In 2010, Barack Obama praised the employees at Smith Electric Vehicles during a visit to Kansas City.
Obama said Smith Vehicles were “America’s future.”
Four years have passed since President Obama visited Kansas City’s main airport, rolled up his shirt sleeves and admonished the skeptics who said Smith Electric Vehicles was unlikely to make good on its promises to build 510 experimental electric-powered trucks and buses suitable for commercial use.
“Come see what’s going on at Smith Electric,” the president said, inspecting a table full of bright green truck batteries in what was once a maintenance hangar for TWA. “I think they’re going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you’re not better off than you would be if we hadn’t made the investments in this plant.”
The skeptics turned out to be right.
Despite $32 million in federal stimulus funds and status as one of Obama’s favorite “green” companies, the firm has halted production, having built just 439 of the promised 510 vehicles.
Clean Technica has more on Smith Electric’s demise.
So what the hell happened happened?
Blame competition. Natural gas powered and hybrid trucks are becoming more available and more popular in the trucking industry, and companies like VIA and AMP are also trying to edge into the commercial truck market. Smith may have had a head start, but the competition has accelerated past Smith since then.
Blame the business plan. Smith Electric relied heavily on the $32 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, allowing Smith to actually subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles to entice customers. In other words when a company like Frito-Lay purchased a Smith EV, they didn’t pay full price. While it may have gotten some customers through the door, it didn’t bring them back for more.
Blame a lack of understanding and interest in the EV market. Smith surely had grand ambitions and sales projects, but since 2010 the company recieved just 510 orders for its electric vehicles, of which only 439 have been built.