Jan 18, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
The California Cars Initiative (CalCars.org) http://www.calcars.org is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit startup of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers promoting 100+MPG plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Somewhat uniquely, we're ourselves a hybrid, focusing both on public policy and technology development, and harnessing buyer demand to help commercialize PHEVs. The increasingly-successful effort is becoming recognized as a hopeful sign we can get off our addiction to fossil fuels. And it may be first-ever instance of a "bottom-up/by popular demand" campaign resulting in mass production of a new high-ticket consumer product.
AFTER 5 YEARS, WE'RE LAUNCHING CALCARS 2.0. CalCars is designing a new management structure to make the most of our momentum, contacts and visibility. We will organize, support and coordinate many semi-autonomous projects to broaden awareness and support and speed mass-production of plug-in cars. Transforming the enormous and slow-to-change automotive industry is an ambitious goal, and finally approaching some success is very gratifying. Some people who've worked on the plug-in campaign have described the experience as the most satisfying and meaningful thing they've ever done. The new CalCars 2.0 will give many more people the opportunity to make even more of a difference than we have already!
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BACKGROUND: EXAMPLES OF NEW PROJECTS
As we reposition (and perhaps re-brand) CalCars for a broader mission, take a look at some NEW PROJECTS through which CalCars 2.0's can broaden awareness and support and speed mass-production. (We'll share a longer list of 20+ potential projects with people who become involved.)
BACKGROUND: ABOUT CALCARS
FORMED IN 2002, our efforts began to be noticed in early 2005 when our first-ever Prius conversions were covered in The New York Times, Business Week, TIME, National Public Radio, and local and network TV. (See http://www.calcars.org/news.html for print, audio and video clips and http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html for the latest developments.) By early 2006, the solutions we promote had received supported from President Bush and his Energy Department, as well as by Bill Clinton, Al Gore and many others http://www.calcars.org/photos-people.html. Former CIA Director James Woolsey calls the diverse interests lining up behind PHEVs the "coalition between the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the sod-busters, the cheap hawks, and the evangelicals, utility shareholders, mom and pop drivers, and Willie Nelson." In 2007, Google launched a major Plug-In initiative with partners including Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Toyota and GM indicated they would build PHEVs someday.
CONVERSIONS TAKE OFF In Fall 2004, CalCars built the first prototype PHEV Prius we called "PRIUS+" to bring attention to plug-in hybrids and encourage car makers to build them. We "green-tuned" a stock 2004 Prius by adding batteries and grid-charging. (We replaced the battery control system but didn't modify the hybrid controls.) Our proof-of-concept used lead-acid batteries. We've worked with companies to demonstrate the viability for PHEvs of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in current hybrids. Now we're working with lithium-ion battery suppliers. We've demonstrated our cars nationally as vehicles that get 100+MPG (plus about one cent/mile for electricity), In 2005-2007, for-profit integration companies entered the market. We have facilitated the EAA-PHEV "do-it-yourself with the help of an experienced engineer" conversion project http://www.priusplus.org. And several new companies have been formed to facilitate componentry and installations based on those open source designs. For all conversion options, see http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html.
CARMAKERS LISTEN: In mid-2006, Toyota, GM and Ford indicated they were considering PHEVs. GM now plans build the first production PHEVs, the Saturn Vue anticipated in 2010 and the Chevy Volt in 2010-11. Toyota plans a leased demonstration PHEV fleet to selected corporate fleet customers before 2010, and Ford will test a small number of Escape PHEVs with Southern California Edison. A Chinese carmaker, BYD, plans to have PHEVs at this year's Summer Olympics, and other small companies are moving ahead. Though over a dozen ten automakers now express interest in PHEVs, most remain far from production or "commercialization." We've tracked their evolving views at http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html. We're advocating for immediate commitments to demonstration fleets using "good enough" batteries, so car-makers will have evolved the cars through several versions by the time they're ready to mass-produce them, with even better batteries.
ADVOCACY AND PUBLIC POLICY: We encourage the growing attention given to this compelling technology. New organizations in part catalyzed by our efforts include Plug-In Partners (national fleet buy), SetAmericaFree (energy security), Plug In America (PHEVs and battery electrics), Plug-In Bay Area, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group's "Our Power" campaign, the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium (component trade association) -- see http://www.calcars.org/partners.html. In May 2006 we brought the first PHEVS to appear in public in Washington DC for demonstrations and drives with dozens of Senators and Representatives and staff members. Photos at http://www.calcars.org/phevs-in-dc.html. A bi-partisan Congressional coalition introduced DRIVE Act legislation promoting plug-in cars, provisions of which were included in the 2007 Energy Bill.
OUR GOAL: to motivate automakers to build PHEVs for a market that's expanding as concern for near-term steps to address oil independence and greenhouse gases. We see a near-term demand for demonstration vehicles from utility, government and corporate fleets, and early adopters, for 10,000-100,000 vehicles before a car company delivers production PHEVs. (While after-market conversions sell for over $10,000, we project automakers' selling price for mass-produced PHEVs as $2-$5,000 higher than conventional hybrids. This would provide a lower lifetime cost of ownership than any other vehicle type.) We're exploring with public officials ways to provide incentives to auto makers to build PHEVs. And we've been developing concepts to remove the battery issue as a risk factor from both the manufacturer and buyer of PHEVs via third-party battery warranties and leasing programs. We've promoted the benefits of "vehicle to home" (V2H) to provide backup power and reduce home energy costs and future "vehicle to grid" (V2G), making parked cars' batteries available to utilities for distributed storage. V2G could also make intermittent energy sources like night-time wind power into reliable 24/7 renewable energy sources.
FUNDING FOR CALCARS: Until recently, we've been entirely a volunteer effort. We've gotten contributions from, among others, well-known entrepreneurs, electric utilities, the Energy Foundation, Northern CA Auto Association and Google.org, with others to come. We accept tax-deductible donations and offer a unique bumper sticker to Charter Sponsors. CalCars 2.0 aims to expand and diversify our revenue streams. You can find out far more about us at the URLs below.