Today in Cleantech

As many await Sunday’s Super Bowl, it’s worth taking a look at the different commercials for the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. The Chevy Volt commercial features aliens trying to understand how the car works. At which point a bathrobed thirtysomething enters the shot to explain that its electric but also has an engine to go far. Chevy wants us to know that there’s nothing to worry about in terms range anxiety. The Nissan Leaf commercial has a polar bear making an epic journey from the arctic to the city, culminating in the polar bear giving a Nissan Leaf owner a hug. Nissan wants us to know that buying a pure EV, as compared to a plug-in hybrid like the Volt, is what we all need to do to save the earth (and the polar bears) from global warming. Nissan is going for environmentalists and Chevy wants the mass market to know that there’s nothing to fear in a plug-in hybrid. Any way you slice it, the 603 Volts that Chevy sold in January isn’t getting anyone excited, and is a sign that we still don’t have the EV hit that will create the EV market, the way the Prius created a hybrid market.

Today in Cleantech

I’m at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley meeting today at Marvell. The meeting is focused on the connected car, and carriers, automakers and software developers have come together to figure out the optimal way for drivers of the future to interact with their cars. Electric vehicles will be an important early test ground for many connected vehicle initiatives from wifi in the vehicle to farther out initiatives like autonomous driving (your car taking over to avoid an accident). In many ways, EVs are an entirely new technology product that requires a shift in consumer thinking whereby drivers interact with their car to check the charge, schedule a charge based on power grid availability, control AC from their mobile phone. It’s a world for early adopters. Though the days of a passive experience with your car are most definitely behind us.

What the utility of the future looks like

As utility industry trade show DistribuTECH wrapped up last Thursday, attendees got a peek at not only new product offerings — from smart thermostats to software platforms that manage smart meter data — but also the potential for what a utility of the future might look like. As the smart grid grows up and reaches its full potential, here are five important ways in which how we interact with our utility can be revolutionized and why they matter.

Tendril test-drives its electric car software with BMW

After a variety of strategies and around $100 million in funding, startup Tendril is now largely a software company, and on Tuesday at the DistribuTECH conference in San Antonio, Tendril announced a big partner in its play to provide the software layer for electric vehicles: BMW.

4G with your coffee? Verizon sticks LTE in just about everything

Verizon is putting LTE chips in TouchTunes’ new digital karaoke machines, but that’s not all. At CES, Verizon seemed determined to embed its latest wireless network technology into anything that could conceivably need an Internet connection, including ATM machines, robots and photo booths.

Fisker says its problem Karmas are almost all fixed

Fisker has been rushing to fix the problem with the hose clamp for the batteries on its Karma electric car. It says that the “majority” of its customers’ and dealers’ cars with problem batteries have either gotten new batteries or have been repaired.

Waiting for the EV market to materialize

It was a tough week for electric cars, with Chevy Volt’s sales falling short and Aptera’s filing for bankruptcy. The barriers to EV adoption are widely known but center around a few major issues, including range anxiety, charging time and initial cost. Range anxiety and unease about charging time will decline as consumers get more comfortable with the product. That leaves the real long-term issue: initial cost.

Coda cuts price of electric sedan by $5K

Electric vehicle startup Coda Automotive has cut the price tag on its inaugural electric sedan by $5,000 and boosted the warranty on its battery by two years.

Fisker won’t ramp up production of Karma until Q2 2012

Electric vehicle startup Fisker Automotive has dramatically scaled back production plans of its first car, the Karma, in the fourth quarter of 2011, and it won’t ramp up to full production until the second quarter of 2012.

5 bets the DOE made that are better than Solyndra

It’s been over a month since the Solyndra news came out, but it’s still dominating. Because it just won’t go away, here’s my top five list of projects that the DOE also backed with loan guarantees and that are showing some early signs of success.