Published on August 3rd, 2014 | by James Ayre


Hyundai Exec: Tesla Superchargers Funded By US Government

August 3rd, 2014 by  

Sometimes the interactions between the leadership of large companies comes across as something of drama (and/or comedy). And a recent statement from an executive at Hyundai about Tesla’s Supercharger network continues in that tradition, along with Tesla’s reply.

The Hyundai exec put forward the comment that, whilst his company didn’t receive any money from the US government for its hydrogen vehicles, Tesla had received a fair amount of money from the government for its Supercharger network — in the form of grants and loans.

Image Credit: Tesla

Image Credit: Tesla

The unsaid inference being made here is that Tesla’s success is at least partly the result of unbalanced governmental support. The comment was made by the US head of product planning for Hyundai, Michael O’Brien, during a “discussion of the Korean automaker’s view of hydrogen fueling infrastructure and which entities should provide it.”

Green Car Reports provides more:

Indeed, it seems irrefutable that Hyundai received no direct funding from the US or state governments for its more than a decade of research and development into hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

But given that Tesla repaid its entire $465 million low-interest loan from the US Department of Energy more than a year ago–several years ahead of schedule — we thought the Silicon Valley electric-car maker might want to respond to O’Brien’s assertion.

Indeed, Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president of business development, was more than eager to set the record straight from his point of view. “I am furious at any allegation that any public money was spent on the Supercharger network,” he told Green Car Reports. “Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors — which continues to spend money in expanding the network.”

“This stands in stark contrast to certain foreign carmakers, including Hyundai, who have no manufacturing presence in California but expect the state’s taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations” for their future fuel-cell vehicles.

Hmm, pretty strong rebuttal…

I can still see a sliver O’Brien’s point on this matter — perhaps Tesla did use some of the capital provided by its DOE loan to build early Supercharger stations? But it seems less than friendly and practically pointless to bring up a small loan that was paid off years early, especially knowing Tesla’s willingness to send strong counter-responses, and knowing the deep limitations of fuel cell vehicles.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Enderdog

    Did I not just read several months ago, that Tesla has offered it’s technology to all under open source conditions?

  • WeaponZero

    Tesla superchargers are 100% funded by Tesla. Unlike hydrogen stations which all of them were funded by governments.

    Also, I am more than willing to bet that some of Hyundai’s hydrogen technology came from universities which were funded by governments to research.

    • Careful. Talking sense to FCV fanatics is likely to stimulate an unpleasant response.

      • Offgridman

        Oh come on Zach, coming by here to watch the hydrogen hounds get trounced by common sense can sometimes be the highlight of my week. Don’t cut off the entertainment before it even gets rolling good. 🙂

      • Agreed, the hydrogen fuel cell community is very raw and doesn’t take lightly to the questions we raise. Case in point, Hyundai’s sad PR trick.

        There is a good Tuareg saying: “the dogs barks, but the caravan continues its march, nonetheless.” I think we need to continue reminding these guys of the facts, mostly the economic facts, and correct them when they are wrong, as in this case.

        What a shame to hear how we must all get along, and then see such comments from those saying it.

        • Gwennedd

          Agreed. I like that Tuareg saying. May I borrow it? I promise to return it in good condition and in a timely fashion.

          • I’m glad you like my sense of humor, and yes, please, by all means, use it and spread it around.

          • Gwennedd

            Thanks! I would like to see some small amount of hydrogen cell usage, perhaps in trucks, since convincing truck drivers that electric is viable is going to be difficult. Electric=”no guts, no glory” ( from a Ford truck ad). Truck drivers want everything in supersize…loud engine, can go off road, take a ton of cargo, haul a 40ft cabin cruiser or a horse trailer, drive all day.

          • You know where fuel cell technology would do very well? Offshore wind farms. It’s perfect for temporary energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Not really. H2 storage is very lossy. Over 50% of the electricity produced is going to be lost extracting hydrogen from water and compressing it for storage. And it’s hard to store. Tricky little devil.

            Compare perhaps 35% efficient with well over 80% for PuHS. 65% to 75% with flow batteries and the ability to store long term in non-pressurized tanks.

          • I agree with you Bob, at least for the basic systems we see today. Off shore wind energy has two advantages, plenty of water and the system can recoup the water emission back into the cycle.

            All in all, I don’t see the logic with hydrogen as a fuel. Burning it makes sense, as in a turbine, but using it in a fuel cell is not the most efficient system. Hydrogen is a poor energy medium.

            Someone once told me using hydrogen as an energy medium was akin to keeping a fire going in a fireplace using batteries. You can throw enough energy to make it work, but at what price? In other words, even a square can act as a wheel if we make it spin fast enough, but why not use the wheel, i.e., the electric battery?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d love to read a (short) history of how hydrogen became such a love interest of so many. How did people get sold on the idea of running transportation with H2 and storing energy using H2 without also realizing that over half the energy input is lost?

          • I’ve been toying around with the idea or a while now. It’s a very complicated history, but it boils down to the progressively lower quality of education in our country. With less, to almost no critical and analytic thinking, people read or hear the first two sentence and make up their minds according to the delivery. When they hear “hydrogen”, they hear The Jetson’s or NASA. When they hear electric motor, they hear 1910 Edison projects.

            Want to write a story with me about it? 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m on overload, but I agree with you. There’s very much a Jetson feeling to the H2 FCEV and thorium reactor crowd.

          • What do you not like about the thorium reactor concept?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thorium wouldn’t (as far as I can tell) make nuclear energy affordable. Fuel is a minor contributor to the cost of reactor electricity. Uranium is only

            “The average fuel cost at a nuclear power plant in 2012 was 0.75 cents / kWh.”
            7.08 mills per kWh or 70.1 cents in 2012 according to the EIA


            Given that the projected cost of electricity from the new Vogtle plants is currently 11 cents/kWh if thorium were free the cost would drop only to about 10.25 cents, which is simply too high to consider.

            Any other arguments one might make for thorium are irrelevant. Thorium might or might not make more sense than uranium in terms of safety or waste disposal problems. But those are not worthwhile figuring out since we have cheaper, faster to implement and safer alternatives.

            It’s like the H2 FCEV issue. Costs are prohibitive. The market isn’t willing to pay for Jetsonism (with the exception of cheap toys).

          • Very good valid points. By the way, so stealing the Jetsonism part!

  • eject

    Well, Tesla did receive loads of credits for having a car with fast refueling capability. But everybody else could have received them if they had a car on the market and preformed a similar stunt.

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s a pity that charging networks have not in fact been funded with public money. That way we might be getting a single technical standard. The industry is reproducing the global mess of different mains electricity plugs and phone charging cords. Variety is not always the spice of life, sometimes it’s just a nuisance. Contrast the convenience of USB connectors and SIM cards, not to mention the Internet protocols.

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      • Vensonata

        Bouncer: escort this woman out of here.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Flag ’em when you see ’em.

          Bouncer sleeps tonight. In the jungle, the mighty jungle….

    • markdouglas6135

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    • WeaponZero

      While I agree, there is 1 problem. We actually need a usable standard. Until the technology advances standardization can cause issues. We standardized on AC with the J1772, but DC not yet. For DC there is so far only 1 viable standard and that is Tesla superchargers.

      Reason? Because all the other standards are making 25-50kw chargers which are too slow charging for real world EVs with over 200 miles range. And they are being placed in locations for local driving rather than long distance driving making them useless in the long run.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Just because the chargers are being built at 50kw, doesn’t mean the standard doesn’t scale. The connector for the SAE combo plug can do 270 kW, or something crazy like that. The reason they are only building smaller chargers, is because no car has a pack large enough to take advantage of it.

        • WeaponZero

          The standard scaling or not scaling is irrelevant if it is not implemented. That makes all that infrastructure almost useless once the full range EVs come out. To put it this way, come 2017-2020 when most of EVs will have 200 miles or more range, the only network of high speed chargers will be the Tesla superchargers.

          Effectively, the Tesla supercharger will become standard by default.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Tesla had a car to charge before they installed their first super charger.

            Why do you expect the competition to behave backwards to that highly successful, and sane model?

          • Try Finding Me

            it is called future proofing and it is sound business sense. When the non Tesla 200+ mile evs start rolling out in the next couple years, there will be nowhere to charge them.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Tesla didn’t roll out 135 kW chargers until they had cars that could charge at 135 kW.

            Seems like Elon Musk disagrees with your ‘sound business sense’sense’.

          • Try Finding Me

            and who is going to upgrade these chargers? No one…

          • Steve Grinwis

            ChaDeMo is / has upgraded their chargers in Europe

            They’re also going to later upgrade them to put SAE plugs on them, as is being mandated under European law…

            And they’re doing that because they’re making money doing this, and this is their business.

            Try again?

          • WeaponZero

            I am going to release a new smartphone, and it will be a 2g phone. (no 3g or 4g), won’t have apps, no mms, no copy and paste. 3.5″ screens with HVGA resolution.

            Hey, just following the highly successful and sane business model.

            The fact is, every other manufacturer chose to go with interim EVs. Tesla chose to go with high range EVs and make a network of fast chargers in ideal locations for long distance driving.

            When the competition comes out with their long range EVs, the Tesla standard will be the only standard.

          • JamesWimberley

            There’s a large market in Africa for smartphones roughly corresponding to your description. Like this: 1.0 gigahertz MediaTek processor, 5 megapixel camera, 3G, 4 GB storage. But it sells for the equivalent of $103 (link).

          • Steve Grinwis

            This is a really poor straw man. The proper analogy would be for me to build a 4g network, at great expense without a phone capable of using it yet.

            But here to, we find the same business model. They start selling the phone, then roll out the network after.

            You forget that it’s possible to their together an awesome network quickly. 100 stations gives you nation wide coverage, and only costs a few million.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Also: if there is existing 50kW chargers, they can be upgraded more cheaply than installing new units, just like Tesla is doing.

          • WeaponZero

            Tesla’s standard allows them to scale since they made their own superchargers they have much more control then stations made by a 3rd party. On top of that, those 25/50kw locations are not set up in ideal locations for long range EVs.

          • Steve Grinwis

            The problem isn’t the station, it’s the plug. The DC connectors on the SAE CCS plug are really hefty. Rated for 400 amps at 600 volts.

            I disagree that those locations aren’t ideal. You don’t want to stop on the side of the highway, you want to get off the highway, and into the city. Even charging a 60 kW Tesla on a 135 kW supercharger takes time, Like 20-40 minutes. You want to be able to cruise the local sights and sounds! If you look, a lot of metropolitan superchargers are similarly located.

    • Steve Grinwis

      My prediction is the sae combo connector will win. It’s technically superior, capable of delivering up to 270 kW, and backwards compatible with regular ac chargers.

      Could be wrong. But there are a lot of deep pockets supporting it.

      • JamesWimberley

        Unfortunately Nissan offer an SAE socket for AC but a ChaDeMo one for rapid DC. Meanwhile Europe presses ahead with the VDE/Menneke plug. It’s a mess.

        • Steve Grinwis

          They’re forcing public ChaDeMo stations to have combo charging as well by 2017:

          Menneke plug and CCS plug are signal compatible I thought?

          These are the companies supporting the fast charging SAE CCS plug:

          “Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen”

          That’s a lot of deep pockets…. And since Toyota isn’t doing electric cars seriously, it’s just Nissan and Mitsubishi that are really supporting ChaDeMo. But it doesn’t scale to high power, so they’ll have to introduce another plug.

    • dinkster

      “single technical standard”

      The vast majority of industry standards don’t come from government, they come from panels of industry experts. See IPC, IEEE, NEMA, ISO, on and on and on and on…

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