Felix Kramer is the Founder of the non-profit, California Cars Initiative (Cal Cars), where he leads a team of entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers that focuses on developing "plug-in hybrid" technologies. He has been a founding or active member of World Wide Web Artists Consortium, New York New Media Association, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A graduate of Cornell, he lives in California.
Question: Do you think America can lead the transition to electric cars?
Felix Kramer: Right now America is in danger of lagging behind other countries in the race to electrify vehicles. Thomas Freedman and others have talked about this at length and they’re saying ET is the new… electric technology and energy technology are the new IT of the next coming decades and other companies are further along than we are… and other countries are further along than we are, so we have some catching up to do, but Detroit remains a real powerhouse, tremendous amount of work on batteries and plug in vehicles is going on in Michigan and in other parts in the Midwest and we think there is still a lot of possibility for the United States to be a leader in plug in vehicles.
Question: Which countries are currently leading in this field?
Felix Kramer: Right now China is showing the signs of becoming the leader in plug vehicle technologies. They’ve got demonstration programs going on in their 13 largest cities and they are moving ahead in batteries. They… A Chinese company BYD became the first company the sell a plug in hybrid in modern times and they’re very aggressive and now recently when President Obama went to China they announced an agreement for a US, China plug in vehicle initiative and that’s a cooperative program between the two countries and we think that there is a lot of possibilities for collaboration on design, on components, on assembly and there is hundreds of millions of vehicles around the world that can be fixed by these two countries and others as well as building new vehicles.
Question: Do you see a change in America’s attitude toward electric cars?
Felix Kramer: People are finally realizing that plug in cars are practical for them. Maybe when the first hybrids came in the carmakers had to say you don’t have to plug this vehicle in and plugging in was bad, but now we’ve come for ten years where we’re all accustomed to plugging in our cell phones and we just do it. It’s not a big deal and now plugging in is good and people are understanding that. When I… I’m the world’s first consumer owner of a plug in hybrid and when I used to drive around and they say my… people saw my car with hundred plus miles per gallon on the side of it they said, “What’s that?” And a few years later they’d say, “Oh, that’s a plug in hybrid.” “How do I get one?” And then a few later, a few years later they said, “Well when are they going to be available in the dealers?” So there has been a progression and surveys recently are showing that half of Americans would like to have these cars.