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Tues: Washington DC Briefing; TV: Nova & Car Talk's Tom & Ray on PHEVs
Apr 21, 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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Here are two important events on Tuesday, April 22: a Washington DC policy briefing on PHEVs with high-level participants, and an entertaining segment of the WGBH Nova series on "Cars of the Future," broadcast most places at 8PM on PBS, featuring Click & Clack, the Tappett brothers, who after exploring the options both turn out to be favorably inclined to PHEVs, and devote considerable time to visiting and talking with Dr. Andy Frank of UC Davis and Efficient Drivetrains, Inc.

The Electric Drive Answer: Transportation
Technologies & Policies to End Oil Dependence
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 9:30am-11:30am
562 Dirksen Senate Office Building
This event is free and open to everyone. Pre-registration is not required.

The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), with support from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, invites you to The Electric Drive Answer: Transportation Technologies & Policies to End Oil Dependence.

During this unique multi-industry panel, EDTA members will detail their latest projects and plans for battery, hybrid, plug-in and fuel cell electric drive vehicles, components and infrastructure. They will also discuss how federal policies can speed the commercialization of clean, efficient electric drive and reduce the role of oil in transportation.

EDTA members from the following companies will participate: Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Toyota, Southern California Edison, Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions, Electrovaya, EnerDel, Phoenix Motorcars, and Vectrix.


  • Mike Andrew, Director of Government Affairs and External Communications, HEV Battery Systems Power Solutions, Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions
  • Edward B. Cohen, Vice President, Government & Industry Relations, Honda North America
  • Dr. Sankar Das Gupta, CEO, Electrovaya (or another representative)
  • Daniel J. Elliott, CEO, Phoenix Motorcars
  • Charles Gassenheimer, Chairman of the Board, Ener1
  • Nancy Gioia, Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, Ford Motor Company
  • Charles Ing, Director, Government Affairs, Toyota
  • Andrew J. MacGowan, Executive Chairman, CEO, & President, Vectrix
  • William MacLeod, Senior Manager, Government Affairs, Hyundai Motor Company
  • Dean Taylor, Technical Specialist, Southern California Edison
  • Joseph Trahern, Director Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, General Motors

NOVA Cars of the Future: full text of MSNBC story, excerpts from Newsweek interview with Click and Clack, excerpts from Sacramento Bee and UC Davis stories on the broadcast.­archive/­2008/­04/­21/­918802.aspx A plug for your future car Posted: Monday, April 21, 2008 10:01 AM by Alan Boyle ABOUT COSMIC LOG: Quantum fluctuations in space, science, exploration and other cosmic fields... served up regularly by science editor Alan Boyle since 2002.

The "Car Talk" radio guys go on a joke-filled quest to find the perfect car of the future in a TV show premiering on Earth Day. And the punch line is that the technology they're looking for is already available - for a price, that is.

"Car of the Future," airing Tuesday as part of PBS' "Nova" documentary series, marks the prime-time television debut of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, a.k.a. Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.

The brothers have made a name for themselves with a newspaper column and call-in radio show that blends folksy advice on auto maintenance with even folksier repartee and punnery. (For example, their credits list the accounts payable administrator as "Imelda Czechs" ... get it?)

That mix of the serious and the silly carries over to the TV show. Tom and Ray set the scene in their garage in Cambridge, Mass., where Tom's 1952 MG roadster just refuses to turn over.

"It sounds like a sick cow," Ray says.

So the brothers hit the road, looking for an up-to-date replacement. And we're not talking about just going down the street to the local car dealership: Tom and Ray check out the glitzy cars on display (and the glitzy showgirls displaying them) at the Detroit Auto Show.

"I thought you were interested in these models," Ray says.

"I am," Tom answers.

"I meant the cars," Ray quips.

They're less impressed by some of the high-powered, gas-gobbling vehicles at the show. "Who the hell needs 500 horsepower!?" Tom exclaims.

That sparks a tale that highlights past, present and future automotive technologies:

  • Is there a better way? Although federal regulations led to an increase in average gas mileage from 1975 to 1987, the average actually slipped downward after that time, due to the popularity of bigger, more powerful cars. Today, high gas prices, concerns about carbon emissions and the need for greater energy independence are generating fresh interest in more efficient vehicles (and a fresh upturn in mileage averages).
  • Is hydrogen the answer? The Magliozzi brothers travel to Iceland, where geothermal and hydro power are harnessed to produce electricity, which in turn is used to produce hydrogen for a fleet of experimental buses. The geopower/electricity/hydrogen scheme could eventually fuel all of Iceland's cars - but experts figure it will take 50 years to make the transition. Will hydrogen ever work for the United States and China? We'll see.
  • What about ethanol? Yes, some of our energy needs can be met by ethanol, an alcohol replacement for gasoline. Currently, corn provides most of the raw material for U.S. producers, but that sets up a food-vs.-fuel problem. Tom and Ray gab with researcher Lee Lynd at Mascoma Corp., which is genetically engineering microbes to produce ethanol efficiently from cellulose rather than corn sugar.
  • How about lighter, more efficient cars? Less than 1 percent of the energy contained in a car's gas tank actually goes to move the driver down the road. The other 99 percent is either lost through inefficiencies or ends up moving the car surrounding the driver. Tom and Ray learn about efforts to make internal combustion more efficient (at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, their alma mater) and to make ultralight, ultrastrong car bodies out of carbon composites (for the Rocky Mountain Institute's Hypercar project in Colorado).
  • Will electric hybrids save the day? Gas-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius are already making a difference: Although they're more expensive to produce, they consume 30 percent less energy than gasoline-only cars and emit 30 percent less carbon. Tom and Ray take a test drive with Andy Frank, a researcher at the University of California at Davis who has pioneered plug-in electric hybrids.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have large banks of batteries that can be charged up overnight, meaning that the cars can go 40 to 60 miles before the gas-fueled engine kicks in. Frank figures that range would account for 90 percent of a typical driver's mileage. Some hybrids already have been converted to plug-in power, and Chevrolet's Volt plug-in should be ready for prime time by the end of 2010.

At America's current energy rates, running a plug-in hybrid is only one-fourth as costly as running a gasoline-only car, Frank says. He adds that the full benefit of plug-ins will be felt when the electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind turbines or roof-mounted solar cells.

"I think one of the things that this kind of car motivates is the possibility of personal wind and personal solar," Frank tells the "Car Talk" duo.

"My brother's been responsible for a lot of personal wind," Ray Magliozzi jokes.

By the end of the program, Tom is clearly sold. (On plug-ins, that is, not on making wind.) He's back at the garage, contemplating the next step.

"I've seen a lot of very interesting technology, and I know what I want," he says as he looks at his beloved MG. "I want to turn that into a plug-in hybrid."

And now ... the rest of the story That may be the end of the documentary, but it's not necessarily the end for Tom's MG. In an interview last week, Frank told me it's technically possible to make Tom's dream come true.

"My message, fundamentally, is that the plug-in hybrid is something you can build right now," he said.

As an experiment, he has already taken a GM EV1 all-electric car (the car that was supposedly "killed" on the commercial market a decade ago) and converted it to a plug-in hybrid with a smaller electric motor and a 2-cylinder gasoline engine - all in the same space.

"The hybrid weighed 200 pounds less than the electric vehicle," Frank said. He said the juiced-up EV1 was so efficient that even when the car was running on gasoline power, it got 80 miles per gallon.

He told me he has converted nine cars to plug-in power in the course of his quarter-century of automotive research: Rather than being more complex, the plug-ins are simpler, in part because of UC-Davis' patented transmission system. "All of our cars have far fewer parts than a conventional car," Frank said.

Frank said he enjoyed hanging out with the Magliozzi brothers while "Car of the Future" was being shot - and so he's willing to offer Tom a dream of a plug-in deal for the mere sum of, say, $40,000 to $50,000.

"We'll be happy to convert that MG for them," he told me. "It'd be fun."

If you miss Tuesday's show, or if you don't get PBS in your corner of planet Earth, you can watch "Car of the Future" online starting Wednesday­wgbh/­nova/­car/­program.html .

For more about Click and Clack and future cars, check out Newsweek's Q&A with the Magliozzi brothers:

Sputtering Ahead
NPR's 'Car Talk' guys search for the car of the future.
Brian Braiker
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 1:47 PM ET Apr 17, 2008­id/­132531 .

Tom and Ray Magliozzi like to joke that they have faces for radio. Now you'll get to judge for yourself. The hosts of NPR's wildly successful "Car Talk"—better known to many of their 4 million weekly listeners as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers—will be making their small-screen debut in "Car of the Future," an Earth Day episode of "Nova" on PBS. Then, in July, PBS will begin airing "As the Wrench Turns," an animated series loosely based on the lives of the brothers and the off-the-cuff banter that has been the hallmark of their show for more than three decades.

In "Car of the Future" Ray decides it's time for Tom to junk his sputtering 1952 MG Roadster. Armed with alarming statistics—that a quarter of the oil ever consumed was pumped in the last decade; that placed bumper to bumper, the earth's 800 million cars would circle the planet 100 times—they go in search of a suitable replacement. The brothers crack wise at the Detroit Auto Show and the corollary underground AltWheels festival in Boston. They ride, and help refuel, a hydrogen-powered bus in Iceland. They visit automotive engineers at universities and think tanks, all in the interest of finding something—anything—that might help Americans break free from Big Oil's tight grip. If the underlying message is grim, Click and Clack provide a dose of humor, curiosity and good nature. It's essential if inconvenient viewing (apologies to Al Gore).

NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker and Arlyn Tobias Gajilan recently spoke with Tom and Ray Magliozzi after the "Nova" and PBS shows were announced at a press briefing in New York. Excerpts: [SNIP]

So there is no car of the future? Tom: Oh, there is, but we don't know what it is. Ray: I don't think that Dean Kamen is going to announce tomorrow that he's got the car of the future.

NEWSWEEK just interviewed him . He's working on water purifiers and robotic arms right now. Ray: [Laughs] Tell him to call me. Because I gotta say, as exciting as the technology behind the Segway was, it was a pretty big disappointment. From him I kind of expected the car of the future: the car where you throw banana peels in, close the lid and convert the stuff into hydrogen right on the spot. I guess the most promising thing is the hybrid and the plug-in hybrid. [SNIP]

You guys wrote a letter to Congress about the energy bill that included a list of technology that could improve engines. Ray: We cited seven or eight or 10 technologies that already exist. The question is whether Congress should force automakers to have cars get 35 miles to the gallon by 2020. And of course all the Detroit guys said, "Oh no, that can't be done!" In the past when they've been asked to do something like that, whether it's to improve safety, they always say, "We can't do it. People won't be able to afford the cars. It'll put us out of business. We'll all be driving tricycles." In every case their predictions have been so wrong it's unbelievable. Tom: They lie! Ray: And they have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. They know how to make money with what they're making, and they don't necessarily know how to make money with new technologies. And they don't want stuff foisted on them.

What types of technology did you recommend in the documentary? Ray: We cited start-stop technology, which makes your engine stop when you're at a traffic light, regenerative braking, cylinder deactivation, turbos, diesels, direct-injection gasoline vehicles, hybrid diesels, lightweight materials. Our vehicles weigh 6,000 pounds. It's preposterous! All of these technologies are out there right now. Is it that simple to put any one or combination in current cars? No. But they've got 12 years to do it. And the truth is they could probably do it in two or three years. They've milked the SUV craze as much as possible, and now the public is going to demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, especially with gasoline prices getting up to near four bucks a gallon. I secretly hope they go higher, because it'll push the process along.

Did you get any response from Congress? Tom: A bunch of compliments and a few pieces of hate mail. We get that every week. [Laughs] Ray: It's usually directed at Tom! Because of the way he looks. [Laughs]

You guys started as a call-in show for people with busted cars. Now you're writing letters to Congress, trying to effect policy change. How do you feel about becoming activists? Ray: We're not activists. Tom: We call a spade a spade. If they happen to be senators and they're jerks, we tell 'em they're jerks. They need someone to tell them they're jerks. Ray: I don't think anyone can really argue the fact, although there will be plenty of people who try, that it will be beneficial for everyone if all of our vehicles get better mileage. If scaling down the size of the vehicles is what does it, that's clearly what we should do first. There are some people who argue that the best way to do that is to let the marketplace take over. I think it's a combination. People will make decisions based on what makes sense for their pocketbooks. At the same time I think they need a little prodding. It was about time we said something, because we felt very strongly about it.

Do we need 200-horsepower cars? Ray: No, we don't. But if we're going to differentiate this year's model from last year, what do the ads say? "Twenty-five more horsepower this year." The newest Volvo, which is a six-cylinder, gets better mileage than the previous five-cylinder. They made some great breakthroughs, and they could have taken that and they could have diminished the power a little and used that technology to get even more miles to the gallon. But the automakers use that new technology to get more power instead of more economy. They'll rethink that a little. Tom: Now, it's sad that the foreign companies have taken on the same things. They know they have to compete with General Motors, and the only way they can do that is to have one that goes fast.

You're fortunate enough to live in a city with a decent public transportation system. Do you take advantage of that? Tom: I walk. Ray: I ride my bicycle a lot when the weather's nice. I probably drive more than I should. [SNIP]

Rick Kushman: Tom & Ray at it again: This time it's serious
Sacramento Bee 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 21, 2008
By Rick Kushman rkushman@...­kushman/­story/­876653.html
Story appeared in SCENE section, Page E1

Let's start with the pick of the week, PBS' "Nova: Car of the Future," on Tuesday (at 8 p.m. on Channel 6). It features the Car Talk guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, in a cheery, smart, uniquely Car Talkish search for some answers to our growing problems with the gas shortage and worldwide pollution.

This is anything but an eat-your-veggies hour. This is Click and Clack here, legendary car guys and goofballs, looking for a replacement for Tom's beloved-but-broken-down 1952 MG Roadster.

Their story is narrated by John Lithgow, who outlines the issues – one quarter of all the petroleum consumed in history has been used in the past 10 years, and we're running out – but it's the guys who carry the tale. [SNIP]

They also visit the University of California, Davis, and professor Andy Frank, who's working on a plug-in electric hybrid, and talk with car-company people who are caught between consumer demand – around the globe, people almost always drive the most horsepower they can afford, Lithgow says – and a need to change.

As merry as the Magliozzis are, there's still a serious layer because any large-scale changes are still years away. They show one rich example of the general resistance at a car show, where a General Motors exec hypes the 500-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro. The exec is the vice president of environment and energy.

The California Aggie
Features // “NOVA” to feature UC Davis professor
Andrew Frank's plug-in hybrid discussed on PBS program­article/­426
April 21, 2008

The car of the future exists today.

At least that is what Andrew Frank, UC Davis professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, believes. Frank is one of the many experts featured on PBS' "NOVA" premiere of Car of the Future. The program will air Tuesdayat 8 p.m.

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