Over-Stimulus, EV Indifference a Lethal Mix for Battery Companies

Volt recharging photoThe Obama Administration has over-stimulated the electric vehicle battery market, as companies inspired by the flow of federal stimulus support don’t have enough customers for their products.

The government promise of a coming electric car (and truck) revolution, thanks to moves such as President George W. Bush’s signature to approve a $7,500-per-electric-vehicle tax credit and Congress’s passage of the Recovery Act, instigated a buildup of capacity and inventory for batteries. Now putrid EV sales – including the newly introduced Ford Focus electric – have put their battery makers in peril, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“A looming shakeout in the industry, which would likely include plant closures and layoffs, is also likely to touch off a fierce debate over whether federal and state government officials made a major error by using more than $1 billion in grants and tax credits to spur massive investments that are not … Read More ➡

Infinite Taxpayer Money Needed for Electric Truck Company’s Survival

Frito Lay Electric TruckDespite a new report out of the United Kingdom that says the future of the business is bleak without government subsidies, a three-year-old unprofitable electric truck company that received $32 million in U.S. taxpayer stimulus plans to raise more money via an initial public offering.

Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles was launched in January 2009, and despite its lack of track record and the inexperience of its leadership, the Department of Energy awarded the company $10 million in August 2009, and an additional $22 million in March 2010, for an electric truck demonstration program. The company was little more than a spinoff of a failed U.K. operation with the same name, owned by a troubled parent company called The Tanfield Group. In July 2008 – largely because of Smith-UK’s shortcomings – Tanfield’s stock price “collapsed” (scroll down at link) and was harming other holdings of its founder, … Read More ➡

Taxpayers Reward Executives for Failure as Green Jobs are Slashed

First Solar Logo

First Solar, the beneficiary of at least $3 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees, paid its former CEO $32 million over two years as he stewarded its stock price from $143 to below $100. Today it sells for less than $21-per-share, hitting a 52-week low last week, and yesterday the company announced it would slash global payroll by 2,000 workers in Malaysia, Europe and the U.S.

The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Rob Gillette, who was terminated as CEO in October, received $16.55 million during the first three months of employment in 2009 (October to December), and then $13.3 million for all of 2010. Last year he made $2.46 million, $1.7 million of which was severance. The newspaper also reported First Solar also paid its eight top executives nearly $16 million last year. 

Before yesterday’s news, the company announced in December it would sever 100 employees. Then … Read More ➡

Another Blunder Affects Taxpayer-Funded EV Battery Company A123

Three Stooges photo

Just as the Department of Energy gave A123 Systems a vote of confidence by extending a deadline until 2014 to spend down its $249 million stimulus grant, the deeply troubled electric vehicle supplier experienced another setback.

One of their batteries caused an explosion.

The blast occurred yesterday morning in Warren, Mich. at General Motors’ Alternative Energy Center – a research facility – while performing on an A123 battery “intensive tests designed to make it fail,” the Detroit News reported. GM confirmed to Crain’s Detroit Business that chemical gases released by the battery caused the explosion. One employee was sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

“I just want to say how very fortunate we are that only one person was seriously injured,” said Warren Mayor James Fouts, who toured the site after the fire was extinguished, to the Detroit News. “There were 80 people in that building, … Read More ➡

Al Gore & Duke Energy: Marriage Made in Regulation Hell

Rogers photoThe North Carolina fuel cell project in which former Vice President Al Gore has a conflict of interest as a director of Apple, Inc., illustrates how crony socialism and state mandates to utilize so-called “Green” energy converge to benefit wealthy corporatists at the expense of regular citizens.

Yesterday NLPC reported that Apple’s plans to build a costly fuel cell electricity generation facility adjacent to its new data center in Maiden, N.C., was a conflict for Gore, because plans show Apple has enlisted Bloom Energy to build the project.

In addition to his Apple role, Gore is also an investor in Bloom through his role as a senior partner with Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. According to a report in The News & Observer of Raleigh last week, Bloom could reap as much as $30 million from the deal – about $6.7 million per megawatt – based upon calculations … Read More ➡

Apple’s Fuel Cell Project Presents Conflict of Interest for Al Gore

Al Gore photo

A major project to generate expensive (so-called) renewable energy at Apple, Inc.’s new data center in the North Carolina mountains highlights a conflict of interest for one of its directors, former Vice President Al Gore.

The massive server farm in the small town of Maiden has already been criticized for the large swaths of forest clear-cutting and burning to make way for a 100-acre solar project, and now more acres are being leveled to construct a $30-million fuel cell facility to generate electricity, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Apple is working with Bloom Energy to build the project. Gore is a senior partner with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, which in 2002 as the first investor helped launch Bloom on its independent mission to “make clean, reliable energy affordable.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, an investor … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ $1.4B ‘Investment’ in Nissan EV May Make Volt Look Good by Comparison

Ghosn photoWhile General MotorsChevy Volt assembly workers are sidelined for five weeks (and more this summer) because demand for its strongly hyped electric car is weak, the prospects for its chief rival – Nissan’s Leaf – are shaky at best.

Nissan North America, Inc. – a subsidiary of its Japanese parent – is the beneficiary of a $1.4 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, to convert a plant in Smyrna, Tenn. to produce the Leaf and batteries for it. The project’s promoters say the alterations will lead to 1,300 new jobs, enabling Nissan to produce up to 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 battery packs per year, which will lead to the all-important avoidance of 204,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – or so they say.

But there’s just one problem: Sales of the Leaf are not much better than the Volt’s have been, and … Read More ➡

Another Taxpayer-Funded Solar Company Looks Like a Failure

Biden Strickland photoAn Ohio-based solar company received millions of dollars in state and federal subsidies despite government officials’ knowledge that the company was in financial trouble, and now a local newspaper reports little activity at the manufacturer’s Perrysburg plant.

According to a report last month in The Toledo Blade, Willard & Kelsey Solar Group was lent $10 million by two state agencies even though the company showed little more than a half million dollars in revenue for 2009 – that being a grant from the Buckeye State – and a loss of $4.2 million. State officials told the newspaper that loan was completed because it had already been promised.

“We are just executing that commitment at that point,” Daryl Hennessy, assistant chief of the business services division at the Department of Development, told The Blade. “While it looked like a lot of bad things happened in between, the commitment had … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ Green ‘Investment’ in Battery Company Withers

A123 logoA123 Systems – the taxpayer-funded electric vehicle battery manufacturer that famously shipped duds to Fisker Automotive, which caused one of its luxurious Karma EVs to shut down just before a Consumer Reports test – is now the defendant in an investor class action lawsuit and its stock has tanked to below $1.

Massachusetts-based A123 received more than $279 million in grants from the Department of Energy, most of it used to refurbish two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich., for the production of EV batteries. The company laid off 125 factory workers in November, lost $257.7 million in 2011 (including an $11.6 million write-down of its stake in Fisker), and announced it would spend $55 million to fix the defective batteries it delivered to Fisker and other customers. Meanwhile A123’s top executives received big raises and inflated parachutes should the company change ownership.

The lawsuit, filed in a Massachusetts … Read More ➡

Class Action Filed Against Taxpayer-Backed First Solar

First Solar Logo

Securities law firms are lining up to get a piece of the action after a class action lawsuit was filed against federally subsidized First Solar, Inc., allegedly because the company failed to disclose the massive costs it was incurring due to defects in its solar panels, leading investors to believe the company’s stock was worth more than its actual value.

The complaint, filed by the New York-based Pomerantz, Haudek, Grossman, & Gross law firm, claims that First Solar executives – including founder Michael Ahearn and former CEO Robert Gillette – “made false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects.” The false information was allegedly delivered via annual and quarterly reports, SEC filings, press releases and other documents. First Solar is a public company traded on the NASDAQ exchange.

According to the complaint, First Solar: “deceive(d) the investing … Read More ➡