Nov 1, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Following up on yesterday's auto industry and plug-in roundups, here's a week's accumulation of media reports on plug-in cars:
- TIME Magazine's Top 50 Inventions of '08 includes plug-ins
- Bill McKibben reviews Thomas Friedman's book and seconds importance of PHEVs
- Edwin Black's new hard-hitting book, "The Plan"
- Senator Obama talks about PHEVs and the Smart Grid
- First PHEV Prius auction on eBay
- LA Times on impact of plug-in tax credit
- Revenge of the Electric Car: Sequel to Who Killed…
- Photos and video from Plug In America event
- The Green Collar Economy:" hit new book on cleantech and jobs
- US News on next-generation prius -- and wished-for plug
TIME MAGAZINE'S 2008 BEST INVENTIONS INCLUDES PLUG-INS:
The magazine's list of the Best Inventions of the Year http://earth2tech.com/2008/10/31/cleantech-dominates-times-50-best-inventions/ includes:
2. Tesla-- and many other clean-tech companies and solutions are also included.
7.Chevy Volt ("the best of both worlds")
BILL MCKIBBEN ON FRIEDMAN & PHEVS:
In the highly-regarded New York Review of Books, McKibben reviews Thomas Friedman's new book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America" http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22027. His worth-reading essay, called "Green Fantasies," appreciates the book and its potential impact while criticizing the timing of Friedman's recognition of climate change issues and their solutions. McKibben's supportive comments about PHEVs we believe stem in part from our long efforts to get plug-in cars to the attention of leading global warming experts. Here's how McKibben puts it: Among [Friedman's] specific recommendations:
- The replacement of liquid fuels and coal ("fuels from hell") with renewable sources like wind and sun ("fuels from heaven"). He understands that the key here is electrifying the economy--indeed this section of the book reads like a gloss on Al Gore's highly important early summer speech when he called for the conversion of our economic base to renewable electricity inside of a decade. Crucially, Friedman understands that while some "eureka breakthroughs" would be nice, most of the technologies we need are already "hiding in plain sight" and could rapidly drive down costs if they were put into commercial use.
- The fast conversion of the car industry to hybrid electric vehicles that will plug in to numerous outlets, PHEVs, which are scheduled to go on sale with the advent of the Chevy Volt in model year 2010 (i.e., in the fall of 2009), are indeed a big deal, as Friedman insists. Unlike today's hybrids, which use a relatively small gas motor with electric power as a supplement, the plug-ins will run primarily on electricity, with the gas kicking in only if you drive more than, say, forty miles. For most trips, that is, they'll use electrons, not gallons. That means that we'll need to convert the underlying electric grid--which now depends on fossil fuels to run turbines--to clean sources, which will be hard, but not as hard as figuring out some other low-carbon replacement for liquid fuels. And in fact, plug-in hybrids should help with the inherent problem in using sun and wind, which is their intermittency. Friedman quotes Felix Kramer, the California innovator who has done the most to promote the new vehicles: their widespread adoption, he says, will give "utilities what they have never had--the potential for distributed energy storage, using all of our car batteries."
"THE PLAN: HOW TO RESCUE SOCIETY WHEN THE OIL STOPS -- OR THE DAY BEFORE" is a slim new book by Edwin Black, the independent journalist best known for "IBM and the Holocaust" (2002). He also wrote "Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives" (2006). The Plan focuses more on solutions, including conversions of internal combustion engine vehicles to multiple fuels ranging from CNG to hydrogen, with long sections on electric vehicles and PHEVs. You'll learn lots about the oil industry's history, read little-know but thought-provoking information such as the fact that Canada both imports and exports oil.
In person, he urges readers not to skip though the book but to read it in its entirety -- and at 130 pages that's not unreasonable. Black presents a broad pro-active plan for how society can prepare for oil disruptions, or, if it doesn't, steps it might take on an emergency basis if the supply chain is disrupted or prices soar. And while we disagree with some of his specifics, we appreciate his audacity in offering answers to questions few dare to ask. We also appreciate his extended focus on what he calls "upfitting." He sees broad opportunities for a large industrial effort to convert or retrofit tens of millions of existing vehicles away from petroleum dependency.
You can order the book from the link at http://www.calcars.org/books.html . The book's website is http://www.planforoilcrisis.com and at The Cutting Edge http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com you can read very strong opinions by Black and guest columnists.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA ON PHEVS AND THE GRID: As part of an interview Oct 30 with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Sen. Obama demonstrated his awareness of opportunities and benefits of the Smart Grid, PHEVs and Vehicle-To-Grid. You'll find it 8 minutes into a 12-minute video streaming at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#27464494 . You can't fast-forward the video stream; here's the transcript:
"One of the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we're going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers like Chicago. And we're going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids. Then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that's generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create five million new jobs -- just in new energy."
SEATTLE GREEN CAR COMPANY AUCTIONS PHEV PRIUS:
The Green Car Company in Seattle will auction its first 2009-model converted Plug-in Prius on eBay, donating its profits to Plug In America. The brand-new fully-loaded "Package 6" (dark blue/leather seats/navigation system) vehicle will be on view at the Seattle Auto Show until November 9, when the auction closes. The conversion includes the crash-tested A123Systems battery pack. GCC will donate proceeds over its costs to Plug In America. Since there's currently a long wait list for Hymotion conversions, this is an opportunity for some eager Pacific Northwesterner -- or someone from anywhere else who can't wait -- to jump to the head of the line. We estimate the cost of the car plus conversion at over $39,000. At eBay, Toyota RAV4 EVs have often gone for tens of thousands of dollars more than the original cost of the vehicle, even when the money didn't go to a good cause. We'll see what the results are in the next 10 days. Place your bid at http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140278839843 .
PIA says it "plans to use the proceeds from this auction to target the new U.S. President's 'first 100 days' to ensure that electric vehicles are included in any new stimulus package or automotive bail-out package. Since both major candidates agree on the importance of energy independence and renewables, we are certain to see a 'green' stimulus package addressing clean-tech infrastructure projects and jobs involving renewable energy. We need to make sure that electric vehicle incentives and infrastructure projects end up front and center! We need to make sure that any bail-out monies to the auto industry include requirements for them to make more electric vehicles and accelerate any current plans to put EVs on the road!"
LA TIMES ASSESSES IMPACT OF PLUG-IN TAX CREDIT:
Automotive journalist Martin Zimmerman in "Plug-in electric vehicles get boost from bailout plan" http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-speedblog31-2008oct31,0,4635802.story says "The deduction may help defuse potential sticker shock for buyers."
Pointing out how tax credits (unlike deductions) are a dollar-for-dollar discount, he e quotes GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss: "These kinds of tax credits will make it more attractive to an early adopter to put one of these vehicles in their garage." Confirming what we've been saying, Zimmerman cites Genevieve Cullen, vice president of Electric Drive Transportation Association saying: Only new vehicles are eligible, so existing gas-electric hybrids that have been converted to plug-in operation won't qualify for the credit.
"REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR" is the title of filmmaker Chris Paine's progress on a successor to "Who Killed the Electric Car. See Edmunds' report at." http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2008/10/
filmmaker-paine-builds-website-around-new-movie-revenge-of-the-electric-car.html . PHEVs showed up at the tail end of the first movie, and will be a part of the story of what happened since. See the movie's website at http://revengeoftheelectriccar.com/. The increasingly active blog's most recent posting is by Plug In America co-founder Paul Scott "Smart Garage - Connecting the Future," saying "I can't imagine a better ally for the EV movement than a full court press by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute."
PLUG IN AMERICA FUNDRAISER: MEDIA: The plug-in social event of the year was at Chris Paine's house last month. PIA's Stefano Paris captured it all in still photos (with captions), including many of the Chevy Volt -- I and PIA's Linda Nicholes are the only people shown sitting in the car. Plus a video of the speeches by Paine, PIA leaders, Dan Neil and James Woolsey. See it all at http://www.stefanoparis.com/redirect/PIAfundraiserParty.html .
QUOTABLE DAN NEIL: If you want to choose which speeches to watch, go from that page to http://www.viddler.com/explore/iStef/videos/21/ and click on a person's name. When you do that for Pulitzer Prize winning LA Times reporter Dan Neil, after a few PG-rated introductory remarks, you'll hear,"What persuaded General Motors to bring us the Volt and other car manufacturers to pursue PHEV technology is that it is an undeniable, irresistible, irrefutable technological solution to the transportation problems we have right now and you cannot avoid it. Anybody who's got a brain is going to sign up for this sooner or later. General Motors has got a brain and they're signed up for it."
"THE GREEN COLLAR ECONOMY: HOW ONE SOLUTION CAN FIX OUR TWO BIGGEST PROBLEMS:" This new book by Van Jones, is making its way up the best-seller lists. It doesn't focus on plug-in cars, but on the broader green economy. Van Jones' efforts at the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign are based at the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, CA http://www.ellabakercenter.org/page.php?pageid=5 You can keep track of news stories about green collar jobs at http://www.greencollarblog.org/ .
US NEWS PREVIEWS NEXT-GENERATION PRIUS: At "The next evolution of Toyota's popular hybrid" http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/2010-Toyota-Prius/ , the magazine describes the vehicle as having greater challenges than in the past to keep up with competitors and raises doubts about how whether it can get to 94MPG with standard hybrid technology. The article handily summarizes other reports, and with what we "objectively" see as wistful hopes, but based on no infromation, "it may also be a plug-in hybrid."
The Toyota Prius has become the symbol of the environmental movement going mainstream. But by the time the 2010 cars are reaching showrooms, the Prius we know today may look antiquated and even inefficient. Other manufacturers are hard at work trying to catch Toyota's green machine, with pure electric cars and higher mileage hybrids on the way. Toyota's next Prius, due to reach dealers for the 2010 model year, needs to be a much more efficient car.
At this point, we have more rumors and speculation than facts. But we know enough to paint a picture of what's next for the Prius faithful -- and it looks like they have a lot to look forward to. The 2010 Prius will be larger than the outgoing model, will accelerate faster and probably have more interior space. Perhaps more importantly, it will be more fuel-efficient: published reports say it may even reach 94 mpg, though we're skeptical that those numbers are possible with the technology that current reports say the car will use.
The 2010 Toyota Prius will feature a larger body than the outgoing model, a larger gasoline engine and a more powerful set of electric motors. It may even feature roof-mounted solar panels, though those are expected to power only interior accesories. Leaked photos show a body that doesn't depart radically from the shape that has become a cultural icon, but does update it with new styling cues -- and may even lose the horizontal bar across the rear window that has caused visibility problems for so many Prius owners. It will feature lithium-ion batteries, said to hold more power and charge faster than the current car's Nickel-Metal Hydride cells. It also may be a plug-in hybrid, able to recharge its batteries from a standard household outlet.
It will also, for the first time, be built in the U.S. -- which might give American dealers more Priuses to sell. Limited supplies of the existing cars have kept prices artificially high throughout 2008. The car will make its first official appearance at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show in January. We'll have more specifics to report then.