Fiskernomics

carfire The desperation of the overclass to preserve cars-first transportation, the lifeblood of corporate capitalism, is suggested by the story of Fisker, the recently imploded attempt to produce viable “electric” (meaning coal, nuclear, and natural gas) cars.

According to Automotive News, not only was Fisker “allowed to keep using money from a U.S. Energy Department loan after violating its terms multiple times,” but the Fisker corporation spent $660,000 for each car it managed to produce.

No More Fisker Vapor

nihil Stick a fork in the Fisker boondoggle, despite its quarter-billion-dollars in public gift-money. Per Automotive News, here’s what underlies today’s termination of the entire productive labor force at Fisker:

The embattled automaker has retained crisis communications firm Sitrick and Co., based in Los Angeles. Sitrick issued today’s statement on behalf of Fisker.

Reuters reported last week that Fisker also had retained the law firm Kirkland and Ellis to prepare for a possible bankruptcy filing. Earlier in March, company founder Henrik Fisker resigned citing “several major disagreements with management” over the company’s business strategy.

Fisker has built about 1,800 units of its $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid, but none since battery maker A123 Systems declared bankruptcy last summer, leaving Fisker without a battery supplier.

Meanwhile, the nation’s (pathetic) public transit systems continue shrinking while in budget-crisis mode, as TPTB push for still more public “research” into this stillborn century-old “EV” pipedream.

What a huge cancel-fuck: Just as physics won’t permit a car that isn’t wildly unsustainable, so corporate capitalism won’t permit anything but more efforts to cancel that uncancelable reality.

Museum Proposal

urbee DbC hereby proposes a new National Museum of Late-Capitalist Insanities. The NMLCI will be dedicated to the collection, preservation, and display of items and ideas characteristic of our epoch, with an eye to allowing a) the presently sane, b) future generations, and/or c) future extraterrestrial archaeologists to contemplate just how far out of touch our overclass and our culture have become.

Given the massive irrationality yet absolute political-economic centrality of the effort to perpetuate cars-first transportation in the face of obvious, directly associated impending disasters, there could be no better first NMLCI exhibit than the object at right, the 1,200-pound, “safe as possible,” 3-d “printed” Urbee car.

The rank pipedreams preserved in this pet project of Canadian engineer-capitalist Jim Kor are truly NMCLI-worthy:

For starters, the sales slogan is “Urbee: The Natural Way to Drive.” What could possibly be more un-natural than using immensely intricate and wasteful, 95% idle machines to accomplish mundane intra-village locomotion?

The rest of the proposal is about ecological conservation. Once again, what could possibly be more ecologically idiotic than using immensely intricate and wasteful, 95% idle machines to accomplish mundane intra-village locomotion? Without even mentioning fuel and manufacturing issues, you can get 40 bicycles for 1,200 pounds of final mass, and bicycles are orders of magnitude simpler and easier to repair and preserve.

As for “safe as possible,” who wants to ride in this glorified golf cart with moped wheels on American roads, around all these SUVs and delivery trucks? Hands?

The fact that such elementary realities are missed by an engineer speaks tomes about the prevalence of magical thinking in our doddering profit-driven social order.

Hat-tip.

Musk Rat

ev-lemon The recent New York Times report on the profound defectiveness of Tesla’s $72,400 lemon has provoked Tesla’s “Chairman, Product Architect & CEO” Elon Musk to try to defend his rolling turd.  Among the pathetic excuses is this one:

For his first recharge, he [the NYT reporter] charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?

Musk, of course, knows the answer full well: People would do that because, even using his “Supercharger,” he’s talking about spending an hour-and-a-half each time waiting for his lemon to draw its coal-derived fuel. People would stop waiting because they have lives, and means of transportation are supposed to exist in order to facilitate, not devour, those lives.

Musk has the chutzpah to conclude with this line: “[W}hat is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.”

Of course, the electric car is to sustainable transport what the potato peeler is to ditch digging.

Electric Lemon Update

ev-lemon A couple recent items on the non-progress of the stillborn idea of reviving the 120-year-old technology known as the “electric” automobile:

First, ex-GM bigwig and blabbermouth Bob Lutz admits in his most recent book that the “EV” is indeed a loss-leader designed to burnish the image of the car corporations and thereby delay media attention to the extreme danger and outdatedness of their product. In Lutz’ words, in the GM boardroom, the whole thing was understood to be “an opportunity to change the public’s perception of GM as a reckless producer of gas guzzlers.”

Had he been CEO of GM, Lutz says that “I would have accelerated the creation of hybrid vehicles as well as all-electric prototypes and auto show concept cars. It’s not that there was, or is today, a huge market for the things. lt’s just that the media praise those who make them and smother them in superlatives for their environmental correctness.”

Admissions don’t get much clearer than that.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Nissan is admitting that deterioration of “EV” batteries is normal, rather than a defect. According to Automotive News:

Nissan Motor Co. has agreed to buy back two of the seven Leaf electric cars whose owners in Arizona have publicly raised concerns about aging batteries. The gesture could help mollify a small group of Leaf owners and green-car enthusiasts who have been raising questions about whether the electric car’s battery is too quickly losing its ability to hold an adequate charge.

The small group of Phoenix customers believes that their Leafs are not holding a charge as long as they should be after only a year or two of use. The seven Phoenix owners claim that their batteries are losing capacity after only a couple of years, and have questioned whether the product is flawed.

In response, Nissan took all seven Leafs to undergo tests at its Arizona proving grounds. Engineers found that the cars in question simply had higher-than-normal mileage, Bailo said in her public letter. She said Nissan concluded that the battery performance was in line with the wear and tear on the specific cars. In estimating the Leaf’s battery will hold 80 percent of its original charge after five years, Nissan said it assumed owners would drive, on average, 12,500 miles a year.

“We’re going to give them all of our data to see for themselves. The data shows that the car is performing as it should be. “We’re 100 percent certain that there is no defect,” [said Nissan].

In other words, one promise of pure “EV”s is mountains of dead batteries, and the usual — perhaps even accelerated — planned obsolescence of individual automobiles.

How to Get Free Money

First, be a capitalist.

Second, to raise your chances even further, be a capitalist specializing in schemes to perpetuate the lifeblood of the system, cars-first transportation.

Finally, hold out your hand.

Even if your product is patently stupid, over-complicated, and downright defective, you will collect.

Cue Dire Straits’ old song and witness the Zerobama Adminstration’s latest gift to A123 Systems, maker of broken and exploding batteries for cars that run on electricity made from coal, nuclear, and natural gas:

Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc. has received an extension on its $249.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. A123 received $127 million of the DOE grant by the end of 2011, according to the filing. The grant requires the battery maker to match each dollar used from the grant. The extension is designed to allow A123 to use the funds before they expire.

The filing fell on the same day that an A123 battery was linked to an explosion and fire at a prototype testing lab at General Motor Co.’s Warren Technical Center. GM confirmed that a lithium-ion battery cell leaked chemical gases into the lab, causing an explosion. The battery itself remained intact, according to a statement by the automaker.

The incident comes after a series of setbacks for the battery maker. In March, A123 posted a quarterly loss of $85 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, after Fisker Automotive stopped battery orders resulting from production problems. A123 suffered more bad news after a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car with an A123 battery failed during a test by Consumer Reports magazine — which led to the announcement of defective batteries. On March 26, A123 reported that five automotive customers received batteries with potentially defective cells manufactured in Livonia. It said it would replace the batteries, which would cost the company $55 million.

A123 is also at the center of a class action lawsuit filed by shareholders.

[Source]

A Psychic Weapon

Asked to elaborate on his firm’s findings that most first-time buyers of hybrid cars do not buy a second one, yet do exhibit increased loyalty to the corporate brand of their first hybrid, R.L. Polk & Co researcher Brad Smith tells Automotive News that offering a hybrid is “a great conquesting tool for brands…a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers.”

“Hybrids,” notes Automotive News, “accounted for just 2.4 percent of total U.S. auto sales last year.”

More evidence for the DbC thesis that “alternative fuel” cars are simply loss leaders, an expensive but effective marketing ploy.