July 25, 2013

The Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Program's $135 Million in Funding to Ecotality, Inc.

The Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program aims to decrease U.S. oil dependence by developing and deploying advanced transportation technologies.  The scope of the Program was significantly increased when it received approximately $2.8 billion in funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Subsidiary companies of Ecotality, Inc. received about $35 million from 2005 to 2011, for two multi-year projects to test and evaluate advanced technology vehicles.  In 2009, Ecotality was awarded a Recovery Act grant for about $100 million for electric vehicle demonstration and infrastructure evaluation.  For this award, Ecotality planned to install three different types of charging stations for electric vehicles in various geographical regions around the country. 

Our review identified opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the Department's administration of its awards to Ecotality.  We noted that the Department had not adequately documented its consideration of alternatives before making significant changes to Ecotality's Recovery Act project.  Additionally, the Department had not ensured that the selection of commercial charging station locations was based on a process that advanced the goals of the project.  Further, the Department had not ensured that Ecotality's awards were finalized in a timely manner.  We did not find that the cost-share concept for this project was prohibited under Federal regulations; however, we concluded that the cost-share arrangement was unusual and provided Ecotality with a very generous cost-share credit. 

We made several recommendations to address the issued we observed and to improve the management of this and similar projects.  Management concurred with our recommendations and indicated that it had completed or initiated corrective actions that were responsive to our recommendations. 

TOPIC: Financial Assistance