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Fisker Bumps Karma Launch to 2010, Expects Battery Deal This Month

Plug-in hybrid car startup Fisker Automotive had expected to launch its first vehicle, the luxury Fisker Karma, in 2009. But according to founder and CEO Henrik Fisker, who spoke yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the launch is now scheduled for September 2010. What we can expect this year, he told Reuters at the event — which opens to the public today — is the name of a battery supplier for Fisker’s upcoming models, including the $87,900 Karma and the Project Nina sedan, expected to carry a price tag of around $47,400.

Fisker’s road to a battery supply deal has been a winding one. Rumors circulated last year that the startup, which was founded in 2007, would pick Advanced Lithium Power — a Canadian battery developer with backing from Fisker affiliate Quantum Technologies — for the Karma batteries. Fisker even led a $4 million round of financing for ALP that was announced in March. But two months later a second supplier came into the picture: Ener1 (s HEV) subsidiary EnerDel. The Indiana-based firm touted “a potential long-term battery supply agreement” with Fisker that could be finalized after in-vehicle performance testing. According to the Reuters report, EnerDel, at least, remains in the running.

Back in May, when the EnerDel news came out, Fisker spokesperson Russell Datz told us that deliveries of the Karma would not be delayed if the auto startup could not “reach an agreement with EnerDel.” We’ve asked Fisker whether ALP is still in the running for the battery supply deal, and will update when we know more.

Fisker said in May that it planned to make its first production models by year’s end, and enter full-scale production (about 1,200 cars per month) by June 2010. Pushing back on production schedules is par for the course among green car startups, however.

But where Fisker differs from, say, Tesla Motors or Think (which has tapped EnerDel for batteries in its Think City vehicle) when they had to delay EV production plans, is that the Irvine, Calif.-based automaker has already secured significant funds for its project. Those funds include about $100 million in venture capital and most recently a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy.

By contrast, Tesla and Think hit financial potholes during the credit crunch last year, but started to get back on track when private investors — and in Tesla’s case also the DOE — stepped in to help finance production efforts.

As of late November, however, former Tesla marketing chief Darryl Siry said neither Tesla or Fisker had “seen a dime” of the DOE loans. And more than $169 million of Fisker’s award is slated for work with U.S. suppliers to produce the Karma.

Fisker Karma photo courtesy of Fisker Automotive

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