CalCars Squared (CC2) 

We can convert hundreds of millions of gas-guzzlers to plug in faster than anyone imagines!

As we circulate this proposal to entrepreneurs and advocates for feedback, we hear: “it’s promising!” Can you help validate, develop and flesh out strategies?

 

Our most fervent hope is that you’ll volunteer to lead this project! 

  • Could you or someone you know lead this project?

  • Or dedicate 10+ hours/week to help make it happen?

  • Or start a team to design & build in a few months a proof-of-concept EV conversion of a popular tractor or pickup truck?


This is a work in progress (last updated 6/24/21); you can help us improve it!

Please comment at the GoogleDocs version here! Or write fkramer@calcars.org

 


The best leaders of our time are the ones about whose visions young people hear and say, “That’s never going to happen.” They have a vision so big that when they proclaim it, you might think they’re out of their minds. But then you watch them get to work — and succeed. 
 

— Alicia Garza, principal at Black Futures Lab, profiling activist Jessica Byrd in TIME’s The Next 100 most influential people (March 8, 2021)

Like many Silicon Valley successes, it started on a napkin... 

 

Back at the end of 2019, tech’s Kara Swisher predicted, “the world’s first trillionaire will be a green-tech entrepreneur.” We see a multi-trillion dollar market opportunity.

Rapid vehicle electrification can attract throngs of green entrepreneurs. We have over two billion fossil-fueled vehicles, starting with our 1.4 billion cars (a number set to double by 2036)  plus vans, light trucks, farm and other off-road internal combustion vehicles. These vehicles will be increasingly joined by new electric vehicles, and supplanted by autonomous vehicles. But, many of the old ones will stay on the road for years or decades. It takes about 20 years for the automobile fleet to turn over.

We propose, through multiple vehicle-specific pathways, fully or or in some cases partly powering them by electricity. If we can convert 25%, at an estimated average price of $10,000, that’s a new $5 trillion market  in the next 10+ years. It will provide job training opportunities and many local hands-on jobs. 

We’re recruiting a campaign leader and a team to spark solutions, players, and support. 

The low-hanging fruit: pickup trucks, tractors, and classic cars. We can start now and convert millions of vehicles before they reach the end of their lifetimes of use with pathways:

  1. Simplest: replace their internal combustion engines with all-electric components. 

  2. More complex but worth exploring: add a second electric drive system that powers the vehicle until the battery is depleted, or that works with the combustion engine components. These can be “strong plug-in hybrids” with large batteries. 

Each vehicle type is a different case. While we are focusing on North American markets, we take from the start an international perspective. The vehicle mix, average fleet life, daily distances travelled, all are very different internationally. And parallel efforts could develop zero- or low-carbon liquid fuels for vehicles that aren’t converted.

To launch the project and gain support, we propose to recruit U.S. entrepreneurs and investors to begin with:

  1. Tractors: For a popular non-partisan theme, start with two of the 10 Best Selling Tractors in the USA, and with older models on small- and medium-sized farms. Market validation: “We believe in electric tractors,” say 3 experts at John Deere. Western Farmer surveyed companies building new electric tractors. And AGCO, the world’s largest pure-play ag equipment company, is investing in and evaluating traditional and autonomous EV tractors. 

  2. Classic and luxury vehicles: Pricey but popular; they start the ball rolling. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle raised awareness when they drove to their wedding in a converted Jaguar E-Type. Greg “Gadget” Abbott of Left Coast Conversions in Los Angeles, was featured in the documentary, The Revenge of the Electric Car. Some of the many small  companies offering one-off conversions could be financed or merged to expand. A helpful start could include a director of converters: see Driving, Treehugger, NY Times, and at Automobile, The Five Best Classic Cars to Convert to Electric Vehicles.  A $5,000 kit with wheel motors to convert Vespa scooters is turning heads.

  3. Pickup trucks: The Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge Ram are the top selling US vehicles. They have plenty of room for batteries. Start with F-150s in rural and farm communities. Market validation: Ford has announced it will deliver its F-150 Lightning all-electric pickup in 2022. Could we propose that the company and its local dealers cooperate with auto and electrical unions plus governments for approved, safe conversions? Jaguar set a precedent: before retreating from its plan to offer new E-type Concept Zeros, the company said it would offer conversion kits for 1961-1975 model Es.) 

 

Next could be local delivery vans, schoolbuses, yard and port vehicles. And eventually luxury passenger cars. Plus the highest volume combustion-fueled stationary machines at farms and factories.

Today’s thinking can’t get us where we need to be: mostly EVs by 2030. 2050 is too late! 

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Automakers saying when they'll sell only plug-ins are encouraging but insufficient. The analysis at Electric Cars Are Coming. How Long Until They Rule the Road? (NY Times, March 10, 2021) is waking people up to the challenge. Even if all new cars sold in 2035 are electric, with vehicles lasting longer and breaking down less, it will take until 2050 for the fleet to “turn over.” And those numbers are for the U.S only. Many old cars will be exported to be driven for more years in other countries. This survey article offered little hope, other than worthy steps to reduce global vehicle use. 

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Felix & Ron with Prof. Andy Frank, inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid,  happily took delivery of some of the first Chevy Volts at Novato Chevrolet on December 22, 2010.

This isn’t news to the California Cars Initiative’s Founder Felix Kramer and Technology Lead Ron Gremban. In 2009, when CalCars.org declared initial victory on its goal of mass-production of plug-in hybrids, they called for The Big Fix: 16 Founding Points & Endorsement for the Campaign to Upgrade Gas Guzzlers. Back then they said, “If new plug-ins arrive 10x faster than hybrids, they will still be under 20% of all cars in 15 years.” Ten years in later,, only about 1% of all cars were electric. 

With improved technology, the challenge & opportunity for a CalCars sequel is more achievable now. That  2009 call to action could be a game plan for today. CalCars Squared leaders can use that pledge as a starting point for a new game plan:


We agree that in large volume, converting internal combustion vehicles to safe, affordable, validated and warranted plug-ins may provide benefits in energy security, greenhouse gas reduction, employment, and the overall economy. We support research and demonstration projects aimed at proving the technical feasibility and business case for this solution. We support the creation of local, national, and international coalitions, campaigns and other efforts to incentivize and achieve these goals.

 

We need this urgently because:

  • Air pollution, in large part from vehicles, reduces life expectancy by nearly four years in East Asia, 1.4 years in North America, and globally by almost three years.

  • Greenhouse gases from fuel combustion are almost one quarter of global emissions, and they’re growing steadily. [Get source; confused by IEA: 33 billion tons a year which seems much too high.]

Could vehicle owners and public funds come up with $5-10 trillion over a decade? Consider that the global economy is about $90 trillion a year. 

  • Reflecting the social benefit, public incentives could play a role, along with significantly reduced fuel costs, and for all EVs, elimination of almost all maintenance costs.  

  • FYI: Discussions in Washington have included ideas to update Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s widely supported 2019 cash for clunkers proposal for $392B in discount vouchers for 25% of US cars by 2030. This could include funds to automakers and conversion companies.

  • Another source could be a finally-popular dedicated fuel tax for conversions. Elected officials and citizens now see Big Oil’s deadly response to our climate emergency. They've known climate change is real for decades. Now they publicly acknowledge it, but not its implications, since they intend to make as much money extracting as much oil and gas as long as they can. A damages tax could reduce their customer base and narrow their window of opportunity for what’s called “predatory delay”.

 

 

Can we make this happen at the scale, scope and speed we need? 

Our ramp-up on vaccinations shows that organizations can pull off miracles! We’ll need game-changing technologies, companies and initiatives. Examples: 

  1. Gridtential’s prototypes, now being widely evaluated, add silicon wafers to sealed lead-acid batteries, reducing their weight. They can be manufactured in existing factories for safer, lower-cost alternatives to lithium chemistries. This could work for already-heavy vehicles driving short daily ranges.

  2. Protean and others have developed in-wheel motors. Lordstown Motors’ forthcoming pickup truck will have hub motors. This approach also presents a pathway to convert many vehicle types to operate in two modes: all electric or internal combustion.

  3. Rewiring America, a new organization to “Electrify Everything” ASAP,  founded by inventor Saul Griffith, might add a focus on transportation.

  4. The $10M Automotive X-Prize launched in 2007 and the $100M Carbon Removal X-Prize just funded by Elon Musk could be precedents for awards to companies that meet targets for installations.

 

For more resources from CalCars in 2009, click through from this CalCars page: Join the Campaign to Electrify World's 900+ Million Vehicles . (With patience; the non-https website is very slow to load.) This includes white papers by Ron Gremban.

 

Now Felix Kramer invites entrepreneurs, engineers, and advocates who’ve been working to electrify our world to join in. He’s co-founded ActiveAllies.org, advancing climate action and justice through youth employment and intergenerational collaboration. 

If you’re reading this, could you lead the project? Or do you know someone who might? Please consider joining our startup volunteer team or becoming a Sponsor, Mentor or Advisor to Project Managers in their twenties who can go all-in.

 

CalCars Squared will become the lead project at Electrifying Allies: a new way for innovators to make a big difference—again!. And as we also launch our Central Valley "Grow Better" Initiative to advance regenerative agriculture, we can inventory internal combustion vehicles in one California county, while exploring the potential of converting tractors & pickups to EVs. This could be part of an “Electrify Everything” that would include buildings (per Rewiring America, above).

Active Allies aims to jumpstart our effort with commitments by a company, organization, or a few wealthy sponsors to support existing and additional Project Managers at ActiveAllies and at 350 Bay Area, and hire an ActiveAllies Campaign Manager and a CalCars Squared Campaign Manager. (We have a goal of $200,000, the amount CalCars received in 2007 from the brand-new Google.org as its first Grantee.) 

We’ll enlist organizational endorsers and fundraise with them. And we’re recruiting volunteers and supporters from Felix’s network. We hope to reconnect with leading battery and conversion entrepreneurs from CalCars days like Ric Fulop from A123 Systems, Sanjeev Choudhary from Hymotion, Mil Ovan from Firefly, and many others. And we’re starting with a list of pioneers: 87 women plug-in leaders who’ve been electrifying for decades with whom Felix met and worked at CalCars from 2002-2010. 

 

 

If you agree we’re on to a big idea, let’s connect now! fkramer@calcars.org

 

At the GoogleDocs version see also: CalCars Squared: analyses & technical discussion, where you can comment on this proposal.