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Plug-In 2008: Media Roundup
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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Here's a selected roundup of some of the most extensive or perceptive print and online reports on Plug-In 2008 July 22-24, 2008 in San Jose.

You can watch video of many conference speakers at The Auto Channel -- listed at­news/­2008/­08/­03/­095252.html are: • Steve Specker, President & CEO EPRI • Peter Schwartz, Global Busine • Jonathon Lauckner, Vice President, GM • Nancy Gioia, Ford Motor Company • James Boyd, California Energy Commission • Dan Sperling, California Air Resources Board • Andy Grove, Former Chairman & CEO, Intel • Dr. Andy Frank, UC Davis • Jim Kelly, VP, Southern California Edison • Mark Duvall, Program Manager, EPRI • SPECIAL • A Conversation with Del Coates • EXHIBITORS • The Good News about Plug-ins, with Mark Duvall, EPRI • Bad Boy Buggies, 4WD plug-ins •Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics, new sounds for quiet hybrids • ZAP! a tour of their EVs • Green Transporters a product tour •A123 Hymotion all about converting to plug-in

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Matt Nauman's reports were the most comprehensive and visible (the first day including a teaser at the top of the paper's front page, plus several days in a row on the front page of the business section. The final story pulled back from the general enthusiasm of the others.

Future is nearly now for plug-in hybrids 07/21/2008­greenenergy/­ci_9946666

GM eyes electric grid for plug-ins: Meetings with power companies aim to prepare grid for new hybrid 07/22/2008­greenenergy/­ci_9957180

Grove exhorts conversion to plug-in hybrids 7/23/2008­breakingnews/­ci_9960395

Reality check for plug-in disciples: Common use of the hybrids is years away 07/26/2008­greenenergy/­ci_10005390

CREATIVE GREENIUS BLOG: Read opinionated reports with many photographs in five postings: Greetings From Plugged-In San Jose | Welcome To Plug-In 2008 | Electrifying Day At Plug-In 2008 | Professor Franks Has Given Birth - Day Three at Plug-In 2008 |Top Ten Things I Learned @ Plug-In 2008n­MrJoe/­Creative_Greenius/­Creative_Greenius.html

AUTOBLOG GREEN: A brief posting with a promise of more videos, by Shannon Arvizu­2008/­07/­24/­dispatch-from-plug-in-2008-part-1/­

EVWORLD: So far only by email but soon to appear online is Bill Moore's Insider Commentary with his quick summary of the important developments at the conference (it should be at­general.cfm?page=insider&year=8&title=INSIDER%20COMMENTARIES soon)

Of course, everyone would like to know what I thought of the inaugural three-day event being held in San Jose. What was new? What was exciting? And more importantly, are we making progress? In the "What's New" category, there were three firms who stood out in my mind: Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies, Inc., which debuted an innovative plug-in hybrid conversion for a standard Ford F-150 pick-up; V2Green and its electric grid control software for plug-in vehicles; and Coulomb Technologies that is developing public charging stations that will pay for themselves.

What is compelling about HEVT's approach is that it will allow conventional gasoline engine vehicles to be converted to electric vehicles virtually overnight. In the case of the F-150, the 12 kWh battery pack is stashed behind the front seat in the extended cab truck, the controller is housed under the bed, and the electric motor is connected behind the differential. HEVT claims the typical 16 mpg F-150 will travel up to 15 miles at freeway speeds in its electric-only mode. In blended mode, it gets 41 mpg for the first 30 miles. As a hybrid operating outside the all-electric range, it turns in a respectable 21 mpg.

I had a chance to speak at some length with the folks at Coulomb, who had just announced a deal with GM and V2Green at the opening of the conference. I'll include a slideshow of photos -- a picture is still worth a thousand words -- that I took at the conference in the near future.

Less physically tangible is V2Green's offering of software that will enable utilities to manage electric car charging loads smartly. Utilities implementing V2Green's technology will be able to track the location of any electric car in the system when its driver plugs in to recharge. While the company is developing prototype boxes to facilitate the car-utility interface, John Clark, its president, sees similar circuitry being integrated into the cars, eliminating the need for this special electronic box. So, gradually, the pieces are starting to come together: the vehicles, the chargers and the controlling software.

Perhaps the personal highlight of the conference was briefly speaking to and video taping former Intel chief Andy Grove, who was the luncheon keynote speaker on the opening day. I think you'll appreciate his vision for moving us forward at a more rapid pace towards an EV World.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Plug-in hybrids generate buzz in San Jose, by David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2008/­07/­23/­BU6711TF9S.DTL The plug-in hybrid car is ready for its close-up. Once known only to a small group of devotees, the ultra-high-mileage cars have generated enough buzz to draw about 650 people to a plug-in conference in San Jose Tuesday.

GREENTECH MEDIA: Making Plug-In Hybrids a Must Buy: Carmakers, utilities and policy makers converged in Silicon Valley this week to trade ideas about how to get a lot of consumers to buy plug-in hybrid electric cars. by Ucilia Wang­articles/­making-plug-in-hybrids-a-must-buy-1168.html The Future of Plug-In Hybrids Reed M. Benet outlines the potential successes and pitfalls of the plug-in hybrid market from the groundfloor of this year's Plug-In conference:­articles/­the-future-of-plug-in-hybrids-1215.html About Coulomb Technologies:­video-player/­colombtech.html Interview with Andy Frank:­video-player/­godfather.html

FORBES.COM Two-minute video: Electric Cars Spark Bright Future The greatest challenges the industry faces for mass adoption.­video/­?video=fvn/­tech/­stc_hydrid07280 . Plus profile and interview at the conference: Plug-In Cars Zoom Forward: California activist Felix Kramer is leading the charge for hybrid electric plug-in vehicles. By Sarah Terry-Cobo­2008/­07/­29/­kramer-plugin-hybrid-tech-communting08-cx_stc_0729kramer.html?partner=email

Felix Kramer is in the right place, at the right time, hawking the right product...."I realized that cars really are the fulcrum of the economy," Kramer told at the Plug-In 2008 Conference in San Jose, Calif., last week. "If you can change cars, you can change many things. It is the end of business as usual, and the car industry needs to figure out ways to build cars that are not using fossil fuels."

GM spokesman Rob Peterson says the automaker and Kramer have the same goals. "He wants [plug-ins] for the same reason GM wants them--to get away from the use of petroleum and because they offer an environmental solution," Peterson says.

The real challenge, Kramer says, is convincing automakers to build plug-ins on a large scale. Even though they agree that plug-in electric vehicles are a good idea, few have committed to mass production. "They're not convinced, or they are still in a business as usual mode," he says. "They don't understand that the world around them is changing and these things are going to have to happen."

Despite Kramer's criticisms, automakers and industry experts say he is a pioneer in spreading the gospel of plug-ins. "It wasn't until Felix came along that they got some traction, because he's a promoter," says Andy Frank, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California, Davis, who built the first hybrid vehicle in 1972.

Mark Duvall, program manager of electric transportation at Palo Alto, Calif.-based EPRI, says Kramer has become synonymous with plug-ins. "If you want to find out the Daily Kos or the most prominent source of public info about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, it's Calcars," he says.

All these efforts, Kramer says, has "helped to create a grass-roots demand for a new product. It didn't come from a company or from the government, it came from people saying, 'This is what we want. Build it for us.' "

WIRED.COM: Plug-In 2008 By Chuck Squatriglia­cars/­2008/­07/­wiredcom-plug-i.html This summary is the launching pad for six separate reports on the conference.

The transition from pump to plug has begun, and the day is coming when your ultra-efficient, low-emissions car will have an extension cord. The push is on to bring plug-in hybrids to market, with start-ups racing against the biggest automakers for a spot in your garage. There may be no greater proof that these cars are the real deal than the fact the company widely blamed for killing the electric car promises to be the first to bring it back with the Chevrolet Volt.

The electrification of the automobile may well be inevitable, but getting there won't be easy. Automakers have to figure out how to sell the technology to consumers who know nothing about it. Utilities have to develop the infrastructure to allow the tens of millions of people without a garage to plug in their cars. And everyone's got to figure out how to make the cars affordable. Those challenges were at the top of the agenda this week at the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose, where automakers, utilities, battery manufacturers and academics joined plug-in advocates from around the world to figure out how to get these cars on the road in big numbers. Here are the high points from the conference.

The Car of Tomorrow Has An Extension Cord - Advocates say they'll save the planet, but most consumers just want something that doesn't burn so much damn gas.­cars/­futuretransport/­news/­2008/­07/­plugins (below)

GM Joins Utilities to Ensure Plug-Ins Can Plug In
- General Motors bets the farm on the Chevrolet Volt and covers the bet by making sure people can actually plug it in.­cars/­2008/­07/­gm-joins-utilit.html

Electric Cars are Inevitable - And Essential - The cars are coming, but they've got a lot of technological, political and market hurdles to clear.­cars/­2008/­07/­electric-cars-a.html

Intel CEO Calls for 10 Million Plug-In Conversions Within Four Years - Andy Grove lays out a Herculean challenge and a plan to make it happen. But he leaves us with more questions than answers.­cars/­2008/­07/­plug-in-2008-to.html

To Sell Plug-In Hybrids, You've Gotta Make 'em Sexy - Plug-ins may be our best chance to save the planet, but automakers must sell consumers on the technology - and amp up the cars' sex appeal.­cars/­2008/­07/­plug-in-2008-to.html

Plug-In 2008 Photo Gallery. photographer Emily Lang wanders around the exposition hall to bring you some of the the vehicles of tomorrow.­cars/­2008/­07/­plug-in-2008-ph.html

The Car of Tomorrow Has an Extension Cord By Chuck Squatriglia­cars/­futuretransport/­news/­2008/­07/­plugins "It all boils down to the three ways electricity is better than gasoline," says Felix Kramer of Cal Cars, a plug-in advocacy group. "It's cleaner, it's cheaper and it's domestic."

"The discussion is no longer one of 'if,' but of 'when' and 'how,'" says Chelesa Sexton, executive director of the advocacy group Plug-In America. "This has moved beyond the grass-roots level into the policy and business arenas." "For the longest time, this was seen as a crunchy environmental California movement," Sexton says. "It never was, but now there's a broad coalition of people sitting at the same table to demand these cars. There's a collective frustration with the status quo."

Sales undoubtedly will start off slowly. Analysts don't expect GM to sell more than 30,000 Volts annually for the first couple of years. Other automakers will see similar sales figures until the cost of batteries comes down. "We're looking at small volumes initially," says Mike Omotoso of J.D. Power & Associates. "But we could see critical mass by 2015."

Advocates say politicians and policymakers can help by creating tax breaks to make it easier for consumers to buy the cars and automakers to build them. Such incentives -- coupled with perks like carpool-lane access -- helped hybrids gain a foothold, they say, and could do the same for plug-ins. The Department of Energy has handed out more than $60 million since 2006 to advance hybrid and battery technology and hopes to disburse another $62.3 million by the end of next year.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have hailed plug-in hybrids in general -- and the Volt in particular -- in recent weeks and promised to spur development of such cars if elected. And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, has called for Washington to go further by launching a "New Manhattan Project" that would include getting plug-in hybrids on the road in large numbers. "We have the plug," he says. "The cars are coming. All we need is the cord."

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