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Government Money Electrifies Carmakers

The government is dishing out funding for battery-powered vehicles and carmakers are jockeying for a slice of the electric cheese. Way back on the campaign trail, President Obama voiced his desire to convert the White House vehicle fleet to battery power within the year, and by 2012 to replace half of the federal government’s cars with plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles. 

Now in office, on April 9, Obama announced plans to purchase 17,600 American-made, fuel-efficient cars and hybrids for government use. If the plans go through, by June1, the government could spend $285 million of the stimulus package to buy the new, more efficient vehicles from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. 

"We look forward to showing him the many GM vehicles we have that will fit this purpose," GM spokesman Kerry Christopher said. (1) 

In particular, electric cars are increasingly popular with the feds’ checkbooks as the technology shows more promise for practical use, and the car guys are making their bids:


The Indiana-based startup is the proud owner of the IDEA, a100-mpg plug-in hybrid electric van the company wants to sell to fleet customers and government agencies. 

"We are ready to provide the necessary automotive leadership our nation is calling for," Chief Executive John Waters said in a conference call with reporters. 

Waters said the company has applied for a $450 million loan from a Department of Energy program designed to help automakers develop fuel-efficient technology.

Waters explained that the IDEA would run solely on batter power for 30 miles before it switches over to a conventional hybrid (using gasoline and battery power). He said that the IDEA’s proclaimed 100 mpg rating is an estimate based on the assumption that a fleet driver averages 50 miles per day. (2)


When life gives you minivans…go postal? That’s the idea with Chrysler’s ENVI electric vehicle efforts. If the company can manage to stay alive past their restructuring effort plans that are due by the end of this month, Chrysler wants to supply the government with a fleet of all-electric Postal Service minivans that could hit the roads by 2013. 

Assuming that their judgment day passes in a positive manner, Chrysler plans to ask for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Transportation Electrification stimulus program. 

It could be a smart move as the Postal Service is currently looking to replace its antiquated and generally unsightly delivery vehicles with newer, more fuel efficient and environmentally conscious models. 

"Chrysler and the Postal Service have an established relationship as there are more than 10,000 of our minivans in the Postal Service fleet," said Lou Rhodes, Vice President-Advance Vehicle Engineering and President of ENVI, Chrysler LLC in a statement regarding the matter. 

"The Postal Service is a recognized environmental innovator and leader, and we are excited at the prospect of continuing our relationship by working to deliver alternative energy postal delivery vehicles in the future." (3)


Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed signs of stress in the pursuit for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy when he called New York Times writer, Randy Stross, “A huge douche bag,” and, “an idiot,” in a video interview with Yahoo! Tech Ticker. (4) 

In his article titled, “Only the Rich Can Afford It. Should Taxpayers Back It?” Stross questioned whether the electric car company should qualify for low interest loans from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, considering that Tesla sells highly expensive cars such as the $109,000 Tesla Roadster. 

After accusing Stross of being a douche bag, Musk explained that Tesla was not asking for government money to fund the Roadster, but the more affordable $50,000 Model S.

The Times issued a correction to Stross’ article to exemplify this point, and Musk remains confident that Tesla will indeed receive the loans to fund production of their relatively affordable and sporty electric. (5) 

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