Fisker Plans Hybrid Concept in Detroit

Best-known for its limited-edition, high-performance sedans and coupes, California-based Fisker Coachbuild, is steering in a distinctly different direction, teaming up with the high-tech supplier, Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide to produce a line of premium plug-in hybrid vehicles.


They intend to produce 15,000 green machines annually though their new joint venture, Fisker Automotive, Inc., at a starting price of “under $100,000.” The first of the hybrids will debut, according to company officials, at the January 2008 North American International Auto Show, inDetroit.


“We want people to drive beautiful fast cars that make environmental sense – cars that are eco-chic and will have less of an impact on global warming,” said Henrik Fisker, CEO of the new joint venture.


The Danish designer has earned a reputation, over the years, with high-line, high-performance products, such as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and, more recently, a series of extremely low-volume products, such as the Latigo, sold through Fisker Coachbuild. But his move – and his company’s – into eco-chic suggests the growing interest, at all levels of the auto industry in environmentally-friendly products.


The mandate for Fisker Automotive is to “produce a car that makes a difference to the environment – without sacrificing the luxury that accompanies the finest automobiles,” stated Alan Niedzwiecki, CEO Quantum Technologies.


Quantum has been actively developing energy storage systems for use in green vehicles, and has also partnered with various mainstream automakers, such as General Motors. It plans to produce the new Quantum Drive system that will be used in the Fisker hybrids.


Plug-ins are generating significant interest – and hefty investments – because they could combine the unique and individual advantages of gasoline, battery, and hybrid vehicles into one propulsion system.


Pure electric vehicles produce zero emissions but suffer from limited range and long charge cycles. The time-tested internal combustion can quickly refuel but emits a variety of pollutants including carbon dioxide, blamed for causing global warming. Conventional gas-electric hybrids recapture energy lost during braking and coasting, but they work best in heavy stop-and-go traffic and those models capable of driving in EV mode have severely limited range on batteries alone.


Plug-ins, as the name implies, can draw power from any electric socket – while also recharging while driving, like a conventional hybrid. Using advanced battery technology, such as lithium-ion, proposed plug-ins, such as the Chevrolet Volt concept, could yield as much as 50 miles on electric power alone, more than enough for the typical American commuter. But when the battery drains down, a plug-in vehicle would continue to run by firing up its gasoline, diesel, or hydrogen engine. has learned that unlike Fisker Coachbuild models – which start out with existing BMW and Mercedes-Benz platforms – the Fisker Automotive plug-in will be “completely new from the ground up,” and according to the firm’s vice president, Christina Cheever, Fisker himself will be “solely” responsible for the vehicle’s design.


While the partners are holding onto most of the technical details, it appears likely that the hybrid will use lithium-ion batteries and, in contrast to the Volt show car’s little three-cylinder internal combustion engine, there will be a relatively large gasoline engine, mated to Quantum’s electric drive.


“We are still a premium sports car company,” stressed Cheever.


More details are expected to be released by November, with a running prototype debuting in Detroit , in January. But it’s not likely to make the move to production before at least early 2009, company officials hint.



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