Ceres' $75M Fuel Crops

Plant biomass developer Ceres soaked up $75 million in a late-stage financing Thursday from private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

The funding is yet another storm in the financial downpour flooding the biofuel industry with private equity during the month of September (see Biofuels Get Financing Downpour).

Using a combo of plant breeding and biotechnology, Ceres is working to produce high-yielding cellulosic-ethanol crops.

Cellulosic ethanol, a next-generation fuel that has yet to be produced on a mass scale, is made from nonfood biomass. To feed the biorefineries, Ceres is focusing on switchgrass, sorghum, miscanthus, energycane and other woody species.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif.,-based company said the funding will be used for research and development, and day-to-day business. Ceres expects its first product, a high-yielding type of switchgrass, to make its way to market in 2009.

In other biofuels news, Khosla Ventures-backed Mascoma also said this week it was building the first switchgrass cellulosic-ethanol plant in the United States.

Mascoma and the University of Tennessee will jointly build and operate what will be a 5-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic biorefinery. Construction is expected to start late this year and the plant is expected to open in 2009.

Mascoma is also a Greentech Media Top 10 Startup company (see 3: Mascoma).

What Would Spock Drive?

Sci-fi-looking hybrid and electric-car developer Aptera Motors said Friday it's moving into production and accepting pre-orders.

For a refundable $500 deposit, shoppers can select an all-electric, plug-in or hybrid version of the three-wheeler. The expected delivery date is about a year away.

Should one select the electric version, Aptera said drivers can expect to go about 120 miles before needing to plug into any standard 110-volt outlet. The sticker price is set at about $26,900.

The company said its hybrid gets more than 300 miles per gallon and costs about $29,900.