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Entries in Electric Cars (7)

Wednesday
May302012

Fisker May Never Build Electric Cars in US

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The luxury carmaker Fisker Automotive continues to signal it could ditch plans to build its next generation hybrid electric vehicle in the United States, despite the nearly $200 million in Obama administration loan money it has already received.

Fisker received federal funds in part to help purchase a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware, where it predicted it would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble the clean-burning gas-electric family car, known as the Atlantic.

But company executives began hinting in February that it would reconsider that plan and look for a cheaper place to build the car after the Department of Energy froze the $529 million green-energy loan the company had received, and had been drawing on since 2010.

Fisker used the first $169 million in taxpayer funds to bring to market the Karma, a flashy $100,000 hybrid sports sedan that it assembles in Finland. After a series of delays and stumbles, the company announced it had sold its first 1,000 Karmas, bringing in $100 million in revenues so far this year. The sleek, high-end model has been well received by critics, and the company reported this week it has started to sell in Europe, and could soon be on sale in the Middle East.

Earlier this year, one of the Karmas stopped working in the middle of a Consumer Reports road test -- an embarrassing breakdown that Fisker later blamed on a faulty battery. The lithium-ion batteries became the subject of a recall, including for a defect that raised the risk of fires.

More recently, one of the high-priced cars went up in flames in the garage of its Texas owner. Fisker said the car was unplugged at the time of the fire and the battery pack was intact and still working after the blaze -- all clear indications, they said, that neither the car nor its battery had anything to do with the fire. A spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told ABC News the agency is "aware of the incident and is working with local authorities to evaluate whether there are any potential safety implications."

The U.S. Department of Energy has said little about its decision to freeze the balance of Fisker's loan, which was intended to pay for the development of the Atlantic. The department confirmed it hired a restructuring advisor to study the terms of the agreement and assess the performance of the company.

"The Department continues to review Fisker's financial and operating status and is working with the company to review its revised business plan, but no decisions have been made," an Energy Department official said in response to questions from ABC News.

Roger Ormisher, a Fisker spokesman, acknowledged that Fisker had failed to meet the government's milestones for the rollout of the Karma, and that those delays "put us into the process of negotiation with the DoE, who put further monies on hold until we could settle on mutually agreeable milestones" for the rollout of the next car.

It now appears that the company's decision about where to assemble the Atlantic could hinge on whether it will continue to receive federal support. ABC News asked Ormisher if Fisker still felt bound to manufacture the car in Delaware if federal funds were no longer available, or if the company would look for a cost-effective location in or outside the U.S. to build the car.

"If Fisker no longer gets government monies, then obviously we are in a place where other options are open to us and have to be considered from a business perspective," Ormisher said. "However, given the work that we have done at the plant in Delaware and the fact that we own it, it is still our primary option to consider."

Fisker appears to be preparing for the possibility it will need to move forward without further government support. The company has continued an aggressive push for outside investors.

"It is important to note that Fisker Automotive's success is not dependent on government money," Ormisher said. "We are primarily privately funded, having raised more than $1 billion in private equity financing since 2007."

One of the company's major backers is the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to published reports. The firm's partners include John Doerr, a billionaire tech mogul who serves on President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec082011

Aptera Employees Destroy Futuristic Vehicles After Shutdown

Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg News(CARLSBAD, Calif.) -- Employees of Aptera Motors, an electric car startup in Carlsbad, Calif., which shut down last Friday, seem to be taking liquidation into their own hands -- at the company’s orders. Four short videos on the website Jalopnik show employees destroying shells of the futuristic fuel-efficient electric cars with a forklift after the company called it quits.

The finished cars were expected to cost between $25,000 and $40,000, according to Wired.

Karen Pease, one of the early members on the waiting list for the vehicles, posted the videos on YouTube, saying an employee emailed her the footage and told her the destruction was authorized. Pease called it a “sickening bit of vandalism.”

Aptera  means “wingless” in Greek, and the company described itself as the “only manufacturer to truly embrace aerodynamics as an anchor of its design philosophy.”

But Aptera, known for its three-wheeled 2e vehicle, said it could not attract enough investors to stay in business. The Wall Street Journal has reported a lower- than-expected demand for electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Volt and Chevrolet Volt.

Aptera did not return ABC News' requests for comment.

The vehicles the Aptera employees were seen destroying in the videos were composite shells of the company’s early models, which Pease said fans had fallen in love with “before the design became all bloated and inefficient under Team B.”

“There’s a reason they’re giggling and making fun of them,” she said. “It’s like winning an enemy’s house from them in a contest and then burning it down.”

Pease, who was a prolific member of the Aptera online forum, said several employees began to contact  her after the company, founded in 2005, started, in her words, “going downhill.”

“They took the vehicles that inspired thousands of people to put down a deposit, gutted them of their reinforcements and smashed them against a concrete wall, giggling about it like high-schoolers smashing mailboxes,” Pease told ABC News. “These were incredible vehicles that could do 100mph and cruise at highway speeds using the power of two blowdryers; they belonged in a museum."

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct042011

Tesla Model S: Elon Musk's Electric Sedan Faster Than Porsche?

Tesla Motors(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- With the Tesla Model S, Elon Musk seems to be trying to do for the electric car what Apple's iPod did for music -- make it profitable and very, very cool.

Musk, a serial innovator who already started PayPal and SpaceX, has now announced a souped-up version of the Model S sedan that will do zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.  That's faster than some versions of the Porsche 911.

"Like a world-class endurance athlete, Model S was designed to be the epitome of efficiency," said Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen on the company's blog.

Electric cars have, for years, been regarded as one of those environmentally-friendly phenomena guaranteed never to happen.  They were often pictured as overpriced, underpowered go-carts, with batteries that threatened to give out in the middle of the freeway on your way home.

Musk promises to change that perception.  The Model S, Tesla has promised, will go on sale next year at a starting price around $57,000.  It's not for the faint of wallet -- there are plenty of economy subcompacts out there if you're on a budget -- but the cost of gasoline is zero.  You plug it in when it's parked.

And you'll plug it in less often, Musk says.  The high-end Model S should have enough battery capacity to go more than 300 miles on a charge.  It is packed with Lithium-Ion batteries, mostly stored in a rack on the car's bottom.

The company has already been selling a small volume of Tesla Roadsters, but in January, the company said, it will start to phase them out to concentrate on the Model S.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar072011

Even Electric Cars Are No Safe Haven from High Gas Prices

Nissan Motor Co(NEW YORK) -- While oil and gas prices have been pushed higher by unrest in the Middle East, consumers have not yet run to the newest electric vehicles on the market.  President Obama has said he hopes to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, in part to decrease American dependency on foreign oil.

An electric vehicle can allow consumers to purchase less gas and decrease our dependency on oil, but the cost savings vary both by consumer and by car.

Because both electric and hybrid vehicles are more expensive than most other vehicles, they may not give you any savings over a conventional car, said Eric Evarts, associate autos editor with Consumer Reports.

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF, both released in December, are the most recent additions to the mainstream electric car market.  Both have gasoline engines, but only to supplement their electric motors.  Drivers plug them in to recharge their batteries while they're parked.

The Chevy Volt car has a base price of $40,280, while the Nissan LEAF can cost from $32,780 to $33,720, according to ConsumerReports.org.  Chevrolet's website touts a $32,780 price after a maximum $7,500 federal tax credit.  Similarly, Nissan says you'll pay $25,280 after those tax savings.

"They're not going to save money buying these cars," Evarts said about drivers who may purchase these two latest electric vehicles.  "With gas and electricity expenses as they are, you're not going to pay them off any time soon."

General Motors, parent company of Chevrolet, announced this week that it sold just 281 Volt cars in February, down from 321 in January.  Nissan sold 67 LEAF cars in February, down from 87 in January.  In December, Nissan sold 19 LEAF vehicles while GM sold 326 Volts.

Evarts said one reason these electric cars are not flying out of showrooms just yet is that there are less expensive cars, similar in size to the Volt and LEAF, that have good fuel efficiency.  He points to the Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle, as a possible fit for drivers with longer commutes.

"The Prius has more cargo, is likely more reliable with better mileage than the Volt on gas," said Everts, "and it costs half as much." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan072011

Ford Debuts Electric Focus to Compete Against Chevy Volt, Other Plug-In Cars

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(DEARBORN, Mich.) -- Ford Motor Company made its modern electric debut Friday, unveiling an electric Ford Focus.

Ford introduced the new Focus not at an auto show, but at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a symbolic break in tradition for a car company eager to supercharge a field crowded with plug-in competition.

For Ford, it's a back-to-the-future story. Henry Ford's wife drove an electric car back in 1914, and now their great-grandson Bill Ford will drive an electric vehicle they couldn't have imagined.

Bill Ford, the executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, told ABC News in an exclusive interview that electric cars are now critical for the auto giant.

"To me, these are very much about signaling where this company is headed and, frankly, where this country ought to be headed," Ford said.

ABC News was given a chance to test-drive the new model at Ford's Dearborn, Mich. headquarters. Nearly identical to Ford's gasoline Focus hatchback, the new electric car accelerates quickly and quietly, going from zero to sixty in less than 10 seconds.

Unlike GM's Chevy Volt, Ford's electric car has no gasoline engine for backup. It can drive from 80 to 100 miles on a full charge. The car even communicates with smart phones, so a driver can call his car remotely and order it to charge immediately, or wait for utility rates to drop at nighttime.

Ford joins GM, Nissan and Toyota in mass-producing plug-in cars.

In San Diego, Tom Hamilton just bought a Nissan Leaf, with big help from the government. He was granted a $7,500 federal tax break, and another $5,000 break from California for buying electric.

"I paid $35,000-ish, and I got $12,500 back," Hamilton said.

Electrics and hybrids are still a tiny sliver of the car market, making up just 2.39 percent of the market in 2010, according to J.D. Power & Associates. But electrics could account for over 8 percent by 2015 and 10 percent by 2020, the firm says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

GE to Purchase 25,000 Electric Cars in Largest Order Ever by 2015

Photo Courtesy - Chevrolet [dot] com(FAIRFIELD, Conn.) -- General Electric Co. announced Thursday it will purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, marking the largest order ever of battery-powered cars.

GE will begin buying electric vehicles in 2011.  Nearly half of their purchases -- 12,000 vehicles -- will come from General Motors Co., including the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

The new environmentally-friendly vehicles will comprise at least half of the company's fleet of 30,000 cars and leased vehicles from its GE Capital unit.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt said the company's order will help "move electric vehicles from anticipation to action."  He added that "wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will also drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct082010

2010: The Year the Electric Car Becomes a Reality?

Photo Courtesy - Nissan Motor Co(NEW YORK) -- This fall marks the beginning of the largest rollout of electric cars and the infrastructure to support them in U.S. history.

More than 20,000 charging stations across the nation will be deployed, and that's just the beginning. If all goes as planned, American households will be transformed into gas stations of the future, electric car corridors will connect major cities, and electric car-sharing programs will sprout up in cities across the nation.

Within a few years, every major automobile manufacturer will release a version of an electric car.

Mark Perry, director of product planning for the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric, zero-emission car just given a Popular Mechanics "breakthrough award," spoke to ABC News.  He said, "Fifty thousand units of the Nissan Leaf will be mass produced the first year.  If you want to make a difference in oil demand and carbon emissions, you have to make a lot of cars."

The Nissan Leaf goes on sale in December with a price tag of roughly $25,000 after federal rebates. It is billed as the first electric car to be priced competitively with standard vehicles.

The Leaf will seat five. It comes with a battery warranty for eight years and 100,000 miles, and the ability to save you $2,000 a year on gas, assuming you travel 15,000 miles and get 25 miles per gallon.  It travels 100 miles per charge, which might be fine for the average consumer, since 80 percent travel less than 50 miles per day.

The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $400 million to electrify the transportation sector. It will help build an electric car infrastructure that will allow people to charge their electric cars as they travel. Within the next few years, some areas of the country will have more electric car charging stations than gas stations.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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