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Electric cars win hype, staying power questioned

Electric cars win hype, staying power questioned

LONDON (Reuters) – Electric cars are riding high, as incentives and new models make them a realistic option, but the fresh attention may highlight flaws compared with gasoline and alternatives such as biofuels.

The attention rankles with some in the biofuel industry, whose own hype was abruptly halted by a glut of production in 2007, subsequent bankruptcies and a fall from grace after a link was drawn — which they dispute — between biofuels and spiralling food prices and rising hunger.

Gasoline may beat off both alternatives for decades as the least-worst option, with wider adoption of more efficient conventional cars helping to curb carbon emissions and oil dependence.

The uncertainty is striking for a $5-6 trillion global auto and fuel supply market, where there is agreement only that the number of cars will keep rising, perhaps doubling to 2 billion by 2050.

The momentum is with electricity, following an oil price spike in 2008, lavish government incentives and a crippling downturn across the wider car industry. Last week the United States finalised fuel efficiency standards, following similar rules in Europe.

Green cars grabbed centre stage at auto shows this year in New York, Geneva and Detroit, including all-battery cars, hybrid varieties that switch between electric and gasoline, and small, more fuel-efficient conventional cars.

EXPENSIVE

But battery electric vehicles (EVs) are expensive.

Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan Motor Co last week announced prices for their i-MiEV and Leaf battery-only electric cars, in production already or about to debut, at 3.98 million yen ($42,520) and 3.76 million yen respectively before state subsidies, several times the cost of equivalent cars.

Reality bites with driving ranges of about 100 miles (160.9 km), far less than for a petrol car which U.S. customers expect to exceed 300 miles.

And electric cars have to contend with the multi-billion-dollar cost of a new charging infrastructure, although they benefit from running costs at about a quarter of gasoline at today’s prices, according to electric car advocates.

“The electric vehicle sector certainly has momentum, but it’s questionable whether it has the legs for the longer term, at least at the moment, and whether it has enough scale,” said Peter Wells at Cardiff University’s Centre for Automotive Industry Research, who expected big cost reductions.

Success depends on drivers accepting limitations on range and on re-charging time, which takes several hours, said Pierre Gaudillat, research and development manager at the UK-funded Carbon Trust.

“I don’t see any major breakthrough on the horizon,” he said. Customers may have to compromise on what they expect from a car, perhaps tailored for commuting, and from ownership, for example buying the car but renting the expensive battery.

Hybrid gasoline-electric cars overcome the range problem but are still pricey because of their complexity and battery costs.

Sales of hybrid-electric vehicles are expected to reach about 1.3 percent of an estimated 67 million light vehicle sales this year, according to the information company J.D. Power and Associates.

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China quake survivors spend second night in freezing cold

Battling bitingly cold weather and a lack of oxygen, rescue workers clawed with their bare hands through the rubble of homes and schools toppled by the 6.9 magnitude quake that hit Yushu county in Qinghai province on Wednesday.

Officials said medical teams and supplies such as tents and quilts were on their way to the zone, where doctors set up makeshift hospitals to treat victims of the deadliest quake in China in two years.

But thousands spent another night without shelter in freezing temperatures after the quake destroyed almost all the mudbrick and wooden houses in Jiegu, the local capital, and flattened schools.

“I lost my husband and I lost my house,” Gandan, a Jiegu resident, told AFP, her son and daughter at her side. All three were living in a tent with other people, with one bowl of barley to share.

“We don’t know what to do, we have no food,” she said, standing by the tent a stone’s throw from her collapsed mud and brick house.

China quake devastates stunned town

The number who perished rose to 760, including dozens of children, while 11,477 were injured, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting rescue coordinators.

The death toll is expected to rise further, with 243 still buried, and local officials say they were short of medical supplies and large digging equipment.

“The rescue job in this disaster zone faces many difficulties,” said Miao Chonggang, of the China Earthquake Administration, which is coordinating more than 7,000 rescuers.

President Hu Jintao cut short a Latin American tour and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao postponed a trip to Southeast Asia.

Hu told a news conference in Brasilia the quake was “a huge calamity which resulted in big losses of human life”.

Chinese president calls quake ‘huge calamity’

Wen on Thursday visited the quake zone, an underdeveloped area of the Tibetan plateau known as the “Roof of the World”.

“The top priority is to save people. We will never give up even if there is only a slim hope,” Wen told a meeting at the quake-relief headquarters in Yushu, according to Xinhua.

Soldiers, police and firefighters used shovels, iron bars and bare hands to dig through the mangled piles of concrete and rubble from 15,000 toppled homes.

Foreign governments offered help as international aid officials warned that the priorities would be providing shelter, medical aid, food and water and ensuring sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Internet users have been showing their solidarity with the quake victims by posting virtual flowers in online “mourning halls” and donating to appeals, Xinhua said.

Jiegu lies around 800 kilometres (500 miles) by road from the provincial capital Xining, about 4,000 metres above sea level, meaning rescue workers from outside the region struggled to cope with the lack of oxygen.

The government said electricity and phone links had been restored to dozens of towns but the difficult terrain, including deep canyons, and the bitter cold and remoteness of the area were hampering rescue efforts.

Dazed survivors told harrowing stories of loved ones crushed under their homes.

“There are 10 people in my family and only four of us escaped. One of my relatives died. All the others are buried under the rubble,” Samdrup Gyatso, 17, told Xinhua after his two-storey home crumbled.

Facts on China quake zone

Among the dead were at least 66 pupils and 10 teachers, Xinhua said, quoting local authorities, as grieving parents waited for news near the ruins of the schools, where discarded school books and clothes lay.

Xinhua said a baby boy had been born in a tent near the epicentre shortly after the quake.

“It must be the first life that came to the world after the disaster,” Huang Changmei, a doctor, told the agency.

“The baby brought hope to the ruined place.”

The devastation was reminiscent of the huge quake in May 2008 in Sichuan province, where thousands of children were among 87,000 deaths when their shoddily-constructed schools collapsed.

Schoolbooks strewn in China quake rubble as children perish

Xu Mei, of the education ministry, denied a media report that around 200 children had been buried in the ruins of a primary school in Wednesday’s quake.

In Beijing, Zou Ming, the head of the government’s disaster relief department, said nearly 40,000 tents, 120,000 articles of clothing, 120,000 quilts and food were being dispatched.

Classic – Nokia 3210

Manufacturer – Nokia

Available – 1999

Screen – Backlit Monochrome

Camera – None

Default ringtone – 40 ringtones

Memory – Up to 250 names in phonebook

Networks – 900 / 1800

Connectivity – None

Battery – 1250 mAh

Physical size – 123.8 x 50.5 x 16.7-22.5 mm

Weight – 151g

Form factor – Candybar

Successor – Nokia 3310

Nokia 3210 was a highly popular cellular phone, released in 1999. The phone sold extremely well, with 160 million units sold, the 3210 was one of the most popular and most successful phones in history. It was succeeded by the Nokia 3310, which was released in 2000, which was also a massively popular phone.

A combination of cutting-edge features such as internal antennas and T9 (predictive text) ensured the 3210 huge commercial success. The 3210 can also attribute much of its success to an advertising campaign which was aimed predominantly at young people, a first in the mobile phone industry. The inclusion of 3 games, changeable covers, internal antenna, customisable ringtones and competitive prices led to the handset’s huge popularity with those aged 15–25.

The Nokia 3210 has a total weight of 153g. The handset measures 123.8mm x 50.5mm x 16.7mm (min), 22.5mm (max) and features customizable fascias which clip on.

  • 3 Games came preinstalled: Snake, Memory (pairs-memory game), and Rotation. The addition of such games encouraged high sales within a youth market which was enlarging at a very fast rate. Some versions of the 3210 included “hidden” games, React and Logic. They were activated by special software using data cable.
  • The 3210 was one of the first mobile phones to feature an internal antenna. This distinguished the handset from others which featured large, awkward and unsightly antenna. Reception, although poorer than that of its predecessor, the 3110, was still very good.
  • ‘Picture messages’ sent via the SMS texting service, were implemented in the handset, allowing users to send preinstalled pictures to one another. These included a ‘Happy Birthday’ picture amongst others.
  • The handset was competitively priced and aimed particularly at teenagers and young professionals. This was at a time when few young people had access to a mobile phone, which was generally identified with older professionals and business people.
  • The 3210 was the first to allow users to compose their own ringtone, a substantial benefit as previously customized ringtones could only be sent via SMS and at a charge.
  • The 3210 was originally designed with a vibrate alert function. Nokia decided not to implement this feature on some handsets within certain jurisdictions. A few months after its UK release, some mobile phone repair shops offered customers a handset upgrade to the vibrate function for a small fee.
  • Standby Time (hrs): 55-260
  • Talk Time (mins): 180-270
  • Charge Time (hrs): 4
  • Ringtone Composer
  • Dual Band: Yes
  • Vibrating Alert (optional)
  • Speed Dialing
  • 3 Games
  • Internal Antenna
  • Green back light
  • Interchangeable Fascias