Friday, November 30, 2007

Internal Combustion Engine Obsolete!

I am reprinting this article from a major publisher. The internal combustion engine is obsolete. You wouldn't use a computer that was five years old why are you driving a car based on a technology developed 100 years ago? The only reason there haven't been any advances in car and oil technology is because the status quo has gotten insanely rich on this outdated mode of transportation and the fuel that drives it. Why plow the money back into innovation when your current business is making money hand over fist? Because the country deserves better from the status quo who rely on our troops, banking system, form of government and labor to keep them swimming in cash.

America take back your country from the dinosaurs of the antiquated industrial revolution from over 100 years ago, and take back your health, environment and independence while you are at it. We don't need Bush's Oil War - we don't need all that oil. The status quo does and will fight until the bitter end to keep selling us cars and trucks that get 20 miles to the gallon while moving oil prices up so high that they cripple the overall economy. Take it back America all of it - and the free market economy too!

Paul
Author - Journey Home

Putting the zoom into electric cars

Watch out, Detroit. A new crop of electric-vehicle startups aims to put a dent in the Big Three by applying the latest in high-technology engineering and design.

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aptera.03.jpg
Aptera: This hybrid gets 300 mpg.
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Tesla: This racy electric roadster goes 245 miles on one charge.

Steve Fambro didn't get into the car business to save the world. He did it to go faster on freeways.

Fambro was driving 36 miles a day, during rush hour, to and from his biotech job in La Jolla, Calif. As traffic slowed to a crawl, motorcycles whizzed past in the carpool lane. He wanted to do the same, and after trying a motorbike and becoming worried about his safety, he decided he wanted to do the same in an enclosed vehicle. He bought a hybrid, but as an engineer he still yearned for a vehicle that got even better fuel economy.

That left electric cars. The selection was discouraging: tiny, boxy vehicles with a short range that took a long time to charge. "Anything you could buy looked as if it was designed in the 1970s," says Fambro.

So he decided to start his own car company. In November 2008, Fambro will begin selling the Aptera. That means "wingless" in Greek, but don't think this car won't fly. It's a sleek two-seat, three-wheel electric vehicle with a top speed of 95 miles an hour, and it comes in two versions: all electric and hybrid.

Made of a Space Age composite material, the hybrid gets 300 miles per gallon, while the electric goes 100 miles on a single three- to six-hour charge. And it looks great in the carpool lane.

For the first time since the early 20th century, America is seeing a flowering of entrepreneurship in the auto industry. Today at least 11 new electric car companies, each working on a wide range of technologies, have launched or plan to launch models. Several of the startups are clustered around Silicon Valley, drawing on the brainpower and pocketbooks of high-tech engineers and venture capitalists. These upstarts are not modest. They believe they can do what major automakers have failed to do: bring an electric car to the mass market.

Electric cars, to be sure, are not new. About a century ago Thomas Edison joined forces with Henry Ford to develop an electric car that would be as affordable as the Model T. In those early days of the automobile, hundreds of manufacturers all over the country tried to compete making both electric and gasoline-powered cars. But economies of scale were not on their side, and small shops - some 415 of them in 1914, each of which produced a few handmade cars a year - eventually gave way to the Big Three.

The internal-combustion engine could be refueled more conveniently than a battery could be recharged, especially on long trips, and that advantage all but killed electric auto technology. Over the years entrepreneurs would occasionally emerge with a new design to challenge the Big Three, yet all failed. The two most memorable flameouts: Preston Tucker in 1948 with his Tucker Torpedo and John De Lorean, with his silver gull-winged sports car in the 1970s - both of which used internal-combustion engines.

So why does today's new breed of small, renegade car company think it can succeed where so many other auto startups have failed? The entrepreneurs and investors behind the firms point to four factors: consumer desire for measures to address global warming, an abundance of investment capital, new breakthroughs in fiber composite body material, and the availability of cheap computing power and software that help simulate design challenges long before new cars hit the road.

By taking aim at many markets, the electric auto makers are multiplying their chances of success. Tesla Motors of San Carlos, Calif., will sell in early 2008 a speedy $98,000 electric roadster for the Hollywood and hedge fund set (George Clooney and the Google guys have mailed in their down payments).

Entrepreneur Ian Wright, based in Burlingame, Calif., is also aiming at the sports market with the Wrightspeed X1, which he hopes to sell in about two years for about $100,000. The X1 prototype's three-second acceleration from zero to 60 mph makes it one of the fastest autos in the world - second only to the French-made Bugatti Veyron, a 16-cylinder gas-gulping beast that is just half-a-second faster and goes for $1.25 million.

If the Tesla and Wrightspeed give you sticker shock, don't worry. Phoenix Motorcars of Ontario, Calif., is aiming at businesses, and in early 2008 plans to sell a $47,000 electric pickup truck that can be recharged in ten minutes. For those looking for an affordable commuter car, Aptera's gas hybrid will be available in 2008 for $27,000, with an all-electric version for $30,000 (you'll have to plug it into a regular household socket for a few hours after driving 100 miles).

A Toronto company called Zenn sells an electric car and is counting on a radical new kind of power pack from a Cedar Park, Texas, startup called EEStor to next build an Aptera rival. And in 2006 a Norwegian investment firm bought Think, an electric car company once owned by Ford. It plans to launch the Think City commuter car in Europe in 2008 and in the U.S. market in 2009.

Dean Kamen, the Manchester, N.H.-based inventor of the Segway scooter, is working with Think to adapt his Stirling engine to the car, which would extend its 110 mile range. GM has hired A123, a Watertown, Mass., startup to supply lithium batteries for its Volt hybrid, due to launch in 2010. Former SAP executive Shai Agassi has raised $200 million for Project Better Place, a firm that plans to build a network of stations to recharge all these electric cars.

Driving this global network of entrepreneurs is a very global problem. In the U.S., cars and trucks are responsible for some 20% of humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide. Switching from internal-combustion engines to electric-powered vehicles will seriously mitigate the effects of global warming.

Skeptics point out that the juice for electric cars must be generated by power plants, most of which are fired by natural gas or coal and spew their own carbon dioxide. But 30% of the electricity on the national grid comes from clean sources such as nuclear, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. According to a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, using electric vehicles actually results in as much as a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases, depending on the location.

Few of these new car companies are aiming to grow to the size of Toyota or GM. Most will be satisfied if they can become profitable niche players; others hope to sell or license their technology to the big guys. Says Bill Green, a partner at Vantage-Point Venture Partners, which has invested in Tesla Motors: "No one argues today that the Tesla will serve anything but a small subset of the market. But it has changed the conversation. It is a historic and dramatic increase in performance. The big car companies will look at Tesla and say, 'Hey, maybe I can use that technology in my cars.' "

Venture capital firms are betting big on that outcome too. Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, used part of the fortune he made selling his company to eBay (Charts, Fortune 500) to help bankroll Tesla Motors. Besides Vantagepoint, investors include Google (Charts, Fortune 500) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Silicon Valley VC firm Draper Jurvetson. Tesla has raised more than $100 million. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, along with other investors, has put $7 million into EEStor.

What has these investors excited is that technology is helping small companies rethink the dynamics of car design. Take the Aptera: This aerodynamic, low-slung commuter car has a composite body, made of carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar, that looks like the cockpit of a jet yet can fit two adult passengers and a child in a baby seat. It weighs 1,500 pounds, compared with the U.S. industry average of 3,455 pounds. Because it has only three wheels, the Aptera will be classified as a motorcycle in most states. But it's beefier than it looks. One inch shorter than a Toyota Prius, the Aptera can still fit a surfboard in the trunk after folding down the passenger seat. The vehicle has passed slalom tests for stability and handling.

Odd, delightful features abound. A solar-assisted air-conditioning system will run on sunny days even when the car is turned off, keeping the interior cool for the driver's return. The covered wheels hang on the ends of protruding axles, leading one auto industry wag to remark that the vehicle looks like "Batman's girlfriend's car." Fambro makes no apologies: "Most auto designs put styling first and function second," he says. "The way cars are designed, half the energy they need is just to push the air out of the way."

Fambro's aim was to change the styling to reduce the drag of the car as much as possible. He succeeded: The Aptera will have a drag one-third that of a today's average car and less than half that of the Prius, the industry champion of low wind resistance.

Fambro created his groundbreaking design on a budget. It would have cost him $10,000 a day to test the car's aerodynamics in a wind tunnel, so Fambro found some software - the same that NASA uses to test the drag of its space vehicles - for just $50,000.

The simulation lets him make a change in the style of the car and see the effect on drag very quickly. One result: The car has no side-view mirrors. Instead the driver has 180-degree rear visibility on a videoscreen with the help of cameras mounted on the back of the car. "Ten years ago we couldn't do that kind of testing. And five years ago we couldn't afford it," says Fambro.

His engineers can also use the computer to simulate 50,000 miles of driving, including over potholes, and test the stress on the vehicle parts. (A prototype of the car has been pushed to its limits on an actual test track.) Because the body is made of a composite, capital costs are low compared with those required to build a typical steel car. It can take as much as $1 billion to set up the facilities for the die stamping, welding, and assembly of a new vehicle, but Aptera can make composite parts with a tolerance of 0.001 of an inch quickly and cheaply. "It's an entirely new way of making structural products," says Fambro. He estimates that today's computing power is so fast that he can do with three employees "what a big company such as Boeing ten years ago took a few hundred people to do."

It's one thing to build a prototype; it's another to manufacture complex products in large numbers on time and on budget. Toyota (Charts), with some of the best auto engineers in the world, took years to work the kinks out of the Prius. Aptera must also build or piggyback onto a dealer network to sell and service the cars. That takes capital, skilled manpower, and time. Aptera's all-electric model should at least be very easy to maintain. It has no transmission, and its electric motor has only one moving part, compared with about 400 for regular engines. Its mechanics may need software degrees, but at least they'll have clean hands.

Even if Fambro succeeds in building an affordable, energy-efficient commuter car, the impact on the market, at least in the short run, will be minimal. He hopes to sell around 3,000 to 4,000 Apteras in the first year of production, marketing mostly to buyers in California, Arizona, and Nevada, and then ramp up to about 10,000 cars a year soon after that. Meanwhile, GM (Charts, Fortune 500) alone churns out about 300,000 cars a month. Fambro says he plans to build Aptera into a major car company, but like many entrepreneurs, he is willing to be flexible. "If Toyota or Hyundai offered to buy us," he says slyly, "we would certainly consider it."

WHERE THE ELECTRIC CAR MARKET IS BOOMING

COMMUTER CARS

- Aptera Motors, Carlsbad, Calif.
- Think Global, Palo Alto*
- Zenn, Toronto
- Zap, Santa Rosa, Calif.
- Commuter Cars, Spokane
- A.C. Propulsion, San Dimas, Calif.

FUN CARS

- Tesla Motors, San Carlos, Calif.
- Wrightspeed, Burlingame, Calif.
- Universal Electric Vehicle, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

WORK VEHICLES

- Azure Dynamics, Oak Park, Mich.
- Phoenix Motorcars, Ontario, Calif.

BATTERY MAKERS

- A123Systems, Watertown, Mass.
- Altairnano, Reno
- EEStor, Cedar Park, Texas
- Valence Technology, Austin
- Odyne, Hauppauge, N.Y.

* U.S. office of Norwegian parent. To top of page

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Oath

Well the feasting has come and gone and the parades and the football, and what are we left with? Is it just back into the routine? The "holidaze" can actually be a time of significant spiritual rejuvenation. The candle light services to come on Christmas Eve, the remembrance of days and years gone by truly the holidays can be a fulfilling and rewarding time. Keeping it all in perspective maybe really isn't the thing to do here. I don't mean go out and over spend. In fact I would put forth that you don't need to buy anything to achieve the holiday buzz. Well it's not really a buzz. It's an insight gained through familiar and family gatherings. It's a soaking of the roots of self through memory and gathering. Laughing at cherished moments some painful now hysterical through time. The retelling of old stories and the synchronicity of strange events, timing, moon glow, sunrise, names, loves and what the heck is that tree doing in my house.

Lights go up, the gravy is passed and old family and friends pull together to rejuvenate. So don't loose sight of the fact of how lucky we are. Lucky to be alive, lucky to be healthy, lucky to have those around who really do care and remember. Swear an oath of remembrance to those struggling, infirmed and oppressed never to forget, and re-energize yourself to help, anyway you can. For that is surely what we are here for and any actions, concentrations or directions other than that lead us astray. There's gold in them thar hills but not the kind you might think. Real substance, real rewards and so rejuvenate and rejoice at those opportunities. Make a joyful noise, love, hug and laugh (at yourself especially) and know that each day can be like this. The holiday spirit could be, should be year round. It's time to up our expectations of each other, lay down our weapons and extend to each other a helping hand.

Have faith in what you know is right. Walk lighter upon the Earth in many ways. We have more to be thankful for than we can even dream and work to do a plenty. Which is a blessing in itself.

Paul

Author - Journey Home

Friday, November 16, 2007

Profit, Taxes, Warren Buffet, and The Global Survival of Mankind

The idea that profit is the end all be all number one priority misses the mark by a landslide. Profit has to come down on the list of priorities to number five somewhere below sustainability (yes the environment) health, education and security. We need sustainability to live on this our one and only planet everything else comes second, and therefore manage our resources in a sustainable fashion. Clear cutting, slash and burn short term profit making is good when it's pet rocks but devastating when it is the actual environment, food chain/food source, that sustains us. That being said money is a tool not a lover or friend or companion or neighbor, or something that fulfills us. That void inside you if it exists can not be filled up with money. Helping one another is the only way to fill that void no amount of booze or broads, good score cards, seats, or wide screen televisions or fine cigars or country club memberships or visits with celebrities will achieve that goal. So as to why we are here that should be obvious by anyone past 50 years old - to help each other.

In order to foster a more equitable society we need to quite frankly spread the wealth. If the wealth is concentrated in a few hands you will have war, and civil unrest. An uneducated population is treacherous. The war in the mid east is the haves versus the have nots - who else would be willing to blow themselves up unless they felt what's the difference my existence is subhuman anyway.

The estate tax and Buffet's opinion about it speak directly to those concerns. Those manipulating the tax code behind the veil of the beltway do so at their own demise, miss the big picture, are looking for short term gains and forget who and where they are.

Paul Burke
Author - Journey Home

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bill Richardson and the Media

Voters - give Bill Richardson a good long look.

I despise the media for their lack of coverage. Who decided this was a two person race: Mitt and Rudy in one corner and Hilary and Obama in the other. What's with the herd mentality? How is reporting on the candidates that get ALL the press coverage NEWS? Let's talk about the definition of NEWS. To understand a words true definition one must understand the root of the word and how it came into being. The root of the word NEWS is as follows Origin: 1425–75; late ME newis, pl. of newe new thing, novelty (see new); on the model of MF noveles (pl. of novele), or ML nova (pl. of novum); see novel2].

What is new about Hilary or Rudy or Romney or Obama. The press in over covering these four are attempting to crown them before anyone votes. They want to shape your opinion. What would be NEWS would be coverage on the lesser known candidates like Joe Bidden, Chris Dodd, Ron Paul, Bill Richardson.

Or do we just live in a time of blatant media manipulation by the powers that be?

Rudy if elected will be horribly in over his head. Who cares if he's a good guy on the golf course or at a cocktail party? Running the country takes strong managerial skills. Managerial skills require building consensus, putting your people in the right place to be the most effective, and having a clear vision. Rudy can't get all the walkie talkies working in NY between his firehouses and police stations. What's that say about his organizational and leadership skills?

Hilary is too toxic. Sorry Hilary electing you would be like tossing the Republicans red meat. I'm not interested in another eight years of partisan howling. We need to get some work done here in this Country. Obama has zero experience. He's an articulate guy but I'm afraid too much of a newbie. He'll get eaten up and spit out by the special interest forces. Mitt is a flat out fraud pretty boy like Edwards. Both of them strike me as phonies who are more interested in themselves and will run with whatever policy will get them elected. Ron Paul is an interesting choice and I am not writing him off. So research the man. He has some very important views that are also not getting covered by our alleged news agencies. Joe Bidden is a smart, experienced viable candidate who has been touting a great plan for Iraq since the war started. Again no press coverage. I recommend you learn what Joe is saying.

However, Bill Richardson is the best overall candidate running. He has a proven track record, strongest managerial talent with more experience than the rest of the field except Bidden and Dodd plus he has been a very successful governor.

As an independent I love this guy. Bill Richardson is our best hope to quiet the partisan b.s. and get everybody back to work doing the peoples business. He is a proven consensus builder and Americas best hope to have a great executive branch that will put their own self interest on the back burner and work with congress. It's time we elected a pragmatic leader.

And, it's time the media started thinking and reporting independently of their individual career interest and inform the public about ALL the candidates. A recent article championing Ron Paul while touting his policy positions wrote he's unelectable. Why? No one has voted yet, and if the media championed him the way they champion Rudy then he would be electable.

My message to the media is just the facts. All we want are the facts and not the same old opinions rehashed. I don't care what the writer thinks. I'm trying to make up my mind out here. I rely on the news to dig up FACTS and boil down position papers. So when they write Ron Paul is not electable they are reinforcing the same old, same old. We desperately need to get away from that in the reporting and news coverage that takes place in this country.

This is not sports prognostics. The medias job is to dig for the facts, not recite vested interest talking points. Ron Paul would be electable if the NYT and FOX news said he was. The power of the press should be treated with respect and understood by those who make their living in that field. We need more information on the other candidates enough on Mitt, Hilary, Rudy and Obama. We are saturated with them. Hopefully the links provide here will be useful since the main stream media is just whoring their own careers.

Paul Burke
Author - Journey Home
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Old Dark House

I'm still getting a few more Halloween movies trickling in from Net Flix. Our marathon month long horror fest is just about over. I think the third installment of Evil Dead is still due to arrive but last night it was time for a classic. We were totally surprised by "Old Dark House" what a beautifully shot and acted movie from 1932. I just love the old classics. James Whale the director of 1931's Frankenstein takes another turn with Boris Karloff. Quite frankly the rest of the cast is top notch including Charles Laughton, and Lillian Bond who just bumped Rachel McAdams off my number one heart throb list. This movie is shot very creepily, big shadows, Karloff on a drunk rampage, spooky, crazy characters, dark and stormy nights, candle light, large cutlery, crackling fires, and quippy dialogue. I love the 30's and 40's for their smart, faced paced dialogue. Today nothing seems so subtle and no one has time for double entendres. I highly recommend this movie. Four **** stars for film buffs, lovers of the genre, black and white movie fans, and budding writers, photographers, lighting engineers, and directors. James Whale shoots the hell out of this movie. Every shot is a still life photographic masterpiece. He really knew how to create atmosphere and suspense. Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man are on this guy's wild resume. Turn the lights out, fire up the big screen, throw another log on the fire and enjoy.