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Malcolm Bricklin on His PHEV Plans: Business Week Interview

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  • Felix Kramer
    A month ago Visionary Vehicles announced its intention to partner with the plug-in hybrid community and CalCars as it works to bring Chinese-made PHEVs to
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 13 8:45 PM
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      A month ago Visionary Vehicles announced its
      intention to partner with the plug-in hybrid
      community and CalCars as it works to bring
      Chinese-made PHEVs to market -- see
      <http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/711.html>.
      In an interview with Bradley Berman, editor of
      HybridCars.com, Founder Malcolm Bricklin continues to explain his intentions

      Bricklin is Back -- With a Plug-In
      Legendary automotive maverick Malcolm Bricklin is
      planning a luxury plug-in that gets 100 mpg with
      a Chinese-built lithium ion battery
      Business Week Autos April 12, 2007
      http://www.businessweek.com/autos/content/apr2007/bw20070412_025552.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_autos

      Thirty years ago Malcolm Bricklin founded an
      automobile-manufacturing enterprise that produced
      nearly 3,000 units of a gull-winged sports car
      called the Bricklin SV-1. The company quickly
      racked up more than $20 million in debt, folded,
      and receded into the annals of auto history.
      Bricklin is now more widely known for bringing
      the Subaru and Yugo brands to America.

      The attempt to build an original car from the
      ground up is a once-in-a-lifetime, audacious act.
      Trying it twice? Most consider it lunacy. Yet
      that's what Bricklin, at age 68, is aiming to do.
      "I'll be the only human being in history that
      tried it twice," Bricklin told me. "Preston
      Tucker never tried it again. John DeLorean died
      before he could try it again. I'm the only one
      alive, and I'm going to do it again."

      Now, the indefatigable auto entrepreneur has
      taken his ambitions to a new level with his
      latest goal of single-handedly creating a
      mass-market, plug-in, hybrid car industry,
      including: creating his own high-volume, 100 mpg,
      luxury vehicle; building a new, dedicated,
      component factory in China to produce lithium
      phosphate batteries and electronic parts for his
      car and for other fledgling electric car makers;
      organizing a chain of exclusive dealerships
      placing advanced bulk orders; and engineering a
      wireless network allowing service technicians to
      monitor the performance of a vehicle from a distance.

      I spoke with Bricklin in the New York City office
      of his company, Visionary Vehicles.

      Where does China fit into the future of the car
      business, both in terms of manufacturing and as a burgeoning market?

      China will be the biggest home market for cars in
      the world. They're building the roads. They're
      building the factories. They have the people. To
      not kill the whole population, they have to
      dramatically move into clean [car technology].
      Not just environmentally clean, but really good
      mileage. We're not talking going from about 26 to
      28 mpg. I'm talking about 75 mpg.

      The only thing that's been keeping electric cars
      and electric hybrids from happening is the need
      for the next-generation in technology, the
      lithium battery. Engineers needed to get rid of
      the "boom" partÂ…where the battery goes "boom"
      every once in a while. The engineers put
      phosphate and a couple of other things, and the
      "boom" is gone. But the price is too high. You
      want to put batteries in the car that are
      sufficient [for plug-in hybrids], it's $30,000 to
      $40,000. But if you go to China, and order the
      quantity we're about to order, the price drops to about $6,000.

      By the way, we're doing something else that seems
      counterintuitive. We're going to invest in the
      factories necessary to bring the prices down so
      our components' costs are in line with
      conventional cars. The [electric and hybrid]
      industry needs to be started. It needs a good
      foundation. And if I have the [electric]
      components at a good price, a lot of people can
      get into the vehicle business now. It will be
      almost like it was in the beginning of the 20th century.

      You're talking about being a manufacturer, parts
      supplier, distributor, marketerÂ…

      I'm going to build a factory that will build a
      quarter of a million car battery components.
      Let's say I'm going to use 150,000 of them. Say
      Tesla and Phoenix and all these people who are
      going to be in the electric car business, and who
      are trying to do it all by themselves, cannot
      bring the costs of the components down. I want
      those guys to succeed. They are not, in any way,
      competition, as far as I'm concerned.

      The [electric and hybrid] industry needs to be
      started. It needs a good foundation. And if I
      have the [electric] components at a good price, a
      lot of people can get into the vehicle business
      now. It will be almost like it was in the beginning of the 20th century.

      You've said that you plan to manufacture
      Chinese-made, plug-in hybrids, and bring them to the U.S. by 2009.

      The end of 2009.

      What are the greatest challenges in making that happen?

      Just about everything known to man. Where would
      you like to start? That we do the engineering
      right. That we test it sufficiently. That the
      battery factory capacity doesn't produce flaws.
      That we find ways to check all the components of
      the electric system to make damn sure everything
      goes in perfectly. That the Chinese pay attention
      and give us the kind of quality we demand. That I
      don't die too soon. That the ships with the cars don't sink in the sea.

      It seems that you're blending two marketing
      ideas. You're going after a luxury product, but
      one that has great fuel efficiency. What gives
      you the indication that luxury buyers care about fuel efficiency?

      I don't care if they do. I'm building a car that
      when you see it, and when you sit in it, and when
      you drive it, you would pick our car over a
      comparable car assuming that it didn't have any
      environmental or mileage gains. Those are just a
      plus. I'm not trying to sell you a car because
      it's environmentally good. I'm trying to sell you
      a car that's so damn good that there's not a
      reason you're buying it except that it's so damn
      gorgeous, and you want to have it. And it's such a good value.

      It's taken seven years for hybrids to reach 2% of
      the new-car market. Are you concerned about the
      market adopting something that's so new?

      First of all, there were only a limited number of
      hybrids available. Number two, they aren't very
      dramatic. To go from 25 to 32 mph, who gives a
      damn? The Toyota (TM) Prius, which was a cool idea, is a lousy looking car.

      We're not asking anybody to make a sacrifice or
      pay more. And I believe when people see our
      vehicle and drive our vehicle, and with the
      warranty that we're going to put on it, I think
      our problem will be that we can't build them fast enough.

      Are you saying that all the vehicles you produce
      are going to be plug-in hybrids?

      Yep. That's what I'm going to do.

      What's your vision for transportation in the year
      2030? How do you see it playing out?

      I would tell you what I'd like. Except that I
      can't find any technology that will do it. I've
      always wanted to build an air car that goes 18
      inches off the ground, so we get rid of roads on
      top of everything else. Tires and frames and all
      the other crap. The only problem is that I can't
      find anything that will push it off the ground
      that doesn't create all sorts of noise, not to
      mention serious wind and stability problems.

      In the meantime, I think the electric hybrid is
      going to be the next serious replacement of the combustion engine.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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