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CalCars & EnergyCS Receive Electric Auto Assn Award
Feb 27, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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At the Annual Meeting of the 39-year-old Electric Auto Association http://www.eaaev.org, we were honored. Here's the awards speech:

Hi, I'm Jerry Pohorsky EAA Board Member and chairman of the Plug-In Hybrid Special interest group http://www.eaa-ev.org.

2006 is the year of the plug-in hybrid.

Last year, the Keith Crock award went to UC Davis Professor Dr. Andy Frank, father of the modern plug-in Hybrid.

Unfortunately, the impressive plug-in Hybrids developed by Andy and his students have never gone beyond the prototype stage. However, they have proven the value of the technology and provided a strong foundation for others to build upon. Since then, four California entrepreneurs have built on this foundation and developed a way to move plug-in hybrids from the test track onto the public streets and highways.

It started with the discovery that 2004 and 2005 Toyota Priuses sold outside of the United States had an EV mode switch. This switch allows the Prius to operate using only the electric motor until the car reaches a speed of 34 miles per hour. There is a catch, however. The batteries that come standard with the Prius only have enough energy to go about a mile in this mode.

Here's where our 4 entrepreneurs got creative. They found a space in the back of the Prius where additional batteries could be easily added. Tapping into the Toyota computer system, they monitored the data under various driving conditions and discovered how the system worked. Using this information they were able to make the system go much longer distances in EV mode by taking advantage of the extra battery capacity. They also added a battery charger so that electrical energy from a common wall outlet could charge the batteries over night - unlike the stock Prius that only charges the batteries from regenerative braking and from the gasoline motor-generator.

By now you may have guessed the identity of these 4 entrepreneurs. The first two are Felix Kramer and Ron Gremban of CalCars, a non-profit organization. The second two are Greg Hanssen and Peter Nortman of Energy CS - a for-profit company. CalCars is best known for their promotion of Plug-in Hybrids in the mass media. Felix has done most of the publicity work while Ron Gremban has built the Prius+ prototype that is used to demonstrate the technology.

A key component of the CalCars Prius+ system is a CAN bus interface that was developed by Greg Hanssen at Energy CS. Greg and his partner Peter Nortman have also built a plug-in Prius. They shipped their plug-in Prius to Monaco where they displayed it and presented a technical paper at the prestigious EVS-21 conference. Since the conference, they have partnered with two other companies to form E-Drive systems. E-Drive is in the business of converting the 2004 and 2005 Prius models into plug-in Hybrids.

CalCars hopes to convince a major manufacturer (such as Toyota) to build plug-in Hybrids at the factory. So far this has been an elusive goal. Meanwhile, they have been overwhelmed by requests from do-it-yourselfers who want to build their own plug-in Prius. Ron Gremban has asked the EAA to help with these requests so he can focus on making the design ready for mass production. The EAA board voted to establish a special interest group (called the PHEV SIG) to meet this need.

Last October, we launched the PHEV SIG with a steering committee consisting of EAA board members Marc Geller, Jerry Asher and myself. Thanks to the efforts of Ryan Fulcher of the Seattle EVA, we now have a website and a mailing list where people can subscribe to receive email messages posted to the list. So far, we have 53 subscribers to the email list and 66 messages have been posted. In addition to the messages, there is much technical documentation and photographs that give do-it-yourselfers the information they need to convert their own hybrid to plug-in operation.

We are working to have a plug-in Prius ready to display at the EAA 5th EVer all-chapters conference in May 2006. In the meanwhile, the EAA board would like to acknowledge the contributions of these 4 pioneering entrepreneurs, by giving the 2006 Keith Crock award to Felix Kramer, Ron Gremban, Greg Hanssen and Peter Nortman. The EAA is proud to honor these major contributors to the commercialization of plug-in hybrids and electric drive technology. We all know the value and importance of electric drive technology and the commitment and determination involved in bringing this exciting technology to the commercial market. This technology is an exciting prospect - to bring electric drive technology to a mass market. Here to accept the award on behalf of CalCars and Energy CS is Felix Kramer. Felix, would you please come up to the microphone and say a few words?

(My response was unscripted, but I thanked EAA for their consistent support since 2004, described the range of activities going on at CalCars and the other groups involved in promoting and developing PHEVs <http;//www.calcars.org/partners.html> -- and agreed that 2006 is The Year of the Plug-In Hyvrid.


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