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Neil Energy

Neil Energy
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  • Green Plains Renewable Energy's New Dividend And Its Sustainability [View article]
    I find Tristan's articles to be some of the most insightful regarding ethanol and biodiesel. His depth of understanding and his willingness to share his knowledge with others is admirable. I have been investing in this area for years and find it hard to get good information.

    Chriscalhoun: why don't you share with us some added value information? If you can help us understand things at a level beyond Tristan's "obvious" content, it would be much appreciated.
    Aug 24 12:37 PM | 7 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Battery-Powered Locomotives: Compellingly Green Economics [View article]
    Here's a nice chart that shows the spread between crude oil and natural gas from 2000 to now and estimates from now to 2020.
    I encourage you to look at it - it's easy to understand and compelling.

    Here's another one that goes back to 1965, clearly showing that the spread has widened considerably in the last few years and is expected to remain that way for a while.

    Besides significant cost savings for switching from diesel to natural gas, there is an often overlooked factor that motivates fleet operators. For decades, they have been at the mercy of diesel prices, which they have no control over, and can seriously affect their business and profits, and they can do nothing except try to react.

    With natural gas prices at record lows, and supply expected to exceed demand for at least several more years, fleet operators are getting more comfortable with the prospect of lower prices for years and years. Furthermore, if they are willing to pay for "insurance," they can get longer-term contracts that lock in the low fuel prices.

    While I sold all of my Westport last year at $30 (that I acquired between $4 and $15 per share over a 6 or 7 year period), I will be buying back in after the next Great Recession triggered by Europe. I will also be picking up natural gas stocks on the cheap in a few years when demand is low due to poor economic conditions. But make no mistake, the transition from diesel to natural gas for heavy duty trucking, buses, refuse trucks, heavy machinery, mining equipment and locomotives will be fast and furious over the next decade here in the United States. To miss out on this would be a huge investing mistake.

    Now back to batteries on locomotives: they'll still be useful regardless of diesel vs. natural gas, as they will allow the recapture of kinetic energy on long-haul locomotives, and for local railyard switchers, they may be able to replace the engine altogether.
    May 26 01:14 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lux Boosts Micro-Hybrid Vehicle Forecast To 39M Cars / Year By 2017 [View article]
    John, thank you for explaining the complex dynamics behind a financing transaction. Most of the companies I invest in have needed financing like this at one time or another, and as an individual investor, the whole process is very opaque and you wonder if the company knows what they are doing, and why they got "taken" for such a low price.

    Your detailed explanation of the process helps us small investors better appreciate the dance that takes place between the company and the investors.

    Thank you for generously sharing your experience with us.

    Feb 11 02:03 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is Stop-Start Idle Elimination Crushing Vehicle Electrification? [View article]
    renim: your comments are highly misleading, since you are harping on characteristics of PbC batteries that are NOT relevant for start-stop applications. You're pointing out that PbC batteries do not have the same energy storage capacity as AGMs, which is already well understood. PbC batteries are not being considered by automakers for their energy storage capabilities - they are being considered because they can deliver and accept a lot of power in a short period of time (tens of seconds or a few minutes, _not_ hours).

    Your deliberately misleading posts would be forgiven if you learned from your mistakes, but you just keep posting the same misleading information over and over again. What is your motivation?
    Nov 5 12:27 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How The Micro-Hybrid Revolution Will Radically Change The Battery Market [View article]
    hl0 and John: thank you for your number crunching examples on energy storage, cost per Farad and system level costs for the various potential solutions. John's point about the power conversion and control electronics for the ultracap/battery combo is well taken, and if the PbC/starter battery combo offers a simpler solution, it will make a big difference in the low-end micro-hybrid market.

    I wonder however, what other side benefits we can expect from an ultracap solution. Could it accept faster/deeper regenerative braking recharge rates that would not be possible with batteries? Could it also be used for providing burst power to electric power steering? Voltage stabilization for the entire vehicle electrical system? Higher surge currents for acceleration boost? Basically, since you can "beat the crap" out of an ultracap, millions of times over, I'm wondering if the ultracap solution can be designed to do things you wouldn't dare to do with a battery solution because you need to "baby" the battery along to prolong the life.

    Again, thank you hl0 and John for grounding the various potential solutions with watt seconds and hard dollars and cents analyses. That's what really counts when you're an automaker making hard decisions!
    Dec 28 10:21 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Automakers Raise The Stakes Again In The Micro-Hybrid Battery Battle [View article]
    Thank you John for the link to the article about the federal grant. In the article, it says:

    "Work on the project will take place in Altoona, University Park, New Castle and Roanoke, Va., through December 2013.

    Do you think that implies the locomotive wouldn't start actual trials until 2014? Or might trials be run in 2013 as part of the research, leading to production in 2014? I know this kind of timing is hard to predict, but perhaps the grant itself describes the milestones in more detail.
    Oct 21 02:18 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Realities And EV Fantasies [View article]
    So last night I marked all 29 posts by JRP3 with the Report Abuse link at the bottom of each link. None of them contain profanity, but they do meet the "troll" requirement. When someone posts 29 times on one article (and this is normal for JRP3's postings on John's articles), and perhaps only a few of the comments say anything new or different or contain actual information, I consider that abuse, as it affects the value of the content to all readers.

    So this morning, I got this email from Seeking Alpha:


    I noticed that you reported abuse on a number of comments that were not abusive.

    Blanket reporting abuse of other commentators is a violation of our Terms of Use: "Seeking Alpha encourages civil, thought-provoking debate and idea-sharing among investors and stock-market followers. In order to maintain a level of discourse appropriate to our user base, we are strongly opposed to trolling, uncivilized discussion, mudslinging, inappropriate language, and blanket dismissal of others' ideas."

    We take abusive comments seriously, and will take appropriate action where necessary. However, we also ask that you refrain from reporting comments that are not abusive.

    Customer Service - Seeking Alpha

    In my frustration, I went overboard in marking every single JRP3 post with Report Abuse. Going forward, I will be more judicious and mark those that are in line with Seeking Alpha policy: "we are strongly opposed to trolling, uncivilized discussion, mudslinging, inappropriate language, and blanket dismissal of others' ideas."

    And here was my response to Seeking Alpha:

    I am thrilled that you have taken a look at this issue. I love Seeking Alpha.

    JRP3 is regularly posting dozens of comments on each and every article written by John Peterson. While the comments are not profane, they are destroying the usefulness of the comment threads on these articles because of their volume and meaningless content. He repeats the same opinions (usually just opinions without any facts to back them up) over and over again without adding any value to the discussion. This helps makes the comment section so long that it becomes "unreadable." When I see a comment thread with 300 comments, I don't even bother to read it because I know I'll never be able to get through it.

    Many readers of John Peterson's articles have tried to encourage JRP3 to be reasonable with his comments to no avail. He posts and posts and posts, trying to rebut every statement he can, but says nothing new or meaningful. His opinions could be expressed with a few well-thought-out comments and that would be enough. He is essentially a troll (just looked this up on Wikipedia), and his comments devalue Seeking Alpha content for all of your readers.

    Are you working on any feature that would allow us readers to place certain individuals on "ignore"? That would be an excellent feature and allow us committed readers to enjoy the content of Seeking Alpha without having to read through tons of drivel.

    Thank you for your consideration!

    I encourage all readers of John's articles that want to see valuable, well-though-out content in the Comments section to report abusive postings, and perhaps we might clean up these discussions just a little bit.
    May 28 04:39 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Realities And EV Fantasies [View article]

    I want to thank you again for your articles, and for your endless contributions in the comment section. I particularly appreciate your method of citing reports, statistics and financial results, as that takes things out of the realm of "wouldn't it be nice" to "here are the facts." You and I might not agree on everything, but I clearly understand the case you are making and the reasoning behind it.

    I used to read the comment section for the intelligent discussion of ideas, technology, and most importantly, the merits of investing (or not investing) in certain companies and/or industries. It's getting almost unbearable to wade through the drivel and repetitive statements of certain individuals that I have to admit I am ready to give up. I'll still read your articles, but the comments section has been "hijacked" and the signal to noise ratio trashed by those who post many times but say nothing new.

    Do you know if Seeking Alpha is working on a feature to put certain individuals on "ignore" so we can whittle down the comments to a readable subset? I don't mind contrary opinions at all, as long as the reasoning is clearly stated and the subsequent discussion is well behaved.

    If the "ignore" button is not in development, do you know the mechanics of the Report Abuse link? Is it only for profanity? Or if everybody that cares about the quality of the comments section in your articles reports the abusers that post over and over again with no meaningful content, will it really get them removed?

    I know this must be very frustrating for you as an author, but are there any practical measures we can take to improve the situation?
    May 27 11:34 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Geneva Motor Show Highlights - The Revenge of the Internal Combustion Engine [View article]
    Thanks John for posting the presentation on the LC Super-Hybrid; the drop box link worked fine.

    The presentation is very compelling, and now I really understand the title of your article: "The Revenge of the Internal Combustion Engine." It's truly amazing what is being pulled off with engine downsizing, compensated for by exhaust-gas turbochargers and electric superchargers, with stop/start and regeneration providing for even further improvements.

    I'm thrilled to see these improvements, but the presentation makes it very clear that carbon-enhanced negative electrodes are sufficient for the job, and I worry that the Axion PbC battery will not be needed. Will the Axion battery simply allow them to push the envelope further? Will the extra cost of the PbC battery be justified for the additional capabilities it brings to the table?

    Thanks again John for the excellent information!
    Mar 17 01:22 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Axion Power: Time Is Right for Gas Guzzlers to Dual Mode EV Conversions [View article]
    As usual, great article John!

    If you get a chance to update or addend the article, it would be great to add a final table that uses a "reasonable" estimate for the cost of battery packs in volume, let's say 2 years from now. Or do the battery costs of $3,000 and $15,000 already assume volume pricing? Likewise for the $4,500 electric drive conversion kit. I was shocked one day to learn that an internal combustion engine costs the automaker only $1,000. That's amazing, considering all of the parts involved, not to mention the labor in putting it together.

    Finally, where did you get the $3,000 for labor? Do you think there's much potential for improvement there.

    What I really get from this is two things: If the vehicle is manufactured with the dual-mode right out of the factory, the break even is SOOOO much earlier. And secondly, your choice of a low-mileage vehicle is key. Perhaps a limited-range plug-in makes sense for a low-mileage vehicle, but HEV (not plug-in) is clearly the way to go for smaller vehicles, where the mileage is already decent and incremental costs are harder to pay off.

    Thanks again,
    Apr 19 10:43 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How The Micro-Hybrid Revolution Will Radically Change The Battery Market [View article]
    Stefan: That's an excellent question about the length of time you can run the accessories with the engine off. One of the nicest features of our Prius is the ability to stop for gas or a bathroom break and leave the A/C on while it's 110 degrees outside. Everybody that stays in the car is comfortable while they wait, and the engine stays off. The A/C can run for 2 to 10 minutes, depending on how fully charged the battery is when you stop and how hard you're cranking the A/C.

    If the PbC could tolerate longer engine off events, that would make it even more attractive compared to the AGM batteries where a partial state of charge is damaging. It would also allow the control algorithms to permit another stop/start event even if the PbC was not able to recover its full charge, because a 70% charge might still be plenty for another stop/start event.
    Jan 11 11:39 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Recovery: A Long Story [View article]
    Wow! Excellent article!

    I've been investing in and following ERII for about 7 or 8 years now. You did an excellent job of pulling together all of the relevant information, from the market to the technology to the financials.

    Thank you for the article, and I agree with you that the future looks bright, even though it may take a few more years to play out. I'm holding all of my ERII (which was purchased at higher prices), mainly because I believe that desalinization is an inevitable trend, but I do worry about the world economy and how we could sink into another recession starting in Europe, which would likely affect all of the Middle East as well, and China would slow down too.

    So the real question for me is: Will ERII haven enough cash to ride all the way to profitability? I hope the oil and gas market helps them get to profitability sooner, but they have been rather quiet on that front until they have demonstrated success.

    Thank you again for the excellent article!
    Jul 3 02:30 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stop-Start Realities And EV Fantasies [View article]
    So JCI and Exide are prepared to deliver AGM batteries by the tens of millions. I wonder what the ramp will look like for Axion and Maxwell.

    Maxwell is opening a new facility in Arizona for producing their proprietary electrode material and they claim it will be up and running in late 2012 or early 2013. I'm guessing they must have some visibility from some automotive manufacturers for limited use on one or two lower volume platforms (like a pickup truck or luxury vehicle that sells in lower volumes than a low-cost sedan).

    My assumption is that Axion and Maxwell will get used for low-volume platforms which will give them time to ramp their production and validate the benefits. Any other thoughts on how this will play out for the "minor" players outside of the likes of JCI and Exide?
    May 22 03:05 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Geneva Motor Show Highlights - The Revenge of the Internal Combustion Engine [View article]
    Thanks John for another excellent article, and for bringing to our attention the interesting new developments in stop/start technology. It looks like BSG (belt-driven starter generator) technology is becoming more robust.

    I couldn't find any details about the LC Super Hybrid on the Controlled Power Technologies website, but found this detailed press release/article:

    A few interesting paragraphs:

    "The technologies comprise an electric supercharger, next generation belt-integrated starter generator with an advanced belt tensioning system, carbon enhanced valve regulated lead–acid (VRLA) batteries which avoid the need for super-capacitors, and higher gear ratios to reduce engine speed."

    "The improved lead-carbon battery design employed in the LC Super Hybrid allows for an excellent charge and discharge characteristic, while the carbon-enhanced negative plate formulations dramatically improve life under hybrid vehicle duty cycles. Further battery life improvements have been achieved by careful attention to battery management. These next generation batteries are already under test in pre-production vehicles. They also retain the long established end-of-life re-cycling benefits of lead-acid batteries, providing another advantage over high voltage lithium ion (Li-Ion) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries."

    "And the carbon-enhanced lead–acid battery design (supplied by Exide Technologies) helps to maximise energy recuperation (regenerative braking) during deceleration, fully realising SpeedStart’s potential for high power generation, torque smoothing and electrical energy recovery."

    Here's another link from ALABC with yet more links:

    One question: Besides the electric turbocharger, how does the LC Super Hybrid system use the captured energy from braking? Does the BSG help turn the engine when accelerating? Or is the captured energy used to run the accessories during a stop/start event?
    Mar 17 10:34 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is Stop-Start Idle Elimination Crushing Vehicle Electrification? [View article]
    CNG for passenger vehicles does not make much sense yet because the fuel savings are not significant compared to the additional cost of the engine modification, tank, valves and other components.

    CNG for long-haul trucks makes sense if they drive lots of miles and consume lots of fuel. Westport has detailed presentations showing breakdowns of long-haul tractor trailers and what percentage of them drive how many miles per year. They say that their addressable market is currently the 20 to 30% (from memory) of trucks that drive 80,000 miles per year or more. And they have publicly stated that as the incremental costs come down (which they are), that their addressable market will continue to grow to trucks that drive fewer miles per year.

    For electric drive and CNG/LNG, we investors need to break out of our little personal world of passenger vehicles and look at the commercial segment, where the miles driven and the fuel and maintenance savings justify the cost of the new technology. As fun as it is to think about our personal passenger vehicles (I have a Prius), EV and natural gas vehicles will ooch their way into the passenger vehicle market slowly, after they are proven and refined in commercial vehicles first.

    At the other extreme, from the bottom up, stop-start (which is economically feasible for almost all passenger vehicles) and HEV (which makes sense if you drive enough miles) will help further the electrification of the passenger vehicle. Perhaps they will meet up in 4 to 10 years.

    As an investor, I look at commercial vehicle opportunities like Westport (trucks, buses, trains, mining) and Maxwell (buses, trucks, cranes, rail).
    Mar 11 09:45 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment