Cash-Strapped Electric Car Companies Seeking Federal Funds Too

The heads of the struggling Detroit auto makers aren't the only car makers looking for help from Washington. The electric vehicle industry has its hands out, too.

If anything, representatives of the electric and electrified vehicle business jumped ahead of the "legacy" auto industry in the transportation bailout queue that formed in the nation's capital last week. A conference sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association attracted a crowd of electric vehicle manufacturers and their boosters to Washington's convention center during the first half of the week.

Officials from the Department of Energy on Monday presented tips to attendees on how electric vehicle companies could apply for federal loans. The CEOs of the legacy car industry – General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC — didn't get to town with their begging bowls until Thursday.

The electric-vehicle industry positions itself as the future of personal transportation. President-elect Barack Obama is now the industry's highest ranking advocate. He's said he wants to see one million plug-in vehicles by 2015, as part of his broader goal to end U.S. dependence on Mideast oil.

But right now, the electric-vehicle community has a lot of the same problems as the legacy car business, and a few more besides. Brian Wynne, the head of the EDTA, says manufacturers in his group need the government's help now.

"We have a gap," he says. "We need to get over this gap."

The credit crunch and the economic slump are slamming the crop of electric-vehicle companies that sprung up in recent years, fueled in part by Silicon Valley venture-capital money.

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