I'LL BE BATT: Arnie Schwarzenegger snubs gas guzzlers for electric

Meanwhile, Faraday's Future looks like the debtor's prison

Former bodybuilder, movie star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone electric.

The current star of Celebrity Apprentice, Arnie just popped over to his home country of Austria to pick up a custom Mercedes G-Class that had been fitted out with a powerful electric motor.

In just the latest of a lifetime of unusual moves, the man responsible more than any other of encouraging thousands of Americans to buy gas-guzzling Humvees, and who pushed back against the nascent electric car market to flog an industry-favored "hydrogen highway" while governor of California, has gone all in on Edison.

Electric car specialists Kreisel Electric claim the electrified Mercedes G350D comes with a 300-km (185-mile) range and a maximum speed of 183km/hr (114 mi/hr). It can be charged to 80 per cent of its capacity in just 25 minutes and will go from 0 to 100km/hr (62mi/hr) in just 5.6 seconds. In each case, this beats the original gas-powered version of the vehicle.

Working with the Terminator was a PR push for the company's battery technology and the third time that the company has retrofitted existing cars – including a Porsche Panamera, a Skoda Yeti and a VW Golf – to show its potential (it actually vastly improved on the Volkswagen's own electric efforts).

Faraday cage

Meanwhile, another electric car upstart, Faraday Future, is on people's minds for all the wrong reasons.

The company hit the headlines when it launched what it claims is the fastest-accelerating car in the world, the FF 91, at CES earlier this month in Las Vegas.

We were there as top exec Nick Sampson promised to "reformat" the electric car industry, even though the car itself failed to demonstrate its self-parking feature on stage and back in October failed to drive down a central walkway due to technical problems.

Despite a claim of 65,000 early orders for the FF 91, it seems Faraday is failing to pay its bills. Video effects company The Mill is suing the company for a failure to pay it an agreed $1.82m for a flashy virtual fly-through of one of its concept cars.

According to The Mill, the money was supposed to be paid in three installments, but so far they've only received $20,000 of the $455,000 first installment. Unfortunately for the company, it is far from the first to complain about unpaid bills and not even the first to sue the company in an effort to get paid.

Car website Jalopnik has been following the company's travails and noted back in December that "suppliers, contractors, current, prospective and ex-employees" had all complained about not being paid. The company's apparent plan to launch no fewer than five cutting-edge and industry-leading electric cars was described as "absurd" and its planned factory in Nevada has stopped construction. Few expect the company to survive much longer.

Money, money, money

Speaking of Schwarzenegger and construction: California's utility companies are planning a statewide rollout of electric vehicle charging stations. There is only one catch however – it wants taxpayers to pay for them.

Schwarzenegger recognized that without an infrastructure similar to the thousands of gas stations dotted all over the Golden State, new car technology was going nowhere. He was persuaded however that hydrogen, rather than electricity, was the way to go and passionately pushed a plan to spend $20m building a "hydrogen highway" of 100 stations in order to kickstart the technology.

It never happened (although the plans to build it are still under serious consideration in Sacramento).

However, that $20m is nothing compared to the $1bn that Southern California Edison, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric are asking in public funding.

Southern California Edison has asked the state for $570 million to help meet the state's goals of cutting greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. And by ask, we mean, has asked for permission to charge its customers more money on their monthly bills. PG&E meanwhile wants $253 million over five years and San Diego Gas & Electric a mere $246 million.

The vision is tens of thousands of new plug-in chargers across the state, adding to the existing 12,000. California leads the rest of the country on electric car technology (there are just 40,000 public chargers in the whole US), in terms of industry, policy and regulations. And that gap may grow with the Trump Administration as it threatens to reduce or get rid of EPA clean-air quality regulations. California has vowed to follow its own higher regulations, regardless of what Washington does.

The question now is: will California taxpayers be willing to pay for it? At least one former governor is going to say yes – for no reason other than he wants to drive his new monster Mercedes around LA. ®

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