Fisker Karma at Laguna Seca
Last fall, Fisker Automotive was awarded $529 million in low-interest loans by the Department of Energy, and the company has continued to rake in cash since then. In January, for instance, Fisker raised an additional $115 million in private capital.
Last week, the DoE and Fisker announced that the $529 million of loans had closed. But there's more: The state of Delaware kicked in a further $21.5 million loan to Fisker two days ago.
From loan to grant
The Delaware loan will convert to a grant after five years, assuming Fisker meets certain goals. Those include investing $175 million or more in the former GM plant in Wilmington where it plans to build its second vehicle, and hiring at least 2,500 workers.
(Delaware's Economic Development Office also granted Fisker $9 million more to subsidize its utility bills at the factory.)
The company's first vehicle, the 2011 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports sedan, will reach showrooms at the end of this year. Deliveries were originally scheduled to start next month, but the company says it will meet its latest schedule.
Motors and engine
Like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt compact hatchback, it's an electric vehicle with a range-extending engine that powers a generator. The price is $87,400, bringing it below $80,000 if the buyer qualifies for a $7,500 tax credit for electric-car purchase.
The 2011 Karma sedan has a range of 50 miles on electric power from its 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, plus a further 250 miles on electricity generated by its 2.0-liter GM Ecotec direct-injected four-cylinder engine.
The four-door luxury sports sedan is powered by a pair of 150-kilowatt electric motors, both driving the rear wheels. Fisker says the 0-to-62-mph time is roughly 6 seconds, and the top speed will exceed 125 miles per hour.
Karma, then Nina
The DoE loans will be split between final engineering work on the Karma, and development efforts on a less expensive plug-in hybrid family sedan currently known as "Project Nina"--the one to be built in Delaware. Its target price is $40,000 before tax incentives.
The October announcement of the acquisition of that factory by Fisker was notable for Vice-President Joe Biden blurting out the Nina product lineup of sedan, coupe, and crossover.
The $529 million was part of a $25 billion DoE program to extend low-interest loans to automakers and parts companies who retool existing plants to build advanced-technology vehicles whose fuel efficiency is at least 25 percent better than current cars.
A small group of two
The first round of awards, in June, was granted to Ford [NYSE:F], Nissan, and Tesla, for a total of $8 billion in loans. Among other components for development are the expensive lithium-ion cells used in the large battery packs required in both cars.
Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors are the only two startup automakers thus far that have joined established car companies like Ford and Nissan in receiving loans.
Aptera is still waiting to hear on its application for $184 million to build its highly aerodynamic 2e three-wheeled electric car, and a $321 million application by V-Vehicles was turned down last month.