Apr 22, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
For some time, we've been saying that getting California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's attention about plug-in cars would be critical in achieving our goals in California. We were glad when he got quick tours of their PHEV prototypes from Toyota and GM at last November's LA Auto Show -- see our report at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/881.html and photos at http://www.calcars.org/photos-leaders.html .
Now here's a Part II report from Michael Bender, CalCars' webmaster and general volunteer.
Two weeks ago, just before taking a road-trip vacation up to Seattle and its first Green Festival, I represented CalCars at the Green California Summit and Exposition held at the large Convention Center in downtown Sacramento (April 7-9).
We showcased a recently-converted PHEV at the booth of iCel Systems and the National Electrical Contractors Association/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of Greater LA. The conversion came from startup Plugin Supply, based on the open-source EAA-PHEV method.
On arriving the first day of exhibition, I found the front of our car was facing the aisle and passers-by. And our booth's position appeared to be unfortunate -- in the distant back left corner from the main entrance. I tried to make the best of both "problems" by having literature (and myself) visible and stringing an extension cord out far enough in front to catch people's attention. (Ordinarily, the open, out-facing trunk and large battery pack with dangling plug would do this trick.)
In any case, we had modest traffic most of the first day, despite the fact that this well-publicized and well-run show attracted a mostly well-heeled crowd. Compared to the Green Festivals mentioned above, the crowds here were more "hoity toity" (corporate and government agencies) than "hoi polloi" (grassroots). Of course, both top-down and bottom-up are needed in the plug-in campaign.
At about four in the afternoon, however, my opinion of our booth position and our visitors changed in the blink of an eye. With a turn of my head, I found myself nearly face-to-face with none other than Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had stealthily entered via the rear corner so as not to draw too much attention.
Though I'm a bit "spotlight averse," I couldn't be very discreet facing an entourage of roughly 20, and a crowd with cameras quickly forming. My immediate instinct was to extend my hand and offer to answer his questions. Having just shaken my hand, and seeing the "100+ MPG" signs along with the plug prop in front of the car, he politely and deftly obliged -- asking if over 100 MPG was really possible, how long it took to charge, and if there were a way to charge it quicker than overnight.
I'll never know if he fully appreciated my answers or, to be sure, what exactly and entirely he was looking at, especially since it's always difficult to communicate concisely and precisely in what is really a brief, questioner-directed and one-try-only event.
Thinking back, I might have compared charging time to that of the Tesla Roadster he'll soon get, or to show or "sell" a few other features, but all things considered, I think we (CalCars, myself, the vehicle, etc.) made a positive impression. Given the Governor's long-time enthusiasm for a someday "Hydrogen Highway", perhaps my best "line" was to point to the extension cord and, as do Felix Kramer and Jim Woolsey, indicate it was all the infrastructure that was required. Nevertheless, after leaving our booth, the next vehicle he headed towards was a fuel cell prototype being displayed in the California Department of General Services booth next to ours.
To finish the story, we did have one more visitor of note. The next day, with a slightly smaller entourage and attracting far fewer paparazzi, we were visited by our Lieutenant Governor, John Garamendi, having delivered a Featured Address. A little less pressed for time than his immediate superior (and able to see the battery pack in the trunk, since by then we had turned the car around), Mr. Garamendi and I had a calmer and more extended conversation about plug-in hybrids. Mentioning that he had a Prius and would like to get it converted, I was pleased that he voluntarily picked up a handout by our partner Plugin Supply, now offering very reasonably priced conversion kits.
We present photos of Gov. Schwarzenegger this month at http://www.calcars.org/photos-leaders.html , and scroll down to see Lieutenant Governor Garamendi with a PHEV in October 2006. It is my hope that our advocacy and their interest will eventually convert these and other influential people, in turn expediting conversion of many more than just their one or two vehicles and mass production of PHEVs. That is, after all, our main goal ... (reread our home page, browse our whole site and spread the word!).