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PHEVs: State Incentives/Federal Credits/Candidates/Austin/Google/Kamen
Oct 30, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Here's Part II of the last week's news about PHEVs that isn't directly about carmakers:

  • Oregon's proposed $5K plug-in credit nearly matches federal amount
  • Michigan's governor exploring plug-in tax credit
  • Recharging Michigan event hears PHEV hopes and doubts
  • AP IDs sponsors behind federal PHEV credits; gets carmakers' reactions
  • Candidates' clean car plans analyzed at NYTimes blog
  • Multiple PHEV reports from Austin AltCarExpo; Plug-In Partners News
  • Britain, Europe, India roundup on plug-in development
  • Google.org and Google.com's green agenda profiled
  • Dean Kamen working on Stirling engine PHEV
  • Air Car analysis

OREGON NEARLY MATCHES FEDERAL PLUG-IN CREDITS: Saying, "In 2009, we must be bolder, more comprehensive and even more visionary," Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski has proposed a new energy agenda replacing the $1,500 hybrid tax credit with a $5,000 credit for PHEVs and EVs. The report and background are at The Oregonian's Oregon Live "Ted Kulongoski unveils 'green' goals for 2009" http://www.oregonlive.com/­news/­index.ssf/­2008/­10/­ted_kulongoski_unveils_green_g.html . Imagine if many states follow this precedent!

MICHIGAN EXPLORING TAX CREDIT FOR PLUG-IN CARS:
The Detroit News reported on Oct. 24, " Granholm looks at tax credit for residents who buy hybrid cars" http://www.detroitnews.com/­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20081024/­POLITICS/­810240303 . Speaking at an Obama campaign event at Michigan State University, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said "We're looking at a tax credit for electric vehicles, like the federal credit," Granholm said. The governor said she hasn't fleshed out details yet because she wants to see what the state can afford, given the current national financial crisis and its potential impact on state tax receipts. Employment in the alternative energy market was the focus of the 45-minute meeting with students. She told students that Michigan needs a partner in the White House who backs the state's plans to promote alternative and renewable energy and touted the Democratic candidate's $150 billion initiative to create green jobs over 10 years.

HOPES AND DOUBTS AT "RECHARGING MICHIGAN" CONFERENCE: Excerpts from report, "Cost, Daytime Grid Capacity Big Plug-In Issues" in Great Lakes IT Report, 23 October 2008 http://www.wwj.com/­Cost--Daytime-Grid-Capacity-Big-Plug-In-Issues/­3191898 "We keep hoping for a technological breakthrough that will save us from ourselves."-- John DiCicco, senior fellow for automotive strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund, "Plug in vehicles are big for the future," "But lots of answers have to evolve." -- David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research said. "We see a cost savings of $1,200 to $1,700 per year because the cost per mile to drive a standard car is about 12 cents where driving a PHEV is about 2 cents per mile." -- John J. Lauckner, vice president of global program management at GM. During off-peak hours, "we can handle the increase in power usage without any upgrades, but during peak hours we would need a substantial investment to be able to withstand the surge." Knut A. Simonson, senior vice president at DTE Energy Resources and president of DTE Energy Ventures "Greentech is a jobs creations engine that can create millions of jobs and we are at a perfect storm of opportunity." -- John Denniston, a partner in Kleiner Perkins, , an investment firm with a strong interest in environmental investing.

WHO GETS THE CREDIT FOR THE PLUG-IN CREDITS? Many people have wondered how and why the PHEV incentives (along with renewal of the renewable tax credits) came to be attached to the bank bailout bill. In "Tax credits offer incentives for plug-in hybrids" http://www.chicagotribune.com/­news/­chi-ap-plug-ins-taxcredits,0,3020631.story , The Associated Press's Ken Thomas on Oct. 27 says The $758 million in tax credits, which were developed by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Reps. Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Jay Inslee, D-Wash., are similar to a tax program available since 2006 for buyers of gas-electric hybrids. Here's what Thomas heard when he asked automakers for their responses: Tom Stricker, Toyota's director of technical and regulatory affairs, said this approach will "incentivize the manufacturers to get into the game, because we're all working toward the same cap." [250,000 vehicles from all manufacturers combined.] GM spokesman Greg Martin said the vehicle's "propulsion system will be expensive. Tax incentives are an effective tool that helps make the upfront price equation for the consumer more attractive and can help spur early adoption of new technology."

"CANDIDATES' CLEAN CAR PLANS" At the NY Times Wheels Blog http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/­2008/­10/­23/­the-candidates-clean-car-plans/­ environmental journalist Jim Motavailli asks analysts what's possible.

MCCAIN: Speaking of his battery prize, David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan says Mr. McCain's $300 million "is small change in this business," Mr. Cole added. "It's not insignificant, but it's the cost of a paint shop in an auto factory." Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, agrees. "Our industry in the U.S. spends more than $18 billion per year on research and development," Mr. Territo said. "There are some manufacturers who have estimated they spend as much as $1 million an hour investing in new technologies. The McCain initiative is helpful, but these manufacturers are already spending billions of dollars bringing plug-in hybrids and other advanced technologies to the market."

OBAMA: Mr. Territo is also cautious about the prospects for the Obama plan. "It took 10 years for one million hybrid electric vehicles to be sold worldwide," he said. "A target of one million plug-ins in the U.S. by 2015 -- considering there are none now -- could be somewhat optimistic. But it doesn't mean the industry isn't going to try." "I do think the one million vehicles by 2015 is a reasonable goal," said Joseph Romm, an author who served as acting assistant secretary of energy for efficiency and renewable energy in the Clinton administration. "Half of all new federal car purchases by 2012 is probably trickier, because it's a ramp-up issue. But I would add that there is hardly a point in running for president if you can't advance stretch goals." BOTH: Some environmentalists don't like either plan. "Grandiose schemes that use taxpayer dollars in the hope of hitting a specific technology home run aren't likely to work, and are not helpful," said John DeCicco, an automotive strategist for the Environmental Defense Fund. "The government needs to set some really firm goals in terms of carbon reduction, and then get out of the way to let the private sector come up with a solution."

OUR COMMENTS:
Batteries: GM says the batteries it's planning to use for the Volt are safe and durable enough to get started. Later improvements that come as the industry grows will be icing on the cake. Fleet: IN 2007, US fleet purchases were 65,000 units; half of that by 2012 is more than possible based on current automakers' announcements. Environmental Defense: The group has been a pioneer in developing market-based approaches to climate change, but DeCicco's focus on damping down interest and support for solutions that don't have to wait for broader agreement means the group misses promoting practical solutions.

MULTIPLE PHEV REPORTS FROM ALTCAREXPO IN AUSTIN; NEWS FROM PLUG-IN PARTNERS: For the first time this event was held in a second location in addition to Santa Monica. AutoBlogGreen wins an award for the most stories on a single event. Starting from http://www.autobloggreen.com/­category/­austin-alt-car-expo/­ you can read and listen to the stories--we include a few highlights:

  • AUSTIN ENERGY ENDS PLUG-IN PARTNERS, UNVEILS NEW SMART CHARGING SOFTWARE Austin Energy is hosting this Expo, and used it to mark the end of the Plug-in Partners campaign. Wait, using an alt car show to call an end to a movement that has worked incredibly hard to get the big automakers to focus on plug-in vehicles? Yup. Austin Energy general manager Roger Duncan announced that the Plug-in Partners program is officially finished now because, "We have absolutely achieved success." The rumor is that the EDTA might take over some of the PiP work moving forward, but for now it's mission accomplished. Also speaking at the press conference was Lloyd Doggett, U.S. Congressman for the Austin area. Doggett said that the smart grid/plug-in efforts are "a campaign that really matters for our city and the planet." Doggett knows what he's talking about; he's worked in Congres for years on getting pro-PHEV legislation passed (we got a chance to speak directly with Doggett about this, and we'll post that interview shortly). Lastly David Kaplan of V2Green showed of a piece of web-based PHEV software that AE uses to track - and predict - PHEV use. The company currently has two converted Priuses plugged into the network and a fleet of thousands of virtual cars that can help engineers and others understand how customers will affect the grid load and vice versa. It's a new era in grid planning - something we'll have much more on later. For now, you can see the software screens by clicking here (then just click on each picture to go to the next screen).
  • CONGRESSMAN LLOYD DOGGETT TALKS PHEV TAX CREDITS AND GM'S INFLUENCE Doggett said he came to the Plug-in movement through the recently-ended Plug-in Partners campaign, which started in Austin. He helped get plug-in tax credit legislation passed in the House six times, but he did not vote in favor of the final bill (the seventh passing) because it was part of the huge bank bailout bill we heard so much about a few weeks ago. He's like that. We spoke to Doggett about the bill and his efforts on behalf of PHEVs. He said the final version provides about half as much support for PHEVs as he originally intended three quarters of a billion dollars instead of $1.5 billion. The provisions were also - unfortunately, in Doggett's mind - changed from individual manufacturer cap to an overall cap. There is an industry-wide cap of 250,000 tax credits for consumers between now and 2014. "This was done perhaps with the idea in mind that General Motors would have the Volt out there and be ready to try and claim as many credits as possible against its competitors.
  • WILL CONSUMERS BUY IN? DUH. The real question, Southern California Edison's Ed Kjaer said, isn't "Will Consumers Buy In?" but will the OEMs build PHEVs in volume?
  • FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR PLUG-IN HYBRIDS Mark Duvall of EPRI said that If we get to a million plug-in vehicles in eight years, which is what it took with hybrids, it would be a "great success." There is some chance that we could reach that number in five years, and it is in line with Barack Obama's plan calls for this to happen (with 150 mpge vehicles) by 2015.
  • OTHER SESSIONS:
    • OBSCENE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION ON THE SMART GRID AND PLUG-IN VEHICLES
    • PHEV OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR UTILITIES
    • PANEL LOOKS AT THE FUTURE OF PLUG-IN HYBRIDS

GLOBAL RUSH FOR PLUG-IN DEVELOPMENT: See this Indian publication http://www.domain-b.com/­industry/­Automobiles/­cars/­20081029_electric_cars.html for a roundup including Britain's new 100M pound initiative and activities by companies in India.

GOOGLE'S GREEN AGENDA PROFILED: In the Oct 28, 2008 NY Times, " Google's Green Agenda Could Pay Off" http://www.nytimes.com/­2008/­10/­28/­technology/­internet/­28google.html , Miguel Helft looks at how both Google.com and Google.org are approaching "the energy sector as a potential business opportunity." On PHEVs, he says, Google.org also announced a project last year to develop plug-in hybrids. To make them widely available, the electrical grid would have to be upgraded so that cars could be plugged in at multiple locations, where they could be recharged and consumers billed. Google now says it is interested in developing technologies to support some of those upgrades, as well as other tools at the intersection of energy and information technology, like "smart" electrical meters. The partnership with G.E. is aimed in part at exploring some of those opportunities. Google now says it is interested in developing technologies to support some of those upgrades, as well as other tools at the intersection of energy and information technology, like "smart" electrical meters. The partnership with G.E. is aimed in part at exploring some of those opportunities.

DEAN KAMEN'S PHEV: http://en.wikipedia.org/­wiki/­Dean_Kamen , perhaps the world's most inventive engineer, is hard at work on a series PHEV using an ultra-efficient but difficult-to-design/manufacture/maintain Stirling engine. If anyone can do it, he can. Kamen, best known for Segway inventor, invented the first drug infusion pump, the world's best wheelchair (see a photo of him with the amazin iBot in front of our PHEV at http://www.calcars.org/­photos-people#DK ), and created FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to inspire high school students to work in science and technology. A recent profile at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/­earth/­main.jhtml?xml=/­earth/­2008/­10/­27/­sv_deankamen.xml describes the PHEV and discusses his tragically not-yet-financed inventions that could provide billions with clean water and cheap energy. See comments about the PHEV project at http://www.autobloggreen.com/­2008/­10/­28/­
dean-kamen-working-on-stirling-engine-assisted-electric-car/
.

AIR CAR ANALYSIS: Every few months, talk of the "Air Car" returns. The French company that's been working on it for many years has made some progress, and apparently has some support from Tata Motors in India. No one has done a full energy analysis of the system and compared it to other options, but as part of an overview story, finally Edmund' Green Car Advisor has asked some engineers about it. Robert E.Calem in "Compressed Air Car Has Backers, Detractors and a U.S. Production Date" http://blogs.edmunds.com/­
greencaradvisor/­2008/­10/­compressed-air-car-has-backers-detractors-and-a-us-production-date.html
writes a lengthy overview that includes comments by Paul Vanvalkenburgh, an adjunct professor at California State University Long Beach, saying MDI's compressed air engine is "primarily an energy storage and transport system, less efficient than batteries, and [with] less future potential."


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