Car designer and entrepreneur Henrik Fisker made his name in the car industry designing the highest of the high-end luxury cars for BMW and Aston Martin. After making waves in the auto industry with vehicles such as the Aston Martin DB9, Aston Martin V8 Vantage and BMW Z8, he decided to break away from this corner of the auto world imbued with tradition and start his own company, Fisker Automotive. Fisker’s first vehicle to hit the road has been the Karma, an impressively green, extended range electric vehicle with so many curves, your eyes are already driving it before you’ve even gotten behind the wheel. Coming in as loud and clear as the Karma’s sex appeal, Henrik Fisker is on a mission to make green cars cool. We recently had a chance to talk to him about how he’s risen to the top of the electric vehicle pack, and where he plans on taking his cars from there.
Fisker Automotive was founded by Fisker and Bernhard Koehler in 2007 and the Fisker Karma was the first car they brought to the market. The vehicle was just awarded an impressive rating of 112 mpg by the European rating agency Technischer Üeberwachungs Verein (TÜV). The car has an all-electric range of up to 50 miles after which a gasoline generator kicks in to run the engine and drives the car another 250 miles. The Karma has a Nanophosphate Lithium-ion Battery pack that charges in 6-14 hours — depending on the type of charger you are using — and has a solar paneled roof that provides energy to drive the car an additional 200 miles annually. The car uses regenerative breaking and is painted with a special diamond dust paint that uses recycled glass elements and releases no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment.
In addition the car packs 403 horsepower under the hood, can go from 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds and tops out at 125 miles an hour. We caught up with Mr. Fisker at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards where he was receiving the Corporate Design Award for his work on electric vehicles at Fisker Automotive. He was happy to be getting the award and noted that, “for us, to be part of this event is just really to create more awareness that environmental products can actually be really cool.” We’d have to second that notion, Fisker Automotive might just have one of the coolest green products in our book.
INHABITAT: You’re well known for being a car designer for many years for a lot of the top brands in automotive. What inspired you to go off and start your own company?
Henrik: I always thought about what are we going to be driving in the future. Now, when I saw Leonardo DiCaprio drive, obviously, to the Oscars in a Prius, I thought here’s a guy who can buy any car he wants, but he wants to make a statement. And I thought there’s got to be a market for good looking, desirable, green cars. So when I saw this kind of opportunity to get into this market with this powertrain that we have, which is essentially an electric vehicle, but with a range extender, I saw that it was the first time we could offer no compromise to the consumer, but also really get out there a beautiful green car, because obviously, my background is car design, so I thought it was the perfect mix.
INHABITAT: So, Leonardo DiCaprio was actually one of your first customers. That must feel really great.
Henrik: It feels great. You know, he’s a great ambassador for the environment. I think he is really passionate about it. He has obviously shown it in many things that he has contributed to and to have him drive the car and be a support for the company is fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for better.
INHABITAT: So your background is in design and now you’re a CEO. How does that feel making that transition?
Henrik: I think the advantage we have at Fisker Automotive is that I have a design background, because I’m very involved in the product creation and the design, obviously, of the vehicle. Becoming, obviously, the CEO really means you’re just involved in everything that goes on in the company and you start understanding all of the aspects of the company. And I think understanding the product fundamentally really means that everybody in the company is inspired, because they see that the lead in the company understands the product — that’s very important in the car industry.
INHABITAT: So the Karma is the first electric car that you designed; what inspired you to get into electric cars?
Henrik: For me it was not just about electric. It was about thinking about how do people actually drive cars today. You know, in car commercials today you see people going to work on an open road, curvy road. That’s not how we go to work. We sit in traffic, you know? And that’s how we use our car. And rarely do we take it out on an open road.
So I thought it would be great if I would be able to on my daily commute be in electric mode and when I have to go far, being in some sort of gasoline mode, because that’s what you need when you go far. For me that meant that suddenly you actually could create an uncompromising electric vehicle. But I felt it had to be more than that. It also was about the rest of the vehicle, because we want to be an environmental friendly brand as a whole. So it’s not just about the technology.
We have reclaimed wood in our car. We are probably the only car company in the world, which actually doesn’t cut down any trees. All our wood is reclaimed either from the California fires or from places like the bottom of Lake Michigan. And we offer an animal free interior. We offer the biggest solar panel in the world on a car ever done. Those are the types of things where it’s more – it’s about an entire brand. Even our dealers have to use solar powered signs.
INHABITAT: So I absolutely love the Karma. I think it’s the best looking EV out there. What inspired the Karma’s design?
Henrik: To be honest, the essential beauty of cars. So when we talk about beautiful cars we always go back to the ‘50s and ‘60s and so I kind of went back and thought what was it that made us fall in love with the cars. There were these amazing proportions, great sculpture, and just really sexy lines in the perfect proportion. I wanted to bring that back with the Karma and for us the Karma is the essence of the brand, so it had to be very dramatic. I wanted to create a car where you didn’t think instantly about whether it was environmental friendly or not; you thought about, “Wow! I just want that car.”
INHABITAT: So, you’re getting the Corporate Design Award from Global Green tonight. What does that mean to you?
Henrik: This is just a start. We’re coming out, obviously, with a very expensive vehicle. We’re getting a nice, green award for it, but it’s really about creating awareness so when we come out with vehicles that are eventually half the price of the Karma or even cheaper than that, then people start feeling that it started out with a very desirable product and we want to create a really desirable brand. That’s how you create a good brand, by creating this unique first product.
So, for us to be part of this event is just really to create more awareness about that environmental products can actually be really cool.