Toyota’s 15-year-old hybrid plug-in electric vehicle, the Prius, is now officially a mainstream automobile, rising from what Bloomberg described as a “niche oddity” back when it was first released, to the world’s third best-selling car line in the first quarter of 2012. “Toyota sold a staggering 247,230 Prius hybrids, beating sales figures for cars like the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf,” says Green Car Reports. “In first place for the quarter, selling 300,800 cars was another Toyota, the 2012 Corolla. In second place, just under 30,000 cars ahead of the Prius line, was the 2012 Ford Focus.” Sales soared as Toyota extended the brand to a four-model “family” of vehicles, to coincide with the introduction of rebates and tax breaks in Japan that can save EV buyers $US2,500 or more.
The surge in the Prius’ popularity has also put Japan-based Toyota back into the global sales lead for the first three months of the year, says Bloomberg, giving the Toyota brand three of the top 10 models in the US so far this year, including its midsize Camry. Eric Noble, president of the Car Lab, an automotive consultancy in Orange, California, told Bloomberg that the rise in sales of the Prius proves it wasn’t a fluke, and that there’s a long-term market for hybrids. It’s also really good news for the EV market, in general, and for 100 per cent electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, in particular, says CleanTechnica. “Why? Well, their first-year sales are looking much better than the Prius’ were, implying that they will one day be on the top of the heap as well.”
CEFC bill clears lower house
The legislation sopprting the federal government’s $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation has passed through Parliament’s House of Representatives, the Gillard government winning a vote to pass the legislative package to set up the cleantech investment fund just before the lower house was adjourned on Wednesday. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet described some of the Opposition’s contributions to the preceding Parliamentary debate on the CEFC as “nonsense,” and “misleading and misrepresentative.” Coalition MPs argued that the government had used accounting trickery in its establishment of the fund, calling it a commercial venture which wouldn’t push the budget into deficit because it didn’t have to be included. The government will invest $2 billion a year over five years from 2013-14 in the CEFC, which will link private companies in funding large-scale clean energy projects. It says the corporation will become self-supporting. A committee report, tabled on Wednesday, recommended parliament pass the legislation but coalition members lodged a dissenting report saying the CEFC presented an unacceptable risk to taxpayers by underwriting a significant amount of commercialisation that could fail.
CBD’s funding filip
ASX-listed renewables company CBD Energy has raised $US6.25 million in new funding through a convertible note issue, attracting the majority of investment from San Francisco-based financier Partners for Growth. CBD says it sees Partners for Growth – which has also invested in Australia-based CSIRO spin-off Windlab Systems – as a potential source of funds over the longer term. The company says it plans to use the proceeds of the investment round for its Australian and international solar businesses, for progressing Australian wind farm development, and to help cover costs from the merger with Westinghouse Solar and the NASDAQ listing – as well as to maximise use of a US$25 million construction finance facility for solar projects in Europe.
“Achieving funding in this market at a premium to our current share price is a positive reflection on the team we have built and the opportunities we have created,” said CBD managing director Gerry McGowan, in a statement to the ASX. McGowan said that the funding was “timely” in enabling value to be created in the company’s “substantial international project pipeline,” while also reflecting “an understanding from a major US institution of the business model CBD has developed.” The convertible notes have a term of 36 months, a conversion price of 5.3 cents, an interest rate of 9.75 per cent per annum and attaching warrants to 25 per cent of the convertible notes issue, exercisable at the same price and valid for five years.