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L.A. Auto Show: Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid due in September 2010

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Irvine-based Fisker Automotive plans to deliver the first production copies of its Karma plug-in hybrid by September 2010, the automaker said today at the L.A. Auto Show.

The delivery schedule for the $87,900 (base price) sport sedan seems a tad aggressive. Earlier estimates were that the car, built in Finland, wouldn't be in the hands of customers until the fourth quarter of next year.

The Karma operates on the same basic power-train principle as the Chevy Volt. It can run 50 miles on electric power supplied by its lithium ion battery pack. It then switches to a gasoline engine that charges the batteries and extends the Karma's range by 250 miles.

"You have gas and you have electric, so you eliminate range anxiety," said Marti Eulberg, Fisker's global sales and marketing chief. Range anxiety refers to the supposed fear among drivers of all-electric vehicles that they will run out of power with no recharging station close at hand.

And unlike on a conventional hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, the Karma's wheels are always being powered by the car's electric motor.

Co-founder Henrik Fisker called the Karma an "environmentally friendly car without compromise," noting its six-second 0-60 time.

The car will also be offered in more expensive EcoSport and EcoChic versions. The EcoChic has enough Earth-friendly touches to make Rush Limbaugh gag, including an "animal-free" interior and, like all Karma models, wood highlights made only from "naturally" recovered wood (such as tree falls, Great Lakes lumber yard castoffs and even remains left behind by California wildfires).

Fisker has taken 1,500 orders (mostly from Californians) for the initial production run of Karmas. After that, the company hopes to build and sell 15,000 copies a year.

The company is also working on a lower-priced ($39,900 base) car called the Nina that it hopes to build in an old General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., beginning in mid-2012. The Nina will employ the same power-train technology as the Karma.

-- Martin Zimmerman

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Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
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