By on January 15, 2010

What lies beneath?

Battery firm Ener1/EnerDel, which recently brought the EV firm Th!ink back from bankruptcy, has lost the battery contract for Fisker’s Karma luxury EV. According to Schaeffersresearch, Ener1 “decided it would be better pursuing higher-volume battery supply deals when larger automakers begin rolling out their versions of electric cars.” Says Ener1 CEO  Charles Gassenheimer, “we have some capacity constraints on our side. We’re interested in high volume programs in the future.” The public story is that due to Ener1’s Th!nk tie-up, Fisker’s October sales roll-out was too much, too soon. The real story illustrates the complicated relationships emerging between EV firms and battery suppliers.

“We have been testing several batteries over the last year and EnerDel was one of them,” Heinrik Fisker tells The Detroit Free Press. “The main thing was timing.” Actually, the main thing might well have been money. The WSJ reports that A123 Systems has replaced Ener1 as the supplier of lithium-ion batteries to Fisker’s Karma, making Fisker the second automaker to hook up with the battery startup after China’s SAIC. But this deal wasn’t like any other supply contract: A123 is investing $23m into Fisker, and partnering with its development of a next-generation EV known as “Project Nina.”

“The federal money has been a catalyst,” says A123 President and CEO David Vieau. Fisker received $529m in DOE loans to retool the Delaware plant where it plans on building its Project Nina sedan, while A123 has received $249m in DOE grants. A123’s investment reportedly helps Fisker meet the equity and US parts-sourcing-percentage requirements of its loan. In addition to investing $13m cash and $10m in stock into Fisker, A123 will also have to up production at its plant in Livonia, MI.

But what does it get out of the deal? According to Earth2Tech,

A123 will also have a chance to get more involved in the process of developing a vehicle start to finish than it has in the past, and potentially more than some competitors are able to do with other automakers

That could be a an important component to A123’s strategy, as it lost the Volt contract and has seen its Chrysler contract reduced as the ENVI program went underground. The only downside: Fisker’s still a bit of a fly-by-night. If the Karma launches as planned this October, logs solid sales and avoids scandal, Fisker could become an EV player… after all, they’re ahead of Tesla in that they’ve lined up their own factory. Still, it’s a big jump from the Valmet contract-built $90k luxury car to a Volt-esque $45k Project Nina sedan… and once upon a time it seemed that A123 could compete with the Asian manufacturers for established OEM EV battery business. But hey, you do what you can with what you have, right?

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2 Comments on “Fisker Parts Ways With Ener1, Hooks Up With A123...”

  • avatar

    Fisker still says it will put the Karma on the road by October. Right. Only some know-nothing government bureaucrats in the United States Department of Energy would believe that.

    Look at who is providing the electric drive train for Fisker — Quantum Technologies. Quantum is a public company, so you can look at their financial reports. Prepared to be scared by what you see. In my opinion, these guys are as close to a scam as it gets.

    With its Karma, Fisker is trying to build a car the likes of which no one has ever built. It’s not like the Tesla Roadster, which is just a Lotus Elise converted to electric drive.

    The Fisker Karma is more like the Volt. GM has thrown its massive resources and experience behind the Volt yet it still has a later release date. How can Fisker come out with its first car, of any kind, by October?

    Short answer — Fisker can’t.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame Fisker didn’t just stick to gifting the world with his car designs, which are glorious.
    The Evora is a great, but damn it’s a bummer it doesn’t have the Artega GT’s styling.  It would have been awesome to see him take on the new Esprit.  And when Aston finally redoes the Vantage and DB9, I think they’ll have a tough time hitting the mark without Fisker.
    His EV right now is just a beautiful design (save the moustache, IMHO).  It could have gone to a company able to deliver a car underneath it.  Maybe he can pull this off, but I doubt it, and he will have wasted precious years trying.

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