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Venture Capitalism To the Rescue

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the doing-well-by-doing-good dept.

Earth 88

theodp writes "Al Gore, Bill Joy, and a Norwegian cutie — a TH!NK open electric car — grace the cover of the latest NYT Magazine, which asks: Can the venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins reduce our dependence on oil, help stop global warming, and make a lot of money at the same time? While Kleiner Perkins — which funded Genentech, Netscape, Google and others — has a number of other green-tech bets, a partner says its goal is 'to make a lot of money for our investors,' not to save the environment."

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Fun things to do in a library (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25262915)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I
had to take a piss. As I entered the john a big beautiful all-American
football hero type, about twenty-five, came out of one of the booths.
I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he
washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and
married - and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated,
hoping there might be a lingering smell of poo poo and even a seat still
warm from his sturdy young rear end. I found not only the smell but the
poo poo itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left
behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It
apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated poo poo, for all were fat,
stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd
- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist.

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and
wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd
always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little
clump of poo poo, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating rear end
and not an end in itself. Of course I'd had jerk-off fantasies of
devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't), but I had never done
it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound
turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy
and one I knew to have been hatched from the rear end in a top hat of the world's
handsomest young stud.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both
hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled
like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the
consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to poo poo
without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it
smelled. I've found since then that poo poo nearly almost does.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the loving thing as far into
my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock,
beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and
bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet
flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had
chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed
I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I
soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd
passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily,
sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My
only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down
with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the
cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more
delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with
the rich bitterness of poo poo.

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But
then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There
was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished
them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my
briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the
poo poo without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever
unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own rear end in a top hat. Not an
unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using
them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my
mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid poo poo
trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six
orgasms in the process.

I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out
of his sweet, pink rear end in a top hat every day, never knowing what joy it could,
and at least once did, bring to a grateful shiteater.

Wow. What a coincidence. (2, Insightful)

shadow349 (1034412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25262929)

its goal is 'to make a lot of money for our investors,' not to save the environment."

That's the exact same mission statement as Generation Investment Management [generationim.com].

Obvious (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263011)

Because too many folks in the past, wanting to do good, have started investment funds or invested in things to make a change and lost their shirts.

By stating the obvious (to us anyway), they're letting any potential investors know that they're not going to spend money on losing propositions just to save the planet.

I would also like to add, if they really want green investments to pay off, they should also lobby Congress to get rid of the many oil industry subsidies and tax breaks. That would make oil more expensive - actually, it should allow oil to be priced so that it reflects its true costs. The oil industry is a prime example of how tax and government subsidies can distort a market to the point that one of the most inefficient and polluting fuels had become predominant and other sources of energy have a hard time competing in the market place because of the false reduced costs imposed by Government. I think adding even more tax breaks and subsidies to an energy solution is not the way to go. We need to eliminate the current ones on oil, gas, and coal. And it will help reduce the amount in the tax code.

stealth tax sibsidy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263169)

There's some huge number of dollars involved-well over a trillion by now just in this decade- in keeping the military in the mideast, and I think there might be..one or two..people left who don't think it has anything to do with oil. Same with nuclear power, all the big fuss over iran is over nuclear technology once you get down to it, because the tech itself is inherently unsafe/dangerous-the potential anyway. Put those ongoing costs directly on the electricity bill from nuclear and directly on the prices people pay at the fuel pump for oil products, and that would help get a fairer real life price. Stop funding it from the general tax fund, that's a clear big business subsidy.

  Now, conversely, who is going to war or worried about war over access to sunshine or wind or wave power? It doesn't exist, but access to crude oil and natural gas and uranium is a huge problem and it leads to war and threats of war. That's a real cost-in money and blood- that the proponents of those energy forms fail to admit to.

Re:stealth tax sibsidy (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264397)

Hmm I thought there were only 1 or 2 people who still thought it had anything to do with OIL.

Question, where did the trillion dollars go? You know a huge portion of it went to contractors right? Are these oil contractors? Not especially.They are the same contractors who are always involved in war... military industrial contractors.

The end result may have something to do with oil. I prefer to believe it has more to do with opening up a brand new market for development and those contractors who get in early will gain the majority of the development dollars - both during wartime and during reconstruction.

Now I'm not disagreeing with your fundamental argument, that money is being funneled to 3rd parties via the war tax. I just don't think big oil is the major recipient. They actually get to reap the secondary benefit of surging oil prices due to Iraq / middle-east turmoil causing fear about the supply of oil (which is unfounded and being 'gamed' by the market).

Your final conclusion is fine.... but fairly obvious. "People fighting over finite supplies of resources? Amazing!"

Re:stealth tax sibsidy (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25265609)

I just don't think big oil is the major recipient.

Perhaps you are un aware of the windfall profits of the major oil companies since the start of the Iraq War.

"By just about any measure, the past three years have produced one of the biggest cash gushers in the oil industry's history. Since January of 2002, the price of crude has tripled, leaving oil producers awash in profits. During that period, the top 10 major public oil companies have sold some $1.5 trillion worth of crude, pocketing profits of more than $125 billion. [msn.com]

"Exxon beat its own one-year-old record for the biggest corporate profits ever by 3 percent. Put together with the announcement by the No. 2 U.S. oil company, Chevron, of an $18.7 billion year, up 9 percent over 2006, plus the earlier results of Shell and ConocoPhillips, and that's more than $100 billion in profits from four companies. It's all thanks to the historic 35 percent climb in worldwide crude oil prices in the second half of 2007, ending the first week of this year when oil briefly touched $100 per barrel...Exxon Mobil's profits are 80 percent higher than those of General Electric, which used to be the largest U.S. company by market capitalization before Exxon left it in the dust in 2005. The new economy? Microsoft earns about a third as much money. And next to Exxon, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, looks like a quaint boutique, with annual profits of about $11 billion." [usnews.com]

Just because they aren't getting money straight from Uncle Sam like the military industrial contractors are, don't think that this war hasn't served to make oil far more profitable than ever, and don't think that is any surprise to the oil man in the Whitehouse.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263217)

That would make oil more expensive

So much for caring about the poor...

Re:Obvious (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263273)

Oh, so making the planet inhabitable and inhospitable to human life is going to help the poor?

The cost of oil is going to continue to rise, subsidies or no. At the end of the day, shrinking supply + increasing demand == more $$$$. There's no stopping that force in a free market system. And free market economies are the force driving the global economy, like it or not.

There's no reason why we shouldn't end government subsidies on big oil.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263811)

obviously you on the wrong side of economics.

extra taxes imposed by government force on any industry are what distorts the market. there's no reason they should give the tax breaks only to the oil industry. they should be giving them to every industry. congress will only end up wasting any extra money they would collect from more taxes, further increasing our energy costs in an already scarce market.

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263987)

Making a better than normal return on investments has always been about timing. Many a sound plan has failed because it was too early or too late.

In the early part of the dot com era, a lot of money was invested on businesses that could not generate cash until man more people had Internet connections at home. Back in the 70's oil crisis lots of creativity was going into alternative energy and conservation technologies -- just before oil prices started to drop. When everyone knows change is coming, most people will lose money getting the timing wrong, and a few will make a lot of money.

That's just investing.

Now consider: if you had to have heart surgery, would you go to a doctor whose specialty was "ethically responsible surgery"? No. You'd go to a surgeon and expect him to be socially responsible. Maybe you'd want to know what his standards of ethics are and how those ethics are enforce. But you wouldn't put yourself in the hands of somebody who uses ethics as branding.

The problem is we don't need SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE investment funds, we need socially responsible INVESTMENT funds. Social responsibility should be something a well run fund has a philosophy and strategy for, like any other aspect of investment. It shouldn't be left to specialists.

I suspect, also, that "social investment", if I may use that term, is also a matter of timing. No investment is likely to be totally free of ethical issues, but economically driven change always happens at the margins: the next dollar spent or not spent. So if you look at a collection of investments, at any time there will be a small number of them where moving some dollars will have a big effect. Choosing to lose money everywhere means you lose money; choosing to lose money in selected places may actually mean you secure your future, since most socially "irresponsible" business practices are short sighted.

That's investing too.

I disagree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25264269)

Choosing to lose money everywhere means you lose money; choosing to lose money in selected places may actually mean you secure your future, since most socially "irresponsible" business practices are short sighted.

Tell that to the folks who are investing their life savings. It's easy to tell the other guy that it's socially responsible to lose money on occasion, but it's whole different ball of wax when it's your money. I wish more "activists" would understand this instead of demanding that others pay for their ideas and values.

Re:Obvious (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25265191)

The problem is we don't need SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE investment funds, we need socially responsible INVESTMENT funds. Social responsibility should be something a well run fund has a philosophy and strategy for, like any other aspect of investment. It shouldn't be left to specialists.

I considered a "socially repsonsible" investment fund at one point. Then I realized the thing had pathetic returns, and figured the world would be better off with me investing in broad market ETFs and donating some money to useful charities.

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25265677)

I considered a "socially repsonsible" investment fund at one point. Then I realized the thing had pathetic returns

Considering that every American taxpayer just got raped to the tune of $850 billion just two days ago, I would have to say that irresponsible investments have pretty pathetic returns as well.

Re:Obvious (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25265985)

irresponsible investments have pretty pathetic returns

Actually they have very good returns, at least to some people. I don't hear anything about making the masters of the universe hand their bonuses back.

Re:Obvious (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25266579)

Now consider: if you had to have heart surgery, would you go to a doctor whose specialty was "ethically responsible surgery"? No. You'd go to a surgeon and expect him to be socially responsible.

Ethically responsible doctor: "I must consider what's best for my patient, therefore I won't sell his kidneys on the black market, even if doing so would help younger and healthier people."

Socially responsible doctor: "I must consider what's best for the society. This guy is not very healthy, and could easily become a burden from now on. Furthermore, I know someone who could use a kidney transplant."

The ethical doctor, please :).

Re:Wow. What a coincidence. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263019)

Believe it or Not, That slogan is more of a marketing message.
To attract investors you need to be sure that you are not making you seem like a charity where you spend you money and at best you get a bit of a tax break. This is investing your money and hopes to get a reward out of it. It isn't a bad thing. America is one of the biggest givers to charity in the world, however showing people the long term financial goal of this will help get more investment.

Re:Wow. What a coincidence. (1)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264899)

Holy shit really? Might that be because if their mission statement was "we will take your money and piss it up against a wall in an environmentally friendly manner" they would not have any capital to venture?

I'll tell you what projects to reduce our dependance on oil are worth funding - the ones already funded by the big oil companies. Do you really think they enjoy taking it up the ass from OPEC?

BP, for example, cold called me a couple of months back, trying to sell me solar panels.

Every single damn one of the big oil companies is living in fear that one of their competitors will end up in control of a feasible oil alternative. You can be damn sure that their aim is to be the first to get in that position.

creating unrepayable debt for generations to come (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25262961)

yet another venture capitalist ratskew? that's how we like it, right? this is what we asked for, right? our dwindling resources are being disposed of according to our wishes/votes, right? funny how robbIE's touting those felons today?

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(talk about cowardlly race fixing/bad theater/fiction?) http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/19/news/economy/sec_short_selling/index.htm?cnn=yes
(the teaching of hate as a way of 'life' synonymous with failed dictatorships) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081004/ap_on_re_us/newspapers_islam_dvd;_ylt=A0wNcwWdfudITHkACAus0NUE

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.


'The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Great timing, actually. (4, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25262963)

Sure, the stock market's bad. Really bad. Oddly, that's what makes for very good timing here - because even though a lot of people have less money to invest, there's a lot of other folks who are looking to take their money from places they used to believe as 'safe', and put it where some of it will make money back to recover from recent failures. That includes mutual fund companies, and several other sources of megabucks.

There's also a lot of potential researchers who can spend a lot of time on these projects, at relatively competitive rates. And a lot of existing data to pull together from university projects that individually have been starved for resources. That, and there's a slight possibility some politicians may be able to make a sane infrastructure to provide at least some support in upcoming budgets.

Sounds like excellent timing to get a massively multiple-approach research project like this underway. It might even save a small part of our economy through the continuing troubles.

Ryan Fenton

Making money from VC is OK (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25262967)

provided they take the long term view. It is no coincidence that the UK Green movement has definitely aristocratic supporters, because an aristocracy tends to think about its grandchildren (to the extent of things like planting trees that will not mature in their own lifetimes, for the sake of future generations.) I like to think that really sophisticated venture capitalists will be planning now for a comfortable retirement in 30-40 years time - and will therefore be worrying about what the world will be like then. Hedge funds are full of people with a short term attitude - anybody who shorts stocks has that - who just assume that they can accumulate so much wealth that they can insulate themselves from everything short of global meltdown. Which has just worked out so well...but real venture capitalists are an engine of progress. Without them no USA (who funded Columbus and the first colonies?), no canals, no trains, no telephone, no modern medicine.

Re:Making money from VC is OK (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25266061)

I used to work for a company that was taken over by venture capitalists, it went fron bad to worse. You think they take a longer term view than hedge funds? Well you're right - they usually consider as far as the end of the current quarter. I suppose that is, technically speaking, longer than tomorrow morning.

If the company doesn't go bust in the next few years they'll probably try to flip it to somebody else who thinks they're so much more of a genius than the current idiots who are running it - who of course thought exactly the same about the previous management.

Re:Making money from VC is OK (1)

drew (2081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25266783)

Saying that every one who shorts stock has a short term view is only true if you believe that all companies will increase in value in the long run. Selling SCOX short in 2002 would have been a loss in the short term, but 6 years later, it would have paid off well, assuming you had the patience to stick it out. Of course, for some people, six years is still short term. But even people investing for the long term have to think in terms of months and years. Yes, short selling is commonly used by short term traders to make money off a failing company, but it can also be used by long(er) term investors to make money off companies or sectors that are stable but for whatever reason significantly overvalued. Google is certainly not going to die off any time soon, but a lot of investors thought they were significantly overvalued when their stock was pushing $750, whether they were short term investors or not.

Be Smarter If (0, Troll)

dammy (131759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25262983)

Be a lot smarter for startups to pitch the idea of stopping dependency of offshore oil then to pitch Gorebull Warming.

EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (3, Informative)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#25262993)

EEStor is another interesting electric-car-related Kleiner Perkins investment http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/dealflow/archives/2005/09/kleiner_perkins_1.html [businessweek.com]. They have patented technology for super capacitors with over ten times the energy density of lead acid batteries. Being capacitors without electrochemistry, the power density (charge/discharge rates) is also very high.

The trick is that they use a doped barium titanate dielectric with a very high permittivity structured as a sub-micron grain composite interspersed with thin Aluminum oxide and glass layers to lower the breakdown voltage. http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:EEStor [peswiki.com]. The big gain over normal capacitors happens because the energy content of a capacitor goes as the voltage square, and the overall relative permittivity exceeds 10000.

The internal combustion engine is obsolete.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

shic (309152) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263079)

The entire field of capacitive (solid-state) batteries I found very interesting. What undermines the technology, from my perspective, is that there seems to have been so little progress in the last three years.

Are EEstor and related technologies going to be realised or are they vapourware?

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (2, Informative)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263103)

By independent accounts they have been realized. Lockheed Martin for example has taken out a license and confirmed the performance claims that EEStor makes http://gm-volt.com/2008/01/10/lockheed-martin-signs-agreement-with-eestor/ [gm-volt.com]. When the technology will make it to the market is still a bit of an open question. In 2009, supposedly. But given the big vested interests in the oil industry, I would not be surprised if it will be delayed.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

shic (309152) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263209)

I was aware that there were early adopters... but, I'm afraid, I'm a cynic.

Given the revolutionary potential of so many applications, I find it difficult to establish why investments are so small. If the technology is ripe for production and can be demonstrated, I can't imagine it being difficult to get substantial funding and put this into mass production.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263299)

Given the revolutionary potential of so many applications, I find it difficult to establish why investments are so small.

It is simply because there is far too much money power behind maintaining the status quo. The energy industry turns over thousands of billions of dollars each year. That is why electric cars have simply not been allowed to reach the market in quantity, so far. To see the lengths industry has gone through to keep us addicted to oil, I can recommend the documentary movie "Who killed the electric car?" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F [wikipedia.org].

But there is good hope that this time around it is different, mostly because the US has not stopped the petrodollar scheme (oil up until recently being priced only in dollars and thus causing dollar liquidity to be mopped up abroad) from being unwound. With the main reason for the US to support oil and high oil prices slowly dissipating, it is reasonable to assume that a transition is planned.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264549)

Obsolete?! Give me a break. I assure you for things like tractor trailers, and anything construction / work site related, we'll be using combustion engines for a very long time yet. As for personal transportation I would completely agree.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264771)

Decent electric motors have pretty damn high torque from zero revs.

Re:EEStor, Another Kleiner Perkins investment (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#25270983)

Obsolete?! Give me a break. I assure you for things like tractor trailers, and anything construction / work site related, we'll be using combustion engines for a very long time yet.

Yes, obsolete. Modern electric motors are far superior to internal combustion engines in terms of power/weight, torque, conversion efficiency, robustness, lifetime, required support systems, and RPM range. What has kept the internal combustion engine competitive nevertheless was the backward state of electric energy storage technology. Traditionally, batteries have been bulky, with limited energy density and power. Lithium ion batteries are sort of getting there in terms of energy density, but they are rather expensive still and take hours to charge. The EEStor technology solves all that: it provides high energy density, extremely high peak power, and can in principle be produced cost effectively. To make that reality, the main development focus of EEStor has been refinement of automated materials-processing and production lines.

As to required support systems, you can drop the radiator-fan-water cooling system, drive-train/transmission, differential, clutch, oil reservoir, gas tank, and some other crud when you replace an internal combustion engine with electric motor(s). Electric motors are so compact that you can place them where power is required, e.g. in the wheel rims. That's why hybrids are such a farce: all the weight and expense needed to still put in an internal combustion engine could instead have been allocated to batteries so as to give the thing a good all-electric drive range.

Volume production of barium titanate? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264809)

You do realise that to turn over an appreciable percentage of the world's internal combustion engines to electric/supercapacitor will require enormous investment in barium extraction? Titanium is OK, but finding enough barium and building the plant is a huge undertaking. And your comment is backwards: energy density in real-world dielectric capacitors has always been lower than that in electrochemical batteries.

Having worked in the past with lightning simulators, I have a fair amount of experience of different capacitor technologies, and I can assure you that there will be energy loss in these things. That heat will have to be dissipated, and the dissipation means will reduce the available energy density. There are many other problems, including the varying voltage as the cell discharges, which means complex inverters are needed to supply the motor controller. I'm going to hazard a guess and suggest that the timescale to get this to production volume comparable with bread and butter Diesel or gasoline engine production lines is going to be 30-50 years, which is too late to make a difference. For niche markets it may do very well, but no, the IC engine is not being obsoleted by this.

Re:Retroincabulator (1)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 5 years ago | (#25270801)

The trick is that they use a doped barium titanate dielectric with a very high permittivity structured as a sub-micron grain composite interspersed with thin Aluminum oxide and glass layers to lower the breakdown voltage.

Bah. Why didn't they just use Rockwell Automation's Retroincabulator [youtube.com]

Moreover, whenever fluorescent score motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm to reduce sinusoidal depleneration.


Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (5, Funny)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263015)

Imagine driving on a warm summer night with the wind blowing through your hair and hearing nothing but the sounds of nature.

Imagine crossing the road on a warm summer night, a gentle breeze blowing through your hair and hearing nothing but the sounds of nature ... and then: BAM! Hit by an electric car."

There are some small electric cars in London, they're eerily silent.

Just to clarify, I do think that this is a good technology and it is the future, but I am sure that there will be accidents because the cars are silent.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (5, Interesting)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263063)

The noise difference is not nearly as large over 50 km/h because then the road/tire noise starts to dominate over engine noise. Electric cars are silent only at low speeds.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (2, Funny)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263167)

I've heard of many cars where dominating noise at low speeds sounds something like this "Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, ...". You can hear it clearly even when the car is stopped at traffic lights.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264181)

Yup, the other day I jumped when a Prius that ran electric-only sneaked up on me in the parking structure.
They should really have a little noise generator built in, as ridiculous as that sounds at first.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (3, Funny)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263171)

I saw a slot on the BBC regional news for East Anglia about 2 months ago about a project to make electric cars louder, precisely for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. They were going with the obvious solution: fit loudspeakers at the front of the car, and play a recording of an internal combustion engine.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263321)


Look, if people obeyed the traffic laws, drivers and pedestrians alike, then there's no need for any of this crap. Cross the damn road at the signal and look both ways before crossing the damn street. If you're blind, get a fscking seeing eye dog or have a sighted person with you.

Why do people have no fscking common sense?!

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263483)

You can't assume a perfect system exists when so many external factors are involved. Driving is bluntly letting everybody throw thousands of pounds of steel around. Everybody... is not a promising thought. I speak to you here as someone who spent a few months in a coma and faces long term damage from being hit as a pedestrian by a woman who was distracted by the kids in her back seats. This happened immediately in front of the school I was attending at the time. Shit happens and technology needs to account for shit happening, especially when it is a known element.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267925)

Why not just make electric cars sound like TIE fighters?! I'm a sucker for the intake/exhaust symphony of a well tuned engine, but offer me a sporty electric car that sounds like a TIE fighter and I'm sold...and I don't even like Star Wars...or electric cars...or cyclists...

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (2, Interesting)

froon (1160919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263391)

One solution is to add speakers. [wired.com]

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263479)

Naa...just use clothes pins and cardboard cut from your favorite cereal box...http://www.spokester.com/

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263847)

Like the Securicor vans which say "Warning! Securicor Van Reversing"?

"Attention! Vehicle Approaching! VROOM VROOM!"
"Warning! Vehicle Driven By Woman applying make-up Approaching!"
"WATCH OUT! Vehicle Driven By Self-Obsessed Wanker On Mobile Phone Approaching!"

It could get louder and faster the faster the vehicle travels, like an ice cream van.

In addition you could get famous actors and comedians to voice the alerts.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263699)

Modern conventional cars aren't that noisy either, if they're not revving their engines flat out, it's not easy to hear their _engines_ or exhausts.

The tire noise etc will be the same as an electric car.

Even my 14 year old car doesn't make much noise at 2000 rpm (yes the car still works ;) ).

Anyway, in my country you look both ways when you cross the street, even if it's a one way street - crazy motorcyclists (and some car drivers) think it's perfectly fine to travel at a brisk pace the _wrong_ way.

Have to look up and down as well - people have been stealing manhole covers for the metal, and then in some places you might wish to watch for stuff falling from construction sites (a lower risk, but potentially quite a high impact ;) ).

So all in all I'd prefer electric cars to not have ridiculous stuff to make them noisy. The crazy racers already make a lot of noise at 3 or 4 am every weekend. Let's not give them extra methods and ways to make their cars louder.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25266131)

True, I was surprised yesterday by a car (a small Peugot I think), it was going maybe 10mph in an underground car park and I hadn't heard it at all.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25264115)

Ipod zombies are always stepping out in front of my bicycle, eyeballs motherfucker, do you use them?

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264171)

Luckily those stupid little Gwiz things, if they actually hit you at thier top speed of 30mph, would crumple around your ankles like a newpaper blowing in the wind.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (2, Insightful)

fugue (4373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264265)

This argument has been used by Harley assholes for a long time, and it's simply not valid. It may be that louder vehicles give more clues as to their whereabouts--but if that is the case, we should be duct-taping our horns down, or building in beepers and sirens to continuously wail (or wail at variable pitch depending on speed (and direction??)).

Don't get me wrong--I think driving should be made as unpleasant as possible in order to encourage people to use more responsible forms of transportation--but the unpleasantness should be limited to the driver, not to the world at large. Inflicting your noise on your neighbours is sociopathic.

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264787)

Yeah I'm in China at the moment. Almost been taken out on a daily basis by the very popular electric scooteres :S

Re:Electric Cars ... the Silent Killer (1)

zaivala (887815) | more than 5 years ago | (#25269805)

GM announced today that they are going to include a CD of engine noises with their Volt, due out in 2010. Crank it up, and you can avoid hitting people.

Whoooosh Genereators (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25276879)

Just to clarify, I do think that this is a good technology and it is the future, but I am sure that there will be accidents because the cars are silent.

Has nobody actually seen any science fiction films that show future cars? They all go 'woooooooosh', as they go by. Yeah, they have silent propulsion, but to deal with the obvious problems, the NHTSB mandated in 2012 that all cars producing less than 65dB of noise have Whooooooosh Generators installed as a safety measure.

Ugly (2, Informative)

ildon (413912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263039)

Why do people insist on making electric cars ugly as hell?

Re:Ugly (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264581)

With all due respect just because you think all vehicles should be rectangular boxes with wheels poking out at the bottom doesn't mean that every shares that opinion.

I happen to be member of a rather sizable group that happen to think these vehicles are cute and/or just plain really cool. It's time to stop thinking that all vehicles need to look like scaled (or not so scaled) down versions of bread vans and semi tractors.

New Yorker cartoon, 9/9/2002 (3, Insightful)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263049)

The CEO is giving a speech at a board meeting: "And so, while the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors, we believe that the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit."
http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=G41AMWKD2J779JFDMBDRM9CAKAKJ63T5&sitetype=1&did=4&sid=52630&pid=&keyword=end+of+the+world&section=cartoons&title=undefined&whichpage=1&sortBy=popular [cartoonbank.com]

They're coming from everywhere (2, Interesting)

rcastro0 (241450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263115)

Electric Cars are coming from everywhere, in different sizes and shapes, with different concepts. Some will append the electric motor to a a ignition engine generator (making it a hybrid). Some are tricycles using solar back-up power. Others are super-sport cars. It is all very interesting.

Back in February I was so amazed with the variety that I posted in my blog thirty different electric and hybrid cars from all over the world. From the established auto industry of Japan and the US down to individual projects, this is a really special moment for entrepreneurs, inventors and creative people. The blog post is in portuguese, but there are pictures and reference links for all 30 electric car models [simplesmente.com].

Sorry for the plug. Cheers.

Re:They're coming from everywhere (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263723)

Sounds a bit like the beginning of the auto age - back then even the pedal layouts weren't standardized yet.

Same goes for the beginning of the PC age. The PCs in the 1970s-1980s were very different from each other.

Re:They're coming from everywhere (1)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 5 years ago | (#25271199)

I think the electric small/lightweight/trike cars are more akin to the rise of the netbooks such as the Eee PC - the realization that for certain tasks less space is adequate (and even preferable). I'd love a 1-2 passenger car like the Volkswagen 1L - stability, streamline and a roof over your head solves what motorcycles don't, while taking up less space and consuming less, but we'll have to wait until 2010.

Re:They're coming from everywhere (2, Insightful)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264111)

Electric Cars are coming from everywhere, in different sizes and shapes, with different concepts. Some will append the electric motor to a a ignition engine generator (making it a hybrid). Some are tricycles using solar back-up power. Others are super-sport cars. It is all very interesting.

And they will all go straight to Europe, Asia, and even South America. But I tell you not a bloody one of them will ever see large deployments here in the US. The market has been brainwashed against them, the laws and regulations are stacked against them, and the US has a failing Ford, GM, and Chrystler. The best the US will get is a 10-20% fuel economy increase on its passenger vehicles. In fact the US has already received an installment on that very thing with the 2008/09 model years.

Even in the high efficiency gas/diesel market I do not believe the US won't see anything in the near term. For example Ford came up with a really nice 65 MPG Fiesta [businessweek.com] for the 2009 model year. Trouble is, it burns diesel. In the US diesel is taxed heavily under the assumption that the primary market for diesel is the trucking industry, the major contributors to wear and tear on the highways. Recognizing this Ford didn't even plan for a US deployment and set up shop in Great Britain. Factoring the higher labor costs as well as importation expeses and you have a sure guarentee that this car will never see the US shores.

Re:They're coming from everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25265663)

Businessweek's numbers on diesel taxes are disputed by the American Petroleum Institute [api.org]:

As of October 1, 2008:

  • The nationwide average tax on gasoline is 48.4 cents per gallon as of October 2008, down 1 cent from July 2008.
  • The nationwide average tax on motor diesel fuel is 53.6, a decrease of 2.8 cents from the July 2008 study.

Re:They're coming from everywhere (1)

pablodiazgutierrez (756813) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267583)

Well, perhaps things are turning. I remember reading that GM is counting on a heavy subsidy for their Volt, in the order of $7-8k, to make it more attractive. I think the transition is inevitable as the technology becomes better suited.

Too small for macho Americans? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264205)

Is there likely to be a cultural problem in the USA with electric cars being smaller than most internal combustion engine cars? Will there be a low take up in the USA due to the vehicles not being macho enough? Wondering if anybody can tell me what sort of take up there is in the US for other small (gasoline powered) cars that we have lots of in Europe, like the Smart car, or other small hatchbacks. In Europe the US is seen as loving really big vehicles, sometimes more powerful than people actually need (e.g. 4x4 SUVs for just taking children to school and soccer). It's a trend that's happening in Europe as well, but limited due to a lot of our older towns not just being able to cope with such big vehicles: it makes sense in big old cities to have a small car because it's easier to park and manouevre, maybe not such an issue in the US car-planned cities.

Really curious if this cultural tendency towards big cars will slow down the take up of small electric cars in the US, any thoughts?

Re:Too small for macho Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25265971)

if they are overpriced useless midget cars then yes. If the performance (in speed, *and usefulness*) are in line with the pricing then they will succeed

Why yes, we do want our large cars if not SUV's. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25269917)

Is there likely to be a cultural problem in the USA with electric cars being smaller than most internal combustion engine cars?

Yes. If it looks like Detroit had no hand in its design(by its cheapness/smallness being a non-Detroit element), has less than 5-6 cylinders(GM tried with the Quad-4 resulting in worse performance for higher-rated versions), and only drops below $20000 used, there is a cultural problem.

You still have a sizable and non-ignorable audience that wants to see the return of affordable land yachts. They would rather have a revamped version of the 1990's Impala SS/Classic or even try to get an Police Interceptor at an auction over something that seems a bit too undersized for US roads. These people will not be impressed with much less.

They will not give up their *block engine unless they see *block performance under the hood, for something that isn't in the stratosphere in price, and looks like it did come out of Detroit (and not some far-off part of the world).

Re:They're coming from everywhere (1)

bemo56 (1251034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264225)

Sorry for the plug. Cheers.

Don't be, its an interesting collection of images. There are newly released of the latest iteration of the Chevrolet Volt (from the Paris Motor Show) you might want to add to that list.

Link to Full article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263129)

A link to the full article is here [nytimes.com].

too bad (1)

j0nb0y (107699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263153)

It's too bad for the all the small private companies that have been investing in green vehicles. The government just gave the big guys $25 billion dollars to retrofit their plants to make "more efficient" vehicles. It's hard to compete against free government money. This waste will contribute to more problems in the future. Why make a risky bet on alternative energy? Just invest in the same old inefficient technologies, and then when it's way too late to switch over, the government will bail you out.

Al Gore invented global warming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25263477)

Al Gore invented global warming so he can rip you off and get even richer... Now he stands to make hundreds of millions while we all suffer from this made-up global holocaust.

Re:Al Gore invented global warming... (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#25263573)

if he is clever enough to trick the hundreds of respected scientists around the world to stake their considerable reputations alongside the intergovernmental panel on climate change, then he is the cleverest man alive and deserves our money.

BTW, what does he do with the 'hundreds of millions' he makes from us? and how does he make it exactly?

Norwegian Cutie? (1)

c1t1z3nk41n3 (1112059) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264011)

Good thing the hyperlink wasn't on the Norwegian Cutie part or some readers may have been tricked into clicking on the article before realizing it's a car. Actually I bet some of us still were...

Thanks (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 5 years ago | (#25265273)

You saved me from an embarrassing post...

Re:Thanks (1)

alex4u2nv (869827) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267541)

I'm confused....

Where is the cutie?!??!!!

On a side note, if the Norwegian cutie is the car. Then that image advertisement with 5 old men trying to get into her is disgusting! (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/10/05/magazine/05cover-395.jpg)

5x return in 18 months required (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264189)

Unfortunately, the best projects in Green Tech may never get funded, because most VCs look for 5 to 1 returns in 18 months, and some projects, surprisingly, take longer than that to monetize.

Unsurprising- use the dictionary (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264833)

Monetize means to make something into a currency, not turn a profit. Doesn't anybody learn economics 101 nowadays?

And 5 to 1 return in 18 months? Er, depends on the size of the stake and the expected life of the company. No simple rule here.

Re:Unsurprising- use the dictionary (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 5 years ago | (#25264943)

Thanks so much for the uncalled-for insult. The actual word to use is fungible, but I wanted to use a word that was more readily understood. You knew what I meant but just had to show you were smart, right? The point of the 18 months is that there is a strict bar on $$$ return that has nothing to do with what might turn out to be an interesting and profitable project but takes longer to develop.

Inherent problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25265667)

Can the venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins reduce our dependence on oil, help stop global warming, and make a lot of money at the same time?

It is hard to stop something that doesn't exist: global warming. Not even KP is that good.

Electric Vehicles are not (currently) the answer (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267377)

No, this isn't another "Global Warming doesn't exist" troll. This is about energy. Electricity, specifically. It has to be generated somehow. Sure, hydro, wind, and solar are great sounding ideas. To some extent, they already work, and no doubt can be made better if investment is done in R&D, and deployment, for those technologies. But, imagine something on the order of 100 million cars which need to be charged, possibly twice or thrice, every day. That is a massive amount of electricity which is not currently being generated that needs to be generated.

Where will it come from? Right now, probably *not* from clean energy sources. People don't want to build more nuke plants; I believe hydro electric's generating capacity is already pretty much tapped out and there's not a lot of sites to build new damns; Wind and Solar are both spikey, and currently just aren't available in nearly the quantities necessary anyhow.

That leaves coal, oil, natural gas, and maybe something like propane (but, I think most propane comes from oil, doesn't it?)

Even allowing for generation from carbon-based fuels, it would require new power plants to be built and brought online, which if you believe in global warming, you don't want to encourage, because once a power company has invested in building the plant, the government is probably not going to shut it down (at least in the USA), so that means that you now have many additional carbon-based power plants and will continue to have them for 50-100 years.

So, unless people want to build a lot of fission nuclear power plants (which the public doesn't seem too enthusiastic about; McCain suggested it and that whole conversation died in about 30 seconds), electric vehicles simply are not a viable solution to global warming. Maybe, someday, if we can get cheap, clean, safe fusion nuclear power, electric vehicles might become a great option, but not right now. If electric *did* become super cheap in massive quantities, electric vehicles still might not be the best option - with cheap electricity, something like hydrogen or some other type of synthesized fuel might be a better option. Hydrogen has containment/safety issues, but still, chemical fuels that you can carry in a tank, and nearly instantly re-fill at a fueling station are likely to always be a better solution than electric, unless someone can find a way to instantly recharge an electric vehicle.

Re:Electric Vehicles are not (currently) the answe (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25271643)

Well.... Think is a Norwegian car, and Norway produces the most hydroelectric power in Europe. Sure, we close down the plants during the night to get cheap coal electricty from mainland Europe, but during the day, it's mostly hydroelectric.

Another way to get clean fuel is to use atomic energy. Yeah, wast is an issue, but it's still clean in the climate discussion.

A thrid thing to consider is that oil and coal plants are cleaner than the cars, and it's also easier to caputre CO2 from a plant than the cars driving around all over the place.

Actually, most of the alternatives of producing power is cleaner than using a combustion engine in a car 100% of the time already, and the potential is even greater.

Re:Electric Vehicles are not (currently) the answe (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#25277891)

Well. . . those seem like reasonable answers.

There's still the economic argument - if a lot of people start using electric cars, we will likely go through at least a period of time where electricity costs increase due to the increased demand. It might be that over time, new power plants will come online, which might reduce the cost, but I'm very afraid of what electric vehicles will do to electricity prices in the US, if they ever become popular.

Re:Electric Vehicles are not (currently) the answe (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25326049)

True, but as I said here in Norway, we actually turn off the hydropower during night, because we can import it cheaper from those plants you cannot turn off (nuclear, coal, etc.) which haven't got the same demand during night as they do during the day. I guess the same would go for charging your car during the night in US as well. Your plants produce the same amount of electricity during night as during the day, but it's all a waste, since the need is not the same.

Just something to think about. If they would make electricity cheaper during the night, people would wait until then before charging their cars, etc. if possible.

Yeah, we'll probably be needing more and more power plants, but things can be done, the question is: Are people/government willing to do it?

The problem with charging cars at night (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#25333643)

Charging cars at night sounds great but. . .

I get up in the morning, my cars all charged up. Great. So, now I'm ready to drive to work, which might be a 40 or 50 mile commute. My car might have a maximum electric range of 60 or 70 miles, say. So, I get to work, but my car batteries are almost dead. I'd sure like to be able to plugin at work, so that 8 hours later, when I'm done working, I can drive home. But that means charging my car during the day as well as at night.

If my car is a hybrid, I can at least drive home on gasoline, but to get the most benefit from electric vehicles, you want people doing most of their daily driving using the electric instead of the gas, which means you pretty much have to accept that people will be charging during the day, as well as at night.

As for differential pricing of electricity day vs night, I think they already do that some places in the US. I have some friends who live in Arizona, and I believe that they have a differential pricing scheme out there (because air conditioners use up so much electricity during the day, I think), so people wait till night to do things like laundry, running the dishwasher, etc).

Re:Electric Vehicles are not (currently) the answe (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#25333739)

You know, I'm just thinking - your comment about them turning off the hydro plants at night made me think of something - if someone can ever come up with high-temperature superconductors, it occurs to me that Norway and the other European countries might be able to have a nice way to make some additional import revenue by selling their excess hydro power to the US, Canada, and Central/South America, and maybe parts of Asia(?). I believe, because of timezone differences, it's still afternoon and evening in the Americas when it's night and early morning in Europe, no?

Then, as the US is shutting off the lights, so to speak, at night, we could be selling excess generation capacity to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Oh well, yet another good reason why economical high-temp Super Conductors would be one the most important discoveries of the century (in whatever century it happens), if it ever happens.

Okay? (1)

alisson (1040324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25298089)

Oil companies are spending the most on alternative energies, really. They're just not really interested in selling them until the oil's all gone.

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