Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Electric-Car Companies Grab U.S. Cash to Blunt Risks

From Bloomberg.com:

Electric-car makers ranging from Ford Motor Co. to California startups are using $11 billion in taxpayer funds to supply a market that doesn’t yet exist.

Fisker Automotive Inc., backed by a $528.7 million U.S. loan, said today it will join the rush to the assembly line by buying a closed Delaware plant from the former General Motors Corp. for $18 million. It will spend $175 million to refurbish and retool the factory to build plug-in hybrid cars.

Obama administration aid to spur demand for more fuel- efficient autos is luring companies including General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. into the electric-car push. The result may be a supply of new vehicles that outstrips demand, said Michael Omotoso, a senior manager for J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Michigan.

“The U.S. government is saying we’ll have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015; we’re saying it will take three to five years longer,” Omotoso said. “Realistically, manufacturers could be selling 80,000 to 100,000 by 2015.”

Investors betting on acceptance of electric autos include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture-capital firm that employs former Vice President Al Gore and is backing Fisker.

“A huge amount of private capital is on the sideline, so a new locus for funding right now is the U.S. government,” said Ray Lane, a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins who works on the firms’ alternative energy investments. “The Department of Energy has stepped into the role of private capital, at least temporarily.”

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