Toyota to build Prius Hybrid in China

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) will start building its Prius hybrid sedans in China next year with FAW Group in a step it hopes will promote the vehicles as the global standard for fuel-efficient cars. The move could also help China as it looks for alternative energy sources and tries to keep pollution in check while demand for cars continues to surge.

Less Well Known Autonomous Car Stocks

Car manufacturers have fully embraced self-driving or autonomous cars.  It is not because they have heard a loud clamor for such technology from consumers.  No, automakers are keen on the idea because manufacture of self-driving cars could help them overcome the short comings of highly cyclical sales pattern associated with its car dependent upon a single driver.  In other words, they are in it for themselves whether consumers benefit or not. If consumers are not so important, at least investors should benefit. Besides the car manufacturers there are a few smaller companies that can give investors a taste of the self-driving car phenomenon. LiDar and...

Maxwell Beats Earnings, But Scares Investors with Guidance

Tom Konrad CFA The 2013 Lamborghini Aventador will incorporate Maxwell ultracapcitors. (Photo credit: Autoviva.com via Flickr  ) The headline was good: Maxwell Technologies, Inc. (NASD:MXWL) beat analysts’ third quarter (Q3 2012) earnings estimates by 10 cents on improved cost control and revenues in-line with analyst expectations (up 7%).  The good news stopped there, however, and investors are in a panic this morning (the stock is down $1.48 to $6.13 as I write) about some worrying comments made in the earnings call (transcript here.) Worries About the Chinese Hybrid Bus Market Revenue growth has...

Gas Price Demand Elasticity

Here is an interesting article on the Carbon Tax Blog about dropping gas usage in the US due to sustained high prices.  As I've said before, now that peaking oil supply has made gasoline supply inelastic, price will have to be set by marginal demand... we're beginning to get a look at what the demand elasticity for gasoline is. But gas prices are not dropping.  US demand may actually be elastic, but world demand is not yet showing elasticity.  In large part, this is because most emerging economies and oil producing company consumers enjoy fixed price oil, courtesy of...

Altair Nanotechnologies Lithium Ion Battery Cells Exceed HEV Power Requirements of U.S. FreedomCAR

Altair Nanomaterials (ALTI) announced that its battery research and development team successfully completed a testing program for lithium ion battery cells containing Altairnano's nano-structured lithium titanate electrode materials. "The test results demonstrated that the performance of these lithium ion battery cells exceed the system-level power requirements set forth by the U.S. Council for Automotive Research FreedomCAR Energy Storage System Performance Goals for hybrid electric vehicle (HEVs), as well as those requirements published by major U.S. automakers," said Evan House, Ph.D., Program Director, Altairnano's Advanced Materials & Power Systems business unit. These batteries demonstrate a useable state-of-charge...

Supercycle Or Not, Expensive Oil Is Unavoidable

Charles Morand In an upcoming article in the journal Resources Policy, David Humphreys, former Chief Economist at Rio Tinto and Norilsk Nickel, argues that skeptics are right to question the notion that mineral prices in the 2003 to 2008 period were rapidly uptrending as part of an emerging multi-decade supercycle. He argues that the rise in demand underpinning steep mineral price increases had two distinct causes: (1) an "extended economic upswing" driven by an ample supply of cheap credit (we know now where that got us); and (2) a "deeper-rooted structural shift in the economy" resulting from...

Fool.com comments on ENER

The Motley Fool finally had something good to say about an alternative energy stock. It just so happens to be for one I purchased earlier this morning. Don't look now, but Energy Conversion Devices might just prove to be that rare bird an alternative energy play with actual products and a reasonable chance of living up to lofty investor expectations. ... It would appear to me that hybrid vehicle batteries are the biggest near-term opportunity. Although the company didn't specify the customers, it has acknowledged receiving production orders for battery packs. They say that...
EVs

Surprisingly Affordable Electric Vehicles

When will electric vehicles cost the same or less than gas cars? If you are buying a used vehicle, the answer is “Today.” If you are considering buying a used car, cost is clearly important to you.  That’s why you should seriously consider a used electric vehicle (EVs). Lists of cars that lose their value fastest (a good thing if you are a used car buyer) are full of electric vehicles and luxury vehicles.  The first generation of electric vehicles including GM's (GM) Chevy Volt and the Nissan (NSANY) Leaf regularly appear on lists of cars that depreciate quickly. Less...

Stop-Start Idle Elimination – Slashing Fuel Consumption By Up To 17%

John Petersen I've written several articles over the last year that explain why idle elimination is a crucial first step in the global effort to increase fuel efficiency and curb CO2 emissions. For readers who are new to my blog, or confused by a torrent of news stories and analysts reports that wax poetic on the expected benefits, costs and challenges of gee-whiz vehicles that are "coming soon to a showroom near you," altenergymag.com describes stop-start systems, or micro-hybrids, as follows: "These are conventional vehicles powered either by gasoline or diesel engines in which the 12-volt starter...

New Flyer: A Clean Way to Play Extreme Peak Oil Scenarios

Tom Konrad I'm more than a little obsessed with finding investments which will increase with the price of oil, but not contribute to global warming.  This is quite tricky, because most forms of renewable energy produce electricity, which we cannot use in our current fleet of cars.  Biofuels ( even cellulosic) can be used in cars, but are limited by supply of feedstock, and by the environmental degradation that growing and collecting biofuel feedstocks can cause.  Not to mention the impact on food prices (despite the fact that this may help poor farmers even as it hurts poor...

BMW Steam Hybrid Car

BMW is unveiling its turbosteamer hybrid engine, which uses the excess heat in the exhaust system and reclaims 80% of it by powering a steam engine that assists the gas engine. Overall, this gives a 15% more efficient engine; and significant additional performance (power and torque) with practically no downside. (via /.)

Getting Fired-up On Cleaner Internal Combustion Technologies

Although the writing has been on the wall for some time now regarding Obama's willingness to move aggressively on the environment file, few expected his first substantive move to have to do with vehicle fuel economy. On Monday, the President requested that the EPA reassess its earlier decision (taken when the Bush administration was still in power) to deny California the right to set and enforce its own fuel economy and car emissions standards above and beyond those set at the federal level. Not only are California's standards much tougher than the current federal ones (the state is...

The Best Peak Oil Investments, Part VI: Barriers to Substitution

Tom Konrad CFA There are two types of solution to the liquid fuels scarcity caused by stagnating (and eventually falling) oil supplies combined with growing demand in emerging economies.  The most obvious is to find a substitute to replace oil.  These substitute have barriers to their use as a replacment petroleum based fuel.  Understanding those barriers also leads us to the investment opportunities that arise from these substitutes.  As I wrote the first five parts of this series, looking into potential substitutes for gasoline and diesel, it was clear that many potential substitutes would need...

Battery Investing For Beginners, Part 4

John Petersen In "The Sixth Revolution: The Coming of Cleantech," Merill Lynch strategist Steven Milunovich heralded cleantech as a new investment theme and forecast a period of gut wrenching change followed by an age of plenty. A few days later venture capital icon Vinod Khosla warned his audience “500 million people on earth enjoy a lifestyle that 9 billion people will want in 2050.” The differences between these two informed viewpoints are more than a little stark, but they highlight a frightening truth about cleantech: for the first time in human history the fundamental drivers of a technological...

NREL Researchers Prove the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility in Electric Drive

John Petersen In the most under-reported cleantech story of the year, researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have used an impressive array of computational and modeling tools to prove that the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, which holds that the first unit of consumption of a good or service yields more utility than the second and subsequent units, doesn't have a loophole for plug-in vehicles. The penultimate slide from an NREL presentation at Plug-in 2011 says it all – and proves beyond doubt that cars with plugs are less effective at saving fuel and reducing emissions than...

Plug-in Vehicles Are A Luxury No Nation Can Afford

John Petersen I'm going to apologize up front for revisiting a topic that inevitably draws furious comment from readers who just don't get it, or who refuse to get it. I understand that it's painful to learn that politicians, environmental advocates and the mainstream media have been lying about critical issues, but that doesn't make exposing the lies less important. So I'm going to endure the slings and arrows of the eco-religious one more time and use a new example to show that plug-in vehicles are a luxury no nation can afford. Ener1 (HEV) is a pure-play...