Henrik Fisker, founder of Fisker Automotive, was on his way to the airport, but his cell phone was at the ready. When he’s not preparing the truly outrageous $80,000 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid for an October launch, he has time to think about another, rather different car.
“If we were to get a Department of Energy low-interest loan, we could get a head start on a higher-volume, lower-cost car,” he said. “It’s always been in our business plan, but this would allow us to start earlier. We could create thousands of new jobs in the U.S., and we could be producing cars in 29 months.”
Of course, this is Fisker, so it would still be an ultra high-performance car. Just smaller. The market is getting crowded with fast electrics: In addition to Tesla, with its Roadster and Model S, there's also new entry Velozzi, which is partnering with Bayer Material Science LLC to build "commercially viable eco-friendly alternative energy vehicles," including an outrageous supercar.
The DOE has $25 billion in funding for battery and EV makers through a dedicated fund for companies willing to build plants in the U.S. Although the money was approved in 2007, none of it has been awarded yet, and lately new startups have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring rain—all of them in line for that same pot of gold.
Fisker is no upstart, however. He says he has 1,300 advance orders for the high-performance Karma (which is complemented by a to-be-added convertible version). More than 30 dealers have been signed up. “We have over-subscription of dealer interest,” Fisker said. The plan is to produce 1,200 cars a month, starting in June of next year.
The Karma will be built in Finland, but the small car will of necessity have to be made in the U.S.A. “We’re looking at several states in the Midwest,” Fisker said. “The idea is to find a closed auto plant and retool it. We would hire a lot of engineers.”
The new car would be a plug-in hybrid, like the Karma. “Pure electrics are still a niche product because of the range problem,” he said. “And the battery in a plug-in hybrid is only a quarter to a third the size of what is required for a pure EV. An affordable plug-in hybrid would have real mass-market potential. Hundreds of thousands of people would pay premium money.”
Fisker is starting to market the Karma, and here's the pulse-pounding results: