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Important Developments on Hybrid and Gas-Guzzler Conversions

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  • Felix Kramer
    At last month s Plug In 2009 conference and since, we ve seen quite a bit of news about conversions. They confirm the case we ve been making: because the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2009
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      At last month's Plug In 2009 conference and since, we've seen quite a
      bit of news about conversions. They confirm the case we've been
      making: because the world can't wait 10-20 more years to begin to
      achieve substantial fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas reductions we
      can't rely solely on new vehicles. To make a difference, given the
      hundreds of millions of vehicles on the road, we have to step up to
      the challenge of finding viable ways to convert large numbers of
      already-built gas guzzlers. Below we start with several significant
      validations of this view; then we describe promising policy and
      government actions that can help us get there and offer a look back
      at cash for clunkers, followed by descriptions of new prototypes and
      new players entering the internal combustion engine business. We
      conclude with big news about increasingly affordable and advanced
      conversions of hybrids to plug-ins, which started the ball rolling
      and will help us get to the next stage.

      (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.)


      IN OUR MAY WHITE PAPER, "Cash for clunkers Paves the Way to Retrofit
      Gas Guzzlers," (http://www.calcars.org/scrap-or-retrofit.html for web
      and 8-page PDF versions) we asked what if "business as usual"
      ended and we ramped rapidly up to a point where 100% of U.S. new
      vehicle sales by 2030 were plug-ins. Under that scenario, oil
      consumption that year would drop only 20% -- because new cars would
      still amount to less than 40% of the entire fleet of vehicles on the
      road. If you recognize the urgency of reducing CO2 and fossil fuel
      use in the next two decades and then consider modest current goals
      that are always described as ambitious and aggressive, you'll see how
      far we have to go. The U.S. goal of one million plug-ins by 2015 will
      by then amount to 0.25% of all vehicles. Canada's goal of a
      half-million by 2018 and Germany's of one million by 2020 will be
      about 2%. As analysts see the gap, we hope they will start to ask the
      logical next question: "Can we can do something to fix many vehicles
      in the existing fleet?"

      OIL INDUSTRY GURU'S PROJECTIONS: In the August 31 Wall Street
      Journal, we find a measured projection of what's likely ten years
      beyond government-set goals. It's from Daniel Yergin, a leading
      global oil expert, working on an updated version of his Pulitzer
      Prize-winning "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power,"
      and chair of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Yergin
      attended one of the 2005 Oil Shockwave simulations
      http://secureenergy.org/shockwave_overview.php that helped put PHEVs
      on the map. Until now, he has been relatively measured on electric
      drive. Now he's come around on plug-in vehicles and recognizes the
      market penetration challenge in "Why Oil Still Has a Future: Demand
      in the developing world trumps new technology"
      "For oil, the focus is on transportation. After all, only 2% of
      America's electricity is generated by oil. Until recently, it
      appeared that the race between the electric car and the
      gasoline-powered car had been decided a century ago, with a decisive
      win by the gasoline-powered car on the basis of cost and performance.
      But the race is clearly on. Yet, whatever the breakthroughs, the
      actual impact on fuel use for the next 20 years will be incremental
      due to the time it takes to get large-scale mass production up and
      running and the massive scale of the global auto industry. My firm,
      IHS CERA, projects that with aggressive sales volumes and no major
      bumps in the road (unusual for new technologies), plug-in hybrids and
      pure electric vehicles could constitute 25% of new car sales by 2030.
      But because of the slow turn-over of the overall fleet, gasoline
      consumption would be reduced only modestly below what it would
      otherwise be. Thereafter, of course, the impact could grow, perhaps
      very substantially."

      this projection, we saw that Yergin's article is a promotion for a
      longer piece in the September/October issue of the prestigious
      Foreign Policy Magazine, whose cover has the theme, "Oil: The Long
      Goodbye" http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issues/174/contents . Yergin's
      lead story there, "It's Still the
      http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/17/its_still_the_one ,
      probably written months before, does not contain the same endorsement
      of plug-in vehicles. However, in that issue, highly worth reading is
      TIME Magazine's Michael Grunwald's "Seven Myths About Alternative
      Energy,: with the summary, "As the world looks around anxiously for
      an alternative to oil, energy sources such as biofuels, solar, and
      nuclear seem like they could be the magic ticket. They're not."
      Grunwald provides a refreshing critiques of many current ideas:
      trying everything (he says, "why not at least agree that governments
      shouldn't pick losers to be winners"); current and future biofuels
      (he cites studies that biomass is better to turn into electricity
      than liquid fuels); nuclear power; (slow-to-build and very
      costly) the need for new "breakthrough" technologies (he says we can
      use what we already have). Grunwald resoundingly endorses starting
      with efficiency, including incentives to utilities for "negawatts;" a
      different path for the developing world; and he says, "In the medium
      term, the world needs plug-in electric cars, the only plausible
      answer to humanity's oil addiction that isn't decades away.")

      piece, distributed at Plug In 2009, has been well received. It was
      originally published at Gas2.org, where it attracted some comments,
      and at AutoBlogGreen
      And Plug In America has released video of the conference's Public
      Session, where panelists Bill Nye the Science Guy, Chris Paine and
      Chelsea Sexton from Who Killed the Electric Car and its sequel,
      called on Felix to explain conversions, which turned into an
      unexpected extended explanation of gas-guzzler conversions. You can
      jup in the 78-minute YouTube streaming video to 57:20-63:30 for Felix
      and Ron Gremban at 68:30.


      THE JAPANESE POSTAL SERVICE has begun a world-first project to
      convert 25% of its 22,000 delivery vehicles to all-electric vehicles.
      Partners include Ener1 for batteries, Think Electric for drivetrain,
      and ZeroSports

      THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE's Office of Inspector General has just issued
      a report, "Electrification of Postal Service Delivery Vehicles,"
      proposing a pilot program that would position it to become a
      "national laboratory for testing of electric vehicles." Its 146,000
      long-life delivery vehicles average 10 MPG. The report estimates it
      could reduce costs per mile from $0.33 to $0.05. It makes the case
      based on its fleet's average 18-mile/day drive cycle (95% are under
      40 miles). However, the Postal Service has no funds available for
      vehicle acquisition; it's hoping to get federal funds to acquire
      several thousand vehicles and offer early testing facilities for
      vehicle-to-grid demonstration projects (potentially gaining revenues
      from V2G)..

      The Postal Service report does not include scenarios involving EV
      conversions for its existing vehicles, but its breakdowns of the age
      of its fleet show how possible this could be. Most were built between
      1988-1994. 70% of these sturdy vehicles (aluminum bodies built by
      Grumman, a GM chassis based on a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck) have at
      least five years of life left. We would expect that once converted,
      their lifetime could extend further than their projected 24 years as
      internal combustion vehicles. We hope any future analyses or
      prototype development projects will take this option into account.

      ONTARIO: In July, we noted the provincial plan for a "1 in 20"
      campaign (1 of 20 cars by 2020 will plug in) including rebates from
      . We've begun a dialogue with Canadian advocates to extend those
      incentives to conversions, and we will be making the case now and in
      our presentation in Montreal at Plug-In 2009 (see
      http://www.calcars.org/events.html ). This level of incentive could
      go far in jump-starting a large conversion industry and in enlisting
      automakers as partners. (By the way, upon hearing that the Chevy Volt
      would be eligible for more than the $7,500 incentive in the U.S.,
      Toyota, left behind with its meager commitment to build a 500-vehicle
      low-range PHEV test fleet worldwide by 2010 complained to the
      provincial government. Toyota Canada Managing Director Stephen Beatty
      said, "We're not entirely convinced that the technology is a winning
      proposition for consumers today"

      CASH FOR CLUNKERS RETROSPECTIVE: As the $3 billion program concluded,
      with 700,000 vehicles scrapped, some analysts including Edmunds CEO
      Jeremy Anwyl see the brief boost to new car sales followed by a
      "hangover" -- a subsequent plunge in sales. We're still hoping any
      future version will include "cash for conversions" as well as for
      scrapping. Meanwhile, in remarks at a "National Clean Energy Summit
      in Las Vegas" held at the same time as Plug In 2009, former President
      Bill Clinton suggested getting "as close to cash for clunkers as you
      can" with a $10,00 credit for electric vehicles, shown in 45 seconds
      at http://thinkprogress.org/2009/08/10/wjc-c4c/ and discussed at
      , A thoughtful posting at the Quotidian Blog,
      talks about PHEVs and "what could have been." A NYTimes evaluation,
      "Clunkers Don't Come Cheap"
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/opinion/31mon4.html , described the
      program as "a spectacularly inefficient way to implement
      environmental policy." In predicting the new vehicles will be driven
      more than the old ones, the editorial comes close to recognizing a
      point we've been making about measuring environmental benefits: the
      new car (often 25-30MPG) should logically be compared to multi-car
      households' former "first car," (often 20-25 MPG) used for everyday
      driving, rather than to the previously rarely-used 15 MPG clunker.
      The Times highlights the program's cost per ton in the hundreds of
      dollars of carbon saved and says the program could have been
      improved, though the best solution would be a gas tax with rebates
      for low-income drivers, or, embracing the near-universal assumption
      that a gas tax is always political suicide, a revenue-neutral
      "feebate" program.


      BRIGHT AUTOMOTIVE PHEV CONVERSION: At Plug In 2009, this Anderson,
      Indiana startup by industry veterans announced its consulting
      services for designs of PHEV and EV conversions of existing
      vehicles. (This spring, the company unveiled the Bright IDEA, a
      reconceptualized commercial delivery van scheduled for large-scale
      production in 2013. We described that vehicle, the company, and its
      origins as a spinoff of the Rocky Mountain Institute in our April 24,
      2009 posting to CalCars-News
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1057.html .) It takes a long time
      to raise money (it's received $20 million from Google, Alcoa and Duke
      Energy and others, and is seeking $450 million in loans from the US
      Department of Energy) and then to bring a new vehicle to market.
      Bright, wanting to deploy its expert team productively, has decided
      to offer a preview of its technology. The "stepping stone to the
      IDEA" in 2010 will be a prototype built on the Volkswagen Transporter
      T-5 platform. This relatively lightweight vehicle, globally popular
      but not sold in the U.S.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Transporter_%28T5%29 , comes
      in cargo, cab-chassis/pickup and passenger versions. The conversion
      program described at
      includes a flyer comparing 15-22 MPG vans available. Specs for the
      Transporter conversion give it a 22 mile all-electric range, and 57
      MPG for a 50-mile daily drive cycle (the optimized IDEA will get 100
      MPG). See coverage and comments at
      and http://www.detnews.com/article/20090820/AUTO03/908200367/1149/ .

      Vancouver, British Columbia company unveiled its 100 mile
      all-electric range 0-100 mile/hour in seven seconds conversion of the
      Ford Escape Hybrid. It partnered with Coulomb Technologies to show
      "Level 2" (240-volt) charging in 3.5 hours. The vehicle then made a
      West Coast tour, stopping at multiple cities to meet with prospective
      customers. (Initial prototypes of the vehicle will sell for over
      $60,000, with the goal of reducing that to $30,000 in volume.) REV,
      also focusing on Ford F-150 and Ranger pickups, says it is making
      rapid progress in "productizing" its prototype so it can be installed
      quickly and easily by mechanics anywhere, and will announce
      relationships with suppliers and U,S. and Canadian industry partners.
      For more about the company and its business model, see a
      broad-ranging roundup story, "Fleets Likely to Spur Clunker, Guzzler
      Conversions to Plug Ins"
      (including quotes from us about the market opportunities) and


      ENGINER http://www.enginer.us sells complete 2kWh and 4kWh lithium
      battery systems for $1,995 and $2,995. This lowest-priced of all
      conversion options can uniquely also be installed in Generation 1
      (pre-2004) Priuses. Enginer has installer partners and offers
      do-it-yourself instructions. The MIchigan-based company is a
      consortium between AutomationTech Inc, USA and Australia-owned
      Enginer Environmentech Ltd., China. AutoBlog Green describes the
      Enginer system
      . See link to photo of 2002 Prius conversion screen converted
      February 2009 at http://www.calcars.org/where-phevs-are and we're
      adding links to this company at our popular "How to Get a PHEV" page
      http://www.calcarsorg/howtoget.html .

      PLUG-IN CONVERSIONS/LUSCIOUS GARAGE: See an eight-minute interview
      with Carolyn Coquillette, whose Luscious Garage is the exclusive San
      Francisco installer for the Prius conversion from Plug-In
      Conversions, using Gold Peak nickel-metal hydride batteries and
      offering all-electric driving at highway speeds. (A PICC system is
      being installed in CalCars' Ron Gremban's car, which has been a
      platform for demonstrating multiple technologies since it became the
      "world's first Prius PHEV" in November 2004.)

      posted drafts for rulemaking about PHEV test procedures and
      aftermarket certification requirements at
      http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/2008/phev09/phev09.htm .Most relevant
      are the Notice of Availability of Modified Text and Attachment 5's
      final language for the criteria approved May 28, which we reported on
      at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1061.html , Conversion
      companies and the public can submit comments for 15 days, until
      September 14, at http://www.arb.ca.gov/lispub/comm/bclist.php .

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