American Elephants

The Paradox of the Electric Car: A Puzzle. by The Elephant's Child
June 1, 2012, 6:35 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Energy | Tags: , ,

Fisker Automotive announced today that the company’s revenue for the first quarter of 2012 has exceeded $100 million, and funding for the company has exceeded $1 billion. Pretty good for a company that has only one product, pretty, but questionable.  In the last six months they have sold 1,ooo cars since starting deliveries last December.

That would add up to about five-and-a half cars sold a day. That’s really good for a car that retails for over $100,000. Fisker said they would make 15,000 Karmas in 2012. The recalled battery packs either are replaced or will be soon.

Fisker also announced earlier this year, the Atlantic, a less expensive model that is also extremely sexy looking. Very good looking cars, very expensive price. President Obama has invested $200 million in the company which they have already received.  they also received federal funds to help purchase a closed General Motors plant in Delaware, Vice President Biden’s home state, where they said they would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble the clean burning gas-electric car called the Atlantic. However they may never make cars in the U.S.

The Karma is a hybrid sports sedan that it assembles in Finland, and the company says it has started to sell in Europe and could soon be on sale in the Middle East. Rich oil sheiks should really like this one. Fisker appears, however, to be preparing for the day when they will no longer get government monies —”then obviously we are in a place where other options are open to us and have to be considered from a business perspective.”  Well, yes, I can’t imagine a Romney administration continuing to plunk down taxpayer money for sexy playthings for the 1%.

The electric car is a puzzle that has not been solved. The GM Volt and the Nissan Leaf have fared poorly in the marketplace. For the electric car to be more than a plaything for very rich environmentalists, it has to succeed in the mass market.

The cars themselves are technology marvels; the availability of charging infrastructure can be extended as long as government is willing to foot the bill.  Good looks and supposed environmental purity may be appealing to first time buyers. BUT. Electric car batteries are extremely expensive — they can account fo one third of the cost of the car — and they depreciate fast. New buyers may not pay much attention to the resale value, but for the mainstream market it’s important.

Lots of attention has gone to the roll-out of charging stations, but little attention has gone to investment in the smart-grid technology that would assure that the grid would support mass charging. If 5% of cars in LA County were to plug in at the same time, that could place a 750 megawatt load on California’s already strained grid — equal to two midsize power plants. There is no evidence that electric cars will have the slightest effect on CO2 in the atmosphere, and using our own abundant oil resources should bring the price of gasoline down significantly.

Engineers have said that they have investigated every element in the periodic table of elements, and that battery technology will require some breakthrough that is as yet completely unknown.  Electric cars look very different and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but they don’t go significantly farther on a charge than the 1898 Roberts electric car which went a solid 40 miles on a single charge.

This is Even More Offensive Than Solyndra! by The Elephant's Child

Beautiful car, the first of a new line of electric hybrids, built by Fiskers with the help of a half-a billion in taxpayer money to manufacture the car in Finland with a Chinese engine.  Leonardo DiCaprio has reportedly lined up for the first one at $96,000 plus tax. It apparently doesn’t get especially good mileage.  Investors put up a half a billion for the California company, and the addition of the Obama administration’s green jobs $529 million, it is a billion dollar company.  Any jobs being created or saved are in Finland and China.

The Fisker Karma is so offensive in so many ways, when President Obama has been out demanding that everyone support his American Jobs Bill, which even the Democrats in the Democrat controlled Senate refused to do.  Even more offensive is the Chicago-style funding of supporters.

Fisker’s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a partner.  Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

This follows another $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors, purveyors of a $109,000 British-built all-electric roadster.

The awards to Fisker and Tesla have prompted concern from companies that have had their bids for loans rejected, and criticism from groups that question why vehicles aimed at the wealthiest customers are getting loans subsidized by taxpayers.

I suppose they see some prestige in supporting sexy sports cars—electric cars that look like everybody’s dream car.  But looks aren’t everything. Why does taxpayer money flow to “millionaires and billionaires” who support Obama.  It’s not his money — it comes from taxpayers struggling to get along in the current economy. It does, however, explain why Obama just can’t find anywhere to cut back on spending.

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