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Wondering What CalCars Has Been Up To?
Sep 13, 2011 (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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Here's an update on how CalCars (and Felix Kramer and Ron Gremban as well as Andy Frank) have been keeping busy, on some awards we've received, and several events where we're presenting in the San Francisco Bay Area in the coming weeks -- plus a promising national conversion conference we want everyone to know about.

STAYING CURRENT ON PLUG-IN VEHICLES: You haven't gotten an email from CalCars in some time....That's in part because these days, there are more and more ways to get information on plug-in vehicles. Beyond the growing general consumer, business and technical media coverage of plug-ins, we rely on the specialized sites you'll find at­partners.html#media . Since they, and our partnering advocacy groups, do such a great job, these days, we feel the need to chime in on broad topics only occasionally.

We believe we were on the right track when we "declared victory" back in October 2009­calcars-news/­1078.html — at a point when we knew PHEVs were definitely coming to market. As we cautioned then and since, that triumph is just a first step. The success of PHEVs (and EVs) is far from guaranteed, and there's so much more for us all to do. And now, with limited time and resources, CalCars-News will no longer chronicle every important new development on PHEVs!

WE'RE STILL PROMOTING "THE BIG FIX:" We continue to campaign for, highlight news about, and offer our perspective and analysis on at least one urgent topic you won't easily find elsewhere. We're talking about CalCars' chief continuing objective: To scale up a giant new global/local industry converting tens of millions of existing internal combustion vehicles to safe, warrantied, affordable EVs and PHEVs. It's an uphill change. But we're increasingly sure it's essential in order for vehicle electrification to have a significant impact on fossil fuel use within the next 15 years — and therefore on greenhouse gases and energy security. See­ice-conversions.html for more.

NEWS FROM CALCARS' FOUNDER: FELIX KRAMER continues to advocate for plug-in vehicles in general, and do all he can to foster the success of individual companies building gas-guzzler conversion businesses. He and his family enjoy driving a Chevy Volt and a Nissan Leaf, and he is advising several plug-in-related companies. In the face of daunting national and global developments threatening the progress of plug-in vehicles, cleantech, and responses to climate change, he's active in groups including Environmental Entrepreneurs (see below), the reincarnation of the Alliance for Climate Protection (watch on Sept. 14) and the global campaign sparked by Bill McKibben . He's also about to relocate from the San Francisco Peninsula to North Berkeley, remodeling a home within walking/biking distance of everything, including great mass transit. There he has hopes to demonstrate several green innovations!

NEWS FROM CALCARS TECHNOLOGY LEAD: RON GREMBAN continues to monitor and analyze the latest advances in battery technologies, and to promote the value of converting millions of the one billion vehicles now on the world's roads to plug in so they can drive some or all of their future miles on electricity. He sees the main current challenge for all environmental progress as the new, increasingly powerful and combative anti-science wing of U.S. politics. With CalCars running on fumes, he makes a living as a vehicle electrification consultant — he's available! He's on the Green Flight engineering team­, working with Cessna and partners toward a commercial electric airplane. Along the way, he's become an electric motor expert. He's a founding member of startup Swift Tram­, a personal/group rapid transit with autonomous suspended monorails. He's been investigating credible evidence of LENR (cold fusion), has a couple of quieter projects in the works, and always has more to do than there are hours in the day.

NEWS FROM PHEV INVENTOR: ANDY FRANK has wound down his four-decade long academic career, most notably as Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at UC Davis:­history.html He was recently named an Alumnus of the Year for Excellence in Achievement by the UC Berkeley Alumni Association, and was one of the Automotive News "Electrifying 100." He says he's now down to "one job" as co-founder and Chief of Technology at Efficient Drivetrains Inc.­. EDI recently announced an important contract for a project in China. And, in a Goliath-vs-David moment, Toyota has pre-emptively sued EDI over its intellectual property: a portfolio of fundamental patents on hybrid/drivetrain/electronics. (Few outlets other than­2011/­07/­27/­toyota-involoved-in-hybrid-patent-infringement-case-with-efficie/ noticed this news. We've often heard it said that over the past decades, "Andy has solved problems that other companies didn't know existed." DISCLOSURE: Felix is an advisor to EDI.)

THREE EARLY VOLT OWNERS' LIFETIME PERFORMANCE: Since getting their cars in December­photos-plugins-arrive.html , in order of lowest gasoline use:

  • Ron Gremban, driving mostly locally in Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area, 4,729 miles, 151 MPG of gasoline. (His partner continues to drive the CalCars first Prius conversion, with a new pack from, getting 100+MPG of gasoline most of the time.)
  • Andy Frank has driven mostly in the Sacramento area, 8,900 miles,107 MPG of gasoline.
  • Felix Kramer relies on the Leaf for local driving, with the Volt reserved for second household trips and beyond-Leaf-range driving. That includes 10 round-trips (each 450+ miles) to Lake Tahoe and dozens of 80+ mile trips in the Bay Area. Hence the 11,269 miles at a still-high 62 MPG of gasoline. This reflects over 6,000 miles as a standard hybrid (once the battery is depleted). GM, determined to meet its end of 2010 deadline for the Volt, focused on optimizing EV mode and pulled in an off-the-shelf Austrian GM engine, getting 35-40PG. We expect that the customized second-generation design of the 2013 Chevy Volt will perform significantly better, as did the Prius over time.


  • ELECTRIFYING 100: As part of a conference, Automotive News put together its list of movers and shakers in the plug-in world. Felix was included­article/­20110613/­ELECTRIC100/­306139959/­-1 as was John Thomas of conversion company ALTe. See the complete list with links to writeups at­article/­20110613/­ELECTRIC100/­306139959/­-1
  • BREATH CALIFORNIA AWARD: CalCars received a "2011 Clean Air Award" from "Breathe California" (the organization formed in 2006 to continue locally the work of the American Lung Association). CA State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was the keynoter. For the dozen winners see . Hear a three-minute on-the-spot audio interview­site/­PageServer?pagename=Clean_Air_2011_Winners#californiacars
  • FAMOUS PRIUS PHEV#8 GETS NEW OWNERS: The iconic white CalCars Prius seen on many images in the media and at­photos, veteran of a historic trip in 2006 to Washington DC, is now owned by Catherine and Peter Fox, plug-in fans in San Francisco. (Felix Kramer and Rochelle Lefkowitz no longer have to apologize for owning three plug-in cars.) The vehicle, still sporting its "100+MPG" and CalCars signs, mostly drives locally in the Bay Area. See photo of the new owners at­photos-groups.html .
  • MAKING UNEXPECTED INROADS IN WASHINGTON DC: A few months ago, when a bit more of a nonpartisan spirit prevailed, Felix Kramer joined a delegation of several members of Environmental Entrepreneurs from around the country with teams that visited dozens of Senators, Representatives and key agency officials and their staffs, making the case that investing and spending on efficiency, renewable energy and a low-carbon economy can generate jobs, save money, and improve economic and strategic security. The role of plug-in vehicles figured significantly in almost every meeting. See Felix's and other delegates' "talking points" for meetings at­jsp/­controller?docName=dc2011webDelegateTPs . His report:

    Our delegation came to DC with something different: tales that short-circuited preconceptions. Those we met with were all ears when we described jobs created and security benefits from clean technologies ready to go. Even those who had opposed loans to automakers were glad to hear about our broad nonpartisan's coalition's success in bringing plug-in technologies to Detroit. Their response: give us more stories we can use! The biggest and most gratifying surprise was the reception we received at the Pentagon. The Defense Department and all the branches of the military are focusing on renewable energy to improve logistics and operations. A retired general and a retired SEAL opened doors for us. See E2's newsletter describing the trip and listing the officials visited at­jsp/­controller?docId=25888&anchorName=DCAdvocacy_Spring2011

    DON'T-MISS EVENTS: See­events.html for details on all these (and a long list of our activities going all the way back):

    • Post-Petroleum Transportation Panel this Thursday in Berkeley
    • Green Drive Expo: all-day San Francisco Bay Area event this Saturday
    • EV Conversion Expo: an intriguing conference Sept. 21-25 in Missouri
    • EV Rally: CalCars' fifth year at this Palo Alto event Sept. 24
    • The Networked EV: Greentech Media conference in SF Oct. 20

    Thanks for your interest and support and for continuing to spread the word

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