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Fisker Karma: Right Car, Wrong Price

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Fisker Karma

Fisker Karma

I'm not an expert on cars. If I were, you might be reading Lazy Man and Cars now.... or not reading it if you aren't interested in cars. Today, I saw that there's a new car being unveiled in San Jose, a few miles from where I live. The Fisker Karma is what I've been looking for in electric car - the option to go on long trips as a hybrid if necessary.

Fisker Karma explains how it works:

A fully-charged Karma burns no fuel for the first 50 miles. Venture further and the gasoline engine turns a generator to charge the lithium ion battery. Once the 50-mile electric range has been exceeded, the car operates as a normal hybrid vehicle. This balance of electric and gas range makes it entirely possible that Karma drivers who charge their car overnight and commute less than 50 miles a day will achieve an average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year.

As I said earlier, I might have missed other competing cars. One car manufacturer that I have kept my eyes on is Tesla. While they have good range, they are pure electric and thus not a practical on longer staycations.

As recently as three months ago, I would have thought the notion of such a car would be ridiculous in my life. I was working from home and my apartment didn't have a place to charge the car. However, my new place a two car garage that would make for easy nightly charging. The 50-mile range is also perfect for my 40-mile round trip commute.

I won't be waiting in line for a Fisker Karma. At a price north of $87,000 it's not economical. Even if we assume charging the Karma were free (which it wouldn't be), it still wouldn't be worth it on fuel costs alone. If I assume using 2 gallons of gas a day (20mpg) in my regular car, I would pay $5 in gas costs. In about 250 work days (taking out weekends and vacations), that's $1250 a year in gas. It would take many, many years before those savings match other cars. Maybe the Karma is priced in line with other similar sports cars - the Acura NSX comes to mind - but that doesn't work for the average car budget. Keep in mind that you can get free car insurance quotes but you will still have to pay for the insurance on your Karma and your premiums will be much higher than most other cars.

All is not lost... Fisker says that it will work to release an affordable car on the same technology. It's waiting for some government legislation to help it out with some grant money, so it could be some time.

At what price would you consider buying an electric, gas hybrid?

Last updated on February 14, 2011.

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21 Responses to “Fisker Karma: Right Car, Wrong Price”

  1. tom says:

    The Fisker Karma is an overpriced Chevy Volt.

    Look for the Chevy Volt in the future. Same technology, half the price.

    I’m waiting on the Tesla Model S. $50,000, but is fully electric and can run up to 300 miles, depending on battery size.

    Here’s the catch with electric cars. While they are very expensive, they require no gas, and have very few mechanical parts compared to a gasoline powered vehicle. Fewer moving parts means far less maintenance, which is something most people don’t factor.

  2. Lazy Man says:

    Good call on the Volt, Tom. I don’t know why I thought it was just another hybrid. Still at $40,000, I don’t think I’d be looking too much into the Volt. Unless it’s 10 years down the line and I’m buying one that’s 7 years depreciated for a cheap price.

    The 300 mile range of the Tesla Model S is great, but I can’t have something that would die on me without a source of refueling.

    I’ve heard that replacing the battery can nullify the maintenance savings. I’m not sure if that’s reliable information or not.

  3. kosmo says:

    How about finding a way to stream electricity to the car while it’s cruising down the road, using MIT’s WItricity as a model :) You’d have to build in a way for the drivers to pay for their usage, of course.

  4. MLR says:

    I think all of the electric cars coming out are great for the future in the automotive industry.

    For the most part, they won’t be feasible for the everyday person for a while, though.

    Still really cool :)

  5. Jim says:

    I was looking forward to the Volt but they are going to be a little too pricey to be practical.

    I’m thinking a plug in hybrid will be the most practical first step towards electric. A few car makers are working on plug ins which will have a limited all electric range + full gas engine.

  6. Slandy says:

    Calling the Karma an overpriced Volt is a lot like calling a Porsche 911 an overpriced Kia. They share powertrain types, but that’s where the similarity ends. The Karma is a high-end luxury sedan; the Volt is much more mainstream. Creature comforts, speed, snob appeal are all better with the Karma. For that, you pay more – just like any other vehicle. Don’t forget, this is new techology, and like other new technologies in the past, it will be more expensive at the beginning. VCRs were $1000+ in the 1970s when introduced. The Karma, Volt and others like them are a great beginning, but it will take some time for the technology to become more affordable.

  7. James says:

    I think it’s a great first step. The Karma has the “sexy” car enthusiasts want and builds on the green-ability we need as a nation. Yes it’s a little pricey now but is sure to come down and I anticipate fast. Keep in mind many foreign luxury cars are in that range already and there are tons of them on the road. (S class, 7 series etc) I know I intend to have solar panels generating electricity when I build my next house so this plays well into where I want to go as a consumer. I will be purchasing a Karma, maybe the convertible version when the initial buzz dies down a little and I can actually get one.

  8. Scott says:

    If you are buying this car to save money, you’re buying it for the wrong reason. This is a sports car that looks flashy and that would be the only reason to pay such a high price, not to save money on gas. Nice car!

  9. Khing says:

    Buying the karma will give you both luxury and also save you money, imagine driving a powerful sports car and also saving money on gas, gas only sports cars consumes alot of gas, I know because I drive a BMW335i, and this is not even top of the range, I spend a lot on gas and I hardly get around, I will buy a karma any day, the comfort, luxury and savings is worth the price

  10. thoughtchallenge says:

    The Karma is made to compete with even more expensive sports cars. Early adapters of this technology will have to pay more, it’s always that way. High income, high profile individuals will gladly pay $40,000 for the Chevy Volt and $87K Fisker Karma. The supply of these cars is limited (only 500 Volts in 2011)so these companies won’t be losing any sleep over sales. These cars will be highly collectible as well. Theres plenty of actors and executives willing to make the investment. Also, note that $5 gas, savings could be well over $2,500 per year driven, $25,000 over 10 years.

  11. nub says:

    First, for 87k your getting a luxury car – so off the bat it’s not going to be as economical as say, an “economy” car. Just like buying a $50k 335i that gets 25mpg is not going to be more economical than a 18k Toyota that gets 20mpg. You’re buying more than just MPG. Second, the car does not “operate like a normal hybrid” at all. It sports a fully 100% electric drivetrain. The gas motor simply recharges the battery after 50 miles to extend the range. On top of that it’s a plug-in so you can charge it at home. The Chevy Volt is the closest comparison, and it’s not on the road yet either. All I know is, for more than twice the price, it better be a LOT more luxurious!!

  12. steve says:

    I am planning on buying the convertible (S) version when it comes out. I was planning on spending b/w 80-90k on a vehicle. No other car in this price range even compares with looks and function/style. Most cars in this range get much less than 20mpg b/c they have big bossy engines. In the long run I would save plenty of money instead of buying, say, a preowned maserati granturismo.

  13. Stephen says:

    Its not the wrong price, its the wrong writer. People who love great cars, and have money, will have no problem with the price. And they won’t compare it to a chevy, unless its a corvette…

    • Lazy Man says:

      When I wrote the article it was May of 2009 when electric cars with gas back-up didn’t exist (at least to my knowledge). I pointed out that it is in the Acura NSX price range, so if that’s the kind of sports car that you love, go for it. My point was, that for price-conscious readers that this website caters to, the Fisker Karma has a great concept (the combination of electric and gas, but not necessarily a hybrid), but isn’t very practical. People who read this site know that buying an $80,000 car doesn’t get them closer to financial freedom.

  14. stevie says:

    When comparing electrics to gas cars, the emphasis seems to be on fuel savings alone. What about other maintenance? No more oil changes, anti freeze, tune-ups, exhaust work, or many other related expenses. Many repairs now cost upwards of a thousand dollars. Over the life of the car, electrics can be a real money saver in maintenance, since they have fewer parts to break.

  15. Chris T. says:

    As several people noted, the cars the Karma competes with are mostly high end Mercedes and BMW and other “status” vehicles and/or high end sports cars like some Porsches (in fact the Karma will likely compete head to head with the Panamera). They all cost in the $100k range.

    The Karma won’t eliminate gasoline-engine maintenance since it still has one, but it will almost certainly reduce it a lot (although this will depend on the driver’s habits and range).

    steve may be a bit put off by the Karma S (convertible) price though, which was originally projected to be about $20k higher. If that holds, it will run about $120k rather than the 80-90k range. (And don’t forget taxes, which are steep on $100k :-) )

    It will take a few more years but more electrics (both pure and “extended range”) are definitely coming, and the prices for those will be more reasonable. You’re still not going to save money over buying a cheap Kia though!

  16. Krystal says:

    My factory just got the contract for the new Fisker Electric car and thank god its going to retail for $35,000 instead of the $87,000 a little more reachable for the average household :) !!!

  17. dfaj says:

    this is a dumb article. this car is not for average joes. this is a luxury car just like any other high end cars out there that consume purely on gas. this just so happens that it’s a hybrid.

    if you had 90k and were planning to buy a car, would you buy one that can only run on gasoline or a hybrid?

    saying karma has a wrong price is like wanting a high end bmw that runs on gasonine alone, for the price of a nissan leaf, you are hilarious.

    • Lazy Man says:


      You seem to have missed the timing of the article. It was two years ago when there were no other options for an electric car with a gas back-up.

  18. Nick U says:

    While I agree that the price of the Karma is steep. (Considering Leonardo DiCaprio is first in queue to get his)–I think this car is going to be incredibly popular with the “Hollywood Tree Huggers”. I make nowhere near as much as those folks, yet & still…I WANT A FISKER KARMA! It is a gorgeous car, enough room for 4 adults and sounds like a Light-Cycle from TRON. I paid $60,000. for my 8-Cyl fiber-glass bodied car right out of the plant. I didn’t think that was outrageous for a beautiful car with as much performance and features that I got it with. It may take me a few more years to be able to afford the cost of a “Eco-Chic” trim version of the Karma. But I plan to get one. (Hopefully, I’ll have the solar panels and wind turbine on my property to power it by that point!!!)

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