Brit Investment Company Gives Up on US Electric Truck Maker

Frito Lay Electric TruckA British investment company has thrown in the towel on an electric delivery truck manufacturer that it once wholly owned, saw fail, then spun off in the United States at the height of President Obama’s green energy stimulus subsidy mania.

U.K.-based Tanfield Group announced at the end of June that it wrote down the value of the last 5.76 percent ownership stake it held in Smith Electric Vehicles, which received $32 million in U.S. taxpayer funds as a formerly British entity that reconstituted and relocated in Kansas City in 2009. The move by Tanfield followed Smith’s legal action filed against business partner FDG Electric Vehicles, in which it alleged “fraudulent misstatements” against the Chinese company that had enticed it into an agreement.

“The [Tanfield] board of directors has carried out a review of the investment in Smith resulting in a decision to impair the investment value to nil,” the …

Chinese Swoop in on Taxpayer-Subsidized Electric Truck Maker

Smith Electric logoThe painful and fruitless existence of Smith Electric Vehicles, waster of $32 million in U.S. taxpayer funds, has been extended after yet another near bankruptcy.

The Kansas City electric delivery truck manufacturer, whose actual business negotiates in government grants, tax breaks and other subsidies – rather than a product anyone actually wants to pay for – had announced at the end of September, via its British investor Tanfield Group, that it needed to raise $4.5 million by October 2nd and $10 million by the end of the month. Without the cash infusion, Tanfield said, “the company is likely to be forced to seek protection under US bankruptcy laws or close down its operations.”

Yesterday Tanfield notified its own investors that Smith Electric had “raised a loan” of $2.9 million thanks to help from – as you might guess – a Chinese manufacturer, FDG Electric Vehicles Limited

Electric Truck Company Looks Like Next Stimulus-Funded Bankruptcy

Frito Lay Electric TruckAn electric truck manufacturer that was awarded $32 million from President Obama’s stimulus program has informed one of its investors that it is on the verge of bankruptcy, if it did not raise $4.5 million by Friday and $10 million by the end of October.

The troubled saga of Smith Electric Vehicles should be particularly sickening for taxpayers because it sprouted out of a similar failed company, of the same name, in Great Britain. Smith, as part of the U.K.-based Tanfield Group, stumbled out of Europe and re-established itself in Kansas City – opportunistically at the time that President Obama was rolling out his plans to “stimulate” the “green” energy sector in early 2009.

More on that momentarily, after a look at Smith’s current desperation. According to reports from investment Web sites in England, Tanfield – which currently holds a 5.8 percent ownership stake – was notified last week …

Energy Dept. Revives Stimulus Loans as Another Electric Vehicle Co. Stalls

Frito Lay Electric TruckAs Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced last week a renewed push to provide $16 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for “clean” technology vehicles, more bad news emerged from another stimulus-funded electric vehicle company over the weekend.

Smith Electric Vehicles, the truck company that was supposed to “make it” because electrification made so much sense for short, urban delivery routes, halted production at the end of 2013. A quarterly report at attributed the stoppage to “the company’s tight cash flow situation.”

While not a beneficiary of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program that Moniz wants to revive, Smith Electric is another reason why subsidies of any type for this floundering pseudo-industry – loans, grants, tax breaks, etc. – are enormous wastes. In light of the hundreds of millions of dollars that other companies like Fisker Automotive, Ecotality and A123 Systems received, Smith’s $32 million in grants is comparatively …

2013: Veils of Secrecy as More ‘Green’ Taxpayer Money Disappears

Money down the drainLast year at this time NLPC reviewed 2012 as “The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste,” and that description applied to 2013 as well. But additional trends of government opaqueness and inattention to safety and security – often related to stimulus-funded programs and their corporate beneficiaries – were also revealed.

EPA, Dept. of Energy Secretive About Communications

As President Obama began his second term, watchdogs of the administration’s environmental (EPA, Dept. of Interior) and energy (Department of Energy) cabinet spaces discovered that officials maintained secret email accounts to conduct government business out of public view. Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute uncovered a fake identity maintained by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson while researching his book The Liberal War on Transparency. The effort to access her messages and those of other officials has been protracted.

EPA began producing records in January from Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email account …

Bottomless Subsidies Needed to Keep DOE Electric Truck Project Alive

Frito Lay Electric TruckDespite little news over the past nine months since its last-minute abandonment of an initial public offering that was supposed to raise $76 million in cash, stimulus recipient Smith Electric Vehicles is showing little evidence it can inspire demand for its commercial trucks, like its plug-in car counterparts.

Smith’s selling point for its step vans was that, unlike electric automobiles, delivery routes in urban areas did not require a long range between refueling (or, recharging). Frequent stops and short distances alleviated the “range anxiety” that accompanies cars like the Nissan Leaf. Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Staples were cited as early adopters of the truck demonstration project, which was launched with the help of $32 million in taxpayer funds.

Alas, it’s not helping. Once holding the lofty expectations of the IPO last September, the company is now quietly noting it raised $8.6 million in “bridge” funding. CEO Bryan Hansel said that the …

2012: The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste

Obama InvescoThe past year was a dismal one for the passé idea that government would use taxpayer dollars responsibly, and that was nowhere more evident than with President Obama’s initiatives to promote “clean” energy technology companies and projects with so-called “stimulus” funds and other public money. NLPC reported extensively on some of the most egregious examples.

Solar Favors Don’t Stop Fizzle

Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, and the reverberations over $535 million in lost taxpayer money were felt throughout 2012. Money still flowed out from the Department of Energy and its stimulus stash, but Congressional Republicans’ scrutiny of big projects – especially in the Loan Program Office –paralyzed some new projects.

The year began with BP, which not long ago downplayed fossil fuels in favor of a “Beyond Petroleum” motto, exiting the solar business despite having received a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. government …

Green Energy Stimulus Bankruptcies Come in All Sizes

ReVolt logoThe little-reported bankruptcy of a relatively small electric vehicle battery manufacturer last month illustrates the many problems with President Obama’s green energy stimulus program, and why the more appropriate location for the ramblin’, gamblin’ White House might be Las Vegas.

This smaller (compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries) example is ReVolt Technology, which relocated from Switzerland to Oregon to take advantage of a $5 million Recovery Act grant from the Department of Energy in order to develop and mass-produce a “zinc-air” vehicle battery. Its technology was developed in Norway where the company was backed since 2004 by Viking Venture Management. According to the Portland Business Journal, ReVolt believed it could “deliver twice the energy of conventional rechargeable battery technologies, such as lithium-ion.”

Federal money wasn’t the only attraction. The company also received $5 million in city and state loans, as well as business energy tax credits. Thus we …

Executives at Bankrupt A123 Now Want Bonuses

A123 logoTaxpayer stimulus waster A123 Systems has not only declared financial bankruptcy – its executives also seem to be driving toward moral bankruptcy as well.

CEO David Vieau and his lieutenants, after receiving well over $279 million in Recovery Act funds and at least $135 million from Michigan taxpayers, have run the company into the ground. Yet they have asked a bankruptcy court judge for his blessing to receive up to $4.2 million in executive and retention bonuses to see through the company’s takeover, likely by Johnson Controls.

NLPC detailed the self-serving nature of A123’s leadership in February. At the time A123 had laid off 125 employees in November at its two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich. Company officials said diminished production by A123’s top customer, Fisker Automotive, led to the cutbacks. A123 had expected to deliver batteries for 7,000 plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma models, but faulty wire harnesses …

Timeline: A123 Systems’ Downward Spiral to Bankruptcy

A123 logoAs Bloomberg reported today, stimulus-funded electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems filed bankruptcy in federal court after failing to make a debt payment that was due. Milwaukee Business Times has reported that Johnson Controls will purchase the “automotive business assets” of A123 for $125 million, and that A123 will receive from Johnson $72.5 million in “debtor in possession” financing to continue operating during the sale process.

Regular readers won’t be surprised, as the company’s gradual sink to its current depths – despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers – has been covered by NLPC since late last year. A review:

December 2011: A123 announced it would lay off 125 employees at its two refurbished plants in Michigan, attributing the cutbacks to diminished production by its top customer, Fisker Automotive. NLPC documented how A123 was also an investor in Fisker, which has had its own difficulties …

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