A stimulus-backed Department of Energy loan program that has not been tapped for four years, and was deemed unwanted two years ago by the Government Accountability Office, is suddenly ready and willing to dole out more taxpayer millions again – to a corporation that doesn’t need it.
According to the report, at minimum there is sharp debate over whether the company will continue to manufacture electric vehicle batteries in-house or contract with an outside supplier. Nissan partner Renault, which has 43.4 percent shareholder ownership in the joint company, is said to be pushing for outsourcing battery production – possibly to LG Chem. None who revealed the information were identified for the Reuters story.
Last week AAA released findings from tests it had run on three models of electric automobiles, and announced that the heavily subsidized vehicles suffer dramatic driving range loss in both cold and hot temperatures.
The news wasn’t new, but apparently the broader media noticed because the pronouncement from the nation’s largest consumer automotive club made it official. NLPC (beginning with a Consumer Reports experience) has reported from time to time on such problems since late 2011. The Tulsa Worldreported that AAA found driving distance for electric vehicles can be diminished up to 57 percent in extremely cold temperatures, and by one-third in very hot temperatures.
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.
Thirteen 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.
Reports have trickled out lately that, all of a sudden, demand is so great for the all-electric Leaf that Nissan’s production just can’t keep up.
“We’re going to be short on inventory all through the summer,” said Erik Gottfried, director of electric vehicle sales for Nissan, to Automotive News. “It will be late fall before we can produce enough to satisfy everybody.”
Then the appropriate question from taxpayers should be, “What did we pay $1.4 billion for you to do in Smyrna, Tennessee then?!?”
Jalopnik.com contributor Patrick George was pointed in the right direction when he characterized DOE’s boastful Loan Program Office as “rosy,” but more accurate descriptors would be “excessive” and “unrealistic.” It’s clear his analysis was one of an automotive enthusiast and reviewer, rather than someone who regularly watchdogs government with a skeptic’s eye and knows how bureaucrats fudge and exaggerate numbers to claim credit for their politician bosses. As NLPC has reported often, DOE – before a taxpayer-backed bank check was ever issued to an electric automaker – has made absolutely unbelievable claims about jobs, fuel savings and carbon dioxide emission reductions that were to be realized as a result of their loans.
All five ATVM recipients, awarded a total of $8.4 billion of taxpayer-backed financing under the Recovery Act, have earned derision to some degree. Most fit into the already much-ridiculed electric vehicles program. VPG was funded to produce wheelchair-accessible passenger vehicles that ran on compressed natural gas.