Feb 20, 2013 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Plug In America has just released "Charged Up!: The Definitive Guide to Plug-In Electric Vehicles, 2013. This fourth edition's 68 pages showcases 17 production vehicles. Thanks to the talented and tireless team that assembled the great stories and superb photos -- and ads from many in the industry. We encourage all plug-in drivers to keep some copies in your car, and give them to people you know who are thinking about buying a PEV. We reprint below -- after the table of contents for the issue and information on our how to get it -- "A Plugged In Life," our article telling the story of how we spent a decade going from CalCars.org to DrivingElectric.org. (This is our second message today; the first was about the Electric Auto Association, the other national plug-in organization.)
Electronic PDF version of Charged Up! is FREE to Plug In America members (join for as little as $25) or get print copies@$5 (less for bulk orders) from: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2711/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=553&t=&s\ tore_item_KEY=4566
Partial Table of Contents
5 Welcome by Chad Schwitters
6 The Story of the Chevy Volt by Bob Lutz: Former GM chairman and "Father of the Volt" recounts the development of the PHEV and the technology that will take us into the future.
8 Achieving Efficiency by Greg "Gadget" Abbott: The easiest way to find more energy is to waste less. Gadget tells us how.
10 A Plugged-In Life by Felix Kramer: EV driver and advocate Felix Kramer works to get "butts in seats."
13 National Plug In Day by Zan Dubin Scott: The second annual event was a big success nationwide.
15 The Former Secretary and His LEAF by Marc Geller: Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz is a Nissan LEAF driver. We sat down with him to talk about his love for his car and the environment.
16 The 2013 Car Showcase: From the LEAF to the Spark to the car of the year. There is a car for everyone
63 Plug In @ Work
A plugged-in life We plug in our gadgets -- why not our cars? By Felix Kramer
My experiences with driving electric go back to my childhood. I remember bumper cars at amusement parks, and electric toys that ate up so many throwaway batteries we bought them in bulk. Now advanced rechargeable batteries power our phones, cameras, tablets, and computers. It feels natural to plug in every thing in every day.
Is it a big leap to add cars to the list? How do we think about plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)? For a long time, PEVs seemed marooned in pigeonholes like lame (underpowered, strange-looking, less reliable) or exotic (costly, made by small companies, for niche markets). But now they've really arrived. Buyers can shop for a growing range of models.
Now PEVS are starting to prove they can actually be better choices than gas-guzzlers! Journalists are handing out Car of the Year awards to many all-electrics and plug-in hybrids. In their reviews and comparisons, PEVs are often tops in customer satisfaction, acceleration, driver amenities, and total lifetime cost of ownership. Industry analysts predict broad adoption can follow, as high initial costs come down.
Buying a PEV is no longer a leap of faith or a noble sacrifice. We can sync our driving needs with performance levels. They can be every family's second car. And the only car for millions of urban and suburban households -- with a rental, carshare, or friendly swap for special purpose trips. But what will it take for most drivers to understand that?
The "aha" moment for people who read about these awards and see ads, and are curious to learn more about PEVs, comes when they try out the cars at showrooms and events, or when a driver offers them a chance get in and take a spin.My own PEV story follows the mantra: it takes getting "butts in seats" to make all the difference. In 1999 I happened upon a few dozen GM EV1s at a hotel. I stopped to look, but didn't try one -- and I missed their significance. In 2002, I first drove a hybrid. It didn't plug in, but I was impressed that when its engine turned off at stoplights, it started again quietly with electricity. The following year, I drove in a Chevy Suburban that Prof. Andy Frank at UC-Davis had retrofit into a plug-in hybrid. Then, plug-in advocate Paul Scott gave me the full electric experience in his Toyota RAV4 EV. Test drives won me over, motivating me to do all I could so anyone could try out a plug-in.
That led me to a thrilling five-year stretch when CalCars.org and partner startups converted hybrids. We put hundreds of plug-ins on the road and gave thousands of neighbors, auto industry insiders, engineers, environmentalists, business executives, elected officials, journalists, and other thought-leaders the opportunity to say, "Wow!" -- and then ask, "If garage engineers and small companies can improve hybrids, why won't automakers produce cars with plugs?"
We took cars with giant "100+MPG" signs to conferences and car shows, brown-bag lunches at Silicon Valley companies, even to Washington, DC. We brought along a great prop -- a yellow "dongle" that plugged in to a standard 120-volt outlet. Taken up and used as a symbol at legislative hearings and many events, the dongle became more powerful than we'd expected, proving we already had infrastructure everywhere. At the same time, advocates organized Don't Crush and then Plug In America, moving automakers to build EVs. And we saw a direct connection between our Johnny Appleseed efforts and carmakers' decisions to build the Chevy Volt, the Prius Plug-in, the Ford C-Max Energi and other plug-in hybrids.
The moment of understanding
Once you've driven a plug-in, you get what's called the "EV grin." In my family, we feel punished when we can't drive our Volt and Leaf -- we can't wait to get out of gas-jail.Of course, we also have other big reasons to fuel our cars with cheaper, cleaner, domestic electricity. I sometimes wear a T-shirt I call my "Petrocide" T-shirt. A stick figure beside a fuel pump is blowing out his brains with a gasoline nozzle. Shocked people used to caution me about delivering such a provocative message. But I haven't heard that since the BP Gulf blowout and Hurricane Sandy. PEV drivers want to get cars off oil to improve energy security.
Many go further, recognizing that unless we go beyond fossil fuels ASAP, coal, oil, and gas will destroy our world. Plug-in cars plus "negamiles" (reducing vehicle miles through mass transit and driving less) and a zero-carbon power grid, can start us down that road.
Drivers' unique contributions
PEV drivers welcome every chance to talk about their cars, which is fortunate, because buying or leasing a PEV is just the start of our public engagement. Why the urgent push to spread the word and share the driving experience? Because the success of plug-in cars is not guaranteed. For instance, if the $2,500/$7,500 federal tax credit is defunded, it will significantly affect sales. Building a pipeline of demand will shore up support for the tax credit while strengthening the resolve of carmakers to produce more PEVs.
Carmakers have built really wonderful PEVs, but have often fallen short in promoting them. We realized something was very wrong when it took more than a year after the first big-company PEVs hit the market in late 2010 for their ads to show regular people loading, driving, talking about them. (Could it be because some in the industry or their marketing firms haven't had their own EV grin moments?) A funny thing has happened to many PEV drivers. We've discovered we're selling cars! People tell us, "Because of you, I went out and bought one!" And we've realized we could help dealers too -- easing their load and often, because we know our cars' ins-and-outs, are better able to answer questions than salespeople.
Carmakers have noticed and graciously acknowledged drivers' importance to sales. When Brendan Jones, director of Nissan LEAF marketing & sales strategy, spoke at the 2012 National Plug In Day in San Francisco, he turned heads talking about the driver community. (The seven-minute video at http://youtu.be/Hkey12m0xhg is worth watching.)
"I will tell you after 25 years of experience in the business, I've never found this much energy, enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit and emotion surrounding one vehicle as I have with the Nissan Leaf and all electric vehicles in general. There's [no] more excitement and passion about changing the way we move, about doing something for the environment, about getting the country off foreign oil, etc., than there is around the EV movement. It's something different. And it's the first time people can own a car and actually feel good about what they're doing with it, and that's outstanding."
"And when you hear that enthusiasm coming from the public, it can't help but rub off. And what I mean by that is more of our sales come from you guys than come from our sales and marketing efforts. And for that again I have to thank you, because when you go into a parking lot, or you drive through your neighborhood, and you talk about the vehicle with so much enthusiasm and passion, that just helps to sell cars. It makes my job very, very easy."
New ways to connect drivers and EV-curious people have come up; many drivers enthusiastically and unselfishly have fun showing their cars! What do you get when you mash up local PEV driver groups, the Electric Auto Association, Plug in America, and CalCars with Meetup.com and Match.com? DrivingElectric.org!
It's connecting everybody. It's a website where drivers can create profiles, upload pictures, and share stories. People hear about it from drivers or flyers on PEV windows. Via an online map, they connect with a PEV driver who lives or works near them. That way they get answers to questions, test rides and drives, and even do short car swaps.
With DrivingElectric as a "utility" for companies and non-profits in the plug-in vehicle community, along with a range of other efforts by advocates and drivers, we could double the demand for PEVs in 2013. What a triumph that would be for drivers and for us all!
Felix Kramer, a San Francisco Bay Area cleantech entrepreneur and advocate, founded CarlCars.org in 2002 and DrivingElectric.org in 2012.