Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Car Pool Lane Extension Likely in California

December 31, 2010 is the last day hybrids will be allowed as solo drivers into the carpool lane in Calfiornia, unless the current bill on extending the privilege passes in the legislature.

Lawmakers are working on a bill extend HOV access to 'alternative fuel vehicles' including electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and CNG vehicles into the diamond lane.

The reprieve for hybrid owners in the current bill would extend the end date to July 1, 2011.

Considering how much those car pool lane stickers are worth to owners, this is a big deal to hybrid car owners who don't want to be left behind just because electric and plug-in hybrid cars are coming.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Standard for Measuring Hybrids and Plug-ins Fuel Economy

The trouble with measuring fuel efficiency of a vehicle that doesn't necessarily use gas is a tough one. Just look at the ridiculous numbers floating around for the Volt (230 mpg) and the Nissan Leaf (an electric vehicle!). I mean, really, what does an MPG rating for an electric vehicle mean to anyone?

You quickly get the idea that some sort of standard needs to be worked out. And not the same one that works for gas-only vehicles.

Plug-ins or Electric Range Extended Vehicles (E-REV), in particular, are tough. If you can drive 40 miles on all electric, then switch over to gas powered, you probably aren't interested in knowing your mpg as we know it. If you drive less than 40 miles a day, you may not need to worry about your 'fuel economy', but you may be very interested to know how much electricity your using. Or, if you do go over the 40 mile range, the traditional mpg rating could be very important, since you want to know how much gas you're using.  Then throw in the whole city vs highway driving.

And just to complicate matters, you want to be able to compare the E-REV to the plug-in to the hybrid to the gas-only vehicle when you go out to buy one (otherwise what's on the sticker the dealer has to put there becomes worthless).

In order to combat the problem, a standard is needed and the SAE International says they have one.

The SAE International has released a new standard to measure the exhaust emissions and fuel economy of hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and all their variants. The new standard is J1711 - Recommended Practice for Measuring the Exhaust Emissions and Fuel Economy of Hybrid Electric Vehicles, including Plug-in Hybrid.

It can be applied to any Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). An HEV is defined as a road vehicle that can draw propulsion energy from both of the following sources of stored energy: 1) a consumable fuel and 2) a rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) that is recharged by an electric motor-generator system, an off-vehicle electric energy source, or both.

For more information about the standard, visit

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Tesla IPO, the First Car IPO in 50 Years

Tesla announced their IPO at $17 a share, beginning today on NASDAQ. That's a dollar more than what was reported yesterday. It puts their market capitalization at nearly $1.6 billion.

In comparison, Ford who was the last car company to go public in 1956, was selling just under $10 this morning.

The company is still losing money and will continue to do so until they start selling the Model S in significant numbers. That doesn't bother the CEO, though.

"We are a Silicon Valley company. Closer to an Apple or Google than to a GM or Ford in the way we operate the company," Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said.

Some analysts are skeptical, pointing out they are a manufacturing company in a competitive field. But that didn't seem to bother many as Tesla opened up today.

Press Release from Tesla follows:

Tesla Motors, Inc. (Nasdaq:TSLA), a manufacturer of highway-capable fully electric vehicles and electric vehicle powertrain components, today announced its initial public offering of 13,300,000 shares of its common stock at a price to the public of $17.00 per share. The shares will begin trading on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “TSLA.” Of the shares in the offering, 11,880,600 shares are being offered by the company and 1,419,400 shares are being offered by selling stockholders. In addition, the selling stockholders have granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional aggregate of 1,995,000 shares of common stock to cover over-allotments, if any. Tesla will not receive any proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling stockholders.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank Securities are acting as the joint book-running managers for the offering.

The offering of these securities will be made only by means of a prospectus, copies of which may be obtained from Goldman, Sachs & Co., via telephone: (866) 471-2526; facsimile: (212) 902-9316; email:; or standard mail at Goldman, Sachs & Co., Attn: Prospectus Department, 200 West Street, New York, NY 10282-2198; from Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, via telephone: (866) 718-1649; email:; or standard mail at Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, Attn: Prospectus Department, 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014; from J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., via telephone: (718) 242-8002; or standard mail at c/o Broadridge Financial Solutions, 1155 Long Island Avenue, Edgewood, NY 11717; or from Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., via telephone: (800) 503-4611; or standard mail at 100 Plaza One, Jersey City, NJ 07311 Attn: Prospectus Department.

A registration statement relating to these securities has been declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission. This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such an offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or jurisdiction.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Tesla CEO Selling Million Shares During IPO Tomorrow

Tesla founder and CEO is adding an additional 909,212 of his personal shares to the IPO in one day of Tesla. Musk will still be the largest shareholder, with 28.4 percent, after the shares are sold. (Source: Techcrunch)

He and others (including Musk's family) are looking to cash out on some of their shares during the IPO. Shares are expected to sell between $14 and $16.

Other major shareholders include Daimler (through an investment arm called Blackstar Investco) with 8 percent of the shares, and the third largest will be the government of Abu Dhabi (through Al Wahada Capital Investment) with 7.8 percent of the shares. The two biggest VC shareholders will be Vantage Capital Partners with 6.6 percent and Valor Equity Partners with 5.25 percent.

Interesting information, if you ask me.  On the one hand, I can't help wondering why the CEO is cashing out a million shares, but on the other hand, it's not like he's abandoning his shares either.  He's probably invested so much time and money into it and maybe he just has another investment to make with that money.  And I have no idea if this sort of initial 'cash out' is just the normal process during an IPO.

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2010 HS 250h Safety Recall

The 2010 Lexus 250h is under recall for the possibility of excess fuel leak in an accident.

During a crash test, when the vehicle was rotated on its longitudinal axis to each successive increment of 90 degrees, fuel spillage exceeded a set amount limit. Since fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire, the HS has been recalled.

Toyota has not provided a remedy for this campaign or has not determined when the safety recall is expected to begin. owners may contact lexus at 1-800-255-3987. Or owners can contact the national highway traffic safety administration's vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (tty 1-800-424-9153), or go to

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Honda Fit Hybrid Will be the Cheapest Hybrid by Far

If this is true, the new Fit Hybrid really would become the hybrid for the rest of us (unlike the Insight).

Reuters has a report out of Japan putting the new Honda Fit Hybrid at 1.5 million yen ($16,570). That's 400,000 yen less than the Insight and only 200,000 yen more than the Fit.

That sort of pricing is exactly what people had hoped for when Honda said the Insight was going to be the hybrid for everyone. And it's exactly what most people hope for when they see a truly small hybrid car appear on the market.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hyundai Hybrid News Goes Wild the Past Couple of Days

Hyundai has been in the news a few times the past few days, indicating very positive things for the car company (if you're into fuel economy and hybrids).

A couple of days ago, Hyundai chief executive officer John Krafcik let it be known they expect the Sonata hybrid to hit 40 mpg. That would, if it's true as well as the rumours on the price tag ($26,000), make it fiercely competitive with the Ford Hybrid.

Also, Hyundai will introduce a dedicated hybrid (no gas-only version) starting in 2012, with a plug-in version in the works for 2013. Both the hybrid and the plug-in hybrid will use lithium-ion battery packs.

And to top it off, Wayne Gerdes hypermiler extraordinaire, noted he was able to drive the Hyundai Sonata over 1,000 miles on less than one tank of gas. That means he was driving the Sonata at over 62 mpg!

It's no wonder than that people are beginning to question if Hyundai is going to catch Honda in efficiency.

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Lotus Range Extender Becoming More Real

The Lotus Range Extender Engine is moving from concept to production. If it sells, it will provide manufacturers a much faster method of moving into the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) market. That means they can move to lower emissions and higher fuel efficiency for less money than developing their own system (like GM and the Chevy Volt).

Lotus Engineering and Fagor Ederlan completed a joint technical and market study analysing the best route to production. The study ended with an agreement to develop the engine for series production for sale by Fagor Ederlan.

The 3-cylinder range extender was debuted in the 414E Hybrid and PROTON Emas concept vehicles at the Geneva Motor Show.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2011 Honda CR-Z Price (MSRP) Announced

Honda announced the base price on the 2011 Honda CR-Z.  At $19,200, the base model will be one of the least expensive hybrids available for some time to come (excludes $750 destination and handling charge).  The all new 'sporty' two seat hybrid coupe will be on sale at the end of August.

The hybrid CR-Z, unlike what you might expect, is designed for performance, not fuel efficiency.  So, despite being a small two-seater, the fuel efficiency (31/37) isn't truly remarkable.

ModelTransmissionMSRPEPA** City/Hwy/
CR-Z EXMT$20,76031/37/34
CR-Z EXCVT$21,41035/39/37
CR-Z EX with NavigationMT$22,56031/37/34
CR-Z EX with NavigationCVT$23,21035/39/37
*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, $750 destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on 2011 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.

But it has been getting good reviews by many, indicating it has something to offer.  The 1.5 liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine is combined via the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system to produce a quick response and handling.  The six-speed transmission and automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is available and controllable by a steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

If you want, you can switch from Normal to Sport or even Economy driving modes.  Each mode has an effect on the fuel economy, so you can emphasize what you want when you want it.

The standard features include a six speaker audio system, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, remote entry, and cruise control.  You can upgrade up the CR-Z EX which gives you a 'high power' audio system with seven speakers, including a subwoofer, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®, leather wrapped steering wheel, and a Satellite Linked Nav system with voice recognition.

The CR-Z is loaded with safety features including: Vehicle Stability Assist, standard dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, front-side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System, side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, an anti-lock braking system, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a pedestrian injury mitigation design in the front of the vehicle.

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Concepts Dominated by Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Nissan Leaf Takes Top Spot in Concept Awards
The 2010 North American Concept Vehicle Awards were 'dominated' by hybrid and electric cars. The Nissan Leaf, Audi E-tron and BMW Vision EfficientDynamics won the awards.

No US automaker, who were too busy dealing with bankruptcy last year, won any of the awards. The number of awards were dropped from 5 to 3 for the same reason.

Despite that, these awards are a good indicator of how automakers are thinking about cars right now. The emphasis on fuel efficiency in law and in public awareness are pushing automakers (if they can do so) to build more electric based vehicles. It's also a good indicator of what automakers think they can do right now to increase their mpgs. Anything they can't do today they weren't about to build a concept around last year.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, 41 MPG is official

2011 MKZ Hybrid
Ford announced the EPA has certified the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will get a 41 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway rating, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars on the road. And it will be the most fuel efficient compared to its competitors, specifically the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, which gets 35 mpg city/ 35 mpg highway.

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid goes on sale in the fall.

Press Release follows:

DEARBORN, Mich., June 16, 2010 – Lincoln’s first-ever hybrid – the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid – is now officially the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in America with an EPA-certified 41 mpg rating in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway.

“The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid provides a real choice in the marketplace for customers looking for a vehicle that not only makes a statement about who they are but also reflects their ideals,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president, Global Product Development. “It offers the best fuel economy in its segment, a host of advanced safety features, and all the amenities and modern design of a true luxury sedan.”

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid’s final fuel economy certification was completed this week, and the vehicle will carry an EPA label of 41 mpg for city driving and 36 mpg on the highway when it goes on sale this fall. It tops its nearest competitor – the 2010 Lexus HS 250h – by 6 mpg. It also trumps the Lexus HS 250h with room for one more passenger and more standard luxury and segment-exclusive safety features.

“The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid offers everything our customers look for in a midsize luxury sedan, plus unsurpassed fuel economy,” said Kuzak. “Our engineers worked to ensure the hybrid electric motor and engine complement each other in a fashion that reflects the truly refined driving experience that is synonymous with the Lincoln name.”

Building on Ford Motor Company’s reputation as a world leader in electrified technology, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid uses the company’s second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine – named one of Ward’s 2010 “10 Best Engines.” The system combines the best attributes of the gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motors to deliver optimal performance and fuel economy.

Industry-leading fuel economy comes without sacrificing power. The combined gasoline engine and electric motor provide 191 net horsepower. Plus, the pure electric mode on the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid extends to 47 mph – compared with the Lexus HS 250h battery-only mode, which reaches just 25 mph.

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: Luxury comes standard
In addition to being the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in America, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid includes a host of standard features either not offered at all on the Lexus HS 250h, or available at an extra cost. They are:

  • SmartGauge with EcoGuide
  • Lincoln SYNC®
  • Bridge of Weir leather-trimmed seats
  • 10-way power passenger seat
  • Power driver memory seat settings
  • Heated and cooled front seats
  • Genuine wood trim
  • Reverse sensing system
  • Keyless entry keypad
  • Easy Fuel® Capless Fuel-Filler
  • Personal Safety System™
  • MyKey™
  • Integrated spotter mirrors
  • Acoustic laminated windshield

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Toyota Building the Corolla in Mississippi, not the Prius

Toyota has restarted their plant construction in Blue Springs, Mississippi, in another indication the recent recall hasn't ruined their business. If they're willing to expand production, they must be planning on selling those extra cars.

Which is good news for the 2,000 people Toyota plans on hiring in Mississippi. But, unfortunately for those of us who are interested in hybrids, Toyota will be building the Corolla instead of the Prius.

As of now, every Prius sold in the states is built in Japan. Which means the sales rush there (the Prius is the no 1 selling car in Japan for 12 months and counting) is affecting the number of Prius they can sell, or export here. That keeps the supply and demand pretty tight here in the states.

So even with all the bad news surrounding Toyota if you're buying a Prius don't expect a deal to suddenly be offered.

Toyota says the decision to start building the Corolla in Mississippi allows them to open the plant sooner, rather than waiting for the demand to pick up on the Prius. The building itself is 'essentially complete' with just the installation of equipment to finish it off.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Valeo Turns Off Your Car

Valeo will be providing their stop-start system to PSA Peugeot Citroen. The second generation start-stop system, called i-StARS, will be integrated into the Peugeot and Citroen models with HDi diesel engines. Valeo says that by 2013, a million vehicles will have the system in place.

That's good news. A start-stop system can increase fuel efficiency by up to 15% in congested urban areas according to their estimates. The system turns off the engine when the car comes to a stop, say at red lights or in congestion.

An average decrease of 5g/km in CO2 emissions can be expected.

The Start-Stop system cuts power to the engine as the car slows down, at 8 km/h in an automatic and at 20 km/h in a manual.  Re-start takes 500 msec, is noiseless and with no vibrations.

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Prius Halo is Starting to Erode

The Prius halo is starting to erode. No, not because of recalls.  Instead those who want to project a green image are contemplating the next big thing. With the advent of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, I'm seeing more and more stories on how people, towns, or companies are looking to buying an electric or plug-in electric car, not just a hybrid.

For instance, the city of El Paso is buying 20 hybrid vehicles to create a 'Green Fleet.' But they are already planning on buying a Leaf to 'test it out' while installing charging stations.

Marty Howell, El Paso sustainability manager, said, "We'll try one of the Leafs and figure out how that runs. If we like it, we'll continue to go after that."
The countdown timer on the Prius halo has officially kicked in.  And with it, the hybrid halo that Toyota has held for a decade.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hybrid Trucks, Who Are They Good For

It's a bias I have. I don't see any real use for hybrid trucks and SUVs like the Silverado, Yukon, Sierra or Tahoe. I do get the appeal of the Escalade Hybrid, an upscale SUV built for the show-stoppers made 'greener' to help project an image the buyer wants. Yes, he or she is driving a monster SUV with all the 'bling' but he or she still cares for the environment.

Verizon buys 576 Hybrid Silverados: USA Today, Nitrobahn, GM Press Release.

But I never understood who GM could market the Silverado to. In my mind, the person buying a large truck built for construction sites or towing isn't all that interested in how fuel efficient the car is. At least, not if it's going to make the truck even more expensive. In fact, so expensive the initial cost outweighs the fuel savings. Small business owners have a small profit margin they need to keep a very careful eye on short term savings. If they could take the long view (5-10 years), they could count on the fuel savings adding up. And sure, if gas went up to $6 or $7 a gallon, you could make the argument. But until then?

So I wasn't surprised when Chrysler gave up on the Aspen and Durango Hybrids built with the same two-mode hybrid system used in the hybrid SUV and trucks built by GM. I was shocked by how quickly they gave up on them. Two months was not enough time to give to any product they had spent years developing. But as we entered the recession, I'm sure Chrysler executives looked at it as the smartest move. Not throwing more money into what may have been good for the image, but bad for the bottom line.

But GM may have changed my mind about all of this. With the Verizon deal in place, GM may have found the perfect place to sell their hybrid trucks and SUVs. Large fleet customers, who are interested both in long term fuel savings and the image it presents. They can afford to own their trucks for 10 or more years, have a dedicated team to maintain it, and are sure to see the long term cost benefits. And in the short term, they can let everyone know how they are making a difference today to reduce their oil and gas usage by buying hybrids even though they're more expensive to purchase.

So, look for more deals like this in the future from GM. This is the way for them to go forward.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Nissan Leaf Ad Hits the New iPhone

The Nissan Leaf ad is pretty cool, if you're into geeky stuff or electric cars, or the chance to win an electric car.

I love the graphic showing the distance you can travel on a dollar, but I'm guessing there's little about how far you can travel on a battery ;-)

From Engadget: "Wow, actually a pretty amazing ad. If you're a geek, you will love it."
The ad will go live on July 1st and give new iPhone owners a chance to win a Nissan Leaf (unless Steve Jobs wins it!).

Or you can check the timeline (11:28) on PC World. "I hope he loses. He doesn't need another car"

Source: InsideLine

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2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Gets Tax Credit

$900 Tax Credit an Incentive?
The $103,000 BMW 7 ActiveHybrid just got a little less expensive. The federal tax credit was announced to be $900. Not much of an incentive, I guess.  But if you qualify, something is better than nothing.

And I might add, it's not wrong. The Beemer Hybrid may be expensive. The tax credit may be going to people who can afford the car and don't need it. And this hybrid was designed for power and speed, not fuel efficiency.

But it is a hybrid, with a hybrid engine and a battery pack. That means more hybrid engines and more battery packs are being built. Which means the oh so important scale is kicking in, which means the prices on these components will come down.

Which means, eventually, that there will be a hybrid for everyone. The Honda Insight, the so-called hybrid for everyone, is not really for everyone. Not when it costs a minimum of $20K to buy one. Nor are the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, which will cost almost twice as much, going to be for everyone even with a $7,500 tax credit from the government. Not when the battery pack being installed into the Volt and Leaf costs $10,000.

And so, the incentive may not be much, and perhaps the price tag means you won't be buying one any time soon. But every time I see another Tesla Roadster or BMW ActiveHybrid 7 has been sold, I celebrate a little bit. Each one bought accelerates when there really will be a hybrid, or electric car, for everyone.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Prius is Number One For One Year

The Prius was once again the top selling car in Japan. That makes it one year since Toyota and their small hybrid took it away from the Honda Insight, just after the new generation Prius was launched.

According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA) and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association, Toyota sold 27,208 Prius in Japan last month. And there's still a six month waiting list, so Toyota will continue to dominate for some time to come.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

China Sets Subsidies for Electric Cars

China is getting into the electric car game the same way the US and Japan did, using subsidies. The Chinese government is offering 50,000 yuan (over $7,000) to those who buy a plug-in hybrid car, and 60,000 yuan (over $8,500) to those who buy an all electric car. Those who just buy more fuel efficient cars (smaller engines of 1.6-litres or less) can get 3,000 yuan. (Source: Reuters)

The subsidies are available in five cities and are an effort to cut back on pollution and fuel use. The subsidies are set to expire after 50,000 cars are sold

Unlike in the US and Japan, the money goes to the car maker, rather than the person buying the car.

So, it looks like this is an effort to encourage car makers to build and sell electric cars in China, rather than a direct encouragement to the consumer. Although the release does say the cost savings should be passed along to the buyer.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Toyota to Move Highlander Hybrid Production to Indiana

Toyota is moving production of the Highlander Hybrid into Indiana. This will free up the production in Japan to go elsewhere and allow for an increase in sales here.

When sales spiked in Japan, hybrid car components and cars were so backed up that it has impacted the number of hybrid cars Toyota can sell in the US. With the vehicle production being moved here, that should improve. Although, since the engines will still be produced in Japan, there's a limit on how much can be done.

About 7,000 units are produced a month at the Indiana plant, and it's unclear if an how much production will be increased.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fisker Raises Another $188 Million to Launch Karma

Fisker has raised another $188 million, including $115 million from the US government. The money will be used to begin producing their plug-in hybrid electric car, the Karma. The total includes $35 million they raised in private equity.

The launch of the Karma has been delayed a couple of times, as Fisker has worked to increase the funding it needs. Fisker plans on selling the Karma for $87,900, while the lower cost 'family sedan' Nina will cost almost half of that. The Nina will be built in 2012 at an old GM plant.

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