How’d you like to have a 150mpg car?


Like most of us aware of global warming and an oil supply that’s not unlimited — and paying more for gasoline than ever before — I’m thinking about my next vehicle. My goal is a plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), but my lease runs out in November and mainstream vendors (e.g., Toyota, GM) have said it’s likely they’ll ship PHEV’s in any sort of volume “around 2010-2012.”

Though rolled out at the recent Detroit Auto Show, I began paying serious attention a month ago as I started to look for options. AFS Trinity boasts 150mpg with their innovative technology in their “Extreme Hybrid” (which is actually a gutted and outfitted Saturn VUE to prove that the tech works):

AFS Trinity Power has developed patent-pending technology that makes it possible for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to achieve 150 MPG, go 40 miles in all-electric mode, and use gasoline for additional unlimited miles in hybrid mode.

They key to why their approach is “extreme” is the use of ultracapacitors, allowing fast charging of the Lithium Ion batteries and, most importantly, fast discharge (so you can smoke those tires from a dead stop!). Explanation of the tech here.

The bad news? This is a concept that is being pitched to automakers and they’re also disclosing that they are also 2010-ish before shipping. The good news? Maybe two more car cycles (for me, 4.5 years away) and there will be a multitude of PHEV choices.

I may have to buy a Prius in the interim.

Minnov8: Showcasing Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology

If you’re out in the Bay area or on the other coast in New York or Boston, it’s pretty easy to be smug about your culture of risk-taking, pool of top talent, and strings of successful, world-changing innovations. But as the world continues its acceleration to one that’s increasingly connected and ways of collaborating make distance irrelevant, smart people will pop up everywhere and I’m convinced we’ll see a flattening of the geographic advantages these pockets of innovation represent.

Six of us were bugged that there was so much going on in Internet and Web technology innovation right here in Minnesota, that when I suggested we start our own blog to showcase that innovation, there were nods of agreement and a willingness to dive in and make it real.

The biggest reason we were all interested in this blog is that these showcases and interviews are what we wanted to read and there wasn’t anything like it out there.

The result is Minnov8: Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology. This past weekend was the biggest Barcamp yet, Minnebar, and over 400 people showed up to present, learn and participate. Rather than recreate everything on this blog, why not take a peek at Minnov8? This and this post are ones that will recap what took place.

Wherever you live and whatever space you care about (e.g., technology, education, greentech, etc.) and where there are a critical mass of people willing to leap in and work together as multiple authors, I’d encourage you to start one of these…it’s pretty simple to do and fun to boot.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

We’re so close, and yet so far, from truly rechargeable devices requiring little or no fossil fuel.

In half an hour I’ll be heading to a dealership in Minneapolis to look at (and probably buy) a Neuton rechargeable mower. They’re the first ones that finally have what I need to cut my lawn with no fossil fuel needed: a 19″ swath, removable battery (extras are $99) and a price-point that’s reasonable though a hair on the high side ($479).

I have reservations about the device, though reviews are generally good about their older, smaller models and the battery life, cutting capability and so on. The other reservation is that this purchase is — at a minimum — a five year purchase cycle so I’ll live with this decision for a long time. My first reaction though was “Who the hell is Neuton?” since I’ve always purchased name brand mowers, specifically Toro brand. I’d certainly be more comfortable buying from a major brand, but none of them offer the sweet spot of what I require like the Neuton does and, in fact, Toro no longer makes rechargeables.

Currently I drive a diesel full size car that gets an average of 30mpg if I don’t drive like a crazy man. But what I really covet is a diesel or gas-assist, plug-in hybrid like the new, plug-in capable 2009 Toyota Prius. My lease runs out in November of this year, and there’s no way this model will be shipping since the dealers would already have pre-order ability, which they do not.

The reason for the delay in shipping products that are rechargeable, is the current state of battery technology.  Using plugin hybrid cars as the most visible example, there is tremendous effort underway in the world (Toyota, GM the most visible) to ship a plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and Toyota’s CEO stated last year that Lithium Ion batteries (needed for range and efficiency) wouldn’t be ready and volume shipping across Toyota’s line until 2012. Unfortunately for me and my lease end-date, I’m probably one car cycle away from having a PHEV and will undoubtedly have to buy this off-brand plugin lawnmower.

I’ll say this though, when gasoline hits $5 a gallon (or more, God forbid) then demand will be so high that in November I’ll be lucky to get on a waiting list for the next Prius without paying double the sticker!

UPDATE 5:41pm: I bought the Neuton and the dealership had charged the battery so I tried it out when I got home (and my 13 year old son begged to use it and he did most of the mowing…sure hope THAT excitement lasts!). It works MUCH better than I thought it would and the second battery I purchased means I’ll have zero worries of running out of juice. This is a great little product.