Today in Cleantech

Today’s announcement of a collaboration between Toyota and Ford began with a chance encounter between the two companies CEOs at an airport in April. Four months later, the companies will work together on development of a new hybrid system for SUVs and pickup trucks. It’s been difficult to sell a rear wheel drive, hybrid light truck but both companies recognize that Americans aren’t giving up their pick up trucks anytime soon. This is a huge market that could be a shaken up with a blockbuster, fuel efficient SUV or pickup. The collaboration also includes some joint work on telematics and wireless communication in the vehicle, an area where Ford has received acclaim and Toyota is lagging.

Today in Cleantech

Let’s start the day with a retraction — thankfully, not my own. Japan’s Nikkei newspaper may have to walk back a Monday story claiming that Toyota would make plug-in recharging a standard feature on all its new Priuses. “We don’t see (plug-ins) as a car for everybody,” Toyota spokesperson John Hanson told AOLAuto, and further confirmation has come out since then. Why not make every car plug-in? Well, it will probably cost a lot more, even though Toyota has declined to say just how much more. It turns out that plug-in cars have to come with a lot of hardware and software to manage recharging from grid-linked power sources, for accurate pricing as much as for the technical challenges in fast-charging and other emerging fixes to the EV range anxiety problem. For a sense of how complicated the car-charging world is, please refer to the mildly corrective comment at the bottom of this story I wrote in January — thanks, Nick Chambers — which lays out the AC and DC charging regimes, and just how certain standards may win out.

Today in Cleantech

President Barack Obama is giving a speech on energy this morning, a broad bill of particulars aimed at an overarching goal — cutting U.S. oil dependence. With unrest in the Middle East leading to rising oil and gasoline prices, and nuclear crisis in Japan putting the future of nuclear power in question, Obama’s speech had a lot of ground to cover — and some of the President’s goals will be harder than others. Cutting oil imports by one-third by 2025, for example, is a plan that will outlast his presidency, and will require the adoption of clean energy incentives likely to face opposition by Republicans and some industry groups — even if Obama sought to sweeten that part of the deal by saying he would expedite offshore oil drilling and exploration permits as well. There were other concrete pledges, including a goal of adopting an “alternative-fuel vehicle only” federal buying policy by 2015. Of course, the list of alternative fuel vehicles includes natural gas-fueled trucks and cars, as well as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.

said he Some of Obama’s plans will be harder than others

EVO Electric: Electric Car Motor Maker Links with Lotus

EVO Electric, a U.K.-based startup developing a more efficient electric motor for hybrid and electric cars, will be getting a whole lotta attention in Geneva on Tuesday due to a major new partnership. The 3-year-old company has scored a deal with Lotus Engineering, and EVO’s motors are being featured in a plug-in hybrid concept sports car — the Evora hybrid — expected to be unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show on Tuesday.

The Evora hybrid is expected to look like this regular Evora sports car, which came out in September.

The Evora 414E Hybrid concept car is a plug-in hybrid version of Lotus’ currently available Evora (pictured above), which represented Lotus’ first new vehicle since 1995 when itstarted rolling out in Europe in September. The hybrid concept includes two EVOdrive motors, each providing 204 horsepower and 295 pounds of torque per foot, as well as EVO’s electric generator technology to help run a 35kW range extender system.
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Crossing Diesels with Plug-In Hybrids: Good or Bad Idea?

Volvo V70_PHEV_dieselDiesels and hybrid-electric cars have often been posed as competitors racing to capture the green-automotive market. Diesels are more popular in Europe, while hybrids are more popular in the United States. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: diesels can get impressive fuel economy without complicated drivetrains (providing a cost advantage over hybrids today), while plug-in hybrids bundled with a renewable energy-powered grid can be even cleaner.

But now, it looks like these competitors are coming together. Volvo Car Corp. announced Friday that it plans to bring a diesel plug-in hybrid to the market by 2012. The news comes after Peugeot earlier this month unveiled a diesel PHEV minicar that it plans to bring to the market next year, and BMW also showed off a sporty diesel PHEV concept car at the Frankfurt auto show. While companies have been tinkering with the concept for some time, it looks like diesel PHEVs are finally starting to gain some traction.
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PHOTOS: The Best Electric & Hybrid Cars From the Frankfurt Motor Show

For a cross section of the electric and hybrid vehicles that automakers have either in the pipeline for production or on deck for conceptual development in the next few years, you can’t beat Frankfurt, Germany this week. From Hyundai’s first ever plug-in hybrid concept (a potential Chevy Volt challenger) to the Department of Energy-backed Model S sedan in the works from Tesla Motors, the Frankfurt Motor Show has brought us images of a future electric and hybrid auto industry like never before. Here are some of our favorites from the event.
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Have Verizon Data Plan, Will Travel With AD3700 Global Modem

verizon-ad3700The Verizon MiFi may be handling all my mobile data connections, but that’s because I’m not roaming globally. I’m stuck in North America with my MiFi and business travelers need more than that. That’s why Verizon (s vz) is releasing the ZTE AD3700 global modem, which works on both Verizon’s domestic EVDO network and also on HSPA networks abroad. The USB modem launches today for $80 with a rebate.
(via engadget)

Apple’s Marketing and Sales Teams May Need an Update

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, I like the new iPod shuffle. So much so that I ordered one (in black) the day they were announced.

I bought it online since shipping and engraving are free. I lose the instant gratification of the Apple Store, but I gain the personalization of engraving. (Though I admit it was challenging to come up with an engraving because there’s a small limit on letters.) Shortly after ordering, I got a confirmation email saying it would ship in three to five business days. So far, so good, now all I can do is wait. Read More about Apple’s Marketing and Sales Teams May Need an Update

Where In The World Is Innovation

This Innovation Heat Map crafted by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum maps innovation across the planet. Clearly Silicon Valley is in a class of its own and perhaps that is why others want to imitate its success. Paul Graham recently offered up a recipe to replicate Silicon Valley, but even with that I am not sure anyone can pull it off. Why? Because, there are so many intangibles that cannot be quantified and replicated outside of Silicon Valley.

Nowhere else on the planet you will find a grown man who is crazy enough to fund a web site that essentially shows cat videos and expects his investment to pay off big time. YouTube, anyone!? Nowhere but in Silicon Valley is it OK to fail. More importantly, nowhere on the planet can you actually find a place to think as “freely” as Silicon Valley. I speak from personal experience, and you might disagree. I think Silicon Valley is un-replicable.