electric car

Problems Pile up for Taxpayer-Subsidized Tesla

Tesla Tenn fireFires, faulty drive units, financial losses and stock price deflation marked Tesla Motors news in a week that seemed as bad as the last couple of years were good.

Fortunately for CEO Elon Musk and his support staff he’s mastered the art of celebri-preneur showmanship that he’s built enough standing with the media to endure a really bad week. The multi-billionaire who’s dazzled with innovation at Paypal, SpaceX and SolarCity will be permitted his stumbles because of his track record and his self-assurance. Henrik Fisker, whose taxpayer-backed luxury electric auto company didn’t get nearly the same favor, must be jealous.

Inspector General Says DOE Hid Vital Info from Audit of Bankrupt Ecotality

Blink chargerAfter an Inspector General’s audit earlier this year of now-bankrupt electric vehicle charging company Ecotality, which determined that millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted in a nearly unworkable program, the IG has returned with findings that the Department of Energy withheld information about the project’s problems during his first investigation.

The audit, released by DOE IG Gregory Friedman in July, determined (among other things) that the persistent weak demand for electric vehicles harmed the deployment and timeliness of a $135 million-plus taxpayer funded charging network, which led to excessive grants and project expansion that became virtually unusable under the grants’ guidelines. Investigators discovered that conditions for reimbursement to Ecotality for the EV charging demonstration project were “very generous” and that cost-sharing requirements were extremely lenient.

New Tesla Fires, Old Volt Ones Explained, Not Absolved

Tesla fireTesla’s once-Teflon Tony Stark Elon Musk, the adored Paypal/SpaceX/electric-car innovator who’s been showered with unmitigated media praise and highly inflated stock values, has another lithium ion battery fire to explain.

This one happened after a Model S crash in Mexico. The last one happened less than a month ago in Kent, Wash. Since then Tesla’s share price has fallen from $193.90 on Sept. 30 to $160.58 this afternoon. The irrational exuberance that made the electric automaker the darling of Wall Street has now become merely excitable, although still unjustifiably so. Even Musk himself told Bloomberg last week, “The stock price that we have is more than we have any right to deserve.”

Not Even Fisker's Fire Sale Can Dampen DOE Enthusiasm for 'Investments'

Fisker logoAfter the Department of Energy announced this week it had given up on not-bankrupt-but-should-be Fisker Automotive, and will auction off its loan for a pittance, you’d think (and hope) Congress would have had enough of this kind of thing. Senator John Thune certainly has.

“The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said the South Dakota Republican yesterday. “I’m calling for the Senate to consider my amendment to eliminate the wasteful ATVM loan program and for my colleagues to join me in protecting taxpayer dollars from any future risky green energy investments.”

DOE Claims More 'Success' With Another Clean Energy Bankruptcy

Blink chargerEcotality declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday.

Compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries that have failed – like battery maker A123 Systems and electric auto company Fisker Automotive – the deathwatch was short. A July 25th report issued by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General declared Ecotality’s EV Project largely a waste of time and misallocated money.

Then in mid-August Ecotality informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was in deep financial trouble, with bankruptcy a possibility. A filing showed that the company was unable to obtain additional financing and the DOE had ceased payments to it for the EV Project until the agency could investigate further. DOE also warned Ecotality to not incur any new costs or obligations under the EV Project.

House Committee Grills DOE Loan Program Director Over Secret Emails

Jonathan SilverA hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week investigated the Obama administration’s practice of concealing email communications, with former top officials getting grilled about their use of private Internet accounts to conduct government business.

Two of the most egregious offenders were subject to withering scrutiny, although it didn’t last long enough to get very deep. Lisa Jackson, the former EPA Administrator whose FOIA-evadable email address was under the alias “Richard Windsor” – named in part for her dog – was questioned about a message sent to Siemens vice president Alison Taylor in which she asked her to “use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly….”

DOE Hid Info About Loan Recipient's Bad Condition in April House Hearing

Fisker hearingBeing an Obama administration stimulus failure doesn’t mean you have to be electric, and it also doesn’t mean the Department of Energy won’t pretend you’re still legitimate when Congressional pressure is on.

The neutrally named Vehicle Production Group, which was loaned $50 million by the DOE thanks to the Recovery Act, revealed in May it had stopped operations in February and laid off 100 staff, after DOE froze its assets. Now, in a typical Obama administration “hope-they-don’t-notice” Friday announcement, DOE told American taxpayers that $42 million of that money won’t be paid back. Apparently there weren’t many assets left to freeze.

The Obama Green Failure Train Rolls on With Ecotality

Volt recharging photoThirteen years ago a former executive chef/kitchen manager launched an environmentally friendly cleaning products company to compete with industry giant Ecolab, his former employer, where he had worked and achieved the position of district sales manager.

At the end of 2004 he gave up that money-losing business and turned it over to a partner, who in the first quarter of 2006 turned it into an electric vehicle charging company run by a former hotel chain executive – a self-described “political beast” – who would heavily depend on government subsidies for the revised company’s survival.

With this dysfunctional history, is it any wonder why Ecotality is on the verge of bankruptcy?

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