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Here's one thing that often gets lost in the shuffle when debating the sexier points of green transportation: the simplest way to make a car, plane, whathaveyou more eco-friendly is just to make the whole damn thing . All well and good, but how do you make sure that those industrial-grade plastic parts maintain their strength once you lighten them up? A technology developed at MIT called MuCell , and now being explored by automakers like Ford and Cadillac, has an answer. And that answer is: just add bubbles.
As gas prices rise, electric cars look better and better. But any chances manufacturers had the last time gas hit $4 a gallon were extinguished thanks to the 2008 recession, which made electric vehicles’ high upfront costs unpalatable. Now it looks like they’ll have a second chance to capitalize on high gas prices as prices have once again risen to the occasion. The price for crude oil futures has crossed the $100 mark — hitting as high as $104 per barrel.
What’s next for cleantech? Sunil Paul , founding director of Spring Ventures, thinks it will be the “CleanWeb,” or technologies that leverage the capabilities of the Internet, social media and mobile technologies to address resource constraints. He’ll explain this idea in a morning talk at Green:Net 2011 .
For such a hotly anticipated car, the Nissan Leaf has seen deliveries creep slowly off the assembly line — but don’t tell the Department of Energy. The DOE, carrying through on President Obama’s State of the Union speech in which he called for one million electric vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015, released a status report this week showing that by “conservative” estimates, 1.2 million electric cars will be available in the U.S. by 2015. As we pointed out yesterday , at least one number in the report is decidedly unconservative, which is that 25,000 Nissan Leafs will be made available this year (see chart below). The company has 20,000 reservations for the Leaf and has delivered just over 100 cars in the U.S. since its December launch. Nissan executive Brian Carolin told The Detroit News that the company would have a hard time hitting 20,000 Leafs this year , but predicted “a few hundred” of the cars would be sold this month: “I think 20,000 will be too high.
ASP Technology just launched its Anti Sleep Pilot iPhone and iPad application to help prevent fatigue-related driving accidents. The app calculates a your fatigue level in real-time, maintains your alertness via reaction tests, and alerts your when it is time to take a rest break. Founder Troels Palshof fell asleep at the wheel in 2007 (soon after the arrival of his first child) and narrowly avoided a crash. Not being able to find a product that could prevent a similar accident, he decided to create his own.
In 2006, Virginia Tech began the daunting task of building a car for blind drivers. The Blind Driver Challenge team at Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory started out in 2009 using a buggy retrofitted with a voice command interface on a closed course. Now the team has moved into the real world, bringing a modified Ford Escape hybrid to the Daytona International Speedway in January during a pre-event for the Rolex 24 endurance race. According to the , the vehicle has been tricked out for blind drivers with a nonvisual user interface that can "see" road obstacles, a glove with small vibrating motors on each of the knuckles to transmit directional information, a seat featuring four vibrating motors that transmit vibrations up or down the driver's leg depending on whether they need to accelerate or decelerate, and a tablet covered with holes that shoot compressed air. When the driver puts a hand over the tablet, they can visualize road obstacles.
The chairman of Build Your Dreams (BYD) one of the world’s largest clean tech and electric vehicle manufacturers, Chuanfu Wang, won China’s Canton Provincial Award for Individual Contribution the company announced today. The Canton Government awarded the CPAIC, a.k.a. “China’s Peace Prize,” to Wang for leading a business that has consistently developed and commercialized solar power, battery, LED and electrified transportation technologies. Use of BYD products in Canton, the government there claims, significantly reduced air pollution in the province. Also known as Guangdong, the Canton region drew scrutiny over air quality issues leading up to the Asian Games which it hosted in November 2010.
Since 2008, Barack Obama has consistently promoted the goal of having 1 million advanced technology vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. The number refers to plug-in vehicles that use grid power, stored in lithium-ion battery packs, to operate their electric traction motors. Regular hybrids like the Toyota Prius don't do that. The all-electric Nissan Leaf , the series hybrid Chevy Volt , and an upcoming plug-in hybrid version of the Prius do.
updated Tesla’s IPO has been one a few super-successful cleantech public offerings this year, if not the most successful. But will the good news continue after the 180-day post-IPO lockup period expires Monday and new shares flood the market? Maybe not. There’s tremendous short interest in the electric car company’s stock — that means there’s a lot of buyers looking to bet that shares will fall. On Nov. 30, the ratio of short interest to available shares that day was 6 to 1 , and at the end of October that ratio reached 22 to 1, ahead of Tesla’s most recent earnings report.
This year — and next — will be a busy one for arrival of electric cars. The Ford Focus Electric and Coda’s sedan are slated for launch by 2011. The Nissan Leaf is slowly making its way to buyers in the U.S. and Europe, the Wheego Whip and LiFe are on sale in New York , and the partially electric Chevrolet Volt is on dealer lots now. Yet Tesla Motors, the one company that’s been ahead of the pack in actually selling electric vehicles, saw its stock price drop 16 percent today . The Silicon Valley-based maker of the all-electric sports car Roadster saw its stock drop today in part due to today’s expiry of the 180-day lockup period that kept insiders from selling their shares.
Here’s the latest action we’re following on the GreenBeat today: ECOtality gets $10 million from ABB — The electric car charging infrastructure company announced it received an equity investment from global power electronics firm ABB Group. The two companies have also inked a manufacturing agreement that will allow ECOtality’s Blink charging stations to be powered by ABB’s electronics. ECOtality is currently working to roll out chargers across the U.S., spurred in part by a DOE grant.
Car-sharing service company Zipcar this morning announced that it has raised $21 million in Series G funding. Meritech Capital Partners led the round with a $20 million investment, while Pinnacle Ventures contributed the additional $1 million. Zipcar didn’t detail what it plans to do with the fresh capital, other than to say it intends to use the proceeds to fund working capital needs and finance fleet growth, and to continue its geographic expansion. In a separate release , Zipcar has revealed that Steve Case , co-founder and former CEO and chairman of AOL, and John Mahoney, vice chairman and CFO of Staples, have joined its board of directors. Miraval CEO Philippe Bourguignon has stepped down from the company’s board to make room for Case. Zipcar boasts more than 500,000 members and 8,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (they acquired U.K. car sharing company Streetcar for $50 million earlier this year).
When Porsche announced last Spring that it plans to built a production version of the 918 plug-in hybrid Spyder supercar, green car buffs rejoiced. At this week's Detroit Auto Show, the luxury auto company upped the hybrid supercar ante with the 918 RSR racecar, a modified version of the Spyder hybrid. sat down with Michael Mauer, Porsche's head of design, at the Detroit Auto Show and talk about the new vehicle. The 918 RSR features a a V-8 engine, an ultra-impressive 767 horsepower, and a 36,000 rpm electric flywheel power generator that gathers kinetic energy from the vehicle's wheels and converts it to electricity. Once sufficient electricity is gathered, drivers can press a button to release it for acceleration. While the 918 Spyder is focused on both performance and fuel economy, the RSR is "purely performance," explains Mauer.
Toyota, maker of the best-known hybrid to date, announced today a new family of its Priuses, including a plug-in version slated for release in 2012. Not unexpectedly, considering that a major industry auto show is happening this week in Detroit, Toyota took the announcement an extra step by using social media as part of its pitch. Executives answered questions about the new models of Priuses via a Twitter chat , and an announcement was also made available via livestream on the company’s website. It’s not the first time Toyota and others have experimented with social media to build hype for new offerings. The carmaker chose to announce its release of six new hybrids by 2012 via a tweet last year.
We love autonomous cars here at --we've written about them extensively and even taken the occasional spin. Now, Volvo's autonomous vehicle platooning technology is finally ready to emerge from the lab and into the streets. This week, Volvo and SARTRE (the EU-financed Safe Road Trains for the Environment program) demonstrated vehicle platooning, which consists of a convoy of "slave" vehicles led by a professional driver in a lead vehicle, at the Volvo Proving Ground near Gothenberg, Sweden. Each slave vehicle in the convoy keeps track of distance, speed and direction and adjusts to stay close--but not too close--to the car directly ahead. The vehicles can leave the platoon at will, but they are completely automated while part of the group. According to Volvo, the platoons are smooth enough that drivers could drink coffee and read the morning paper without worrying about interruption.