Thursday, December 23, 2010

Climate Change Could Be Like Health Crisis

For those of us living in Southern California and used to having sunny days and pleasant weather, the past week-and-a-half has sucked. It rained, and then it rained, and then it rained, seeming like it would never stop. The expected landslides and washouts happened with road closings, traffic accidents, and bouts of depression. It felt more like being in the Pacific Northwest than in El Lay. If you're watching national weather reports, this seems to be part of a bigger picture - weather cycles are out of the norm and causing severe consequences.

Al Gore might be right about greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change. The main point of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" was not really about hot weather being the norm (if you're confused by the term "global warming") - as the earth's climate warms and transforms, the usual weather cycles are thrown off kilter and Mother Nature is throwing tantrums - sometimes freezing cold and later hot as hell producing catastrophes. That started being more clear in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, and since then, many hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and snowstorms have been experienced. As ice caps melt and storms wash across the planet, flooding will become the biggest problem, and this wreaks much havoc. It ain't easy seeing your house float away.

Some would say that weather patterns are changing, but that's normal in the history of this planet, and there's nothing we can do about it. I would say, what if you're wrong? I would say, let's see what we can do about it. It reminds me of going through my own health crisis with encephalitis, and having people in my life dealing with cancer and other fatal conditions. We all had decisions to make about how much we were committed to getting well. That means making changes in nutrition, exercise, medical care, testing, and trying out alternative methods such as acupuncture, herbs, and yoga. If we're stewards on this planet being held accountable by Mother Nature, perhaps it would be most wise and responsible to do all we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, embrace green machines and clean technology, and environmentally sound practices.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Green Car Happenings of 2010

I did put together top story/trend coverage for 2010 in Automotive Digest Weekly Green, but did not rank the stories in order. So here's my ranking of the events this year:

1. Gulf oil spill - that went on for quite awhile and wreaked havoc, much like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. It reinforced the freedom from oil addiction America needs to work on.

2. Delivery of Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt to first buyers, before the year ended. They did what they said they were going to do.

3. EPA strict standards for corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for light duty vehicles, and then later in the year for heavy duty vehicles. There's a lot to it, and vehicles will become more expensive, efficient, and clean. And smaller and lighter.

4. Governments around the world are offering incentives and mandating adoption of higher mileage and lower emissions vehicles. This has been happening in Europe and Asia. It was fairly surprising to see how much is happening in China.

5. Tesla Motors had a very big year - NUMMI plant, going public, and having companies like Toyota partner to use its EV drivetrain technology.

6. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles got a shot in the arm with announcements from Toyota, Hyundai, and Mercedes Benz on fuel cell cars coming to market.

7. Natural gas vehicles are growing in popularity with fleets and there may be more heavy trucks on the road using this fuel. T. Boone Pickens was able to convince Senate Majority Leader on a $5 billion bill to convert heavy-duty trucks and buses to run on natural gas. It will have to be reintroduced in the senate, but is likely to pass next year.

8. Automakers started going green - Ford especially, with its sustainability officer, building cars with more recycled materials, and winning a Nielsen award on green marketing at the LA Auto Show. General Motors has been doing a lot in arena, too, as have many other OEMs. Fisker Automotive has been tying this theme closely to its marketing campaign for the upcoming Karma.

9. Electric vehicle product announcements were stunning, and eventually numbing. The number of announcements of all-new cars, or electric versions of existing models, was enormous. Some of it is fairly far into the future, or at least a few model years from now. But it was way more than I originally anticipated.

10. Electric vehicle industry coalitions were plentiful and ambitious as well - from Electric Drive Transportation Association, California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative, and Electrification Coalition are all worth learning more about as charging stations make their way across the country, and need as much support as possible in doing so.

Number 11 would deal with Renewable Fuel Standards that came out this year and will have much impact on what happens next with biofuel - ethanol, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels (such as cellulosic and algae). Very much connected to this is the decision by the EPA to increase ethanol's level in gasoline sold across the country to E15 for 2007 model or later vehicles. There are lawsuits and debates going on for both of these issues, and they will be getting sorted out next year and beyond.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Home Installation Tax Credit a Head Scratcher

Congress just decided to cut the tax credit for electric vehicle chargers from 50% to 30%, which goes from $2,000 to a maximum of $1,000. Home charging installations are costing people about $1,500 to $3,000. The tax cut means more comes out of pocket for the acquisition cost. 

I still want to find out how this will be worked out with the car purchase. If I buy a Nissan Leaf for about $32,800 and need to invest $2,500 for a home charger to be bought and installed in my garage, how does that play out int the loan? Let's say the federal tax incentive brings the charger cost down to $1,500. I would imagine I still need to pay $2,500 and get the $1,000 back as a tax incentive. But might it be included in the purchase price, such as the loan would cover the car and the home installation, and would the tax incentive affect the deal?

Lots of questions I still need to get answered.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Car Sharing Cool Enough to Go Public

Car sharing is popular in Europe, but not in America. It does tend to violate our "constitutional right" to own our very own car, and just jump behind the driver's seat and do whatever we want (though you can get more tickets for things like cell phone talking than you used to). My prediction is that more gridlocked traffic jams and pollution will make Americans sweetly reasonable about solutions to the problem -- and it will affect elections and consumer choices.

Zipcar is the closest thing we have in this country to a successful car sharing business. Others are getting in the act (i.e, car rental), but it's a still a long way off from reaching a significant level. It is becoming substantial enough to inspire an IPO for Zipcar, though.

According to Automotive News, Zipcar is moving forward with an initial public offering worth as much as $75 million. In June, the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become publicly traded. Zipcar declined to comment on timing of the IPO. Since 2000, it has grown into a fleet of more than 8,000 cars in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Toronto. Today the company boasts 500,000 car-sharing members.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moving Beyond Early Adopters

To go beyond early adopters sold on the environmental benefits of EVs, automakers will have to shift their marketing emphasis to dollars-and-cents pragmatism, experts say and Automotive News covers. Lower operating costs for both fuel and maintenance will be a key selling point. Speaking at the recent "Business of Plugging In" conference in Detroit, Consultant John Formisano, who retired this year as vice president for global vehicles at Federal Express, said EV makers have a good argument to make. Based on his experience running a fleet of EVs, Formisano estimates that long-term operating costs are around 70% less than for a vehicle with a conventional gasoline engine. That could help persuade consumers to shell out the higher purchase price for an EV.

Consumers looking for a good deal will be a big part of meeting ambitious goals automakers have for selling EVs. They will have to address the issue of consumers having charging stations installed in their garages for $1,500 to $3,000. They can get the federal incentive for a 50% cost reduction, but they still have to take into consideration the time and money involved in making this happen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Questions About Toyota Technology

According to Green Car Advisor: "Toyota appears to be making good on its promise, delivered at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, to develop solid-state battery technology for electric-drive vehicles. Successful development of such batteries would be a big deal as they can store more energy - for longer range between charges - and cost much less to produce than the lithium-ion batteries now considered state-of-the-art.... Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. President and CEO Jim Lentz said at the L.A. Auto Show that, in addition to an accelerated roll-out schedule for more conventional hybrids and the Prius plug-in hybrid electric, the company was working on solid-state battery advancements. The technology's in its infancy, though, and commercial production is still considered to be years away."

I've always wondered why Toyota has been resisting lithium ion batteries and staying with nickel metal hydrides for so long. And this delves into more questions I have: Why no pure electric vehicles in the product pipleline except for the RAV4 with Tesla? Why is the Prius Plug-in taking so long to come to market, and why does it only go 12 miles on battery alone?

Toyota takes its time adapting toward new technology and away from the habits under the hood of the award winning Prius. I do think that when Toyota brings solid-state battery technology to the market, it will be well made. And it probably helps explain why Toyota made the deal with Tesla Motors to build the RAV4 electric version together using the Tesla technology instead of doing it on their own. Doing it their own way is the normal Toyota modus operandi, so things are changing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rental Fleets Big Part of Green Machine Future

Two things to notice:

1. Want to see if you can live with an electric vehicle? Your first step may be to check the fleet at your local Hertz rental office, says The Detroit Bureau.. The nation’s largest daily rental company is charging into the emerging battery car market, and plans to add the new Smart Electric Drive model to its fleet, starting next week.

2. Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine selected Ryder as a recipient for its 2010 Green Supply Chain Award. Ryder was chosen as a provider of logistics solutions that is assisting its customers in achieving measurable sustainability goals.

Hertz goes neck-to-neck competing with Enterprise for the dominant global role in car rental. Ryder has fought it out with U-Haul for consumer truck rental, but has grown even more so in logistics transport. As mentioned before, fleets have become surprising early adopters for green machines and sustainability initiatives, and it keeps growing. Expect to see more announcements.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Great Year for Lord Drayson, Green Racer

For Paul Drayson, a recent Minister for Science and Innovation in the UK government, this has been a big year. Besides his day job, Lord Drayson has been a  successful race car driver for many years. Drayson Racing's ambition to be the world's leading green technology racing team made big steps towards that goal in 2010. The cornerstone of the Le Mans Prototype One effort was the American Le Mans Series' (ALMS) nine-race calendar, but the team added the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) events in Europe and Asia as well. 

Drayson Racing won its third Michelin Green X Challenge victory in the ALMS. Drayson and racer Jonny Cocker put in extra hours behind the wheel once the E85 bio-ethanol car was damaged the night before in a practice run and the third driver wasn't cleared by medical officials. Drayson Racing used an innovative flex-fueled, Lola CoupĂ© with Judd V10 Power capable of running on both second-generation, cellulosic E85 bio-ethanol and E10. In doing so, the privately-held operation proved sustainable motoring can compete head-to-head with traditional automotive technologies and win. We were fortunate to interview Drayson at the Long Beach Grand Prix's Race for the Green conference earlier this year. There's a lot of green technology innovation being tested out in the American Le Mans Series, and Drayson Racing is doing what Lord Drayson said they would do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Smog or Greenhouse Gas Debate - What Difference Does it Make?

According to Greenwire... EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that her 40-year-old agency is battling a new problem: Americans are taking a healthy environment for granted. When EPA was created in 1970, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. Pittsburgh and Los Angeles were choking on smog on a daily basis. And the widespread use of DDT and other toxic chemicals was killing off bald eagles -- the very symbol of the United States. The nation's rivers aren't burning anymore, Jackson said. The air is clean enough that many people don't notice it. Struggling species have rebounded. But because younger people have no memories of those days, they might not realize why the agency was created in the first place, she said.

This got me thinking and ended up as part of my Letter from the Editor...

In the recently released Kelley Blue Book survey study on consumer’s lack of interest in buying electric vehicles, one particular response caught my eye. For those interested in alternative vehicle technology, 83% cited reduction in pollution, and 83% checked reduction in vehicle emissions as primary reasons. So what’s the difference between the two? To me, a simple definition would be: pollution = smog from the tailpipe; vehicle emissions = greenhouse gas or CO2 emissions (global warming). There’s a difference between the two.

There’s always debate about whether global warming and climate change are for real, and whether humanity could do anything to positively affect climate patterns. Whether or not that question can be answered, I do believe that air pollution is the core reason for bringing advanced clean technology to the auto industry. I’m reminded of being eight years old and going to the LA Zoo on a grammar school field trip when the smog was so thick, my eyes watered and my throat grew sore and thick. Today, even though there are more vehicles on LA freeways, the air pollution has been dramatically reduced and air quality improved. I’m all for that happening around the world and look forward to seeing green machines become a valid option for car shoppers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Automotive News Tracks Greenage in OEMs, Supplers, and Dealer Networks

Automotive Digest is a good publication to read while covering the auto business, perhaps you can call it the car business bible. There are other pubs to follow, such as The Detroit Bureau, but AN goes more in depth with automaking and its supplier chain and dealer networks than anything else you can find. As for green machines, here's a few tidbits from the weekly edition:

In addition to electrifying half of its own fleet by 2015, General Electric plans to open two experience centers where fleet operators can learn about switching to electric vehicles. Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer at GE Capital Fleet Services, said educating fleet customers will help GE shape the future. 

At the experience centers, potential customers of commercial fleet vehicles will be able to test-drive electric vehicles, use GE equipment and meet with representatives from automakers and battery manufacturers. The first center will open in Eden Prairie, Minn., near the headquarters of GE Capital Fleet Services, by the end of March 2011. The other will open soon after that in suburban Detroit as part of a new technology center that GE announced last year. 

Entrepreneurs and established companies are using a range of resources to create a new industry: plug-in charging stations. They are selling the stations to go along with new plug-in EVs hitting the roads. Jim Blain, CEO of the suburban Detroit architectural firm James Blain & Associates Inc., saw opportunity last year when one of his tenants voiced an interest in buying a Chevrolet Volt. Blain created PEP Stations soon afterward to design a charging station ahead of the release of the plug-in hybrid Volt and electric Nissan Leaf sedans. 
Shocking Solutions, another suburban Detroit company, signed a deal to distribute charging stations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio manufactured by Coulomb Technologies Inc., of Campbell, Calif. Another company jumping into the EV market is SPX Corp., traditionally a supplier of special tools and diagnostic gear. Its SPX Service Solutions unit has struck a deal with GM to supply and install 220-volt chargers for the Volt. For $490 and a home installation fee of about $1,400, Volt owners can charge their car at home in four hours. 
Wheego Electric Cars Inc. says it will begin selling its two-passenger LiFe across the United States in mid-December, although it doesn't have the EPA certification needed to begin. "We're confident that we'll have it in time," said Mike McQuary, CEO of the Atlanta startup. "The U.S. government is committed to encouraging EV use." 
EPA emission certification is largely a formality since battery-powered vehicles have no emissions. But the agency's formal approval has kept other would-be U.S. automakers waiting in the past. 

McQuary said Wheego has 22 dealers standing by. And he said Wheego will sell and deliver cars in any U.S. market that is not represented by a dealer once sales begin. McQuary said the company plans to offer a five-passenger car in the fourth quarter of 2011 and a compact pickup based on that car in early 2012.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Comparing Prius to Leaf and Volt Dollar for Dollar

For years, the Toyota Prius has been topping the EPA mileage rating chart, most recently coming in at 50 mpg combined, with 51 in the city and 48 on the highway. (Perhaps this is true of the new 2010 Prius. My experience driving a 2006 Prius has seen a combined score more in the 47 to 48 range, which has involved much freeway driving.) Anyways, the Prius has been beaten by the Nissan Leaf getting an equivalent rating of 99 mpg. And the Chevy Volt was just announced -- 60 mpg "composite."

Here's the basic numbers on all three of these models:

                                      Base MSRP        Tax Incentive                  EPA Mileage Rating
2011 Nissan Leaf              $32,780                  $7,500                                    99

2011 Chevy Volt               $41,000                  $7,500                                     60

2010 Toyota Prius             $21,400                     0                                         50

So the dollar for dollar comparison looks like the Leaf competes most directly with the Prius, even though the incentive has expired on the Prius.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stay Tuned for More Bad News on Oil Spill

According to Climatewire:

The companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill made several risky decisions to save time -- and consequently money -- ahead of the disaster, according to a document that was pulled at the last minute from a presentation of the president's oil spill commission earlier this month. The document obtained by Greenwire shows BP PLC, Halliburton Co. and Transocean Ltd. made a series of 11 unnecessary decisions that may have increased the chances of disaster. The findings paint a harsher picture than statements made by the panel's chief counsel during a recent presentation that workers onshore and on the drilling rig didn't cut corners on safety to save money. And it may be a harbinger of stronger findings in the panel's final conclusions due out in January.

This is being investigated by an Obama administration task force panel, which reminds me of the recent auto industry task force overseeing the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy bailouts. The White House and Congress don't possess ultimate authority over the economy or any megacompany like BP, not nearly as much as they used to. There are other power forces lurking such as banks in China and other parts of Asia that have a lot of investment/ownership in our federal deficit.

Still, BP's Gulf spill and its aftermath is the Rubik's Cube for gaining some control over the world's largest industry, oil. Their competitors are being very cautious and have been launching marketing campaigns with references to being responsible for the planet and being more than just oil companies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Corn a Good Business to Be In

While following coverage of green regulatory decisions, two stood out:

1. Obama administration decision to put off E15 decision about adding 2001 to 2006 model year vehicles until later. E10 has been the standard across the country for years, and now that's moved up to 15% ethanol - E15 - on model year 2007 and newer vehicles. At first, the administration rejected anything older than 2007, but has recanted that move and is taking more time to decide. More vehicle tests need to be done, the EPA says.

2. California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a resolution saying recent research had spurred a downward revision in estimated greenhouse gas emissions caused by changing land uses to plant more corn. With new rules for transportation fuel emissions scheduled to come into effect in less than two months, California regulators moved to revise their treatment of corn ethanol from being worse than gasoline to better, according to Greenwire.

If you're growing, processing, transporting, and selling corn, you're in a really good business these days. Every time someone pumps gas into the car, more corn is sold and that volume will probably be increasing. And if CARB says that corn ethanol has its benefits, that will open more doors.

Corn ethanol is transitional - corn and sugar cane ethanol are widely used in the US and Brazil, but they have their downsides for impact on the environment and raising animosity with industry groups that believe ethanol is creating unstable market prices that raise hackles for shoppers, sometimes causing riots around the world. The evidence of corn ethanol wreaking havoc on stores and prices is iffy, but its negative impact on the environment is more accurate. Yet until really good stuff comes on the market in advanced biofuels, we're stuck with corn ethanol.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Exhausting Day at LA Auto Show

A fellow green car editor told me yesterday he was burned out after spending a day at the LA Auto Show. I asked him if it was about walking around the large complex nonstop, and for him it was about being overwhelmed by all the information. The LA Auto Show has become the leading auto show ever since moving from January to November - many launches with a lot of emphasis on green cars this year. The show was exciting and draining - there was so much going on it was hard to take it all in on one day. It would have been more like going to Disney World or Smithsonian Institute - it could have been done over several days.

Much to take in with all sorts of new car launches, the Green Car of the Year awards show, the ride and drive, and massive automaker displays. I got a kick out of Ford's exhibit area with the EcoBoost robots performing together. The Yokohama Tires ecowall was pretty cool to look at.

I had a great interview with Electric Drive Transportation Association and Southern California Edison about an educational website called, and had some suggestions for additional information they should add to educate consumers (and utilities, OEMs, dealers, tech suppliers, etc.) about electric vehicles and charging. They're taking it into consideration.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2 Stand Out Scenarios with CODA Sedan

Things are stretching out even more for the CODA sedan - it will be rolling off manufacturing lines in Q2 2011, a year later than originally planned. If you're in a small start-up electric car company, I'm sure that CODA's backsliding would make you nervous. There are two aspects of the situation that stand out:

1. The price is fairly high - about $44,000 retail versus a bit under $33,000 for the Nissan Leaf and Wheego LiFE. Why would you paying $11,000 more for a brand new car from a brand new company when you have no idea what the resale value will be, quality and reliability, etc.

2. The production is dragged out and questionable. It's typical for a new car to take about three years from concept design to showroom floor traffic, and sometimes even longer - the Japanese makers have been known for keeping it tight and the Detroit 3 have dragged it out in past years. Still when the product launch is announced, then delayed, then delayed again, it ain't lookin' good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carbon Credits Could be Viable Lobbying Option in Washington

An Electrification Coalition report says that public policies need to come out of Washington to boost fleet purchases of electric vehicles. Recommended public policies include tax credits for light-duty PHEVs and EVs deployed in fleets as well as for medium- and heavy-duty PHEVs and EVs, clean renewable energy bonds for infrastructure, guarantee of residual value for the first generation of lithium-ion batteries, and federal fleet electrification including the Postal Service.

What about carbon credits? The climate change policy is probably dead in Congress now that Republicans are taking the House majority and committee positions are changing. However, there are those who think carbon credits might be a way to make all of this work. Carbon credits are a component of national and international attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of greenhouse gases. Certainly this issue is much bigger than specific policies encouraging fleets to bring in more EVs, but it does speak to the larger arena of policies going through Washington affecting renewable energy and alternative technology, all part of making fleets greener. And perhaps the clean renewable energy bonds will incorporate carbon credits.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who's Actually Going to Buy Electric Vehicles?

According to a survey by leasing residual value tracker ALG, 55% of 2,200 people polled said they are unwilling to pay any more for an electric vehicle with a range of 100 miles than for a gasoline-powered vehicle. And even if they were interested in purchasing an EV, more than four in 10 respondents said they would be unwilling to pay to install a charging station where their vehicle would be stored.

In other recent coverage form Automotive News, columnist Dan Guilford wrote, "China's desire to leapfrog traditional automakers with electric vehicles is filling up the order book at A123 Systems. The Watertown, Mass., battery maker last week said it had won a contract from Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to supply lithium ion batteries for a 2012-model EV. A123 already sells battery technology to SAIC for several vehicles. Jason Forcier, vice president of A123's automotive unit, says the company initially will build cells in Livonia, Mich., but will shift production in 2013 to a plant in China. The cells will be integrated into packs at a Chinese joint venture between A123 and SAIC. China expects its annual production of electric-drive vehicles to hit 1 million units by 2020, Forcier notes."

So my thoughts are - How accurate are the forecasts, and if they are, who will be buying? While JD Power and Associates say it will be less than other reports on the market claim it will be, we're still talking about millions of EVs being on the road.

Who will buy them? At first, you can expect to see three targeted, guaranteed audiences: 1. Early adopters, who will brag about being among the very first to drive a Nissan Leaf or another competitive electric model. 2. Greeniacs, or those with environmental concerns and activist tendencies, i.e., people who belong to Plug In America and can't wait for "Revenge of the Electric Car" to come out. 3. Fleets - such as General Electric and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which are buying a lot of EVs. Perhaps there should be another segment added: 4. Overseas markets - China, India, Japan, Korea, Great Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, etc. Overseas governments are passing mandates and incentives to get citizens behind the wheel of an EV.

So it will happen - millions will be sold in the next 10 years, along with millions of hybrids, flex fuel vehicles, NGVs, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Once the four core buyer segments are thoroughly reached, the issue will be how to elevate and expand the markets and increase the production chain effectively. Then the profits start rolling in. Long before that, OEMs are lined up to play this game, and there's multitudes of technology suppliers making much needed contributions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reducing Congestion & Smog Prior to Catastrophe

As China and several other emerging nations have been experiencing, rapid population and economic growth translates into gridlocked traffic jams and heavy layers of air pollution, not to mention other damaging after effects. The 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing provided an obvious example of this trend, even after the Chinese government had previously spent months downsizing vehicle traffic before the Olympics to clear the air; it didn't help that much - the layers had already grown quite thick.

Reducing vehicle traffic and tailpipe emissions has been in the works for year in the European Union, North America, Japan, and other economic powerhouses, and is being taken on in China, India, and elsewhere. To make this happen, here's what I think needs to be adopted into a substantial, effective method to clear the air and roads:

1. Advanced vehicle technology - this of course speaks to fuel efficiency, clean fuels and technology, and onboard diagnostic technology. In the future, it will also transfer over to traffic control management and communications technology. Perhaps we will all own a "smart car" tied into public transportation organizations that manage traffic flow, road safety, and highway repair, such as Caltrans in the state of California. And tied into onboard technology that can take over driving the car. Perhaps we'll get in the car, voice activate the telematics and choose our location, then sit back and read or watch a movie, and/or make phone calls, as we're driven safely and efficiently. This would reduce traffic and collisions, increase fuel efficiency, reduce idle time, and relieve much of our stress. Unfortunately, we're years away from this goal, but technology advancements are moving forward in leaps and bounds. Every year you buy a car, there's something new and interesting - some of it merely for entertainment, but it is tied into the future of advanced vehicle technology.

2. Mass transit improvements - the US is behind other countries when it comes to mass transit, especially train systems. Some US cities are better than others, and support for this growth is slow and has hurdles to overcome in federal and state funding. As traffic gets worse and public transportation gets better, voters probably will become unwillingly supportive (i.e., sweetly reasonable) about mass transit solutions. In the transitional period, this can also be improved by buses - including public transportation and private transportation companies - integrating natural gas, hydrogen fuel cell, biofuels, and battery power into the fleet.

3. Architectural design and housing development - there are several leaders in the environmental/sustainability sector who believe urban centers need to redesign their landscape in order to survive and thrive as global population grows, buildings are built and expanded, and more vehicles clog roads across the world. A lot of architects believe cities need to be restructured with housing, workplaces, transportation centers, shopping, and services fused together into space-efficient and attractive models. A lot of people want to leave the burbs and live in stylish cities, and want access to good stuff all around them. This means less driving, land development, wastefulness, etc., at least in theory. It's a tough one to implement as the population continues to grow, developers keep building new tract housing, and consumers prefer to live farther away from traffic, mobs of people, scary neighborhoods, their annoying family, etc. Yet there will always be city lovers, or at least those who prefer living in a major metro area rather than miles and miles away - so building new, or remodeling existing, urban centers, is part of the strategic plan for some leaders.

4. Car sharing - is not yet popular in the US, but is growing in Europe. It's likely to expand in America, but does go against our sense of the "constitutional right" to own your own damn car, drive all by yourself, and get stuck in traffic while listening to your own stereo, talking on your own cell phone as loud as you want without getting a ticket, go wherever you want whenever you want, jump on the highway and go to Vegas baby Vegas, etc. That is a common, popular illusion in America, the land of the free. As traffic and smog get worse, people are becoming sort of sweetly reasonable about alternatives - taking your bike to the library, riding the bus to work, walking to the store with your wife, carpooling to work, etc. Car sharing fits into this mindset well - your neighborhood or apartment/condo building can do sort of a time share on a car - costing you much less than that second car you thought you needed to buy, but wouldn't use much anyways and get particularly resentful about when your annual car registration bill comes in the mail followed by your car insurance bill.

5. Green machines - this is an obvious one, or why would Green Machine Digest even exist, right? There will certainly need to be enough green machines to be on the road to make a difference in reducing tailpipe and CO2 emissions, but the projections do point to impressive possibilities and benefits. And there are jobs being created, business/investment opportunities, government taxes and fees, reduction of oil dependency, and positive vibes connected to it. And to repeat myself once again, these green machine benefits are occurring through growth in pure electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, plug in electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, biofuel powered vehicles (such as ethanol and biodiesel), and natural gas and propane powered vehicles.

I suppose substantial solutions to smog and traffic will need to fuse all five factors into a public/private partnership backed enough by voters and consumers. Here's to hoping for the best.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I'm Convinced Natural Gas Vehicles Are Here to Stay

Ways you can tell natural gas vehicles are catching on…

•Fleet managers are becoming true believers. Natural gas vehicles are being brought into fleets all over North America in passenger cars, cargo vans, medium- and heavy-trucks, and specialty application vehicles.

Paul Condran, equipment maintenance manager for City of Culver City in California, and 2009 winner of the best green fleet award, had this to say about NGV benefits: “There are no limitations in range (if properly specified), fuel is abundant, and there are over 2,500 CNG – Compressed Natural Gas – stations throughout California and more in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and many, many other states. Natural Gas has been around for over 150 years. It’s safe, viable, cost effective, extremely clean (96% cleaner that gasoline or diesel) and 100% removes us from oil dependency. CNG is also very safe, in fact, the US, Canada and most of Europe have been heating our homes, drying our clothes, and using it to cook on for decades and decades.”

•Harry Reid and other U.S. senators are listening to oil-tycoon-turned-natural-gas-icon T. Boone Pickens’ advocacy for adopting the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act. This bill would bring rebates between $10,000 and $64,000 for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles, grants of up to $50,000 to install natural gas refueling stations, and other provisions benefiting the NGV industry. The word is, this bill could adopted by the end of this year or into next, as one of the alternatives to the gone by-by climate change bill.

•T. Boone Pickens is one of the owners of Clean Energy, a Seal Beach, Calif., based company that is laying out the fueling station infrastructure across the country, station by station. These usually involve contracts with municipalities, airports, transit authorizes, and public agencies to make sure accessible natural gas stations are available for commercial accounts. This will take a while to make its way cross country, but the company regularly has announcements on new contracts signed.

•There’s a $4,000 federal tax credit on alternative fuel vehicles through the end of this year (though that could be extended later on). CNG vehicles are the only “commercially available alternative fuel vehicles that qualify for the incentive,” according to EPA and DOT. That means flex-fuel vehicles are not eligible, even though there’s many of them on the road.

•Landi Renzo, an Italian company that started in 1953 and now has 33% of the alternative fuel global market, decided to set up shop in the US this year. While visiting them, I asked how this happened. Andrea Landi, president of Landi Renzo USA described how his grandfather started the company in 1954 when gasoline was hard to find in the postwar environment. It wasn’t until this year that the need for natural gas and propane powered vehicles, especially NGVs, grew enough to make it worthwhile to enter the U.S. market, and Torrance, California, made much sense to reach key fleet and OEM clients, Landi said. The company is working with clients such as OEMs to build advanced NGVs for use in fleet applications. Not long after the gas price spike in the US, the company started getting a lot of calls asking them to move to America.

•Global Industry Analysts, Inc. says the world will see 28.7 million units of natural gas vehicles on roads by the year 2015. Primary factors fingered to drive this growth include economic and promotional support extended by governments, volatility in oil prices, technology innovations that further the practicality of NGVs as an alternative fuel vehicle technology, and focus of the automotive industry on cleaner vehicle concepts.

Stay tuned for a few of my concerns about NGVs...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CODA Automotive Keeps Losing Top Players

As CODA Automotive gets ready to launch its much anticipated electric sedan, it was quite surprising to hear about CEO Kevin Czinger resigning nearly a week ago. And he wasn't the first. Michael A. Jackson, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Marketing and Distribution, resigned his post at CODA right before the Czinger announcement. Something very similar happened with Kerri Martin, who if memory serves, held the marketing post that Jackson took over. She had unexpectedly left for a marketing/advertising firm.

According to coverage, Czinger will be replaced by CODA's board co-chairman, Steven Heller, on an interim basis, pending a search. Czinger and Heller are both former Goldman Sachs executives, which helped CODA raise money. We were able to interview Czinger last year during a day of test driving the upcoming CODA sedan, and learned much about the global supply chain relationships and joint ventures being created in China and throughout the US. Czinger was new to the auto industry, but could explain in great detail the organizational dynamics required for CODA to succeed. The transition has been in the works for a while, according to the company, and Czinger will continue to be a substantial investor.

As the company gets ready to take on the EV market, stability and credibility will be very important to restore.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lawsuits Filed Over EPA's E15 Rule

The American Petroleum Institute and nine food and farm groups have sued EPA over last month's ruling that E15 - a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline - can be used in 2007 or newer cars, light trucks, and SUVs. The suits contend the EPA decision violates the Clean Air Act. The recent EPA waiver does not mandate the use of E15 in these vehicles, but rather it gives the green light for its use in them.

For years, ethanol has made up 10% of most gasoline sold in the US and has been used as a gasoline additive to increase combustion. The ethanol industry has been putting a lot of pressure on EPA to increase the level to 15%, but these groups were upset when the ruling said 2007 model year of newer vehicles.

Nobody's happy, and much to clean up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Luxury Green Machines Hip, Slick & Cool

According to Environmental Leader and Greenbang, Land Rover is investing more than $1.3 billion to develop environmental solutions, giving the automaker the leading position in terms of UK automotive “green” technologies. The automaker expects to deliver its first 2WD SUV, the Freelander 2 eD4, at the start of 2011, which also is considered to be the company’s most economical vehicle in terms of carbon emissions, according to the article. Land Rover also is partnering with ClimateCare to offset CO2 emissions from all of its manufacturing assembly operations.

Land Rover going in this directions points in a couple of directions - one being strict emissions rules in Europe and other markets Land Rover does business. Another is the brouhaha Tesla Motors is creating with the splash its making by partnering with major OEMs for its technology innovation, and the appeal of its $110,000 Roadster. The early adopters are the early buyers of products, and for green machines, the appeal appears to be the cutting edge technology, the ability to play first with a new toy, and the image it creates for the buyers. It's all good.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Random Thoughts

Facebook has launched a new “green” page as an environmental resource for individuals and organizations that details what the company is doing in the environmental space, along with providing environmental news from around the Web. At the same time, the company has joined the Alliance to Save Energy. The Alliance-Facebook partnership includes the donation to the Alliance of $500,000-worth of advertising on the Facebook platform, and other projects. My oh my, could this have anything to do with an effort to get Facebook to power its planned data center in Prineville, Oregon, with renewable energy instead of coal? In that move, Greenpeace gained support from 500,000 Facebook users under its “Unfriend Coal” campaign against Facebook.

Of all places, Detroit will host the 15th Annual Urban Wheel Awards during the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, and no Detroit manufacturers will be recognized. Instead, the winners will be:

Subaru: "Greenest Manufacturing Plant in America."
Honda: "Greenest Car Lineup."
Nissan: "Most Practical Zero Emissions Product" (for the Leaf).
Toyota: "Worldwide Leadership in Hybrid Technology."

Subaru? Wow, never have heard that name mentioned for any green accomplishments.

McKinsey and Company reports that Europe is ripe to bring in commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Car manufacturers mentioned as potential players in the growth process: BMW AG, Daimler AG, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, and Volkswagen. The report says that fuel cell electric vehicles is the best electric vehicle option for medium and larger cars and longer trips.

According to Sue Cischke, Ford's sustainability officer, Ford has launched a new website -- -- offering the basic information consumers need to understand electrified vehicle and technology choices. The site is part of Ford's efforts to educate consumers about the range of electrified vehicles and ultimately to help potential buyers determine which electrified option might best suit their specific driving habits and needs. Yes, educating consumers about what PHEV means, and the difference between hybrid and hydrogen, is a lot of work now.

According to a southern California paper, the city of Corona may offer $2,000 for buying a new green car and $1,000 for buying a used one. Buyers must live within the city, buy a compressed natural gas, electric or non-diesel hybrid vehicle, and purchase the car from the city's list of dealers and brokers in Corona. Aha, interesting... combining green with green - cleaner air and healthier city coffers and dealerships.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Volvo's Trucking Division Goes Green

The Volvo Group will be the world's first vehicle manufacturer to join the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Climate Savers Program. As a WWF partner, the Volvo Group's truck companies undertake to reduce the CO2-emissions from vehicles manufactured between 2009 and 2014 by 13 million tons.

That's an interesting announcement and probably has something to do with the EPA's heavy duty truck ruling, which the American Trucking Associations was preparing for long before it happened. I wouldn't think of a trucking OEM joining a climate savers program, but the incentives for doing so are there - standing out, looking good, and if you have any guilty concerns over what you're building and putting out there, this can take off some of the pressure. That's the whole idea behind carbon trading and cap and trade programs - make it all balance out somehow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Largest Electric Vehicle Order in History

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt said on Oct. 30 the company plans to order "tens of thousands" of electric vehicles in about a week which he described as the largest EV order in history. The initiative calls for about half of GE's 45,000-person sales force to drive electric vehicles. Immelt didn't reveal which automakers would be involved.

JD Power and Associates isn't convinced that sales of battery electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles, or hybrid electric vehicles will reach the high levels others have been proclaiming - only 7.3% of global new car sales in 2020. The real trend is yet to be seen as most of these new product launches are yet to happen. However, selling green machines may not be as big and bountiful as some would like it to be, and certain buyer categories will reign in importance. Early adopters and those with environmental concerns will be buying cars, and fleets will probably be a bigger segment than might have been expected. If GE is going to invest that much into EVs to drive sales reps, that says a lot. A sales force will have range anxiety since long car trips are normal for them. So if a company like GE is already committing to such a mass early adoption, you can expect to see other fleet buyers go that route.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Listening to Passionate Complainers

After reading my Letter from the Editor last week mentioning a visit from an odd neighbor complaining that Ford and EPA didn't step forward to resolve problems with his CNG flex fuel sedans, lots of emails got sent back to me. There seems to be much interest in commentary on the public attitudes of people - politics, government, business, social issues, etc. Interestingly enough, you can't write or read anything about green machines without touching on some of it. It's about global politics and economics, energy and national security, environmental catastrophes, or global climate change humanity has no say over, and much more.

As for my angry neighbor's visit, here's what Mike Velemirovich, owner and general manager of Hillcrest Volkswagen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, had to say: "I've worked on the retail side of the business for 31-years and have met many passionate complainers. To dedicate one's life to complaining to the government about a specific piece of technology, be it intermittent wipers, ABS, or alternative fuel systems is..... well, it's just plain nutty."

"Just plain nutty" boils it all down to what occurred (thanks Mike). But I want to be a safe and reasonable neighbor, so physical descriptions of the neighbor or his dog will be constrained.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sticker Price More Important than Range Anxiety

Companies that want to sell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids spend a lot of time talking about how they can diminish range anxiety with lots of numbers on miles driven per charge. Most likely, they're focusing on the wrong number, says Dave Guilford, enterprise editor at Automotive News. "As important as driving range may be, the key number in consumers' minds will be the one in the lower right corner of the price sticker," he wrote.

The price premiums for various forms of electric and hybrid vehicles are likely to turn off car shoppers, according to a new study by JD Power and Associates. Sellers of hybrid electric vehicles have known this for several years - Why is this hybrid $5,000 or $10,000 more than this comparable model sitting nearby in the dealer lot? What's in it for me? Questions like are common for dealers. Coming up with answers ahead of time will be critical for selling them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It Ain't Easy Being Green

While there's been lots of good news around green machines in the past couple of years, there are occasionally negatives and a few roadblocks. For the two items I read about today, these concerns have always been present...

J.D. Power found that people are interested in driving greener vehicles, but they don't want to pay extra to do so. These new technologies are more expensive to implement and will be until they reach mass market and economies of scale. Until then, they'll be more expensive than traditional engine counterparts. Other problems for widespread adoption of these green machines in the Power study: "stable oil prices" and the impact on gas prices, and worries about how to operate them.

TerraChoice, an environmental marketing company and part of Underwriters Laboratories’ global network, released a study claiming more than 95% of consumer products claiming to be “green” commit at least one greenwashing offense. The worst offenders are toys and baby care products, with 100% and 99.2%, respectively, guilty of some form of greenwashing.

So as automakers have found out for several years, for those interested in buying hybrids, plug ins, or alternative fuel vehicles, there will always be tire kicking concern over lifecycle costs that can tip the balance. And there's also a bit of skepticism about marketing claiming environmental sustainability and stewardship when that statement has not been verified.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Latest on Volt and LEAF

As the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF roll across assembly lines and get prepped for delivery at dealer lots, interest and enthusiasm abound in media coverage. One of my very favorites is The Detroit Bureau's coverage. At first I was annoyed about receiving a boatload of emails from them - one per story and several come out each day. Then I started reading them and getting swept up in their coverage of Motor City and all things happening in the business - with much attention on green machines. So here's a couple of summaries on the two most anticipated models...

California Air Resources Board ruled the Volt falls short of not only conventional hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight but even the new diesel-powered Jetta TDI in a key test. As a result, Volt not only doesn’t get a coveted PZEV (for Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle) rating but misses the next-best SULEV category and slips into the rankings as a ULEV vehicle. But observers caution that the 2011 Chevy Volt may be taking hits because of its own efficiencies, ironically. And California regulators may take steps to modify their rules so vehicles like Volt, designed to run primarily in electric mode, get the technical benefit of the doubt.

As for the LEAF, some customers will be able to drive one home for $12,000, way below the sticker price. An array of state and local incentives, and even some incentives from green-minded employers, offer some great incentives, notes Mark Perry, the Nissan product planning chief overseeing the maker’s battery program.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Public Hearing on New EPA Window Stickers

There's a lot of debate going on about the EPA's suggested revised window stickers - A through D ratings, CO2 tailpipe emissions, annual fuel cost, etc. Tomorrow night I’ll be attending a public hearing that the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting on the new fuel economy label for car window stickers in downtown LA. Something is going to replace the City/Highway stickers we’ve been seeing at dealerships since 1980. There’s been much brouhaha about it from the car business especially from dealers who have to sell these cars – whether the grades A to D should appear, and if it’s clear enough for the typical car buyer to figure out when they’re shopping. I share some of those concerns, but I do understand that something needs to change with all the electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles coming to market. They’re considering different categories – electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid EVs, compressed natural gas, and flex fuel. And different structures for presenting the data on accurate miles per gallon and CO2 tailpipe emissions. I will be attending the meeting with a Flip camera and notepad. Perhaps there will be shouting and gnashing of teeth – can’t wait!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Concerns About Coal Power, Call for Flywheel Technology from Fleet Exec

Special thanks to former Dollar Thrifty fleet executive John Maus for sending a letter to the editor, and expressing his views on some of the challenges and opportunities faced by electric vehicles and hybrids...

You and most other writers refer to plug in electric cars "you get the zero emissions while its running on battery only," but in reality electricity isn't an energy source, only a conduit of energy, and about half of all this energy is generated by polluting coal and it is certainly not emissions free. Sure, more renewable energy sources are coming on line all the time, but they may never become much of a factor for several more years. If there is a plus side to coal, it is a home grown energy source, but plug-ins will be taxing the already overloaded grid in years to come. I'm not saying it is all bad to get away from gas/diesel, but I suspect the zero emission terminology will start to get challenged more in the near future and consumers may feel duped after the facts are known.

Secondly, I like hybrids because they do generate electricity from kinetic braking action, and I'm wondering if the 100% plug-in units do the same? In fact, do all hybrids take advantage of this truly wasted energy? Now I'm wondering why the manufactuers haven't figured out how to do the same with the basic gas powerplant. Come to think of it, there has been flywheel technology studied in the past, but the extra weight might not exceed the benefit.

Best Regards,

John Maus (retired Dollar Thrifty fleet exec)

Friday, October 15, 2010

What’s Good to Know about E10 and E15 in Your Tank

Did you know that 10% of nearly all the gasoline sold retail in the U.S. consists of ethanol? Not long ago, I thought that any of the Es – E10, E85, etc. – referred only to vehicles capable of handling that much ethanol, basically flex fuel vehicles. I did not understand that in recent years, our gasoline – not just in California, or some corn growing state like Iowa – became 10% ethanol. And now the EPA is cool with going up to 15% on 2007 model year or newer vehicles.

Boy, do I feel dumb. And I’m the editor of Automotive Digest Green. Here’s a few other things I’ve learned about E10 and E15…

E10 and other blends of ethanol are considered to be useful in decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and can reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 20% to 30% under the right conditions.

Much of this stems from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, where the Renewable Fuel Standard program was expanded to increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel from nine billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Corn ethanol can make up much of this volume, and other sources will include advanced biofuels possibly coming from cellulosic ethanol and algae biofuel.

Environmental groups have voiced strong opposition to the effort to increase use of ethanol because production of the fuel – made from corn in the U.S. and from sugar cane in Brazil – is environmentally damaging and can lead to a reduction in land devoted to growing food crops.

Archer Daniels Midland, the top publicly-traded ethanol maker, is supportive of higher ethanol blends, and its shares rose to near a record high last week after the EPA’s E15 announcement.

The EPA’s decision, for the time being, to limit E15 usage to 2007 model year or older vehicles has been criticized by the Renewable Fuels Association, a major trade association for the US ethanol industry. The association accused the EPA of missing an opportunity to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunity.

Exxon Mobil’s vice president of government and public affairs, Ken Cohen, blogged and said the E15 decision could have unintended consequences. He noted that federal Renewable Fuel Standards require eventual use of up to 36 billion gallons of biofuels (versus about 12 billion produced and consumed today) and said that to meet those goals by 2022, the blends of ethanol might have to be extended as high as 20 to 25 percent.

Critics of the higher blend E15 have said it would cause damage to older motor vehicle engines, as well as small engines used for motorcycles, tools, lawn mowers, and outboard marine motors.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is GM Really Out to Trick You About Volt?

“(AutoObserver editor Bill) Visnic also points out – and we agree – that the blow-up over whether the extended-range plug-in Volt is all-electric all the time really is much ado about nothing insofar as the driving public is concerned.” This statement was made Tuesday in Edmunds’ Green Car Advisor, one day after a hullaballoo occurred between and General Motors reps to determine whether GM was telling the truth and delivering an accurate specification. The Volt is getting positive reviews from journalists who’ve waited a long time to test drive one, and the debate has simmered down. As I read through coverage of the Leaf brouhaha, questions came to mind… Will buyers truly understand what distinguishes the Chevy Volt from the Nissan Leaf (pure electric) and the Toyota Prius (hybrid electric vehicle)? Will that matter to them? What will GM and Chevrolet dealers need to do to adequately educate the public about what the Volt is, and the benefits of having one?

Monday, October 11, 2010

3 Good Stories I Read This Morning

So if you're writing about green machines, it's a good idea to start your day sifting through coverage. What I like about it is that I start linking the dots - recurring themes, different versions of the same stories, visual displays I would have missed elsewhere. It's kind of Green Car 101, or Green Cars for Dummies. Sometimes I can qualify for such ratings, and to prove my point...

Automakers are trying to stop an EPA ruling that would allow gasoline to contain 15% ethanol, up from 10% now. They're getting bi-partisan support, and their argument is that this could harm engine durability and have other bad effects. So here's my dummy issue: I always thought this EPA ruling only affected flex-fuel vehicles - those that are built to run on gasoline only, or a mix of gas and ethanol - E10, E85, etc. I seriously did not know that 10% of this nation's gasoline now consists of ethanol, and that could go up to 15% based on EPA rules. Duh!

If America wants to reduce its addiction to oil, you have to start looking far and wide - it's way more than what you pump into your gas tank. Asphalt, which covers all our roads, consists of lots of petroleum. According to Gas 2.0, researchers from Iowa State University have come up with a bio-oil made from corn stalks, wood waste, and other bio-mass that could one day replace oil in asphalt. Whoah!

When you hear the commonly used word EVs, your mind immediately pops over to Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt (though yes this is a plug-in or extended range vehicle), or Tesla Roadster. The truth is there are a lot of motorbikes out there running on battery power. We got to check out the cool cycles that Brammo is selling over at AltCar Expo, and their Enertia and Empulse models made the top two listings of an article in earth2tech. The only well known name brands are the Smart E-Scooter and MINI Electric Scooter. It's a great market for start-ups to access and build high performance EVs. Cool!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are You a Greenwasher?

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into calling out companies guilty of "greenwashing," or making claims about their sustainability and environmental responsibility that sound good, but don't merit the claim. Under a set of environmental marketing guidelines that were proposed by the FTC, businesses would soon have to tread more carefully when calling their products "green" or "eco-friendly," according to Greenwire. The FTC would like for companies to be restricted on making unqualified environmental benefit claims. There are many companies out there who had no intention to improve their conservation, energy efficiency, and environmental stewardship a few years ago. Now it's a way to get attention, look good, and attract buyers who have these concerns. To stand out against competitors.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Car Rental Companies Not Just Jelly Bean Counters

Car-rental company Avis Budget Group ordered 500 electric vehicles from Renault, taking to the next step the companies' February agreement to increase the number of EVs that are available for rent to the public. The EVs will be available to customers in certain European countries by the end of 2011. Avis joins Hertz and Enterprise Rent-A-Car in bringing EVs to their fleet. Hertz will add Nissan Leaf EVs by early next year, and Enterprise will add 500 Leafs by the fall. Having covered car rental companies during the 1990s, it's interesting to see these companies looking at more than their usual fleet acquisitions - available and affordable jelly bean cars with very little in the way of amenities. That is changing - now you can get navigation systems, satellite radio, electric cars, and other options. Things have changed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why You Should Go to AltCar Expo

1. You can check out one of the Automotive X Prize winners and talk to its designers - the Li-Ion Motors Wave II electric car. And hear what it's like to get through inspection at Argonne National Laboratory.

2. You can get video interviewed by me and Victor, the videographer on Friday. Victor and publisher Chuck Parker might also be there Saturday.

3. You can test drive long-anticipated cars, and ask corporate types any question you can think of.

4. Interesting speaker panels and all kinds of exhibitor booths to check out.

5. You get to hang out in Santa Monica, which is now THE town to go to in LA. Not only for the movie business, but many green car and renewable energy related companies have offices there or nearby, and host events in town. The name comes up a lot, and it's a great place to hang out.

6. $9 to park but free to get in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sifting and Sorting through Text Barrage on Diesel, EVs, Biofuels, and All Sorts of Battery and Liquid Fuel Hybrid Combinations

Every day I sift and sort through a barrage of text - press releases, meeting announcements, and newsletters emailed to me; news articles (thank you Google News), green car blogs/sites... I set aside emails, and cut and paste links and text portions into a Word doc, to review for possible inclusion in Automotive Digest Weekly Green and Green Machine Digest. Sometimes I delete them as they gather dust. Anyways, what I'll offer now is a quick summary of things that caught my attention and stayed in the basket...

DIESELMANIA: Automakers will sell about 545,000 diesel-powered light vehicles to North America in 2016, up from 167,000 in 2009, a Frost & Sullivan analyst said. German automakers such as Volkswagen and BMW will boost the number of clean diesel cars they import to the U.S. in an effort to meet more stringent federal fuel-economy standards. Diesel engine vehicle sales are growing enough to get GM's attention. GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens says the maker is planning to develop a diesel-powered sedan for American buyers. He didn't have details to give out but did note that there are plenty of diesels to draw from using technology developed by its European subsidiary, Opel AG.

FIRST EV IN SHOWROOMS: Wheego Electric Cars Inc. will soon be hosting a dealer summit meeting to add Wheego LiFe electric cars to their showrooms starting in October. They want to beat the Chevy Volt coming to dealers in November and the Nissan LEAF in December. The company called the White House to brag about it, however, "They told us they've never heard of us."

VOLT ADVISORY BOARD: Bill Nye, the science guy. Brian Wynne, the Electric Drive Transportation Association guy. Chelsea Sexton, the "Who Killed the Electric Car?" gal. And a whole slate of electric vehicle enthusiasts. They're all members of the new Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory Board. They're getting a Volt before anyone else and will tell GM what's working and what isn't.

BIOFUELS IN CALIFORNIA: Propel Fuels recently held a grand opening at a biofuel station in Oakland and announced a plan to add 75 new stations in California by the end of 2011, according to earth2tech. State and federal grants will pay for some of it, and the company has raised $20 in investor funds. Its California stations offer E85 and biodiesel. California alone has nearly 500,000 cars that can take the ethanol blend; the nationwide number is about 9 million. California also has more than 500,000 of biodiesel cars on the road today.

HYBRIDS & EVs GROWING LIKE CRAZY: Within the next five years, it's forecasted that we'll be seeing more than 50 conventional hybrids, more than 30 pure electric cars, nearly 20 plug-in hybrids, and a handful of fuel cell vehicles. Those numbers come from Alan Baum, a Michigan-based auto industry analyst who has been running auto market forecasts since the 1980s.

ADD IT ALL UP: Okay, if we have 50 hybrids and 20 plug-ins on the road, and a lot of fueling stations that can run on biofuels, the odds are good for a lot of reduced emissions vehicles using less oil driving down the roads. There's other hybrid and plug-in hybrid fueling combinations that could occur, such as a car running on battery and natural gas. Or clean diesel in a hybrid. Or algae in a plug-in hybrid. The list could go on and on. There will be multiple solutions for this country to recover from oil addiction.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Evidence Green Machines Becoming Big & Mainstream

When I started writing about green cars in the early 1990s, it was very niche like – fleet applications, federal mandates that got washed out, state of California stuff (AQMD), methanol, etc. Flash forward to the future: Nowadays, each and every day it’s becoming clear this won’t be a passing fad once again.

Here’s some informal market indicators that prove my point…

Industry bible Automotive News covers the topic a lot these days, and has had a couple of industry conferences on the subject. Not long ago, that wasn’t the case. Other stalwarts (, AOL, Wired) now have active specialty pubs. And the majors devote more and more space to it.

Lots of market reports keep coming out – Pike Research being the stand out, but there’s something new all the time. Sometimes including consumer or B2B surveys, and sometimes sponsored by an industry group attempting to get its message validated.

It is one hot topic in governments with big economies dependent on transportation, and affects legislation and regulation.

A lot of other industries are making bang for buck – technology suppliers, consultants, utilities, lobbyists, media folk striving to put food on the table, oil companies, and majors looking to dip in – Best Buy, General Electric, etc.

It’s getting tricky to find an OEM that doesn’t have at least one green car in the pipeline, whether that be hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in/pure electrics, flex/alt fuel, or space age technology (fuel cell).

People talk about the subject more and more these days – dinner parties, checking out at grocery stores, social media/blogging, career considerations, marketing opportunities, etc.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fleet Manager Paul Condran on Realistic Range, Propane Problems, and NGV Greatness

Paul Condran disagreed with some of the points I made in a newsletter last week on green car trends and realities. He offered his perspectives on the topic, and certainly has the credentials. Check out a video interview we did with him earlier this year on being recognized for his green fleet management. I met Condran, City of Culver City’s Equipment Maintenance Manager, when he hosted a daylong seminar for municipal fleet managers on how to understand and effectively comply with California’s emissions regulations. Here's what he has to say about range limitations, propane problems, how hybrids should be labeled, and the multiple benefits of natural gas vehicles.

The Chevrolet Volt is not an EV. It’s a version of a plug-in Hybrid using gasoline and battery for is propulsion systems. The Leaf, CODA and others are 100% EV Vehicles as there is no internal combustion engine. The industry still needs to do more in battery and electronics technologies to continue and overcome the range limitations. Albeit, the CODA claims to achieve over 100 miles, (as with all 100% EVs) much depends on the quality of the batteries, state and rate of charge, use of the heating or A/C systems, and vehicle loads. A plug-in Hybrid simply means you can plug in the car anywhere using a standard 115V outlet and recharge the batteries for additional battery power and range, thereby reducing the use of the internal combustion engine wherever possible. On acceleration, heavy loads, traveling up grades, etc., the engine is providing the primary power in these vehicles.

Propane: Propane as been around for 100 years. The auto industry has tried and failed to successfully bring these vehicles to market. Several reasons propane is not a viable option: lack of infrastructure, safety, petroleum based, fuel cost, lack of available vehicle options, tanks are very heavy, and engine technology-reliability has been terrible. Propane is also a very dirty fuel by itself producing considerable amounts of NOx. Although using catalyst technologies can reduce a lot of these bad emissions.

Hybrid vehicles (gasoline or diesel powered) are not alternative fuel vehicles. They all use fossil based petroleum fuels engines, and do little to remove us from oil dependency. They do achieve higher MPG (which is really good for fuel consumption and consumer costs, etc.), which I suppose can equate into moderated tailpipe emissions. I refer to these vehicles as “Fuel Alternates,” not as alternative fuel by any means. They are a pathway for the OEMs to receive federal tax and emissions credits because they help the total manufacturing allotment of all new vehicles produced by the OEM.

Natural gas powered vehicles on the other hand are true alternative fuel vehicles. There are no limitations in range (if properly specified), fuel is abundant, and there are over 2,500 CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) stations throughout California and more in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and many, many other states. Natural gas has been around for over 150 years. It’s safe, viable, cost effective, extremely clean (96% cleaner that gasoline or diesel), and 100% removes us from oil dependency. CNG is also very safe; in fact, the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe have been heating our homes, drying our clothes, and using it to cook on for decades and decades. CNG - the clean, true, alternative fuel.

--Paul Condran

Friday, September 24, 2010

Strange Questions to Consider

Looking at three green car news stories, more questions popped up for me...

GM has been promising 40 miles in battery power alone on the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. Now the company says it will get between 25 and 50 miles before the gas-powered engine kicks in, instead of the flat 40. Reasons: how you drive, the temperature (outside and inside the car), hills climbed, and age of the lithium-ion batteries.

Is any OEM being honest and accurate about the actual driving range of these pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles?

From Green Car Advisor: "Almost all gasoline in the U.S. is now an E10 blend, the ethanol added as an oxygenator to help improve gasoline combustion." I had heard something about this before, but didn't realize that 10% of our gasoline consists of ethanol.

How did this come to be, and how powerful is the corn growing business in this country?

Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway will be visiting Chinese carmaker BYD Co. next week. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s $232 million investment in Shenzhen-based BYD grew substantially at first then dropped after BYD's shares plunged 21% this year. Sales in the fast growing Chinese car market have dropped. BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu also may not deliver electric cars to California this year as promised.

Will China really become the leading global electric vehicle industry, as it's aspiring to be?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Random Thoughts on Scooters and Charging Takeovers

...BMW is showing off its Mini Scooter electric motorbike at Paris Auto Show. In other recent occurrences, BMW started the StreetCar car sharing service in the UK. Its German luxury car competitor Daimler has also accessed car sharing in global markets, and will be launching an electric motor scooter. What does that tell you? Scooters and car sharing can bug car dealers, sales/marketing departments, shareholders, union workers, and others whose financial future depends on traditional car sales. Looking at alternatives such as scooters, car sharing, hybrids, EVs, and alt-fuel vehicles, is taken more seriously now than ever. My, how things are changing.

...The GE WattStation for EV charging was unveiled in July. Residential versions will cost between $1,000 and $1,500, while the commercial models seen in its ad will run between $3,000-$7,000 depending on order specifications (installation is extra). The first residential WattStations should be available before the end of 2010. The stand can handle Level 1 or 2 charging. Charging stations are being supplied by fairly new technology companies - Coulomb Technologies, AeroVironment, Clipper Creek, Better Place, ECOtality, etc. Now some big companies are taking it seriously, like Best Buy and General Electric. The game is changing, and partnerships, mergers, alliances, takeovers, and gone-out-of-business will occur.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CODA Ain't Cheap, CNG Civics Sort of Popular

The CODA Sedan will be selling for $44,900 or $37,400 after federal tax credits. Consumers can reserve a CODA with a fully-refundable $499 deposit at The first deliveries will begin at the end of 2010. The pure electric sedan will be able to go 100 to 120 miles on one charge of its lithium ion batteries. It will cost a bit more than $10,000 over the price of the Nissan LEAF, a competitive all electric sedan. The start-up company CODA Automotive will not be working through dealerships - it's starting with an online ordering system. Perhaps it will work with a limited audience.

In other alt car news...

Honda confirmed that its natural gas Civic GX model would still be offered when the next-generation Civic debuts for the 2012 year. The company is considering doubling sales of the CNG Civic in the next two-to-three years. However, that doesn't mean very much. Last year, about 2,000 were sold, so this means 4,000 could be the goal. That's more then test runs for concept cars, but way off from mass market. It's the only one like it out there in the retail market. A lot of fleet managers are true believers in natural gas conversions of their trucks, vans, and buses. They have a lot of positive results to share on the subject.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monthly Newsletter on Green Cars & Transportation

Tomorrow, I'll be launching a monthly email newsletter through my side business, LeSage Communications (which uses the phrase, "Getting the word out on green cars and transportation." And features a cool logo image with a tire swing hanging from a tree -- thank you, brother-in-law Dennis.) And a month from now, there will be a freebie whitepaper available with the working title, "10 Things You Should Know About Green Machines." Doing my homework has been educational -- have to know something about what you say you know something about, right? Articles in this month's edition include: "Four Green Car Buyer Segments to Reach," "The Greenest Oil Company," and a table showing off "They’re Heeeerrrrre! Electric Vehicles Entering Dealer Lots by Year’s End." If you'd like to be put on the newsletter list, let me know... And I also call on readers to consider posting stuff on Green Machine Digest, so don't forget about that one too, -- there are comments you can post after any article, and you can be a guest commentator, with whatever title and topic of expertise you choose. That's the beauty of blogs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

AutoWeek's Virtual Green Car Show Says Something

Crain Communications produces Automotive News, essentially the bible of the auto industry, and its weekly edition, AutoWeek. Not long ago, Automotive News held another green car OEM summit near Detroit, and is devoting more space to coverage of these vehicles and their technology.

AutoWeek will soon be hosting its first Virtual Green Car Show with exhibits in a digital hall featuring the latest on green power systems and new hybrid and electric vehicles, fuel cells, and diesels. The show will also provide attendees with access to experts for Q&A and opportunities to network with other green consumers.

The Crain publications tend to reflect the thinking of the Detroit auto industry, which has begrudgingly been infiltrated by foreign automakers, many of whom have set up shop in Detroit metro, California, Tennessee, etc. It's also taken a lot of forward motion for the publications to devote more space to green machines, but it is definitely happening. And these publications offer more rich details for how all this affects the automotive supply chain and dealer networks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Figuring Out the Plug-in Prius

On Monday, Toyota executives announced that the plug-in version of the Prius will be the cheapest green car of its kind when it comes to market by 2012. Sounds good, but there are a few questions I've never had cleared up about the plug-in Prius. Call me stupid, that's okay. What’s not clear to me is exactly how it works. It’s battery-powered range is limited – 12 to 15 miles, which doesn't sound like much. It will differ from the hybrid Prius with its lithium-ion battery. Otherwise, they’ll be very similar with the same electric motors and internal combustion engines. I’m interested in hearing how Toyota will describe the plug-in Prius’ distinctions and benefits. I think it's essentially a hybridized plug-in, a surgically joined twin. I look forward to being less stupid about it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Toyota Dealers Going Green with LEED Certification

Taking on a green sustainability initiative is paying off for the Caldwell Toyota-Scion dealership in Arkansas. The dealership moved to a larger facility in 2008 that uses a lot more electricity for operations, so the idea of saving money on monthly utility bills sounded very good when Toyota corporate suggested they go that route.

Whenever a dealer considers building or renovating a store, Toyota talks with the dealer about the benefits of getting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Toyota now has nine dealers with LEED certification.

LEED certification and green sustainability programs offer dealers a few options - operating cost savings, energy efficiency improvements, community alliances, and a solid marketing platform to enhance green cars - hybrids, EVs, and alt-fuel vehicles. You can expect to see more of it happening.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Car Sharing Part of Megalopolis Traffic Solution

As mentioned, there are those who have little interest in the benefits of green machines and believe the problem is much bigger - overpopulation and more people every year moving to cities, becoming one of many "megalopolis" regions around the world. Getting cars off the road is part of their solution, along with public transit, biking, and having people live closer to work and shopping to get there by foot. Car sharing is attractive to those concerned about destruction of urban centers, and that would include architects and city planners. There's a good article in Earth2Tech about people using the internet, especially social media, to manage their own car sharing experience. Zipcar is the largest brand in car sharing so far, and others are getting into the game, including car rental. There are a lot of nonprofit groups in neighborhoods that users are putting together for their own car sharing network. Expect to see more growth in this area. The auto industry may need to support this trend, too, even though OEMs don't like it since it means less cars sold per year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Everything Green Has its Pros and Cons

According to ClimateWire, IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates is releasing a report that argues the success of electric vehicles will be held back, in part, by shortages of recharging stations for urban motorists. Another problem: in a number of urban areas where wind or hydro power is not readily available, electric vehicles are likely to be recharged by coal-fired generating plants, whose carbon emissions will substantially undercut the vehicles' climate benefits.

So if you were to look at every type of alternative fuel vehicle, there is something getting in the way of its acceptance and support. For example...

Some environmentalists say electric vehicles are not really a solution. With all of the environmental impact of manufacturing and charging all those new EVs, they're not the answer - we should only be increasing bicycling, mass transit, and walking.

Natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (propane) are popular with fleets, but the critics say they're not as legitimate as renewable energy sources, and can create emergencies and disasters during drilling for the fuel. And some don't like the large tanks they take for storage onboard and wonder if they're worth the conversion costs.

A lot of investment is being made into biofuels through government funding, research and development, and corporate mergers. While flexible fuel vehicles are common across the country now, the corn ethanol that fuels them continues to be a sticky subject. Cellulosic and algae biofuels appear to be the next generation, but they're still far away from being in fuel stations.

There are no easy answers, and there's much at stake - global warming, or at least air pollution if you don't believe in global warming, economic growth and jobs, energy independence and global stability, the future of renewable energy... the list could go on. It certainly keeps things exciting.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Autobytel Study Says Consumers Anticipating Green Cars in Showrooms

What consumers think about green cars is a very big deal this year and beyond - by December, the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Coda sedan will be in dealerships and other anticipated products are in the pipeline. Autobytel just released its most recent What's Hot Now report, which found out more than half of consumers in the study are interested in buying a green car in the next 12 months.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill and concerns about the environment and the (Great Recession) economy, consumers are interested in vehicles that can contribute to a greener earth as well as lessen the impact on their pocketbook. Biggest reasons: economics and better gas mileage, followed by being environmentally responsible and reducing dependence on foreign oil. As I've looked at other buyer surveys and studies that have come out this year, and interviewed industry leaders, I’m seeing four key potential buyer categories, with crossovers between them: Early Adopters – first to buy iPad and other cool tech toys; Green – concerned about tailpipe emissions and sustainability; Energy Independence – dislike foreign oil and offshore spills; and Pocketbooks – with a tipping point being gas prices, fuel efficiency, and lifecycle ownership costs.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

7 Green Car Marketing People to Know

According to Advertising Age, there are seven marketing chiefs making big decisions about successful initiatives propelling green car launches later this year:

Ian Robertson - BMW Megacity
Joel Ewanick - Chevy Volt
Mike Jackson - Coda
Marti Eulberg - Fisker
Jon Brancheau - Nissan Leaf
Elon Musk - Tesla
Michael Lock - Think

Might want to put them in your rolodex.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Supplier Making Big Deal with Utility for Solar Panels

So the buzz I heard today is that one of the major utilities is cutting a deal with a big component supplier to the auto industry. This one is about setting up fields of solar panels to source more of their electricity from renewable energy instead of coal and other typical power plant fuels. It's happening in California, where some say the green industry is based, and I would go along with that opinion. While living here and making a living in the business of green, I just love to hear about such deals being made.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Greenpeace Slapping Facebook with its Facebook Page

Enviro-activist group Greenpeace has done something clever to get influence and attention - 500,000 Facebook users are telling Facebook corporate to get out of coal-powered electric. Greenpeace sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to cut ties to coal-fired power at its new data center in Oregon. Greenpeace calls its campaign "Unfriend Coal," and it's getting lots of friends.

Very, very clever. Facebook is now the elephant leading the path in social media - if you look at Nielsen data, the numbers have become staggering. Twitter has grown exponentially but its visitor volume is way behind Facebook. So playing David and Goliath is a very sharp move for Greenpeace.

That said, social media is still in a newborn, vague, head scratching space for most users. Most of the marketing reports I've seen for the past year and a half have been obsessed with social media and making the most of it. Part of the confusion is how to make it work for your business - in terms of marketing spend, customer loyalty, and dealing with controversial stuff. What happens if your business gets lambasted online? Well, it seems to be that companies have to join in the conversations and find out what's working and what's not working.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

KBB's Top 10 Green Cars for 2010

Once again, Kelley Blue Book has released its Top 10 Green Cars of the Year awards. This is up there with Green Car Journal's Green Car of the Year award, through that magazine does a lot of effective promotion for it, and has added to its list of awards. KBB is doing a lot in that field, too, though not so much in green cars. That said, here's this year's list:

1. 2010 Toyota Prius
50 mpg (51 city, 48 highway)

2. 2010 Honda Insight
41 mpg (40 city, 43 highway)

3. 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
39 mpg (41 city, 36 highway)

4. 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI
34 mpg (30 city, 42 highway)

5. 2010 MINI Cooper
32 mpg (28 city, 37 highway)

6. 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid
32 mpg (34 city, 31 highway)

7. 2010 Honda Fit
31 mpg (28 city, 35 highway)

8. 2010 BMW 335d
27 mpg (23 city, 36 highway)

9. 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
26 mpg (27 city, 25 highway)

10. 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
22 mpg (21 city, 22 highway)

No big surprise to see the Prius win again. It's third generation improvements help as do high fuel economy. Five of these cars are hybrids, one clean diesel. The rest are fuel efficient regular gas engines.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flunking EPA Ratings and more...

While scanning through today's green machine headlines, a few things popped out:

KISSing could be necessary: The EPA and DOT are looking for public feedback to totally revamp car window stickers you'll see when buying and looking for fuel economy ratings starting with model year 2012 cars. It's a grade card with A being best in class and D means gas guzzler. Beyond fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions would be included in the grading, which comes from the Obama administration's mandate last year for cars coming to market soon, and which is being worked out by the regulatory agencies. However, determining GHG gets complicated and it's most probable that only tailpipe emissions will be included in the window sticker ratings. And the agencies are having to come up with a rating system that takes in fuel/energy consumption based on gallons per 100 miles, and/or kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, and another scale that converts electrical energy use to equivalent gasoline use. Whoah, sounds way complicated. I'm wondering if car buyers will get confused and annoyed with this and the window stickers will need to be changed again. Could be about KISS - Keep it simple, stupid.

First All Electric Bus: Proterra Inc. is bringing the first deployment of an all-electric model for everyday service to a major public transit agency. Foothill Transit, which serves eastern Los Angeles County, has purchased three Proterra EcoRide BE-35 electric buses, as well as two fast-charging stations, and signed on for an option to buy nine more of the model if all goes well in an initial trial period. Hybrid buses have been used in the region, and now all-electric will be tried out.

Toyota Corp Sustainability: Toyota has unveiled its Fifth Environmental Action Plan, covering the years 2011-'15, which targets greater sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, reduced emissions, and increased recycling of resources. The multipronged plan outlines improving average fuel efficiency by 25% in all regions compared with the 2005 numbers. The plan also targets a 29% global reduction in emissions by 2012 compared with 2001 numbers. The company says it will sell 1 million hybrids per year, and will introduce its first production plug-in hybrid EV in 2010 (Prius?), and a short-distance commuter EV in 2012. Keep your eyes peeled on Toyota. They'll come out of the recall crisis. The company has avoided plug-ins and pure electrics and is starting down that path, along with bringing a hydrogen fuel cell car to market in about 5 years. Toyota was able to bring green cars to the mainstream with the Prius, so we'll see what's next.

Green Science Fair: According to Green Car Congress, "Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed and demonstrated the feasibility of a two-step hydrolysis-solvolysis process to produce biodiesel directly from wet algal biomass. Their process eliminates the need for biomass drying, organic solvent extraction, and catalysts, and provides a mechanism for nutrient recycling." Complicated and science nerdlike, yes I know. Green Car Congress is an important pub to access regularly and has been around a long time. For me, it's important to track in that these university and research institute projects produce results that many times become absorbed by whoever has an agenda - government agencies, advocacy/industry groups, fuel suppliers, OEMs, environmental activists/lobbyists. And there's quite a lot happening with biofuels and biomass projects - time, money, and talent. There's much to learn.