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Fisker Karma

Yggdrasill

Active Member
Feb 29, 2012
4,107
7,107
Kongsberg, Norway
There's a GLARING PROBLEM with Tesla Motors. It's based on MONEY, not IP (Intellectual Property)..aka R&D. The Roadster production delay highlighted a red-flag:

lack of R&D for the multi-speed gearbox mated to electric motor (instantaneous torque curve), high stress load
Are you high?

The good thing about Tesla is that they are based on IP. Which is why Tesla is selling it's tech to Daimler and Toyota.

Fisker on the other hand is based on pretty design-work, and for the rest of the car they just threw money at it. Need electric drive train? Throw money at Quantum Technologies. Need gasoline engine? Throw money at GM. Need a factory? Throw money at Valmet. Etc etc.

I would expect that the way they handed over large parts of the design-work to third parties was the primary reason for the car being riddled with faults. When you have several companies involved, you need a really strong leadership to ensure that the interfaces between the different bits are solid, and that all issues are handled. Otherwise, the different companies do the specific things they were contracted to do (in their minds), and all the interfacing and the like end up as they may. When you do something in-house, it's a lot easier to ensure that all issues are handled, instead of company A believing issue X is company B's responsibility and company B believing issue X is company A's responsibility.
 

aaronw

Member
Dec 19, 2012
292
0
United States
I have to strongly disagree with you comparing Tesla with Fisker.

Fisker's problems were pretty major right off the bat. They over promised and under delivered. They outsourced much of their engineering and it turned around and bit them. The Karma was years late, significantly more expensive than promised and under performing. The fact that Consumer Report's battery died early in their testing did not bode well, plus there were the fires (even though as far as we know they were not due to the batteries). Tesla learned from their mistakes with the Roadster. If anything, they over-designed the model S drive train and tested the hell out of it. I think long term durability and reliability will be quite good. Mechanically the model S is a lot simpler than the Fisker Karma. The number of moving parts in the drive train is far less than Fisker, even the electric drive train is simpler. And according to my friend who worked on the suspension and drive train, they were extremely conservative, making it far stronger than it needed to be.

They focused a lot on battery technology and their drive train, so much so that they are able to export their know-how to Toyota and Daimler and others. Fisker has nothing comparable. They used the expertise of outsiders to do their drive train and battery, the most important parts of an electric or hybrid vehicle. Tesla learned their lessons with the Roadster. They also spent a lot of time developing their own electric motors and inverters using the lessons they learned from the Roadster. They had some glitches, namely a software problem with the 12v battery charging as well as a bad batch of batteries from the supplier (according to another friend of mine who works there). The remaining software issues will be resolved with updates pushed out to users over the air. The software is far more usable than Fisker's. It may not look as cool, but it is certainly simpler and easier to use, especially while driving.

Tesla is also in full control of manufacturing and hired some very experienced people to set that up. Tesla makes more parts in-house than just about any other automobile manufacturer. They can switch battery suppliers if necessary since they use a standard off-the-shelf battery size. They refined their battery management to a point where they're selling batteries to other manufacturers. They have the highest energy density of any EV and a very good safety record. I've looked at Tesla's battery patents. There are a lot of them, many of them very forward thinking for battery technologies that are still in the lab, like designs around metal-air batteries, battery safety, etc.

Fisker has been one disaster after another, with huge delays and unrealistic expectation of demand. Tesla is pumping out 500 cars/week and is turning a profit and is unable to keep up with demand. Fisker is where Tesla was when Tesla had the transmission problems, except in Fisker's case they have a big government loan with a bunch of restrictions hanging over them and a vacant factory that they must use if they are to move forward. Fisker has burned through a lot more money than Tesla with an empty factory and no battery supplier since July of last year.

The Karma looks nice, I'll give it that, and it handles quite well, despite being 5300LBs, but that's all it has going for it. Performance is mediocre, and once the charge runs out it gets a pathetic 20MPg. The interior is cramped with a confusing hard to use touch screen. The interior is no bigger than many sub-compacts despite the outside of the car being so large.

Why would someone want to partner with Fisker? For their drive train? Their drive train has proven to be rather pathetic in no way living up to the promises in acceleration or efficiency. The GM 4 cylinder engine sounds obnoxious when it's running and gets only 20MPg. The engine/generator is complex since there has to be linkage to smooth out the engine, which has been a failure point. The inverter system is more complex because not only does it have to deal with the battery, but two electric motors and a generator, plus tie in to the gasoline engine. The battery technology was done by now-bankrupt A123 systems who has indicated they no longer want to deal with Fisker or honor the warranty on all of those defective batteries. One of the big reasons they're bankrupt is that Fisker promised to sell something like 15K Karmas and they sold a fraction of that, plus there was the recall. A123 gave Fisker a really good price on the battery with the understanding that they would be making a lot of them. Fisker really has nobody to fall back on. I looked at the lawsuit paperwork. A123 can't make any money on Fisker and they know it unless they charge a lot more per battery pack. On top of that, Fisker has a lot of money to pay back on their government loan and is basically required to use a factory in Delaware to build Atlantic or whatever follow-on cars they come up with, not Volvo's or some other car. Fisker's software is almost universally considered bad. Granted, it no longer crashes all the time, but that's not saying much. Whoever wrote it never thought about people actually using it in a car.

Tesla's drive train is elegant by comparison. The electric drive train is extremely compact. The single motor and inverter sit behind the rear axle and the battery sits entirely underneath the cabin. The car has a very flat torque curve that drops gradually at higher speeds and is very smooth without much, if any, torque ripple. The motor contains no rare-earth metals and since there are no powerful magnets inside it is easier and much cheaper to manufacture. The battery is designed to be extremely safe and is a structural member of the car. It can even be replaced in under 10 minutes if necessary. The single or twin 10KWh chargers sit underneath the rear seat. The screen is clear and intuitive and responsive and it works. My model S P85 accelerates effortlessly on the freeway, something the Karma struggles to do by comparison. Tesla's packaging is far better than Fisker's. There are only a dozen moving parts in the model S drive train with far less to go wrong. The Fisker combines a less elegant electric drive train with all of the reliability problems with a complex gasoline engine and throw in a generator to boot with complex linkage. You have this huge battery running down the center of the interior of the car, making it cramped inside, plus you have a gas tank. My father has had issues caused by the two motors in Fisker's drive train, I'm guessing due to some torque ripple issues.

Next throw in Tesla's Supercharger network. It really is a game changer. Granted, I can't fill up in 5 minutes like at a gas station, but while I'm charging I can spend the money I would be spending on gas getting a nice meal or shopping, or I can surf the web (using the touch screen if I want), check email or do other things. I don't have to stand next to the car waiting for it to charge. Oh, and I can monitor everything with my phone to see when I have enough charge so there's no reason to sit with the car while it's charging. The fact that Solar City is offsetting the electricity used to charge cars with solar power makes it a very green solution as well.

Tesla is producing almost as many cars in a month as Fisker has ever produced and they're profitable. They've barely expanded into Europe and haven't started with Asia or other areas yet. There's already demand for their follow-on car, the model X. Tesla made not only a nice looking high-performance car, but made it spacious and practical as well.

I really hope Fisker survives, but realistically I don't see how they can. From a business point of view Fisker has been a disaster. They burned through a *LOT* of money and made a lot of mistakes which they can't afford to do. Tesla, on the other hand, has consistently met its obligations and hit its targets (or at least come close). Tesla has the whole supply chain down now which was one of their problems. They will only improve with time. They have been innovative in far more ways than Fisker. They have been innovative in their manufacturing, having designed a highly flexible factory with state-of-the-art equipment surrounded by the best engineering talent in the world. They have been innovative in their drive train, their battery technology and their software, none of which were farmed out to 3rd parties.

Tesla will be around for quite a while. Tesla also has another thing Fisker lacks, income. Tesla learned from their gearbox mistake early on and you can bet they won't repeat it. They have done extensive testing, probably with hundreds of cars. Tesla employees were required to pour as many miles into the Roadster as they could, often at least a hundred miles a day or more, and Bay Area roads are probably some of the worst in the country, better than any test track. Just drive 880 constantly and see how the suspension holds up (which is right next to the factory).
 

Doug_G

Lead Moderator
Apr 2, 2010
17,881
3,347
Ottawa, Canada
Are you high?

The good thing about Tesla is that they are based on IP. Which is why Tesla is selling it's tech to Daimler and Toyota.

Fisker on the other hand is based on pretty design-work, and for the rest of the car they just threw money at it. Need electric drive train? Throw money at Quantum Technologies. Need gasoline engine? Throw money at GM. Need a factory? Throw money at Valmet. Etc etc.

I would expect that the way they handed over large parts of the design-work to third parties was the primary reason for the car being riddled with faults. When you have several companies involved, you need a really strong leadership to ensure that the interfaces between the different bits are solid, and that all issues are handled. Otherwise, the different companies do the specific things they were contracted to do (in their minds), and all the interfacing and the like end up as they may. When you do something in-house, it's a lot easier to ensure that all issues are handled, instead of company A believing issue X is company B's responsibility and company B believing issue X is company A's responsibility.

A good response that was undermined by the first sentence... please keep things civil.
 

AnOutsider

S532 # XS27
Apr 3, 2009
11,957
200
I can't find it now, but what always comes to mind is Elon's comments that went something like: "The reason we don't have electric cars is not for lack of styling".
 

vetboy45

Member
Feb 14, 2013
62
0
Kent wa
I can't find it now, but what always comes to mind is Elon's comments that went something like: "The reason we don't have electric cars is not for lack of styling".

There are obviously a lot of impediments to widespread adoption of electric cars, but I don't think styling is insignificant. My wife and I refuse to buy another ICE vehicle but she is having a really hard time finding something that doesn't look like a boxy prius type. I don't understand what the industry is thinking by producing electric cars that all look that way (assuming they actually want to succeed in selling some, which may be debatable). I guess we'll use the MS until the Gen 3 comes.
 

jeff_adams

Member
Mar 18, 2013
618
2
Monterey
Author should have done just a little more homework. Tesla has built less than 5,000 Model S? How about 7,400+

How about mentioning it was the number 1 selling EV this quarter? Maybe say something about the numerous awards it's received? Seems very shallow on Telsa info....
 

AnOutsider

S532 # XS27
Apr 3, 2009
11,957
200
There are obviously a lot of impediments to widespread adoption of electric cars, but I don't think styling is insignificant. My wife and I refuse to buy another ICE vehicle but she is having a really hard time finding something that doesn't look like a boxy prius type. I don't understand what the industry is thinking by producing electric cars that all look that way (assuming they actually want to succeed in selling some, which may be debatable). I guess we'll use the MS until the Gen 3 comes.

Very true indeed, and style always plays a part in my decisions. I think elon mainly meant though that fisker seemed to have focused more on design than engineering (and design is one of te main things I hear owners gush about. It's usually what drove them to the car, not the ev bit)
 

doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
16,908
1,025
SF Bay Area
Recently there's been a spate articles on this topic:

Disruptive Technology Trumps Superficial Design - Kevin Bullis | MIT Technology Review

Tesla, Fisker, and what could have been: A tale of two electric car startups --GigaOm Tech News and Analysis

Tesla Motors expects first profit; Fisker Automotive eyes bankruptcy - CSMonitor.com

I prefer the GigaOm article; the others screwed up a few facts.

I was surprised to see myself in CSMonitor lead photo.
0401-tesla_full_600.jpg
 

vfx

Well-Known Member
Aug 18, 2006
14,790
40
CA CA
Author should have done just a little more homework. Tesla has built less than 5,000 Model S? How about 7,400+

How about mentioning it was the number 1 selling EV this quarter? Maybe say something about the numerous awards it's received? Seems very shallow on Telsa info....


And there is this.

When Tesla was founded, it was based on an idea from J.B. Straubel, now Tesla’s chief technology officer, that commodity lithium-ion batteries designed for portable electronics could be used to make relatively low-cost battery packs for electric vehicles.

Alan Cocconi at AC Propulsion pioneered this idea and Martin Eberhard funded it before Elon came along and funded the Roadster.
Not to take anything away from JB who took it all several digital levels above those early days.

- - - Updated - - -

All these articles must be originating from Tesla making sure there is a clear separation between the two.
 

brianman

Burrito Founder
Nov 10, 2011
17,526
2,994

doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
16,908
1,025
SF Bay Area
All these articles must be originating from Tesla making sure there is a clear separation between the two.
I think it's just the confluence of events. It just happens that, after circling the drain for many months, Fisker is on the cusp of going under while Tesla, after building momentum and scaling up production, just announced its first profitable quarter a few days ago. It makes for an interesting story of contrasts.

You can bet, though, there will be some fallout after Fisker goes Solyndra, and when the fit hits the shan hopefully not too much of it will splatter on Tesla.

Tesla got caught in the crossfire back in 2011 (post Solyndra) when Fisker was under increased scrutiny for taking a loan while building cars in Finland. Tesla gets a brief mention in this recent ABC news report: Is Fisker Headed for a Solyndra-Like Collapse? - ABC News
The other major recipient of financial support, Tesla Motors, is backed by PayPal mogul Elon Musk.
There's no mention of Tesla's relative success, nor is there any mention of the billions that went to Ford and Nissan under this same loan program.
 

doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
16,908
1,025
SF Bay Area
I can't find it now, but what always comes to mind is Elon's comments that went something like: "The reason we don't have electric cars is not for lack of styling".
He ended up saying that a couple times in different interviews, but the first and most well known time is cued up here: PandoMonthly: Fireside Chat With Elon Musk - YouTube

If the time specific link doesn't work, go to about 26:30.
 

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