Jul 20, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This is the text of my posting at the CalCars Blog, "HybridCars Power, Plugs and People" http://www.calcars.org/power/victory-or-tipping -- if you read it there you can add your comments and see what others are saying about this and previous postings.
Those who've been along for the plug-in hybrid ride for a year or three can best appreciate how far we've come in 2006. To see appreciative senators and representatives passing along "the infrastructure" (the "dongle" or charging cable) as if it were a sacred object, giving their thumbs up as they rode in our PHEVs http://www.calcars.org/phevs-in-dc.html, to read about the mayors of America's biggest cities joining Plug-In Partners, and to watch the President say "you plug it right in the wall" http://www.calcars.org/audio-video/bush-phevs-20feb06.html, all have been unparalleled experiences. To see so many print and broadcast stories http://www.calcars.org/news.html that it's no longer possible even to list them is an incredible advance from a time when almost no-one had heard of PHEVs. To hear news about PHEV trucks, buses, motorcycles and garbage trucks, after-market conversion companies getting closer to delivering cars, and a do-it-yourself solution nearing completion, are all most encouraging. And for me personally, to say, "I drive a PHEV every day" still feels like a miracle.
Then within two months to hear Bill Ford Jr. tell shareholders "we're keenly looking" at PHEVs, to see reports that General Motors will build a PHEV, and to hear Toyota's top US executive say, "We are pursuing a 'plug-in' hybrid vehicle...conserving more oil and slicing smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels," have all been cause for high-fives and festivities. (Look back at What Car-Makers say -- http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html -- to appreciate how much they've evolved.)
All the individuals and groups who've been working on PHEVs -- see our CalCars Partners list http://www.calcars.org/partners.html -- can recognize that our combined efforts over the years have established new channels of influence and changed the game.
Now we're starting to hear suggestions that "this is going to happen no matter what." So -- have we succeeded? Can we move on to other challenges? By no means! Assuredly, we've reached a turning point. But if we stop making waves, we might end up with no more than dozens or hundreds of PHEV prototypes from car-makers in the next five years -- followed by a few years of evaluations and consideration. Or maybe not even that, since no car-maker has presented a timetable.
Everything can change overnight. Ford just backed off its entire hybrid program, suggesting that hybrids may be a flash in the pan. Carlos Ghosn, who may gain influence at GM, is a hybrid skeptic. With Toyota, we need to parse the meaning of "pursuing." We have no done deal. And as more and more people realize the impact of literally every month of delay in cutting greenhouse gases and oil consumption, we have no choice but to keep up the pressure. We absolutely need car-makers to start producing mini-fleet PHEV extensions of their hybrid lines for institutional customers and early adopters ASAP.
Unavoidably, we have to make a pitch for CalCars.org. We have plans for several extraordinary campaigns to further broaden awareness and support, and demonstrate market demand. We have technology projects that will expand the envelope of what is possible and realistic. And we have ambitious ideas about starting a company that could dazzle the world with Andy Frank's best ideas. But we honestly don't know when we'll launch any of these. (We can't even respond to much of the email we get.) We're only three full-time people -- though we do have part-time volunteers, dozens of advisors, and thousands of supporters. This spring we experienced how hard it was to raise $25,000 from over 3,000 grass-roots supporters who obviously don't have extra dollars to spare even for a compelling specific goal (bringing PHEVs to Washington). Thanks to those of you have been able to provide help -- if you haven't yet, or want to do more, Sponsor CalCars http://www.calcars.org/sponsor.html will take your credit card or PayPal donation 24/7.
As a practical matter, we're energetically looking for "angels" -- people in Silicon Valley and elsewhere comfortable enough not to have to worry about making a living, who can afford substantial tax-deductible contributions. And for the first time, we're looking for potential six- to seven-figure investors -- from people motivated not so much by wanting to get even richer, but by seeing the value of placing a promising bet that will increase the security of all of the globe's assets. So keep spreading the word; look through your address books and pass along the pitch. -- Thanks, Felix