Three Toyota Prius hybrids have joined 16 Fisker Karmas in being damaged by fire when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey last week.
The New York Times reports that although the three Toyota Prius models – including a plug-in hybrid and a conventional hybrid – were also located at Port Newark, they were part of a separate incident to the Fisker cars.
Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight told the publication salt water getting into the electrical system was the likely cause of the fire.
“Once the salt gets in there, it’s ready to do damage,” Knight said.
“One Prius out and out burned, the others just kind of smoldered and got really hot.”
According to the report, the completely burned vehicle was a plug-in variant of the Prius, and was one of 4000 Toyotas and 2128 plug-in or hybrid models at Port Newark when the storm hit.
“These were definitely extraordinary circumstances,” Knight said.
The findings of an investigation undertaken by Fisker Automotive, and witnessed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), have also been released in a statement from the car maker.
According to the statement, “After a thorough inspection… Fisker engineers determined that the damage to the Karmas was the result of the cars being submerged under five to eight feet of sea water for several hours that left corrosive salt in a low voltage Vehicle Control Unit in one Karma. This residual salt damage caused a short circuit, which led to a fire that heavy winds then spread to other Karmas parked nearby.”
Fisker clarified that there were no explosions and ruled out the Karma’s lithium-ion batteries as a cause or contributing factor in the incident.