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Go Green In Style With Plug-In Luxury Sedan

The engineers at Tesla Motors may need to look in their rearview mirrors. Fisker Automotive has announced plans to produce a hybrid sedan with performance that would rival Tesla’s famous Roadster. The four-door plug-in Karma promises 0- to 60-mph acceleration in less than 6 seconds, a top speed of 125 mph, and emission-free driving for up to 50 miles a day (see the figure).

“In creating Fisker Automotive Inc., we sought to develop a range of beautiful, environmentally friendly cars that make automotive sense without compromise,” said Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker. “Our hope is that the Fisker Karma will be the start of a new trend in the automotive business—less concession with more efficiency.”

Developed by Quantum Technologies, the Karma’s Q Drive gives the car its green power. It comprises a small gasoline engine that turns the generator, which charges the lithium-ion battery pack, powering the electric motor and turning the rear wheels. Much like Chevrolet’s Volt concept car (see “Volt Charges Up The Crowd In Detroit”), the battery pack carries enough power to provide up to 50 miles of gasoline-free driving.

Drivers who don’t exceed this limit and plug their Karma in to a standard 110- or 220-V outlet to fully recharge in between trips may only have to fill up their gas once a year. Owners can add to their energy efficiency with an optional full-length solar roof that helps charge the car and provides cooling for the cabin while the car is parked. And, consumers can purchase a set of solar panels for their home or garage so they can go off the grid and still charge up their Karma.

Don’t let the four doors fool you. The Karma was built with style as well as efficiency and performance in mind. Its designers made it as tall as a Porsche 911, as long as a Mercedes Benz CLS, and as wide as a BMW 7. Aluminum plays a significant role in its structure and body panels, keeping overall weight low, while the low and wide profile recalls some Formula One racecars. A spacious cabin and trunk as well as state-of-the-art navigation and DVD systems add to the luxury feel.

Of course, you can expect a luxury price too. The first Karmas will roll off the line in the fourth quarter of 2009 with a starting price of $80,000. The company expects annual production to reach 15,000 cars. Like Tesla’s Signature Series of Roadsters, the first 99 Karmas will be individually numbered and signed by Henrik Fisker and produced in the color and trim of the car that helped announce the line at the North American International Auto Show in January. These premiere models will cost $100,000.

By comparison, Tesla Motors delivered its first production Roadster to its facility in San Carlos, Calif., earlier this month. The company expects to continue production this quarter with a goal of 600 for the model year and a base price of $98,000. While all of these cars already have been reserved, consumers can get on the waiting list for Tesla’s 2009 models.

Fisker Automotive

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