The rise in popularity of hybrid vehicles is a sign of the times. Fossil fuel supplies are decreasing fast and the world needs to look for alternative power sources for vehicle propulsion. While talk of hybrid cars will mostly involve the likes of the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, the Fisker Karma is rapidly becoming the model to mention. This luxury, small volume hybrid car is both beautiful and effective, and is a benchmark for future hybrid sports cars.
Designed and built by Fisker Automotive, and built in a plant in Finland, the car has had a troubled birth. Launch was delayed by a couple of years from the original 2009 date, but now the car is in production and selling across the world. Fisker may be a new name to contend with, but this is a vehicle that certainly merits a second look.
Sensational Style From The Fisker Karma
The Fisker Karma looks the part; that much is certain. This could be a model from Maserati, say, or any of the main players. The beautifully detailed four door body is curvaceous and well-proportioned, and it combines aggression and beauty in equal measures. Low, long and sleek, this is a machine to be seen in. Which brings us to the conundrum: would you pay over $100,000 (£64,000) when for a Fisker Karma when you can have a car with a better known name for the same price? The exclusivity of the Karma will undoubtedly win it some sales, as will the hybrid technology, but the fact remains that Fisker is taking on a market that is well-subscribed with excellent choices. In truth, the hybrid technology is the main pitch for selling a Fisker Karma, but it has its drawbacks too.
Hybrid Efficiency – But is it at The Expense of Performance?
One of the main problems with hybrid cars is that they only go half way towards achieving their aim – green, ecologically friendly efficiency. This is because, to make them anywhere near usable, they need to have on board a petrol or diesel engine as well as the electric motor. The Fisker Karma is no exception: it is powered by two electric motors, and by a 260bhp 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine. This is brought into play by pressing a button, or when the battery runs out. There is an interesting feature in the way the roof is constructed, as it is a solar panel that harnesses the sun’s rays to recharge the battery – a clever innovation.
The interior is interesting, too, as it is fitted out with reclaimed wood panels and also pre-used leather if this is specified. This could be construed as a gimmick, but it does go some way to helping project the green image. The performance – as with many hybrid vehicles – also raises some questions. A top speed of 125mph (201kmh) is nothing special, and you can expect a standard saloon from any manufacturer to match that, and while acceleration to 60mph (97km/h) in 6.3 seconds is impressive it is a moot point. Clearly, the Fisker Karma is not about performance – this is a luxury sedan that is being marketed via its hybrid technology.
Electric Power – Limited Range
The first question anyone will ask when looking at a hybrid vehicle is an old one: what will she do? This time, however, they will be talking about range, not speed. The official range as analyzed in a varied driving conditions, in all-electric mode, is a mere 32miles (51km). A German test, running the Karma in its ‘Stealth’ mode, achieved a more respectable 52miles (83km) and Fisker itself claims a 50mile range. This is the main underlying problem with electric vehicles – clearly any serious journey is going to need the petrol engine. This is not to say that the concept is flawed in any way, it is simply the nature of electric cars at present. Technology is advancing and new battery designs are in the pipeline, but clearly there is a long way to go yet.
Where is The Market For The Fisker Karma?
Clearly, this is a vehicle aimed at an exclusive clientele. It will be bought by people who want to portray a green leaning while also traveling in style. The Karma is an impressive vehicle from the inside, and it is well made and comfortable. Performance will not concern the buyer too much if their main aim is ecological friendliness. There is a sense of style and class about this vehicle, and we admire Fisker for having the nerve to tackle a difficult market. The car has so far reached a claimed 500 customers, mainly in the USA, and the company has produced approximately 2000 of the model. There is much to be applauded in the execution of this concept, even if there are questions to be asked. Those questions, however, are no different with any other hybrid vehicle. In conclusion, Fisker has done very well indeed in producing a stylish, classy car that approaches a difficult problem in the right way.