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USA: New CalCars Video + Media on Volt & Leaf & Celebration

Here’s a short video with great content and professional production values. It was filmed at the celebration when we got our Chevy Volts. The video and transcript feature Andy Frank, Ron Gremban, Felix Kramer, Dave Barthmuss of GM, Terry McCarter of Novato Chevrolet, Plug In America co-founder Marc Geller as Master of Ceremonies, Richard Schorske of the EV Communities Alliance, and local officials from Marin County. We also throw in a full transcript of the hour-long remarks at the celebration. And after Felix Kramer’s family on January 24 became the world’s first household with both a Chevy Volt and a Nissan Leaf, we have a two-paragraph summary about life with two plug-ins. Finally, links to coverage of the Volt/Leaf household.

CALCARS CELEBRATES ARRIVAL OF PLUG-IN VEHICLES: On December 22, 2010, a year after declaring “victory” on CalCars’ first goal (putting plug-in hybrids on the map and getting carmakers to mass-produce them), CalCars Founder Felix Kramer, Technology Lead Ron Gremban, and Andy Frank, inventor of the modern PHEV all celebrated the arrival of their cars at Novato Chevrolet. Find the superb 7:13 video by Chris Baldwin at the blog of Sustainability Media, “ Drives a Victory Lap in the new Chevy Volt”­blog/­02011/­feb/­23/­calcarsorg-drives-victory-lap-their-new-chevy-volt. Or see it at an iPhone/iPad compatible link at Vimeo “CalCars ChevyVolt 2011”­20320282.

We owe a huge thank you (and congratulations) to Chris Baldwin, who has produced, filmed and edited many videos for CalCars since 2006 when his video of our conversion at the Maker Faire went out over Treehugger. See links at the Sustainability Media blog URL above and at­audio-video.html. Chris shoehorned this project in between his corporate work at and the “distraction” of approaching new parenthood!

In addition to the full transcript of the event below, find other links and photos at New Plug-Ins Arrive­photos-plugins-arrive.html.

Silicon Valley husband and wife Felix Kramer (founder of and Rochelle Lefkowitz (President of bicoastal Pro-Media Communications) are the first household to have both a Leaf and a Volt. Felix says, “Having both cars is a double dream come true after a decade’s advocacy for plug-in vehicles.” Rochelle says, “They’re an ideal pair for a two-car family. We use the slightly more efficient, spacious five-seater Leaf for most local driving. When we head out of town or expect exceed the Leaf’s 80+ mile range — or when we both need to drive — we use the Volt.” Adds Felix, “If we were a one-car family, we’d own just the luxurious Volt. Whenever we need a larger or four-wheel drive vehicle, we have friends pleading with us to swap.”

Rochelle says, “It’s great that they’re both regular cars with great handling and pep. After we showed first-timers the start button, they just drove off and had fun.” Felix says, “When we got around to reading the manuals and trying out every control, we realized that both were astonishingly advanced vehicles, reflecting the best the auto industry has come up with in design, safety, entertainment, and options.” Rochelle says “We’re asked all the time which we prefer — but we like different features in each.” Felix says, “The real competition is between the electric mile and the gasoline mile. And with automakers glimpsing all they can do with plugins, we expect that Volt and Leaf Version 2 plus new models from Ford, Toyota, Honda and others will lead many more drivers to switch.”

COVERAGE OF THE FIRST VOLT/LEAF HOUSEHOLD included several news stories with others to come:


and two interviews/photos for the Solar Home and Business Journal:


LONG BUT WORTH READING: TRANSCRIPT OF DECEMBER 22 CALCARS CELEBRATION AT NOVATO CHEVY: Thanks for this to Bill Mac Iver in Los Angeles and Michael Bender, CalCars webmaster.

MARC GELLER: Howdy, howdy, welcome. Very exciting day — Felix is getting his Volt; Ron is getting his Volt [APPLAUSE]. This is really — a day we probably didn’t expect to come so soon. Let’s just get right into it. We’ve got some elected officials here who I think would like to say a couple of words. We’ve got Judy Arnold, a Marin County supervisor; Susan Adams, a Marin County supervisor; and Madeline Kellner, the mayor of Novato. If you could come up and bless us [LAUGHTER].

JUDY ARNOLD: Hi, I am so happy to be here today. Susan, raise your hand. This is my colleague, Susan Adams, on the Marin County board [APPLAUSE]. She’s going to be president of the board next year when I hand the gavel over January 4th.

I am so excited that Novato gets to be one of the places where the Volt is debuted. It is such an amazing upgrade as far as environmentally-friendly goes. Because you can go a hundred miles; you can go 40 miles on electricity. But you will not have range agitation or range anxiety, because the engine kicks in and you can just keep going. So — my husband knows all about this and told me this this morning [LAUGHTER].

Anyway, thank you so much, and I look forward to all of us seeing a lot of Volts running around Novato. So, delighted to be here, and thank you for the good work you’ve done, and so quickly. Thanks [APPLAUSE].

MADELINE KELLNER: Good morning, I’m Madeline Kellner, I’m the mayor of this fair city of Novato [APPLAUSE], and we are very excited to be one of the few places around the Bay Area that has received these Volts. And I understand that they’re already spoken-for — twelve of them in, twelve of them out, and I’m sure there’s a lot more people on waiting lists to be part of this exciting future. So we want to welcome you all today and we look forward to having many more of these blessing our streets of Novato. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

MARC GELLER: Thank you very much. Are there any elected officials I haven’t recognized who haven’t told me they’re here? I think we mentioned Susan, right? Yes? Okay. Well, we’re very excited to have here Dave Barthmuss, from GM, with whom we have a long and interesting relationship. You may have seen him in a movie [LAUGHTER]. Uh, there are going to be many more. Dave, welcome.

DAVE BARTHMUSS: Thanks, Marc. Yes, that was an interesting movie, wasn’t it? And really, no one is happier to be here today than me, okay? Because of all the things the EV-1 has taught us, and the fact that when I got up at 3:30 this morning to make my 6:30 flight, I could have sworn I was flying out of Burbank. So I get to the Burbank security gate, right? And the guard says “We need to see your boarding pass”. I guess I thought I was flying out of LAX. So then I had to hightail it all the way over to LAX, but I made it, right? So that tells you how much I wanted to be here [LAUGHTER]. You know, in the pouring rain, the wrong darn airport, and I’m here. But — and the other lesson of that is — I couldn’t have done that in my EV-1. Or, I could have done it with my EV-1, but I wouldn’t have been able to get home because of this range-anxiety issue that we’ve all come to know and love.

The beauty of the Volt is that it got me there; it got me there with 40 to 50 miles of all-electric range, and then the range extender kicked in, and generated more electricity to get that motor going, and I’m parked at LAX and I know I can get home. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with other kinds of technologies that we have been producing, or that others are producing today. So the beauty of the Volt is that it combines the best of both worlds.

And I’m just personally very happy that these vehicles are going to Felix, and Ron, and I think Andy Frank picked his vehicle up in Sacramento yesterday, so . . . there he is back there [APPLAUSE], Davis, you picked it up in Davis, right? All right. And Marc, I don’t know if you’re on the waiting list or not — I sure hope you are [LAUGHTER]. If not, I’m sure there are some folks here that I’m sure would be happy to take your name and sign on the dotted line.

But you know what? I think the bottom line for General Motors is that this is a halo for us. It’s going to really help our image and reputation. And frankly, everybody in this room owns a part of this Volt and all of the other 12 that are coming to this great dealership, and all the others that we’re building. Anybody that says they’re representing GM today is very happy to be able to say that. Because a year ago, none of us would have known if we were going to be here or not. So we went through some really gut-wrenching times, a lot of shared sacrifices by everybody, the American and Canadian taxpayers for sure, you know, giving us this second chance. We realize we’re not going to get a third chance.

I think the good news is that the proof is going to be in the products, and when you take a look at the Volt, and you see all the great third-party accolades it’s getting, whether it’s Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Car of the Year, Car & Driver’s Ten Best, I’m sure it’s going to be Green Car of the Year, Green Car Journal, and I bet it’s going to have a pretty good shot at North American Car of the Year, too. I mean, this car is quality, as is the Chevrolet Cruze that you can get here, too [LAUGHTER], 42 miles to the gallon highway.

So I’m just telling you we very much appreciate your support, and your tax dollars to help get us to where we are. We hope to be here — we plan to be here — for another hundred years. And we’re all going to do that by repaying your trust in spades with great products — fuel-efficient products, clean products. This is the first, and it’s the poster child for where we’re heading. So, Felix, I’m very glad this is yours, I’m glad you got Diamond White — beautiful color [LAUGHTER]. Yours is great, Ron [LAUGHTER], great color, too [INAUDIBLE], and I love your color as well [LAUGHTER]. Okay. Thank you all [APPLAUSE].

MARC GELLER: Well, that’s, this is much better than back in the day. This is really fantastic. Yes. Anyway, I’m from Plug In America, cofounder of Plug In America, and we’ve been working for, well, a long time to bring forward this day when plug-in cars come back to market. And there is obviously the Volt. There are other car makers who have electric and plug-in cars coming into the market. Plug In America is active every day doing lobbying, working with automakers, working with consumers to help them understand why plug-in cars will help bring a day when we are not using petroleum, or using certainly a lot less petroleum, all the national-security and environmental benefits that everyone in this room understands quite well. I’m sure I don’t need to enumerate them all again. We know why we’re here.

Plug In America, CalCars, the Electric Auto Association, are organizations that have been working on this stuff for the last decade; they certainly could use your support. We hope the drivers of these cars become members if they aren’t already in these organizations. Check out our websites if you haven’t already:,, Learn more if you need to know more, and help spread the word. So thank you.

And thank you, Felix, for offering us the opportunity [APPLAUSE]. Andy Frank is here. Andy is sort of the Big Kahuna here. Andy’s been trying to tell the automakers for the past 25 years that this is the direction we need to go in. They’ve taken a few turns in different directions in the last 25 years, but it all eventually came back to what Andy was telling them all those many years ago. Professor at UC Davis for many years, take it away, Andy. [APPLAUSE]

ANDY FRANK: Okay, thank you very much. Actually, thank you Felix, for organizing this. You know, all of this business — there’s a technology part, and technology doesn’t mean anything unless it’s properly promoted to the general public. The general public doesn’t know what a plug-in hybrid is. Even today, they have very small knowledge. But without Felix, this couldn’t have happened. So I have to give credit to Felix for bringing this kind of technology to the general public in the United States. He was the first guy to bring this concept to Congress. He’s the first guy to get it in front of the US Department of Energy. I mean, he was the first guy to really make the big promotion.

Me? I just work on the technology [LAUGHTER]. So, I’ve been doing this for . . . let’s see, the first plug-in hybrid I built was in 1972 [LAUGHTER]. A lot of you weren’t even born. So I’ve been working on it a long time. And to me, this is the only way the United States and the world, for that matter, can get out of the oil crisis that we’re in. I was just listening to Bloomberg News on my new XM radio in my Volt [LAUGHTER], and it was saying that the price of oil is headed back up over a hundred dollars a gallon — I mean, a hundred dollars a barrel. Right. And you know, that’s going to translate down to the pump, and that says nothing but gasoline going up. In the meantime, these cars will drive on electricity at essentially two cents a gallon — I mean, two cents a mile — or, you can buy gasoline and go at 15 or 20 cents a mile. So, get that in on the price of gasoline.

So it’s very important that we as a country adopt this kind of technology, because what does two cents a mile really translate into? It translates into lifestyle. We want to preserve our lifestyle. And this country was originally built on low-cost energy. Now, the price of energy is going up, specifically gasoline, but we have plenty of low-cost electricity in this country. We’ve got enough electricity to electrify, according to the US Department of Energy, 80% of the fleet of cars that are out there today. So, why aren’t we doing it? Well, I have to commend General Motors for bringing this first car that somehow or another I somehow envisioned what — 40 or 35 years ago — DAVE BARTHMUSS: We have thick skulls, but we eventually get it straight [LAUGHTER}

ANDY FRANK: Well, I really appreciate General Motors being the first, but don’t forget — the competition’s out there. Ford’s not far behind, Toyota’s coming out next year, Ford with the Escape coming out not too far, and other companies around the world are beginning to adopt this technology. So, I think what it really says, to me, as, you know, some people have called me the “father” of this because I’ve been working on it so long, it says to me that the world is finally realizing that this is about the only solution that we really have.

I just drove my car from Davis, about 100 miles from here — the first 35 miles was because I didn’t have it fully charged, sorry. Well, I picked it up last night, and didn’t get the paperwork signed until about nine o’clock, and I don’t have my plug installed in my garage yet, but that’s coming. That’s coming today — tomorrow, actually. So once I get all my plugs installed at home and at work, I anticipate that with my car, I will use less than about 50 gallons of gasoline in a year, compared to the current car that I have, which is over 400 gallons of gasoline. So, I don’t care how you talk about mileage, or whatever.

What we’re really talking about is gasoline displacement. And this is what this car does. It displaces gasoline with electricity. And that’s why Plug In America is so important, and that’s why we’re all here. So how inconvenient is it to put a plug into the socket to displace oil? I think the motivation is really cost — because at two cents a mile instead of 15 cents or 18 cents a mile using gasoline, that’s the economic driver. So I’m going to look forward on spending a lot less money on energy.

By the way, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, this is the December issue — unfortunately, it’s no longer on the shelf because the January issue just came out. But if you can find a December issue, there are two nice articles on the Volt. It describes the technology, and most importantly, the quotes — I have a quote in here [LAUGHTER]. DAVE BARTHMUSS: Then it’s credible, right?

ANDY FRANK: Must be credible! [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m sure the magazine’s online.

ANDY FRANK: Oh, yes! It is online. Okay, so I think that’s, those are my comments. I think Ron, you’re up next?

MARC GELLER: I’ll give him a little introduction. Thank you, Andy, thanks so much [APPLAUSE]. Andy Frank! Well, next we have Ron Gremban. I gotta just say a couple of things. This brings me back to — I don’t know how many years ago it was. Six years ago, seven years ago, when Felix arrived at an Electric Auto Association meeting down in Palo Alto and said he needed some help, Ron and he were going to put together the first plug-in Prius, and a photo went around with world with a few of us who were working on it, and Ron is kind of the guy who made it happen all that time ago. So Ron, please [APPLAUSE].

RON GREMBAN: Thank you, Marc. Like Andy, I’m a techie. I was going to start like a novelist: “It was a dark and stormy night . . .”, when 42 years ago, a group of us arrived exhausted and everything at MIT after driving eight and three-quarters days and nights across the continent in an electric car — the first of many clean-air races set up by a friend of mine, Wally Rippel. And since then, we’ve been working to get the auto companies to start building plug-in vehicles, and never had any idea it would take 42 years.

But it has arrived, and at that time the big issue was smog. Los Angeles was just suffocating, and oftentimes you couldn’t see half a block. We had a golf class one time, and the coach sent us back because we couldn’t walk across the field slowly without hacking and coughing. So it has slowly gotten a lot better with a lot of pressure and pain and everything else. It could have been so much easier with electric vehicles that even at that time could have been commuter cars. So Felix, I’m sure, will tell some of the story of CalCars starting up.

I ran into him shortly after the Prius came out in ’04, and was wondering, “Gee, I wonder how electric this could become?” And we ended up turning mine into a plug-in hybrid in my garage with the help of all sorts of people, including Marc. And the idea wasn’t to have an electric vehicle or a plug-in vehicle so much as to prove that existing volume production technology was SO CLOSE! And at the time all the auto manufacturers were saying “Nobody will ever want to plug in their car, and the batteries aren’t ready, they won’t be ready anyway,” and on and on and on. And Felix had the idea, let’s go get grass-roots support, and grass-roots effort to get the companies and everybody to get going. And so, we did. When my car first ran as a plug-in hybrid, in November of ’04 — six years ago and one month. And we got press all over the country and the world — I’m sure Felix will talk about that — and we took these things to Washington D.C. the next year and had Congresspeople and their staffs drive them, even as Congress was calling auto companies on the carpet.

So when GM came out with the concept Volt, which they were working on just about that time, it hit the Detroit Auto Show and just had huge response. So much so that they go “Wow. We have go to turn this into a production vehicle.” Hopefully we were behind some of that huge response.

They have done an excellent job of engineering this vehicle. I am so impressed. I got to drive mine in a customer orientation a couple of days ago, and it’s clear it’s sophistication that’s gone way beyond the 535 Beemer that I used to have that was once my very favorite car — that I put 242,000 miles on. Now that feels like it was very good, but it was done by brute force. And now we have something much more subtle, as well as effective.

At the same time, it’s very clear that our jobs have just started, not ended. Because the lack of knowledge about the crisis that we’re coming upon with climate change, and even the impending peak oil, is just amazing. It’s going to take a major shift in awareness and consciousness to get beyond this crisis. This will be the beginning. The Leaf has come out, it’s a pure electric, it’s not a fully general-purpose vehicle, yet wonderful for commuting. Felix and I both have one of each on order. The companies are kind of dissing each other, but really, they’re not competing with each other nearly as much as with the internal-combustion engine in two very different ways that will someday converge.

Thanks very much. Lynne is my girlfriend and partner, and she’s happy, too — she’s going to get my plug-in Prius [LAUGHTER]. Do you have any words to say, Lynne? LYNNE MCALLISTER: No, thank you [LAUGHTER].


MARC GELLER: Thank you so much, Ron. I just want to quickly point out we’ve got a few other people here who have been very significant in the movement towards plug-in cars, and have been working on this doing plug-in hybrid conversions in the Bay Area, and then bringing the knowledge of this technology really all around the world. And that’s Pat and Nick who are here from Pat’s Garage in San Francisco. There he is — wave your hand [APPLAUSE].

And also, I just want to point out Terry McCarter — he’s here somewhere — who’s here with this dealership. He’s the tech guy. When you buy your Volt, you’ll get to ride with Terry who’s going to point out all the fancy buttons and what they do [APPLAUSE].

Also, Tom Driscoll is here, who was in Ron’s garage with me and my partner, and a few others banging out that first car. Thank you for coming, Tom [APPLAUSE].

Is that Danielle? Danielle! Oh, my Lord, I didn’t expect you. Danielle Fugere, who was from Friends of the Earth, gave us a lot of good support along the way, and now is at — DANIELLE FUGERE: Environmental Law Foundation.


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