V-Vehicle Update: Testing a Prototype, Still Hoping for Federal Funds

V-Vehicle, the auto startup backed by the venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins and energy baron T. Boone Pickens, has begun testing prototypes of the vehicle it aims to build in Louisiana’s Ouachita Parish. V-Vehicle’s director of Louisiana assembly operations, David Hitchcock, tells the local Monroe News Star today, “A lot of testing and validation conducted so far has been in a virtual environment, but we’ve moved on to the physical testing phase.”

This testing is a sign that the startup is moving along, yet the firm is “still awaiting word,” on a DOE loan request, according to Hitchcock in News Star today. V-Vehicle has requested $320 million in funding from a Department of Energy program, and it needs to raise $350 million in equity or loans by March 1 (or else request an extension) in order to trigger most of a $82 million incentive package on offer from local governments.
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CLOSED: Take Our Mobile Tech Survey — Win Some Cash

Here at jkOnTheRun, we have some of the smartest and most well informed readers around when it come to mobile devices. With this in mind, we wondered what would happen if we asked you your thoughts about tech products such as smartphones and web tablets.

So, working with our colleagues over at GigaOM Pro, we present a short survey asking about just that. We also think you would love to see the results, so if you take the survey, we’ll send you an executive summary of the report we’ll produce for GigaOM Pro, and we’ll also be posting some results on jkOnTheRun as well.  And if that doesn’t compel you, if you take the survey you might win one of two $50 Amazon gift certificates we’ll be giving away to those here who take the survey.

And  just so you know, these results are only going to be used for this survey and analysis for a report (which you’ll get the summary results for in PDF), and nothing else.

So head on over, take the survey.  It’ll only take a few minutes. You’ll also get some interesting analysis as well as maybe some free Amazon $.

UPDATE: The survey is now closed. Thanks to those who participated.

10 Signs Your Next Car Won’t Be Electric

A new generation of plug-in vehicles designed for mainstream U.S. consumers is slated to roll out over the next five years — giving car buyers more electric options than ever before. But while automakers are racing to develop models that could eventually see mass market adoption, car companies’ inaugural electric efforts are widely expected to make up only a small portion of the auto market. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently predicted that all cars will be electric by 2030, but most forecasters anticipate a slower rate of adoption for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Electric vehicles on the world’s roadways could number in the hundreds of thousands by 2015, as Pike Research put it last week, but “the full effects of this automotive revolution will take years to be realized in the mainstream market.” What are some of the factors that could keep prospective car buyers from going electric in the coming years? Here are 10 signs you probably won’t be first in line for a gen-1 EV. Read More about 10 Signs Your Next Car Won’t Be Electric

As Green Car Loan Funds Dwindle, What’s Plan B for Startups?

The flood of funding from the Department of Energy’s $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program — $8 billion for Tesla Motors, Nissan (s NSANY) and Ford (s F) in June — has slowed to a trickle in recent months, comprising just two awards totaling some $552 million, and the remaining $16 billion or so in low-interest loans slated to go out under the program’s current budget won’t be enough to cover the more than 90 projects that have reportedly requested funding. And as they wait on a final yea or nay from the DOE, many of the applicants are facing a potential cash crunch for their manufacturing plans.

Startups in particular may face pressure to come up with matching funds for conditional commitments from other investors. We’ve already cruised past the dates when applicants such as V-Vehicle and Bright Automotive said they expected final word on their loan requests (for $250 million and $450 million, respectively). So for applicants that don’t already have a realistic Plan B in their back pocket, now’s the time to develop one.
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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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V-Vehicle on the Hunt for Local Suppliers

v-vehicle-logoLouisiana offered up a hefty incentive package in order to bring the Kleiner Perkins and T. Boone Pickens-backed auto startup V-Vehicle Company to the state. And over the next few weeks, businesses in the state will be racing to secure some of the direct benefits of that move.
According to the latest report on the company from the local Monroe News-Star, V-Vehicle is now on the hunt for machine, service and auto component suppliers. It’s giving preference to Louisiana companies, which have until Nov. 23 to submit an application. Within a week of that deadline, V-Vehicle will make the first cut and invite a group of suppliers to interview. By then the startup expects to have word from the Department of Energy on its request for $250 million in low-interest loans.
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T. Boone’s V-Vehicle Expects Answer on DOE Loan Next Month

v-vehicle-logoOut of stealth mode and into the shadows — that’s the road down which auto startup V-Vehicle’s has traveled over the last few months. Since making the splashy announcement in June that it had raised more than $100 million from big-name investors T. Boone Pickens, John Doerr and Ray Lane, and secured a hefty commitment from the state of Louisiana for its high-MPG model, V-Vehicle has kept relatively mum on its progress.

Today Louisiana’s Monroe News Star, which has kept close tabs on V-Vehicle since its public debut this summer, has some updates on the startup (articles appear here, here and here). The key takeaway is this: Much of V-Vehicle’s plans hang in the balance as it awaits word on critical government funding (expected next month), but it is moving ahead with some preliminary work on its factory site in Monroe, and has generated massive interest as a potential employer for the region. Read More about T. Boone’s V-Vehicle Expects Answer on DOE Loan Next Month

A Tale of Three e-Book Readers

The e-book space has never been hotter with a new electronic reader seemingly announced every day. Amazon (s amzn) certainly has made the e-book game popular and everybody seems to be interested in it currently. I have been reading e-books since the early PDA days, and it is still common to see me sitting somewhere with a gadget in my hand, engrossed in the e-book of the day.
I read e-books on many different gadgets, from phones to UMPCs, and folks often ask me what gadget I prefer for reading. That is another one of those questions for which there is no easy answer, as there are many factors that enter into the equation. The size of the gadget is the most important, as it usually determines what particular one I am likely to have with me when an opportunity to read presents itself. The size also determines the quality of the reading experience, as screen size equates to page size in the e-book world.
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AT&T Taps BAF for Phase 1 of $350M Natural Gas Vehicle Deal

att_header_logoAT&T’s (s T) plans to make one of the largest U.S. purchases to date of compressed natural gas vehicles made natural gas backer T. Boone Pickens giddy enough to tweet about the announcement when it came out earlier this year. But an important detail was left open: Who would convert 8,000 vehicles for what AT&T expects to be a five-year $350 million project? Today AT&T announced that Dallas-based BAF Technologies has won part of the job — converting 600 Ford (s F) E-Series vans to run on CNG by the end of the year.

This comes as part of AT&T’s larger plan to spend $565 million deploying more than 15,000 alt-fuel vehicles, and retire an estimated 7,100 gasoline-powered vehicles from its fleet over the next decade. For the fleet’s CNG vehicles, which, according to the trade group Natural Gas Vehicles for America, produce only about 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than a standard gas vehicle (an improvement that’s not much better than corn-based ethanol, and modest enough for venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to call natural gas vehicles a “dead end“), one of the main challenges has to do with infrastructure — natural gas fueling stations in the U.S. number in the low thousands, compared with more than 200,000 gas stations.

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Reactions to the Energy Bill: Obama, Cleantech Biz, Environmentalists

The energy bill passed the House on Friday, but the proposed cap and trade system and new incentives for renewable energy are still a long way from going into law as the Senate needs to pass its own version. As we transition to the next round of negotiations and lobbying, stakeholders from the White House to industry trade groups, environmental organizations and cleantech companies have been weighing in on the version that won approval in the House — and on where they’d like to see it go from here.

Since Friday’s vote, President Obama has continued his support for the legislation, as well as his efforts to win over lawmakers. (He phoned wavering legislators last week to help the bill clear the House.) This weekend during his radio address and media interviews, Obama called for senators to “come together” around the legislation, which he said “will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.” In an interview with a group of reporters, Obama also said the bill would provide “clarity and certainty” and would “end up being much less costly, much more efficient; technology is going to move much more rapidly than people anticipate.”

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