Take one highly successful Californian automaker who has single-handedly constructed its own electric car quick charging network around the U.S. and Europe for its customers to use, add in a South Korean rival keen to usurp both gasoline and electricity as the future of tomorrow, and stir in a little controversy surrounding infrastructure development.
What you’re left with, as our friends over at GreenCarReports detailed yesterday, is a spat between Hydrogen-loving Hyundai and an outraged, defensive Tesla Motors.
This cross-continental spat apparently kicked off earlier this week when Michael O’Brian, head of U.S. product planning for Hyundai, asserted that Tesla Motors had built its proprietary Supercharger DC quick charging network — one which at the time of writing only works with Tesla’s Model S sedan — was paid for using “money that has come from grants and loans from the [U.S.] government.”
The accusation was made by O’Brien when discussing the lack of support Hyundai had received from the U.S. government to build its hydrogen vehicles, and seems to reference the low-interest loan taken out by Tesla under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program.
But, as we all know, Tesla repaid its entire $465 million debt to the Federal government in full more than a year ago, years ahead of its agreed repayment date and well before Tesla’s Supercharger network had really started to expand. While there were a few Tesla Superchargers on line before Tesla officially paid off its loan, the majority of sites were developed well after Tesla paid back its debts to the DoE.
Tesla’s Vice President of Business Development, Diarmuid O’Connell, didn’t take long to rebut O’Brien’s assertion.
“I am furious at any allegation that any public money was spent on the Supercharger network,” he said in an official statement to GreenCarReports. “Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors — which continues to spend money in expanding the network.”
Having been metaphorically punched by Hyundai, O’Connell wasn’t going to stop there.
“This stands in stark contrast to certain foreign carmakers, including Hyundai, who have no manufacturing presence in California but expect the state’s taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations”, he continued.
O’Connell makes a fair point. While Tesla’s Supercharging network has been funded by the company itself, automakers — including Hyundai and Toyota — need on state and federal aid to help bring about a hydrogen fuel cell revolution. In fact, Toyota, speaking rather candidly earlier this month, admitted that without Federal or state support well beyond that given to electric car buyers, its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan would be a tough sell.
Of course, it’s conceivable that O’Brian was in fact referring to the money offered by the U.S. Federal government and various States to set up public charging networks for electric cars To date however, that funding has only catered to the installation of relatively low-power Level 2 charging stations, not DC fast charging or Tesla Supercharging.
Since Hyundai and other automakers need as much — if not more — help from local and national governments to build support for their own refuelling infrastructure, we can’t help but think Hyundai isn’t exactly playing fair.
Pot. Kettle. Black.
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