California EV company Karma is returning to its roots with the launch of the GS-6, its newest plug-in hybrid.
The sleek PHEV, the successor to Karma’s original Revero model, will offer an alternative to those who want the ability to run errands or commute in all-electric mode while not worrying about range when it’s time to take a longer trips.
The Karma GS-6 joins the all-electric GSe-6 later this year. It will follow with its first SUV, said global sales chief Joost de Vries, during a background media briefing.
“We’re not just selling Powerpoint (presentations) any more,” de Vries said. “We’re selling real cars. It’s starting to feel more like a complete auto manufacturer.”
Deja vu all over again
If the company’s name triggers a sense of déjà vu that’s because it traces its roots back to Fisker Automotive. That’s the California-based startup that introduced the Karma plug-in hybrid a decade ago. But the startup ran into a series of technical and financial setbacks and was forced to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Key assets, including the design of the Karma PHEV, were won by China’s Wanxiang Group for $149.2 million.
The GSe-6, introduced last October, will be the first new product for the company which remains based in California. The all-electric model will offer a choice of 85 or 105 kilowatt-hour battery packs and a range of up to around 300 miles. It will start at $79,900, $10,000 more than the base version of its primary competitor, a Tesla Model S.
The GS-6 launches at $83,900. That might seem counterintuitive considering it only has a 28 kWh battery pack but the higher figure is justified by the complexity of the drivetrain, said de Vries.
Enough battery power to cover the typical commute and more
The plug-in uses twin electric motors to drive the rear wheels, like the GSe-6, producing a peak 536 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. It also features a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder gas engine making 170 kilowatts, or 228 hp. The internal combustion engine provides no torque to the wheels, unlike most PHEVs. It serves solely as a generator, providing current for the electric motors if the battery pack runs down. In technical terms, it’s known as an E-REV, or extended-range electric vehicle.
Three versions of the GS-6 will be available. The base will launch from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, according to de Vries, the Sport in around 3.8 to 3.9 seconds.
Another figure that should matter to potential buyers: the plug-in will get up to 61 miles per charge. That’s nearly as much as some first-generation battery-electric vehicles and more than covers the typical American’s daily driving, according to industry data. The pack can fully recharge using a Level II 240-volt home charger in about 4.5 hours. It cannot use the newer 400-volt public fast chargers.
Styling could be a key selling point
The Chinese-owned automaker has put a high premium on styling, and both the GS-6 and GSe-6 retain the basic, coupe-like sports sedan design language of the original Karma Revero.
Lending to the sporty look and feel, the company noted in a release, “The GS-6 and GS-6L will come standard with 21-inch Cascade Silver wheels and slate-colored Brembo disc brake calipers, while the top-of-the line GS-6S will come standard with 22-inch Dune Twist Midnight Chrome wheels with red Brembo calipers mated to vented discs.
Much like the Tesla Model S, Karma has largely eliminated switches and knobs in favor of touchscreen controls – though the GS series adopts a more conventional shape for the digital gauge cluster and a less radical size for the touchscreen atop the center console. There’s Bluetooth, of course, and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The GS-6 can use smartphone-style over-the-air updates to revise onboard software.
Safety features include a 360-degree surround view monitoring system, automatic emergency braking, active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. There also will be a limited autonomous Level 2 system. Karma has not yet revealed whether it will allow any hands-free operation.
Making luxury EVs “more accessible”
While the two new Karma models might push into luxury territory, they both come in under the price of the brand’s current plug-in model, the Karma Revero.
The goal, said, Lance Zhou, Karma’s CEO, is to “mak(e) luxury electric vehicles more accessible.”
Even as it begins expanding its line-up, Karma is increasing its global presence. It initially focused on the U.S., adding Chile in 2019 and nine European countries in 2020. Iceland followed two months ago, with the Middle East, Argentina and China to follow.
Karma’s initial aspirations are modest, the company’s plant in the San Moreno Valley in California capable of ramping up to around 15,000 vehicles annually. But it has significantly bigger aspirations.
SUV and a second plant in the works
“Our second plant is being built as we speak,” de Vries said during a web briefing. It is “Not in the U.S.,” he said, adding that the location won’t be disclosed until closer to when it is ready for production.
That should come in 2023, he hinted, with the launch of Karma’s first SUV. The sales target for that, he added, is “in the six figures.”
The SUV could see Karma once again offer a solar roof to help extend range. But the company is looking at new technology that would allow it to embed the solar cells directly into a transparent moonroof, said de Vries. It is also looking at ways to mount cells on the body itself, in the paint.
Beyond the SUV, other products are in the works and Karma’s “ambition,” said de Vries, “is to live on the top end of premium into the middle of luxury. You’re not going see us bring out a $35,000 vehicle. That’s not going to happen.”