Update on Fisker Karma

I had some fun yesterday, dashing off a quick note about the Fisker Karma electric car and just how bad the electric mileage is if you use the DOE methodology rather than the flawed EPA methodology to calculate an mpg-equivalent.

It was the quickest and shortest column I have ever written on Forbes, so of course it has turned out to be the most read.  It has been sitting on top of the Forbes popularity list since about an hour after I wrote it, and currently has 82,000 reads (I am not a Twitter guy but 26,000 tweets seems good).

I wanted to add this clarification to the article:

Most other publications have focused on the 20 mpg the EPA gives the Karma on its backup gasoline engine (example), but my focus is on just how bad the car is even in all electric mode.    The calculation in the above article only applies to the car running on electric, and the reduction in MPGe I discuss is from applying the more comprehensive DOE methodology for getting an MPG equivilent, not from some sort of averaging with gasoline mode.  Again, see this article if you don’t understand the issue with the EPA methodology.

Press responses from Fisker Automotive highlight the problem here:  electric vehicle makers want to pretend that the electricity to charge the car comes from magic sparkle ponies sprinkling pixie dust rather than burning fossil fuels.  Take this quote, for example:

a Karma driver with a 40-mile commute who starts each day with a full battery charge will only need to visit the gas station about every 1,000 miles and would use just 9 gallons of gasoline per month.

This is true as far as it goes, but glosses over the fact that someone is still pouring fossil fuels into a tank somewhere to make that electricity.  This seems more a car to hide the fact that fossil fuels are being burned than one designed to actually reduce fossil fuel use.  Given the marketing pitch here that relies on the unseen vs. the seen, maybe we should rename it the Fisker Bastiat.


  1. hanmeng:

    Magic sparkle ponies sprinkling pixie dust don't work as well as unicorn farts and bottled rainbows.

  2. Chris:

    I agree with your basic premise Warren but what if they were here in Phoenix with the large amount of nuclear we use here?

    Or if the owner of the car has solar panels on their roofs at home?

    Wouldn't that make it a "greener" tech?

  3. Henry Bowman:

    Coyote, you may be interested to know that Rush Limbaugh mentioned you by name today while discussing your column.

  4. robert:

    Good job deleting all the comments proving you wrong.

  5. me:

    LOL - Coyote for president (quite honestly, I'd be so much more happy if you were running, Warren...)

  6. Craig:

    Of course, today's news that its subsidized ass will be produced in Finland doesn't add to the cheer.

  7. Punkster:

    @robert. Warren seems to have a policy of letting morons post whatever they want. Never noticed him deleting anything. I know I have crapped on his Joe Arapaio posts several times with no consequence.

    Post whatever factual info you have that counters his claim. I would like to see it too.

  8. Master of Obvious:

    The standard should be dollars to drive a given distance. It varies from place to place, but is the most important measure for the consumer. For each car, they could publish two charts for 10,000 miles of driving a series of 50 mile trips. One chart could show the total cost at various electric rates -- the other chart shows total cost at various gasoline costs. Thus there is no reliance on BS energy efficiency calculations of any sort and complete transparency to allow consumers to extrapolate to various price expectation scenarios.

    This comparison would be necessary for me to even consider an electric vehicle.

  9. Ted Rado:

    The same problem arises in statements re all of the alternative energy schemes. A small piece is taken out of context. The ENTIRE system must be considered.

    With electric cars, the power generation, distribution, battery charge and discharge efficiencies must all be calculated. If you take all of this into account, it would be just about as good to burn the boiler fuel (NG) in the car's engine in the first place and avoid all the complications. The cost of building the electric power generating and distribution system, batteries, and electric motors would be saved.
    If the power plant runs on coal, I imagine the CO2 output (of the car, indirectly) is greater than a gasoline engine.

    The same sort of analysis shoots down wind, solar, and all other schemes (standby, backup, etc. costs).

  10. Don:

    Master of Obvious: What you're looking for is "The Complete Car Cost Guide" Calculates the total cost of ownership, including maintenance, repairs, insurance, etc. They break it down into catagories, so you can get the cost per mile for fuel as well as the rest. Of course, they necessarily only publish cars upto the previous year model, so it'll be next year (at least) before they're able to publish anything on these, and that's assuming that enough of them get sold in the US that they are able to gather the stats (a very difficult thing on odd-ball cars like McClarons and Enzo's and such).

    Warren: What I find entertaining about all this is that even by the left's standards, this thing is a complete failure.

    1. Being "off shored" despite most of the funding being on the tax-payers dime.
    2. Made with HUGE amounts of rare-earth and heavy metals, making it an ecological nightmare, even before the wheels are bolted on.
    3. The mileage SUCKS, even by the broken standards you pointed out.
    4. It's a car "for millionaires and billionaires". The "middle class" (or people with any common sense whatsoever) is never going to pay $100K for a damned car, this thing is a toy for Jay Leno.

    I'm sure that the administration will attempt to borrow the late Steve Jobs' anti-reality field to tell people that points 1-4 are outweighed by the fact that it ingrates "magic sparkle ponies sprinkling pixie dust", making it all worth it :^).