insight - Henrik Fisker
Written by Oryx
Occupation - Automobile Designer
Henrik Fisker, the mind behind Aston Martin and BMW cars, is now designing the environmentally-conscious cars of the future under his own brand, Fisker Automotive.
The name says it all – ‘Karma.’ The debut vehicle from Fisker Automotive is a beautiful, sleek, sexy, sports car, yet unlike the other guilty pleasures on the market – typical gas-guzzling dream machines – the Karma is environmentally friendly. Legendary automobile designer Henrik Fisker, CEO of Fisker Automotive, believes that it is indeed possible to drive in style, without compromising the environment – a fantasy come true for increasingly eco-conscious car customers who still want to look cool, whilst simultaneously saving the planet.
A Labour of Love“A car has a unique ability to move people emotionally – not just physically,” says Henrik. “Eco-friendly cars in the past were always associated with being small, underpowered, and ugly. But, as a designer, you always have to combine beauty and style with some practicality and profitability. “At Fisker Automotive, we believe eco-friendly cars do not have to sacrifice power or performance. To preserve our planet and our way of life, we must drive the most efficient cars possible. But, in order to make such cars popular, they cannot lose what made us fall in love with driving in the first place.”
Henrik Fisker’s personal love affair with cars began early on in his life. “My first inspiration came as a young boy in Denmark, when I saw a Maserati drive by. It gave me butterflies in my stomach and I knew I had to do something with cars.”
With a blossoming interest in the shape and style of automobiles, he pursued his passion and attended the Art Center College of Design in California. After graduating in 1989, he launched his career at BMW in Germany, at their advanced design studio, becoming President and CEO of BMW’s California-based industrial design subsidiary, Designworks/USA, in January 2001.
Then, from 2001 to 2005, he held prominent positions at Ford Motor Company, including Design Director for Aston Martin, and Director of Ford’s Global Advanced Design Studio in Irvine, California.
His famous creations include the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9, and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. And for those cars, I think we can all thank him. But, he’s not done turning heads – in 2005 he started building custom sports cars at Fisker Coachbuild, a company he started with partner Bernhard Koehler from BMW, and a fellow shining light in the auto industry.
Fisker and Koehler soon unveiled the Fisker Tramonto, a two-seat convertible sports car, and the Fisker Latigo CS, an elegant coupe; both limited to just 150 editions.
The Karma is a perfect example
of Fisker Automotive’s bold and forward-thinking mandate, as the
first ‘green’ premium sports
Henrik calls the Karma ‘eco-chic’ – it’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, with a solar roof for recharging on the go, and powered by Quantum’s ‘Q-Drive’ technology: a petrol engine/electric motor combination for high power, low emissions.
“Since we introduced the Karma in 2008, creating the premium green segment, nearly every other manufacturer has announced plans to develop high-end, eco-friendly cars,” he notes.
“I think that says a lot. I believe a lot of car manufacturers are still struggling on how to make the transition from the combustion to a powertrain that includes some sort of electric power.” A major boost in interest is also coming from the support of governments around the globe.
For instance, the USA announced its intention to put one million plug-in hybrid cars on its roads by 2015. Germany has an action plan to have one million electric cars by 2020, while Japan wants electric vehicles to make up half of all vehicle sales within a decade.
“In the next ten years, I believe plug-in hybrids and electric cars will represent more than one-third of new cars sold, but the combustion engine still has a place in either extremely cheap cars or extremely expensive super sports cars,” states Henrik.
But the real trick is making eco-cars that are a joy to look at. However, Henrik maintains that there’s no secret or recipe for successfully designing beautiful cars that drivers adore. He says, “To create style demands full understanding of all aspects of the car and full understanding of people’s emotional reaction to a car. I try to go one step above what any other car maker has done before in terms of sexy, classy style, and connect it with social responsibility.”
After 20 years of designing, of course he drives what he designs. “My personal favourite is always the last design that I’ve done,” he admits, in an interview from his Irvine, California office. “I’m currently driving an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, which I designed when I was at Aston Martin. I’m still looking to one day getting a BMW Z8 in my garage. Though, my favourite
at the moment would be the Fisker Karma four-door, which I look forward to start driving by the end of this year.”
Fisker’s Cars of the Future
Leaving his stamp on the face of the auto industry, and now also on the future of the planet, Henrik Fisker is confident that his premium green niche is going to be a winner – for many decades to come. “I believe
the consumer is getting tired of well-designed, nice-looking
premium cars from great old brands. As consumers are changing their lifestyles to become more socially responsible and environmentally conscious, the consumer will be looking for new brands that
represent their new lifestyle.”
He concludes, “I think car design needs to take the next step in reconnecting emotionally with the consumer. We need people to fall
in love with the car once again.”
Visit www.fiskerautomotive.com to find out more and pre-order a Karma.
The Karma Q-Drive enables the Karma to drive 50 miles (80km) per day
(the average commute of 60%
of Europeans and Americans), without using a drop of gas
and completely emission-free,
yet it has a top speed of 125mph (201kph), and goes from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds!
“The Karma’s proportions were actually dictated in large part by its unique Q-Drive. Its low, wide stance is a result of the need to integrate two powerful electric motors, a centrally-mounted lithium-ion battery and an efficient gasoline engine that turns into a range-extending generator,” says Henrik.
The full-length solar panel provides power for the climate control system and will send some power to recharge the battery. There’s even a ‘Stealth’ mode, which allows the Karma to be driven in the growing number of traffic-restricting Low Emissions Zones (LEZ) across Europe, approximately 70 cities and towns in eight European countries, including Berlin, London, and Amsterdam.