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Fisker Karma Misses Mileage, Battery Range Goals

Luxury plug-in hybrid falls way of claims, says EPA.

by on Oct.20, 2011

The Fisker Karma is fast and sexy - but it doesn't deliver the range or fuel economy initially promised.

It’s hard to argue about its stylish design, but when it comes to range and fuel economy claims the new Fisker Karma falls well short, according to the EPA.

Developed by former Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker, the Karma is the first in a planned series of offering from California start-up Fisker Motors.  The goal was to develop a striking, high-performance sports car that also could lay claims to being a green machine.

But the official numbers from the EPA don’t quite support that.  Balancing the car’s electric and gasoline performance in a series of simulations the feds came up with a 52 MPGe rating.  And while that’s on a par with what one might expect from the decidedly slower and less stylish Toyota Prius, it’s well short of the maker’s promised 67.2 MPGe, or miles-per-gallon equivalent.

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Range, meanwhile, came in at just 32 miles on battery power alone compared to Fisker’s anticipated 50 miles per charge.

And since that means the vehicle will likely be driven a lot more often on gasoline power alone the EPA’s other figure might be equally disappointing, with the car rated at just 20 miles per gallon in the combined cycle.

CEO Henrik Fisker is downplaying the news and “firmly” betting owners will wind up getting better figures than the EPA will require Fisker Automotive to post on the Munroney window stickers of the 2012 Karma.  Certainly, it wouldn’t be the first time the government is in err, and rating battery-electric vehicles remains a work in progress – though the EPA has previously had to lower its ratings on models like the Prius because the tests routinely proved overly optimistic about what motorists would experience in the real world.

The maker also likes to promote the idea that Karma will get nearly Porsche 911 levels of performance out of the drivetrain, which consists of twin 150-kilowatt – or 201-horsepower — electric motors. The rear-drive design also has a 260-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four.  That engine, provided by General Motors, serves only as a range extender.  When the batteries run down the I-4 serves as a generator to provide power to those two electric motors.

Whether the mediocre ratings will be a setback for the $97,500 Karma — as well as the company’s broader ambitions remains to be seen.  The first Fisker plug-ins were only delivered a month ago – with celebrities including actor Leonardo DiCaprio among the first to get behind the wheel.

In fact, legal deliveries can only start with the EPA certification, the maker saying it expects to have several dozen demonstrator vehicles in dealer hands in the coming days, with more cars en route from Finland, where they are being assembled.

Sales targets are moderate, with Fisker telling that the Karma is intended to get the company on the map while the real breakthrough – from a business standpoint – will be the anticipated launch of the start-up carmaker’s second product, codenamed Project Nina.

As with rival Tesla Motor’s Model S battery-electric sedan, Project Nina is aimed at fielding a smaller, more mainstream plug-in hybrid.

That vehicle will be produced at an old General Motors plant in Delaware which Fisker acquired with the help of a $528.7 million federal loan.  Those funds came from a program designed to encourage the development of high-mileage alternative-powered vehicles.  Other recipients have ranged from Tesla to Nissan, the latter using its cash to help pay for the expansion of its Smyrna, Tennessee factory to begin producing Leaf battery cars next year.


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One Response to “Fisker Karma Misses Mileage, Battery Range Goals”

  1. rngonmt says:

    California start-up? Since I hear they’re taking a half a billion tax dollars and high-tailing it back home…are they going to return the money? Or are they Finnished?

    1. Solyndra
    2. Fiskar
    3. (fill in the blank)