The worldwide auto industry is taking the wrong path to environmental friendliness, Fisker Automotive co-founder Henrik Fisker told an audience at the recent Chicago Auto Show. "Every big car company is making one little electric car, mostly for satisfying its overall fleet average," Fisker explained to attendees at a luncheon sponsored by the Economic Club of Chicago. "But my prediction is we will have too many pure electric cars. Whereas, if you look at plug-in hybrids, there are a lot fewer of them and a lot more buyers."
Fisker, whose company builds the plug-in hybrid Karma and the forthcoming Atlantic, said consumers want stylish vehicles that can be easily identified as eco-friendly, but they also want the vehicles to be practical. Today's battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) don't currently fit well in either of those categories, he said. "We don't think it's wise to have a giant battery," Fisker said of BEVs. "You're carrying around this giant battery, and it costs a lot of money for your daily commute. And when you really want to go far, you can't do it anyway."
Click on the image below for a closer look at the Fisker Karma and Fisker Atlantic.
Fisker Automotive co-founder Henrik Fisker describes the Karma as a "sedan with a coupe-like appearance." Design highlights include a long hood, short deck, low roofline, wide stance, and pronounced fenders. (Source: Fisker Automotive)
Fisker chided the automotive press for not taking care to distinguish between plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. The result, he said, is that the low demand for pure electrics is being interpreted as a bad sign for plug-in hybrids. "A lot of people -- journalists, as well -- are putting this all in one big bowl and saying there's not a lot of demand," he told the audience. "Well, right, there's not a lot of demand for pure electric cars. But hybrids are on the rise and plug-in hybrids will be the next big step."
Fisker's comments are consistent with those of industry analysts who have said they expect plug-in hybrid sales to rise, while pure electrics will fall over the next few years. A recent study from KPMG International, for example, contended that consumer interest in plug-in hybrids jumped by 15 percentage points in 2012 alone, while pure electrics fell by five points during that period.
The inspiration for Fisker's $100,000-plus Karma came to him while watching actor Leonardo DeCaprio drive to the Academy Awards in a Prius a few years ago, Fisker said. Seeing a wealthy actor making an environmental statement by driving a Prius made him realize that there could be a market for those who want eco-friendly luxury. As a result, Fisker made it a mission to build a vehicle that would be easily recognized as a hybrid but would offer more style than a Prius. "With our car, we were very set on the idea that when you pass it by, it should not resemble a Mercedes or BMW," Fisker explained. "It should look like a completely different type of vehicle, which it does."
The Karma, which Fisker said can range from $100,000 to $125,000, accomplished that by employing solar roofs, reclaimed wood, 22-inch alloy wheels, and diamond-dust paint, in addition to the hybrid electric powertrain.
Fisker added that the company's engineers considered alternatives to a gasoline-burning engine, which is used by the Karma as a range extender and will be employed in the Atlantic. "We thought about other forms of energy, whether ethanol or diesel," he said. "But we wanted the consumer to have convenience. If they run out of electricity, there will always be a gas station. There are still more gas stations in the US than diesel (stations)."
Thus far, the biggest challenge has been the cost of starting a car company and dealing with a seemingly endless roster of regulations, he said. After investing more than a billion dollars, the company has sold only about 2,000 Karmas to date. "If you want to start a chain of 1,000 restaurants, you could start with one little restaurant and a couple hundred thousand dollars," Fisker explained. "But that just doesn't work in the car industry. You need hundreds of millions of dollars. The barrier to entry is huge."
The car business is a rough one, and takes no prisoners. Mr Fisker was probably packing his bags with that Cayman Islands ticket clenched between his teeth as soon as he ended your interview. Next they will be looking for who he sold the drugs to and later the car will appear in a time travel movie.
The real point is that the real target population continues to be ignored. Someone that can afford to spend $100K to $250K on a car, can basically do what they want; price is NO OBJECT. The "average" citizen that is looking for ECONOMY, has to consider both the cost of the vehicle and the cost of fuel......unless the vehicle cost is brought within an affordable range, there willl never be the required mass adoption for commercial success. The hybrid (plug-in or not) is that current best leap in technology. The pure electric is just another example of government trying to force technology on the basis of some leftist political agenda, disguised as compassionate concern for "the planet". It is not ready or practical at this time, like it or not! The ICE is still the best, most practical propulsion system overall.
I don't know that it's the number of choices as much as all the FUD and misinformation.
For example, just how does one score a Hybrid like the Prius as a battery powered car? (Non plug-in obviously) The last time I looked, 100% of the power was generated by an Internal Combustion Engine!
This is a fantastic step that improves the efficiency of the ICE. In one swoop it eliminates the waste of idling and acceleration. However it has practically nothing to do with making a viable plug in battery vehicle.
Excellent observations of driving habits. I am shopping for a vehicle with top MPG. It seems that ICE only cars can get great MPG (driven correctly). However, the hybrid still gets better (when driven correctly).
I think many purchase the hybrid for the sticker MPG but in practice drive with no intention of optimizing MPG.
The pure electric still suffers from range anxiety. Until that is solved, it will remain a small percentage of car sales.
I think the auto manufacturers are optimizing ICE and batteries because they have to, but they will eventually have to address letting the car control driving habits. Perhaps even automated driving (or at least control the acceleration/deceleration functions, and not the old Toyota way;-)
Fisker makes a great point, that the automotive companies are making a (not-in-demand) model of electric that not many want, just to cheat on the CAFE standards. Typical of the mentality that got the automotive companies in trouble in the first place, fighting regulations (with countless millions of wasted dollars) instead of using them to their advantage and just designing cars the way they are supposed to. Obviously, the majority of the American public wants to be economical, that is why these standards are being pushed. Instead of bowing to the will of the people, the auto companies are copping out of a challenge by throwing money at something just to cheat or beat the system, the American public, and mankind itself by sticking to archaic technology and refusing to progress into the next millenium. These lame tactics by the automotive companies breed contempt and keep us 'tied' to the pump, with the oil industry deciding when how our budgets get organized. Shame on the media for repeating the pro-oil propaganda of lumping all electrics and hybrids into the same category. It's time we opened our eyes to the future, and it is not ICE driven, unless we are using H2 for the power source.
Tesla Motors plans to roll out a “compelling, affordable electric car” that will sell for about half the price of its high-profile Model S by the end of 2016, company chairman Elon Musk said last week.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.