PLUG OK license plate
New CalCars FAQ posted
Jul 17, 2005 (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 been struggling along with a website that lacks good navigational pointers. We have people ready to help upgrade it, but lack the time to get to it. (That's one of many reasons we hope to evolve from volunteer status and get the staff and resources to take advantage of untold opportunities.)

But asking for contributions is not what this email is about <grin>. Nor is it to tell you that Ron Gremban's new license plates for our PRIUS+ have arrived. (To see what they say, go to­felixkramer/­calcars/­PhotoAlbum26.html -- and see more photos at­priusplusphotos.html .)

As an interim response to the website problem, and to bring together in one place the most frequently asked questions, our first cut at a FAQ is at­faq.html . Comments (and submissions of other Qs and As) appreciated. (If we've overlooked your organization, or your favorite question, please let us know.)

CalCars Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


In most cases, we include the full URLs of links as visible text so the links are easily found from printed versions, and so this FAQ can be emailed as plain text. This is a work in progress; additional links will be added in the coming days.


Q: Why are there so many different names for these vehicles?
A: At various times, they've been called grid-connected hybrids, full or strong hybrids, electric, pluggable, gridable and many others. In the past five years, the most prevalent name has been plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Objections have come from those who say that this name puts advocates on the defensive in the face of auto industry views that plugging in is a bad thing: all ads for hybrids emphasize that "you don't have to plug it in." Recently many advocates have begun calling them "gas-optional" (GO-HEVs), which describes a benefit rather than a feature. Objections come from those who say that this is inaccurate, since the vehicles do require liquid fuel (currently gasoline). We probably won't have a universal name for them until an automaker spends millions of dollars on focus groups and marketing studies. On this page, we'll stick with PHEV.

Q: Since plug-in hybrids are only as clean as the electric power we use, and since we use so much coal in the US, won't we worse off if we increase our reliance on electricity?
A: On the national (half-coal grid) electric vehicles are still far cleaner than gasoline vehicles. And it's easier to clean central power plants than millions of vehicles. For more see Section 3 of Vehicles­vehicles.html.

Q: Where's a good basic introduction to PHEVs?
A: Of course, we like CalCars' Vehicles page plus the TIME and IEE articles below, and some of the online publications listed below. We think our selections from"Oil and Security­group/­calcars-news/­message/­68," a report by former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Secretary of State George Schultz, are very compelling.

Q: Where's the payback?
A: The costs and benefits of cars extend far beyond the individual driver to society as a whole. But when people talk about payback, they refer only to the net dollars to the driver. Because this question never comes up when people pay a premium for features like leather seats, we point out that millions of people want the "environmental feature." So many variables enter the payback equation: for instance, predictions of gasoline prices, electricity costs (and new rate categories), potential tax breaks and employer benefits. We address this issue at Vehicles­vehicles.html and point to EPRI studies showing that when auto makers build PHEVs in quantity, and they cost $3-$5,000 more than standard hybrids, their total lifetime cost of ownership will be lower than that of any other vehicle type -- so the payback will be there.
A2: We also think that with more people realizing that global warming is our greatest challenge, and that evolving the transportation sector to zero-carbon via cellulose ethanol plug-in hybrids plus electricity from renewable sources may be our best strategy, the discussions about payback have to be completely recalculated. See our Global Warming Page-in-development­globalwarming.html.

Q: Isn't it misleading to talk about 100MPG and 500MPG cars?
A: We try to be careful to emphasize in the fine print that PHEVs can get over 100 miles/gallon of gasoline, PLUS electric costs of about 1-2 cents/mile. For 500MPG, assuming that 80% of the liquid fuel used is biofuel or ethanol quintuples the 100MPG number.

Q: How do fuel cells fit into the picture?
A: Fuel cell cars should be plug-in hybrids so that the fuel cell is used only for extended range, and the fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage can be smaller. (See EnergyCS's Greg Hanssen's Hydrogen Bridges­H2BridgeV3.pdf.) We believe, however, that the advantages of flex-fuel PHEVs mean that the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cells may never happen.

Q: I love the idea of powering my car from solar power. How about putting PV cells on the roof of a PHEV?
A: Car rooftops' surface area is too small to make a significant contribution. Unless they're part of the original installation, they will seriously affect the car's aerodynamics and will be far less durable than metal. Photovoltaic arrays belong on stationery rooftops.


Q: How can I help?
A: Spread the word. Download to read and print, then distribute to others the following PDF files (for news clips, see complete list at CalCars Kudos­kudos.html)

Q. How else can I help?
A: Make a tax-deductible contribution at Sponsor­sponsor.html.
A2: See how you can help at Actions­actions.html.

Q: How can I stay up to date?
A: Subscribe to CalCars-News­group/­calcars-news/­ where we post information about all major new developments and browse the CalCars Kudos page.

Q: What are Calcars' goals?
A: Our medium-term goal is to persuade and incentivize auto makers to build plug-in hybrid cars. We 're doing that by building awareness that these cars represent the fullest, strongest form of popular hybrid technology. We're getting the word out to many people who are now hearing about PHEVs for the first time. With our partners, we're creating actual vehicles, prompting increasing number of important organizations and individuals to voice their support, and helping to build demand among individual and fleet car buyers. Longer term, we are looking ahead to flex-fuel, then cellulose-ethanol PHEVs, then to adding other advances, including lightweighting and other optimizing technologies.

Q: Who's involved in plug-in hybrids?
A: We work frequently with organizations including:

  • Utilities: The California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Electric Vehicle Departments of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric and Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, Austin Energy
  • Government: the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, the South Coast and the Bay Area Air Quality Management Districts
  • Technology integrators: Edrive Systems LLC (EnergyCS and CLean-Tech), the Hybrid Center at the University of California-Davis, AC Propulsion, Aerovironment
  • Energy policy and advocacy groups: Bluewater Network (of Friends of the Earth), Jumpstart Ford (by Rainforest Alliance and Global Exchange, Center for Energy & Climate Solutions/Joe Romm, Center for a New American Dream, DontBeFueled
  • National security policy groups: Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, Set America Free, Securing America's Future Energy
  • Electric vehicle advocates: the national Electric Auto Association and its 30 local chapters, the Don't Crush Campaign
  • Online publications:,, Green Car Congress, World Changing/Sustainability Sundays
  • Online hybrid discussion groups: PRIUS+ Plug-In Hybrid Conversion Group, PriusChat,, and Yahoo Discussion Groups including Gridable Hybrids, Prius-2G, Prius_Technical Stuff, Hybrid_Ford_Escape.

Q: What do car companies think of PHEVs?
A. Here's our roundup­group/­calcars-news/­message/­80 of their comments in the media recently. We see evidence of evolving views.

Q What do environmental groups say about PHEVs?
A. Bluewater Network and Rainforest Action Network have been active, vocal proponents of PHEVs. While other national and international organizations have been supportive at government hearings, they haven't yet begun to advocate for PHEVs. Many continue to pay more attention to far-off hydrogen fuel cells than to this immediate solution. Some welcome first changes: the National Resources Defense Council endorsed the SetAmericaFree agenda, and the Union of Concerned Scientists' Hybrid Center includes PHEVs in their comparison chart­hybridcenter/­page.cfm?pageID=1698 and in their Blog­my_weblog/­2005/­06/­plugging_into_h.html. Readers of this FAQ who are members can encourage local chapters and national organizations to begin public activities educating and promoting PHEVs.


Q: What's the relationship between CalCars and EDrive Systems?
A: We're non-profit; they're a private company. EDrive Systems LLC is a partnership of two companies, EnergyCS (who helped us with the technology for our PRIUS+ Conversion), and Clean-Tech. We work to gain attention for their pioneering efforts to "commercialize" (bring to market) PHEVs. (See our posting at­group/­calcars-news/­message/­37.) They're focused on delivering retrofits of Prius and, in the future, other vehicles. In addition to our advocacy work, we continue to pursue technical development on cars and batteries, both on the Prius and, increasingly, on other hybrids, most immediately the Ford Escape.

Q: When can I convert my Prius?
A: You will be able to get an EDrive Prius: see EDrive's FAQ­Edrive-FAQ.html But is not in the business of selling conversions.

Q: How do I find out more about Prius Conversions?
A: All the important stuff is found in links at the top of our PRIUS+ page the latest version of our Fact Sheet, links to pages with photos, etc.

Q. How about other conversions?
A. CalCars hopes to catalyze the creation of a new company to meet the expected fleet demand for Escape or other vehicles in the near future, as described at CalCars Opportunity http://www.calcars/­org/­sjmercury-vcinsider+calcars-opportunity.pdf.

Q: How can I get an all-electric vehicle?
A: Unfortunately you can no longer buy a new highway-capable production electric vehicle in the U.S. You may be able to buy a RAV4 EV at eBay (if you think Prius resale values are high, wait until you see $40K prices for these precious cars.) Contact your local chapter of the Electric Auto Association to find out more -- including do-it-yourself conversions and places online where EV owners and fans congregate. We expect that EVs will return to the market after PHEVs are commercialized.

Q: How do I catch up to your technical discussions?
A: Read the PRIUS+ Fact Sheet (latest version at PRIUS+; look at the message archive of our PRIUS+ Technical Discussion Group­group/­priusplus/­ (here's a Development Chronology­group/­priusplus/­message/­421). The discussions are open to the public; as the group's home page makes clear, we limit membership (and posting privileges) to people who meet somewhat strict criteria.


Q What if I have items that belong on this list or comments?
A: Write us at mailto:info@...

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