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Help CalCars Build the PHEV Tipping Point
Dec 13, 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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Dear CalCars Supporters

Thanks for all you've done for our shared goals, for your past support and for spreading the word….if you haven't been able to contribute in the past, we hope what we describe below convinces you to do so this year for the first time.

And please pick ten people you've talked to about PHEVs -- forward this email to them to magnify your impact!

We expect this new year will bring us much closer to our goal of mass-produced PHEVs becoming available to all of us -- but we still have a long way to go. We've successfully made the case that plug-in cars can address global warming and reduce dependence on imported oil. Now we need your financial support to start proving it. We think you should be able to decide if your dollars finance both sides of the war in Iraq -- or recharge plug-in cars. And you shouldn't have to wait much longer to be able to go to your dealer and pick out a color for your PHEV.


We're racing to stay up with the news. At a time when new developments come daily, when we're regularly invited to comment, speak, design, build, advise and coordinate, we remain a handful of people stretched way beyond our means. Ron and Felix are STILL the only full-time CalCars staffers. Our efforts are bolstered by those from Randy, Michael and others listed at About CalCars and from many colleagues from groups listed at the newly-expanded and reorganized CalCars Partners page. You can help us do more by donating with a credit card/PayPal or a check at­sponsor.html .

Now CalCars gets the chance to evolve to better respond to the new opportunities, taking advantage of our increased recognition, influence and networks. We have a working group with ambitious ideas to respond creatively as carmakers delay getting "good enough" version 1.0 PHEVs on the road.

Our plans aren't far enough along to describe, but we can tell you they will enable us to multiply our effectiveness. They'll also make us less dependent on contributions through projects that will draw on the skills and resources of many of you who want to help.

In the past, at year-end, we've recapped in detail all we've accomplished and our goals for the next year (see­2007.html ). We've held off on that because of all the daily press of events. Here's a big picture overview of where we are and where we'd like to head:



A year ago, who would have imagined we'd have come this far?

  • We routinely hear top executives of carmakers sounding like PHEV advocates about the benefits of displacing local gasoline-fueled miles with electricity.
  • Our shorthand "cleaner/cheaper/domestic" summary of the comparative benefits of electricity has been broadly adopted.
  • So many politically distinct groups and single-issue constituencies that support this solution ignore their presuppositions and find ways to work with each other.
  • The idea of a 21st century race among carmakers to be first on PHEVs has taken hold among industry observers and the media.
  • Vehicle-to-home (V2H) as a near-to-mid-term benefit of electrifying transportation and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) as a long-term benefit have reached high levels of awareness.
  • PHEVs are recognized as one way to respond to the climate crisis -- including the ability of PHEVs to provide distributed storage that can transform intermittent renewable energy like night-time wind power into reliable 24/7 renewable energy sources.
  • International awareness of PHEVs is growing; Canada and Scandinavia are leading the way.
  • The story of our campaign and its message of hope and empowerment appear centrally now in books about energy policy, innovation and CleanTech investing.


  • GM says its new Chevy Volt has become the company's highest priority project and its Saturn Vue is on track.
  • Ford and Toyota have built and demonstrated PHEV prototypes; others have concept cars, and a dozen carmakers and startups are at various stages of developing or evaluating PHEVs.
  • Following the early lead of utilities, companies including Google, Enterprise Car Rental, and consortia including the Silicon Valley Leadership Group have jumped deeply into the PHEV campaign and are sponsoring many projects.
  • The national coalition around the DRIVE Act got PHEV programs including $5,000 in buyer credits and $2,500 for conversions into the Energy Bill; though these provisions were pulled at the last minute when the tax on oil companies was deleted, strong bipartisan support makes them likely to be enacted in the next two years.
  • In California, the legislature, Energy Commission and Air Resources Board are all promoting PHEV programs (we're still working to get the Governor publicly on board in a significant way).
  • Between today's aftermarket converters and a new "ecosystem" of small new companies forming around our open-source do-it-yourself designs, we expect by this time next year there will be thousands of PHEVs on the road, saving oil and acting as plug-in ambassadors.


Because with all this progress, we now find ourselves in limbo -- waiting for the cars! Though this year carmakers said, "Yes, we'll build and sell PHEVs," we're still at least two years away from the Vue, three from the Volt, and probably further than that for Toyota, Ford and others.

Why? The carmakers are still living in "business as usual." For PHEVs, all carmakers set artificially high standards on minimum range, battery lifetime and market size. Many say they're still waiting until PHEVs have a business model they can count on -- ignoring the impending wave of new regulations requiring improved MPG, and the incentives states and nations will offer to finance the necessary changes.

"ENCOURAGE SUCCESSFUL PHEV COMMERCIALIZATION ASAP" That's our newly formulated goal: and all five words have great significance.

We're working on a range of strategies to:

  • influence carmakers' timetables, specifications and positioning;
  • offer to carmakers market intelligence and new approaches to perceived obstacles;
  • help develop and promote public and private measures that provide incentives and remove risks for manufacturers;
  • encourage new competitors to challenge and compete with the too-slow big carmakers;
  • enable and showcase available technologies, especially new batteries;
  • help empower the community of after-market conversion solutions providers;
  • expand the number and impact of the already-growing base of PHEV drivers and owners.


Operating on a shoestring budget, CalCars has been able to make significant contributions to build public awareness and support for plug-in hybrids. We're within sight of our goals. But much remains to be done before PHEVs are available to every car driver -- and even more before they significantly impact our oil use and greenhouse gas emissions by becoming the standard platform for new vehicles. As part of that challenge, we're already exploring solutions to accelerate electrification's benefits by making many of the gasoline and diesel vehicles on the road today candidates for some sort of PHEV conversion.

In 2008, more than ever, we can put to best use your tax-deductible contributions of whatever you can afford. Do the math: if you and each of the 5,667 other subscribers to CalCars-News become $95 Charter Members -- or give even $25, which gets you a bumper sticker -- we can concentrate fully on our goals, and accomplish far more. At the moment, we're back to being volunteers, which after years of doing so previously, on a personal level is unsustainable for more than a few months.

Please help us get there with your tax-deductible contribution, using a credit card/PayPal or a check at­sponsor.html Thank you in advance for all your help!

-- Felix Kramer, Ron Gremban and CalCars' volunteers and advisors

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