At CES, earlier this year, a crowd formed around Henrik Fisker; the kind of crowd in Las Vegas that gathers around a celebrity. In this case, it wasn’t clear if the star was Fisker or the car he was showing off.
But it’s not hard to figure out why Henrik Fisker, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc., draws crowds – just ask him about his views on vehicle design, technology mobility and how he survives in the most disruptive era of automobiles and mobility transformation. He’s also a great survivor, bouncing back after a high profile corporate failure.
Danish of origin, Henrik Fisker is best known for designing the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, Karma, Galpin-Fisker Mustang Rocket, VLF Force 1 V10 and Destino V8.
His latest design is the electric Fisker EMotion, a stunning four-door fast luxury electric car with solid-state batteries and up to 645 km (400 mi) of range per electric charge, Level 4 self-driving capability and butterfly doors.
“Electrical vehicle design has to shift because there is no noise of the shifting gears to create emotions, you have to use textures and design,” Fisker told Auto Futures.
”The design concept behind the new Fisker vehicles is they are luxurious, voluptuous and sculptured vehicles with spirit so that people fall in love with their beauty.” He adds that he is working with a major OEM to bring Fisker design to more affordable vehicles
The same sculpted style is seen in the Fisker Orbit, an electric, connected and autonomous shuttle for smart cities, campuses, and other geo-fenced routes. He calls it “fun, exciting and inviting.”
“We, as a company, are a group of people extremely dedicated to the future of vehicle design,” says Fisker. He adds that Dr. Fabio Albano, a University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ph.D. in Materials Science, is developing a way to manufacture solid-state batteries for mass production. Solid-state batteries offer greater range, more capacity, faster charging time and higher energy density. The batteries can be charged many more times than traditional batteries.
“We’re testing different sizes and different chemistry to optimise efficiency,” Fisker says about the current state of the solid-state battery development.
A few weeks after I spoke with Fisker, the company announced a strategic investment from Caterpillar Venture Capital Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., a leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and diesel-electric locomotives. Although the investment seems strange at first sight, the press release sheds light on the move: ‘While Caterpillar and Fisker serve fundamentally different industries, advancements in electrification technologies pose increasing importance and offer the potential to positively impact customer value for the right products’.
Stormy Weather for Karma
The Fisker Karma green luxury hybrid vehicle was one of the first rivals of Tesla. Fisker Automotive had to weather many storms. The battery supplier A123 Systems Inc. went bankrupt and Superstorm Sandy destroyed a shipment of vehicles which eventually lead to the bankruptcy of the company. The designs, powertrain rights and factory in Delaware were sold to the Chinese automotive company Wanxiang that now produces the Karma Revero.
Henrik Fisker maintained his rights to the brand and the Fisker trademark. He now proudly wears a t-shirt emblazoned with the axiom ‘Never Give Up’. He says he came with up the motto because there are always times in life when people are fighting hard to battle bad luck and defy naysayers.
The logo for Fisker was inspired by the beautiful orange sky at sunset over the deep blue ocean with two perpendicular lines.
“I was looking out at the sunset over the blue of the ocean, back in 2005 and then sketched the logo realising that the designer’s pen and engineer’s ruler must work in careful balance with nature,” says Fisker.
Since Fisker is both CEO and founder of Fisker Inc., he is involved in personal engagement with customers while large corporations tend to be anonymous. He likes getting personal feedback on social media; he says it helps him understand his customers. Negative responses and impatience from social media don’t phase him.
“It’s a radical design, some are going to love it while others don’t like it,” he says and he obviously still enjoys what he does. “I love car design, new technology and innovation. It’s exciting to see the big changes coming,” he mused. And his goal is clear, “We want to put our creative vision on the future of automotive and mobility.”
The Fisker EMotion is expected sometime in 2020.