Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

1050Preview: Obama at Plug-In Center Thurs + News Roundup

Expand Messages
  • Felix Kramer
    Mar 18, 2009
      We've been as overloaded as anyone would be who
      tries to keep track of the announcements of more
      plug-in concept cars, progress by small
      companies, new demonstration projects, more books
      on plug-ins; volume of media coverage and
      reports, and continuing uncertainty about the
      fate of the Detroit Three. We're highlighting
      some of those -- starting with the big news of
      the week: President Obama's first-hand look at some plug-in cars.

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting
      will also be viewable at
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there
      you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      We've picked the stories below because you may otherwise have missed them:
      * Obama to see plug-in cars tomorrow
      * PHEV from Jaguar/Lotus?
      * GM will build Vue PHEV with/without Saturn
      * Green cars in China/Why Warren Buffet invested in BYD
      * Pix of future PHEV concepts
      * Christian Science Monitor surveys broad status of plug-in cars
      * ARB Workshop on Conversions next Wednesday
      * Green:Net conference in San Francisco next Tuesday
      * CA Air Resources Board Chair on battery/fuel cell wars
      * GORT Cloud and Eco-Barons: new books feature PHEVs
      * Giant international foundation on future of automobiles
      * Eminent Emma Rothschild's overview on transportation

      THURSDAY. Here's how the Detroit News reported on
      the story at

      President Barack Obama will visit an electric
      vehicle research facility this week, highlighting
      the administration's push for advanced technology
      vehicles. But the president isn't visiting any of
      Detroit's Big Three automakers, opting instead
      for a research arm of a California utility.
      California is home to a number of small electric
      car start-up companies working to produce or
      convert vehicles to plug-ins. Obama will visit
      Southern California's Edison Electric Vehicle
      Technical Center, a research center in Pomona, on
      Thursday. "Obviously as we imagine an auto
      industry for the future, and I know the auto
      industry has put a lot of research and funding
      into the development of cars that can go 40 miles
      on one charge of a battery, the president hopes
      to focus and highlight the ability for clean
      energy jobs to spur economic growth and job
      creation as we go forward," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday.

      A report in USA Today, "California utility
      prepares for surge in plug-in electric cars"
      , describes the Pomona facility and quotes Ed
      Kjaer, SCE's longtime Director of Transportation
      (and lead player at the Electric Drive
      Transportation Association and in the 2008 and
      2009 Plug In conferences). The story highlights
      SCE's large fleet of Toyota RAV4 EVs and others
      that have driven more than 17 million miles since
      1999. Earth2Tech
      says the facility has "the so-called 'garage of
      the future' -- a grid-connected, solar-powered green car dream dock."

      President Obama has seen PHEVs at Google (see
      photo at http://www.calcars.org/photos.html ) and
      recently his lead automotive advisors Ron Bloom
      and Steve Rattner saw Volt prototypes recently in
      Detroit. Stay tuned: the event is closed to the
      public but will be covered by pool reporters --
      and who knows, the President may talk about it
      when he appears Thursday night with auto enthusiast Jay Leno.


      DIVISION FATE: See report at


      described in a report from October:

      FUTURE PLUG-INS: From the Geneva Show,
      Eart2tech's Josie Garthwaite has collected photos
      of 10 concept cars at
      -- they include the Magna Steyr Mila EV, an
      EV/PHEV platform; the Mitsubishi iMiEV in an
      extended-range design; the Opel AMpera version of
      the Volt; and the Citroen C4 WRC Hybrid 4

      ELECTRIC CARS CHARGE AHEAD: Mark Clayton of the
      Christian Science Monitor, who has been following
      PHEVs and CalCars since 2004, has an excellent
      roundup/overview of the status of auto industry
      plans, advocacy efforts, and community
      "readiness" programs at

      the January 23 hearing of the California Air
      Resources Board on regulating conversions, some
      of the interested parties have met with ARB
      staff. The next step is a public workshop in
      Sacramento on at 9:30AM on Weds, March 25. See
      the notice and agenda at
      for details and a link to the webcast.

      Mayor Newsom has just joined the lineup of a
      one-day conference, "Where Green and Networks
      Meet," that aims at educating investors and
      information technology industry insiders,
      investors and entrepreneurs about the integration
      of cleantech and technology. Felix Kramer
      moderates a panel on vehicles and the grid. The
      event at http://events.earth2tech.com/greennet/09/ is nearly sold out.

      CELL ADVOCATES: Mary Nichols' frustration at the
      "madness " of the debate reported at
      -- her views and some of the more reasoned
      comments confirm that the contending solutions
      are finally being evaluated on their merits.

      , which concludes, "Bright has other plans that
      could be realized sooner than 2012. The company's
      Bright Works division is creating systems for
      mass-production vehicle conversion, hybrid
      controls, and battery pack integration that
      Bright plans to sell to major automakers around
      the globe. [Bright Vice President of Marketing]
      Lyle Shuey said he expects the company to
      announce customers for those products in the
      second of third quarter of this year."

      NEW BOOK#1: THE GORT CLOUD: The Invisible Force
      Powering Today's Most Visible Green Brands by
      veteran brand consultant Richard Sereeni with
      screen and copy writer Scott Fields, maps out a
      network of experts, activists, tastemakers,
      special interests, consumers and others. "Driving
      Fast in the Green Lane" case study profiles
      CalCars and Tesla Motors as well as Hymotion and
      Southern California Edison. The book's website is
      at http://www.thegortcloud.com and you can order
      the book via the link at http://www.calcars.org/books.html .

      NEW BOOK#2: ECO-BARONS: The Dreamers, Schemers,
      and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet, by
      Edward Humes, is about "the remarkable
      visionaries who have quietly dedicated their
      lives and their fortunes to saving the planet
      from ecological destruction." It includes a
      chapter profiling the inventor of the modern
      PHEV, Prof Andy Frank of UC Davis and Efficient
      Drivetrains, Inc. You can order the book via the
      link at http://www.calcars.org/books.html .

      Foundation, "an independent UK registered charity
      which manages and supports an international
      programme of activities promoting road safety,
      environmental protection and sustainable
      mobility, as well as funding specialist motor
      sport safety research.It was established in 2001
      with a donation of $300 million made by the
      Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA),
      the non-profit federation of motoring
      organisations and the governing body of world
      motor sport." The FIA, partnering with the UN
      Environment Programme (UNEP), International
      Energy Agency (IEA), International Transport
      Forum (ITF) just launched the "50 by 50: Global
      Fuel Initiative (GFEI) to develop a global fuel
      economy roadmap to be embarked upon immediately,
      and integrated into financial support for the car
      industry. The first development is a report
      outlining ways to reduce fuel
      consumption/kilometer by 50% by 2050. (The report
      notes that the car fleet will triple by 2050 and
      recognizes the potential consequences for climate
      change.) The resulting report found at
      http://www.50by50campaign.org , a very attractive
      document packed full of useful data, outlines
      steps using "existing cost-effective
      technologies' to achieve this goal, and lays out
      a plan for regional activities and briefings to
      move toward that goal. Importantly, the
      publication acknowledges that plug-in cars will
      be changing the equation and making many more
      options possible. Its only recognition of steps
      to be taken related to cars on the road is
      improving tires or paying to scrap them -- no
      mention of any conversion options.

      CONTEXT: Emma Rotschild is a British economic
      historian and professor at Harvard and Kings
      College, Cambridge University. She's the author
      of one of the most widely read books on the auto
      industry, " Paradise Lost: The Decline of the
      Auto-Industrial Age," published in 1973 at
      another crisis point for the auto industry. Now
      in the New York Review of Books, she asks, "Can
      We Transform the Auto-Industrial Society?" She
      starts with some extraordinary statistics about
      the change in income, wealth and expenditures in
      the U.S. and the relative spending on
      automobiles. Examples: "US consumers spent less
      on new automobiles in 2007 than they spent on
      'brokerage charges and investment counselling';
      in 1979, they had spent ten times as much." And
      "In March 2008, General Motors and Ford were
      together worth about 5 percent of the value of
      the oil company Exxon." Then she goes on to take
      a birds' eye view of the challenges for the auto
      industry and the Obama Administration. (Her views
      mesh to some extent with the historical and
      policy perspective presented by Daniel Sperling
      and Deborah Gordon in the recently-published "Two
      Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability.")
      Here are some chunks of the second half of the
      article -- reading the entire piece at
      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22333 will put
      these provocative comments in context.

      But a bailout that includes no more than a
      commitment to fuel efficiency, or to electric
      vehicles, without increasing investment in public
      transportation and in the substitution of
      information for transportation, would be a denial
      of the Obama administration's commitments to
      respond to climate change. For the idyll of
      plug-in hybrids is also the promise of a
      high-energy, low-carbon society, in which the
      auto-industrial organization of space, or of
      transport-intensive growth, is set in concrete
      for another generation, or longer. It is
      frightening in relation to the US, and a dystopia
      in relation to the world. A new, hybrid economy
      for the world, at present US rates of 0.8 cars
      and trucks per person, would include a
      universewide fleet of a billion hybrid vehicles
      in China and a further billion in India; an
      asphalt Asia of more than four hundred cars per square mile.

      An enduring bailout, or a new deal for Detroit,
      would be different. It would be an investment in
      ending the auto-industrial society of the late
      twentieth century. This would involve innovation
      in public transportation, and in the
      infrastructure that would enable people to work
      at home or close to home. It would engage the
      information industries in making public transport
      more convenient, more enticing, and more secure.
      It would be open to the sorts of improvements
      that have been suggested in the expansion of rail
      and bus transportation in China, Japan, and
      France, for example, and in India by the
      information technology services companies.

      The automobile industry, and its employees and
      retired employees, could be part of a bailout of
      this sort; they could be a source of plug-in
      hybrids, bus engines, new ideas for assisting
      deprived urban communities (like so many of the
      cities of Michigan and Ohio), and long-forgotten
      projects of public transportation. The condition
      for continuing support would be a lasting
      commitment to innovation in low-CO2 vehicles, and
      also in the public transport and urban projects
      with which the auto companies were once so involved.

      The crisis of the automobile industry presents a
      seriously difficult set of problems for the new
      administration. These problems have to do with
      the connections between short-term and long-term
      economic policies, policies concerned with the
      economy, the environment, and energy, and
      policies that influence the very long-term
      relationship between the state and markets (as
      the policies of the New Deal of the 1930s did, for at least two generations).

      One of the early outcomes of the economic crisis
      of 2008 has been a substantial reduction in the
      competitiveness of the financial services
      industry, and an increase in its political power;
      it has become an oligopoly of corporations that
      are too big to fail. General Motors is already
      too big to fail; I hope so, because of the
      consequences that its failure, or bankruptcy,
      would have in Michigan, Ohio, and elsewhere, and
      for the hundreds of thousands of people who were
      in a position, years ago, to negotiate reasonable
      wages and reasonable benefits. But a new,
      improved General Motors, or a General
      Motors­Toyota super-corporation, could be
      "viable" in the evaluation of financial markets,
      and also a monstrous leviathan of political
      influence. "Whenever the legislature attempts to
      regulate the differences between masters and
      their workmen, its counsellors are always the
      masters," Adam Smith wrote of the British
      Parliament in the 1760s, and the counselors of
      the US Congress, as of successive US
      administrations, have been the "masters" of the
      automobile industry. This is a failure of
      government, and it is also a market failure, or a failure of markets to exist.

      A new deal in which the bailout of the automobile
      industry was one component of a program of
      investment in the transformation of the
      auto-industrial society would connect economic,
      environmental, and energy policies. It would be a
      commitment to current as well as capital
      expenditures; to a Transportation Security
      Agency, for example, composed not only of people
      who search passengers in airports but of people
      who drive electric buses in inner cities. Like
      the "Economic Security" programs of the New Deal
      of the 1930s, a new New Deal would be an effort
      to change the distant future of the United
      States--in this case the future use of space--by
      government expenditure and more open regulation.
      But something of this is going to happen in any
      case, because of the increase in federal
      government expenditure that has already been
      promised --the macro-economic stimulus --and the
      decrease in state and local government
      expenditure that is one of the few predictable
      consequences of economic depression, as income
      and sales tax revenues fall. For Obama, who is
      the most metropolitan, as well as the most
      cosmopolitan, of all modern American presidents,
      the next generation could begin, for once, with
      the urgent economic crisis of now.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --