Is Twitter Replacing the RSS Reader?

rssLast Friday, I was attending Portland’s weekly Beer and Blog event, and I stumbled across what later turned out to be an interesting trend. I had two separate, unrelated conversations about an hour apart with people working in the technology industry who once used RSS readers but had mostly abandoned them in favor of using Twitter to find news and interesting blog posts. I talked to a couple of other friends and posted the question on Twitter, which confirmed that many people are using Twitter as an RSS reader replacement. Read More about Is Twitter Replacing the RSS Reader?

GM, Segway Team Up On Tiny Electric Vehicle

We know General Motors (s GM) is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, but building a new car that looks like a souped-up wheelchair may not be the best way to boost sales. The struggling automaker said today that it’s teamed up with Segway to work on a new two-wheeled, low-speed electric vehicle, called Project PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.
segway_puma
Remember Segway? That’s the company that, despite a whole lot of hype, completely failed to make its original electric personal transporter into the game-changer it was touted to be. And there are already a number of low-speed vehicles (LSVs) on the market, so adding one more to the mix doesn’t seem to be the best idea, especially while many startups and automakers, including GM, are pushing toward highway-speed electric cars.
The companies haven’t said how much they’re investing in the project, or how much the PUMA will cost, but Segway said on its web site that “it’s probably less than most current small car prices.” That could make it at least cost-competitive with current LSVs — the Zenn from Zenn Motor sells for about $13,600.
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Ecotality, Nissan to Hook Up Arizona Car Charging Network

Ecotality, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that makes fast electric vehicle chargers and energy storage, is moving up in the world. The firm has lined up a big-name partner, saying today that it will work with Nissan North America (s NSANY) to set up an electric vehicle charging network in Arizona’s Pima County, a deal that would include the state’s second-largest city, Tuscon.

Ecotality says it already has more than 5,100 charging stations installed around the country for vehicles including forklifts in warehouses and ground support vehicles at airports, but this looks like one of the company’s first deals for a publicly accessible charging network. And it comes at time when competition for car-charging infrastructure, as well as interest in electric vehicles, seems to be heating up.

The company didn’t release many details on the project, but it said Nissan has committed to making available an unspecified number of electric vehicles for public and private fleets in 2010, when Nissan’s first mass-produced electric vehicle is expected to roll off the assembly line. Ecotality will build and manage the charging stations and has launched what it calls its EV Micro-Climate program, which includes installing charging infrastructure at homes, stores, and public locations.
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Fisher Coachworks Raises Cash for Lightweight Hybrid Buses

It’s not just cars that are getting a cleantech makeover in Michigan; buses are getting a shot at cleaning up, too. Troy, Mich.-based Fisher Coachworks has raised $3.2 million for its new lightweight plug-in hybrid buses, according to a regulatory filing found by peHub.

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Hybrid buses are becoming a common sight in bus fleets around the world, but Fisher is developing a bus using lightweight stainless steel that it says is half the weight and gets at least twice the fuel efficiency of current hybrid models. The investors in the company were not disclosed, and the regulatory filing says the cash is part of a larger round of funding, expected to pull in a total of $4.25 million for Fisher.

That cash could come in handy, as the company is planning to invest $7 million to set up a factory in Livonia, Mich., to produce the new buses, creating 539 new jobs.

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Dong Energy Puts Some Cash into Battery Technology

Dong Energy of Denmark unveiled a deal this week to invest in Dutch battery management system developer Lithium Balance. The company didn’t reveal how much it was investing, or how big of a stake it’s getting in Lithium Balance, only that it joined a group of unnamed investors. The new funds will allow the battery technology company to expand its operations, with sales forecast to reach into the millions in the coming year.

Lithium Balance makes battery management systems that can control the charge and discharge of battery packs, as well as the temperature. Such a management system could come in handy in cold weather, with the company touting that its system can heat the lithium-ion cells automatically to maintain high performance in the cold.

The “balance” part of the company’s name is in reference to its management system’s cell balancing, in which each cell is controlled independently, a configuration it claims can improve the life of the batteries.
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Signals From the Near Future: The Mobile Guru Panel

GigaOM Mobilize conference -- futurists panel

GigaOM Mobilize conference -- futurists panel

Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting: Let’s talk about the user experience. What does it mean to you in a product that gives you that zen moment for user experience?

John SanGiovanni, Zumobi: We look at the user experience as built on the cognitive theories of flow. User experience means graphic design and usability testing. But design with a capital D is an elegant solution to a hard problem on the front end. So when building a usability experience team, rather than a hiring a UI team,  creata a team that thinks about putting a smile on the user’s face at the end of the day.

Chetan: Search is the starting point of navigation on the PC. How is it going to be on a mobile? Read More about Signals From the Near Future: The Mobile Guru Panel