April 2010

VW wants to put their electric bicycle “bik.e” in your trunk

VW wants to put their electric bicycle “bik.e” in your trunk Carmakers have a long history with bicycles starting with Peugeot in 1882 and Lexus’ recent foray into the market. At Auto China 2010, VW unveiled the bik.e, an electric bike that fits your trunk.

The bik.e is part of VW’s “Think Blue” campaign that takes from the automaker’s past. Instead of their 1960’s slogan of “Think Small” that pushed the VW Beetle, “Think Blue” advocates “sustainable mobility.”

GM: 83% of people would choose Chevy Volt over EVs like Nissan LEAF

GM claims 83% of people would choose Chevy Volt over Nissan LEAF Call them crazy, but drivers have an innate dislike of running out of gas . . .  or perhaps energy is a better word now. GM found that out the hard way when it was pushing electric cars, namely its EV1, in the late 1990s. That’s why on this round, the company has invested heavily to pull in some of the benefits of electric vehicles while also building a bridge to the existing gasoline infrastructure. And according to some research GM just completed, people are resonating with that decision.

Drivers they polled responded overwhelmingly—83% of them—that they’d prefer a vehicle with extended range that uses gasoline rather than a purely electric vehicle. GM Vice Chairman says (according to GM-VOlt.com):

Future is bright for Samsung's ultra-slim 3D LED TVs

Future is bright for Samsung's ultra-slim 3D LED TVs 3 months ago today, Samsung announced its plans to manufacture mass quantities of 3D LED screens in an attempt to swallow up the early surge of 3D LED TV buyers and lower the cost of each individual screen. Now, as the 3D boom begins to take shape, high forecasts of Corning glass screens could mean high sales of Samsung LED TVs, like the new Samsung 9000 series. In fact, even more than forecasted.

Because Samsung had promising outlooks for 3D LED TVs and planned accordingly, the company is now in a position to offer the most innovative LED TVs on the market. For example, the ultra slim 9000 series is just 7.98 mm thick and offers a unique stainless steel bezel and single touch access to the Internet. 7.98 mm is the slimmest TV yet.

Too much toilet paper and not enough trees, it’s time to recycle

Too much toilet paper and not enough trees, it’s time to recycle Sanitation standards are a hallmark of modern living and toilet paper plays a part in providing that sanitation. A big part, to the tune of 27,000 trees per day. That number is growing too as more countries develop and westernize and they’re demanding products that enable similar lifestyles. That creates a situation for paper companies where they must compete for a constrained resource: trees. Recycled products are available but not yet in widespread adoption.

Hopefully that changes soon, because as toilet paper manufacturers face increased pressure to preserve old growth forests, they’re increasingly turning to tree plantations. Though plantations may preserve old growth forests, they introduce a new set of issues. The surrounding habitat is mostly destroyed as manufacturers pour heavy doses of pesticides and fertilizers on and that growth also pulls a large amount of water up out of the soil, further damaging the environment.

Chevy Volt gets bigger crossover sibling, the MPV5

Chevy Volt gets bigger crossover sibling, the MPV5 The original Chevy Volt isn’t yet rolling out of the production lines yet with any sort of sizeable volume and GM is already introducing a bigger crossover sibling: the Chevy Volt MPV5. There are a couple of differences between the original Volt and it’s new sibling, but the underlying PHEV technology will be the same.

The Chevy Volt MPV5 is overall larger and looks a tad boxier. The same Voltec technology powers it, but is only capable of electric only driving for 32 miles versus the original Chevy Volt’s promise of 40 miles on a full charge. This is further evidence of GM’s plans to develop a family of vehicles based on the Chevy Volt’s plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) capabilities.

That’s an important strategy because of the huge investment GM has made in getting the technology this far. Multiple vehicles piggybacking on it theoretically should multiple sales.

China gets all wishy washy when it comes to hybrid & plug-in cars

China gets all wishy washy when it comes to hybrid & plug-in carsFans of cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are a passionate bunch. They take to social media sites to discuss waiting lists, charging stations, and the impact of the government subsidy on their tax returns. People like free money, something the US government hopes will spur the adoption of cleaner cars and stimulate competition. Over in China, the government is still making up its mind about the future of hybrid and plug-in cars.

According to a study by Ernst & Young, prospective buyers in China are crazy for cars powered by cleaner technology. Sixty percent would consider purchasing a plug-in or hybrid vehicle, five times that of buyers in the US. Major factors that influenced their decision were gas prices, environmental impact, and government incentives.

Jamie Oliver gets ready for part two of the Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver gets ready for part two of the Food Revolution Jamie Oliver ran into many obstacles in his campaign for healthy eating in the US and UK. He fought against a culture that is fond of fast and inexpensive food rather than fresh alternatives. The showdown between food quality and money is the main obstacle in his fight, but he may have a few tricks up his sleeve.

During his time in Huntington, Oliver found out that schools have to walk a fine line between USDA guidelines and their tight budgets. Just look at the labor differences between a box of chicken nuggets and Oliver’s dish of brown rice with carrots, raisin and orange dressing. Oliver’s side dish has more than five steps for the rice alone while popular chicken nugget brands bake in minutes.

Amazon Q2 forecast hints that Apple’s iPad poses threat to Kindle 2

Amazon acknowledges threat Apple’s iPad poses to Kindle 2 The road ahead for Amazon will be filled with competitors vying for the dominating market share it currently controls with the Kindle 2. Apple knows a thing or two about hardware, and already has wooed the masses with its shiny but small app portal, the iPhone. It stands to follow then that as orders continue to pour in for the iPad, Apple will use some of that same closed ecosystem mindset to make it equally as successful.

Amazon is certainly aware of that threat and though it just posted earnings that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, its predictions for the next quarter are more conservative. The Kindle is Amazon’s top-selling product and any slowdown in growth is likely to be influenced by the success or failure of the Kindle.

HP Slate critical of Apple iPad's inadequacies

HP Slate critical of Apple iPad's inadequacies Since the moment rumors started circulating about the iPad, tech geeks (Apple lovers and haters alike) around the world were asking one very defining question: what type of operating system would it use? To many, the operating system would define the device. When the iPad was released with the iPhone OS 3.2 operating system, many disappointed consumers started to call it a glorified iPhone, which, if you are looking at it's capabilities, is exactly what it is. 

Obviously, the type of operating system did not dissuade the hundreds of thousands (500,000 after the first week) of early consumers that already purchased the iPad. The flashy apps, sleek design, dynamic video and music options, and newly developed e-reader capabilities were enough for the $499 investment.

Drivers to buy 2010 Chevy Volt over 2010 Nissan LEAF?

Drivers to buy 2010 Chevy Volt over 2010 Nissan LEAF? GM has made it clear that moving forward, energy-efficient vehicles will be a focus. The only unfortunate part of that statement is its timing, as GM is coming to the game a bit late. The Chevy Volt is GM’s hype engine and way of re-connecting with consumers who are demanding better fuel efficiency. GM isn’t alone though, Nissan is also reacting to its customers’ needs with the Nissan LEAF all-electric car.

Thinking down the road toward your next car purchase, which model would you prefer? One analyst thinks that the Chevy' Volt’s popularity will outstrip the Nissan LEAF’s for a couple of logical reasons.

Buying Ubisoft games soon to be guilt-free with green packaging

Buying Ubisoft games soon to be guilt-free with green packaging Lots of companies are looking at how to make their business green, and the logical place to begin is searching for efficiencies within existing business processes. Almost in a throwback to the days when everyone was excited about the “paperless office”, Ubisoft will soon begin distribution of its games without an instruction manual and with recyclable packaging.

Ubisoft has a long history of developing video games and as of 2008 was the fourth largest publisher in the United States and third largest in Europe. That means they’ve distributed a lot of games so taking out even a relatively small instruction manual could make a big impact on the environment. Rather than distribute the paper manuals, Ubisoft will include digital game guides so players will still have access to some quick tips. That actually could make the instructions more readily accessible anyway.

Intel’s new gadget wants to lower your electricity bill

Intel’s new gadget wants to lower your electricity bill The home energy management market is getting a little crowded. Kill-A-Watt and Google’s PowerMeter are already helping people cut their electric bills, but Intel is looking to make a splash with their “Intelligent Home Energy Management” or “Home Dashboard Concept” system.

Intel’s system was born out of the idea that the more information people have access to will encourage them to change their behavior. Intel’s Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner pointed specifically at to hypermiling, a method of driving that focuses on tactics to reduce fuel consumption.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook hits Best Buy, new versions coming soon

Barnes & Noble’s Nook hits Best Buy, new versions coming soon Ever since Steve Jobs announced that the iPad was on the way, gadget geeks and e-reader fans have been frothing at the mouth. The device grabbed headlines in major newspapers and even ended up on Martha Stewart’s blog. So what can Barnes & Noble do to outshine the almighty iPad? Their plan is to sell the Nook through Best Buy and offer more affordable models.

According to Gizmodo, the bookseller is looking to diversify the Nook lineup with two new versions that will be released later this year. The Nook Lite is essentially the same Nook that’s on the market right now but won’t use AT&T's 3G Wireless Network.

Irony alert: health & life insurance firms invest in fast food joints

Irony alert: health & life insurance firms invest in fast food joints     Whether they provide life or health coverage, one would hope that the primary focus of an insurance company would be the well-being of their policy holders. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that the industry has a dirty little secret; they invest millions in fast food restaurants.

The study was conducted by Harvard Medical School and the department of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. They specifically looked at the top eleven companies that offer life or health insurance and their holdings of fast food company stock.

Preproduction Chevy Volts live up to promise of 40 miles without gas!

Preproduction Chevy Volts living promise of 40 miles without gas! GM has gained some market share back amid Toyota’s recall nightmares but that will only last as long as its products live up to the same or better quality standards. The Chevy Volt isn’t yet in full fledged production but the preproduction vehicles are off to a good start with regular tests showing 40 miles of driving without using any gas.

That’s living up to GM’s original promise made when it first introduced the Chevy Volt concept and is a sign that the company’s ongoing investment in research has netted a sound product. In some ways the Chevy Volt will leapfrog the current gasoline, hybrid and electric car markets because it neatly combines desirable traits from each.

James Cameron uses his “Avatar” mojo to stop a dam in Brazil

James Cameron uses his “Avatar” mojo to stop a dam in BrazilDirector James Cameron can be called a lot of things but wallflower isn’t one of them. He famously shouted “I’m the king of the world!” after winning an Oscar and called Fox News’ Glenn Beck “a f---ing a--hole.” Cameron has toned down his act a bit to save what many are calling a real life Pandora in Brazil.

Cameron freely admits that filmmaking isn’t the greenest profession around but tries to make smart choices in his personal life. He drives a hybrid car, has an organic garden, and his wife wore a sustainable dress to the Oscars. He wanted to use the worldwide attention he got from Avatar to shed light on worthy environmental causes.

Genetically modified food is BETTER for the environment. Really?

Genetically modified food is BETTER for the environment. Really? The National Research Council just finished a study that concludes genetically modified foods are better for the environment than the their natural counterparts. On the surface that sounds like great news for huge farming conglomerates who purchase the sturdiest varieties of plants from companies focused on creating them gene by gene.

Why are genetically modified foods better for the environment? Ostensibly because they’re more resistant to herbicides which allows farmers to kill the bad plants more economically while preserving their crops. It makes exposure to glyphosate largely a problem of the past, at least for the genetically modified plants. For humans glyphosate can cause eye irritation and is poisonous in concentrated doses – effects on unborn fetuses are still being tested.

Whole Foods leapfrogs gas stations with electric car charging station

Whole Foods leapfrogs gas stations with electric car charging station Most gas stations aren’t well-equipped to service customers with electric cars yet, but Whole Foods Market is. It just announced the installation of an electric car charging station at its flagship store in Austin, Texas. That means drivers can park their car next to the charging station and fill up the batteries maybe while shopping inside.

For now the charging station is free to use but starting in July it will charge per use and keep track by scanning a membership card that links customers with an online account. That’s starting to sound more like a viable business model, and a decent mode of travel given a sizeable refueling infrastructure and powerful electrical outlets that charge the batteries more quickly.

Michigan scores green jobs from Ford’s hybrid battery packs

Michigan scores green jobs from Ford’s hybrid battery packsEarlier this year Ford hinted that they were eager to invest money in Michigan by consolidating car and hybrid battery pack production in the state. According to a letter sent to employees at Ford’s Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti Township, a hybrid battery facility has finally been chosen.

Ford made their plans known during the 2010 Auto Show in Detroit but didn’t reveal any specific details outside of a possible $450 million investment. They were most likely waiting for word from the state government that was eager to bring skilled and green jobs to the state. Later that month, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved $188 million in tax breaks to help Ford set up hybrid battery pack operations.

KFC doesn’t get the Food Revolution, debuts revolting Double Down

KFC doesn’t get the Food Revolution, debuts revolting Double DownFrom Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to First Lady Michelle Obama’s plan to fight childhood obesity, Americans are getting serious about food. School lunches, family meals, and the mantra of “Let’s Move” are talked about at PTA meetings and water coolers everywhere. That’s why KFC’s new bun-less fried chicken sandwich called the Double Down is more than puzzling.

KFC’s creation starts with a piece of boneless fried chicken and adds two kinds of cheese, bacon, a slather of something called “Colonel’s Sauce,” and is topped by another piece of fried chicken.

GE wants to light up your living room with a new LED bulb

GE wants to light up your living room with a new LED bulb Consumers are always looking for more ways to lower their energy bills. One quick and easy way is to swap out inefficient incandescent light bulbs in favor of the better technology offered by LEDs. GE is taking a stab at the market with their new Smart LED bulb that uses a lot less energy and comes with a fat price tag.

Between 2012 and 2014, the US will phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs in favor of the more energy efficient compact florescent (CFL) and LED bulbs. CFLs have become very popular recent years but contain mercury and have a shorter lifespan than LEDs.

Solar airplane takes flight, but faces same problem as electric cars like Nissan LEAF

Solar airplane takes flight, but faces same problem as electric cars like Nissan LEAF The Solar Impulse, a prototype solar airplane, just made its first truly successful flight by lifting off and staying in the air for 87 minutes. Bertrand Piccard, founder of the organization that’s building the Solar Impulse said it took seven years to create the solar airplane and cited challenges such as weight distribution, steering capacity, and power management.

Sound familiar? Electric cars have some of the same challenges, most of which center around the batteries they carry. As an example, the Nissan LEAF has a range of 100 miles and utilizes lithium-ion batteries. The Solar Impulse may not have an explicit range limit because it theoretically can continue to pull energy from the sun but its onboard batteries have to store enough power to continue in overcast situations and at night.

Amazon capitalizes on Apple iPad materials that cost $260

Amazon capitalizes on Apple iPad materials that cost $260 In the past few years, Apple has taken few, if any, uncalculated risks that have propelled any sort of whirlwind of negativity towards the brand. Whether developing or introducing a product like the iPod, iPhone, or iBook, each has had it's place in the market. Apple hopes the same will be true with the new iPad, but with an amped up price and intriguing product positioning (somewhere between the iTouch and iBook), it will be interesting to see if Apple's quick release of the iPad may have been too soon.

How so?

Apple set the price of the iPad at $499 and like any Apple product, it will stay that way until Apple is willing to adjust the price point. When determining that price, Apple had to take into consideration factors like research and development, raw parts, manufacturing and labor, overhead, and post production costs like marketing and sales.

The cost is carefully evaluated according to supply and demand and walla!, Apple has a product like the iPad priced just under $250 more than the original Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Yummy Tummy body shaper generates wild buzz, but is it green?

Yummy Tummy body shaper generates wild buzz, but is it green? Celebrities have tons of clout when it comes to generating buzz about a particular product or service and Yummy Tummy (actually spelled Yummie Tummie) has plenty of celebrity support. Right now it’s receiving enough attention that the site’s home page is loading slowly and masses of people are continuing to search for “yummy tummy” on Google.

Obviously people are interested in Yummie Tummie for its fashion statement and association with celebrities but is the product responsible when it comes to the environment? The company doesn’t make any up front claims regarding Yummie Tummie and the environment but there are a few notable things that make a difference.

As with most things, going green usually starts with increases in efficiencies. Since the Yummie Tummie body shaper can be used as a base layer it becomes an accessory for older clothes that might not fit perfectly anymore. Just like bras provide shape for breasts, the body shaper slims the tummy and lower torso.

Google & Nokia pause brewing rivalry, sign energy letter to Obama

Google & Nokia pause brewing rivalry, sign energy letter to Obama Google and Nokia are both vying for dominance in the mobile operating system world and while both of them have plans in motion to accomplish that goal, they’ve both paused a moment to sign an energy letter to Obama. That letter spells out several specific suggestions for the President which essentially make it easier for consumers and businesses to monitor their energy usage.

The letter describes how blind most energy consumers currently are because they have no idea how individual devices are affecting their bill every month. The only thing they can easily discern is the dollar amount due.

A new smartphone app proves you are what you eat

A new smartphone app proves you are what you eat From Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to Alice Waters, people are really interested about the quality of food they serve to their families. A new smartphone app called Barcoo aims to help shoppers make smart and sustainable decisions at the supermarket.

Benjamin Thym of Germany was tired of reading the find print on packaging to find more information about the stuff at his local megamart. He wanted an instant link to data so he could make a quick but informed purchase. So, he hatched the idea of a smartphone application in 2007 that later became Barcoo.

Chinese drywall deemed dangerous by the Feds

Chinese drywall deemed dangerous by the Feds Contractors, builders, and other professions within the housing industry have been busy in recent years. New home construction kept some occupied while others cleaned up after Hurricane Katrina. They may have repaired or erected thousands of homes, but they also left behind toxic drywall made in China according to a new report.

The problem with drywall manufactured in China is the ridiculous amount of hydrogen sulfide. According to the findings of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), some Chinese made drywall had levels 100 times that of non-Chinese samples.

Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” equals better test scores

Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” equals better test scores Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” is happening right now in the city of Huntington in West Virginia, but it really started back in the schools of Greenwich in London, England. A new study found that offering healthier school lunch choices had an added benefit of raising the test scores of students in Greenwich.

Before 2004, Greenwich schools fed students pre-packaged and processed food to their kids much like Huntington. Burgers, fries, fish sticks, turkey bites, and common British fare like sausage rolls were often on the menu. After Oliver’s campaign for fresh food, the schools adopted a menu to match his plan. They served lighter and healthier items like vegetarian chow mein, salads, chicken and mushroom casserole, and Mexican bean wraps.

Nissan LEAF pricing beats out Chevy Volt, time to go all electric?

Nissan LEAF pricing beats out Chevy Volt, time to go all electric? No doubt, the Chevy Volt has a compelling value proposition with its ability to use gas or electric energy. That grants it some utility over Nissan’s LEAF which can only use electric juice because it can pull energy from the existing network of gas stations. But will that utility convince consumers to spend more?

GM hasn’t announced its official pricing strategy for the Chevy Volt yet but in the past it’s suggested pricing in the $40,000 range and more recently hinted at the low $30,000s. With Nissan taking a stance by announcing an MSRP of $32,780 or $25,280 after tax credits, that certainly puts some pressure on GM to target the same range. Especially because the vehicles are on similar launch schedules with similar target audiences.

The base Nissan LEAF comes with some decent features and there’s an option to upgrade:

Comcast teases future 3D LED and Plasma TV consumers

Comcast teases future 3D LED and Plasma TV consumers 3D content has been a concern since the first whispers of TV manufacturers deciding to expand product lines to offer LED and Plasma 3D TVs. For a substantially higher price, consumers are getting a whole lot of potential in their 3D LED and Plasma TVs, but aren't getting much in return in the way of 3D content.

While the amount of 3D content may be a let down so far, the slow addition of more and more 3D events and channels will certainly play into the hands of 3D TV manufacturers as early adopters impress even the most skeptical buyers with glimpses of 3D brilliance.

The number of 3D LED and Plasma TV owners is certainly limited. Only a select handful of the nation's population (estimates of a couple thousand) have the luxury of a 3D TV at their disposal; so there really isn't much incentive for studios to develop 3D content built just for the TV. Or is there?