Fisker Makes Moves

FiskerKarma
FiskerKarma

In an unprecedented move, Fisker Automotive recently hired Joel Ewanick. Ewanick was the former head of marketing at General Motors. His new position with Fisker is Chief of Global Sales and Marketing. The new hire was announced by Richard Beattie, who was the retiring Chief Commercial Officer.

One of the first tasks of Ewanick is to resuscitate the image of Fisker and its U.S. $103,000 luxury plug in hybrid named the Karma. Since last December 2011, issues and incidents have plagued the car and the company, leading to a less than favorable outlook for their product.

When Rusell Datz, spokesperson for Fisker was quizzed on the new appointment, the reply was, “Anytime you start a car company, you’re in for challenge after challenge.”

Before accepting the Fisker post, Ewanick had previous marketing positions at General Motors and Hyundai. His last posting was a bit controversial, as he was ousted last July from GM after he failed to disclose the full cost of the multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Premiere League club Manchester United. Prior to GM, he held the position of Head of Marketing at Nissan North America for just six short weeks.

In the weeks prior to the announcement, Ewanick was already a consultant to Fisker and will hold the position on an interim basis until a permanent one is found. Ewanick would be directly reporting to Tony Posawatz, the CEO of Fisker. Similarly, Posawatz and Ewanick came fromGM after the former was chief engineer for the iconic Chevrolet Volt.  Both the Volt and the Karma are plug in hybrids, where both operate as electric cars that have engines as range extenders for greater distance travelling.

On other related Karma news, Datz further confirmed the recall of the Karma again, but reiterated that the issues “were small compared to other things that could have happened.” He pointed out that Tesla had also been recalled several times over and even had lawsuits with suppliers. In the end he said, “these problems are nothing new.”

In a formal statement, Posawatz hailed Ewanick’s “wealth of motor industry experience and knowledge to guide us through this interim period.”  The statement further added that the previous experience in marketing the Volt would prove very helpful in allowing Fisker to gain a better foothold in the burgeoning electric vehicle market. Amongst the plans of the company is to build an affordable family oriented vehicle, but this may take some time as the company is seeking additional funds and are sourcing for investments.

Battery Breakthroughs and Issues

firesign
firesign

In a breakthrough discovery, German scientists have developed a new fluid that can assist in cooling the large and expensive batteries of electric cars. The benefit the discovery provides is the extension of their service life and one more step in the improvement of the cost efficiency of electric vehicle transport.

The fluid has been named as CryoSolplus and has the capability of greater heat absorption compared to air or water. This would allow for tighter packing of batteries according to the research team of Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology located at Oberhausen, Germany. 

The battery pack would generate nearly 45 degrees Celsius of heat on a regular day. Its best working ambient temperature is between 20 and 35 degrees and under those conditions, the battery would only be able survive half of its actual service life. With the cost of the battery pack nearly half the total price of the vehicle, finding ways to extend its service life has become imperative for many research and development teams.

Current technologies only use air to cool battery arrays or there are no cooling systems at all. Air is not a very efficient heat absorber and requires space in order to travel in between heat generating battery arrays. Water on the other hand, is a heat conductor but requires a storage tank to be effective.

CryoSolplus consists of water, paraffin, anti-freeze and a stabilization agent, according to the research team. It has three times as much ability to absorb heat compared to water, thus requiring a smaller storage tank, creating more space and weight savings for the electric car manufacturer. The research team says that the solution and the cooling system would cost just a little over 100 euros in the manufacturing process. When heat is absorbed, the solid paraffin droplets melt and store the heat. When the solution cools, the paraffin droplets solidify.

This technology may be too late for Fisker Automobiles Karma, as it issued its second recall when two mysterious fires again hit the government subsidized electric vehicle. According to Fisker spokesperson Roger Ormisher, “Fisker engineers and an independent fire expert had identified the root cause of a fire that engulfed a Karma parked outside a Woodside, California grocery store last August 10.” He added, “The investigation located the ignition source to the left front of the Karma, forward of the wheel, where the low-temperature cooling fan is located. The final conclusion was that this sealed component had an internal fault that caused to fail, overheat and start a slow burning fire.”

Fisker has since announced a voluntary recall “with respect to this cooling fan unit” and stated it has already coordinated with its retailer. Unfortunately, the cooling system development may have come too late for Fisker.

Is the Wheego the Best EV?

electricsedan
electricsedan

Because of the slowdown in the construction of the Aptera and the closure of Bright Automotive, one niche electric vehicle seems to take up the vacuum created in the market. This is the Wheego, the smallest car and company in the EV market in Europe. The car and company is a model for other start-ups in the automotive industry.

The Wheego is based out of Atlanta GA and uses the chassis of the LiFe, a two passenger vehicle imported from China. The drive train and battery array though is installed in California. Like the Coda, the Wheego has recently hit the California electric vehicle market.

This vehicle uses a thirty-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery array plugged into a sixty horsepower electric motor. The top speed is at 65 mph and is priced at the average of $32,995, with option for air conditioning.

The company that builds the Wheego is headed by Mike McQuary, who dabbled in music and the Internet before focusing his efforts on the Wheego and the electric car market. Under his stewardship, a total of thirty-six cars have been rolled out, with thirty-four of them already sold.

McQuary said, “Our dealers, totaling twenty seven from Tokyo to Arundel, Maine, are clamoring for cars. Three quarters of our dealers have never had a car, but they’re being very patient with our strategy.”

That strategy involves building cars when it gets the funds, either through venture capitalist means or selling out its inventory. Currently though, the market for these kinds of models are very limited, the company is planning to build a crossover vehicle from three Chinese car builders.

The company is also playing it smart in this economy and sluggish market. This company has exactly 7.5 employees and has stopped going after the cash pot being offered by the Department of Energy for Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing. Their initial proposal was initially rebuffed by the Department, saying that it needs to be geared more for job development.

For Wheego, they said, “Our ambition was never to create a full-on assembly plan for building electric cars, but it really doesn’t create a lot of jobs. So the DOE came back to us and asked us if we wanted to rewrite the plan to make it more aggressive in terms of job creation. But we opted instead to keep our integrity – we didn’t want to be disingenuous on our application. And, frankly, we’ve always had just enough funding to get to the next state. Not getting the loan has made us a tougher company and very smart at how we deploy capital.”

He added, “I see us as a company that creeps out instead of leaping out. Companies like Tesla and Fisker, which got the loans, have been better able to raise follow-up capital. But at this point, I’m hoping all the companies succeed, because a rising tide will lift up all our boats. I’m rooting for Coda to get its car on the road and I’m rooting for Tesla’s Model S, too.”