Sometimes automotive executives engage in something that very closely resembles a cat-fight, except just with words and without any of the scratching and such. That very thing happened recently when Michael O’Brien, who is the head of product planning for Hyundai in the United States, stated that his company has received zero government money for the development of its new hydrogen fuel cell Tucsons or the fueling stations that will be needed. Of course nobody would be confused about whether or not Hyundai had received government backing, because otherwise there would be hydrogen fueling stations where people might actually see them.
O’Brien didn’t stop there. He dragged Tesla through the mud a little by going to say that Tesla received “money that has come from grants and loans from the government.” And what has Tesla done with taxpayers’ dollars? Set up a network or Supercharger DC fast-charge stations that allow people with a Tesla to drive from coast-to-coast.
Naturally, Tesla isn’t pleased about O’Brien’s words. The all-electric automaker did receive $465 million as a loan from the government, but it has already paid that money back, and in fact did so early by several years. Moreover, that money didn’t go toward developing the Supercharger technology, but instead helped Tesla develop its electric powertrain technology, which now can be copied by anyone without fear of a patent lawsuit.
Ironically, during the same address where O’Brien accused Tesla of using government funds to set up a fueling network, he stated “For us, the big breakthrough will come when other states start investing in infrastructure.” In this case, “infrastructure” means hydrogen fueling stations. So in other words, Hyundai would be benefitting from an investment of taxpayer dollars, at least on the state level.