Hyundai, Tesla exchange barbs over refueling networks – one of them has a point
Say whatever you like about any automaker, just don’t associate them with government money or they will get very upset. The issue takes on added significance when it comes to alternative fuel technologies.
Case in point: a Hyundai executive insinuating (incorrectly) that Tesla built its Supercharger network with taxpayer dollars, and Tesla firing back about the source of funding for hydrogen refueling stations.
What was said
It all started when Hyundai’s head of U.S. product planning, Michael O’Brien, curiously stated that Tesla funded its Supercharger network with “money that has come from grants and loans from the government.”
Of course Tesla, as virtually anyone paying attention to the auto industry at the time might remember, paid off its $465 million loan from the Department of Energy nearly a decade ahead of schedule. In effect, the company actually funds the Supercharger network through the price of its 85-kWh Model S and the Supercharger option for the 60-kWh version.
Never one to take ill-aimed criticism lying down, Tesla VP of business development Diarmuid O’Connell fired back at Hyundai in comments to Green Car Reports.
"I am furious at any allegation that any public money was spent on the Supercharger network," O’Connell said. "Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors – which continues to spend money in expanding the network."
Cue more verbal sparring between EVs and hydrogen
Of course, O’Connell didn’t stop there. He took a shot at Hyundai’s fuel cell program and the tall task facing manufacturers of hydrogen-powered vehicles of providing adequate refueling infrastructure, saying that Hyundai “[has no] manufacturing presence in California but expects the state’s taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations.”
Ever since GM and Chrysler were forced to accept federal government bailout money to stay afloat, and companies like Fisker have died while on the taxpayer payroll, automakers have been wary of association with government funding.
The issue is especially relevant, though, when it comes to alternative fuel technologies like EVs and fuel cell vehicles: both need government assistance to get off the ground, particularly to establish refueling networks, but one requires more taxpayer aid than the other.