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Karma Hybrid comes with a drool worthy body and a near $100k price tag

Although many people had doubts whether Fisker's voluptuous Karma hybrid would ever make it to production, the company is making good on its promise to take on the big guns in the automotive world. To show its good faith, Fisker gave automotive publications the chance to test its first hybrid sedan.

For those that don't remember, the Karma features a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine (supplied by General Motors) that develops 260hp. In addition, the Karma also features two rear-mounted 201hp electric motors (402hp total) which get their power from a 21 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Like the current generation Prius (as an optional feature), there are solar panels in the roof to power interior accessories.

According to the previews, despite having a relatively complex and powerful 260hp engine on tap, it is only used as a generator. As a result, the Karma's electric motors are always providing the forward thrust for the vehicle.

Car and Driver:

Tugging the “sport” paddle to the left of the steering wheel brings additional energy to bear. When the gasoline engine kicks in to supplement the battery pack’s wattage—to trim the 0-to-60-mph run from a claimed 7.9 seconds to 5.9, or to add 250 miles to the driving range—the extra thrust is accompanied by the whistle of a turbo spooling up, the snarl of angry exhaust gas, and a resonant boom or two…

But the physics conspire against it keeping pace with other $100K sports sedans. In spite of the joys of low-rpm electric torque, the realities of a curb weight well above 4000 pounds and only one gear ratio mean that mileage is where this car excels. 

Inside Line:

All the exterior panels on the Karma are made of either aluminum — including the hood and outer door panels — or molded resin composite as on all four fender panels. The supersize 124.4-inch wheelbase (almost 10 inches longer than on a Porsche Panamera) is the exterior's most notable dimension and the 22-inch wheels bookend the look quite nicely... 

Our only gripe was that the Karma didn't feel as solid all around as its German and Japanese competitors. Wind noise and road noise, however, are very well contained overall. Some smaller wheels might help out in the ride quality department, too, but according to Fisker's engineers, a change in that direction would bring the center member of the steering mechanism a little too close to the ground. A set of 21-inch all-season tires is as small as they're willing to go. 


But the Karma has several vital factors in its favor, not least its stop-the-traffic looks, its thorough engineering, its great driving characteristics and a price that, while high, doesn’t look unrealistic against the competition. If the car makes a good start — and the 3,000 orders already held seem to promise as much — it could easily become the next must-have automobile among Hollywood’s glitterati. 

The 2012 Fisker Karma is expected to have a base price of $95,500. Conveniently, this places it in direct competition with the Porsche Panamera Hybrid S (base price $95,000). There's no question that the Karma has the Panamera beat (by far) on looks, but the Panamera has a proven family history/pedigree while the Karma is starting with a clean slate. 

With 3,000 buyers having already waiting in line to get their hands on the Karma, at least a wealthy few are willing to give the vehicle a chance.

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By Solandri on 2/21/2011 8:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
Pulls out favorite rhyme:

In fourteen hundred and ninety two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Divide the year of his voyage by two,
and you get the number of watts in a horsepower.

Assume a 1 m^2 rooftop. 130 W peak is only 0.17 hp. If you figure the car like most needs 25 hp to maintain highway cruise, at noon the roof panel extends the car's battery range by .17/25 = 0.68%. For a 25 mile drive during a rush hour commute when the sun is not at peak, the panels are probably only providing about 0.1 miles extra range. About 500 feet.

How about saving money in terms of staving off when the gas engine will kick in? Well, the article says with the gas engine it'll get 40 mpg highway. So that extra 500 feet represents 0.0024 gallons of gas saved. At $3/gal and a 25 mile commute, that's 0.7 cents worth of gas you save per trip. 2 trips a day, 250 trips a year, that's $3.50/year in gas you save.

Now say if instead of running accessories, they had made it so the panel is used to charge the battery while the car is parked. Figure over an 8 hour work-day the roof panel generates 65 W average, that's a total of 0.52 kW-hr per day. Electricity costs about $0.11 per kW-hr, so it'll save you 5.7 cents worth of electricity per day running it. If the panels cost you $200 to install (which is a little cheaper than what you'll pay for your home), it'll take 9.6 years for them to pay for themselves. Assuming every day is sunny.

It's a marketing gimmick, nothing more. People vastly overestimate how much power you can get from solar without covering huge swaths of area with panels. There's a reason all those "cars" in those solar powered races look like little more than bicycles with a housing covered in solar panels on top of them.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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