DETROIT (AP) – Fisker Automotive and Visionary Vehicles are among the companies planning to bring luxurious plug-in sedans to market, proving that green doesn’t have to come in an economical package.

“If I say ‘electric,’ people think ‘slow.’ They think electric cars are golf carts,” Malcolm Bricklin, chairman and chief executive of Visionary Vehicles Inc., said yesterday at the North American International Auto Show. “What people don’t get is they’re very fast, and they’re real.”

Take the Fisker Karma. The sports car, unveiled this week at the North American International Auto Show, can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 125 mph. But it can also travel 50 miles on pure electric power – using a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor – before using its small, four-cylinder gas engine. The $80,000 Karma is expected to go into production at the end of 2009.

Outside, the Karma is reminiscent of a Maserati or a Corvette. The spare interior, with rich brown and tan leathers and buttons that are flush with the dashboard, was inspired by a Manhattan penthouse, said Henrik Fisker, the founder and chief executive of Lake Forest, Calif.-based Fisker Automotive Inc. and a former designer with BMW AG and Aston Martin.

Fisker said he wanted to erase the image of green vehicles as awkward and small.

“I wanted to make a real statement of how sexy a green car can be,” he said. Otherwise, he said, green cars will never achieve the mass appeal they need to in order to make an environmental difference.

Fisker projects worldwide sales of 15,000 vehicles a year for the Karma. The company is talking to several companies about a partnership to distribute the Karma, and should have more details this spring, Fisker said.

Fisker is one of several startups developing green luxury cars. Tesla Motors has pre-sold all of its 2008 Tesla Roadsters, a full electric sports car that sells for $98,000.

Aaron Bragman, an auto industry analyst for the consulting firm Global Insight, said there is definitely a market for expensive, environmentally friendly vehicles, but it will be difficult for small manufacturers to do what companies like General Motors and Toyota have not been able to achieve because of cost and technological difficulties.

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