Here come the natural gas trucks

Spurred by recent support from the U.S. government and rock-bottom natural gas prices, the big auto makers appear to be getting on board with natural gas-powered vehicles.

A push for cheaper, safer natural gas cars

President Obama wants more natural gas development, and with it he wants to see more natural gas powered cars on American streets. He announced Thursday a $30 million R&D fund to develop technologies that will make natural gas cars cheaper and safer to drive and refuel.

VIDEO: T. Boone Pickens on the New Natural Gas Vehicle Act

Close to three years after T. Boone Pickens launched his Picken’s Plan, the 82-year-old has just reached a major milestone. On Wednesday, a group of Congressmen introduced into the House the NAT GAS Act, which would give tax credits to natural gas vehicle makers and buyers.

FuelMaker Assets Finally Find a Buyer, Natural Gas Cars Still Stalled

phillbanktruptUpdated: FuelMaker, the beleaguered firm that made natural gas vehicle fueling stations for home users dubbed “Phill,” has finally found a buyer — well, its assets have. American Honda, the U.S. division of Honda (s HMC), which partly owned the decade-old Toronto-based company, has been trying to sell the firm for months — expending “considerable time and effort,” as American Honda put it recently in their statement. Meanwhile FuelMaker ceased operations and started bankruptcy proceedings in April. Well, this morning American Honda says a subsidiary of the automotive holding company Fuel Systems Solutions (s FSYS) has bought up the assets and IP of FuelMaker for $7 million an undisclosed sum (it’s got to be very low — it was previously selling for $17 million).

Despite FuelMaker’s best efforts, the natural gas vehicle distribution businesses just failed to take off. The device compresses natural gas from home gas lines, takes about four hours to fill an empty tank after a 50-mile drive (yawn), and costs between $5,500 and $6,000 (sticker shock). But the biggest barrier is clearly that natural gas vehicles are few and far between — Honda’s Civic GX is about the only consumer natural gas car around and can only be bought for $24,590 in select locations in California and New York. There’s more natural gas cars in city and enterprise fleets (AT&T plans to purchase 8,000 of ’em), but still the market is nascent.
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Phill Maker Goes Bankrupt, Bad Sign for Natural Gas Vehicles

phillbanktruptIf T. Boone Pickens had it his way, not only would commercial trucks and enterprise fleets be run on natural gas, but potentially our consumer cars would, too — he’s been pushing natural gas powered vehicles as a solution to kicking the U.S.’s oil addiction for almost a year. So it’s too bad that a company of which Boone is a director and the largest shareholder, Clean Energy Fuels, could have potentially rescued a Toronto-based firm that makes natural gas vehicle fueling stations for the home user: FuelMaker. Well, Honda actually owns FuelMaker, so the blame for not investing more in this technology can be squarely placed on the American division of the Japanese car maker (as some outraged natural gas vehicle fans are doing).
Regardless, as of April 2, FuelMaker, which makes “Phill,” the residential natural gas vehicle fueller, says it has ceased operations and gone bankrupt (hat tip Autoblog Green and The Auto Channel). If you call the company’s mainline answering machine you can hear a short explanation of the bankruptcy proceedings. The Phill just never seemed to take off — FuelMaker was founded in 1989 and started selling Phill 6 years ago. The fueller compresses natural gas from home gas lines, takes about four hours to fill an empty tank after a 50-mile drive, and costs between $5,500 and $6,000.
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USB charger handles all your phones at once

We joke often about MobileTechRoundup host Matt Miller’s staggering phone collection.  Matt has more phones than probably anyone you’ll ever see and as he travels a lot it’s always a fun process to try and guess how many phones he’ll take with him.

usb-charger

A new USB charger from USBfever may be just what Matt needs with its 5 ports that can let him charge 5 phones at the same time from a single plug.  The charger has 4 standard USB ports and one mini-USB and will charge any device that charges via USB.  $26.

(via engadget)

Off-Topic: Why Citibank Should Vanish

citilogoAfter a long day, I returned home to find a mound of junk mail clogging my mailbox. Of note was a letter from Citibank informing me that it was jacking up the interest charged on my credit card, adding more fees for foreign transactions and other such issues that might result from an economic meltdown. Not much of this impacted me personally, but something bothered me about this letter dubbed a “notice of change in terms and right to opt out.” Read More about Off-Topic: Why Citibank Should Vanish

YouTube’s Copyrighted Past Still a Part of Its Lofty Future

The Google Blog is running an op-ed today by YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, who dreams of a future where uploading an online video is as simple as making a phone call, and anyone can watch YouTube from any screen, from TVs in their living rooms to phones in their pockets.

But despite all the progress YouTube has made as a place for personal and original content rather than ripped-off TV clips, today’s most-viewed list tells a different story than Hurley’s post. Even after a barrage of copyright claims by NBC Universal, clips of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression from Saturday Night Live persist on the site. Like, really persist.

Check out today’s YouTube most-viewed list. Three days after the sketch aired, nine of the top 16 are Fey/Palin videos, each with over 100,000 views. And most of those are from short bits that aired as an aside on Fox News. (The full sketch was 5-and-a-half minutes.)

So, these videos are ripped from TV, overlaid with talk show host banter, and drastically shortened. But NBC doesn’t have an official YouTube channel anymore. At time of writing, the top-most-viewed video of today was one of the Fox News clips, with 1,128,205 views. NBC’s official (and embeddable version) had 2,825,096. Clearly, YouTube is where people are going to find this skit, even if it’s barely available. When Chad Hurley talks about ease of uploads I’m not sure this is what he has in mind.

In the future, everyone will be able to upload and watch video. And people will still want to see Tina Fey.