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$50 Billion CalCars Plan to Jumpstart Detroit Could Save Planet

5 million $10,000 deposits on electric cars = $50 billion

As the age of oil ends we have stopped buying the cars that Detroit makes; so now they don’t have the money to adapt to build the more fuel efficient vehicles that we do need.

CalCars PHEV Prius

[social_buttons] Production of near-term solutions, such as the Chevy Volt; which had been on track for 2010 and which could have driven us out of the age of oil –is endangered.

So – an interesting solution that CalCars founder Felix Kramer has proposed would be a way to generate $50 billion for the auto industry and just get us the low carbon driving options America needs, despite the footdragging;

  • Put together 5 million deposits on EVs and PHEV orders at $10,000 each.
  • Give the $50 billion that that would generate to automakers to build the orders.
  • Refund $7,500 to the buyers within a year via the EV tax credits passed in October.
  • Allow orders placed up till next April to count towards the 2008 tax year for tax credits.

Between public and private organisations; fleet buyers could account for nearly a million orders alone. Private fleet orders would come from car share and taxi companies and universities. Some construction companies are already paying to convert truck fleets to electric. The Federal government alone buys 750,000 cars a year. There is pent-up demand for the post oil age vehicles.

The genius of the CalCars plan is that it addresses that demand, and utilizes its force in a judo – like move.

WHY ARE CAR SALES FALLING? Not just because of the economic crisis. The more Americans hear that better cars are on the way, the more individuals and fleets will be reluctant to commit to inefficient vehicles whose resale value may fall quickly because they run only on price-volatile, polluting fossil fuels. We can harness these impulses.

As taxpayers, we have already invested in all the R&D that created these vehicles; last year’s Energy bill had $25 billion for EV development under Section 136 of the 2007 Energy bill –almost $800 million of that went into the Volt alone. However, getting from the design room to the factory floor has been like pulling teeth.

Ford, for example, has now successfully test-driven its PHEV for over a year with Southern California Edison. Yet, despite a year of real-world driving success, Ford has no plans to produce their PHEV before 2015.

But $10,000 deposits on particular models would enforce specific action, and not waste autocompanies precious financial resources making more of what customers do not want. For small companies, deposits help focus precious resources where they can generate a certain return. Big companies need to have the same focus, not just beg for or outright steal our continued support.

The automakers would not be able to start collecting deposits on the orders till they issue a maximum price estimate and specs. They would be given till Dec. 31, 2012 to fill the orders.

It is a novel idea but not untried. SmartForTwo and Tesla both took deposits to help them fund their production and gage the level of customer interest. But are there five million customers in the country who care enough? I think so.

The extraordinary number of people who were willing to donate their hard-earned money this election season to ensure that the country gets safely out of the Bush Error might suggest that there are more of these idealistic and altruistic people willing to put down hard money on a better future for the planet than the economic news would suggest.

WHY NOT ENLIST THE AMERICAN PUBLIC’S BUYING POWER? We’re inspired by how Americans rose to past challenges: We raised $17 billion Liberty Bonds in two years in World War I. And 85 million Americans bought $185 billion in War Bonds during World War II. Especially since dollars back then were worth over ten times more than now, our proposal is small in comparison.

Here’s the kicker. Any automaker that wants to receive federal loan guarantees beginning in January 2009 would have to commit by the end of this month to have at least one eligible plug-in vehicle for sale by the end of 2010 in volumes greater than 10,000.

Photo by Flikr user joshmeister

Related bailout stories:
Big Three Beg Billions
Lets Pay Detroit to Bring Their Gas Sipping Cars Home To the USA
Tesla Says Money Shouldn’t Be Diverted To Bailout Car Makers

Written by Susan Kraemer

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American.

As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. 
Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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  1. With oil reserves nearing an end we have no choice but the bring in technology that can be used widely as an alternative to the combustion engine. Electric cars are a great substitute and hopefully some day soon these cars would be selling in great numbers.

  2. True. We know that we are ending the age of oil. The automakers won’t change though till we have used up all the oil. Then it will be too late. This would make them change – before it’s too late.

  3. My Congressman, Earl Blumenauer, said in a talk to our conference last week that he thinks part of the auto bailout or stimulus package should be a federal government (the world’s largest vehicle owner)order for several hundred thousand plug-in hybrids in 2012-13. I hope Rep. Blumenauer is able to make headway with this in DC.

  4. Yeah, my congresswoman Barbara Boxer also put out a mailer that quoted a potential Federal order of 75,000 electric and PlugInHybrids – asking if we (her constituents) thought that would be a good way to help jumpstart a green auto industry.

    They are definitely thinking about it in congress. CalCars and PlugInAmerica paraded the converted Prius that gets 100+ mpg throught the capitol in 2007. I do think they will consider it. If enough people spread the idea around.

    Its like after Pearl Harbour: within a year Ford had switched to building what was needed for the war effort. These companies can abandon making junk that gets 23/32 mpg and make what we need.

  5. i want to see a Electric Train take load of freight over Saluda Mountain in NC. They are just pissing money away with Elect Locamotives, GE has always worked with Elect Locamotives and if it worked they would have done it a long time ago.

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