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10862010's Triumphs & Challenges for Plug-In Vehicles

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  • Felix Kramer
    Jan 8, 2010
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      Welcome to 2010: The Year of the Plug-In Car. Here's our take on
      where we are as we enter this thrilling time. Plus some new
      opportunities and ways to get involved, two important events in
      Washington, DC in the next four weeks, and our thanks to many of the
      people who helped us come so far. We encourage you to forward see
      this and other CalCars-News messages as resources you can forward.

      (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 BEEN WORKING TO GET TO THIS MOMENT. For CalCars, it's been
      eight years. Some people we know have been on a
      two-to-four-decade-long quest. Soon we'll be driving safe,
      affordable, highway-capable plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles
      from the world's major carmakers and some brash startups. The first
      cars will arrive in selected markets this year. Next year, people in
      many states, provinces and countries will finally be able to simply
      go into dealer showrooms and buy them. Some skeptics, engulfed by the
      reality of industry progress, now fall back to ask, "Will any but the
      early adopters buy them?" Of course, it's too soon to tell. We expect
      that plug-ins' comparative advantages and social benefits combined
      with initial subsidies will eventually lead to their full
      competitiveness on features and price, broad market penetration, and
      eventual dominance.

      PLUG-INS COME TO CALIFORNIA: This year, a family like ours, in the
      early-adopter state of CA, has the happy prospect of replacing our
      Toyota Prius aftermarket PHEV conversion with a new PHEV, such as the
      Chevy Volt (or the pricier Fisker Karma). For local driving, we'll
      likely replace our Toyota Camry HEV with a 100-mile-range EV such as
      the Nissan LEAF or CODA sedan. CalCars Tech Lead Ron Gremban hopes to
      follow a similar path. For details on these long-awaited debuts, see
      CalCars' PHEV listing at http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html and
      Plug In America's broader tracker at
      http://www.pluginamerica.org/plug-in-vehicle-tracker.html .

      CARMAKERS START THEIR MARKETING EFFORTS: The auto industry's giant
      marketing machines will help immeasurably in putting plug-in cars as
      drivers' next choice. Already, it's often no longer necessary to
      explain "plug-in hybrid" to most people. Instead we ask, "Have you've
      seen ads for the Chevy Volt?" Then we say "That's a PHEV." Then, if
      they want, we explain how they work and their benefits! We invite you
      to watch a poetic, inspiring ode to the EV, "Renault. Drive the
      Change." -- called by Plug In America's Paul Scott "the first ad of
      what will become a steadily growing genre." It's just two minutes at
      or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRl_tbNfw3k .

      CALCARS MEETS INITIAL GOALS: On October 21, in Detroit, we "declared
      victory" on PHEVs -- see
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1078.html or listen at
      http://www.calcars.org/audio-video.html#audiotag . Of course, we
      still have lots to do to ensure this commercialization succeeds. A
      vast informal network of local, regional and national coalitions
      working with manufacturing, supplier and infrastructure companies has
      emerged. They and we will do our parts.

      WE STILL HAVE TO COMBAT MISINFORMATION. In a world where stray
      comments gain instant credibility and mindshare, we see periodic
      campaigns and isolated efforts to raise questions about vehicle
      electrification. We still encounter those who think it's
      business-as-usual for fossil fuels while we wait for some "technology
      breakthroughs" or vast infrastructure. In fact, plug-ins, built with
      today's batteries, charging mainly at home at night, can arrive as
      fast as carmakers can build them. We still hear from those who,
      intentionally or not, mistakenly position the strategy to "displace
      petroleum with electricity" as a COMPETITOR instead of a COMPLEMENT
      to essential efforts to conserve by improving conventional vehicles'
      efficiency and reducing their use. We haven't heard the last from
      advocates who propose vast expansions of liquid/gaseous fuels --
      including natural gas, biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells -- as
      alternatives rather than supplements to electricity.

      And we've barely encountered the first volleys from fossil fuel
      suppliers. Taken together, these companies are by far the world's
      most powerful industry. They're also the most destructive and deadly,
      factoring in all the consequences of extraction, production,
      transportation and combustion, plus the impact on every nation's
      public and private-sector integrity, economy, and national security.
      With so many stakeholders waiting for any hiccup, false start or
      overstatement, we all need to be ready to defend our strategy, whose
      strengths are predicated on "solutions good enough to get started," a
      transformed cleantech economy, and electricity's fundamental
      advantages: "cleaner, cheaper, and domestic."

      see a growing recognition that the world needs to adopt a
      TRANSPORTATION EQUIVALENT to the established retrofit approach that's
      such a no-brainer for buildings. Even the most optimistic scenarios
      show only tens of millions of new plug-in vehicles globally in the
      next 10-20 years -- tiny fraction of the more than one billion
      vehicles we'll soon have. We see people beginning to recognize that
      large vehicles in particular stay on the road for decades, so it
      makes sense to "fix" gas guzzlers so they can plug in. Along with
      other obvious low-hanging fruit like conservation steps and
      installing low-cost black-carbon filters on diesel engines, these are
      essential and realistic pathways. These approaches can advance
      reduced fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by a precious
      decade, while creating tens of thousands of green jobs and
      accelerating the expansion of the supply chain needed for the
      long-term electrification of transportation.

      CALCARS' NEW MISSION: While continuing to promote "Successful
      Commercialization of PHEVS ASAP," CalCars' activities increasingly
      focus on recruiting more advocates to the "Big Fix" -- our campaign
      to convert a substantial portion of the vehicles already on the road
      to EVs or PHEVs. We still encounter some wariness about the specific
      technologies and expected costs to convert internal combustion
      vehicles. This will change in three ways, just as it did in 2004-2006
      for PHEVs: We'll get more convincing and compelling prototypes that
      show what's possible. We'll see business models that work in high
      volumes. And we'll help new coalitions emerge.

      We can't do it ourselves. So we continue to recruit for a broad
      campaign whose partners we'll soon announce. Organizations and
      high-profile individuals can endorse it now -- see
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-bigfix-endorse.pdf .

      Twenty-five years ago, Steve Jobs famously recruited Pepsi executive
      John Sculley to Apple by asking, "Do you want to sell sugar water all
      your life or do you want a chance to change the world?" Recently, the
      charismatic Shai Agassi built his vision for an EV solution at Better
      Place. Similarly, we seek a well-healed, well-connected serial
      entrepreneur with a background in autos, technology, or finance, to
      accelerate the efforts of the startups gaining traction in the
      gas-guzzler conversion space (many listed at
      http://www.calcars.org/conversions.html and profiled at
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-beyond-new-plug-ins.pdf ) and other
      companies yet to appear. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for
      that candidate to hit the ground running and transform today's
      fledgling efforts into a profitable global industry whose conversion
      designers, integrators, component suppliers, and installers will
      offer green jobs, energy savings, operating cost reductions, and
      environmental and energy security benefits.

      conversion companies that helped so much to increase PHEVs'
      visibility and get them in the hands of utilities, government testing
      labs and committed evangelizers can now set themselves new goals.
      They can lower their selling prices via scale, gain government
      approvals for their designs, and add warranties to position them to
      sell to a million-plus hybrid car owners. By partnering with
      suppliers, larger integration companies, and ultimately major
      automakers, they can expand to the far larger market of drivers
      looking to fix their non-hybrid internal combustion vehicles.

      JANUARY/FEBRUARY EVENTS: We'll be spending two weeks at the end of
      the month on the East Coast. In addition to some private events and
      meetings in Boston and New York to promote the Big Fix, we'll first
      be attending the Electric Drive Transportation's broad industry
      Conference and Annual Meeting, January 26-28, held in conjunction
      with the Washington DC Auto Show. See the full program and sign up at
      http://electricdrive.org .

      The following week, again in DC, I'm speaking on gas-guzzler
      conversions at the Renewable Energy Technology Conference &
      Exhibition http://www.retech2010.com/ organized by the American
      Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). RETECH2010 includes 250 leaders
      from industry and the administration, including presentations by key
      officials in the Department of Energy, to over 5,000 attendees. We're
      on the "Advanced Vehicles and Batteries" panel
      http://www.retech2010.com/business-conference#B7 .

      We encourage you to attend both events in DC. We'll soon update the
      CalCars Events page with these and other events -- including
      http://www.plugin2010.com July 26-29 in San Jose, CA. We'll also be
      advancing our Big Fix agenda at the annual TED Conference in early
      February in Long Beach, CA.

      CALCARS AS AN ORGANIZATION: Our sustained effort for over eight years
      by a small core group with growing concentric rings of advisors,
      supporters and proponents has been a stunning success. CalCars-News
      is currently received directly by over 7,000 subscribers in the auto
      industry, government, and advocacy communities, and our comments are
      amplified frequently by online, broadcast and print media. Yet just
      as our original goals are being realized and we see growing
      receptiveness to our new objectives, we lack the resources we need to
      do more. At one peak time, in 2006-2008, we gained two years of
      substantial support from Google.org. Over the years, we've received
      modest contributions from individuals, other foundations, and a few
      companies and utilities. But we've not received ANY federal or state
      funds -- or funding from the venture capital community or the newly
      funded startups that have benefited from our work. At the moment,
      we're more "bare-bones" than we've ever been, essentially running on
      fumes, cutting back on events where our costs aren't covered. While
      this is personally difficult, especially for me and Ron (full-time
      since 2001 and 2004 respectively), both of us are thankful to have
      had the opportunity to engage in the most satisfying, effective, and
      consequential work in our lives.

      SUPPORT CALCARS: Privately we get frequent encouragement and praise
      from individuals who say they are stretched to the limit and wish
      they could support our efforts. (If your own financial position
      allows, we could really use your tax-deductible contributions (even
      in the $10-$100 range) at http://www.calcars.org/sponsor.html .

      VOLUNTEER AT CALCARS: Carol DiBenedetto was our able director of
      projects and grantwriter in 2008-09, but we can't pay her again until
      we raise money (!!) So we need a fundraising volunteer. We also
      urgently need an able volunteer to position us in multiple social
      networking channels. If you're interested in either of these or other
      positions at http://www.calcars.org/jobs.html, please send an email
      that includes the job title in the subject line, plus a thoughtful
      cover letter, followed by a pasted copy of your resume, to jobs (at)
      calcars.org. NO ATTACHMENTS, PLEASE, though URLs linking to more
      information are fine.

      STANDOUTS: Ron and I want to thank some people in particular. Because
      of their jobs at companies or in government or the media -- or their
      temperaments -- many of our supporters must remain anonymous. And we
      can't begin to list the many dozens more from
      http://www.calcars.org/partners.html -- especially at utility, auto,
      and conversion companies.

      That said, thanks, alphabetically, to webmaster Michael Bender,
      databaser Brad Beltane, senior advisors Randy Reisinger and Jim Hurd,
      and to key advisors, promoters and co-thinkers including Jeff
      Anderson, Frank Babbitt, Carl Berg, Jim Bernard, Chris Baldwin,
      Lester Brown, Adam Browning, Pat Cadam, Carl Chow, Sam Cohen, Carolyn
      Coquillette, Al Cormier, Doug Crowder, John Davi, Robbie Diamond,
      Carol DiBenedetto, Carla Din, Leslie Dorosin, Roger Duncan, Bob
      Epstein, Rich Feldman, David Alan Foster, Andy Frank, Tom Gage, Phil
      Glatz, Jay Golden, KC Golden, Richard Goodman, Mike Granoff, Andy
      Grove, Carl Guardino, James Hansen, Hal Harvey, Denis Hayes, David
      Hearst, Bill Holmberg, Russell Hancock, Jay Inslee, Ron
      Johnson-Rodriguez, Wade Jansen, Marguerite Jones, Daniel Kammen,
      David Kaplan, Willett Kempton, Anne Korin, Andrew Lawton, Craig
      Lewis, Gal Luft, Nick Magel, Steve Marshall, Gil Masters, Patrick
      Mazza, Tom McCalmont, William McDonough, Ron Minsk, Dave Modisette,
      David Morris, Ben Ovshinsky, Chris Paine, Sunil Paul, Charlotte Pera,
      Wylie Plummer, Eric Powers, Joe Romm, Nick Rothman, Margaret Sanders,
      Richard Schorske, Joel Serface, Dave Severns, Gail Slocum, Peter
      Skinner, Sass Somekh, Chris Sorensen, Lee Stein, Laura Stuchinsky,
      David Taggart, Matt Taylor, Sven Thesen, Ling Thio, Laney Thornton,
      Jasna Tomic, David Turock, Tom Turrentine, Garth Ware, Jon
      Wellinghoff, Jonas Weil, Nadine Weil, Greg Willey, John Wilner, Anne
      Woods, Jane Woodward, James Woolsey, Andrew Zeif. Thanks to our
      fiscal sponsor, INTERNATIONAL HUMANITIES CENTER: Dave DelGrosso, Dave
      Sanders, Steve Sugarman.

      FREQUENTLY PARTNERING ORGANIZATIONS: Thanks to these and many others
      at: ELECTRIC AUTO ASSOCIATION: Jerry Asher, Will Beckett, Ron Freund,
      Arthur Keller, Steven Lough, Jerry Pohorsky, Robert Seldon, Ed
      Thorpe. FRIENDS OF THE EARTH/BLUEWATER NETWORK: Brent Blackwelder,
      Norman Dean, Danielle Fugere, Russell Long, Sara Schedler. GOOGLE &
      GOOGLE.ORG: Robyn Beavers, Dave Bercovich, Adam Borelli, Larry
      Brilliant, Sergey Brin, Alec Brooks, Aimee Christensen, Greg Miller,
      Kirsten Olsen, Larry Page, Alec Proudfoot, Siobhan Quinn, Dan
      Reicher, Rolf Schreiber, Eric Schmidt, Linda Segre, Adam Smith, Karen
      Padham Taylor, Bill Weihl. PLUG IN AMERICA: Sherry Boschert, Dan
      Davids, Jay Friedland, Marc Geller, Linda Nicholes, Alexandra Paul,
      Zan Dubin Scott, Paul Scott, Chelsea Sexton, Jeanne Trombly.
      RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK: Mike Brune, Sarah Connolly, Jodie van
      Horn, Jennifer Krill, Nile Malloy. INTERNATIONALLY: Feng An, Ulf
      Bossel, Vincent Dussault, Jacques Marlot, Matt Mathews, Miyuki Merry,
      Teitur Torkelsson, Pedro Macanas Valverde, Akiko Yoshimoto.
      PERSONALLY: for support and advice, we thank Tom Driscoll, Nancy
      Frishberg, Deborah Kaufman, Josh Kramer, Rochelle Lefkowitz, Lynn
      McAllister, Alan Snitow, Bob Weber. And we apologize for anyone we've

      COMING SOON FROM CALCARS-NEWS: We're working on a number of postings
      about: the Electrification Coalition report; promising legislation
      for the postal service; analysis on the benefits of gas-guzzler
      retrofits; and more specifics on the National Academy of Sciences
      report, and strategies to advance the Big Fix campaign. If in the
      flurry of holiday emails, you missed our last postings, you can go
      back to them at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html . And follow
      the many online publications doing such a great job of chronicling
      the daily developments in the plug-in world at
      http://www.calcars.org/partners.html#opb . Together we can make this
      a memorable year!

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