Saturday, 26 July 2008

Tata Plans to Sell Electric Car

July 25, 2008;

NEW DELHI -- Tata Motors Ltd., India's biggest auto maker by sales, said it plans to sell an electric car and other fuel-efficient vehicles as rising oil prices and pollution worries increase demand for such vehicles globally.
"We are also competing for an ecocar project in Thailand and bringing out a new range of world-class trucks," Chairman Ratan Tata said.
The electric car is being developed with a Norwegian company and will be introduced in the current fiscal year ending March 31.

Toyota raises Prius price by $500 for 2009 in US

The Associated Press
Published: July 26, 2008

NEW YORK: Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it is raising the U.S. suggested retail price of its Prius hybrid by $500 for the 2009 model.
The new price is a 2.2 percent increase over the current models. Prices will range from $22,000 for the standard Prius to $24,270 for a touring model, the company's U.S. sales unit said.
Bill Kwong, spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., said the growing cost of commodities is the main reason behind the increases. He ticked off a list of commodities-based raw materials that have seen a price run-up in the last year.
"Almost everything is made out of petroleum," he said. "Rubber, plastic, transportation (costs), glass, things like that."
"We try to absorb the costs by making things more efficient and cutting back where we could, but we also don't want to cheat the customer on the quality of the product," he said.

U.S. Prius sales have recently declined because the company has been unable to keep up with demand as gas prices have peaked above $4 a gallon and consumers seek more fuel-efficient cars. The Japanese automaker sold 91,440 Priuses in the first half of 2008, down about 3 percent from a year earlier. The gas-electric hybrid gets a combined 46 miles per gallon (19.56 kilometers per liter), according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.
Toyota also announced new prices for a dozen other Toyota and Scion models, with an average increase of $181. Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, announced higher prices for four vehicles as well.
Except for the Prius, the price increases are all below 2 percent.
Toyota's other hybrid sedan, the Camry HV, will see a $500, or 1.9 percent, price increase, the company said. It also raised the price on its top-selling standard Camry sedan by $225, or 1 percent, and the price of the No. 2-selling Corolla by $100, or 0.6 percent.
Other increases include the Avalon, which will see a base price increase of $520, or 1.7 percent; the Highlander hybrid, which goes up by $518, or 1.4 percent; and the FJ Cruiser sport utility vehicle, which jumps $275, or 1.1 percent.
Lexus, meanwhile, is raising the suggested prices on the 2009 models of its SC 430 hardtop convertible, its LX 570 SUV, its GX 470 SUV and its RX 400h hybrid SUV. Each model will go up in price between 0.6 percent and 1.3 percent, the company said.
The price increases come as Toyota gains U.S. market share and is poised to become the world's top seller of automobiles. Toyota's U.S. sales are down less than 7 percent in the first half of this year, while General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have seen decreases of up to 22 percent as buyers shun their truck- and sport utility vehicle-heavy lineups.
Toyota said Wednesday its worldwide sales rose 2 percent to 4.8 million units during the first half of the year, overtaking GM by about 278,000 vehicles. Toyota's global sales came in ahead of GM's in the first half of 2007 as well, but GM eked out a win for the full year to maintain its 77-year lead.
But Toyota has not been immune to the broader weakness in the automobile market, brought on by record-high fuel prices and a weaker global economy. The company's U.S. sales took a surprising 21 percent dive in June, prompting the company to suspend truck and SUV production for three months starting in August and start building the Prius in the U.S. for the first time starting in 2010.

Stiff sea breeze blows away school's electricity bill

One of Britain’s most windswept schools has taken advantage of its position on an exposed Cornish headland to reduce its electricity bills by up to 90 per cent.

Gorran School, near St Austell, has attracted £55,000 in grants to install a 50ft (15m) wind turbine in a corner of its playing field. When the wind blows the turbine produces 3.5kW of power, enough to meet nearly all the 100-pupil primary school’s energy needs and to help to heat its outdoor swimming pool to a bath-like temperature.
When the school is closed at night, at weekends and during holidays, or if the turbine produces more power than it needs, the surplus electricity is sold to the national grid for 10p per unit. Thirty other schools in Cornwall are hoping to install their own turbines.
Matthew Oakley, the school’s head teacher, said: “Last month we reduced our electricity bill by 86 per cent.

“Just as important is the message that this is giving to our pupils about how important it is to be able to generate green energy, as this is the world they are going to be living in.”
The project was co-ordinated by Community Energy Plus, a charity set up to promote sustainable energy, which is planning to extend the scheme to enable local communities to buy their own turbines and generate their own electricity.
Sue Hawken, a school governor, said: “It was a bureaucratic nightmare even with their help. Without it I don’t think we’d have been able to do it at all. Because it hadn’t been done before we were asking lots of questions that no one knew the answers to.”
The school received grants of £30,000 from the power company EDF, £17,000 from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, £7,500 from Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit and £500 from Eco-Schools. Rosie Cox, 7, said: “It is making our school greener than we were.” Adam Phipps, 8, who has built his own miniature turbine and been able to measure the electricity it generates, said: “We think the turbine is good because it means we are not burning oil that creates carbon dioxide.”
Gorran School, the subject of a book by a former teacher called The School House in the Wind, sits on a headland. It has an inexhaustible supply of wind, which conveniently blows hardest in the winter when the most energy is needed. Mr Oakley said: “Some people say they can hear [the turbine] from quite a distance away when the wind’s in the right direction but it is not an intrusive noise. I’d compare it to the sound of the sea.”

Rio Tinto eyes 10 percent of world potash market

Published: July 25, 2008

SYDNEY: Rio Tinto Ltd/Plc wants to grab 10 percent of the world potash market as demand for the fertiliser grows in step with biofuel production, Preston Chiaro, chief executive of Rio's energy and minerals unit said on Friday.
The push into a new commodity comes as Rio's board fights a $140 billion (70 billion pounds) all-share takeover by rival BHP Billiton , which it sees as too cheap and failing to appreciate Rio's growth plans.
Rio's main businesses are in aluminium production and mining iron ore, copper and coal.
Rio only produces a small amount of potash at present from a trial operation but hopes to dig new mines in Argentina and Canada starting in 2012, Chiaro said.
Global demand for potash stood at around 60 million tonnes a year and was growing at around 3 percent a year as more farmland is diverted away from food production to growing crops for energy, creating opportunities for new entrants, he said.

Shrinking world stocks have pushed grain prices to record highs and given farmers the incentive to use more fertilisers, resulting in large price increases for soil nutrients worldwide.
"Potash is critical to producing the world' s major crops and benefits from global demand for food and animal feed, plus biofuels," Chiaro said.
Rio was also looking to double uranium production within five years after earlier on Friday announcing plans to sell uranium to China for the first time from its Australian deposits, he said.
Rio mines uranium in Namibia in partnership with the government and owns 68.4 percent of Energy Resources Australia , which mines a deposit in northern Australia and already supplies 10 percent of the world's needs.
Growth in uranium, as well as in other products Rio mines, would likely come via expanding existing operations rather than outright acquisitions, which could prove too costly, given record prices for coal, iron ore and other materials, he said.
"Frankly, everything is pretty high-priced right now," he said.
Rio has been selling off some of its assets to help recoup $15 billion of the $38 billion it spent buying Alcan of Canada last year.
It recently held discussions over selling its borates division in the United States and some two dozen groups have shown an interest in buying the U.S. energy coals division, according to Chiaro.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by James Thornhill)

Green police: Brighton's finest try battery power

Milk float? Golf buggy? No, it's the patrol car criminals won't hear coming

Patrick Barkham
The Guardian,
Saturday July 26 2008

Villains were on the run yesterday - although it would have been enough to skateboard or stroll - as Sussex police unveiled their latest crime-fighting machine.
Propelling officers from 0-28mph in a matter of seconds, the two-seater electric patrol car radiated the intimidating power of a golf buggy or a milk float as it glided silently around Brighton.
With an impish twinkle in its headlights, the Gem did not emit much of an authoritative charge. Crucially, however, the nine eight-volt batteries stowed beneath its two seats did not emit any nasty pollutants either.
In full Sussex police livery - but minus the flashing blue lights - the Gem was overtaken on the promenade by bicycles, mobility scooters and cutting-edge electric technology from the 19th century - the Volk's train, the oldest working electric railway in the world.
Pensioners dropped sandwiches, children sniggered and street cleaners had to shovel up their jaws. A breakdown truck pulled over and the driver whipped out his mobile phone camera. "I can't wait until I recover that," shouted Dickie Lupton. "That's brilliant."
Giving the Gem a run for its money in his mobility scooter, Arthur Murryfield cast doubt on its ability to catch up with criminals. "The police should be out walking, like they used to," he grumbled.
Mostly, however, people cooed "it's very Brighton" as they gazed admiringly at the £12,500 machine, which has a "roaming" range of 50 miles and takes seven hours to recharge its batteries.
"We could do with more of them," said Garry Butler, a daytripper from West Kingsdown in Kent. "It would be ideal to break up the kids and stop them hanging outside the local shops."
"They wouldn't hear it coming," added his wife, Pauline.
"Marvellous," said Paul Smurthwaite. "It's a brilliant idea in the city, on the sea front and patrolling the undercliff."
With a special "red permit" allowing her to drive any police vehicle under three-and-a-half tonnes, PCSO Kelly Joel expertly took the Gem up to 24mph as it sailed up and down the hilly streets of Brighton. Other officers leaned out of the windows at police headquarters in envy.
"It's absolutely fantastic. Very very nippy," she said. "It doesn't hesitate to go up the hill."
"It's a low-speed pursuit vehicle," joked Andy de Sallis, UK managing director of Gem - Global Electric Motorcars - which is part of the Chrysler group. "It's the only vehicle where if you put your foot right down you still won't set off a speed camera."
Inspector Andy Richardson said the Gem would be deployed on a trial basis for neighbourhood policing and street meetings. "It's not the best thing to pursue someone in. I don't think we'll be doing that," he said.
With left-hand drive and no doors, the Gem is more accessible than ordinary police vehicles and Richardson said he hoped it would help break down barriers between the police and the communities they serve. Costing just 1.5p per mile on current electricity prices, it is also much cheaper to run than an ordinary patrol car.
More than 45,000 of the vehicles have been sold around the world and clients include Nasa and US police forces. Coming in two, four and six-seat "stretch" versions, the Gem is being looked at by other police forces in the UK as well as local councils and commercial companies.
The electric vehicle is on trial for Sussex police until after Brighton's Gay Pride festival next Saturday, where it will be on display.
Sussex police have tried innovative forms of police transport before, including rollerblades. "They didn't last long," said a police spokeswoman.
But she said the force was seriously considering purchasing a vehicle although there were no plans to fit it with flashing blue lights.
"Blue lights and sirens indicate they are in a position to respond to an emergency and that's not what they are about," she said.

Nuclear group strikes takeover deal with EDF

· French firm's offer could value company at £12bn· British Energy acquisition faces competition battle
Mark Milner, industrial editor
The Guardian,
Saturday July 26 2008

France's EDF and Britain's nuclear generator, British Energy, are understood to have reached agreement in principle on the terms of an agreed bid.
Although work on an offer is continuing, the French company is understood to be keen to finalise a deal next week, ahead of publication of its latest figures on Friday.
The offer is expected to be pitched at around 775p a share, which would value British Energy, in which the UK government has a 35% stake, at some £12.4bn.
EDF is in negotiations with Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, about the possibility of the UK company taking a minority stake, thought to be around 25%, in British Energy after a successful EDF offer.
Centrica is keen to increase its own electricity generating capacity and to be part of the building of new nuclear capacity while its inclusion in a deal might help to offset any criticism that a key British asset was being sold to a state-owned French company.
Last night none of the companies was prepared to comment.
On Thursday, British Energy said it was in advanced discussions with another company, though it did not name its suitor, pushing its shares up 6%. On Friday British Energy shares were slightly lower on the day at 726.5p, well below the expected price, suggesting there may still be concerns about a last minute hitch.
Setting a valuation on British Energy has proved tricky for the negotiators. The company was pushed into the bid spotlight when the government gave the green light for a new generation of nuclear power generators at the beginning of the year.
British Energy has eight nuclear power stations as well as a coal-fired station, and its existing atomic sites were immediately seen as the most likely places to build new capacity.
That has given the company a hard-to-value combination of existing non-fossil fuel generation, at a time of rising electricity prices, and the future value of the sites as places to build new generation nuclear plants.
A number of European energy companies, including Spain's Iberdrola and RWE from Germany, are understood to have looked at British Energy. EDF has already said it would be keen to be involved in the construction of a number of new nuclear plants in the UK.
The success or otherwise of Britain's nuclear build programme is seen as having an important bearing on such development in other countries, in Europe and elsewhere. In the UK, the government is keen to promote nuclear power as part of a portfolio of energy sources, including gas, coal and renewables, in order to increase security of supply and reduce the impact of rising fossil fuel prices on Britain's energy bills.
EDF has already had a bid of more than 680p rebuffed but even a significantly higher offer may not be seen as enough by some investors.
"Based on $100 a barrel oil until 2012 and $70 a barrel thereafter, we value British Energy's existing assets at 760p [a share]," Evolution analyst Lakis Athanasiou said. He added that though an offer of about 775p would be a good one for the existing assets, it "does not include any price for new nuclear".
EDF's acquisition of British Energy would also raise competition issues. British Energy is the largest of the so-called merchant generators in the UK — electricity producers which sell their output into the wholesale market and do not have a retail customer base.
On the other hand, EDF has its own generating capacity, amounting to slightly over 7%, as well as more than five million residential and small business customers.
Other merchant generators are concerned that allowing EDF to acquire British Energy would increase the amount of UK electricity capacity held by vertically integrated companies.

'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream

French nuclear companies are hoping to play a central role in the government's plan to build a new generation of reactors. At home, however, the industry has been buffeted by a series of mishaps. Angelique Chrisafis reports from Bollène

The Guardian,
Saturday July 26 2008

Sylvie Eymard's Provence farmhouse kitchen should be the picture of French rural calm. But the stockpiles of bottled water, disinfectant rinse and disposable paper plates hint at something strange.
For the past two weeks, Eymard, 41, and her children, 13 and seven, have had a phobia of taps. To wash up, they go out to the yard and fill a bowl from a specially delivered plastic tank of purified water on a fork-lift tractor. They carry the water up to the bathroom to wash. Even the dog drinks bottled water, and it is left out for the birds.
"I feel as if everything's constantly dirty," Eymard said, her hands deep in soapy lather scrubbing plates.
The view from the house over the fields is dominated by the nearby cooling towers of the Tricastin site, a nuclear power plant run by EDF, the company which is poised to buy British Energy and take control of most UK nuclear stations.
Next to the plant is a nuclear treatment centre run by a subsidiary of Areva, the nuclear group which hopes to design many of the new British reactors. Last month an accident at the treatment centre during a draining operation saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank. About 75kg of uranium seeped into the ground and into the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers which flow into the Rhône. Eymard's house is 100 metres from one of these streams.
Like a handful of rural homes near the nuclear site, hers is plumbed into the local groundwater from wells. For 20 years she has drunk from the tap. But after the incident there was a ban on drinking the groundwater, using it to water fields - as all local farmers do - or swimming or fishing in local lakes and streams. Since then, Eymard feels like she is in an episode of The Simpsons, in a Springfield where people's trust has been abused by haphazard mistakes. "It feels like a science fiction film where experts constantly come to examine and film the people who've been exposed."
At the centre for adults with learning disabilities where she works, some have seen her on the TV news and innocently asked for her autograph. At 10.30am on the dot, two men in green overalls from the nuclear site appear at her door to collect the daily sample of water from her tap to analyse it for uranium. Levels have fluctuated daily.
Even after the official ban was lifted this week and the families' urine samples tested normal, Eymard won't drink from the tap. "I always trusted that nuclear was totally secure. But now I wonder, have there been other accidents in the past we haven't been told about?"
The nuclear site at Bollène sits in a picturesque corner of Provence between the lavender fields and cypress trees that stretch north to the nougat capital of Montélimar and to the historic town of Avignon 30 miles to the south, which was hosting its famous theatre festival when the spillage occurred.
Until now most locals have accepted the plant as a risk-free part of everyday life in nuclear-dependent France. More than 80% of France's electricity is generated by the country's 58 nuclear reactors - the world's highest ratio. But the leak has shaken French trust in nuclear safety and embarrassed Nicolas Sarkozy as he crusades for a French-led world renaissance in atomic power.
The president wants to export French nuclear know-how around the world, including to Britain where nuclear power supplies 19% of electricity, and London and Paris are to cooperate on a new generation of nuclear power plants. Areva, 90% state-owned, is at the heart of foreign cooperation agreements not just with Europe but countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Libya. Last year it clinched the biggest commercial nuclear power contract on record, worth €8bn (£6.3bn), to supply China with two reactors and provide nuclear fuel for nearly two decades.
Areva has been criticised by France's nuclear safety watchdog over the Tricastin leak for not adequately informing local authorities and for unsatisfactory measures and operational procedures. The leak rated at level one of the seven-stage scale of nuclear incidents.
It was detected on the night of July 7 but the town hall and locals who continued to drink water contaminated with uranium were not informed until the following afternoon. Areva's chief executive, Anne Lauvergeon, called the leak an "anomaly" which posed no danger to humans or the environment. The treatment plant has been shut and the subsidiary's director removed.
But in recent days there have been other, lesser incidents at nuclear sites. In Romans-sur-Isère, north of Tricastin, at another site run by an Areva subsidiary, officials discovered a burst underground pipe which had been broken for years and did not meet safety standards. A tiny amount of lightly enriched uranium leaked but not beyond the plant. This week, about 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe. EDF described the contamination as "slight".
The French government has now ordered tests on the groundwater around all nuclear sites in France. The environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, said there were 86 level-one nuclear incidents in France last year and 114 in 2006.
People living near the Tricastin plant remain concerned. In basil and coriander fields farmed by the extended Eymard family not far from the nuclear site, part of the crop was ruined after wilting during the ban on using contaminated water. The herbs, which are sold to make frozen seasoning, have been tested for radioactivity and cleared.
Roger Eymard, 69, a retired farmer, now washes by pouring purified water into the shower fitting of his camper van parked in a stable. "Nuclear was progress and we wanted that. We thought people were competent. Now we ask, were there previous incidents we weren't told about?"
France's IRSN nuclear safety institute has pinpointed high levels of uranium in the groundwater that it said could not have been caused by the recent leak alone. A separate commission raised the possibility that this contamination could be linked to military nuclear waste at the Tricastin plant from 1964 to 1976.
The area's image has been so dented that the nearby Rhône Valley wine makers whose label is Coteaux du Tricastin want to change their name. In nearby Bollène, sales of bottled water have soared despite assurances that the tap water is unaffected. Some people have even asked chemists for iodine tablets, recommended for a nuclear emergency.
Not far from the nuclear site, Emilie Dubois, 61, sat by her luxury swimming pool framed by fig trees, poolside bar, shower and designer outdoor kitchen. But for two weeks the cover has been on as the family ordered tests on radioactivity levels in the pool water.
The day the emergency water ban was announced, more than 50 people swimming in a local lake were ordered out and fled. "It was as if there was a shark attack," one said.
Dubois was in her pool with her grandchildren when a town hall official arrived to tell her of a ban on watering with groundwater. He said he had orders not to give an explanation. She assumed it was a drought warning and got back in the pool. Only from television that night did the family learn of the leak. The pool, filled with local groundwater, was a potential contamination zone. It has now tested safe to swim in.
Her husband is a retired engineer from the plant and her sons work in the industry. "I've never questioned the safety of nuclear," she said. She has resumed watering her vegetable patch and ate freshly picked salad for lunch. "It's organic but it's been watered with the groundwater after the leak. Why would I eat anyone else's tomatoes that weren't organic? Although there are thoughts at the back of my mind as I'm eating."
Sarkozy recently announced that France will build a second new-generation nuclear reactor, a European pressurised water reactor or EPR. He said nuclear power was France's best answer to soaring energy prices and global warming. The Green party attacked the EPR as "useless, dangerous and expensive", saying: "France is becoming a nuclear showroom for Sarkozy the sales rep and Areva."
Not far from the stream that was contaminated from the Tricastin leak, Joel Bernard sat in his farmhouse tallying the loss to his carrots, radishes, turnips and cherries which couldn't be watered during the ban. "Until last week, it was paradise here," he said. "I don't want to return to the rural past. But something like this creates a kind of suspicion."