Fisker Karma gets rated by EPA, Fisker fights back
The Karma, a four-door, four-seat luxury sports sedan, comes to us courtesy of Fisker Automotive, which touts itself as an "American manufacturer of premium green automobiles." The Karma is an extended-range plug-in hybrid, which means it runs solely on electric power but includes a gasoline engine as a generator. Fisker claims a stunning 100 mpg (or 2.35 liter per 100 km) mileage for the Karma.
The technology is called Q-DRIVE and was developed by Quantum Technologies exclusively for Fisker. It features two 210 hp electric motors on the rear axle powered by a lithium-ion battery. A 2.0 liter, turbo-charged 4-cylinder direct-injection Ecotec petrol engine with 260 hp acts as a generator to resupply power to the battery for extended-range capabilities. The Karma can run up to 50 miles (80 km) on electric power alone and can be recharged from any electrical outlet. With the petrol engine, the Karma's range is upped to 300 miles (480 km). Among the impressive performance figures is a 0-62 mph time of around six seconds and a top speed of 125 mph.
However, the 2012 Fisker Karma sedan has now received emission certification and fuel economy ratings from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), allowing the company’s dealers to begin selling the car to customers immediately in most states, and Fisker aren't happy.
The EPA found that, when running in electric mode, the Fisker Karma sedan achieves the energy equivalent of 52 miles per gallon city/highway combined. The Karma’s all-electric range was found to be 32 miles by the EPA under its test criteria. These figures are worse than Fisker’s original claim of 50 miles. To put that figure in perspective, a Karma driver with a 40-mile commute who starts each day with a full battery charge will only need to visit the gas station about every 1,000 miles and would use just 9 gallons of gasoline per month, according to Fisker.
Fisker’s own analysis suggests that many Karma drivers will actually experience a longer all electric range under most every day driving conditions. Research also reveals that more than half of American’s have a daily commute of less than 32 miles, a comfortable distance for the Karma to run in electric-only mode from a single charge. But today Fisker have responded via their Facebook page, stating that:
We recently received final certification from the EPA, including the fuel economy label. The two primary numbers, 52 MPGe in all-electric battery mode and 20 MPG in gasoline range-extending mode, are based on the EPA’s tests and reflect one viewpoint of energy efficiency in those two modes. However, we do not believe that the label communicates the entire story.
As Karma drivers, you can utilize our electric-only mode most of the time – especially in the city – thereby achieving a much higher MPG than suggested by the EPA fuel economy label and contributing zero emissions during day-to-day driving. We strongly believe that many Karma drivers will get up to 50 miles of all-electric driving range on a single charge, as reflected in our early field testing.
Traditional fuel economy numbers are structured for a conventional vehicle running on gasoline as a single fuel. With a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, driver choices and operating behavior can affect the overall fuel economy more so than any other type of vehicle. The EPA tests for vehicles in this category are a relatively new endeavor and in our view do not reflect the variability that is inherent with a plug-in hybrid vehicle – and therefore, present a conservative scenario.
In short, the fuel economy of your Karma Sedan will depend on how you use it.
If you drive 32 miles or less in a single day, as 61% of drivers in the United States do, you could conceivably use no gasoline at all. If you drive 40 miles or less in a given day, as nearly 68% of drivers in the United States do, your overall fuel economy (assuming a full charge each day) will be the equivalent of 100 MPG.
So who do we believe? The EPA or Fisker? We'll wait until a car publication tests the Karma in real world driving before we make our decision.