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Fisker Karma Gets a Real-World Fuel Economy Test

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author photo by Nick Chambers December 2011

Like Tesla, Fisker is a new breed of startup automaker devoted to the plug-in platform. But while Tesla is focused on electric-only vehicles, Fisker has chosen to go the plug-in hybrid route-meaning their cars can travel a certain distance on electricity stored in their batteries before switching on an on-board engine and driving further on fuel.

As Fisker's first production car, the Karma is a $96,000 luxury performance vehicle geared towards high-end buyers. Although it's out of the price range of the average buyer it's a significant vehicle because it is the first in a what the company hopes will be a long line of ever more affordable offerings.

Recently the functionality of the Karma was called into question when the EPA rated it as being able to travel only 32 miles on battery power before switching over to gasoline power and returning a low 20 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

This new type of plug-in hybrid drivetrain is complicated and makes it hard to figure out how fuel-efficient they will be. The Volt is also a plug-in hybrid and was ridiculed early on when Chevy claimed it would get 230 miles per gallon.

The problem with this claim lies in the fact that the fuel economy of a plug-in hybrid will entirely depend on how far it is driven between charges. If it is only driven 30 miles between charges, an owner may never fill it up with gas. If it is driven 150 miles, it will have a mpg rating close to that of the EPA rating for gas-only driving.

These considerations are why Fisker has been so adamant in saying that the Karma's EPA numbers are giving it a bad rap. Ahead of going on sale in Europe, some new numbers are out this week from that region's fuel economy regulatory body, the Technischer Ueberwachungs Verein (TUV), that lend some credence to the company's claim the Karma will deliver better results than the EPA tests suggest. According to the TUV, the Karma can go 52 miles on electricity alone.

"We are delighted that the TUV has confirmed that most owners will achieve a 50 mile range running purely on electric during their daily commute," said Fisker Automotive CEO and co-founder Henrik Fisker. "As with all electric vehicles, range varies greatly on the conditions of the road and how you drive the car. We firmly believe that most owners will...use our electric-only mode most of the time they drive the car, thereby running on zero emissions."

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Fisker Karma Gets a Real-World Fuel Economy Test - Autotrader