Private company, SMUD, government join
By Dale Vargas
Bee Staff Writer
(taken from The Sacramento Bee newspaper)
An unusual public-private partnership is bringing a new
electronic vehicle business to Sacramento that could boost
the area's economy and make Sacramento a center for a new
That's the message of officials who planned to announce
this morning that a private electronic 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 Electronic 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 electronic-vehicle manufacturing.
It also is a viable example of how a defense facility's
functions can be used by the private sector, officials said
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
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 vehicles.
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 to SMUD.
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-electronic 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
electronic cars, officials said.
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 electronic vehicles, there are no major manufacturers of
Electronic Vehicles in the nation. Several other countries,
including Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and Denmark, manufacture
Eventually, officials hope, Sacramento will be the site
for an industry that produces thousands of strong, light,
Electronic Vehicles that are made of space-age material components.
SMUD electronic-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, where
small 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 list.
said what the effort does "is simply display graphically
what a high tech asset that (the base) is."
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