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Carbon Motors Petitions for Federal Loan

Potential cop-car manufacturer asks Obama's Cabinet for funding.

By Sam Smith Dec 20, 2011 2:25PM
Carbon Motors E7. Image courtesy Carbon Motors.Carbon Motors, the manufacturing hopeful behind the E7 law-enforcement vehicle, has petitioned the government to approve its Energy Department Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (AVTM) loan. The petition came in the form of an open letter to President Barack Obama's Cabinet. The company applied for a $300 million AVTM loan two years ago but has yet to secure funding. The letter outlines why Carbon believes it deserves the loan, addressing each Cabinet member in turn. 

The E7, Carbon's police-car prototype, was designed from the ground up as a law-enforcement vehicle. It features things such as rear-hinged doors for easier passenger ingress and a 3.0-liter BMW turbodiesel engine for torque and fuel economy. The vehicle was designed to be a suitable replacement for the aging, body-on-frame Ford Panther chassis (Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis) that currently forms the basis of most American police fleets. 

We're not in the habit of including press releases in "Exhaust Notes" posts, but the letter is relevant and an interesting read. Its text, along with a larger picture of the E7, is below the jump. 

Carbon Motors E7. Image courtesy Carbon Motors. Whether or not Carbon deserves a federal loan is up for debate, but there's no denying the relevance of the E7 idea. A lot of major-city police departments aren't too keen on the Panther's replacements and have instead opted to replace their Panthers with larger, body-on-frame vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe. Durability and cabin space are the main draws there, with poor fuel economy an acceptable negative. 

Ask yourself this: If a major American city has decided that a 5000-pound truck is the most suitable option for its police fleet -- and that over a handful of purpose-built sedans, all of which get better mileage and are easier to maneuver -- what's wrong with this picture? And will a federal loan for an out-of-the-blue, unproven brand solve the situation or make it worse?

Carbon Motors Chairman Issues Open Letter to U.S. President's Cabinet

Carbon Motors in Support of U.S. Law Enforcement and the Role of Government
CONNERSVILLE, Ind., Dec. 15, 2011-- The following is an open letter from William Santana Li, chairman and chief executive officer, Carbon Motors Corporation, to select members of the President's Cabinet:

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
The Honorable John E. Bryson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
The Honorable Hilda L. Solis, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
The Honorable Steven Chu, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
The Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Director, Office of Management & Budget

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President of the United States

Dear Members of the President's Cabinet,
I am writing to you about a matter of national significance and of great importance to our country's law enforcement first responders generally, and specifically each of the departments for which you have responsibility. We share concerns expressed by countless law enforcement professionals to us over the last nine years: our brave first responders are asked to secure our country, patrol our streets, and protect our communities without the appropriate equipment to empower them to do so in a manner that is safe for the officer and the public at large; the vehicles being used today are highly inefficient – both economically and environmentally; and the vast majority of the vehicles in the existing law enforcement fleet use passenger cars intended for retail consumer use and which were not manufactured on U.S. soil by American workers.

Carbon Motors Corporation is a homeland security technology company that is developing the world's first and only purpose-built law enforcement patrol vehicle. Over two years ago, Carbon Motors filed an application for a loan of over $300 million with the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program. The ATVM direct loan program was established in a bi-partisan manner by the Bush Administration and has been carried on by the Obama Administration.

We have secured a mothballed automotive facility located in a town with unemployment at rates significantly higher than the national average – Connersville, Indiana – a victim of the fallout of automotive industry at the end of the last decade. With the ongoing criticisms aired concerning the U.S. Department of Energy's loan guarantee programs and the ATVM direct loan program, our country faces a critical decision now that will have significant impact on our first responders, taxpayers, environment, highways, our manufacturing employment base and the security of our homeland.

There are 840,000+ law enforcement first responders – sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – who get up every morning and put themselves in harm's way to protect and serve each and every one of us, over 18,000 of them have already made the ultimate sacrifice. They patrol our streets and neighborhoods using gas-guzzling retail passenger cars that were not designed for this relentless mission and which, after the necessary aftermarket retrofitting process, do not meet federal safety standards applicable to all other passenger vehicles on the road.

While we know each of you join in our nation's unwavering support for its first responders, we wanted to highlight certain significant issues facing each of your respective critical missions and Carbon Motors' contribution to a comprehensive solution:


ISSUE: The largest and most visible combined fleet of vehicles deployed by our federal, state and local governments is among the most inefficient consuming over 1.5 billion gallons of fuel every year and emitting over 14 million tons of CO2. This at a time when our country is desperately trying to reduce its dangerous dependence on foreign oil and reduce its greenhouse gas footprint.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan and our country can begin to reduce these figures by 40%.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

ISSUE: Presently, our over 19,000 law enforcement agencies fend for themselves in an uncoordinated manner as they cobble together passenger vehicles meant for retail consumers with the vast array of aftermarket equipment necessary to successfully carry out their mission, while our country provides purpose-built vehicles for nearly every other unique public function – fire trucks, ambulances, postal services, trash collection, and a massive fleet of purpose-built vehicles of all types and sizes for the military.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan and our country will finally have the world's first truly purpose-built homeland security technology platform to better secure our country – inclusive of roving WMD threat detection capability. Let's focus our law enforcement resources on protecting our citizens, and put an end to the inefficient practice of operating 19,000+ uncoordinated automotive assembly operations by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; Secretary Hilda L. Solis

ISSUE: With the nation hovering near double-digit unemployment rates and virtually everyone in our country rightly focused on American jobs, our state, local and federal law enforcement agencies imported the over 500,000 patrol vehicles used by our law enforcement personnel from foreign soil. This is an unacceptable use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan and we will bring these jobs home to America, where they rightfully belong. It is estimated that our project will create 10,000+ new American jobs of national importance by building a technological breakthrough on U.S. soil in a region decimated by the automotive downturn – and we will do so in a mothballed brownfield facility we have already begun restoring.

ISSUE: The over 500,000 law enforcement vehicles patrolling our neighborhoods today do not meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, putting both our first responders and citizens on the road at risk. We, as a country, would never stand for the placement of a U.S. soldier in a similarly haphazardly-equipped vehicle and it is unacceptable to do this with our nation's brave first responders.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan and our first responders will be driving a vehicle that will meet or exceed all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards inclusive of all the law enforcement and homeland security equipment integrated into the vehicle platform.

ISSUE: Today's practice of allowing over 19,000 law enforcement agencies across the country to individually retrofit consumer-oriented vehicles is extremely costly and inefficient, with expenditures at the local, state, and federal level expected to be on the order of $100 billion over the next decade.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan and we will provide the nation with the only product presently in the ATVM loan program that will save the government a significant amount of money. The purpose-built, turn-key distribution of the Carbon E7 will reduce maintenance costs, improve durability, and, combined with the fuel savings and the extensive capabilities of the vehicle, result in dramatic savings for U.S. taxpayers nationwide. If the entire fleet were to be converted to Carbon E7 vehicles, the country could save over $10 billion taxpayer dollars over a period of ten years.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; Secretary John E. Bryson
ISSUE: Our nation continues to run unacceptably high trade imbalances, as American manufacturing has eroded and the nation has continued to devolve into an importer of foreign goods rather than an exporter of American innovation.
SOLUTION: Approve the Carbon Motors ATVM loan allowing our company to complete our project and respond to the nearly three-dozen requests by countries around the world for export of our breakthrough American product helping to put even more Americans to work.

As one of our Senior Advisors, The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton (vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission), has often remarked: the first role of government is to protect its citizens. There are lives at stake and we stand ready to do our part to better enable our first responders to meet their critical mission and, in the process, improve officer and highway safety, reduce harmful emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and put Americans back to work.

We need your help in making this happen, especially as the matter we have raised is a cross-cabinet or interagency concern. The first step to take is the timely approval of our ATVM loan as it is in the national security and socioeconomic interests of the United States of America.

On behalf of the 840,000+ first responders across our great country we thank you in advance for your timely support of this critical national initiative.



William Santana Li
Chairman and CEO
Carbon Motors Corporation

[Source: Carbon Motors via Autoblog]
Dec 21, 2011 4:33AM

When Carbon Motors produces order slips from law enforcement agencies in excess of lets say 5,000 units, WITH deposits to back up the orders, then we'll talk.


The US tax payers are done giving money to unproven startups.

Dec 21, 2011 6:07AM
Detroit got the Billions, declared bankruptcy shortly afterwords and left 100% of Americans with the debt.
Troy S., practicing revisionist history again I see.  Do you just make this stuff up as you go along?  Pure lies.

As for Carbon Motors, the LAST THING we need is for the Obama Administration to pour millions of dollars down yet another drain.  If Carbon Motors has a solution to problem it believes exists, then investors shouldn't be hard to come by.  The reality is that their are several options for police departments to choose from in sedans, SUVs, and pickups to handle police duties.  GM offers both the FWD Impala and RWD Caprice as well as the Tahoe with police packages.  Chrysler offers the Charger, the Durango and the RAM with police packages.  Ford offers the Taurus, the Expedition and the Explorer with police packages.  What we're seeing here is Carbon Motors trying to address a problem that doesn't exist with an overly expensive, uncompetitive, low volume vehicle that needs additional government subsidies to have a prayer in the market place.  I hope they don't get a dime of taxpayers' money.   

Dec 22, 2011 1:54PM
Ford already has a replacement.It can withstand a 75 mph rear impact also is avalible with 4 wheel drive,363 hp.And the best part no goverment money need to build it.They are already produceing them.
Dec 21, 2011 4:25AM
Detroit got the Billions, declared bankruptcy shortly afterwords
As Beltway pointed out in the SAAB blog, GM and Chrysler's bancrupcy filing was a stipulation of recieving the billions of tax payer dollars to write down their debt loads and renegotiate contracts with the unions in an effort to make the companies profitable again so the tax payers might actually get their billions back some day.
Dec 21, 2011 10:56AM

+1 with what VE said.


If there is a hole in the market that isn't being met by current car companies, then Carbon Motors should have no problems getting private investment.

Dec 21, 2011 5:25PM

LOL.  I have to laugh Klaus...  It is not like the GOP has ever been fiscally responsible. 


Vote them all out!!! 

Dec 23, 2011 7:49PM
Detroit got the Billions, declared bankruptcy shortly afterwards and left 100% of Americans with the debt
GM and Chrysler's bankruptcy filing was a stipulation of receiving the billions of tax payer dollars to write down their debt loads and renegotiate contracts with the unions in an effort to make the companies profitable again so the tax payers might actually get their billions back some day.

It is a well known fact that both Chrysler & GM have paid back their loans IN FULL. So 100% of Americans were NOT left with the debt and the tax payers got their money back. I think that this would be a good investment, especially if it puts Americans to work here in America and not at other plants in say Mexico or Canada or even Australia where the new Chevy Caprice is built.

Dec 27, 2011 6:20AM
I'd like to know exactly what Federal Motor safety standards a professionally outfitted Ford Crown Victoria does not meet.  Also, the last time I looked, Ford was an American company with a majority of the manufacturing process done in the US.  On the other hand, GM took federal bail-out money and outsourced the Caprice to be built in Australia.  And finally, the latest models from Ford are purpose-built police pursuit vehicles that are much more economically viable that the Carbon Motors product which I was told at a trade show where it was on display that it would cost approx. $60,000.  Unfortunately that alone will place it out of reach for most american cities to operate.
Dec 23, 2011 9:27AM

Unfortunately, there is no incentive for police departments to save money on gas.  Gas expenses are an accepted cost to protect the public.  And the choice of fuel efficient police cars is not great either.  Let gas go up to $6/gallon and see what choices become available to the police departments.  I agree - US shouldn't fund any unproven start-up.

Dec 28, 2011 4:58PM

I can see some of the confusion on the base price of the E-7 being a bit extravagant is rooted in the fact that quote is for a "Fully Equipped, Turn-Key" vehicle, whereas if you buy any of the others, all you get is the base vehicle, and have to add all the extras yourself.


Having done a few cost analysis studies in my time, the economies of scale where you are putting computers, cameras, radios, and other gear into a vehicle on an assembly line has got to be less expensive than doing it piecemeal in the county garage.  How much time is spent ripping out panels and putting them back again to modify a vehicle to the individual departments specs?  And can a small town buy the equipment at the same price as a factory that will purchase truckloads of the stuff?  Will their radios be compatable with other departments just over the city/county line?  Many questions need to be answered before you can make a blanket statement about the cost of an E-7.


The one thing I can see right off the bat that would be the downfall of Carbon Motors, is that while supplying a purpose built vehicle that may have been inspired by the RoboCop and Judge Dred movies, it would be kind of hard to pass off an unmarked version as anything but a cop car.  And that's the beauty of using vehicles from the usual makers.  How many times do you see a Dodge Charger cruising along behind some speeder, only to put on his/her flashers, and pull the totally surprised scofflaw over?  Or have an unmarked car following you while you obey every rule in the book, just waiting to pounce on the first person who makes the mistake of flying by ten mph over the limit?  But then I've seen people so stupid they pass fully marked patrol vehicles.


Carbon Motors does make a compelling, albeit simple, argument for their type of vehicle.  Whether they can back that up with real-world numbers remains to be seen.

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