We Get Fisker Karma To Go Farther Than EPA

By John O'Dell December 8, 2011

Green Fisker Drive lede.jpg

For years, Fisker Automotive co-founder, chief executive officer and head designer Henrik Fisker insisted that the exotic plug-in hybrid sports sedan his company was developing would deliver 50 miles of all-electric range before its 4-cylinder gasoline engine/generator kicked in and started burning hydrocarbons. Counter to the claim, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the 2012 Fisker Karma (above) recently and, after applying its adjustments for plug-in technology, ruled that the car would have a window sticker that said 32 miles of all-electric range and 20 miles per gallon on gasoline.

The EPA’s findings left Fisker and his crew quietly angry, but reckoning there was no sense in hollering at the federal regulatory agency. Instead, the company issued a polite statement that said, in effect, “Yeah, but those are numbers are based on a test protocol – in the real world, drivers will find that they regularly do better.”  We asked Fisker for the chance to put that claim to the test and the company obliged.  We were given the opportunity to drive an early-engineering test car for three days, anywhere and anyhow we liked (except on the racetrack – that will come later with a real production car).

Beating EPA
AutoObserver got the car for the first day and, ignoring speed limits and climbing lots of steep hills – driving intended to stress the car’s fuel economy as much as possible – found that it returned a passable 36 miles of all electric range and around 25 miles per gallon on gasoline. Then we turned it over to Edmunds.com testing director Dan Edmunds (no relation) and he put it through its paces more properly, adhering to speed limits on city and highway courses he’s used for other fuel economy tests, including those run on Edmunds.com’s long-term Chevrolet Volt.

He has a full report on his more-clinical Fisker Karma fuel economy test on Edmunds.com, but we can report in this short version that on the best run the car delivered close to 45 miles of all-electric range and 23 miles per gallon on generator power and over the course of three days averaged about 41 miles in EV mode. With the Volt, Edmunds testing has reported an average of 38.4 miles of all-electric range and 34.3 miles per gallon with the gasoline engine/generator spinning. The differences make sense: although the Karma’s battery is larger than the Volt’s for a bit more all-electric range – 22 kilowatt-hours with 19 useable versus the Volt’s 16 kwh with about 11 useable – the Karma it is a much heavier car, thus reducing its gasoline fuel efficiency compared with the Volt.

Nice Ride For $96K
The short-form review of the car is that it drives well and has loads of oomph. But thanks to its weight (5,200 pounds), the Karma isn’t a rocket ship, regardless of its 403 horsepower and 960 lb.-ft. of torque. It is quite comfortable for driver and front-seat passenger and passably comfortable for rear-seat passengers if the trip is short (the back buckets simply aren’t built for distance). The Karma also has loads of the expected luxury touches: there’s reclaimed-wood trim, hand-stitched leather, a solar-panel roof the helps charge the battery and a huge, 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment center. The massive 22-inch wheels shod with rubber that would look at home on a Formula 1 racer  (285/35WR22 on back and 255/35WR22 up front) provide a stiff but not untenable ride – the only hangup is a lot of binding when the steering is cranked to full left or right lock. The Karma generates an eerie electronic noise, piped through external front and rear speakers, to warn pedestrians when the car is running in its nearly-silent full-electric mode.

All in all, the Karma is a nice ride with stylish sheetmetal, as befits both its $96,000 base price and designer Henrik Fisker’s credentials as the guy who did some of the classic modern Aston Martin and BMW designs. The Karma is one of a very small handful of vehicles we’ve driven in the past decade that had people following us into parking lots to ask questions and drifting dangerously close on the freeway as they leaned over to shoot a quick photo with their cellphone cameras.

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