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PHEVs Made The Big Time in 2006: Year-End Review
Dec 20, 2006 (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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You can find this look at 2006 plus our goals for 2007 at http://www.calcars.org/­2007.html, and you can download it in more readable form at http://www.calcars.org/­calcars-2006-2007-package.pdf. We hope it will inspire you to make a tax-deductible contribution to CalCars.org by credit card/check/PayPal at http://www.calcars.org/­sponsor.html.


Calcars Year-End Review: Plug-In Hybrids Made The Big-Time In 2006

Just scan the postings at CalCars' News Archive http://www.calcars-news.html to see the momentum that grew from so many directions. We start with items that involve mainly CalCars. Then we include other developments, organized roughly by significance. So many organizations and people are now working on PHEVs; in the events of 2006, we were centrally involved in some; in others we made introductions, started the ball rolling -- or simply welcomed efforts from partners. Thanks! (apologies for any omissions)

CALCARS-FOCUSED DEVELOPMENTS

Our most-photographed car, a conversion by EnergyCS, driven daily by Felix Kramer, conveyed PHEVs' reality internationally. It was involved in events with many federal officials, entrepreneurs, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and many others -- see photos on website. In mixed-speed driving, that car routinely gets over 100MPG of gasoline plus about $0.01/mile for electricity. It now has over 12,000 miles and has averaged over75 MPG (that low because of many long-distance non-electric trips).

In addition to Ron's and Felix's cars, we added three more to our PRIUS+ fleet: One converted with Electro Energy joined Felix's in a spectacular Capitol Hill blitz, coordinated by Set America Free, with dozens of Senators and Representatives in support of the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act. Two converted as part of the EAA-PHEV "Do It Yourself" project went to drivers in Seattle and Palo Alto.

We engaged in six months of high level discussions with executives and engineers at Ford Motors, along with Prof. Andy Frank and Ford advisor/architect/designer William McDonough. While welcoming our Escape Hybrid proposals, ultimately the company was too preoccupied to respond -- but the opportunity remains!

We joined a delegation to Sacramento sponsored by E2 with the Greentech Innovation Network (founded by venture capitol firm Kleiner Perkins) that Governor Schwarzenegger said helped convince him to support for the pioneering Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32).

Founder Felix Kramer participated in dozens of high-level events, spoke at conferences, demonstrated his car, networked with public and private sector leaders , built support, strategized, fundraised, blogged and updated CalCars-News. Technology Lead Ron Gremban further developed our hardware and software, managed continuing conversion projects, evaluated new projects and technologies, gave technical talks, and, with Prof. Andy Frank, developed our specific proposals to Ford. Communications Director John Davi re-vamped our website, helped develop our BETTAH animation and designed the highly effective 100+MPG signage for our cars, before he had to accept more secure employment. Michael Bender saved us by becoming responsible for updating the website. Dave Bagshaw recently signed on as a Senior Advisor, bringing his entrepreneurial and technical expertise. Advisors on batteries and a possible for-profit spinoff have also been effective. Dozens of volunteers made themselves available even at night and on weekends to help in many ways.

PHEVs got favorable in-depth media coverage from Scientific American, The Economist, US News & World Report, Popular Science, Thomas Friedman's Discover TV program, newspaper editorials, broadcast and online outlets. Sherry Boschert's book, "Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars That Will Re-Charge America," was published.

Our website pages tracking car-makers statements, our photos of high-profile people with PHEVs, downloadable flyers, endorsement lists, explanations of conversions and our email Newsletter (with 4,000 subscribers and significant secondary distribution) were widely praised.

MAJOR PHEV DEVELOPMENTS

General Motors announced it will build a production PHEV Saturn Vue, but with no timetable. (A second GM announcement is likely soon.) Toyota said it is "pursuing" PHEVs, but they aren't yet "viable." Bill Ford expressed "keen interest." Nissan committed to research.

Batteries, cited as the main obstacle by auto-makers unsure of lithium-ion battery life, emerged as a key to what happens next. Companies including A123 Systems, AltairNano, Electrovaya, Electro Energy, Firefly, Johnson Controls, Valence and others reported rapid progress with much better batteries beginning to be tested and evaluated. CalCars' "No-Worry" fleet plan, in intense development at year-end, was favorably received by battery makers, utilities and government agencies.

White House interest grew following the " addicted to oil" State of the Union address. The Advanced Energy Initiative website/brochure included a picture of our first conversion; Pres. Bush went on the road with speeches about PHEVs with 40-mile range that "you just plug in." Assistant Energy Secretary Karsner reports the President asking for updates on battery technology ever since.

The US Department of Energy held its first workshop on PHEVs; the FreedomCar program's focus on PHEVs expanded. The National Research Laboratories began evaluating converted vehicles. A Lab analysis that even if 84% of today's cars were PHEVs, we'd already have enough night-time electricity, woke many people up!

Endorsements from Members of Congress grew rapidly and we expect will have positive results in 2007.

Plug-In Partners launched in January and has over 8,000 "soft orders" for PHEVs, as well as endorsements from most of America's largest cities, hundreds of institutions and from AutoNation, the country's largest car dealer.

Investment firm Alliance Bernstein released a study predicting rapid penetration of hybrids followed by PHEVs, calling them "game-changing technology."

Conversion company Energy CS delivered a dozen Priuses, then was joined by Hymotion, Hybrids Plus and Manzanita Micro. They and others responded to an RFP to convert up to 600 New York State fleet hybrids for $10 million. The PHEV Development Consortium assembled component makers in a trade association.

Plug In America accelerated its advocacy for PHEVs and electric vehicles (EVs), helped by the wide attention given to Chris Paine's documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and the launch of the Tesla Roadster -- the car that proved electric does not mean "compromise" for car performance. The national Electric Auto Association (EAA) gave CalCars and EnergyCS an award.

Environmental groups that had been unsure of the benefits of EVs began to see them as a big future win, especially for global warming. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) now have PHEVs on their agendas, as do some Sierra Club chapters

Electric utilities bolstered their support. Associations of public and investor-owned utilities endorsed Plug-In Partners, and Pacific Gas & Electric included a pitch in monthly bills to five million customers. Southern California Edison led testing of the DaimlerChrysler/EPRI Sprinter, advanced batteries and converted Prius PHEVs. Sacramento Municipal Utility District sponsored a study showing that using PHEVs as storage in "Vehicle to Grid" (V2G) could allow SMUD to increase its wind capacity.

California government agencies focused their attention on PHEVs. The Air Resources Board and the Energy Commission began to allocate resources to PHEV programs, with more coming in 2007. ARB's Technology Symposium highlighted PHEVs. The South Coast Air Quality Management District sponsored a PHEV conference and funded conversions, and the Bay Area AQMD helped launch Plug-In Bay Area.

UC Davis Prof. Andy Frank began to gain well-deserved recognition for having developed PHEVs for 30 years. He continued working on his ChallengeX conversion of a Chevy Equinox into the world's first flex-fuel PHEV.

Silicon Valley companies supported PHEVs with an SVOilFree conference, we held events at Google, Palm, IDEO and others. Newly-formed Google.org confirmed reports it will soon become involved with PHEVs.

WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

We didn't get an automaker to begin producing even single prototypes of passenger PHEVs. Aftermarket conversion companies fell short of meeting strong demand for vehicles from utilities, governments and early adopters. We reached many of our other 2006 goals -- except for some involving CalCars.

Building CalCars financially and institutionally remains a challenge. Because we didn't raise enough money, Ron, Felix and John were paid for only a few months. We kept going barely -- but missed out on opportunities because we were stretched too thin or lacked funds for travel, conferences and handouts. We deferred ready-to-launch projects to 2007. With lots of help, we did our best!

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