Friday, November 7, 2014

Charlotte Gets Auto Plant: Greensboro Blows It Again

That's right folks, while Greensboro's economic development "gurus" were  attempting to lure big automakers with pie-in-the-sky megasites on the county lines designed to make real estate developers rich with taxpayer dollars a new start-up located in Charlotte has opened North Carolina's first auto factory since 1932.

From the NC Sustainability Center

"EV Fleet's electric pickup trucks, called the Condor after the giant vultures that soar over the Andes and the Sierras, are now in production. The Charlotte-based company has spent years testing and prototyping different models before they arrived at the Condor. The lightweight and aerodynamic truck has the acceleration of a sport car, but can carry as much as 1000 lbs. It is set up to coast and can go as far as 100 miles on a single charge at 65mph, or 140 miles at 45mph."

From the Charlotte Observer:

"Distressed automakers in Detroit feeling the burn of skyrocketing fuel prices gave Brooks Agnew the push he needed.

Forget about the gas-powered automobile, they told him. Building electric cars was his best bet for survival amid a nationwide automotive industry crisis in 2008.

He listened.

Agnew, 60, recently debuted the Condor 2015, an all-electric pickup truck designed to haul fleet and deliveries, conserve energy and save buyers thousands in fuel costs. Capable of hauling 1,000 pounds and reaching up to 80 miles per hour, the truck was produced in Charlotte by EV Fleet Inc., a manufacturing startup Agnew formed this year to assemble and sell electric pickups."

The Condor was built with private funding:

"The government route was not for him. 

When Agnew began building electric cars, he thought he would be able to get federal loans and grants to help him finance production. But after three years of back-and-forth trips to Washington, D.C., dealing with lawmakers and lobbyists, and filling out paperwork, he decided to re-focus his funding efforts.

“I didn’t give up,” he said. “I just decided I’m not going to spend any more money chasing after grants, low-interest loans and all the things the government said they wanted to do.”

The investors are out there. 

 Agnew instead started seeking investors to back his projects, looking for people who had similar interests and would benefit from his company’s success. He didn’t expect to find those results from an oil company. Agnew and the oil company’s owner shared the same lawyer, he said. Agnew’s lawyer agreed to facilitate a meeting between the two.

“I can tell you the kind of investor we were not looking for, and that was an oil company,” Agnew said laughing. “And that’s exactly who financed us.”

The City of Greensboro has a Downtown electric car charging station but has no electric cars. And no electric car manufacturer.

One of the cool things about the Condor is the trunk located under the hood. This thing has more dry storage space than any gasoline powered pick-up built in the world today. While EV Fleet Inc is concentrating on fleet sales I can imagine a lot of carpenters and contractors would love to do away with the need for the ever present across the bed tool box that cuts down on cargo room. And most of those guys never go over the 140 mile range of the electric batteries.

No one is saying so but I'm betting the cab is built by Ford. Looks like a Ford Ranger to me. That might lead one to think the Condor might someday become the Ford electric pick-up. It wouldn't be the first time Ford developed a new vehicle via outside contractors. Remember the Shelby Cobra, Mustang Cobra and Ford 4 wheel drive pick-ups? None were invented in-house at Ford. Also, the Condor name was used by Ford on motorhomes built in the 1960s. A great technical write up is behind the hyperlink:

"Multi speed transmission: The Condor is outfitted with a robust five speed transmission. The combination of a 50kWh battery and a 1,000 lb load capacity changes the dynamics known to most of the EV world. Agnew noted that this transmission was selected due to the large diameter shaft. Agnew stated with a chuckle, “We have tried to destroy it and just could not. Beyond the bench tests, our guys were popping wheelies in the test area and we just could not make it fail.”

The Condor is built in Charlotte's ReVenture Park, a former Superfund Brownfield converted to an industrial park for green businesses. Greensboro has lots of Brownfields sites including a Downtown site that has remained empty for many years while the Greensboro City Council wrings their hands and Greensboro remains the second hungriest city in America with a poverty rate of over 21% and a rising rate of homelessness.

Other cities are looking at's plan to Bring Greensboro Out Of Poverty. A part of that plan was a start-up auto factory. Maybe it's time the Greensboro City Council fired the economic development "gurus" and listened to common sense.

After all, we've had 30 plus years of proving the "gurus" are clueless.