Jun 27, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
More below from Intel's former CEO Andy Grove: this story is now running at the Chicago Tribune's website and should get broad distribution Sunday and Monday. See also our June 10 report at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/959.html
Before that story: On Wednesday, the daily PBS Newshour ran a 9.5-minute story on plug-in cars. Watch/read transcript at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/
bb/transportation/jan-june08/electriccars_06-25.html . Veteran reporter Spencer Michaels traces back the story to the ZEV Mandate in the 90s, and looks at PHEVS (CalCars' Felix Kramer and Luscious Garage's Carolyn Coquillette appear) and and EVs, focusing on Tesla. Mary Nichols of the Air Resources Board is interviewed as well. The story spends a good bit of time on hydrogen fuel-cell cars. (It continues to surprise us that journalists who zero in on higher initial costs in the thousands of dollars for plug-in cars, are blinded by hydrogen promises. For instance on June 16, Honda showed off its fleet of 100 Clarity hydrogen vehicles, each costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and said the price could fall under $100,000 within 10 years. This didn't stop the Wall Street Journal the NYTimes from treating them as news about today's automobile choices! See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121364017994578203.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/business/worldbusiness/17fuelcell.html
AP Interview: Ex-Intel head pushes electric cars
By KEN THOMAS | Associated Press Writer
June 27, 2008
WASHINGTON - Former Intel Corp. chairman Andy Grove has a knack for sensing when larger circumstances should force changes at a company or an industry -- and how to respond.
He even has coined a term for it: the "strategic inflection point." Now the retired chairman of the world's largest computer chip maker thinks the term applies to energy and transportation, where record-high gasoline and oil prices have renewed interest in alternative energy sources and advanced vehicles.
During the past year and a half, Grove has created his own crash course in electric power, plug-in hybrid vehicles and finding ways of shifting the nation's fleet of vehicles from gas. His goal: To draw more attention to electric vehicles.
"The most important thing I would like to do is light that almost half-assumed truth up in neon lights. Electricity in transportation has to be done. It is urgent. It is important that everything else is secondary," Grove said during a recent phone interview with The Associated Press.
"The drumbeat of the electrical transportation is accelerating like nothing I've ever seen in my life," Grove said.
Grove, 71, who was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 1997, is the latest industry and government heavyweight to push plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Former CIA director James Woolsey, former Secretary of State George Schultz and Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm, Google.org, have touted the benefits of cars that could plug into a standard wall outlet to recharge the battery.
Several automakers are testing plug-in prototypes that would allow the vehicle to run on electric power for the first 40 miles. The technology hinges on the development of advanced lithium ion batteries and companies such as General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. hope to have an extended range plug-in available in limited quantities by 2010.
In the latest edition of The American, published by the American Enterprise Institute, Grove writes that the beauty of electric power is its ability to be produced through multiple sources such as coal, wind and nuclear, and its "stickiness" -- it can only be transported over land.
Oil, by contrast, "flows to the highest bidder," making the United States more susceptible to large demands for petroleum from growing economies such as China.
While car makers have been developing plug-ins, Grove says the nation should consider ways of retrofitting the 80 million low-mileage pickups, sport utility vehicles and vans on the road to make them capable of running on both gasoline and electric power.
Giving these vehicles "dual fuel" functions would be similar to changes made in other technologies. DVD players, for example, were often combined with VCR tape players when they were first introduced to help consumers make the transition.
To push the technology along, Grove suggests tax incentives to take the risk out of battery development and help offset the costs of conversion kits. Utilities, he says, could subsidize the early adopters of plug-ins by providing free electric power to the vehicles for the first year to 18 months.
"I think it is a legitimate place for the government to fund, to accelerate it," he said.
Automakers have urged the government to provide more consumer tax incentives and research aid to develop advanced batteries, but they have questioned efforts to retrofit the vehicles.
Any changes to the engine would void the warranty, and the alterations could undermine the vehicle's reliability and safety functions, automakers say.
"We strongly discourage consumers from retrofitting vehicles," said GM spokesman Greg Martin.
Grove says the fledgling plug-in hybrid movement offers parallels to the Homebrew Computer Club from the mid-1970s that helped electronic hobbyists in northern California set the stage for personal computers. Plug-in hybrid conversion shops could spread the technology in similar ways.
"The personal computer ... went to individuals first before it went to corporations. The conversion goes to individuals," Grove said. "Electric cars ... the corporations are sitting, wishing this whole friggin' thing to go away. Which is exactly what the computer companies' attitude was to personal computers."
Grove has battled Parkinson's disease and devoted millions of dollars and work to support research into the disease. He has taken to alternative energy issues with a similar intensity, tapping into a network of plug-in enthusiasts and experts. Grove says he even bought a textbook on electric and hybrid vehicles written by a University of Akron professor.
"They are all enthusiastically tutoring me," he said.
Grove co-teaches a Stanford University business school seminar, and will devote the class next fall to examining ways of making the electric car possible.
He acknowledges that the shift to electric transportation will be a daunting challenge, but notes that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt worked with Detroit's automakers during World War II to quickly retool their plants to supply the war effort. At a time of $4-plus a gallon for gas and the dangers of oil politics, those lessons shouldn't be lost.
"I think technologically it's doable. I think the logic is pretty compelling," Grove said. "Somebody better drive it and play Roosevelt."
Biographical info on ex-Intel head Andy Grove
By The Associated Press June 27, 2008
NAME: Andrew S. Grove.
AGE-BIRTH DATE: 71; born Sept. 2, 1936, in Budapest, Hungary.
EXPERIENCE: Senior adviser to executive management, Intel Corp., 2005-present; Chairman of the Board, Intel Corp., 1997-2005; Chief Executive Officer, Intel Corp., 1979-1997; one of the founders of Intel Corp. in 1968; joined the research and development laboratory of Fairchild Semiconductor and became assistant director of research and development in 1967. Grove is a lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, City College of New York, 1960; doctorate degree, University of California, Berkeley, 1963.
BOOKS: Physics and Technology of Semiconductor Devices (1967), High Output Management (1983), One-on-One With Andy Grove (1987), Only the Paranoid Survive (1996), Swimming Across (2001), Strategic Dynamics: Concepts and Cases, co-authored by Robert A. Burgelman (2005).
FAMILY: Wife, Eva; two daughters.
QUOTE: "The drumbeat of the electrical transportation is accelerating like nothing I've ever seen in my life."