The Party Line — Phone Buzz of the Day

Here are some of today’s phone conversations I enjoyed reading or viewing on the web, along with some brief thoughts:

iphone-3gVerizon Hanging up on iPhone? (Computerworld) — That’s the sentiment now that Google and Verizon are buddy-buddy after this week’s announcement. The thought is that it simply doesn’t make sense to make a CMDA iPhone for Verizon when they’re moving towards the same LTE network platform as AT&T. I tend to agree with IDC on this one, but not just for the technology reason. I’m thinking that Verizon will push the coverage and quality of their network along with the more open nature of Android. Essentially, they’ll say “iPhone owners, the phone is only as good as its network, so when you’re ready for a comparable phone that doesn’t drop calls or choke on 3G usage, let us know.”

Nokia N900N900 gets a sneak peak at Maemo Summit (UMPC Portal) — Steve Paine spent an hour with Nokia’s newest future handset and I always like a hands-on opinion when I can find one for a device. I’ve mentioned this smartphone quite a bit of late, but that’s because Nokia’s smartphone future might depend on it and the operating system.

Google makes it easier to find things (Google Mobile) — Owners of webOS, Android or Apple handsets can find new search features in Google today. At the top right of your search results, you’ll see an Options link. This is similar to the one found on the full web, although slightly more limited due to space. With one tap, you can filter mobile search results by time of publication, images, forums or reviews. Every time I turn around, Google makes the mobile experience more like the desktop experience. That consistency — regardless of device — continues to be one of their strengths.

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Battery Swapping & Pay-Per-Mile to Speed Adoption of Electric Cars, Says Study

What happens when you take the cost of the battery — generally the most expensive part of an electric car — out of the sticker price for electric vehicles? That’s the question explored in a new study released this morning from UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Economist Thomas Becker has modeled “adoption rates of electric vehicles with pay-per-mile service contracts” and switchable batteries — basically the Better Place model.

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But just as the Better Place survey we wrote about earlier this morning suggests a significant portion of drivers seem to think there are more electric vehicle options actually available today than there really are, it seems too early in the game to say electric vehicles will become competitive with conventional cars within the next few years based on mass deployment of Better Place’s swapping and mileage plans. Read More about Battery Swapping & Pay-Per-Mile to Speed Adoption of Electric Cars, Says Study

VMware Virtualization Package Has Lots to Offer, But Will It Sell?

vmware1VMware has dubbed the major refresh of its server virtualization product line, vSphere, the “mainframe of the 21st century.” While I’m impressed by the product announcement, with which VMware will further expand its already considerable lead over Microsoft and Citrix, I suspect the company will face formidable challenges in transitioning its own sales force (and particularly its channel partners) toward a multidisciplinary, solutions-led sale. Read More about VMware Virtualization Package Has Lots to Offer, But Will It Sell?

Shai Agassi: First Battery Swap Station Lands In Japan, But Skeptics Remain

UPDATED: As automakers hash out electric vehicle charging standards, startups like Coulomb Technologies and Better Place are starting to install the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in forward-thinking cities. But when it comes to something a little more, well, not standard, like Better Place’s planned battery swap stations, the rollout of the first infrastructure takes more time and is more complicated. This morning, at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi, said that the startup has installed its first battery swap station in Japan (Yokohama, according to the company), and Agassi gave a sneak peek at details of what the swap station would look like.
Agassi, who said the swap stations will look a lot like a car wash, showed off a schematic of how the battery will be swapped out from underneath the vehicle. There will be a swappable “pancake style” battery pack located underneath the vehicle between the axles, away from crash zones and designed to not interfere with passenger accommodations or storage volumes, according to Agassi’s slide. Keeping the battery underneath also keeps the vehicle’s center of mass lower than comparable EVs, and Better Place has developed a “patented latching mechanism” to swap out the battery pack. Better Place is working with A123Systems on a custom flat lithium-ion battery for the prototype, Better Place spokesperson Joe Paluska confirmed with us, and each swap station will cost on the order of $500,000.
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Cleantech Startups Take the Stage at TED

credit: TED / James Duncan DavidsonIn addition to the new Aptera specs and the debut of the new Mission One electric motorcycle, the 2009 TED Conference has had plenty of cleantech entrepreneurs up on stage this week.

Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, spoke yesterday, throwing out the audacious claim that there could be 100 million electric cars on the road by 2016, up from 100,000 in 1011. While Earth2Tech readers may be familiar with his schtick, it produced one of the biggest standing ovations of the conference so far.

Agassi compared using oil as energy to the immoral use of slave labor, and urged a dismissal of “little 20-percent growth” targets in favor of ambition. He also rejected the idea that these changes can only happen in the distant future, predicting that oil costs will go right back up again as soon as our economy recovers.

When solving big questions, the two important numbers are zero — zero oil — and infinity — scaling this to infinity. Not little 20 percent growth…If we don’t change this, we’ll lose our economy right after we lose our morality.

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Hawaii Says Aloha to Better Place

betterplacehawaii2On the heels of announcing its first U.S. electric-vehicle charging network planned for California’s Bay Area, Better Place says this afternoon that Hawaii has signed on for the second U.S. network. The governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and Better Place CEO Shai Agassi plan to make the announcement this afternoon (more on this after the event) about the partnership that has been rumored for months.

The Bay Area might have managed to eke out news of the first network, but it actually makes a lot of sense for Hawaii to turn to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Hawaii has some of the highest gas prices in the U.S. and has been aggressively courting ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The state has its Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), which is aiming to have 70 percent of the states electricity from renewable sources.
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Michigan Governor Looking for A Better Detroit?

Could Detroit be the first region in the U.S. to sign on with Shai Agassi’s electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place? Michigan’s governor Jennifer Granholm is certainly giving appearances that she’s looking into the idea of how the electric charging and battery swap stations would work in Michigan. Electrifying Detroit, if not Michigan as a whole, could be an interesting option, considering the tumultuous times and the questions over the auto bailout.
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This weekend Granholm travelled to Israel and met with Agassi and took a well-photographed ride in one of Better Place’s electric vehicles. Granholm blogged about the trip as well, and of the meeting with Agassi said:

We want to reduce our state’s and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and the advanced battery has the potential to do just that. We [She and Shai] talked about future partnerships that might be viable for Michigan, and in Michigan, we know that new energy means new jobs.

Read More about Michigan Governor Looking for A Better Detroit?

Better Place Goes Down Under to Electrify Australia

Better Place announced this afternoon that it is heading Down Under to deploy its electric car infrastructure in Australia. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup is working with Australian utility AGL Energy to build an electric car charging grid powered by renewable energy. Macquarie Capital Group will finance the AUD$1 billion ($671 million) undertaking.

19 Electric Car Players Pitch San Francisco

The office of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said today that it has received 19 responses to its request for information to electrify the city’s fleet. The responders include electric car players, like Better Place and ZAP, huge consultancies, like Booz Allen Hamilton, and a number of unknowns.

5 Startups Putting Wireless To Work for Energy

GigaOM readers are well-versed in both the wireless broadband networks that carriers are building and the Wi-Fi gear that we use in our homes, but what about the wireless technology that is starting to manage energy for the power grid as well as energy use within our homes? Sensor technology and wireless networks can provide disruptive innovations and increased transparency for the energy industry, enabling utilities to make the grid smarter and help consumers slash energy use.

Here’s our pick of five startups that are using wireless in innovative ways to change the energy landscape. Read More about 5 Startups Putting Wireless To Work for Energy