However, ever since I began writing about it in late 2007, I was always skeptical about whether it actually reach production. Numerous other plug-in vehicles like the Phoenix SUT and Aptera 2e have succumbed to the realities of trying to launch a new carmaker. Even Tesla struggled with the launch of the Roadster and the Model S will be at least two years late to market and the company has never had a profitable quarter.
Much to my surprise the Karma is now trickling out the Valmet factory in Finland although it too is late. As of today, Fisker can even legally sell it in the United States after having received it fuel economy and emissions certification from the EPA.
Just as the final label fuel economy values of Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf remained a mystery right up until they got EPA approval, the same is true of the Karma. In a release published by Fisker today, the numbers came up well short of what the startup has been bragging about for the past several years.
Instead of the claimed 50 mile electric range, the 20 kWh lithium ion battery is only rated for 32 miles per charge. Now that the EPA has settled on a procedure for estimating electric driving range, this drop was to be expected.
Plug-ins like the Karma, Volt, Leaf and the upcoming Prius PHEV are tested on the various drive cycles with a full charge and then recharged to determine how much electricity was consumed. The electrical consumption is then extrapolated to determine total range and then factored down account for real world factors like using headlights, AC and traffic. Just as the Volt's range dropped from 40 miles to 35 and the Leaf from 100 miles to 73, the Karma will carry a label that rates it 32 miles per charge.
Of course real world range will vary tremendously based on factors like driving style and environmental conditions. A Volt can achieve somewhere around 25-27 miles in the depths of winter or easily get over 50 miles on a nice spring day. Getting 50 miles from a Karma under optimal conditions, shouldn't be too challenging.
Like the Volt, the Karma carries a gasoline engine to run a generator and maintain the charge once the plug-power is used up. However, unlike the Chevy ER-EV, the luxury sedan lacks some of the more interesting drivetrain tricks cooked up by the engineering team led by Larry Nitz, Pam Fletcher and Andrew Farah at the GM Tech Center. The Volt still manages to achieve 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined running on gas.
I give a much more detailed explanation of how the Volt works in my e-Book on the car's development. It's available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GY0SZC/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=samsthought-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B005GY0SZC&adid=01THG4PKP373YNMGVWC8& , B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/charging-into-the-future-sam-abuelsamid/1104806909?ean=2940013095755&itm=1&usri=recharging%2bthe%2bcar and the iBooks store http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/recharging-the-car/id457122112?mt=11
The Karma only manages to squeeze 20 mpg out of every gallon of petrol. That's not bad for a big luxury car like this, but frankly not all that impressive considering all the hype. If you drive less than 40 miles a day (which covers about three-quarters of all driving in the US) and have somewhere to charge it regularly, you can get by with little or no gasoline use. But if you have a longer commute, there might be better options out there, although perhaps not as stylish.
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