Is the Avis / ZipCar Acquisition Green?

I am selling my little Honda in California, since I moved to Texas two years ago, I left a car in San Francisco to drive when I’m here.

So I’d been looking into getting car share.  Absolutely loving the concept, been trying to figure out if it is a better deal for me than renting when I come out.

So when Avis dropped half a billion dollars on ZipCar, I was pretty intrigued.  Which raised the question, does this count as a cleantech or green exit?

I mean, I’ve rejected the “IT services instead of flying argument” making web conferencing services a product green, something I used to get emails on from marketers all the time.

Zipcar’s a little like that.  Are fewer miles actually driven?  Less gas used?

How about fewer cars bought?  Is Zipcar actually replacing cars?  Or adding cars and increasing miles driven by bringing new drivers into the fleet, or making some time drivers into more of the time drivers and reducing public transit use?  I’m not sure that car rentals like Avis don’t increase the number of vehicles and maybe even miles per person in the US.

When does efficiency and better shared services instead of capital expenditures become green, and not just a good deal?

Honda Fit Hybrid Challenges Toyota Prius Leadership

Honda Fit Outsells Prius

In January, the Honda Fit outsold the Prius in Japan. Prius had been the number one selling car in Japan for 20 months. Half of the Fits sold were the new Fit Hybrid, which delivers 71 miles per gallon (MPG) using the Japanese JC08 test cycle. In 2012, both the Fit Hybrid and new Fit EV are expected to start selling in the U.S.

The Honda Fit has been a popular small hatchback, with over 3.5 million sold globally. With five doors, seating for five, and flexible cargo space it is big enough for most, yet small enough to fit in those precious city parking spaces. Drivers like the sport fill and handling. Starting at around $15,000, the Honda Fit delivers 31 mpg, the mileage of many hybrids.

Honda Fit Hybrid 71 MPG

The Fit Hybrid removes pain at the pump with the 71 mpg in the Japanese test cycle which emphasises slow city driving at 16 mpg; by comparison the Prius is 77 mpg. Power is delivered from the IMA electric motor and from an efficient 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine. The battery for the hybrid system is located under the rear cargo and enables the Fit to share the same flexible seating configurations as the rest of the lineup without sacrificing interior comfort that is unique to Fit.

The Fit offers more room than outward appearances suggest. It has a B-segment exterior, but a larger C-segment interior. In the back is 20.6 cubic feet of cargo, but drop the back seat and you have 50.7 cubic feet. If that still is not enough for your ladder, home project, or surfboard, then you can flatten the front seat for added feet. In Japan, the passenger seat can even rotate for easy in-and-out or socializing with others.

Bigger and Better – Honda Fit Shuttle versus Toyota Prius

Toyota has no intention of letting Honda hold the number one spot in Japan, the U.S., or anywhere else. Toyota has expanded the popular Prius into a family of four models:

* 2011 Prius – world’s best selling hybrid
* 2012 Prius v –midsized wagon with 40 mpg goes on sale Summer 2011
* 2012 Prius c Concept – city car hybrid goes on sale by Summer 2012
* 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid – best mileage of any Prius goes on sale by Summer 2012

If you’ve been looking for great mileage from an SUV, crossover, or wagon, take a look at the new Prius v. It will share the current generation Prius’ platform and Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. Featuring a compact exterior yet spacious interior, the Prius v will feature over 50-percent more interior cargo space than the current Prius, while being almost as aerodynamic. The Prius v will compete with new crossover hybrids like the Ford C-MAX Hybrid. The Prius v will use NiMH batteries, just as the 2011 Prius. Next year, Ford will start delivering lithium batteries in all hybrids and electric cars.

Honda has countered by unveiling a longer Honda Fit Shuttle available with the current efficient ICE drive system and the new hybrid drive system. This compact wagon can be examined on Honda’s new Fit Shuttle Japanese website.  The wagon is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show next month. Unfortunately, Honda is unlikely to offer this larger Fit in the U.S., at least for now.

Honda Fit EV

Honda unveiled the all-new Fit EV Concept electric vehicle at the LA Auto Show in November. In 2011 the Fit EV will be in fleet trials at at Google, Stanford University, and possibly others. In 2012, the car will no longer be a concept as customers go to dealers and buy the Fit EV. The Fit EV will compete with the larger Nissan LEAF, the Ford Focus Electric, and the Toyota FT-EV.

The Fit EV is designed to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter and utilizes the same 5-passenger layout found in the popular Fit hatchback. When the Fit EV production model is introduced, it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor.

The high-density motor, derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, delivers excellent efficiency and power while remaining quiet at high speeds. The Fit EV will have a top speed of 90 mph.

The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 100-mile driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (70 miles when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximized by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between Econ, Normal, and Sport to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximize efficiency or improve acceleration. While in Econ mode, practical driving range can increase by as much as 17 percent compared to driving in Normal mode, and up to 25 percent compared to driving in Sport mode. Acceleration improves significantly when in Sport mode, generating performance similar to a vehicle equipped with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine.

Hybrid and Electric Car Battle with Toyota and Ford

In their battle for hybrid and electric car leadership, both Honda and Toyota are learning a lesson from Ford – price matters and therefore manufacturing cost matters. Ford is offering 10 to 14 new models on a global C-car platform  with many chassis and components being common across a range of cars, SUVs, and crossovers. Ford will lower manufacturing costs, use high-volume common parts, and improve efficiency. Ford will increasingly enable customers to select a vehicle, such as the Focus, with powertrain options ranging from efficient engine to hybrid to plug-in hybrid to pure battery electric.

C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid are two of 10 to 14 new models that Ford will launch around the world based on its new global C-car platform – Ford’s first truly global One Ford platform. Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and will account for more than 2 million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one in four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, Ford expects it to rise to 50 percent of all cars sold globally by 2013.

Honda is wise to expand its popular Fit into a family that includes a larger wagon, a 71-mpg hybrid, and an exciting electric car with the potential to become the EV price leader. In a growing battle for fuel-efficient family offerings with Toyota and Ford there will be one clear winner – the customer.

Lithium ETF Plays Growth of Electric Cars and Mobile Electronics

By John Addison (10/26/10)

You may be reading this article thanks to the lithium battery in your notebook computer, smartphone, or other mobile device. Demand for lithium is forecasted to double in this decade thanks to a wide range of applications for this metal that is half the weight of water: materials, glass, pharmaceuticals, mobile electronics, power tools, hybrid cars, and electric cars.

Currently, electric cars cost more to purchase than many gasoline-powered cars, but less to fuel. Electric charging is equivalent to fueling with gasoline at 75 cents per gallon in many situations. Nighttime charge rates are even lower.

In 2012, Ford (F) will deliver about 100,000 lithium battery packs in its electric vehicles, newplug-in hybrid, and in all hybrids. Nissan (NSANY) will bring on-line a new battery plant in Tennessee that can make 200,000 lithium battery packs annually for its LEAF and hybrids. These volumes, improved battery chemistry, and streamlined supply chains will drive down the cost of lithium batteries. Automotive lithium battery packs currently cost about $700 per kilowatt-hour. By the end of the decade, automakers are optimistic that they will lower the cost to $250/kWh, at which point electric cars will be less expensive to buy than most gasoline cars.

What do the financial markets make of lithium? To find out, I interviewed Bruno del Ama, CEO of Global X Funds. His exchange-traded fund, Global X Lithium ETF (NYSE: LIT), was launched on July 23, 2010, at 16. It has already soared to 20. For some investors, lithium is the new gold. 10 of the fund holdings are in lithium mining and processing companies; 10 in lithium battery makers.

The fund is dominated with large mining firms such as Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), FMC Corporation (FMC), and Rockwood Holdings (ROC). The fund is not a dream for environmentally and socially conscience investors. These companies mine a range of metals, using energy intensive processes, chemicals, and put miners in harm’s way.

The fund’s largest lithium battery company holdings include Saft, Ener1, ABT, GS Yuasa, and A123. Saft in a joint venture (JV) with Johnson Controls supplies Ford for the Transit Connect Electric and Mercedes hybrids. GS Yuasa supplies the current Japanese EV leader, Mitsubishi; GS Yuasa is well positioned to be Honda’s supplier for new electric and plug-in hybrids. Ener1 is betting on the Think. A123 is supplying Fisker and non-automotive applications.

The fund does not include the battery companies most successful in lithium: NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, and LG Chem. These diversified giants are excluded because their lithium battery business is less than the 15 percent minimum to be included in LIT. NEC is in the AESC joint venture with Nissan. Panasonic supplies Toyota and Tesla. Samsung is in a JV with Bosch to supply makers such as BMW. LG Chem’s Compact Power is supplying lithium batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford Electric.

Scientific American reports a 500-year supply of lithium, compared with only decades of available cooper. Demand for lithium will increase as we expand from devices that only need one battery cell, to notebook PCs needing the equivalent of 8, to hybrid cars that use the equivalent of 125, to the Nissan LEAF, which uses the equivalent of 3,000.Reuters Lithium Facts

It would take 60 million cars to use the current annual production of lithium. Although there is plenty of lithium, prices will increase to keep up with the growing demand. Since a typical electric car battery pack only uses 4 pounds of lithium, the price will have little impact on the total battery cost.

There is no guarantee that today’s lithium ion batteries will be the leaders in future decades. Labs to start-ups are working on lithium air, zinc air, fuel cells, ultracapacitors, and hybrid energy storage. It is challenging to overcome lithium ion’s cost and scale advantages. More energy can be stored in an ounce of this metal than any practical metal alternative.

By 2020, the California Energy Commission forecasts 1.5 million plug-in cars on California roads. Clean Fleet Report forecasts 10 million for the USA. Cars, mobile electronics, and many applications will fuel the demand for the lightest of metals and create growth opportunities for the leading battery suppliers.

By John Addison. Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. Disclosure: author owns shares of LIT.

Actress Q’orianka Kilcher Now Drives a Zero-Emission Honda FCX

By John Addison. Q’orianka Kilcher was acclaimed for her starring role as Pocahontas in the 2005 film The New World. The National Board of Review awarded her Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress. Ms. Kilcher was recognized as the Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture by the American Latino Media Arts Awards.

Q’orianka Kilcher is now turning heads as she silently drives by in her new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Honda FCX. The car’s only emission is water vapor. Honda’s advanced fuel cell technology program has been praised by fleet users during the last five years, typically leasing the vehicles for $500 per month. Several fleets have allowed a number of drivers to use the vehicles by making them part of employee pools. Two years ago, the Spallino family became the first retail customers for a fuel cell vehicle. 17-year-old Q’orianka Kilcher is now the youngest customer.

Ms. Kilcher took the keys to vehicle in Hollywood. Nearby, she will find a number of places to fill the vehicle in the Los Angeles area. The station at LA Airport is public. Others are for community fleets with limited public access requiring authorization.

“The best way to demonstrate the importance of next generation vehicles like the Honda FCX is to put the next generation of drivers behind the wheel,” said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda (HMC).

“As a young person today, I feel it is important to take initiative toward seeking positive solutions and stepping up the quest toward clean energy and environmental preservation,” said Q’orianka Kilcher. “When I first started pursuing my dream of a zero emissions vehicle as my first car, it seemed like a pretty unrealistic dream. With Honda’s innovation and support, my dream of helping the environment became a reality!”

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish. John serves on the Board of the California Hydrogen Business Council.