Sources in Japan have been asking me, "When is Tesla going to come out with a version of the car that drives on the right side of the road?"
The answer: today. The company formally rolled out the right-hand side drive car in the U.K. for 86,950 pounds. ($138,686 in U.S. money--more than your typical Roadster.) The company will later bring the model to Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa and other nations where they do this sort of thing. Elon Musk last year told us that the right-hand version would come out in early 2010. The car was also mentioned in the S-1, the prelude to an expected IPO.
In Washington, the President is expected to unveil a plan to get the biofuels program back on track. The goal in 2007 was to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. We're way behind and may not hit that mark until 2030. David Woodburn has been talking about this since late '08.
Also in the UK today, Intelligent Energy and Suzuki unfurled a hydrogen-powered scooter that can go 220 miles on a tank of compressed hydrogen gas. Ideally, Intelligent, which specializes in hydrogen, will be able to bring products like this to market with partners by 2015, the company says.
Are there problems? You bet. Hydrogen takes quite a bit of energy to make and, if you make it from cracking methane, it produces an inordinate amount of carbon dioxide. It is also difficult to transport and the fuel cells remain expensive to produce, in part because they contain metals like platinum. (Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter calls the current crop of hydrogen fuel cells losers.)
But here is the upside: hydrogen tanks only take five minutes to fill. Lithium ion batteries take several hours. Hydrogen fuel cells also weigh far less than batteries, which increases mileage and improves the way vehicles handle. I've driven the Mercedes and General Motors hydrogen cars. They are probably the best electric cars I've driven yet. If they didn't cost a million dollars to make, I'd buy one right now.
Many scientists are also concocting chemical catalysts to see if hydrogen can be produced in a more economical fashion. So stay tuned--a breakthrough may well occur in the next decade.
Toyota's Prius is being swept up in the safety issues the company is currently experiencing. Apple co-founder and Segway enthusiast Steve Wozniak says his Prius often accelerates unexpectedly.
Finally, Algenol Biofuels will open a 43,000-square-foot facility in Florida to experiment with algae fuel. The facility, backed by a $10 million grant, will sport research labs, as well as 40 acres of bioreactors.