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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Edmunds drove a pre-production Karma for three days and ended up getting significantly higher EV-Range and MPG than the EPA estimates. They even not how unusual it is for the measured MPG to be higher than the EPA estimate.

Here is the link to the article. Note the last sentence.

-- Fab.

For years, Fisker Automotive co-founder, chief executive officer and head designer Henrik Fisker insisted that the exotic plug-in hybrid sports sedan his company was developing would deliver 50 miles of all-electric range before its 4-cylinder gasoline engine/generator kicked in and started burning hydrocarbons. Counter to the claim, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the 2012 Fisker Karma (above) recently and, after applying its adjustments for plug-in technology, ruled that the car would have a window sticker that said 32 miles of all-electric range and 20 miles per gallon on gasoline.

The EPA’s findings left Fisker and his crew quietly angry, but reckoning there was no sense in hollering at the federal regulatory agency. Instead, the company issued a polite statement that said, in effect, “Yeah, but those are numbers are based on a test protocol – in the real world, drivers will find that they regularly do better.” We asked Fisker for the chance to put that claim to the test and the company obliged. We were given the opportunity to drive an early-engineering test car for three days, anywhere and anyhow we liked (except on the racetrack – that will come later with a real production car).

Beating EPA
AutoObserver got the car for the first day and, ignoring speed limits and climbing lots of steep hills – driving intended to stress the car’s fuel economy as much as possible – found that it returned a passable 36 miles of all electric range and around 25 miles per gallon on gasoline. Then we turned it over to testing director Dan Edmunds (no relation) and he put it through its paces more properly, adhering to speed limits on city and highway courses he’s used for other fuel economy tests, including those run on’s long-term Chevrolet Volt.

He has a full report on his more-clinical Fisker Karma fuel economy test on, but we can report in this short version that on the best run the car delivered close to 45 miles of all-electric range and 23 miles per gallon on generator power and over the course of three days averaged about 41 miles in EV mode. With the Volt, Edmunds testing has reported an average of 38.4 miles of all-electric range and 34.3 miles per gallon with the gasoline engine/generator spinning. The differences make sense: although the Karma’s battery is larger than the Volt’s for a bit more all-electric range – 22 kilowatt-hours with 19 useable versus the Volt’s 16 kwh with about 11 useable – the Karma it is a much heavier car, thus reducing its gasoline fuel efficiency compared with the Volt.

Nice Ride For $96K
The short-form review of the car is that it drives well and has loads of oomph. But thanks to its weight (5,200 pounds), the Karma isn’t a rocket ship, regardless of its 403 horsepower and 960 lb.-ft. of torque. It is quite comfortable for driver and front-seat passenger and passably comfortable for rear-seat passengers if the trip is short (the back buckets simply aren’t built for distance). The Karma also has loads of the expected luxury touches: there’s reclaimed-wood trim, hand-stitched leather, a solar-panel roof the helps charge the battery and a huge, 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment center. The massive 22-inch wheels shod with rubber that would look at home on a Formula 1 racer (285/35WR22 on back and 255/35WR22 up front) provide a stiff but not untenable ride – the only hangup is a lot of binding when the steering is cranked to full left or right lock. The Karma generates an eerie electronic noise, piped through external front and rear speakers, to warn pedestrians when the car is running in its nearly-silent full-electric mode.

All in all, the Karma is a nice ride with stylish sheetmetal, as befits both its $96,000 base price and designer Henrik Fisker’s credentials as the guy who did some of the classic modern Aston Martin and BMW designs. The Karma is one of a very small handful of vehicles we’ve driven in the past decade that had people following us into parking lots to ask questions and drifting dangerously close on the freeway as they leaned over to shoot a quick photo with their cellphone cameras.

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Great! And here's the link to the more detailed Edmunds-report:


When Fisker first started talking about the 2012 Fisker Karma and what it could do, the stuff they were saying was pretty incredible.

They said it'd be good for 50 miles of electric range, and once the battery wound down it would return 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway (about 25 mpg combined) on the way to 250 miles of total range on a tank of gas. Conversely, in Sport mode, where the charged battery and gasoline engine/generator set work together for maximum effect, it could scoot to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and top out at 125 mph.

No EV or plug-in hybrid (the Karma is the latter) discussed previously had ever put together such mutually exclusive performance numbers. Not too shabby for a series hybrid with no connection between the gas engine and the drive wheels except for power cables.

Meanwhile, every plug-in hybrid and EV range claim made to date has gone down in flames after the EPA conducted their own certification tests and printed up the window stickers. Chevrolet's initial claimed range of 50 miles for the Volt sagged to 35 miles when all was said and done. The Nissan Leaf's range came in at 73 miles instead of the claimed 100 miles.

Alas the same thing recently happened to the Fisker Karma. After the EPA got done its 50-mile electric range plummeted to 32 miles and it's gasoline fuel economy dropped to just 20 mpg combined.


This we had to try for ourselves. After all, we've tried to keep our finger on the pulse of actual EV and plug-in hybrid fuel economy and performance. To that end we've hosted a Mini E and a Nissan Leaf in our long-term fleet. We've tested the Smart EV and the plug-in Prius. To serve their needs and quantify every kilowatt they consume we use a sophisticated Coulomb 240V charger we installed in our garage some time ago.

And that's why we have very detailed records of the electricity and gasoline consumption habits of the Chevrolet Volt we've owned for some 11 months. In addition to the usual gasoline recordkeeping, we've got data on every charge and we've captured every instant the battery handed the baton to the gasoline engine.

The Fisker Karma likewise runs its battery down before it fires its engine for extended range (except in Sport mode, when it goes all-in with both at once), so the same test and accounting procedures were used here to see if the EPA's deflated performance predictions are legit.

To date, our Volt's average observed range from full charges is 38.4 miles, about 10% better than the EPA's prediction. We've pushed that to as high as 54.6 miles in perfect conditions, but only one of our drivers has been able to coax more than 50 miles out of it.

Our Volt has burned gasoline to the tune of 34.3 mpg, about 10% worse than the EPA's prediction of 37 mpg combined. This amount of gasoline MPG undershoot is a bit larger than usual; most of our long-term test cars are less than 5% shy of their respective EPA combined ratings.

Of course our Volt data is based on well over 11,000 miles of data collected by a couple dozen drivers. It's pretty well randomized at this point.

Our time with the Fisker lasted just 2 days and 3 nights. In that time we were able to charge it but 6 times, and only 4 of those were full (or very nearly full) charges. Clearly our Karma conclusions will be far less certain because of the sample size.

In our hands the Karma's best range was 45.4 miles. That was done on our "one lap of Orange County" city loop, which includes numerous signals and absolutely zero freeway.

The second best range was 43.3 miles, this time on the freeway at 65 mph during the mid-day traffic lull. Leadfoot John O'Dell (ironically our green car editor) got 34.5 and 39.8 out of it at somewhat more impatient freeway speeds. His house also sits atop a significant hill with no small amount of elevation gain along the way.

Bottom line, our average range of 40.8 miles is 27% better than EPA's rating. Our best run was 42% better. And I have reason to believe that the Karma was not 100% charged before I made my two mid-40 runs. Fisker, it seems, has a legitimate beef with the EPA and its range rating of just 32 miles.

Why do I think the Karma was less than fully charged? Compared to other plug-in vehicles on the market, the Karma's charge indicator light system is, quite frankly, inadequate and ambiguous. The Volt and Leaf have big bright lights positioned at the base of the windshield where you can see them from outside the car. At my house I can check on their progress by peeking out my kitchen window. And when those lights indicate full, my meter stops advancing in its tracks. Full is full.

In the Karma there's a small idiot light on the dash, but you can't see it unless you climb behind the wheel. Not good. Perhaps they have an iPhone app that I as a non-owner do not have. Be that as it may, I ended each charge in accordance with the procedure when the light went out on the Fisker's dash. Using the 120V power I have at my disposal at home, this amounted to 19 kWh and 14 hours.

Thing is, my kill-a-watt meter was still stepping up after the Fisker's charge lamp went out. Was the battery really full? Current was still flowing according to my meter, but the car was telling me we were done.

I started the car to begin the test but the Karma's range bar graph stopped short of the max endpoint, looking like 90-95% full and indicating 46 miles instead of 50. I would drive 45.4 miles on that charge compared to the initial 46-mile prediction.

Fifty miles indeed looks too optimistic for a day-in day-out rating, but the EPA's 32 miles seems far too pessimistic.

A look at the numbers suggests the Karma SHOULD have more range at its disposal than the Volt. We typically dispensed about 19 kWh when filling the Karma's battery compared to the 12 kWh we normally inject into our Volt. A bit less makes it to each car's batteries due to charging losses, but on the face of it there's 58% more juice in a fully-charged Karma.

But that doesn't mean a Karma can go 58% farther. For one, it weighs in at around 5,200 pounds, about 39% more than a Volt. It also rides on wide Eagle F1 Supercar summer performance tires that are clearly not low rolling resistance fuel economy specials.

Taking everything into account it seems that the Karma's range rating should settle in the neighborhood of 38 to 40 miles, not 32 miles.

As for MPG, we had the Fisker in gasoline mode 58% of the time. During those miles we averaged 23.1 mpg, some 3 mpg and 16% better than the EPA's number. We almost never beat an EPA gasoline rating by that much, so it seems the EPA's gasoline rating for the Karma is questionable, too

Admittedly, this was a short test in which fuel economy and range were being examined. People do tend to drive more naturally in our long-term test cars that are in our hands for months on end. In such a scenario the Karma might perform differently than it did here, but we can't see its average performance falling near as low as the EPA ratings it carries.

From where we sit, the EPA's rather pessimistic range and gasoline fuel economy ratings for the 2012 Fisker Karma doesn't seem to be an accurate picture of what this series plug-in hybrid can do at the pump or at the plug. We're much more impressed with the 2012 Fisker Karma than we thought we'd be after hearing of EPA's downgrade.

In fact the amount of electric range on offer is frankly remarkable for a car of this size and sporting pretense. For now, however, track tests of the sporty side of the Karma's dual personality will have to wait until the next time we get our hands on one.


· Premium Member
745 Posts
For stop and go traffic, braking means everything for a car like this. Using regenerative braking to its max will extend electric range significantly. I imagine the EPA drivers simply came up to stop signs and braked rather than coasting with Hill Mode 1 or 2.
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