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Fisker’s green Karma chameleon is red-hot

Good Karma: Fisker says Sport mode enables the Karma to accelerate to 100km/h in six seconds, while stealth mode can realise 2.4L/100km.

Fisker Automotive unveils production version of Karma hybrid sportscar

8 Dec 2008

FISKER Automotive has issued photographs and full specifications for its forthcoming Karma plug-in hybrid car ahead of its world debut at the Detroit motor show in January – 12 months after it unveiled a prototype of the premium green sports sedan.

After receiving confirmation of a second round of multi-million dollar venture capital funding last week, this time from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers (which includes Al Gore as a partner), former BMW and Aston Martin designer and now Fisker Automotive chief executive Henrik Fisker announced that the Karma would be priced from $US87,900 ($A133,800) and that the first customer deliveries would commence in November 2009.

He also said that the order books were full through to mid-2010 production – which is being contracted out through Norwegian coachbuilder Valmet Automotive – and that the niche Californian marque remained on track for 15,000 annual sales, the bulk of these through a new retail network in the US that will total 40 dealers by October next year.

European pricing will be announced at the Geneva motor show in March.

 center imageThe Karma has some stunning performance figures to match its head-turning exterior, which in production form has a larger grille and a number of practical elements including a B-pillar (for extra strength), a lower air intake (to allow for more airflow), a rear diffuser (with an integrated cooling cover for the electric drivetrain), and an exhaust outlet behind the front wheels.

The Quantum Technologies-developed ‘Q-drive’ powertrain comprises a General Motors-sourced 194kW 2.0-litre Ecotec direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that powers a generator, which in turn charges a bank of lithium-ion batteries offering maximum storage of 22.6 kilowatt hours (kWh). The batteries are the energy source for two powerful electric motors – each delivering 150kW and 650Nm – that drive the rear wheels.

Although it has a kerb weight of 2.1 tonnes, even with the use of an all-aluminium spaceframe and a combination of aluminium and composite exterior panels, the Karma is nonetheless able to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed six seconds and achieve a maximum speed of 200km/h.

In Sport mode, that is. Switching to the so-called ‘stealth’ mode knocks the maximum speed back to 150km/h but can realise an all-electric range of 80km, provided the car is fully charged.

With the petrol engine out of the equation until after the range is exceeded, Fisker reckons that owners who charge the Karma overnight and commute less than 80km a day will be able to achieve average fuel economy of 2.4L/100km (100mpg) and will only need to refuel the car once a year.

The long, wide and coupe-like four-seater Karma rests on a long 3160mm wheelbase and measures 4897mm in overall length, 1984mm in width and 1330mm in height. The front track is 1689mm, and 1720mm at the rear. The standard wheels are lightweight 22-inch alloys, with low rolling resistance Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tyres (245/35 front and 265/35 rear).

The Karma uses cast-aluminium double wishbone suspension front and rear, with monotube shock absorbers at each wheel (load-levelling at the rear), while the steering is a hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion system with 2.7 turns lock-to-lock.

Other standard features include bi-Xenon headlights, LED tail-lights, side-mounted charging indicators, ABS brakes, traction and stability control and a one-piece glass roof panel which can convert radiated power from the sun into stored electrical energy. The latter has also given rise to selectable solar power modes that control the interior climate.

Fisker is still to show pictures the Karma’s interior, but said it carries a ‘modern and sophisticated’ design, four individual ‘first class’ seats, and a spacious boot that can fit two golf bags and luggage.

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