Good Karma

Zero to 60 in less than 6 seconds — and zero emissions.

Irvine, Calif.-based Fisker Automotive is producing the Karma, a performance four-door sports sedan that performs for the environment as much as it does on the road. A plug-in electric-gas hybrid, the Karma is said to eco-responsibly zip to 60 mph from start in 5.8 seconds and attain a top speed of 125 mph from a maximum 403 horsepower.

The car premiered at the North American International Auto Show in 2007. Shortly afterward, “Green Car Journal” named it a finalist for its Green Car Vision Award. This January in Detroit, the company unveiled the Fisker Karma S concept at the 2009 North American International Auto Show with a power retractable hard top, which slips into the trunk.

Initial production of the Karma is pegged at 15,000 vehicles. The MSRP for the hardtop is $87,900.

The Karma results from a joint venture between Fisker Coachbuild, which will design the cars for Fisker Automotive, and Quantum Technologies, the technology. The plug-in hybrid, Q DRIVE, is available on this and other vehicles from Fisker Automotive — which says it is committed to create extraordinary cars that make no compromise with design, performance and the environment. Q DRIVE will also appear in Fisker Automotive’s future cars.

Enthusiasts are familiar with designer Henrik Fisker, the company’s CEO: His past creations include the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage as well as, for Fisker Coachbuild, the recent Tramonto and Latigo CS.

The Karma is powered by two 201-plus-horsepower electric motors, which, in turn, power a lithium-ion battery pack. A generator is attached to the turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec® direct injection gasoline engine. Impressively, a fully-charged Karma will carry you for the first 50 miles without burning any gas. At this 50-plus-miles point, the Karma becomes a hybrid, running on the battery and gas.

If you use your car less than 50 miles a day and charge the battery every night, Fisker says you will achieve an average fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon annually, and you would only need to fill the tank once a year.

Fisker Automotive cites figures indicating that the majority of pollution occurs from automobiles during daily work commutes and dropping children at school. In addition, the company notes, more than 60 percent of Americans and Europeans drive fewer than 50 miles for their daily work commute. Fisker estimates that if 60 percent of these people were driving a hybrid, oil consumption and pollution would be significantly reduced — without affecting individual lifestyles.

Drivers will benefit from two driving modes, activated by paddles behind the steering wheel: Stealth Drive, the economy mode for efficient everyday driving and, by engaging the second paddle, Sport Drive, which provides full power. This kind of flexibility offers what first-generation hybrids could not, Fisker Automotive says: You can drive an environmentally friendly vehicle while still enjoy the luxury, styling and performance you are accustomed to from traditionally powered vehicles.

In addition, Fisker is offering an integral climate control option. A solar roof — the world’s largest continuously formed glass solar panel roof on a car — will help charge the car and provide cooling for the interior cabin while your Karma is parked at work, at stores or while you’re at the gym. In addition, for your house, you can purchase solar panels for roofs or garages to generate electricity to charge the Karma at night.

In the best tradition of classic sports driving, the Fisker Karma is designed wide and low — about the height of a Porsche 911, the length of a Mercedes Benz CLS and the width of a BMW 7. This low center of gravity delivers superb driving characteristics to satisfy enthusiasts’ demands.

For superlative stopping performance, regenerative brakes recapture braking energy. The upper grill and large lower intake improve airflow, and an aerodynamic diffuser under the rear bumper helps cool the electric drivetrain.

The Karma is also sleekly styled — with a long hood resulting from the innovative chassis design. Inside, the cockpit features reusable materials such as wood trim sourced from fallen trees that have succumbed to age, rescued trees burned in forest fires and sunken trees from American lake bottoms.

The EcoGlass™ center console features a 10.2-inch touch sensitive screen controlling HVAC, audio and other vehicle systems. Behind the steering wheel, LCD gauges display critical information such as battery charge and vehicle speed.

Available trim levels are environmentally friendly. EcoSport™ minimizes the number of hides required in the leather appointments, and EcoChic™, the most advanced trim option, replaces leather with Bamboo Viscose, a soft hand textile. “The Karma’s material philosophy balances sensuality and accountability,” Fisker says. “We have gone to great lengths to use only environmentally conscious, classic automotive materials that support a commitment to our eco initiatives.”

Fisker Automotive Inc., 714.888.4255,