It was kind of exciting when all those small electric-vehicle companies sprang up a few years ago. Could the startups overcome the ridiculously long odds stacked against wannabe vehicle manufacturers?
Things haven't looked so good of late for EV hopefuls, in part because federal loans aren't flowing. Another one -- Bright Automotive, aspiring producer of plug-in hybrid delivery vans -- bit the dust last week and laid some of the blame on the feds.
General Motors invested $5 million in Bright in 2010. But the Indiana-based company has waited since December 2008 for an answer to its $314 million loan request from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program.
In a letter to DOE, Bright CEO Reuben Munger and COO Mike Donoughe wrote that the agency's indecision "placed American companies at the whim of approval by a group of bureaucrats." They wrote that each correspondence from the government "arrived with more onerous terms than the last. The first three were workable for us, but the last was so outlandish that most rational and objective persons would likely conclude that your team was negotiating in bad faith."
A DOE spokesman said in a statement in response to the letter: "We understand that this is a difficult day for Bright Automotive and their workers. Over the last three years, the Department has worked with the company to try to negotiate a deal that supported their business while protecting the taxpayers. In the end, we weren't able to come to an agreement on terms that would protect the taxpayers."