The “world’s first extended-range EV” was launched recently by its American-based company to the applause of techies and green-oriented people of many stripes.

Old news you say? Not so fast. This was not the Chevrolet Volt, but a Fisker Karma delivered July 26 – not to Leonardo DiCaprio as had been reported – but to another VIP.

We will get to the delivery shortly, but first will explain that according to the Irvine, Calif.-based company, a subtle but significant distinction defines the petrol-electric-powered Karma as “extended range” – a description that Chevrolet has contended that it pioneered.


2012 Fisker Karma.

This assertion notwithstanding, these were opening lines to Fisker's recent press release:

“The Fisker Karma is the world's first extended range EV - offering responsible luxury, incomparable performance and seating for four. Powered by twin 201 HP electric motors that may be augmented by an on-board engine generator, the Karma is capable of delivering over 300 miles of responsible driving - and a top speed of 125 mph.”

The press release does not say whether "responsible driving" includes a top speed of 125 mph on American roads. The likely answer is probably not, but if you have not noticed, it is very easy to misunderstand or react to things read in cyberspace.

Case in point: Since this looked like an example of one-upmanship being played by a company that sourced its engine from GM, and is working to re-purpose one of its old assembly plants, we put in an inquiry to GM’s two media reps assigned to the Volt. Unfortunately, we were told, “Sorry Jeff. We don't have a comment to respond to this.”

Next we tried Fisker’s Spokesman, Roger Ormisher, and he answered his cell phone – minutes before he said he was ready to call it a day at his hotel room in Milan, Italy. We had been told to direct inquiries to him, but not that he was in Italy instead of California, thus inadvertently managed to get him at 11:45 p.m. Oops.

Although he said he had worked a long day answering questions at a European media driving event, Ormisher instantly forgave apologies for the inopportune timing, and cheerfully invited a several-minute interview.


It's not an EREV, it's an EVer.

We told him GM had refused to comment, so he dove right into that topic to diffuse some of the feelings his company’s press release might have stirred up.

“We don’t see it as competitive, we see it as us, GM, others,” Ormisher said. “We don’t see us as direct competitors, we see us as people involved in the future.”

GM has one solution, Fisker has another, Tesla has another, and so on, he said. Development of electric cars of various sorts is collaborative; the effort is toward a common goal – but Ormisher was otherwise clear that there is a difference between Fisker's solution and GM's.

Ormisher said the Karma is truer to the “extended range” concept in that petrol power never mechanically contributes to the wheels turning in the way that the Volt can at times.

“Our understanding is that’s different from the way the Chevrolet Volt is configured,” he said, and there is “no direct connection with the driving wheels.”

Undisputed

Given that Chevrolet is not touching this one, we don't know if there is a debate, but we can report that without controversy Fisker is now fully open for business and working on delivering cars as fast as it can.

This effort began two days ago when Ray Lane became the first person to get one. In addition to being the company’s chairman of the board, and despite being not as famous as Leonardo DiCaprio, Lane is quite accomplished in his own right.


Plush, snappy and functional interior.

Fisker says Lane is a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers in Menlo Park, Calif., also serves as chairman of Carnegie Mellon University and Hewlett-Packard Corporation and as vice chairman of Special Olympics International.

“To be one of the first to have a Fisker Karma in the world is a uniquely satisfying honor for me. Our country, and our business environment – especially here in the Silicon Valley – has been inspired by those who dream and then commit themselves to making their passion real. Henrik Fisker and his devoted team have done just that – combining my passion for driving and the environment,” Lane said. “This is so much more than just another car. The Fisker Karma represents a new era for the automotive industry and I am proud to be driving the dream of all those who have worked so hard to bring this uniquely green and elegant vehicle to market,” Lane concluded.

Good Karma

The Fisker Karma’s 260-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, GM-sourced engine feeds power to the two electric traction motors when the approximately 50 miles of all-electric range runs out.

Given a 9.5-gallon fuel tank, Fisker says the Karma should be able to cover about 300 miles in all. Ormisher believes the engine was intended for a Pontiac that was never built, and otherwise spec'd for the Karma.

When in Sport mode which the driver must select, Fisker says the Karma's engine provides maximum electric power to hit a limited speed of 125 mph, and 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds. In the default all-electric Stealth mode, performance is tuned for range and efficiency, these being 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds and top speed limited to 95 mph.

Ormisher said the company has 45 dealers in the U.S. so far, and did not speak of restrictions in any American regional markets, as Nissan and Chevrolet made by limiting initial roll out of their LEAF and Volt to several states.


Solar roof.

More limiting may be that the California designed and engineered, Finnish-made Karma is still rare, although Ormisher said it will be produced at about 300 units per week.

If interested in test driving one, you may have a better chance in the near term – better than the media, in fact.

Ormisher said Fisker is reversing the usual order of preference and giving dealers first dibs at test drives, then customers, then media.

We at GM-Volt may be able to sample one by October in Pennsylvania, he said, but you might be able to sooner.

Ormisher said Fisker will be doing a “retail road show” with two cars offering demo drives in 45 cities over a period of 104 days.

So far 2,800 test rides are booked for the two cars. Do you think the Karmas will be hammered after a few thousand people hop in and punch-it?

Such is the cost of doing business – one which Ormisher said he feels very good about being a part of. Fisker was founded in 2007, and Ormisher said it is very much an American company and over the past 18 months it has created 550 American jobs.

Fisker also intends to start production of its “project NINA” which for you to read more about, we will break policy and link to Wikipedia because Fisker itself links to it. In short, plans in The First State are to begin production by 2012 of a sub-$40,000 family friendly plug-in hybrid, and by 2014 Fisker expects to be producing 75,000-100,000 vehicles per year.


Well-proportioned from just about every angle.

Ormisher said also the company wants to succeed globally, which explains what he was doing in Italy besides being commendably polite in answering questions so late.

“We believe in the brand,” Ormisher said with enthusiasm. “I think what we are trying to do is redefine luxury so people can define luxury without guilt.”

The Karma starts at just under $100,000. A very thorough media site has all specs, photos, videos and more.