Posts Tagged ‘Hybrid’


At the beginning of 2011, I heard rumors of a Fisker store coming to town. A few weeks ago, while I was at Lexus Santa Monica testing the new 2011 Lexus CT 200h, I learned that Sullivan Automotive Group (Lexus Santa Monica’s parent) was building a Fisker store next to its Volkswagen Santa Monica dealership.

The corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 25th St

The location, at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 25thAve, is the old Lexus Santa Monica site that is now the internet sales department for the VW dealership. The building is relatively small, but you don’t need a large space for the Fisker brand because they only have one model, the voluptuous $95,900 – $110,000 Karma electric extended range sports car.

2012 Fisker Karma

Sullivan Automotive Group is the 33rd largest dealership group in the US (2010). In 2010, it sold a total of 21,239 units (new, used and wholesale) and had total revenue (including parts, service, etc.) of $632,338,233 – with only seven dealerships.

  1. Lexus Santa Monica
  2. Toyota/Scion Santa Monica
  3. Toyota/Scion of Hollywood
  4. Volkswagen of Santa Monica
  5. Pacific Audi
  6. Pacific Porsche
  7. Pacific Volkswagen
  8. Fisker Santa Monica (opening Spring/Summer 2011)

The group uses the catch-all LACarGuy.com website to promote its stores and, if you live in LA, you’ve seen billboards for LACarGuy and TV commercials featuring patriarch, Owner/President Michael Sullivan.  All of Sullivan’s dealerships have adopted environmentally-friendly practices, both in the showroom and in the service bays. Green is good for business these days.

LACarGuy claims that it’s the number one hybrid dealer in the world. I know the Lexus store is the number one Lexus hybrid seller in the US. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the combination of hybrid sales from the two Toyota dealerships, the Lexus store and a few niche hybrids like the VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Porsche Panamera Hybrids, put it on top. We do love our hybrids in LA.

It's a small space, but it will work just fine for Fisker

The group also has EV charging stations “live” at some of their dealerships. Odd, as none of the vehicles they sell are plug-in hybrids – yet. The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid EV and the upcoming plug-in Prius will also use the charging stations.

The Fisker logo tombstone looks great.

The Fisker brand is a good fit for Sullivan Automotive and the City of Santa Monica. So far, it’s the only Fisker dealer in greater Los Angeles. The next closest store is in Orange County.

If you’ve never been to Sullivan’s flagship Lexus Santa Monica dealership, it’s worth your time to see this video. I give them props for restoring this beautiful, historic building.

The People’s Republic of Santa Monica is the perfect location for the plug-in EV Fisker Karma. It’s home to ultra-wealthy aging hippies, environmentalists and lefty socialists. Entertainment industry and creative-types populate trendy restaurants and condos. Expensive boutiques on Montana Avenue attract celebrity shoplifters. You’ll find LEED-certified buildings and the most creative, modern architecture there.

Santa Monica is home to Heal the Bay. It’s the unofficial “Home of the Homeless.” The City hosts four terrific Farmers Markets each week in three different locations. Organic and locally-sourced food is pervasive.

Santa Monica banned smoking on public beaches and the outdoor patios of restaurants. Plastic bags are banned from supermarkets. The City’s fleet of non-emergency vehicles is mostly hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. The City’s Big Blue Buses all run on compressed natural gas (CNG). It’s not uncommon to see an old diesel Mercedes that’s been converted to run on B20 bio-diesel or used vegetable oil. The Prius appears to be the unofficial transportation appliance of Santa Monica — you can’t throw a stone in any direction without hitting one.

Santa Monica is ground zero (in the LA Metro) area for everything environmentally-friendly, progressive and “green.” There are many wealthy early adopters of EVs and other advanced hybrid technology living in or near Santa Monica.  In short, it’s the perfect market for a $100,000 extended-range electric vehicle.

She's got a sexy back too...

The Fisker Karma is a plug-in electric vehicle with a gas engine that drives a generator to charge the batteries for extended-range driving. Fisker claims the Karma can travel 50 miles on the batteries and an additional 200 miles in extended-range mode. The concept is much like the Chevy Volt; but the Karma’s execution is very different and the target audience is wealthier.

The front of the Fisker Karma - I see Salvador Dali's moustache or a Rene Magritte painting.

The Karma packs a GM Ecotec 2.0 liter direct-inject turbo I-4 engine just behind the front wheels. It drives a generator to charge the large-capacity 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that forms a rigid spine down the center of the car. The Karma is a proper rear-drive sports car (albeit a bit heavy at 4,100 lbs) driven by rear-mounted dual 300 kW electric motors good for a total of 403 hp with a heart-stopping 981 lb-ft torque available from the moment your foot hits the electron exciter. The Karma seats four adults and can hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.

The sumptious interior of the Karma. It looks like a nice place to spend time.

Fisker Automotive got more than $500 million from the Department of Energy to build the Karma in the US. Fisker bought a shuttered GM plant in Delaware and is in the process of converting it into a shiny modern factory to produce its sleek sports car. It’s going to have to sell lots of cars to pay back its investors.

Solar panels on the Karma help charge the batteries even when it's parked.

Below is the Fisker Karma’s first “Get Hot” commercial:

In the meantime, the Karma is being built in Uusikaupunki, Finland by contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive. Valmet also builds the Boxster/Caymen line for Porsche at this plant. The Karma began production on March 21, 2011 so deliveries may happen as soon as this summer. I’m sure Fisker Santa Monica is taking orders. Just have your checkbook ready.

Karma 1 rolls off the assembly line in Finland

Motor Trend’s Technical Editor, Kim Reynolds, gives his take on the Karma:


BMW’s new range of electric and hybrid i-cars is becoming reality.  The ultra-futuristic concept i8 was shown at the Geneva Auto Show, but the diminutive i3 MegaCity Vehicle may be closer to production.

BMW likes to use the tag line “Born Electric” to describe it’s new line of “i” cars.  Rather than adapting a current fossil-fuel car to an all-electric or hybrid drivetrain (e.g., electric versions of the Ford Focus or Toyota RAV4), the i-cars are designed from day one to be electric or hybrids.

The advent of the fully electric vehicle gave BMW Group engineers the opportunity to completely rethink vehicle architecture. LifeDrive is a revolutionary body concept that has been specifically designed for alternative drive trains and uses materials in innovative ways. It consists of two horizontally separated, independent modules.

The Drive Module
optimized components in chassis

The LifeDrive Concept

The Drive Module (an aluminum chassis) forms the solid foundation of the vehicle and combines the battery, drive system, structural and basic crash functions into a single lightweight, high-strength construction. The priority in the conception of the Drive Module was to integrate the battery – the largest and heaviest factor in the electric vehicle– into the vehicle structure so that it would be operationally reliable and safe in a crash.

The Life Module
secure and lightweight CFRP structure

Its partner, the Life Module, is similar to what one might find in a Formula 1 car: a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made from CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic). The Life Module opens up a whole new chapter in design freedom: the BMW i3 for example offers inspiring shapes and significantly more space for its size.

Here’s BMW’s description of the i3:

BMW i3 – The MegaCity Vehicle

The BMW i3 is an example of “purpose design”, which means it isn’t simply an adaptation of what already exists. It is a completely new and visionary vehicle concept.

Sustainable Mobility for Megacities

In megacities around the world, a need has arisen for a new kind of sustainable personal mobility that works on many levels. It has to have minimal environmental impact, both on the city’s streets and on the planet itself. It has to deliver an effortless, and comfortable driving experience. And it has to intelligently integrate personal mobility within the wider public transport system. The BMW i3 has been created from scratch with all these needs in mind. Whatever questions the megacity may ask, this electric car always has an intelligent, sustainable, beautifully designed answer.

Advanced, lightweight construction

The BMW i3 integrates the newly-developed drive components into a completely new vehicle architecture. Lightweight construction throughout the car and innovative use of CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic) offers significant benefits to the customer and the environment.

Interior Design Freedom

The BMW i3 boasts significantly more space for its size. The LifeDrive structure also enables the integration of new functionalities and is far less restrictive in terms of vehicle layout. This design freedom allows the interior of the BMW i3 to be inspiringly shaped and sculpted for the demands of urban mobility. Intelligent and intuitive displays, driver assistance systems and location based services make city traveling convenient, streamlined and effortless.

The interior is further enhanced by the use of sustainable and natural materials that create a relaxing atmosphere and define a new level of premium design.

This is the latest spy video of the BMW i3 testing in cold weather in Sweden. I particularly like seeing the rear wheels spin because rear drive in a small car is a rarity and it’s so much more fun!

The i8 is a much more expensive, serious sports car.  The prime purpose of this car is to showcase BMW’s engineering expertise, its dedication to low and zero-emissions vehicles and BMW’s vision of “efficient dynamics.”    The i8 is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain consisting of two electric motors (front and rear axles)  and a rear-mounted 3-cylinder diesel engine.

The combined power generates enough torque to propel the i8 like a rocket (M3 acceleration territory, according to BMW) while sipping fuel like a humming bird. As currently configured, the i8 gets approximately 62 mpg diesel (3.7 liters per 100 km on the European test cycle).  In keeping with a “proper” BMW sports car, the i8 is capable of 250 kph (155 mph).

Just one question: Why do Germans seem to speak better English than most American adults?

We know BMW is serious about i8 production. Here is a recent spy video of a prototype i8 testing in cold weather in Sweden:

We should see BMW’s i-cars coming to market by 2015.  Since LA is usually ground-zero for new green technology in the US market, I’m sure we will be one of the initial markets for this all-new line of electric and hybrid cars.