Fisker revs up world's first plug-in luxury hybrid

The Fisker Karma is the latest rival to BMW's electric Mini
The Fisker Karma is the latest rival to BMW's electric Mini

A start-up company in California has made the world's first plug-in hybrid luxury car and launched it at this year's Detroit Auto Show - without a penny of Government bail-out money.

The Fisker Automotive Karma (geddit?!?) has two 201hp electric motors powered by an advanced lithium-ion technology battery pack.

This pack can be charged by any 110-, 220- or 240-volt electric outlet, and has a range of 50 miles in electric-only Stealth Mode. That's far enough to account of the daily travels of 60 per cent of US motorists, says Fisker, and probably a far higher number in Europe.

100mpg powertrain

If you need to travel farther, switch to Sports Mode to bring to life a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec direct injection petrol engine that turns a generator powering the motors, bringing the range to a total of 300 miles - at a very impressive 100 miles per gallon.

The four-door, four-seater Karma has a top speed of 125 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds - and even sports the world's largest continuously formed glass solar panel roof on a car.

The Karma is manufactured sustainably (well, as sustainably as possible with a brand-new metal car). For example, wood trim is sourced from non-living timber such as fallen frees that have succumbed to age, rescued trees burned in forest fires, and sunken trees lying in American lake bottoms.

Karma already has 1000 orders for the $87,900 (£60,000) car, and hopes to be in production by the end of this year.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.