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CalCars to Become For-Profit PHEV Company

5 September 2006

CalCars, the non-profit founded in 2002 to advance the development of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), has decided to convert to a for-profit company that actually builds commercial products.

As envisioned, the new company will deliver PHEV conversions to fleets and individuals; work on original designs; and license its intellectual property.

CalCars founder Felix Kramer laid out the basics in a post on VentureBeat.

How can we go further? Wise voices have long urged us to start a company. “Change the auto industry by proving your solution can make money.” It helps to have people like top VC John Doerr tell us, “Plug-in hybrids are a really big deal. They are practical, profitable and urgently needed.”

So now we want to launch an ambitious for-profit. We’re talking with other leading PHEV innovators about combining talents and acquiring funding to operate in the high-stakes world.

We’ve started evaluating potential partners and markets. We’re talking with angels and VCs about borrowing an entrepreneur-in residence, helping to recruit auto industry veterans and getting seed funding. We try to involve people who’ve already made their fortunes and are looking to build useful profitable companies. We invoke the spirit of Steve Jobs’ recruitment pitch, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life—or do you want to change the world?”

September 5, 2006 in Hybrids, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

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And as soon as Toyota intoduces PHEV as an option, these people are history.

I've still yet to read of any non-employee being able to get their products to work right in the first place. I've read two separate stories in the past of journalists getting to drive their demonstrator car(s) and having glitches with it preventing them from getting the full advertised benefits of PHEV functionality. Agreed that if the 2008 Prius is plug-in, that will mean not only lower cost than aftermarket but also less buggy. Nothing kills a product like the frustration of having it not work right.

If they cause Toyota to make PHEV soon rather than later they will have accomplished there goal.

I don't think toyota will come out with PHEV for another 5 years so they could definetly make a little money. I say good luck. Hope it works out! A more competitive market place breeds more innovation so maybe this will jump start EnergyCS and Hymotion.

Good luck to them. Will they be writing battery warranties ? I would watch the small print. I genuinely hope they succeed as what they are doing is a "good thing" but they may be too soon (battery-wise).
On the other hand, if they have any substantial IP, they could make a few quid.

- JM

In my opinion, Cal Cars should be receiving nothing but praise on this board. And to be honest, the constant critiques on here have become more than tired. I have no experience with their product, and cannot comment on whether or not their test projects worked. However, they have worked very hard on this concept for years, long before people were so concerned about peak oil, energy security, global warming and a host of other ssues that bring people to this site. They recognized a problem few were discussing, and did something about it.

Is it perfect? I have no idea.


But I give them a tremendous amount of credit for pushing forward, putting the hat on larger corporations, and ultimately doing something that will benefit us all.

Best of luck Cal Cars.


Regardless on their long term sucess, CalCar deserves a full hand for pushing the majors towards PHEVs (sooner) and give high performance batteries/storage devices a market for their products.

Others like EnergyCS + Hymotion + Power Companies should joint CalCar to bring more models on the market.

Car bodies could be from existing compatible street legal units.

The noble car company in the U.K. uses lotus chasis for their cars. Reviewers have praised Noble cars for years. It seems that Harvey D. has a good idea. If this company focuses on what it does well and leaves the other things to other people then they stand a chance. People want what they can offer.

Don't forget there are already over half a million Prius out there that could be converted. There will probably be a million by the time Toyota has something to offer. Converting a million cars is Big!

Hi t,
not at all. There are scores of ICE vehicles to be converted with for example in wheel solutions.

What will happen to the many people who donated lots of money as gifts to Calcars when it was non-profit research group?

They can only do what they're planning now because of that early investment.

Will the early supporters receive anything in return (ie shares in the entity they enabled)?

If they can introduce an affordable car available in all fifty states, with decent range, available financing and a decent warranty, meeting all the current safety/crash standards, and comforts, I will be interested. I do not see how they can leapfrog over all the major automakers of this world to do so.
If they do not deliver such to the masses, then I see them catering to the Jay Lenos and George Clooneys of this market. I am in a wait and see mode. Either way I want them to succeed, as we need all great ideas out there to spur innovation.

Before Felix turned his personal energies toward promoting the plug in hybrid, almost no one had considered the concept. Only a few years later and the press and politicians have grasped the subject and are able to speak about it intelligently. Even George Scholz, of all people, was seen articulating the advantages of plug in hybrids on national television. It's not a hard concept to fathom. But without Felix relentlessly getting the words "plug-in hybrid" in front of anyone and everyone, very few would have a clue what the plug in hybrid is or why it is significant.

The popularization of the concept and the advantages of the plug in hybrid are due to Felix and Ron and all the others who got behind CalCars. This is simply an amazing accomplishment no matter how one looks at it. Possibly it took off as well as it has because of it's simplicity and appeal to many and because it's timing was spot on. But it's also safe to say that the plug-in hybrid would not have spontaneously shown up on the lips of people like George Scholz without the continuous push and education from CalCars.

It's probably true that if Ford and Toyota come out with plug-in hybrids next year, CalCars is finished. But if big auto does produce plug-ins, celebrations are in order, and CalCars deserves most of the credit. Considering the fact that big auto spends the majority of its energies pooh-poohing ideas like plug-in hybrids and diligently crushing every last EV they ever leased, CalCars probably has plenty of work and business ahead of itself.

Electricity may be the transportation fuel of the future, but we don't have the luxury of waiting decades for big auto to evolve of their own volition. The days when there were hundreds of competing automobile Manufacturers were over long ago. The few that remain suffer from extreme homeostasis and seem to like it that way. Big auto apparently needs a lot more companies like CalCars biting at their heels before they will reluctantly take their first steps in the right directions.

Thanks for the gracious supportive comments. We feel tremendously satisfied at our success in helping to put PHEVs on the map and cars on the road since 2002. Many people write us saying we give them a spark of hope about the possibilties for change, and about doing something about global warming. And we are grateful for all parallel efforts of so many individuals and organizations, especially those listed at calcars.org/partners.html .

Here are a few clarifications (especially for people who have read only the summary and not the original posting -- see link above to VentureBeat.com or go to Hybridcars.com/blogs/power/).

* Non-profit CalCars is not hoping to "become" a for-profit company, but rather to sponsor or spin off one. That's quite different, and there are many scenarios in which we imagine CalCars.org continuing in its advocacy role, if not in technology development.

* We're expecting to work with one or more existing after-market conversion companies. And we have no interest in ourselves becoming a car company. We intend to work with and license intellectual property to existing car-makers.

* The 3 PHEVs CalCars has built all work reliably. All three remain development platforms and therefore works-in-progress; some are at times in a state of redesign. EnergyCS has built 10; I have put 8,000 easy miles on one of them since April. And I understand Hymotion has begun to ship cars to customers as well.

* Once car-makers begin building PHEVs, there's plenty of room for a smart and capable team to cotinue to demonstrate innovation on light-weighting, optimization, telematics and many other advanced technologies, as well as after-market conversions of existing hybrids.

* We are grateful for the hundreds of small contributions and the small number of larger donations. I've personally more than matched the total of ALL the small donors in unreimbursed travel and other expenses. The 3 full-time people at CalCars have been paid for less than a year -- before that, we were all volunteers (I since late 2001). We continue to urgently need that support to continue what we're doing and fund a half-dozen great stacked-up projects.

* We're now concentrating on finding high-wealth six-figure investors, but it may be that we'll also find a way to involve supporters with smaller investment resources who want to be involved.

Thanks again for all your support!
Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative

I can personally verify that the CalCars PHEV works as advertised. While I was visiting Palo Alto, Felix was kind enough to allow me to drive the 100+ mpg plug-in. There were 4 other adults in the car. Granted, we drove at neighborhood speeds, but the car never left electric mode! By the way, after driving a PHEV, it’s very hard to go back.

Upon returning home, I promptly visited my Toyota Salesman, and told him that the next car we buy WILL BE a PHEV (after which, I explained what a plug-in was). In fact, now, I can’t see ever buying a non-PHEV. I might as well drop my broadband and go back to a dial-up modem.

I, for one, wish CalCars the very best. As some of you have already stated in different ways, plug-ins would be no where if it weren’t for Felix Kramer. And if Toyota drags it’s feet for too long, I would hope to be a CalCars customer.

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