The cash-strapped automotive industry is stimulating a lot of the fun and games in the board rooms of multinationals in the electronics sector.
Last month German photovoltaic systems vendor Solarworld submitted a takeover bid for General Motors' Opel subsidiary with the intention to create the first 'green' car maker, focusing heavily on fuel efficiency. GM said Opel was not up for sale.
At the time no one seemed to take the proposal seriously but this month none other than Intel's CEO, Andy Grove, has told the Wall street Journal he has urged Intel to invest in battery manufacturing as a way to diversify from its core chip business.
Grove declared that Intel's "strategic objective is tackling big problems and turning them into big businesses". Grove reckoned that with its cash resources Intel could invest in battery technology and manufacturing to bring down the cost of car batteries to drive adoption of plug-in electric cars.
During the summer Grove called for the US car fleet to convert to electricity for national security reasons because he believes it will give the USA the greatest degree of energy resilience. At the Plug-in 2008 conference in August, Grove called for a goal of putting 10 million plug-in vehicles in 10 years.
With batteries being arguably the most expensive component in plug-in electric vehicles any company that could become the leading global supplier may possibly cash in on a lucrative opportunity. Intel has already invested in battery technology through its venture capital arm and other energy-related firms but so far there are few signs that it is going to leap into the battery market as a major player despite the sentiments of its CEO.
Two words of warning for those people thinking of beating Intel to the punch and muscling into the plug-in electric car market. Firstly, look at the fragile state of the US car industry. How many of the current automotive manufacturers will be around in ten years time to produce the plug-in vehicles? It may be an opportunity but it is also one heck of a gamble.
Secondly, take a look Google's Zeitgest 2008 Trendsetters chart here. The zeitgeist or 'spirit of the times' is the result of studying the aggregation of the billions of search queries that people type into their Google search boxes.
The Trendsetters chart shows that one of the phrases that generated one of the largest volumes of searches during the summer was indeed 'hybrid car'. However, be warned that since June 2008 the interest levels in 'hybrid cars' have dropped off a cliff. A bit like the price of a barrel of oil it would seem.
Interestingly, one the other popular search topics this year was 'solar panel' which peaked in August 2008 but has gradually tailed off but is still on the chart. CFL on the other hand is proving increasingly popular. I guess the CFL in question stands for Compact Fluorescent Lamp or energy saving light bulb and not Canadian Football League even though the latter was ranked number 1 when I just looked it up on Google.