Nov 12, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Below read about: The Cleantech Open Award has gone national and will announce its 2009 awards in San Francisco this Tuesday--attend at a discount. A new controversy grows about federal manufacturer credits for plug-ins. President Obama continues to highlight PHEVs role and has signed a somewhat improved Executive Order for fleets to purchase plug-ins. X Prize contestants are mostly electric. Boulder Colorado moves ahead on the smart grid; Inc magazine plays plug-ins big, and the Freakanomics authors get taken down in the New Yorker.
"ACADEMY AWARDS OF CLEAN TECHNOLOGY" TUESDAY IN SAN FRANCISCO: At the spectacular Cleantech Open 2009 Awards Gala & Expo (since last year the former California Cleantech Open has added regional and national programs), see the next green companies and inventions, including multiple automotive solutions. Held at the Masonic Center, Expo starts in morning, pitches/demonstrations and Peoples' Choice voting in afternoon, Awards Gala & $250K Prize in late afternoon, reception in evening. Register now at http://www.cleantechopen.com/app.cgi/events/view/84 . Use the promotion code "CalCarsGala" for a 40% discount off the regular price of $129.
US PROPOSES 2:1 CREDITS FOR PLUG-INS: The Obama Administration is sending out trial balloons about a plan to give automakers CAFE credits that would count plug-in cars in multiples when calculating requirements that carmakers meet the 35.5 MPG fleet average by 2016. fleet fuel efficiencies. The Wall Street Journal explained it at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB30001424052748703294004574513421680060530.html and see other comments at http://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/debate-begins-cafe-credits-evs-26216.html and http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/11/white-house-proposes-2-for-1-cafe-credits-for-zero-emissions-vehicles.html . The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing international and U.S. carmakers supports the idea. But with recent memories of the bogus credits given to "flex-fuel" vehicles for which there was no fuel, there's some hesitation among legislators and advocates.
MANEUVERING AND POSITIONING BY THE AUTO INDUSTRY AND OTHERS on credits and sticker MPG ratings indicate how important plug-in cars are getting. We're no longer surprised when a story like this is subject of the weekly column of the Wall Street Journal Detroit Bureau Chief. We simply take note when a story in Business Week starts with a bang: "The electric car is likely to emerge as one of the most transformational products of the current era, as important, perhaps, as the personal computer and the Internet" http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/oct2009/gb20091018_051999.htm . And we nod when Accenture's discussion of the disruptive technologies in transport fuel supply, demand and greenhouse gases for the net 10 years cites three of 12 as "game-changers:" PHEVs, controlled charging and vehicle-to-grid. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/11/accenture12-20091110.html
OBAMA ON PHEVS; On Oct. 27, President Obama announced a $3.4B Recovery Act investment program for the Smart Grid at a solar energy center in Florida. He said, "together, we can begin to see what a clean energy future will look like. We can imagine the day when you'll be able to charge the battery on your plug-in hybrid car at night, because your smart meter reminded you that nighttime electricity is cheapest. In the daytime, when the sun is at its strongest, solar panels like these and electricity stored in car batteries will be able to power the grid with affordable, emission-free energy. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/10/27/smart-grid-creating-jobs-saving-energy-and-cutting-electric-bills Full text at http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/10/27/remarks-by-the-president-on-recovery-act-funding-for-smart-grid-technology/ . (These comments were quoted by NY Times columnist Bob Herbert, in "A Glimpse of the Future" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/opinion/03herbert.html . Herbert joins Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristoff as another fan of PHEVs on the newspaper's Op-Ed page.)
EXECUTIVE ORDER BOOSTS PLUG-INS: On Oct. 5, the President signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance to accelerate Federal agencies' efforts. For the government's 600,00 vehicle fleet, it requires a (relatively modest) 30% reduction in petroleum use by 2020, and for agencies with 20 or more vehicles to reduce petroleum use by 2% annually through 2020. The text at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-24518.pdf includes provisions for agencies to develop "Sustainability Performance Plans" taking into account environmental, economic and social benefits. Previous Executive Orders had focused on cost of lifecycle return on investment (difficult to calculate before PHEVs and EVs are on the market.) In coordination with the General Services Administration, the Energy Department will develop within six months guidance for fleet managers on alternative fuel vehicles and fuels. It's a step forward.
ARPA-E ANNOUNCES FIRST GRANTS: The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy awarded its first $151 million in grants, with $33M for green vehicle projects. See comments by Dr. Andy Frank as well as CalCars' Ron Gremban and Felix Kramer at http://earth2tech.com/2009/10/28/what-the-arpa-e-bets-mean-for-the-future-of-green-cars/
MOST AUTOMOTIVE X PRIZE CONTESTANTS WILL PLUG IN: If you look at the whittled-down list of 43 entrants from 10 countries that have made it past the second judging stage, at http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/teams you'll see that well over half are PHEV or EV flavors. (The Automotive X Prize just got $5.5M in Recovery Act funds to support its evaluation and education activities.)
BOULDER, COLORADO'S SMARTGRIDCITY: The SmartGridCity project now getting started is described as "the first fully functioning smart grid enabled city in the world." It's a joint effort of the a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder's Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), with Xcel Energy and a 150-vehicle demonstration fleet, including 10 Prius PHEVs from Toyota arriving in March 2010. http://smartgridcity.xcelenergy.com/learn/index.asp
PREDICTIONS ABOUT FUTURE BATTERIES: CalCars has generally stayed away from tracking or bringing to readers' attention the latest laboratory breakthrough or promise about new battery technologies. We did find worth noting that Prabhakar Patill, CEO of Compact Power (LG Chem subsidiary supplying battery packs for the Volt), told the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit that battery costs would decline to one half or one quarter of current levels within a decade. http://www.reuters.com/article/Autos09/idUSTRE5A604B20091107
INC MAGAZINE'S COVER STORY ON PLUG-INS: This monthly magazine that focuses on practical business opportunities turns vehicle electrification has one of the longest cover stories yet on the plug-in industry in its November issue. Its message is restated three times. Cover: "The Innovation Machine: The electric car is coming. And it's one big gold mine for savvy entrepreneurs." Table of Contents: The Connected Car: Entrepreneurs, start your (noncombustion) engines. The electric car is coming soon, creating a new auto industry that will produce thousands of new companies." First of the story's 10 pages: "Want to get into the car business? The imminent introduction of electric vehicles will make possible -- in fact, will require -- the creation of a vast ecosystem of entrepreneurial businesses." The cover photo is of three CEOs: Ann Marie Sastry of battery maker Sakti3 (this dynamo also runs the University of Michigan Advanced Materials Systems Lab), Peter Corsell of GridPoint and Richard Lowenthal of Coulomb Technologies. The article includes long sections and photos about the Chevy Volt and interviews with key team members. It's not online but it's summarized at http://gm-volt.com/2009/11/04/chevy-volt-is-the-centerpiece-for-many-rapidly-emerging-industries/ the magazine presents at http://www.inc.com/ss/6-areas-electric-car-ecosystem Inc illustrations from the story: six "areas of opportunity" for the Electric Car Ecosystem, showing the supply chain of products and services involved: parts and suppliers, battery makers and integrators, battery farmers, auto-telecom companies, builders of the smart grid, and connectors.
THE BEST (IF NOT LAST) WORD ON THE FREAKONOMICS CONTROVERSY: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of the popular bestseller, "SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" have been getting waves of criticism for their casual approach to climate change and geoengineering. See a thought-provokingm biting and humorous critique by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker at http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all .
SIDE NOTE: We had to cancel our trip to India; we still have hopes to connect with both Indian and Chinese automakers about promoting acceleration of vehicle electrification in general as well as the opportunities for converting millions of gas-guzzlers to plug in.