Sunday, July 1, 2012

Leaf-y Green

"Okay.  I am squatting and plugging car into electric charger.  Somebody take my picture, quick...  Only one question - do I look like a baby 'pooping' to you?"

First, to you people reading this, I'm sorry.  I missed the article below when it first came out.

Second, yes, you do look like a 'baby pooping' to me.  Having three kids, I'd recognize that 'squat and stare' look anywhere.  If the camera were a bit closer I'd bet your face is red too...

Third, thanks Mr. Poopy-Pants for squatting next to the subject of today's post. 

National Legal and Policy Center, April 2012:  Nissan North America, Inc. – a subsidiary of its Japanese parent – is the beneficiary of a $1.4 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, to convert a plant in Smyrna, Tenn. to produce the Leaf and batteries for it. The project’s promoters say the alterations will lead to 1,300 new jobs, enabling Nissan to produce up to 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 battery packs per year, which will lead to the all-important avoidance of 204,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – or so they say.

But there’s just one problem: Sales of the Leaf are not much better than the Volt’s have been, and lately have been much worse. In 2011 Chevrolet sold 7,671 of its plug-in Volt, whose range is extended with the help of a small gasoline tank. Nissan sold 9,674 of the purely electric Leaf last year. So far through the end of March this year GM has delivered 4,095 Volts, while only 1,733 Leafs have been sold.

So if demand isn’t strong enough to keep a GM line running to build the Volt, how can the current level of sales for the Leaf justify the enormous plant investment Nissan is making in Tennessee? USA Today reported a few weeks ago that as gasoline prices reach $4 per gallon, electric vehicles still “face dark days.” Industry expert LMC Automotive predicts EV sales will remain below 1 percent through 2017.

[Insert Jeopardy theme-music here]  "Do dee do do do dee do, do dee do do, dit dee do do do do dee do..."

When logic fails to explain why a business would build something its customers do not appear to WANT, there can be only ONE logical answer.  If you are looking for affirmation, here comes the explanation from the nice folks at the NLPC:

Why would this be? Because even with billions of dollars in “investment” from the government to help Ford, Nissan, Fisker, Tesla, and The Vehicle Production Group build EVs, and to fund companies like Ecotality to build out a charging network at places like Cracker Barrel, the technology is impractical for most people.

Besides the obvious range anxiety [Moos Note:  Great, and I just got over my 'performance anxiety'.  Now there's MORE anxiety to worry about...] experienced by EV drivers, because the batteries don’t maintain their charge long enough, there’s the problem of lengthy times required to “fill up” again. Even the extremely expensive ($40,000 each) and hard-to-find “fast-chargers” (440 volt) take 30 minutes to get a Leaf going again for any reasonable distance, and most chargers require four to five hours to re-boost.


While Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn (pictured) would obviously love to see sales of the Leaf take off, he has said (in so many words) that government subsidies are the reason for his pursuit of EV technology, rather than successes based upon qualities such as value, styling, safety rankings, or popularity with the purchasing public. 

“It does not matter if, for example, Portugal stops the incentives, as long as other countries like the United States continue to support,” Ghosn told Reuters in October. “If countries like France, Japan and the UK support and then China, that is about to start to support, that's fine.”

The Brazilian-born Frenchman, who also chairs Renault, also does not hide the fact that he supports government control of markets and its attempts to stimulate technologies, no matter the cost.

“We must diversify the energy mix used to fuel our vehicles,” Ghosn wrote last month for Forbes. “Petroleum-based fuels now account for 96 percent of the world’s automotive energy mix. By mandating targets and requirements at the level of the state, we can increase the mix of renewable fuels.”


Meanwhile an analysis of fuel efficiency by the New York Times determined that it would take nine years before Leaf owners break even by saving money on gasoline versus the extra cost of the EV. That is a dubious assumption, since after that amount of time all – or a lot of – the depleted battery pack will need to be replaced. Time will tell, but if like most batteries it needs entire replacement, the cost is likely to exceed $30,000.

Nissan disputes that, of course. But is it worth risking the unknown for a vehicle that is only capable of traveling much fewer miles than would an equivalent gas-powered car such as the Nissan Versa or Chevy Cruze?

Not that that matters to Ghosn, since in his view, the purpose of the automobile business is to serve the collective through the manipulations of government.

“We have a social responsibility to ensure that this industry grows sustainably,” he wrote in his Forbes piece, “and if we uphold our responsibility, we will increase the quality of life for everyone on our planet.”

So, in the end, it boils down again to the 'Greater Good', 'Social Justice', 'Fairness', and 'What the government will subsidize'.  These vehicles do not have to be profitable, or desired, or competitive in the market, but rather, it is the very appearance of caring (with US taxpayers footing the bill) which matters to Nissan. 

Oh, and the $1.4 BILLION which you EPA personally committed (for YOU!) to fund Nissan's building of these electrified AMC Pacers helps too. 

Go ahead, look again, you'll KNOW it's true...

Nissan Leaf 2012

1976 AMC Pacer

The major similarities between these two vehicles:

  • Both are blue
  • Both are 'Bone Ugly'
  • Both are destined to be CLASSICS
  • The first was introduced during Jimmy Carter's First term, and the second, during Jimmy Carter's Second...  And Final, Term

The major difference between these two vehicles?

  • The $1.4 BILLION you funded got you two more doors (and batteries which cost $30,000 to replace)

Although, I hear our money wasn't completely wasted.  President Obama's getting a new limo to cruise around in while campaigning...

Wow, that's going to need a LOT of batteries...
But the paint job is sooooooo radical - just like the man himself!

Luckily for US, we're already investing in most of the companies funding these 'green energy battery manufacturers'.  President Obama believes in 're-investment'.

He re-invests YOUR money into things he wants to succeed - regardless of it they are profitable, sustainable, marketable...  Or not. 

Well, it's not like it HIS money.  He ought to 'spread the wealth around', right?

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