PLUG OK license plate
A Party for Plug In America, and How We're Winning with Great Cars
Oct 22, 2010 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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This Saturday is Plug In America's Fifth Anniversary Party in Los Angeles. CalCars.org' Founder Felix Kramer, Technology Lead Ron Gremban, and Webmaster Michael Bender can't be there for personal reasons, but we urge anyone who can to attend. It's the last shindig for advocates before many thousands of Americans will be plugging in. So show up to THANK the dedicated volunteers, to SUPPORT the organization and to find out how to JOIN in working on the all-important next steps. In his blog invitation, Paul Scott, PIA co-founder, has given us an entertaining look at PIA's history http://evsandenergy.blogspot.com/­2010/­10/­from-protest-to-plug-ins-plug-in.html. That inspired us to chime in below with a congratulatory message to the event plus some thoughts about how we reached this moment -- and what it means for PIA, CalCars, and all of our readers.

FIRST, THE SATURDAY EVENT: The fundraiser is at the beautiful eco-home http://www.marrakeshhouse.com in Culver City of Chris Paine, maker of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and its Spring 2011 successor, "Revenge of the Electric Car." Of course you'll see (and get shuttle rides in) plug-in cars, and you'll also be the first to see PIA's new "gas vs. electric" PSAs, inspired by the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" ads -- which we hear will take the online world by storm! At the signup page http://www.pluginamerica.org/­2010event you'll see why the event is called " "From Protests to Plug-Ins" -- it includes carmakers' logos!

OUR MESSAGE TO THE EVENT:

"CalCars.org joins Plug In America in celebrating all the people and the creative strategies that have brought us to this moment. It's been a long road -- and for many of us, it's what we're most proud of having done in our lives. PIA has been about the end of business as usual -- focusing on solutions critical for our security, economy, environment, and quality of life. PIA has refused to take no for an answer, has never pulled its punches, and has responded to every slow-down warning by stepping harder on the accelerator."

"Last October, CalCars declared victory when we were finally certain mass-produced plug-in hybrids were in sight. Some saw that as premature -- but we thought it was important to celebrate. And now we join with those at the party, saluting all those who joined together to spark the transformation of a giant global industry."

"Next week PIA, CalCars, and the broad coalition around us will return to ensuring that THIS commercialization is successful. Now we get to replace theoretical pitches about benefits with the reality of mass-produced cars. We get to help customers figure out what models will work for them, and what to expect at showrooms. We get to encourage plug-in buyers to become evangelists. And we get to both applaud and criticize version 1.0 products so automakers can improve and refine them. It's going to be a great ride!"

WHO'S BEEN WHO IN THE PLUG-IN CAMPAIGN? Paul Scott's posting describes how PIA emerged from the Don't Crush campaigns to save driveable EVs. We're often asked how the different organizations fit in and work together. We thought we'd take this opportunity to explain that and its implications for the future.

The original advocacy organization promoting all types of plug-in vehicles (EVs, parallel PHEVs, series PHEVs/EREVs, with any number of wheels) is the Electric Auto Association http://www.electricauto.org, founded in 1967. PIA http://www.pluginamerica.org, founded in 2005, is an affiliated organization of the EAA. Both are growing membership organizations: EAA has members in dozens of chapters in the US and internationally; PIA has thousands of contributors and tens of thousands of subscribers.

In the past five years, many others jumped into what former CIA Director Jim Woolsey with a straight face called a "coalition of tree huggers, do-gooders, sodbusters, cheap hawks, and evangelicals -- and Willie Nelson." From the national organizations listed at http://www.calcars.org/­partners.html, we salute those that allocated significant staff resources and focused most on the opportunity, including, alphabetically, Friends of the Earth, Google.org, Natural Resources Defense Council, Plug-In Partners, Rainforest Alliance, Rocky Mountain Institute, Saving America's Future Energy, and Set America Free.

CALCARS.ORG, founded in 2002, is unlike these groups. We're an informal network of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists, and consumers. Though not a membership organization, we've asked supporters to sponsor our organization with donations. (ADVT: Still needed -- at http://www.calcars.org/­sponsor.html.) We've ranged from 2-5 full-timers, most of the time unpaid, supplemented by dozens of advisers and over 7,000 subscribers. You can see our early history and ambitions in our report for 2005-07 http://www.calcars.org/­2007.html, in 1121 postings at our News Archive http://www.calcars.org/­news-archive.html, and in PIA co-founder Sherry Boschert's book, "Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that will Recharge America" http://www.calcars.org/­books.html.

Most importantly, though also affiliated with EAA, we've always focused mainly on plug-in hybrids. We're proud of our catalytic role in putting PHEVs on the map, helping to move them from Andy Frank's UC Davis Hybrid Center, first to the open source PRIUS+ conversions of 2004-05 with attention-getting 100+MPG signs, and then helping aftermarket companies provide the emerging coalition with real PHEVs to prove their feasibility and benefits. Our informal virtual structure has allowed us to move very quickly. On the downside, we regret we couldn't build or spark a more formal organization to promote PHEVs globally, clarify misconceptions and misinformation, and ensure that government regulations and programs helped PHEVs develop.

IS THERE A COMPETITION BETWEEN EVS AND PHEVS? We've often been asked, "Will EVs or PHEVs win?" Until recently, our answer has been: EITHER sets us on a new path to displace fossil fuel with cleaner, cheaper, domestic energy from electricity. We think for multiple reasons we'll see many PHEVs in the mix. But if we're wrong, since EVs use no petroleum, we'll win even more!

Last year, CalCars added a second response with our "Big Fix" Campaign to convert existing gas-guzzlers to run partly or entirely on electricity. Nnow, CalCars equally promotes both EV and PHEV retrofits -- the choice depends on technical, drive cycle and business criteria.

Our early hybrid conversions were strategic and largely symbolic, intended mainly to build awareness and support. Six years later, we propose validated, safe retrofits joining new plug-in cars in high volumes, to accelerate transportation electrification, expand supply chains and reduce component costs, and create green local jobs.

Unlike last time, the Big Fix will take off, not mainly through efforts by advocates, but as emerging companies launch a giant new industry. We invite PIA (signers of the endorsement form at the top of http://www.calcars.org/­ice-conversions.html ), and other organizations, to join us as cheerleaders. They can help analyze and quantify the opportunities, support government loans to companies and incentives to buyers, and ultimately enlist automakers as partners, so their products can be upgraded and warrantied.

SO WHAT KIND OF PLUG-INS WIN MATTERS LESS THAN HOW MANY: Some industry analysts and insiders project that the demand for plug-in cars won't extend beyond early adopters and those attracted by incentives. We join with PIA and others to prove them wrong. Our challenge is to wake people up to the true meaning of conservatism: to value what we are now destroying. A practical and realistic analysis concludes we can no longer afford internal combustion vehicles: we can't keep paying and bleeding for oil, we can't drill in ever-more risky areas, and humans and our atmosphere can't tolerate the emissions. If the naysayers are right and plug-ins remain a niche market, they will have only a symbolic impact on our addiction to fossil fuels. What matters most is that we:

  • Do everything we can to help plug-in vehicles succeed in the marketplace, trumpeting their benefits and necessity.
  • Move ASAP to a low-carbon grid where batteries in parked cars help intermittent renewable energy sources become reliable 24/7.
  • Recruit those who are excited about the new cars to support fixing as many as possible of our legacy vehicles.

Thank you all for everything you've done to bring us to this day!

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