Archive for fisker karma

Renault Fluence Z.E. (probably stands for “Zero Economizing”)

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 10/11/2011 by Alexander

Renault’s latest addition to its all-electric family, the Fluence Z.E., reintroduces problems that came with the Twizy I’ve already written about.

For €21,000 (that already carries a €5,000 tax discount), one of these EVs can be yours. But then you have to pay €82 a month for battery pack rental, for a maximum of 10,000km a year. That’s not counting electricity. Which makes this car a jolly expensive vehicle to run, even in the long term. Doing the corresponding maths, each year you’ll pay €984 alone for the battery rental, plus electricity (which Renault say will cost around €2 per 200km), for a measly 6,000 miles. I do more than double that a year and my fuel bill is around €800. Even counting maintenance costs, my ten-year old Volvo is still a better deal.

OK, then there’s the usual drawbacks of it being a fuss to recharge, the range, etc. I once read (I don’t remember where) about an entrepreneur who wanted to create a network of battery-recharging stations where you’d take your EV and simply switch a depleted battery for a fully charged one. This implies a certain standardization of batteries I don’t think car manufacturers are ready for, but it would be a clever way to go. Either way, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the current model of EV usage is way, way too inefficient to appeal to a wide-ranging market. The cleverest bet thus far is an EV with a range-extender, best exemplified by the stunning Fisker Karma. This isn’t to say the Electric Car itself will fail, just that the current concept of it will.


Dream garage #8 – Fisker Karma

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Desirable machines, Dream garage, Green Tech with tags , , on 10/01/2011 by Alexander

How can someone not want this car? It’s ticks all the boxes. Gorgeous-looking? Check. Goes like stink? Check. Low-emissions and high fuel economy? Check. I can’t believe this car hasn’t been thought of sooner. However, nothing’s perfect and it does have its drawbacks. It’s large, it’s expensive, and most of all, it’s late. The long wait that many future Karma owners have had to endure must be frustrating, but I’m guessing it will be worth it. Personally, I find it to be a current automotive pinnacle, unless there’s some other terrible flaw Fisker hasn’t told anyone about.

Another interesting bit to dwell upon is the interior design. I’ll be honest, the design is some two years old now, and for cars, that’s a long time. Car cabins get nicer and nicer as time progresses, and even cheap cars get very interesting-looking innards. Despite that, it does look cool, and reminds me of minimalist Volvo interior designs, which are fabulous. And there’s more, and I’ll quote directly from the Wikipedia article:

The base model features an “eco-friendly interior”, including salvaged lumber from fires or even from lake bottoms. Optional leather seating is available, but it will use much more of the cow hide than would customarily be found on luxury models—hides with scratches and other mars (which should not affect functionality) will be used.

This is something other brands should exploit, and I’d go further. The insistence on leather is pathetic, with less glitzy but far more cosy materials getting an ill-deserved reputation as not being sufficiently upmarket. I covered this in my other blog (previous to the creation of this one, and it’s a good article, IMHO, so I might re-publish it here), and though Fisker’s alternative isn’t perfect because it still involves skinning our poor innocent bovine friends, but it’s better than mainstream approaches.

Returning to another downside, the price, one can’t help but think what kind of market segment Fisker is aiming for. Rich fat-cats who have the money for this sort of car usually go for high-end BMWs, Mercs and Jags. Then again, I think this car might be able to steal some of the usual expensive-sedan clientèle. It’s much better-looking, goes as fast (or nearly as fast) as M5’s and AMG’s and the sort, while getting amazing mileage. This last bit will appeal to Johnny Aristocrat since he’ll have to make less stops at the pump (where he has to mingle with riff-raff), and to other German Big Three car owning-posers, who can hardly afford the thing (and got a diesel to try to save a bit on fuel).

That said, the Karma’s success depends on impressing this niche of the market. It has to look fashionable and status-sporting, and current widespread Top Gear-like mentality is anathema to this. I wish the Karma all the success in the world, and leads the way for other beautiful, fuel-sipping cars.

P.S. Sorry, no more galleries for my Dream Car Garage. Very time-consuming, and time is something I don’t have.

A blight on God’s clean Earth #5 – Toyota Prius

Posted in A blight on God's clean Earth with tags , on 07/01/2011 by Alexander

“He’s badmouthing a Prius, is he? He must be some petrolhead, Clarkson-loving Mother Earth-hater!” Nay, my dear brethren, nothing could be further from the truth. I think hybrids are an excellent idea. First, from the eco-viewpoint, with less emissions and consumption, and second from the personal economics perspective, where you don’t have to dish out so much cash at the pump. And I’d have thought so-called “petrolheads” would’ve loved the idea. A piddly-little engine that gets lots of extra power from some electric motors, like the Fisker Karma, that sports 450bhp, goes like the clappers, yet has a consumption of 2.4l per 100km (100mpg). It’s one of those win-win situations where everyone comes away happy.

So what’s wrong with the Prius? I’ve said this before, but the Prius is what comes to mind of the average driver when mentioning the words “hybrid car”. It’s the poster child of one of the most significant leaps of car technology. And what a tremendously ugly, off-putting poster child it is. I’ll put it this way: if it were a conventionally-powered ICE car, would you buy it? It’s horribly proportioned, with a huge backside and a too-sloped bonnet, and the wheels look like they’re off a caravan because they’re so small in relation to the car.

And this is a problem inherent to nearly all early hybrids. The Japanese car-manufacturers responsible for these must’ve thought that making a hybrid look pleasingly normal wasn’t the right way of going about things. “No,” they probably said. “It must look like it’s out of an early 90’s sci-fi comic book! It must look different!” This actually could’ve gone rather well, had it been anywhere else. It might have come out looking like a cool concept car, like an Audi Avus or a Citroen Activa II. But being Japan, where local aesthetic taste gave us visual horrors such as the Power Rangers, Dragonball, Doraemon, Bakugan and countless samurai-inspired armoured and robot heroes, the end result was the usual codswallop the rest of the world finds embarrassingly, awkwardly, cringe-worthy bilge.

Fortunately, the rest of the world has picked up on hybrids, making cool stuff like the aforementioned Karma or BMW EfficientDynamics-thing. Hopefully it will mark the shift from arse-ugly crates-on-wheels to proper-looking road cars.

Long live the hybrid. Death to the Prius.

2010 is gone. Welcome 2011

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 03/01/2011 by Alexander

2010 was another automotive year with all the usual ups and downs, and there was nothing Earth-shaking about it. But there were some moments worth remembering:

Top 5 good things from 2010:

  • The spread of green technology
    Until recently, either having a hybrid or running your diesel on vegetable oil were the only ways to be green (driving a GPL car has been for yonks, but let’s not delve into that right now). This year saw the significant spread of cleaner engine technology, with more brands churning out more efficient engines, like PSA’s e-HDi or Fiat’s Twin-Air. It saw the introduction of all-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Renault’s ZE cars. Even Porsche and other traditionally anti-eco brands dreamed up their own hybrid concepts. We’re on the right track.
  • Formula 1 goes barebones
    I’ve never been one to talk about Formula 1, because it’s been a sport for the likes of Ferrari and big engine-producing to show off their crap. But no more. Next year sees the goodbye of the 2.4-litre V8 engine, and the exclusive use of 1.6l turbo flat fours. This will attract more car manufacturers and bring Formula 1 closer to what it should be: a laboratory for car-makers to test solutions in extreme conditions. With this, the solutions they’ll have to dream up for F1 cars will be more easily transposed to the cars you and me buy. That’ll mean more power and efficiency from piddly little four-cylinder power-plants. Ferrari are really pissed off by this, because they don’t use straight-fours in their road-going ostentation-mobiles, and are refusing to use them. Good riddance, shit-heads.
  • Cars keep getting nicer
    Unfortunately, the world’s recession stems from people living beyond their means, and that includes buying too many new cars. Here in Portugal, it’s heinous. Everyone complains how deep in the shit they are, but 2010 was unprecedented in terms of car sales. The upshot is that the automotive market is battling it out to make the best cars they can to attract the expanding market. Cars keep getting safer, better equipped, technologically more advanced, and even cheaper cars look nicer and nicer, as opposed to looking like coloured washing machines that they used to up until the mid-2000’s. Just sitting in recent cars makes me gawp, due to the simple fact that interiors just keep improving. A modern day supermini is just as nice to sit in as top-of-the-range four-doors of 20-odd years ago.
  • Volvo S60
    The coolest release of the year, topping the Peugeot RC Z, the Honda CR-Z and the Citroen DS3. The shape, the look, the gorgeous interior and instrument panel… wow.
  • Hummer went belly up
    Need I say more?

Top 5 let-downs of 2010:

  • The Peugeot 508
    Early in the year Peugeot treated us to two exciting new concept cars: the SR-1 and the RC Hybrid4. The former was a mouth-watering coupé and the latter seemed to show what the 407’s successor would look like. Instead of that, we got a knock-off of the Renault Fluence.
  • Citroen
    The 2000’s saw a spectacular return to form for Citroen. The C3 Pluriel, the C4, the C5 II and the glorious C6. This year, they decided to be run by the corporate morons and killed off the lovely C3 Pluriel, and introduced stuff like the Metropolis and the new C4, which both look like they were plagiarised from Audi. Awful.
  • Toyota
    I think the recalls speak for themselves. Never did I think to see this Japanese behemoth of reliability and sense be so mired by crass mistakes such as these. Amazing.
  • Fisker
    I was hoping to see the absolutely luscious Karma showing off its lines live in the metal and setting new automotive standards at the same time. Alas, ’twas not to be, with Fisker pushing its delivery dates further and further…
  • Ferrari 458
    “You-a-drive it, it-a-catches de fire!” The menstruation-coloured prancing hossie from Italy finally made a car that didn’t look crap for a “supercar”. Downside is, it goes up in flames of its own accord.