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Details on CalCars' Prius+/Escape Conversion Project

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  • Felix Kramer
    Late last year, we announced we had received a $205,000 contribution to expand our conversion projects, responding to the large unmet need for demonstration
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2007
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      Late last year, we announced we had received a $205,000 contribution
      to expand our conversion projects, responding to the large unmet need
      for demonstration PHEVs. This was designed as a matching program, so
      we could maximize the impact of our conversion efforts by also
      scaling up complementary advocacy efforts. We are continuing to raise
      those funds. Fortunately, we get to apply the full amount of the
      contribution to our conversion program and aspects of our current
      operation that support it.

      Here are more details of our plans.

      WHAT WILL WE DO?
      We have begun a CalCars.org project to design and convert two Priuses
      and two Ford Escape hybrids with lithium-ion batteries. Following
      Phase 1 reference designs, in Phase 2 we will work with existing
      integrators or even a new company to enable volume delivery of
      conversions as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the non-profit
      CalCars.org will continue its advocacy and partnership projects.
      (Technology Lead Ron Gremban will spend most of his time on the new
      project; I expect to be involved in both.)

      We now have funding to create four prototypes, setting the stage for
      volume production. In Phases 1 and 2, we will have many challenges as
      we develop:
      * technical solutions to integrate the batteries into the car's hybrid systems;
      * refinements that enable conversions to be produced efficiently in volume;
      * user-friendly interfaces and controls that show the technology to
      best advantage;
      * pricing, warranties, service and support that will give customers
      what they need;
      * fast-track development, efficient installation and rapid delivery
      of conversions.

      WHAT BATTERIES WILL WE USE?
      Our first PRIUS+ conversion in 2004 and two more conversions in 2006
      used B&B Battery lead-acid batteries from ElectricRider. In our work
      to enable "do-it-yourself" conversions, we're still using the most
      affordable lead-acid solutions. In early 2006 we worked to install
      Electro Energy Inc. bi-polar nickel-metal hydride batteries in a
      Prius. We are comparing notes with lithium-ion battery-maker
      Electrovaya on its Escape project for New York State, and we talk
      frequently with many battery makers

      For our new program for prototypes and large volume conversions,
      we've picked batteries from Valence Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: VLNC)
      <http://www.valence.com/>. Valence makes the advanced, safe,
      lithium-ion phosphate batteries used in Segways. A dozen Priuses
      converted by EnergyCS, including the one I drive daily, are now on
      the road with Valence batteries.

      HOW WILL THIS EFFORT BRING MORE PHEVS TO MARKET?
      The Phase 2 effort will differ in three ways from the existing
      after-market conversion efforts. (See
      <http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html> for information on EnergyCS,
      EDrive, Hymotion, Hybrids-Plus and EAA-PHEV.):

      1. WE EXPECT TO SPEED THINGS UP. To be frank, we still have no good
      answer when we're asked all the time, "How can I get a PHEV?" Several
      companies and one open-source project have produced excellent
      prototypes since May 2005 and have since shipped a small number of
      cars (see <http://www.calcars.org/where-phevs-are.html>). Yet many
      people want a PHEV (the world's cleanest, extended-range, 100+MG
      car) like they've wanted no other car. The slow pace of deliveries
      (for many reasons) has frustrated hundreds of fleet buyers from
      cities, utilities and other companies -- and uncounted individual
      early adopters.
      2. WE MIGHT SECURE COOPERATION FROM AN AUTO-MAKER, though that
      remains a long shot.
      3. WE WILL REFLECT CALCARS' ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT. The
      start-up/venture environment that have always characterized
      CalCars.org will now be harnessed to a production goal. And as we
      continue working cooperatively with the conversion companies, we
      expect to complement their efforts.

      HOW DOES THIS PROJECT RELATE TO OPEN-SOURCE APPROACHES?
      The "conversion community" is unusually cooperative. Our PRIUS+ was
      born out of the efforts of a pioneering group of advocates and
      engineers. We organized ourselves into the PRIUSPlus Discussion
      Group. Later we helped found the Electric Auto Association-PHEV
      group. Recently, NYSERDA awarded initial single-car contracts for an
      eventual $10M program to convert hundreds of state fleet vehicles. To
      help compress into weeks a process that could otherwise take too
      long, CalCars and one or more contract winners post information about
      aspects of the Ford Escape Hybrid at the "open-source"-style
      <http://www.eaa-phev.org/wiki/Escape_PHEV_TechInfo>. We continue to
      juggle our responsibilities to ensure the success of our projects,
      the goals of EAA-PHEV, and the strategy of encouraging conversions to
      create enthusiasm and support to motivate car-makers to build PHEVs.

      WHO CONTRIBUTED THE FUNDS?
      The contribution comes from Carl Berg, a long-time Silicon Valley
      investor and SF Bay Area commercial real estate developer. Berg is a
      Director and major shareholder of Valence Technology. CalCars.org in
      Phase 1 and the successor entity for the Phase 2 project will become
      customers for Valence's batteries. Of course, Carl Berg hopes that
      getting many cars out on the road will help Valence!

      HOW DOES THIS TIE IN TO BATTERY ACCEPTANCE?
      We're actively exploring ways to remove the battery's lifetime as a
      risk factor from the equation for manufacturers and buyers, to
      accelerate PHEV commercialization. We're proceeding on several tracks
      involving government requirements and third-party warranty concepts.
      We believe we can develop terms acceptable to the pioneering fleet
      buyers and early adopters who will get early cars from both
      converters and car-makers. We intend to use this program as a proving
      ground for these efforts.

      WHAT'S NEXT?
      As we move forward, CalCars will announce further plans and what we
      need in resources, facilities and people. Stay tuned!

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      CalCars-PHEV Newsletter
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      Photos of PHEVs/Well-Known People
      http://www.calcars.org/photos-people.html
      PO Box 61045 Palo Alt----A 94306
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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