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."
I just went through a similar exercise. However I basically bought the gas version of the hybrid.
The ICE only car is EPA rated for 42MPG highway and from what I was able to see from a number of owners was that this was conservative. Now that I have the car I find that high 30's is not unreasonable even for my short trip city driving.
My normal routien is actually even more stringent that the EPA city driving cycle. However with mild Hypermiling techniques I can push 40MPG. While a Prius might get well over 50MPG doing this, even 38MPG is so close it seems far less practical
One thing that struck me was that it's somewhat difficult to drive the car in a manner that will get this sort of economy. The car does have a real time MPG indicator that is helpful but it could be a lot better. What strikes me is that I think the performance of the new crop of "40MPG" ICE cars could be much better if drivers were provided better tools. I suppose a lead foot remover would top the list.
I suppose that this is a bit of a problem since the companies don't get any credit for it from the EPA. However the potential savings seem obvious. Basically we need to get the driver in the loop.
This same car easily exceeds it's 42MPG highway rating.
It strikes me that the Hybrid has driven the mfg to find new efficiencies in the ICE part of the system. These new efficiencies are now flowing over into the ICE only vehicles.
What "makes sense" depends on what one is trying to do. If you commute a short distance to work, make local shopping trips, and have access to a gas car for the occasional long trip, then even a simple electric with lead batteries "makes sense." If you do long distance trveling all the time, then it does not. It's like asking whether a shovel or a hoe makes more sense.
Hello all. I have a VCR that I'm converting to digital - that will make it so much better! Hybrids are like compact fluorescent lights: we wish we could do LED but we settle for CFL.
I cannot understand the Fisker business model. The car looks nice but it's no performer. The ICE is too small (2.0L, 260 HP, 20 MPG, 0-60 in 6.3 seconds) for the supercar price tag and the battery is too small (20 kWh, 32 miles range) for the average tree hugger. It's also very small inside - subcompact, per EPA rating - yet weighs 5300 lbs. What segment of the market are they targeting? Why wouldn't you go for a Tesla that has much better performance, seats more people and has more range? The Tesla is also not a bad looking car and you can charge it at home or on the road for free.
Remember that a (non-plugin) hybrid still uses fossil fuels or biofuel as it sole power source. The increase in efficiency comes primarily from regenerative braking, which recovers energy that would otherwise be lost to friction and stores it as electrical charge. This is at the expense of having an entire secondary electric powertrain and large battery to haul around everywhere, which is a lot of added weight and expense. This is partly why high-efficiency gasoline vehicles are more than competitive with hybrids.
A plug-in hybrid changes this equation; now one can use electricity as the primary or alternate energy source. Commuters who recharge every night may drive electric-only for weeks or months at a time, only using the combustion engine for longer trips. Of course, fossils fuels may be used to generate the electricity somewhere, but the point-source pollution is easier to monitor and control at the power plant, and as long as electricity for the consumer is less expensive than other fuels, the plug-in hybrid may make a lot more sense economically and ecologically.
My wife and I just went shopping for a new car, and drove the Honda Civic hybrid. We liked it, but the mileage ratings were not significantly better than the gasoline version, for a lot more money. The plug-in version is not available until later this year. We wanted to buy a hybrid to "do the right thing", but it made no sense economically.
True. But this car could serve a market that exists and do so in a more fuel efficient manner. It would be interesting to see what the carbon footprint of manufacture vs ownership for all cars is. I wonder if the gas cars would have less of an impact because of the lack of batteries and solar cells.
I think you have to put the term "eco-friendly" in perspective. How much does a Prius cost, to own or to manufacture? If a millionaire turns up in a Prius, the statement is not "I'm saving gas", it's "I'm saving resources".
The key word is the "Range Extender". Combined with a proper low fuel consuming engine could be the future car on the road. I can imagine than the people will drive electric in the city and electric or conventional outside. By the way "Range extender" is an excelent term to look for in web.
It's a roomy sedan, I saw one up close and it has a legit back seat. I think you have to put this in perspective. The 7 series BMW that this is competing with gets 17 mpg combined. You cannot have luxury without weight, and it takes more power and more gas to move that extra weight. This car answers that dilemma in an incredibly elegant way. If I had 125k to drop on automobile I would definitely buy one of these. But alas, engineers are a bunch of ninnies and never step up to ask for the money they deserve so I won't be able to afford one any time soon.
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.
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