Driving Tron-Style

Startup Venture Vehicles said this week it is on track to role out two versions of its three-wheeled alternative vehicle in the second quarter of 2009 (see this video).

The tilting two-seater is Tron-like in appearance and is called VentureOne, the company said at the Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations conference Wednesday in Redwood City, Calif.

Customers will be able to choose between a plug-in hybrid that gets about 100 miles per gallon by replacing some gasoline with electricity and can hit top speeds of 100 mph, or a fully electric version that can drive about 120 miles between charges and reach top speeds of about 70 mph.

The Los Angeles-based company hopes people looking for a cool, energy-efficient first car, or families wanting a second or third commuter car, will be ready to buy.

The plug-in hybrid is expected to cost about $20,000, while the all-electric version will set folks back about $25,000.

Analysts have said the vehicle’s unique design, which equates to less cargo room and a one-of-a-kind driving experience as drivers are tilted side-to-side while hugging a turn, might not entice mainstream buyers.

Still, Venture Vehicles has been able to attract $6 million in its first venture round backed by NGEN Partners in July and about $600,000 from friends and family so far.

CEO Howard Levine said the company plans to launch in California and then will expand into New York.

Venture Vehicles isn’t the only company pursuing the three-wheeled small-vehicle market. In September, Aptera Motors said it was moving into production for all-electric and hybrid versions of its three-wheeler (see In Brief: What Would Spock Drive?).

CamSemi Gets $26M For Energy-Efficient ICs

CamSemi, a U.K. company developing integrated circuits for power and lighting products, said it has raised $26 million in its third round of venture-capital funding (see PDF press release).

Investors included 3i Group, Scottish Equity Partners and Carbon Trust Investments.

The company claims its energy-efficient circuits can "dramatically reduce" the energy consumption of electronic equipment, such as cell-phone chargers.

CamSemi said the money will go toward the commercialization of circuits that will enable power converters and battery chargers that are smaller, cheaper and more power-efficient.

The company said its technology has the potential to cut the energy used in standby mode tenfold, compared to competitors, and to cut the energy lost when the converters and chargers are actively being used by a factor of three.

Finavera to Raise $23M For Wind Power

Finavera Renewables, a wind- and wave-power company, said it is raising $23 million Canadian for a wind project in Germany.

The company will offer shares through a private placement to accredited investors and qualified institutional buyers in Canada and the United States.

Dundee Securities Corp. and CIBC World Markets will place the shares in exchange for a 7 percent commission, Finavera said. The offering is expected to close in November if it’s approved by regulatory agencies.

The company said it expects the wind project, a 20-megawatt wind farm that will include 10 turbines with a capacity of 2 megawatts each, to produce $20 million in revenue.

That windfall will help Finavera fund its off-shore wave technology, the AquaBuOY wave-energy converter, which it expects to commercialize by 2010.

In recent trading on the TSX Venture Exchange in Canada, Finavera shares (TSX: FVR) dropped 4.76 percent to 40 Canadian cents per share.