My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Alternative Energy and All-Electric Cars - the Next must-have Gadget for 2011

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alternative Energy and All-Electric Cars - the Next must-have Gadget for 2011

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose

Emerson, Essays: Intellect

It would seem that Big Oil loves this time of the season as apparently they are getting the best of both worlds, both from a financial point of view and in terms of attention.

Granted, BP, the poster child for corporate irresponsibility, has created the worst ecological disaster when its Deep Horizon Oil Rig off the Coast of Louisiana exploded, killing nearly eleven (11) workers and after expending over US$1 billion (US$1,000,000,000) they are the main talking point of Washington and Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America and Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron.

On the financial front, things look bleak for the company from a Stock Market point of view, with the possibility of further taxes coming as suggested by the Democrats as stated in the article “Democrats propose further tax hike on offshore oil”, published Tuesday June 8 2010 by ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo! News.

It seems the Democrats on Capitol Hill have been swinging their tax-axe of late their latest plan being to tax internet transactions as stated in the article “Democrats push for new Internet sales taxes”, published July 2, 2010 12:28 PM PDT by Declan McCullagh, CNET News - Politics and Law, making Senator Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance earlier in 2009 look like an amateur.

The fact is that the company is so heavily investing in LNG, the future preferred fuel to power the Alternative Energy future after 2015, even in Space

With Investments like other Big Oil companies into slot-in replacements for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel (kerosene) and ongoing research and development in making Anhydrous Ethanol from organic biomass waste instead of using good farm land, it would appear to John Public from an investor point of view that now is the best time to invest in an oil company, especially BP.

BP’s stock price has fallen so low, that more tepid risk savvy shareholders can now buy up shares that other scared fickle investors are throwing away cheap and hedge their bets, as BP is hedging its investments, that they will not only rebound and recover, but will see an increase in profits towards 2015.

For the record, that is how Investor Warren Buffett, a principal investor in BYD China and Hedge Fund Guru as stated in he article “BYD Dreams of Electric Cars”, published June 28, 2010, 3:10PM EST By Inder Sidhu, BusinessWeek - BOOK EXCERPT

Carlos Slim Helu, owner of Latin American Telecom Provider CLARO and various other interests in Mexico and Latin America as stated in the article “World's richest man, Carlos Slim, a born wheeler-dealer”, published Thursday 11 2010 by Noel Randewich, Yahoo! News made their wealth this way: betting big on failed businesses and stock market losers, especially if it has to do with the future, as economic protuberances do not last very long, usually less than five (5) years to a decade (10 years), which is acceptable for most VC (Venture Capitalists).

Throw in the fact that the Government of the United States is committing billions to Silicon Valley start-ups in Bio-Fuels as stated in the article “'Green' gas and Diesel get boost in Biofuel grants”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech

Solar power too as stated in the article “Obama commits billions to Solar Firms”, published July 4, 2010 11:34 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech, all with a connection to Big Oil and the truth slowly begins to reveal itself to you.

Thus an explanation is provided for some of the past strange investments by VC’s. But the investment by Warren Buffett in BYD China is possibly the strangest of them all, as BYD China is a maker of mobile phone batteries.

Could it be that Warren Buffett his hedging a bet on a future explosion or mass adoption of the All-Electric Car in the Auto industry?

John Public turns his spotlight on Brian Cooley, Senior Editor of CNET’s area of expertise – the American and now International love affair with automobiles.

All-Electric Vehicles like it or not, may well be the next big consumer electronic toy of the future, assuming that Warren Buffett has been following the news and its favorable ranting on the subject. Granted, John Public is a latecomer to the subject of Bio-Fuels and All-Electric Vehicles

This only recently caught my eye because of the sudden interest by the United States of America Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy joint venture capital funding of Bio-fuel start-ups in Silicon Valley in 2009 as stated in the article “'Green' gas and Diesel get boost in Biofuel grants”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

This VC money was specifically earmarked to combat the problem Silicon Valley start-ups producing Anhydrous Ethanol to make E85 from corn getting Government of United States of America Department of Agriculture Farm Subsidies, which was unfair to farmers, as it was driving up the price of corn on the World Market.

Even with subsidies, their prices per bushel were not competitive against Corn growing Powerhouses such as the People’s Republic of China, who literally flood America with cheap agricultural produce, putting some of them on the verge of bankruptcy.

It also created in some instance a shortage of corn, pushing up the price of corn even further. Add to the fact that Anhydrous Ethanol production from corn is inefficient, oweing to the fact that the process converts corn to HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) and then has the yeast anaerobically digest this sugary meal to produce ethanol instead of processing the entire plant from cob to leafy green stalk in one step.

This is by using solar pyrolysis and then use enzymes or genetically modified bacteria to digest the pyrolized hydrocarbon “soup”, and you get a picture of Silicon Valley investors taking the Government of United States of America Department of Agriculture for a long ride on a very slippery ecologically and economically unsustainable Energy Road.

This greatly explains the Government of United States of America Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy joint venture capital push and its renewed emphasis as a means of placating farmers, already reeling from the four (4) year mysterious dying-off of American Honeybees, ominously names CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) as stated in the article “Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter” published Wednesday March 24, 8:05 am ET By GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers, Yahoo! News.

Thus they are making sure that these Silicon Valley “city-slickers” are not taking the Government of the United States, American Farmers and Taxpayers for a long ride. Since then, John Public’s interest has captivated by the Biofuel Industry and I have been following most of the news with much aplomb, as Big Oil seems to be the source of all the money behind these investments, albeit John Public has no empirical proof.

The earliest sign of the trend towards any form of All-Electric Transportation, however, that caught my eye as such was a story involving Tour de France triple Winner Lance Armstrong inviting people with him on a bike ride in Glasgow's Paisley district on August 2009 via Twitter

This later went on to posit the trend and increased popularity of bicycling – or at least “lazy” recreational bicycle riding involving electrically powered bicycles, also called e-bicycles or e-bikes as stated in the article “Electric Bike Sales are Zooming ahead”, published August 24, 2009, 11:46AM EST by Damian Joseph, BusinessWeek - DESIGN.

This latest way of commotion, unlike the futuristic Segway, is more of a motor to help give riders an invisible hand when going up steep slopes, and is not really meant to replace motorcycles, which ironically also have been going electric, examples being the iconic Italian motorcycle, and my dream motorcycle that I always wished to own, especially since I saw Lizzie Maguire in The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003) and then recently Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga in the song Eh, Eh riding one: the Vespa.

As this was Businessweek, I took this news with a grain of salt, as a trending towards electric vehicles in motor cycles is natural owing to their more efficient transfer of power due to their simple drive train, the ease of charging them for a regular electric outlet and even better, the ease of their design.

As one only need off-the-shelf electric motors, inverters and batteries to make an electric bike, which only has itself and the passenger and his pillion rider as load to carry, thus extending the time between battery recharges, a bit of common sense reasoning if ever there was one.

But again, John Public just did not see this as a bell weather that indicated a coming trending towards All-Electric Cars, oweing to lack of the above advantages due to the weight of the motor car.

In addition, the entire buzz seemed to be about flex- fuel vehicles, which can run on almost any fuel due to the engines design as stated in the article “Flex-fuel Vehicles”, viewed Thursday July 22 2010, Wikipedia, from E85 to LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) and Brazil and Sweden first and second respectively in the adoption of the use of E85

The United States of America a distant third, ironically heavily investing in Anhydrous Ethanol Production from corn, complete with all the aforementioned problems and yet still having very few gas outlets that carried the fuel and worse, refusing to increase the quotas for the import of Anhydrous Ethanol to make up the obvious shortfall.

There have been a few promising signs of an All-Electric Vehicle, but again due to the fact that off-the-shelf use of batteries, motors and inverters could not sufficiently carry the weight of a full car for any great distance it use was mainly restricted to vehicles that only travel short distances and deliver lightweight products, its adoption would depend on further research into power trains and battery technologies. Additionally recharging station, like E85 filling stations, are a novelty.

Then the unexpected happened.

Ford Motor Company, which had the distinction of inventing the first commercially viable production line vehicle, which ironically, was also a flex-fuel vehicle able to be powered using even moonshine [illegally produced vodka], retrofitted one of their vans and re-branding it the Transit Connect Electric.

This is a true All-Electric Vehicle designed to be used by fleet operators which they debut at the Chicago Auto Show with an eye on a 2011 launch along with the Ford Electric as stated in the article “Ford to debut the all-electric Transit Connect van”, published February 9, 2010 11:21 AM PST by Lance Whitney, CNET News - The Car Tech blog.

Throw in the survey into the mix that Consumers found electric cars interesting thought concerns merely centered on performance issues, as John Public surmises and not necessarily buying an All-Electric Car for its “gadgetry goodness” and you have a situation where interest is there but not the money, especially in 2010, the year of the Global Recession and reduced spending and belt tightening.

Obviously, the Government of the United States of America would have to give subsidies to Consumers and Automakers to encourage the adoption of All-Electric Vehicles despite all that they can do for the environment as intoned by the article “Will 'fun-factor' or mandates drive electric car sales?”, published March 6, 2010 1:56 PM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

More good news came with the Consumer Reports National Survey Center reporting than more Americans were interested in an All-Electric Vehicle on their next purchase with 26% saying that they are like to do so and 7% making their declaration more definitive and concise stopping short of confirming a purchase as stated in the article “Survey: Consumers intrigued by electric cars”, published March 19, 2010 8:53 AM PDT, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

Albeit not scientific as far as John Public is concerned, as it a random phone survey involving 1,752 adults, nonetheless it was an interesting bell weather for an industry looking for some news to validate any money being spent on research into drive trains and battery technologies, this time with an aim to make them commercially viable, Global Recession be damned.

Albeit not really a positive survey, it points to the main sticking points Customer have with All-Electric Vehicles: driving range and cost, which is prohibitively high as designs were not a big issue. Prices on par with regular vehicles would them as common as washing machines or cell phones as hopefully opined in the article “Will electric cars spread like cell phones or washing machines?”, published May 14, 2010 11:49 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech by Deloitte Consulting.

This indicates an adoption of All-Electric Vehicles in the United States of America of 2% to 5.6% by 2020, numbering between 285,000 and 840,000 units. Using the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, both All-Electric Vehicles another analyst Credit Suisse estimates 335,000 All-Electric cars by 2020 while Citi forecasts more than 1 million (1,000,000) and the Traffic Safety Administration says 750,000. 

Deloitte consultant Rebecca Ranish puts in perspective, comparing the adoption of All-Electric Vehicles to washing machines and dryers, which were luxury items until as she put it, “The telephone, the radio, the refrigerator were all reliant on infrastructure to support adoption and in some cases may have been slowed by infrastructure. Electric vehicles will have a similar series of challenges”.

And like the Apple iPhone, consultant Robert Hill is quoted as saying that “There are plenty of early adopters, but the real question is about the early majority. That segment is big enough to start a mass adoption curve”, indicative of a typical market driven by early-adopters, much like smart phones were back in early 2007.”

This talk seems to be resonating with the Auto Industry as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, both All-Electric Vehicles are set to debut in Summer of  2011 as stated in the article “Eclectic Electrics”, published May 13, 2010, 5:00PM EST, BusinessWeek - FEATURES.

However, it is the Nissan Leaf as described in the article “Nissan Leaf projected to be in the black”, published April 30, 2010 5:44 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech as well as in the article “Nissan begin limited test-drives for Leaf EV” published June 11, 2010 6:32 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf now packs a noisemaker to make its otherwise stealthy approach have a presence as stated in the article “Nissan Leaf brings the noise”, published June 11, 2010 9:51 AM PDT by Wayne Cunningham, CNET News - The Car Tech blog.

This vehicle is now able to achieve a driving range of 100 kilometers as stated in the article “Nissan Leaf has 100-mile range -  give or take 40 percent”, published June 21, 2010 10:43 AM PDT by Automotive News, CNET News - The Car Tech blog that is expected to bring the hype on the same level as the Apple iPhone did for smart phones in the Telecom Industry with the Chevy Volt being the Google and the Toyota Prius the Blackberry of the Auto Industry, setting the stage for an interesting battle next year 2011.

Other vehicles abound as Toyota is converting its lightweight RAV 4 into an All-Electric Vehicle as stated in the article “Toyota taps Tesla to bring back electric RAV4”, published July 16, 2010 5:12 AM PDT, by Martin LaMonica CNET News - Green Tech.

ZAP, like the Ford Motor Company, is Silicon Valley start-up famous for their vehicle conversions of ordinary vehicles to flex-fuel, Hybrid or All-Electric Vehicles as stated in the article “A day at Zap: The Future of Electric Fleet cars has arrived”, published July 1, 2010 12:53 PM PDT by Suzanne Ashe, CNET News - The Car Tech blog is teaming up with Zhejiang Jonway Automobile to deliver a Korean Taxi.

This via its Korean distribution partner, Samyang Optics as stated in the article “ZAP to display its electric cars at EV Korea”, published July 15, 2010 2:15 PM PDT by Suzanne Ashe, CNET News - The Car Tech blog.

The Ford Focus Electric will also debut in 2011 and Warren Buffett investment in electric battery maker BYD China is set to pan out in 2011 with a commercially viable All-Electric Vehicle as stated in the article “BYD Dreams of Electric Cars”, published June 28, 2010, 3:10PM EST by Inder Sidhu, BusinessWeek - BOOK EXCERPT.

But the most significant milestone in my eyes that is definitely a sure sign of the coming of All-Electric Vehicles in the Summer of 2011 is the installation of the first Industry standardized Electric Charging Station by Coulomb Electric in the Big Apple otherwise known as NYC (New York City) with plans to install 4,600 such chargers in Austin, Texas, Detroit; Los Angeles, New York; Orlando, Florida, Sacramento, California, the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Redmond, Washington and Washington, D.C as stated in the article “First public EV charging station opens in NYC”, published July 15, 2010 1:47 PM PDT by Liane Yvkoff, CNET News - The Car Tech blog.

This in cricket terms, is a follow-on of the news of standards for the installation of electric charging stations easily located using a GPS enabled smart phone and an App installed such as on the Apple iPhone, Google Android or Blackberry smart phones as stated in the article “Network Web-Savvy EV-charging stations on tap”, published June 2, 2010 7:57 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

Throw in the endorsement of Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America of the Chevy Volt as stated in the article “Obama slips behind the wheel of the Chevy Volt”, published July 16, 2010 12:52 PM PDT by Suzanne Ashe, CNET News - The Car Tech blog and the choice offered between truth and merely laying back [repose] or with your head in the sand is on offer to every American by the Summer of 2010.

But what of Jamaica? Are All-Electric Vehicles apart of Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy and Mining Energy Sector Liberalization Energy Policy? Stay tuned form my next article………

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