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Help CalCars Make PHEVs Immediate -- Not Just Inevitable
May 2, 2007 (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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PHEVs ARE FIRMLY ON THE MAP. (We're still pinching ourselves!) WHAT'S NEXT? (Some of the biggest challenges remain.) WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW? (Please start by forwarding this email.)

In the past few weeks, Popular Mechanics has featured PHEVs on its cover. Automotive pioneer Lee Iacocca has called them "the wave of the future....big time." Senators, Representatives and state legislators have introduced more PHEV legislation. Utilities have begun promoting a vision of a vehicle-to-grid future. We've seen PHEVs on the White House lawn.

The latest statement that PHEVs are "inevitable" came from's Brad Berman, with me on Wisconsin Public Radio­audio-video.html. We agree -- and so, increasingly, do many automakers. But "inevitable" could still mean five-ten years away. This at a time when it's the end of "business as usual" for our environment, our foreign policy and our economy. We need to begin today the necessary transition to electrification of transportation.

We've come far. After five years, seven carmakers now agree PHEVs are a good idea. Two (Toyota and GM) say they want to be first, but won't commit even to building sizeable demonstration fleets. Carmakers continue to search for new ways to get appreciation for saying "us too, we're on board," in statements we track at­carmakers.html. Jim Press, the first non-Japanese member of Toyota's Board of Directors, says, "ten years form now, your children will be driving a plug-in hybrid powered by diesel, ethanol or blended fuel." GM's Bob Lutz keeps insisting the company intends to build PHEVs. But they insist they won't start until they have "perfect batteries." They're right on safety but we think they're making a big mistake in waiting on range, lifetime and cost.

Our final challenge is to get them to start building Version 1.0 PHEVs now -- with "good enough batteries." That's the most effective way to speed the arrival of mass-production-ready Version 2.0 PHEVs with better batteries. Ending dependence on fossil fuels is a global priority. And our air can't afford to wait for perfect batteries to get PHEVs on the road.

Getting demonstration fleets followed by mass production is a challenge as great as the one we've faced getting to this point. It's Godfather time: how can we gently but firmly make them "an offer they can't refuse?" Here's how:

  • Governments and companies can roll out the red carpet with incentives and regulation.
  • Advocates and journalists can keep asking, "why won't carmakers do this?"
  • Citizens and car-buyers can keep up the pressure by supporting CalCaras and our partners and making clear what they want to buy.

SEE WHO'S INVOLVED AT­partners.html

The campaign for PHEVs encompasses an unusually diverse partnership: what former CIA Director James Woolsey calls the "coalition between the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the sod-busters, the cheap hawks, and the evangelicals." (See examples at­photos-people.html.

We're encouraged that so many new companies, leaders and coalitions have joined in promoting PHEVs:. That makes it easier. But so far the campaign hasn't motivated carmakers to respond sufficiently with full participation.

Congratulations are premature!

  • We didn't declare victory when they agreed to build a few (DaimerChrysler's Sprinter 2005).
  • We didn't declare victory when they said it's a good idea. (Toyota January, GM February, Ford May 2006).
  • We didn't declare victory when they said they would do it (Toyota June, GM September 2006).
  • We didn't declare victory when they say we want to be first. (Toyota October, GM November 2006).

    We believe The California Cars Initiative can play a strategic and catalytic role in making this happen. We aim to assemble a five-to-ten person team, and give them the resources they need. Then we can catalyze new strategies and help put the pieces together so one or more automakers will find it IMPOSSIBLE to say no. They'll commit to begin near-term deliveries of volumes of both demonstration fleets of PHEV versions of existing hybrids and from-the-ground-up PHEVs.

    We have our work cut out for us!

  • We can step up to the challenge when they say they're not going to do it now.
  • We can step up to the challenge with existing after-market companies and/or on our own help meet the large demand for conversions.
  • We can step up to the challenge when agencies propose performance standards, emissions credits and incentives.
  • We can step up to the challenge when we see strong interest from many constituencies for third-party battery warranties.
  • We can step up to the challenge when we see ways to help smaller independent companies leapfrog the big players.
  • We can step up to the challenge to deter the acceptance of tepid, diluted, or "designed to fail" commercialization strategies.
  • We can step up to the challenge when they start selling PHEVs to help ensure their market success.
  • We can step up to the challenge to expand PHEVs globally and combine them with other key technologies such as lightweighting, renewable biofuels and zero-carbon electricity.

    Three major conferences in May <­calcars-news/­754.html mark the kickoff of a new strategic phase for the PHEV commercialization campaign. They'll be followed by our efforts at the Maker Faire, at crucial Air Resources Board Hearings May 24-25 in San Diego and at an international conference in Brussels when Tech Lead Ron Gremban gives a major presentation in Europe on PHEVs.

    The growing interest, the PHEV coalition and the support we're receiving, all increase the chances this winning campaign will reach the finish line years earlier. And we hope they will help us raise funds for several amazing and ready-to-launch new initiatives to speed the arrival of PHEVs in car dealer lots. Now is the time to send us as large a tax-deductible contribution as you can spare, by credit card, PayPal or check at­sponsor.html. And please print out and distribute our flyers at­downloads.html.

    We hope the campaign's progress will inspire more people to offer their time and professional skills to an effort that can make a real difference. We're recruiting a team to achieve our advocacy goals, work on technology demonstrations and start a company for projects that are beyond the scope of a non-profit. Can you join us? Or do you know someone who can? Below is the list of what we need most.

    Thank you for your continuing support! Felix Kramer

    JOBS AT CALCARS (mostly volunteer for now) Latest version of this list at­jobs.html

    CalCars has two full-time people (plus many volunteers and partners). Imagine what we could do if we had five more!

    Until we can raise more money, these positions are for volunteers. (In some cases, small stipends may be available, and we hope to be able to pay reasonable rates in the future.) Most can be part-time, or one person can hold two positions. Although we frequently work long-distance, for these positions, we're primarily looking for people who are in the San Francisco Bay Area at least two days a week.

    To apply, please send an email that includes the job title in the subject line, plus a thoughtful cover letter followed by a pasted copy of your resume to info@.... NO ATTACHMENTS, PLEASE, though URLs linking to more information are fine.

    Get involved with a GreenTech opportunity that's ready to move to the next stage. Help this non-profit group work with supplier partners and develop short- and long-term strategies and business plans. We aim to spin off or sponsor a company to accelerate the commercialization of PHEVs, and perhaps accumulate related intellectual property. We're looking for one or two veteran executives or serial entrepreneurs who want to make a difference. The ideal profile combines business and engineering backgrounds; automotive experience would be even better!

    Help identify funding opportunities, develop boilerplate and submit proposals, including government and corporate RFPs, foundation grants and project presentations to high-net-worth individuals, and communicate with existing donors. Possible commission-basis.

    Manage our promotional media efforts, represent the campaign at public events, plan marketing campaigns, develop new collateral materials, negotiate and work with outside multi-media partners. Represent the campaign at public events; help update News Archive. You should be high-energy, well-organized, detail-oriented, hype-averse.

    Our flyers and documents are constantly evolving, and our website could use work. We need one or more people who are aces in GoLive/InDesign/Photoshop/PowerPoint (or equivalents in some cases). Writing skills an enormous plus.

    Campaign Organizer/Networker Experienced coalition builder/advocate/public speaker; enthusiastic promoter of our issues and campaigns, able manager of volunteers. We have creative campaigns that are ready to go but need managers!

    Public policy writer/networker to collaborate with local, state and federal agencies, advocacy groups, legislators and analysts on PHEV-related issues.

    Experienced engineers who want to demonstrate amazing solutions! Must have an interest in (even better, experience with) batteries and power electronics-to investigate and test new components, design and try out new battery packs, chargers and battery management electronics.

    Well-organized, hands-on staffer to coordinate technical projects, events, volunteers, administrative functions.

    Handle accounts, cash-flow projections, non-profit tax filings.

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