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Summaries: About Us / How Can I Help? How Can I Get a PHEV?
Dec 18, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
CalCars-News
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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We're receiving a deluge of email (including many complimentary letters), from people asking:

  • Can you give me more information about CalCars and Plug-In Hybrids
  • How can I get a plug-in hybrid?
  • What can I do to help?
  • Can you send info about related subjects?

We're not a big organization or company with a large staff. We're a small non-profit advocacy and technology development startup. always stretched to keep up with the latest exciting developments.

So we're asking people who write to us first to look around at calcars.org -- or by reading the one long three-section message below -- essentially it's the Abridged Version of Everything Else at CalCars.org -- at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news/­message/­227

Then, if you still have questions, comments, news we should know about, contributions or offers to help, please write back again. PLEASE START THE SUBJECT LINE with "CC" [for CalCars] so we know you've looked through this message. Please make the rest of the subject line descriptive- not just "plug-in hybrid" or "PRIUS+" or "question" (You'll get another auto-reply, but we'll also answer your email personally as soon as we can.)

Thanks for understanding!

1. TELL ME MORE ABOUT CALCARS, PLUG-IN HYBRIDS, PRIUS+ AND FELIX KRAMER

The California Cars Initiative http://www.calcars.org is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit startup. We're a group of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers promoting high-efficiency, low-emission cars and harnessing buyer demand to help commercialize advanced technologies. Somewhat uniquely, we focus both on public policy and technology development. Formed in 2002, our efforts for "100+MPG Hybrids" began to be noticed in early 2005 when we were covered in The New York Times, Business Week, TIME, Newsweek, National Public Radio, and local and national TV. (See http://www.calcars.org/­kudos.html for print, audio and video clips.)

We're demonstrating the immediate opportunity and benefits of "plug-in" hybrids (PHEVs). The next generation of hybrid cars can be based entirely on existing components. They're basically like some current hybrids but with larger batteries and the ability to re-charge conveniently, so local travel is electric, yet the vehicle has unlimited range. We see it as the future pathway to multi-fuel and biofuel/cellulosic ethanol PHEVs -- the cars that get 500 MPG (of gasoline) that people are talking about. Here's how we describe PHEVs:

It's like having a second small fuel tank you always use first. You get to fill it at home with electricity at an equivalent cost of under $1/gallon. How much under depends on your car and your electric rate. You refill from an ordinary 120-volt socket, with energy that's much cleaner, cheaper and not imported. Or another way of thinking about this: at $3 for a gallon of gas, driving a non-hybrid car costs 8-20 cents/mile (depending on its MPG). With a PHEV, all-electric local travel and commuting can drop to 2-4 cents/mile.

We began with a prototype conversion we call "PRIUS+" to bring attention to plug-in hybrids and encourage car makers to build them. We "green-tuned" a stock 2004 Prius by adding batteries and grid-charging. (We replaced the battery control system but didn't modify the hybrid controls.) Our proof-of-concept used lead-acid batteries. We document our effort at our open-source-style technology discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­priusplus (see chronology from June '04-May '05 at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­priusplus/­message/­421). We're working with Electro Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: EEEI) to demonstrate the viability for PHEvs of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in current hybrids: see http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news/­message/­175. And we expect to work with other battery suppliers.

EDrive Systems LLC, a for-profit integration company in Southern California http://www.edrivesystems.com, installed even better lithium-ion (Li-Ion) packs to get 100+MPG (plus costs of electric power). EDrive intends to begin selling PRIUS+-style retrofits in early 2006, with a goal of pricing conversions at $10-$12,000. At http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news/­message/­37 on May 2 we explained how our efforts intersect. View their Frequently Asked Questions at http://www.edrivesystems.com/­Edrive-FAQ.html. Meanwhile, a separate group of engineers experienced with high voltage has started a EAA-PHEV, "do-it-yourself" conversion project that we are advising: http://www.seattleeva.org/­wiki/­EAA-PHEV.

We're also involved in advocacy and public policy, bringing together the growing attention given to this "up-and-coming" technology. New organizations that have in part been catalyzed by our efforts include SetAmericaFree, Plug-In Austin (soon to go national as Plug-In Partners), Plug In America, and a trade association, the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium. A bipartisan Congressional coalition has introduced legislation promoting flex-fuel plug-in hybrids. We're educating the large market of car buyers who will pay extra for all the benefits to them and society of better cars. We're presenting PHEVs, along with wind and solar power, as a coordinated response to two of today's greatest challenges: global warming and energy security. We've spoken at high-visibility venues including the Palo Alto Research Center (former Xerox PARC) Forum and the Electric Drive Transportation Association Conference. We've recently engaged with noted designer/architect William McDonough, responsible for the new Ford River Rouge plant, to incorporate Cradle to Cradle approaches to our future strategies. And we're working with Free Range Studios (makers of The Meatrix and Store Wars) to produce entertaining info online.

Our goal is to motivate automakers to build PHEVs for a market we expect to expand as the Kyoto Protocols and parallel state and international greenhouse gas initiatives are phased in. We're exploring with public officials ways to provide incentives to auto makers to build PHEVs.

Working with other PHEV advocates, we're developing innovative ways to meet expected demand from utility, government and corporate fleets, and early adopters for 10,000-100,000 vehicles before a car company delivers production PHEVs. To take advantage of that who-knows-how-long window of opportunity, we're exploring ways for a California company to partner as a Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) with an auto maker to design, assemble and sell PHEVs -- at a price several thousand dollars higher than conventional hybrids, which would provide a lower lifetime cost of ownership than any other vehicle type. For info on our plans see http://www.calcars.org/­sjmercury-vcinsider+calcars-opportunity.pdf. Conversion possibilities include the Ford Escape hybrid, forthcoming hybrids from Hyundai and others, and all cars that use Toyota's "Hybrid Synergy Drive" (Prius, Lexus, Highlander, Nissan).

We're a mostly-volunteer effort. We've gotten contributions from, among others, a well-known entrepreneur and the Energy Foundation, with others to come. We accept tax-deductible donations and offer a unique bumper sticker to Charter Sponsors.

Founder Felix Kramer says, "I'm a startup person and environmentalist going way back http://www.nlightning.com/­resume.html. In 2001, I sold eConstructors.com (marketplace for web development) and began advising Rocky Mountain Institute/Amory Lovins' Hypercar Inc. My change in focus from that futuristic simulation to immediate solutions led to the launch of CalCars in 2002. My personal motivation evolved from general environmental goals to seeing PHEVs as a keystone component of a strategy to address global warming both nationally and internationally. See http://www.calcars.org/­globalwarming.html. I envision millions of PHEVs, charged from off-peak electricity from a modernized grid and from distributed photovoltaic and wind power, with the range extension engine powered by zero-carbon cellulose ethanol, as a way to significantly reduce the more than 30% of greenhouse gases that come from transportation. See my blog, Power, Plugs and People at http://www.hybridcars.com/­blogs/­power."

2. HOW CAN I HELP?

  • Spread the word. We encourage all to forward the SUMMARY BELOW to your email contact list, post pointers to CalCars on discussion lists and blogs, and email or print out and mail or hand out some of the PDF documents listed at http://www.calcars.org/­faq.html
  • If you can connect us to high-wealth individuals who "get" what we're about, we have very ambitious plans with extraordinary opportunities. I'm sure if we can raise substantial funds, we'll have an institutional and media impact that far eclipses what so far we've achieved..
  • Similarly, we could use celebrity endorsements and supporters.
  • If you're technically inclined, read up on what we've done and check out the EAA-PHEV and the PRIUS+ Conversion Discussion Group messages.
  • If you're wired in with people who make fleet purchase decisions at companies or in government, tell them about CalCars and send us their contact info
  • If you know two special categories: serial entrepreneurs and auto industry veterans interested in a unique new opportunity, put them in touch with us
  • If you want to contact automakers to tell them you'd like a plug-in-hybrid, we suggest you contact your local dealer, and feel free to send a copy of any email you write to priusplus@....
  • And one more IMPORTANT WAY: If you support our goals, you could support CalCars with a tax-deductible donation in any amount by credit card, check or PayPal. $25 or more gets you the bumper sticker shown at CalCars Sponsor http://www.calcars.org/­sponsor.html. For $95 you become a Charter Sponsor. Gifts in the three figures are highly appreciated. Donations in the four-to-five figures will get you a phone call from CalCars' Founder Felix Kramer or Technology Lead Ron Gremban and, schedules permitting, a ride in a plug-in hybrid.

    Thanks for everything!

    3. HOW CAN I GET A PLUG-IN HYBRID?

    To keep people up-to-date on the progress of PRIUS+, CalCars, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) in general, and EDrive Systems' conversions, please join our CalCars-News list. At http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news, you can subscribe to the low-traffic CalCars-PHEV Newsletter -- and watch our website for our progress. You can always find out the latest on all these efforts athttp://www.priusplus.org and the current version of the PRIUS+ Fact Sheet is always available from there.

    These vehicles will operate like any other Prius, with no necessity to drive slower or differently. They will re-charge overnight from conventional 120-volt outlets (no need to hunt for a place to plug in during the day). Here are the options:

    • EDrive Systems, LLC aims to have a commercial retrofit option available in a few months with an INSTALLED cost of $10-$12,000. Initial systems will be installed in Southern California. Additional licensed installers may make EDrive systems available elsewhere later in 2006. To find out more, please visit http://www.edrivesystems.com and view their Frequently Asked Questions at http://www.edrivesystems.com/­Edrive-FAQ.html

    Toyota could decide that the conversion voids some or part of your car or hybrid system warranty (unless the company worries that will tarnish its green image). We won't know how dealers will respond to service requests for this car until we start driving them.

    The first conversions will be for 2004-2006 Prius (not 1997-203 "Classic" Prius). Later, conversions may be possible for Ford Escape, perhaps someday for Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX-400 hybrids. Because of Honda's different architecture (in Integrated Motor Assist cars, the engine always runs when the electric motor is in use), we and EDrive are not investigating the feasibility of converting Insight, Civic or Accord hybrids. Of course, CalCars' fundamental goal is for automakers to offer these cars--we think if produced in volume, they could sell them for $2-5,000 more than existing hybrids.

  • If you're an engineer or an advanced do-it-yourselfer who is comfortable around high voltage batteries and automotive workshops, look at the new "open-source" style project http://www.seattleeva.org/­wiki/­EAA-PHEV sponsored by the Electric Auto Association to bring conversion technology to many Prius owners sometime in the next year.
  • CalCars is working on a project http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news/­message/­175 to demonstrate its PRIUS+ approach using nickel-metal hydride batteries, in response to automakers' continuing comments that "the batteries aren't ready." We think both NiMH and Li-Ion are ready. We aim to demonstrate that the battery type that's used in all current hybrids can make a well-performing PHEV. This or related projects could result in our attracting a battery maker to provide batteries to the EAA-PHEV project members for a group price.
  • CalCars' main objective is not conversions but to persuade/motivate/convince automakers to build production plug-in hybrid versions of their cars. We believe http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­priusplus/­message/­468 Toyota could sell a PHEV Prius for $3,000 more than a standard hybrid.
  • PITCH: If you support our goals, you could support CalCars with a tax-deductible donation in any amount by credit card, check or PayPal. $25 or more gets you the bumper sticker shown at CalCars Sponsor http://www.calcars.org/­sponsor.html. For $95 you become a Charter Sponsor. Gifts in the three figures are highly appreciated. Donations in the four-to-five figures will get you a phone call from CalCars' Founder Felix Kramer or Technology Lead Ron Gremban and, schedules permitting, a ride in a plug-in hybrid.

    To learn more about PHEVs, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles: http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­calcars-news - CalCars-News Archive (not a discussion group) http://www.calcars.org/­news-index.html Annotated listing of postings to CalCars-News http://www.seattleeva.org/­maillist/­eaa-phev.html - EAA-PHEV conversion group http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­priusplus/­ - PRIUS+ PHEV Conversion Group discussions http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­gridable-hybrids -- PHEV general discussions http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­Prius-2G -- 2004 Prius issues http://groups.yahoo.com/­group/­Prius_Technical_Stuff -- Prius nuts and bolts http://www.priuschat.com -- general Prius info and talk http://www.hybridcars.com -- all about hybrids http://www.evworld.com/­electrichybrid.dfm -- focus on PHEVs at site for general coverage of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles

    Meanwhile, we thank you in advance for your encouragement, and hope you'll spread the word about our efforts. If you know of any individuals in a position to discuss fleet purchases, provide us with substantial support or celebrity endorsements, please send them our way. If you want to contact automakers to tell them you'd like them to build plug-in hybrids, we suggest you contact your local dealer, and feel free to send a copy of any email you write to priusplus@....

    Regards, Felix Kramer

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