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TED2008: 1500 Movers/Shakers Hear about PHEV Campaign
Mar 3, 2008 (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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CalCars just got the opportunity to evangelize the concept of electrification of transportation and offer a quick status report on PHEVs to a very influential audience. Here's a bit of background on the annual TED Conference in Monterey, followed by the story of the event and our talk and a general note about events.

TED began in 1984, reflecting the "convergence" of three important streams of social, artistic and business activity:

  • TECHNOLOGY (the Macintosh had just launched; the laser printer was on its way)
  • ENTERTAINMENT (the digital world was incorporating audio, video and graphics)
  • DESIGN (graphic arts, architecture and product designs were evolving rapidly)

Richard Saul Wurman,­wiki/­Richard_Saul_Wurman , coiner of the term "information Architect" and creator of the popular "Access" guidebooks, founded the event to create a venue for him to hear his personal choice of thoughtful and creative people. In 2001, Chris Anderson,­wiki/­Chris_Anderson_%28TED%29 , who had built a technology/business magazine empire and left it all to create the Sapling Foundation, bought TED and turned it into a non-profit. The TED Conference includes talks by about 50 "thinkers and doers" giving 18-minute "talks of their lives" interspersed with provocative three-minute talks. Since 2001, it's expanded in many ways, including TEDGlobal (international locations), TED Prize (three per year since 2005; past winners include Larry Brilliant and EO Wilson), and TEDTalks, sharing the best presentations online under a Creative Commons license. More at­index.php/­pages/­view/­id/­5

CALCARS & TED: Last year, a CalCars supporter encouraged me to attend and footed the $5K registration fee. When I got there, given that GM had brought the Chevy Volt, I suggested to the organizers that I tell the audience about the exciting future that starts with PHEVs. They said I might become a last-minute addition to the program, but it didn't happen. The event's content and the people were so stimulating I decided to return. In the fall-winter 2007, my proposal for a three-minute talk was accepted after many discussions with Chris Anderson, self-titled "Archivist," and Tom Reilly, Partnership Director and the event's court jester. I got very helpful back-and-forth editorial input from Chris plus great messaging consulting from "User Experience Strategist" Nancy Frishberg­in/­nfrishberg , boiling down the PHEV message to seven images (see below).

My "leap-day" talk got a terrific reception from the approximately 1,100 people in Monterey, plus 400 at the simulcast event in Aspen. Among those who heard the talk were representatives of GM, BMW, Shell and Lexus (all event sponsors and exhibitors); leaders from companies like IDEO and Autodesk with whom we've held events and hope to engage in future projects; people currently or formerly at Google, Microsoft and other high-tech and media companies, venture capitalists and corporations that are potential sponsors of CalCars. Al Gore (who premiered his solutions-oriented slide show, including many of zero-carbon technologies) heard it, as did individuals ranging from Project Better Place's Shai Agassi to ocean explorer Robert Ballard, actress Cameron Diaz, the Simpson's Matt Groening, genetics pioneer Craig Venter and mycologist Paul Stamets (both working on creating zero-carbon fuels from biological processes).

Outside, while the conference's official ride-and-drive vehicles were hydrogen cars from GM and BMW and high-end Lexus hybrids, many of the attendees also stopped by to see our car and talk to CalCars Senior Advisor Randy Reisiniger. Also outside for some time were Ian Wright's electric race car and a vehicle fueled by algae biodiesel from startup Solazyme.

In a few months, we hope the video of the talk will stream from . Meanwhile, the text is below; the slides are at­calcars-ted2008.pdf -- and many of the improvements in this presentation have also migrated to the 22-slide-presentation at­calcars-photos.pdf


1. PHOTO OF PLUG: You've probably heard some buzz about plug-in hybrids -- but you may ask, why are they so important? They're not just about switching from one flawed energy source to another.

2. BETTER IN 3 WAYS: After a century, cars can finally get off fossil fuels. The big deal is that electricity has so much going for it: it's cleaner, cheaper, and domestic. And plug-in cars of al types get cleaner as they get older -- because the power grid is getting cleaner.

3. 2 DIAGRAMS: We can have plug-in hybrids now with no new technology -- by extending today's popular hybrid design to its logical conclusion. The main difference is the bigger battery. Add some electronics. Then you ask, what about the fuel infrastructure? I brought it along. You get an extension cord! (SHOW YELLOW DONGLE) It's like adding a small second fuel tank you always use first. You fill it at night from an ordinary 120-volt socket, and the next day your local commute will be all-or-part electric. But if you want to go to the mountains, you've still got gas.

4. MY 100+MPG CAR: CalCars' Open Source "hack" of the Prius by engineers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs and drivers in 2004 started to show what's possible. You're looking at my "car of the future, " which I've been driving for almost 2 years and 35,00 miles. You may have spotted it parked near here, and I'll have it near the beach tomorrow.

5. QUOTE: A dozen carmakers now agree plugging in cars is a good idea. But for them it's still business as usual. They're taking their time. So a broad campaign, memorably described by James Woolsey, is working to make it easier for them to evolve quickly.

6. VERSIONING: The planet can't wait for perfection...we need version 1 of all kinds of green products as soon as they're "good enough" to be used safely and with measurable benefits. We expect to succeed in this campaign to commercializing plug-in hybrids. And this may be the first time a high-ticket consumer product will be mass-produced and come to market by popular demand. Soon after, we'll have many all-electric vehicles.

7. PHEV & VOLT: At the LA auto show we converted a car; here it is in front of a building billboard for GM's concept Volt. People tell me CalCars gives them hope that ordinary people can create change. And surely extraordinary people -- like each of you -- can do a lot to make cars -- and then many other things -- cleaner and cheaper.

I had the chance to talk with many people from GM, continuing to encourage them to "version" their car with an earlier preliminary rollout in California and elsewhere. And following me on stage was Larry Burns, VP of GM R&D and Planning, showing the "Boss," a self-driving Chevy Tahoe developed with Carnegie-Mellon University that won the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. Burns used this car's advanced navigation capabilities to connect safety issues and the electrification of technology. He concluded, "What Boss really represents is an example of the new DNA for automobiles. This new DNA will transition from mechanically driven cars to electric. It will transition from internal combustion engines to electric motors, from petroleum to electricity and hydrogen, from mechanical and hydraulic controls to electrical and digital controls and from cars that today operate independently to cars that are connected to everything around them. GM and other auto companies are working very hard on this new DNA for the automobile, and we believe it holds the key to bringing sustainable mobility to many more than the 13% today that have a car."

See­events.html for many upcoming programs, including an all-star conference in Berkeley this Friday. If you want a PHEV at an Earth Day event, we urge you to contact the owners of the cars listed at­where-phevs-are.html as soon as possible. For Bay Area vehicles and talks by CalCars, write to events@... .

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