Fisker, Gore, Finland, Oh my. All these Rumors sure do Fly.WSJ_jpg

It  will come as no surprise to our regular readers that there has been a great deal of misinformation being lauded over the past week. It’s time to start setting the record straight on a few things. Let’s start with the most highly publicized article on the topic.  In the Wall Street Journal’s “Gore-Backed Car Firm Gets Large U.S. Loan.” The bad information begins from the very first sentence.

A tiny car company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has just gotten a $529 million U.S. government loan to help build a hybrid sports car in Finland that will sell for about $89,000.

Here the fact that former Vice President Al Gore is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a primary investor in Fisker Automotive,  makes it sounds as if he wrote the DoE check himself. Historically each of these government funded programs have had enough red tape built into them to prevent any sort of direct access to funds.  It’s easy to say that’s all it took, but this funding has been in to works for a very long time.

The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive Inc. follows a $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors Inc., purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster.

Yes, both companies have halo cars that are much more expensive and are assembled in other countries. It’s called product development. You take new technology that is very expensive and package it up very nicely so that those who choose to value exclusivity over price can purchase a little piece of the future. Then you take all the lessons learned from that venture and role it up into a much more cost effective, much higher volume consumer vehicle.

In this case we now have project Nina, a $40,000 plug-in hybrid vehicle for a mass market. At 100,000 units per year it will have over 6 times the production volume of the Karma. Is it cheap? Not by a long shot. Can it be purchase by many more who value the environmental advantages, most certainly.

From there the article does manage to twist back to a form of reality and get to some of the facts. You can be the judge of how it all works out in the end.

[Source: WSJ Picture: 9to5Mac]

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Just as one EV automaker has announced the loan that will be the life blood of it’s new product line. Yet another has chosen to concede before they even really got started. Yesterday, Canadian EV automaker Zenn announced that plans for a new “high-speed” EV have been canceled. There is even talk that production of their current “lower-speed” EV could end in the very near future.

All of this has been said to show the full support for the companies new single focus of an EV drive train based on a power source provided by EEStor.

Zenn plans to make an electric drive train, the ZENNergy Drive system, which can deliver those oh-so-controversial performance claims from EEstor: 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries at one-tenth the weight and half the price, with the ability to move a car 400 kilometers after a 5-minute charge.

[Source: earth2tech]

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Fisker Automotive and the US Department of Energy have agreed to terms for a loan of more than half a billion dollars to create affordable, fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid electric cars.

A majority of the low-interest funds will go toward Project NINA, which will see the design, engineering and assembly of Fisker Automotive’s next-generation plug-in hybrids, starting at about $39,900 after tax credits. The remainder will help finalize development of the Fisker Karma, the technology leading plug-in hybrid that will enable the company to develop such lower cost models.

Fisker Automotive expects to create or save at least 5,000 US jobs among auto suppliers and thousands more to manufacture a plug-in hybrid in the U.S.

Project NINA — inspired by the ship belonging to explorer Christopher Columbus — is symbolic of the automobile industry’s transition from old world to new.

“This conditional loan represents a significant step in America’s future,” said Henrik Fisker, CEO. “With it Fisker Automotive can rapidly develop affordable clean cars that satisfy our passion for driving and help restore the US as an auto industry leader.”

All Fisker automobiles prove eco-friendly vehicles can be stylish, functional and exciting. They combine the low energy-cost and tailpipe-emission free benefits of an all-electric car with the unlimited range of a gasoline powered car.

The funds are part of the US Department of Energy’s $25-billion Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, created by Congress in November 2008 to help promote the development of energy-efficient, advanced-technology vehicles.

Fisker Automotive has already created hundreds of jobs by partnering with Tier 1 US automotive suppliers to develop the Karma. The company has also recruited a network of 45 premium retailers to market and service its vehicles. With Project NINA, that network is expected to grow to more than 100 US retailers, in addition to those in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The Fisker Karma’s real-world, annual average fuel economy can exceed 100mpg, significantly more than that of today’s hybrids. Its exclusive Q-DRIVE(R) powertrain is expected to deliver an emission-free 50 miles per full charge of its Lithium-ion battery, and a total extended range of more than 300 miles through the use of its gasoline powered engine/generator. If driven fewer than 50 miles per day and fully charged overnight it is possible the Karma can use as little as one tank of gas per year. More than 1,500 of the plug-in hybrids have already been ordered.

It is estimated some 821 million gallons of gasoline will be saved and 8 million tons of CO2 offset from sales of Fisker plug-in hybrids through 2016, based on SAE J2841 Electrical Usage Statistics.

[Source: Fisker Automotive]

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HYBRID HZ

The Sound of Silence: The Fisker Karma, will warn pedestrians by emitting a noise “akin to a jet fighter.”

A great debate. To noise, or not to noise?

Is it really needed? After so many years of hearing about noise pollution, we now have a solution and are being asked to add sound to it. The Fisker Karma has been design to specifically address this issue. There are a set of speakers in the rear bumper where you would typically expect to see tail pipes. The HYBRID HZ label literally means: Hybrid Sound. Not many details have been given about this feature. Right now the sound is said to have been set to that of a jet fighter. Of course this could easily change in the future.

An interactive debate has started over at Newsrag. The comments start out with talking about “looking  both ways before you cross the road.” That should be enough for anyone to know a car is coming. The response to that is a case where fog is an issue. Really, fog that’s the main issue? No one has address the issue of the blind. That one can get into a little more philosophical debate. Cars make sound so you can identify them with your sense of hearing. If cars had always been silent would sounds have been added already? Just because it can be done, that doesn’t mean it should. Of course, just because it has always been that way doesn’t mean it’s right either.

What would you like your Karma to sound like? Would you like to have the option for the sound  to be customized? How about an option to turn the sound off?

[Source: Popular Science Image: Sport Cars]

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Fisker Automotive’s Russell Datz, explains why after so many years of ineffective attempts by American start-up car manufacturers to compete against the big three, that this time it’s different.

“What you have right now working for us is a perfect storm socially, politically and industrially,” said Mr. Datz.

“Socially, more and more people are becoming aware that if we are to sustain our car-centered lifestyle, we have to reduce our dependence on gasoline-powered cars.”

Politically, he said, “The Obama administration is more supportive of new automotive technology and entrepreneurship, perhaps more than any other presidency in history.” He pointed to a multibillion-dollar program that encourages the development of new technology in the U.S. auto industry. Fisker has an application in for funds that Mr. Datz is optimistic will be approved.

Industrially, he said, all of the recent turmoil in the auto industry has created opportunities for new auto companies.

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