How Plug-In Hybrids Tackle National Security, Jobs and Global Warming at the Same Time
Five years ago, most people didn’t know what a hybrid car was. The few who did saw it as a narrow niche product. Today, hybrids are reaching the mainstream. The automakers who were skeptics are scrambling to catch up with their customers.
Yet as good as they are, despite their batteries and motors, hybrids remain more efficient all-gasoline cars. People concerned about global warming, energy security, and revitalizing the auto industry, are working to add a next evolution to cars: a second power source. Now “plug-in hybrids” (PHEVs) that power drivers’ daily local commutes with cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity are no longer a theoretical possibility. This year, CalCars’ PRIUS+ conversion, following pioneering work at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, in Palo Alto) and prototypes built at UC Davis, brought a national spotlight to a little-known available-now solution, using existing technology.
Since then, efforts by CalCars.org and others have generated support for PHEVs beyond the usual suspects to such diverse sources as national security “hawks,” utility fleet managers, auto industry observers and Senators from Republican Hatch to Democrat Obama. Entirely new players joining the effort include: EDrive Systems, a company that will sell after-market conversions; Plug-In Austin, a soon-to-go-national campaign by utilities and city governments; Plug In America, a coalition of environmentalists and electric vehicle advocates; the Advanced Hybrid Vehicle Development Consortium, a trade association of component makers; and Set America Free, energy security advocates. The goal: to motivate automakers to build PHEVs.
Felix Kramer sees PHEVs as the keystone component of a strategy to address global warming both nationally and internationally. He envisions millions of cars, charged from off-peak electricity from a modernized grid and from distributed photovoltaic and wind power, with the “range extension engine” powered by zero-carbon cellulose ethanol, as a way to significantly reduce the more than 30% of greenhouse gases that come from transportation.
Felix Kramer describes CalCars’ 2002 founding as a nonprofit startup in Palo Alto. Formed by entrepreneurs, engineers and consumers, involved both in advocacy and technology development, CalCars draws energy from online communities, emphasizes market-based solutions and harnesses multiple tools to build buzz. He explains CalCars’ focus on early adopters and a fleet market that will expand as state, international and eventually, federal efficiency and carbon requirements are phased in. He describes a plan in development to spin off a for-profit company to partner with an automaker.
In the parking lot after the talk, CalCars Technology Lead Ron Gremban will demonstrate and offer drives in CalCars’ PRIUS+, converted through an Open Source-style collaboration
Felix Kramer is a startup executive with experience in communications, marketing, business development and strategy. In 2001, he sold eConstructors.com (marketplace for web development) and began advising Rocky Mountain Institute/Amory Lovins' Hypercar Inc., which led to the launch of CalCars. Previously, Kramer was an early online marketer starting in 1994. One of the first desktop publishers beginning in 1985, he co-authored "Desktop Publishing Success," (Dow Jones-Irwin,1990), the first book on the business side of electronic publishing. During several decades in New York City, he was a Congressional legislative aide, ran a nonprofit energy conservation services company, created a trade association for association for conservation businesses, directed a three-day citywide solar energy event and wrote investigative exposes of computer and health trade schools. A graduate of Cornell University, more details of his resume, click here. He presents his big-picture views at his blog, Power, Plugs and People.
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