Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
First, the San Francisco Chronicle sheds light on the Republicans anti-GM, anti-Tesla, anti-anything Obama strategy:
GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has complained about the political atmosphere that surrounds the Volt.
"Sometimes I feel bad for President Obama," he said this month after an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "This car was designed and committed to well before he was president, and it's called the 'Obamacar.' It's not the Obama car. I'm proud and I'm pleased that he thinks highly of it, but it's all on us. It's not a political issue."
The automaker accused Republicans and the media of hyping claims that the car caught fire during testing, which forced temporary layoffs at the Volt plant in Detroit.
Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan, has dropped pursuit of new federal loans, raised private cash and plans in July to start deliveries of its $50,000 S car, claiming it is on its way to the mass car market.
"We applied during the Bush administration, and we were approved under the Obama administration, so as far as we're concerned, we at least had a bipartisan relationship for the loan," said Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes. "We got one of first loans and we used it to build the car that is now going into production in a U.S.-based facility. ... I'd like to think we're pretty much a case study on what the loan program was designed to do."
Back in 2006, for instance, two years before Tesla started deliveries of the sporty $109,000 Tesla Roadster, its first (and so far only) model, Musk happened to write on his blog that the master plan for his company was fairly simple:
1. Build sports car
2. Use that money to build an affordable car
3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
4. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric-power generation options
Whether this turns out to be true or not, Tesla Motors is now poised to build its first semi- affordable car, which puts it between steps one and two of Musk's master plan. By July, the company says it will begin delivering its new Model S sedan, a fully electric vehicle that's being manufactured at Tesla's new factory, in Fremont, California. ... further down the road, should Tesla survive and thrive, a prospect that is by no means certain, things get more interesting. Later [in 2014], a third-generation Tesla Motors car will be unveiled. This is step three on the Musk master plan. The vehicle--it's not yet named--will be an affordable $30,000 car. It truly may be a Tesla for the masses.
A-man might want to look a semi-affordable Model S instead of a semi-affordable Leaf:
Not long ago, I spoke with Paul Scott, a longtime EV advocate who now works selling Nissan Leafs in downtown Los Angeles. The demand for the Leaf through 2011, he said, "was just outstanding." Scott sold nearly 200. But then Leaf production caught up with demand and what Scott perceives to be an initial group of early adopters all received their vehicles. "Then January came," Scott says, "and I didn't sell a single car the entire month."
The EV market remains enigmatic. And future sales may depend less on performance--or environmentalism--than on economics. At the moment, what's actually driving EV sales is government policy. Car companies, with their sights set on meeting high-mileage and low-emissions requirements for their fleets, view electric and hybrid vehicles as crucial to their vehicle portfolio. At the same time, customer rebates of up to $7,500 from the federal government and up to $2,500 from the state of California bring these cars into the realm of affordability. Yet two other factors shift the equation: The price of gas, though climbing, has remained fairly low over the past year, and the price of lithium-ion batteries is fairly high. By the calculations of Menahem Anderman, arguably the country's leading lithium-ion battery analyst, gas would have to be about $10 a gallon to recoup the lifetime cost of an EV like the Leaf. Anderman believes the economics look far better for the new plug-in Toyota Prius--$6 gas makes it a sensible economic proposition. In sum, his firm projects that the global EV market in 2015 will be quite modest in size (250,000 in sales) and will be dominated by Japanese and German automakers. Tesla, in his estimation, would be lucky to sell 15,000 cars.
I'm doing without a car for three weeks, and was thinking on the light rail this morning that I'd love to own a Prius v, but that the sensible thing might be to get a used pickup truck and only drive it when absolutely necessary.