EVs, Hybrids, Plug-Ins, Zero-Emitters: What Comes After The Prius?

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The Smiths have a Ford, and the Johnsons have a Nissan… but how long will it take the Jones to have a Tesla in your neighborhood?

Tesla Motors, along with Ford and Nissan, were recently awarded loans from the US Energy Department, totaling about $8 billion, to help automakers transition to making more fuel-efficient vehicles. Tesla Motors, which produces high performance, consumer-oriented battery electric vehicles, received $465 million to finance the manufacturing plant for their Model S, as well building a powertrain plant. The Model S, an electric sedan, expected to start production in 2011, will cost roughly $49,900, after a $7,500 tax credit.

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“Tesla will use the loan precisely the way that Congress intended — as the capital needed to build sustainable transport,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a statement. “We are honored that the U.S. government selected Tesla to be among the first companies to participate in this progressive program.”

Progressive, sure. Eco-friendly, yes. But will it be cheaper overall? I would imagine people would be turned off by the sticker price of nearly $50,000 for the Tesla Model S. The theory behind investing in an electric car is the high cost of purchasing an EV (electric vehicle) will be offset by the amount of money on gas. Also, according to the EPA, the federal government is offering buyers a little something extra: a tax credit equal to 10% (up to $4,000) of the total purchase cost. And those that live in certain states may also be eligible for partial sales tax exemptions, one-time income tax credits, or reduced license and registration fees.

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Ford, who received $5.9 billion, will use their loan to retool and upgrade their factories in 5 states to build 13 fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford will also use some of their offerings in other fuel-efficient projects, which will include electric versions of the Transit Connect van in 2010, the Ford Focus in 2011 and more hybrids, including a plug-in, by 2012.

“This is the kind of partnership that will help American manufacturing not just survive, but thrive,”said Alan Mulally, Ford President. “Ford intends to be the fuel-economy leader.”

Nissan will use their $1.6 billion loan to refurbish a Tennessee factory to produce electric cars. The company plans to produce a zero-emission vehicle with a range of up to 100 miles before needing to be recharged. The unnamed vehicle will be first built in Japan before production is started in the US.

“This loan is an investment in America,” Dominique Thormann, Nissan North America senior vice president, said in a statement. “It will help us put high-quality, affordable zero-emissions vehicles on our roads. This project will expand our Smyrna plant, and that’s great economic news.”

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This was the first round of loans of the $25 billion planned to aid automakers produce more fuel-efficient cars. Since the Obama Administration has announced that its raising fuel-efficiency standards from current average of 27.5 mpg to 35 mpg by 2016, these loans are intended to help achieve the goal.

The Department of Energy has said more loans will be awarded over the next few months. As the price of gasoline continues to fluctuate and steadily increase, the race to build and market eco-friendly cars has gotten more intense. It is only a matter of time before we start to share the road with more fuel-efficient cars … besides the Toyota Prius!

[photo credits: jmchuffchar1iejpchow98jonanamary on Flickr]

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1 Comment

  1. Great read! I have all the confidence that Fomoco and Nissan will strength their ability to produce a more robust hybrid lineup but, I wish I could say the same about Tesla. Their constant internal struggles seem to only hurt their end product and lower consumer confidence. Where’s that 2-speed transmission that we were all promised a year ago? If you ask me, drop Tesla and disperse the funding to companies that can deliver a product from soup to nuts.

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