Is the Fisker Karma a real electric vehicle, or not? It is a question still on the minds of many across the web. Because it has a range extender, it can consume fuel in specific cases. Similar to the Opel Ampera (Chevrolet Volt), it has a battery pack that is large enough to meet the daily driving needs of the average person in the Western world. The Fisker Karma has a full electric range of 51km (32 miles), whereas the average person drive around 40km (30 miles) per day. This enables the Karma to drive most of the distances in a fully electric mode, while having a range extender on board to cover the larger distances. Pretty smart, right? In the discussion wether or not the Fisker Karma is an electric vehicle or not, technically speaking it is not, in practice, for most people in general, it is. And to be honest, it does not really matter that much to me, if you look at how much cleaner a vehicle with a range extender is compared to a conventional car, it is a big gain anyway.
The Fisker Karma - An electric vehicle with a range extender, ready for a spin
Visit to Fisker the Netherlands
Last week I had a discussion at the Fisker HQ here in the Netherlands and met with Jan Rooderkerk to have a small discussion on the Karma. I was of the (wrong) impression there was no Fisker office in the Netherlands, and thought that all Fiskers in the Netherlands were supplied by service companies like The New Motion.
Market Outlook and Future Plans
The first Fiskers in the Netherlands were sold early this year and at the moment there are about 75 Karma's on our Dutch roads. Fisker expects to reach 100 within a month and aims to keep this momentum going. The recently revealed Fisker Atlantic will make its debut in 2013 and the aim is to launch the Atlantic with the momentum gained from the Karma.
Tech Stuff: What is under the Hood?
Something I never paid much attention to yet, was a story on how the Fisker was rated for its fuel consumption. And more specifically, on how much CO2 was being emitted. With a battery pack going through the length of the vehicle, the range extender is in the front. The exhaust of this range extender is located just around the front wheels, giving little to no space to install a big catalytic converter.
A big catalytic converter would have been good to have to reduce the CO2 emissions while driving the car in the so called ‘sustain'; mode. In the sustain mode the car sustains the battery charge; for example at 50%. When the car accelerates and uses more power, the battery charge drops. Because of the sustain system, the battery is recharged. This is helpful if you want to preserve your battery power for driving in city areas and for example a feature that the Opel Ampera has (though I believe th GM Volt does not for some strange reason). In order to make sure the Karma got a good rating, they could not implement a big catalytic converter, so instead opted to remove the sustain mode. A pity in my opinion, but something that might be better suited for in the new Atlantic in 2013.
I also got the opportunity to drive for a bit in this Fisker, apparently in the one that was previously owned by our Dutch prince Maurits, who moved to an Ampera to suit his family needs. The vehicle starts off in full electric, making it the quiet drive you expect from an EV. The first thing I noticed in the car, beside all the luxury that comes with a vehicle like this, is the huge width! I was told this was easily overlooked by many, but with a width of just over 2 meter and a rather high nose, you have to be rather aware of the road somewhere below you. I was told it was not uncommon for people taking the car for a spin, to hit a few curbs.
The Fisker Karma - A rather wide car as you can see
Out on the highway this car really shines, it accelerates quickly, even while already at highway speeds. If is at higher speeds then you notice the range extended being switched on. All in all the feel of the car is very sturdy and solid, it makes for a quality ride you would expect from a car like this. A very low noise experience; at highway speeds the only real audible sounds were the wind around the car and the occasional help from the range extender. Class and comfort in one package.
It is a great looking car, it really shows the influence of Fisker's old employer. Om the tech side, some lessons learnt perhaps for the future, with respect to having more room for the catalytic converter for example. I expect the lessons and updates to make their appearance in the Atlantic in 2013.