May 10, 2008

Spy Shots: Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid

Fisker Automotive is keen to launch its Karma plug-in hybrid by the end of the next year and is hard at work testing prototypes of the upcoming eco-saloon in Southern California. Less than five months out from the concept version’s debut at the Detroit Auto Show, the new prototype reveals Fisker is keeping its promise that the production version will be almost identical to the original concept.

The new Karma will be a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which means it will be able to run on electric power alone for short distances and relies on an internal combustion engine to generate power to top up the batteries when they’re running low. An optional roof-mounted solar panel will also be available as well as a regenerative braking system. Fisker has already confirmed the electric part of the drivetrain will be supplied by Quantum Technologies, and according to a company spokesman the engine “may” have a German origin. Rumor has it the engine will be a 1.4L petrol unit sourced from Volkswagen.

The car is said to offer up to 50 miles of electric-only driving on a single charge and a claimed top speed of more than 125mph. The 0-60mph sprint should take just six seconds.

Fisker is facing a number of challenges in getting its Karma to market. Namely, a new lawsuit that claims Fisker stole the original designs for the car from rival electric car company Tesla Motors. Another issue is the development of reliable and safe lithium-ion batteries.

If Fisker can overcome these two problems, we should see the Karma on American streets by the end of next year and in Europe soon after.

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