Fisker: The EPA Is Giving Us Bad Karma, Man

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2009 Fisker Karma

2009 Fisker Karma

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When the EPA's official MPG figures were released for the 2012 Fisker Karma a few days ago, we can't have been the only ones a little disappointed with the 20 MPG figure on gasoline and 52 MPG equivalent in EV mode.

There were even suggestions the low 20 MPG rating on gasoline could hurt the DoE car loan program that helps fund the development of low energy vehicles.

Fisker appears to be worried potential customers would be disappointed too and has quickly responded to the sticker rating on its Facebook page.

"We do not believe that the label communicates the entire story", explains Fisker. "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".

Fisker still maintains that most drivers will get up to 50 miles of all-electric driving range on a full charge, rather than the 32 miles suggested by the EPA.

The company also points out - quite rightly - that drivers who regularly do short distances will rarely need to fill up with gasoline at all. This has certainly been the case for drivers of the Chevrolet Volt, some of whom have burned barely a gallon of gas in their time with the car.

Fisker sees the Karma as an uncompromised machine - one in which you can drive to work and back without a drop of gasoline, but a car in which you can tackle longer drives too. "[Fisker drivers] do not have to choose between driving pure-electric or having unlimited range. The Karma Sedan gives you both options".

It's not the first time the EPA ratings on an electric car have failed to tell the whole story, and it points to a system that is as yet unsuitable for measuring the energy use of electric vehicles, and only serves to offer a basic comparison with regular cars.

Fisker does point to some positivity from the ratings. The Karma has a tailpipe CO2 rating of 188 g/mi, about half that of the cars Fisker sees as direct competitors and better than nearly every hybrid on the market today.

Of course, by the standards of other plug-in cars and range extended vehicles like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the Karma's figures are pretty awful. 20 MPG on gasoline is 17 MPG less than the Volt achieves, and many consider the Chevy's figure a little disappointing. Measured by the standards of other super sedans it's still not terrific - the 2012 BMW M5 manages 23.7 MPG combined from its twin-turbo V8. Even so, Karma owners are unlikely to care too much, and the car still has its electric range to fall back on.

We'll leave the last word to Fisker though, as it's relevant whatever car you choose to drive.

"In short, the fuel economy of your Karma Sedan will depend on how you use it."


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Comments (10)
  1. "the Karma's figures are pretty awful."

    Just to reiterate. Driving the Karma on electricity will "guzzle" twice as many electrons per mile as the Chevy Volt. Later you can switch to gasoline and then the Karma will guzzle twice as many gallons per mile as the Chevy Volt. Pretty awful indeed.

    Oh, and yes, the Karma is a beautiful looking car.

  2. Agreed, the Karma is a stunner. Which is why I suspect Karma drivers won't really be swayed by a few EPA numbers. And of course, overall it's still likely to be a greener drive than its entirely gasoline-fuelled rivals.

  3. I read and leave comments on quite a few different automotive websites, and the majority of them are expressing the same disappointment. But I don't think this will have to big of an impact on the Karma, it is still a very interesting car and it should do well in it's price segment. The only question now is how well will it do? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

  4. Ironically, the Karma should be subject to a gas guzzler tax.
    because cars with a combined fuel economy of less that 22.5 mpg are supposed to be taxed.

    However, given that the 20 MPG combined for the Karma is an "adjusted number" perhaps the Karma exceeds the gas guzzler threshold slightly for the "unadjusted number" use in the tax.

  5. Fisker made big promises back before the govt loans, in which they claimed a battery range of 60 miles. Boy, did they delude themselves (and others) on that one. As I recall, their price estimates were, shall we say, oriented to encourage investors
    (including unwilling taxpayers)?
    Of course, if you want the performance to match the looks that requires switching into "performance mode" a euphemism for activating the gasoline powerplant for assistance. Seems Fisker
    originaly didn't realize that small battery packs also provide small amounts of power. And the Karma ain't any lightweight.
    On the other hand, both Tesla and Fisker have taught GM a lesson that company should have learned in 100 years of automaking :looks sell.

  6. 5,300 pounds is too heavy -- and the Volt is too heavy. The Karma is not a low aerodynamic drag car, either -- like the older Corvettes that have Cd's of 0.45 or so, this car cannot be efficient.

    Weight is not the be all and end all, but obviously the Karma was not designed for efficiency, first and foremost.


  7. Might as well by 6500 lbs then it is excluded from CAFE regulations.

  8. The more I think about the Karma the more I'm willing to forgive its shortcomings. If you think about it as a $100K supercar that gets 30 miles electric driving then it makes sense. Because 20 MPG for a Ferrari or Lambo would sound reasonable. I'll be much more critical of the Nina's numbers. It needs to tie or beat the Volts numbers.

  9. Do you want to invest $529 million on the off chance that a company that cannot build an efficient sports car can build an efficient sedan?

  10. Karma is more of a luxury than sport sedan. My Family benefits from US imported oil.US pays 80 cents for other costs associated with each dollar spent importing petroleum. Over the past decades that is many trillions of dollars. So yes projects like the $529 million loan is a very small amount to go toward the development of the Fisker Nina. If the US Government was rational they would make drivers pay at the pump the true cost instead of the trillions subsidized in the past decade. Electric vehicles even in their early stages would already cost less to own and operate than similar gas vehicles if the drop petro subsidies. I invest in electric vehicles as a hedge against a possible drop in petro demand I see in a few decades.

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