By on June 12, 2013


Yesterday, battery acolytes who hate to see stories of EV makers going bankrupt complained about a TTAC story of another EV maker going bankrupt.  They said the story was unfair, because Miles Electric made electric essential services vehicles, used for parking enforcement and the like, whereas bankrupt EV makers such as Coda tried to sell real cars,so where’s the connection?

Our story actually went to great pains trying to explain this promising niche, in an attempt to say “well, if it doesn’t work here, where will it?”

Wire services such as Reuters are less subtle.  In its article about Miles going bust, Reuters says that the Miles bankruptcy highlights ”the difficulties faced by battery-powered vehicles in gaining wide market acceptance.” Reuters goes on to say:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost and concerns about their driving range.

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed off on President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.”

(Expect to read something similar – or identical – in future reports of EV bankruptcies. These paragraphs read like handy boilerplate.)

Today, Reuters comes to the rescue of readers who miss a connection between Miles and makers of real EVs.   It turns out that bankrupt Coda  and bankrupt Miles are connected, so much that, writes Reuters,

“Lio Energy Systems Holdings, based in Delaware, and Hong Kong-based Miles Electric Vehicles Ltd are seeking to have their cases jointly administered with those of parent Coda Holdings and its affiliates, including Coda Automotive, which filed for bankruptcy on May 1.”

According to Reuters, Coda’s founder Miles Rubin is the same Miles Rubin that founded Miles Electric, a company, Reuters says, “that is separate from, but related to, Coda.”

In its new article about Miles & Co., Reuters again uses a lot of the boilerplate language that soon will become very familiar:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost, lack of convenience and concerns about their driving range. Among the prominent “green” car makers that face an uncertain future is southern California-based Fisker Automotive Inc, which is seeking a buyer after hiring bankruptcy advisers.”

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed away from President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.

Tesla has put thousands of cars on the road, but Fisker is considering a bankruptcy filing. Fisker’s lithium-ion battery maker, A123 Systems Inc, filed for bankruptcy late last year.”

In my humble opinion, the mere act of starting a new car company in a hope of striking it rich is a symptom of dementia. This industry is very unkind to new entries. Electric propulsion, and producing the cars in China simply add to the already daunting odds. But as long as people invest in these companies, Reuters will be able to re-use its handy boilerplate paragraphs.

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42 Comments on “Reuters Explains Why The Miles Bankruptcy Is Relevant To Other EV Bankruptcies...”

  • avatar

    I said it once and I’ll say it again, there is no way I will buy an electric vehicle, unless I understand the technology behind it, such as where are the motors located, are they easy to service and what is the service interval, does the mileage offered vary with traffic and speed, etc. it’s like buying a pig in a poke, what happens to the motors if I go through five inches of water, do I need to lubricate it or change the brushes, if any?

    you can’t just tout an electric vehicle as a panacea,you need to familiarize your potential customers with the pitfalls as well as the good!

  • avatar

    Plug In hybrids will win out when gas hits $20 a gallon.

    • 0 avatar

      Because electricity will still be at today’s prices?

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Well, for now in the U.S. petroleum prices and natural gas prices have been “de-linked.” Petroleum operates in a global market, but natural gas operates in a national market. So, the abundance of natural gas supply in the U.S. means that it is far cheaper to buy the same energy equivalent in natural gas than in a petroleum product. Natural gas is increasingly finding its way as a fuel source for electricity generation, so, to some extent the price of electricity will not be linked to the price of petroleum.

        OTOH, in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where electricity is mostly the result of burning oil, its hard to see how an increase in the price of oil is going to improve the economic case for EVs. That said, given that both places are not too big islands, it might be feasible to do a full EV conversion if range between recharges could be extended to 100 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Hawaii is currently trying to get off oil for producing electricity. That is the goal anyways. Last time I was in Maui there was a hill filled with wind turbines that weren’t there when I had visited a few years earlier. The Hawaii islands are a perfect place for EVs IMHO.

          • 0 avatar

            I know that hill!

            When we were in Kihei for the winter Dec12-Jan13 we drove all around Maui but didn’t see one EV or Hybrid while on the road.

          • 0 avatar

            Once again, wind is worthless without an energy storage that’s massive enough for the wind station’s capacity. This is because the load and generation must match each other exactly at any given moment. There’s a certain margin, provided by the resistive loss in the transmission lines, since the heating is proportional to voltage multiplied by current. Thus, adding demand causes voltage drop, which keeps grid from exploding.

            Anyway, the end result is, if you create a grid powered by wind, it will melt down immediately in a massive blackout. In the real world, every wind deployment has an idling coal or gas plant ready to take the load (which reduces the savings of fuel because basically an idling plant still burns everything and the heat goes into the atmosphere right there).

            By the way – if one were to create a station that recharges an EV with wind, it would work. Only electric grid powered by wind is impossible, but EV is essentially a storage unit. There’s nothing impossible about that. Unfortunately, you have to park your EV at the wind farm’s location for that, or build an entirely parallel grid that is specified for wild voltage changes.

          • 0 avatar
            Rod Panhard

            I would think Hawaii would be a great place for geothermal energy, with all those volcanos ….

  • avatar

    I actually bought one of those buckets two years ago at a Manheim sale. No one had any clue what it was or what to do with it. It was a ZX40 I believe. We had fun tooling it around the lot and to the gas station to get snacks/sodas. Ended up selling it to a guy locally who planned to tinker with it and get it to travel highway speeds. He also electrified a Plymouth Breeze, so, yeah.

  • avatar

    Nice try, but you and Reuters are still mixing apples and oranges.

    Miles didn’t produce consumer products, but this part is true: “Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost, lack of convenience and concerns about their driving range.”

    Miles’ connection with Coda makes them a failure by association?

    Guilt by association (consumer products and Coda) is helpful to your argument.

    Coda and Fisker built terrible products, and they failed. So have lots of other companies who never built an EV. Better Place’s business model was a decade late, and A123 hooked all of their products to new markets with high barriers of entry.

    Nobody thinks EVs will take over the car market, except the craziest of EV fans. Obama’s 1 million EV claim was foolish, to put it kindly. Citing this wacky prediction is hardly proof of EV market failure, nor is the failure of a company nobody ever heard of.

    I don’t expect a steady diet of EV sunshine here, but part of The Truth About (Electric) Cars is that their sales are up about 200% over last year.

    • 0 avatar

      Going from 1 a year to 2 a year isn’t hard when that 2nd one was given to Leo DeCaprio

      All jokes aside though, EVs will never gain parity in legitimacy with ICE cars until they are as or more usable than EVs. 300, 400, 500 miles isn’t enough. I don’t think people will switch over until EVs can go 1000 miles on a charge. Nowadays you are lucky to get 100 miles off a charge. We are way off.

      • 0 avatar

        The early digital cameras were technological wonders but the quality of their photos was inferior to film. My opinion at the time was that while such-and-such was a great digital camera, I’ll wait until it’s just a great camera. Likewise, when an EV becomes a great all-around car that you don’t need to make allowances for, plan around, or have something else as a backup, I’ll be interested.

      • 0 avatar


        I agree with your parity comment; battery technology isn’t advancing enough to do this for a very long time.

        Claims of parity by politicians and Elon Musk (who I’m generally a fan of) do not help promote EVs when the truth comes out about their limitations.

        EVs should be marketed as excellent niche vehicles that can serve quite well as 2nd cars. The Leaf is perfect for my lifestyle, but it will not take my family on vacation – I have a minivan for that.

  • avatar

    I don’t think Miles’ fate tells us anything about the future of EVs. With a top speed of 25MPH they barely qualify as vehicles. Although I wouldn’t buy a Tesla even if I could afford one, as a utility vehicle the Miles made sense to me.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, Taylor-Dunn seems to be going along okay. Even the Electruc line is still in production. Maybe Miles was just managed poorly (or even existed for the sole purpose of transfering the government incentives into the porckets of management), who knows.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks, Pete – I was trying to think of that company but drew a blank. It’s entirely possible that within their otherwise viable market segment they just made a crappy product, priced it wrong, or had poor customer service. Tesla may build a great EV, but if they mistreat their customers (and I’m not saying they do) they will go out of business. And we’ll never know what the actual market for EVs is.

  • avatar

    The technology just isn’t mature enough yet. Energy density is still like 7-8x too low. Supercapacitors are the way forward.

  • avatar

    Bertel seems to be on a republican red bent today. someone give him a healing hug.

    in other news, conspicuously absent is the counterpoint that these service vehicles are (were?) ideally suited for muninciapl duty, which is a loser. They are chinese in part, which is a no-starter for federally funded procurements. State and local governments (for the most part) in this country are dirt poor and can’t afford fancy electic cars.

    If EV’s weren’t competitive, then Audi wouldn’t be publishing hate mail to Tesla for selling as many Model S’s in a quarter as Audi does for A7’s and A8’s combined.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    My view on EVs is to remove any government assistance, subsidies and handouts.

    If and when the market is ready for these vehicles they will sell.

    We wonder why the West is going backwards when we are investing in the wrong infrastructure and technology.

    We then complain when other countries (emerging) are using a tried and proven system of processes to manage their countries.

    Wind energy and EVs might look nice in a Sci-Fi movies, but in reality who paying for it.

    Can the average Joe afford to purchase wind power and drive an EV? No.

    The ‘normal’ person is lucky to find enough money to make ends meet. This stuff is for art degreed socialists. These are ‘feel good’ green products so who ever buys it has that warm and fuzzy feeling when they drive to work.

    EV technology is great for subways, trams, etc or factories and golf course applications. In other words mass transit and mass industry, not individual and personal use.

    The US would be better using EV money in gas infrastructure (pipelines), to remove heating oil. This would have a bigger impact on removing CO2, NOx, etc than EVs.

    This kind of infrastructure spending would help the ‘average Joe’ more than seeing government institutions buy up EVs and have a more significant impact in saving the ecology.

    EV tech, now way, only in a true free market will it succeed, like EV forklifts etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the subsidies comment.

      EVs have already sold in the tens of thousands worldwide. Part of the market seems ready now, but subsidies have certainly helped. However, I believe Tesla’s Model S would sell just as well without a subsidy, since the subsidy is a small portion of its price.

      “Other countries” are socialist. One reason the Leaf was recently the #2 car in Norway is due to the handouts.

      “Art degreed socialists” might favor handouts, but such people can’t actually buy them. I’m a middle-class engineer who votes conservative. Maybe someone else has the fuzzy feeling when I drive to work. My Leaf is really cheap to operate, and the reduction in moving parts means less to maintain.

      You’re right about cleaning up other pollution sources. Cars are becoming a diminishing part of the pollution problem, such as it is.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s easier for EV detractors to pretend that people like you don’t exist, than to rationalize the fact that not everyone has the same set of priorities when they buy a vehicle. Nor does everyone who buys one model of car do so for the same reasons.

        It’s the same reason that “the Prius is only driven by greenie socialist wimps” meme has been allowed to stick around for so long. Just stick your fingers in your ears and shout, rather than admit that a well-made, very practical, and extremely efficient automobile is going to appeal to many people who aren’t tree huggers.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @J Emerson
          Who has subsidised almost every aspect of these vehicles, even when recharging?

          The ‘normal’ people.

          Yes, you might think you are benefiting, but at my expense.

          Look at the data.

          I have nothing against EVs other than others are helping the current users pay for their cars.

          Is that a fair society.

          • 0 avatar

            @Big Al:

            The “electric cars are unfairly subsidized” talking point has grown stale. It’s without merit to anyone who makes an honest appraisal of the US transportation infrastructure and how it got that way: trillions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, to create an environment suitable for the use of ICE vehicles. Most of us here (myself included) would see that as a justifiable expense, but it doesn’t change the reality of how it was funded. Millions of people with zero interest (personal or economic) in cars or driving were co-opted to pay for that infrastructure, whether they wanted to or not. Driving is quite possibly the most heavily subsidized activity in the United States, period.

    • 0 avatar

      there is no technology, no infastructure, no significant advancement, and no major driver of economic growth that has NOT either been springboarded into commonality or outright invented without government assistance. This is a fact. If any government’s first responsibility is security, it’s second is economic prosperity, or vice-versa. If you think for one second that it’s any different in any other country, I welcome you to look. Find me one country that does not invest in new technologies that is in the G20.

      I remind you that similar griping took place after the invention of fuel injection, air bags, seatbelts, and crash safety standards. 99.99999% of people today wouldn’t buy a car without these features today.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        It has to be viable and profitable. Government spending on properly considered programs is great. In the past you will see that most government spending was on infrastructure ie dams, highways etc where the general populace benefits.

        Technology/industrial growth subsidised by a country was generally military or and issue of national significance in the past. Not small programs like EVs.

        When government spending and regulation is used to support small programs relative to the size of an economy, then programs become inefficient.

        I think if you look at the way governments have managed subsidies and handouts the countries in most economic strife you will find they are OECD economies.

        How much was the computer industry subsidised, or Henry Ford? When a product is produced and society wants and requires it, it will be successful.

        You can’t buy and regulate success. It is earnt.

        Food for thought.

        No I don’t agree with your views as they are utopian.

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