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

ECOtality Eyes NASDAQ En Route to EV Charging Boom

Jump out of the little pond and take its chances with the big fish — that’s what ECOtality (s ETLY) aims to do by listing its common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market (previously called the SmallCap Market). ECOtality, which is the parent company of electric vehicle infrastructure provider eTec, announced today that it has applied to list its stock on the tier of NASDAQ that’s meant for companies that need capital to grow their business.

Currently, ECOtality trades on what’s called the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board, or OTCBB — an exchange often used by relatively small and risky companies because it does not have the listing requirements of the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange. For ECOtality, switching over to the Nasdaq Capital Market would mark a new phase for the company — opening it to a larger pool of potential investors and suggesting growing confidence in its bet on the still-nascent electric vehicle market.
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The Price of a Stimulus Award, Courtesy of ECOtality

The award of hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loans for electric vehicles, batteries and charging infrastructure in the last few months has provided a major boost for companies working in the space. That’s true for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based ECOtality (s ETLY), whose subsidiary eTec (with several partners, including Nissan) won a nearly $100 million grant from the Department of Energy in August to deploy 11,210 charging stations — tripling its total number of installations — in five states over the next three years. But the grant didn’t come cheap.
According to ECOtality’s first report of financial information since the grant award, released yesterday afternoon, the company saw revenue drop to $1.9 million during the three months ending September 30, down from $2.9 million in the same period last year — a change that ECOtality attributes largely to “the effect of the slowing economy and the focusing of resources on securing the DOE contract.” Meanwhile, operating expenses for the quarter jumped to $11.4 million, up from just $1.9 million a year earlier — an increase the company attributes primarily to bonuses paid to three executives after eTec snagged the DOE award.
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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, 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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eTec to Snag $8M From Cali for Mega Electric Car Charging Project

etec-logoGrabbing $100 million in a highly competitive stimulus program isn’t a bad start for one of the largest electric car charging infrastructure projects to date. That grant went out earlier this month to ECOtality subsidiary eTec, which has partnered up with Nissan (s NSANY), utility San Diego Gas & Electric, and other companies to install a whopping 12,750 charging systems in five states using the new funds. (For comparison, it has installed just over 400 charging stations for on-road electric vehicles so far, which eTec claims is more than any other company.) This morning, ECOtality said more government funds are rolling in for the Golden State portion of its project, with the California Energy Commission expected to contribute up to $8 million.
The Energy Commission funding comes as part of a state cost-sharing program set up for electric vehicle technology projects in California supported by federal stimulus funds. The $8 million is at this point just an estimate, but it’s significantly higher than estimates for five other projects the commission announced late last week, including funding for EV demo projects that Chrysler, Ford (s F) and General Motors have in the works with various utilities. Read More about eTec to Snag $8M From Cali for Mega Electric Car Charging Project

Today in Cleantech

Electric cars have a chicken and egg problem. Without a charging infrastructure to support EVs, consumers avoid them and carmakers have little incentive to build and sell them in quantities that make financial sense. That is set to change as eTec gears up to build a network of charging stations featuring 12,500 Level 2 (220V) and 250 Level 3 (fast-charge) charging systems in five U.S. markets.  In response, Nissan pledged to sell 5,000 Leaf EVs in those areas in 2010, two years ahead of schedule. Isn’t it amazing how things start falling into place?

3 Under-the-Radar Battery Grant Winners

smithimage1The biggest grants awarded this week under the Department of Energy’s $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery initiative went to big-name companies: battery giant Johnson Controls, IPO-hopeful A123Systems, General Motors (s GM), Dow Kokam and LG Chem’s Compact Power all snagged more than $150 million each. But some lesser-known companies also hit the jackpot, and may see rising prominence over the next three years as a result.
Take EnerG2, eTec and Smith Electric Vehicles — companies that together represent three legs of the stool for mass deployment of electric vehicles: energy storage, charging infrastructure and the vehicles themselves, but have lower profiles than many of their fellow grant winners and competitors.
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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.