Car Owners in the Driver's Seat
- From: <fransy@...>
Subject: Auto Plig-Ins?
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 19:55:34 +0200
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If any of you have seen a Prius or other hybrid, you probably asked
yourself "what was the manufacture thinking by putting flashlight batteries
and lots of them in these cars instead of much more efficient and fewer new
grade batteries AND why is there not a 120 or 240 outside plug and charger?"
A real small efficient diesel could almost run all the time to provide the
charge. Some are looking at installing nu-gen solar panels on the roof
for added charging.
All the inventors know that the car companies were stifieled into the
hybrids and were on a short leash.
Car Owners in the Driver's Seat
By Felix Kramer
Thursday 25 August 2005
Hybrid car enthusiasts have stoked their passion through online discussion
communities. Those groups are now shaping the future of the automobile.
The hybrid wave that's taken car makers by surprise continues to
astound the world with its vitality and its unexpected turns. Clearly, a
growing number of Americans want cleaner, better cars.
"Outsiders" have long wanted a say about the kinds of cars produced in
this country. But the industry's insiders - car makers, the oil industry
and the federal government - are still firmly planted behind the wheel. But
some outsiders have had at least limited success, not the least of whom are
MacCready, <http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid386.php>Amory Lovins and
McDonough. (These links are to their auto-related activities; all these
visionaries also have excellent profiles <http://www.wikipedia.org/>at
We may be in the midst of what scientists call a
equilibrium" as the auto industry rapidly evolves. And catalyzing it are
groups of outsiders, spearheaded by the legions of individual car buyers
who've snapped up gas-electric hybrids in recent years and led to
lists for the Toyota Prius. Some very recent developments in Toyotaland
* Four self-described "middle-aged hybrid drivers" staged a two-day
LeMans-style race to see how far they could drive a Prius on a tank of
gasoline. Using "pulse and glide" techniques (as described at
HybridCars.com <http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/kip>by Kip Munro), they got
110MPG. After an initial silence, Toyota found the good sense to applaud
the group and send them goodies.
* Toyota representatives asked by journalists about their reactions to
Prius conversions began to sound increasingly open-minded. The pressure
increased when they got criticism about the MPG of Lexus and Highlander
hybrids. (See the
* RAV4 EV owners and other electric vehicle advocates organized
<http://www.dontcrush.com/>DontCrush.com, rallied and worked for months to
gain support from public officials. Their campaign succeeded: Toyota agreed
to extend leases and allow lease buyouts for these cherished electric
* Attention to plug-in hybrids ratcheted up significantly as advocacy
streams for environment, energy security and economic development met at an
intersection called "record-high oil prices."
These breakthroughs wouldn't have happened if we weren't all so
"plugged in." As interactive media have claimed turf alongside the top-down
print and broadcast outlets that bloggers call "MSM" - the Mainstream Media
- car culture has morphed.
Think back to the old pre-electronic media days. Car drivers who
needed to get information, make buying decisions or vent their gripes, went
to dealers. If they didn't get satisfaction, they contacted the company, or
wrote letters to local editors.
Along came email, then complex car websites. Now half of all car
buyers start their shopping online. And sites like HybridCars.com blend
information, blogs and a user-community. Tens of thousands of hybrid car
owners frequent online water coolers like
<http://hybridcars.com/>HybridCars.com. Through these new channels, they've
transferred their loyalty from car makers and dealers to fellow drivers,
wherever they find them. They connect online to compare what they like and
don't like - and describe their feature/performance wish lists.
Ironically, their conversations get magnified as the new alternative
channels now shape the institutions they were trying to supplant.
First, we know car companies and auto analysts monitor online
communities - and why not? The companies harvest immediate feedback and
cumulative market research. While not statistically valid, it's free - and
of incalculable value.
Second, the MSM watch the Internet closely, and their broadcast
megaphones amplify the stories that bubble up. In the political realm, we
saw blogs' extensive impact on the '04 Presidential campaign. In the
automotive world, journalists now routinely mine the blogs and the groups
for the latest trends.
PRIUS+ conversions incubated in these communities, among hybrid fans
who got excited about the Prius, discovered the EV button, and came
together in an open-source style
<http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/priusplus>Conversion Discussion Group.
Expertise and volunteer reinforcements arrived from the online communities
of <http://www.madkatz.com/ev/evlist.html>electric vehicle owners and
Now CalCars is exploring the real possibility we can harness all this
interest and momentum to incentivize an automaker to build
<http://www.calcars.org/vehicles.html>PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric
Vehicles). Like a concept car going into production, we're poised to expand
our range and capabilities. I expect others will come up with surprising
Our combined communities have enormous potential power. We haven't yet
seen what they're capable of. So online hybrid fans, buckle up for a wild
adventure. As Bette Davis said in 1950's All About Eve, "Fasten your
seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization,
it expects what never was and never will be."
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