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Irvine-based Fisker will run its plug-in on Canadian batteries

March 12, 2009|Ken Bensinger

Fisker Automotive Inc.'s long-anticipated plug-in hybrid will run on Canadian power.

The Irvine automaker said it would buy the batteries for its $87,900 luxury sedan, the Karma, from Advanced Lithium Power Inc., a Vancouver concern that also supplies batteries to the U.S. military. In addition, Fisker spokesman Russell Datz said the company would make a "sizable" cash investment in Advanced Lithium Power, also known as ALP.

Exact terms were not disclosed, but Datz said Fisker would get two seats on ALP's board along with the ownership stake.

Fisker said the first production models would be finished by year-end but customers would not receive deliveries until spring 2010. The company expects to build a network of 95 dealers in the U.S. and Europe by that time. Fisker has raised roughly $100 million in venture capital, including $3 million announced this month.

The battery is the most important, and costly, component in vehicles that run partially or entirely on electricity, so sourcing it is a vital task.

In December, General Motors Corp. said that after a yearlong competition, it had selected South Korean firm LG Chem to supply the lithium-ion batteries for its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, due in late 2010.

The four-door Karma will use a 22.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, with cells produced in Canada and assembled in Taiwan. Fisker declined to disclose the cost of the battery, but by comparison, the 56-kwh battery in the all-electric Tesla Roadster costs about $36,000.

As a plug-in hybrid, the Karma uses only electric motors to power the wheels, but it carries a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected engine made by GM that serves as a generator to charge the battery and extend range.

According to Chief Executive Henrik Fisker, the Karma will have a range of 50 miles on battery power and 250 additional miles with the generator running. "We realized you need a battery developed specifically for automotive use," he said. "This battery has been tested for a long time. It's been in our test vehicles for eight months."

The Karma will also be available in two fancier versions that raise the price as high as $104,000. Fisker also plans a two-door convertible and a lower-cost, higher-volume sedan in the future.

Fisker said it had collected 1,300 deposits on the car of between $1,000 and $5,000, and it hoped to produce 7,500 Karmas in its first full year of production. Eventually, the company hopes to produce 15,000 a year.

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ken.bensinger@latimes.com

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