Thursday, July 16, 2009

Responsibly Hip


Another amazing--and award-winning--vehicle was in the booth for a company I'd not heard of before, a new American company, Fisker. This is Fisker's Karma:
--Click to enlarge.
I honestly think this is one of the most beautiful cars I've seen in a very long time. Its look is the work of Henrik Fisker, himself. In profile, there is this sort of strange dip in the hood that I'd think would cause drag; it almost appears to be sagging under its own weight, but I guess it's not bothering me that much. Evidently it's the result of a breakthrough chassis design.
When I saw it being described as a four-door, I actually had to look again, as in "it is? Oh, is!" This looks about as little like a sedan as any sedan I've ever seen.

The most amazing thing about the Karma, considering how incredibly suave its design, is that it's electric for the first 50 miles, and past that limit, runs like a hybrid. Their description says that if you commute under 50 miles a day and recharge it at night, it can have fuel economy of 100 mpg. That's in "Stealth Mode," and for performance, "Sport Mode" gives you 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph. The brakes are regenerative, they offer it with a full-length solar roof to help charge the battery while out and about, and also offer additional panels that can be installed on the roof of your garage. The price is almost $88,000, which is definitely high, especially the way things are now, but it's not as if you have to be a billionaire, either. I mean, for crying out loud, a Mercedes-Benz CL, even not fully outfitted, will run you well over $100,000.

There won't be all that many of them, at least not at first; they expect to build around 15,000 of them. Still pretty good for such a young company, but with some measure of exclusivity that I think suits this car well. But I'm just extremely impressed. There's so much going on here. It's an electric/ hybrid vehicle, but it has amazing style and grace, in no way compromised and frumpy like the Volt. Its lines feel like a sports car, and yet it's roomy and would easily accommodate car-pooling or carting the family and groceries around. The interior is all eco-friendly: the wood is from fallen or diseased trees, the textiles are either a sustainable Bamboo Viscose or leather from a provider with "happy cow" policies (I guess they let them watch TV and stuff), if you really do need leather.

Most importantly, though, the Karma makes the idea of an electric vehicle extremely sexy, which is exactly what we need right now. Seriously, this is the kind of car people gather around saying "wow, what IS that???"

That finishes up my discussion of this year's auto show. So this is a good place to mention a very interesting article in the NYTimes, all about a town in Germany that has banned automobiles altogether. I'm not convinced it's viable for everyone or everywhere, particularly many parts of the USA until drastic infrastructural intervention takes place, but it's a great portrait of how life might be centuries from now, if we humans ever wise up.

©2009, Ryan Witte

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