Tesla’s Planned IPO Rides the Anti-Oil Wave

Electric car maker Tesla Motors probably could not have picked a better time for their initial public offering as interest in alternatives to the internal combustion engine has been growing in tandem with the oil slick off Louisiana.

Even as Tesla CEO Elon Musk traveled around the country this week pitching the start-up’s $100 million IPO, expected June 28, in Washington Congress listened to a chorus of support for legislation that would subsidize the roll-out of EV infrastructure to the tune of $6 billion.

Both House and Senate versions of the pending bill would provide financial assistance for five to 15 communities around the country judged the most likely early adopters of electric vehicles. Those communities would receive federal funds to help finance public charging stations, and an increase in federal tax credits for EVs from $7,500 to $10,000.

Funds would also be used to change building codes in those designated communities to speed installation of home EV chargers, and other programs, according to the New York Times.

The Senate version, known as the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, even has rare bipartisan support in the form of Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a plug-in Prius owner who is seen as flexible when it comes to energy and climate issues.

Tesla, which makes the Tesla Roadster and is planning the cheaper Model S sedan for 2012, has already received a hefty government subsidy in the form of a $465 million loan guarantee, more than double Tesla’s hoped-for IPO take of $185 million.

But beyond any pending legislation, the oil spill itself may be the best (or worst, depending how you see it) advertisement for the only company in America with an assembly line making highway-ready, oil-free cars.

At any rate, Tesla will need all the help it can get. A prospectus accompanying the IPO lists several dozen risks associated with buying their stock, including the fact that Tesla has yet to turn a profit.

Whether Tesla’s stock offering can withstand the withering gaze of the financial markets will be an important test not only for the company, but electric cars in general. If it is considered a success – or just not a failure – it could strengthen the gradually accumulating sense of inevitability behind electric cars as the future of the automobile.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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