Oct 31, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Suitable for forwarding, here's a quick background summary on CalCars, Plug-In Hybrids, PRIUS+ and Felix Kramer.
The California Cars Initiative http://www.calcars.org is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit startup. We're a group of entrepreneurs, engineers and environmentalists promoting high-efficiency, low-emission cars and harnessing buyer demand to help commercialize advanced technologies. Somewhat uniquely, we focus both on public policy and technology development. Formed in 2002, our efforts for "100+MPG hybrids" began to be noticed in early 2005 when we were covered in The New York Times, Business Week, TIME, Newsweek, National Public Radio, and local and national TV. (See http://www.calcars.org/kudos.html for print, audio and video clips.)
We're demonstrating the immediate opportunity and benefits of "plug-in" hybrids (PHEVs). The next generation of hybrid cars can be based entirely on existing components. They're basically like some current hybrids but with larger batteries and the ability to re-charge conveniently, so local travel is electric, yet the vehicle has unlimited range. We see it as the future pathway to multi-fuel and biofuel/cellulosic ethanol PHEVs -- the cars that get 500 MPG of gasoline that people are talking about. Here's how we describe PHEVs:
It's like having a second small fuel tank that you always use first. You get to fill this one at home with electricity at an equivalent cost of under $1/gallon. How much under depends on your car and your electric rate. You refill from an ordinary 120-volt socket, with energy that's much cleaner, cheaper and not imported. Or another way of thinking about this: at $3 for a gallon of gas, driving a non-hybrid car costs 8-20 cents/mile (depending on its MPG). With a PHEV, all-electric local travel and commuting can drop to 2-4 cents/mile.
We began with a prototype conversion we call "PRIUS+" to bring attention to plug-in hybrids and encourage car makers to build them. We "green-tuned" a stock 2004 Prius by adding batteries and grid-charging. (We replaced the battery control system but didn't modify the hybrid controls.) Our proof-of-concept used lead-acid batteries. We document our effort at our open-source-style technology discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/priusplus (see chronology from June '04-May '05 at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/priusplus/message/421). We're working with Electro Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: EEEI) to demonstrate the viability for PHEvs of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in current hybrids: see http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/calcars-news/message/175.
EDrive Systems LLC, a for-profit integration company in Southern California http://www.edrivesystems.com, installed even better lithium-ion (Li-Ion) packs to get 100+MPG (plus costs of electric power). EDrive intends to begin selling PRIUS+-style retrofits in early 2006, with a goal of pricing conversions at $10-$12,000. At http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/calcars-news/message/37 on May 2 we explained how our efforts intersect. View their Frequently Asked Questions at http://www.edrivesystems.com/Edrive-FAQ.html. A separate group of engineers experienced with high voltage has started a "do-it-yourself" conversion project we are advising: http://www.seattleeva.org/wiki/EAA-PHEV.
We're also involved in advocacy and public policy, bringing together the growing attention given to this "up-and-coming" technology. New organizations that have in part been catalyzed by our efforts include SetAmericaFree, Plug-In Austin, PlugInAmerica, and a trade association, the Advanced Hybrid Vehicle Development Consortium. We're educating the large market of car buyers who will pay extra for all the benefits to them and society of better cars. We're presenting PHEVs, along with wind and solar power, as a coordinated response to two of today's greatest challenges: global warming and energy security. We've spoken at high-visibility venues including the Palo Alto Research Center (former Xerox PARC) Forum. We've recently engaged with noted designer/architect William McDonough, responsible for the new Ford River Rouge plant, to incorporate Cradle to Cradle approaches to our future strategies.
Our goal is to motivate automakers to build PHEVs for a market we expect to expand as the Kyoto Protocols and parallel state and international greenhouse gas initiatives are phased in. We're exploring with public officials ways to provide incentives to auto makers to build PHEVs.
Working with other PHEV advocates, we're developing innovative ways to meet expected demand from utility, government and corporate fleets, and early adopters for 10,000-100,000 vehicles before a car company delivers production PHEVs. To take advantage of that who-knows-how-long window of opportunity, we're exploring ways for a California company to partner as a Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) with an auto maker to design, assemble and sell PHEVs -- at a price several thousand dollars higher than conventional hybrids, which would provide a lower lifetime cost of ownership than any other vehicle type. For info on our plans see http://www.calcars.org/sjmercury-vcinsider+calcars-opportunity.pdf. Conversion possibilities include the Ford Escape hybrid, forthcoming hybrids from Hyundai and others, and all cars that use Toyota's "Hybrid Synergy Drive" (Prius, Lexus, Highlander, Nissan).
We're a mostly-volunteer effort. We've gotten contributions from, among others, a well-known entrepreneur and the Energy Foundation, with others to come. We accept tax-deductible donations and offer a unique bumper sticker to Charter Sponsors.
Founder Felix Kramer says, "I'm a startup person and environmentalist going way back http://www.nlightning.com/resume.html. In 2001, I sold eConstructors.com (marketplace for web development) and began advising Rocky Mountain Institute/Amory Lovins' Hypercar Inc. My change in focus from that futuristic simulation to immediate solutions led to the launch of CalCars in 2002. My personal motivation evolved from general environmental goals to seeing PHEVs as a keystone component of a strategy to address global warming both nationally and internationally. See http://www.calcars.org/globalwarming.html. I envision millions of PHEVs, charged from off-peak electricity from a modernized grid and from distributed photovoltaic and wind power, with the range extension engine powered by zero-carbon cellulose ethanol, as a way to significantly reduce the more than 30% of greenhouse gases that come from transportation. See my blog, Power, Plugs and People at http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power."