Archive for the ‘Green Cars’ Category

How to Green Your Business by Ridesharing with PickupPal

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Everybody is eager to save money these days, including both employees and businesses.  Businesses can help employees save money by encouraging ridesharing for their commute.  Ridesharing means there are fewer cars on the road, which is good for the planet, and also means people spend loss money on gas and wear and tear on their car.  For the business, ridesharing does not cost anything, and can help a business in a variety of ways, including reducing its environmental footprint.  PickupPal makes it easy for businesses and employees to work together greening their commute. 


Based in Canada, PickupPal helps to match up those who need rides with others who can give them.  Passengers say where they want to go, drivers enter where they are going, and PickupPal tells drivers who wants a ride, helping to connect them.  Drivers make an offer to passengers going their way and passengers can pick which drivers they want to go with based on the rating of drivers by other passengers.  Started in Canada, PickupPal is now operating in a growing list of cities in the US, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and other parts of the world. 


Companies like the Energy Savings Group in Toronto are using PickupPal as a rideshare site for employees.  “In these economic times, providing a carpooling option can boost employee productivity, making it easier and more cost effective to get to work,” said Brent Drewry, Executive Vice President of Business Development at PickupPal.  Joining with PickupPal can also help a company achieve sustainability goals that it sets for itself and reports to the world.  “We provide web-based reporting, which allows companies to track progress against their sustainability objectives, with metrics such as mileage travelled and carbon avoided through the use of ridesharing.”  PickupPal will soon also be allowing groups to set up their own Eco Rideshare page and adding social networking links to user profiles.  While people may be reluctant to get involved if they feel they are riding with strangers, they will be more willing to participate if they feel like they know the other person or are connected to them at least a little. 

Mobile Solar with Innergy Power

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

When we think of solar power the first thing that comes to mind is usually rooftop photovoltaic panels and utility-scale solar farms growing in the desert, but there is much more to solar power than this. Solar can also provide the perfect power source when the grid is unavailable or unreliable, and can be adapted readily for mobile power applications. To take advantage of this opportunity, companies are designing, producing and selling mobile solar systems for use in outdoor products, charging mobile electronics, emergency lighting, and for uses in regions with poor power quality or consistency.

Innergy Power Corporation designs, manufactures, and distributes a wide variety of products providing mobile solar power, including products like “Solar Binders” with integrated solar panels producing 15 or 22 watts of power, and the “Solarmonkey”, for charging power-hungry mobile electronics like smart phones and iPods. For emergency power solar also offers some strong advantages. Diesel generators providing backup power are noisy, polluting, and require a constant fuel supply, something that might not always be available in an emergency.

Mobile solar power systems such as Innergy’s Portable Solar Charging Station have many advantages as the primary power source, for many applications, where the grid is not reliable. Darrell Musick, President and CEO of Innergy Power, reports that their products attract the rapidly growing group of mobile phone users, many of whom live in parts of the world without reliable power from the grid. “Other needs are focused on our Portable Solar Charging Stations,” Musick said,” which will allow businesses and residents in markets with poor grid quality of power (Iraq, Nigeria, Turkey) to have a reliable sun powered way to run a wide range of devices. They are currently negotiating agreements with 17 potential distributors around the world.

The market for portable solar applications like these has grown steadily, in parallel with the growth of the rooftop solar market. Musick reports that Innergy “has seen significant increases in the demand for portable solar products over the past two years.” The potential range for portable solar applications remains huge, integrating not just solar power but also batteries for power storage into an expanding array of products. With expertise on the integration of solar and batteries into products, Innergy is also helping companies bring products to market through contract manufacturing.

Since Innergy Power has almost 20 years of battery manufacturing experience it was a natural evolution to move into the design and manufacturing of EV batteries with targets ranging from eBikes to PHEVs.  Innergy is one of the companies owned by ECOtality, and works closely with another ECOtality company, eTec, in developing EV batteries and EV charging solutions.

Using the sun as a free, reliable and inexhaustible source of energy remains a great solution for a broad range of products, and a powerful opportunity for many different businesses. The more the market grows, the more opportunities it opens up for new renewable energy products and sustainable growth.

The Conserver Economy

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Consumer spending is slowing, out of fear of economic uncertainty, and reduced credit options.   Spending is down, but its not just that they are spending less - their spending patterns are changing.  People are seeking value, working harder to squeeze more out of their money.  One of the biggest values around is re-using goods that are already out there.  This also happens to be one of the greenest options around.

New cars are nice, but they lose a large percentage of their value as soon as you drive them off the lot.  While people are leery of used cars, there are certain great values to be had in used cars.  While new car sales have stalled, people will still be buying cars at some point, and they might turn increasingly to used cars.  While used car sales are affected by the credit crunch, dealers in some areas have reported that used car sales have decreased less than new cars, or even increased.  Used cars are also a very green option, particularly with fuel efficient used cars.  Cars take a lot of energy and materials to manufacture, so buying a used car to get more out of it helps to save that “embodied energy“. 

Used clothing is another example.  Consumers may not be flocking to the malls in the same numbers as a few months ago, but they will still be buying clothes.  Their choices may tend more toward Wal-Mart though, or quality items in thrift shops.  The Plato’s Closet chain of used clothing stores has been doing strong business, with sales in stores up over 20% in August compared to a year ago.  Franchises of Plato’s Closet or other stores owned by Winmark are available for a $20,000 fee and a percentage of weekly sales. 

Used goods may not sound eco-chic, but saving money and going green with used goods may prove highly fashionable as long as the economy remains slow.  This trend may even have a longer term green impact on the consumer economy, changing it to the conserver economy.

Green Cars - Fuel Cell Cars

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Fuel cell cars have been in development for a long time.  This year, in the summer of 2008, Honda is starting to lease a small number of fuel cell cars, producing 200 of the FCX Clarity to lease in Japan and Southern California (see  Does this mean the wait to produce fuel cell cars is over, and they are ready to deliver on the promise of green cars producing only water for exhaust?  One issue is still the price.  Honda is charging $600 a month for the least, but it is estimated that Honda is spending far more on these cars than they are being leased for, hundreds of thousands of dollars per car according to Honda’s president, Takeo Fukui (NY Times News Service, June 17 2008).  Fukui also says they are aiming to get this price down to under $100,000 per car in another ten years.  Still sounds fairly steep.  Another big issue is the infrastructure for hydrogen fueling.  One option is producing hydrogen at home from natural gas.  Another is the construction of fueling stations, a move supported by groups like the California Fuel Cell Partnership involving both industry and government (

I would love for fuel cell cars to be ready to go, but despite these early tests they are not there yet.  For them to make a real difference, they have be commercially competitive, and they aren’t still.

Electric vehicles seem to have something of a lead in the race to build green cars at the moment, but there are a great many committed groups still working on fuel cell cars.  Electric cars will make it first, but fuel cells are likely to provide a competitive medium to long-term green car solution.

Green Car Sales Soar With the Price of Gas

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

The price of gas has soared past $3.50 and even $4.00 a gallon, and the end is not yet in sight.  This has spelled big trouble for some automakers that are heavily dependent on sales of big SUVs.  As the price of gas soars, sales of larger SUVs have collapsed, falling 25% according to the NY Times (May 2, 2008), with some models like the Chevy Tahoe falling even more, dropping 35%.  The EPA-rated mileage of the Tahoe is 14 city/19 highway for the 4.8L v8 vehicle. Ford reported that in May 2008 cars outsold trucks for the first time since 1992. 

Even as sales of large cars have fallen, sales of small, fuel-efficient cars have soared.  Sales of the low-priced Toyota Yaris (29 mpg city/35 highway) are up 46%, and the Prius once again has a waiting list.  If the price of gas moderates in the mid-term, as some analysts predict, the trend may slow, but the shift in consumer behavior shows that economics matter and will drive increased efficiency in the auto fleet much faster than some may have thought possible previously with cheaper gas.   The auto makers are realizing this is not just a temporary shift, but a sea change in the market, one that some were better prepared for than others.  Perhaps the CAFE standards implemented in the 2007 Energy Bill, to achieve 35 mpg by 2020, will prove irrelevant far before this date.   Entrepreneurs who can capitalize on this shift toward smaller, greener cars should do well in the long term, one way or another.