Woolsey Backs Gas-Guzzler Retrofits; Cheaper Volt? by Felix Kramer

For several years, CalCars has been a near-lone voice in suggesting to thought-leaders in the energy security and environmental communities that we need conversions of existing internal combustion vehicles to accelerate the market penetration rates for plug-in vehicles. While getting a million new plug-ins by 2015 will be a near-miraculous accomplishment, it will remain an underpowered achievement. And with 250 vehicles on the road, so would a subsequent 10-15 million more in a decade.

So we’re encouraged that the highly influential James Woolsey is now speaking positively of this strategy. Details below. Plus an encouraging report that production costs for the Chevy Volt could go down! Finally, we reproduce an important report by Ron Gremban, CalCars Technology Lead, after he refueled his Volt for the first time. This includes our announcement that he has begun to instrument his
car to gain more data about the driving operations of the Chevy Volt — which could lead to a new open-source project for CalCars. Comments and additional info at the URL.

(Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting will also be viewable at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html — there you can add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

JAMES WOOLSEY is the former CIA Director, member of Vantage Point Venture Partners (investors in
Tesla and other cleantech companies), founding member of the Set America Free Coalition, renowned for describing he plug-in campaign as “a coalition of tree huggers, do-gooders, sod busters, cheap hawks, evangelicals, mom and pop drivers — and Willie Nelson.” Here’s what he said as part of an interview with Brad Berman, publisher of PlugInCars.com at

Q: Given how long market adoption takes, can electric cars and plug-in hybrids roll out fast enough to make a real impact on energy security?

A: We’ve got to have conversions of existing vehicles both to FFVs [flex-fuel vehicles] and to plug-ins. If you can convert existing vehicles to be plug-ins, and come up with something that’s a few hundred dollars to convert existing vehicles–whether they’re hybrids or not–to be FFVs, then you can strike a blow against oil really fast because you don’t have to wait for the automotive companies to tool up, do studies and so forth.

Q: Short of conversions, you’re talking very incremental change–single percentage points of new car sales.

A: The reason we want to look at conversions is you can go so much faster. Even if conversions don’t work for 75 percent of the vehicles out there, if they work for 25 percent, that’s still going 25 times faster than several years of waiting for new cars to come into the market.

OUR COMMENTS: We welcome James Woolsey’s support for the concept of gas-guzzler conversions! In
this interview, he combines two very distinct strategies:

* retrofits of existing vehicles to FFV, which as he says, could perhaps be done for hundreds of dollars. (Of course, using U.S. corn-based ethanol has multiple negative impacts; Woolsey is hopeful for cellulosic ethanol, whose progress has been far slower than expected.)* conversion of the low-hanging 25% of vehicles to plug-ins. Obviously the latter is far more expensive–north of $20K, which of course argues
for an equivalent federal incentive given the high petroleum displacement benefit.

CalCars has proposed high-volume, fully-warrantied conversions of what Andy Grove calls PSVs — Pickups, SUVs and Vans (and buses) to EV or PHEV depending on designs/drive cycles. Our general page on with white paper, news, links, etc. is http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html .
We’ve concluded this has to be driven by real businesses rather than advocacy.

More from The Green Living Guy:

 1. Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman and Bob Brandt

2. Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman

3. Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel

More About Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles from The Green Living Guy

The Prius You Can Plug In

Events Rundown: National & California Plus New Global Campaigns by Felix Kramer from CalCars.org

Toyota and New York City will join the company’s U.S. Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV) demonstration program.