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Andy Grove Calls for Concerted US Effort to Convert Pickups, SUVs and Vans to 40+ Mile PHEVs

In a lunchtime address at the Plug-in 2008 conference and exposition in San Jose, California, Andy Grove, former Chairman & CEO, Intel Corporation, called for an urgent inter-industry effort in the US to convert pickups, SUVs and Vans (PSVs) to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) with at least a 40-mile electric range.

Characterizing the current energy situation as a “clear and present danger” to the United States, Grove said that an inter-industry task force comprising electric utilities, automakers, high technology companies and academia should develop a plan to have 10 million plug-in hybrid—which he calls dual-fuel vehicles—PSVs on US roads in 4 years, and then present the plan to the new President on 21 January 2009.

Grove said that societies and countries as well as companies can face inflection points, and that the US was facing such an inflection point now with respect to energy. Fungibility of energy sources requires the use of electricity in transportation, he said, noting that if the US converted 100 million of its largest and least efficient light-duty vehicles to PHEVs through a combination of conversion and new product, the US would reduce its imported oil need by 50%.

Key issues, he said, were infrasftructure, battery cost, carbon emissions and ramping production, but that he had been told that the program was “borderline do-able”.

Other recommendations he proposed in conjunction with his plan were:

  • A tax credit of 50% for retrofitting PSVs, with the cost offset by progressive licensing fees for all vehicles, boats and planes.

  • Free electricity use for plug-in PSVs for a period of time such as 2 years.

  • A new Federal court district to handle issues related to Intellectual Property in this field.

  • Automakers should adopt open source principles re: specifications and commit to not withholding warranties on the conversions.

  • An aggressive push by the venture capital community.

  • Support from the Small Business Administration to help conversion businesses grow.

  • A unified, and consistent approach to the US government from the task Force—i.e., no stovepipe lobbying.

Rebuilding our commons, he said, will require a co-operative, problem-solving attitude that incorporates the best of the Internet model. It will also require a level of urgency last seen in the national response to World War II.

Comments

ejj

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Andy Grove, and respect him even more for his battle with Parkinson's Disease. However, I think his plan for conversion/retrofitting idea is well intentioned, but not realistic. You are not going to convince construction workers, ranchers, contractors, and anyone else that needs "PSV" performance to switch to something that delivers anything less than that same level of overall performance. While some people buy PSV's for the sheer size & to compensate for small *a-hem* johnsons, I think most need the horsepower/size for towing, hauling supplies & people, etc.

Ultimately, everyone knows we are waiting on the energy storage (EEStor?); make the vehicles more economical with EEStor batteries, with the same kind of performance & size of current vehicles, and market forces will work to transform the transportation world as we know it.

sjc

Plug hybrids could have similar performance to the same stock vehicle. You are adding a motor, controller and batteries. The motor should give you good torque to go with the engine horsepower.

Axil

The retro-fit to the EV should be first directed toward the largest fleets of vehicles: taxi cabs, corporate vans, police cars in large cities, government fleet cars … you get the idea.

Vehicles that are always in use and are in greater numbers that can be converted in assemble line fashion.

Elliot

This is a tough one. There's a lot of city cars that will benefit, maybe some of the SUV's out there, but "performance" vehicles like work trucks probably will not qualify or even be good candidates based on the demands put upon them.

Resale value may also be affected, though whether it's positive or negative would depend on gas prices and kit quality.

JMartin

Axil is on target. If the government is going to get involved, then retrofit school buses, city buses, and all Post Office vehicles 1st. All are worthy of Federal monies (less political flak) and can have quick impact.

OldNeil

This fellow obviously does some thinking. These vehicles are the lowest mileage on the road and have room for batteries. The right kind of conversion would actually leave you with better performance.

K

It would be an interesting effort. History indicates retrofitting isn't as cost effective as scraping the old and building new.

Like all general statements there are exceptions.

His 10 million conversions in 4 years would be followed in the next 4 years with 50 million breakdowns, 80 million days in the shop, and lost work by the owners. (all figures confirmed by astrologers and subject to change w/o notice).

Grove is worth listening to. I have a bias against retrofits but another bias toward what might work. He is right about:

"Grove said ... that the US was facing...an inflection point now with respect to energy. Fungibility of energy sources requires the use of electricity in transportation..."

Lad

I like the T. Boone Pickens idea of CNG as a substitute for diesel and gasoline for trucks, at least as an interim measure while the battery technology and production catches up and the renewable and solar power plants are developed. Mr. Pickens is trying his best to move our politicians into an emergency mode on moving off foreign oil by suggesting federal involvement as soon as possible. I believe with oil at the level it is and with our outstanding debt to other countries, the American government could cease to function and protect our way of life. We are not far from an economic crash and we better do something about it ...NOW!

George

Interesting that guys like Grove and Pickens are calling for serious action now. I'll add Gore to that list in order to bait the wingers... Pickens is more self interested than the rest, but his message is still good. I think Grove is a bit idealistic with this plan, but when all the smart guys are telling us we really need to do something, there might be something to it. Also note that despite the oil industry's hydrogen wet dream, everyone is figuring out what we've been saying all along. PHEVs. The infrastructure is already in place. I sure hope EEStor pulls our collective bacon out of the fire. Those guys will deserve the trillions they should make if it works. Oh, and Lad, the government really doesn't give a fig about our way of life. If Bear, Goldman, JP Morgan et al.'s way of life is threatened, then you'll see action.

Sulleny

Lad - try to get real. "Economic crash, our way of life..." BS. Now that global warming is proving to be BS, these new cries of catastrophe indicate one thing: those crying loudest are vested in making you believe it.

Grove sets out a more realistic goal than Al Gore. Grove's intent to convert 100M vehicles to PHEV by trade up and aftermarket conversions is aggressive. Even 50M is well beyond manufacturing capability at present - and we have not seen aftermarket conversion kits that would work for PSVs - given the wide variety of drive train and body designs.

But at 50% tax credit for such conversions may stimulate invention. And if in-wheel motors can be built to replace existing wheels, and Li-Io packs in the 4-10kWh range can be mass produced - there may be a way.

As for the Pickens Plan - Beware. T is a ol' oil tycoon. His wind farm expansion is terrific. His conversion to CNG as a bridge is unrealistic. CNG averages $3.00 gallon in US (it avgs $.65 cents gallon in Canada - tell you something?)and legal conversions run around $13k for a small car.

There is a "clear and present danger" and it is called panic. There is no need for panic. PHEVs have been announced by EVERY major manufacturer of motor vehicles. If we really want to upgrade half the U.S. fleet - then legislate new PSV sales to be PHEV; and subsidize trade-ins, and conversions; and legislate E-85 and charge points in gas stations.

And if a Manhattan Project approach is taken - it should be to deliver breakthrough technology on the order of atomic fission 60 years ago. That would be zero point "over-unity" engines, low temp fusion, light pump solar (80-90% efficient)etc. We could do this - Manhattan was no less distant in 1941. But is there the political, economic and technological will? If Andy is right, there is.

Should be interesting.

Treehugger

Sulleny

While I agree with you that panic is a bad adviser, could you tell me where are your source to assert that "Now that global warming is proven to be BS" where are the proof you are refering to ? I have no problem puting into question global warming as long it is not confirmed by facts, but I don't thing there is any serious evidence that it is wrong either.

@Sulleny:
It may be BS to you; but I take a different reading; I think your approach is what is exactly wrong with what's happening in our county...in effect you are thinking too small and over too long a period of time. When $700,000,000 a year is leaving the U.S. and is being returned in the form of dead American soldiers and countries attempting to arm themselves with A-bombs...you have an immediate problem to solve...not a problem that can be delayed by taking a cavalier approach. There are lots of people trying to give you a message...try your best to hear what they say and not be so quick to call it BS!

mahonj

I think the guy has lost it.

It is a crazy idea - adding a second engine to 10M vehicles. It is one thing "hotting" up an ICE car - you are tweeking a single engine, but adding a second one is a much bigger deal.

All manner of electrification is good (or will be good) as time moves on but expecting 10M people to add a second engine to their cars is bonkers.

Better to encourage the sale of 10M city EVs to be used as second cars - the 2 car PHEV solution.

danm

I think Sulleny has lost it.

Herm

The low hanging fruit of the EV world is to add a couple of in-wheel motors to the front wheels of a Ford F150 or Expedition.. easy conversion and massive amaounts of fuel saved.. these vehicles have plenty of room for the batteries. 40 miles electric range seems a bit too much at current prices.

Rich

Kits for many popular ICE cars should be available to turn them into electric vehicles. The current crop of kits have insufficient range due to their use of lead acid batteries.

Reality Czech
I think Sulleny has lost it.
Were you waiting for "over-unity" to clinch the diagnosis?
John Baldwin

If its only 40 miles, keep a petrol engine, add a small CNG tank and a home CNG filling device, sorted, not much cost, no hassle....

regards

John

Sulleny

@ Treehugger:

Clever word play does not pass muster here. Your misquote of my comment points to your desire to distort fact to achieve fiction. My words: "proving to be BS" - your word: "proven." The ability to read accurately accompanies prudent thinking.

For our "lost" friends - try to comment on the proposals and not your emotional response to sections thereof. Anyone else see Boone's backdoor fossil play?

And to the Manhattan doubters consider this:

"In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated."

Letter to F. D. Roosevelt, 1939, from Albert Einstein

creativforce

The Poulsen Hybrid concept could do the trick right now, give front wheel drive trucks instant four wheel drive, and give them 60 hp of additional low-end torque. Red necks would love it! Mr. Grove should put his considerable money where his mouth is. www.poulsenhybrid.com/

stas peterson

@Sulleny,

You can't talk reality to a converted religious fanactic full of AGW zeal.

Science may routinely replace old erroneous theory with new theory, but religious fanatics cannot have dogma challenged. It is stable and ever enduring; a foundation for their world view.

While Global Warming may have had a kernal of Truth until the world started Global Cooling, and Reality intruded. The anthrpogenic original sin eyewashof GHGs, is now discredited, and can't stand the light of day.

Algore and his minions wil fade into oblivion as time goes by, hopefully not into a Jonebore episode, but I detect that tendency in him.

But the zeal can still manifest itself as for such quixotic tilting at windmills as retro-fit conversions for tens of millions of ill-suited ICE vehicles.

Simply smile, chuckle, and laugh at the madding of crowds.

Jim

It's great that Andy Grove is on-board with PHEVs.

But what's really needed for all this to move forward is a gas tax. Set the floor for a gallon of gas at $4 or whatever, and then the automakers can do their magic; be it PHEVs or otherwise.

I think PHEVs will work, but this effort will fall on its face if gas slips back to $1.50 per gallon.

JMartin

The Manhattan Project is the wrong analogy. This should be compared to the WWII mobilization. Pickens, Grove, and even Gore (in spite of his association to Global Warming)are all making the case for an economic security crisis. The first two may not care about the environment, but that is not the point.

We have the technology, but not the political will (yet) to save our economic bacon. That requires getting off imported oil. Doing so will require the use of renewables. This cannot be done quickly with research dollars, and we really don't have 5 years to start moving. The benefit for the the "right" is security and jobs at home, while the benefit for the "left" is rapid movement to green energy sources.

We will get there whether the Government figures it out or not, but they sure could help. And if the next president wants to earn a second term, he better get on top of this.

Everybody wins (except maybe the military industrial complex as we have known it for 75 years).

HarveyD

The idea may look good but is not as good as converting a few million recent (fully justified) dinosaurs to NG.

I see no reasons why I should pay my daft neighbour to convert his unjustified, oversized, overweight monster to a PHEV-40. Let him pay for his mistake and lack of judgement.

However, buyers of new acceptable size PHEV-40 could be financially helped at the rate of $5k to $10K. Financial resourses required could come from a new $0.25/gal fuel tax.

Sasparilla

It is amazing these big names are coming out of the woodwork talking about the economic damage the price of Oil is doing and will do (which it true), there's obviously something to all this (both Grove and Pickens are at the end of the life span game, so presumably there's more than just money motivating them).

Hard to make heads or tails of Grove's plan here as it seems huge and destined to have alot of problems - unless world Oil production starts declining - then this plan becomes needed. I wonder what he knows?

Otherwise, I would think encouraging new production (serious rebates for PHEV, EV's etc.) should be the first priority (get the industry switched over) and possibly loan development/production setup money for the industry to push it along faster (& allow companies like Chrysler to do it at all). Production vehicles would be alot less problematic and reliable. In the mean time push vehicles that get great gas mileage (temporary rebates possibly till PHEV/EV arrive on scene in sufficient numbers) to get our usage down.

It all depends on when world Oil production turns down - hopefully we have 4 or 5 years before then, otherwise we'll need to call Andy Grove.

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