15 January 2008

Practical joker

Fisker's luxury hybrid makes eco-sense but looks like a Batman baddie

Fisker hybrid

So that's why it was a grainy picture. This is the Fisker Karma, the luxury hybrid from Denmark's finest designer that we told you about back in October.

Those details were accompanied by a grainy shot that got us all excited at the prospect of an Aston-like super-hybrid with looks to die for. 

But, seeing the Karma unveiled in Detroit, we now realise why we only got a blurry image before. Because the big four-seater isn't the finest-looking creature around. Although we like the sculpted flanks and low roofline, that front end is over-fussy and the grille is, well, terrifying.

However, look beyond the Jack Nicholson's Joker face, and the Karma makes a whole lot more sense. Powered by a new plug-in hybrid system called Q Drive, it features a small petrol engine that turns a generator to charge a lithium ion battery pack.

This powers an electric motor which turns the rear wheels, allowing the Karma to run on electric power alone for up to 50 miles. When the battery power is spent, the Karma plugs back into the mains or can be ordered with a full-length solar panel roof, allowing it to self-charge. Clever. 

Beyond its eco-credentials the Karma should be good to drive, too. The petrol engine and electric power work together in 'Sport' mode to propel it to 60mph in under six seconds, and the battery pack is positioned at the centre of the vehicle for decent balance. Because of the electric-hybrid drivetrain, maximum torque is available from zero rpm upwards. 

Good news in the price department, too: Fisker says the Karma will cost from just $80,000 when the first deliveries arrive towards the end of 2009. Fisker reckons that annual production could reach 15,000 cars - serious numbers for a manufacturer that, until now, has specialised in low-volume conversions.

We eagerly wait to find out if Fisker can deliver on the big promises. But first Henrik, please sort that horrible grin out. No joking.

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