cleantech insights

Ford’s ‘Power of Choice’ Tour Stops in San Francisco – Is Detroit Leading Again?


I sold my car when I moved to San Francisco. I have my Zipcar membership, and as a sustainability nut am quite content riding public transportation in the city. But I know that, eventually, my dream job as a soccer dad will require that I once again own my own wheels.

Though Ford was not among the American auto makers to receive a bailout from the federal government during the height of the financial crisis, the company did find itself saddled with some of the negative stigma assigned en masse to American auto companies who have for some time been seen as latecomers to the cleantech table. For many American drivers in my generation, ‘buying American’ has seemed more of a patriotic decision – not one based on quality. I assumed I’d end up buying a Prius. After attending the San Francisco stop of Ford’s ‘Power of Choice’ tour yesterday, however, the company may have found its way back onto my short list.

Hosted by Dan Kapp, Director of Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering at Ford, the session was attended by Ford dealerships, representatives of the City of San Francisco, and interested members of the media.

Ford certainly seems to …


Finding (EV) Religion in Israel: 4 Reasons to Believe in Better Place

Greg Neichin

Like many American Jews visiting Israel, I found religion today.   It was not religion of the spiritual kind however, it was religion of the electric variety.  Today, I stand amongst the converted.   Converted to Better Place’s view of the world and the potential for the company to be a transformative force in the electric vehicle market.

I am a most unlikely convert.  I don’t own a car, let alone an electric one, and I’m quite content to not own one.  From a policy perspective, I would prefer to see governments focus on subsidizing better forms of public transportation before promoting more personal vehicle ownership.  More pointedly, I’ve been known to utter skeptical thoughts out loud in front of journalists about the electric vehicle market.  Apparently, last month I told a group of reporters that “electric vehicles are a bet that could turn out to be wrong”.  The point that I was attempting to make was that I believe some of the adoption forecasts in the market were too aggressive.  That nuance doesn’t make for a good headline.

Assuming that electric vehicles are indeed a bet though, there is no one with more chips on the table than …

Storage: Week in Review

Alon Gavrielov

Electrovaya, based out of Canada, announced a couple of projects and partnerships this week involving its lithium-ion clean battery technology.  That and a bit more below:

M&A/ Partnerships/Investments:

Bosch, joined by BASF and ThyssenKrupp System Engineering is planning to build a pilot production line for lithium-ion batteries in Germany.

Electrovaya has signed an agreement with Manitoba Hydro and the University of Manitoba to develop and test a battery system that uses old lithium ion batteries from electric cars for renewable energy sources.



Electrovaya has signed a contract to provide a lithium ion battery energy storage system of approximately 1.2MWh for demonstration purposes as part of a project involving several partners (and supported by the Canadian government) investigating storage applications for renewable energy generation.

NEC is testing out a home storage system within a recently built “Smart House” at the Institute of Industrial Science of Tokyo University.

Storage: Week in Review

Alon Gavrielov

Two big partnerships are in the news this week: first, ABB & GM working on developing technology that uses Chevy Volt batteries for grid storage.  In addition, Ener1 and Wanxiang Electric Vehicle Company are forming a joint venture to manufacture lithium-ion storage devices and supply them to the Chinese market.  For more details, continue reading below:

M&A/ Partnerships/Investments:

GM and ABB demonstrated an energy storage system that combines electric vehicle battery technology from the Chevy Volt and grid-tied electric power inverter.  The companies are partnering to create a prototype which they say can be used either for large-scale grid storage or backup power for consumers

Ener1 will be partnering with Wanxiang Electric Vehicle Company in a joint venture to manufacture lithium-ion storage energy systems for the Chinese market.  Products will include both grid-storage and electric vehicle storage systems.

The University of Illinois has entered into a licensing agreement with Xerion Advanced Battery to bring the University’s StructurePore battery-charging technology to market.



Researchers developed a graphene gel that could yield ultrafast charging of batteries.,graphene-gel-could-yield-ultrafast-batteries.aspx

GEVCo – enabling the introduction of a bespoke 2nd generation EV

Stephen Marcus

A famous African proverb says: “alone we can go faster, but together we can go further”. To me, this highlights the power of collaboration, as well as the drawbacks when mishandled. With our menu of collaborative choices only becoming more unbounded in a hyper-connected world, harnessing its transformative power is now a much larger area of opportunity for businesses and individuals.

This backdrop leads me nicely onto talking about Global Electric Vehicle Company (GEVCO), a UK-based electric vehicle company which is harnessing this exact power. “GEVCO is creating a collaborative structure which will enable a selective group of international automotive partners to collectively invest in the design of a ‘white-labelled’ electric vehicle”, according to company CEO Steve Woolley. “In return, the partners will receive direct access to the white label output of the final EV to manufacture and assemble the vehicles under their own brand with exclusivity for their market”, he added.

GEVO is planning to create two EV platforms both of which have multiple applications designed to compete in specific markets with IC cars in terms of quality, cost, design and safety. The first, the i-Mav, is a compact 4-seater EV intended primarily for urban use and targeted …

2Q2011 Smart Transportation in Review – Thinking outside of the Vehicle

Stephen Marcus

So another quarter has ended providing us all with a natural breaking point to review our lives, businesses, purposes, and perhaps most importantly for me, the investment trends in smart transportation companies.

On the VC front 2Q2011, by numbers alone, marked a very ordinary/mildly weak quarter for the sector. Essentially, a couple of big later stage investments in low carbon vehicle companies – $100 million into Fisker Automotive and $30 million into Proterra – accounted for the majority of the investment total.

However, bubbling beneath these two marquee transactions underlies what I believe to be a more important strategic shift in the innovation activity happening in transportation that will drastically reshape the way we move people and goods.

To give you some colour on this, here are some of the less publicised recipients of VC funding from 2Q2011:

  • Streetline, a provider of smart parking solutions through wireless sensors in parking spots managed through their wireless mesh network, received $15 million in funding from Fontinalis Partners (the fund started by Ford Chairman, Bill Ford), and others.
  • GreenRoad Technologies, a provider of a driver-centric solution to optimize driver behaviour from a safety, fuel efficiency, and vehicle stress perspective, received funding

Shiply – don’t come back empty handed

Stephen Marcus

If you’re like me and spend many a late night perusing eBay in search for the latest gadget that I don’t need but will endeavour to find a use for, you may understand me when I say that often, the only thing standing in between me and that “BUY IT NOW” button is the prospect of high or uncertain shipping costs.

UK-based Shiply obviously felt my pain and came up with the idea of creating an online goods delivery market place where people list items thy need delivered and then receive bids from transport companies to carry out the work. The cleantech twist? The platform allows transporters to monetize journeys that they may be travelling anyway with spare capacity, particularly return journeys after single trip drop offs.

For a detailed profile of Shiply as well as a host of other leading innovating cleantech companies, see Cleantech Group’s new i3 platform (for subscribers only).

The user experience process works as follows. The “deliverees” (as I like to call them) first post up their item to be delivered including the description, weight, dimensions, pick up and drop off locations. If the item is listed on eBay, the information can be automatically ported …

Torqeedo – an electric outboard as good as the sum of uber-efficient parts

Stephen Marcus

While the world is busy piecing together a new generation of electric vehicles, Germany-based Torqeedo spotted a unique opportunity to engage the marine industry in making the same strategic shift.

Since 2005, at which time the market was completely unaddressed, Torqeedo has pioneered the development of electric outboard motors with a real focus on high performance and design. This element of the company really shines through when looking at its product range. Its smallest product, the Ultralight 403, is intended to be used on kayaks for local water cruising or river boating. It weighs 7 kilograms (including battery), can achieve a top speed of 9-10 kilometres per hour, and has a slow speed range of 42 kilometres. An example of a Torqeedo mid-range product would be its Cruise 2.0. It can provide 5-6 horsepower and weighs around 19 kilograms. Torqeedo’s most powerful product, its Twin Cruise 4.0R, provides boaters with the ability to travel faster and further on electric power as well as running larger boats such as pontoons, larger sailboats and catamarans. The product can provide 10 horsepower and weighs approximately 35 kilograms. Torqeedo has demonstrated that the product can give a range of up to 40 kilometres on …

Fill up ya trunk – cos’ here come the “eBays” of goods delivery

Stephen Marcus

While sitting in a local “coffice” a couple of weeks ago with Cleantech Group’s head of research and advisory, Greg Neichin, I started explaining to him what I thought was a brilliant and unaddressed business idea in the smart transportation space.

I said to him: “This idea of peer-to-peer is beginning to gain some serious traction in the transportation space. We’ve all heard of peer-to-peer car sharing companies such as RelayRides, WhipCar, and Spride, and there are some innovative and emerging eBay-style market places propping up for parking spots such as ParkatmyHouse, ParkWhiz, and Streetline. It seems logical that this idea could be applied to goods delivery, no?”

The basis was that if I am driving to the other side of the country, it makes sense for me to be connected to someone who has a parcel to be delivered to a similar destination in exchange for a fee. Or even better, if I’m a delivery van with a scheduled delivery one way, it makes sense for me to find something to stock up with on the way back rather than have individual parcels go to several depots and be transferred across …

DriveCam – the watchful eye on how you drive

Stephen Marcus

My most ardent followers will know that I have recently written a lot about driver change and fleet tracking solutions. (See blog posts on GreenRoad Technologies and FleetMatics). However the batch would not be complete without also giving third prominent player, California-based DriveCam, a mention.

For a detailed 9 page profile of DriveCam as well as a host of other leading innovating cleantech companies, see Cleantech Group’s new i3 platform (for subscribers only).

DriveCam, like the other two companies, offers a driver-based analytics solution that enables fleet managers to identify and assess risky and fuel inefficient driving behaviours before they lead to a collision. The company measures traditional metrics – such as vehicle idling, speeding, and vehicle forces – which is aggregated and can be reviewed by customers through a secure online web tool called DriveCam Online. DriveCam also provides customers with both in-vehicle feedback through a red and green light system that allows drivers to immediately self-correct driving behaviour in the moment, as well as on-going feedback through individual coaching.

However, unique in comparison to its vendors, DriveCam also integrates the use of sight and sound to supplement the traditional driver-analytics data. DriveCam customers have video recording …