Hooves-ray! CalCars – another good green idea!

January 24, 2008

All COWs know Buck’s is a great place to eat and moo-ull over brilliant ideas! Buck’s is even internationally known for having Venture Capitalist lunch patrons, an historic role in the dot com boom, and being the place for Brunch in Woodside on the weekends. We learned about Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative in a story in London’s Financial Times that mentioned a conversation with him that took place at Buck’s. The main goal of this non profit organization is promoting 100+ MPG plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Yes, you heard us moo! 100+ MPG! California Cars Initiative was formed in 2001 and now includes entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers. Its main objective is to get the big time automakers to commercially make electric cars that run in excess of 100+ mpg. In 2004, the group successfully retrofitted a Toyota Prius to these standards to show this goal is feasible. And the non-profit group now freely gives advice on retrofitting Toyota Prius cars, converting them into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). These types of cars are capable of driving longer distances on battery power than conventional hybrid cars can.

COW-ntemplating on how plug-in hybrid works? Essentially it’s a normal hybrid that also plugs into a 120V outlet. You still fill it up with gas – and it can run solely on gas. However, if you plug it in to charge, the vehicle will run off electricity until depleted and then switch back to gas. So realistically, if you only drive around town, no gas is required!

CalCars has also helped create the Electric Auto Association’s PHEV group. The open source group helps in converting the general Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid for under $6,000. To find out more information you can click here.

To learn more about this exciting organization, to make donations to support their efforts, or to find out more about this technology, you can visit the CalCars site.

Yahoo! Another good “green” idea and it’s being discussed right here in Woodside.

One Comment on “Hooves-ray! CalCars – another good green idea!

  1. citizens Post author

    The following great information on CalCars was sent via email to us here at COW from Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative.

    Thanks, COWs great story — I’m often up at Bucks at meetings, and if you see my car there, please look for me too…

    Here’s a quick background summary on Plug-In Hybrids and CalCars and a photo of the car I drive daily,parked on a Woodside road:

    CALCARS.ORG: The California Cars Initiative (CalCars.org) http://www.calcars.org is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit startup of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers promoting 100+MPG plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Somewhat uniquely, we’re ourselves a hybrid, focusing both on public policy and technology development, and harnessing buyer demand to help commercialize PHEVs. The increasingly-successful effort is becoming recognized as a hopeful sign we can get off our addiction to fossil fuels. And it may be first-ever instance of a “bottom-up/by popular demand” campaign resulting in mass production of a new high-ticket consumer product.

    FORMED IN 2002, OUR EFFORTS BEGAN TO BE NOTICED IN EARLY 2005 when our first-ever Prius conversions were covered in The New York Times, Business Week, TIME, National Public Radio, and local and network TV. (See http://www.calcars.org/news.html for print, audio and video clips and http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html for the latest developments.) By early 2006, the solutions we promote had received supported from President Bush and his Energy Department, as well as by Bill Clinton, Al Gore and many others http://www.calcars.org/photos-people.html. Former CIA Director James Woolsey calls the diverse interests lining up behind PHEVs the “coalition between the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the sod-busters, the cheap hawks, and the evangelicals, utility shareholders, mom and pop drivers, and Willie Nelson.” In 2007, Google launched a major Plug-In initiative with partners including Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Toyota and GM indicated they would build PHEVs someday.

    CONVERSIONS TAKE OFF In Fall 2004, CalCars built the first prototype PHEV Prius we called “PRIUS+” to bring attention to plug-in hybrids and encourage car makers to build them. We “green-tuned” a stock 2004 Prius by adding batteries and grid-charging. (We replaced the battery control system but didn’t modify the hybrid controls.) Our proof-of-concept used lead-acid batteries. We’ve worked with companies to demonstrate the viability for PHEvs of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in current hybrids. Now we’re working with lithium-ion battery suppliers. We’ve demonstrated our cars nationally as vehicles that get 100+MPG (plus about one cent/mile for electricity), In 2005-2007, for-profit integration companies entered the market. We have facilitated the EAA-PHEV “do-it-yourself with the help of an experienced engineer” conversion project http://www.priusplus.org. And several new companies have been formed to facilitate componentry and installations based on those open source designs. For all conversion options, see http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html.

    CARMAKERS LISTEN: In May 2006 we announced that, partnering with Prof. Andy Frank of the UC Davis Hybrid Center (the inventor of the modern PHEV), we had been in discussion with Ford since November 2005 with a “win-win” proposal which did not lead to a collaboration. In summer 2006, Toyota, GM and Ford indicated they were considering PHEVs. GM now plans build the first production PHEVs, the Saturn Vue anticipated in 2010 and the Chevy Volt in 2010-11. Toyota plans a leased demonstration PHEV fleet to selected corporate fleet customers before 2010, and Ford will test a small number of Escape PHEVs with Southern California Edison. A Chinese carmaker, BYD, plans to have PHEVs at this year’s Summer Olympics, and other small companies are moving ahead. Though over a dozen ten automakers now express interest in PHEVs, most remain far from production or “commercialization.” We’ve tracked their evolving views at http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html. We’re advocating for immediate commitments to demonstration fleets using “good enough” batteries, so car-makers will have evolved the cars through several versions by the time they’re ready to mass-produce them, with even better batteries.

    PLUG-IN HYBRIDS’ BENEFITS: CalCars promotes the immediate opportunity and benefits of PHEVs . The next generation of hybrid cars can be based entirely on existing components. They’re basically like some hybrids but with larger batteries and the ability to re-charge conveniently, so local travel is electric, yet the vehicle has unlimited range. We see it as the future pathway to lightweight biofuel/cellulosic ethanol PHEVs — the cars that get 500 MPG (of gasoline) that people are talking about, and that can deliver within the years what hydrogen advocates hope for in decades.

    HERE’S HOW WE DESCRIBE PHEVs: It’s like having a second small fuel tank you always use first. You get to fill it at home with electricity at an equivalent cost of under $1/gallon. How much under depends on your car and your electric rate. You refill from an ordinary 120-volt socket, with energy that’s much cleaner, cheaper and not imported. Or another way of thinking about this: at $3 for a gallon of gas, driving a non-hybrid car costs 8-20 cents/mile (depending on its MPG). With a PHEV, all-electric local travel and commuting can drop to 2-4 cents/mile.

    THE GRID CAPACITY AND EMISSIONS: In 2007, U.S. National Labs validated preliminary results about 100+MPG cars, confirmed that over 100 million cars could charge at night without requiring new capacity to the power grid; companies began making plans for the widespread electrification of transportation, The Electric Power Research Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council released a major study confirming that PHEVs could reduce greenhouse gases by 40-65 over gasoline cars.

    ADVOCACY AND PUBLIC POLICY: We encourage the growing attention given to this compelling technology. New organizations in part catalyzed by our efforts include Plug-In Partners (national fleet buy), SetAmericaFree (energy security), Plug In America (PHEVs and battery electrics), Plug-In Bay Area, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s “Our Power” campaign, the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium (component trade association) — see http://www.calcars.org/partners.html. In May 2006 we brought the first PHEVS to appear in public in Washington DC for demonstrations and drives with dozens of Senators and Representatives and staff members. Photos at http://www.calcars.org/phevs-in-dc.html. A bi-partisan Congressional coalition introduced DRIVE Act legislation promoting plug-in cars, provisions of which were included in the 2007 Energy Bill.

    OUR ACTIVITIES: We’re educating the large market of car buyers who will pay extra for all the benefits to them and society of better cars. We present PHEVs, along with wind and solar power, as a coordinated response to two of today’s greatest challenges: global warming and energy security. We’ve spoken at high-visibility venues including the Palo Alto Research Center (former Xerox PARC) Forum, the Electric Drive Transportation Association Conference and conferences in Iceland, Winnipeg and Brussels. We’ve engaged with noted designer/architect William McDonough, responsible for sustainability aspects of Ford’s future products. We worked with Free Range Studios (makers of The Meatrix and Grocery Store Wars) to produce the “Bettah” online animation http://www.bettah.org. In late 2006, the first book on PHEVs, “Plug-In Hybrids — The Cars That Wil Recharge America http://www.sherryboschert.com was published, telling the story of the emergence of PHEVs. In 2007, “The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity” by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder named CalCars among the Ten to Watch list in its chapter on Transportation; at http;//www.calcars.org/books.html we now list over 10 books so far focusing on PHEVs.

    OUR GOAL: to motivate automakers to build PHEVs for a market that’s expanding as concern for near-term steps to address oil independence and greenhouse gases. We see a near-term demand for demonstration vehicles from utility, government and corporate fleets, and early adopters, for 10,000-100,000 vehicles before a car company delivers production PHEVs. (While after-market conversions sell for over $10,000, we project automakers’ selling price for mass-produced PHEVs as $2-$5,000 higher than conventional hybrids. This would provide a lower lifetime cost of ownership than any other vehicle type.) We’re exploring with public officials ways to provide incentives to auto makers to build PHEVs. And we’ve been developing concepts to remove the battery issue as a risk factor from both the manufacturer and buyer of PHEVs via third-party battery warranties and leasing programs. We’ve promoted the benefits of “vehicle to home” (V2H) to provide backup power and reduce home energy costs and “vehicle to grid” (V2G) which could save utilities money and provide revenues to car-owners for making their parked cars’ batteries available to utilities for distributed storage. V2G could also make intermittent energy sources like night-time wind power into reliable 24/7 renewable energy sources. In 2007, Pacific Gas & Electric and Google demonstrated the concept for the first time, Ford and Southern California Edison intend to build business models based on it. and Excel Energy with partners announced the world’s first V2G demonstration project in Colorado.

    FUNDING FOR CALCARS: Until recently, we’ve been entirely a volunteer effort. We’ve gotten contributions from, among others, well-known entrepreneurs, electric utilities, the Energy Foundation, Northern CA Auto Association and Google.org, with others to come. We accept tax-deductible donations and offer a unique bumper sticker to Charter Sponsors.

    FOUNDER FELIX KRAMER is an entrepreneur and lifelong environmentalist http://www.nlightning.com/resume.html. Concentrating on innovative ideas, events and businesses in energy and technology, he builds ambitious and “first-ever” projects and companies. He’s been a journalist, Congressional speech-writer, run an energy conservation non-profit, pioneered in desktop publishing and wrote the first book on that business. He became an online marketer in 1994. In 1997 he started and in 2001 sold eConstructors, a small Internet company. In 2002 he founded the non-profit California Cars Initiative (Calcars.org) to put plug-in hybrid vehicles on the map by technology demonstrations, advocacy and buyers’ clubs. In April 2006 he became the world’s first non-technical consumer owner of a plug-in hybrid. He says, “I envision millions of PHEVs, charged off-peak, providing round-the-clock distributed storage for a power grid fueled by increasingly renewable sources. Local travel will be electric, and low-carbon biofuels will provide range extension. This is a great way to significantly reduce greenhouse gases and use of imported oil.” A Cornell graduate, he lives with his wife and son in Silicon Valley.

    You can find out far more about us at the URLs below.

    Thanks, Felix Kramer

    — — — — — — — — — — — —
    Felix Kramer fkramer@calcars.org
    Founder California Cars Initiative
    PO Box 61045 Palo Alto, CA 94306

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