Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Lithium: Electric cars rolling off assembly line soon. TNR.v, SQM, GOOG, AAPL, RIMM, OIL, OIH, HUI, XAU, TTM, BYD, GM, F, WLC.v, CLQ.v, ESLR, FCX, FXI

Our Next Big Thing needs mass market and government support to take off. As Jim Puplava has described it: "at the base of every Bull market was historical displacement and it always started with introduction of destructive technology". Before we had railroads, cars, PCs and Internet among those destructive technologies. Now for us that displacement is an unsustainable fossil fuel based energy consumption by western economies and Electric Cars as Mobility Revolution is our destructive technology. Race is on among automakers for government subsidies and rebates: everybody would like to have piece of a pie with government purchasing power during tough economic times. Secure Lithium supply is becoming a matter of energy security and New Oil to fuel Next Industrial Revolution.


"Electric cars rolling off assembly line soon
Michael Taylor / Scripps Howard News Service / San Francisco Chronicle
The all-electric car -- which had a brief heyday less than a decade ago before the car companies killed it -- is about to make a comeback.
Charged up with lighter, more efficient batteries and competitively priced with gasoline-driven vehicles, the new offers will be marketed and sold primarily as second cars.
These silent electric autos will be plugged into home outlets and will be able to travel 100 miles or more without stopping for a charge.
Nissan said recently it has developed a mass-market electric car, due out by the end of next year, that will seat five and can have its battery charged to 80 percent of capacity in 26 minutes. It will have all the amenities buyers want, Nissan says, such as navigation, super stereo and heated seats, and will cost between $20,000 and $30,000.
The company is not alone. Ford, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Subaru, among others, are planning to introduce electric vehicles over the next year, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a trade group.
"The electric car is clearly on its way back," said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the magazine Green Car Journal, which covers the alternative-energy-auto industry. "Every automaker and battery company has been making incremental breakthroughs" in technology.
Several major automakers produced electric models at the beginning of this decade to satisfy a California law mandating that a small percentage of new cars sold in the state be pollution-free. Perhaps the best-known was General Motors' EV1, which was sleek and fast and attracted a cult-like base of fans.
The GM cars -- along with other electrics made by Honda, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and Toyota -- were for the most part available only on leases of about $500 a month. These vehicles were powered by heavy, inefficient batteries that cost as much as $30,000 apiece.
When the law was changed, manufacturers recalled the cars, crushed many of them and offered a smattering of gasoline-electric hybrids instead.
Electric-car aficionados were outraged -- they were given voice in the popular 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" -- but that was the end of it. Until now.
The car companies, allied with battery manufacturers, say they have figured out how to mass-produce an electric car that will fit into most people's lives in the same way as ordinary cars. Modestly priced, you can buy one, charge it at home and use it for commuting. But one thing the automakers have learned is that it helps to have widespread field-testing before selling to the public.
To that end, automakers have joined with public agencies around the United States to provide electric vehicles for government fleets. Selling to the government allows automakers to monitor closely the performance of their new cars. It also gives them a built-in market.
In the San Francisco Bay area, for example, Nissan will provide 1,000 all-electric cars to Sonoma County within the next year.
"Nissan will get a lot of data on use patterns (of the cars)," said Cordell Stillman, the county's point man for the project. "It's a little research laboratory for them."
Nissan plans to sell electric cars to the public by the end of 2010.
"We believe the market exists for these cars," said Mark Perry, Nissan North America's director of product planning, "and we'll be making about 100,000 cars."
Perry said the secret to making the cars efficient and affordable lies in the batteries, developed jointly by Nissan and battery maker NEC.
"Batteries now are getting twice the power for half the weight and half the size," Perry said. The new batteries will be made of laminated lithium ion, an improvement, Perry said, over the nickel metal hydride and lead acid batteries of old.
Batteries still need to be charged, however. That is the ultimate tether, compared with the relative freedom of a gasoline-driven car.
That problem could be eased by a 2-year-old California law providing as much as $120 million a year over seven years to set up charging stations around the state. The idea is that if these stations were at, say, every rest stop drivers could pull in, take a half-hour break while the car is being recharged, then continue along for another 100 miles.
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