is safe to drive. The battery issues do not pose any safety issues. If you do not know how cars operate, you would never ask such a silly question.

Are these the guys
By adiposity on 3/27/12, Rating: 0
RE: Are these the guys
By adiposity on 3/27/2012 5:21:02 PM , Rating: 3
Nope, that was National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Two weeks before President Bush’s visit, NREL’s budget was cut by $28 billion, forcing the lay off of 28 researchers and other employees. The day before his visit, “The Department of Energy—which owns NREL—gave it $5 million to help restore the jobs... The remaining $23 million budget shortfall means the lab’s canceled contracts and subcontracts with private partners will stay in place.”

A123 got money from DOE, under Obama's watch.

By nicjones on 3/28/2012 6:46:42 PM , Rating: 3
Folks I have been one of the first customers of the Fisker Karma. I have to admit I have never had better service. I am an American and I believe in American products. I took a risk with the Karma because of its beauty, technological advance and the fact I would have a product that is a rare beast. I never had any issues with my battery, just the usual software glitches- which are intact less than the BMW 7 series and Porsche Panamera I had before. But the software upgrades have resolved these problems. Plus I have an extended warranty- I am a happy customer. The battery exchange is voluntary- I may not go for it as I have no issues with my battery. I love my Karma!

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