Most Valuable Asset in Cleantech: A Chinese-Speaking CFO

chinese-flag-flickrclairegribbinWant to hit it big in cleantech? Sign your Chief Financial Officer up for Mandarin lessons. “The hottest commodity today is a Chinese-speaking CFO with an MBA from an American school –- that person is worth a mint,” venture capitalist Steve Westly said this week at a conference sponsored by Silicon Valley law firm Cooley Godward, reports peHUB.

China offers a range of juicy opportunities for cleantech startups, driven in large part by what McKinsey & Company has described as “an extensive body of regulations and policies to raise the energy efficiency of many sectors,” helping to reduce the environmental consequences of rapid economic development and urbanization. Execs that can communicate with government officials and local partners in the country will have a distinct advantage in the race to meet demand for technologies that boost efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution, and help manage waste.
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Barnes & Noble Reader Deets Appear

BN reader

Courtesy Gizmodo

I am now officially pumped about the leaked Barnes & Noble (s bks) e-book reader. It is beginning to look a lot like the Kindle (s amzn) with an important difference — a little touch screen at the bottom that can facilitate buying books right on the reader, or serving as a touch keyboard when needed.

The photos of the reader show a 6-inch e-Ink screen for reading, with a second touch screen at the bottom of the device. This is a significant departure from designs we’ve seen from other companies, and could be game changing. This touch screen is powered off when reading books, meaning no power drain at all when not needed. Yet it can add tremendous functionality when it is used. This is very smart. Hopefully we’ll know soon if the event scheduled turns into a product announcement. I know I want one of these really badly, if it’s as pictured.

That touch screen could play a huge role in functionality if previous rumors that this reader is powered by Android (s goog).

Soon to Be Made In China: Electric Vehicle Charge Points

Nearly half of the electric car charging equipment installed worldwide by 2015 will be heading to China, according to a recent report from Pike Research. Today an announcement from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based charging infrastructure company ECOtality indicates that China’s role in the electric car charging boom will encompass not only installing the equipment domestically, but also building it for international deployment. Down the road, when you pull up to a charge point, there’s a good chance it could have been made in China.
ecotality-china-factory
ECOtality, whose subsidiary eTec snagged a nearly $100 million federal stimulus grant last month to support what the company describes as “the largest deployment of EV chargers and vehicles ever” (12,750 charging systems in five states for 5,000 Nissan (s NSANY) LEAF electric vehicles), says this morning that it has formed two joint ventures with China’s Shenzhen Goch Investment, or SGI, in order to manufacture, assemble and sell EV charging equipment in China.
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BYD Speeds Up U.S. Launch, Race for 2010 Electric Car Heats Up

byd-logoElectric vehicles may have proven their capacity for speed on the road, but when it comes to bringing plug-in models to market, extended and repeated delays have been the norm. But today word comes from Warren Buffett-backed BYD Auto that it’s actually accelerating its timeline for a U.S. launch. According to the Wall Street Journal, the China-based battery giant and automaker is now finalizing plans to begin selling its all-electric e6 model in the U.S. in 2010 — about a year ahead of schedule.
byd-e6-front
For the initial rollout, Chairman Wang Chuanfu tells the Journal that BYD plans to sell “a few hundred” e6 vehicles through a “small number of dealers” in an unnamed region. The vehicle, which BYD says can go up to 249 miles on a full battery charge, is set to carry a price tag of just over $40,000. That puts it in the ballpark of the electric sedan that Southern California-based startup Coda Automotive aims to build in China and sell in low volumes in California next year before a broader launch.
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Milestone: Chinese Automaker Signs Up for BYD Batteries for Hybrids

byd-logoThe latest hint about China’s role on the road to more affordable hybrid and electric cars comes courtesy of BYD this morning. The Chinese battery giant and newbie automaker that won investment from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway firm last year, has snagged a battery supply deal from an undisclosed but major China-based auto manufacturer — the first domestic automaker to sign up for lithium-ion batteries from BYD — according to a new report from Gasgoo. Reportedly the car company plans to use the batteries for its upcoming hybrid vehicles.
BYD’s new Chinese automaker deal (Gasgoo says BYD declined to name the customer because of “professional secrecy”) offers an example of potential green car powerhouses taking shape in China as the country’s automakers increasingly seek to get in on the ground floor of the nascent alt-fuel vehicle market. Legacy auto giants headquartered in North America and Europe may dominate the mature market for internal combustion vehicles, but the race for plug-in vehicles offers a comparatively level playing field.
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China’s 10 Biggest Automakers Link Up to Develop Electric Cars

BYD Auto may be the poster child for electric vehicles in China, and it has provided Warren Buffett’s investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, with a nice billion-dollar profit (on paper) over the last 10 months — but the China-based car and battery maker isn’t lending its expertise in electric car technology to a new EV R&D effort among Chinese automakers. The country’s largest car companies (by sales) have just formed a group called T10 Electric Vehicles to jointly research and develop powertrains and components for plug-ins, according to reports this morning from Green Car Congress and Gasgoo.
The collaboration is meant in part to help cut R&D costs for the group, which includes Beijing Auto, Brilliance Auto, Changan Auto, Chery Auto, Dongfeng Auto, FAW Group, Guangzhou Auto, Jianghuai Auto, SAIC Motor and Sinotruk Group. If the partnership proves successful, it could mean heightened competition for BYD. Read More about China’s 10 Biggest Automakers Link Up to Develop Electric Cars

Would You Strap a Phone to your Thigh for $30?

thiphoneTired of holding that phone when you’re sitting, but have no place to put it down? Yup there’s an app a solution for that. The Thiphone straps a handheld to your thigh, so you don’t have to worry about finding a spot to place your handset. I can see how it frees up your hands in a situation where there’s no flat surface nearby and you still need to see your screen. The Thiphone holds a phone by using a suction cup, so it ought to work with bunches of devices. It also angles your phone so that it’s not flat on your thigh. Actually, leaving it flat might have had another benefit — you could lift your leg to get an ab crunch going. 😉
Even though I run, my thighs are small, so I could probably use a large armband with my phones. That would save me the $29.95 for this accessory. But I’m likely in the minority on that, so if you’ve got thunder thighs and want to put down the phone, hit up the Thiphone store.

Daily Sprout

Cash for Clunkers Tally: Cash for clunkers may not be the most cost-effective emission reducer, but trade-ins under the program have resulted in an average fuel economy gain of 9.6 MPG, which translates to an estimated $1,000 in savings at the gas pump and 660,000 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions per year. — Climate Progress
Astroturfing for Coal: A firm contracted by a coal industry group has been caught “astroturfing” — sending forged letters to members of Congress that were presented as grassroots political communications. — Grist
Renault-Nissan, Down Under: The Renault-Nissan Alliance and the State Government of Victoria in Australia have agreed to identify potential areas of co-operation in promoting the use of zero emission vehicles, such as Nissan’s (s NSANY) new electric LEAF, in the state. — Green Car Congress
All Techs on Deck: The Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, has released an analysis showing that the electricity sector could reduce annual CO2 emissions in 2030 by 41 percent below 2005 levels, but that it will require sustained R&D, demos and aggressive deployment of technologies including carbon capture and storage, renewable and nuclear generation, and significant efficiency improvements. — Press Release
BYD’s Battery Plays = Boon for Buffett: Warren Buffett’s investment in China-based BYD Auto has reportedly raked in some $1 billion for his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. What’s driving the rapid rise in BYD’s value? “Investments in hybrid automobiles like the plug-in F3DM and, even more importantly, high-tech lithium iron phosphate batteries.” — AutoblogGreen

Daily Sprout

Bob Lutz is Back, Now What?: In bringing Bob Lutz back into the company (his retirement was announced a few months ago), General Motors (s GM) seems to be hoping Lutz will “be able to tap the same formidable skills he used to accelerate the development of the Volt to figure out how to sell a $40,000 vehicle to cash-strapped consumers still skittish about American cars.” — WSJ’s Environmental Capital

Magna, A123 Batteries in Volvo Hybrids: Magna Steyr, an operating unit of Magna International, will produce lithium-ion battery systems with cells from startup A123Systems for hybrid city buses, heavy-duty distribution vehicles and refuse trucks from Volvo. — Green Car Congress

Biofuels to Help Clean Up Chernobyl: Belarus, the country affected by much of the fallout from the Chernobly nuclear disaster, plans to use biofuel crops to suck up the radioactive strontium and caesium and make the soil fit to grow food again within decades rather than centuries. — New Scientist via TNR’s The Vine

Buffett-Backed BYD Wants a Bus Maker: Chinese battery and electric car maker BYD Auto is seeking to buy a bus making company in Hunan, central China, in an effort to increase its production capacity for alternative fuel vehicles. — Reuters

T. Boone’s Green Cloak: T. Boone Pickens stands to gain from the natural gas vehicle legislation unveiled in the Senate this week, but “wrapped in the cloak of environmentalism, suddenly T. Boone’s business maneuvers” make him look like a world-saver. — Business Insider

What the Electric Coda Sedan Says About the Future of EVs and China

The electric Coda Automotive sedan, unveiled yesterday as the first highway-capable model from low-speed electric vehicle startup Miles EV’s new spinoff, isn’t just “made in China.” Companies based in China, including Hafei Motor and Lishen, have been working with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Miles throughout the development of the car, which is set to carry a $45,000 price tag when it rolls out next year in California.

Does Coda’s model — building an electric car in China for U.S. consumers — represent the next phase for plug-in cars as automakers race to make them affordable for the mass market? Coda may not be the company that takes us there, but if automakers can surpass a few hurdles along the way, we may see more plug-in car companies looking to cut costs with ideas from Coda’s playbook.

Coda is leveraging what McKinsey Quarterly described last month as China’s “low-cost labor supply, its fast-growing vehicle market, its success in rechargeable-battery technology, and its substantial investments (both made and committed) in R&D for electrified transport.” We’ve written before about China’s role on the road to an affordable EV, and the potential for sales there (highest in the world last quarter) to help electric car makers achieve economies of scale. But as we noted earlier this year, such a scenario includes a catch: costs have to come down (and the savings passed on to customers) before electric cars can get anywhere close to becoming mainstream in China. And in the meantime, sales in the once-hot Chinese car market have slowed along with the global auto industry, although not as much as those in the U.S. and Europe, as the Wall Street Journal writes today.
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