DOE Inspector General criticizes agency’s oversight of Ecotality awards

The sad story of Ecotality’s demise entered another chapter, as the DOE’s internal investigator said that problems at the company should have been spotted sooner.

The DOE’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report concluding that the DOE “had not fully disclosed known concerns regarding Ecotality’s ability to meet its EV project obligations” prior to Ecotality’s bankruptcy filing. “Program officials asserted that the failure to disclose the information regarding Ecotality’s difficulties was unintended. Nothing came to our attention to the contrary; however, we are deeply concerned because the information directly related to the objective of our audit, to determine whether the Department had effectively awarded and managed funding to Ecotality.”

The back story: The DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program awarded about $35 million to Ecotality to evaluate and test specific vehicles. Ecotality also received an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant for about $100 million to build the EV Project, a vast charging network that was to collect and analyze EV usage information.

In May 2013, DOE officials concluded that Ecotality would be unable to complete installations on schedule and would not achieve required data collection milestones. In June, the Department required Ecotality to complete a corrective action plan, which included providing several specific documents. According to OIG, that documentation revealed data collection concerns, cost overruns, and charger installation delays, raising serious questions as to whether the project would meet expectations.

In August, Ecotality notified the DOE that it was in financial distress and might not be able to meet its obligations. The DOE suspended payment. In September, Ecotality filed a petition for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Regardless of who knew what when, the national database of charging behavior that the EV Project was building is still badly needed – we hope that another organization will be able to take the wheel.

 

Source: Green Car Congress