Sep 23, 2011 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Though we're no longer trying to give you all the PHEV news, but we have lots to report you may not hear elsewhere: a few notes on Toyota's fnally-unveiled Plug-in Prius. Will ALTe be the first big gas-guzzler conversion company? The first plug-in four-wheel drive cars appear. Get ready for October 16, "National Plug-In Day." News stories on CalCars and a new presentation.
TOYOTA PLUG-IN PRIUS ON VIEW: Toyota showed the production version of its Plug-in Prius at the Green Drive Expo in Richmond. It has a 15-mile EV range (up to 62MPH), recharges in 180 minutes at 120 volts and 90 at 240. It's priced at $32-$39.5K, minus a $2,500 federal tax credit (less than the $7,500 maximum because it has a smaller battery). See Wikipedia and Plug In America for info on other credits, HOV access, etc. See http://pressroom.toyota.com/releases/toyota+introduces+2012+prius+plug-in+hybrid.htm and the FAQ at http://www.toyota.com/prius-plug-in/. If you're not already registered, you can sign up next month to get on the list in the initial 14 states. (They also offer buyers a lowest-yet deal for Level 2 charging: $995 includes an evaluation visit, a Leviton EVSE, and installation.)
Soon we'll see how well the Plug-in Prius will compete against the more expensive Volt, which has a 35-40-mile all-speed EV range, but lower MPG when it's driving like a non-pluggable hybrid. Many of the million-plus happy Prius owners will consider switching. And with Toyota's blessing the idea of spending extra to be able to plug in, some may explore aftermarket companies to retrofit their old Priuses, especially if they can gain government certifications and get their prices down. http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html.
A SWEET MOMENT FOR CALCARS! Many have noted that March 2012 will be 7.5 years since we converted the first Prius. If we hadn't done so, and helped inspire and organize a broad campaign, would we be seeing Toyota and GM PHEVs even now? Two iconic images: the sixth photo at "Scenic Photos of Plug-In Hybrids" http://www.calcars.org/photos-scenic.html, shows a late-version test-fleet PHEV Prius in 2010, driving right by Felix Kramer's converted 2004 Prius. And at the fifth photo at "New Plug-Ins Arrive" http://www.calcars.org/photos-plugins-arrive.html, Felix stands in front of the real PHEV Prius holding a new "J-plug" along with the old-style "dongle" plug for conversions that has symbolized the opportunity and benefits of plugging in.
ALTe FINALLY OUT OF STARTING GATE: The Michigan gas-guzzler conversion company we've long been touting now gets a chance to demonstrate a technical sollution and a business case for gas-guzzler conversions. The long-hoped-for news: after waiting since 2009 for a federal loan guarantee, it's privately raised $100M so it can get started. Its advisory board has giant fleet owners that could become customers, including Cox Communications, DIRECTV, FritoLay, Service Master and Waste Management. (NOTE: Felix Kramer is a board member.) Its first partner for a retrofit trial next spring is Pacific Gas & Electric, and it's signed agreements with A123 Systems for batteries and Remy for motors. More about the renamed ALTe Powertrain Technologies at its new URL: http://altept.com.
WANTED: WINTER-WEATHER PHEV: In addition to the MPG results we reported on recently for Felix, Ron, and Andy Frank at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1142.html, Felix has documented the performance of his Volt as the first plug-in car that could drive without refueling from the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. With a full battery starting on each 225-mile leg, including 8,000 feet of elevation: 35.8 MPG up, 50.8 MPG down -- plus all-electric drives in the Sierras. What's missing? No four-wheel or all-wheel drive, so it's either avoid snowy/icy roads or put up with the inconvenience of chains (actually low-profile cables). Felix and millions of others are an unrecognized new market for any plug-in hybrid sedan/SUV with 4WD/AWD. For more, see http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/22/325476/how-the-snow-sports-community-is-pushing-the-limits-of-filmmaking-and-climate-education/ (including Felix's comment #4).
TWO UNAVAILBLE 4WD/AWD PHEVs: Though models are on the horizon, they could be years away. Two are closest: The Mitsubishhi Outlander Sport SUV is variously reported as being available in late 2012-early 2013. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/reviews/hybrid-electric/2012-mitsubishi-i-test-drive. We think Mitsubishi will miss a giant opportunity if it follows its announced plans to bring this car first to Japan, rather than to those in the U.S. eager for such a car. And at the Frankfort Auto Show, Peugeot unveiled its 508RXH, a diesel PHEV crossover/station wagon. (Also exciting to biodiesel advocates.) It's slated for sale in Europe in spring 2012. Unfortunately, Peugeot doesn't sell cars in the U.S. http://www.autoblog.com/2011/09/15/peugeot-508-rxh-hybrid-crossover-sips-down-diesel-gets-56-mpg/ (click to see press release). We can also hope (and let them know) we want them from Subaru and Ford.
HELP EXPAND NATIONAL PLUG IN DAY: Organized by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association, over 10 cities are already planning events on Sunday, Oct. 16. See http://www.pluginamerica.org/pluginday for more.
CHEVY VOLT'S TAG LINES: We and others have never cared for "more car than electric." GM has picked up another message from its pool of marketing copy, which we think is closer to a succinct and positive benefits statement: "Electric when you want it. Gas when you need it." You'll find it in magazines and as part of two amusing 30-second ads airing on popular mainstream TV shows. http://www.chevroletvoltage.com/index.php/volt-blog/18-volt/2498-sneak-peek-new-chevrolet-volt-commercials.html -- and see thoughtful comments afterwards.
CALCARS IN THE MEDIA: When Felix had a catch-up lunch with Bill Moore, editor of EVWorld, at a quirky and entertaining Silicon Valley landmark, he didn't expect it would turn into the entertaining and complimentary tale, "Lunch at Buck's." Weaving together the histories of CalCars and Tesla, it's a bit of a big fish story, resembling the 20-foot sculpture in the hangout's parking lot. http://evworld.com/currents.cfm?jid=209. And conversions of internal combustion vehicles, with a link to Felix and CalCars, shows up in the New York Times DotEarth blog by Andy Revkin, thanks to journalist and author Jim Motavalli. http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/electric-cars-the-do-it-yourself-way/
GREEN DRIVE EXPO: Following in the footsteps of Ron Gremban, who spoke last year, Felix was set to talk on "U.S. Plug-in Car Movement: Where Do We Go from Here?" http://greendriveexpo.com/speakers-bay-area. A large potential crowd of people was talking to vendors, looking at dealer Volts and Leafs, the Toyota lineup of Priuses and the electric RAV4, and the Owners' Showcase of 1990s and converted EVs plus nearly-new Leafs and Volts. Unfortnately at noon, the seats were almost empty. Felix had no alternative but to inspire the crowd, reminding them how different things are now that we have production plug-ins -- how far we've come and how much we have to clap and cheer about. The noise brought in the crowd! And the cheerleading revved Felix up enough to give what those who've heard him called his most energetic talk. See Sebastian Blanco's report at http://green.autoblog.com/2011/09/19/green-drive-expo-calcars-felix-kramer-ready-to-go-beyond-cars/, listen to the audio at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-greendriveexpo-felix-20110917.mp3 (33 minutes + 12 minutes questions), and see our completely revamped slideshow at http://www.calcars.org/downloads.html.
Felix was followed by the compelling Lisa Margonelli, author of "Oil on the Brain," talking on "Can Your Car Change the World?" One provocative point: how fiercely the public believes gasoline's "right" price is $2/gallon -- and is certain that sooner or later it will always return there. Flind Blanco's report and an audio link at http://green.autoblog.com/2011/09/19/green-drive-expo-lisa-margonelli-plug-in-car/.