Electric Car Plant May Open in Syracuse

 

Electric Car Plant May Open in Syracuse
By KATE GALBRAITH


New York State appears to be close to securing one of the nation’s first assembly plants for electric cars.


Reva, an electric car company based in Bangalore, India, plans to work with Bannon Automotive, a new electric car company in Freeport, N.Y., to assemble a three-door plug-in hatchback, the NXR, at a still-to-be-determined site near Syracuse.


The plans were first reported by The Post-Standard, a Syracuse newspaper. Many details remained unclear on Tuesday; an official announcement is expected late in the week.


The NXR was introduced at the Frankfurt auto show in September, one of a new class of small electric cars from scrappy Indian and Chinese companies hoping to beat the big car companies to market. Other Reva electric models are already on sale in Europe and Asia.


Jeffrey Leonard, a board member of Reva, said that from the beginning the board had understood that “if you’re going to really sell and distribute this car in a big way in the U.S., you should have a production facility here,” for reasons both logistical and political. Speaking on condition of anonymity, officials involved in the discussions said the plant would receive $11.6 million in funding and incentives from New York State, with the companies putting in $26.5 million. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the project’s backers were also seeking $52 million in loans and loan guarantees from the federal government. He acknowledged that he had been involved in discussions about the plant for several months.


Some of the parts needed for the cars could be made by contract manufacturers, Mr. Leonard said, though he stressed that he was not familiar with the particulars of the New York deal. Final assembly would be carried out by as many as 250 workers in the Syracuse-area factory under a recently negotiated agreement between Bannon and Reva, officials said.


“We have a very good labor force,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s experienced in manufacturing.”


Efforts to contact Bannon Automotive were unsuccessful. The Metropolitan Development Association of Syracuse and Central New York declined to comment.


Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson, said that the deal was “one in a long line of major announcements that the governor has helped make a reality in New York, in driving New York toward a clean energy economy.”


Discussions with Reva and Bannon Automotive began nearly a year ago, according to David Valesky, a state senator from the Syracuse area.


“This is a major victory for upstate New York and for our efforts to grow and attract the green jobs of the new economy,” Mr. Valesky said in an e-mailed statement.


Only a couple of electric car plants exist in the United States, but many are on the drawing board as companies bet that some drivers are ready to make the switch. Fisker Automotive, an American electric car start-up that is making cars in Finland, plans to build its next-generation model in the United States, but it has not said where.


A company called Tesla also expects to announce a site for an assembly plant in Southern California for its forthcoming Model S. It also plans a powertrain plant in Palo Alto, Calif. Tesla already does final assembly for its Roadster at a plant in Menlo Park, Calif.


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/business/energy-environment/21electric.html

Publication date: 
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - 00:00