An automobile revolution is beginning in America driven by biofuels and plug-in hybrid technologies that offer answers to global warming and our country’s dependence upon high cost imported oil.
Volvo is the latest of many domestic and international car companies to announce new drive train solutions. Their first production hybrid will be a full-size station wagon offering a 700+ mile driving range using a 205 horsepower bio-diesel engine coupled to a 100 horsepower electric motor. Volvo claims a fuel efficiency equivalent of 120 miles per gallon. And Lotus was the buzz at the Always On conference held in San Francisco when they announced a specially-purposed engine for re-charging electric batteries to produce a similar driving range as that offered by tank full of gasoline.
At the other end of the transportation system is a growing number of e-bikes. I got to test ride one by ELV Motors. The one I am pictured with uses a Lithium Ion battery. ELV’s plan is to standardize the battery so that discharged batteries can be changed out for fully charge ones at the local convenience store similar to how we swap our propane tanks used in our gas grills. The bike was great fun to ride with the option of peddling for exercise and to conserve the battery. Or you can crank the handle-bar throttle and go, go, go! The Millennial Generation will be attracted to this bike like iPods and life/work housing as part of their lifestyle of being cool and green.
What was energizing at the recent Always On conference in San Francisco was the bio-fuel vision of Vinod Khosla. He is the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems and now runs his own venture capital firm called Khosla Ventures where he has invested $1 billion of his own money into green technologies. Vinod’s vision is to have bio-fuels that are price competitive against $30 per barrel oil! And it isn’t just visionary entrepreneurs like Vinod who are financing bio-fuel’s commercial development. ExxonMobil has announced a $600 million investment into algae based biofuel technology and BP is investing $500 million into biofuels in alliance with the University of California-Berkeley. And Chevron, Khosla Ventures & Lightspeed Venture Partners recently announced putting $25M into LS9, a bio-diesel company projecting 2011 deliveries at $40/barrel oil equivalent.
Paul Klugman wrote an article recently in the New York Times attempting to rationalize the economics of proposed legislation like the 1400+ page Waxman-Markey Climate Bill with its Cap and Trade pricing system for emissions. This path of rationalization misses the entire point of The Green Economic Revolution. While public policy should be supportive of green-entrepreneurship this support will not be the engine for our economy’s adoption of sustainability. The Green Economic Revolution is happening because a growing number of companies are developing goods and services that “cost less, mean more” compared to 20th Century solutions like imported oil that increasingly costs more, deliver less.