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Frankfurt show: Surf’s up at Fisker Automotive

Surfin’ USA: Californian-based Henrik Fisker has sharpened his scalpel to create a bold new lifestyle-oriented fastback model based on the Karma plug-in hybrid luxury sedan.

Karma-based plug-in hybrid fastback in works as Fisker signs engine deal with BMW

9 Sep 2011

CALIFORNIAN eco-luxury marque Fisker Automotive will take the covers off a lifestyle-oriented fastback version of its Karma plug-in hybrid car at the Frankfurt motor show next week as it prepares to expand its sportscar stable beyond sedan and convertible with an all-new ‘Surf’ model.

Earlier this week, former BMW and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker announced that he had signed an agreement with BMW for the supply of a four-cylinder turbocharged engine and other components for future models.

The first of these will be a BMW 3 Series-rivalling medium-sized prestige sedan known as ‘Project Nina’ which enters production in the US at General Motors’ former Wilmington plant in Delaware at the end of 2012 and will be sold throughout the US, Europe and Asia from early 2013.

Full details of the Surf are still to be divulged, but Fisker Automotive has confirmed it is based on the Karma and will have a range-extending plug-in hybrid powertrain “much like” its luxury sedan stablemate, which recently entered production in Finland by contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive.

The Karma convertible is due to reach the assembly line in 2013 – more than four years after its unveiling at the Detroit motor show in January 2009 – while overseas reports place the Surf’s launch as early as the final quarter of next year.

118 center imageFrom top: Fisker Karma, Karma convertible, BMW four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

“Focusing on the company’s philosophy of delivering pure driving passion, the new Fisker Surf is an electric vehicle with extended range much like its stablemate, the stylish Fisker Karma four-door luxury sedan,” the company said in a brief statement posted on social media this week.

“But the Fisker Surf delivers a bold new twist and is sure to wow global audiences with its combination of uncompromised responsible luxury and head-turning design... with real appeal for those with an active lifestyle.” The ‘Q-Drive’ powertrain in the Karma comprises two 150kW electric motors mounted on the rear differential (delivering a combined 1330Nm at zero rpm to the rear wheels), a 20kWh lithium-ion battery and a GM-sourced 194kW 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder ‘Ecotec’ turbo-petrol engine that acts as a generator rather than a drive unit.

Fisker Automotive claims the Karma has an all-electric range of 80km, with the combustion engine/generator able to provide an additional 403km range before refuelling and/or recharging.

It can reportedly accelerate from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 201km/h, while returning fuel consumption as low as 2.4L/100km and CO2 emissions of just 83g/km.

The deal with BMW is likely to see the combustion engine application extend beyond Nina-based vehicles to Karma and its siblings, as well as other models in the pipeline that will broaden the Fisker range further as it strives to become a significant player in electrified vehicles worldwide, much like Tesla Motors has achieved with its Roadster and the forthcoming Model S (and future derivatives).

There was no mention of BMW supplying hybrid or full-electric powertrain components already in service or well advanced, most notably the plug-in hybrid powertrain in the forthcoming i8 super-coupe, which promises Karma-crushing 0-100km/h acceleration of “less than five seconds” but is a slightly lighter shade of green in terms of environmental performance, with 3.0L/100km mileage.

The all-wheel-drive i8 uses a single 125kW/250Nm electric motor to drive the front wheels, with a 164kW/300Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine driving the rear wheels.

Interestingly, BMW’s i8-previewing Vision EfficientDynamics concept used a 120kW 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and two electric motors (82kW/39kW), promising 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.8 seconds, a 700km range, 3.76L/100km mileage and 99g/km of CO2.

The engine supply agreement with Fisker calls for up to 100,000 four-cylinder turbo engines per year “at peak volume” at the Delaware plant – expected to be between 75,000 and 100,000 units a year by 2014.

“The BMW engine was an obvious choice for us as BMW is known for producing the best and most fuel efficient gasoline engines in the world,” Mr Fisker said. “We are very pleased to have signed this agreement.” ‘Project Nina’ model lines, which will be given new nameplates prior to production, will be primarily focused on the US and Europe, with an expected 40 per cent of volume split evenly between the two markets.

As such, Fisker Automotive recently opened a European office in Munich, Germany.

The company is targeting Asia for the remaining 20 per cent.

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