GM, ABB Seek Chevy Volt Battery Afterlife in Grid

The green car battery recycling bandwagon just got a bit more crowded. General Motors and Swiss grid giant ABB announced that the two companies will jointly research ways to reuse old batteries from GM’s Chevy Volt hybrid for storing power on the grid.

What I Know for Sure in Business

Small business owners are still optimistic and confident, both in themselves and in their businesses, and if you were to ask any of them, they would each have unique lessons to share, things they know for sure. Here are some things that I know for sure:

Daimler, BYD Team Up to Develop Electric Cars in China

BYD, the China-based battery giant turned electric car developer, has just struck a deal with Germany’s Daimler (s DAI) to form a 50-50 joint venture focused on researching and developing an electric vehicle for the Chinese market, and launching it “as soon as possible.”

Ustream Eyes Asia With Major Funding Round

Ustream has nabbed a major strategic investment by Japan’s Softbank that could be worth $75 million over the next 18 months. With the new funding, Ustream will look to expand in Japan, China, Korea, and India, opening offices and hiring employees to tap dramatic mobile phone usage in those countries.

Japanese mobile phone and Internet operator Softbank made an initial investment of $20 million in Ustream, with the option to acquire additional shares by July 2011 that could bring its total investment in the live and mobile streaming startup to $75 million. With its initial investment, Softbank currently owns 13.7 percent of Ustream, valuing the company at around $150 million. If Softbank chooses to exercise its warrants, the additional $55 million investment would make it the company’s top shareholder.

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L.A.’s New Take On “Car Culture”: Green Car Launchpad

The meaning of Southern California “car culture” may be poised for a makeover, as the regions around Los Angeles, long notorious for smog, traffic congestion and endless freeways race to take on a greener profile. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this week at the LA Auto Show that he’s shooting to have infrastructure ready for electric vehicles in the city by next fall, upgrading or installing 500 charging stations and setting aside up to $10 million to help pay for home charger installations for the first 5,000 residential customers, as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Villaraigosa’s plan comes as part of a larger effort to attract cleantech investment and manufacturers of batteries and charging stations to the area. Countless regions around the country are engaging in similar efforts, assembling juicy incentive packages for companies like A123Systems (s AONE), V-Vehicle and Tesla Motors. But Southern California is building momentum toward a significant role in the growing EV ecosystem: the launchpad, where some of the earliest plug-in vehicle models will roll out to customers, and where many of EV-related challenges for the power grid will be figured out.
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Explosion!: Lithium Battery Safety Still A Problem

explosionflickrAs recently as August, the largest lithium battery recycler in North America — Toxco — snagged a $9.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to build out battery recycling capacity in Ohio and pledged to provide “end of life management” for advanced vehicle batteries “in a safe and environmentally sound manner.” But this weekend multiple explosions and a major fire at the company’s Trail, British Columbia recycling facility can be fairly called bad advertising for that business.
The event remains under investigation, but Toxco believes it was caused by an internal short in one of the batteries in storage at the Trail facility, which handled batteries ranging from smaller cell phone batteries up to some weighing 1.4kg (about 3 lbs.), Canada’s Globe and Mail reports. This adds fresh fuel to smoldering fears about the safety of lithium-ion batteries (you might recall the reports and photos of laptop fires caused by overheated lithium batteries in years past) for use in the upcoming generation of plug-in vehicles, as well as for recycling and disposal of the devices.
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Renault Boosts Electric Car Battery Plans as French Government Ponies Up

It’s no secret that the French government wants to get homegrown electric cars zipping along the country’s roads — or that the Renault-Nissan Alliance wants to dominate the market for those cars not only in France, but also worldwide. The latest move in those two efforts comes today with the announcement that Renault and Nissan are forming a new joint venture with French government agencies to develop, build and recycle batteries for electric cars.
The state-backed French Strategic Investment Fund will contribute €125 million ($185 million) to the project, which is meant to start cranking out batteries in 2012 at a Renault plant in Flins, with production capacity targeted at 100,000 batteries per year. While the joint venture’s batteries will be “available for sale to any manufacturer,” Renault says it plans to use them mostly for an upcoming model derived from its Zoe Ze concept vehicle — a car that the company plans to launch in mid-2012 and hopes will be the biggest seller in its family of electric vehicles. Also this morning, Renault announced that it has chosen the Flins plant to produce that upcoming city car, and it’s aiming for it to make up two-thirds of its EV sales in Europe.
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PHOTOS: Renault’s New Electric Cars, Meet Twizy, Zoe, & Fluence

Meet the Renault EVs, a family of electric concept cars unveiled by the French automaker today at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The four models, which include the Twizy city car, Zoe, Fluence sedan and the latest iteration of the Kangoo “people carrier,” combined with Nissan’s upcoming LEAF sedan, amount to the starting lineup in the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s quest for domination of the global electric vehicle market.
Renault has designed the Fluence five-seater (the least cutesy of the four models shown in Frankfurt today and pictured after the jump) to be compatible with electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place’s “Quickdrop” battery swap system. Today the two companies announced plans to roll out at least 100,000 of the cars in Denmark and Israel by 2016, with buyers having the option to subscribe to Better Place’s services when sales begin in the first half of 2011.
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Daily Sprout

Cash for Clunkers Tally: Cash for clunkers may not be the most cost-effective emission reducer, but trade-ins under the program have resulted in an average fuel economy gain of 9.6 MPG, which translates to an estimated $1,000 in savings at the gas pump and 660,000 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions per year. — Climate Progress
Astroturfing for Coal: A firm contracted by a coal industry group has been caught “astroturfing” — sending forged letters to members of Congress that were presented as grassroots political communications. — Grist
Renault-Nissan, Down Under: The Renault-Nissan Alliance and the State Government of Victoria in Australia have agreed to identify potential areas of co-operation in promoting the use of zero emission vehicles, such as Nissan’s (s NSANY) new electric LEAF, in the state. — Green Car Congress
All Techs on Deck: The Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, has released an analysis showing that the electricity sector could reduce annual CO2 emissions in 2030 by 41 percent below 2005 levels, but that it will require sustained R&D, demos and aggressive deployment of technologies including carbon capture and storage, renewable and nuclear generation, and significant efficiency improvements. — Press Release
BYD’s Battery Plays = Boon for Buffett: Warren Buffett’s investment in China-based BYD Auto has reportedly raked in some $1 billion for his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. What’s driving the rapid rise in BYD’s value? “Investments in hybrid automobiles like the plug-in F3DM and, even more importantly, high-tech lithium iron phosphate batteries.” — AutoblogGreen

Renault-Nissan Eyes Fleet Market for Electric Cars, Strikes Two New Deals

It appears 2009 is shaping up to be the year of the fleet: The Renault-Nissan Alliance (s NSANY), which has set a goal of leading the global electric vehicle market, said today that it has struck two new deals to accelerate deployment of upcoming plug-in vehicles in corporate fleets. BNP subsidiary Arval has agreed to develop leasing plans specifically for electric cars in an effort to speed their adoption, and fleet giant ALD Automotive has signed on to support introduction of Renault’s electric cars into European corporate fleets from 2011 onward.

Renault-Nissan’s move is just the latest in a slew of deals for the alliance as it works to build a market and infrastructure for its upcoming electric vehicles. But it also represents the latest fleet play — one of the biggest for plug-in vehicles, given the reach of the companies involved (Arval and ALD’s fleets include a total of more than 1.4 million vehicles internationally) at a time when the business of fleet supply and management is attracting innovators from across the green transportation sector. As consumer vehicle sales slump and automakers look to test out their inaugural electric models in controlled settings, fleets offer a good match. Read More about Renault-Nissan Eyes Fleet Market for Electric Cars, Strikes Two New Deals