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Thinking of an Indie Electric Car? You May Need to Move Fast

KQED News Fix
Thinking of an Indie Electric Car? You May Need to Move Fast
January 24, 2013, 10:14 am • Posted by KQED News Staff
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People flush with cash may be thinking of a new car in the new year, but for all-electric auto shoppers, it’s worth checking on the financial health of the manufacturers before buying. KQED’s Rachel Myrow asked Wall Street Journal auto industry reporter Mike Ramsey about the impact and future of the growing all-electric market. Edited transcript…
Tesla Motors’ Model S (right) is the second model it has released. The Roadster (left) was its first. (Tesla Motors)

Tesla Motors’ Model S (right) is the second model it has released. The Roadster (left) was its first. (Tesla Motors)

RACHAEL MYROW: Give us the lay of the land. What does the all-electric market look like in the U.S. today?

MIKE RAMSEY: Pike Research, which is a firm that kind of specializes in alternative transportation research, has come up with basically that there were 54,000 plug-in vehicles sold in the United States last year, out of about 14.5 million total. So you can see it’s a pretty small number.

That said, two years earlier there were virtually none sold. So there’s been a huge increase in the number of these vehicles sold, and they’re predicting that next year you might add about 20,000 more. And by 2020, they’ll sell about 370,000 plug-in vehicles in the United States.

By then you’re looking at having more than 1 million cars on the roads that are all-electric or partially electric that plug into the wall. While small and not really a huge part of the market, they’re clearly having an impact on the fleet. We’ll get to see if this is something that will be a fad or will truly be something that will take over and be a bigger part of our lives.

RACHEL MYROW: So nobody’s questioning the health of the big boys – Toyota, Nissan and so on – but there’s some question about the stand-alone electric manufacturers, particularly those based in California. You recently reported on Fisker, which is based in Anaheim.

MIKE RAMSEY: Yeah, Fisker is one of these companies that several years ago got started when there was a big upsurge in interest in electric vehicles. And I have to say I think that Tesla Motors started the revolution of these small companies diving into starting electric vehicle programs, and a lot of that is because there were just simply no offerings from major manufacturers.

Tesla, to its credit, came in and said, “We’re going to do this.” They built prototypes, captured the imagination of a lot of people and were able to raise a lot of money. Then comes along Fisker, which is a company that was founded by Henrick Fisker, who was a well-known designer for BMW and Aston Martin.

And he designed beautiful vehicles, and he was able to also get a lot of financing from wealthy investors to start a company to make a beautiful plug-in hybrid model. And they were able to secure $500 million in U.S. Department of Energy loans to help finance the creation of a second vehicle called the Atlantic, which was going to be a less expensive sedan, as a follow-up to the current sports car, the Karma, which is on sale now
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