• Aug 24th 2007 at 10:25AM
  • 6
Aside from Tesla, the electric vehicle startup company that has gotten the most attention over the past year is probably Phoenix Motorcars. Phoenix's big claim to fame is the first use of the Altairnano lithium titanate battery pack which is claimed to have over 25,000 charge cycles support for recharging in ten minutes. Phoenix had announced their intentions to begin deliveries of their sport utility truck during the fall of 2007 with plans for 500 vehicles in the first year.

Unfortunately, an ABG reader who was on the waiting list has informed us that Phoenix CEO Daniel J. Elliott has sent out an e-mail stating that the SUT has been delayed until at least early 2008. Like others before it, Phoenix has evidently run head long into the realities of production engineering and certification. Mass-producing a vehicle is a non-trivial task if you want to create something safe and reliable that people will spend a lot of money on.

Another issue that was noted in the message is finalizing their financing package. Apparently selling vehicles at a loss of up to $200,000 per unit in the hopes of selling clean air credits to make up the difference is also posing an issue. The full text of the message from Phoenix is after the jump, and we're double-checking with Phoenix to make sure the email is legit.

[Source: Gregger]
On behalf of Phoenix Motorcars I wish to thank you for your continued support and interest in our company and what we believe to be a truly revolutionary full performance battery electric vehicle. We must also thank you for your patience in our development progress as we have worked to bring our product to market. We recognize that our product roll out has taken longer than originally expected as we continue to work through certification with the California Air Resources Board (ARB), finalize our financing package, and set up our production facility that will allow us to deliver at the sales volumes we are targeting.

While Phoenix Motorcars had hoped to begin initial deliveries of its vehicles by this fall, we have decided to delay deliveries until early 2008.

As Phoenix Motorcars continues to demonstrate our Sport Utility Truck, the all electric vehicles impress fleet operators with robust features including the high-power NanoSafe 35-KWh battery packs, the highly efficient electric drive systems and the utility to carry 4 passengers and a substantial payload. As you know this vehicle is robust yet environmentally friendly, offering no compromises to a full day's work.

At present, Phoenix Motorcars has greater than 500 orders from fleets nationally with a high concentration in California and we are working with our customers to finalize features and content that will allow them to seamlessly integrate the vehicles into their fleets. As part of this process, you will be contacted to work with our team on the final specifications for your vehicle(s) and projected delivery schedule.

Phoenix Motorcars wishes to again thank you for your support, patience and interest in our product. We remain very excited and committed to our product, customers and investors and look forward to making our first deliveries soon. We will continue to keep you informed of our progress and will provide updates to you as we move closer to bringing our no compromise all electric SUTs and SUVs to the market.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel J. Elliott
President & CEO
Phoenix Motorcars, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I just came from a cleantech conf. where some VC's were flaunting how they were "smart enough" not to have invested in the nano-Batts. They said:

      "The A123 & Altair powder is causing lung disease and cancers with the factory workers. The factories in China require an additional tens of millions to even touch it. The powder falls right into the pores of your skin.

      Both A123 and Altair have IP issues against each other because they are both doing almost the same thing so they both have the same problems.

      The powder is so small that it only takes a little effect to create a runaway thermal issue.

      The powder is too hard to get the heat off of in a high demand system like a car.

      Both powders have missed many milestones they promised the VC's in their business plans.

      Both powders will end up being insanely expensive, even in volume production."

      They said many of the car companies are going back to Lith Ion or, even better NiMh which almost never blows up and is cheap as heck right now.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Shelly, something about your VC rumors doesn't ring true with me.

      So the Chinese companies want "additional tens of millions" to work with nanoscale powders? But isn't that pocket change in this context? If you're talking about true mass-production on a scale that would be cost-effective for BEV applications, wouldn't we already be into the hundreds of millions for a manufacturing plant? It sounds to me like they're going at it in a half-baked way.

      If Altair and A123 have IP issues with one another, then they need to strike a patent cross-licensing deal, and then get on with their business. Such deals are commonplace in industry today.

      The thermal issues fly in the face of what's been reported about these batteries up to now. Thermal stability is supposed to be one of their main advantages over conventional Li-ion cells.

      "Both powders will end up being insanely expensive, even in volume production." I have a hard time believing this. Or maybe your idea of volume production is just different from mine.

      Admittedly there is a catch-22. It's hard to get orders for hundreds of millions of cells until after you've brought the cost down, and it's hard to get the cost down until after you've got high-volume production. Likewise, it's hard to get car companies to design cars around a cell that isn't already available in mass quantities at decent prices.

      This is where the deal between GM and A123 is so important. The rumor mill says GM may plan to sell as many as 60,000 E-Flex vehicles per year. That ought to get the ball rolling.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Shelley, it sounds like those "VCs" were spreading lots of misinformation to stifle A123 and AltairNano. Could they be trying to push down the stock price so they can "short sell" stock at a profit?

      It is highly unlikely that iron phosphate or titanate spinel could cause any form of cancer, and could only cause lung problems if the workers breathe in a lot of dust (just like any other dust). The manufacturing process does not require workers to "touch" the powder - a good thing, as the internal components should be kept moisture free and shouldn't be touched.

      The formulation and design of the A123 and AltairNano batteries are different, so they are unlikely to have any patent infringement issues. They've known about each others products for at least two years, any infringement claims should have already been dealt with. The basic patents for LiIon have already expired.

      There is no "thermal runaway issue" with either of those battery formulations, both can tolerate much higher temperatures than batteries with cobalt oxide electrodes. While a cooling system is required for "high demand" automotive use, the higher heat tolerance of these batteries makes cooling simpler. It really isn't a big problem.

      The A123 batteries are already in volume production, used for DeWalt cordless lithium power tools, at affordable prices. Admittedly, A123 has a major price advantage over AltairNano, as iron phosphate is much cheaper than titanate spinel.

      While NiMH is currently slightly cheaper per watthour stored and is durable, the price of nickle and NiMH is going up and improved manufacturing is driving down the cost of LiIon batteries, including both the A123 and AltairNano versions. Since LiIon can store more energy per Kg and will eventually become cheaper energy storage than NiMH, they will eventually dominate the market.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Phoenix screwed up with their business model.

      They plan on making 6,000 cars annually after the first year.

      But they require at least 200,000 in clean air credits.

      So each credit needs to fetch a lot of money.

      But with 6,000 available just from them, and Tesla also selling their credits, from 10,000 White Stars annually starting in 2010, the market will soon be flooded with credits.

      Throw in Miles Automotive's Javelin, and the market price/credit will collapse.

      No way Phoenix can make up a $200,000 loss/vehicle.

      Their only hope is that Altair can get the cost of their batteries down from $2.5 /watt hour down to $.50/watt hour like they claimed they would do in 3 years.

      This would reduce the battery cost from $87,500 to $17,500 and maybe give pheonix a shot, but I doubt it.

      I am very skeptical of Altair Nano, since they literally jumped into batteries overnight, and their fantastical claims have yet to be verified. (The independet verification they have done was for 50 cycles of fast charge and discharge, not anywhere close to 25,000 they claim).

      Also note that they have partnered with no names, some chinese battery maker and Phoenix.

      Meanwhile the MIT start up, A123 has partnered with GM to supply the Volt batteries, and those have been tested to 3800 100% DoD and found to still pocess 86% capacity.

      This means that the Volt batteries will last 15 years or so, plenty long enough.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Even if they're only losing $50,000 on each vehicle, that's still $25 million for 500 units.

      If they can't sell their ZEV credits right away, they need to absorb huge losses until they can find a customer.

      You can't help but think that Tesla made the right decision here... making a profit on each vehicle sold does take out a lot of uncertainties.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "I am very skeptical of Altair Nano, since they literally jumped into batteries overnight, and their fantastical claims have yet to be verified."

      Adam, actually, altairnano's claims were verified by aerovironment. They originally designed the EV1 prototype, Impact. They said that it does in fact live up to its claims. But unfortunately the Altair Nano battery still is not a perfect battery because it holds less energy than other betteries, and thus gives less range. Another problem is who is going to give them the money produce these batteries in lasrge enough numbers to bring down costs.
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