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$529M Gov't Loan To Develop $89,000 Hybrid Sports Car

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the please-tell-me-it-has-lasers dept.

Businesses 293

theodp writes "The WSJ reports that a tiny car company backed by former VP Al Gore has just gotten a $529M US government loan to help build an $89,000 hybrid sports car in Finland. The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive follows an earlier $465M government loan to Tesla Motors, purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster. Fisker's other investors (PDF) include the Al Gharaffa Investment Co., a Cayman Islands corporation."

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Hybrid car (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548175)

The article makes it sound like it would only be a car for the "elite", but I think the hybrid/electric car development also plays a big role in it. Considering how shitty hybrid car development is by far, its only good. And maybe now US can stop relying so much on oil too.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548207)

Hybrid cars will not reduce the amount to oil required by our society. It just moves the burning of it from each individual car to a central power plant. All they will do is reduce the polution output since it is easier to monitor one large plant than several thousand cars.

Re:Hybrid car (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548233)

You do understand theres other kinds of power plants than just oil? Water power is really green, and nuclear power aswell (and the worries about that aren't really adjusted; theres nuclear reactons everywhere)

Re:Hybrid car (5, Funny)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548279)

But why can't we just build hydroelectric dams or fission reactors right into the car itself? Or better yet...wind powered cars. Just think how fast a wind turbine would spin on top of a car going 80MPH. The thing would practically power itself.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548289)

Yes but they take much longer to come on stream than just building a big diesel generator. Besides water is all tapped out. Wind does not give power on demand and nuclear is (insert scarry music here) is well NUCLEAR!!!!

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548561)

The demand-responsive power generators that you are searching for are called Natural Gas. They are relatively clean and efficient.

Oil itself is only burned for power in 3rd world countries and indian reserves anymore.

Re:Hybrid car (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548313)

You do understand theres other kinds of power plants than just oil? Water power is really green, and nuclear power aswell (and the worries about that aren't really adjusted; theres nuclear reactons everywhere)

Hydro is all used up; we're not building any more big dams. Same goes with nukes (there's one still in the process of being built, but I wouldn't hold my breath). So anything which results in increased demand for electricity is going to mostly end up increasing burning of coal.

Re:Hybrid car (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548373)

Solar, wind, and tidal all have massive unused potentials.

Re:Hybrid car (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548457)

If we were going to use them, we would have done so already while oil was cheap. Now it is not and won't be again. Solar/Wind/Tidal are just tools built from oil for increasing the EROEI of the invested oil. They are fundamentally not a replacement for oil.

Re:Hybrid car (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548481)

You're forgetting the fact that companies tend to be short sighted and won't invest in something new when they already have something for very very cheap. Why do you think people are actually investing and researching into these types of technologies now and didn't really do so before?

Re:Hybrid car (1)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548511)

Hydro power requires particular geographic features, so we probably won't be building many more of those, but nuclear power plants can be built everywhere, and the only reason we're not building them is because people are irrationally scared. Just because we're being stupid right now doesn't mean that we're required to remain stupid for the rest of time.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548545)

Hydro is all used up; we're not building any more big dams. Same goes with nukes (there's one still in the process of being built, but I wouldn't hold my breath). So anything which results in increased demand for electricity is going to mostly end up increasing burning of coal.

Hydro is not all used up. There's at least 30,000 Megawatts according to a DOE study:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/07/16/hearstmaggreen397387.DTL

Re:Hybrid car (3, Informative)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548573)

Hydro is all used up; we're not building any more big dams. Same goes with nukes (there's one still in the process of being built, but I wouldn't hold my breath). So anything which results in increased demand for electricity is going to mostly end up increasing burning of coal.

Ahem... [wikipedia.org] Also... [wikipedia.org]

However you are right, we are only going to be increasing our coal consumption dramatically as we change our energy demands to electrical. Hopefully people do not ignore the long term environmental effects of electricity generation. At any rate the coal companies do have a point... centralized generation of any kind is bound to be less polluting then having millions of tiny little gas engines spreading the pollution all over the world.

Re:Hybrid car (5, Interesting)

Alef (605149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548395)

Furthermore, even if the power comes from fossil fuel plants, emissions can be controlled to a much higher degree at a central location compared to thousands of car engines scattered everywhere and moving around. For instance, technology is currently being developed to capture carbon dioxide from the combustion and pump it back into the ground.

Another advantage is that excess heat may be used to heat buildings (i.e. a CHP-plant [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:Hybrid car (2, Interesting)

TroyM (956558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548429)

Hawaii is the only place in the US that uses oil for a significant amount of electricity. On the mainland it's coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, plus some wind and solar. I doubt oil is used to produce even 1% of electricity in the mainland US.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548741)

Currently in the US, Nuclear Power Plants store their waste in gigantic vats... Located right next to the nuclear powerr plant...

Re:Hybrid car (2, Informative)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548235)

Not every nation rely on oil to provide electricity.

Nuclear, hydroelectricity, wind, solar, etc...

Re:Hybrid car (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548291)

"All they will do is reduce the polution output"

Well yeah, that's kinda the whole point, right?

Re:Hybrid car (5, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548239)

I agree; look at any commodity...in this case, let's say the home computer...and then look backwards in history. Early on, the progeny of such items were expensive, and there's a reason for that. It takes a hell of a lot of money to solve the early challenges, and only after they get solved do issues of producing something more cheaply get worked out. In addition to that, if you look at normal automotive development, you'll see that a lot of the R&D actually takes place in the F1 circuit. Talk about expensive, but it's what gave us a lot of the features we now have for ordinary cars, like ABS. But even then, it was only the most expensive cars that got those features first, before it became cheaper and cheaper. At this point, every Chevrolet made has ABS, and it's been like that for years.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548295)

and I disabled my chevy ABS in the snow and dirt they are dangerous....
but in my parent 45000$ dollar Asian car the abs brake are wonderful....

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548349)

Yeah but intel, etc didn't beg the government for a handout to do it...

Re:Hybrid car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548409)

It's not a handout. It's a LOAN. You know what a loan is, right? It's money you pay back, often with interest.

Re:Hybrid car (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548447)

Yeah but intel, etc didn't beg the government for a handout to do it...

Uh, yeah they fucking did!

Intel has received hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks -- that's flat-out gift money, by the way -- to build their fabs in Oregon as opposed to someplace else. And they've done this multiple times. The total subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives they've received in their life time is huge.

But a loan is suddenly "begging the government for a handout" and something no other brand new technology had to do? Please! Let's say they never pay back a single dime -- then they're only equal to hundreds of other businesses.

Re:Hybrid car (0)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548679)

Marketplace, on NPR did a series this whole week on the 'unwinding the bailout'. Every economist and expert they interviewed said the same thing-- none of these loans the government has made to boost the economy will be repaid. They said we need to write off billions and stop fooling ourselves about getting it back. Loan is the new word for gift because the public has become touch about money.

Re:Hybrid car (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548723)

Every economist and expert they interviewed said the same thing-- none of these loans the government has made to boost the economy will be repaid.

I believe it, I just don't think that's such a terrible thing in this case. And it's 100% not new.

Loan is the new word for gift because the public has become touch about money.

You'd think in today's America that the word "loan" would automatically be associated with something that isn't going to be paid back :)

home computer...and then look backwards in history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548363)

The government didn't have do subsidize the home computer industry.

People (some just stoners in a garage) built products that people wanted and the market of willing consumers did the rest.

Re:home computer...and then look backwards in hist (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548487)

Yeah, I guarantee you nobody fabricated silicon ICs in their garage.

Look at the actual technology involved, and you'll see government subsidies -- not loans, subsidies -- are part and parcel of high-tech development.

Re:home computer...and then look backwards in hist (1)

yelvington (8169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548535)

You anonymous cowards are clueless.

Governments around the world, and especially the U.S. government, HEAVILY subsidized the home computing industry.

The #`1 driver of ramp-up in demand for home computing devices was the Internet, which was directly the result of government spending (much of it military research).

Fabrication plants around the world are located where they are largely because of government subsidies, inducements, tax breaks, loans, etc. Recent examples: Dell got $200 million to build a plant in Winston-Salem, NC. Google got a $100 million incentive to build a data center in North Carolina.

"Stoners in a garage" may have bolted together some pre-existing parts to create usable devices, but there's a lot more to the creation of the home computer industry than that. Where do you think those parts came from? Why were they created?

Re:Hybrid car (3, Interesting)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548599)

ABS was developed first for airplanes.

That's actually totally backwards. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548773)

I agree; look at any commodity...in this case, let's say the home computer...and then look backwards in histor

Actually, that's completely wrong and computers are the best example of it. When you say that something is cheaper, you have to do the multiply and consider the quantity, to get the real cost. Look at how many players with some capital could get into the hardware business previously. There used to be scores of CPUs out there, and now there's but a handful. Similarly look at how many operating systems there used to be.

The reason is because of expanding markets. Sure, the costs might be about the same or slightly smaller for the consumer, but, for the producer, they have gotten much much higher. How much does it cost to build a FAB these days? How many lines of code do you need to have a credible operating system? The Linux kernel is what, over a million lines long? That's almost twice as many lines Bill Gates famously proclaimed computers might need in -bytes-.

The complexity is staggering, and so are the costs behind it. The only thing that mitigates the complexity is the development of abstraction and tools but those too cost money. It would be a lot easier to make a DOS today than it was in 1980 largely because the compiler and other tools are better, but those tools are not good enough to make a kernel that satisfies today's market as cheap as it was to make a 1980s kernel with 1980's tools.

Now to go back to your original Chevy concept, I'd be willing to bet that you could probably build a 1970s era Pontiac GTO for less than $2000 in today's money, really because the engines and transmissions on those things are so simple compared to today's vehicles that you could probably get a CNC to make all the parts for you, and with much better perfection than they were made using the old ways. The only real labor cost would be in the assembly and the materials, paradoxically, would probably be cheaper as there's not the same demand for the heavier but higher grade steel used to make pre-oil shock American cars. Cars have actually gotten much more expensive, even considering inflation, and the reason is really due to both regulation and competitive pressures. Even now the shrinkage of car brands is part of a trend that has been going on now for a century. There used to be -thousands- of car manufacturers. Now how many are left?

And how much does it cost to get started? What, 500M for Mr. Gore? 500M for Tesla? 100 years ago it was a tool shop and a garage.

Bottom line is, if someone cannot make an electric car profitably now, it probably means that it is not profitable, period. Throwing public money after it would only be useful to the extent that it encourages engineering problems to be solved to hopefully make it profitable. If we were going to throw taxpayer dollars at anything, we should be researching nuclear power, batteries, and ultra capacitors.

Re: TFA, Is this a Mohawk or American fast food (-1, Offtopic)

bitemykarma (1515895) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548197)

I'm sick and fucking tired of web sites what are a slim stip of content down the middle, with horseshit on the side.

Re: TFA, Is this a Mohawk or American fast food (-1, Offtopic)

bitemykarma (1515895) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548219)

I'm sick and fucking tired of web sites that are a slim stip of content down the middle, with horseshit on the side.

The summary reeks of an agenda (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548227)

How about just letting me read the article and see for myself?

Re:The summary reeks of an agenda (1)

Trebawa (1461025) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548439)

That's why there's links. If you don't want summaries, don't read a newsblog.

Re:The summary reeks of an agenda (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548445)

And if you did read the article, you would see the summary is an almost word for word copy and paste job from the article.

Re:The summary reeks of an agenda (0, Flamebait)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548537)

The summary reeks of an agenda

Just like Al Gore. Not long ago, back in April, he was incensed in the Congress [youtube.com] when questioned about whether or not he would personally benefit from environmental legislation. If Republicans were giving themselves half a billion government dollars, we'd never hear the end of it. I guess that's the Democrat playbook:

1. Invest in companies that can "solve some issue".
2. Make liberals feel bad about the issue.
3. Liberals feel so bad they campaign to enact legislation to fix the issue.
4. Write legislation to give companies you've backed massive amounts of money.
5. Profit!
6. Laugh at the idiots that support you, they're too stupid to realize that you're taking advantage of them. Rinse and repeat.

Re:The summary reeks of an agenda (0, Troll)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548575)

Actually, a few hundred million is chump change. Republicans already gave themselves several trillion dollars.

It's called George Bush's Iraq War and his administration's bailout of Wall Street late last year.

Money spent on saving the planet is money well spent.

Re:The summary reeks of an agenda (3, Insightful)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548605)

The majority of the people working at Financial Institutions aren't Republicans, just take a look at their campaign contributions.

Typical (4, Insightful)

token_username (1415329) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548231)

I'd say this is a typical example of an elite environmentalist. I pity the people who don't see they are merely using people and care only minimally for the environmment.

Re:Typical (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548351)

In the way that gamer early-adopters help fund computer components the rest of us later buy for dirt cheap, early-adopter rich folk can fund tech that will trickle down. Toys don't have to be built on the scale (and at the massive risk level) of mass market products.

We are in the infancy of alternative vehicle tech. Lots of companies won't survive (no problem) but we need them to pursue development that large automakers will not.

Re:Typical (3, Informative)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548415)

So let the rich people fund it with their own money, not force everyone through government coercion.

Re:Typical (2, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548499)

Then we'd have very little innovation. Believe it or not, a lot of companies in a very vast array of different fields have received government money in some fashion along their point in time. Besides, the rich do fund the initial startup costs. These loans are to help build new facilities to ramp up production.

Re:Typical (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548787)

We tried that, Bush didn't invest much in green tech and it didn't work, now lets try something else!

Re:Typical (3, Insightful)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548353)

I think it's the other way around. People make largely symbolic choices -- driving a marginally more fuel efficient car that costs five times more to build, for example -- rather than making real sacrifices for the environment. Go to a typical supermarket this morning and look at the choices people make. People buy produce flown in from Argentina, beef raised using unsustainable practices and products whose packaging is unnecessarily elaborate. The number of people living in suburbs (accessible only by car and inefficient in so many other ways), the paucity of clotheslines in those suburbs and the size of cars in people's driveways all point to how little people are willing to sacrifice for the environment. Then along comes Fisker, offering very expensive scapegoats for secular yuppies, on which their collective sins can be heaped and because of which they can spend the rest of the weekend grilling tuna steaks while feeling good. Fisker's customers are *using* the product as a means of feeling better about themselves and as a way of taking action on something they think they care about without really changing their lifestyles. For its part, Fisker is going to push hybrid technology forward and (hopefully) accelerate the diffusion of more fuel efficient cars. They're not to blame here if only because they're working to satisfy a demand that comes from people choosing to buy a clean conscience in the same way that they buy Cheerios. Living without a car -- that would be a sacrifice.

Re:Typical (2, Insightful)

spearway (169040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548431)

And why is the sacrifice good? Except for some extreme religious folks, most people would rather enjoy life. Presenting environment consciousness as a sacrifice may be a good way to start the environment religion but I would be surprised if this message ever gain mainstream acceptance. Finding sustainable solution that enables us to maintain our way of life is probably a better message.From everything I have read there maintaining a good and easy life while keeping the planet cool are not incompatible goals. I don't see what the "sacrifice" has to do with good engineering.

Re:Typical (0, Flamebait)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548577)

there is no shortage of energy in the universe, so I reject the notion of making sacrifices for your environment-god. the world has been much colder and much hotter than it is now, carbon dioxide concentrations many times what they are now. life adapts. humans are natural, anything humans do is by definition natural. humans are the most important thing in this world, no mere animal or group of animals is as important as humans.

fuck man-hating enviro-nazis and their religion. if they believe man is a burden and curse on the universe, they can make a sacrifice and hurl themselves off a cliff.

Re:Typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548689)

> carbon dioxide concentrations many times what they are now.

This is a red herring consistently brought up by global warming skeptics. There has been no time in history that the RATE of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere was as high as it is now. At the current rate, it will take less than 100 years for the CO2 concentrations to grow many times higher than at any point in history. That's the danger.

Re:Typical (1)

ahankinson (1249646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548719)

...and food has always been flown all over the world at unsustainable levels, plastic has lived in the ocean for centuries, fossil fuels have always been burned like they're water, and farmland has always been paved over for cities.[/sarcasm]

I love it when people say "Look, this is only a passing fad. The earth has been much hotter before! Life adapts!" without realizing that the game has changed. Yes, carbon dioxide levels have been higher before, but that's about where the comparisons stop. The *reasons* why they're higher are fundamentally different; so much so that I don't think it's helpful to simply dismiss this as just a natural occurrence. We're not talking about the inability for life to adapt, we're talking about creating an hostile environment so quickly that life can't adapt. This hasn't happened over thousands of years, it's happened in less than 200.

Re:Typical (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548709)

The shipping of produce around the world often contributes less to the energy cost of the produce than the drive home from the supermarket (because the shipping is done very efficiently, and the driving is done in a mostly empty car).

Of course, compared to taking a multivitamin, eating any vegetables that didn't come from your own garden is incredibly indulgent (in your sacrifice-is-noble world).

Re:Typical (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548647)

Hey, they need to make cars that have a competitive market. If you have 100k USD to spend on your next car, what would you buy? You need to think of that kind of people to pay for the development of future technology. Government is betting on the fact that a sports car could generate market and of course revenue to keep going.

How many people have bought very expensive computers and cellphones, so others will get them later for around or less than $100 USD?

Sincerely, maybe they can even get some advise from Steve Jobs! ;)

frist lolcat make frist lolpost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548245)

kthxbye

Fruits of a corrupt government (0, Troll)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548253)

Thank god for welfare and patronage! How else could I pay for a boutique sports car that I will probably never be able to afford?

Re:Fruits of a corrupt government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548297)

So handing out those billions to multinational financial institutions and auto-makers is also welfare and patronage? These government loans are the result of the US bailout, which was supported by both america's parties, and I don't believe that either of those are all that supportive of "welfare and patronage".

Re:Fruits of a corrupt government (2, Informative)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548455)

Neither of them likes Capitalism anymore, that's for sure.

US technology (4, Insightful)

nickovs (115935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548273)

Much is being made of the US Govt is funding these cars that are to be built outside the US, but the fact is that the technology is going to be owned by a US company. Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US. It seems perfectly reasonable for the US govt to underwrite creation of valuable technology that will benefit the US in the long term. People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

Re:US technology (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548323)

People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

Now try to square that statement with the state of the US primary and secondary educational systems...

Re:US technology (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548419)

"Now try to square that statement with the state of the US primary and secondary educational systems..."

The US is large, and the elite and uniquely gifted will continue to innovate.

The herd (often given more respect than it deserves, which is...none) will remain as it wants to be, ignorant, superstitious, and vile. The herd resents education, so instead of angering the beasts we should seek an "educated counterculture" that can become powerful. Let the beasts have their reality shows and their Bible, their bread and circuses. The idea that the masses can ever be educated and ennobled is absurd because they hate the idea.

Re:US technology (4, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548559)

Man, you would make an AWESOME dictator! You're like the bastard love-child of Caesar and Stalin. Please, please, PLEASE get involved in politics!

Re:US technology (1)

Shark (78448) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548743)

Wow, Al Gore himself couldn't have said it any better.... Wait, is that you?

Re:US technology (3, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548355)

Much is being made of the US Govt is funding these cars that are to be built outside the US, but the fact is that the technology is going to be owned by a US company. Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US.

Unless the big profits just happen to be made by an offshore sub-contractor which just happens to be owned by the people behind Fisker ;-)
Seriously, giving money to multinational corporations is just asking for that kind of scam. And when it happens, it will probably use a loophole in the laws so these guys do not even risk jail time.

Besides, hybrid technology is not that new anymore. I have my doubts if it should be reason enough for governments to fund a new car maker. A better use of tax money would be battery research that is released under Open Access, with the patents going to the public domain.

Re:US technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548369)

Since one out of every nine people in the United States is living on food stamps it might be reasonable to keep a few manufacturing jobs around. Not many people can benefit from "underwriting creation of valuable technology."

Re:US technology (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548407)


Fisker is essentially outsourcing every aspect of their development but the resulting technology, and the profits, will accrue to the US business and be taxed in the US.

Right. So the economic benefits will only go to a select few who (if successful) become super-rich. The lions share of the economic benefits will go outside the United States, as profit margins for the auto industry are typically in the single digits [theonlineinvestor.com] .

SO the best case scenario is that a few people in the US get super-rich and we get to tax what the super-rich haven't been able to hide away using creative accounting and loopholes. The worst case scenario is nobody in the US makes any money, the US Government loses the loan, and all the money we loaned out goes overseas. So how is this such a great economic idea?

Re:US technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548471)

People need to get over the fact that the US is now a post-industrial nation who's future lies in innovation rather than manufacturing.

Innovate by outsourcing everything but somehow (how?) keeping the benefits here in the US? I'm not sure how that works.

What really grinds my gears about this is that it is another example of the government playing favorites and picking winners based on what lobbyist is on what side.

Re:US technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548505)

The IP behind all those "China" phones in southeast Asia are also owned by US companies... they just happen to cost a quarter the value. To give an example... HTC Touch became HIC Touch (the "I" with the two hori. bars), that single one bar difference is worth more than $100.

Re:US technology (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548607)

Sorry, but this doesnâ(TM)t cut it. Some of the most important technology in a hybrid is components. The real innovation lies in the components â" such as batteries and power electronics. I doubt that one car design would create so much IP.

It would have been cool if the DOE rather gave the half a billion to several USA start-ups working in those areas. A good example is Battery manufacture which has a shitload of challenges (and opportunities).

The above looks like a revolving door scheme â" the company give money for an election campaign to the politicians and now the politicians give public money back. A company that gives $2.2 million dollars in political donations already have enough money.

Vote for change! (0, Flamebait)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548325)

People wanted "change", and Socialism is what they voted for and what they are getting. Is this coming as some surprise?

Don't blame me... I wasted my vote, as usual... Libertarian. Nothing will ever be fixed until we get rid of the only-two-party-system. That means instant-runoff voting and elimination of the electoral college.

Re:Vote for change! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548385)

Socialism, no. Corporatism, yes. As a...Libertarian, I'd think you would know the difference.

Re:Vote for change! (4, Insightful)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548443)

Actually, I am a realistic and moderate Libertarian. I don't believe the state should tell people what to do with their bodies, I don't believe in so much government (and taxes). I believe in more personal freedom *AND* responsibility that goes with it (including the ability to fail and suffer). But I understand the need for regulation and fair markets plus inclusion in the world economy and affairs (...to a point).

Extreme Libertarianism doesn't work any more than extreme anything.

But one thing is for sure, without REAL competition in the party system, there can be no real change. Even if people are not "for" any of the so-called "third parties", they should still support the idea of it being POSSIBLE for "third parties" to really participate and put real pressure on the "two parties". Choice is good. It is good for people, it is good for business, it is good for government. The way the system is setup now, there is no real choice... your vote only really works for the Republicrats or the Democans.

Re:Vote for change! (0, Flamebait)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548399)

Actually, people DO want socialism. They just want NO taxes to go with it. Cause they're greedy dumbfucks. Look at all the people bitching about socialist healthcare and yelling that they don't want the government taking over Medicare.

(In case you're a moron, Medicare is a socialist program)

People also complain about bad roads, service at the DMV, public education, all while saying they don't want to pay for it. NO FUCKING DUH! If you vote down the school budget three times, you're going to have stupid kids.

Clearly, you don't have a clue about Socialism (0, Troll)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548597)

Had it been socialism that was voted in, there would have been no government loan at all.
Instead, the now nationalized GM would spend that money churning out bicycles. And you would be explained in detail why is that better and healthier than a car.
Flag waiving, national anthem singing and generally reaching out to your patriotic spirit would probably be included - but that is the tool any government uses.
You know... Like those little lapel flag-pins, or pledging "allegiance to the flag...", or playing the national anthem at local sports events (which don't include foreign teams)...

Had the people voted in totalitarianism - you would be punished for using anything BUT the government provided bicycle.

 
This situation is actually just plain old capitalism. Only with some actual sense included.
See... They get a $529 mill. LOAN to produce expensive cars at $89,000 a pop - and they have already pre-sold 1500 of those.
Seems to me like they already have the quarter of that loan paid off.

Also... note how I said "expensive cars" at $89,000, while the Tesla Roadster costs about $109,000 according to TFA.
That is because of this part:

Matt Rogers, who oversees the department's loan programs as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said Fisker was awarded the loan after a "detailed technical review" that concluded the company could eventually deliver a highly fuel-efficient hybrid car to a mass audience. Fisker said most of its DOE loan will be used to finance U.S. production of a $40,000 family sedan that has yet to be designed.

The money is there to actually build a family car.
Sure. Part of it will go towards production of the more expensive variant - because that sells better. So the loan could be repaid sooner without interfering with the creation of the family version of the car.
So everyone would make more money. You know... like in capitalism.

Oh... And as the article obviously wants to point out how THIS is money thrown away at expensive cars:

The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive Inc. [$529 million U.S. government loan ] follows a $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors Inc., purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster.

Fisker's government loans will come from a $25 billion program established by Congress in 2007 to help auto makers invest in the technology to meet a new congressional mandate to improve fuel efficiency. In June, the DOE awarded the first $8 billion from the program to Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., and Tesla, which are all developing electric cars.

Soo... there is this 8 billion dollars pile of money...
From which Tesla got $0.465 bill.
Fisker got $0.529 bill.

How much did that leave for Ford and Nissan?

Re:Clearly, you don't have a clue about Socialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548651)

You right, this isn't socialism. Its a lot closer to fascism then socialism. By fascism, I speak of the kind that Woodrow Wilson had between 1916 and 1920 along with what was done by Mussolini in the 1920's/30's.

For those who don't believe Wilson was a fascist, remember this. He ordered that newspapers that disagreed with his policies to not receive newsprint and ordered the postmaster general to not deliver mail of groups who opposed him. There was a crisis of World War 1 going on.

And what did Ralm Emmanuel (1/2 of Obamas brain, the other half being Axelrod)? Never let a crisis go to waste.

Re:Clearly, you don't have a clue about Socialism (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548735)

> This situation is actually just plain old capitalism.

No it is not. In a free, capitalist market, the government does not "loan" nor "give" corporations money, nor does it "bail them out". Companies are supposed to seek private investments, sell stock, woo investment brokers, etc. THAT is capitalism. The role of the government should be only to set and enforce the ground rules (protect the environment, prevent monopolies, stop extortion, etc).

> Soo... there is this 8 billion dollars pile of money...

And therein is an even bigger problem. There *isn't* an 8 billion dollar pile of money. Instead, there is a 10 *trillion* dollar public debt and growing all the time. "More recently the debt increased from $5,629 billion to $9,926 billion during the George W. Bush presidency from 2000 to 2008. The debt is now projected to double under the Obama presidency to a level close to 97% of GDP".

Re:Clearly, you don't have a clue about Socialism (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548747)

Parent is NOT a troll. Angry and sharp, yes, but he's not trolling. I don't agree with him much, but he did point out useful facts, and just because you disagree with someone is no reason to call them a troll. I found this post to be insightful, if misguided. I'd critique it further, but I'm simply out of time today. This use of "Troll mod to all who disagree with me" is far too common here on slashdot.

Alert Rush, George, Ron and Ann (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548359)

I've got an even bigger scoop. Some firm called General Motors Just got Billions from the government and is going to make real cars in another big Socialist country, Red China .

too little, too late. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548367)

This is a waste of money. Hybrid cars are a waste. We dont need patch up jobs for older technology paired with (in my opinion) already outdated tech.

At least Tesla Motors is on the right track. 500+KM on 45 min charge (recyclable lith ion batteries), engineered by Lotus. and around 2012 be able to get your hands on a model S for under 40,000 (dont quote me on price, check out their site). and if you are in Canada the gov is giving immediate $4000-$10000 grants to citizens who buy a "green" car.

And yes, the sports version is a tad expensive (125,000 and +extra for Roaster Sport). Though is can accelerate faster than any known porche or ferrari (excluding the Enzo). At least thats what their CEO said....

Re:too little, too late. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548547)

At least Tesla Motors is on the right track. 500+KM on 45 min charge (recyclable lith ion batteries),

O, ye delusional fanboy.

From Tesla [teslamotors.com] :
Home Connector
Charging rate of 56 miles range per hour at max power
The Home Connector is the fastest way to charge your Roadster and ideal to install in your garage. You can fully recharge your car - from empty to full - in less than 4 hours. This is the most "intelligent" connector making it ideal for long-term storage. Any certified electrician can install this unit.
$3000

Re:too little, too late. (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548587)

I disagree that hybrids are a waste. I have one, however it all depends on how you want to define the hybrid. If you are looking for fuel economy, then yes, many of the current and new std vehicles coming out do get as good, or better mileage then some of the hybrids out there. For example, the Lexus SUV and Sedan hybrids get crap mileage (the SUV gets 22/26 the sedan gets 25/30,.. my wifes Inifiniti FX35 which has power and is most definately not enviro friendly gets 18/22, only slightly worse then the hybrid SUV).

My camry on the other hand gets around 35 to 40mpg on avg based on my driving habits, and if you can believe the onboard system after every tank I go through (I use an entire tank before refilling). Yes there are cars that are not hybrids that get that kind of mileage, hell, most diesels get pretty damn good mileage.

If you want a vehicle that is environmentally friendly, then a hybrid is not a bad way to go, they have significantly lower emissions then std cars.

But in the end, its personnel preference.

Woot fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548383)

world-spaaning

Steve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548401)

I read they got the loan to make 39k electric cars and that they will be built in the US?

You're right. (4, Informative)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548555)

Development of the $89,000 sports car is already complete. That car ships in a few months.

The DOE loan is for a $39K family car that will be built here.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/fisker-39k-plug-in-hybrid-electric-car-2012-ray-lane.php

Professional Trolls (0, Flamebait)

dwguenther (1100987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548405)

When did the WSJ sink to the level of Fox news? The article seems to imply that Al Gore controls the entire Department of Energy, and that Fiskar and Tesla are entirely foreign built. Does the WSJ hate the environment enough to become a kneejerk conservative rag? nickous and couchslug are right; these investments will help American technology in the long run, especially at a time when our 'conventional' domestic automakers aren't doing that hot.

Re:Professional Trolls (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548463)

When did the WSJ sink to the level of Fox news?

When Rupert Murdoch bought it?

Re:Professional Trolls (0, Flamebait)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548507)

Exactly. Fox will distory any news story it can find just to slam Al Gore in an attempt to dilute his credibility.

The Fisker sports car is actually a sports sedan. It has already been developed and will ship early next year. The loan in question is for Fisker to develop a family car that will be less than half the price of the sedan.

Here's a link:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/fisker-doe-loan-528-million-karma-plug-in-electric-car.php

Re:Professional Trolls (1)

TroyM (956558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548569)

Yeah, at the beginning they made it sound like Al Gore was the main owner of the company. Sounds like now that they're part of the Murdoch's organization, they're adopting Fox's "We distort, you decide"

Tesla load is to build a sedan (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548411)

I'm pretty sure they've already financed the Tesla Roadster since it's in production now and IIRC, that loan was to get an EV sedan out and under $50,000. From what I can tell from the /. posting, this looks like a whine more than anything else. I mean really, an investor had a tax shelter corporation? oooooowwwww

FYI, Microsoft uses NV to save it hundreds of millions in taxes by saying they product the products there when all they do is burn the CDs there.

Probably some Right Wing cry baby or the oil industry behind the article so read it with a grain of salt.

LoB

Entrepreneurial Spirit (1)

rcolbert (1631881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548451)

There's a lot of cynicism these days about just about everything connected with business and money, and quite frankly not all of it is justified. The people who work in a start-up typically are heavily invested themselves, work incredibly long hours, and accept less than average pay for several reasons. One of which is the potential for a huge financial upside if they succeed. But I'd argue the second reason is the one that gets them out of bed every morning - and that is to build something great. Whatever happened to the spirit in this country when we heeded JFK's call to put a man on the moon? Do we no longer think that we need to pursue lofty ambitions? Much of the effort that has driven innovation in the past 40 years hasn't been constrained by short-term ROI thinking. Sure, it'll take more than a small automotive start-up to change our energy use. But then again, our production and consumption of energy is a far more complex problem than putting a man on the moon. I say let the GAO provide the cynicism, and for the rest of us - if you're not happy about something, go start up a company and make a change. Otherwise, I feel that people who are making actual, substantial efforts to do something about it deserve some benefit of the doubt.

Behold your green government (3, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548453)

This simply proves there's money to be made in green. It isn't earned money like the way real businesses operate. It's confiscatory profit from you and me. This is why the global warming debate is so damn tainted. People want to make it out like you're a freak if your skeptical about causation or about what can really be done. I'm skeptical when people are getting "loans" like this from people like you and me under the guise of going green. It's going green, alright. Isn't envy and greed said to be "green?" I know American cash is "green!"

Very misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548465)

Boy, the Wall Street Journal has gone way downhill since it was bought by the parent company of Fox News (who loves to slam Al Gore every chance it gets) The first paragraph of the article is very misleading.

Much like Tesla, Fisker, the company in question, has already developed and is building the $89,000 sports car as their way of proving the technology works. The vast majority of that money for that project came from Silicon Valley venture capital, among other sources.

The DOE loan is going towards a sub-$40,000 family car more in line with the Chevy Volt.

Re:Very misleading (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548531)

Why does Rupert Murdoch hate Al Gore so much?

Here's a link to a description of the $39,000 sports car they're developing, which will also be made in the USA, and deserves the DOE loan as much as any other company building electric/hybrid cars domestically

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/fisker-39k-plug-in-hybrid-electric-car-2012-ray-lane.php

Re:Very misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548695)

Because Rupert Murdoch is a complete and total tool.

I think that just about answers any question you have about why Rupert Murdoch does _anything_.

Poverty Conservation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548497)

"Many of the 1,500 people who have made deposits on the Karma are former BMW and Mercedes owners who want an environmentally friendly car without sacrificing luxury, Mr. Fisker said."

Well I for one want a hybrid car without sacrificing poverty. I'm so poor I can't even afford a slashdot account!

Electric sports cars - a good plan (2, Insightful)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548589)

I think the niche of electric sports cars, so far occupied by Tesla, has been an incredibly cunning strategy. Consider some strengths and weaknesses of an electric car:

+ Instant high acceleration; high torque available at any time, at any speed
+ Shiny and novel and impressive
- Heavy and bulky batteries
- Short range
- Have to charge it a lot
- Expensive

And the requirements and constraints of a sports car:
Need: Good speed and acceleration
Need: Shiny and novel and impressive (i.e. expensive), so you can show off
But: Drinks fuel faster, may have shorter range.
But: You probably won't go very far in it, or very often.
But: Often have lots of interior luxuries stripped out in the name of weight saving.

Bingo! The requirements of a sports car are - to a reasonable extent - satisfied well by an electric motor. You get incredible acceleration, whenever you want. You get something impressive and futuristic-sounding and exotic. The constraints that lightweight sports cars have *already* do well to mask the disadvantages of an electric vehicle - with a sports car you probably expect reduced range, you don't want to use it all the time (so charging time not an issue, just keep it in the garage plugged in), you don't expect to carry groceries (bulk of the batteries doesn't matter), you don't expect lots of luxuries (so they can be stripped out to somewhat compensate for battery weight). And if you wanted a sports car you were already prepared to spend something expensive (and probably susceptible to image-based marketing - so the futuristic, green, responsible but exciting thing an electric sports car has will probably work on you!).

As a bonus, sports cars are usually expensive in terms of fuel, whilst an electric car is going to be cheap. Probably even in the US, even more so in other markets.

Genius. Goes to show that all those companies trying to make practical, electric town cars might have been starting from the wrong place!

Colin Powell backed company gets government grant (1)

TroyM (956558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548621)

"Republicans deny that this was a political choice" the WSJ reported

That's a story from an alternate universe, where publications like the WSJ really are fair and balanced. I checked out KPCB's webpage and found that both Al Gore and Colin Powell are directors. So why did the WSJ play up Gore's involvement, but not Powell's?

http://www.kpcb.com/team/byers [kpcb.com]

WHAT?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548661)

As an American, all I can say is F U Al Gore.

WTF!! (3, Insightful)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548699)

I am all for developement of greener alternatives! But why the fuck are we giving loans and grants to companies to build these cars outside the US? These loans were designed to stimulate the economy. The only thing we are doing is stimulating the UK and Finland while we have 10% fucking unemployment. Our current president is no better than Bush. This angers me to no end. We are still giving money away with No Strings Attached that we will never see again. More wealthcare! I, for one, am just puke sick and tired of it. Anyone else?

Re:WTF!! (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548715)

Also, who needs the 89,000 dollar sports car when most people need the 25-30,000 dollar practical everyday driver? Thought I would just put that one out there for y'all to consider.

Wow, There Goes the WSJ (5, Interesting)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548733)

Wow, I don't recall the WSJ being this biased. Did this all happen after the Mrudoch purchase?

Who cares if Fisker is backed by Gore? Why would that surprise anyone? Gore has money and is an environmentalist. Gore backing an electric car company is almost expected. Both Tesla and Fisker are American companies. Tesla is building a manufacturing plant in CA and it sounds like Fisker is going to be American built, at least for the mass produced version. Yes, Teslas are currently British built but that's for their supercar and first model.

Seeding electric car startups is one way we're going to rebuild the American auto industry. Trying to reboot GM and Chrysler might very well be a lost cause, as some of us had suggested. If these two companies are successful, they will allow America to leapfrog the Japanese and Germans in the making of efficient cars. The Chinese are trying to do the same thing. An electric car is in many ways much simpler than a gasoline driven one. All the accumulated advantages and knowledge of traditional car companies go out the window because the electric motor has a lot less parts than a gasoline engine.

If you disagree with government aid to companies, then it doesn't matter what kind of companies, venture, or backers a companies has. However, if you are OK with some government aid, then Tesla and Fisker are pretty good choices in my opinion. For once, instead of aiding old, antiquated corporations, the government is aiding nimble startups that can potential disrupt and jolt an entire industry.

Greenwash (3, Insightful)

Conspicuous Coward (938979) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548739)

The consumerist faux environmentalism backed by mainstream politicians like Gore is little more than fraud intended to enrich them personally.

The last thing a sports car, any sports car, can be is green. Sports cars are toys for the rich that consume massive amounts of energy both in their production and their use. Whether that energy is elecric or fossil fuel is almost secondary at this point. As a species we need to both make massive cuts in our energy use and change the way we generate that energy if we are to have any hope of survival.

If you take environmentalism seriously it means no more cars full stop. At least for the forseeable future. Putting a 50-100kg person inside a ton of steel is simply not an energy efficient method of transportation.

If you think AGW is some kind of fraud, why build electic cars at all? if you take the predictions of climate scientists remotely seriously you need to realise that the infinite growth demanded by consumerism is an insane pipe dream that will desroy us.

invention! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29548745)

Why not plug wind mills directly in to the electric network, that way they could spin without wind!

What's that you say??? (3, Funny)

Slugster (635830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29548791)

Al Gore, saviour of Gaia, is going to pocket huge amounts of money in a Us government-funded foreign-business deal to build a hybrid Camaro?

Well, color me a retarded limp-dicked tofu-eating socialist.
I never would have guessed this would happen...
~
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