click above image for a high-res gallery of the Ford Escape PHEV

Since first proposing his plug-in hybrid (PHEV) prepay idea earlier this month, CalCars' Felix Kramer has not sat back and watched his baby grow. Instead, he's been talking and listening and has evolved his plan. Originally, the idea was to have plug-in vehicle supporters give their automaker of choice a $10,000 down payment on a PHEV to be delivered by 2012 at the latest. Payers would also get tax benefits for their "investment."

The five-digit price tag was a sticking point, though, and CalCars' new proposal reduces the reservation fee down to just $1,000, with the government matching each payment with $9,000. Kramer, in an email that is pasted after the break, said that the $1,000 amount "is enough money to show serious intent" while not limiting the playing field. Kramer also said that the proposal has been circulated among "policy people, Congressional staff - and enough people around the transition team to hope that it's been noticed." Whaddya think of the new idea?

[Source: CalCars]


CALCARS' DEC. 1 "PROPOSAL: PREPAY FOR PLUG-INS TO SAVE & TRANSFORM THE AUTO INDUSTRY" has gotten broad coverage. Among the online outlets that ran the full text are AutoblogGreen and EVWorld. Among the stories with comments are The Inspired Economist and:

  • Automotive journalist Jim Motavalli at Mother Nature Network says "That's hugely ambitious, of course, but it's certainly a way to inject revenue into the failing auto industry. And if fleets (including government fleets) jump in that will be a big step forward....Plans like this are in synch with the rapid ramp-up envisioned by author Thomas Friedman in his book Hot, Flat and Crowded...."At this rate, vehicles won't arrive soon enough to save the auto industry -- let alone U.S. industrial leadership or the climate," Kramer says. He invokes the fact that Americans bought $17 billion in Liberty Bonds during World War I, and $185 billion in World War II War Bonds. If they could do it, he says, so can we.
  • Green Car Advisor Scott Dogget at Edmunds went over the top in saying "Spend more than a few minutes speaking with Felix Kramer about electric cars and very quickly you wonder if he might be a genius who's ahead of his time. Like Better Place CEO Shai Agassi, Kramer (right) isn't afraid to think big when it comes to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and straight electric vehicles. And this week Kramer -- founder of the California Cars Initiative, a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit organization that promote 100+ miles-per-gallon PHEVs -- proferred a really big idea...It's a compelling proposal.
  • Author Paul Loeb at Huffington Post wrote a long and thoughtful analysis, including, "Here's the dilemma: Detroit needs to sell cars to survive, and they need to sell them now. But every fuel-inefficient car they produce and put on the road creates an additional lien on our common future, by increasing our oil dependence and producing tons of greenhouse gases over its ten-to-twenty year lifetime....Felix Kramer, who founded the plug-in-hybrid innovation and advocacy organization, has just come up with an idea that could solve the dilemma...This would give America's car manufacturers a huge pre-sold base for these cars, a massive incentive to getting them produced and ready for the market. It would also provide a major potential influx of capital." Loeb calls the idea "a work-in-progress" an "an innovative starting point."

EVOLVING THE PLAN: We've circulated the idea among policy people, Congressional staff -- and enough people around the transition team to hope that it's been noticed. At the same time, we've concluded that the original idea for $10K prepayments (refunded within months by federal tax credits) would limit participants to those who don't finance their cars. Talks with financial experts suggest an alternative. Buyers would pay $1,000 to reserve a car, and the federal government would match each payment with $9,000, all of which would go to carmakers under the terms described in the original proposal. $1,000 is enough money to show serious intent. Either way, the program represents a way to " allow consumers to invest in technologies that are essential to any future American economy" (LOEB) and "There's a certain parallel to the local food movement, which supports community-supported agriculture (CSAs), in which a group of people agree to pre-pay for a portion of an organic farmer's crop." (MOTAVALLI)

Our goal has been to get new ideas into the mix -- especially ones that link buyer demand with automaker performance. We'll keep you posted on any further progress.

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