1136Woolsey Backs Gas-Guzzler Retrofits; Cheaper Volt?; Ron's Bittersweet Volt Moment
- Mar 11, 2011For several years, CalCars has been a near-lone
voice in suggesting to thought-leaders in the
energy security and environmental communities
that we need conversions of existing internal
combustion vehicles to accelerate the market
penetration rates for plug-in vehicles. While
getting a million new plug-ins by 2015 will be a
near-miraculous accomplishment, it will remain an
underpowered achievement. And with 250 vehicles
on the road, so would a subsequent 10-15 million
more in a decade. So we're encouraged that the
highly influential James Woolsey is now speaking
positively of this strategy. Details below. Plus
an encouraging report that production costs for
the Chevy Volt could go down! Finally, we
reproduce an important report by Ron Gremban,
CalCars Technology Lead, after he refueled his
Volt for the first time. This includes our
announcement that he has begun to instrument his
car to gain more data about the driving
operations of the Chevy Volt -- which could lead
to a new open-source project for CalCars.
Comments and additional info at the URL.
(Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting
will also be viewable at
http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there
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JAMES WOOLSEY is the former CIA Director, member
of Vantage Point Venture Partners (investors in
Tesla and other cleantech companies), founding
member of the Set America Free Coalition,
renowned for describing he plug-in campaign as "a
coalition of tree huggers, do-gooders, sod
busters, cheap hawks, evangelicals, mom and pop
drivers -- and Willie Nelson." Here's what he
said as part of an interview with Brad Berman,
publisher of PlugInCars.com at
Q: Given how long market adoption takes, can
electric cars and plug-in hybrids roll out fast
enough to make a real impact on energy security?
A: We've got to have conversions of existing
vehicles both to FFVs [flex-fuel vehicles] and to
plug-ins. If you can convert existing vehicles to
be plug-ins, and come up with something thats a
few hundred dollars to convert existing
vehicles--whether theyre hybrids or not--to be
FFVs, then you can strike a blow against oil
really fast because you don't have to wait for
the automotive companies to tool up, do studies and so forth.
Q: Short of conversions, you're talking very
incremental change--single percentage points of new car sales.
A: The reason we want to look at conversions is
you can go so much faster. Even if conversions
don't work for 75 percent of the vehicles out
there, if they work for 25 percent, that's still
going 25 times faster than several years of
waiting for new cars to come into the market.
OUR COMMENTS: We welcome James Woolsey's support
for the concept of gas-guzzler conversions! In
this interview, he combines two very distinct strategies:
* retrofits of existing vehicles to FFV, which as
he says, could perhaps be done for hundreds of
dollars. (Of course, using U.S. corn-based
ethanol has multiple negative impacts; Woolsey is
hopeful for cellulosic ethanol, whose progress
has been far slower than expected.)
* conversion of the low-hanging 25% of vehicles
to plug-ins. Obviously the latter is far more
expensive--north of $20K, which of course argues
for an equivalent federal incentive given the
high petroleum displacement benefit.
CalCars has proposed high-volume,
fully-warrantied conversions of what Andy Grove
calls PSVs -- Pickups, SUVs and Vans (and buses)
to EV or PHEV depending on designs/drive cycles.
Our general page on with white paper, news,
links, etc. is
We've concluded this has to be driven by real businesses rather than advocacy.
We've been working with a few companies
struggling to get started doing this. We have
hopes that at least one company, ALTe, may soon
gain the public and private resources to begin
working on a scalable plan involving dozens of
national corporate customers to convert thousands
of large fleet vehicles. Stay tuned!
RE-ENGINEERING THE CHEVY VOLT Dnaiel Howes,
business columnist and associare business editor
of The Detroit News, has an unconfirmed report
that GM's CEO has challenged the Volt team,
through a combination of increased production and
engineering and technology improvements to cut up
to $10,000 in costs from a car that retails for
$41,000 (minus federal tax credits) -- and the
team is rising to the challenge! We don't expect
to hear any more about this for some time, but it
is encouraging news. See
RON GREMBAN'S BITTERSWEET CHEVY VOLT MOMENT: Read
about it at
http://www.plugincars.com/my-bittersweet-chevy-volt-moment-106861.html . This was posted two weeks ago; since then, in
addition to many comments, you'll find four
updates and expanded comments from Ron. The
CalCars "PRIUS+" conversion project (still found
at http://www.priusplus.org ) grew out of early
discussions similar to this. We are not now
proposing to modify the Chevy Volt -- GM has done
a great job building the car and will be
improving it significantly over time. But that
doesn't mean we can't all benefit from a far
greater understanding of how the car operates
than what is now available in vehicle displays
and online apps. Start by reading Ron's original
post, then go online for graphic displays, comments, and additions.
My first trip to the gas station in two months.
The efficiency tally is 980 electric miles at
2.43 miles per/kWh, and 250 miles at 32.5 mpg.
February 22 marked two months since the December
2010 delivery of my Chevy Volt , number 24 off
the assembly line. (See photos from the event.)
Once this marvelous vehicle had reached 1,291
miles on the odometer--1,212 miles since I got
it--I experienced what car owners all over the
world endure far more often: for the first time,
I had to visit a gas station. I found this a bittersweet experience.
Ron's Volt Efficiency
Bitter because I finally had to do it--my
dashboard informed me that gasoline range was
down to 34 miles--and helping to fund the oil
oligarchy in the process, though only to the tune
of $30.61 or $184 a year. Sweet because I used so
little gasoline, though I had it available to
extend my electric range whenever necessary.
It took 7.7 gallons to fill the tank, an average
of 157 mpg (plus electricity)actually higher,
since the tank was not full when I got the car!
Because GM used a lot of gasoline testing my car
in the 79 miles before I got it, my dashboard
indicates only 137 lifetime mpg.
In charge-sustaining mode--when the battery is
depleted--I have usually been getting 30 - 35
mpg. If we call it 32.5 mpg, it means I drove 250
miles on gasoline and 980 miles or 80% of the
time on electricity. Though I haven't yet taken
any long-distance trips, I have driven
extensively around the San Francisco Bay area. My
ChargePoint Driver Portal shows 401 kWh of
electricity consumption. I used another 2 kWh
charging elsewhere. My electric efficiency from
the wall was therefore 411 watt-hours per mile,
2.43 mi/kWh, or 82 mpge (as the EPA calculates
it). The overall efficiency was 63 MPGe.
I'm not complaining, but both gasoline and
electric mileage are much lower than expected.
I'm not sure why, but Im hoping these figures
will improve as the car gets loosened up and the
weather gets warmer and drier. I have neither
been hypermiling nor acting like a race-car
driver. In fact, I've been driving similar to
what used to get me 40 mpg in my Prius and
80-100+ mpg when driving it as a plug-in conversion.
I do know three things that have contributed to
high electric consumption. First, with Bay Area
temperatures between 30-70 degrees F, I've made
moderate use of (electric) cabin heat and the
Volt's wonderful heated seats. Second, to
minimize gasoline use, Ive charged almost every
time Ive arrived back at home, even after just a
few miles of driving. Im sure such top-off
charges are less efficient than full charges,
because low charge rate and charge balancing
inefficiencies occur mostly near end-of-charge.
Third, Ive seen noticeably higher fuel
consumption during the frequent rain we've been
having. This is hard to track as 80% of my miles
have been electric, and the Volt gives its driver
no electric power or energy information--a major oversight in my opinion.
We are initiating a new CalCars.org open-source
project to equip my Volt with digital
instrumentation that plugs into the vehicle's
service port to log, learn, and disseminate
important unseen details about this
groundbreaking and very complex vehicle's
operation, capabilities, and efficiencies in
actual consumer hands. If you can provide any
technology, information, or financing for this
effort, please email info - at- calcars.org.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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