Driven: 2012 Fisker Karma ES

Despite being constructed of mostly lightweight materials, the Karma is an uncommonly heavy car. Fisker Automotive refused to disclose its weight, but we wouldn't be surprised to find that the Karma weighs well over 5000 pounds. The two powertrains and the huge battery are ample explanation for the heft-yet no matterwhat the scales say, the Karma flings itself around a racetrack with more composure than the class leader in the handling department, the Jaguar XJ. So who cares what it weighs?

The Karma's intimate cockpit helps further the impression of sportiness. Each passenger is seated in his own cocoon, with a door on one side and the high center divider on the other. The dashboard, tailored in diamond-stitched Ultrasuede, is a model of simplicity, with all secondary functions controlled via a 10.2-inch haptic-feedback touch screen developed in-house. Simply put, the interior looks like the future-a very elegant future where every surface is pleasing to the eyes and fingers alike. All four seats are comfortable, although the rears suffer from a slight lack of headroom and the short rear door openings require a little extra bodily origami to get through. The trunk will hold, at best, two small roll-aboard suitcases.

With a base price of $96,850, the Karma doesn't cost more than its gas-only competitors. Fully loaded (but without the optional top-spec, animal-free interior) at $105,000, it's far less expensive than a Maserati Quattroporte and half the price of an Aston Martin Rapide, neither of which pack any additional exterior punch or interior voluptuousness. The Karma is the first electric vehicle that doesn't cost three times what you'd expect it to-and Fisker swears it won't lose money on it. Clearly the small company is benefiting tremendously from not having the baggage of decades of legacy costs and inefficient management. Either that or something magical is happening.

We'd guess there's a little of both. And we're not talking sleight of hand, we're talking about the kind of magic that Apple manufactures: the magic that happens when you watch science fiction turn into reality right in front of you. A BlackBerry is a great piece of science; an iPhone is magic in the palm of your hand.

The problem of importing and using oil has been well defined. Natural gas does not produce massive toxic waste. Natural gas and nuclear energy produce produce about the same amount of electrical generation as coal. The vast majority of the remaining electrical generation sources are low in pollution. Electric cars are no panacea, but they can certainly be part of a transitional solution.
I will answer your last question for you. It is expensive, has average performance, and a limited range. Electric cars are an answer to a problem that has yet to be defined. Unless we switch to nuclear energy, electric cars are nothing more than a toxic waste dump waiting for the day to be put to rest.

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