Nissan Leaf

Will Nissan Abandon Its $1.4B Stimulus-Backed Battery Factory?

Ghosn photoReuters sources inside Nissan are saying the production of batteries in Tennessee for the all-electric Leaf, which stimulus-subsidizing U.S. taxpayers backed with a $1.4 billion loan, could be eliminated.

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.

Consumer Reports Removes Recommendation After Nissan Leaf Fails Crash Test

Nissan Leaf photoAfter three years and $1.4 billion in stimulus subsidies from U.S. taxpayers, you’d think the technology and performance of the all-electric Nissan Leaf would have improved rather than worsened by now.

You’d be wrong.

Whereas once the Leaf enjoyed a favorable review by Consumer Reports (despite an extremely unpleasant test experience by one of its researchers and the identification of several negative features), the magazine has yanked its recommendation. That’s because of the Leaf’s dismal safety performance in crash testing of small cars by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, where it received a rating of “poor,” along with three other models.

Range Loss of EVs In Extreme Temps Has Been Reported for Years

Nissan Leaf photoLast 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 World reported 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.

Dismal Chevy Spark EV Sales Make the Volt Look Good

Barra and VoltThe final tallies for 2013 sales are in for the Chevy Volt and its little sister, the Chevy Spark EV. The results are ugly.

While the Volt relies on both a gas engine and electric power, the Spark is actually an electric-only vehicle, assumedly designed to compete with the all-electric Nissan Leaf which had sales of 22,610 for the year. The Spark EV did not compete well, with sales for 2013 coming in at only 589 for the seven months in which it was offered. Chevy Volt sales for the year also disappointed, coming in at 23,094 and down from 2012 sales. The Volt's sales drop came during a year when overall US car sales rose about 8%.

Electricity for Your EV: A New Entitlement?

Volt recharging photoAn incident blew up in the media this week, in which a Georgia owner of an electric car was arrested, after he plugged in his Nissan Leaf at a DeKalb County middle school without permission.

Except, unable to resist a good spin, journalists glommed on to the sympathetic portrayal of the Leaf owner’s seeming inconsequential crime: He only stole a nickel’s worth of electricity. If you didn’t dig very far into the story, you’d see the portrayal of driver Kaveh Kamooneh victimized by a cold, unyielding police officer in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee. Worse, the officer’s boss, Sergeant Ernesto Ford, said, “I’m not sure how much electricity he stole. He broke the law. He stole something that wasn’t his.”

Why Are We Subsidizing Obsolete Electric Car Technology?

We now have had some time to digest the groundbreaking news from General Motors that it is working on a "Tesla-Killer" electric car that will get 200 miles on a charge and cost about $30,000. The most obvious takeaway is that the news is more unfounded green hype from GM, something that they have been guilty of in the past when they over-promised on the Chevy Volt. The best indicator of how serious a challenge to Tesla the new report really is would be found in Tesla's share price, which has gone from about $165 a share at the time of the news to the current price at around $185. While that barometer would give the indication that GM is once again exaggerating the potential for its latest green miracle car, let's assume that the technology to develop a car that goes 200 miles on an electric charge at a price of $30,000 really is not too far off.

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….”

Volt Sales in August Cost Taxpayers Over $25 Million

Volt and AkersonIt looks like General Motors is attempting to make up for the money it loses on every Chevy Volt in volume as August sales, spurred by recent price cuts, reached an all-time high of 3,351. The fact that the car has been on the market for about three years and initial much-hyped proclamations from GM would have put sales at 20,000 per month by now goes unrecognized by those that think 3,351 vehicles is a lot of cars to sell in a month. To put the sales in perspective, it took Toyota about 2 ½ days to sell that many Camrys with August sales coming in at 44,731. Fortunately for taxpayers, Volt sales are nowhere near those figures. The 3,351 Volt sales came at the expense of over $25 million dollars of federal subsidies.

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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