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Plug-ins Starting to Arrive; More Thoughts on PHEVs & EVs; Congress & Incentives

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  • Felix Kramer
    In the midst of very daunting times, this is an increasingly exciting time in the plug-in world. Here s news about the events surrounding the first
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2010
      In the midst of very daunting times, this is an
      increasingly exciting time in the plug-in world.
      Here's news about the events surrounding the
      first mass-produced plug-in vehicle going to a
      consumer; steps you can take to encourage the
      extension of important incentives for plug-ins;
      our own Ron Gremban's thoughts on the relative
      positions of the Volt/LEAF, and PHEVs/EVs, and a
      Wall Street Journal report that makes the
      business case for plug-in trucks (very helpful for conversions).

      (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.)

      DELIVERY: If you're in Northern California, come
      to North Bay Nissan, 1250 Auto Center Drive in
      Petaluma this Saturday, November 11 at 11:45 AM,
      and join the caravan that will make its way to
      San Francisco -- or just be at SF City Hall at
      1:30 for a press conference and celebration with
      Nissan and Bay Area city officials. Meet Ron
      Coury, who aims to be the top LEAF seller. (The
      story of how the first owner got a LEAF and why is itself an interesting tale.)

      Plug-in fever is rising. This event has been
      broadly promoted by EV advocates, Nissan, and
      area government agencies. (Ron and Felix both
      have LEAFs on order from North Bay, and we'll be
      there.) Today's San Jose Mercury News features a
      page one story, "Workplace charging stations for
      electric vehicles are the latest Silicon Valley
      perk" http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_16809939

      controversial as the tax proposal is, advocate
      have lost no time in encouraging their supporters
      to make sure green measures aren't left out. The
      first is the expiration of federal credits for
      installation of home and business charging
      systems. These systems are just now arriving
      (Felix's, for a LEAF and a Volt was installed on
      Monday), but the credits could away at the end of
      the month before many of them are in. Here's Plug In America's pitch:

      Last year the US Government approved tax credits
      for EV charging infrastructure of 50% up to
      $2,000 for individuals and $50,000 for
      businesses. Unfortunately this tax credit expires
      12/31/2010. Just as plug-in cars are about to get
      on the road is absolutely the wrong time to end
      this tax credit. Plug In America is working with
      members of Congress to get this tax credit
      extended. But now we hear that the infrastructure
      tax credit extension may be scaled back or
      eliminated from the 2010 tax extenders bill. We
      need your help -- please take just a moment to
      click through the link below and show Washington
      just how serious you are about getting affordable
      plug-in infrastructure at our homes and
      businesses: http://www.pluginamerica.org/evtaxcredit

      Center for American Progress is drawing attention
      to "two relatively small clean energy tax
      provisions that have created tens of thousands of
      jobs and will improve U.S. economic
      competitiveness while reducing pollution. As of
      this writing, the deal does not include extension
      of two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
      programs that expire at the end of 2010 and have
      helped build a bigger domestic clean tech
      industry: the “Treasury Grant Program” (Sec. 1603
      of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act)
      and the Advanced Energy Manufacturing tax credit
      (section 48C of the tax code).
      http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/12/clean_tech_hole.html .

      The Clean Economy Network
      (http://www.cleaneconomynetwork.org ) especially
      encourages people who have a related business
      interest to call 202.224.3121 and ask to be
      connected to their Senator; tell them their
      views. And send CEN info on any companies that
      could be affected. The NY Times has weighed in
      with an editorial in support at
      , while affirming their support for an end to
      more costly and counterproductive corn ethanol subsidies.

      EVs/PHEVs, LEAF/VOLT: Useful insights from our
      Technology Lead (plus a link to his work on
      plug-in planes) at

      [QUOTING]: In my mind the big problem has not
      been the EV1 but the Prius and other parallel
      hybrids. They've just been a distraction which
      haven't solved anything but have given the car
      companies an excuse not to proceed with real EVs. [RON REPLIES]:

      I beg to differ. The Prius was not a mere
      distraction. In fact, its wild success made the
      LEAF, the Volt, and the whole host of emerging
      plug-in cars possible. It showed that the
      inclusion of a strong electric propulsion system
      in a car could provide huge enough advantages as
      to outweigh the (much lower than all other auto
      manufacturers presumed necessary) added costs to
      help the car sell like hotcakes.

      Additionally, it provided the mass-produced
      platform for the first plug-in conversions
      (starting with my car, in 2004), which, with
      little more than a larger battery, could be
      propelled by not only gasoline but also electric
      energy from the grid. It was both this and the
      advent of the Tesla Roadster that inspired the
      Volt and helped give both GM and Nissan the
      courage to move forward with their plug-in vehicle programs.

      I am disappointed that both GM and Nissan appear
      to see their plug-in offerings as in competition
      with each other. Instead, I see them as occupying
      different niches that both help legitimize the
      whole EV territory. The truth is that affordable,
      completely general-purpose BEVs are at least
      another product cycle away. In the meantime we
      need both PHEVs (including EREVs) and commuter
      BEVs to build high-volume cost reductions, public
      awareness, infrastructure, market penetration,
      and a first down-payment on major oil and GHG reductions.

      I am absolutely thrilled with Carlos Ghosn's huge
      commitment to BEVs, even larger than the clearly
      successful commitment that Toyota made to hybrid
      technology over a decade ago. Ghosn's commitment
      (along with the federal government"s tax credits)
      -- and the LEAF as a worthy embodiment -- is
      making practical, affordable BEVs available at
      least 5 years sooner than I would have believed possible.

      On the other hand, the Volt, which GM has also
      made a huge commitment to, though after going
      through bankruptcy it doesn't have the funds to
      subsidize early production costs, serves a
      different segment of the people who might drive a
      general-purpose BEV if it were available. And to
      paraphrase one of many auto reviewers, "Volt
      customers may well learn that range anxiety is
      not the big bogeyman they thought it was, and buy a pure EV next time."

      My Volt was built early last month, and I can't
      wait for it to arrive in the next week or two.
      Though I ordered within an hour of receiving the
      enabling email, the LEAF I have on order is a
      month or two behind it. Each has its exceptional
      qualities as well as its limitations. Both are
      thrilling, endearing, groundbreaking vehicles
      that should finally truly begin the
      transformation of the automotive world that I
      began promoting with teammates on the Caltech-MIT
      "Great Transcontinental Electric Car Race" of 1968.

      P.S. I am now also a member of the Green Flight
      Project team, designing a production electric
      propulsion system for the Cessna 172, the world's
      most successful light airplane. See
      http://www.byeenergy.com/pages/green-flight-main.html .

      CONVERSIONS: An article, "As Electric Vehicles
      Arrive, Firms See Payback in Trucks" by Mike
      Ramsay, says "electric vehicles already are
      gaining early traction in another realm:
      commercial delivery fleet. The article includes case studies, including:

      Staples said the annual maintenance cost of a
      diesel delivery truck is about $2,700 in most
      years, including oil, transmission fluid, filters
      and belts. For an electric truck--which has no
      transmission and needs no fluids, filters or
      belts—the cost is about $250. One big savings
      comes in brakes. Because electric trucks use
      "regenerative" braking, which returns some of the
      force of stopping to the batteries in the form of
      electricity, the brakes don't wear out as fast.
      That means the brakes last four or five years,
      not one or two, before they need a $1,100 repair.
      Electric trucks also don't need the urea
      exhaust-cleaning system of diesels, which costs
      about $700 a year to maintain. And electric
      motors are far less complex than diesel engines,
      last much longer and the training required to
      work on them is minimal, Mr. Payette said. On top
      of this, Staples says it will save each year
      roughly $6,500 in fuel costs per electric vehicle
      over a diesel model. Each of Staples's electric
      delivery trucks will run a daily route of under
      70 miles and then come back to be recharged at
      night….Add it all up [including fuel savings and
      higher initial costs] and Staples expects to save
      nearly $60,000 over the 10-year life of an electric truck over a diesel model.

      Interestingly, the article also points to a major
      issue for fleets, and one that will apply even
      more to companies building businesses
      retrofitting existing vehicles: "One impediment
      to wider adoption of electric trucks: f'w finance
      companies offer leases on them. That's because
      finance companies are unsure about how to value
      the lease 'residual," a truck's worth after a few
      years of use. Many large companies, including
      Staples, prefer to lease trucks to avoid the
      large capital requirements of an outright

      HERTZ JUMPS IN TO PLUG-IN CARS: Hertz Connect,
      the urban and college rental service, is adding
      EVs and PHEVs to its fleet.
      https://www.hertzev.com/ is beginning in New
      York. See a report at
      One of the moving forces behind this effort has
      been entrepreneur Jack Hidary, who founded
      SmartTransportation.org and helped get NYC to
      hybridize its taxi fleet. Hertz has already
      established a Global EV Initiative, and is now
      joining Zipcar in adding plug-ins to its short-term rental program.

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