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Fuel Prices Expect to Fall – Barely – For Summer

Energy Dept. forecasts meager one cent year-over-year decline.

by on Apr.08, 2014

Gas prices are expected to drop slightly this summer, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Expect to pay less for gasoline this summer than you did a year ago – but just barely, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Energy Information Administration predicts the typical American motorist will shell out $3.57 for a gallon of self-serve no-lead gasoline, a penny per gallon cheaper than during the April to September period last year.

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“That’s essentially the same number,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski during a conference call with reporters. But the good news is that this will be the lowest fuel price motorists have paid since 2010 during the period when driving peaks in the U.S. (more…)

President’s Budget Proposal Could Be Big Boon for Auto Industry

Administration wants $2 bil for advanced vehicle research funding.

by on Apr.11, 2013

President Obama is proposing efforts to promote America's energy independence, including tax credits for electric vehicles.

President Barack Obama is proposing a number of new efforts designed to improve the nation’s transportation system, with a mix of high-speed rails, cleaner fuels, tax credits for those buying alternatively powered vehicles – and as much as $2 billion in funding for advanced vehicle programs.

“We’ll continue our march toward energy independence,” Obama said in presenting his budget proposal to Congress. A key goal will be to eliminate the need for foreign oil imports over the next decade.

Part of that would involve increasing the Department of Energy’s vehicle research budget by 75% to $575 million, while also creating an energy trust fund the administration had previously outlined.

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The budget proposal renewed the White House push to expand credits for those buying electric vehicles and plug-ins. Such buyers now qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits – for which they may have to wait months until next filing with the IRS. The administration would like to bump the number up to $10,000 for qualified vehicles and have the credits become available more immediately.


DOE Proposes 27 “Energy Efficiency” Penalties

Chinese, Japanese, Korean firms accused of not certifying compliance with U.S. efficiency or conservation rules.

by on Sep.13, 2010

DOE has been severely criticized for its lack of enforcement of U.S. regulations.

The Department of Energy today announced 27 new proposed penalties against companies selling products in the United States without certifying that they comply with energy efficiency or water conservation standards.

The legally required certifications are said to ensure that products sold in the U.S. deliver significant energy and cost savings to buyers. Prior to the Obama Administration, the Department had never systematically enforced DOE’s 35-year-old energy efficiency standards. Lax enforcement of energy efficiency standards undermines the goal of increased energy efficiency – now clearly a national security issue.

There are other implications as well. While not directly automotive industry related, today’s enforcement actions – coming on top of a newly activist Department of Transportation in automotive safety matters and the  U.S. Trade Representatives’ duties on Chinese tire imports, among other well-publicized examples –  are the latest indications that an industrial policy of sorts to protect manufacturing jobs is underway across the Obama Administration.

The U.S. is alone among industrial nations – either communist run or elected democracies – to lack formal policies to protect U.S. jobs, now a contentious mid-term election year issue with record high unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression.


Obama Speaking in Michigan Republican Country

Not surprisingly, DOE releases a report on the positive impact of advanced vehicle spending ahead of the President’s speech.

by on Jul.15, 2010

The Administration, of course, faces difficult mid-term elections because of the economy.

On the eve of President Obama’s campaign trip today to Holland in Republican dominated western Michigan, the Department of Energy issued a report on the positive economic effects of the Administration’s spending on advanced batteries and vehicles.

The study “Recovery Act Investments: Transforming America’s Transportation Sector,” not surprisingly, claims to show how Recovery Act funds are creating new jobs.

U.S. unemployment at about 10% (reported, not actual) remains at levels not seen in at least four decades, as the Great Recession continues unabated. Michigan is particularly hard hit with a seasonally adjusted figure for June at 13.2% of its workers on the street. Critics maintain that the real number of people unemployed in Michigan is closer to 20%. Michigan has had the honor of  producing the nation’s highest unemployment rate for four straight years now.

The Administration, of course, faces difficult mid-term elections because of a stalled economy, high unemployment, and soaring deficits, among other liabilities, real or imagined by increasingly hostile opponents. The sight Obama is speaking at won’t be operational for two years, and in the interim Korean-made battery cells will be imported for use in Chevy and Ford electric vehicles that taxpayers are helping to underwrite.

Obama will be  saying that the construction of  new plants, the addition of new manufacturing lines, as well as the installation of electric vehicle charging stations across the country are helping to build an emerging “domestic” electric vehicle industry from the ground up.

Sound Bites or Sound Policy?

The Administration is spending your (borrowed) tax dollars on a broad portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies hoping that the monies, which, to be fair, are matched by private funds, will ultimately rebuild the “domestic”  auto industry.

Obama will apparently claim that these investments are “driving down the costs associated with electric vehicles and expanding the domestic market.” A proposition that remains to be seen.


Department of Energy Rejects V-Vehicle Loans

Louisiana politicians “ask” DOE to reconsider. It says it will?

by on Mar.31, 2010

A virtual car company now with virtual funds.

V-Vehicle Company’s (V-VC) two loan applications for $321.1 million from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVMLP) from the Department of Energy were rejected last week, but that does not mean taxpayers are off the hook yet. (See A Closer Look at How DOE Spends Your Tax Dollars )

The fledgling venture capital startup, which plans to make four-passenger economy cars 40% cheaper than major automakers, was hoping that taxpayers would subsidize the gamble, and had been in discussion with DOE for about a year.

The first loan application was for $79.9 million to complete engineering integration with V-VC’s 30 U.S. suppliers. The second was for $241.2 million to re-equip and tool a former General Motors parts manufacturing facility as V-VC’s first regional assembly plant in Monroe, Louisiana. About 1.400 jobs would have been created if the company were successful.

The company raised $86.5 million in private capital, and another $87 million in state, local and federal grants had been promised if V-Vehicle obtained the loan.

Aides to U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Rodney Alexander, both of Louisiana, have met with federal Energy Department officials to see how startup automaker V-Vehicle can reapply for $321 million in federal loans, according to the Baton Rouge based NewsStar.   (more…)

U.S. Taxpayers Lend Nissan $1.4 Billion

D.O.E. supports production of Leaf EV and battery at Smyrna.

by on Jan.28, 2010

As many as 1,300 jobs will be created when the plants are operating at full capacity.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today that the Department of Energy has closed a $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan North America, Inc.

The loan will be used to modify Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee manufacturing plant so it can produce the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and the lithium-ion battery packs to power them.

The loan was issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25 billion program authorized by Congress under the Bush Administration as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The program is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the American economy.

Capacity to build 150,000 Leaf EVs per year.

“Nissan applauds the Department of Energy’s support of the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies and the creation of clean energy jobs,” said Scott Becker, senior vice president, Administration and Finance, Nissan North America.

The loan will result in the creation of as many as 1,300 jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity.

Modification of the Smyrna manufacturing plant begins later this year, and includes a new battery plant and changes in the existing structure for electric-vehicle assembly.


When completely operational, the vehicle assembly plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 Nissan Leaf electric cars per year, and the new plant will have an annual capacity of 200,000 batteries.

How long it will take to reach those production numbers is a matter of considerable debate, as the EV market is uncertain.


Taxpayer Gift Goes to GM for Fuel Economy Work

U.S. Department of Energy grants General Motors $7.7 million to improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust emissions.

by on Jan.20, 2010

Should taxpayers support commercial research?

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding General Motors Company a $7.7 million grant to help the development of four technologies to improve the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles.

Economy gains of up to 25% are possible, according to GM, which has long-standing research programs in the areas involved — lean combustion, stop-start, and active thermal management, which are all common areas of automotive research and development at other makers.

The fourth area, what’s known, as “passive selective catalytic reduction (SCR), is an exhaust gas after-treatment system to handle the creation of nitrous oxides, which is a natural consequence of operating an engine’s air-fuel ratio on the backside of the theoretically ideal curve for maximum power.

At stake is the potential commercial implementation of lean combustion, which can provide huge efficiency gains needed to meet the Congressionally mandated 35.5 corporate average fuel economy standard by 2016.

Consumers, thus far, appear largely unaware that because of the regulation cars could increase in cost by several thousand dollars or more, and that a drastic downsizing will be forced on them, given the current state of automotive development. A consumer revolt is by no means out of the question if this happens.

Technology in Context!

Compounding the looming cost issue is the struggling U.S. economy, the diminishing car-buying middle class and the ongoing gutting of our wealth-creating manufacturing industries.

Democrats were humiliated by angry voters yesterday in a special election in Massachusetts for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by an unknown Republican in the most Democratic of states. The job shedding economy, with unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression because of the longest and deepest recession in post-war history appears at the center of the rout.


GM Gets Sop from Department of Energy

A $2.7 million grant pales next to $8 billion given to competitors by DOE (taxpayers) under the so called 136 program.

by on Oct.27, 2009

The idea of an SMA heat engine has existed for decades, but the few devices built were too inefficient to make it worthwhile.

The idea of an SMA heat engine has existed for decades, but the few devices built were too inefficient to make it worthwhile.

General Motors R&D received a $2.7 million federal award on Monday that will help build a prototype using Shape Memory Alloy, or SMA, that would generate electricity from the heat in automotive exhaust.

The grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Program Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, was the onlyone to an automaker among $151 million in taxpayer funds distributed by the DOE.

The idea of an SMA heat engine has existed for decades, but the few devices built were too inefficient to make them worthwhile. Even now, GM admits the technology is in early stages and is “high risk.” During the next two years, GM and its partners will try to create a working prototype.

GM will collaborate with HRL Laboratories; Dynalloy, Inc., a manufacturer of shape memory alloys specially made to be used as actuators; and the Smart Materials Collaborative Research Lab at the University of Michigan.

Tech News and Views!

Tech News and Views!

The amount given to GM for SMA work is minuscule compared to the first three auto loans totaling $8 billion for developing advanced technology that were granted to the Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motors and Tesla Motors back in June by DOE as part of its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

The loans, dubbed 136 for the section of the Energy Independence act that authorized it, have $25 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding.


Johnson Controls Says Hybrids Not Competitive

Largest global producer of batteries is challenged by their cost.

by on Oct.13, 2009

Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars presenting the new S 400 BlueHybrid at the 2008 Paris Motor Show

“The industry has done a good job of making people comfortable with hybrid technology, but the economic equation is not there.”

The largest maker of automotive batteries in the world said today that without government subsidies, the batteries used in electric vehicles and hybrids will not allow for commercialization on a large scale.

The analysis is significant since Johnson Controls launched the industry’s first mass production lithium-ion battery plant in France, and is a leader in battery technology.

In a presentation to analysts today, MaryAnn Wright, Vice President and Managing Director Business Accelerator for Advanced Energy Storage Solutions at Johnson said that a positive economic equation is not possible without subsidies of at least $7,500.

“We can achieve — with subsidies  — a total cost of ownership that is competitive with internal combustion engines,” Wright said. She was using a three-year analysis of a vehicle, which included an above average retention residual value.

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However, even with Johnson’s goal of reducing costs of advanced Li-ion batteries by 50% during the next five years, taxpayer grants are still needed for mass production.


A Closer Look at How DOE Spends Your Tax Dollars

As always, the devil is in the details of the political payouts.

by on Jun.23, 2009

And the winner of your tax dollars is...

And the winner of your tax dollars is ...

The first three auto loans for developing “advanced technology” that were announced earlier today actually had their origins under the Bush Administration when the economy, auto companies and taxpayers were in much better shape, at least on the paper that mortgage-backed securities were written on.

Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, advanced by the Bush Administration, established an incentive program consisting of both grants and direct loans to support the development of advanced technology vehicles and associated components in the United States. The Department of Energy (DOE) is charged with administering the section 136 program, now known as the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM).

Under section 136, the ATVM provides loans to automobile and automobile part manufacturers for the cost of re-equipping, expanding, or establishing manufacturing facilities in the United States to produce “advanced technology vehicles” or qualified components, and for associated engineering integration costs.

Click Here To Subscribe To TDBFirst appropriated in the fall of 2008, the program will provide about $25 billion in loans to companies making cars and components in U.S. factories that increase fuel economy at least 25% above 2005 fuel economy levels. The technical and financial review process is focused not on choosing a single technology over others, but is aimed at promoting multiple approaches for achieving a fuel efficient economy, in other words – a scattershot approach that allows the doling out of tax dollars over multiple Congressional areas.