Jul 21, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Here's an interview from Bloomberg News with Andy Grove the day before he delivers a keynote address at http://www.plugin2008.com in San Jose, followed by a long story in the conference's hometown paper, The San Jose Mercury News, featuring more info about the conference, interviews with many participants and numerous photos in the print edition.
Grove Invokes Paranoia to Prove Only Electric Vehicles Survive
By Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@...;
Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@...
July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Andy Grove, the former head of Intel Corp., asked students in his Stanford University business school seminar last year to determine whether an electric car market could thrive in the U.S. Their conclusion: It can't.
That propelled the 1997 Time Man of the Year, now retired, on a personal crusade to reshape U.S. energy policy, take on the auto industry and attack America's leaders for risking the nation's security.
Grove, 71, who revolutionized production of devices at the heart of computers, is exploiting his name and ties to investors and politicians to jump-start a similar advance in battery-run vehicles. His idea is to refit millions of gas-guzzling autos to run on electricity part-time and convince carmakers to adopt so- called open source rules on advanced technology so that Americans can convert their cars.
``I came to a few conclusions that I was stunned by because they were so obvious and people don't seem to get it,'' Grove said in a July 8 interview in his office in Los Altos, California. U.S. dependence on oil may bring economic calamity and eventual conflict with China, he said.
Grove, who joined Santa Clara, California-based Intel in 1968 and built it into the world's biggest chipmaker with $38.3 billion in revenue last year, says electrifying cars is the fastest way to ease international competition for energy because passenger autos account for almost half the U.S. use of oil.
`There Could Be Blood'
His path to advocacy includes a disagreement with former Vice President Al Gore and an unreturned message to General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt.
While Grove's students said a failure of political leadership is what is keeping electric cars from the market, automakers and analysts say challenges include high costs, a lack of batteries sturdy enough for daily use, no recharging infrastructure, and harmful environmental effects if coal-fired plants are the main energy source.
``All these objections are absolutely valid in a peace state,'' said Grove, who entitled his 1996 book on management, ``Only the Paranoid Survive.'' ``What if we are approaching a state of war, whether it is literally shooting or just starving to death economically?''
In Silicon Valley, Grove is prodding venture capitalists to fund electric vehicle technologies with a lecture he's delivered to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures titled ``There Could Be Blood.'' He's aiming to tap the entrepreneurial drive that led the region to dominate software and Internet businesses.
In his keynote speech tomorrow at the 2008 Plug-In convention in San Jose, he plans to outline his concerns. The closing slide in a draft of his presentation, Grove says: ``Motivation. Not Cost. Not Environment. SURVIVAL!''
In four years, Grove wants 10 million vehicles to be equipped with battery packs capable of powering at least 40 miles of all-electric driving before the gasoline engine engages. They'd be recharged with power from domestic sources instead of oil, 58 percent of which is imported.
In his speech, he'll call on the U.S. to offer tax credits or interest-free loans to retrofit vehicles and urge utilities to provide fee-free power to charge them for two years. Carmakers should adopt open-source policies to share technology and commit to honoring warranties when consumers do such modifications.
Grove says he is unimpressed with the energy policies of the leading presidential candidates, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama, calling them ``investment plans with no strategy.''
Gore on July 17 called for the U.S. to shift entirely to renewable sources of electricity by 2018 as a way of quickly cutting carbon emissions contributing to global warming.
``He's addressing the second most important problem,'' Grove said.
Grove says he is encouraged by conversions of pickups and other autos that have been done by individuals and small shops for years. Batteries and motors are installed to add all- electric range and reduce vehicle's gasoline use.
``I would love to give a lot of light and limelight to these people who have been doing this in their garages because there are a lot of them,'' Grove said. ``This is how the computer industry became a very large industry.''
General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest automakers, sold electric cars in California a decade ago and both plan to offer plug-ins by 2010. Converting vehicles not designed to hold hundreds of pounds of additional batteries doesn't work, they say.
Silicon Valley Club
``Batteries needed to move a large SUV would be very big and very expensive,'' GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss said. ``If things were that easy, we'd flip a switch and do it.''
Lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries that have been used in vehicles converted by individuals are too heavy, and lighter, higher-powered lithium-ion packs aren't ready yet, said Toyota spokesman John Hanson.
``Battery technology is not anywhere near the level it needs to be for us to create a vehicle that delivers performance and range for a price people are willing to pay,'' Hanson said.
Other technology leaders interested in electrifying transportation include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google Inc.; Sun Microsystems Inc. founder Vinod Khosla; and PayPal Inc. founder and Tesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk.
While they are investing in the technology, Grove, who has battled Parkinson's disease and cancer, isn't bankrolling electric car or battery ventures.
``I'm not interested in making money,'' Grove said. ``I am kind of done. I enjoy doing this because it's worthwhile. It started as a teaching exercise. As things get worse, I feel compelled to speak out on the subject.''
Neil Young's '59 Lincoln
Rock musician Neil Young is using his fame to fuel a similar campaign. He has gotten a Kansas mechanic to retrofit a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible to run on batteries as a way to spur electric car conversions.
For his part, Grove has reached out to conversion experts such as Andrew Frank, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Davis to learn about their research and what they need to grow.
Frank is trying to raise at least $10 million to fund a company to convert pickups to run on electricity for the first 40 miles before switching to gasoline. His start-up, Efficient Drivetrains Inc., would train mechanics to perform conversions costing customers about $10,000, he said.
``I grew up in the days of hot-rodding, and fundamentally what we did was take conventional cars and added widgets to it to improve its performance,'' Frank said. ``That's what we are doing here.''
Grove is also working with Palo Alto, California-based CalCars, which promotes adding batteries to gas-electric hybrids such as Toyota's Prius to extend their electric-only range. Installing a second pack of batteries, reprogramming the software and installing a recharging plug can more than double the cars' fuel economy to 100 miles per gallon, CalCars says.
GM's Volt plug-in car, due in two years, is the right idea, though it's coming too late, Grove said. Along with a delayed reaction by automakers, he says he is disappointed that large U.S. companies such as GE haven't pushed for a rapid shift away from imported energy.
At a June conference hosted by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Grove's emphasis on energy security as more urgent than global warming triggered an exchange with Kleiner partner Gore.
``I had a little disagreement with Mr. Carbon,'' Grove says. ``He didn't have a problem with my arguments. He didn't like the priorities. For carbon to kill us we have to stay alive for a while. It's not looking that good.''
Kalee Kreider, Gore's spokeswoman, said the former vice president and Grove share many of the same views. ``If the U.S. were to meet the challenge laid out by Vice President Gore, vehicles could then run off of a clean, renewable electricity grid,'' she said in an e-mail on July 18.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: the story is announced with a photo of my PHEV at the top of the front page of the daily newspaper, along with "PLUG-INS NEARLY READY: Experts in San Jose this week to kick tires on hybrids, and the story occupies most of the front page of the business section, with a large photo of my "PLUG OK" license plate and several photos of that car, the Volt, Toyota's prototoype PHEV.
CHECKING OUT PLUG-IN HYBRIDS
Here's some information about the Plug-in 2008 Conference & Exposition
Where: San Jose McEnery Convention Center
What: The conference includes the exhibit, speakers and panel discussions on various topics related to plug-in hybrid vehicle technology. Intel co-founder Andy Grove is the keynote speaker. The conference is not open to the public, but ...
Public night: From 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Plug-in 2008 does open to the public. Tickets, available at the door, are $10. From 6-7:30 p.m., exhibit booths will be open for touring. Several vehicles will be on display. From 7:30-9 p.m., a panel featuring Dan Reicher (google.org), Chelsea Sexton (Plug In America) and Mark Duvall (Electric Power Research Institute) will discuss the movement toward plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Sponsors: Plug-in 2008 is organized by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, EPRI, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Sempra Energy, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Southern California Edison and UC-Davis.
Future is nearly now for plug-in hybrids
By Matt Nauman Mercury News 07/21/2008
Contact Matt Nauman at mnauman@... or (408) 920-5701.
When hundreds of experts gather in San Jose this week for the country's first and biggest plug-in hybrid conference, the tone of the gathering will reveal a dramatic change.
Automakers, utility representatives and policy-makers will be talking when, not if, at Plug-in 2008.
Asked whether plug-in hybrids, also known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, are inevitable as production vehicles, Mark Duvall of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto answered with cautious optimism that sounded more optimistic than guarded.
"I would never say 100 percent until I can kick the tires myself, but I'm as optimistic as I've even been in 15 or so years with this subject," Duvall said.
Like traditional hybrids, a plug-in hybrid has both batteries and a gasoline engine, and can operate on either or both. Unlike traditional hybrids, plug-ins have larger battery packs and a plug that allows for household charging, meaning they can travel much farther on electricity. And while a hybrid such as the Prius can only go a few miles at low speeds solely on electricity, plug-in advocates envision vehicles with 20 to 40 miles of battery-only transportation range.
Duvall is one of the speakers at Plug-in 2008, which runs today through Thursday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, and is organized by a host of supporters, including the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Pacific Gas & Electric and EPRI. The event Advertisement isn't open to the public but does include a public session Tuesday night.
Representatives from General Motors, Toyota and Ford will be on hand. So will officials from PG&E and Southern California Edison; battery-makers; government researchers; and plug-in advocates.
And former Intel Chief Executive and Chairman Andy Grove, who writes and speaks publicly about his fondness for plug-ins, which he calls dual-fuel cars, will give the keynote address Tuesday.
It's an important topic in Silicon Valley, one of the largest markets for the Toyota Prius, the best-selling hybrid and a poster child for those embracing green living.
"We're a very receptive market for new technologies that can make a substantial difference regarding climate change," said Laura Stuchinsky, who also will speak at the conference. Until recently, she headed up the Silicon Valley Leadership Group push to promote production of plug-in hybrids. She's now the sustainability officer for the city of San Jose's transportation department.
At this point, the consensus is that GM and Toyota will be offering plug-in hybrids by late 2010 or early 2011. Other automakers are expected to follow.
Media reports suggest that GM will unveil a production version of its Chevrolet Volt, which it describes as a range-extended electric car, as soon as September. The Detroit automaker says the Volt will have a small gasoline engine to extend the range of the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack. It also says it can be charged via a 110-volt plug.
Meanwhile, Toyota is currently testing plug-in versions of the Prius in France, Japan and the United States. About a half-dozen of the cars are being evaluated at Toyota's U.S. headquarters in Torrance as well as by researchers at the University of California campuses in Berkeley and Irvine, said Jaycie Chitwood, senior strategic planner for Toyota's advanced technology vehicle group.
Those who have driven the car have had positive reactions, Chitwood said, although they question why the vehicle can only travel seven miles on electricity. The car's next-generation battery will improve on that, she said.
"It's very smooth, seamless," Chitwood said. "You feel like you're driving a Prius plus."
But with the increasing hype about the potential of plug-ins, Toyota feels the need to reign in expectations a bit, she said. "We want to make sure people understand what plug-ins are, and what they aren't," she said. "We still believe that hybrids will be our core technology going forward."
If Felix Kramer has anything to do with it, plug-ins will be a way of life. Kramer founded the California Car Initiative, better known for its Web URL, CalCars.org, to promote plug-in hybrids. Based in Palo Alto, Kramer drives a converted Prius emblazoned with "100+ MPG" on its sides. The movement toward the vehicles has reached "a consolidation moment," Kramer said.
From 2010 to 2012, he expects to see an increasing number of plug-in hybrids from big car companies on the road. "The carmakers are in a race," Kramer said.
"All the important constituents agree this is a good idea, and they're trying to figure out how to make it happen on a large scale and rapidly."