Investing in a better future

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GM begins selling electric car - Chevrolet Volt

General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicleA US car company has finally launched an electric vehicle to the public that may be able to compete with Japanese electric hybrids. I'm glad to see a US company looking at new consumer economic realities and demands. Lets hope that electric cars are the wave of the future and are here to stay....

DETROIT ( -- General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle on Tuesday, allowing outsiders their first full look at the car GM says will go on sale in 2010.

"The Volt symbolizes GM's commitment to the future," said Rick Wagoner, the company's chairman and CEO.

The Volt will be driven by electricity stored in a large T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack running the length of the car. After charging for several hours, the Volt will be able to run for up to about 40 miles without using gasoline.

GM did not announce pricing for the car, which will have the equivalent of about 150 horsepower and a top speed of 100 mph, the automaker said.

To charge the batteries, drivers will plug a cord into one of the ports just ahead of the driver's side mirror. The cord can then be attached to an ordinary home electrical outlet.

The car will cost "less than purchasing a cup of your favorite coffee" to recharge, and use less electricity annually than a refrigerator. The Volt should cost less than 2 cents per mile to drive on electricity, GM said, compared to 12 cents a mile on gasoline at a price of $3.60 a gallon.

As the battery begins to run down as the car is in use, a small gasoline engine will turn on and generate enough electricity to drive the car about 300 miles.

The car's zero-to-sixty time will be under nine seconds, said GM vehicle line director Tony Posawatz. That would make the performance about average for a modern car.

"The center of gravity of the car, with the center battery pack, it's going to have real great ride and handling," said Posawatz.

Disappointed fans
Unlike hybrid cars, or plug-in hybrids, the Volt is driven only be electricity. The gasoline engine never directly drives the car's wheels.

Based on photos released last week - inadvertently, GM says - many people posting comments on car blogs have expressed disappointment that the production car does not look as angular and aggressive as the original concept vehicle.

"The majority of [the comments] are negative," Lyle Dennis, a New Jersey neurologist who runs the blog, said last week. "A lot of people are saying they're very disappointed and 'take me off the [waiting] list.' "

2011 Chevrolet VoltGM regularly uses the Volt concept car, introduced at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, in its advertising, identifying it as "future product."

That concept car's angular face wasn't aerodynamically efficient enough to make it to the final version as GM engineers and designers tried to extract every extra foot of "all electric" range from the car, GM designers have said.

Keeping it simple
Beyond its advanced electric drive system, the Volt isn't particularly high-tech. Engineers and designers wanted to keep the experience as familiar to drivers as possible. Besides, lots of electronic gadgetry inside the car would have used electric power needed to offer the maximum gasoline-free driving range.

Other companies, including Toyota and Nissan, have also announced plans to have plug-in cars of some type on the market by 2010. So far, the Volt is the only one of its type, running on electricity only but with on-board power generating capability.

This first-generation Chevy Volt is expected to be fairly expensive, Posawatz conceded. (Some reports have put the price at $40,000.) But GM is not looking to make much money, if any, on the car, he said.

GM is expecting to produce at least 10,000 Volts in the car's first year and higher numbers after that, he said.

Original Story Here

Author's Note: Toyota's first production electric vehicle, the Prius, appeared in Japan in 1997. Prius debuted in American showrooms in 2000. The second-generation Prius that we know today arrived in 2003, and was the first vehicle with Hybrid Synergy Drive®. The rest, as they say, is automotive history.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Learn to say No at the supermarket

Every time I go to the supermarket I get so many plastic bags. Many of which are needless and wasteful. The clerk puts maybe two or three items in a bag, then sometimes double bags them. I also see clerks put glass items, like spaghetti sauce into a paper bag, then put that in a plastic bag! I buy 15 items, and get at least 5 plastic bags, usually more after double bagging. I come home, use one or two for trash, and the others I stuff into another plastic bag for use later. However, what I usually get is a several plastic bags stuffed with plastic bags that fill up the space under the sink, or wherever I try to store them. What's really sad is when I have too many, or I have to move and can't use them, and end up throwing them away. I just imagine the millions and millions of plastic bags given out everyday, used only once, that held some toothpaste or a few groceries, never to be used again and to sit in the landfill for the next thousand years. That is IF the bags are thrown away properly... How often have I seen plastic bags and packaging on the roadside, in the rivers or on beaches. There is no doubt plastics make our lives more convenient, and I couldn't even be writing this without the plastics used to help make my computer. But I think we need to make some fundamental changes in our usage of plastics. Not to mention, most people are in favor of reducing oil prices, and every plastic bag is essentially made from oil, would the reduction of plastic usage lower prices?

For starters, I think I will try to find a reusable bag. Something strong that I can take to the store with me, and have the clerk put everything in there. No need for plastic bags!

Did you know? Plastic bags start as crude oil, natural gas, or other petrochemical derivatives, which are transformed into chains of hydrogen and carbon molecules known as polymers or polymer resin. After being heated, shaped, and cooled, the plastic is ready to be flattened, sealed, punched, or printed on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Yahoo! and Microsoft Debacle

I think the root of the failure of Microsoft (MSFT) trying to buy Yahoo! (YHOO) thus far is that Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) is not a good businessman and the Yahoo! company culture doesn't really mesh with Microsoft's.

People like Carl Ichan trying to force Yahoo! to accept this deal, are like trying to make kids take castor oil. There is a distinct distaste for Mircosoft in Silicon Valley where Yahoo! is located, because Microsoft has a history of being a business bully, resisting innovation, trying to stomp out and snuff competition rather than promoting it. In short, anything good for Microsoft is bad for everyone else. I can't blame Jerry Yang the innovator and co-founder of Yahoo! for not wanting to sell out to Microsoft.

Additionally, MSFT is not really a innovative company anymore, and they are playing catch-up on multiple fronts. Buying Yahoo might help them short-term, but eventually, I believe they will only screw-up Yahoo! worse and reduce options for Internet users.

By the way, I have owned shares of Google since 2006.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Kits Turn Any Car Into a Plug-in Hybrid

Soon drivers will be able to get at least double the gas mileage of a Toyota Prius hybrid, thanks to a spate of new aftermarket kits that convert any car into a plug-in electric vehicle. But they’ll have to pay upwards of $10,000 to do so.
Auto manufacturers are at least a year or two away from launching the next generation of hybrids, called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), that recharge by plugging into a wall outlet. But battery companies are ready to start selling aftermarket kits within the next few months that convert hybrids, and in some cases regular vehicles, into plug-in electric cars.
More from • Hottest Hybrid SUVs Mercury Goes Hybrid Ford's Great Escape
A123Systems, an automotive technology company and battery supplier based in Watertown, Mass., is now taking orders on its website for a Hymotion L5 conversion kit, which turns a Toyota Prius into a plug-in electric car. The kit works with Prius model years 2004 through 2008 and adds a special, range-extending lithium-ion battery to the Prius' existing drivetrain.
Using A123’s plug-in system, the Prius, which normally runs only short distances at slow speeds on electric power alone, will have added battery power to extend its electric-only range and boost gas mileage to more than 100 miles per gallon. The Prius normally gets an estimated 46 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Even if electricity costs as much as 15 cents per kilowatt hour, fully charging the 5 kilowatt-hour battery to run up to 40 miles would cost less than a dollar.
The Hymotion L5 kit, due this fall, costs $9,995 plus a $400 destination fee and includes a three-year warranty and installation at an authorized dealer. Buyers must put down a $1,000 deposit on A123's website and the company schedules a date to install the kit at one of the dealers, which currently include Westboro Toyota in Boston, Fitzgerald Toyota in Washington, D.C., Denny Hecker Automotive Group in Minneapolis, Minn., Toyota of Hollywood in Los Angeles, Green Gears/Pat's Garage in San Francisco, and Green Car Company in Seattle. A123 expects to add more authorized dealers.
In late August, Poulsen Hybrid, based in Shelton, Conn., and run by Ulrik Poulsen, CEO of Bridgeport Magnetics, plans to offer a $7,000 conversion kit that turns any conventional car into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle by mounting small electric motors onto the rear wheels. The Poulsen system also uses a lithium-ion battery pack and will double a car's gas mileage, says Poulsen, the system's creator. The company hasn’t released data on how far the system will go on a single charge, but charging it would also cost less than a dollar, he says.

From Forbes Autos - For Full Story


Stimulus Payment Blues

Stimulus Payment Having trouble deciding what to do with that stimulus payment? If you don't have the money earmarked to pay off debt. You might consider putting it away for savings. However, bank accounts nowadays only earn about 1~2% interest, if anything at all, or you may consider buying some stocks. Currently, the US is in a bear market, and stocks are generally at depressed levels.
One stock I particularly like is Google (GOOG), which closed today at the price of $534.73 a share. I have liked Google for a long time, they created AdSense, which helps people monetize their websites, and have are creating numerous ways to improve and promote the Internet.
Recently. especially after the botched attempt by Microsoft to buy Yahoo, and Yahoo's subsequent outsourcing of some search to Google, the lead for Google in search and advertising among Internet stocks will only get bigger.
Unfortunately, Google stock's per share price is very high. To buy 100 shares you would have to invest $53, 473 dollars! The amount of the stimulus payment may only be a few hundred dollars at most. So you could buy shares in a Hi-tech mutual fund or ETF that holds Google stock, or take a risk and only buy one share of Google.
Nonetheless, for me, with interest rates so low and inflation high (creating a negative real interest rate environment), investing now seems better than leaving money sitting in the bank losing value.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Booting US Sugar from the Everglades

Governor CristFlorida Governor Charlie Crist could be turning his constituents into sugar barons. And he's about to set the stage for the Everglades to come back from the dead.

At a news conference Tuesday morning near the imperiled "River of Grass", Governor Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal to buy the U.S. Sugar Corporation, including 187,000 acres of farmland that once sat in the northern Everglades. If the deal goes through, it will extinguish a powerful 77-year-old company with 1,700 employees and deep roots in South Florida's coal-black organic soil. It will also resurrect and reconfigure a moribund 8-year-old Everglades replumbing effort that is supposed to be the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the history of the planet.

Thank you Governor Crist!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Alternative Energy ETF

Recently found a new method to investing in alternative energy stocks. The Global Alternative Energy ETF (stock code:GEX) is a exchange traded fund (ETF), that offers investors a way to invest in a diversified holding of alternative energy stocks. GEX holds a portfolio of solar power, wind and water power companies based on the Ardour Global Index. I saw that oil hit $100 a barrel today. I also noticed that the price of food here in Hawaii has gone through the roof. $4.89 a pound for loose mushrooms? I think a substancial part of the general price increase comes from increased oil costs. I think of investing as voting with money. If you buy oil stocks, you might as well be holding up signs supporting Exxon and drilling in the arctic. I will be investing in this fund, not only because I think it will increase in value over time, but as a vote against dependence on foriegn oil and funding terrorism.

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