Friday, April 24, 2009

Lithium: Electric Car Reality Check. TNR.v, SQM, GM, F, GOOG, RIMM, AAPL, OIH, OIL, ESLR, TTM, BYD, WLC.v, CNY.v, CLQ.v

Reality check is always important - our Next Big Thing should be Real, happening Now and Fast in order to justify our risk of investing in new technology. Our Dragon approach is reducing Technological aspects of a new hot technology risk, when you do not know who will be the clear winner, just remember Etoys, Ariba, Commerce One, Yahoo, Sun and Google for starters. We are propheting investing in a new oil - Lithium as an industry accepted solution as Energy Storage medium for Green Mobility Revolution, which could become Next Industrial Revolution and Growth Infrastructure play. We are looking for the signs on the streets that the Tide which will lift our Lithium plays is coming.

Every day, it seems another auto company is promising an all-electric car in the next couple of years.
I'm thrilled at the opportunity to zip around my hometown of Berkeley, Calif., using electrons instead of hydrocarbons. I'm completely sold on the benefits of EVs from the environmental, efficiency and energy security perspectives. I own not one, but two hybrid cars, and EV is my next step. But I'm baffled that auto industry executives so quickly went from fervently blocking gains in efficiency to even more fervently advocating emissions-free cars.
Many of the execs pushing electric vehicles the hardest are the same ones who scoffed at hybrids until now. They ran the numbers and declared there was no business case for hybrids. Wouldn't the economics be even worse for more expensive all-electric cars during this period of low gas prices?
But instead, these leaders are calling electric cars a "game changer." For decades, we've had the capability of producing electric cars perfectly suitable for daily commuting. What really has changed, and why the sudden EV zealousness?
Fear: As Obama's Auto Task Force pointed out, GM (and others) are a full generation behind Toyota in "green powertrain development." Nobody wants to be left behind on the next wave of green cars.
Market share: It took 10 years, but today's gas-electric hybrids have built a solid market base of almost 3% of new car sales, with the prospect of jumping to double digits when car buyers return to dealerships and gas prices head north again. Are they thinking that EVs can experience similar growth?
Political pandering: To survive, GM and Chrysler must show the feds they can break new ground on fuel efficiency. GM is hanging its hopes on the Chevy Volt, and Chrysler has announced no fewer than five different all-electric cars in the works.
Marketing spin: Car companies are eager to steal the green halo from hybrids. Hybrid-laggard Nissan denounces plug-in hybrids as an unnecessary use of two powertrains. GM's Chevy Volt -- a textbook plug-in series hybrid -- is spun as an "extended-range electric vehicle" to create distance from hybrids.
Compliance: New fuel economy standards, rising to 35 m.p.g. by 2020, are in place. Last week, the EPA declared global warming gases as pollutants subject to the Clean Air Act. Zero-emission vehicles will be an important part of any compliance strategy.
A few months ago, Jim Lentz, Toyota's North American president, told me, "You're going to see three distinct markets emerge: traditional hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV. Each is going to be applicable to different types of vehicles for different kinds of consumers." Three cheers for EVs, but let's not lose touch with reality. Most forecasters see electric cars as the smallest market of those next-generation vehicles.
As much as I wished it were different, consumers will be slow to adopt electric cars that are compacts or smaller -- especially if they are expensive, have limited range and require recharging infrastructure that's not yet in place. At the risk of sounding like a Detroit lobbyist, we need to build cars that masses of people -- not just greenies like me -- want to drive. And that's doubly true for the next wave of cars necessary to turn the corner on energy and the environment.
Bradley Berman is the editor of
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