3p Contributor: Phil Covington

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on electric vehicles and sustainable business matters in general. Twitter: @PhilCovBlog

Recent Articles

Future of Electric Vehicles Remains Bright, Despite Detractors

| Thursday September 13th, 2012 | 9 Comments

BMW ActiveE, electric car based on the current 1 Series

Discussion on electric vehicles often seems to be polarized around two different worldviews. Advocates will point out they are the way of the future, a viable way to wean ourselves off oil, and with millions of miles driven in the hands of consumers already, a proven technology.

Detractors will assert they are an unworthy tax-payer subsidized experiment – as someone I know put it. Others cite manufacturers falling short of sales targets and the high expense and poor range of today’s EVs as reasons to doubt the technology’s longevity. In the case of the Chevrolet Volt, it has also become a political artifact – one which symbolizes the Detroit bail-out, and one which commentators often like to point out is struggling to gain traction.

The objective take on electric vehicles is a little harder to extrapolate. The “Charged: EV Symposium Silicon Valley 2012″ presented by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and hosted by SAP last month, helped to clarify the health of the industry, by bringing together leaders within the EV industry, and the broader EV industry ecosystem.

Here are the main takeaways about the state of the industry today and what can we expect going forward:

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Duo to Ride Across America By Electric Bike to Promote Awareness

| Tuesday April 17th, 2012 | 1 Comment

One of the EVELO bikes that will be used to complete the trip

Last week, a team of two cyclists, Boris Mordkovich and Anna Mostovetsky, began a two and a half month, 4,000 mile ride across America on a pair of electric-assisted bicycles to promote awareness of electric bikes as an alternative form of transport, and to prove that their machines are a reliable and efficient way to get around.

The ride began in New York City on April 7th and will end at the end of June in San Francisco. Along the way, the pair plan to hold talks in 15 cities, and meet up with commuters, cycling enthusiasts and advocacy groups to find out what’s preventing people from cycling for the many short trips that they routinely make.

So, how did the whole trip come about?

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Stronger U.S. Sales of Hybrids and Plug-in Electrics in March

| Thursday April 12th, 2012 | 3 Comments

March Sales of the Volt much stronger

March turned out to be a big month for auto sales in the United States. Reuters reported that total vehicle sales were up 13 percent for the month, ending the best quarter in terms of total sales since 2008.

The industry sees this as a sign of general economic recovery, but with high average gas prices prevailing at the pumps, hybrid cars and plug-in vehicles enjoyed a strong month, indicating fuel economy matters to many when making new car choices.

So what about plug-in electric vehicles? Without doubt, the sales figures for these vehicles are small by comparison with top selling vehicles today, but they could perhaps be a barometer reading for how these cars may do in the market over the next decade.

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Is GM Guilty of Funding Climate Change Denial?

| Thursday March 15th, 2012 | 2 Comments


GM CEO Dan Akerson

Treehugger reports that 10,000 General Motors customers, and another 20,000 citizens have signed a petition to urge the company to stop funding the Heartland Institute, due to that organization’s position of climate change denial.

To fund such denial – even if indirectly – would fly in the face of a building perception that GM is becoming a more environmentally responsible company, with an increased range of fuel efficient vehicles, and with perhaps the most demonstrative product of the new GM, being their halo car, the Volt.

Last week I attended the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where Climate One interviewed GM CEO, Dan Akerson, on the future of the auto industry and GM’s role within it. The action of the Heartland Institute was a topic that came up for discussion, and a clip of the segment can be seen here. So, what’s Mr Akerson’s take on GM’s role in the matter?

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Cleantech Accelerator Greenstart Launches Design Practice

| Wednesday February 15th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Every successful start-up begins with a great idea. But, of course, transforming a great idea into a viable business is anything but assured. Fortunately, help is at hand for the most promising enterprises.

Increasingly, entrepreneurs can turn to a growing number of start-up accelerators – organizations which provide seed funding, mentoring, work space and importantly, access to investors – all designed with the purpose of improving  the odds of success, within a very short space of time.

Last fall, Greenstart, an accelerator focused specifically on the clean-tech industry, successfully completed its first program with a small cohort of four start-ups, and this week, they begin a second round with five new companies, and with a renewed focus.

I spoke to Mitch Lowe, Managing Partner of Greenstart to learn more about how Greenstart’s new focus will offer enhanced value to to cleantech entrepreneurs, and how it aligns with the key opportunities in the cleantech industry going forward.

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China Bans its Airlines from Participating in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme

| Friday February 10th, 2012 | 0 Comments

The controversy over the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and the inclusion of airlines into the program from the beginning of this year, continues to escalate, with the announcement that China has banned its airlines from participating.

Under the European scheme, all carriers, regardless of nationality,  must account for every metric ton of carbon emitted for any flight originating, or landing, in the EU. Carriers must then purchase allowances for 15 percent of their total emissions in Europe’s carbon markets.

China’s ban makes it illegal for their carriers to pay for these carbon allowances, as well as disallowing them from hiking ticket prices to account for them. Though China’s reaction is the strongest so far, they are not alone in opposing the ETS.

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Chevrolet Introduces Environmental Labeling on All Vehicles

| Tuesday February 7th, 2012 | 1 Comment

This March, Chevrolet will start providing customers with information on a number of the environmental features of their vehicles, via “Ecologic” environmental window labels that will initially appear on the 2012 Sonic, the company’s new sub-compact car.

Later on, labeling will be rolled out across the entire 2013 vehicle line in North America, and in doing so, Chevrolet will be the first automotive brand to provide a label of this kind on its vehicles.

The Ecologic labeling initiative provides a life cycle assessment of sorts, since it provides information over three distinct phases of the vehicle’s life, which Chevrolet defines as follows:

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Business Coalition BICEP Endorses California’s Advanced Clean Car Program

| Friday February 3rd, 2012 | 0 Comments

Business advocacy Coalition, BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy) has endorsed the California Air Resources Board’s, Advanced Clean Cars Program, which passed last week – citing benefits which they say will spark economic growth.

The program is in line with BICEP’s aim to work with policy makers, “to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation that will enable a rapid transition to a low-carbon, 21st century economy that will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth while stabilizing our planet’s fragile climate.”

The coalition includes some heavy hitters in the business world, including Nike, Starbucks, and Gap Inc. amongst other well known companies. BICEP was joined by California business organizations such as Patagonia, Applied Materials and the California Ski Industry Association in an advertising campaign promoting the strong standards.

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Bicycle And Pedestrian Commuting is Up, but House Transportation Bill Eliminates Funding

| Thursday February 2nd, 2012 | 4 Comments

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just released its 2012 Benchmarking Report which details that between 2000 to 2009, the number of commuters who bike to work increased by 57 percent in the USA, and that 12 percent of all trips are now taken by bike or on foot in this country.

The report also highlights bicycle and pedestrian safety issues and the economic benefits that are derived from these activities. This information is worth bearing in mind since this week, the House plans to vote on the approval of a new $260 billion transportation bill, part of which would eliminate bicycle and pedestrian programs – flying in the face of bicycling and pedestrian trends.

This is not good news given the upward trend in fatalities that has accompanied the rise in bicycle commuting. The LA Times reports the largest 51 cities in the country saw an average 29 percent increase in bicycle fatalities since the Alliances 2010 report.

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Electric Vehicle Market Forecast – 10 Year Horizon Looks Strong

| Wednesday February 1st, 2012 | 3 Comments

“Any Motor manufacturer without a compelling line up of electric vehicles [by 2025] is signing its death warrant.”

This is an unequivocally bold assertion, not made by any government, EV manufacturer, media source or advocacy group, but rather, by the independent consulting and research organization IDTechEX, who claim to be the only analyst with 18 current reports – continuously updated – forecasting sales of electric vehicles and their components.

IDTechEx has been tracking developments in the electric vehicle market for the last eleven years by touring the world’s companies, research institutes and conferences to gain insights into key technology changes and business opportunities in the EV market. They have just published their new 2012 forecast with a 10 year horizon, and whether you like EVs or not – their take is that they are here to stay.

Here are the headline forecasts from IDTechEX’s analysis.

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Ford To Use Kenaf Plant Materials In New Escape

| Tuesday January 31st, 2012 | 6 Comments

Image from Ford Motor Company Digital Media

Following Ford’s recent announcement that they will use recycled plastic bottles for seat fabrics in the upcoming Focus Electric, the company’s efforts to increase the use of sustainable materials continues with the news that they will use kenaf plant fiber material for interior door bolsters for the new Escape.

Kenaf, blended with polypropylene in a 50-50 mixture, will reduce the door component’s weight by 25% compared with conventional materials, while use of the plant fiber, Ford claims, will offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resins annually in North America.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kenaf, here’s a little bit about this versatile material, as well as other eco-friendly attributes of the new Escape.

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More Fuel Efficient Cars Spell Less Money For Mass Transit

| Thursday January 19th, 2012 | 5 Comments

Consumer Reports characterized this year’s North American International Auto show as “the rise of the mainstream plug-in hybrid,” foretelling a definite trend that’s emerging among automakers: fuel-efficiency is becoming the name of the game.

This is great news for the environment, and for consumers, but with the vehicle fleet becoming more efficient in the USA, a probable negative consequence may emerge along with it. Specifically, as cars become more efficient, there will be less funding for mass transit infrastructure – an unfortunate systemic outcome indeed.

So, how are the two linked?

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Electric Bicycle Trailer From Ridekick Offers a Useful Boost

| Friday January 13th, 2012 | 0 Comments


Fort Collins, Colorado-based start-up, Ridekick, has a new take on the electric bicycle: they offer something that’s not a bicycle at all. Instead, they think an electric powered trailer that can be easily attached to most conventional bikes is a better solution.

The Ridekick is an option for the cyclist who wants either full time, or perhaps, only occasional electric assist, but neither wants to go out and buy a brand-new electric bicycle, nor permanently retrofit their existing one.

So, how does it work?

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Ford Upcycles 2 Million Plastic Bottles from Landfill to Seat Covers

| Tuesday January 10th, 2012 | 2 Comments

Readers of TriplePundit  don’t need reminding that the waste stream derived from buying bottled water is an environmental hazard. Less than a third of all plastic bottles get recycled in the USA, when they could be put to effective second-life use.

Ford Motor Company announced last week that in partnership with REPREVE, they plan to make good use of some of these old plastic bottles by diverting 2 million of them from landfill, for use in the seat fabric of Ford’s forthcoming Focus Electric model.

REPREVE’s fabric is a polyester fiber made from a blend of recycled PET plastic, along with other recycled post-consumer material. Ford’s press release details that the car will be the first with an interior made with 100 percent clean technology, far exceeding the company’s goal of 25 percent clean technology across their whole vehicle line-up.

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Peer-to-Peer Vehicle Sharing Start-Up Launches In San Francisco

| Friday January 6th, 2012 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-fridayThey say the best days of boat ownership are but two; the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. In the time between, the hassles and cost of insurance, maintenance and storage are a large burden to bear for a few days of fun, when you actually get to use it.

Even if you are fortunate enough to afford it, it’s hard to justify keeping a boat for half a dozen outings a year, but what if, during the downtime, you could profit from sharing with others in your local community?

Conversely, what if others want easy, but only occasional access to motorcycle, car, jet-skis, SUVs and so on but don’t want, or cannot afford, to invest in the cost and hassle of ownership themselves?

Peer-to-peer (p2p) start-up – JustShareIt – feels the opportunity exists to bring these parties together in an on-line  vehicle-sharing marketplace, and to this end, launches this week, to bring owners (or sharers) and borrowers together, organized around  three key service goals: security, convenience and adventure.

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