It's been a long and painful year for Fisker Automotive, with deliveries of its 2012 Karma extended-range electric sport sedan repeatedly delayed from the original target of May.

Now, with certification earlier this week from the Environmental Protection Agency that the car complies with emissions standards, Fisker can legally start to deliver its first 39 production cars, which landed at the Port of Newark last weekend.

That means two plug-in "series hybrids," or extended-range electric cars, will be on sale--a type of vehicle not sold in volume in the States for 90 years.

Window sticker: 20 mpg on gasoline

With EPA certification, all Fisker Karmas will now have a window sticker affixed, showing the car's efficiency both on electric power (52 MPGe) and in range-sustaining mode when its gasoline engine runs to generate the electricity that powers the car's motors (20 mpg).

The Fisker Karma is powered by a pair of 150-kilowatt (201-horsepower) electric motors driving the rear wheels, and the range extender that powers its generator is a 260-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four (purchased from General Motors).

Fisker said in a press release late today that its window sticker will show an EPA rating of 52 MPGe running on electricity.

Roger Ormisher, Fisker's director of global communications, told GreenCarReports this afternoon that the fuel efficiency of the car when its range-extending gasoline engine is running--the other number on the window sticker--will be 20 mpg.

32 miles of electric range

The EPA stated that under its test procedures, the Karma's all-electric range was 32 miles.

Nonetheless, "we firmly believe that most owners will get up to 50 miles of driving range on a single charge," said co-founder and CEO Henrik Fisker, "and will use our electric-only mode most of the time they drive the car."

The comparable figures for the 2012 Chevrolet Volt--which has a less powerful single 111-kilowatt (149-hp) drive motor and an 80-hp, 1.4-liter range extender--are 94 MPGe in electric mode, and 37 mpg on gasoline, with an electric range of 35 miles.

2011 Chevrolet Volt on test in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt on test in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 2011

The "miles-per-gallon-equivalent" unit reflects how far an electric car will run on the amount of battery energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline. The most energy-efficient electric car sold in the U.S. is the battery-electric 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' minicar, which the EPA rates at 112 MPGe.

What to compare to?

While the gas mileage in range-extending mode may prove a disappointment to some, it's not that far out of line with some of the Karma's competition. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550, for instance, gets a combined EPA rating of 20 mpg.

The rear-wheel drive CLS 500--also a low-slung, stylish four-door sedan--has a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz. That's more than a second quicker than the Karma's quoted time of 6.3 seconds in Sport mode, though of course the CLS can't plug in or run on battery alone.

Deliveries to dealers first

While the EPA and also the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have signed off on the 2012 Karma, according to Fisker's Ormisher, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has not--at least as of this morning.

First factory-built Fisker Karma live photos

First factory-built Fisker Karma live photos

That means that the first few dozen Karmas can be delivered, as long as the dealers are located outside the Golden State. Ormisher said CARB approval was expected "a week after the EPA, so it should be happening now-ish."

All 39 of the first cars are earmarked for dealers to use as demonstrators, Ormisher told GreenCarReports this afternoon.

As for cars destined for the actual paying depositors who've been waiting patiently? They'll be on the second shipment from Finland, he said, which will arrive roughly two weeks from now.

That means that Fisker is unlikely to book actual customer sales during October, but should definitely start to do so in November.

Final development of the 2012 Fisker Karma was partially funded by $529 million in low-interest loans granted in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced technology vehicle manufacturing program.


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