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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Pickens Meet Phill: Clean Energy Fuels Buys Natural Gas Vehicle Device Maker

In case you were wondering how T. Boone Pickens was going to break the home distribution bottleneck in his plan to get the U.S. to power its vehicles with natural gas, here’s one possible answer: Natural gas vehicle distribution company Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE), of which Pickens is a founder, said this morning that it plans to acquire FuelMaker from American Honda Corp. and the FuelMaker Trust for $17 million in cash. Founded in 1989 and based in Toronto, FuelMaker makes natural gas refueling appliances for industrial fleets, as well as a home consumer product called the Phill (seriously, it’s called the Phill).

The Phill, which was unveiled by Honda and FuelMaker in 2002, compresses natural gas from home gas lines, takes about four hours to fill an empty tank after a 50-mile drive, uses 800 watts, and weighs about 100 lbs. The biggest barrier to consumers buying the Phill is its price tag — we called the customer service line and the representative said we could get the Phill for between $5,500 and $6,000, including installation ($1,500) and shipping ($200). The representative said we were also eligible for a tax rebate of $1,000, or 30 percent of the cost.

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Private Equity continues to pour into India

Earlier this morning, Cisco Systems and 3i along with Oman Investment Fund announced a $125 million investment in Nimbus, a media company based in Bombay. And with this big investment, thus began another crazy year of private equity investments in India.
The PE investments in India topped out at $7.46 billion in 2006 and are estimated to touch $10 billion in 2007. If giants like 3i and Cisco keep walking around with open checkbooks like they currently are, then it won’t take long. Cisco, as you might remember had said that it would invest $1 billion in India, of which $100 million was slotted for start-up investments.
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Seagate announces 8 GB 1 inch drive

Seagate has announced a number of new hard drives and the one that should have the greatest impact for mobile devices is the ST1. This drive is a one inch drive that has a storage capacity of 8 GB, making it a great storage solution for handheld devices.

"The ST1 Series – the first 8GB 1-inch hard drive designed for use in handheld and CompactFlash applications. It will let users store the industry’s largest libraries of music (200 hours – or 4,000 songs), video and digital photos for this class of product. Seagate’s unique RunOn Technology improves performance while in a high-vibration environment, such as jogging. The ST1 Series supports low-power modes, and the drive’s time-to-ready is a mere 1.2 seconds."