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What We Showed and Said at Plug-In 2010
Aug 5, 2010 (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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This third annual conference drew hundreds of people more than last year; we didn't recognize many of them (a good sign); presentations were chock-full of current information. The show floor was full of vehicles (so welcome). We noted especially that (the Michigan company founded by former Tesla engineers, soon to announce more news) impressed many people, including high-ups in the auto industry, with its chassis showing its conversion of an F-150 pick-up truck to a series plug-in hybrid. You can see many reports on the conference at,,­?p=1242 etc. Below we include info about seeing the presentations, followed by a link to Ron Grembans presentation and the transcript of two short talks by Felix Kramer, both making the case for gas-guzzler conversions.

Impressively, the conference organizers have managed to get all the presentations online in less than a week. But conference policy limits access to those who registered for the event. (In a few weeks, they will announce their plans to make the presentations available for purchase.) Some presenters may make their talks public in other locations (see Ron's below), or an attendee might let you have a peek.

RON GREMBAN'S PRESENTATION AT PLUG-IN 2010: Ron Gremban gave a technical talk on Energy Efficiency Ratios, battery costs and rules, and conversion analyses. You can download the 12 slide PDF of "Cost Projections and a Rule of Thumb for both New Plug-in Vehicles and Conversions" at­calcars-plug-in-cost-analysis-july2010.pdf

FELIX KRAMER'S EIGHT-MINUTE TALK AT PLUG-IN 2010. In addition to moderating the panel on plug-in policy, Felix also spoke there about the rationale, evolution and prospects for CalCars' "Big Fix" campaign. Here's an edited version of that talk:

I'm the founder of the California Cars Initiative, Back in 2004, CalCars did the first conversion of a Prius. The brains behind that effort was Ron Gremban, my technical partner, who's in the front row there. We started wearing T-shirts that said "I get 100+ MPG". That got a big response -- we started talking about the benefits of electricity as [being] "cheaper, cleaner, domestic", electricity compared to gasoline.

And after eight years, we declared victory last fall, because plug-in hybrids will come to market. We understand that there's still a lot of work to do to wrap that up, but we went on to CalCars 2.0, and that's what I want to talk about.

Basically, what we're focusing about 75% of our time on now is on conversions of large gas-guzzler vehicles. It's something many of you in the room probably haven't really heard about or thought about. It's really equivalent to what we were talking about in 2002-2005 or so, where everybody dismissed the idea of the plug-in hybrid -- it's not practical, nobody'll want it, no technical solution, no business model.. But I think gas-guzzler conversions is going to change in the next couple of years, and actually even sooner.

The reason to do it is market-penetration issues. There will be an insignificant impact in terms of petroleum reduction from the new plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles for more than 15 years --even if they come in at a rate 10 times faster than hybrids came into the market. Because we have 250 million vehicles in the United States and 900 million in the world. The second reason is because there's a lot of embedded energy in vehicles. About 15% of the total energy used by a vehicle in its life comes from the energy used to build it.

It's still a struggle. A year or two or three ago, I started trying another t-shirt. It's a black t-shirt, with a picture of a gas pump aimed at a person's head, blowing a person's brains out. People were pretty shocked at it -- it was just too far out to really wear that t-shirt.

But that changed back on April 20th, with the gulf catastrophe. Now people look at that shirt and they say, "You're really right." so the message we're talking about is that -- and this is really our first theme -- we can start getting off oil very quickly if we really want to. We don't simply have to ask just for safer drilling, which is like "clean needles" for an oil dependency. We don't simply have to ask for methodone, which is natural gas, which is only 20% lower CO2 than gasoline. We can actually get half off oil in ten years, if we want to, if we convert existing vehicles.

So, we drafted the second speech we wanted President Obama to give after the oil crisis -- talking about how we could get there. Talking about a "Drive Star" concept, similar to the Home Star program to retrofit buildings, where we actually get these technical solutions for vehicles on the road, show what's possible and develop those business cases.

You can see that speech on our website­calcars-news/­1103.html , and basically, the message we were giving was that we now understand in this country that we need to fix our built environment. We define our built environment as homes, offices, and buildings. We've got Cash for Caulkers, we've got the Home Star program in the new energy bill. People don't understand that vehicles are part of the built environment. That they don't last for five or seven years, that they stay on the road for decades -- especially the biggest vehicles. And those are the vehicles that use the most gas.

We were very happy about that conversion we did -- we made a 50-mpg vehicle into a 100-mpg vehicle. Which means we save one gallon per hundred miles. But if you take a 10-mpg vehicle and make it a 20, you save five gallons per hundred miles. You understand that if you do gallons per mile rather than miles per gallon when you do the math on these.

Basically, the whole message is about large vehicles which stay on the road in the United States and overseas for decades because they're well-built and they're built to last. A UPS truck stays on the road for 300,000 miles with two drivetrain changes during that time. A pick-up truck, an SUV, a van -- Andy Grove spoke about this here two years ago, and talked about fixing "PSVs".

So if we succeed in getting this message out, the plug-in market automatically will become much larger, much sooner. Batters, motors, wheel motors, control systems, smart integration -- all of that can happen much more quickly. And so, for some of you in this audience, there are enormous entrepreneurial opportunities, for serial entrepreneurs, to organize this industry. To find new designs, new manufacturing opportunities, components, vehicle integration, energy service companies, financing models, partnerships with the OEMs... I was talking with an OEM today, who knows that fixing a vehicle that they have already sold doesn't bring in the revenue of a new vehicle -- but if somebody's going to do it, that they ought to be in that business as well, or involved in that business in some way, as should the dealers, so they get a revenue stream from that.

There are also other indirect business opportunities here. A lot of green "pimp my ride" customizations can be done to every vehicle in the country, starting with a realtime mpg indicator on every vehicle in the country. For every diesel vehicle, the low-hanging fruit is carbon filters, because soot is a largely unrecognized contributor to global warming. It lands on ice and turns it from a reflective to an absorptive surface. Soot from stoves in the third world and from diesel vehicles everywhere is an enormous low-hanging opportunity we can fix.

But there's a hurdle, just like in 2002-2006: proving the business and technical feasibility; gaining official validation, because we're not talking about do-it-yourself conversions, we're talking about high-volume, validated, tested, safe vehicles; and launching vehicles.

Luckily, within six months, I am very happy to say -- I wish it were now, but I am still very happy to say that within six months, several companies that are getting started now or are advanced or in stealth are actually going to take the world by storm and show this is possible. One of those companies is in the exhibit hall -- ALTe . They have an F-150 conversion that's right there on the floor, and I really encourage you to take a look at that vehicle.

So, I hope that next year we'll be talking about the low-hanging fruit of opportunities for converting vehicles, internationally, for hundreds of millions of those 900 million vehicles. Depending on the drive cycle of the vehicle, and the design, into EVs, PHEVs -- whichever makes sense from the technical and business case.

And if you want to hear about the technical side of this, Ron Gremban will be giving a presentation tomorrow in the "Designing PEV" session, where you can talk about that as well. Thank you for your attention and we'll go right into your questions.

OUR SHORT PITCH AT PLUG-IN 2010 "PUBLIC NIGHT:" At this jammed event featuring plug-in advocate Chelsea Sexton, Bill Nye "The Science Guy," and Jessie Deeter, producer of Who Killed The Electric Car, we had the opportunity to make a four-minute comment halfway through the two-hour event. We responded to concerns that it was premature to declare victory on PHEVs, which could lead to some people walking away from ongoing efforts, by talking about the meaning of declaring victory and then moving on to more challenges. Here's a cleaned-up version (thanks to our webmaster Michael Bender for both transcriptions):

I'M FELIX KRAMER from CalCars [applause], and I'd like to suggest ... the reason you're applauding is because we've won. That's what I want to say. It's really important for people to celebrate victories on campaigns. We still have lots to do, but we won! And the people in this room, the people in these organizations, the people who made the film -- they worked really hard. I worked eight years on it. Andy Frank at UC-Davis worked 40 years for this day and we are at the point when there will be production plug-in hybrid-electric and electric vehicles on the road, and we should feel really good about that and celebrate it.

And I think part of celebrating is saying the word victory -- and it doesn't mean anybody's walking away. It means there are other campaigns. And we get more credibility and we get more energy from declaring victory. So we declared victory in October on commercialization of plug-in hybrids. We need SUCCESSFUL commercialization, which means we need to keep at it, because there's a lot to do now. But we also need to feel good... Margaret Mead said, you know, "Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world." You know, people put that at the end of their email, because it's really true. Nobody thought we could do it and we did it! [applause] And it's really important to feel satisfied about that.

Ok, we won -- let's just talk about what we need to do next. I have a real particular thing that we need to do next. Everybody on the panel agreed and people in the auto industry know -- we're going to probably, maybe have 5, 10, 15% of new vehicles be plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles in 10 or 15 years. But Bill Nye knows that we have 10 years to start really changing the emissions profile of the world. And anyone in energy security knows we have no time at all to start getting off oil.

So we have a president who said, when he made his speech, we're addicted to oil. So we need a cleaner needle: we need safe drilling. And then some other people say we need methadone: we need natural gas, which is only 20% lower CO2 than oil. What we're saying is, if we're really serious about this and we really understand it's the end of business as usual, why can't we actually ask, "In ten years, how can we actually get half off oil?"

And there is a way to do it. And what it involves is understanding what our built environment is. We understand we need to fix our built environment -- houses, offices, factories. They last a long time and we need to fix 'em. But nobody includes cars! There are 250 million cars in the United States and 900 million in the world, and there's a company over in the exhibit hall [ALte] and there are some others who are going to prove to the world in the next three to six months that there's a business case and a technical case for fixing tens of millions of vehicles -- especially the big heavy ones that use the most oil. Make them safe, driveable, warranteed... everything, and if we pay for it, we can actually get half off oil in the next ten years by converting existing gas-guzzler vehicles.

BILL NYE: I'm all for it, Felix... bring it on!

FELIX: That's what I want to say, so there's a big job ahead, and you know we invite everybody to start paying attention to that campaign, as well as to insuring successful commercialization -- and watching out, because a lot of people who have not been taking electric vehicles seriously are now starting to realize that they've got a challenge. I hope, in my lifetime, that the oil industry will be drilling for geothermal power, and I hope that petroleum will be used for petrochemicals -- thereby sequestering oil in plastic. And that's a good solution.

BILL: Right on, Felix! Right on!

FELIX: Thank you.

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