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Conversions: Endorse CalCars' Campaign; Companies Get Orders; SEMA's role; Black Carbon
Oct 17, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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First of three catch-up postings: CalCars' one-page presentation of the case for gas-guzzler conversions and a request for endorsements; a supportive analysis of the retrofit opportunity; first orders for conversions from REV and Bright; SEMA and the aftermarket industry on retrofits; the little-recognized opportunity to reduce "black carbon" and address climate change; hybrid conversions get cheaper.

CALCARS ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN DOCUMENT: Following two trips to Washington and discussions with potential supporters at several conferences, we've produced a working copy of a one-page explanation of the gas-guzzler campaign, followed by an endorsement form. We're now seeking public supporters: we will shortly announce the first signers and endorsers. See the document at­calcars-bigfix-endorse.pdf -- and here's what we'd like you (if you're a high-profile individual or active advocate or your company/organization) to endorse:

"We agree that in large volume, converting internal combustion vehicles to safe, affordable, validated and warranted plug-ins can provide benefits in energy security, greenhouse gas reduction, employment, and the overall economy. We support research and demonstration projects aimed at proving the technical feasibility and business case for this solution. We support the creation of local, national, and international coalitions, campaigns and other efforts to incentivize and achieve these goals."

MATTER NETWORK WEIGHS IN ON GAS-GUZZLER CONVERSIONS: MN's editor-in-chief John Gartner, who is also an analyst for Pike Research, says CalCars is "clearly onto something" in raising this goal. He continues, "But the harder sell will be convincing the auto industry that keeping vehicles on the road instead of buying new vehicles is a good thing, and that they should be a part of that business. Upgrading existing SPVs [SUVs, pickups and vans] could be a multi-billion dollar business, extending the life of vehicles and preserving the energy cost sunk into building them. While Ford, GM and Chrysler are best-suited to engineer conversions, this mass rethinking of the company would be an even bigger shift than the current change to becoming manufacturers of PHEVs and EVs."­2009/­9/­why-stop-at-converting-hybrids.cfm

RAPID ELECTRIC VEHICLES: FIRST SALE AND RALLYING CALL. Vancouver-based REV has announced that the City of Inglewood, CA will be its conversion partner for city fleet vehicles­index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8183&Itemid=50 . And REV made its first sale to the city of Santa Monica­rev-names-city-of-santa-monica-r1530487.htm . REV describes the capabilities of its retrofit Ford Escape: "The REV 300 ACX travels 100 miles on a single charge while maintaining the performance capabilities of the original vehicle. The REV electric fleet vehicle is efficient with regenerative braking, eGear drive transmission, and less than 10 moving parts. The vehicles are safe with built-in inertia switches, a manual safety disconnect, 4-wheel ABS brakes, and full system airbags. They are also reliable with 1/10th the maintenance, Vehicle to Grid ready, recharge in as little as 3.5 hours, and have built-in fleet information systems." Meanwhile, REV's Founder and President has written an energetic guest contribution at called "Transforming Gas Guzzling Fleets: The Time is Now,"­2009/­10/­09/­transforming-gas-guzzling-fleets-the-time-is-now/

BRIGHT AUTOMOTIVE GETS ORDER FOR PROTOTYPE TRANSPORTER CONVERSION. We've written about this Rocky Mountain Institute spinoff and its plans to do a retrofit while it develops its fully-optimized lightweight delivery vehicle. Now we see that the U.S. Dept. of Defense will order the first conversion,­plug-in-hybrids/­delivery-vans-plug-in/ , This is good news; unlike the US Postal Service, the military has funds for such programs; it's now focusing on reducing petroleum use -- and military bases teem with people- and cargo-movers of all sizes.

Next week at the Detroit conference, "The Business of Plugging In" (see­events.html ) we'll be on a panel with John Waraniak, Vice President of Vehicle Technology. We've been spending some time looking at the Specialty Equipment Market Association; few recognize its potential role in helping to develop and promote a gas-guzzler conversion industry. SEMA, founded in 1983, has 7,358 member companies and represents a $38B industry. Many of our readers may know SEMA because of its role in clarifying how the Magnuson-Moss Act provides that modifications to a vehicle potentially affect the warranty only for the affected components, not of the whole vehicle, and the burden of proof is not on the car owner. (Looking at SEMA pages like­main/­main.aspx?id=60128 provided critical reassurance for drivers and for dealers in the early days of Prius conversions.)

SEMA's new broad approach is seen in Waraniak's interview, "Don't Waste This Crisis" (no longer public at SEMA but viewable at­search?­sema-news/­2009/­04/­don%92t-waste-crisis ). At the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas November 3-6, Waraniak will moderate three "Vehicle Technology Briefing SuperSessions" -- Driving Green, Driving Connected, and Driving Safe (and a related theme, Driving Cool)­main/­main.aspx?id=70137#Technology-Briefing-SuperSessions . All four goals tie directly in to the opportunities we're now highlighting. We hope to bring you more information in the near future.

BLACK CARBON: NEW INCENTIVE FOR CONVERSIONS: The buzz is building about a long-overlooked contributor to climate change -- "black carbon" contributes about 18% of the earth's warming, second in impact only to CO2's 40%. Black carbon is soot -- particulate emissions mostly from diesel engines, coal plants and simple cook stoves used around the world. It travels thousands of miles and then settles on snow or the ground, increasing heat absorption. It's called a "low-hanging fruit" for addressing climate change because its effects last only for weeks or months, so reducing it can have an immediate impact at relatively low cost. What's the connection to our "Big Fix" campaign? The auto dealer or the independent installer who goes into business to focus on EV and PHEV conversions can also install relatively low-cost particulate filters on all diesel vehicles (along with low-cost add-ons like real-time MPG indicators). For more see "The Other Climate Changers : Why Black Carbon and Ozone Also Matter," by scientists Jessica Seddon Wallack and Veerabhadran Ramanathan in the influential magazine, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2009 (buy article at­articles/­65238/­jessica-seddon-wallack-and-veerabhadran-ramanathan/­the-other-climate-changers ) as well as discussion of the problem and Congressional proposals at­2009/­05/­01/­libertyandclimate1/­2009/­08/­black-carbon-20090821.html­2009/­04/­22/­senate-foes-agree-on-dangerous-pollutant/­2009/­04/­16/­science/­earth/­16degrees.html .

LOWER COST HYBRID CONVERSIONS 3Prong Power in Berkeley is selling hybrid conversions at new lower prices. Using the battery pack from Enginer, the company we described in our Sept. 1 post; the system costs $3,500-$4,500 depending on battery size, and versions are available for all Priuses starting with 2001 model year as well as Ford Escape Hybrids. We've added information (and generally updated our popular "How to Get a PHEV" page­howtoget.html.

the always-useful site pulls out some of its stories focusing on retrofits at­conversions/ (in addition to its section on plug-ins at­plugins/ ).

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