By on July 7, 2012

 

The irrational electrification exuberance  claims another victim: Battery maker A123 Systems Inc is running out of money. A lot of it is your money. Says Reuters:

The company, which received a $249 million grant from the Obama administration as part of a program to develop advanced lithium-ion batteries, said in documents filed with U.S. regulators that it “expects to have approximately four to five months of cash to support its ongoing operations” based on its recent monthly spending average.”

Reuters views A123′s issues as “a reminder of the struggles for a U.S. electric-vehicle industry still in its infancy and dealing with lower-than-projected demand.”

The wire service calls President Barack Obama’s goal of getting 1 million battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2015 “a target that is looking increasingly unrealistic.”

America’s best-selling plug-ins, the Volt, the plug-in Prius and the Nissan Leaf jointly sold 2,990 units in June. They were out-sold by a small sports car targeted at drifters, the Toyobaru hachi-roku, which sold 3,502 units in June.

 

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98 Comments on “Your Tax Dollars At Stake: Battery Maker A123 Running Out Of Runway...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Add to it a couple of solar companies…Obummer!

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      It’s only an “Obummer” if Mr. Romney would finally go the mattresses and relentlessly pummel Obama over his naivete and rank incompetence that continue to cost taxpayers billions.

      Obama deserves to rot (metaphorically…) for his administration’s wide-eyed belief in companies like Solyndra and A123… and GM, for that matter. Foolish enterprises all, that anyone with some sense of business acumen could have predicted would/will fail. Just wait until GM’s stock price plummets into single digits, kids.

      The day that Romney tells Obama to go sit in the corner — “you’ve had your fun, Barry, but now it’s time for the adults to handle things” — that’s the day he wins. Sadly, I doubt he has the balls to pull off that comment.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        I dont vote in the USA ,however I’m fairly sure that the results aren’t. In yet. So your saying that Romney is just going to let GM go it alone? What about the taxpayers 32%. ?

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        Volts on fire you think Romney can handle things? Mitt Romney has explained that he has plans to help fix the economy but where the money will come from to help even the deficit is in the wind. In the past, Romney made it very clear that he was not interested in any of Obama’s plans but just resurrecting some of the old Bush administration ones and tweaking them to work where they had failed. What are these tweaks; he still has yet to tell the U.S. citizens. Romney not only has no balls, he also has no brains.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Volts on Fire:
        I don’t see what this really has to do with the issue. Or, rather, you were too busy with political name-dropping to make an argument. A123 was founded in 2001, and has been selling a real product to real customers for most of a decade. Also, their product has a pretty good reputation. It sounds like they made a big bet on Fiskar’s sales numbers, and lost – when, in retrospect, it looks like they should have bet on Tesla or Nissan instead.

        I know that the word “Obama” is an epithet among certain kinds of conservatives. It’s a useful little shibboleth, I guess, but it’s not a very convincing way to change the minds of those of us who find it to be just the name of a guy who’s doing a basically competent job with the deck stacked against him. If you want to convince people who don’t already agree with you, you’ve got to argue way better than you did in this comment. I like dialog with smart people wo son’t agree with me – but your comment wasn’t it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      The gall of that guy trying to spur innovation in the US. Romney would have closed ‘em down, sold the parts (to overseas companies) and bought the batteries from China. That’s just good business sense.

  • avatar
    Slab

    The failure rate on new businesses has always been high – 50% in five years, and 67% in ten years. And guess what – “your money” is involved in a lot of those businesses in the form of government backed loans. This is not new. This is not news. So, why is it necessary to highlight every failure when it comes to new automotive technologies?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Because these are 9 digit failures, based on politicized ideas about technology that bear no relation to anything other than campaign soundbites.

      Oh yes, and its time to shut the SBA down too.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        I dunno: didn’t Japan ‘invest’ $2B in Toyota’s Synergy Drive a decade or two back?
        America has to decide: does it want to play in the big leagues, or does it want to become a backwater, has-been State?

        Just keep exporting those jobs and patents to Asia and see where your kids are going to work (and don’t me that crap about they’re going to Harvard, blah, blah, blah.. if there are no jobs left in America, there will be no market for the Ivy League movers and shakers either.)

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    $249 Million. What is that – a few days or hours in what our wars to protect Saudi Arabia from its neighbors and our oil supplies cost?

    There are 100s of experiments around the world in university and company labs in battery, biofuel, and other energy ideas. Will they all work, of course not. But we better hope a few work so that we can continue to have the wonderful freedom of independent transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Just because you can waste money in one way, does not justify wasting it in another way.

      None of the “100s of experiments around the world in university and company labs in battery, biofuel, and other energy ideas” has the slightest prayer of working. They are all politicized garbage designed to milk taxpayer dollars, and funded by politicians who throw around taxpayer dollars like money they didn’t earn.

      The US is bankrupt and digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole every day. It is past time to put down the shovel.

      • 0 avatar
        DannyZRC

        Mr. Schwartz, don’t cross the conservative loon event horizon by saying that nothing will come of battery research.

        Batteries have steadily improved, they will continue to do so, eventually their charge rates will be high enough and their manufacture and disposal costs low enough that they’ll be fit to replace very many fuel-burning drivetrain applications.

        Of course, all of the technologies involved in an electric car are extremely, extremely mature and don’t really require any R&D, so these current “bad battery electrics” aren’t really serving a useful role in technological trail-breaking.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Cutting what amounts to R&D will accomplish nothing. The GOP has promised that Social Security, Medicare and Defense are “off the table.” By way of comparison, everything else amounts to zilch. Might as well invest in future-oriented technologies so that maybe we’ll see rising incomes to carry us through.

        Everywhere else I look I see major corporations “investing” in off-shoring to increase profits. They’re doing nothing to support the US economy, so somebody must.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Name calling is not argument. Batteries are based on electrochemistry. There are 80 non radioactive elements. They have all be characterized in their electrochemistry.

        What rabbit are you planning to pull out of your hat to make batteries with?

        The idea that your pet project should be funded by the government, because it is only a trivial sum in the great scheme of things is pernicious. Avoiding bankruptcy involves ridged economies in matters great and small.

        P.S. the Li battery was invented by British scientists working in Exxon’s UK labs. Sorry if that does not fit your off-shoring narrative.

      • 0 avatar
        meefer

        Yup, totally inconceivable that tech could improve.

        http://www.engadget.com/2012/02/29/envias-gm-backed-battery-delivers-huge-energy-density-lower-co/

        http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/20/ibm-battery-500/

        Just because the government backed the wrong player (A123) doesn’t mean that it’s a dead end. In thousands of labs across the globe, hundreds of thousands of experiments fail miserably every day. That’s why they’re called experiments.

      • 0 avatar
        DannyZRC

        what a load of bunk, 80 elements all well characterized blahblahblah.

        First of all, you’re ignoring the electrochemistry of molecular compounds, second of all you’re ignoring that the challenges facing battery makers aren’t really electrochemistry related.

        The challenge is in packing more surface area per mass/volume, and having the resultant electrodes remain durable.

        A123 is just lithium-iron-phosphate, but milled extremely fine. And they’re good batteries, too. I would conjecture that maybe they grew too fast anticipating sales that never arrived, and are stuck with overhead they can’t sustain.

        Killed by money, as it were. Nothing wrong with their batteries, which are durable and safe, and can be charged faster than most competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        GM, A123, Obama – many players laid bets that gasoline would be over $5 a gallon by now.
        The point about the debt and deficits is well taken. As a Canadian, I won’t venture to lecture our southern cousins how to balance a chequebook. However, if I were American, I would be pretty sick of my tax dollars going to prop up tin pot Middle Eastern Regimes that hated me.
        Perhaps the reborn Dallas series signifies a reborn American oil boom, who knows? Still, I know I’d sleep better at night with a Volt in my garage…………

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I would find it very helpful if conservatives could clarify whether this is indeed “our money” being spent on failed companies or if this is money that the Federal Reserve conjured out of thin air with their mystical printing presses. Because it can’t be both.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Conservatives? The money is borrowed from buyers of US Treasury bonds. Some of those buyers are foreign central banks. One of the major buyers is the Federal Reserve Bank system. They print zero coupon perpetual notes (Federal Reserve Notes) to purchase the US Treasury bonds with coupons and maturity dates.

      The net effect is that the value is being derived from the dilution of the value of the existing stock of Federal Reserve Notes. This is inflation.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Chicago Dude. Try the Khan Academy series on Banking and Money:

        http://www.khanacademy.org/finance-economics/banking-and-money

      • 0 avatar
        modelt1918

        The facts are simple…..Eventually, the money will have to be paid back. Doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal. It will have to be paid back or go bankrupt.

    • 0 avatar
      DannyZRC

      *shakes head*

      you’re totally ignorant of the money system, right? right.

      If you print it, it devalues the savings and wages of the populace, and when the fed prints it it loans it out at interest to the .gov, so not only are your savings and wages devalued by the larger money supply, but the interest payments by the government rise, and anything the government spends is “our money”, even if they are spending from the press.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        I am, apparently, completely ignorant of the money system.

        You see, it was my understanding that if the Bureau of Printing and Engraving (you know, the government agency that actually possesses printing presses) were to print tens of trillions of dollar bills and then ship them off to Fort Knox, never to be seen again, nothing at all will be devalued. Perhaps you can explain this to me.

        Furthermore, it was my understanding that if you or I go to the local bank or credit union and take out a loan, the total deposits held by that institution does not change yet they have clearly given you or me money. How can that possibly be? Is it the case that I and hundreds of millions of my fellow Americans, are creating money or rather devaluing that currency we hold dear just by our daily activities? Certainly the trillions of dollars we Americans have created through our car, house, and student loans devalues the currency far more than a few hundred billion dollars the Federal Reserve created through the printing presses they don’t have. Perhaps you can explain this to me.

        Oh heck, why not try another head scratcher? The Federal Reserve is a profitable enterprise. But all of the profits are, by law, property of Treasury and once a year are wired over. Is it not the case then that all interest payments Treasury makes on bonds held by the Federal Reserve nothing more than moving money from one pocket to the other since it all comes right back to Treasury at the end of the year?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Well played, Mr. Dude.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Chitago Dude,

        If you dissemble brilliantly, does hyperinflation happen after you die?

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        CJinSD,

        Let me ask a better question. If we have hyperinflation, does that mean all the stuff we thought we bought from China turned out to be free?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      It’s money from the Chinese and nations selling oil to the US, as well as Fed buying of Ts. Luckily, there’s no intention to actually pay that crap back, and if they don’t like it, they can suck on 6000 nukes. Or, they’ll just steal the money by devaluing the currency, which is a tax on everyone that has dollars.

      Long gold, nonperishable food, lead, and high-speed lead delivery devices.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Reuters views A123′s issues as “a reminder of the struggles for a U.S. electric-vehicle industry still in its infancy and dealing with lower-than-projected demand.”

    No, it is not in its infancy. That was over a century ago. This is the attempt to resurrect the rotting corpse of a dead industry

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      A123′s been selling lots of batteries for a long time to a variety of markets (such as R/C vehicles and some consumer electronics), in addition to the EV market. They have a great reputation for quality and power-density. They’re a real company selling a real product. You can call it names if you like, but A123 is still a real company selling a real product to real customers.

      Financial missteps might change the name on the building, and might change the names on the corner office — but companies selling good products to real customers typically survive in one form or another.

      On to the EV industry in the USA.

      I drove a Nissan Leaf the other day and loved it. Nice car. Does what I need a commuter car to do, and it was smooth and had great low-end torque. It’s not the car for everyone, but it’s one of the first cars I’ve driven that might actually be worth the sticker price to me. Nissan will be building both the batteries and the cars in Tennessee, and deliveries from the Smyrna plant should start around December. This is what the American EV industry looks like — because the Japanese have figured out the technology while we’ve been fighting with each other about whether or not it’s a good idea.

      I admit that electric cars make more sense in Japan then they do here, because they have never had any domestic oil, and because it’s a physically smaller country. But the cars are still good cars for some applications — and one of those applications happens to include my daily driving. But, still, it’s the same old story – the Japanese are beating us at the efficiency game and they’ll probably sell me a car because American car companies are too worried about pandering to guys like you to build a car that matches my needs. Bummer, I guess, but it was this way before I was born and it’s still this way — though Ford and GM are at least bothering to show up to the game.

      Anyway, good luck with your opinions. You didn’t argue your case, you just used strong language to repeat your position. That’s not very convincing, or even very interesting. The test drive I took at the local Nissan dealer the other day convinced me that I want an electric car. Calling something a rotting corpse really doesn’t really mean much in comparison to driving a real car that I really like.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        Ironically, with all the nuclear plants being shut down, Japan won’t have any electricity, either.
        But that’s okay: their multinationals, built up and supported by the hapless Japanese consumers over the past 30 years, are fleeing the homeland for cheaper labour countries. Karma is a b$tch!
        I just love this new globalism. Pretty soon, the Pentagon can buy their tanks and computers from Japan – or better yet, China!
        At this rate, the U.S. patent department can probably shut down altogether. Or outsource itself to China!

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        We all buy all of our computers from China already… Have you popped the top on one lately?

      • 0 avatar
        oldyak

        yes and the coal fired cars the Japanese drove in WW2 were a big hit.
        Just because it works in Japan doesn’t mean it will work here!
        Unless you live in California……

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @oldyak: “yes and the coal fired cars the Japanese drove in WW2 were a big hit. Just because it works in Japan doesn’t mean it will work here! Unless you live in California…”

        Electric cars have limitations, and they’re very real. It doesn’t take much to convince me that an EV wouldn’t be a good match for YOUR needs.

        But, EVs do work for some people. An EV starts out the day with a full “tank”, so an EV with a 100-mile range would make an excellent daily-driver for me in the compact Midwestern city where I live. And I’m a geeky-green type of guy, so I’m willing to pay extra for a geeky-green car in the hopes that it will help to mature the market and the technology.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    “”None of the “100s of experiments around the world in university and company labs in battery, biofuel, and other energy ideas” has the slightest prayer of working.”\"

    Sorry they are not working for you. The new batteries are working fine in my 2 electric bikes, my 3 laptops, my iPod, my Android phone, my hearing aid, several flashlights, a couple of alarm clocks, my Prius, and in a heat sensor we use to keep food safe in our warehouse.

    • 0 avatar
      myleftfoot

      I have test driven both the Volt and LEAF. Add those to the list. One of those will be in my driveway soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      That is all old technology as evidenced by the fact that you can buy it.

      None them is an experiment anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        So, where exactly does new technology come from?

        Oh, right, the university, government, and commercial labs that you were disparaging!

        [facepalm]

        P.S. I’ve spent most of my career as a support staffer in academic research labs. Most of these labs are fairly open so, if you ask the PI nicely, you can see the work for yourself that it’s good and useful work.

    • 0 avatar
      Alternate_Us

      Glad to hear your new batteries work great in your LOW POWER DEMAND laptops, Android, IPod, hearing aid, clocks, sensor, & flashlight. These devices, with their low power demand, work well with batteries. Your electric bikes demand more power, but are probably not driven much beyond commuter range. The Prius is a bit different. However, it also has a small gasoline engine, and unless you have bought one of the newest ones, it is ultimately powered by that engine either directly or to recharge the battery. When I rented a Prius, I found it got around 45 mpg. This was good, but ultimately did not justify the higher rental cost.

  • avatar
    5keptic

    Science and math have taken a back seat to a lot of other careers in the US. If the US wants to maintain and expand its influence as a technological powerhouse, something is going to have to change to influence a cultural shift. Anecdotally, it seems that talent is being drawn to finance and the IT industries by a disproportionate amount. Whether a tax incentive or a subsidized loan or a social evolution, or something else is an answer, I cannot say, but the only way to find out which solutions work is going to be to try them. The intent of the money spent here was to spur innovation.

    Aside: A123 batteries are some of the best out there. I have a drill that uses them and am very impressed with it’s performance compared to some others.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Wow, so you guys must’ve been shouting from the rooftops when we essentially left ba-ba-ba billions of dollars in cash essentially in big piles on Iraqi streets, which promptly vaporized into thin air. I’m not talking about “funding the war effort” I’m talking about the fact that we literally dumped big piles of money on the ground which we then lost. Oh wait, nobody said anything. “Stuff happens”, right?

    The internet exists because of federal funding for a DARPAnet project, a project which might’ve gone nowhere. I guess they never should have bothered, any risk at all to the Tax payer is unjustified. Eventually the private sector would’ve gotten there.. and patented it, and instead of paying a couple of bucks a year for a domain and some web hosting, you’d have to pay a fortune to The Internet Company.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      T

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      More than a few posters here are too oblivious to see the irony of using the internet to complain that the government never accomplishes anything.

      Still, I was never pleased with the administration’s push into funding EV and battery production, as EVs are a mature technology and it is the batteries that are the weak link. The administration has treated this as a supply problem, when it’s really a demand problem that is the result of the technology itself not being particularly useful to consumers.

      If we’re going to spend money on this stuff, then it should be on research that produces genuine improvements to the technology itself. Batteries in their current form are bulky and heavy, while holding far less energy than any type of conventional motor fuel and while taking far too much time to recharge. Mass producing li-on batteries as a primary power source for automobiles doesn’t make much sense.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s interesting that the examples cited by those who favor omnipotent government as successful government “investment” seem to have flowed out of the Federal government’s constitutional role of national defense. The Internet, GPS, and integrated circuits were not examples of the government playing venture capitalist, betting on winners and losers. They were part of the government coming up with better ways of defending us and killing those who would harm us. There were technologies that showed promise along those lines, so they were funded. That’s a legitimate role of the federal government.

      I don’t have a problem with funding government labs or university research as long as the research has some bearing on the Fed’s constitutional roles. That kind of research is a far cry from the green “investments” of the current administration, though.

      Closing down half of official Washington wouldn’t hurt America. Closing down the Livermore labs would.

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        Can you give me an example of an administration official saying “we invest in national defense and that has turned out well*, therefore an ‘Omnipotent’ government can successfully invest in everything?”

        I know where you get this stuff, I just want to see you find a credible source for it.

        *This is a big stretch in itself, considering post-1980 the military-industral complex has become a biword for corruption and waste.

      • 0 avatar

        Why do you insinuate that the governments ONLY role is national defense?

        We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

      • 0 avatar

        Marcus,

        Please show me where I said that defense was the “only” legitimate role of the federal government. While you’re at it, you can try to show me where in American law it saws that the the preamble to the Constitution has any statutory power. As for “liberty”, the current administration is allergic to it. You can’t control free people.

      • 0 avatar
        Jellodyne

        Never mind that alternative energy might greatly reduce our need to do any National Defense, since we obviously need to export so much of it to oil rich regions. And any guesses on how much power Osama Bin Laden would have had were there no demand for oil over, say, the last 50 years?

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    So, some tiny sliver of my tax money went to actual R&D for extremely useful technologies? Cool! I only wish it was a bigger sliver!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I find no harm no foul with A123. They developed legit products. They’ve had significant investment from the private sector. They are more a victim of crappy luck and bad timing. GM didn’t select them for the Volt (but have for other projects, but too little too late) and the Fisker battery recall debacle was a blow that they could not recover from.

    Why this is news (not directed at TTaC but Reuters) is beyond me. I blogged on Fool.com about six months ago that A123 was done – you could have run the numbers on the math then. Yes, bummer if $250 million in taxpayer money goes poof, but it really doesn’t. They’ve developed a very impressive patent portfolio and are one of the leaders in next generation battery research. Unlike some other high profile failures, there is actually significant value in their entrails.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    There are some wonderful applications for devices powered solely by batteries. I don’t think cars with battery-only power are one of those applications – yet. The most probable energy source for battery-only powered cars is a coal fired power plant, which negates the clean energy argument. Wind turbines and solar aren’t going to replace coal, or gas, or nukes – for reasons of cost, reliability, capacity and on-demand availability. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t see BK after BK in both fields. I’d like for a miracle to happen with alternative power but I don’t plan on or depend on it. We’ve been misled by Moore’s Law in computing and forgotten that it can’t be applied to other fields.
    That being said, I hope that A123 makes it and that they have other applications that they can exploit.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It’s doubtful that ANY battery maker for EVs is going to make it because there is so little demand for EVs and Hybrids. EVs and Hybrids amount to an infinitesimally small percentage of vehicles on the road globally that they just don’t matter.

      One of my brothers thought he was so smart when he bought a Leaf in LA before moving to Manhattan. That didn’t last long. He sold the Leaf to a guy who owns a Golf course in Alabama. Lost money on the damn thing too.

      Most Americans, like most people around the planet, don’t care about the price of gasoline or diesel. It is a bargain at any price.

      EVs won’t catch on until we run out of oil, and that won’t be for several hundred years yet.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        No demand for hybrids? The Prius in my driveway shows that *I* (or, rather, my wife) demand a hybrid with good MPG.

        Highdesertcat, I’ve heard tidbits about your lifestyle to believe that a Prius would be a poor fit for your needs. So, you shouldn’t buy one.

        But, the Prius is one of Toyota’s top-selling cars, and for good reason. It’s a reliable, efficient, and practical small/medium passenger car for people who rarely leave the pavement. That happens to match my needs to a T, and the one in our driveway has 8 years and 145k miles on the clock. We’re not getting rid of it any time soon, because it’s the right tool for the job and because it’s been saving us time and money since day 1[0].

        Having read your other comments, though, I get the feeling that a car that handles poorly on gravel and has no ground clearance to speak of would be a poor match for your needs. So, a Prius probably wouldn’t work as well for you as it has for us — but, the fact remains that my wife is reluctant to drive non-hybrids, and also that that I personally demand high-MPG technologies under the hood when spending new-car money is on the table[1].

        [0] My wife was cross-shopping a near-luxury car and the Prius. She chose the Prius, so there was no hybrid premium to pay off.

        [1] The lack of new high-efficiency technologies is one of the reasons I’ve never purchased a new car — if I’m going to pay more for essentially the same vehicle that was available 10 years ago, then I’ll just save myself a few grand and buy the 10-year-old model. This is exactly why I bought an old Escape, rather than a new one — it’s the same old stuff under the hood, thepaint/upholstery was nice enough for me, and I know how to maintain an older vehicle — so, I have no reason to pay $30k for a new car when I can buy a $5k version. Put something interesting and efficient under the hood that I can’t get any other way, though, and suddenly I’m much more willing to bring new-car money to the table.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        Luke42, so I guess if given a choice between sending your money to Japan to fund their pension, or to Saudi Arabia to fund their newest yacht, you chose the pension.

        Good for you. You are a shining example of why the West is circling the drain.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Luke42, I’m not against EVs. I think they should be available to anyone who wants to buy one. I also believe that Corvettes, Vipers, Hummers and Pickup trucks should be available to anyone who wants to buy one.

        I just cannot force myself to believe that they should be subsidized by the taxpayers or the government.

        Subsidizing a car maker or an EV manufacturer is not an investment. It is a gamble, just like going to Vegas or Atlantic City and stuffing your money into a slot machine. In fact you have a better chance of hitting the jackpot in a casino than you do in industry.

        So, don’t misunderstand. I think you and everyone else who wants one should be able to buy an EV or Hybrid. But the vast majority of people on this planet choose to buy a conventionally powered ICE vehicle.

        By comparison, the handful of EVs and Hybrids currently on the road on this planet amount to a mere fraction of one percent of all vehicles.

        It is doubtful that ANY EV battery maker is going to be profitable, especially in America with its high wages and Lexus-benefits demanded by unions and/or mandated by our government.

        And you’re right, EVs and Hybrids are not MY cup of tea. I’m addicted to gasoline because it is a bargain at any price. Don’t care for diesel though, and don’t want to be stuffed in tiny sardine cans that pose as new-era cars these days.

        But if YOU are happy with your EV or Hybrid, no one is denying you your self-induced pleasure. Just don’t spoil my pursuit of happiness by forcing the taxpayers to subsidize anything, anywhere, anytime. I don’t believe in it.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @highdesertcat: If we pull back the subsidies (“tax brakes”) for the oil companies, then we can pull back the subsidies for alternative energy and BEV development.

        http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Sorry Luke, I don’t support the tax breaks for oil companies either. That was something that was driven by the green weenies who prevented oil companies from drilling on public lands.

        But drilling on private lands is going full bore to the point where the refineries can’t handle the volume. We need more refineries in America but the EPA has killed many of them.

        I am a proponent of maximizing the use of our own resources to include oil, natgas, coal, uranium, and where feasible, solar, wind, geothermal and wave power.

        And no matter how things turn out in the coming years, I won’t give up on using gasoline. There will be plenty of it, albeit at a price.

        I don’t care how much it costs. It’s all part of the cost of living. Most Americans feel the same way. We continue to buy gas no matter what it costs because it is a bargain at any price.

        I’m currently in Hawaii on vacation and I have seen only a couple of Hybrids (probably the same ones over and over again). No Volts, no Leafs and no MiEVs. Seems to me that Hawaii would be a prime candidate for EVs and Hybrids, but it’s not.

        And if the people of this island paradise where gas costs close to $5 a gallon for Regular Unleaded don’t care about the price of gas or driving an EV, why should I? Regular Unleaded gas costs $2.99 a gallon where I live.

        Cheap by comparison, even though I buy Premium from a pure-gas station for all my vehicles. I never cared for ethanol-spiked gas and this new station that sells pure-gas has been a real blessing.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @highdesertcat: How long do you think the domestic oil is going to last, if we tap it full-throttle?

        Domestic oil production peaked in 1973 and, while the decline has been shallower than it might be because of new extraction technology and new discoveries, we haven’t returned to the 1973 level — ever.

        I’m one of those “green weenies”, apparently, but I don’t think that drilling on public land matters much. The amount of oil in ANWR isn’t enough to make a difference in the long-term trajectory (I’ve been to Alaska and nature will kick your ass there).

        We can’t drill our way out of the oil problem, but we can save our oil for later. We can postpone the problem a generation or so transitioning to natural gas (the next best thing to oil) and by using oil sands and synthetic fuels. But EVs are the endgame, and we’d best be ready.

        Personally, I like high tech, I read a lot of sci-fi, and I’d rather be ready for the future even though it will be challenging. And my son will have to deal with this head-on, when he’s my age. Plus, dude, what’s more futuristic that driving an electric car? :-)

        So, yeah, as a “green weenie” (and a proud geek, I’m not really for or against domestic drilling. I’d like to see environmental/climate damage and the future value oil being fully considered in the discussion, though. Many of the “drill baby drill” crowd have never done the arithmetic on oil reserves and oil consumption, which makes their argument far less effective. If this argument were really about the issue, rather than about the rural/urban cultural divide, we could all just pull out our data, build a coherent picture, and then come up with a sensible way to deal with it.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Luke, rest assured that oil will be available in overabundance for hundreds of years yet. Since the loss of the drilling rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico, those rigs have moved on and found new oil reserves elsewhere. Not around the US, of course, because that political environment is toxic to oil exploration.

        There’s plenty of oil, much of it still undiscovered. Having said that, there is no reason why we, as a planet, should not utilize other means of power generation and energy development like the ones I mentioned earlier, and the ones you like.

        But unless and until those sources of energy you like become as inexpensive as oil, natural gas and coal, they will always be minor players.

        I’m betting on oil, natural gas and coal. Each may, in time, become slightly more expensive, but that’s all part of the cost of rice and rent, aka the cost of living.

        I would like to see much more nuclear power generation, but the human factor is always a deterrent. We’ve seen this before, human error causes irreversible damage either in the planning or organizing stages, but sometimes even in the execution of safety protocols.

        So the best route to travel for the globe for the next couple of hundred years at least is oil, natural gas and coal. And every country knows that. Even the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “There are some wonderful applications for devices powered solely by batteries. I don’t think cars with battery-only power are one of those applications – yet.”

      Maybe not for you… EVs are a niche vehicle at this time, but the Leaf would totally work for *me* at this time. I also drove one the other day, and loved it for a number totally irrational reasons. The car still caries a big early-adopter premium, and the limitations are real. But every millimeter of the Leaf is happy-little-commuter-car, and there are a lot of people who need happy little commuter cars.

      I live in a town that’s 5 miles on a side, with some big box stores around the edges. A car with a 72 mile range means that I can do everything I do in a day with range to spare. Road trips tend to be well over 100 miles, so an EV can’t be my only car — but it can be my daily driver.

      If the early-adopter premium is paid down by guys like me for whom the car works, and who are willing to pay the early adopter premium because we’re tired of waiting for the future to get here dammit, then cars like the Leaf would be a great fit for multi-car families who need commuter-cars for whom half-priced and consistently-priced fuel seems like a good deal.

      Seriously, the Leaf is made on the same assembly line with a Versa and the Cube. How many families own a Minivan/SUV and a Civic/Corolla/Versa/whatever? If the costs were lower (say $20k for the Leaf), why shouldn’t that second car be electric for about half of hose families? (The other half are likely to have extra long commutes.) Yes, that’s far from everyone, but it is a big enough group that it’s worth trying to sell a car to them.

      I should probably go out and buy a Leaf to help demonstrate that the market exists for new and interesting technology. Plus, I really liked the Leaf on its merits as a daily driver. Remember that cars don’t have to be all things to all people — they just have to be enough things to enough people to gain a steady stream of sales. I have absolutely no use for a Corvette — and it’s likely that you have no use for a Leaf. But I’m glad both cars exist, and I personally have a use for the Leaf.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        I just got my electricity back after 5 days. Fortunately, my 2002 Accord kept going like a champ.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “I just got my electricity back after 5 days. Fortunately, my 2002 Accord kept going like a champ.”

        You’re also lucky that your area still has hand-cranked gas pumps. You’d have been totally screwed if they were electric.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        Gee, Toronto’s power only went off for 6 hours. Perhaps some of your hydro workers should come up here for a few lessons….?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Yup, wouldn’t power outages be better if you had a compact whole-hose battery? Generators work too, of course, but a EV-sized battery (24KWH-ish) could run your whole house silently for a day or three without the noise and inconvenience of running a generator.

        If only we could do some fundamental research on how to build better batteries, as well as build the large-scale industrial plants required to make these batteries cheaply.

        Oh, right, that’s exactly what A123 has been doing, with some help from the federal government.

        But, don’t worry, the Japanese are building a very large battery plant in Tennessee, so we’ll be able to buy the batteries after all — even if nobody in the USA owns the intellectual property or collects the profits. We can be a scientific backwater and still gain the benefits of buying advanced technology from everyone else…..

  • avatar
    alluster

    A123 systems is soon going to declare themselves as a “defense contractor”, allowing them to receive billions of taxpayer monies with no criticism or media backlash. The republicans can now start to defend this “job creator”. In a few years time, the only companies surviving in the US would either be the ones supplying for the military or being a defense contractor. The only people employed would be working for these companies or join the military.

    On a serious note, A123 will have to start supplying for a mass model plug in(Volt, Leaf or Prius) to avoid b’psy. How will a A123 b’psy affect GM’s future EV’s like the Spark and ELR? GM may buyout A123, but what about Envia, a battery start up already backed by GM?

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    “That is all old technology as evidenced by the fact that you can buy it. None them is an experiment anymore.”

    Wow! All problems have been solved. We can stop research and close down our universities! Can we get China, India, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and non-Tea Party members to agree?

    What is the problem? Will some new energy hater please tell me what frightens them? Are you afraid of any change? Are you afraid someone will quietly beat you to the next red light? You know what HP, compression, and TDC mean and you don’t want to have to learn about kWh, freezing temperatures of gases, and how to grow algae? Have your girl friends been leaving you for smarter men?

    Just to annoy those frightened by change: it is becoming difficult to find a white man in LA who isn’t married to or dating a woman with Latin or Asian ancestry:-)

    These are exciting times enjoy them don’t be frightened.

    • 0 avatar

      Your playing of the racism card is not worthy of the Best and the Brightest.

      It’s so wonderful that us benighted folks have our intellectual and moral superiors like yourself to tell us what’s good for us.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      I don’t hate energy. I hate seeing the government waste money.

      I am not afraid of technology. I have been dealing with new technology since long before you were born.

      I am afraid of governmental bankruptcy, it is precipitates social and political unrest in ways that modern Americans simply do not appreciate. I am afraid of hyperinflation. Any student of economic history is terrified by that disease.

  • avatar
    volt4obama

    While we are on the subject of technological innovation, has anyone perfected a blowout preventer yet? Or, are we still using the same type we used on the Deepwater Horizon? Gee, that technology sure was effective. Not.

    Too bad A123 doesn’t have enough money to provide undisclosed contributions to politicians who could then provide it will more funding. If only A123 was owned by the Koch brothers.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      +10

      The development of safety equipment and best-practices is a subsidy to the oil and gas industry that I approve of!

      It’s also something that’s easy to transfer between research-land and private industry.

  • avatar
    peteo

    The promises of the electric car have been around along time. To bad we keep on expecting different results but getting the same.This type of Gov’t waste of money never ends till the the money is gone. Lets concentrate on natural gas vehicles until there is a major breakthrough. As for GM I give them between 5 and 10 years before they are broke again.A 20 percent disadvantage in over head costs will doom them no matter how many cars they sell. Don’t believe it? Just ask the legacy airlines about unions and the long term costs. A couple more years and GM stock will be in single digits. What a shame

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Dude, I drove an electric car at a Nissan dealer located between a cornfield and a movie theater in the midwest.

      I really liked the car, too, even with the early-adopter-premium built in to the price. The car was super-smooth (due to the lack of explosions under the hood, as well as due to fact that it’s direct-drive). It kept up with the 4-cylinder traffic on the Interstate just fine on the Interstate at 70mph with four people in the car, and can really leap away from stopsigns.

      EVs are niche vehicles. But so is every sports car, a lot of pickup trucks (the Raptor), retro-rides (HHR), and so on. This means that you’re under no obligation to buy an EV if it doesn’t work for you, but those of us who happen to like them (for whatever reason) should be able to purchase them.

      Yes, gasoline cars are better for road-trips. That’s great. I’m from a dual-career multi-car household. We’re going to own at least one gasoline-powered vehicle for the foreseeable future. But, after driving the Leaf, I don’t see any reason why I personally should burn gasoline in a complicated rube-goldberg explosion-engine every time I drive to work. So, the Leaf will be my daily driver, and I’ll probably keep a decade-old Escape or minivan around. My wife can drive whatever she likes.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Also, burning gasoline is not on this nation’s interest, when there’s a better alternative available.

      • 0 avatar

        “Explosion engine”? I thought this was 2012, not 1912. Do you also wear long legged and long sleeved swimwear?

        “but those of us who happen to like them (for whatever reason) should be able to purchase them.”

        Well, only if the manufacture and sale of such vehicles is financially viable.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Ronnie Scribner: ““Explosion engine”? I thought this was 2012, not 1912. Do you also wear long legged and long sleeved swimwear?”

        That is more or less how I felt when I got back in to my Escape that afternoon after driving the EV. And our Prius felt like a rattletrap. :-)

        It’s not all because of the electric drivetrain. The Leaf is 8 years newer and with a 8 years better interior layout than our newest existing car. But it’s also one of the only cars in the last 8 years that has any compelling advantages over our 2004 Prius (as a commuter/errand car).

  • avatar
    Glen.H

    I wouldn’t worry about your government wasting your tax payers money- from the deficits you guys have been running on all levels of government for years, and the low tax rates you pay, well, it’s mostly Japanese, Korean, Chinese peoples money, borrowed and probably will never be payed back.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Yes, a great scheme: Asia loans America money to buy Asian products so America can export more jobs, patents and intellectual property.
      Fantastic!

      Meanwhile, armchair critics whine about Obama propping up technology companies. HELLO! Wake up! Japan Inc wrote the book and now China Inc is going to close the library.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    To all those that are critical of a $249 million dollar investment in a battery maker – how about the $65 BILLION we spent on the F-22 raptor program?

    You know the plane – the one that’s never seen combat and asphyxiates pilots due to a terrible OBOGS design.

    A $65 billion boondoggle is a whole lot bigger than a measly $249 million. Should we cease “investing” in Lockheed Martin and Boeing?

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      This is a good question. Especially when these companies get the majority of their revenue from the US Government.

      Of course, hang onto your hat, zerofoo. The F-35 is going to cost 1.5 trillion. Hopefully the airplane will work better than the F-22?

    • 0 avatar

      Putting aside the value of this or that weapons system, there’s a fundamental difference between spending money on weapons and the government acting like a venture capitalist. Wasting money on defense is at least constitutional.

      • 0 avatar
        Glen.H

        That’s the spirit, Ronnie!It’s because of that sort of reasoning that America is regarded worldwide as a beacon of financial probity and good sense! It’s Constitutional!

      • 0 avatar
        zerofoo

        Ronnie,

        There are national security arguments for both of these particular investments. Clearly independence from foreign oil increases our national security, as does a robust defense.

        What needs to happen in both cases is accountability in Washington for a return on our taxpayer investment. It seems no one is held accountable when tax dollars go up in smoke.

        Then again, the private sector seems to be just as bad at this. After billions in speculative investment losses, why does Jamie Dimon still have a job?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Subsidizing a car maker or an EV manufacturer is not an investment. It is a gamble, just like going to Vegas or Atlantic City and stuffing your money into a slot machine. In fact you have a better chance of hitting the jackpot in a casino than you do in industry.

        At least with the financial sector there is SOME chance of a payback.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    What is the most advanced ICE powered vehicle we have today? Did it appear out of the blue or is it the result of 150 years of progress?

    For 200 years we didn’t need much beyond lead acid batteries but with new electronics we needed safer, smaller, and more reliable batteries and we got them in about 20 years of progress. Now we need even better batteries to make our cars, drones, military vehicles quieter; provide back up storage for solar and wind power; and to give us a choice from oil.

    We have given tax breaks to oil companies and gone to war to protect the Saudis from their neighbors. Spending a little to subsidize battery research and builders is an excellent investment.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    I live in Canada. I know many people from “green companies”
    They don’t even hope they can invent something new. They don’t even pretend any more.
    They just wait for money from government. Every year !!!
    Most green companies in Canada are like Solyndra and nobody cares.
    DON’T CHANGE USA IN CANADA, you don’t have oil and mining industry like Canada.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I would consider research into ANY advanced technology that has the potential (ahem) to augment our efficiency and lessen our dependance on oil (and fossil fuels in general) as an adjunct to our defense, and should be funded by the DOD.
    I just love the shift in priorities that happen nearly INSTANTLY when the price of gas falls – suddenly, all of the blood and treasure that have been spilled and spent on oil are forgotten, and the ability to travel far and fast on a whim are taken for granted.
    Those who deride the valid attempts of our government to bring us into the 21st century are whistling past the graveyard.
    Oil is going to run out, and the attempts to keep it as our primary transportation fuel will only take an increasing toll on the planet as it takes more and more exotic, environmentally destructive and expensive methods to keep ourselves moving.
    Put your foot to the floor, and celebrate your cheap mobility, while Rush Limbaugh rants on the radio about how the Chevy Volt sucks.
    But then ask yourself: What will my grandchildren drive?”

    Edit: Let me put another perspective to this: Our military cannot function without oil, and won’t for any time soon – for our national defense, we need to preserve the oil that so many are calling for drilling (RIGHT NOW!) , and move to more appropriate energy sources for our personal mobility – this should be a high priority for all Americans; indeed, it could be considered *patriotic* without too much of a stretch.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Many commenters are conflating energy storage and energy production. Batteries store energy, but if you don’t like coal and you don’t like nukes then chances are almost 2 in 3 that you don’t like the source from which the energy stored in a pure battery car is actually produced. Not true of a hybrid with regenerative storage of energy produced by gas, which of course, many people also don’t like.

    edit – just after posting, I read a link from Instapundit that natural gas produced as much electricity as coal in April… well, some people don’t like fracking.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    There is no one magic bullet for alternative energy. There’s not enough available land to have enough solar or wind to free us from oil. There’s not enough arable land to grow enough corn for ethanol production. Sorry to bust someone’s well meaning bubble.
    I’m cheap and the Prius V is looking pretty good to me. The ability to use little gas on long trips and Toyota reliability seems like a good deal.
    However, most of my electricity comes from coal fired plants. Coal mining, sometimes hill topping, coal fired plants. When you’re around me don’t wrap yourself in your binkey of smugness and Eco friendliness when your electricity comes from coal.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “When you’re around me don’t wrap yourself in your binkey of smugness and Eco friendliness when your electricity comes from coal.”

    Sorry but an EV like the Leaf running around on electricty generated by coal is still cleaner than any Prius. And there are people currently generating more electrical power with the solar panels on the roof of their homes then they use in their EV’s. Obviously these are extreme cases but it just goes to show you what can be done when you open your mind.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      An EV is not suitable for a great many people, lack of range etc. Hill topping is what incenses me. A coal company will remove a hill top, or half of the hill top to mine the coal and then move on.
      I used to build solar sited Eco-friendly homes. Some solar panels on the roof? I love how the homeowners mean well but it’s more a fashion statement. With the costs of the panels and having their house rewired it will take years to payback the costs of the panels. Now after payback they’ll be getting free electricity and that’s a good thing. Here on the east coast I could see HOA’s dumb enough not to allow solar panels.
      There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. I’ve seen people come in spouting memes like living off the grid and lowering our energy footprint. They become quite somber when they find out how much their memes actually cost. Thankfully there were some who went through with their plans and paid the costs of an Eco-friendly home; finding the right site, architects, addition wiring/plumbing, extra material costs for the house, etc.
      Ideally, I’d be living in an Eco-friendly house. Now if I could walk out to my organic garden and get some fresh tomatoes, oh yeah.

  • avatar
    cruiser0002

    Many major power drill manufacturers (ex: DeWalt) have moved away from the A123 cells to less capable ones – this is a crime to humanity akin to putting an anemic 200hp engine in the toyobaru that clearly deserves more. We should be up in arms about this instead of talking about electric cars!


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