Sep 28, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Silicon Valley Leadership Group (whose members include "200 of the Silicon Valley's most respected employers that collectively provide nearly 250,000 local jobs") has been steadily accelerating its commitment to green strategies, including, front-and-center, plug-in hybrids. (See http://www.calcars.org/photos-people for photos of four of the key people involved: SVLG President and CEO Carl Guardino, SVLG Director of Transportation & Land Use Laura Stuchinsky, PHEV Project Chair Sass Somekh and SVLG's Solar Tech Initiative Chair Tom McCalmont.)
Recognizing how far away carmakers are from mass-produced PHEVs, it's taking action, signing up its CEOs and other top executives to order PHEV conversions. So far it's identified aftermarket conversion companies using A123Systems and Valence batteries. It's looking for warranted and crash-tested solutions costing under $10,000. It's signed up over a dozen "customers" so far, and it's hoping to work things out with Toyota to maintain vehicle warranties.
Below is announcement of the plan. Following that is the front-page story from the Sunday San Jose Mercury News. This story was keyed to SVLG's sold-out "Clean & Green" event Wednesday at Santa Clara University. At this event, the group released its newest "Silicon Valley Projections" report, and heard from California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, venture capital leader John Doerr and VMware CEO Diane Greene. For the press release with details of the 10 components of SVLG's Clean & Green campaign, see the links below. A CalCars PHEV was parked in front of the main area Wednesday morning where participants gotinformation from sponsoring and exhibiting groups.
http://www.OurPower.org What's this all about?
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can average more than 100 miles per gallon and one cent per mile, represent one of the most viable near-term solutions for substantially reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and our nation's dependence on oil.
Several automakers have expressed an interest in plug-ins, but none are manufacturing them as yet. The reason? Automakers say battery costs are too high. Battery makers say they need volume orders to reduce the cost. A classic "catch-22."
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is trying to break this logjam by enlisting 100+ Silicon Valley citizens willing to convert a Toyota Prius for themselves or for their company.
The goal is to draw public attention to the benefits of using electricity for transportation, cascade this grassroots effort throughout the nation, and help drive down battery costs to accelerate commercial introduction of these vehicles.
How will the conversions process work?
We have spoken with two battery/conversion companies (A123Systems and Valence) and have established the following requirements for this initiative:
- The conversion will cost no more than $10,000.
- The conversion module will meet federal safety and reliability testing---the same National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards automakers must meet.
- The battery will be at least 5 kWh battery (at least 20 miles all electric range at low speeds) and no emission or drive train parts or components from the original vehicle will be replaced or removed.
- The battery company will offer a three-year/36,000 mile warranty for the battery/conversion module.*
- Conversions to start in early 2008.
- An important note. To date, Toyota has indicated it may void the emissions system warranty on any Toyota hybrid converted to a plug-in. The emissions system warranty includes the battery. We hope the company will reconsider this for conversions that meet federal safety and emissions standards.
Of the companies that are able to meet the Leadership Group's minimum criteria, we will select the one that can provide participants with the best deal for their investment in terms of price, technology, and safety.
By early next year, 100 Silicon Valley business executives will be driving high-mileage plug-in hybrids, a testament to the seriousness of global warming and the earnestness of local leaders to help fight it.
One hundred might sound like a small number, but it's actually a huge step: It would more than double the number of plug-ins, which get more power from electricity than a typical hybrid, on North American roads.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group and its chief executive, Carl Guardino, who organized the plug-in push, see the plug-ins as a starting point for their broader mission: to make the region a leader in conservation, in the use of alternative fuels and in reducing global warming; and to exert the valley's influence when it comes to pushing governments and big corporations to act to solve these problems.
That is a key part of the group's 11th annual projections report, due to be released Monday. The 52-page document, titled "Clean & Green," also suggests that if 3 percent of light-duty vehicles were replaced locally by plug-ins, about 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide would be eliminated each day. Getting rid of older vehicles, increasing transit ridership and encouraging more people to walk or bike might eliminate an additional 6,000 tons of pollution daily.
"We recognize that our 'Clean & Green' renewable energy action plan is a regional response to a global challenge, but change rarely comes internationally or even nationally all at once," Guardino said.
The report will be the centerpiece of a public event this week when business leaders join with elected officials Wednesday morning at Santa Clara University.
Sass Somekh, a former Novellus president who heads the leadership group's plug-in program, has championed the potential of plug-in hybrids. Biofuels and electric transportation offer two ways to meet the challenges of reducing this country's reliance on oil and its foreign sources and to curb global warming, he said.
Biofuel, however, remains in the research and development phase. "I'm crossing my fingers," Somekh said about that alternative.
Electricity, on the other hand, is "the only proven solution. Just like with solar, we're in the mode where we need to reduce the cost to make it practical."
That means better, high-tech batteries and volume production. And while the United States is behind in battery development, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group will work with one of two U.S. companies - A123Systems of Massachusetts or Valence Technology of Texas and their local affiliates - to get the hybrid conversions done. The companies eventually plan to try to sell these batteries to automakers.
Somekh's vision, and he admits it's "a very long process," is 200,000 one-megawatt windmills turning at night and generating enough renewable power for 200 million cars.
David Tang, senior director for smart energy at PG&E, sees converted plug-in hybrids as "a good intermediate step to bridge the gap between the current generation of hybrids and the next generation of plug-ins."
Electricity is cheaper per mile than gasoline, he said, and getting power from the grid instead of gasoline is better for the environment.
In the future, Tang noted, plug-in hybrid owners could provide power for others, using so-called vehicle-to-grid or V2G technology, but there's still a lot of investment and research that needs to be done for that to be practical on a large scale. The utility is working with Tesla Motors, the San Carlos electric-car start-up, to develop a V2G charging system.
The vehicles, most likely converted Toyota Prius models, get bigger batteries and add a plug, which makes them able to run solely on electricity for much greater distances than a traditional hybrid. The equivalent miles per gallon for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) often is 100 or more, advocates of the vehicles say.
One of the 100
"It's symbolic in the sense that it's not going to change our overall oil consumption very much," Somekh said. "But for the person electing to use this for their transportation, it's not symbolic at all."
Somekh will be one of the 100. So will Tom Hayse, chief executive of ETM-Electromatic in Newark, Barry Cinnamon of Akeena Solar in Los Gatos, Tom McCalmont of REgrid Power in Campbell, Bob Burlinson of Regis Management in Palo Alto and Bobby Ram of SunPower in San Jose.
Pacific Gas & Electric also has said it will buy a plug-in Prius. The utility already has one of these cars in its fleet - it's nicknamed Sparky - and will add a second as part of the leadership group's program.
Automakers, especially Toyota and General Motors, have said they are studying plug-in hybrids and eventually will bring them to market.
"We're trying to make it happen sooner," said Hayse, who once drove a Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle and now drives a Ford Escape hybrid sport-utility vehicle.
"What does Silicon Valley have to do with this?" Hayse asks. Somekh "represents a Silicon Valley attitude - hey, take it into production and drive down the cost."
Felix Kramer founded the California Cars Initiative and calcars.org to push automakers to put plug-in hybrids into production. His Web site tracks the number and location of plug-ins on North American roads. It lists about 70 right now.
"SVLG is adding its members' voices to deliver the message to carmakers that the demand for PHEVs is bigger than they think," said Kramer via e-mail from Iceland, where he was attending an energy conference. "And many of these companies are willing to work with government and automakers to remove any remaining obstacles to rapid commercialization."
http://www.svlg.net/events/projections0926/ page for the Clean & Green event http://www.svlg.net/press/library/clngrn_2007.pdf 4 page summary of Clean&Green, including a photo of one of CalCars' PHEVs http://www.svlg.net/press/library/projections_2008.pdf full 52-page report, including a photo of PG&E's "Sparky" PHEV. http://www.svlg.net/press/press_releases/2007_0924.php for the press release on Clean & Green event.