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2010 Fisker Karma Preview

2010 Fisker Karma Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2009

Critical Knowledge:
  • New manufacturer of premium green automobiles
  • The first all-new production car from Fisker
  • Innovative Q-DRIVE technology
  • Four-passenger sedan body style
  • Dual 201-horsepower electric motors
  • Efficient turbocharged gasoline engine recharges batteries
  • 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds
  • Estimated 50-mile range on batteries alone
  • Range extended to 300 miles with gasoline-electric hybrid technology
Introduction
Fisker Automotive is a privately owned American car company founded in 2007. Based in Southern California, the Fisker talent pool is comprised of former BMW, Ford and Porsche executives who have joined founder Henrik Fisker-former Design Director for Aston Martin-to "lead the future and define automotive design by creating the ultimate eco-chic car." The company isn't completely new to cars. In fact, it made its name transforming premium-car platforms into luxuriously handcrafted limited-edition automobiles. The Fisker Tramonto (based on the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class) and the Fisker Latigo CS (based on the BMW 6 Series) were the company's first offerings. Now, the company has introduced its first production-ready car, the 2010 Karma.

Unlike nearly all traditional automobile manufacturers who design, build and sell conventional gasoline-powered vehicles (with internal-combustion motors), Fisker has taken an environmentally friendly approach with a plug-in, all-electric luxury model with hybrid technology (a small gasoline engine offers extended range capability). To accommodate the substantial manufacturing task, the company has partnered with Valmet Automotive in Finland. Fisker has predicted sales of at least 1,000 Karmas this year through its special national dealer network. The base price of this all-new model is $87,900 with first deliveries expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

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Design
The 2010 Fisker Karma is a sleek 4-door sedan with coupe-like proportions. The sculpted body is manufactured from lightweight materials for optimal weight savings and driving dynamics. The Karma has a long wheelbase and a wide track-its proportions are roughly the height of a Porsche 911, the length of a Mercedes-Benz CLS, and the width of a BMW 7 Series. The manufacturer describes the styling as aesthetically pleasing, yet functional. The long wheelbase allows the batteries to be contained within the front and rear axles for better weight distribution and a lower center of gravity. The wide track allows more room for passengers and luggage while improving handling. The 22-inch light alloy wheels, pushed to each corner of the vehicle, aid maneuverability and add improved handling, the company says.

The Karma is designed to transport passengers in first-class style, Fisker says. The luxurious interior offers a traditional control layout with a futuristic (and environmentally friendly) approach. Round gauges and digital readouts peer from behind the 3-spoke steering wheel. The standard climate and audio controls have been replaced by a single 10.2-inch touch-sensitive screen. The transmission shifter sits in its familiar location between the two front seats.


Model Lineup
There are three different models of the 2010 Fisker Karma: EcoBase, EcoSport and EcoChic. All models share the same chassis and powerplant-the differences are found in the equipment levels and upholstery. The standard model is the EcoBase, the sportiest model is the EcoSport, and the most environmentally sensitive is the EcoChic. According to Fisker, the leather in the EcoSport is processed using a completely sustainable manufacturing operation to minimize the number of hides required for each vehicle. The EcoChic model takes a completely animal-free approach-the leather upholstery has been replaced with 100-percent bamboo viscose (a soft natural textile) and EcoGlass trim frames authentic fossilized leaves. Wood trim is sourced from non-living (fallen) trees that have succumbed to age or forest fires as opposed to being harvested from healthy living plants.


Hardware
Powering the 2010 Fisker Karma is a unique gasoline-electric hybrid powerplant. It utilizes cutting-edge "Q-DRIVE" technology developed by Quantum Technologies exclusively for Fisker Automotive. With Q-DRIVE, an efficient 260-horsepower, turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder gasoline engine is used to turn a generator to charge the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack. The energy stored in the batteries is used to power the electric motor supplying driving torque to the rear wheels. Thus, the gasoline engine doesn't directly power the drive wheels; it serves only as an energy source when the battery pack is depleted of stored electricity.

Unlike most gasoline-hybrid vehicles, the Karma runs directly off the batteries. This proprietary design allows the vehicle to be driven on electric power alone for up to 50 miles without requiring a recharge from the gasoline engine, the manufacturer claims. The owner can plug in and recharge the batteries at the end of the day using a 110-volt or 220-volt system, thus restoring the lithium-ion packs to their full capacity. According to the automaker, most people drive less than 50 miles per day. Following this logic, Fisker says it is entirely possible that someone will only have to fill the Karma's gasoline tank once a year.

The Karma will offer two different driving modes. "Stealth Drive" is the first mode; it is quiet and economical, designed for optimal battery usage and vehicle range. The second mode is called "Sport Drive." Accessed by a paddle behind the steering wheel, this mode changes the electronics within the powerplant to command the full power of the vehicle with the added boost of the gasoline powerplant. Unlike gasoline engines that need increased engine revolutions (RPM) to generate torque, an electric motor has maximum torque available immediately from a stop (zero RPM). This feature makes for excellent acceleration at nearly any speed, the company says. When running in Sport Drive, the Karma is said to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with a top speed in excess of 125 mph. Four massive disc brakes quickly bring the Karma to a stop. Like nearly all hybrid vehicles, the brakes are equipped with a regenerative braking system to help charge the batteries under deceleration.


Technology
Standard on all 2010 Fisker Karma models is what the company claims is the world's largest continuously-formed glass solar panel roof. The full-length solar roof will help charge the vehicle's batteries during the day and supply enough electrical power to cool the interior while the car is parked. In addition, buyers will be offered an option to have solar panels installed on their roofs or garages whereby the energy collected during the day can be used to recharge the environmentally friendly Karma at night.

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