Is it possible, in these economic times that have seen the near collapse of the American automobile industry, for an American car manufacturer to successfully produce luxury vehicles that are also environmentally responsible? It is possible if the company is Fisker Automotive, maker of the world’s first premium electric plug-in hybrid, the Fisker Karma. This Anaheim, California-based company is committed to the “belief that environmentally conscious cars need not sacrifice passion, style or performance.”
The Fisker Story
Fisker Automotive is the result of a successful partnership between two automotive industry veterans who share 51 years experience between them, Henrick Fisker and Bernhard Koehler, who met while both were at BMW’s U.S. design studio, DesignworksUSA. In 2007, the two men formed Fisker Automotive, with the belief that in order to create a truly innovative automobile, they would need to start from scratch. Their vision was groundbreaking and far beyond what other automakers were trying to produce in the electric or hybrid market, which usually resulted in cars with impressive technology but low-end design. Fisker Automotive believed they could produce an environmentally conscious luxury sports car using cutting edge technology combined with innovative design. The traditional automotive world was unprepared for the success of Fisker Automotive’s vision, with critics declaring at the 2008 Detroit auto show that the Fisker Karma concept car, while highly impressive, would never make it through production intact.
The Fisker Karma did make it through production, with few minor changes to the 2008 concept vehicle, and has since become the first truly eco-friendly sports vehicle with the style and design to be worth its price tag. The first innovation featured on the Karma is its combination of an electric power train with an internal combustion engine. The Karma has a 600-pound, 360-volt lithium ion battery back that takes the entire length of the car. The on-board charger can charge the battery in 6 hours using 220V, 15 amp standard household service. In addition, the Karma has two 150kW electric motors to power the rear wheels and a turbocharged 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood that can also be used to charge the battery to 50 percent. The driver has the option to run the car on electric, hybrid or gas power, with the Karma getting 50 miles on a full battery charge and an additional 250 miles on the 9.5-gallon tank.
While there are many cars coming to market featuring some sort of hybrid or electric technology, none have combined the truly magical power of the Fisker Karma’s battery/motor combo with the high-end design and luxury feel of the interior. The minimalist console features only a few buttons and no gauges. Instead, the Karma makes use of three LCD panels with touch screen capabilities for most controls. Passengers will also find the Karma a comfortable ride with plenty of legroom and seating for four in soft bucket seats, each separate due to the center console.
The New Fisker Surf
Now that the Karma has paved the way, the team at Fisker is ready to debut their newest vehicle, the Fisker Surf, for the 2013 model year. The Surf builds upon the Karma’s success and offers an electric vehicle option for people living “an eco-friendly, active lifestyle.” This vehicle is a cross between a sports car and a station wagon, offering storage and load carrying capability while still retaining the luxurious feel and eco-friendly features of the Karma. The Surf continues to uphold the Fisker commitment to design and luxury while also adhering to their philosophy of sustainable use of resources and concern for the natural environment.
The Fisker story is unusual because it features a new automobile maker making a successful debut at a time when the established auto makers are struggling to win over public opinion and trying to provide what the car-buying public wants. Fisker Automotive is based on a working knowledge of the automobile industry, yet they weren’t afraid to throw out what was accepted about building automobiles in order to come up with something completely new and exciting. They have successfully provided the world with truly sustainable luxury vehicle options.