Weekly Investor Roundup

With the release this month of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, a lot of news has been focused on electric vehicles lately.

The Volt, which hit the streets on Tuesday, was named Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal, beating out the Leaf and three other finalists: the 2011 Ford Fiesta, 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Building on nearly a decade of success with it Prius hybrid, Toyota (NYSE: TM) is still the leader in the green car market. And the company announced plans to launch 11 new hybrids
and a plug-in version of its Prius vehicle in an effort to maintain that leadership position. One of the new hybrids will come out by the end of 2012. It will be a
compact vehicle with a fuel efficiency of roughly 94 miles per
gallon, the company said. The plug-in version of the Prius will be available in early 2012 and may sell for as little as $36,000. Toyota also said it plans to sell hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles in three
markets in 2015, and is considering launching electric vehicles in

AMP Holding Inc. (AMPD.ob), a company that converts standard vehicles to electric drive systems, said it has signed an agreement to provide 1,000 electric SUVs to a project in Iceland. Northern Lights
(NLE) will purchase the vehicles for its
national electric vehicle (EV) project over a five-year period. Northern Lights says Iceland is ideal for electric vehicles, due to its large supply of renewable power and the short commuting distance of residents. AMP said it is in discussions with several potential SUV makers for supplying the vehicles.

In other green vehicle news, The U.S. Department of Energy announced an offer of a $50 million
conditional loan commitment
to a group that wants to make a six-passenger, wheelchair accessible vehicle that will run on compressed natural gas (CNG). The Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG), which is based in Miami, Florida, wants to build the vehicles at a factory in Mishawaka, Indiana. The company said the so-called MV-1 is the only purpose-built vehicle that was designed from the ground up for wheelchair accessibility.
The vehicle features a deployable access ramp, a 36-inch entryway and an interior that accommodates up to six
occupants, including a wheelchair passenger
and the driver.

GE (NYSE: GE) has created a new Home Energy Management (HEM) business
unit that aims to tie together all of the company’s smart home products into a
comprehensive, marketable package. GE said it wants to be the first major appliance company to provide a whole-home
solution for energy management by going beyond the kitchen to provide
insight into energy usage in the family room, the basement, the home
office, and all other rooms of the house. The home of the future may never look like it did on the Jetsons, but within a decade it’s almost certain that new refrigerators, washing machines, hot water heaters and air conditioners will all be interconnected on a monitoring system. And naturally, GE wants to sell you each piece.

Smart Grid software company OPower announced the closing of a $50 million funding round that was led by Accel Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. OPower already counts seven of the ten largest U.S. energy providers as customers of its software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. And the company said it expects to quadruple its customer base in 2011, while adding new products and features. OPower is headquartered in Arlington, VA.

Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power announced £11 million in new funding, led by engineering group ABB (NYSE: ABB). Aquamarine harvests ocean energy with a device that opens and closes like an oyster shell with the fluctuations of waves. The company is based in Scotland, and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE.L) is also an investor, which all but guarantees the company a path to market. ABB’s expertise in connecting offshore wind power will also come in handy, when the technology is ready to be tied to the grid. 

And lastly, the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar plants in the both the U.S. and Europe were both completed within the last two weeks. Of course, they will only hold that designation for a year or two at the most, because other larger projects are in the works. But these are worth noting. The 70-megawatts (MW) Rovigo plant in Italy was built by SunEdison (NYSE: WFR) in a joint venture with First Reserve Corporation. And First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) built the 48 MW Copper Mountain Solar plant for Sempra Generation (NYSE: SRE) in Boulder City, Nevada.



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