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.

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.