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Plug-In 2008: Quotable Moments
Aug 4, 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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Plug-In 2008, the first International Conference on Plug-In Hybrids and Plug-In Electric Cars , was a stunning success. Over 650 people attended, and over 1,000 came to the Public Night. In this posting are some excerpts of notable statements from the conference. Because there were overlapping sessions and we missed many, it's selective (and we hope accurate) but we hope helpful. We also that the conference organizers will make the Powerpoint presentations available to the public in some fashion, since they are important contributions to a rapidly-changing dialogue and new developments weekly, if not daily.

After we completed these mini-transcriptions, we found that AutoChannel has made available streaming video of most of the speakers, starting at­news/­2008/­08/­03/­095252.html -- so you can use these excerpts as a partial guide to ones you may want to watch.

JONATHAN LAUCKNER, Vice President, Global Program Management, General Motors: Defining the automobile industry's course going forward, in terms of priorities, choices and actions, we think it's an open field. As GM prepares to enter its second century, we will continue to refine the internal combustion engine, and step-gear automatic and manual transmissions, improved diesel technology, and expand the use of biofuels such as ethanol. However, we increasingly believe that the ultimate solution involves the electrification of the automobile as soon as possible. In fact, there is now a clear shift in the debate from if this will happen to when this will happen.

The large market is how we ultimately make a sizeable dent in our petroleum dependency. We as automakers need to take the lead, no question. And we are, by developing responsive, relevant technologies and then driving down their cost. We understand this. But there are important roles for others as well. There's no question that our government has to play a significant role. One of the things that government can do, and I'd argue must do, to promote energy independence for our nation, is proactively to support the development of advanced technology. Our nation must fund a major effort to strengthen domestic advanced battery capabilities if we hope to ride the firs wave of the plug-in revolution. Governments of other countries, most notably China and Japan, are pouring millions and millions of dollars into support for advanced batteries and other advanced propulsion technologies.

Together with our coalition partners in the utility industry, GM is working to transform automotive transportation as we know it. We must get our nation and the world past oil dependence and get on the road to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions , heading towards a future that's electric. We're making the choices and taking the risks that we believe are critical to doing plug-in vehicles right, and doing them first. Ladies and gentlemen, that's what GM is thinking.

JAMES BOYD, Vice Chair and Commissioner, California Energy Commission: Plug-in hybrids offer clear compelling fuel savings, petroleum reduction, greenhouse gas emission reduction benefits for Californians, In our 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report, the California Energy Commission took the unprecedented step of recommending a single transportation technology for development. That technology was plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report notes that "plug-in hybrids are the on-road electric vehicle technology option that can bridge the gap between today's hybrids and the zero emission vehicles of the future."

The need for alternative transportation technologies such as plug-in hybrids is urgent. It was urgent then, it's doubly urgent today. At this exposition, we're all going to see the promise of this technology. A technological promise that has the attention of policymakers certainly in this state and I think most other areas of the United States. The dual benefits of phenomenal vehicle efficiency coupled with the increased us use of our most environmentally benign alternative fuel, California's electricity, is a great realization for us.

One of our presidential candidates even proposed a $300 million prize for the right battery for transportation. How might this conference inform such a prize? Well I'm hoping it will be a very strong message that says, "Hey, we have the battery, we have the right application, so let's move it." So over the next two days let's all explore the applications and see how tantalizingly close we are to delivering on the promise of plug-ins to reduce carbon, improve air quality, reduce petroleum use. We've come to the right place, California and Silicon Valley, at the right time. There's a convergence in California of government policy and public attitude, and believe me that doesn't happen all the time. So to me the planets and the stars are aligned, so let's move this issue.

DAN SPERLING Automotive Board Member, California Air Resources Board: The relevant [questions] are moving to the next generation of batteries. We need fundamental battery research because there are not going to be that many batteries sold in the next ten years, and no matter how successful this is, they will be mainly after that, and they're not going to be the kind of batteries we see now or even in the early next generation, so the real need is on the R&D side.

DAN REICHER, Director, Climate and Energy Initiatives, Our vision is millions of vehicles plugging into a green grid.

GENEVIEVE CULLEN, Vice President, Electric Drive Transportation Association: What's important to notice is that between 2005 when we previously passed an energy bill and 2007 when this one passed, we went from almost no interest or understanding or stakeholder support for plug-in programs to a pretty universal support, if not understanding. These significant authorizations for research development and deployment are really an amazing progression of the debate in a short amount of time. In Congressional time, that's lightning fast.

BILL BOYCE, Supervisor of Electric Transportation, Sacramento Utilities District: The projected capacity from wind and solar as we can see 71% when you add that up but due to intermittency we can only utilize half of that, so 43%, and what you really get into, more than anything a benefit: is it possible for PHEVs to provide that energy storage?

PHEVs, battery electric vehicles, anything with energy storage, effectively becomes that cost-effective mechanism

There are people trying to develop business cases just around energy storage for those aspects. And the plug-in hybrids really offer that potential if the two-way flow of electricity from some of those things like inverters can have the controllability designed in. Battery warranty will be an issue. We recognize that the automakers are definitely not going to want to warranty a battery used in an application for energy storage all the time. That's where we come back to looking at that application for 10 cycles a year, that's not a high cycle life factor.

JIM KELLEY, Vice President of Transportation and Distribution, Southern California Edison: [Comparing this moment to the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall] Now here's the cool part. I'm of the view that on this day and in this place we are witnessing a tipping point that's very powerful. After decades of diverse and siloed ideas, some of them pretty crazy, we're part of a convergence that I believe will almost certainly change the world forever. If you look around this room and I've had the chance to meet some of you, not enough, what a strange bunch of bedfellows. Zealots, early adopters, greens, CFOs, bankers, corporate behemoths, electric utility people, all coming together driven by the force of a vision and a commitment to sustainability, efficiency, environmental stewardship, these are part and parcel of this conference and are becoming part of the global fabric. And things I believe will never be the same.

MARC DUVALL, Program Manager, Electric Transportation, EPRI: The people that have strategically looked around have determined that we have never successfully commercialized an alternative fuel for transportation. And at this point there really is no turning back , there are no alternatives to wait for. This is absolutely disruptive, this change must absolutely be managed, it must absolutely be executed to the fullest.

The automotive industry that makes a 50-state, highly sophisticated product that has processing power that would put computers of just a few years ago to shame has to talk with these advanced smart grid technologies that are being deployed roughly at the same time. So you're going to see the plug-in hybrid or the electric vehicle and at roughly the same time you're see the rollout of the smart grid, they're both in development, they're coming together, you're building railroad track from the west coast and the east coast and you're trying to meet in the middle. And we absolutely have to get that right. It won't be simple but it will enable simplicity.

The only way that can happen is if the utility industry that will provide the fuel and the automotive industry that will provide the products are absolutely at the same table and get this right. That is the only way.

Within our collective industries and in the general public there is a tremendous amount of misinformation -- myths. Many people do not actually believe that hybrid electric vehicles pay off right now. $4 a gallon gasoline, 50% or better fuel economy. Many people still remember the original Consumer Reports article or some other that said, "This can't work." There are still articles being published today about fuel economy technologies not being worth the effort. So we have a lot of work to do, because ultimately until the people who go out and buy these cars and the industries that both make them and support them have fully internalized why we need to do this and all the reasons we need to do this, then we could never be successful.

TOM TURRENTINE, Director, PHEV Research Center, University of California at Davis: In 1993, I saw my first plug-in hybrid and it was this moment -- it's like going up and down a stream up in the mountains and trying to find a place to cross, looking for a place, and you got out two rocks and you look at the next step and say, "oh man, I'm going to fall in that creek," and you keep looking up and down the stream. Well when I first saw this technology, I thought, it looks like, step by step, we might get across that creek. And Andy Frank saw this many years ago, he saw a lot of it, before a lot of us, and many of us all in our way have started feeling that.

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