New generation of batteries for electric cars

WE might be on the verge of a breakthrough in battery technology according to this latest article in Fortune:

Imagine an electric car that could travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. A pipe dream? Yes, for now. But a Michigan startup called Sakti3 just might make it a reality. In August the company announced that it was close to achieving the holy grail of power storage: a battery with about double the energy density of today’s lithium-ion technology at one-fifth the cost. Such a battery could give us the first $25,000 mass-market electric car, with a driving range that would please most customers.

You can watch the TED talk above as well by company CEO Dr. Ann Marie Sastry.

Range anxiety is a huge issue for electric cars, so new battery technology that extends the range for electric vehicles can be a game changer in the electric car consumer market. The innovation here is a solid-state lithium-ion battery. They expect the technology to be commercialized within a year or two. Let’s see if they achieve that goal.

Is China finally waking up to its pollution crisis?

Expect the global warming issue to blow up again as the Obama Administration gears up to issue new EPA regulations. Conservatives have argued for years now that anything the US does is moot given China’s massive pollution problem. But as Jonathan Cohen points out, China is finally starting to move on these issues, as even hard-core dictators can be affected by choking pollution:

In recent years, the Chinese have imposed fuel mileage and appliance efficiency standards, similar in many respects to those in the U.S. Just this week, officials in Beijing announced that the government would be taking another 5 million aging cars off the nation’s road. China has also set up pilot versions of tradable pollution permits—in other words, “cap-and-trade” schemes—for various industries. Officials say they hope to make these nationwide soon. And one reason the Chinese government was so eager to sign that massive new deal with Russia, allowing the import of natural gas, was because it’s desperate to find alternatives to coal. “For a long time, opponents [of new regulations] said we’ll get hoodwinked, because China won’t do anything,” says David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s just not true.”

This is a positive development, and hopefully it continues. If China gets more serious about this, then it can give political cover to those around the world trying to put a lid on carbon emissions.

Cohen points out that any new EPA regulations can put further pressure on China to act.

Expect to hear plenty of noise about this over the coming months.

Water wars are already here in California

Water has always been an issue in California, with competing interests from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and growing cities. But with the crippling drought that the state has experienced in recent years, all of these issues and battles are becoming more important. Unfortunately, with climate change, we may see more of these issues playing out around the world.

This article offers a compelling overview of the water issues facing California.

Tony Fadell discusses Nest

Here’s an excellent interview with Tony Fadell of Nest where he discussed the ways Nest can help consumers save energy. Even more interesting is how Nest is being paid by electric power companies to help smooth out power spikes.

Kevin Rose does an excellent job with the interview and it’s worth checking out. They discuss a wide variety of topics including outsourcing to China, Kickstarter and other challenges facing hardware startups. You can follow Fadell on Twitter here.

Nest should thrive under Google

Nest makes a learning thermostat that helps you conserve energy. It learns your lifestyle and adjusts the temperature in a room based on your needs. If you’re not there or you’re sleeping, Nest automatically changes the temperature settings. You can also control it from a variety of devices. It’s part of the new “Internet of Things” movement where everyday devices become “smarter” by being connected to the Internet, your smartphone and other devices.

Nest was founded by Tony Fadell, one of the Apple guys who worked on the original iPod, and now it’s been acquired by Google for a whopping $3.2 billion. This article sums up the transaction and offers some insight on the future of this company and products like the thermostat that we’ll be able to control in the future.