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RechargeIT Launch: What Brilliant/Vieau/Beavers/Whitmore/Brin Said
Jun 22, 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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We've never before posted so much information on one event, but Google's RechargeIT merits all the attention. We've received many emails thanking us for providing details from people who couldn't be at the event. So we're continuing to try to give as complete a picture as possible.

We pushed out the first three postings about RechargeIT quickly: the official announcement, the news about the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Partnership for Google Fleet, and the media coverage. (They're all at the CalCars-News Archive.) Now we wrap up with two final postings. The first includes our unofficial transcript of some of the speeches at the launch event, by Larry Brilliant, Robyn Beavers, Bill Whitmore and Sergey Brin. The second is the unofficial transcript of the vehicle-to-grid demonstration with Alec Proudfoot and Dan Reicher. You can see photos of many of these people at­photos-google.html

We follow each speech with a few of our comments and pointers to additional resources, and a bit of info about some of the less-visible Google presenters.

LARRY BRILLIANT, Executive Director, was established at the time of Google's IPO with three million shares of Google's stock, which has turned out to be worth perhaps a little bit more than everybody thought it might be worth. And we have been given 1% of Google's annual profits and 1% of Google's employee time. We use this to address some of the great problems of our generation and our time: global health, global poverty and economic development, and of course, the climate change crisis.

Google is a hybrid philanthropy. We bring together the active engagement of the broader Google Corporation as well as advancements in for-profits, traditional grants, policy work and public information. The project that we are launching today, RechargeIT, is part of the climate change and energy program that we have. We hope to demonstrate the potential of plug-in hybrid cars and vehicle-to grid-technologies as a way to create a more secure, efficient, and green energy system.

And to kick that off I'd like to show you a short, five-minute video that covers many of these topics. [­watch?v=oDjSbWTJbdo]

There's been a lot of activity in the last few days from a lot of teams too numerous to mention to make this possible. But thank you much for making it possible for us to have this here today.

As you heard in that video, along with a lot of other people in the world, we believe that plug-in hybrids can be a significant part of the SOLUTION to global warming. Unfortunately they're not yet available to consumers, so we hope as one of our project goals to spur demand and encourage car manufacturers to bring these cars to market quickly. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependency on oil, and provide consumers with better choices. The announcement that we're making today, the RechargeIT program, has five components:

First, the CAR DEMONSTRATION PROJECT. We have partnered with A123 Systems and Hymotion to convert a very small fleet of hybrid cars into plug-ins, and we published preliminary performance data at Some wonderful Google engineers have built a data collection system, to monitor these cars' performance, and we'll continue to do that. The experimental fleet of plug-in hybrid Priuses that we have averaged 74 miles per gallon compared to 41 miles per gallon for a test fleet of non-plug-in Prius hybrids. Now of course, some people like Linda Segre on my staff are able to get over 100 miles per gallon and I'm not sure all the secrets they have, but there's a lot of variability. I know that Felix is there wearing a T-shirt that says that he gets more than 100 miles per gallon. These certainly are not targets out of our reach.

Secondly, the GOOGLE FLEET. Through a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car that I'm pleased to announce, Google Fleet will support alternative commuting through a free car-sharing program that will be offered to Google employees. The program will eventually expand to include 100 plug-in hybrids as they become available. You should know that Google already offers a $5,000 incentive to employees who purchase hybrid vehicles. This is in addition to that program.

Third, VEHICLE-TO-GRID. This is really exciting. Today, with PG&E, we will show one of the first demonstrations of recharging a utility's electric grid from a car battery from one of our plug-in hybrids. Now, clearly this is very early. And like every other demonstration, it's a bit of a science project. But you'll be able to see what the world could look like if there were hundreds of thousands or millions of plug-in hybrids powering the grid. We'll tell you more about this science experiment a little later.

Fourth, GRANTS. today announces six grants, to the Brookings Institute, to CalCars, to the Electric Power Research Institute, to Plug In America, to the Rocky Mountain Institute, and to the University of Delaware's Dr. Willett Kempton, an expert on vehicle-to-grid applications. You'll find all the backup material that you need on those grants on our website, and a little bit more in our press release.

Lastly and perhaps even most exciting, today we announce a $10 MILLION REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS for investment opportunities in companies and projects which will accelerate the commercialization of alternative transportation, batteries, and vehicle-to-grid technologies that reduce vehicle fossil fuel and climate emissions. We're very excited about finding the next generation of entrepreneurs who will take these technologies and bring them to us with ideas that can be funded, and go-to-market ideas and projects.

Welcome to Google. We hope that you will enjoy spending some time with us today, we have a whole variety of speakers who will give you some color on that, and to introduce the speakers I am very proud to introduce Roby Beavers from Google.

WHY 74MPG? We're not disappointed that the first two Google PHEVs initially showed only a 55% MPG improvement over stock Priuses. This is the launch of a sustained project to collect and analyze data -- and a learning experience for the large and diverse population of users of the cars. One of hybrids' selling points is that you can just drive them and you'll do way better than a standard gasoline car. But divers who pay attention to the real-time display and modify their driving behavior can do better. That said, PHEVs that frequently exceed their boosted electric range, or that drive many short highway-speed trips could average only 74 MPG.

Overall, on the announcement of RechargeIT: Google has been one of CalCars' most frequent visiting spots, both before and after our first conversion in Fall 2004. Individuals at and around the company have been PHEV champions over the years.'s choice of PHEVs/V2G/Renewable Energy as its first focus for its climate change activities helps recharge us!

ROBYN BEAVERS: Google Corporate Environmental Programs You're not only seeing our plug-in hybrids but also our Googler-owned hybrid parking lot over there. I'm not sure if you guys noticed that. Google has actually has been for the past couple of years offering a $5,00 incentive to employees who buy a brand-new car that reaches 45 miles per gallon or more. And we're very excited to have plug-in hybrids technology as a featured technology in the Google world as well.

I'm with Corporate Environmental Programs. And together with our Global Real Estate and Work Resources Teams, we worked on Google's first solar panel array. You're sitting underneath a part of it. We installed 1.6 megaWatts here in our Mountain View headquarters. We began in November 2006. They're up and working right now, about a six-month installation. And we're very pleased with the finished result. It's our first step and we're looking forward to doing more. We worked with some tremendous partners, and you'll hear from some of them today, but they helped deliver this project on time and on budget, proving that solar or renewable energy is a viable business solution for anyone. So we're very pleased with the results.

Also, if you guys are interested in seeing how well those panels are working, how much electricity they're producing, we also have come together with a monitoring site where anyone in the world can come and see how much electricity our panels are producing. We have a little display behind me, afterwards you guy can go check it out.

We're very pleased that our panels can provide a home for the plug-in hybrids and a charging station. It's a really neat kind of combination of technologies and teams working together. So we're excited about all that.

[Also thanks to City of Mountain View City Council and the property owner. We were unable to transcribe comments by Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Energy Innovations, system integrator for the project. and Ron Kenedi, vice president of Sharp's Solar Energy Solutions Group, provider of the panels.]

The real-time solar info is at­corporate/­solarpanels.

Robyn has a long-time background in environmental engineering and created the company's Corporate Environmental Programs team

BRAD WHITCOMBE, PG&E Vice President for customer products and services On behalf of PG&E, I'm really pleased to be here as part of at what I think will be a milestone event today. I'd like to thank Google for hosting this event and in particular, Dr Brilliant for bringing together the collection of people that are making all this possible.

If you look behind us at the vehicle-to-grid trial you'll soon be able to see, it's clear that something special is happening within the economy. And we look at this as a new energy economy, which is being created right before our very eyes. In this new economy we see a convergence of the transportation, the technology and the utility sectors, coming together to deliver on our energy needs in a carbon-constrained environment. Clearly Google has demonstrated its passion for solar with the beautiful solar arrays that we see here today, and it's the largest solar commercial installation in the United States. PG&E shares this passion. In fact, we've helped over 16,000 of our customers interconnect their solar energy systems to the grid, and we're ready to do more. In fact, we're sitting on nearly $1 billion of incentive money that's available to our customers to help drive the solar industry further over the next several years in Northern California.

We're also exploring how this new energy economy can help transform the transportation industry. If you look at the energy that PG&E currently delivers its customers today, roughly 50% of it comes from sources that emit zero carbon. And if you look at what could look like if you replace the petroleum that we're currently using to power our vehicles with PG&E's clean energy electricity, the implications on the environment could be profound.

The vehicle-to-grid demonstration that you will see to day will give you a glimpse through the window of the possibilities for the future in this space. But it's going to take action. It's going to take further investment. Iit's going to take technological innovation. And most of all, its going to take ongoing leadership from companies like Google. So I'd like to thank Google for their leadership to date, and thank Google for their time.

PG&E's press release about this event is at­news/­news_releases/­q2_2007/­070619.html.

By feeding power back to the grid, this V2G demonstration went a large step beyond the one PG&E conducted April 9 <­calcars-news/­740.html, at which it powered lights from a PHEV battery through a utility meter.

DAVID VIEAU, CEO, A123 Systems I really want to thank Google for having us out here today. It beats the weather in Boston all day long. You know they say all the stuff, the problem is the batteries. So I always end up being grouped in with the problem, unfortunately.

But we've made a lot of progress with the batteries, we being the industry overall and certainly A123 is playing a role in that. There've been some significant changes going on with the original equipment manufacturers of automobiles in the recognition of the performance change in batteries that are giving them a lot of confidence that in the long run, that electrification of the vehicle can be a reality.

Now the vehicles that we've got demonstrating here have a pack in them that utilize A123Systems cells. In the national tests that were done, according to a drive profile of about 40 miles a day, in simulating either highway conditions or city driving conditions they got over 100 miles per gallon on the highway and 150 miles per gallon in the city. A lot of that depends on your driving conditions and use and conditions -- and frankly, if you have a heavy foot or not -- that's the way it works. But we do expect mileage in that range on a Prius with a pack the size that we're talking here, in the 100-150 mile per gallon range.

So what made it possible were three innovations that I can think of right now, One of them was some technology invented at MIT that we licensed in the area of new nano-cathode and nano-phosphate material that we employ in our battery systems. And we were able demonstrate significantly greater power, much, much longer life and better safety than materials that had been in the industry for some time before. So utilizing that lithium ion format, we transformed what had been laptop-type battery quality into what could be automotive quality batteries.

The second thing was creating cells that were innovative -- the actual design of the cell that would give you a tremendous amount of power and relatively long life. Life is a complicated issue when you talk about batteries Some people think of how long can you talk on your cellphone for life. We talk about how many times can you charge and discharge in cycles and also how long can it live for. How many years will it live and still operate well. And the lab tests say more than ten years for this chemistry. We won't know for ten years how the reality works at but the system level issues and there are also cell issues. But at fundamental levels the chemistry says they're going to last for a long time. And that's very, very promising and significant to the employment of these systems

And the third and final piece of the technology is the creation of the system that you can employ all these batteries in a very useful way, put them into a vehicle and do it in a relatively easy way to install it and not be intrusive So what you can have is a full four- or five-passenger vehicle that isn't loaded with batteries in the back seat and the trunk in such way that you can't use it. You've got batteries that are put into the wheel well where the spare tire has been. You cover it up and can use your vehicle as you have prior to the conversion. And this is a significant contribution to the results that we have today.

So you might say I'm suggesting that it's "game over," and I'm certainly not. I'm saying that we're at the beginning of what represents a tremendously exciting opportunity for the conversion of vehicles and ultimately the electrification of vehicles reducing gasoline consumption and reducing emissions that go along with it

We do have quite a bit of work to do. We've got National Highway Safety Testing to do on all these vehicles. And on a broader scale, we need to scale them up and we need to reduce costs. The issue today is not, I think, if you go around the industry, you won't find people suggesting that it is about whether or not the battery systems work and drive the cars and do that reliably. The issue is cost. Can we drive the cost down?

I tell people in our company, "We used to say we compete with the internal combustion engine. Now I say we compete with a gallon of gasoline." And it's a very tough competitor. A gallon of gasoline has been around for a long time. People have figured out how to package it in a way that they considered it safe, believe it or not. It's one of the most unstable materials that we deal with in our daily lives. but it's reasonably safe. It provides a tremendous amount of energy and it's relatively cheap, It's got a few problems with it and we deal with that on the environmental issues.

So for us to make battery systems that really work for the average guy in the country, for everyone to use these systems, we need to not only improve reliability to guarantee that 10-12 years of life, we need to cut the cost of those systems. To start that off, the issue that is the seed activity that needs to be done across the nation -- this is one of them. What Google's doing here today, by putting these vehicles out, by demonstrating and by increasing public awareness of this, they're going to help us in a number of different ways. They're going to help us gain some traction when we increase volume, and we will drive costs down. These systems have plenty of costs that can be removed. I believe the cost of these systems over the next four to five years will drop in half and that will make it much more available to the average person without the incentives being offered by this great company. So I would like to really thank Google. and all the people for the fine work that's being done.

You can see many postings about A123Systems at the CalCars-News Archive and at Green Car Congress and EV World. The company is working both sides of the automotive market: it is contracted with GM for development projects for both the Volt and Saturn VUE, and it acquired Hymotion, the after-market conversion company. For information on the MIT technology see­dsadoway/­www

Some early media reports took David Vieau's "it's not game over" comments to mean that batteries remain an unsolved problem. In context, his statement says there's much to do before carmakers decide to build PHEVs -- and help bring down costs. And once PHEVs are mass-produced, we hope that Toyota, Ford and Nissan will bless and support affordable conversions of many of more than a million late-model hybrids that will by then be on the road. And for battery makers, motor manufacturers and others, there could be a large market for what are called "through-the road" retrofits (powering a second set of wheels electrically) for a substantial number of the nation's 200 million and the world's 500+ million gasoline cars.

A summary of the Idaho National Laboratory study validating 100+MPG can be found at­2007/­02/­sae_symposium_p.html.

PHEV advocates expect that battery safety issues are quite manageable. People have joked that gasoline cars with a highly flammable explosive fuel, stored in a lightweight steel tank, would never be allowed to exist if they were invented to day. We live with the occasional explosive consequences, especially in crashes. In the U.S., over 250,000 vehicles of all types caught fire in 2005­itemDetail.asp?categoryID=953&itemID=29658&URL=Research%20&%20Reports/­Fire%20statistics/­Trends&cookie%5Ftest=1. This may amount to 1 in every 1,000 vehicles -- far more than one might expect.

LARRY BRILLIANT: I'm going to ask Andy Frank to stand up if he would. [APPLAUSE] Andy is the godfather, the grandfather, of the plug-in hybrid. I hope you all have a chance to talk to him. He's at UC Davis.

We salute Andy for never giving up for more than 30 years. Though he's old enough to retire, he intends to continue, at the University or in the private sector, for a long time more!

LARRY BRILLIANT: And I'd like to ask Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google, to come up here and just say a couple of words.

SERGEY BRIN, Google President of Technology Thank you all for coming. I apologize, I ran a little bit late, but I rode my bicycle over, so I didn't use up too much carbon. I think all of us here who are in California, in Northern California, care about the environment, care about global warming and so forth. Bu I think that's actually the wrong focus for these projects for the, for plug-in hybrids, for the vehicle-to-grid that we're going to demonstrate in a bit.

I think you should also think about it in terms of how much it can increase your quality of life. I'm feeling it right now because on the stage here, we're all under the bright sun, especially all you guys who are wearing jackets, I guess I should have worn one. You're very hot right now. You all are enjoying the shade afforded by our solar panels.

I happen to have a Prius, but not a plug-in. Now I'll have to try to get one myself. As a consequence of that, despite the Prius's good mileage, I still periodically, when I don't bike into work, I find that I have to stop at a gas station. Sometimes it's inconvenient. If I had a plug-in and most of these drives are quite short, I'd rarely have to do that. And that's really nice. People kind of talk about the inconvenience of plugging in, but it would be really nice not to have the inconvenience of going to the gas stations. [APPLAUSE]

There are many other benefits I can go into. let me leave you another one. For those of you who ever drive in San Francisco, if you've tried parallel parking on one of those really steep hills, if you have an electric motor and your gas pedal responds in, I don't know, microseconds or milliseconds or something like that, it really feels different than if you just have a conventional engine and it's going...boom-boom-boom-boom-boom.. And not only will you appreciate that but the people who park in front of and behind you will probably appreciate it too.

Anyway, those are just a few minor things, but I feel like we should not only congratulate these technologies on how good they are for the environment but also how much they improve our quality of life. And on that note, I want all of you to get a chance to see the vehicle-to-grid demonstration, we're going to have right away, so please enjoy that.

Google Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (who arrived for the vehicle-to-grid demonstration) have also been strong supporters all-electric vehicles and have signed up to get Tesla Roadsters.

We've been asked what Google is doing about biofuels, and why this program doesn't involve them. In fact, the $10M RFP potentially includes them. With RechargeIT, Google is supporting electrification of transportation, which we can have long before we have a significant supply, infrastructure and way to use sustainable, low-carbon biofuels from non-food sources.

We believe that taken in total, the picture outlined by the speakers (and the implications of the vehicle-to-grid demonstration we report on in the next posting), make clear how carmakers are being short-sighted in delaying their commitment to mass-production of PHEVs.

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