PLUG OK license plate
Responses to CalCars' New Company Announcement
Sep 8, 2006 (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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We're getting encouragement and reaction from many sources. At our own blog­blogs/­power/­new-company-for-phevs are some very thoughtful responses; my favorite was this one from George Kalkas: Once you drive a PHEV it's very hard to go back. Felix was kind enough to let me drive his car in Palo Alto. There were 5 adults in the car and, granted, I was driving around at neighborhood speeds, but the car never used the gas engine! Upon returning home, I promptly visited my Toyota Salesman, and told him that the next car we buy WILL BE a PHEV. In fact, I can't see ever buying a non-PHEV. I might as well drop my broadband and go back to a dial-up modem. By the way almost everyone I talk to about this technology, asks, "when can I buy one?".

Below we've included most of the comments (including both kudos and potshots) at GreenCar Congress (plus my clarifications) and at VentureBeat, then the Editor's weekly column in EVWorld.­2006/­09/­calcars_to_beco.html#comment-22059907 CalCars to Become For-Profit PHEV Company 5 September 2006 Green Car Congresss

CalCars, the non-profit founded in 2002 to advance the development of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), has decided to convert to a for-profit company that actually builds commercial products. As envisioned, the new company will deliver PHEV conversions to fleets and individuals; work on original designs; and license its intellectual property. CalCars founder Felix Kramer laid out the basics in a post on VentureBeat.
September 5, 2006 in Hybrids, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (14)

And as soon as Toyota intoduces PHEV as an option, these people are history. --Posted by: t | Sep 5, 2006 1:03:42 PM

I've still yet to read of any non-employee being able to get their products to work right in the first place. I've read two separate stories in the past of journalists getting to drive their demonstrator car(s) and having glitches with it preventing them from getting the full advertised benefits of PHEV functionality. Agreed that if the 2008 Prius is plug-in, that will mean not only lower cost than aftermarket but also less buggy. Nothing kills a product like the frustration of having it not work right. --Posted by: Sid Hoffman | Sep 5, 2006 1:32:56 PM

If they cause Toyota to make PHEV soon rather than later they will have accomplished there goal. I don't think toyota will come out with PHEV for another 5 years so they could definetly make a little money. I say good luck. Hope it works out! A more competitive market place breeds more innovation so maybe this will jump start EnergyCS and Hymotion. --Posted by: paul | Sep 5, 2006 2:44:29 PM

Good luck to them. Will they be writing battery warranties ? I would watch the small print. I genuinely hope they succeed as what they are doing is a "good thing" but they may be too soon (battery-wise). On the other hand, if they have any substantial IP, they could make a few quid. --Posted by: mahonj | Sep 5, 2006 2:52:47 PM

In my opinion, Cal Cars should be receiving nothing but praise on this board. And to be honest, the constant critiques on here have become more than tired. I have no experience with their product, and cannot comment on whether or not their test projects worked. However, they have worked very hard on this concept for years, long before people were so concerned about peak oil, energy security, global warming and a host of other ssues that bring people to this site. They recognized a problem few were discussing, and did something about it. Is it perfect? I have no idea. But I give them a tremendous amount of credit for pushing forward, putting the hat on larger corporations, and ultimately doing something that will benefit us all. Best of luck Cal Cars. --Posted by: Sam | Sep 5, 2006 2:59:33 PM

Regardless on their long term sucess, CalCar deserves a full hand for pushing the majors towards PHEVs (sooner) and give high performance batteries/storage devices a market for their products. Others like EnergyCS + Hymotion + Power Companies should joint CalCar to bring more models on the market. Car bodies could be from existing compatible street legal units. --Posted by: Harvey D. | Sep 5, 2006 3:50:02 PM

The noble car company in the U.K. uses lotus chasis for their cars. Reviewers have praised Noble cars for years. It seems that Harvey D. has a good idea. If this company focuses on what it does well and leaves the other things to other people then they stand a chance. People want what they can offer. --Posted by: Andy | Sep 5, 2006 10:43:54 PM

Don't forget there are already over half a million Prius out there that could be converted. There will probably be a million by the time Toyota has something to offer. Converting a million cars is Big! --Posted by: Kip | Sep 5, 2006 11:22:16 PM

Hi t,
not at all. There are scores of ICE
vehicles to be converted with for example in wheel solutions.
--Posted by: German | Sep 6, 2006 2:23:00 AM

What will happen to the many people who
donated lots of money as gifts to Calcars when it
was non-profit research group?
They can only do what they're planning now
because of that early investment.
Will the early supporters receive anything
in return (ie shares in the entity they enabled)?
--Posted by: clett | Sep 6, 2006 3:01:09 AM

If they can introduce an affordable car available in all fifty states, with decent range, available financing and a decent warranty, meeting all the current safety/crash standards, and comforts, I will be interested. I do not see how they can leapfrog over all the major automakers of this world to do so. If they do not deliver such to the masses, then I see them catering to the Jay Lenos and George Clooneys of this market. I am in a wait and see mode. Either way I want them to succeed, as we need all great ideas out there to spur innovation. --Posted by: Mark A | Sep 6, 2006 7:17:56 AM

Before Felix turned his personal energies toward promoting the plug in hybrid, almost no one had considered the concept. Only a few years later and the press and politicians have grasped the subject and are able to speak about it intelligently. Even George Scholz, of all people, was seen articulating the advantages of plug in hybrids on national television. It's not a hard concept to fathom. But without Felix relentlessly getting the words "plug-in hybrid" in front of anyone and everyone, very few would have a clue what the plug in hybrid is or why it is significant. The popularization of the concept and the advantages of the plug in hybrid are due to Felix and Ron and all the others who got behind CalCars. This is simply an amazing accomplishment no matter how one looks at it. Possibly it took off as well as it has because of it's simplicity and appeal to many and because it's timing was spot on. But it's also safe to say that the plug-in hybrid would not have spontaneously shown up on the lips of people like George Scholz without the continuous push and education from CalCars. It's probably true that if Ford and Toyota come out with plug-in hybrids next year, CalCars is finished. But if big auto does produce plug-ins, celebrations are in order, and CalCars deserves most of the credit. Considering the fact that big auto spends the majority of its energies pooh-poohing ideas like plug-in hybrids and diligently crushing every last EV they ever leased, CalCars probably has plenty of work and business ahead of itself. Electricity may be the transportation fuel of the future, but we don't have the luxury of waiting decades for big auto to evolve of their own volition. The days when there were hundreds of competing automobile Manufacturers were over long ago. The few that remain suffer from extreme homeostasis and seem to like it that way. Big auto apparently needs a lot more companies like CalCars biting at their heels before they will reluctantly take their first steps in the right directions. --Posted by: Lee Dekker | Sep 6, 2006 7:39:45 AM

Thanks for the gracious supportive comments. We feel tremendously satisfied at our success in helping to put PHEVs on the map and cars on the road since 2002. Many people write us saying we give them a spark of hope about the possibilities for change, and about doing something about global warming. And we are grateful for all parallel efforts of so many individuals and organizations, especially those listed at . Here are a few clarifications (especially for people who have read only the summary and not the original posting -- see link above to or go to

  • Non-profit CalCars is not hoping to "become" a for-profit company, but rather to sponsor or spin off one. That's quite different, and there are many scenarios in which we imagine continuing in its advocacy role, if not in technology development.
  • We're expecting to work with one or more existing after-market conversion companies. And we have no interest in ourselves becoming a car company. We intend to work with and license intellectual property to existing car-makers.
  • The 3 PHEVs CalCars has built all work reliably. All three remain development platforms and therefore works-in-progress; some are at times in a state of redesign. EnergyCS has built 10; I have put 8,000 easy miles on one of them since April. And I understand Hymotion has begun to ship cars to customers as well.
  • Once car-makers begin building PHEVs, there's plenty of room for a smart and capable team to cotinue to demonstrate innovation on light-weighting, optimization, telematics and many other advanced technologies, as well as after-market conversions of existing hybrids.
  • We are grateful for the hundreds of small contributions and the small number of larger donations. I've personally more than matched the total of ALL the small donors in unreimbursed travel and other expenses. The 3 full-time people at CalCars have been paid for less than a year -- before that, we were all volunteers (I since late 2001). We continue to urgently need that support to continue what we're doing and fund a half-dozen great stacked-up projects.
  • We're now concentrating on finding high-wealth six-figure investors, but it may be that we'll also find a way to involve supporters with smaller investment resources who want to be involved. Thanks again for all your support! Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative-- Posted by: Felix Kramer | Sep 6, 2006 6:50:46 PM
  • I can personally verify that the CalCars PHEV works as advertised. While I was visiting Palo Alto, Felix was kind enough to allow me to drive the 100+ mpg plug-in. There were 4 other adults in the car. Granted, we drove at neighborhood speeds, but the car never left electric mode! By the way, after driving a PHEV, it's very hard to go back. Upon returning home, I promptly visited my Toyota Salesman, and told him that the next car we buy WILL BE a PHEV (after which, I explained what a plug-in was). In fact, now, I can't see ever buying a non-PHEV. I might as well drop my broadband and go back to a dial-up modem. I, for one, wish CalCars the very best. As some of you have already stated in different ways, plug-ins would be no where if it weren't for Felix Kramer. And if Toyota drags it's feet for too long, I would hope to be a CalCars customer. --Posted by: George | Sep 6, 2006 7:03:36 PM­contributors/­?p=11
    VentureBeat Community
    8 comments on this story
    VentureBeat Silicon Valley leaders prove clout
    on global warming bill 09.4.06 | 9:13 pm

    [... ] California Assembly Member Pavley, co-author of AB 32, apparently told the group, which also included Amy Christiansen, of Google and Felix Kramer of CalCars (see his VentureBeat "contributor" column today), that their press conference a few weeks ago had helped tipped the scales. By arguing the legislation will help California's economy, the group (pictured above) produced media coverage depicting California's business community as divided on the legislation's economic benefits - and thus, making it more than simply a battle between business and environmentalists. The Environmental Entrepreneurs group, based here in San Francisco, held a total of 124 individual meetings with members of the legislature, plus multiple other meetings - not to mention organizing letter and phone campaigns. [... ] --Robert Unanski 09.5.06 | 3:33 pm

    What a wonderful idea. I have watched the entire worldwide Automobile industry ignore, disparage and stonewall the concept of building and selling PHEV's. Once again, California has an opportunity to lead the United States and the world by providing a product that existing car makers can't or won't build. I told Bill Ford that I would purchase the first PHEV he would build. I guess I can make that same promise to Felix. --Richard Cole 09.5.06 | 4:41 pm

    Almost two years ago, I bought a Ford Escape hybrid SUV, and as a very early member of Calcars, met with Ron Gremban and even visited Ford HQ in Dearborn (at my own expense and their invitation) to hear Ford's view of how to maximize mileage (little more than common sense tips). As an attorney (including over twenty years with one of the "big firms"), I have offered my services to Felix and others within Calcars to assist the development of PHEV kits and culture. In addition to awaiting the realistic ability to modify my own hybrid, I repeat that offer. Richard Cole --Farris Lyons 09.5.06 | 7:09 pm

    I am not loaded but i would like to build one of these vehicles. I don't understand why a 1 KW generator made from a lawn mower engine cant be incorporated to keep the batteries charged. also why photo voltaic cells can't be added to save even more. I live in Florida and MUST have and a/c for the 8 muggy months and a heater / defroster for the 3 frosty months. These Items are available off the shelf, they just need a common sense entrepreneur to put the kit together. Think fast, America needs a common sense leader NOW. --Jim Baber 09.5.06 | 8:09 pm

    I have wanted to pursue this concept since I have first seen the Prius introduction. The synergy drive concept from Toyota (and as licensed by Ford) is the easiest hybrid to modify into a PHEV vehicle. This hybridization concept is equally applicable to all forms of internal combustion engines not just gasoline engines, so this will allow it to be used with the Bio-Diesel powerplants as well. This is very important because it could eliminate the use of all petroleum except for lubricants and yet it will not use as much of the worlds food stock grains as pure bio-diesel engines would. It would not be quite as sensitive to crop failures allowing a more comfortable dependancy on agriculture for fuels as well as food. The power companies claim that they can support the power usage because it would primarily be a nighttime load and would in fact allow them to make better use of their primary power sources. Some governmental agencies are concerned about the loss of their per gallon taxes, but that can be managed with a ton mile annual / monthly registration fee, that would in fact be a fairer way to tax for the maintenance of the highways on those who are the heaviest users. The only ones who will suffer from these changes would be the oil companies, and even they recognize and are making alternative plans today for the eventual loss of their petroleum revenues. --David Docter 09.6.06 | 1:37 am

    While I am not a six-figure investor, I would buy stock in this venture. As a Prius owner and subscriber to your newsletters, I have been passionate about your PHEV work. I visited Andy Frank in Davis a year and a half ago. Every day I observe the blindness of the American public to his and your work, and I recognise the uphill struggle of your ideals. But this has to be done. Please keep the faith and explore this idea to fruition. I know that it will take big bucks. --Attila FaSzegyy 09.6.06 | 10:58 pm

    This is the first time I heard that you guys are involved in the development of PHEV. My compliments. As soon as IPO is issued I will buy several thousands of shares. Cost of those probably will suck up a significant portion of my investment capital but, what the heck, I am much closer to the grave than the cradle and none of us can take it with us. Let us enrich our and next generation's future whatever way we can. Please keep me posted. Best Regards, Attila­general.cfm?section=directory&page=insider EV World Insider Perspective by Editor Bill Moore

    PHEV Entrepreneurs Bloom Which, of course, opens a Pacific Coast-sized bay window of opportunity for companies like PML and CalCars. UK-based PML just revealed its 200 miles-plus electric-only range plug-in hybrid Mini Cooper; and this baby has it all. Advanced lithium batteries, ultracapacitors, and electric wheel motors. Instead of the 100 hp of the original Mini, this car packs a total of 640 hp (4x160hp). There's a small "boot"-mounted IC engine that gives the car a total range of nearly 1500 km (930+ miles). Top speed is 150 mph and 0-60 is 4.5 seconds. Smokin! I am going to try to get these folks on the telephone this week to learn more about their technology and sales plans. Out on the America "left-coast", one of the leading advocacy groups for plug-in hybrids, California Cars Initiative or CalCars is beginning to evolve beyond its grassroots, not-for-profit activist niche into a for-real-profit-or-loss business. Felix Kramer kindly gave me a heads up over the weekend by pointing me to his latest announcement in the new VentureBeat blog. In it he explains his reasons for exploring the venture capital route in becoming a certified vehicle modifier, which he's been talking about quietly for the last year. He writes... "So now we want to launch an ambitious for-profit. We're talking with other leading PHEV innovators about combining talents and acquiring funding to operate in the high-stakes world. We're hatching plans to rapidly deliver PHEV conversions to fleets and individuals; work on original designs; license our intellectual property; and keep innovating. "We'll make customers and partners out of car-makers, suppliers and integrators. Ford, GM and others could get a boost from PHEVs, as could emerging Chinese entrants. (Toyota could do it now, but may wait until 2010.) "Meanwhile, as an industry in a tailspin drags its heels on innovation, PHEV engineers continue to patent answers to technical challenges that car-makers haven't yet encountered." Somehow, I get the sense that the momentum is shifting away from Michigan and towards California as 20th century carmakers seem mired in a long-gone "golden age". In response to many converging forces, California venture capitalists, on the other hand, are on the prowl for the next industrial boom, and this one has a decidedly 'green energy' patina about it.

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