Karma goes after fleet market with plans to electrify commercial trucks

Karma Automotive is looking to make the improbable leap from luxury cars to commercial trucks.

The California-based company announced Monday that it will offer engineering and contract-manufacturing services to fleet customers under the “Powered by Karma” banner. The plan is to offer modular electrified powertrains for a variety of applications, including buses, RVs, step vans, and box trucks, a Karma press release said.

Karma will display two such vehicles—a delivery van and a shuttle bus—Advanced Clean Tech (ACT) Expo this week in Long Beach, California, but didn’t discuss any pending orders for the vehicles.

2021 Karma GS-6

2021 Karma GS-6

The powertrain package Karma plans to offer is designed for Class 3-6 commercial vehicles, with maximum output of 268 horsepower and 1,327 pound-feet of torque. This seems like another iteration of Karma’s previous efforts to enter the commercial-vehicle sector.

Karma has been working on a new platform for commercial vehicles—potentially also to underpin a pickup—that would cost a lot less than its existing platform originally developed to underpin the pricey Fisker Karma, and more recently the Karma Revero and GS-6 that have evolved from it.

Karma’s re-engineered version of the original parallel-hybrid system continues to be used in the new Karma GS-6, which we drove earlier this year.

For the past couple years, the company has been emphasizing the flexibility of that hybrid system, as well as the E-Flex system under development. It’s gestured in other directions, including hydrogen fuel cells.

Karma EREV E-Flex extended-range EV platform

Karma EREV E-Flex extended-range EV platform

The company, which is owned by the Chinese auto-parts giant Wanxiang Group, is different than many EV companies as it’s not a cash-hungry startup—although the parent company does soon want it to return on the investment. So far, though, the Revero/GS-6 has been its only production vehicle, and even that was inherited from predecessor Fisker Automotive. Karma does claims to have a small SUV called the GX on the way, though.

Last year, Karma sued one of its startup rivals, Ohio-based Lordstown Motors, after Lordstown allegedly poached its U.S. infotainment developers.