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Good and Bad news for the Electric Car

The last 48 hours have certainly been interesting for the electric car industry. While one of its modern pioneers fired nearly all of its Detroit workforce, a newcomer introduced an economically viable solar vehicle.

Tesla, the company famous for all-electric "supercars," officially announced that it would be laying off 90 percent of its Detroit workforce. The "official" is important, because while affected employees were directly informed today, a blog post from two days ago made the same announcement to the rest of the world. Just days after CEO Ze’ev Drori was replaced by Elon Musk (who will continue on as vice chairman), all but 10 percent will receive pink slips, and the remainder will either finish current projects in Detroit and leave the company, or relocate to Tesla’s San Jose headquarters.

Needless to say, Tesla employees were not impressed. "Tomorrow you show up to Tesla, read your name on a board. If your name is on the board you get a pink slip," said an anonymous employee. "If not you go to a room and they discuss how long you will be in the Detroit office to finish your work, then when your done with your project you are either laid off or you report to the [San Jose] office."

While rumours suggest Tesla is slowing down plans on its next car, the S Sedan, the project is not canceled. "Tesla is absolutely committed to development of our next generation vehicle, to be unveiled early next year," said Musk in a blog post. "However, we are going to reduce activity on detailed production engineering, tooling and commitments to suppliers until our Department of Energy loan guarantee becomes effective." With the slowdown, expect to see the S in the middle of 2011.

On a more positive note, while times may not be great for Tesla, a small engineering group in China is garnering a lot of attention for its sub-$6,000 solar-electric car. As part of the 29th annual Zhejiang International Bicycles and Electric-powered Cars Exhibition in Hangzhou, engineering group Zhejiang’s 001 showed off one of its ten solar-powered sedans. The group plans on selling the cars for 38,000 yuan each, or about $5,560 USD. Completely power grid independent (i.e. they don’t have to be plugged in), each car will run for about 150km, or a little under 94 miles, on a 30 hour charge. This long charge time is accounted for by the fact that only 14 to 17 percent of accumulated solar energy can be converted into energy to power the vehicle and these figures are in time with other solar powered offerings on the market.

Hopefully, this "Zhejiang’s 001" car will be picked up by a major manufacturer. Who knows, maybe the 2015 Prius will be a solar-powered.


Jalopnik: Electric Car Maker Tesla Lays Off Most of Metro Detroit Office with Blog Post

Gasgoo: Chinese Company Produces 1st Solar Powered Car

Devin Connors currently works as a community manager for Rocket League at Psyonix Studios, but he was previously a senior editor at Tom's Guide, writing about gaming, phones, and pretty much every other tech category. His work has also appeared in publications including Shacknews, GameZone, The Escapist, Machinima, and more. 

  • enewmen
    I hope eletric cars get taken seriously in the States before the rest of Detriot gets run over by Chinese owned&engineered companies. "If you can't make it cheaper, make it a lot better and extend the lead."
    Good find though. I hope to see more of this anyway.
    I am sure someone can make the 001 car charge in under 24 hours.
    Just my 2 cents
  • shadowmaster625
    Sticking solar panels on a car is pretty dumb. It makes much more sense to put them on something that wont break when you hit a pothole, and then plug into it when you need to recharge. But I am interested in the idea of a cheap electric car. GM and Tesla and even Toyota and Honda are competing in worlds that are becoming more and more imaginary and irrelevant with each passing year. The country simply wont survive with an economy that is based on such costly vehicles. If they do not find a way to trim the rediculous amount of fat off these cars, then their industry will suffer the equivalent of a fatal heart attack.
  • bounty
    Why can't someone (who hopefully lives close, to make jobs here) take a responsible approach, and build something between an unreasonable supercar (the roadster) and this other toy the Chinese have come up with? Seriously $6,000 with solar panels! Someone in the west should be able to do a $15000 plug in hybrid, with or w/o solar panels.
  • Kami3k
    Wonder what dangerous chemical that made that car out of lol.
  • Pei-chen
    bountyWhy can't someone (who hopefully lives close, to make jobs here) take a responsible approach, and build something between an unreasonable supercar (the roadster) and this other toy the Chinese have come up with? Seriously $6,000 with solar panels! Someone in the west should be able to do a $15000 plug in hybrid, with or w/o solar panels.Hmm, Toyota?
  • mdillenbeck
    I've been waiting and waiting for a plug-in hybrid. Last I heard it is still a year or two out with Toyota, despite a California company modding them to this for the last several years.

    I'm sure the Chinese car is $6000 for a reason - materials, luxury features (like heating/AC, power windows, power locks, etc), safety features, power/speed, and so forth are probably far below what US citizens would ever accept.

    I live in Wisconsin, commuting 50 miles round trip on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I might be able to take the 30 hour recharge rate - but no heating and too light of weight would be a death sentence during the winter.

    After my Corolla is paid off in December, I'll start saving up for the plug-in Prius purchase in 2015 or so (hopefully).

    As for the Tesla layoffs, I am not surprised. We in the US seem to believe a trend continues forever instead of being cyclical. With oil being relatively "cheap" again, suddenly alternative energy research will be put on the back burner. Top it off with a lack of credit and no savings, and no one could afford a more expensive electric car anyway!
  • WheelsOfConfusion
    Jay Leno's Garage has a video where he speaks with Louis Palmer, a man from Switzerland who built a solar-recharged electric car. A detachable solar array can ride on a trailer behind the car. Without it, the car is more compact and runs on an internal battery. With the array hooked up, the car runs 20/80 from solar and batteries, respectively.
    He built it for less than ten thousand dollars.
  • JonnyDough
    It could be quite economically viable to own three of these cars, especially if you live in California or something. I live in Michigan, where we don't see the sun very much in the winter and our cars get covered in snow, but just imagine LA being transformed into a smogless city jungle. You charge the cars when you can, and you have two backups when something goes wrong with one. At a price of $6K each, you're set. For the majority of folks and daily driving, even two of these cars would probably work great. For longer trips, you can just get the old gas guzzler feel from a car rental. Of course, if you're tall you might not consider one of these yet...they are after all, from China.
  • falchard
    Solar Power and electric are still not viable alternatives. It takes more electricity to make a solar cell then it will ever produce in its lifetime. Also electric cars are physically impossible to not use more oil then an oil powered car when the electricity comes from an oil source due to the loss of energy in transfer.
  • ravenware
    Umm. Chevy volt? Who cares if a Chinese auto manufacturer made one for 6k. It probably breaks down like a sub 10k internal combustion car anyway.