Nissan LEAF Electric Car will start at $32,780

(March 30, 2010)

Sale, Lease and Reservation Details for the Nissan EV

Nissan announced U.S. pricing for the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric car, which becomes available for purchase or lease at Nissan dealers in select markets in December and nationwide in 2011. Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan LEAF April 20, ahead of other electric cars in this price range.

Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780, which includes three years of roadside assistance. Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that may further defray the costs and increase the benefits of owning and charging a Nissan LEAF – such as a $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California.

As a result of aggressive pricing and the availability of the $7,500 federal tax credit whose benefit is immediately included, Nissan will be able to offer a monthly lease payment beginning at $349, not including state or local incentives, which could further reduce the net cost of the Nissan LEAF.

The vehicle at the standard SV trim level is well-equipped with a variety of standard features, including an advanced navigation system and Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle, including pre-heat/pre-cool and charging control. Nissan LEAF is equipped with energy-efficient LED headlights and makes extensive use of recycled and recyclable materials, such as seat fabric, instrument panel materials, and front- and rear-bumper fascias. Other standard amenities include Bluetooth connectivity; Intelligent-key with push button start; Sirius/XM satellite radio capabilities and roadside assistance. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control (stability control), traction control and six airbags. The SL trim level, available for an additional $940 (MSRP), adds features including rearview monitor, solar panel spoiler, fog lights, and automatic headlights.

Reservations on April 20

In order to ensure a one-stop-shop customer experience, Nissan is carefully managing the purchase process from the first step, when consumers sign up on NissanUSA.com, until the customer takes the Nissan LEAF home and plugs it into a personal charging dock.

■Nissan begins accepting reservations on April 20 first from people who have signed up on NissanUSA.com, and, after a brief introductory period, to all interested consumers.
■Consumers will be required to pay a $99 reservation fee, which is fully refundable.
■Reserving a Nissan LEAF ensures consumers a place in line when Nissan begins taking firm orders in August, as well as access to special, upcoming Nissan LEAF events.
■Rollout to select markets begins in December, with nationwide availability in 2011.

Charging Equipment

In tandem with the purchase process, Nissan will offer personal charging docks, which operate on a 220-volt supply, as well as their installation. Nissan is providing these home-charging stations, which will be built and installed by AeroVironment, as part of a one-stop-shop process that includes a home assessment.

■The average cost for the charging dock plus installation will be $2,200.
■Charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000.
■Using current national electricity averages, Nissan LEAF will cost less than $3 to “fill up.”
■Nissan LEAF also will be the sole vehicle available as part of The EV Project, which is led by EV infrastructure provider eTec, a division of ECOtality, and will provide free home-charging stations and installation for up to 4,700 Nissan LEAF owners in those markets.

This major announcement gives Nissan a lead over Toyota, General Motors, Ford and others that will also be offering electric cars. Top 10 Electric Car Makers 2011 U.S. Offerings

Making Niche With Solar

by Richard T. Stuebi

One of the better business books I’ve ever read is The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School.

The core message of the book is that disruptive technologies — ones that ultimately change an entire industry — only penetrate a marketplace by first serving tiny niches that aren’t big enough to attract the interest of the incumbent mainstream players. In other words, disruptive technologies can’t and shouldn’t attack a huge market head-on, but rather in underserved little ways that eventually accumulate into big successes.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) has often been touted as a disruptive technology, allowing humans to move off of centralized fossil fuel powerplants to distributed renewable generation sources. As I’ve watched the PV industry for the past decade, I’ve always been amazed at how many advocates try tackling “mainstream” solar, trying to compete head-to-head against the grid. At its current stage of maturation, PV represents a very expensive way to generate electricity, so the only way to make such business models work in places where electricity isn’t very expensive is to gain large subsidies from the public sector (such as the lucrative feed-in tariffs in countries such as Germany).

So, it’s been fun watching the emergence of little niche applications for PV, where the technology can make a difference right away, without requiring the helping hand of government. One such niche has been in compacting public trash recepticles, which was nicely profiled in an article in last Friday’s USA Today.

The secret to the success of PV in this niche is its obviously compelling economics. Sure, at $4000, the solar-powered trash compacter is much more expensive than a generic can. But then again, these compacters require many fewer visits by trucks to pick up full containers. In Philadelphia, trash pickups have been reduced from 17 visits per week to 5 per week, saving $13 million in cumulative trash collection costs over the next 10 years.

Not exactly a sexy application for PV, but the dollars make sense. It’s these types of success stories that will continue to increase demand for PV modules, driving the technology down the learning and scale curve, continually reducing its costs, and in so doing opening up ever more segments of application, until PV becomes cheap enough for virtually all grid-connected applications without subsidies.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

The Right Way to do Solar Manufacturing in the US

I was reading with sadness about the decision by BP Solar to shut down the Frederick, MD manufacturing facility. As many of you may know, I worked for BP Solar and this facility was the first real large scale solar mfg facility in the United States. Solarex (bought by BP) perfected the use of polycrystalline silicon (vs. mono) and pioneered it at this facility. More importantly, BP Solar will keep the R&D staff and function — this is important because they are some of the best in the world.

I was asked by the Obama Administration back in February 2009 to, “help bring solar manufacturing to Michigan”. My response was:
  1. Solar is practically illegal in Michigan (see solar bill of rights here)
  2. US hasn’t had a manufacturing policy in years and I wouldn’t imagine why anyone with half a brain would mfg in the US when you can achieve such a low cost of mfg in Germany, China, Malaysia, etc
  3. US has to invest some time in this space to help elected officials understand the drivers of our cost cycle. In fact, labor is not the dominant COGS for solar PV (although it is not insignificant). The biggest drivers that the government could help with are:

  • Fully automated plants (crystalline) costs about $2.5/Wdc or $2.5B for a 1,000 MW plant. So the government needs to match the 50% capex subsidy other governments provide as they have for battery mfg
  • Property taxes can be a killer that local governments can help with
  • Electricity prices. With our rising electricity prices, other governments offer $0.04/kWh
  • Tax abatements. The Obama adminstration must be out of its mind when it suggested raising taxes on Corporations. We are one of the highest tax places in the World. Raise taxes on the rich and everyone else but for heaven sake we have to reduce corporate taxes by at least half in this country. Malaysia and others offer a 10 year tax holiday for new mfg.

The reason manufacturing matters is that the US is huge and uses alot of stuff. To take the approach the UK has done and just become a service economy won’t work. Further manufacturing has a much larger multiplier of other jobs that support each plant from suppliers to logistics, to local services.
We squandered Billions of stimulus money on consumption for new solar and wind projects. Instead we should have spent that money on Solar and Wind manufacturing. On the projects side all we need is for the Federal government to use the bully pulpit to embarrass State public utilities commissions who keep approving higher cost electricity projects from new Coal, Nuclear, and Natural Gas compared to much lower cost distributed generation from solar, fuel cells, energy efficiency, targeted smart grid, and targeted storage.
By the way the Obama administration has done some great things like working on reducing health care costs for small businesses. Now it is time to get them to focus on this issue.
Jigar Shah
CEO, Carbon War Room
Founder SunEdison LLC

China Invested $88 billion in High Speed Rail in 2009

Clean Edge’s 2010 Clean Energy Trends forecasts growth for high-speed rail and renewables
Clean Edge included high-speed rail (HSR) for the first time in its annual Clean Energy Trends report which tracks key developments in clean-energy markets. China is leading the surge in HSR according to Clean Edge:

China’s Ministry of Railways spent $88 billion on HSR projects in 2009 – part of an existing $300 billion plan to expand and connect all of the country’s major cities with a projected 10,000 miles of dedicated HSR lines by 2020.

There will be more high-speed rail added in China over the next five years than the rest of the world combined, says Keith Dierkx, director of IBM’s Global Rail Innovation Center in Beijing. Global HSR manufacturers like Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Alstom, GE Transportation, Siemens, and others have formed joint ventures or partnerships in China. A Canadian-Chinese joint venture, Bombardier Sifang, recently won $4 billion from the Chinese government to manufacture up to 80 high-speed trains. These same companies are developing opportunities in other emerging countries like Brazil, Russia and South Korea.

HSR’s main development challenge is its high price tag. The 800-mile Beijing-to-Shanghai line will cost an estimated $32 billion – in the same cost ballpark as the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric project.

Maglev potential projects in Japan, China, and the United States are also discussed in the Clean Energy Trends.

A United States 17,000 mile high-speed rail system is envisioned. With 30 states committed to renewable energy growth, electric HSR will help the nation be less dependent on oil. Clean Fleet Report forecasts that high-speed rail ridership will exceed one billion within three years, from over 600 million today. Clean Fleet Reports about U.S. High-Speed Rail.

China Also Leads in Renewables Growth

“Despite severe economic conditions, clean-energy markets were able to hold their momentum in 2009 as many regional and federal governments and private corporations focused on clean-energy investments as a way to pull out of the global economic tailspin,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director. “From the smart grid and energy efficiency to renewable energy generation and advanced battery storage, clean tech continues to be a major driver of regional job growth, economic recovery, and technological competitiveness.”

China is expected to lead RE growth. China could end up spending $440 billion to $660 billion toward its clean-energy build out over the next ten years, according to estimates discussed in the Clean Energy Trends.

The annual Clean Energy Trends report, now in its ninth year, can be downloaded for free.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

An Open Letter to Ban Ki Moon on Climate Change

An open letter to Ban Ki Moon in support of an extraordinary friend

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

I am sure that in your position, the volume of unsolicited outreach you receive must be truly breathtaking. I will not add to your never ending inbox, but rather will simply post this note on a friendly blog, with the hope that some of the messages within find their way to you via the osmosis of modern communication.

The climate crisis is no longer confined to the geophysical state of our planet – it has now metastasized into an even more virulent form of crisis involving our collective political and sociological ability to manage this complex issue. The UN has done tremendous work in defining the climate issue for more than 20 years and the accomplishments it has achieved are inspiring. However, there is little doubt that the Copenhagen conference broadly underperformed against the needs we face today.

Copenhagen’s underperformance is having an insidious effect on perceptions of UN effectiveness among even many supporters. It is increasingly considered conventional wisdom that the UNFCCC’s day has passed – that the climate issue must now center on a series of bilateral or regional negotiations and perhaps be centered in more focused organizations like the WTO.

I, for one, do not believe those arguments. I began my accidental career in climate finance in 1993. I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the euphoria of Kyoto, the despair of the Hague and the last second save of Bali. And, of course, Copenhagen – where the sheer enormity and heterogeneity of the issue finally truly stared one and all in the face. Yes, humanity collectively blinked and deferred.

But throughout, the UN process that has tried to manage and coordinate the world’s response has been honorable, dedicated,. You specifically should be commended for making climate the pre-eminent issue of your tenure as the Secretary General. And, it must be recognized that what the UN has been able to accomplish is strictly reflective of the mandates it has been handed by the community of nations. Those mandates have often been halting or ambiguous. However, let us also recognize it’s a two way street – the strength of those mandates is also partially reflective of and the confidence that nations have in the UN, its processes, its leaders and its managers in being a key player at the table in the climate issue.
In this light, you have a major decision to make – one that will set the tone for the crucial coming decade of the climate crisis. You have to hire somebody. As you know, Yvo de Boer announced his resignation from the UNFCCC Secretariat earlier this year. And, as might be expected, there is an emerging horse race among several candidates and I am sure all would serve the post honorably and with energy and enthusiasm.
But to be very frank, at this moment in time, we don’t need adequate, we need extraordinary. We need charisma, we need inspirational leadership. We need somebody who can think outside of the box, – but also somebody with a deep experience of the inner workings of the climate negotiating and regulatory process . And there is only one candidate, in my estimation, who remotely meets that elevated criteria – my good friend, Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.
Yes, indeed, she is my friend – we have known each other for more than ten years as I built a business around emissions mitigation and she built a formidable reputation as a thinker, advisor, negotiator and regulator across the climate space. Even on paper, I cannot see how any other candidate can match her personal experience in all aspects of the climate conundrum – government, civil society, regulator, private sector, negotiator.
But it is off the sheet of paper where Christiana truly shines – she inspires all who meet her through her intelligence, her humanity, her strength. Most of all, she has a great senses of humor and perspective – which one could argue might be the most important job description components of all, in this hour of need.
To achieve transition to a global, low carbon trajectory, people and governments will need to go the extra mile. With all due respect to the accomplished and dedicated individuals who have run the UNFCCC since its inception, vision, inspiration and leadership rarely seemed part of their portfolio. If it’s really a war on climate, more than anything we need a general who will inspire the troops to do the extraordinary. Those of us who have been in the trenches on this issue for a decade or more are tired and dispirited – in our minds, we have moved mountains, but we step back and it looks more like molehills. I have never seen the climate community as downtrodden as in these few months since Copenhagen. And – again to be honest – you need us fired up and moving mountains.
To the contrary stands the promise of Christiana Figueres – a rallying general from a country without an army (and a country that aspires to full carbon neutrality by 2020). All you need to do is go the the Facebook group that supporters of hers created and that has grown up very quickly over the last few days and scroll through the wealth of testimonials that Christiana has inspired throughout a huge cross section of the climate and development community. Thousands of people from all walks of the climate world know in their hearts that she is the one who can make a difference at this crucial moment. And their voices are raising to be heard by you.
There is only one choice that can deliver that promise. Please make the right one and appoint Christiana Figueres as the next Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC
Marc Stuart was the founder of EcoSecurities, where he worked for 13 years prior to its integration into JP Morgan in early 2010. He is currently engaged in early stage private equity in the carbon and alternative energy space.

Frogs and Fuels

by Richard T. Stuebi

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Ed Beardsworth for making me aware of this gem:

As discussed in overview in this article, researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found that frogs of a certain species, the Tungara frog to be exact, secrete a foam that seems to turbocharge the photosynthetic effect — thus offering the tantalizing prospect of removing carbon dioxide in the air while increasing the productivity of converting organic matter into biofuels.

The paper, “Artificial Photosynthesis in Ranaspumin-2 Based Foam” in the journal Nano Letters, cannot be found at your local newsstand and is not likely to become a bestseller. But, maybe some synthetic foams with the same properties as the Tungara frog’s might become commercially-interesting in both carbon sequestration and biofuel production.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

Missouri Solar taking off

Since 2000, electricity rates have gone up by about 4.5% annually. Even in this downturn, electric utility have little shame in raising rates to invest in infrastructure that depends on 20th century approaches. In 2008, Missouri voters decided to pass a 300 MW solar program within a bold RPS plan. The plan requires a rebate for solar at $2/Watt for projects up to 100kW. In the meantime, solar PV prices have plumented and 100kW solar systems can be installed now for less than $3.90/Watt. With matching federal incentives solar is now cheaper than rates in Missouri, especially after AmerenUE decided to raise rate again. These utilities really have no ability to look out more than a few years. As AmerenUE decides to keep raising rates they are driving electricity customers to keep look for alternatives. These don’t just include solar. They now include geothermal, cogeneration, fuel cells, and other technologies.


Jigar Shah
Carbon War Room
www.carbonwarroom.com

From Japan: Makower, Wallpaper, and Strawberries

Makower


One of our favorite cleantech insider Joel Makower has come back from Japan with very interesting observations. It seems that the US is not the only country where the government does not have a strong mandate to create strong policies for climate. Political gridlock pervades here as well.
There was much discussion about how to achieve the green vision of Hatoyama, the first prime minister who seems to “get it,” when it comes to the economic potential of cleantech and a green economy, but whose vision is thwarted by the legislature.
Makower also observes that Japanese business leaders struggle with motivating their employees to engage in greener practices and express frustration in Japanese consumers’ willingness to buy green products.”
Wall papers

One of the best examples of sustainable consumption through clean technologies I’ve seen is recycling milk cartons into wallpaper. The folks at EcoTwaza bring us Mr. Matsuzaki who developed this procedure:
As a result of long hours of research, he came up with a material that uses nothing other than plant starch (methylcellulose), recycled pulp, food preservatives, color-providing earth, and water. And the pulp is all hand-made by the residents at the institution for the disabled.
It is quite inspiring to see how sustainable technologies can also support jobs and increase social value. I had a chance to touch the sample wallpaper and it feels very durable.

Strawberries
I always thought that strawberries were a summer fruit but they happen to be in season these days. The folks at JFS report on new, energy efficient to grow this treat:
The new system utilizes clean energies such as underground water or exhaust heat from air-conditioners to keep the temperature surrounding the strawberry crowns between 15 and 23 degrees Celsius. The system contributes to reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

www.Water-Stocks.com Reports on China Listed Water Stocks as Drought Moves in

March 17 , 2010 www.Water-Stocks.com, reports on China listed water stocks for investors following the water sector.

World Water Day, held March 22, 2010 addresses global water issues including pollution and scarcity. With China facing both issues at a rapidly growing pace, Chinese water stocks are getting investor attention.

According to a recent article in China Peoples Daily, entitled “Drought continues to wreak havoc in southwestern China “ ( http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90783/91300/6922884.html)
the number of people effected is serious. It said the worst-hit areas include Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Chongqing Municipality. More than 20 million people in total were suffering water shortages.

China Listed Water Stocks :

Zhejiang Leo Co (Shanghai:002131.SZ) is the largest manufacturer and exporter of small pumps and garden machinesin China, located in Wenling, Zhejiang. Not only a manufacturer, Leo also aims to be a global solution provider for water pumps and garden machines. It continuously diversifies its products range according to customer needs, now with more than 550 items.

Xiangtan Electric Manufacturing Co. (Shanghai:600416.SH) is a company engaged in the manufacture and sale of mechanical and electrical products. The Company’s pump industry division includes hot water pumps, submersible pumps and marine pumps among others.

Qianjiang Water Resources Development Co., Ltd. (SHA:600283) China-is principally engaged in the generation and supply of tap water, as well as the development and operation of real estate. The Company also provides electric power, pipe installation services and digital products.

Anhui Water Resources Development Co., (Shanghai:600502.SH) is principally engaged in the undertaking of engineering projects, the development of real estate, the utilization of water resources, the generation of hydroelectric power, build-transfer (BT) investment and new building materials business. During the year ended December 31, 2008, the Company won 71 bids of engineering projects, conducted Bailianya hydropower station project and Longzi Lake water resource developing project and continued to develop BESTWAY residential building system. The Company operates its business in domestic markets and to overseas markets.

Research water stocks with the water stocks directory: http://www.investorideas.com/Water-Stocks/Stock_List.asp

Investorideas.com and www.Water-Stocks.com are positioning to be a leading destination for cleantech investors researching the water space. Investors can track trends in water with new columns, Hydrocommerce Corner – Where Water & Money Meet with Bill Brennan and BlueTech Tracker with Paul O’Callaghan.

www.Water-Stocks.com, an investor portal within the InvestorIdeas.com content umbrella, offers water investors sector- close- ups, research tools, news, Blogs, online conferences, Podcasts , interviews and a directory of public companies within the water sector .
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Meeting the Energy and Climate Challenge

Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997) delivered this speech “Meeting the Energy and Climate Challenge” at Stanford University on March 7, 2010, where he was formerly a professor.

Dr. Chu called on the students and faculty to take part in a new Industrial Revolution. At the epicenter of Silicon Valley, Stanford has been at the heart of the Information Technology Revolution – a catalyst for innovators such as Intel, Cisco, and Google. “America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution,” he was quoted in the Stanford Report.

Humans are causing Global Warming

The Novel Laureate discussed the irrefutable case for anthropogenic climate change. “There is a mountain of climate data going back to 1860.” Climate deniers say that humans are not causing global warming; rather it is a variance of solar energy including sun spots. Dr. Chu presented a chart showing the long-term continued rise in the global surface temperature while the solar energy reaching the atmosphere followed a predictable 11-year cycle of 1366 and 1367 watts per square meter (W/m²).

CO2 concentration has increased 40% since the start of the first industrial revolution, including all GHG such as methane the equivalent increase has been 50%. Irrevocable effects are under way. The Earth must warm until a new equilibrium is reached in about 150 years due to time lags such as deeper ocean warming. Added temperature increase will result from the long life of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, and from increased emissions.

The effects of warming can be measured. Satellites can now measure with good precision the mass of the earth. Dr. Chu observed that the ice mass is decreasing quadratically in the Greenland and decreasing in the Antarctic.

He also pointed to potential tipping points. There are huge uncertainties with the risk of 3.5 to 6 degree temperature increases.

United States Innovation in Energy Efficiency, Renewables, and Transportation
“The U.S. innovation machine is the greatest in the world,” said Dr. Chu. “When given the right incentives, [it] will respond.” Energy efficiency and renewables present major opportunities.

The U.S. market share of photovoltaics peaked in 1996 at over 40 percent of global production;
it is now less than 10%. Asia has the lead in batteries. China is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy. For example, the State Grid is investing $44 billion by 2012 and $88B by 2020 in UHV transmission lines with transmission losses over 2,000 kilometers that are less than 5%. China is committed to produce 100GW of wind power by 2020.

The United States Recovery Act is making an $80 billion down payment on a clean energy economy to regain our global competitiveness and create U.S. jobs. Dr. Chu described how the United States could be the world’s innovative leader. The most immediate opportunity is in energy efficiency.

Since 1975, the electricity saved from energy efficient refrigerators with smaller compressors exceeds the total energy produced from wind and solar. Consumers respond to Energy Star ratings. We are expanding our energy efficiency standards to include buildings. In answering a question, Dr. Chu noted that energy efficiency can be extended beyond buildings to city blocks and cities themselves. The Energy Secretary got laughs from the students when he demonstrated how to adjust the sleep mode settings on their PCs and Macs.

Optimistic about Research Breakthroughs

There is good reason for optimism for renewable energy. The cost factor of wind power has decreased by a power of ten. Learning curves for photovoltaics has also declined by over a factor of ten. On a large roof, the installed solar cost is still around $4 per watt. If you get to $1.50 per watt installed, solar takes off without subsidy.

Because renewables are variable they benefit from local and grid storage, and from a smart grid. Pumped water storage is often 75% efficient; compressed air has the potential to be 60 percent efficient. The DOE has funded research for a variety of grid and vehicle battery chemistries.
Currently the United States is dependent on oil. Most proven reserves for oil majors such as Exxon, BP, Shell, are now off-shore. It will cost more to extract from tar sands and with more CO2 emissions.

Transportation is the hardest area to improve, mused Dr. Chu. Liquid petroleum fuels have excellent energy density. A Boeing 777 departs with 45% of its weight in jet fuel which has an energy density of 43 Mj/kg and 32 Mj/liter; a lithium battery, only .54 Mj/kg and 0.9 Mj/liter, yet batteries can compete in cars because of the efficiency of electric drive systems and learning curve improvements. We need an automotive battery pack for less than $10,000 with 5,000 deep discharges and 5X higher storage capacity, stated Dr. Chu.
We need breakthroughs. Much can from great research labs, such as Dr. Chu’s former Bell Labs. Scientific research for new breakthroughs will be encouraged with multiple programs:

Energy Frontier Research Centers = university sponsored scientific research for
innovative energy solutions.
Energy Innovation Hubs = multi-disciplinary,
highly collaborative teams working under one roof.
Advanced Research Projects
Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) = short term, high risk – high reward research
projects

Energy Secretary Chu concluded with the first view of Earth from the Apollo 8 orbit of the lunar surface and with these two quotations:

“We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that
we discovered the Earth. – U.S. Astronaut Bill Anders (Dec 24, 1968)

“…We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.” – Dr. Martin Luther King (1967)

Video of Dr. Chu’s Speech at Stanford

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Creating Cleantech Clusters

by Richard T. Stuebi

Shawn Lesser of Sustainable World Capital recently posted on the CleanTech Group‘s website his list of Top 10 CleanTech Cluster Organizations. I was pleasantly surprised to see that four of the ten listings were from the U.S. — in the places you’d probably suspect: Boston, New York (Upstate), California (both Northern and Southern). Interestingly, no place in China made the cut.

As Lesser notes, “creating a cluster is no simple task.” In my research, I really haven’t found any predictable formula or recipe for nurturing along a cluster’s formation. I recall once asking a serious student of regional economic clusters, Ned Hill of Cleveland State University, for his insights. In his view, there are three necessities that must be in place for a cluster to emerge in a given geographic area:

  • First, there must be a critical mass of people and organizations within and between which leading-edge knowledge transfer occurs.
  • Second, the people and organizations that set the standards for the industry must be present.
  • Third, an extensive set of pilot and demonstration projects must exist at which experimentation can be conducted to develop real-world improvements.

Without these three factors in place, it’s very much an uphill push to create an industry cluster.

Here in Northeast Ohio, NorTech — the economic development organization leading efforts to nurture technology-based clusters in our region — has recently launched an initiative in partnership with The Cleveland Foundation called Energy Enterprise to help spur subclusters of activity in our region in various segments of the advanced energy technology spectrum.

In planning the activities of Energy Enterprise, we’ve often talked about what it takes to build a cluster, sometimes getting frustrated at all of the factors beyond the control of any agency aiming to be a catalyst for cluster growth. Although we at Energy Enterprise don’t have a definitive playbook, we take some solace that cluster-building is inevitably a struggle for everyone. We have no illusions that we can enter such a top-10 list very quickly, having come a bit late to the game relative to others, but aspire that we can eventually get there in the years to come.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

Ford Transit Connect Electric Test Drive

By John Addison (3/8/10)

Before I got behind the wheel of the Transit Connect Electric, I asked myself, “Who is going to buy a battery-electric van of this size?” Fleet managers of electric utilities, universities, and city delivery all came to mind. Electric utilities have plenty of off-peak electricity for charging vehicles. For a utility with 5,000 vehicles in its fleet, hundreds could be replaced with the Transit Connect Electric. Many universities have hundreds of light electric vehicles for maintenance and on-campus delivery. The Transit Connect Electric would greatly increase the range and cargo for these applications. Many city delivery applications do not require much range and space, but value fitting in a tight parking spot.

The Transit Connect Electric looks identical to its gasoline cousin that was awarded 2010 North American Truck of the Year. The Transit Connect Electric has over 6 feet of cargo length that can be accessed through two sliding side doors, and two swinging rear doors. By keeping the cargo space to this size, the Ford has an 80-mile range on a charge of its 28kWh of lithium-ion batteries. The cargo space is perfect for many delivery, maintenance, and contractor needs, but not for all. Many fleet applications need the 290 cubic feet available in the Ford E Series vans or the 547 cubic feet of the Mercedes Sprinter.

As I get behind the wheel, I notice that the Transit Connect Electric is still ¾ fully charged, even though Ford has been giving journalists test drives for a couple of hours. The dash is simple in comparison to the Fusion Hybrid. No fancy telematics, GPS, or back-up camera. The rear view mirror won’t help me because of the high cabinets in this particular vehicle’s cargo space. I use the side mirrors to back-up. The vehicle is easy to maneuver out of the tight parking space.
As I turn and accelerate on the busy city street, the vehicle is silent. I cannot even hear the electric motor. Zero to 60 in 11 seconds is nothing to brag about, but the acceleration was adequate on the level street. Initial acceleration felt slow, when I accelerated on a 6 percent grade from a stopped position.

I asked Ford if I could get off their two-mile loop and go up a 20 percent grade. They declined because too many journalists were waiting for their turn to make a test drive. I was assured that the Transit Connect Electric is speced for a 25 percent grade.

After of few more blocks, I looped back to our starting point. With electric power steering, the vehicle was easy to drive. The electric drive system was always quiet and smooth. When I parked the Ford the charge was still ¾ full.

Ford has not yet establishing the pricing for the Transit Connect Electric, but with 28kWh of expensive lithium batteries, it will cost more than the $21,500 gasoline version of the Transit Connect and more than the natural gas version. The 2011 Transit Connect Electric uses a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by Azure Dynamics who has built electric delivery truck drive systems for the U.S. Post Office, Purolator Courier, and Fed Ex. In addition to the Transit Connect Electric, Ford will sell the Focus Electric in 2011 and Plug-in Hybrid 2012.

Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in cities and have a central location for daily recharging. The electric vehicle will have a top speed of 75 mph and a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full electric charge. At 240V, the 28kWh Johnson Controls-Saft (JCS) lithium-ion battery back can be recharged in 6 to 8 hours. The battery pack is liquid cooled. An onboard charger with J1772 communications converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack. JCS has supplied Ford for many years. JCS will supply the 8 to 13 kWh lithium battery cells for the 2012 Ford Plug-in Hybrid, but Ford will make the actual pack.

With an 80-mile charge range, the Transit Connect Electric will be used in fleet applications of less than 20,000 miles per year. The lithium batteries have been tested at many electric utilities. The Johnson Controls li-ion battery modules on bench testing at utility giant SCE accumulated the equivalent of 180,000 road miles before losing more than 5 percent of the original charge capacity. This Ford van with its JCS batteries is designed for years of use.
By partnering with Azure and JCS, Ford will be one of the first to delivery commercial freeway-speed electric vehicles in the United States. The Transit Connect Electric is part of a growing family of Ford hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Behave Yourself!

by Richard T. Stuebi

It’s axiomatic among the cleantech community that energy efficiency represents the cheapest/easiest way to address our energy and environmental challenges. Indeed, as illustrated by some analysis by McKinsey & Company, many energy efficiency measures actually have net negative costs to implement.

So, why is it so damned hard for customers to adopt energy efficiency technologies? Consider the recent article from the Wall Street Journal, profiling the challenges faced in Boulder, Colorado — one of the most environmentally-inclined communities in North America — in encouraging energy efficiency measures. The WSJ article spurred some navel-gazing among the green-conscious Boulder citizenry, as witnessed in this blog post.

One way of looking at this issue is that it is indeed hard to change people’s habits and behaviors, but that eventually people do change. Another way of looking at this issue is that people are economic animals: they do make changes, pretty quickly, like it or not, when something hits their wallets and pocketbooks.

In other words, it’s really pushing water uphill trying to encourage a shift to using less energy, when energy is so bloody cheap for most people. Unless/until energy becomes more expensive (taxes anyone?), the only way to spur many customers to use less energy is to change codes such that inefficient devices — whether they be lightbulbs, refrigerators, air conditioners, TVs or computers — can no longer be bought.

In the absence of price signals that strongly encourage behaviors to reduce energy consumption, restricting what customers can buy is the only brute-force method available that really works. And, as can be seen in our current political environment, many Americans don’t like being strong-armed by their government.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

State of the California Feed-in Tariff

David Niebauer

A new, innovative feed-in tariff for small-scale solar development is coming to California. Rather than setting a fixed price in an environment in which technology costs appear to be dropping, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has proposed a market-based approach, allowing developers to bid the lowest prices at which they would be willing to develop projects. This approach focuses on adding capacity to meet California’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and appears to avoid the pitfall of setting a price that is too high or too low. Time will tell if the approach is effective, but the outline of the program released by the CPUC looks promising.

Background

Feed-in tariffs have been employed around the world for a number of years as a policy mechanism designed to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources. Because non-renewable energy sources (e.g., fossil fuel combustion) cost significantly less to develop in a pure unregulated market environment, renewables require subsidies to make them competitive. Of course, the reason for the disparity is that we already subsidize non-renewable energy development by not assessing the full cost of the resource extraction activities, but that’s a topic for another article.

One approach to the cost disparity problem would be for governments to start taxing non-renewable energy generation, assessing the full cost to society and the environment for those activities. A more politically realistic solution is to provide an incentive to those developing renewable energy resources. The feed-in tariff is an innovative incentive program that is designed to provide a level playing field for renewable energy project development.

A feed-in tariff typically includes three key provisions: 1) guaranteed grid access, 2) long-term contracts for the electricity produced, and 3) purchase prices that are based on the cost of renewable energy generation. Under feed-in tariff regulation, utilities are required to buy renewable electricity from all eligible participants, effectively leveling the market for electricity generation.

Feed-in tariffs have been successfully employed in many countries over the last few years, most notably in Germany and Spain. The goal is described as “grid parity”: the point at which renewable electricity is equal to or cheaper than (non-renewable) grid power.

The California Approach

California regulators, guided by the CPUC, have flirted with a feed-in tariff for a number of years. Standard Offer Contracts for renewable power development were first introduced in California in the early 1980s in response to the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) perceived discrimination against small power producers. The CPUC ordered the utilities to offer standardized contracts and to offer one such contract, Standard Offer No.4 (SO4) with fixed prices. By the mid-1980s, private power producers had installed a significant amount of wind capacity in California, much of which is still in service today. Solar technologies had not matured to a level sufficient to take advantage of SO4.

California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) implemented in 2002 significantly raised the stakes for solar development. The California RPS program requires electric corporations to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources by at least 1% of their retail sales annually, until they reach 20% by 2010. On September 15, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger signed an Executive Order directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt regulations increasing California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 33 percent by 2020. As currently designed, RPS projects tend to be large and located in remote areas with abundant available land, but little transmission access or capacity. These larger projects take several years, at a minimum, to develop, due to the generation and transmission permitting processes, as well as the construction time required.

In early 2008, and as a means to promote smaller scale renewable projects, CPUC adopted a feed-in tariff that directs IOUs to offer a standard contract at the so-called market price referent (MPR) to all renewable technologies up to 1.5 megawatts (MW). However, this program has been generally ineffective because the price is not high enough to attract solar development: the MPR is based on the cost of generating electricity with a combined cycle gas turbine facility.

Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM)

In August 2009, the CPUC issued a new proposal designed to significantly increase the amount of solar energy installed in the state from smaller producers. It has moved away from using MPR to set the price and instead proposes to implement an innovative bid mechanism. The program would first expand the current feed-in tariff to 10 MW (to cover projects in the 1 – 10 MW size). Rather than setting the price at MPR, the CPUC proposes to allow developers to bid out projects through market-based pricing in what is termed a renewable auction mechanism (RAM). Under this system, developers would bid the lowest prices at which they would be willing to develop renewable energy projects and IOUs would be required to accept eligible projects starting at the lowest bid. As stated in the CPUC proposal: “This mechanism would also allow the state to pay developers a price that is sufficient to bring projects online but that does not provide surplus profits at ratepayers’ expense.”

Solicitations would be staggered for each IOU throughout the year using standard long-term power purchase agreements whose terms would not be negotiable. The program would be capped in each year and IOUs would be required to accept contracts up to the maximum amount of the cap. The program as currently envisioned totals 1 GW over 4 years, although industry observers believe that once implemented it could be easily expanded.

Next Steps

An Administrative Law Judge is currently reviewing certain jurisdictional objections raised by Southern California Edison after the initial CPUC proposal. The issue is whether the state commission can set wholesale prices or whether such an action can only be mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The RAM approach adopted by the CPUC appears to moot any such jurisdictional challenge. A decision is expected shortly. Once the decision is rendered, the content and mechanism for roll-out of the program will come up for deliberation and vote at an upcoming meeting of the CPUC.

David Niebauer is a corporate and transaction attorney, located in San Francisco, and a founding partner of Energy Counsel Partners, LLP (www.energycounselpartners.com). David’s practice is focused on renewable energy project development and environmental technologies. www.niebauer.net.

Fuel from Algae – Challenges do not Stop Big Bucks

By John Addison (3/3/10 – original post at Clean Fleet Report)

Energy, Water, and Fuel are three of the world’s most pressing needs. Algal biofuel can have a major impact on all three observed Dr. Michael Webber in opening the recent American Association for Advancing Science (AAAS) workshop about the future of fuel from algae.

Algae seems to grow everywhere except in commercial fuel processing plants. Algae grow unwanted in our showers and swimming pools. There are over 30,000 species living on land and in water. Algae include seaweed and pond scum. Scientists are actively searching for the ideal forms of algae to convert our waste and CO2 into fuel. The idea is simple: grow algae, separate the fatty lipids from water, then refine the lipids into biofuel. Producing high volumes of algae biofuel at low cost, however, is anything but simple.

Algae multiply rapidly with up to 50 percent of their weight being lipids, or triacylglycerols, which can be extracted and converted into fuel. Yes, biodiesel and other transportation fuels can be made from algae, but after decades of effort the fuel is still expensive and only made in lab-scale quantities. There are many obstacles to replacing petroleum with algal fuel in this decade. As I took notes at this three hour workshop that includes top experts in algal fuel, I had hoped to deliver a more optimistic report, but no optimism was gushing in the room.

Even if 10 million of the 240 million vehicles in the U.S. are replaced with plug-ins in this decade, that leaves 230 million vehicles needing petroleum fuel, often sourced from countries that don’t like us, or from sources such as tar sands with massive carbon emissions. Biofuel could reduce our dependency on oil. Fuel from algae can include ethanol, biodiesel, bio-jet fuel, and even bio-crude which could be refined and blended at existing oil refineries.

Currently, biofuel from corn, soy, and palm competes with food, uses large inputs of water, ammonia, petroleum, and land. Demand for food goes up; rainforests that supply our oxygen get destroyed.

“If we were to replace all of the diesel that we use in the United States” with an algae derivative, says Solix CEO Douglas Henston, “we could do it on an area of land that’s about one-half of one percent of the current farm land that we use now.”

Scientists at the AAAS conference seem to agree that 4,350 to 5,700 gallons of fuel per acre of algae per year is realistic. This is 10 to 100 times the potential of other fuel sources ranging from soy to jatropha. Land use is not an issue. Algae thrives on CO2, creating the dream of co-locating algal production at power plants and cement plants.

The DOE states, “Despite their huge potential, the state of technology for producing algal biofuels is regarded by many in the field to be in its infancy. There is a general consensus that a considerable amount of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) needs to be carried out to provide the fundamental understanding and scale-up technologies required before algal-based fuels can be produced sustainably and economically enough to be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels.” Now available is a 214-page draft PDF of the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap.

Thousands of strains of algae are being tested by private companies, universities, and research institutions. To achieve higher sustained production of triglycerides, hundreds of variables are being tested including natural strains, GMO strains (many patented), water, light intensity, nutrients, and nitrogen starvation.

Oil must be “brewed” with the right solution, light, mixing, and stirring. Cost-effective photobioreactors must be developed. Dr. Bob Hebner, University of Texas at Austin, has produced 6,000 gallons of algae in one day. Low cost targets appear achievable – $2 per gallon to produce algal oil and another $2 per gallon to process. Yet these are only achievable if the right organisms can be kept alive, water input reduced, energy costs reduced, and lipids can be separated at much lower cost. Costs must be removed at each of these steps:

1. Growing the desired strain. Major problems include predators, competing strains, and death of the needed strain.
2. Harvesting – removing water at low cost
3. Lysing to produce a lipid concentrate
4. Separations – oil from water from biomass

To achieve low cost and volume production, different pathways are being explored including anaerobic digestion, supercritical fluids, pyrolysis, and gasification.

Although algal fuel does not compete with food, it currently does compete with water. For large scale processing use of water will need to be drastically reduced to be economical with the energy cost of pumping water. Waste water or salt water will be needed, not water needed for agriculture. Optimization can likely drastically reduce needed water which can then be recycled.

Genetically modified organisms are controversial. To date, no consistent output from natural algal systems has been achieved. At the AAAS conference, Dr. Dan Kammen, U.C. Berkeley and IPCC lead author, discussed how natural strains of algae could be possible in global small scale production. He expressed concern that although GMO can cause highly productive algae, their inevitable release into other biosystems could be highly destructive.

With its ability to sequester CO2, algal fuel production will benefit from cap-and-trade legislation that exists in many states. Algal fuel can be produced in all 50 U.S. states.

Although the challenges are many, the potential of algal fuel is enormous. Exxon is investing $300 million in Craig Ventor’s Synthetic Genomics with plans to produce fuel from algae. Mexico’s BioFields is investing $850 million in an Algenol Biofuels plant for ethanol from microalgae; Dow is adding $50 million to the venture.

Greg Horowitt, T2 Venture Capital, reports that hundreds of millions are being invested in algal fuel companies such as Sapphire Energy, Aurora BioFuels, BARD, Solix, GreenFuel, and Solazyme. From Boeing to BP, from DARPA to DOE, and from Arch Venture Partners to Bill Gates, serious money is betting that algae will someday be a major biofuel source for our trucks, ships, and planes.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences.

All Electric Cars – The Impact of the Little Guys

by John Voltz
Recently, I made a small diversion from my walk to the office in San Francisco and took a ride in a Wheego. The Wheego was being showcased at Justin Herman Plaza right across from the Ferry Building not far from my office in the heart of the city’s Financial District. The Wheego is a brand new all-electric car from an interesting manufacturer in Georgia. Locally, the Wheego is sold at Ellis Brooks Auto Center. This intrigued me. Ellis Brooks is a venerable car name in San Francisco, having been around for 40+ years. I still remember their radio jingle from my childhood, “See Ellis Brooks today for your Chevrolet, corner of Bush and Van Ness . . .” The Ellis Brooks dealership now sells pre-owned cars and is no longer associated with GM. It has just begun selling the Wheego. Before I took my test drive, I had a chance to talk to Ellis Brooks’ grandson, John Brooks, about why they decided to sign up with Wheego. He seemed comfortable with the manufacturer in large part because the car was assembled from components made by manufacturers already in volume production of vehicles.
So how was the ride? Pretty good. It was quite roomy with a nice, quiet ride and a firm feel of the road. Allowing for the fact that it is a small two-seater coupe, it had the feel of real a car – not a golf cart or an experiment.
Now I should back up for a minute and explain that I have long been a skeptic that there will be significant adoption of all-electric vehicles any time soon. But this car changed my mind a bit.
My skepticism about this has been based on looking at the passenger car market and thinking about what it takes to succeed in that market. Then I compared the passenger car market to other potential electric vehicle markets.
Passenger cars have been the province of integrated high volume manufacturing, low margins, very high quality expectations (especially fit, finish and amenities), and very high service and support expectations. In short, the barriers to entry for this market seem quite daunting, especially when compared to the delivery truck market or the ATV market. These markets have significantly lower volumes, less integrated manufacturing (many manufacturers are essentially final assemblers), much lower quality expectations on fit, finish and amenities, and lower service and support expectations.
There are some low-volume passenger car manufacturers, but all make vehicles aimed at high priced specially markets, not low to mid priced daily drivers. There is another big difference between the passenger car market and the delivery truck market – what delivery truck buyers want fits really well with what electric vehicles do best:

  • predictable low to medium mileage daily duty cycle
  • low noise
  • excellent torque
  • low total cost of ownership
With an electric delivery truck, you don’t need to worry that you’ll ever need to drive from San Francisco to L.A. to visit your sick aunt. In fact, for commercial trucks, limited range can be a plus – there’s no way for trucks to wander very far. With passenger cars, limited range is a big reason not to buy.
Given this, I have felt for some time that we wouldn’t see significant adoption of all-electric vehicles until we started seeing real traction in markets like delivery trucks. I expected passenger cars (and delivery trucks too to some degree) would likely first go hybrid, then shift the hybrid balance to more electric (e.g. using fuel to run a generator to extend the electric range), and then later shift to all electric. These successive market advances would be linked to gaining manufacturing scale, cost down of batteries and other components critical to all-electric vehicles (though batteries is the big one).
My Wheego ride today and my chat with the dealer changed my view. Here was an all-electric car, at a regular car dealer, with a high but regular car price, from a car manufacturer that nearly appeared out of thin air. You see Wheego as a manufacturer is just a final assembler. From my initial quick look, Wheego came on the scene as a passenger car player in 2007 or so, backed by the former founder of MindSpring. Before then, it was exclusively an electric golf cart manufacturer. So it’s really been an eye blink in automotive time scale (2007 to 2010) to see cars turning up at dealerships. Granted, the model at dealers today and the one that I test drove is just a medium speed vehicle (MSV) with a top speed of 35 MPH and not for highway usage (more on that later). But this was still impressive to me.
Wheego gets the car bodies from a big manufacturer in China (a body that is currently used for gas drive cars in other international markets). It gets its motors from a Wisconsin electric motor manufacturer and its motor controller from Curtis Instruments who makes controllers for forklifts. Maybe the truck style manufacturing could work for passenger cars after all.
In addition, I began to think about the current passenger car market for all-electrics. There probably is a significant market for all-electric vehicles, even in the current economy, and even if they aren’t strictly ‘economic’ on a dollar per mile basis compared to gas or hybrid cars. Think about how much the early EV1 cost in its day[1], and how people still rave about it years and years later. In my revised view, I think there will be a small but significant true believer market in the U.S. for all-electric cars. Yes, the big boys are coming – Nissan with the Leaf, Chevy with the Volt, Ford with the Focus EV, but not for a year, maybe two, maybe more. In the mean time, the true believer market will be served by the likes of Wheego, Think, Smart, and others. Even after Nissan, Chevy, Ford and other big car companies arrive in the market, the early entrants may have continued success. Plus they may have customers and EV infrastructure that car manufacturers with non-existent, dormant, or failing EV programs may look to acquire. There is no substitute for firsthand customer knowledge.
The Wheego I drove was a medium speed vehicle (MSV) with a max speed 35 MPH and a real world range of 40 miles. The highway speed version is on the way – due to arrive this summer. It is currently undergoing NTHSA cash testing. It will have a top speed of 65 MPH and a range of 100 miles. The high speed vehicle (HSV) Wheego will not be a lot different than the MSV. Differences include: lithium ion batteries, airbags, and some additional structure supports to the body.
I now see the all-electric car market developing from two converging paths – the true believer all-electric passenger car market and the more economically driven all-electric truck and fleet vehicle markets. The true believer market will drive visibility and customer expectations, and provide valuable real world feedback about what electric car consumers care about and will pay for. While the truck and fleet markets will help dive down cost, I expect both will speed the adoption all-electric cars to a significant portion of the passenger car market.
So for you true believers out there, price before incentives for the MSV Wheego is ~$19K (and it’s eligible for a 10% Federal tax credit) putting the MSV price around $17K before any state or local incentives. Prices for the HSV have not yet been announced, but the target price is in the $30K range (and it will be eligible for a $7500 federal tax credit) putting the net cost of the HSV before state and local incentives in the roughly in the mid $20K range.


[1] The EV1 had a nominal low price of $34K or ~$48K in today’s dollars though it was never sold only leased. Reportedly production costs were $80+K per vehicle at the time. Initial lease costs were $640/month or $900/month in today’s dollars. Later this dropped to $350/month or $ 500/mo in today’s dollars with many different incentives layered on.

Making the Great Lakes Great Again

by Richard T. Stuebi

For as long as I can remember, Lake Erie — and by extension, all of the Great Lakes of North America — symbolized water pollution. Sure, it was much worse 40 years ago, when the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland caught fire, but the reputation lingers. (Remember the “Swill” skit on Saturday Night Live in the late ’70s?) Although the Great Lakes are a boater’s and fisher’s haven, for many people (myself included), the thought of bathing in the waters or drinking them untreated remains pretty unappealing.

This is truly a pity for the Midwest, because the Great Lakes represents one of the most fundamental assets that a region can offer: fresh water in enormous quantities. For those who’ve never seen the Great Lakes, they are misnamed: these are inland seas, not lakes. The Great Lakes hold 20% of the world’s freshwater. Pause and think about that for a minute.

In recent decades, there has been an increase in attention paid to remediating the Great Lakes. A unique multi-government collaboration launched in 1955, the Great Lakes Commission was formed to oversee issues spanning the multiple U.S. states and Canadian provinces depending upon the Great Lakes. Founded 40 years ago, the Alliance for the Great Lakes was an early voice advocating environmental improvement in the Great Lakes. Most substantively, the U.S. EPA leads the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which targets “the most significant problems in the region, including invasive aquatic species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment.”

Recently, the Obama Administration announced a five-year $2.2 billion blueprint for cleaning up the Great Lakes, which aims by 2014 to (1) finish work at five “toxic hot spots” that have been known as problematic for two decades, (2) reduce the rate of new invasive species by 40%, (3) decrease phosphorous runoff measurably, and (4) protect about 100,000 wetland acres. (See article from Chicago Tribune.)

As the central feature of the industrial North American Midwest, which gave birth to the industrial era of the 20th Century, the Great Lakes were long taken advantage of — often without much respect — to achieve economic growth, increase standards of living, win wars, and establish the U.S. as the unparalleled leader in the world. $2.2 billion may sound like a lot of money, but it’s due time we give back to the Great Lakes, for all that they’ve given us.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.