Wednesday, long-time advocates of PHEVs (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles) took ownership of a pair of Chevy Volts - world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid. The celebration marked the climax of a long and successful campaign for Felix Kramer, CalCars.org founder and the world's first consumer owner of a PHEV, along with Ron Gremban, the other full-time CalCars.org worker.
In the below photo, the Volt is eerily silent while backing up inside the Novato California Chevrolet dealership. This small town dealer was allocated twelve cars and all were pre-sold. General Motors (GM) is only building ten thousand Chevy Volt units this year and they are all sold.
The new Chevy Volt PHEV (GM calls it an extended range electric vehicle or EREV) has been winning awards everywhere. It's the first consumer vehicle whose local miles can be electric, chargeable at 120 Volts, while it can drive across the country anytime. Every aspect of the Volt is computer controlled with the latest in driver comforts and information delivery systems.
General Electric (GE) will buy 25,000 electric vehicles for its fleet through 2015 in the largest-ever purchase of electric cars. They will start with the purchase of 12,000 Chevy Volts in 2011. The conglomerate said it will "add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle profiles."
GE's purchase is a far cry from when Kramer and Gremban modified a first generation Toyota Prius to become a PHEV. Then, everybody who was an expert on cars had a lot of reasons about why PHEVs would not sell to the public.
Felix Kramer's history with PHEVs is worth retelling to put into perspective the event we attended. In 2001, Kramer sold his small Internet company and was looking for something to do.
He said, "I was blown away by the Rocky Mountain Institute's vision of 99 MPG vehicles. I went to Aspen and began discussions about new ways to advance that project."
In 2002, Kramer met many of the Silicon Valley "entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers, and EV (electric Vehicle) advocates who've helped us immeasurably ever since."
They formed what is now known as CalCars.org.
Next, Kramer saw his first PHEV at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and realized today's technology could get things started. Then, Professor Andy Frank, the Father of the modern PHEVs, came into the picture. Frank has always been easily approachable and generous with his time and knowledge.
Professor Frank and his students at University of California, Davis had been rebuilding vehicles into PHEVs for nearly thirty years. The problem always was cost. Over $100,000 to rebuild a standard automobile into a one-off electric powered street drivable PHEV test vehicle.
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