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- 12/11/12--10:43: _A123 loses $116 mil...
- 12/12/12--11:26: _Daimler ramping up ...
- 12/13/12--05:11: _Nissan starts up Le...
- 12/17/12--14:59: _Nissan admits US Le...
- 12/22/12--05:23: _Daimler exec Harald...
- 12/22/12--12:57: _Audi building e-gas...
- 12/26/12--13:01: _Fisker may owe Dela...
- 01/04/13--04:55: _EV equipment sales ...
- 01/04/13--09:26: _Elio Motors buys ol...
- 01/09/13--07:32: _2013 Nissan Leaf ch...
- 01/10/13--12:50: _Toyota may integrat...
- 01/11/13--10:48: _Analyst says Tesla ...
- 01/17/13--15:59: _Fisker Karma produc...
- 01/22/13--14:53: _Tata eMO electric v...
- 01/23/13--16:47: _VW starts up larges...
- 01/25/13--11:14: _Tesla Model S produ...
- 01/26/13--05:42: _Canadian government...
- 01/30/13--11:01: _A123 sale to Wanxia...
- 02/03/13--05:39: _Mazda will build $2...
- 02/11/13--05:01: _Honda installing wi...
- 12/13/12--05:11: Nissan starts up Leaf battery production in Smyrna, Tennessee
- 12/22/12--05:23: Daimler exec Harald Kroeger named to Tesla board
- 12/22/12--12:57: Audi building e-gas plant to make climate-friendly vehicle fuel
- 12/26/12--13:01: Fisker may owe Delaware money if factory plans fall through
- 01/04/13--04:55: EV equipment sales will jump more than tenfold by decade's end
- 01/10/13--12:50: Toyota may integrate carbon fiber after Lexus LFA shut-down
- 01/11/13--10:48: Analyst says Tesla is low on cash, dangerously so
- 01/22/13--14:53: Tata eMO electric vehicle still on the drawing board
- 01/25/13--11:14: Tesla Model S production reaches 400 cars a week capacity
- 01/30/13--11:01: A123 sale to Wanxiang Group approved by US government
Bankrupt lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems may have gained a new owner, but will lose a lot of money in the pending sale to China-based Wanxiang Group, Reuters reports, citing an unidentified US Energy Department official.
Specifically, A123, which filed for bankruptcy in October, will forgo about $116 million of the original $249 million grant. Wanxiang Group, which offered $256.6 million for A123, outbid Johnson Controls and didn't expect to receive the remainder of the grant funds, the wire service said. A123 declined to comment.
Some members of Congress have expressed concern that an A123 sale to a Chinese company creates the potential for US technology secrets to be passed on to China. Johnson Controls, along with Japan's NEC, bid about $251 million for A123.
The Wanxiang Group acquisition would include A123's factories in Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri. It is subject to approval from the Delaware bankruptcy court. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Like Ford in the US, Daimler makes vehicles with different kinds of powertrains in one plant. Over in Hambach, France, around 750 Daimler
It's not that surprising that people want this EV, since Daimler is making sure the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive will be crazy affordable (for an electric vehicle) when it goes on sale. The car will start at just $25,000 before any federal tax credits when it comes to the US in the spring, and it is available at a low cost with a battery lease in Europe (details below). We like this tiny EV - as you can read here, it's a big improvement over the previous generation - and if you can live with the size limitations, it's a good way to get your EV toes wet.Permalink | Email this | Comments
After years of preparation, Nissan has finally and officially started making battery packs for the all-electric Leaf in the US. The plant in Smyrna, TN is now online and making batteries for the 2013 Leaf that will go into production nearby early next year in the same plant where Nissan makes the Altima and Maxima. Nissan is calling the new production facility the "largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant" in the US. Until now, all Leaf packs (and vehicles) were made in Japan. Nissan is also opening a Leaf plant in the UK.
While Leafs sales have not reached the numbers Nissan predicted years ago, the car is selling well enough and Nissan has said it expects US Leaf sales to double once the Tennessee plant comes online. In the two years that the car has been on sale, Nissan has sold over 18,000 in the US and more than 46,000 globally; good enough for Nissan to call it "the most successful 100-percent electric vehicle in history." Nissan says the Smyrna plant could make up to 200,000 batteries (previously 150,000) annually.
If you need a simplified graphic description of how a Leaf pack is put together, we've got just the image for you, right below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Sales of the Nissan Leaf haven't been as high as CEO Carlos Ghosn once predicted, and Nissan is now admitting that part of the problem is the way Nissan itself presented the car. But don't worry, Nissan vice president for sales, Al Castignetti, told Automotive News, a change is coming. It makes sense to shift tactics, since Castignetti himself said Nissan was, "a little bit arrogant as a manufacturer when we went to the 50-state rollout."
The problem, Nissan now says, was that the company made the all-electric car available in places where there was no infrastructure - or not enough - to welcome new buyers. As Leaf production ramps up in Tennessee, the way the all-electric vehicle is marketed will shift from a "here it is, come and get it" strategy to one where potential buyers are specifically targeted. Castignetti told AN that Nissan is "telling our dealers, 'You don't market this car traditionally. You don't put it in the newspaper. You need to go and find the electric car buyer in your market.'"
Nissan has to hope this will work, since the company has talked about doubling Leaf sales once Tennessee production is up and running. Currently, somewhere around 1,000 units (sometimes much lower, sometimes up to 1,500) are sold in the US every month. When the Tennessee plant is up to full production (early production starts in January), Nissan will be able to make 150,000 units a year there. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla Motors has brought in another Daimler AG executive to its board of directors - Harald Kroeger, Daimler's vice president of electrics, electronics and e-Drive. Kroeger replaces Daimler's Herbert Koehler, who resigned from the Tesla board on December 12.
Koehler had been a board member since Daimler invested in the company in 2009. As Tesla CEO Elon Musk told us earlier this year, Tesla received a $50-million investment at a much-needed time in the electric carmaker's history. As Musk said, "thankfully, Daimler, with whom we had a small deal to produce battery packs for the Smart [ED] actually invested $50 million into Tesla in the nick of time. It wasn't some huge altruistic gesture, but nonetheless, they had to have faith that their $50 million wouldn't go down the drain."
Other than battery packs for the Smart electric drive, Tesla hasn't yet announced signing another contract with Daimler similar to Tesla's alliance with Toyota on its RAV4 EV's electric powertrain system. Tesla will also make a powertrain for the B-Class E-Cell, but details are sparse on that. Musk did say that "it's a big program, it's not a marketing or a demonstration program. It is a serious, high-volume program." In a recent public regulatory filing, Tesla stated that the board change is the "result of a natural transition of responsibilities at Daimler AG with respect to the development of electric vehicle powertrains."
Tesla's financial sheet is getting better, as Tesla announced being cash flow positive earlier this month, and that profits may be earned next year through sales of its Model S. Musk also seems to be doing well - he's described in the Automotive News article as "billionaire Elon Musk." Along with his role at SpaceX, Musk is chairman of home solar panel-installer SolarCity, and still finds time to oversee luxury electric carmaker Tesla Motors. Permalink | Email this | Comments
On December 13, Audi celebrated its synthetic methane (e-gas) vehicle fuel plant, which is under construction in Werlte, Germany. Audi says that it is the world's first industrial plant for generating e-gas from CO2 and renewable electricity. Its end product will be hydrogen and synthetic Audi e-gas, which will be used as climate-friendly fuel for vehicles such as the new Audi A3 Sportback TCNG. E-gas production will begin in the spring of 2013.
The Audi e-gas plant will utilize renewable energy for electrolysis. The electrolysis process splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, or Audi e-hydrogen, which at some point can be used to power fuel-cell vehicles. Since there's not much of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure in place yet, Audi can react the hydrogen with CO2 in a methane-processing unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. The e-gas can be delivered to fueling stations through the local natural-gas network, since chemically speaking, the e-gas is nearly identical to fossil-based natural gas.
Audi unveiled the 2013 A3 Sportback in Munich, right before the 2012 Paris Motor Show in September. The five-door hatchback features a bi-fuel powertrain as part of the Audi e-gas project. Since compressed natural gas fueling stations are hard to find, the A3 also makes use of a 13-gallon gasoline tank to help give the car an effective range of around 745 miles.
The e-gas initiative is part of Audi's strategy of bringing cleaner, carbon-neutral fuel to internal combustion engines. The Werlte plant will generate enough CO2-neutral e-gas to power 1,500 new Audi A3 Sportback TCNG vehicles 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) each year. This compact five-door hatchback is scheduled to arrive at dealerships in late 2013.
Audi gets the CO2 to power the e-gas plant from a nearby biogas plant, operated by energy company EWE. The CO2 is made climate neutral by being chemically bonded into the fuel at the Audi e-gas plant, so that it won't pollute the atmosphere. Audi's new e-gas plant will be able to annually produce about 1,000 metric tons (1,102 US tons) of e-gas, and will chemically bind about 2,800 metric tons of CO2. That's roughly the equivalent to the amount of CO2 that can be absorbed by about 224,000 beech trees in a year.
Audi was given an award for its e-gas project in November. The Working Group for Efficient and Environmentally Friendly Energy Use honored Audi with an award and 15,000 euros. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Fisker Automotive has had a tough year, making the news for everything from recalls to presidential politics - Mitt Romney called the company a "loser" during the debates - to a car catching on fire to Justin Bieber chroming his Karma plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and then getting paparazzi involved in a crash as they chased after him.
A lot of this was not the company's fault. Who can control Bieber, after all, or what gets said in the heat of a campaign? Also, the fire was not due to the advanced plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Karmas, but was instead the fault of a shoddy cooling fan. But still, the problems piled up. Now there's a new one.
Add the oldest state in the union to the list of who Fisker might owe money to if expansion plans for its extended-range plug-in vehicles fall through. California-based Fisker, which at one time planned to open a factory in Delaware for production of the Atlantic PHEV by the end of this year, could owe the state $21.5 million (in the form of a repaid grant and loan) if those plans never materialize, Delaware Online reports.
Fisker, which had said the plant would employ about 2,500 workers at the factory, would owe $12.5 million if the automaker hires between 1,500 and 2,500 people, and another $9 million if Fisker doesn't hit the 1,500-worker quota. The latest news is that Fisker could start production on the Atlantic in 2014 or 2015, but where and when, exactly, has not been announced.
Either way, Fisker's obligation to Delaware would come after the company repaid the approximately $200 million it owes the US government. This money is part of a Department of Energy loan that was initially slated to be $529 million had Fisker hit certain production deadlines and targets for its first model, the Karma. Those didn't happen, and now a problem with an important supplier continues to hold things up. Fisker production is frozen while bankrupt battery supplier A123 Systems clears up its ownership situation. Earlier this month, the China-based Wanxiang Group reached an agreement through the Delaware bankruptcy court to buy A123 Systems, though that agreement is being scrutinized by some members of Congress over the potential leakage of US trade secrets to China. Johnson Controls isn't done with the deal, either. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Electric-vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) may provide the juice for new plug-in vehicles, but it's the other way around when it comes to sales with then relatively nascent EVSE market, according to a recent Pike Research report.
Global EVSE sales, which totaled about 200,000 units last year, will jump to almost 2.4 million by 2020, according to the study. Such sales will move in line with the expected surge in sales of electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius Plug-in and the ever-expanding number of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric models. As it is, US plug-in vehicle sales through the first 11 months of 2012 almost tripled to more than 43,000 vehicles.
Since EVSE devices will be more and more important moving forward, Pike ranked the largest EVSE makers, factoring in things like market share, geographic reach and technology strengths. ChargePoint (formerly Coulomb Technologies) came out atop that list, followed by DBT, Chargemaster, Schneider Electric and General Electric. Check out Pike Research's study synopsis here and below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The story of Elio Motors goes back many years, but it has managed to stay well below the radar, mostly because there hasn't been much news. This has changed.
Back in 2009, a reader pointed out that Elio was looking for DOE funds, but since then we haven't hears much about the company that apparently thinks the Corbin Sparrow is a good vehicle to copy. This week, it was announced that Elio has reached an agreement to buy an old General Motors plant near Shreveport, LA and is now taking reservations. Elio claims it will hire 1,500 workers by April to build funky-looking, three-wheeled, high-efficiency vehicles. How efficient? The company website talks about 84 miles per gallon for a price of just $6,800. We've heard a ton of promises in the green car world in the past, but those numbers are certainly noteworthy - should they ever be reached.
The plant in question is the GM Shreveport Assembly and Stamping plant in Caddo Parish and the Detroit Free Press says Louisiana will likely provide some financial help to get the non-union shop started. The first deliveries of the tadpole-style vehicle (possibly called the Trikke) are supposed to take place in July 2014. Company SEC documents (available here) show that last year, Elio raised $150,00 (out of a hoped-for $10 million). The car will come with a three-year, 36,000 mile warranty.
The Elio trike will apparently be available with either a manual or automatic transmission and have some creature comforts like airbags, air conditioning and ABS brakes. That's much more than most motorcycles (which is what the Elio technically will be) but not as much as many cars today. Elio also says it expects to get five-star crash ratings, but motorcycles don't get crash tested in that way, so we're not sure what this means.
There are two videos about Elio below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
For the new model year, Nissan is applying lessons learned from two years of selling the Leaf electric vehicle - and seeing what the competition is doing - to offer a lower-price trim line as well as faster charging and new, upper-level options.
The 2013 Nissan Leaf line grows from two trim lines - the SV and SL - to include the new, lower-cost S grade. Precisely what that lower price is, has not yet been revealed, but we think that information might come out at the Detroit Auto Show next week. What we do know is that the reduced price is due, in part, to domestic production. Instead of shipping every Leaf from Japan, Nissan has started making the EV and its batteries in Smyrna, TN, as you can see in the video below.
To keep up with faster-charging competitors like the Ford Focus Electric, the Leaf is finally getting a 6.6-kW onboard charger. This has been expected for a long while, and it's most welcome because it will cut the time it takes to charge the Leaf in half, down to four hours from empty to 80 percent full. This will be standard on the SL and SV trims. The Leaf S will use a 3.6-kW charger unless you spring for the 6.6-kW option. These updates and others mean expected increases to the vehicle's range, but that number will have to wait until closer to when the 2013 Leaf goes on sale later this year.
Nissan also says the 2013 Leaf has better regenerative brakes and some refined touches like "leather-appointed seating" and new exterior colors. There is also a new "B" drive mode for harsher regen braking and an "available hybrid heater system" for better heat in cold weather. You can read more about it below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Toyota could integrate carbon-fiber components into some of its future models after shutting down production of its Lexus LFA supercar last month, Automotive News reports.
Carbon fiber is both stronger and lighter than traditional vehicle-body materials. It makes sense for Toyota to take advantage of the carbon-fiber production facility, especially now that the company's become an expert of sorts in how the material can be used in cars. Still, using carbon fiber remains cost-prohibitive because it remains in limited production and molding process is labor intensive.
Toyota produced its 500th and final $375,000 Lexus LFA in December, about two years after opening its carbon fiber factory. Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini are among other automakers that use carbon fiber. In 2011, BMW partnered with SGL Group to open a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) plant in Washington State. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Unless Tesla Motors can secure outside funding, the company will be in dire financial straits during 2013, says MarketWatch tech investor John Shinal. In fact, if Tesla hadn't received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government in 2012, its financials would already be gasping for air, he said.
Tesla is a candidate for stock market collapse this year, unless it can secure additional cash, Shinal said. Despite its sketchy numbers, Tesla has managed to move its stock value up more than 30 percent since early November, he acknowledged. Tesla's stock has moved within a tight range, between $33 and $35 a share.
Shinal said the Tesla's financials were worse off than struggling post-IPO internet companies Zygna and Groupon. "As of September 30, Tesla had cash and short-term securities of $86 million, down from $280 million at the start of the year," he stated. "That leaves Tesla with less than six months' worth of cash, given that it burned through almost $200 million during the first nine months of 2012." Tesla had "no comment" about all this when contacted by AutoblogGreen.
Tesla Motors very much needs strong sales of its Model S, and to do that it will need to continue to ramp up production so sales meet the company's funding needs. Tesla might also need to find more outside investors, similar to the relationships established with Daimler and Toyota. Tesla could tap into its reputation for providing advanced electric vehicle powertrain technology, and could seek investments from other established automakers.
Despite Shinal playing Chicken Little, Tesla's financial conditions were starting to look a bit brighter in late 2012. It is paying back its federal loan earlier than anticipated and has indeed started ramping up production volume to take advantage strong demand. We agree with Shinal that 2013 will be a benchmark year for Tesla, whichever way things go. Permalink | Email this | Comments
One result of the litany of problems that Fisker Automotive suffered in 2012 - floods, fires and recalls - was a production stoppage of the plug-in hybrid Karma that has already lasted six months. Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told AutoblogGreen that the delay was due to an attempt to renegotiate the Valmet production contract and A123 Systems's bankruptcy proceedings.
Despite that conservation of batteries, the truth is that Fisker isn't getting new batteries from A123 right now. One interesting side effect of the Destino project, Bob Lutz told AutoblogGreen, is that Fisker could get some battery packs back when they are taken out of already-built Karmas and, one day, put them into new vehicles. In August, Henrik Fisker said that Fisker had build "about 1,900" Karmas. Apparently, that's a comfortable enough margin, for now. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Valmet traditionally shuts down for Scandinavian summer break from mid July to mid August. When they returned, our new management team wanted to renegotiate the contract with them and during this period, A123 started to enter bankruptcy. We took the prudent decision to conserve our battery stock and we already have sufficient supply of Karmas through Q1 of this year. By that time we hope to have renegotiated our battery supply with A123's new owners Wanxiang.
Aystery still shrouds the presence of Tata Motors in the US auto market. The Tata eMO concept car received a lot of attention and praise a year ago at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show as an "electric mobility study." Oh, and because it sported a $20,000 price tag and roomy interior. On the gasoline side of the ledger, the redesigned Tata Nano may or may not be available in the US within three years for under $10,000. But where does the eMO stand?
Tata Technologies' Kevin Fisher answered a few questions about this, clarifying (again) that Tata Technologies doesn't build cars - it advises clients on how to make cars, 80 percent of them being in the auto industry. Fisher previously called the eMO a "giant business card" and says Tata Technologies is still attempting to move the eMO forward. To do that, Tata Technologies will need the go-ahead from Tata Motors. Tata Motors builds cars for the Indian market, including the Nano and Indica (the company owns both Jaguar and Land Rover). For now, the eMO is still in the hands of Tata Technologies and Tata Motors hasn't committed to investing in or building the car yet. Even more perplexing is that Tata Technologies hasn't asked Tata Motors for support lately. "Tata Motors has their own product portfolio," Fisher told Forbes. "We don't have access to that and we work with them at arm's length."
For now, Tata Technologies is seeking 15 patents on the eMO and spending "a considerable amount" to build and refine it, according to Fisher, who added that it's been a real challenge for the engineering team - building a nimble, affordable electric car for the North American market. One important item on the to do list is more speed testing. When the prototype was unveiled, it was claimed it would reach 65 miles per hour. The problem? It's never exceeded 30 mph on a test track.
Last year, we noted that Tata Motors has been working with France-based Dassualt Systems to develop more technology for the eMO. Both companies were analyzing how to keep the cost and weight of the vehicle as low as possible to stay in the $20,000 price range, but a detailed plan never materialized. In other words, Tata-branded cars - electric or gas-powered - are still not scheduled for arrival in the US market. Will that ever change? Permalink | Email this | Comments
In December 2011, the Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga, TN was certified LEED Platinum. That's a difficult level to reach - as we described at the time - but the one billion dollars the company spent there fit snugly into the VW corporate storyline: we're going to make cleaner cars at cleaner plants. We're going to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent (between 2006 and 2015). We're going to make sure our production facilities are 25 percent more "environmentally compatible." We're going to Think Blue.
Today, VW made good on one important piece of its LEED Platinum promise: generating its own clean energy. The huge new solar park that was turned on today was always part of the Chattanooga plan, but its official start marks one more way that VW is at the forefront when it comes to building cars cleanly. As Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations, put is, "No other factory, so far, has achieved the Platinum reward. The solar park represents the last milestone that we have to take. We promised to build the solar park, and now it will start to run."
"No other factory, so far, has achieved the Platinum reward."
Located just a short bus ride away from the factory, the 65-acre solar park (33 of which are the solar panels themselves) is the largest single array in Tennessee. It is also the largest solar park at a US auto factory. It is made up of 33,600 individual solar panels that together generate 9.58 megawatts of DC power (that's at the panels, it's 7.6 MW of AC power going into the plant) and 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity a year. That's 12.5 percent of the plant's power needs. In CO2 terms, this means emissions are reduced by 6,675 tons a year, or the amount that 360 average US homes would generate.
VW currently builds the Passat in Tennessee, and last year - the first year of full operation - the company built 152,546 vehicles there, beating the target of 145,000. While most of these are sold in the US, some are exported to our North American neighbors as well as South Korea and the Middle East. The solar park is international as well, since VW partnered with Phoenix Solar, a German solar company with operations around the world, and Silicon Ranch.
When we first visited VW's Chattanooga facility, the message we were left with was that the global automaker was going to use lessons learned in the rolling hills of Hamilton County in other plants around the world. Today, VW called the plant a "benchmark and a role model," and said that energy-saving techniques like lighting optimization, heat recovery and base load reduction would be implemented in VW plants in places like Yizheng, China and Silao, Mexico.
Wolfram Thomas, Group Chief Officer for the Environment, Energy and New Business Areas, said today that, "All our 100 plants are to be environmentally optimized. All our plants must become 25 percent more environmentally compatible." We look forward to seeing how this all plays out, wherever the sun shines.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Civil War Admiral David Farragut has famously been credited with saying, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" when he was presented with a challenging path ahead during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Specifically, the path was full of torpedoes. The Admiral has some "move forward!" ideological company in one Elon Musk.
While the torpedoes are only figurative at Tesla's Fremont plant, Musk has pushed Tesla Motors to double its weekly output of the Model S all-electric luxury sedan over the last three months and is now approaching full capacity of 400 vehicles a week - 20,000 a year - Automotive News says.
With more cars out on the road, Tesla's over-the-air software update system is proving its worth. This system allows for important software changes - which allow the driver to turn on a "creep" mode, for example - to take place without drivers spending time in a Tesla service center. In November, Motor Trend named the Model S its 2012 Car of the Year.
In the third quarter of 2012, Tesla lost $110.8 million on $50.1 million in revenue. With production humming along, Tesla should finally be able to realize its first quarterly profit this year, Musk told Automotive News. Of course, Musk didn't say which quarter. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Many Americans - Michael Moore excluded, of course - regard our neighbors to the north as friendly. But we imagine Toyota must be feeling even more warm and fuzzy that we do right about now. We imagine this because of the fact that Canadian government entities will kick in as much as $34 million to speed up and help pay for upgrades that will allow for an Ontario Toyota factory to expand production and to start making Lexus hybrid SUVs, Reuters says.
The factory, which is located in Cambridge, Ontario (about 65 miles southwest of Toronto and about 60 miles northwest of Buffalo), will be able to triple annual Lexus production to 104,000 vehicles a year, including 15,000 Lexus RX450h hybrids, once the upgrades are complete next year. Those SUVs will be the first hybrids to be produced in Canada.
The Canadian federal government and the Ontario provincial government will split the $34 million, though only the federal government is obligating Toyota to repay the money (how's that for warm and fuzzy?). The upgrades and expansion are expected to create 400 jobs. Last summer, Toyota announced plans to invest about $100 million in the Cambridge upgrades. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Wanxiang Group's acquisition of lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems has been approved by the US government, according to a statement from the Chinese auto parts maker. Wanxiang's US unit had agreed to pay $257 million for A123's automotive battery business and related assets in a bankruptcy auction.
The transaction was awaiting approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, led by the US Treasury secretary. The committee approved the deal on Monday night, Wanxiang said. "Wanxiang America looks forward to closing the transaction and to continuing to foster the technologies A123 has worked so hard to develop," Pin Ni, the president of Wanxiang America, said in a statement.
The big question now is whether approval will end debate over whether the acquisition will transfer sensitive technology developed with US Department of Energy funding to a Chinese company. Last month, Wanxiang beat out US rival Johnson Controls Inc. in its bid for A123 Systems.
Some members of Congress said selling A123 to Wanxiang could jeopardize US energy security, and they asked the US committee to block it. Wanxiang worked on blunting the criticism, in part by excluding A123's defense contracts from its auction bid. Those were sold separately to Illinois-based Navitas Systems for $2.25 million.
Some members of Congress said selling A123 to Wanxiang could jeopardize US energy security.
The sale had been approved by the US Bankruptcy Court. On January 18, A123 said it expected the deal to close by February 1, this coming Friday. A123 Systems declined to comment to Reuters on the US government approval.
Wanxiang's history of investing in the US market may have alleviated some of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States' concerns about the foreign company. Wanxiang makes about $1 billion a year in US revenue supplying parts to General Motors and Ford. According to a Congressional report, the Chinese company has bought or invested in more than 20 US companies, many of which were in bankruptcy.
A123 Systems had received a $249-million federal grant, although about half of that money was never released. The money raised at auction will be used to repay A123's debts of about $376 million.
The battery maker's customers have included Fisker Automotive, BMW (for the hybrid 3 and 5 Series cars), General Motors (all-electric Chevrolet Spark), China's SAIC and India's Tata Motors.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Mazda has some good news for a Thailand auto industry rebounding from floods that crippled production less than three years ago. The automaker will build a 26 billion yen ($286 million) factory in the country's Chonburi Province that will be used strictly to build Mazda's SkyActiv transmissions.
The plant, which will be located about three miles north of the Mazda-partnered AutoAlliance factory, will employ about 500 people and will start churning out the transmissions by September 2015, with a capacity of 400,000 units a year.
Mazda has largely eschewed electric-drive technology in favor of its SkyActiv system as a way to meet stricter fuel-economy standards both in the US and abroad. SkyActiv gets its fuel-economy gains from advancements such as a higher compression ratio, lighter engine block and improved engine timing, among other things. Read Mazda's press release below.
Thailand is home to the world's 12th largest auto industry and was devastated by a 2011 flood that killed more than 800 people. Toyota and Honda each owned factories in the country that were damaged but reopened by the middle of 2012.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Honda is installing wind turbines at its transmission plant in Russells Point, OH that will spin and supply 10 percent of the factory's electricity needs. The turbines are expected to produce 10,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, while also (naturally) reducing CO2 emissions.
Once the turbines begin operating later in 2013, Honda will be the first major automotive manufacturing facility in the United States to obtain a substantial amount of its electricity directly from wind turbines located on its property. The company is certainly not the only one to make its plants greener. Earlier this month, Volkswagen began operating the largest solar power installation at an auto manufacturing plant in the US at its Chattanooga, TN, facility, were the Passat is produced. Subaru, General Motors and Ford are just some of the OEMs going "landfill free" (a claim that is not without problems).
Both Honda and VW are known for producing energy-efficient vehicles, so producing them with renewable energy certainly fits the marketing. Globally, Honda has established voluntary goals to reduce energy use and waste from manufacturing operations by 2020. This includes a 30-percent reduction in CO2 emissions from Honda products (compared to 2000 levels), plus other significant CO2 reductions from its plants and other operations. Honda leads all automakers with twelve LEED-Certified "Green Buildings" in North America, and 10 of its 14 North American manufacturing facilities are zero-waste to landfill.
In Russells Point, Honda's wind turbines have blades that are approximately 160 feet long, on 260-foot towers. The turbines are being installed and managed by Juhl Wind, which will provide the wind power to the Logan County Electric Cooperative and Buckeye Power, Inc.
Honda has also led the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) rankings of overall vehicle environmental performance since 2000, and a Honda vehicle has been near the top of the America Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) list of America's greenest vehicles for 15 years.Permalink | Email this | Comments