The Daily Sprout

Tesla Grabs Mazda Design Director: Franz von Holzhausen, former Director of Design for Mazda North America, has joined Tesla Motors as Chief Designer. This is the third auto industry vet Tesla has snapped up recently. The startup got a new EVP of Vehicle Engineering from Chrysler and just this week hired a new CFO from FordPress Release.

Nissan Shows Off Electric Car: Nissan unveiled a prototype electric vehicle as well as a new hybrid prototype, both sporting the auto maker’s lithium-ion battery pack. Nissan says it’s on track for a 2010 production debut of its electric vehicle – Press Release.

DOE Supports CCTO’s Green Building Competition: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will support the California Clean Tech Open’s green building competition which will award $50,000 to the winning business plan. This is part of the DOE’s larger green building campaign, including the new National Laboratory Collaborative on Building Technologies – MarketWatch.

Super-lattice Could Yield Super Fuel Cells: Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Spain’s Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Universidad PolitĂ©cnica de Madrid say they have developed a “super-lattice” that can allow solid-oxide fuel cells to operate at much lower temperatures and lower costs than existing fuel cells – ScienceDaily.

The New Republic Parses Paris’s Energy Plan: Noting the absurdity that more voters might listen to Paris Hilton discuss energy policy than to either candidate, The New Republic delves into the the faux campaign ad from the celebutante to analyze her proposed energy policy – The New Republic.

Fuel Cell Vehicles 15 Years and $200B Away

In 2003 President Bush announced a $1.2 billion initiative to make fuel cells commercially viable over a 16-year period. Five years later, a new report issued by the National Research Council says that fuel cells are still at least 15 years away from being commercially feasible. The release says that despite “impressive progress toward commercialization,” some $200 billion is needed over the next decade and half — $55 billion from the government and $145 billion from the private sector. The report says that in the short term, fuel efficiency and biofuel research would be a more cost-effective way to reduce transportation emissions.

The biggest obstacles for fuel cells, the report says, are high vehicle costs and a lack of fueling infrastructure. At most, there will be only 2 million fuel cell-powered cars on American roads by 2020, representing less than 1 percent of the fleet, the NRC estimates.

The report’s best case scenario estimates fuel cell vehicles, including cell and refueling costs, will be cost competitive on the passenger car level by 2023. From there, fuel cell adoption could explode, hitting 60 million in 2035 and 200 million by 2050.

The report makes crystal clear just how complicated clean technology is. Cleantech projects have been plagued by delays and increasing expenses, especially in the automotive realm. But such is the nature of research in the areas of hard science and engineering and these risks should not be a surprise to investors.

The National Resource Council is an independent non-profit organization.

Honda Fuel Cell Cars Head to Hollywood

Fuel cell vehicles made by Honda are now rolling off a production line in Japan and will be heading to eager customers in California come July, the auto maker said today. The car, the FCX Clarity, represents the latest move from a major car maker to make non-petroleum-powered cars mainstream. While Honda says it has a new, dedicated fuel cell vehicle assembly line, it only plans to make 200 of the vehicles over the next three years.

But the limiting factor isn’t really the production run so much as the largely non-existent hydrogen fuel infrastructure — there just aren’t a lot of fueling stations for these cars. The first few FCX customers were chosen, in part, because of their proximity to fueling stations along California’s hydrogen highway. Though surely it’s no coincidence that the first few pre-screened customers also happen to be Hollywood A-listers, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Harris, who will be able to add some Tinseltown glamor to the new vehicles.

While this puts Honda ahead in the fuel cell space, the automaker is still behind in other alternative fuel areas. Honda discontinued its flagship hybrid the Insight while Toyota’s Prius has taken off; meanwhile, the company has yet to announce plans to jump on the electric-powered bandwagon which GM and Nissan are now pursuing for 2010 debut.

Image courtesy of Honda.

Brushing Up on DHTML

Recently I was looking into how to spruce up a couple of web sites that I oversee, and I stopped at I’ve written before about the great, free online tutorials found at this site. After poking around the site, I decided to get deeper into Dynamic HTML (DHTML), which is a worthwhile pursuit if you want to improve the look and behavior of a static site.

DHTML, of course, is not a language unto itself. It’s the art of combining HTML, JavaScript, DOM and CSS. If you don’t already know much DHTML and want to investigate it, you’ll want to have a basic working knowledge of all of the topics just cited first. If you do have that, though, you can start doing nice looking things right away.

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MTI Shows Off Fuel Cell GPS

Fuel cell maker MTI Micro is showing off a prototype of a GPS system with an embedded fuel cell at a fuel cell conference in Atlanta this morning. The company, which is based in Albany, New York, says its fuel cell-connected GPS system can provide 60 hours of usage, which it says equals three times as much energy as GPS that are powered by four traditional AA batteries.

MTI CEO Peng Lim told us that the GPS is designed to be used by hiking enthusiasts and the mountaineering types that want “truly” mobile power for a long period of time. For now, MTI isn’t announcing manufacturing partners for such a device, how much the device would cost, or even when it could be available. Just that yes, the company has designed such a product.

Fuel cells have a reputation for being perpetually 12 months away from hitting the market, and MTI plans to start selling its first fuel-cell devices some time next year. But this week, methanol-based fuel cell makers (like MTI) got a boost when the U.S. Department of Transportation said passengers on flights could take methanol-based fuel cells onboard planes.

iPhone Users Are Having More Fun

New data from M:Metrics for the month of January confirms that folks who own an iPhone tend to do more entertaining things on their devices — such as watch video and visit social networks — than those who own smartphones. However February data from mobile ad network AdMob points out that iPhone users are still a relatively small part of the overall mobile phone market in the U.S. Good thing, otherwise we’d never get anything done.

Call your carrier when you hear about service price drops


Just got a note from jkOTR reader Steve, who referred back to our post on T-Mobile’s lower unlimited data add-on service. Back in September, T-Mo dropped the price from $29.99 to $19.99 a month. That’s all well and good, but if you were expecting the carrier to automatically lower the price on your monthly bill, you’re likely expecting too much. Always, always, always call in to your carrier when you hear about price drops on your existing services. Steve finally did and he’s now saving the $10 a month. As he says: “I’m sure a price increase would be automatic.” and he’s 100% correct. Unfortunately, you could be flushing money down the drain if you don’t call to ensure the price adjustment if one is available. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to check what your carrier is offering in terms of plans and price on a fairly regular basis: these plans change all the time and you might score a change in your favor simply by watching for one and calling in.While we’re on the subject, don’t forget about the many ways you can score a discount on your cellular bill with a new contract.

Last (hopefully) update on Vista sleep problem

Attentioncrossing2_014431My Vista sleep problems have touched a lot of people, some who are interested and some who don’t like my talking about problems with Vista.  The Vista fix was applied a couple of days ago and I should tell you how my HP 2710p has fared since then.  In a word, error-free.  The Vista discovered hotfix so far has done the trick and I have experienced no sleep issues nor any Sleep of Death issues since the hotfix was applied.  That makes me pretty happy I can assure you.  I have heard from a few people who felt I was bashing Vista unfairly which I don’t agree with as I simply reported what was happening to me.  I do agree with those who said I should praise Vista’s error discovery process and solution determination which worked well in this case.  But, and that’s a big word, the bottom line is my Vista machine was working flawlessly for months, developed a heinous problem affecting my work, and a Microsoft hotfix was needed to patch the OS to correct for this new problem.  The hotfix was dated December 10th which was just a couple of weeks before the first appearance of this problem on my system which strikes me as curious.  I do feel that such an important update should have been pushed via Windows Update as I’m pretty sure it affects most mobile PCs running Vista.  In any event it’s great that my HP is back to working as it did for months, I hope this continues in the future.

In Defense of Leopard

Leopard is Coming

With the announcement of Leopard’s release date, there were plenty of comments that the Leopard upgrade is nothing but a few bells and whistles added to Tiger. Some think that there is no reason to upgrade from Tiger to Leopard. After all, Tiger is a very refined version of OS X. Why would you need to upgrade? There are bunch of features, which if worked as advertised, actually make Leopard worth the purchase price.

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OWA for Exchange 2007 in IE vs. OWA Light in everything else. Meh.

OutlookwebaccessI’m in the midst of having my mailbox migrated from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007 with my hosted provider, 4Smartphone. The process isn’t complete yet, but while I wait I thought it would be worthwhile to look at OWA with Exchange 2007 since we mentioned OWA Light this time last year. One of the valid complaints of Outlook Web Access for Exchange 2003 is that it’s almost unusable unless you’re using Internet Explorer for a browser. So is the newer web client any better in Firefox, my current browser of choice? In some minor ways yes, but of course it could be better and I’m not as excited about it as I was last year. That’s a tragic shame because many mobile users rely on web-based mail access. Instead of funneling folks to Internet Explorer, I wonder if people are actually moving away from Exchange as a result of the differences in the web clients; obviously not corporations, but what about other end users?

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