Nissan Takes EV Lead with Charged Partnerships

By John Addison (11/24/08). Nissan is serious about being the leader in electric vehicles by taking a three-step approach: (1) developing a charging infrastructure, (2) seeding the market with EVs in 2010, and (3) leading in EV manufacturing volume in 2012. The initial vehicles show-off a new body design, be freeway speed, and have a 100-mile range.

In August, Nissan unveiled all-electric and hybrid electric prototype vehicles, both powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries from the Nissan-NEC joint-venture, Automotive Energy Supply Corporation.

Friday, at a Nissan reception, I discussed product strategy with Mark Perry, Nissan Director of Product Planning, and with Alan Buddendeck, Vice President of Corporate Communications. Nissan is serious about being the leader in electric vehicles. Nissan will be ready with exciting electric vehicles in 2010. They expect the market to take only two years from that point to be ready for volume buying. A public charging infrastructure will be important to many buyers.

Nissan will face serious electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid competition from Toyota, GM, BMW, Mercedes, Think, Tesla, and a number of exciting smaller innovators. Nissan plans on lead by focusing on zero emission vehicles (ZEV), rather than focus on plug-in hybrids. Longer term, Nissan expects to see many urban centers, such as London, where only ZEV will be exempt from expensive daily congestion fees.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has begun ZEV initiatives in Europe and Asia including Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Monaco, Japan, and with French electric utility company EDF. Now they are forging alliances in the United States.

With Nissan USA located in Tennessee, it is seeing strong support there for a statewide charging infrastructure. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen stated, “Our clean-energy future depends on our ability to find real strategies for encouraging Tennesseans to adopt a zero-emission mindset.” The state is focused on heavily trafficked Interstate 24 and Interstate 65 corridors.

“As the nation’s largest public power supplier, TVA is looking forward to being part of this project to explore the potential of electric vehicles,” said TVA Chairman William Sansom in joining the Tennessee initiative. “Electric vehicles could put electricity to work overnight, or off-peak, when other power needs are lower.”

Across the nation, Oregon is one of 17 states that is addressing growing climate problems by implementing carbon emission cap-and-trade. Oregon is part of the West Coast Governors Global Warming Initiative. Nissan has committed to supply ZEVs to the state of Oregon and to help promote an EV Charging Network. Active in the Oregon initiative is Portland General Electric (PGE), which has installed six charging stations this year.

California is also a member of West Coast Governors Global Warming Initiative. California, as the world’s third largest consumer of petroleum, has a compelling need to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles.

The mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland announced a $1 billion project to build a regional network of electric car charging stations. An important part of the regional network is the promotion of harmonized standards across the region, which should encourage the participation of many automakers and charging infrastructure providers. The Bay Area initiative will include expedited permits, financial incentives, and a roll-out plan for charging equipment. Although the network investment is estimated to ultimately reach $1 billion, the process of developing public and private investment is just beginning.

The Bay Area initiative is endorsed by innovators such as Better Place, which has raised over $100 million to provide a charging infrastructure and to provide batteries using a subscription model.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the project, “This type of public-private partnership is exactly what I envisioned when we created the first-ever low carbon fuel standard and when the state enacted the zero emissions vehicle program.”

The Mayors’ announcement could create a national model. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi supported the announcement, “Promoting the use of electric vehicles will help forward our nation’s goals to achieve energy independence, to protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to boost the economy by providing jobs in an emerging manufacturing sector.”

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. In March 2009 his new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published.

Being Dean Kamen

by Richard T. Stuebi

For a long time, I hadn’t heard much about Dean Kamen. He was last in the news, a lot, in 2001 when he unveiled the Segway.

You probably remember the Segway. Kamen was quoted in an article in Time upon the Segway’s release that it “will be to the car what the car was to the horse-and-buggy.” No less a force than Kleiner Perkins bought into the hype, making Segway one of its portfolio companies. The Segway hardly revolutionized transportation, and Kamen faded from view (at least from my view) for quite awhile. But, as recent reportage shows, Kamen clearly continues to think big, and is becoming increasingly visible again.

Kamen’s company DEKA Research and Development is now reported to be working on a car called the Revolt, a Think car modified to employ a hybrid-electric vehicle with a Stirling (in lieu of internal combustion) engine that can theoretically be powered by virtually anything that burns.

Meanwhile, Kamen is reported to be hosting visitors to North Dumpling Island, an island he owns off the coast of Connecticut, which he is turning into a showcase of how it’s possible to create a self-sufficient, zero-carbon economy.

Kamen must have tremendous self-confidence, to rebound from what surely must have been painfully discouraging — maybe even humiliating — in the Segway’s failure to achieve its claims, to now sticking his neck out yet again in such exposed ways.

If we are to make real progress on our energy and environmental challenges, especially in a world whose economies are in disarray, we will need courage — some might even say recklessness — from many bold thinkers and doers to overcome long odds and formidable obstacles.

So today, I offer a tip of the hat to Mr. Kamen. I admire his strength of vision. I don’t know that I’d necessarily invest my ever-dwindling personal capital in his ventures, but I hope for his sake and for the planet’s that he’s onto something more substantial this time than he was with the Segway seven years ago.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Best of Blogroll: Kanellos on the Most Paranoid Cleantech Companies

Best of our Blogroll:

I could not resist for a Friday afternoon offering up Michael Kanellos’ pithy (and dead-on) chronicling of the most paranoid startups in the cleantech world. Utterly hilarious. First Solar, Bloom Energy, EEStor and Solyndra of course make the list.

And the Cleantech Avenger last week had some quite entertaining speculation about Nancy Floyd, one of my favorite venture capitalists, and politics.

And finally rounding out with an entertaining read from Robert Rapier on falling oil prices.

General Motors Bailout

Op-Ed by John Addison (11/17/08). On September 24, Congress approved a $25 billion bailout for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. “It seemed like a lot when we first started pushing this,” says Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Suddenly, it seems so small.” The three troubled automakers are already back in Washington D.C. asking for another $25 billion.

A couple of weeks ago, GM said that the future of our nation depended on it getting added billions so that it could buy Chrysler. GM has changed its mind. It just wants taxpayers to give the Detroit three another $25 billion. The problem is that the total of $50 billion is paid by taxpayers like you and me.

Congress would do well to have some national goals for the $50 billion, not goals set by auto lobbyists. Goals include America’s need to become competitive with the world if we hope to create more jobs and end this recession. Workers need help by either keeping their jobs or by getting new jobs. Americans need cars that cost less at the pump and better alternatives to always using a car. America needs to be energy secure, not desperately dependent on oil. To meet these goals, several alternatives are being considered:

  • Another $25 billion with no strings attached.
  • Let GM reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • Boost consumer auto purchases with tax credits for buying vehicles with excellent fuel economy.
  • Invest the $25 billion in rail and transit.

When Chrysler got its 1980 loan guarantee, Lee Iacocca cut his annual salary to a dollar and slashed the wages of other top workers by 10 percent. The tax payers never paid a cent. It was a $1.5 billion loan guarantee.

This time around, Chrysler will be fine. Chrysler President Jim Press, when talking in September at a Western Automotive Journalist meeting, stated, “We need a new business model based on one word – Reality.” The new management team at Chrysler inherited a 4 million car per year overhead with sales falling to one million per year. Chrysler is privately owned by Cerberus Capital Management. Chrysler has been actively downsizing to be smaller, agile and profitable.

Ford is also moving to a business model that matches the name of its best selling car – Focus. In recently discussing its third quarter results, Ford stated that it remains on track to achieve $5 billion in cost reductions in North America by the end of 2008 compared with 2005. After a quarterly pre-tax loss of $2.7 billion, Ford had overall liquidity of $29.6 billion. The company promised shareholders further cost cuts and cash improvements.

In his November 17 Wall Street Journal article, Michael Levine discusses why Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the best option for GM. Chapter 11 would allow GM to be more competitive with Toyota, which now has now the world leader in market share. Over the years, GM has lost about two-thirds of its market share. Only with bankruptcy can GM be free of restrictions that prevent it from being competitive. It has 7,000 dealers compared to Toyota’s 1,500 successful dealers. GM has enormous pension and health care costs that add thousands to the cost of cars. The burden is so great, that GM needs SUVs to make money and sees no margin in fuel efficient cars. Yet, it is fuel efficient cars that customers are now buying. If GM reorganizes under bankruptcy, creditors will be forced to give it breathing room and paralyzing restrictions will be removed.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, wrote on November 11, “When a big company that gets into trouble is more valuable living than dead, there used to be a well-established legal process for reorganizing it – called chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Under it, creditors took some losses, shareholders even bigger ones, some managers’ heads rolled. Companies cleaned up their books and got a fresh start. And taxpayers didn’t pay a penny. In exchange for government aid, the Big Three’s creditors, shareholders, and executives should be required to accept losses as large as they’d endure under chapter 11, and the UAW should agree to some across-the-board wage and benefit cuts.”

Al Gore, in his November 9 NY Times Op-Ed identifies a major opportunity, “We should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage.”

Now law, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 gives tax credits exceeding $7,000 for the purchase of plug-in hybrids. President-elect Obama, when campaigning, favored expanded use of tax credits to speed the transition to a competitive auto industry that makes clean cars. Consumer vehicle spending could be boosted now by expanding the offering to include a $2,000 tax credit for vehicles getting over 35 miles per gallon and up to $10,000 for zero-emission vehicles. Auto industry sales would immediately jump without a $25 billion give away.

In the seventies, I left my job with a major Detroit corporation, Burroughs, then the second largest computer firm. At the time, all makers of mainframe computers were in trouble, including IBM. If the government had done a massive bailout and protected their businesses, the United States would not have transitioned into the global giant of information technology. Lacking a bailout, IBM reinvented themselves into a global leader in IT services with a deep new patent portfolio. Burroughs became Unisys. Honeywell redefined itself. GE exited the computer field. An industry thrived instead of died. The transition made the United States the global leader in the Internet and technology innovation, creating millions of jobs.

Big corporations resist change, yet change they must. To grow and be profitable, the United States transportation industry must be innovative and responsive to customers.

Car customers are voting with their pocketbooks. The average car owner spends $8,000 on their car. The average household with two cars spends $16,000. People are demanding fuel economy. They have stopped buying vehicles with lousy mileage. They want hybrids that deliver over 40 miles per gallon. There is a pent-up demand for millions of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Only a smaller innovative customer-oriented GM can create permanent jobs. Yes, a GM bankruptcy reorganization could lead to the short-term loss of over 100,000 jobs at GM, its suppliers, and some of its dealers. These laid-off workers, however, could be part of a million new workers. Federal government tax credits could be given to any company hiring laid-off auto workers. Community colleges could be funded in Michigan and other states to retrain workers for jobs of the future.

$25 billion invested in public transportation would create over one million new jobs in the United States. The America Public Transportation Association has learned that every $1 billion invested in public transit capital projects generates 30,000 jobs, and the same amount invested in transit operations generates 60,000 jobs.

U.S. citizens want better public transportation as ridership soars to 11 billion this year. This November, voters across the country in 16 states approved 23 measures out of 32 state and local public transit ballot initiatives, authorizing expenditures approximating $75 billion. Clean Fleet Report

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to move forward with a bill that would give the auto industry access to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program set up by the government in October to help ailing banks and other financial firms.

As Ben Franklin observed, “Great haste makes great waste.”

Congress may release the total $50 billion by Thanksgiving. Such haste sends all taxpayers a message, “Enjoy this turkey. You can pay for it later with interest.”

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

Hydrogen: The Fuel of the Future. Will It Always Be Thus?

by Richard T. Stuebi

For years, the utopian vision for powering humankind’s energy requirements has been based on hydrogen, produced by decomposing ever-abundant water (H2O), via renewable sources of power (e.g., sunlight). When hydrogen is used in fuel cells to produce electricity on-demand, the only by-products of the chemical reaction are water vapor and pure oxygen. In other words, an energy cycle that is infinitely sustainable (at least as long as we have a sun).

Of course, there are a number of well-documented challenges to achieving the so-called hydrogen economy. Producing, transporting and storing the hydrogen are all expensive relative to the current conventional energy approaches — and require a major change-out of infrastructure, which would entail a massive societal investment. Fuel cells also remain expensive, due to high materials costs and short lifetimes, until further engineering obstacles are overcome.

With this as backdrop, it’s interesting to read “Sun + Water = Fuel”, an article in the current Technology Review. The article profiles the work of Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, who claims to have discovered a catalyst that facilitates a reaction in which oxygen is generated from water by sunlight — making, in effect, an artificial leaf. Of course, if one produces oxygen from water, one is also producing free hydrogen.

Therefore, Prof. Nocera is suggesting that he is on the verge of discovering how to produce hydrogen from water via sunlight. If true, this would be a major breakthrough towards the hydrogen economy, dramatically simplifying the hydrogen production, storage and transportation issues, because water and sunlight are respectively inexpensive and free — not to mention almost ubiquitous.

That being said, we must be cautious to avoid getting prematurely overexcited. To illustrate, let’s not forget the promising claims made in 1989 by Pons and Fleischmann of cold-fusion: twenty years hence, and other than lots of controversy, not much to show for it. And, even if Prof. Nocera is really onto something, there’s still the little issue of repairing hydrogen’s public reputation in the wake of the Hindenburg disaster: seventy years later, and many urban legends about hydrogen’s dangers still linger, as in this recent satire.

This reveals a constant occupational hazard for those of us who work in the cleantech field: things just don’t change as fast as we often would like for them to change. In the case of hydrogen, many things must change, and some of the changes — technical, institutional and cultural — must be profound, for hydrogen to become a major actor in the world’s energy economy. I hope that day comes far sooner than I frankly expect it will.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Voters Approve High-Speed Rail for California

By John Addison (11/11/08). California is moving ahead with an 800-mile high-speed train system serving Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego. High-speed trains will be capable of maximum speeds of 220 miles per hour, covering San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes. The system is forecast to carry over 100 million passengers per year by 2030.

California voters approved the bond measure that commits state funds of almost $10 billion only when matched by $10 billion of federal funds and another $10 billion of public-private partnership funds. Congress and the new president are likely to support matching federal funds for high-speed rail. In this tight economy, high-speed rail will get better results for less money than using federal funds to widen California’s freeways.

Last May, President-elect Obama said. “We are going to be having a lot of conversations this summer about gas prices and it is a perfect time to start talking about why we don’t have better rail service. … [I]t works on the Northeast corridor. They would rather go from New York to Washington by train than they would by plane. It is a lot more reliable and it is a good way for us to start reducing how much gas we are using.”

Public-private partnership funding is also likely, because the rail system will be profitable. Build-own-operate models are popular in transportation with those that are likely to bid on building the system and providing the equipment. The McKinsey Quarterly in February 2008 reported that the world’s 20 largest infrastructure funds now have nearly $130 billion under management.

Support for rail and public transportation is nationwide, not just in California. Voters across the country in 16 states approved 23 measures out of 32 state and local public transit ballot initiatives, authorizing expenditures approximating $75 billion. For example, in Los Angeles, a $40 billion measure passed that will finance new and existing bus and rail lines. In the Seattle area, people voted to expand commuter rail and express bus service and to create a 55-mile light rail system by approving $17.8 billion.

Will Californians park their cars and ride the rails? Last year, LA Metro carried 64 million riders. In the Bay Area, BART carried 104 million riders. The new California High Speed Rail will link both these systems and 25 multi-modal public transportation systems in total. The forecast of 100 million passengers per year by 2030 may be conservative.

Because the rail will be powered by electricity, it is valuable to look at the power sources. In California, by law, 20 percent of the electricity will be from renewables by 2010. By 2020, it must be at least 33 percent. California is subsidizing one million solar roofs that include net metering. Pacific Gas and Electric is installing 800 megawatts (MW) of utility scale solar photovoltaics (PV). For 20 years, Kramer Junction has been delivering 350 MW of concentrating solar power. Added megawatts of wind, geothermal, and biogas projects are being added. By law, utilities must be 33% renewable by 2020. With California’s implementation of greenhouse gas emission cap and trade, renewables are likely to be the low cost source of electricity by 2030.

Using renewable energy, California’s High-Speed Rail is likely to be zero emission before 2030, saving over 20 billion pounds of CO2 annually and over 12 million barrels of oil annually.

In addition to 160,000 construction jobs over the next two decades, high-speed trains will generate 320,000 permanent jobs by 2030, growing to 450,000 jobs in 2035, according to the business plan.

For the LA to SF travel, train fares are expected to be 50 percent of an airline ticket. In 2030 LA-SF travel is forecasted at high-speed trains will carry 45%, air transportation 26%, and the automobile 29% of the total transportation market between the two biggest metropolitan areas in California. This will keep intra-state air travel constant and avoid an airport overcapacity crisis.

California High-Speed Rail builds on the success of other systems around the world.

The 456-mile Northeast Corridor (NEC) which links Boston, New York and Washington D.C. is a successful rail corridor which is vital to the economy of the northeastern United States. It currently carries well over 200 million rail passengers. There are over 500 passenger trains per day in and out of New York City, 400 commuter trains, and 100 Amtrak trains.

Amtrak’s Acela service which operates on the NEC between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. is the only passenger rail service in the United States that approaches high-speed standards traveling at maximum speeds up to 150 mph on about 35 miles. In comparison with high-speed trains operating in Europe and Asia, the Acela service would be considered a conventional rail operation. For example, Acela trains make the 226-mile trip between New York and Washington D.C. in about 2.75 hours, traveling at an average speed of about 80 mph.

In years past, I conducted many workshops on the east coast. It was always faster and easier to take Amtrak from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and on to New York, than to fly. The stations are conveniently connected to public transportation, rental car service, and car sharing.

For 40 years, Japan, has been the role model in high-speed rail. The entire Japanese high-speed train network of 1,350 miles currently carries over 335 million passengers a year.

In France the TGV network, consisting of over 1,160 miles of new interconnected high-speed lines, carries over 100 million passengers each year. Spain and Germany continue to expand high-speed rail. London to Paris can be pleasantly traveled in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Eventually most of the European Union will be seamlessly integrated.

Twelve countries around the world take advantage of high-speed rail – from the United States to China. Soon the number will be 20 countries as Mexico, Russia, and others add their systems.

Oil usage in the United States and many other countries has peaked. At the moment, this is largely thanks to drivers’ reacting to high oil prices and a recession by replacing solo drives with employer commute programs and public transportation. Oil usage is likely to continue declining as efficient multi-modal transportation systems are linked together with high-speed rail – a cool solution for a heating planet.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. His book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published on March 25, 2009.

The Future of Power

While I don’t blog on it often, most of you know I was heavily involved in the founding of company called Zenergy Power plc (AIM:ZEN), one of the leading companies in high temperature superconductor technology. The origins of Zenergy began with the formation of SC Power Systems to commercialize a fault current limiter (“FCL”) technology developed by Australian Superconductors. In 2006, SC Power Systems merged with Trithor GmbH, Europe’s most advanced HTS company and the innovators behind the HTS induction heater, to form Zenergy.

This week Zenergy announced the successful testing of its MV FCL. This is the second time in less than two years Zenergy has proven that with the current state of HTS materials technology, successful devices can be made capable of changing the way industries operate. Before Zenergy, virtually the entire HTS superconductor world believed that no substantial progress would be made without a new class of wire, 2G, from new classes of materials coming on line.

While Zenergy has always believed that its 2G program is world class and the cost leader, by using ultra efficient DC HTS electromagnets to enable a new class of devices, Zenergy has been betting that the future of power does not have to wait:

The FCL itself is essentially an electrical valve, or “circuit breaker that doesn’t break” whose first use is to help control faults that trigger blackouts. The HTS coils act as a DC electromagnet, creating an entirely passive “safety relief valve” capable of clipping the top of fault current, without interrupting the normal power flow. If you think about it, we essentially run our grid today the same way we did 50 years ago. It works, but it’s brute force. In a world where demand response, distributed power, and intermittent power sources like renewables are playing a key role, we have to have much finer control and protection in power transmission and distribution, or just double up on the equipment. FCLs have long been believed to be a key to anchoring the grid of the future. But until now, no one had figured out to to make them work. With these tests, Zenergy has successfully shown an HTS FCL can take and automatically and instantaneously respond to multiple, numerous and repetitive power surges.

The HTS Induction Heater essentially uses an HTS coil to create induction currents to soften metal ingots in aluminium or copper plants. A process done over and over again in our metals industry. A process that is not currently greenhouse gas friendly. The HTS Induction Heater enables better control with literally half the energy use, and has won awards (including the Hermes Award) for its technology.

I wanted to congratulate the team on three continents who made this happen. The original core technologies involved in these products have had origins, and government support, from the US, Australia, Germany, and the UK. Zenergy’s efforts currently have R&D and engineering on three continents, and have involved, I believe something like 4 universities, have a dozen government agencies, and maybe a score of companies. That has not made the effort simpler. But energy is global. And cleantech is global. And it’s exciting for me to see cleantech technology transfer working on a global scale. I am very proud of the team.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners, is the CEO of Carbonflow, Inc. and Chairman of Cleantech.org He is a Texas Aggie.

Let’s Get Small

by Richard T. Stuebi

In a recent story, CNN profiled the new home of Bill and Sharon Kastrinos.

154 square feet. That’s right, 154 square feet. Actually, it’s 98 square feet downstairs, plus a 56 square foot loft upstairs. The closet — well, that’s inside the car.

Why would the Kastrinos live in such a miniscule dwelling? Apparently, it’s driven by economics. Mr. Kastrinos wants to live on $15,000 per year, but also wants to live in a nice place, California wine country (specifically, Calistoga), where real estate costs are astronomical. With this home, costing $15,000 and with a utility bill of $15 per month, he and his wife can make it work. And, when they get the urge to go elsewhere, they can tow their home, which has wheels and a chassis on the bottom, making it essentially an RV.

The small pre-fab home market has become a bit of a “cottage industry” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Mr. Kastrinos himself has made and sold 11 of them in the last half-year. In nearby Sebastopol, Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny House Company offers a full range of home designs between 65 (!) and 774 square feet.

The common theme of the customers is a desire to downsize their lives and their consumption patterns, the equivalent of a colonic cleansing. It’s a bit extreme for me; I couldn’t imagine making such a big change in lifestyle in one fell swoop. But there’s little doubt in my mind: unAmerican as it may be, if we as a society are to achieve significant reductions in energy consumption and emissions output, some degree of downsizing will occur. The question is going to be: will it be by choice, or will it be forced?

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Want something fast (and clean) between your legs? Try the GPR-S.

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Electric Motorsport GPR-S Electric Motorcycle

What is it?
The GPR-S from Electric Motorsport is an all-electric motorcycle with lithium batteries and a light weight frame (250 pounds or so). The bike has a 14.2 kilowatt electric drive system and has a top speed of 70 miles per hour. The bike has a recharge time of 1.5 hours and gets 35-60 miles per charge.

Why is it better?
Electric motorcycles and scooters have a much higher well-to-wheel efficiency rating than gasoline powered bikes. Additionally, they have no tail-pipe emissions and therefore qualify as zero emissions vehicles. They’re also much quieter than traditional motorcycles, which for me, is a bonus. There’s no reason to add to the noise pollution.

The GPR-S is a great bike as it’s light weight (I was able to right the bike with no problems) and has motorcycle styling, which definitely appeals to a different demographic than the more scooter-like Vectrix. It seats two people quite comfortably, has decent acceleration, and is very easy to ride, given that there’s no gearbox or clutch. It would make a great learner’s bike.

Where can you find it?
You can find the GPR-S for $8000 at Electric Motorsport’s website (or if you’re in the Bay Area, they’re located in Oakland, CA).

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, organic personal care, and other green products.

Obama’s Cabinet Choices – Fantasy League Style

Here are my picks for the key Cabinet posts both for cleantech and the country – if we REALLY want change we can believe in:

Secretary of StateColin Powell. My longtime pick for the first non white President. He should have run. From either party. He would have had my vote. Smart, collected, and still the most seasoned international military and political mind since Eisenhower, as well as a free trader. Bush should have listened to Powell rather than Cheney. Bring him back. Or give him any position he’s willing to take.

Secretary of EnergyDaniel Yergin – Pulitzer prize winning author of The Prize, the seminal work on the history of the oil industry, and Chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. The energy sector is going to take a serious thinker to overhaul. The last thing we need is a johnny come lately with a shiny copper penny plan. Yergin knows the business, knows the politics, and knows the people.

Secretary of the TreasuryDick Kovacevich, the retiring Chairman of Wells Fargo – one of the few well run major banks in the US who did not need government handouts. And not from Wall Street. And my bank since I turned 18. If you can get him. Would I leave one of the healthiest bank balance sheets in the world to take over the US Treasury post a trillion dollar bailout? Not a chance. But we can hope.

Attorney GeneralRudy Guiliani. Love him or hate him, he’s a former Democrat early in his career, only later a Republican, who made his name as a US Attorney going after corruption in organized crime and Wall Street before running a consitituency that’s larger than more than half the US states. What more do you want out of a good attorney general?

Secretary of Defense – Actually, I’d keep Robert Gates. I think Defense has been doing a yeoman’s job.

Head of the EPABill Richardson. EPA with climate change is going to take an energy expert who understands economics, industry, and politics but who is committed to the cause. I can think of none better. He may view it as a step down. I view it as a critical position that needs as strong a hand as we can find.

Note: After writing this I was a little disappointed to realize that no women made my list, especially since I have worked for a woman for the last decade. But after review, I really liked the picks I’ve made.

Neal Dikeman is the Chairman and CEO of Carbonflow, Inc., a partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, and Chairman of Cleantech.org. He is a Texas Aggie living in San Francisco.

Election Predictions for Cleantech and Carbon in a Post Obama World

At the risk of sounding like I’m flip flopping, here are the top 5 reasons tonight’s election results mean lots of money for cleantech investors (and, unfortunately, my pocket).

1. An Illinois President and Democratic Congress equals good odds for corn ethanol and a Renewable Fuels Standard.
2. Think massive subsidies, loan guarantees and R&D funding for alternative energy (assuming our government has any money left in it’s pocket book).
3. CAFE standards are going up.
4. We can stop worrying about losing the wind and solar tax credits, and maybe get a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard.
5. And finally, strange bedfellows – Think McCain-Lieberman leading the swing votes in the Senate and an Obama led White House delivering our climate change legislation.
Good luck and God bless us all.
Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners, CEO of Carbonflow, and the Chairman of Cleantech.org.

Open Letter to the Next President

A few thoughts for our next President and Congress, whoever may win.

  1. You should run our country like we do our own households, live within your means.
  2. Spend what you have, not what you’d like to have. When in doubt, just say no.
  3. Just because the benefits of a policy are good, does not mean they outweigh the costs.
  4. Just because the credit crisis is real, does not mean we need more regulation. Different, yes, more, no. As with most things, less is generally more.
  5. You do not create jobs. We create jobs. But you do have the power to destroy jobs. Don’t forget that.
  6. When it comes to taxes, the more you take, the less we make. In all senses of the phrase.
  7. Energy is life. Our country has been built for 100 years on plentiful energy resources. We need cheap energy. Clean energy. And safe energy. All three, not just one or two.
  8. Climate change and our environment are a problem. This is an area you owe it to your constituents to deal with.
  9. Free trade is a good thing. Whether you understand it or not. If you don’t believe me, two words: Smoot Hawley.
  10. Change is sometimes good. But considered change. Not change just for the sake of change.
  11. Sometimes the best policies are the ones we did not do.
  12. Making promises to win an election is all well and good, but in policy, compromise always wins. But please make sure that compromise does not mean pork. You work for all of us.
  13. My generation faces a looming crisis in social security and medicare entitlement costs. Don’t make it worse.
  14. Those who seek power are generally the last people who ought to be granted that power. Make sure, when your time is done, that you do not remind us of this axiom.
  15. We really do live in the greatest nation the world has ever seen. We set all time world records every year. So when you are trying to “fix” our economy and foreign policies, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Ask why things have worked so well before you complain about what’s not working. And certainly ask that before you tell me that another country is doing it better than we are.
  16. What makes us different than all other countries? A profound respect for property rights. The rule of law. The Constitution. The Bill of Rights. The belief that each of us has the power to change ourselves, and our world. Faith in God. Each of these, and all of these.
  17. And finally, Who is John Galt?

-Neal Dikeman

Pragmatism for the New President

by Richard T. Stuebi

I consider myself an equal opportunity offender. Many people in the energy industry or those who for some reason don’t believe in climate change think I’m somewhat of a radical. On the other hand, many ardent environmentalists think I’m too apologetic, conservative or pessimistic about what carbon reductions can realistically be achieved in what time frames and at what costs.

Therefore, I appreciate it when I find someone who makes well-argued, nuanced and balanced statements like those I would attempt to make. A recent example: a September speech at the Metropolitan Club in Washington DC by David J. O’Reilly, the Chairman and CEO of Chevron (NYSE: CVX).

I was particularly pleased by his comments on renewable energy and climate change. O’Reilly was quite clear and blunt: “Renewable energy is very real. We need it. It will be an essential part of the future I envision.” His only caveat, which I agree with: “It’s not realistic to suppose that it can replace conventional energy in a timeframe that some suggest,” referring to Al Gore’s well-intentioned but wishful-thinking goal of 100% U.S. electricity supply from renewable energy by 2018.

As for climate change, his comments were also measured and reasonable: “There is no doubt that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased. And although there is uncertainty about the future impacts on climate, most people agree that it’s not a good idea to continue unrestricted hydrocarbon combustion. And I agree.” This line acknowledges that climate science is still subject to considerable uncertainty (see, as one example, a recent paper published in Geophysical Review Letters by two MIT Earth and Planetary Sciences professors), while at the same insisting that it’s very worthwhile to move concertedly towards lower carbon intensity in the likely case that the increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to unfavorable impacts on the planet.

O’Reilly closes by noting the importance for the next President to mobilize the public in a sustained commitment for change. “We need collaboration to achieve real progress. Businesses and consumers need affordable energy. Young and old want renewable energy. Republicans and Democrats seek reduced emissions….Today, public sentiment supports action on energy policy. That action should lead to a future of greater energy efficiency, enhanced supplies of all forms of energy and reduced emissions. While I am concerned about the urgency of the situation today, I’m also optimistic. I believe that, by the time my grandchildren are my age, our energy system will look much different. But we must get started now.”

Wise words, in my humble opinion. Let’s hope our new President can pull us together, in the face of declining oil prices and weakening economic conditions, towards a new resolve on energy.

A good start for the President-elect would be to read an open letter written by Ernest Moniz, the Director of the MIT Energy Initiative in this month’s Technology Review. Moniz’s four-pronged recommendation for a major step-up in Federal commitment:

1. Implement carbon dioxide emissions pricing, presumably through a cap-and-trade system
2. Add a surcharge on energy to generate $10-15 billion annually for the next 10-15 years to spend on development and deployment of new low-carbon energy technologies
3. Establish a mechanism spanning the various bureaucracies of the Federal government that will lead to a truly coherent energy policy — perhaps by appointing an energy advisor to the President
4. Commit to implementing a “smart grid” within 10 years

When one considers that the Federal government now allocates less than 3% of its research dollars to energy, down from10% in 1980, it seems pretty clear that the U.S. doesn’t put its money where its mouth used to be, and needs to get much more serious. Step one will be a President who himself is serious, and doesn’t fall prey to cheap populism or get swayed by protecting the interests of a select set of constituencies.

We need to stop the dogma and hyberbole from both sides, buckle down, and get on with it. I hope our new President can lead the way.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Energy Versus Water

There is a growing awareness that there are two convergent crises facing the world: Energy and Water. Scientific Amercican just launced a dedicated environmental publication this month, Earth 3.0 and the cover story? … ‘Energy Vs Water’.

The article explores the dichotomy between the fact that we need energy to produce water and we need water to produce energy. Both resources are running out. As we are reaching Peak Oil, we also appear to approaching Peak Water. This creates a very interesting dilemma and one which will require no small amount of innovation to solve.
Biofuels, cited as one option to wean us away from petroleum, can consume 20 or more times as much water for every mile traveled than the production of gasoline. Not all biofuels are created equal however, some are worse offenders than others, and the US National Research Council addresses this very well in ‘Water Implications of Biofuels Productions in the United States’.
Electric hybrids are another solution to get away from imported gasoline. But if we switch to electric cars, we will need more electricity and at the moment 90 percent of electricity in the US is generated at thermal power plants, – those that consume coal, oil, natural gas or uranium, and these plants are water hogs. They use vast quantities of water for cooling. The US Army Corp of engineers is currently trying to find a middle ground in an interesting water drama unfolding between the states of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Part of the problem is that both Georgia and Alabama have come dangerously close recently to having to shut down their nuclear power plants due to lack of water.
The Energy Vs Water article goes on to say that ‘any switch from gasoline to electric vehicles or biofuels is a strategic decision to switch our dependence from foreign oil to domestic water’.
The Concept of Virtual Water
To help assess issues relating to water use and water balance, Professor John Anthony Allan from Kings College London, developed the concept of ‘Virtual Water’. He was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize this year for his work in this area. The idea is that you can calculate how much water there is in, say an apple, not just physically in the apple, but on a life cycle basis, how much water went into growing it, transporting it etc, By doing this with various food items or other commodities, a country could take a view to import ‘water heavy’ items, as a kind of a virtual way of importing water. For instance behind that morning cup of coffee, are 140 litres of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans. The ubiquitous hamburger needs an estimated 2,400 litres of water. Put simply, it may be more cost effective to import oranges from a region that has plenty of water than to try and de-salinate water at home to irrigate an orchard. Now that doesn’t always work though, you can’t grow things like oranges in wet damp countries like England.
And herein lies one of the fundamental problems. There is a reason why it is easier to grow 50% of the nations fruit and vegetables in California – it’s warm and sunny. And for this same reason, populations have been moving to the sunshine belt. If we could all live in California and import melons and oranges and strawberries from England, wouldn’t that be great? And you can’t cool a nuclear reactor with virtual water – at least not yet!