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Electric vehicle factory stalled

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Plans to build a $200 million electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Honolulu are up in the air. An artist's drawing of the plant was showcased in a news conference last May.
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A prototype electric car was also showcased in a news conference last May.

A plan by a South Korean electric vehicle maker to build a $200 million manufacturing plant in Honolulu is now a big question mark.

CT&T’s chief executive officer pledged in May to have the 100,000-square-foot plant up and running within two years, providing jobs for 400 local residents. A media event was staged at which then-Gov. Linda Lingle heralded the plan as another important step in the state’s pursuit of clean energy.

But officials now say they aren’t sure of the project’s status.

"It hasn’t moved in the way it was originally scheduled," said Joseph Kourieh, a business development specialist for Enterprise Honolulu, a nonprofit that advocates economic development on Oahu. Enterprise Honolulu took the lead in procuring the agreement between the state and CT&T for the plant.

Kourieh said investors who bought a stake in CT&T after the Honolulu announcement "decided to focus on other markets" abroad and in the U.S.

"We don’t know whether this is going to happen," Kourieh said of the planned Honolulu plant. "It could still happen. I wouldn’t say it won’t happen."

The CT&T North American website lists a phone number with an Atlanta area code, but that number was out of service. A phone number for a CT&T office in Southern California also was out of service. A call to the company’s headquarters in Seoul seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Officials from the state Department of Business and Economic Development also said they were unclear whether CT&T still intended to move forward with its Hawaii plans.

"We haven’t heard anything, either," said Maria Tome, renewable energy program manager in the state energy office.

During his appearance in Hawaii, CT&T CEO Young Gi Lee said the company also was planning to build plants in other states and cities, including South Carolina, Georgia and Long Beach, Calif.

Young and other CT&T officials in July held a media event in South Carolina similar to the one in Honolulu. Young said CT&T plans to build a manufacturing plant in Spartanburg County that would create 370 new jobs. Andy Owens, managing editor of the Charleston Regional Business Journal, said construction of the plant was behind schedule and that no opening date had been announced. In the meantime, CT&T has begun importing vehicles from Korea to be sold in South Carolina, he said.

CT&T manufactures smaller vehicles that can be used as a second car for short trips or as a primary car for city commuting.

Most of its cars cannot be driven on freeways and have a top speed of 40 miles per hour.


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