Tag: luxury hybrid vehicles
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com
After a 2012 rife with bad news, 2013 could offer a new beginning for Fisker. Recent news reports indicate that the company is currently the object of a bidding contest between two Chinese car giants capable of investing the money necessary to bring its second car, the Fisker Atlantic to market.
In the meantime, CEO Henrik Fisker is focused on the carmaker’s first product, the Fisker Karma, which has been out of production for more than seven months after deals with its assembler Valmet Automotive and battery supplier A123 systems went sour. In the case of A123, Fisker was unfortunate enough to have its supplier go bankrupt even as orders for the car remain unfilled.
A123 Systems was recently acquired by another Chinese company, Wanxiang Group, which is currently in talks with Fisker to resume supply of the Karma’s battery pack. The carmaker recently said that production will resume on the Karma “fairly soon.”
Perhaps in anticipation of that event, Mr. Fisker has been out promoting the Karma of late, making appearances at auto shows and sitting down with Autoblog Green for an extended interview. In it, Fisker confirms that his company has sold “close to 2,000 cars” to date, a number that he admits is a disappointment under the company’s old business plan but healthy under its current outlook.
“I have to say honestly, I felt like the first six months of , every time you saw one problem, there was another one coming. Then came the Presidential debates. It just didn’t stop,” Fisker told Autoblog. Fisker said his company has adjusted its model to reflect a slower timetable for its next vehicle, and is now focused on building its brand through the Karma
For Fisker, part of that effort involves personally connecting with. “If you own a Mercedes, you can’t go have dinner with Mr. Benz, because he isn’t around any more,” Fisker said. “But you can have dinner with Henrik, maybe, at some special events we’re doing. Even with our current customers, because we see them as brand ambassadors, I have had dinner or breakfast with at least 500 of them.”
Moving forward, Fisker said he likes his company’s chances. “I think we have a big advantage that our vehicles are already ready for some of the things that are happening in the future, whether that’s higher taxes in Europe on CO2 emissions, whether it’s 2025 fuel economy standards–we are the only luxury car with a gasoline engine that fulfills these standards.”
It remains to be seen when Fisker’s real “make or break” car, the Atlantic, will finally be released—or where it will be produced. Still, Fisker has been on its new path for more than a year and a half now, and as the company patiently waits for the investment it needs to move forward with the Atlantic it has had the time to restructure and adjust its goals. Once Karma production finally does restart, the central goal will be to expand its sales markets and grow the list of 2,000-some “ambassadors” Fisker has so far attracted.
In the past, Audi has been known to have a lukewarm attitude towards hybrid technology. As part of the Volkswagen group, the automaker has always championed diesel. Finally, in 2009, Wolfgang Hatz was quoted to have said that, “[Audi has] to do hybrids to show people that we are able to do them.”
The results will be tangible as soon as the 2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid arrives in showrooms. Launched for sale in Europe in late 2011, the long awaited Q5 Hybrid is reportedly still on track for its local debut this fall. But hybrid technology isn’t new to Audi. Actually, the German automaker showed people that it was able to produce not only a hybrid, but a plug-in diesel hybrid back in 1997. The Audi Duo III, AKA A4 Duo, followed three previous Duo hybrid concepts dating back to 1989. The Duo III used a 1.9-liter TDI diesel engine and a 21 kW (28 horsepower) electric motor with a cabin switch to change between the engine and electric motor. Fuel economy wasn’t much improved compared to the standard 1.9-liter diesel, and coupled with a high price there were few buyers. Around 60-65 were produced.
Over the years, research and development have refined the hybrid technology and the results have positioned the Q5 Hybrid for success. Along with improved fuel economy the Q5 Hybrid comes fully equipped with a number of engineering, technology and performance enhancements. Based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which gives more weight to start-stop driving than the EPA test cycle does, combined fuel economy is said to be 34 mpg. Expect EPA estimates at around 25-26 mpg city/ 27-28 mpg highway and a combined rating in the neighborhood of 26-27 mpg. That’s a significant 5-6 mpg improvement over the four-cylinder gas-powered Q5. In comparison to other luxury sport utility and crossovers, the Q5 Hybrid bests the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, Mercedes ML 450 Hybrid 4Matic, Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and is just shy of the Lexus 450h AWD.
The Q5 Hybrid will be Audi’s first hybrid vehicle on sale in North America. Powered by Audi’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged TFSI engine and mated to an electric motor along with an eight-speed transmission, total combined output is 245 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The vehicle sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat before topping out at 138 mph which is impressive given its 4,400 lb curb weight.
Audi’s hybrid design allows the gas engine and electric motor to couple and decouple via a multiplate clutch, enabling the two powertrains to work independently or together in parallel fashion. The electric motor can drive exclusively for short distances and at speeds of up to 60 mph. However, it’s mostly used to aid the engine during high load situations, such as overtaking or driving up a hill.
The Q5 Hybrid is a testament to Audi’s focus on luxury and performance, while integrating steady fuel economy improvements. Now Audi drivers can have bragging rights that their new SUV is not only fast, but also uses a bit less fuel.