Credit Problems May Stall San Jose's Electric Dreams

Bank cancels line of credit for businessman looking to help San Jose attract green vehicle businesses

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Oct 23, 2009  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Credit Problems May Stall San Jose's Electric Dreams

Tim Hurst

While a San Jose businessman is struggling with the banks, Gavin Newsom has a $1 million to spend on charging stations for his Tesla Roadster.

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When San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed announced the city's new "Green Vision" program to foster a low-wattage, renewable energy future with green collar jobs for all, he banked on public-private partnerships with the likes of Synergy EV.

Synergy's CEO Bob Garzee had plans to build an incubation center for electric vehicle startups in the Valley of Heart's Delight, but is now being sued by Union Bank for breach of contract, potentially putting Garzee out of house and home.

Garzee opened a $75,000 line of credit with the bank in 1999, using his home in Los Gatos as collateral. When it recently came up for renewal, the bank took a look at Synergy EV and decided to call its loan -- demanding $73,322 from Garzee and threatening to foreclose on the home.

Garzee already has $300,000 in city contracts, and is working on grants totalling $6 million, with Synergy EV possibly earning $400,000 from administering those grants as it disburses them to companies looking to relocate to the planned Electric Vehicle Development Center.

He's even offered to turn over the titles to his own fleet of electric vehicles as additional collateral, and the bank did offer a repayment plan, but Garzee says he can't afford the terms as he's invested $280,000 into the business incubator project.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a press release touting a new $1 million federal grant to install more electric vehicle charging stations around the city.

The city currently has a few charging stations in front of City Hall, used by City CarShare, Zipcar, and the city's fleet of plug-in hybrids.

Photo by Tim Hurst.

Jackson West wonders if we should be investing in an electric car future while public transportation so desperately needs investment.

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