Electric Car = Lemon

I was going to write a short intro, but after reading Barrett's Blog post about dealing with yet another EV "green" start up, I thought I would share his story with you. The post below is from Barrett Lyons blog.

December 31st, 2009 by Barrett Lyon

EV Innovations – Their logo looks like EVIL doen’t it?
Back in June of 2008 I decided to purchase an electric car. I find new technology really exciting and I knew if I wanted to learn fully about the nuances of electric cars I had to purchase one. The Tesla was just coming out of the gate and my friend, Jay Adelson, purchased one but I thought it would be interesting to have a vehicle that’s more down-to-earth and something I could use as an every day car.

This is the story of the $60,000 electric lemon…

I found a company called EV Innovations (whom just changed their name to Li-Ion Motor Corporation and was formally known as Hybrid Technologies). They convert (or as they would say “build”) standard gas-powered PT Cruisers into fully electric vehicles. This made sense for my needs. A PT Cruiser is a very mellow car, has lots of room for batteries, and it’s something I could drive into San Francisco and not really worry about. EV Innovations advertised their electric PT Cruisers as getting a distance of 120+ miles per charge with a charging time of 8 hours. It sounded great.

I did some research and found out the company was testing the car as an EV Taxi in New York (which failed, but they covered it up, only good stories appeared when searching Google about the subject). The company was also featured on the Discovery Channel’s program Modern Marvels. It all seemed pretty legit.

Modern Marvels obviously did not do their homework, and it’s clear that the PR folks at Hybrid Technologies were on overdrive.

I decided to move forward and paid the deposit for half of the car, which was about $30,000. The car was to be ready in 90 days. Unfortunately, it ended up shipping in 120+ days. But things started to go wrong way before that.

It turns out the “new car” I paid for was in fact a demo car that already had 4,000 miles on it. Shockingly, I did not receive any money back due to EV Innovations’ error in purchasing. In addition, they told me the car was ready to ship a month before it was actually finished. Trusting them, I wired the remaining balance of the car only to find out later the car was not ready.

My Electric Lemon being converted from ICE to EV.
My first moments with the Li-Ion Motors (formally EV Innovations) lemon. After all was said and done, three months after the promised delivery date, the vehicle was finally shipped, and yes, it was dead on arrival. It did nothing; it was a brick. The truck driver that delivered it didn’t even have a ramp on his truck, so we used the loading dock at a local grocery store where I was visiting family for Christmas in the Sierra Foothills. The truck driver pushed the car off the truck and drove away. There I was, stuck with an Electric Lemon.

I had it towed back to the garage at my parent’s home and plugged it in but it would not charge. I immediately contacted EV Innovations and they instructed me to plug it into a 220V outlet and informed me that it cannot charge from empty on a 110V outlet. That seemed insane, but I did as instructed and found a 220V line and plugged it in. It slowly charged to full.

The first drive made it about 50 miles (downhill) before we had to have it towed the rest of the way home to the Bay Area.

EV Innovations asked me to do a number of things with the car, which eventually resuted in the car nearly catching on fire. Yes, that’s one of the items they tried to fix by installing a relay switch to prevent some sort of voltage issue which caused their power plug to smoke and nearly melt into the car.

After I reported the smoking plug to EV Innovations, I received this email::

From: “Luc Pham”
Date: December 29, 2008 3:58:14 PM PST
Subject: Charging
Mr. Lyon,
Please stop charging the car for until we replace the bad cell.
Please open up the emergency switch (EPO).

From there, it sat in the garage inoperable for months while EV Innovations figured out what to do. Eventually they sent people to work on the car; they replaced the lithium cells, re-wired parts of the car, who knows what else they did.

In all fairness, Luc was a very nice guy and he wanted the car to work. He apologized for the awful things his management has done.

Luc Pham, EV Innovations intern working on the car.

I asked for a refund on the car but they told me it was running perfectly. I sent them a certified letter demanding a full refund based on the Song Beverly Act (California Lemon Law), and they refused to respond. Rather, they asked me to ship the car back to North Carolina so they could attempt to jam more batteries into the vehicle.

I contemplated this option but with all the bad experiences I had with the company, I did not fully trust them. So I suggested that if I were to send the car back, perhaps they could provide me with my deposit back as a gesture of good will and integrity on their part. They of course refused saying this was “warranty” work and in no way was the car being sent back due to any fault of the company. I was at a loss.

At this point the car would go about 70 miles on a 10 to 20 hour charge (depending on voltage/amperage).

I was able to drive it between my office and home for a month until the driver side wheel nearly fell off because the bearings were incorrectly packed. That was it for me.

I begged them for a refund, begged them to take care of this problem the way any decent company would. I called Tom Zgoda their “Plant Manager” and asked them to do this right. He said I was driving the car wrong and that it’s all my fault and hung-up on me. I then pressed him via email and he said said:

“It is our position that we have been diligent in addressing the warranty on your vehicle. I guess since you disagree with that, it will be up to the courts to make a final determination.”

I hired Mark Anderson, a lawyer who specializes in Lemon Law cases and set out to do exactly what he suggested. I filed suit.

My lawyer and I hired a superstar electrical engineering expert named Art MacCarley, Ph.D., PE., who happens to be the Department Chair of the Electrical Engineering department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Dr. MacCarley drove to my house and spent the entire day meticulously going through the car. Later he wrote:

“I determined that the converted vehicle may best be characterized as an engineering prototype or work-in-progress conversion, containing multiple deficiencies and defects introduced by the modification to battery-electric propulsion. These deficiencies and defects affect vehicle function, features and safety, and could be expected to limit reliability. Overall, the subject vehicle fails to meet the manufacturer’s representations and reasonable owner expectations of engineering quality.”

Art put it very politely, but basically he was saying that college students could have built this car better than EV Innovations ( a publicly traded company). Attached to this article is the full report written by Dr. MacCarley.

There were wires hanging out from under the car, EV Innovations used the wrong gauge wire for high voltage lines and to top it off, the power steering was powered by a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower motor!!

Excerpt from Dr. MacCarley’s report.

Excerpt from Dr. MacCarley’s report.
After we sent EV Innovations the report (I ended up paying to help EV Innovations understand why their cars are not safe) they asked to settle for less than I paid for the car. Minus the legal fees, I ended up with a $20,000 loss. It was not the best outcome but at least the car would be out of my hair and I would never have to talk with the people at EV again. However, the “settlement” ended up being a delay tactic. They changed the terms of the settlement, never paid, never finalized the paperwork, did not return calls or emails as they promised, said we had been “overly aggressive” and said this is going into a “holding pattern”.

In their SEC filings from December 8th, 2009 they wrote:

“Barrett Lyon, an individual, has filed suit against the Company in the Superior Court of California, San Mateo County, for alleged breach of warranty for a vehicle he purchased from the Company seeking $68,222 in damages, plus attorney’s fees estimated in the range of $10,000 to $30,000. The Company has entered into a settlement agreement with Mr. Lyon.”

However, by December 8th, 2009 we already filed a motion to continue the case and re-set a trial date. Prior to December 8th, they stopped responding to us and started to delay and break promises. Their statement in their SEC filings was very misleading to any shareholders of EV Innovations.

So, a $60,000+ electric car still sits in my garage. It’s a lump of Lithium batteries. While very disappointing, I learned a lot during this year and a half long experience:

Lithium may not be the chemical element of the future; it might be the next generation’s oil. It’s highly reactive, it’s dangerous, and countries like China control the supply. Refining and mining it creates a lot of pollution, thus with Li powered electric cars, we’re trading one dependency for another.

EV Innovations is in my opinion a criminal operation operated by fraudsters and it’s more of a scam operation than a real technology company. The SEC should be policing companies like this.

Maybe in 5 or 10 years I will take another look at electric cars as a serious mode of transpiration but until then, hopefully morons like EV Innovations do not create a bad name for electric vehicles.

A detailed report on my car and the failure of EV Innovation’s design written by Art MacCarley.

[Source: www.blyon.com]