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NHTSA probes fire in garage containing plug-in Fisker Karma
U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating a Texas garage fire that destroyed a Fisker Automotive Inc. Karma, a $103,000 plug-in electric vehicle.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent investigators to help probe what caused the fire in Sugar Land, Texas, that Fisker learned of May 3, Claude Harris, the agency's director of vehicle safety compliance, said Friday.

"We are conducting an ongoing field inquiry for an EV incident in Texas," Harris said at a Transportation Department electric vehicle safety forum in Washington.

"We are still engaged in that activity, and no determination has been made at this time."

Lynda Tran, an agency spokeswoman, confirmed that the Texas investigation is of the Fisker fire.

Fisker, based in Anaheim, Calif., received $529 million in electric vehicle loans from the U.S. Energy Department to develop the Karma and a proposed second model, the Atlantic. The credit line was frozen last year after the company was late in meeting milestones related to the Karma.

NHTSA's inquiry is one of several the agency has done of incidents involving electric vehicles equipped with lithium-ion batteries, Harris said. Others include a fire in North Carolina last year that was determined to not have been caused by the electric car, and an incident in which a General Motors Co. Chevrolet Volt caught fire weeks after the agency performed crash tests on it.

Fisker officials said May 8 that the car couldn't have caused the fire because its battery was intact and not being charged at the time of the blaze, and because the vehicle was purchased after the recall of Karma models with defective battery packs supplied by A123 Systems Inc., which has three facilities in Michigan.

It made those statements after a Fort Bend County, Texas, fire investigator was quoted by Auto Week, an industry publication, as saying the fire originated with the vehicle. Detroit News

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