Goals and Reviews
(Download a package with CalCars' 2007 Goals/2006 Review + Appeal, 600K PDF)
We're now at CalCars 3.0 Here's our "version history:"
- 1.0 was "What's a plug-in hybrid?" (2002-04)
- 2.0 was "How can I get one?" (2005-06)
- 3.0 is "Let's get PHEVs from car-makers!" (2007-??)
We've come an incredibly long way in 2006. Plug-in hybrids are now a solution endorsed by leaders in business, government at every level, environmentalists, citizens groups, policy analysts, academics -- and car-makers. Some days the news has been so amazing it seems unreal. See below for highlights of what happened last year.
Meanwhile, we're advancing a range of projects to achieve our paramount goal: getting car-makers to mass-produce plug-in hybrids. We list the most ambitious items first:
- Emphasize PHEVs' value as "carbon killers" -- get emerging grass-roots/community/ business coalitions to adopt them as a leading climate crisis solution we can begin to build with no new technology. Continue promoting PHEVs' energy security and economic benefits, reducing dependence on oil with no new infrastructure.
- Refine and implement our "No-Worry" fleet plan to eliminate batteries as an impediment for car-makers, speeding creation of a demonstration fleet of thousands of "good-enough" PHEVs from carmakers and integrators -- and building a pathway to mass production.
- Find ways to accelerate the frustratingly slow pace of conversion deliveries; this may involve spinning off a for-profit company, while continuing CalCars.org -- it's taking a while to put the many pieces in place.
- Work to enact the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act from Set America Free; advance other steps to significantly expand state and federal government programs (including the "No Worry" plan) incentivizing and supporting PHEVs.
- Launch targeted efforts specifically directed at individual automakers, combining public advocacy campaigns and private cooperative business proposals.
- Pursue technology projects to demonstrate new batteries, enable do-it-yourself conversions and convert hybrids other than Prius.
- Working with Plug-In Partners, Plug In America and others, evangelize for PHEVs; bring our converted cars to events that engage, educate and activate new constituencies and support the growing number of distributed cars and advocates worldwide.
- Respond to media, now including books as well as print and broadcast stories.
[ Advertisement: To help us achieve these goals, PLEASE send us a small or large tax-deductible contribution -- especially if you have never done so before. ]
Back to top
CALCARS YEAR-END REVIEW: PLUG-IN HYBRIDS MADE THE BIG-TIME IN 2006
Just scan the postings at CalCars' News Archive to see the momentum that grew from so many directions. We start with items that involve mainly CalCars. Then we include other developments, organized roughly by significance. So many organizations and people are now working on PHEVs; in the events of 2006, we were centrally involved in some; in others we made introductions, started the ball rolling -- or simply welcomed efforts from partners. Thanks! (apologies for any omissions)CALCARS-FOCUSED DEVELOPMENTS
Our most-photographed car, a conversion by EnergyCS, driven daily by Felix Kramer, conveyed PHEVs' reality internationally. It was involved in events with many federal officials, entrepreneurs, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and many others -- see photos on website. In mixed-speed driving, that car routinely gets over 100MPG of gasoline plus about $0.01/mile for electricity. It now has over 12,000 miles and has averaged over 75 MPG (that low because of many long-distance non-electric trips).
In addition to Ron's and Felix's cars, we added three more to our PRIUS+ fleet: One converted with Electro Energy joined Felix's in a spectacular Capitol Hill blitz, coordinated by Set America Free, with dozens of Senators and Representatives in support of the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act. Two converted as part of the EAA-PHEV "Do It Yourself" project went to drivers in Seattle and Palo Alto.
We engaged in six months of high level discussions with executives and engineers at Ford Motors, along with Prof. Andy Frank and Ford advisor/architect/designer William McDonough. While welcoming our Escape Hybrid proposals, ultimately the company was too preoccupied to respond -- but the opportunity remains!
We joined a delegation to Sacramento sponsored by E2 with the Greentech Innovation Network (founded by venture capitol firm Kleiner Perkins) that Governor Schwarzenegger said helped convince him to support for the pioneering Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32).
Founder Felix Kramer participated in dozens of high-level events, spoke at conferences, demonstrated his car, networked with public and private sector leaders , built support, strategized, fundraised, blogged and updated CalCars-News. Technology Lead Ron Gremban further developed our hardware and software, managed continuing conversion projects, evaluated new projects and technologies, gave technical talks, and, with Prof. Andy Frank, developed our specific proposals to Ford. Communications Director John Davi re-vamped our website, helped develop our BETTAH animation and designed the highly effective 100+MPG signage for our cars, before he had to accept more secure employment. Michael Bender saved us by becoming responsible for updating the website. Dave Bagshaw recently signed on as a Senior Advisor, bringing his entrepreneurial and technical expertise. Advisors on batteries and a possible for-profit spinoff have also been effective. Dozens of volunteers made themselves available even at night and on weekends to help in many ways.
PHEVs got favorable in-depth media coverage from Scientific American, The Economist, US News & World Report, Popular Science, Thomas Friedman's Discover TV program, newspaper editorials, broadcast and online outlets. Sherry Boschert's book, "Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars That Will Re-Charge America," was published.
Our website pages tracking car-makers statements, our photos of high-profile people with PHEVs, downloadable flyers, endorsement lists, explanations of conversions and our email Newsletter (with 4,000 subscribers and significant secondary distribution) were widely praised.MAJOR PHEV DEVELOPMENTS
General Motors announced it will build a production PHEV Saturn Vue, but with no timetable. (A second GM announcement is likely soon.) Toyota said it is "pursuing" PHEVs, but they aren't yet "viable." Bill Ford expressed "keen interest." Nissan committed to research.
Batteries, cited as the main obstacle by auto-makers unsure of lithium-ion battery life, emerged as a key to what happens next. Companies including A123 Systems, AltairNano, Electrovaya, Electro Energy, Firefly, Johnson Controls, Valence and others reported rapid progress with much better batteries beginning to be tested and evaluated. CalCars' "No-Worry" fleet plan, in intense development at year-end, was favorably received by battery makers, utilities and government agencies.
White House interest grew following the " addicted to oil" State of the Union address. The Advanced Energy Initiative website/brochure included a picture of our first conversion; Pres. Bush went on the road with speeches about PHEVs with 40-mile range that "you just plug in." Assistant Energy Secretary Karsner reports the President asking for updates on battery technology ever since.
The US Department of Energy held its first workshop on PHEVs; the FreedomCar program's focus on PHEVs expanded. The National Research Laboratories began evaluating converted vehicles. A Lab analysis that even if 84% of today's cars were PHEVs, we'd already have enough night-time electricity, woke many people up!
Endorsements from Members of Congress grew rapidly and we expect will have positive results in 2007.
Plug-In Partners launched in January and has over 8,000 "soft orders" for PHEVs, as well as endorsements from most of America's largest cities, hundreds of institutions and from AutoNation, the country's largest car dealer.
Investment firm Alliance Bernstein released a study predicting rapid penetration of hybrids followed by PHEVs, calling them "game-changing technology."
Conversion company Energy CS delivered a dozen Priuses, then was joined by Hymotion, Hybrids Plus and Manzanita Micro. They and others responded to an RFP to convert up to 600 New York State fleet hybrids for $10 million. The PHEV Development Consortium assembled component makers in a trade association.
Plug In America accelerated its advocacy for PHEVs and electric vehicles (EVs), helped by the wide attention given to Chris Paine's documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and the launch of the Tesla Roadster -- the car that proved electric does not mean "compromise" for car performance. The national Electric Auto Association (EAA) gave CalCars and EnergyCS an award.
Environmental groups that had been unsure of the benefits of EVs began to see them as a big future win, especially for global warming. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) now have PHEVs on their agendas, as do some Sierra Club chapters
Electric utilities bolstered their support. Associations of public and investor-owned utilities endorsed Plug-In Partners, and Pacific Gas & Electric included a pitch in monthly bills to five million customers. Southern California Edison led testing of the DaimlerChrysler/EPRI Sprinter, advanced batteries and converted Prius PHEVs. Sacramento Municipal Utility Distric (SMUD) sponsored a study showing that using PHEVs as storage in "Vehicle to Grid" (V2G) could allow SMUD to increase its wind capacity.
California government agencies focused their attention on PHEVs. The Air Resources Board and the Energy Commission began to allocate resources to PHEV programs, with more coming in 2007. ARB's Technology Symposium highlighted PHEVs. The South Coast Air Quality Management District sponsored a PHEV conference and funded conversions, and the Bay Area AQMD helped launch Plug-In Bay Area.
UC Davis Prof. Andy Frank began to gain well-deserved recognition for having developed PHEVs for 30 years. He continued working on his ChallengeX conversion of a Chevy Equinox into the world's first flex-fuel PHEV.
Silicon Valley companies supported PHEVs with an SVOilFree conference, we held events at Google, Palm, IDEO and others. Newly-formed Google.org confirmed reports it will soon become involved with PHEVs.WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN
We didn't get an automaker to begin producing even single prototypes of passenger PHEVs. Aftermarket conversion companies fell short of meeting strong demand for vehicles from utilities, governments and early adopters. We reached many of our other 2006 goals -- except for some involving CalCars.
Building CalCars financially and institutionally remains a challenge. Because we didn't raise enough money, Ron, Felix and John were paid for only a few months. We kept going barely -- but missed out on opportunities because we were stretched too thin or lacked funds for travel, conferences and handouts. We deferred ready-to-launch projects to 2007. With lots of help, we did our best!
Back to top
CALCARS GOALS FOR 2006
Based on our 2005 track record, for 2006 we have ambitious goals.
We hope to re-orient one car company's direction to enable it to reach California's 2016 Pavley-AB1493 CO2 goals in only a few years. We will thereby for the first time bring drivers and citizens into the privileged corporate-government insider group that decides what cars get produced. We hope then to influence other automakers' plans for advanced technology, fuel efficiency and sustainability. We'd like to set a precedent for ways to address other industries that contribute to global warming.
- Demonstrate the viability of NiMH and Li-Ion batteries in PHEV conversions.
- Build a prototype 500 MPG (of gasoline) flex-fuel PHEV.
- Expand conversions beyond the Toyota Prius.
- Find ways to get a substantial number of PHEV conversions on the road.
- Facilitate Vehicle-To-Grid, solar-PHEV pairings and other innovative pilot projects.
- Convince an auto maker, on its own or in cooperation with CalCars and others, to improve its business prospects by meeting demand from buyers excited about clean, powerful, advanced PHEVs.
- Increase public awareness of PHEVs through events and media coverage.
- Increase support for PHEVs as a leading contender in national debates about energy and transportation solutions.
- Build public awareness of the "well-to-wheel" advantage in CO2 emissions of electricity over gasoline.
- Work with legislators, executive branch officials and agency staffs to build support, especially in California and the Pacific Northwest, for innovative state- and regional-sponsored programs to promote PHEVs.
- Position flex-fuel PHEVs as a keystone component of a multi-dimensional strategy on global warming.
- Get high-profile entrepreneurs, celebrities and early adopters behind the wheels of PHEV conversions.
- Help develop and consolidate interest among fleets and individuals.
- Help seed PHEV conversions across the country, available for media and public events.
- Catalyze corporate, foundation and public resources to create incentives that buy down the incremental cost over conventional hybrids for the first thousands of vehicles,
- Upgrade calcars.org website: improve navigation and interface
- Promote PHEVs and CalCars through new media channels and other collateral materials
- Recruit more volunteers able to commit substantial amounts of time to communications and technical projects
- Raise substantial funds to provide CalCars with a budget that includes travel, conferences, paid senior staff and promotional resources
- Help develop mechanisms to improve coordination among the organizations now promoting PHEVs.
- Work to partner with an automaker, perhaps by sponsoring a for-profit company that will develop intellectual property and be open to equity investments.
- Affiliate CalCars as a special project of a larger organization or sponsor.
Thanks as always for your suggestions and your support.
Back to top
2005 YEAR-END REPORT
Thanks to all the CalCars supporters and advocates for Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) for all your help this year. In 2005, PHEVs achieved unprecedented high levels of awareness and support.
We hope that 2006 will be the year when:
- the appearance of PHEVs on the road introduces them to many more people;
- those who "do the numbers" concede that PHEVs are a winning strategy;
- at least one top automaker starts to build significant numbers of passenger PHEVs.
At the risk of tooting our own horn, and while acknowledging the efforts of many other people and institutions, we're told CalCars has been central to transforming the environment for PHEVs.
PHEVS TAKE CENTER STAGE
Rewind a few years. The electric utilities and EPRI have been promoting PHEVs for almost as long as UC Davis Prof. Andy Frank has been building them. But they were pigeonholed as "unrealistic" -- a theoretical option, not a viable pathway for automotive development.
What changed this year?
Once media and opinion makers saw the CalCars PRIUS+, plugging in became obvious, rather than offbeat. This opened up new avenues for advocates of energy security, CO2 reduction, economic development and PHEV fleets. Let's review that story.
In Sept. 2004, the California Cars Initiative received an anonymous $20,000 grant from a major foundation to "complete our first prototype vehicle, followed by an enhanced version of that prototype and a second prototype using the 'batteries of the future' that we'll soon find in cars," and to "bring a promising new energy-automotive solution to public awareness with a splash."
We've largely succeeded in both goals -- in fact we've far exceeded our initial expectations.
THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN
In late 2004, we debugged and tested the prototype we called "PRIUS+." In early 2005, we showed the car to one of the nation's leading automotive-business journalists in the daily press: Danny Hakim of The New York Times.
The core message was that CalCars' volunteer engineers and experimenters had turned a highly popular, top-selling hybrid into a 100+MPG car using existing technology, requiring no new infrastructure.
Leading columnists Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek) and Thomas Friedman (New York Times), cited PRIUS+ as the starting point for flex-fuel 500+ MPG (of gasoline) vehicles. As we spread our story, we were inundated with repeated waves of publicity in the regional, national and international media.
As we fielded inquiries, we referred journalists to top spokespeople: Andy Frank, EPRI's Bob Graham, IAGS's Gal Luft, Set America Free's Anne Korin, former US Energy Dept. official Joe Romm, and Austin Energy's Roger Duncan. Major PHEV coverage came from the Associated Press, Time, Business Week, Rolling Stone, LA Times Magazine, NY Times Magazine, NPR Science Friday, and local and national TV. (At CalCars Kudos we include links to news stories and full-texts, plus streaming audio and video clips.)
AN UNPRECEDENTED COALITION
CalCars worked with many strategic allies (see CalCars FAQ for links):
- Proponents of energy independence, notably the Set America Free Coalition, began building what came to be called a "neo-con/geo-green" alliance. Securing America's Future Energy conducted two national executive oil crisis simulations highlighting the vulnerability of our energy supply chain and endorsing PHEVs as a pre-emptive strategy.
- Advocates of automotive solutions that address global warming found it helpful to point to a tangible vehicle. The National Commission on Energy Policy's "Ending the Energy Stalemate" report ranked PHEVs as an optimal solution. Advocates heard about the PRIUS+, added E85 for the range extension fuel, and proclaimed a practical path to low-carbon cars.
- Environmental groups also took notice. Bluewater Network (now a part of Friends of the Earth) and Rainforest Action Network got involved. The Union of Concerned Scientists began to mention the PHEV option. The Natural Resources Defense Council, following on its influential report on biofuels, prepared to focus greater research attention on PHEVs.
- Organizational endorsements came from the American Public Power Association, the Apollo Alliance, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Jewish Committee and others.
- High-profile individuals endorsed PHEVs: James Woolsey, George Shultz, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Lester Brown, Frank Gaffney and William McDonough.
- Attention expanded in the automotive and advanced vehicles world. The Electric Drive Transportation Association brought PHEVs into the mainstream in its programs and brochures. At CALSTART-WestStart's annual Blue Sky event keynoter James Woolsey promoted flex-fuel PHEVs.
- In the green media, EVWorld.com opened a new "electric hybrids" area for expanded PHEV coverage, and hybridcars.com invited CalCars to provide input and launch a blog. In one issue, Green Car Journal devoted four articles and 2 columns to PHEVs.
- Republican and Democratic Senators including Obama, Lieberman, Hatch, Brownback and others joined to promote PHEVs. The Energy Act authorized a $40M development program, and November's bi-partisan House/Senate Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act promotes them.
- In California, agencies and elected officials began to re-examine their automotive priorities, especially as the current world situation and available automotive technologies suggested the benefit of refocusing from a primary emphasis on emissions to displacing petroleum and reducing greenhouse gases. Efforts by many people, notably PG&E's Gail Slocum (also CalCars' Senior Advisor), Danielle Fugere of Bluewater and Dave Modisette of the California Electric Transportation Coalition, have helped prompt people in the Executive staff, Energy Commission, Air Resources Board and regional Air Quality Management Districts to consider ways to include PHEVs in future strategies, especially as large-scale utilization of a Hydrogen Highway appears to be further away than initially expected.
- Around the globe, from Tasmania to Winnipeg to Tokyo, we responded to inquiries and began working relationships that may result in new initiatives and projects.
NEW ORGANIZATIONS SPRING UP
- Our emphasis on demonstrating market demand helped inspire Austin Energy to create Plug-In Austin.org, which in January will go national with the Plug-In Partners campaign to organize a soft-purchase commitment for tens of thousands of PHEVs in utility and municipal fleets.
- On the commercialization side, we introduced EnergyCS (our consultants on the PRIUS+ project), to Clean-Tech, a Los Angeles natural gas retrofitter. They established a new joint venture, EDrive Systems, to sell installed Prius conversions in 2006.
- Manufacturers of batteries, motors, ultra-capacitors and other components formed the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium, a trade association aimed at facilitating automaker choices.
- Electric vehicle advocates looking for strategies to expand public support for plugging in and volume production of batteries and other components embraced PHEVs and formed Plug In America to promote both EVs and PHEVs.
PHEVS ARE NOW ON THE MAP
We often ask people, "Have you heard that hybrids can be modified so they plug in?" Now, often half answer "Yes!" Many ask when they can buy one.
Automakers are shifting their public and private responses from dismissive to open-minded. At our CalCars-News Archive, in updates to journalists and in our blog, we have tracked each evolution of their responses. Most of their objections have fallen away except for one: "The batteries aren't ready." We continue to disagree -- and are engaged in projects to demonstrate what is possible.
CalCars' top focus remains to involve an automaker to build prototypes, then a larger number of vehicles for the fleet market. We are very hopeful, in partnership with Prof. Andy Frank, that we have a reasonable chance of doing so. To further that goal, we're engaging with architect/designer William McDonough (responsible for the Ford River Rouge reconstruction) to create an environment in which cradle-to-cradle plug-in hybrid cars can be commercialized.
Meanwhile, until we (or someone else) succeed in recruiting an auto maker, we're continuing our technology development efforts:
- We've partnered with Electro Energy, a Connecticut public company with innovative bi-polar battery technologies, to demonstrate the viability of PHEVs using the Ni-MH batteries already in hybrids.
- With our support, EDrive Systems got a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management to build four prototype Prius PHEVs using Valence batteries. We will pay the materials costs for one of these vehicles, which will give us a second "demo" car, and we will help document its performance.
- We're preparing to try out advanced lithium-ion batteries on our PRIUS+, and to explore conversions of Ford Escape and other hybrids.
- To meet the needs of technically advanced individuals who want to convert their cars, we are cooperating with a new open-source working group sponsored by the Electric Auto Association. The EAA-PHEV project aims to provide plans and a group rate for components to do-it-yourselfers.
GETTING OUT THE WORD
We've also continued our education projects:
- Speeches: We gave an extended presentation at the prestigious Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) Forum. We gave the keynote speech at the Action Summit in Wenatchee, WA, where they're working to establish an economic development node for plug-in hybrid technology and conversions. We spoke at the Electric Drive Transportation Association Conference in Vancouver.
- Expositions: The Electric Auto Association and the Rainforest Action Network sponsored our presence iin San Francisco at the Green Festival, World Environment Day and the Sierra Summit. We benefited from the unprecedented sponsorship by the California Auto Association to show PRIUS+ at the SF International Auto Show in November.
- Trips: Our visit to the Pacific Northwest sparked a City Hall press conference by Seattle's Deputy Mayor, followed by the passage of a City Council resolution supporting PHEVs and Plug-In Partners.
- Publications: We developed a "Recommended Mix" of articles and information on PHEVs, including information on CalCars, EDrive, Plug-In Austin, Plug In America and the PHEV Consortium. We distributed about 10,000 copies of a brochure that grew from 16 to 32 pages, and about 10,000 smaller two-and four-page flyers. We made available PDF versions of all the publications for downloading and distribution (see list at CalCars FAQ).
- Online: We expanded CalCars.org, the most complete website for PHEVs. At its peak, one day in August, we had 16,751 unique visitors. We set up a "broadcast" website, the CalCars-News Archive; the number of subscribers has reached 2,800 (we just produced an easy-to-scan index of the 230+ items we've posted in 10 months). Our "Power, Plugs and People" blog at hybridcars.com has also generated high levels of response. And at year-end, we initiated a new project with Free Range Media (creators of The Meatrix and Store Wars animations) to develop an innovative new presentation.
WORKING ON A SHOESTRING
All of CalCars' accomplishments have come almost entirely as a volunteer effort. We've benefited from thousands of volunteer hours from dozens of people, including Founder Felix Kramer and Technology Lead Ron Gremban.
Since 2003, we've raised over $125,000. Sources include the Energy Foundation, a second foundation that prefers not to be identified, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, the Electric Auto Association and several entrepreneurs, and many small individual contributions. We've benefited from donated services including printing.
We've been trying to raise funds to take advantage of many important opportunities to influence public policy that required a budget for travel, conference, exhibitions and to pay people.
We've worked to gain support from high-wealth individuals with an environmental awareness. We've begun to lay the groundwork for for-profit entities.
Back to top
MESSAGES THAT HAVE KEPT US GOING
"A brief line, thanking you for the clear PHEV vision you and your organization are steadily spreading across our nation. I cannot tell you how happy I am to see this message finally beginning to gain traction across a wide variety of venues. I only wish I could offer greater financial support than my small PayPal donation. Warm Regards" -- Matt Fishbach, Science teacher and education technology designer, Oakland, CA, Nov. 10.
"Congratulations! This must seem like a milestone reached for you. God bless you and all the work you have done. I proudly display my bumper sticker and have had dozen of people comment on it. Keep up the good work! I thank you from every "little" person in the United States who now see light at the end of the tunnel. God Bless." -- Patty Ericson, Pennsylvania, Oct 4.
"I am very excited by the PHEV. I am an Earth Science Professor at a Community College in Michigan. I am promoting PHEVs in my classroom and to all of my peers at the college. I have an informational bulletin board dedicated to the PHEV. I catch students reading about it all the time. The PHEV has given me a reason to wake up each day. It's such a great idea. I don't have a PHEV or even an HEV. I can only afford one car and it is an old fashioned gasoline model (2002 Honda Civic). Again, congratulations on your success so far." -- Bob Hunckler, St. Clair County Community College, Port Huron, MI, Oct 10.
Back to top