Fisker reveals production Karma, Karma S concept

  • 27-Jan-2009 05:26 EST
ZFisker Karma Space FrameRendering.jpg
The all-aluminum spaceframe of the Karma and Karma S, developed by Norsk Hydro, is designed to provide superior body rigidity and damping. 

After debuting its Karma in concept form at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, Fisker took another step closer to meeting its fourth-quarter ’09 delivery target by displaying the production version of the plug-in hybrid premium sports sedan at this year’s show. The automaker also provided a glimpse of what’s to come off the same architecture and powertrain in the near future.

The production Karma retains many of the styling cues of the concept, with only minor design changes made to aid in cooling and crash safety. The upper grille and lower intake have both been enhanced for improved airflow, and a new aerodynamic diffuser has been installed under the rear bumper to help cool the electric drivetrain. The side mirrors have also been moved outward 23 mm (0.9 in) because the rear haunches obscured much of the driver’s vision on the concept.

The biggest change from the exterior perspective, according to Thomas Fritz, Director of Engineering at Fisker, is the addition of a B-pillar, which was necessary to help meet forthcoming crash safety requirements. “There is a new pole test coming in 2012 that’s like cutting a knife through the vehicle,” Fritz said. “In any case, especially for structure and for light weight, you have to have a B-pillar.”

Fritz and the Fisker team have embraced the opportunity to meet such an aggressive production schedule and are on pace to deliver the first 100 cars by the end of 2009 and expect to reach full production of 15,000 vehicles per year in 2010.

“It’s all in the details,” Fritz said. “The challenge could be the cost, timing, material, testing, durability, but when you have people who know how to do this now in the industry, you wouldn’t say it is a challenge. It is just we have to work through these things because the car has a new powertrain and new architecture.”

The Norsk Hydro-developed all-aluminum spaceframe is wrapped around the plug-in hybrid powertrain, dubbed Q-Drive by Fisker partner Quantum Technologies. Q-Drive works in conjunction with a regenerative braking system and is comprised of two 201-hp electric motors powered by an advanced lithium-ion technology battery pack, helping to deliver an all-electric range of 50 mi (80 km). A generator attached to a 260-hp (194-kW) turbocharged 2.0-L Ecotec direct-injection gasoline engine provides extended-range capabilities.

The battery pack, supplied by Vancouver-based Advanced Lithium Power—which Fisker recently acquired a significant stake in—is positioned longitudinally below the floorpan along the vehicle’s centerline, positively impacting the car’s driving performance. 

“Our battery is very long, it’s very high, and it all sits in the tunnel,” Fritz said. “For a car that has a low center of gravity and all the mass is in the center of the vehicle, it’s very good for driving dynamics. We don’t have the masses hanging out there when you’re driving.”

While shown in production form, the Karma will continue to receive minor tweaks as it approaches its delivery date, most notably seeking out ways to further reduce mass.

“As a plug-in hybrid, this is not a lightweight car,” Fritz said. “We have to do everything as lightweight as possible for fuel economy, the driving dynamics, and that’s our approach right now to pull weight out of this. We are very well on track.”

Changes to the production Karma’s interior were significant, making extensive use of touch screens and eco-friendly materials. Wood trim is sourced from non-living trees, either trees that have fallen, burned in a forest fire, or have been salvaged from American lake bottoms. For an additional charge, an animal-free EcoChic option will be offered employing Bamboo Viscose, a soft-hand textile, in place of leather.

One of the unique exterior features of the Karma is its solar roof, which serves to ventilate the passenger compartment and reduce the effects of radiant heating. The roof, or lack thereof, is also what sets apart the concept Fisker unveiled at this year’s show, the Karma S—designated “S” for Sunset.

The hardtop convertible will have a unique wheelbase and two doors as opposed to four, but it will share the Karma’s aluminum spaceframe architecture and Q-Drive powertrain.

“We laid out the architecture of the Karma to have multiple top halves; this is the second one,” Fritz said. “There will be a lot of commonality, a lot of carryover, so that we don’t spend money we don’t need to spend just because there are a couple millimeters [difference] here and there.”

The Karma S uniquely features a chrome-accented power retractable hardtop that stows in the trunk and a design with more-pronounced curves. It is currently slated to reach production in the 2011 time frame.

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