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1140Plug-In Roundup #2: Media & Marketing News

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  • Felix Kramer
    May 17, 2011
      Here's our second extended post, with reports on how plug-ins are
      being received in the marketplace, the long-awaited sequel to "Who
      Killed The Electric Car," reporters and analysts trying to figure out
      how big plug-ins will be how soon, some frustrating examples of
      misreporting, and a possible new way to respond.

      (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.)

      CHALLENGES: GM-Volt's Jeff Cobb has posted a series summarizing GM
      marketing spokesperson Rob Peterson's presentation at the Washington
      Electric Drive Transportation Association DC conference in April. He
      discussed the transition from "early adopters" to "fast followers."
      He talked about the company's transparency policy and about building
      strategic relationships with multiple constituencies, such as
      utilities, plug-in advocates (including gracious call-outs to
      "enthusiasts" Chelsea Sexton, Felix Kramer and GM-Volt.com), and the
      broad advanced-tech auto industry:
      He focused on getting the word out about customers' experiences:
      And he talked about managing expectations, both among plug-in
      advocates and customers, especially as critics and detractors pile

      REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR: We can't wait to see the long-awaited
      sequel to "Who Killed the Electric Car," which premiered on Earth Day
      at NYC's Tribeca Film Festival. CalCars' top two priorities get a
      direct boost from two of the film's four stories: for PHEVs, GM's
      outspoken Bob Lutz, and for conversions, the flamboyant Greg
      "Gadget" Abbott from http://www.leftcoastelectric.com inspires us by
      turning almost any classic internal combustion vehicle into an EV.
      (We hope the enthusiasm spills over to lower-cost and higher-volume
      solutions.) And of course we also root for Carlos Ghosn's Leaf, and
      Elon Musk's Teslas. The film is still on the festival circuit, but
      you can help get it into a theater near you!

      EPRI'S CONSUMER GUIDE: The Electric Power Research Institute has
      published "Plugging In: A Consumer's Guide to the Electric Vehicle."
      It's free and handy in eight pages. (For more detail, see Plug In
      America's 64-pager, CHARGED UP & READY TO ROLL.")
      (Try again if URL doesn't work the first time.)

      ANOTHER VOLT+LEAF HOUSEHOLD: Sacramento-area's George Parrott and his
      wife started driving the Volt/Leaf combination shortly after Felix
      Kramer.. Though journalists got some numbers wrong, the Consumer
      Reports story and AP short video were positive.

      TAKE CARE, CLEANTECH ANALYSTS: A mildly cautionary headline,
      "Electric Car Boom Could Deliver a Surge in Grid Power," drew our
      attention. But the story immediately escalated to "They're going to
      be hell on the grid." Later the author implied we need to invent some
      advanced technology to ensure that most charging is off-peak. (How
      about a timer and time-of-use pricing?) Steve Lough of the Seattle
      Electric Auto Association, Brian Wynne of the Electric Drive
      Transportation Association, and we and others brought the issue back
      to reality. Then Reuters picked up the story, but unfortunately
      without our responses. Spawning a true whac-a-mole, the alarm
      proliferated to over 8,000 sites.

      fan of Jim Motavalli (and he often quotes us). Jim has been around
      the block many times: he wrote "Forward Drive: The Race to Build
      'Clean' Cars for the Future" back in 2000, when he was editor of E:
      The Environmental Magazine. Now he writes for the NY Times, BNET,
      Mother Nature Network, The Daily Green, PlugInCars.com, and others.
      He'll have a new book, tentatively called "High Voltage: The Fast
      Track to Plug In the Auto Industry," out in November. His recent
      inquiry into why gas prices are the only commodity whose cost is
      posted everywhere is memorable. He has great interviews about its
      psychological impact.

      Now, in "Sure, Americans Want Electric Cars--But Only If They're
      Magical," Jim wades through vastly different public survey responses.
      He concludes that most Americans are confused about electric cars. In
      an exchange worth reading, plug-in advocates Paul Scott and Mike Kane
      differ with Jim effectively and eloquently. The exchanges are well
      worth reading. We agree that tens of millions of car buyers "get" the
      lifetime savings of plug-in cars and their global benefits. Yet even
      stipulating that survey questions and results are misleading, and
      that most buyers are motivated by emotion and not by payback, we also
      agree with Motavalli's fundamental points: Uninformed potential
      buyers want plug-ins with an up-front price cheaper than their
      gas-guzzlers. In other words, they want to eat their cake and have it
      too (the right version of that adage). This isn't surprising in a
      nation where so many worship "truthiness," paying more attention to
      wishes and myths than to science and facts.

      The Consumer Federation of America has jumped on J.D. Power's
      conclusion in its 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study
      http://www.jdpower.com/news/pressRelease.aspx?ID=2011039 that
      consumer interest and sales of new plug-in vehicles will be low for
      the next five years. Without even challenging the company's
      methodology in surveying 4,000 potential buyers as well as gathering
      info from other sources, the 300-group coalition says it draws
      entirely different conclusions from the numbers.
      . (Alas, neither CFA nor JDP, however, connected the dots to show no
      matter what happens with new cars ales, plug-ins won't be a
      meaningful percentage of ALL cars within even 15 years unless we also
      convert millions of existing vehicles.)

      ON WHETHER WE'LL GET A MILLION PLUG-INS BY 2015: The US Department of
      Energy's latest projections say 1.2 million
      And another take, from John Voelker (IEEE and Green Car Reports):

      we've proposed in the past, we have a concept for a new company that
      would analyze and deliver market intelligence and new ideas from
      current and future plug-in drivers. A side benefit would be better
      ways to combat misinformation. If you are (or know) an entrepreneur
      with time and resources to work on this, look back at the earlier
      (non-profit) concept http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1116.html
      and send us a serious email with the subject line "Drivers-To-Drivers."

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      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
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