Fisker Karma PHEV hits the tarmac for the first time

The Fisker Karma PHEV during its hot lap at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Look for production vehicles in May next year

The Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) recently demonstrated how quick it is in two ways – it went from 0-60mph in six seconds and from concept to public driving debut just 19 months after the company was formed. The 403hp prototype Karma PHEV almost silently attained a top speed of 100mph (using no gasoline) as it made its way around the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races.

The Karma intends to prove that fuel-efficient vehicles (it can achieve well over 100mpg) shouldn’t compromise on appearance and excitement – the things the company says that made us fall in love with cars in the first place. And company CEO and designer Henrik Fisker should know. He’s the man credited with designing the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9.

California-based Fisker Automotive is developing the full size Karma sedan to be its first production PHEV. Although the Fisker Karma can reach 60mph in six seconds and has a top speed of 125mph, the company says its miserly fuel consumption also means carbon emissions are lower than today’s hybrids.

Power pack

A 23kW/h lithium-manganese Enerdel battery provides power to a pair of electric motors that deliver a whopping 403hp — and an impressive 959 pound-feet of torque — to the rear wheels. Fisker claims the car has a range of 50 miles (80km) on electric power. As the battery winds down, a 2.4-liter turbocharged GM Ecotec engine will power a 175kW generator to keep the electric motors turning to an encouraging 300 miles (480km). The company says the car will deliver 100mpg in combined city and highway driving.

Drivers will be able to select between two modes of driving. The first mode is ‘Stealth Drive’, which is the quiet economy mode for optimal relaxed and efficient driving. By flipping a second paddle behind the steering wheel, the car will switch to ‘Sport Drive’, which will access the full power of the vehicle.

“This demonstration represents a significant milestone for Fisker Automotive and PHEV technology,” said Fisker. “The future of clean cars is bright.”

What we see today is almost what we'll get. Fisker says the car is 99 percent of what will hit our roads in May 2010 when the first production vehicles roll out, at upwards of USD$87,900.

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