California’s Fisker Automotive has already unveiled the production version of its Karma plug-in hybrid, but at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the niche automaker will debut the first factory-built version.
This is an important milestone for Fisker and it’s also a sign that the car will be available for sale in showrooms very soon. In fact, Fisker will also use the Paris event to announce details about the expansion of its dealer network, which in the U.S. is expected to be selling cars as soon as February 2011.
Featuring a proprietary ‘Q-Drive’ electric powertrain, the Karma will have an all-electric range of 80 kilometers. After the all-electric 80 km, a petrol-powered 2.0-litre turbocharged, GM Ecotec engine turns a generator that charges a lithium-ion battery. Essentially, the Karma is a range-extended electric vehicle just like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
With this balance of electric and petrol driving, Fisker estimates that most Karma drivers who charge the vehicle overnight, and commute less than 80 km per day, will be able to achieve an average fuel economy of 2.35 l/100km. In addition, a roof-mounted solar panel supplies an extra charge capacity of 0.5 kWh per day. It’s a drop in the proverbial ocean when compared to the 22.6 kWh battery pack fitted to the Karma, but solar panel provides useful power for the climate control or charging the batteries.
Drive comes from two electric motors with a combined output of 300 kW and a monstrous 1 300 Nm of torque, which is enough to send the vehicle to a top speed of 200 km/h and propel it from 0 – 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds – not bad considering the Fiska Karma weighs almost 2.1 tonnes
The vehicle also features two modes: stealth and sport. In stealth mode, which is the Fisker name for electric-only mode, the car has a max speed of 150 km/h, while in sport mode the internal combustion engine joins in and takes the top speed up to the 200 km/h mark. A third mode, called HEV, for hybrid electric vehicle, operates in a similar manner to a typical ‘strong’ hybrid: cutting the engine during deceleration, shutting the engine down at a stop, and using auto-start and electric take-off capabilities.
First shown as a concept back in 2008, it’s pleasing to see that Fisker has kept most of the original show car’s dramatic lines for the production version. Underneath the pretty sheet metal is an all-aluminum spaceframe made in cooperation with Norsk Hydro. The exterior body is a combination of aluminum panels and composite panels.
One point to note is the lack of a tailpipe despite there being an internal combustion engine. To optimise cooling and aerodynamics, the exhaust pipe from the engine is routed directly out behind the front wheels. A small functional side vent releases the hot air when the engine is turned on.
The 2011 Fisker Karma is being assembled by independent vehicle manufacturer Valmet in Finland. Annual volume is anticipated to reach 15 000 cars, with half of these expected to be sold in Europe. Pricing in the U.S. should start around the US$88 000 mark, or R628 000.