Fisker has created a production plug-in hybrid called the Karma, a four-door luxury sedan. She's fast, she's beautiful - look at her! - and she's priced better than a Tesla at 80-some-K USD.
Maybe you saw the Karma sedan at the 2010 NAIAS in Detroit? She was a concept car then, but intended to go into production without anything more than very minor changes. Henrik Fisker, her daddy, said then, "this is the car I've been waiting for myself". What makes her so special, and why do I like her better than the Tesla Roadster?
Series hybrid. Unlike almost every hybrid, plug-in or otherwise, that you see on the horizon, the Fisker Karma is a series hybrid. Translation: This is one serious plug-in hybrid, not a wannabe. This is the plug-in hybrid an EV converter would build. They're calling it "Q-drive", from Quantum Technologies.
Update: The Fisker Karma has been discontinued.
What's Q-drive, you ask?
Well, it's a well-tested drive system (some military application or other) that employs a generator to charge the batteries, so that the car is driven only by its electric motor. As I said, a series hybrid. I wouldn't call it cutting-edge technology, it's more like "previously overlooked technology". Hybrid homebuilders like Alain St-Yves have been doing something like this for years.
50 miles on electricity alone. With a lithium ion battery pack, an around-town driver who plugs in every night could go a very long time without visiting the Texaco station. (Poor Texaco.) There are two power modes, "stealth" and "sport", which are accessible by flipping a sort of lever behind the steering wheel. You get economy out of the "stealth", thrills out of the "sport". Simple. Works just like the "power saver" feature on your laptop, I suppose.
Sexy. Henrik Fisker is a sexy car designer. Wait...I meant, he designs sexy cars, not that he's sexy. (Well, okay, since you brought it up...yeah, he'll do; ) But the Karma is not the first hot car Mr. Hot has designed. You may have seen his work at BMW or Aston Martin, since he used to design for them, and has a lot of experience in the car design business (20 years?) for a guy who doesn't look that old. Is it any wonder he'd bring us a drool-mobile?
MSN Autos listed the Karma S in their "Top Ten Sexy Cars" at the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) this year. Not "Top Ten Green Cars", not "Top Ten Plug-In Hybrids"...but "Top Ten Sexy Cars". The Karma doesn't have to explain herself, in other words.
Better business practices. It kinda shows that Mr. Hot knows what he's doing, and has done this concept-to-market thing a time or two. I'm betting that Fisker Automotive will stand the test of time, and actually deliver what they promise, and on time. It's a winning combination of car business experience, bringing your friends with you, having your own money, and planning every detail before you start building. I really appreciate the commitment to delivering to the customer exactly what the designers bring to the car show; it's called respect for your customers, which doesn't go unnoticed or unrewarded - especially nowadays.
Give 'em what they want. We've gotten numb to being used and abused by automakers, let's face it. How many times have we heard the carmakers say, "no, you can't have what you want"? You can't have electric, you can't have fast, you can't have sexy, you can't have it now, you can't have it unless you pay for it in full before we even begin production. Well, Henrik Fisker is not gonna be the man to tell you NO.
It's what you want, and then better.
For example: looking for a luxury sedan? The Karma has all the features you'd expect in that class, and it's a plug-in hybrid. Looking for a plug-in hybrid? The Karma is that, and it gets better real-world gas mileage than the Prius conversion, because it's designed differently. Looking for a green sports car? The Karma's your green sports car, and for a better price than the Tesla. See what I mean? Fisker's policy is "no compromises", and they apparently mean it, too.
Solar panels embedded in the roof. These are factory options, which are used to trickle-charge the battery pack and for climate control. Sounds similar to the Aptera's embedded rooftop solar panels, although nobody seems to be suing anyone over the coincidence.
0-60 in 5.8 seconds, and limited to 125 mph. That's the speed and time attributed to the original Karma sedan, which is quite respectable for her class. If you're comparing it to the 3.9 second 0-60 of the Tesla Roadster, you're comparing apples to oranges. Makes me wonder, what's her 0-60 with all the seats full of Americans?
Fisker Karma Convertible
Oh, in case you were wondering, the new S model is a hard-top convertible, also known as "Sunset". It will go into production by the end of 2010. It's not exactly like the original Karma; see, rather than the "Sunset" model's 2-door design, the original is actually a four-door sedan. I keep zooming in on the hi-res press pictures at Fisker Automotive's website, saying, "really?" because it's hard to remember she's got four doors. But yes, really, she does; )
Both the original Fisker Karma and their Karma Sunset have three different trim levels.
There's the basic model, the one that will cost you about 80K after your tax credit; then there's the
leather seat EcoSport model, with the leather made from 100% recycled cows (just kidding) at 90-someK...and then there's
EcoChic, which is over 100K and is "animal free", meaning it has recovered wood trim and bamboo viscose seat covers, and there's even little EcoFossil leaves embedded in the EcoGlass.
It will cost you 5,000 refundable dollars to reserve your Karma sedan, or 25k to reserve a convertible. The balance will be due within 48 hours of the time the car is delivered to your local dealership. If you don't claim your car within 48 hours, the dealership will then be free to sell it to someone else.
(Dude. They're gonna build it, and then sell it to you. How revolutionary.)
It takes the risk - to you - out of the process. If Fisker can't deliver it on time for whatever reason, they're not holding your hundred grand hostage.
Compare and contrast with Tesla's reserve policy, under which you are expected to pay $5,000 just to get in line, another $55,000 to lock in a production slot and delivery timeframe (yeah, right) and the balance of the 109,000 before they even begin production on it.
I started out researching the Fisker Karma really expecting to be skeptical and disappointed. Having gotten this far, though? All I can do is stand and applaud. Nicely played, Mr. Fisker. Can't wait to see what you come up with next.
Fisker fan? You can visit fiskertalk.com to discuss the latest Fisker news and developments!
Update: Sigh. Fisker didn't make it; Tesla did. I'm an idiot. (Not the first time.) I'd really, really love one of these cars.