SABA Motors Vision: an Exotic Electric Sports Car for the Masses

Steve Puma | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

startup friday

saba_motors2.jpgEver since I was a kid, when my father used give me Matchbox cars he bought on his way home from work, I’ve been crazy about cars. So I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to speak with Simon Saba of Saba Motors, whose EV vision is something any gearhead can get jazzed about: to deliver an exotic electric sports car with a price tag of under $40,000, that will have the looks and performance of cars costing 10 times as much and is environmentally friendly to boot!

I had the pleasure to speak with the animated Mr. Saba and his charming wife at the Fast Lane to CleanTech Incubator Mixer, held at Club Autosport in San Jose. Club Autosport is the current home of Saba Motors, and hosts it and a number of other cleantech companies at its “car-condominium” facility, as part of the Electronic Transportation Development Center (ETDC), a San Jose Redevelopment Agency initiative to incubate and support startups dedicated to clean automotive technologies, including battery infrastructure startup EVIN, the very unusual compressed air powered Magnetic Air Cars, and over 30 others.

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Innovators Honored for Applying Technology To Brighten People’s Lives

Dev Crews | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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suryaBoats outfitted with solar panels have become “floating classrooms” for children in the low-lying regions of Bangladesh, where floods have destroyed crops, schools, roads and infrastructure. They are among the more than 20 million people who became displaced last year due to climate change. In the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced 70 climate-related natural disasters. In its rural areas, 81% of people have no electricity, relying instead on kerosene hurricane lanterns.

But now, the social entrepreneur group Surya Hurricane: Electrification for the Landless, is helping retrofit lanterns with CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED lights, that can be recharged with excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. The new solar lighting is durable, mobile, alleviates the health problems caused by smoke from the traditional lanterns and reduces CO2 emissions. The lanterns are recharged using excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. Local women, whose communities have been devastated by flooding, charge villagers $.07 USD for the service, generating a much needed additional source of income.

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Chrysler Pulling Plug on EV Development? Maybe Not

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ChyslerET009_068EV_610x362It wasn’t all that long ago that Chrysler Corp. pocketed more than $12.5 billion in government bailout funds to avoid a bankruptcy filing, promising on the way to the bank to build more fuel efficient cars and produce electric vehicles by 2011.

About three years later the U.S. carmaker has launched no hybrids – although plans for them remain in the works – and its ENVI electric vehicle program is fading fast in the rearview mirror largely because of a strategic decision by Fiat. Fiat received a 20 percent stake from the U.S. in exchange for the Italian carmaker’s more fuel-efficient chassis and engine technology, and is apparently calling the shots now at Chrysler.

Oh the irony.

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Paul Hawken on the State of the Markets

Scott Cooney | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

SI forums_header_shortSustainable Industries continues to impress me.  Yesterday’s SI Economic Forum featured Paul Hawken, well-known author (Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism, Blessed Unrest) and sustainability guru (the mind behind Wiser Earth and a variety of other startups).  And while Mr. Hawken is a big draw, the discussion panel that followed also included some real movers and shakers with some fascinating insights into the green business world, including Lisa Michelle Galley, Founder of Galley Eco Capital, Matt Cheney, CEO of Renewable Ventures, Peter Rumsey, Founder of Rumsey Engineers, and Phil Michael Williams, VP of Technical Systems and Sustainability at Webcor

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Live Near a Waterway? HydroVolts Can Power Your Home

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Hydrovolts develops modular hydrikinetic turbines for use in canals & other waterwars

Hydrovolts develops modular hydrikinetic turbines for use in canals & other waterways

At Tuesday’s Academy Awards of Cleantech (The Cleantech Open), attendees were all abuzz about Seattle-based HydroVolts, winner of the $20,000 Cleantech Open sustainability prize. HydroVolts has created a floating in-stream hydrokinetic turbine that generates distributed renewable energy anywhere around the world.   Hydrovolts’ vision is to provide renewable energy to millions of people around the world who live near water.  The turbines are designed to drop into moving water, such as irrigation canals, spillways, tidal currents, wastewater flows, streams, rivers and other waterways.  Energy is collected from the force of moving water rather than pressure, operating like an underwater paddlewheel, so the turbine is safe for fish, unobtrusive, non-polluting and of course, renewable.  Each turbine can power 1 to 10 homes along the waterway and is about the size and cost of a small car.  The technology is modular, scalable and simple to deploy. Check out this video to learn more.

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h.u.m.a.n. Reinvents Vending with Eco-friendly Machines and Healthy Snacks

Kathryn Siranosian | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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human_healthy vending machineh.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending is on a mission to change the world–one snack at a time.

The Los Angeles -based company is turning the $30 billion/year vending industry on its ear by using state-of-the-art, energy efficient machines filled only with healthy foods and drinks.

In addition, h.u.m.a.n. (short for “helping unite man and nutrition”) donates 10 percent of its proceeds to charities that fight obesity and malnutrition.

“At h.u.m.a.n., we believe that the sustainability of the environment cannot exist without the sustainability of our own health,” says Sean Kelly, a 26-year-old fitness buff who co-founded the company with Andy Mackensen in 2007. “Think about it. How are you going to get people to care about sustainability if they don’t care about themselves? Once we can connect with people about their health, I think we can connect with them about sustainability.”

Thanks mostly to refrigeration and lighting, a traditional vending machine can burn through 3500-4000 kWh/yr .  But, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending can cut that energy expenditure by up to 50 percent. h.u.m.a.n. machines use energy-efficient cooling units, triple pane insulation, and LED lighting. They also are equipped with remote inventory monitoring devices which allow for greater operational efficiency and reduce the amount of trips required for maintenance and stocking.

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It’s a Wrap: Amazon Launches Frustration-Free Packaging Certification Program

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

PackagesGraphicNothing is more frustrating than trying to remove a newly purchased item from its super-strong packaging.  You pull and you tug, you rip and you cut, but no matter how hard you try, the packaging just won’t budge!  Whether it’s a brand new DVD, a new electronic gadget, a child’s toy or a box of your favorite crackers, trying to get that new product out of the package can be hard work!

Amazon has developed a much-appreciated initiative designed to alleviate consumer “wrap rage” and packaging frustration.   While the Amazon products remain the same, the packaging is dramatically different.

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Self Reporting Doesn’t Cut it: Why We Need a National GHG Measurement System

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Say you’re the Mayor of San Francisco. You’re spending million of dollars every year to increase energy efficiency, install solar panels and encourage the use of electric cars — all in an effort to lower your city’s greenhouse gas emissions, in line with (hypothetical) newly-enacted Federal greenhouse gas reduction guidelines.

Meanwhile, the (hypothetical) Mayor of Sacramento, who doesn’t believe in global warming, and certainly doesn’t believe in spending a dime to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, has completely ignored the GHG guidelines, and then lied about it on self-reported greenhouse gas inventories required by the Feds.

Both cities benefit from reduced emissions, but only one is spending the money to do so. How fair is that?

Not very. Which is why Congress is currently considering a National Greenhouse Gas Observation and Analysis System. The system would consist of a network of hundreds of greenhouse gas monitors that could analyze GHG concentrations on the regional, state, and even local level.

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Ecofactor Smart Thermostat System Wins Cleantech Open

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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eco-factor-logo-lgA maker of thermostat data systems that claims to be able to reduce heating and cooling costs for buildings by 20-30 percent won Grand Prize at this year’s Cleantech Open, one of the leading environmental technology competitions in the country.

Ecofactor makes integrated systems that calibrate a residential or commercial thermostat for maximum energy efficiency without having any noticeable effect on comfort. The system uses information from 24,000 data points, such as local weather, typical customer behavior and the design characteristics of a home or business to control the thermostat, which is connected to the Internet via a broadband connection.

As National Prize winner, Ecofactor took home $250,000, including $100,000 in seed capital. This is in addition to $100,000 the company won as California regional finalist in October. Started in 2006, Ecofactor has raised angel funding, and currently in negotiations for its Series A round, according to Earth2Tech.

Cleantech Open runners up were: Alphabet Energy (waste-heat recapture); and MicroMidas (transforms raw sewage into biodegradable plastic). Earlier in the day, audience members at the Awards Gala voted Alphabet Energy as the People’s Choice business competition winner.

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The Ultimate in “Clean” Tech: Sludge?

Scott Cooney | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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process-sludgePop quiz:  what does our municipal sewage waste that gets processed at wastewater treatment plants, and the great Pacific garbage patch, have in common?

Well, not much…yet.

A clean tech startup by the name of Micromidas may change all that, and in the process, change the game for plastic packaging.

Micromidas won the EPA’s 3P (People, Prosperity, Planet) clean tech contest earlier this year and is competing at this year’s Clean Tech Open in San Francisco.  The bottom line is that it says it can convert 80-90 percent of sludge (biomass waste) to bioplastics.  Typically, this sludge is either burned or allowed to decompose naturally, a process that takes 30 days or more.  Either way, it contributes to climate change by producing greenhouse gasses.  Instead of letting that happen, Micromidas turns that sludge into solid products that can be used in much the same way as conventional plastics.

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Can A Company That Makes Roundup Be Sustainable?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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While waiting for the PBS show, the NewsHour, to begin, I saw a Monsanto advertisement which said, “Monsanto…producing more, conversing more…that’s sustainable agriculture.” On Monsanto’s website the company states its commitment to “help farmers produce more and conserve more” by 2030. One of the ways Monsanto will achieve its goal is through “developing improved seeds.”

In 1996, Monsanto, the world’s largest agrochemical company, introduced Roundup Ready Soybeans, which included “in-seed tolerance to Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.” Roundup Ready seeds are the “most common herbicides used with cultivated GMOs.” Roundup itself is one of the most common herbicides. Roundup Ready seeds ensure that glyphosate, the chemical name for Roundup, will be used on crops.

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Why Genea Energy Made Forbes List Of Most Promising Companies

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Southern California-based Genea Energy is ranked number 13 on Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies list. Doug Schneider, Genea Energy’s CEO, said, “Forbes saw in Genea a special potential for growth, and that just echoes what our management team has been saying all along. We have a very special business — we’re just beginning to see its potential, and that’s exciting.”

Genea Energy offers a “highly interactive way of controlling and optimizing energy consumption in commercial office properties.” One of the company’s services, the Building Optimization Solution, provides building owners with a “web-enabled technology platform” that controls energy consumption and businesses processes.

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Oliberté Footwear: The Shoes with Soul

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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DaasBlogImage15OliberteShoesWhen it comes to footwear, comfort, style, durability and affordability are important aspects when picking out a pair of shoes.  But there is a lot more that goes into shoes than just our feet.

Canadian-based footwear company Oliberté, is stepping up and reaching out to impoverished African communities and making a difference in a big way.  In fact it is touted as the “first to market premium urban-casual footwear made in Africa.”

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Sustainability Lessons Learned Hitchhiking the Real Estate Cosmos

3p Contributor | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Martin Melaver

Recently, I’ve been reading with my son The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We’re at that point in the story when our travelers arrive on the planet of Magrathea. Magrathea, you may recall, made a name for itself millions of years ago by specializing in building designer planets for the super-wealthy. Then, out of the blue, a severe economic recession hit the galaxy and demand for Magrathea’s high-end product vaporized. The citizens of Magrathea decided to mothball the planet until market demand returned. Fast-forward five million years, and the Magratheans are still waiting. Talk about an allegory for our time.

In a recent webcast, Stephen Blank, Urban Land Institute’s Senior Resident Fellow for Real Estate Finance, expressed what many in real estate already know and fear: that the downturn in residential real estate in 2007-8 was nothing compared to the tsunami coming at us in 2010 in the commercial sector. Values are likely to dip to 40 percent from three years ago, a commercial resurgence is not likely to occur until 2012, and the financial markets will continue to remain frozen except for the vulture plays stepping in with all-cash, low-ball purchases of distressed assets. Of the total $3.5 trillion in commercial debt out there, $900 billion is held in the problematic CMBS market. Thirty-nine billion dollars of that debt will be due in 2010; $150 billion by 2012.

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Notes from the Cleantech Open Awards Gala

Steve Puma | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 3 Comments

cleantech openAt the last minute, I decided to attend Tuesday night’s Cleantech Open Awards Gala, and was pleasantly surprised at just how many companies with game-changing technologies were participating in the event. From the finalists to the runners-up to last year’s winners, the promise of what was on display was truly astounding, and gives me quite a bit of hope that we have a strong chance of beating some of the enormous challenges that are facing our environment.

EcoFactor, the competition’s overall winner, humorously presented an amazingly simple concept: a web-enabled thermostat that automatically and continuously adjusts the temperature of your home based on local environmental conditions. According to the company, more than half of households with programmable thermostats do not program them. The company’s technology avoids that problem, providing 25 percent or more energy savings with a hands-free solution.

While EcoFactor certainly has a very innovative product, I was simply shocked that they managed to beat out fellow finalist New Sky Energy, whose carbon-negative C02-to-building materials process appears to be an almost magical solution to excess carbon emissions. New Sky’s revolutionary chemical technology takes carbon dioxide from the air, combines it with polluted water, salts and renewable energy and ends up with carbonate-based building materials, in the form of bricks, tiles, laminated wood composites and others.

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