Work Better by Seeking Out Competition

When we work alone, away from the constant prying eyes of colleagues and supervisors, we tend to lose our competitive edge. I’ve noticed this in myself, too. I haven’t exactly been slacking off or taking my work for granted, but I feel like something’s missing.

A Chery On Top for Better Place & China

This weekend Better Place announced that it has struck a partnership with Chinese car maker Chery to collaborate on electric vehicle technology. The deal is light on specifics, but if expanded, could offer Better Place a way in to the world’s most important car market.

Apple’s Billions and Billions

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article examining what it refers to as the upcoming “war” between computer chip manufacturers. It’s an interesting read if you’re desperately into that sort of thing, but what’s most compelling is the assertion that Apple (s aapl) probably invested at least a billion dollars in the iPad’s custom silicon.

As we reported here, Apple bought chip manufacturer P.A. Semi back in April 2008 for a cool $278 million, ostensibly to acquire the company’s engineering talent and manufacturing expertise, and, perhaps, the use of its existing facilities to produce its own custom-designed chips. Perhaps this helped save Apple a little money up-front, if the NYT’s is correct about the development costs of the chips alone;

Even without the direct investment of a factory, it can cost […] about $1 billion to create a smartphone chip from scratch.

Does this mean Apple saved a cool seven hundred million dollars when it bought P.A. Semi? If you’re a company with almost forty billion dollars in the bank, finding the ready cash to develop your own groundbreaking processor doesn’t seem quite such a mammoth undertaking. And I’ll be the first to admit I’m likely oversimplifying the whole thing, but y’know, that Jobs fellow is a wily old fox… Read More about Apple’s Billions and Billions

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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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.

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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‘Big Chery’ Has Big Electric Plans: Will They Prove too Ambitious?

Well, nobody can accuse Wuhi, China-based Chery Automobile of a lack of ambition. The company plans to bring three electric vehicles and two hybrid-electric cars to the market by next year, director Yin Tongyue told the Xinkuai Newspaper (hat tip Gasgoo.com and AutoblogGreen).

chery-s18

But it could prove more difficult to turn electric concept vehicles into real production vehicles than Chery expects. After all, other ambitious companies have taken longer to mass produce new electric cars, from the time they unveiled their concepts, and delays have been a common occurrence. Tesla Motors suffered several well-publicized delays in the delivery of its first electric car, the Roadster, due to transmission troubles. The company had delivered only 300 of the sports cars by early this month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Venturi, which originally intended to begin production of its Fetish sports car in 2007, now plans to deliver the first Fetish in June. And Phoenix Motorcars, after two years trying to produce electric trucks and SUVs for the fleet market, has filed for bankruptcy, as we noted earlier today.
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Daily Sprout

Cali Budget Clears State Senate: The budget plan approved today in the California legislature (after a three-month impasse) includes a provision that will delay requirements for builders to retrofit heavy diesel equipment to reduce emissions. — LA Times

China’s Automakers Step Up: China’s Chery Automobile launched its first self-developed electric car today, the S18, joining BYD Auto in the country’s emerging alternative-fuel vehicle market. — Reuters

Western Resistance: As implementation of the Western Climate Initiative’s regional cap-and-trade system looms, business interests are raising a ruckus about the potential economic impact. — NYT’s Green Inc.

Carbon on the Cheap: The recent plunge in the price of carbon permits in the EU has reopened a debate over the efficacy of the cap-and-trade system to curb emissions, with real implications for U.S. climate legislation. — WSJ’s Environmental Capital

Electric Carmakers Chaaaaarge!: Massive investment in the future of vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure might be the slice of the stimulus that best delivers on its promise to create and save jobs. Now who’s hiring? — Wired’s Autopia