By on June 11, 2018

To my recollection, we’ve only had one EV-type vehicle thus far in the Rare Rides series, and it was Toyota’s ill-fated and corporately sabotaged RAV4 EV. That changes today, with another plug-in vehicle that crashed and burned.

Today’s Rare Rides is the first installment in a three-part trilogy of the life and times of the Fisker Karma.

The Fisker company was established in 2007, and spent the first few years of its life modifying BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Interiors, body kits, and engine modifications were the extent of its purview. But the company had bigger ideas in mind, and all the while had been working on a brand new hybrid to supplement its BMW leather kit income.

The first reveal of the Karma came at the North American International Auto Show in 2008. Audiences learned that the Karma was a plug-in hybrid vehicle in the same vein as Honda’s present-day Clarity plug-in. A 2.0-liter GM-sourced Ecotec engine producing 260 horsepower was found under its hood, and the Karma boasted electric motors at the rear wheels that each produced 161 horsepower. Between the engine and electric motors were battery packs. Manufactured by A123 Systems, the 20.1 kilowatt-hour battery was mounted right down the spine of the vehicle. All this equipment meant the Karma was a four-seat-only vehicle. No room for a luxurious bench in the rear.

Running on battery mode would allow the Karma a 32-mile range. At that point, or when the owner put the vehicle in Sport mode, the Ecotec engine fired up and supplied 260 horsepower to a generator. In turn, the generator sent power directly to the electric motors. In the Karma’s arrangement, the Ecotec engine was disconnected entirely from the wheels. Only the twin electric motors actively propelled the vehicle.

Using the gasoline engine extended the overall range to 230 miles, as the engine also charged the battery when it was running. Providing accessory power only, solar panels mounted on the roof aided overall range by reducing main battery strain on sunny days. Owners could also plug the Karma into the wall at charge points, adding to the versatility.

The Karma sounded very promising, and consumers lined up to spend between $102,000 and $116,000 on a range of three trims, prior to any options. Suitably, the three trims were called EcoStandard, EcoSport, and EcoChic — the latter of which did not contain any animal byproducts. Deliveries to consumers began in July of 2011, and buyers were eager to take up driving their new luxury sports ecomobile.

In Part II, we’ll see what those well-heeled customers found after taking delivery.

[Images: seller]

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24 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Tale of Fisker Karma (Part I)...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    Oh, I’m looking forward to parts two and three.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, we all know how this movie ends. But if you haven’t seen one of these in person, you’re missing out. It’s even more slinky and seductive than it looks in pictures.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Too many panels kill the flow, it looks like a jigsaw puzzle. The dubs are cartoonish in scale. Fail.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    As seen in the 2014 movie “In Order of Disappearance” aka Kraftidioten.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Fisker, like Tesla, existed to collect green subsidies from the Obama administration. The car itself was incidental.

    But with roadster curves stretched out to the footprint of a Tahoe combined with the height of a Toyota 86 it sure did look incidentally good.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Fisker, like Tesla, existed to collect green subsidies from the Obama administration.”

      What green subsidies did they receive?

      If you’re referring to the *consumer* EV tax break, that was enacted by the Bush Administration. At the moment, Tesla, GM, and Nissan are closest to seeing that consumer benefit expire due to their respective sales quantities.

      FWIW, Nissan has benefited the most; saving $7500 on a $100k+ car is like deducting sales tax in some regions.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Fisker was loaned $192 million by the DOE, the only reason that it wasn’t more was that they went bankrupt even faster than the DOE could hand them the other $330M that they’d been scheduled to give them, anyhow at the end of the day taxpayers were out $140M.

        Joe Biden’s friends in Delaware gave Fisker $21M. That’s gone too.

        DOE gave A123, Fisker’s battery partner, $250M. Gone.

        Michigan gave A123 another $140 million. Gone.

        The Chicoms bought out all that’s left of both companies for about 10 cents on the dollar.

        • 0 avatar
          healthy skeptic

          The DOE gave a &450 million dollar loan to Tesla, which was paid back 9 years early, with interest. Still here.

          Ford and Nissan got much bigger DOE loans. Both still here.

          So it seems the Bush administration’s loans chalked up some successes as well.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Contrary to popular opinion, I never thought these looked good.

    “The Karma sounded very promising, and consumers lined up” – Sorry, putting a 2L Ecotec in a highly complex drivetrain never sounded ‘promising’ to me, and at the end of its short run only 1800 were built. In contrast, Tesla built 1500 cars in the month of December 2012 alone.

    Fisker was a bust from beginning to end.

  • avatar

    Teslas are great (I guess) but the Karma’s stunningly beautiful in person.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    To my eye this is the sexiest 4-door in recent memory, the kind of thing that could never be produced by a mainstream automaker- probably for lots of good reasons that are above my pay grade.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      They are amazing looking. Wider and lower in person. Its one of those cars that even at a distance is instantly recognizable as “different” and immediately catches your eye.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve never seen one in person but it would make a great Maserati, bring on the flat crank V8

  • avatar
    MK

    Yeah i was hoping they’d make it back in the day. MUCH better looking than Tesla and no range issues but Tesla had a much better handle on actually building cars…. Which is really not a compliment to Fisker.

    Someone above mentioned the Fiskers presence and it is really eye-catching in person, a Tesla is fairly anonymous on the road but the Karma absolutely stands out when you see it. A neighbor in Florida had one and it was beautiful to see.

    Closest replacement I’ve seen is prob the Mission-e/Taycan

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Saw one on the 407 a few years ago. My better half who views vehicles as appliances asked ‘what is that beautiful car’. It is gorgeous in person.

    And didn’t James May select it as his ‘car of the year’ at one point?

  • avatar
    z9

    There are numerous highly entertaining videos on YouTube about how absolutely lame this car is.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    I liked the exhaust smoke entering the cabin.

  • avatar

    Too bad the photos were taken at “standing level” instead of “belt level”. Thanks, Corey. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

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