Could battery leases nudge EV sales upward?

For a dour but nuanced view of the consumer electric vehicle market, consider these comments from the May 10 first-quarter earnings call of Ener1 Inc., the battery and infrastructure company.

CEO Charles Gassenheimer revealed that Ener1 is returning its shares in Norwegian EV-maker Think to the company and writing off $73 million:

"No additional funds will be provided to Think by Ener1, and Ener1 will work to avoid consolidating or increasing its equity exposure to Think. ... Ener1 management has decided to fully impair its equity position in Think."

Later, in response to an analyst's question, Gassenheimer offered this view of the EV market:

"I think the first thing is that without some demand creation from governments -- whether it be the DOE, whether it be China with $18,000 of credits, whether it be mainland Europe and other tax incentives -- without some government intervention, this business doesn't work in the near term."

The solution, Gassenheimer suggests, is battery leasing, rather than building the entire cost of the battery into the consumer purchase price.

He says drivers like the Think City electric car: "From our perspective, if you could charge $15,000 for that car, plus $100 a month lease for the battery, I think we feel pretty strong that that car could fly off the shelf."

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