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Electric Vehicle Market Looks for a Recharge

U.S. electric car pioneer Fisker Automotive once posted a manifesto on its Web site: “New isn’t easy.” Not for them, it wasn’t. Now their site is defunct and the company is scrambling to find a funder or face bankruptcy.

An electric car company buoyed by federal dollars in 2010, Fisker has now been crippled by supply chain and other problems, and joined legions of start-ups that get dragged down by technical glitches and financial woes. The capital backing from taxpayers caused a dustup that has kept Fisker in the limelight.

The greater question now is whether Fisker’s crash will have repercussions for the electric vehicle industry, which has seen some sales successes with Tesla’s Model S in recent months but largely remains unrealized.

Rewind to just a few years ago when the future for electric vehicles looked promising. In 2010 the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt hit the road. Gas prices were rising and Pres. Barack Obama pledged to put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. With climate change legislation on the table in Congress as well, the EV market seemed primed for an upswing.

Enter Fisker, whose electric sports sedan Karma rolled into showrooms in 2011 amid fanfare. TIME listed it as one of the 50 best inventions of 2011. The Anaheim, Calif.–based company netted a $529 million government-backed loan to help fuel its efforts. In recent years it reportedly raised $1 billion more in private funds.


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