State of the Independent EV: Buddy Can You Spare a Ni-MH

Recently I “overheard” someone say that if a small company like Tesla could make it, what the hell is wrong with GM and Ford?

Oh boy. We should probably all be very grateful that is not the case.

The contemporary electric car is such a lovely romantic idea and I am not one to knock the dreamers but at the rate that the independent electric car makers are going we better keep our bicycles tuned up for quite a while.

Tesla has been a PR machine. Until recently. Delayed production has led to rumors and snafus abound. Imagine being the buyer of a Tesla Roadster. You have made a $50,000 deposit two years ago and you haven’t received your car. You hear through the grapevine that employees found out about a layoff through a blog written by the CEO to the general public. Not you, the early adopter. And then, just to make your day, you get a letter from Tesla telling you that when your car is eventually delivered you will have to pay more than you originally had agreed to paying. Even the proprietary charger that was included in the base price is now going to cost you extra. Its like buying a battery operated toy and getting home only to find out that batteries were not included even though the salesman told you they were. AND you are paying more than the $100K you signed for. {“Honey? Don’t buy the organic wine for a couple of months!”]

If that is the case then you have arrived as most of the country cannot fathom (but fantasizes) about being so “lucky”.

Aptera (yeh, I will be cliche here and say “that Jetson looking EV”) is having its own bumps. Recently they were all ready to go into production having built a 70,000+ sq. ft. facility a third of the way between LA and San Diego and no man’s land and hire on a full team for their Robin Reliant by Dr. Who vision of the EV.  Candidates were aplenty but, you know, sorry, the project is on hold for a *few* months now. They are looking for additional funding now and won’t be hiring in the near future.

What about ZAP (which is such an adorbs car that I almost forgive them) and years of false promises and bad press?

The independent gas to electric conversion companies are still around, struggling, asking for capital (remember when we used to call it money?) but are still at least a year from fully operational and that is with conditions and a $20K plus price tag to convert your car of choice.

Fact is, this is not Tucker the Movie. It isn’t even Lee Iacoccoa’s world. For years- and I mean YEARS- the venture capital world has funded and lost its love of the EV. Many a CEO has probably told their families that the dot com they walked away from which gave them a nice life would be so much better if they gambled their equity (SLASH fortune) into something green, something progressive, something that will mean something to the kids. Oh, the justification of the green. Dollars, I mean.

So now the EV independents are jumping on the bail-out bandwagon. They’re asking the government to help them when for the last several years their venture capital seeking expeditions has forced them to suffer in Aspen, San Francisco, London, Paris, Miami and other low rent districts. It has been so hard for them.

So what about GM and the myths about these PR machines? GM is a PR machine too and talks a lot of talk and has yet to prove anything EV but they are working (and I mean hard) to meet this. But why? Because of demand. Irony is that everyone loves the idea that their dollars count and for years and years Normal Joe’s have “voted” for high consumption guzzlers while their [INSERT FRIEND/RELATIVE HERE] was getting paid (and paid WELL with health care) for making the cars that they demanded.

Not that anyone really cares. It is fun to place blame. And, oh, that Joe? He is mad now. And his kids don’t have healthcare because he didn’t want to be that guy on the line.

… but everyone has an opinion despite the fact that if everyone complaining actually owned their past demands then they would realize the the fault does not lie in the car companies and that despite of the fact that you can’t wander without tripping over yet another EV company, the alt.fuel deficit all belongs to every one of us.

And yeh. I am back.


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2 Responses to “ State of the Independent EV: Buddy Can You Spare a Ni-MH ”

  1. You’re spot on, Michelle. In this down economy, I’m sure even venture capitalists are feeling the pinch. But they also want a return on their investment. If they feel a company isn’t viable, then they’ll think twice about pouring money into it. In my opinion, these government bailouts are a bad idea. A government making huge investments in private companies means the government may feel inclined to make suggestions on how said company will be run; i.e., telling a company they’re not green enough. I appreciate your candor. Keep it up!

  2. […] in India when there were barely any IT companies or venture capitalists in India?You can listen State of the Independent EV: Buddy Can You Spare a Ni-MH – 01/26/2009 Recently I “overheard” someone say that if a small company like […]