The electric-vehicle industry positions itself as the future of personal transportation. President-elect Barack Obama is now the industry’s highest ranking advocate. He’s said he wants to see one million plug-in vehicles by 2015, as part of his broader goal to end U.S. dependence on Mideast oil.
Tesla Motors LLC, once the darling of the green car movement, is now scrambling to stay afloat and is asking for a $400 million loan from the same $25 billion federal Energy Department program that Detroit’s car makers are looking to tap in their own fight for survival.
Tesla is now taking some flak for seeking handouts from taxpayers, most of whom could never afford its current product, a racy electric sports car that starts at more than $100,000. Detroit’s chiefs might say: Welcome to our world.
But right now, the electric-vehicle community has a lot of the same problems as the legacy car business, and a few more besides. Brian Wynne, the head of the EDTA, says manufacturers in his group need the government’s help now.
“We have a gap,” he says. “We need to get over this gap.”
The credit crunch and the economic slump are slamming the crop of electric-vehicle companies that sprung up in recent years, fueled in part by Silicon Valley venture-capital money.