Vice President Joe Biden, during a visit Tuesday to a Delaware automotive assembly plant, unwittingly revealed startup manufacturer Fisker Automotive's undisclosed plans to produce a full line of plug-in hybrid vehicles at the facility.
Near the end of his speech, Biden asked the crowd of mostly UAW workers, who had worked at the Boxwood Road facility in Wilmington when it was owned by General Motors, to “imagine when this factory, when the floor we’re standing on right now is making 100,000 plug-in hybrid sedan, coupes and crossovers every single year."
Fisker, which is in the process of purchasing the plant, previously said only that it was developing the sedan, to be priced at around $40,000 after state and federal tax credits are taken into account.
In an interview with Foxnews.com after the presentation, company founder and CEO Henrik Fisker confirmed that what Biden said was accurate.
“He definitely told what our product plans are,” Fisker laughed, adding that all of his company's cars are being developed from the start with at least three derivatives in mind.
Fisker said that the first Nina, the sedan, will begin production in 2012 using a lower-cost version of the series hybrid powertrain developed for the company's flagship $80,000 Karma, which is slated to be manufactured by Valmet of Finland beginning in 2010. Production of the Karma will also be brought to Delaware when the second generation of the car is launched in 2016, according to company COO, Bernhard Koehler.
Styling of the Nina — named for the ship that brought Christopher Columbus back to Europe from his first journey to the New World, and meant to symbolize the beginning of a new era in automaking – is still being kept under wraps, but designs have been shown to the government officials who approved the $529 million federal loan to Fisker that made the purchase of the shuttered plant possible.
“It’s going to have a very exciting radical design,” Fisker said. “We actually just showed it to the vice president of the United States of America and he said ‘it looks like a four-door Ferrari, I can’t believe it’s only going to be $40,000.’”
As for the Karma, Fisker corroborated earlier statements that it will be able to travel up to 50 miles on electric power and should receive an EPA combined rating of around 67 mpg, though some owners will be able to achieve over 100 mpg, depending on their driving style.
Unlike what is known about the operation of the Chevy Volt, which uses a powertrain that is similar in concept to the Karma’s, Fisker said that drivers will have some ability to manually turn the internal combustion engine on and off as battery power permits, by choosing between "stealth" and "sport" modes.
Fisker adds that, in either setting, when battery charge is depleted and the vehicle is using the internal combustion engine to provide power for the electric motors, the performance of the car will remain the same.
A prototype of the Karma was shown to the public lapping the track at California's Laguna Seca raceway in electric mode this past August, but, to date, no journalist has been allowed to drive the car.