Thursday, 17 September 2009

Climate change Thursday #8

Two companies, a country and a Secretary-General

A few things have caught my eye this week. One was a good piece on the future of green motoring in the Economist. Of course, if I was Jeremy Clarkson, I would rave about the Tesla Roadster and moan about the Chevrolet Volt (us Europeans get the wimpy sounding Ampera instead but we are wimpy I guess.) Actually, the Tesla was so good that Jeremy Clarkson spat out his steak and chips and lost his voice as a result. Here is his review (i.e. boyish drag race):



However, it wasn't without a hitch to say the least. One of the major issues is the need to charge the car and the time it takes. So, exciting as the Tesla Roadster may be in a pioneering sort of way, the basic issues of battery life remain. Step forward Better Place.

Better Place can't resolve the Tesla's apparent reliability issues but they aim to solve the charging issue. They do this in two ways. Firstly, they will install an efficient charge point in your garage or in shopping centres etc.

As they say on their website:
"Better Place intends to deploy charge spots at private homes, workplaces and public locations such as parking lots and streets."
Local authorities take note- are you speaking to Better Place?

Perhaps just as interesting is their plan to introduce battery replacement stations (like a petrol station but with batteries.) At the moment this is a good solution for high consuming commercial vehicles like Tokyo's major taxi company Nihon Kotsu (see post script below!) who have contracted with Better Place with funding from a Government Agency, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency.

How does battery switching work? It takes just over a minute and here is a demonstration:



A cheer for Lithium-ion technology. And a second cheer for thin film solar panels and for the second featured company, Applied Materials.

In an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday, Thomas Friedman, discussed the company's environmental technology and manufacture.

Friedman is one of the most passionate advocates for a green industrial policy in the United States. He argued that the US should become the 'Saudi Arabia of green' in his most recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Sorry to quote at length but it's necessary I'm afraid:
"The other day, Splinter [Mike Splinter CEO] gave me a tour of the company’s Silicon Valley facility, culminating with a visit to its “war room,” where Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it’s built around the world in the last two years. I could only laugh because crying would have been too embarrassing.

Not a single one is in America.

Let’s see: five are in Germany, four are in China, one is in Spain, one is in India, one is in Italy, one is in Taiwan and one is even in Abu Dhabi. I suggested a new company motto for Applied Materials’s solar business: “Invented here, sold there."

He goes on to praise Germany for a coordinated approach to its renewable energy policy that allows: freedom of generation; access to the grid; transparent and economic pricing. Germany? 50,000 renewable energy jobs which Friedman reports is second only to its car industry. The government is playing catch-up in the UK. We may be too late on solar. Let Germany have solar power. Our prize is wind and wave power. If we had got off the blocks quicker then the Vestas turbine blade manufacturing facility on the Isle of Wight might have been saved. That was a warning shot that the government is heeding.

Finally, a quick mention for the Secretary-General of the UN who spoke to The Guardian yesterday and expressed his frustration at the lack of progress in discussions between the developed and developing world (courtesy of Left Foot Forward.)

Next week, sees a UN summit on climate change (referred to in the Guardian piece.) G20 Voice who kindly enabled me to cover the G20 Summit back in April have rebranded themselves and will be at the conference simply as Voice. Expect some coverage of the great bloggers (for instance) who will be in New York next week.

Post script: Speaking of Tokyo's taxis.....I ended up with a taxi driver last night in Tokyo who spoke unbelievably good English. Why? He used to be an international sports photographer and publisher and lived in Holland Park for three years where he used to hang out with George Best.....and was also a friend of Diego Maradona (whom he introduced to Tokyo night clubs.) Enough said (yes, I did ask and yes, he did answer....) And now he's driving Nihon Kotsu taxis....long story.

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