Yesterday the Obama administration announced “an unprecedented set of actions” to grow the U.S. plug-in electrified vehicle market.
The initiative represents a broad collaboration between federal agencies, state governments, major automakers, utilities, and others to aid the ongoing push to make electric cars viable alternatives to the internal combustion variety.
Perhaps chief in a laundry list of public and private sector agreements is up to $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for commercial scale charging — including fast charging — to create a nationwide network.
A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not.
The most recent news out of the Elio Motors will provide grist for the rhetorical mills of both skeptics and enthusiasts of the startup car company. As we anticipated in our most recent post about Elio, the company has applied for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy’s newly revived Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Though Congress had allocated $25 billion for the ATVM loans, less than half was disbursed before the program was put on hiatus in the wake of the failure of Fisker, which had been granted about half a billion dollars in loan guarantees. Elio Motors announced that it will be seeking a loand of $185 million to “accelerate the company’s plans to begin production” of their enclosed tandem reverse trike next year.
The green warriors who hoped EVs and hybrids would be the dominate force on the highways of America may need to wait a bit longer: the United States Department of Energy predicts gasoline will be the fuel of a generation until at least 2040.
What do Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Al Gore all have in common? They may soon — baring a miracle — become the proud owners of the first orphan cars made in the 21st century for well-moneyed consumers by an automaker born in the 21st century, as Fisker Automotive has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The United States Department of Energy will today auction off Fisker Automotive’s loan from the federal government, on which the moribund hybrid car startup defaulted. Last month the department said that it would hold the auction after “exhausting any realistic possibility” that it could recoup all of the $168 million still that Fisker still owes.
EV charging system maker Ecotality has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors, saying that it wants to sell its assets in an auction. The Associated Press is reporting that Ecotality might be forced to sell or file for bankruptcy after the U.S. government suspended payments as part of the Department of Energy EV Project. Ecotality, based in San Francisco, makes charging and power-storage systems for electric vehicles under the Blink and Minit Charger. It also makes charging stations for Nissan’s Leaf brands, and provides testing services for government agencies, auto makers and utilities. The company now says that it would prefer to sell its assets through a court approved bankruptcy auction.
The United States Department of Energy has announced on its website that it will auction off the loan that it made to Fisker Automotive, a loan for which the hybrid luxury startup carmaker only repaid a small fraction of the principal. Peter Davidson, the executive director of the department’s Loan Program Office, told Automotive News that the DOE decided to auction off the loan, “after exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that might have protected our entire investment.”
Though it has been criticized by those who oppose government financing of business, in part because of the failure of Fisker, one of the recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, the DoE has announced that it will resume marketing the ATVM to industry and possible applicants. About 60% of the $25 billion that Congress allocated to the program still remains. No loans have been made since 2011.
“With no sunset date and more than $15 billion in remaining authority, the program plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds available and the application process in general,” a Dept. of Energy spokeswoman said.
Critics of the current administration have pointed to the impending bankruptcy of Fisker Automotive and the recent suspension of operations at taxi maker Vehicle Production Group as examples of why the government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in it’s zeal to promote alternative energy. The DoE effort under which those two companies received financing is the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, ATVM. Putting aside political ideologies, contrary to the image given by the apparent failure of Fisker and VPG, the ATVM program actually has a pretty decent track record when it comes to picking winners and losers.
PrivCo, a private corporate intelligence firm, has published a 20+ page dossier on Fisker’s seemingly strong ability to fundraise for itself, while failing to do a good job of actually creating cars. With Fisker teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, the results are staggering; with just under 2000 units sold, Fisker burned through an estimated $1.3 billion in venture capital, taxpayer-funded loans and private investor funds.