Alcoa Gets First Loan From Energy Dept. Program— But Doesn’t Need It

Ernest MonizA 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.

In fact, Alcoa’s expansion project for which the funding is targeted – to produce special aluminum for automotive companies in Tennessee – has already been underway for 19 months and was first revealed almost two years ago.

DOE announced on Thursday that the renewed activity out of its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program will deliver a $259 million loan to the multinational conglomerate. The excuse for the financing – considering that ATVM’s purpose was to support production of alternative energy-powered automobiles – is to produce “high-strength” aluminum for automakers “looking to lightweight their vehicles.” Yes, they used “lightweight” as a verb, …

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.

“We set out to be a leader in battery manufacturing but it turned out to be less competitive than we’d wanted,” said a Nissan executive to Reuters, on condition of anonymity. “We’re still between six months and a year behind LG in price-performance terms.”

If they’re really thinking about a move …

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.

“Collapse of the occupant compartment is the downfall for four small cars in this group, including the…Leaf,” said Joe Nolan, senior vice president for vehicle research for the IIHS. “A sturdy occupant compartment allows the restraint systems to do their job, absorbing energy and controlling …

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.

The models tested were the Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the much-hyped Nissan Leaf. AAA said it rated “normal” range as 105 miles on a single charge, but that’s not even realistic for at least one Oklahoma owner.

“My …

More Fire, More Subsidies for Tesla in California

Elon MuskThere’s that uncomfortable juxtaposition of words again: “Tesla” and “fire.”

This time was quite an accomplishment by the electric automaker’s publicity department: they kept the Irvine, Calif. garage fire quiet for over a month. The secrecy expired on the November 15 incident when the Orange County Fire Authority attributed the incident to the EV’s re-powering set-up, according to a report obtained by Reuters.

“The fire occurred as a result of an electrical failure in the charging system for an electric vehicle,” the report said, while stating the cause of the fire is unclear. “The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system” which was plugged into a 240-volt wall socket, the report said.

CEO Elon Musk (pictured with President Obama) and his PR mavens have been putting out image “fires” …

Hard to Take the German Absolution of Tesla Fires Seriously

Tesla Tenn fireFollowing incidents in Washington state, Mexico and Tennessee, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would probe fires that occurred recently over a six week period in Tesla Motors’ electric Model S.

And this week, as revealed in a Detroit News story, the NHTSA looks like they’re serious – at least more serious than Germany’s transportation safety authority.

Why bring up Germany? Because as the regulatory heat bears down in the U.S. on Tesla and high-profile CEO Elon Musk, they have trotted out the Eastern Europe nation to demonstrate that they’ve been absolved of any culpability in the fires. The media that has mostly fawned over the electric automaker helpfully amplified the development, which certainly Musk welcomed. He even got a slight recovery in the company stock price as a result.

On Monday Tesla posted a press release that claimed the company received an …

NHTSA to Investigate Tesla Fires as Battery Facts Remain Elusive

Tesla fireAfter three recent fires, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said he asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate its Model S.

NHTSA said no he didn’t.

Tesla has been saying it received the highest safety rating in the U.S., a “new combined record of 5.4 stars.”

NHTSA says there’s no such thing.

Musk said he expects the investigation will clear Tesla after incidents in which metal objects struck the underside where the Model S battery is located.

NHTSA says we’ll see, and a decision whether there should be a recall will likely take months. Maybe a lie detector test needs to be part of the study.

Musk thought he had averted scrutiny after the first fire in Washington state last month, when NHTSA declined to investigate the cause. Then another fire followed a collision in Mexico, and another blaze ignited in Tennessee a couple weeks …

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?

The San Francisco-based subsidy sucker had a bad August. It began under the pall of a Department of Energy Inspector General’s report which found that slow electric vehicle sales affected the worthiness of Ecotality’s $135 million taxpayer-funded charging network. Money …

‘Demand’ for Nissan Leaf is All Hype and Subsidies

Nissan Leaf photoReports 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?!?”

That’s how much stimulus-backed money went to the Japan-based automaker to design a factory outside Nashville to crank out up to 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 Leaf batteries per year. The plant began production late in 2012, and according to the Department of Energy, was to create 1,300 permanent “green” jobs, remove 11,000 gasoline-powered cars from the road annually, and lead to …

Shallow Analysis Deems DOE Electric Vehicle Loans a Success

Elon MuskA popular automotive Web site’s attempt to set the record straight on the degree of success and failure of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program was well-intentioned, but missed the mark on several points and overall gave the initiative far too much credit.

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 …

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