Fisker Auto plans second electric sedan, seeks funds

An anticipated $65 million round will go to "tooling" of the $80,000 Karma, a part-electric sports car. On deck: a version at half the price.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read

NEW YORK--Fisker Automotive is raising a large round of funding to build its $80,000 electric sedan, but it intends to make a version at half the price in a few years.

The company expects to close a series C round of $65 million in June, company CEO Henrik Fisker told CNET News.com on Tuesday.

Fisker, who spoke at a clean tech investor conference here, declined to name investors. But he said the company is in advanced talks with investors in Europe and Dubai and the round is "oversubscribed." To date, Fisker Automotive has raised $25 million.

The money will be used for "tooling" of the Karma, a luxury sports car that runs on a lithium-ion battery and a gasoline engine. It's designed to run 50 miles on a battery, which covers daily driving for most people.

That car will be available at the end of next year. The company drove a prototype of it last week, which ran on its custom-designed battery.

Fisker anticipates that advances in battery technology will allow the company to offer a cheaper version at about $40,000 in about four or five years.

Fisker cars are positioned to be in the same market as BMWs, Fisker said. He said that the Karma will be the equivalent of a 7 Series while the follow-on will be about the same as a 3 Series.

The key to the anticipated lower price is cheaper batteries, he said. A number of auto start-ups are devising all-electric cars or those that drive at least partially on batteries. But battery technology still limits the range people can drive. Recharge time and available power are also issues.

Fisker chose to create a combined gasoline-engine/battery-powered car to avoid any limitations on a car's range. The gas engine will be a four-cylinder, which runs at a constant speed, that will power a generator that charges the battery.

The zip in the car comes from the torque delivered by the battery. The Karma will be able to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds. Top speed will be 125 miles per hour.

Fisker is somewhat unusual among electric car makers in that it is designing its own battery.

Rather than have dozens of individual batteries, the Fisker car will have one large battery. That makes is easier to manage and control thermal problems that can arise with lithium-ion batteries, Fisker said.

Software, too, is key to its design, he said.

"The software is what controls the depletion and charging of the battery and the thermal management. The other software we're doing controls the engine generator that drives the system," Fisker explained.

The battery will be placed at the bottom and in the middle of the car and encased in lighter-weight aluminum. If better battery technologies emerge, the company can use it in its cars, he said.

Separately, Fisker said that the company intends to file for arbitration in reaction to a suit filed by Tesla Motors against Fisker's design firm, alleging theft of trade secrets.