company, SMUD, government join forces
By Dale Vargas
Bee Staff Writer
(taken from The Sacramento Bee newspaper)
An unusual public-private partnership is bringing
a new electric.vehicle business to Sacramento that
could boost the area's economy and make Sacramento
a center for a new industry.
That's the message of officials who planned to announce
this morning that a private electric car company,
SMUD and the federal government have joined forces
to establish a business development center on McClellan
Air Force Base. Officials said the plan by the Synergy
Electric Vehicle Group, the Sacramento Municipal Utility
District and McClellan could be the first tangible
step in putting Sacramento on the map as the national
center for electric-vehicle manufacturing.
It also is a viable example of how a defense facility's
functions can be used by the private sector, officials
have a new battery-powered industrial age dawning
in Sacramento" said Rep. Vic Fazio, D-West Sacramento,who
helped direct federal defense funding for such projects
to the North Highlands military base.
The enterprise comes after about two years of planning
and negotiations and lobbying for funds said Fazio.
The first phase ofthe project would employ as many
as 40 people, he said, but as many as 600 jobs could
be created within two years for manufacturing road-worthy
represents an initial thrust into introducing the
transfer of military capacity into peaceful uses,"
said Maj. Gen. John F. Phillips Jr., commander of
the Sacramento Air Logistics Center.
called the venture a good business opportunity for
Synergy, SMUD and the future of McClellan. SMUD's
board of directors Thursday approved a cooperative
agreement that ensures the districts involvement in
the project. There will be no immediate direct cost
Synergy will lease space on the base and the partnership
will use part of an initial $5 million in federal
funds to set up a research and development center
that first will produce prototypes. Soon, officials
said, it will produce all-electric utility vehicles
for the military and then for use in the private sector.
It is the first venture in the country devoted exclusively
to developing and manufacturing electric cars, officials
vehicles, considered by many experts as the ultimate
weapon in the fight against air pollution, have been
around for 100 years. While some U.S. companies convert
fossil-fueled vehicles to electric, there are no major
manufacturers of electric vehicles in the nation.
Several other countries, including Sweden, Switzerland,
Japan and Denmark, manufacture the vehicles.
Eventually, officials hope, Sacramento will be the
site for an industry that produces thousands of strong,
light, electric vehicles that are made of space-age
material components. SMUD electric-vehicle manager
Michael Wirsch said manufacturer using defense employees'expertise
in components and electronics will build vehicles
that will be radically different from the typical
converted conventional cars and trucks of today.
a couple of years, planners hope to be producing 2,000.pound
vehicles that will go up to 75 mph and travel 130
to 150 miles between charges, and that the pu blic
can buy for between $10,000 and $15,000.
view the new venture as an "incubation"
stage similar to the early days of Silicon Valley,
businesses began by joining forces with local universities'
experts to get the computer business off the ground.
Synergy chairman and CEO Bob Garzee said he wants
to make the business center "available ...easy
for companies to get involved."
government-private project is "the sort of
thing we are looking for ," said Tom Eres,
vice president of the
Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and a
key player the area's effort earlier this year to
keep McClellan off the Defense Department's base-closure
said what the effort does "is simply display
graphically what a high tech asset that (the base)
officials, including SMUD board member Linda Davis,
said the project represents a "new mission"
for McClellan. That new mission could give the base
extra strength in the battle against a closure and
eventually could give it a civilian role if it was
abandoned by the government.