“A path that can unite America …”

Plug-in-Hybrid-Electric-Vehicles (PHEVs) offer “a path that can unite America,” according to David Sandalow, in his opening talk today to the Google/Brookings Institution two-day conference Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington?

Oil prices are at record highs. The overwhelming dependence of our cars and trucks on oil strains family budgets, threatens our national security and contributes to global warming. Plug-in electric vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce the United States’ dependence on oil. Yet can this potential be realized? If so, how? Is there a national interest in putting millions of plug-in vehicles on the road soon? How should policymakers in Washington, D.C., respond?

Just a few years ago, one might have had a hard time filling a small classroom for a conversation about PHEVs.  The Brookings-Google session, according to comments during the day, hit (and might have exceeded) fire marshal limits.  Excitement and energy almost literally palpable. Industry, enthusiasts, and others packed in for a series of panels and presentations about the opportunities, challenges, and realities of PHEVs.  

Available for looking at (and, in some cases, sitting in) included a prototype Chevy Volt (sorry, behind a cord, eye candy only), a prototype PHEV Prius (lots of chances to look around), a production model Tesla (a real wow, first time I’d seen one … and perhaps the last time I’ll get to sit in one), etc …


Videos (some videos at Google’s RechargeIT) are a real part of the conference, enriched via Google holding a competition for videos re PHEVs.  The opening video, with some history and expert talking heads, ended with a ‘commercial’ that got some real applause.  

* A gas-guzzler, license tag TURBO, pulls into gas station, studly man, with mirrored glasses, climbs out to start pumping gas at $4+ per gallon. 

* An electric car comes in and the driver gets out … and begins to check tire pressures.   

* Out of the gas station building comes a stunning woman who smiles, the stud beams, and then the stud’s jaw drops as she goes to the driver of the electric car. 

* “Go Electric and Feel the Power” 

A short tour through some speakers, with “great lines” highlighted.

Dan Reicher of Google.ORG spoke to Google’s efforts and that they are focusing on what they see as the two most promising arenas for positive and significant chane when it comes to Global Warming: moving transport to electricity (PHEVs) and developing renewable electricity less expensive than coal.  The “overall vision”?  10s of millions of vehicles plugging into a greenre grid.  

Reicher emphasized that government role is one of enabler, perhaps most importantly work on fostering and rapidly implementing a smart grid.  

He also highlighted that this is politically popular, according to a poll released earlier today, 75% of voters support plug-ins and 2/3rds will vote for candidates who support PHEVs and will pay more to buy a PHEV.

Dan gave a great story about innovation and innovative thought. Having arrived an airport, he couldn’t find a rental car.  He went to get a cab. The driver said:  “You can hire me for $300 day or you can call U-Haul.”  Reicher went to U-Haul, who delivered a $19.99/day pick-up to his hotel.  Richer’s call to think boldly & creatively: “Find your own U-Haul Moment”.

Jim Woolsey, former CIA director and McCain advisor, gave a typically strong talk on energy issues with a focus on the need to reduce America’s importation of oil.

There are a huge set of reasons why spending $100s of billions on oil each year is just about the stupiediest thing that any society could be doing …

Now, he emphasized that energy independence can’t be achieved via drilling as the bulk of the oil isn’t in the US and the cheapest to extract isn’t in the US.  He made a strong, impassioned pleas that “We can, we should, we must destroy oil’s monopoly … whether a McCain or Obama Administration …”

Other great talks came from Peter Darbee, PG&E; Vijay Vartheeswaran, Economist and author of Zoom (who is a great panel moderator, by the way); Shai Agassi,
Project Better Place; etc …

So, what were some wonderful lines:

  • Vijay, on the need to focus on the system of system of the auto industry and not just the fuel: “Not the juice, but the jalopy is changing.”
  • Agassi, summarizing PBP’s potential: “For $500 per car in a country, you can get the cars off oil.  For two months of US oil costs and you’re off oil.”
  • Deron Lovaas, NRDC:  “A Climate Bill is truly an anti-oil addictio bill.”
  • Chelsea Sexton (yes, that Chelsea, from Who Killed the Electric Car? and director of Plug-In America), when discussing the chicken-egg problem with people stating that the demand doesn’t exist:  “We didn’t know we wanted iPods until we had them.”  And, about one of the draws of the Prius: “People like to conspiciously non-consume.”
  • Dave Vieau, A123 Systems: About changing concepts of how to pay for transport (discussing PBP) “Move thinking from MPG to DPM: Dollars per month.”
  • Tom Kuhn, Edison Electric Institute:  “People are Mad. They want NOPEC: No Oil, Purchase Electric Cars.”To be honest, above is simply a taste of a quite interesting day, the first day of a conference that continues tomorrow that you can join virtually.
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    One response to ““A path that can unite America …”

    1. Pingback: Apollo Daily Digest » Blog Archive » June 13, 2008: Dawning of the Clean Energy Age

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