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Electric Vehicles

The Fisker Ocean EV Is Dirt Cheap. Don’t Buy One.

It will be the most expensive $25,000 you ever spend.

A Fisker going off a cliff.
Heatmap Illustration/Fisker, Getty Images

I’ve been saying lately that a tipping point for EVs will be the electric family crossover that can compete on price with the emperors of suburbia, the ubiquitous Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which both start around $30,000. Suddenly, there is one. Although I cannot in good faith recommend it.

The troubled electric vehicle startup Fisker has slashed the price of its basic Ocean EV to just $24,999 in a desperate bid to sell enough vehicles to stave off bankruptcy. The Ocean is now the cheapest EV on the American market. The high-end Ocean Extreme, with a dual motor setup and zero-to-60 time under four seconds, has been discounted from $61,499 to just $37,499.

Fisker might sell a few of these EVs to buyers looking for an offer they can’t refuse, and those sales might keep the lights on a little longer for a company that was recently shamed by historically bad reviews and delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. But all the signs say the flashy electric vehicle startup will run out of juice at any moment.

This wasn’t Henrik Fisker’s first try. Back in 2007, the Danish car designer who made his name at legacy carmakers founded Fisker Automotive, a company that would produce the fish-mouthed Fisker Karma. That car was a luxury take on the range-extended EV, or a vehicle that uses an on-board gas-powered generator to refill the batteries, thus extending its range.

Karma had the looks. Many auto enthusiasts at the time heralded its design. (The car chaps at Top Gearloved it.) Fisker teased future models that would position it as a rival to Tesla, which was still selling small numbers in the days before the Models 3 and Y. But the company didn’t have the follow-through. A series of setbacks, including the bankruptcy of its battery supplier, sent Fisker Automotive on the road to bankruptcy.

Lapses in quality control didn’t help. In 2012, the Karma delivered to Consumer Reports for its car testing program broke down upon arrival, requiring a battery replacement before the car could be driven. It earned a failing grade because of “numerous shortcomings, not just a single or even few flaws.” While Fisker the company bit the dust in 2013, Fisker the man would carry on — though saddled with a reputation as a dreamer who, to put it generously, did not have the attention to detail for a startup company to succeed.

Things looked rosier for Fisker, Inc., the second-chance company he launched in 2016. Instead of an over-engineered range-extended plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, he announced a plain old EV. The Ocean promised whiz-bang features such as a roof lined with solar panels, two-way charging, and “California Mode” — a single button that opened all the glass panels, allowing the sea breeze to waft through the car as it cruised down the Pacific Coast Highway. Underneath the tech hype, though, was a simple proposition: a mid-size crossover EV listed at a price competitive with others in that popular category.

Once again, trouble found Fisker when the car got closer to reality. The new company went public in 2020, but according to Fortune, “a slew of software, supply chain and regulatory problems” prevented Fisker from moving the first Oceans until 2023. It delivered fewer than 5,000 of the EVs last year, despite building more than 10,000 of them.

Then came the testing. YouTube super-reviewer Marques Brownlee titled his video about the Ocean, “This Is the Worst Car I’ve Ever Reviewed” and spent 20 solid minutes outlining the weirdness of his driving experience, including the company asking him to hold off reviewing the car until it could rush out a software update. More than a decade after its disastrous experience with the Karma, Consumer Reportsreported that the Fisker Ocean was “unfinished,” with a “bizarre delivery experience” and “disappearing safety features.”

This disastrous narrative arrived alongside reports of Fisker’s financial ruin. Fisker suspended production of the Ocean and tried to raise $150 million to keep the startup afloat, however a rumored last-second deal with Nissan fell apart and now, despite Henrik Fisker’s promise to press on, it appears the company has no clear lifeline to stave off oblivion.

Given the relatively high cost of current EVs, some buyers might be tempted by the fire-sale Fiskers. As The Autopiansays, “the Fisker Ocean is a good car when it’s functional,” and if the company can manage to push out a software update, then perhaps it will be functional more often than not. The 231-mile range of the base model isn’t impressive by 2024 standards, but the Ocean Extreme’s reported 360-mile range is a steal at its steeply discounted price.

Still: This is a capital case of caveat emptor. Given Fisker’s long history of poor build quality and software bugs, it’d be a big risk to pony up even the clearance sale price of an Ocean. Not to mention the huge uncertainty of living with one. It can be hard enough to schedule service for a Tesla; now imagine trying to deal with hardware for software problems for an orphan EV whose company bit the dust.

Blue

Andrew Moseman

Andrew Moseman has covered science, technology, and transportation for publications such as The Atlantic, Inverse, Insider, Outside, and MIT Technology Review. He was previously digital director of Popular Mechanics and now serves as online communications editor at Caltech. He is based in Los Angeles. Read More

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