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Articles on this Page
- 02/21/13--16:50: _DOE confirms LG Che...
- 02/27/13--16:03: _GM planning on 20% ...
- 03/04/13--11:01: _How Big Oil gets bi...
- 03/05/13--04:53: _German automakers b...
- 03/07/13--16:02: _GM CEO Akerson conf...
- 03/11/13--07:34: _Tesla Model X delay...
- 03/19/13--15:52: _Bankrupt A123 Syste...
- 03/24/13--15:24: _DOE still has $16.6...
- 03/25/13--07:30: _Volkswagen to use C...
- 03/27/13--22:01: _Nissan starts 2013 ...
- 03/28/13--06:24: _Fisker furloughs wo...
- 03/28/13--12:02: _Jeep unveils 9-spee...
- 03/28/13--14:09: _Ford reduces water ...
- 04/04/13--13:56: _Fisker, A123 settle...
- 04/07/13--06:51: _Investors not runni...
- 04/10/13--12:01: _Terry McAuliffe lea...
- 04/12/13--09:49: _Elon Musk hints a T...
- 04/13/13--06:51: _Expert: Unsafe lith...
- 04/16/13--16:04: _Chevy starts Spark ...
- 04/17/13--17:29: _Tesla questions if ...
- 02/27/13--16:03: GM planning on 20% increase in plug-in hybrid production in 2013
- 03/11/13--07:34: Tesla Model X delayed one year, now due late 2014
- 03/19/13--15:52: Bankrupt A123 Systems can ask creditors to vote on repayment plan
- 03/24/13--15:24: DOE still has $16.6 billion left in ATVM loan program
- 03/28/13--12:02: Jeep unveils 9-speed transmission for Cherokee
- 03/28/13--14:09: Ford reduces water use in vehicle assembly by 10.6 billion gallons
- 04/04/13--13:56: Fisker, A123 settle $140m supply claims for just $15 million
- 04/07/13--06:51: Investors not running, yet, from Carlos Ghosn's EV bet
- 04/10/13--12:01: Terry McAuliffe leaves MyCar EV startup
- 04/12/13--09:49: Elon Musk hints a Texas plant could build Tesla pickup
- 04/16/13--16:04: Chevy starts Spark EV motor production in Baltimore
Remember the story last fall about workers at battery maker LG Chem's Holland, MI-based plant who were sitting idle? Well, the feds have investigated and the news isn't good. The US Department of Energy (DOE) released an audit earlier this month (PDF) that revealed that not a single production lithium-ion battery has been built at the plant and employees have been finding other things to spend their time doing while being paid taxpayer money.
After a big announcement in 2010 that the plant would open and hire over 400 people, the first batteries were supposed to start being made in 2012. Unfortunately, the plant has been sitting idle even though the company received $142 million in federal funds and was granted $175 million in tax breaks. Only half of the 400 job have been filled, and those workers were paid about $842,000 to do other things in late 2012, including watching movies and playing board, card and video games. More civic-minded workers used the work day to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, at animal shelters and outdoor nature centers. The DOE audit came after a complaint was filed last October and reads, in part:
The DOE "found that work performed under the grant to LG Chem Michigan had not been managed effectively."
LG Chem, a subsidiary of South Korean electronics company LG, previously claimed that it wasn't wasting federal money by paying idle workers and would review misspent money for potential refunds to the government. LG Chem had committed to supply General Motors with batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, but that never happened. Per the DOE, "Even though the facility had produced a large number of test cells, the plant had yet to manufacture battery cells that could be used in electric vehicles sold to the public." GM has been relying on batteries built in LG's South Korea plant.
We confirmed the allegations. We found that work performed under the grant to LG Chem Michigan had not been managed effectively. Based on progress to date and despite the expenditures of $142 million in Recovery Act funds, LG Chem Michigan had not yet achieved the objectives outlined in its Department-approved project plan.
The DOE audit pushed LG Chem into telling another version of the story. In a statement to Automotive News, LG Chem admitted that the audit was correct and that it was "acutely aware of the disappointment from the delays in our start of production." The Energy Department doesn't have the authority to force LG Chem to start up battery production. It is requiring the company to repay the paycheck funds since they were "questionable costs."
GM has been relying on batteries built in LG's South Korea plant.
In 2011, Lux Research ranked LG Chem tops in the lithium-ion battery industry, but this audit will certainly put a scuff on that shine. The DOE reports basically calls LG Chem incompetent at one point:
Whether LG Chem joins the list of less-than-successful ventures funded in part by the federal government - A12 Systems, EnerDel and Solyndra - remains to be seen. Permalink | Email this | Comments
LG Chem Michigan failed to account for the Recovery Act requirement to utilize Davis-Bacon Act wage rates for subcontractors. We found this lapse hard to understand given the emphasis placed on strict compliance with Davis Bacon as one of the Recovery Act's basic principles, a fact that was well known to industry and to responsible Department officials.
Before the Chevrolet Volt launched in late 2010, General Motors representatives were boldly talking about some big production numbers, like 60,000 or 45,000 Volts a year. It's been a rocky road since then, and the reality was more subdued. The General sold 7,671 Volts in 2011 and 23,461 in 2012. When you add in the rebadged Opel Ampera, GM made and sold around 30,000 plug-in hybrids last year and the Volt was the best-selling plug-in car in the US last quarter. Now that GM has momentum on its side, the big production numbers - more realistic this time - are coming back.
According to a report in Bloomberg, GM will build up to 36,000 Chevrolet Volts "and other plug-in hybrids" (read: Cadillac ELR) at its Detroit-Hamtramck, MI plant in 2013, an increase of around 20 percent from 2012 production numbers. Bloomberg cites "two people familiar with the effort" who "didn't want to be identified because the target isn't public" as the source for the production increase, which includes global sales. Permalink | Email this | Comments
We're being duped by Big Oil. The worse part is that governments around the world are working tirelessly to make sure the game is rigged in their favor. That's what Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, is saying, and he has the numbers to back the statement up.
Estimates from the Global Subsidies Initiative and International Energy Agency say more than $620 billion was spent by governments to subsidize fossil fuel energy in 2011. About $100 million of that went into production and about $523 billion was used to subsidize consumption. Higher world oil prices drove those numbers up 20 percent over the previous year.
Looking into the consumption front, $285 billion went to oil, $104 billion to natural gas, $3 billion to coal and the remaining $131 was basically evenly divided among these three energy sources for electricity consumption. One major side effect of governments spending these subsidies has been cutting the prices people paid for fossil energy by about 25 percent. That has encouraged consumption and waste, and hindered efforts to stabilize the climate.
About $100 million went into production subsidies and about $523 billion was used to subsidize consumption.
The countries spending the most on fossil fuel subsidies have a few recurring themes. These are generally developing, unstable nations where oil plays a big role in their economies, and their traffic congestion and air quality can be atrocious. They're exporting a lot of oil to first-world countries like the US, and their economies depend heavily on fossil fuels. Middle Eastern countries topped the list on a per person basis spending basis, and also ranked high on the world's top carbon emitters per capita. Quality of life can be a serious problem in these markets, and their governments are subsidizing the problem.
One of the ironies is the much smaller level of subsidy support that governments spend on clean, renewable energy. In 2011, about 14 percent of the amount spent on global fossil subsidies - about $88 billion - was almost equally divided and paid to solar, wind, biomass electricity and biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel).
One of the ironies is the much smaller level of subsidy support that governments spend on clean, renewable energy.
"Clearly, the deck is stacked against renewables," Brown wrote. Upstart renewable energy companies need government investment to invent new markets, while Big Oil has been highly profitable. In 2012, the Big Five oil companies - Royal Dutch Shell , ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips - collectively took in $137 billion in profits. Permalink | Email this | Comments
German automakers are caught in a quandary - how can they pay more for a clean energy surcharge tax when automotive sales are down. The problem stems from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's move to take the country further away from nuclear and toward using more renewables to power the electricity grid.
For automakers, it can therefore make more sense to generate their own energy than to pay taxes on renewables made by commercial producers. "Generating your own power is not only cheaper in most cases, it could also protect you from grid failures," Sebastian Bolay, an energy policy analyst at DIHK, told Bloomberg.
BMW is funding four wind turbine towers that will soon supply almost a quarter of the power used at its Leipzig plant. It's there that the automaker builds its X1 sport-utility vehicle and will soon make the i3 electric car. Overall, the company generated 28 percent of its power from renewables in 2011 and wants to eventually reach 100 percent. BMW wants to meet two targets - cutting its carbon output and achieving cost savings from anticipated falling prices for wind and solar energy.
Daimler and Volkswagen are changing over to gas-powered plants to reduce energy costs. Daimler will be opening a gas-fired plant to supply power and heat to its truck factory in Woerth, reducing energy costs about 26 percent and carbon emissions 15 percent compared to its previous energy supply. Volkswagen will also open a 70-megawatt, gas-powered station at a component plant in Kassel, and may add at least five more generators in coming years.
This year, a 47-percent hike in the clean-energy surcharge will be implemented in Germany, which could add as much as 254 million euros (about $332 million) to the combined power bills of automakers and parts suppliers in Germany. The surcharge has gone up sixfold since 2006 and the German government estimates it will cost about 550 billion euros (about $719 billion US) for plant and grid upgrades during the switch away from nuclear. That cost will be covered in part by raising power surcharges.
All of this takes place during a period of declining auto sales in Europe. Demand in Europe is going into its sixth consecutive annual decline in 2013, and last year experienced its lowest level in nearly two decades. In Germany, automakers are paying more for energy and in labor costs than competitors in other European nations.
Chancellor Merkel's plan was proposed after Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown nearly two years ago, and it relies on expanded use of wind and solar power. Along with the surcharges, renewable energy fluctuates based on ideal weather conditions, which increases the risk of power outages. This risk and cost factors have motivated automakers to invest in their own power generators. Permalink | Email this | Comments
General Motors isn't talking about how far the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV can go before it needs a charge, but par for the course for today's electric vehicles i2 around 70-100 miles. GM CEO Dan Akerson today confirmed that the company is working on a 200-mile EV (perhaps a Spark, perhaps not) during a speech at the IHS Ceraweek conference in Houston. According to Bloomberg, he said, GM is "running a dual play" with EV technology to develop both a 100-mile and a 200-mile EV.
Akerson also pushed for a coordinated public-private effort to invoke an energy policy that will broaden natural-gas use, reduce foreign oil dependency and greenhouse-gas emissions, and provide cleaner water and more affordable energy to US citizens. Akerson also promoted quality improvements in the company's smaller cars as well as the cost benefits of natural gas and fuel-economy improvements in GM's larger engines.
"I believe the President should immediately appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop a 30-year energy policy framework," Akerson said in prepared remarks. What that actually means is anyone's guess, but at least Akerson insisted that the policy be required to hit certain "checkpoints" every five years.
"I believe the President should immediately appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop a 30-year energy policy framework."
Akerson, whose company's small-car sales have surge on a broader product line and higher gas prices, allowed that GM's early efforts in that arena were less than successful.
"It's no secret that our small cars back then weren't built to the standards of our other vehicles," he said. "Mercifully, those vehicles have since been recycled into Energy Star refrigerators and other useful goods."
Akerson also spoke positively about broader adoption of natural gas use among fleet operators, estimating that "a typical Class 8 operator" may save as much as $3,500 in monthly refueling costs by switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG). He also said that GM's vaunted V8 engines will remain relevant because of fuel-efficiency gains, noting that "the death of the V8 engine has been greatly exaggerated."
"Mercifully, those vehicles have since been recycled into Energy Star refrigerators and other useful goods."
Additionally, Akerson reiterated his claim from November that GM will have a half-million electrified vehicles, which is about equal to all registered vehicles in Vermont, on US roads by 2017. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla is pushing back the Model X by about a year so that the company can focus on the well-received Model S. The news was made public in an SEC filing (a 10-K form that went out late last week) and first reported in the Los Angeles Times. In a press release in early 2012, Tesla said that production for the Model X, "begins at the end of 2013, deliveries begin early 2014." But Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks has confirmed to AutoblogGreen that, "Production for Model X has been pushed back until late 2014."
Tesla's official statement reads:
The use of "slightly" there has us a bit confused, but if that's how Tesla wants to define a year, then so be it. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla has been intensely focused on Model S, its production and product enhancements and believe there is increased volume potential for Model S. As a result, Tesla has decided to slightly push back the development and timing of Model X to 2014. We do not expect a material impact on our profitability in 2013 or 2014.
Details of the A123 Systems bankruptcy proceedings are getting ironed out, and have been given the green light by US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey. The federal judge approved an outline of lithium ion battery maker A123's liquidation plan to be used by creditors, who will decide whether to vote for or against the repayment plan.
The next hearing will be on April 30, where A123 Systems will seek court approval of the plan to sell nearly all its assets. The bankruptcy process has been moving forward in recent months; in January, A123 received court approval to sell the majority of its assets to Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group Co.'s US division. Wanxiang America Corp. paid about $256.6 million to acquire nearly all of A123's automotive, grid and commercial business assets. That deal received backing from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) on January 29. CFIUS entered the picture to allay fears expressed by members of Congress over national security issues from allowing the sale of federal grant-backed A123 to a Chinese company.
A123 Systems' court filing said that general unsecured creditors are projected to recover about 32.7 percent of what they're owed. That's bound to not go over well with its primary customer, Fisker Automotive, which claims A123 owes the luxury plug-in hybrid maker about $140 million from its supply agreement and breach of warranty claims. Fisker has its hands full now dealing with its own problems, like finding its own Chinese investor (now unlikely to be Zhejiang Geely Holding Group) and dealing its co-founder Henrik Fisker walking away.
Fisker Automotive still claims A123 owes the luxury plug-in hybrid maker about $140 million.
The settlements could later be more satisfactory to debtors and noteholders; if objections to claims are successful, A123 estimates the percentage recovery for general unsecured creditors to be 63.6 percent. Unsecured subordinated noteholders would get a 62.9 percent recovery if the claims objections are accepted by the court, as opposed to the current estimate of a 31.3 percent recovery. Unsecured senior noteholders are expected to be paid in full, though details on the settlement will have to wait until the federal bankruptcy court's decision after the April 30 hearing. Permalink | Email this | Comments
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is questioning why Department of Energy (DOE) loan funds are not paying out as planned. The participation hurdle is high, and there's about $16.6 billion in green vehicle loan appropriations going unused, the GAO found.
The funds come from DOE's 2005 Loan Guarantee Program and its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program from 2007. These programs were a directive from Congress, but now House and Senate lawmakers on the powerful appropriations committee are hearing about the programs stalling out. The GAO report also told legislators that the DOE hasn't "closed on a loan or loan guarantee or conditionally committed to do so under either program since September 2011."
The GAO had interviewed applicants for the loan programs to evaluate the DOE's performance and found that it the "costs of participating outweigh the benefits." Those costs include a "lengthy and burdensome" application and review process and lots of documents needed to apply. The failure of the solar energy company Solyndra was also mentioned as making participants skittish about working with DOE and the Obama administration. It's not just green car money that's sitting unused. There is $34.8 billion left in various renewable energy project loans, but here, at least, there are 13 "active" applications.
The DOE might be finished issuing funds through the programs automotive. While the funds don't have an expiration date, DOE says it will continue to receive applications and it doesn't plan to use the remainder of the appropriated funds.
Ford, Nissan, Tesla and Fisker did receive ATVM program funds. Tesla is doing well enough to pay the loan off early but Fisker had its funding cut short and is not in a good position to pay it back any time soon. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Another German automaker has rejected the air conditioning refrigerant that's scheduled to be adopted by global automakers in 2017. Earlier this month, Volkswagen lined up with Daimler and BMW to support Daimler's findings from last year that the new refrigerant, called HFO-1234yf, can become flammable.
Volkswagen says it will be rolling out its own carbon-dioxide-based air conditioning systems. The European Union wants to have HFO-1234yf, which was designed by Honeywell and DuPont, replace the coolant currently in use, HFC-134a to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and its global warming potential. Daimler engineers discovered HFO-1234yf could spark a fire under the hood, with the potential to destroy the car and emit highly toxic gas while burning.
An automotive working group - the Cooperative Research Program - was formed last year to study the matter. Daimler conducted its own flammability tests and became concerned enough about vehicle safety to leave the working group, along with BMW. Volkswagen's Audi division also expressed concern and is now part of Volkswagen's decision to join ranks with its German allies and dismiss adoption of HFO-1234yf as the new refrigerant.
European Union Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani appears unwilling to accept the decision by Germany's "Big 3" automakers or a written request from German ministers asking for a temporary suspension of the new EU law. While Tajani said he would listen, he also said that he would begin infringement proceedings against any member state that did not comply with the new rules. "Since there was some information from Germany there was a problem, I am obliged to ask for information, but it's not giving them time. I am not weak," Tajani told Reuters.
There's no word yet what other agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency may do about it. Honeywell and Dupont would be holding a billion-dollar monopoly starting in 2017 if HFO-1234yf goes through. They're bound to support Industry Commissioner Tajani's decision.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Building the Leaf in Tennessee helped Nissan sell more of the all-electric car in the US in March than in any other month. The start of production in the UK, in Nissan's Sunderland plant, has been in the planning stages for a while and today's official start of production means the world's best-selling all-electric vehicle is now being made on three continents (since 2010, the Leaf has been made in Japan). The Sunderland plant was opened in 1986, and Nissan invested £420 million ($635 million US) so it can build the Leaf and its battery there. Nissan claims the expansion will, "support more than 2,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry," 500 of those at Nissan.
Global production isn't the only thing that's new. Sunderland will build the 2013 Leaf, which has (in the UK, at least) 100 updates, the most important of which are more range (now up to 123 miles) and a shorter recharge time (half as long as a first-gen Leaf took). The European Leaf also gets special suspension settings, "specifically tailored for European roads." We hope the button to engage this looks like cobblestones. You can read about the US updates to the 2013 Leaf here.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The tea leaves are getting somewhat clearer over at Fisker Automotive with a new report saying the struggling automaker is furloughing its US workers this week, a month before a payment on the company's $529-million Department of Energy loan is due. Fisker never got the full amount, taking only about $193 million before the funds were frozen.
In a statement to Reuters, Fisker says not to worry: "This [furlough] is a common practice, particularly in the automotive industry, to manage costs and operations based on current activity levels and commercial requirements." Fisker has 200 workers in the US.
Fisker has not made any of its Karma plug-in hybrids since July and, two weeks ago, namesake Henrik Fisker left the company he co-founded. The chance that a Chinese company will come in and rescue the California-based automaker also appears to be dimming. Early last year, Fisker laid off a small number of workers because of difficulty in getting production of the Atlantic model going. Permalink | Email this | Comments
More gears equals less fuel use in Chrysler's trademark Jeep Cherokee, as the US automaker will make a nine-speed automatic transmission standard on its 2014 Cherokee.
The transmission, the world's first nine-speed automatic transmission for passenger vehicles with a front-wheel-drive layout, was developed by ZF and will be assembled, along with the rest of the new Cherokee, at Chrysler's plant in Kokomo, IN. Last year, ZF said that nine speeds is the "natural limit" for transmissions, given the law of diminishing returns.
Chrysler says the new Cherokee gets "up to 31 mpg," which is certainly better than the 19 miles per gallon combined that the six-speed, two-wheel-drive 2013 Cherokee gets, per the EPA.
Earlier Wednesday, Chrysler took the wraps off the 2014 Cherokee at the New York Auto Show, complete with a simulation of a "trip" through Moab in the Trailhawk version. The model will have both front- and all-wheel-driver versions ranging from 184 to 271 horsepower and is based on a platform developed by Chrysler's sister company Alfa Romeo. Check out Chrysler's press release below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Ford is reducing its water use much faster than expected, and touting the achievement with another infographic. During 2012, the global automaker achieved an 8.5 percent reduction in the amount of water used to make its vehicles, putting Ford more than halfway toward its target of using an average of four cubic meters per vehicle globally by 2015.
Ford has been working on water conservation since 2000, and so far has reduced the amount of water used for vehicle production by 10.6 billion gallons, or 62 percent. Its annual water usage has dropped from 64 million cubic meters to 24 million cubic meters during that time. Ford compares the reduction to the amount of water that could fill 16,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools or the water used by about 99,000 US homes in a year.
The methods used to reduce water use vary by plant and address everything from cooling towers to parts washing to plant operations. At its Chennai Assembly plant in India, Ford installed a new system that allows the plant to recycle all of its water. At its two assembly plants in Chongqing, China, the automaker added advanced water treatment equipment to improve recycling. The first assembly plant recycles an average of 100,000 gallons of water daily and the second plant averages 65,000 gallons daily.
Ford says that its water strategy complements the company's overall Code of Human Rights, Basic Working Conditions and Corporate Responsibilities. The water strategy also lines up with Ford's "Blueprint for Sustainability," which was started up to reduce its energy use, CO2 emissions and landfill waste.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Any self-respecting dealer would refuse to sell a Fisker Karma extended-range plug-in for a mere $12,000, but Fisker Automotive may be taking that approach with former battery supplier A123 Systems by settling for about 11 cents on the dollar in a bankruptcy-court claim.
The California-based automaker settled with A123 Systems (which renamed its old assets to be liquidated B456 Systems) for $15 million, down from what had been $140 million in claims stemming from warranty breaches and resulting production delays caused by defective batteries, Bloomberg News reports, citing bankruptcy court records. A123 filed for bankruptcy in October, and US courts approved China-based Wanxiang to buy A123 for about $256.6 million in late January
Last month, Fisker furloughed its US employees and hired a law firm for possible bankruptcy proceedings. The company's co-founder and namesake Henrik Fisker stepped down as the company's executive chairman in March. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn continues to be evangelical about electric vehicles. The problem is, he's preaching to the choir.
Ghosn believes - still - that by the end of this decade, one in 10 cars his companies sell will be electric. While 70,000 customers are happy with their EVs (the Nissan Leaf and more recently the Renault Zoe), they're nowhere near 10 percent of the global automaker's sales. Denmark has been one of the markets where EV adoption was expected to take hold. Three years after introduction, only 73 Leafs have been sold there.
Back in 2009, Ghosn's companies invested $5 billion in EVs in an effort to lead the revolution of this new technology. Today, his strategy remains the same: have EVs on the market waiting for customers to buy them. To that end, Ghosn recently placed his COO Toshiyuki Shiga in charge of EVs, reinforcing the message that Nissan is deeply committed to electrification. The Leaf is now being produced in the US and the UK and the company has made arrangements to build an EV in China as well. That plant will be able to produce 50,000 units a year by 2015, as many as Nissan makes at its Leaf factory in Japan today.
The public still remains skeptical. While the MSRP for the 2013 Leaf dropped by $6,400 and government incentives are available, the price is still too high for many car shoppers. Range anxiety is still there, with charging stations few and far between. Nissan was only about to hit half of its original US sales target in 2012.
Investors are being a bit skeptical as well, disappointed with Nissan's EV sales so far. "When we see this situation of Nissan missing targets in several markets, the atmosphere of trust has begun to deteriorate a little," said Takashi Aoki, a Tokyo-based fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. "As long as Ghosn meets profit targets, investors won't fret." Permalink | Email this | Comments
"As long as Ghosn meets profit targets, investors won't fret."
Being one of the founders of an electric car company can be a bittersweet experience, as top executives at Aptera, Tesla and Fisker have found out. We can now add another name to the list: Terry McAuliffe, founder of GreenTech Automotive, quietly stepped out of the picture late last year.
This happened sometime before Dec. 1, 2012, which is the date of a letter from GreenTech's CEO Charles Wang accepting McAuliffe's resignation as chairman. Wang's letter was recently forwarded to The Washington Post by a company official, but reasons for his departure were not revealed in the letter or by the anonymous source.
McAuliffe has his eyes on the gubernatorial job in Virginia, which will be decided by voters in November. The former chairman of the Democratic Party finished second in a three-way primary contest for governor in 2009. He invested $20 million in EuAuto Technology, a Hong Kong-based company making a tiny electric car called MyCar. McAuliffe, a businessman and entrepreneur, promoted GreenTech Automotive as an example of his skillset and commitment to Virginia's economy.
Last year, the company unveiled its two-seat low-speed MyCar that can go about 115 miles on a charge and will sell for about $15,500. It's being built in Horn Lake, MS, at a plant that could create up to 426 new jobs. Visits by former President Bill Clinton (D) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) drew some kudos, but there have been jabs thrown by an opponent asking if GreenTech will be bringing jobs to Virginia.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the Republican candidate for governor, has written an editorial against McAuliffe's EV work and told The Washington Post, "McAuliffe believes his business acumen qualifies him to be governor of the Commonwealth and this revelation [that he stepped down] completely invalidates the central premise of his candidacy."
McAuliffe's campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin did acknowledge by email that McAuliffe "verbally" announced his intention to resign from GreenTech before filing to run for governor. "Terry was about to start running for Governor and knows that it is a full time job doing so. This is the same reason Virginian Attorney Generals traditionally resign when running for Governor," Schwerin wrote.
Starting up an EV car company just ain't what it used to be. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was in Texas this week, fighting for his company's right to sell electric cars directly to consumers. He also hinted that Tesla might have big plans for Texas, if this one little law just goes his way.
"I have this idea for a really advanced electric truck that has the performance of a sports car but actually more towing power and more carrying capacity than a gasoline or diesel truck of comparable size," Musk told Automotive News. "That could be really cool, and I think that would probably make sense to do that at a new plant."
This is not the first time Tesla has floated the idea of a pickup EV. Last July, Tesla's chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, said, "There will be a time and place for us to develop something around a pickup. That's a market for which the torque of an electric motor would be ideally suited."
The possibility of a new plant in Texas - Tesla's first outside of California - is the carrot that Musk is dangling in front of lawmakers when he's discussing the EV sales law. That law would allow Tesla to sell directly to customers instead of requiring dealerships to be franchised, and Musk says Tesla could sell as many as 2,000 vehicles a year if the company was allowed to sell its EVs this way. Should such an exemption be granted, Tesla may invest tens of millions of dollars in stores and service centers, Musk says.
Texas might not be at the front of anyone's mind when it comes to EVs, but, as of the end of last month, the Lone Star State actually had the second-most publicly accessible charging stations in the US, 432, behind California's 1,207. Permalink | Email this | Comments
The mystery of potentially dangerous lithium ion batteries continues to hang over sales of vehicles using this technology. Experts who recently testifyied before the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that failure of the technology has slowed development of electric cars and other applications of the batteries.
The crisis faced by Boeing in January over its 787 Dreamliner jet was also a major theme during the hearings. NTSB is investigating a battery fire that occurred on board one of the Dreamliners.
Analysts have not taken the reliability factor seriously enough in their sales forecasts - projections "were off by more than a factor of 10" when compared to the actual market size in 2011, said Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to NTSB. The market has been very stressful for battery makers as many of them have gone out of business when the li-ion market failed to materialize.
About 25 percent of a typical li-ion battery cell is flammable.
Chiang said that about 25 percent of a typical li-ion battery cell is flammable. The batteries do need to become safer, but not at the cost of losing performance, said Glen Bowing, vice president of sales at Saft Specialty Battery Group. Thus, battery companies are exploring other technologies outside of li-ion in the hope of finding a safer, less costly solution. Boeing's crisis prompted rival jetmaker Airbus to drop li-ion batteries from its upcoming A350 jet. Tesla Motors and SpaceX chief Elon Musk said the lithium cobalt oxide cells used in the 787 Dreamliner are "fundamentaly unsafe" and packed too close together; if one cell catches fire, the entire battery pack could ignite in a chain-reaction scenario.
Fisker Automotive had its own notorious episodes with li-ion battery technology. Other automakers had their share of woes, too. Last year, Chrysler had the batteries in three of it Ram 1500 pickups overheat. Last month, Mitsubishi stopped production of its Outlander plug-in hybrid and a version of the all-electric i-MiEV. Two separate incidents - both in Japan - involved plug-in vehicle battery-pack fires that prompted investigation and suspension of the production lines. Permalink | Email this | Comments
While the Chevy Spark EV will be made in Korea, two important parts -motor and battery pack - are built in the US. Today, General Motors proudly highlighted the start of motor production at its White Marsh plant outside of Baltimore, MD. GM says this move makes it the first domestic automaker to build electric motors and drive units in US.
The compact, lightweight 100-kW motor offers 130 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to move the electric Spark to 60 miles per hour in under eight seconds. GM isn't saying what the annual Spark EV motor capacity of the Baltimore plant is, just that it will be able to build them to suit customer demand.
Aside from the motor, A123 (now owned by Wanxiang Group) is making Spark EV cells and battery packs in Livonia, MI. The two components are shipped to Korea for installation and the finished cars will then be exported back to the Western US (the Spark EV's initial US markets are California and Oregon) starting this summer, with shipments to Canada, Europe and South Korea taking place later.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Astute readers and Tesla Motors took issue with a line from a General Motors press release yesterday that claimed the start of electric motor production for the Chevy Spark EV made GM the "first domestic automaker to build electric motors and drive units in United States." The question was whether or not Tesla, which builds the Model S in California, isn't already doing exactly that.
So we asked GM, which told AutoblogGreen that, "from our understanding Tesla does not 'wind' their own motors. 'Wind' is a verb that has a broad meaning synonymous with 'build' since the winding processes are the most capital- and process-intensive part of motor making, whether it is round wire (like theirs) or square wire like ours ('winding' for us means all the wire forming, wire insertion, twist, and welding are done at the same facility)."
In response, Tesla told AutoblogGreen: "We manufacture all parts of Model S motors here at the factory in Fremont, California. We have a winding line at the factory where we wind our own stators off of spools. We also manufacture the rotors and other components to the unit."
This all might be a bit of a semantic disagreement, but it is nice to see automakers fighting over the rights to say they were first in this particular aspect of electric vehicle manufacturing. It also makes us smile that the two companies involved both have "Motors" in their names, so maybe it's a point of pride. Now, if anyone wants to look into the history books and see how EV motors were made in the early 20th Century, we assume neither GM and Tesla could lay claim to being "first." Permalink | Email this | Comments