Every time the price of gasoline starts shooting up rapidly, interest in battery-powered vehicles starts to rise as well. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to get around in our daily lives, not having to worry about the price at the pump?
These days, there are electric cars available for sale. You can get a Nissan Leaf, which can go 60-100 miles on a fully-charged battery. If its $35,000+ price tag is a little steep for your budget, you can check out Mitsubishi’s i electric car for around $29,000. Or for a combination of plug-in battery power and the freedom to drive anywhere you’d like, the electric Chevrolet Volt enjoys the best of both worlds, with an on-board generator to keep the juice flowing after the battery is used up.
Those all may be well and good, but what if you have the means for a luxury car and appreciate style, but you’d still prefer to drive gas-free? Have I got a car for you! It’s called the Fisker Karma, and it’s the most stylish, most luxurious EV available so far.
The brand name may not be familiar, but Fisker Automotive is the brainchild of man named Henrik Fisker, a designer whose career has included stints at BMW and Aston Martin. He decided to form his own company and produce eye-catching cars with an eco-friendly vibe.
After several years of delays in getting things moving (starting a car company from scratch is no mean feat in this day and age), the Fisker Karma is upon us. It’s long, swoopy, roomy inside, and it’s electric powered. Plug it in at night, unplug it in the morning, and you’re free to motor about without using a drop of gasoline.
The Karma’s battery pack is good for “up to” 50 miles of driving, depending on how and where you choose to drive it. Even in a worst-case scenario, you should be able to cover 25 miles with no problem, which would be most peoples’ commutes in the urban region we call Los Angeles.
But you won’t get stranded if you want or need to go farther. Like the Chevy Volt, there’s an engine under the hood, officially called a generator. Its job is to automatically kick to life, run at a certain high-speed idle, and send juice to the electric motors to keep the car going. Yes, that engine runs on the pricey gasoline that most every car on the road needs, but it’s only used when you absolutely need it.
The 2.0 liter engine is actually sourced from GM, which also helped Fisker with engineering support on a contract basis. If you want to drive the Karma to New York, you could. Official mileage ratings of the overall system are 52 mpg. (It’s actually measured as “mpg-e” with the e standing for equivalent. The EPA had to come up with a new designation for electric vehicles.)
But since this is a high-end luxury sports sedan, you can also combine the charged-up battery pack and the generator (the Volt uses one or the other, and the driver has no choice in the matter) to produce 400 horsepower, which can move this 5,300 pound car to 60 miles per hour in just over six seconds.
Yes, the Karma is quick and fast. Henrik Fisker notes that it should be compared with other high-end four door cars, like the Maserati Quattroporte or Porsche Panamera, both of which fall into the same price category as his new electric ride. Base price for a 2012 Karma is $102,000. But for that amount you get a lot of gee-whiz tech-y features, superb comfort, and the drop-dead looks of a Corvette, a Ferrari and a sleek 4-door all rolled into one.
Don’t fret if you’re thinking it’d be nice to drive a Fisker for a lot less money. You will be able to someday, if the company’s plans carry through. Selling Karmas for six figure price tags will allow them to step up the rollout of their next model, which they say will cost about half as much.
That one, as well as the flagship Karma could be a sign of things to come. Desirable vehicles that can get around without having to stop at a most dreaded place of late: the corner gas station.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave