Aug 25, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Finally, I'm blogging. For a while I've been hoping to raise broad questions about strategies and trends for CalCars, energy and transportation. As we all try to address enormous challenges, especially global warming, all sorts of social, political and business issues keep coming up. I hope a lively dialogue will result.
Below is the first half of my first (long) posting. For the rest, go to HybridCars.com. There you can follow links, see comments, post your two cents, sign up for email notifications of new postings and read 8 other blogs about hybrids.
Bradley Berman, founder of HybridCars.com, has done great reporting on plug-in hybrids. He's working to include more about them throughout the website, which teams with information and opinion. (By the way, I could say the same for the other leading online site, EVWorld.com -- I continue to urge you to become a Premium Subscriber to stay on top of the news and support this important resource.)
To expand the audience of HybridCars.com, my full entry also cross-posts just this once as an opinion piece on Thursday's front page at the AlterNet News Service, http://www.alternet.org/,
and at http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/.
Power, Plugs and People
Aug. 24, 2005
Car Owners Strap into the Industry Driver's Seat
The hybrid wave that's taken car makers by surprise continues to astound the world with its vitality and its unexpected turns. Clearly, a growing number of Americans want cleaner, better cars.
"Outsiders" have long wanted a say about the kinds of cars produced in this country. But the industry's insiders -- car makers, the oil industry, and government -- are still firmly planted behind the wheel. Yet some outsiders have had limited success, including Buckminster Fuller, Preston Tucker, Ralph Nader, Paul MacCready, Amory Lovins and William McDonough. (These links are to their auto-related activities; all these visionaries also have excellent profiles at Wikipedia.)
We may be in the midst of what scientists call a "punctuated equilibrium" as the auto industry rapidly evolves. Now catalyzing it are organized groups of outsiders, not individuals. Here's what's happened very recently in ToyotaLand:
- Four self-described "middle-aged hybrid drivers" staged a two-day LeMans-style race to see how far they could drive a Prius on a tank of gasoline. Using "pulse and glide" techniques (as described at HybridCars.com by Kip Munro), they got 110MPG. After an initial silence, Toyota found the good sense to applaud the group and send them goodies.
- Toyota representatives asked by journalists about their reactions to Prius conversions began to sound increasingly open-minded. The pressure increased when they got criticism about the MPG of Lexus and Highlander hybrids. (See the CalCars News Archive.)
- RAV4 EV owners and other electric vehicle advocates organized dontcrush.com, rallied and worked for months to gain support from public officials. Their campaign succeeded: Toyota agreed to extend leases and allow lease buyouts for these cherished electric compact SUVs.
- Attention to plug-in hybrids ratcheted up significantly as advocacy streams for environment, energy security and economic development met at an intersection called "record-high oil prices."
For the complete posting: http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power/car-owners-in-drivers-seat
-- Felix Kramer, founder, CalCars.org