Toyota has scrapped plans for widespread manufacturing and sale of a new mini-car that was to be powered as electric only. Reuters reports that Toyota stated they “had misread the market and the ability of still emerging battery technology to meet consumer demands.”
We would all be a lot better off, if Only Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) had the same amount of guts as Toyota to admit to making gross errors in judgment. Takeshi Uchiyamada, the engineer who oversees vehicle development as Vice Chairman of Toyota, was frank in stating, “two years later, there are many difficulties.”
Takeshi is no lightweight. He spearheaded the development of the Prius in the 1990s. When Takeshi talks engineers and students of thermodynamics listen. When Obama and Reid talk, people get screwed or simply choose not to listen.
Obama and Reid are evangelists for green energy, and both of these thermodynamic neophytes took instruction from Al Gore and Steven Chu in playing out the fantasy of lithium ion batteries replacing gasoline in vehicle propulsion. The problem was Obama and Reid did not bring their own money to visit Fantasy Island; we the 53% paid for their expensive tickets.
Americans should all be like Takeshi and frankly state that, after four years, there are many difficulties. Obama and Reid should admit they were wrong and pull the plug on their pipe dream of fully electric vehicles. More than two years ago, I gave outside witness testimony to the US Senate, run by Reid, that lithium ion batteries were simply a Betamax technology. Of course, nobody listened.
Obama and Reid have a real problem with Tesla, the pure electric car from California. Toyota has invested in Tesla and has now admitted the all-electric RAV4 will only sell 2,600 units in total over a period of 3 years. Tesla provides Toyota with the electric drivetrain and storage batteries for the RAV4. The US DOE loaned Tesla almost a half billion dollars, and Tesla is running out of cash. Just Monday, Tesla announced terrible projections for this quarter’s results and the need for a secondary stock offering. Tesla also hinted at the possibility of amending their loan with the US DOE.
In my opinion, Toyota needed to get rid of their Fremont California assembly plant that was unionized. Tesla bought the plant from Toyota and it is a now a non-union shop. Only a handful, perhaps 50, of the previous 4,500 unionized employees form the Toyota days were rehired by Tesla. So much for Obama and Reid caring for their union friends! Toyota is a big winner even if Tesla fails, and I believe Tesla will fail within a year. In the end, Toyota may take back the Fremont plant without the union and assemble real vehicles that people want.
Obama and Reid sold us dreams of a million electric cars on the road by 2015. If American voters use their brains, Obama and Reid should start watching reruns of Fantasy Island in January 2013. Obama can make believe he is Mr. Roarke, while Reid can remain his namesake who Roarke saved while he was the concierge in a burning hotel. Actually any talk of burning buildings will cause Barry to blame the nightmarish event on a yet to filmed amateur movie titled “The Impotence of Electrons”.
Lindsay Leveen is the author of Hydrogen – Hope or Hype? A Primer on Energy and Sustainability.