Proving an environmentally friendly plug-in hybrid car doesn't have to be a bland design or stuck in the slow lane, the Fisker Karma proudly posts performance vitals such as a top speed of 125 mph and zero-to-60 acceleration in less than six seconds.
These aren't exactly muscle or sports car statistics, but when a zero-emission, sleekly designed plug-in hybrid with 22-inch alloy wheels induces smiles with this kind of data, people, like those invited to Gaudin Jaguar Porsche Aston Martin last week to preview the Karma, take notice.
"It's a great looking car," said retired biology teacher Roy Newton, who stopped by the dealership with some fellow Porsche club members to see the futuristic hybrid. "I talked about this technology with my students for years and here it is. From an ecological point of view, it's a great idea."
Such is the case with the Fisker Karma, the first fuel-saving electrified design from Irvine, Calif.-based Fisker Automotive. Conceived by Henrik Risker, whose creations include the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, as well as the Fisker Tramonto and Latigo CS, the Karma embodies all the latest technology in an eco-chic vehicle.
Karma's pledge, according to the company's website (www.fiskerautomo- tive.com) is to produce "an environmentally friendly car with a futuristic design delivering sculpture, dramatic proportion and all without compromise."
This mission will be boosted by a recent $528.7 million loan made by the U.S. Department of Energy to Fisker Automotive for the development and production of two lines of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The loan not only supports manufacture of the full-size, four-door sports sedan Karma, but also the company's more-affordable Project NINA models.
Fisker's plan includes reopening a recently shuttered General Motors facility in Wilmington, Del., to manufacture the vehicles, which will employ 2,000 assembly workers. Hoping to be among the first to market in the plug-in hybrid genre, Fisker expects full production by 2015 with annual sales nearing 115,000 vehicles.
The Karma uses Q-DRIVE plug-in hybrid technology, developed exclusively for Fisker Automotive by Quantum Technologies. A fully-charged Karma burns no fuel for the first 50 miles. Venture further and the gasoline engine turns a generator to charge the lithium-ion battery, which has a 10-year warranty. Once the 50-mile electric range has been exceeded, the car operates as a normal hybrid vehicle. This balance of electric and gas range makes it entirely possible that Karma drivers who charge their car overnight and commute less than 50 miles a day will achieve an average fuel economy of 100 mpg.
Buyers will have the option to purchase a solar roof that will help charge the car and cool its interior.
"They did a great job with the design," said Henderson resident Jim Miller. "The concept of total electric and solar power to help keep the battery charged is impressive."
Karma's driver will also be able to select between two modes of driving. The first mode is Stealth Drive, which is the quiet economy mode for optimal relaxed and efficient driving. By flipping the second paddle behind the steering wheel, the car will switch to Sport Drive, which will access the full power of the vehicle.
In person, the Karma emits an imposing Dodge Viper-like stance, but without the boxy, sharp lines of established hybrids. It's pure sports sedan, inside and out, with the height of a Porsche 911, length of a Mercedes-Benz CLS and width of a BMW 7 Series.
The all-new exterior design utilizes a specially designed chassis that not only accommodates the drive train, but also provides housing for the battery components. Fisker uses lightweight materials throughout for optimal weight distribution. The self-contained climate control system is regulated through a full-length solar roof that also helps charge the car. In addition, regenerative brakes on the Karma recapture braking energy.
Partnering with environmentally conscious vendors, Fisker's "eco-chic" theme is carried to the interior where wood trim is sourced from naturally nonliving trees (i.e., fallen, fires, etc.), glass (EcoGlass) is made from naturally recyclable sand and leather is produced from 100 percent sustainable suppliers.
Price point for the Karma will be approximately $100,000 with the Project NINA models closer to $40,000. Thoroughly impressed, 12 customers, craving a beautiful car that made environmental sense and who also didn't want to compromise on performance, left deposits at Gaudin for their own Fisker Karma.
For more information, visit Gaudin Jaguar Porsche Aston Martin at 7200 W. Sahara Ave., call 284-7000 or go to www.jplv.net.