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Local News / Automotive

Friday, 17 June, 2011 1:01 AM

Electrifying 100: Top individuals promoting the move toward electric vehicles honored

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker was among the honorees on June 13, 2011.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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DEARBORN, Mich. -- Hundreds of individuals at automotive companies, utility companies, suppliers and start-up companies are working to encourage others to follow their lead and consider an electric vehicle. That list was shortened to the top 100 at a special ceremony hosted by Automotive News at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich. Why not buy an electric vehicle? With gas prices at or near $4 per gallon, it just makes sense. The Chevrolet Volt lessens our dependence on foreign oil while the Nissan LEAF cuts us off permanently.

The evening began with a strolling reception inside the Henry Ford Museum on Monday. Then, the awards ceremony took place inside the Anderson Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Honorees who were present were named one by one in groups of six. In between each group, there was a speaker from one of the honorees. It all wrapped up with a champagne afterglow.

Henrik Fisker is the CEO of Fisker Automotive Inc. The 47-year-old was formerly a chief designer for Aston Martin. He helped to fund Fisker Automotive, which is one of the best-financed electric companies around. It landed a $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid electric with a 400-hp engine at a price tag of $95,900. Production of the Karma started in March. The company expects to have thousands of them on the road by the end of the year.

"It was important to make a change to attract investors, we redefined the business plan," Fisker said. "We have two platforms and over six models. We're just launching our first car, the Fisker Karma. It goes 50 miles on pure electric and 250 miles in extended-range model. It can go 125 miles per hour. We wanted to have design to be our No. 1 and the lead. We are less than four years old. We bought an old factory for $20 million. We have one and half billion dollars in assets."

Ed Kjaer is the Director of Plug-In Vehicle Readiness at Southern California Edison (SCE). The 51-year-old is testing electric vehicles and their effects on the power grid. One of his priorities is to prepare the grid for the growing number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles coming to the market. SCE is also educating early EV adopters on ways to save energy and prepare their homes for plug-in vehicles.

"Less than one percent of our electricity comes from petrol," Kjaer explained. "Electricity is getting cleaner every year. New, more efficient plants are opening. The grid is getting smarter. We're also harnessing digital technology. Plug-in vehicles will benefit it. Our vehicles will get cleaner. We have to stay the course. Customer education is going to be critical. Fueling at night. Many utilities will offer attractive rates. OEMs [automakers] are working with utilities to ask customers to provide their address. Let's just get the cars on the road."

Hideaki Watanbe is a Corporate Vice President at Nissan Motor Co. The 44-year-old worked very closely on the Nissan LEAF project during the Renault-Nissan Alliance. He is helping to integrate electric-vehicle technologies, suppliers, planning and knowledge between the two automakers. Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn wants to have a worldwide consumer embrace of battery-powered transportation.

"We are overcoming the challenges of production as we overcome the aftermath of the earthquake," Watanbe said. "Gasoline shortage was a big issue in the northern part of Japan. We dispatched more than 60 LEAFs for the medical teams to use as modes of transportation. EVs became the solution. We have 90 partnerships to promote the EV society. By the end of May, more than 7,500 LEAFs were sold globally with 2,300 LEAFs sold in the U.S. We are now accelerating the delivery of Nissan LEAFs worldwide."

Chad Bell is the Senior Director and Platform Lead of Mobility/Transportation at Best Buy Co. The 38-year-old is leading the retailer's initiative to get into the EV business. The company has won contracts to install home chargers for the Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i, both are expected to hit showrooms in the fall. Best Buy would like to use its Geek Squad to teach consumers how to use EV equipment such as connectivity systems.

"We started out with selling electric bikes and scooters," Bell explained. "There is an absolutely appetite for this product. There are a lot of questions that consumers have. We want to play a fundamental role to help the consumer move along this process and hopefully speed up adoption. We also know we have lots to learn as well. We are in discussions with Ford and Mitsubishi. This is a tremendous opportunity. We're looking forward to working with folks in this room."

Jon Lauckner is the President of General Motors Ventures. The 53-year-old is searching the world for technology investments. He is considered to be one of the fathers of the Volt. His drawing impresses former GM design czar Bob Lutz to become a believer in the technology. Previously, Lauckner served as GM's head of global product planning. He studied engineering and management in college. Electrification is one of the target areas for his first $100 million fund.

"I feel a lot better about where we stand today," Lauckner said. "The industry is generating a lot of buzz again. Five years ago, you could count on one hand how many companies openly planning to build an electric vehicle. Just about every company has an EV or is planning one. Four years ago, Volt was our vision. We're just at the start of a tremendous opportunity as an industry. We can crack the code. How many industries can say that? It's exciting, it's inspiring."

MaryAnn Wright is the Vice President of Global Technology and Innovation at Johnson Controls Inc. Previously, she worked at Ford Motor Co. to rescue the Ford Escape Hybrid project. The 49-year-old is on the board of governors at Argonne National Laboratory and the Electric Drive Transportation Association. In addition, she works with politicians in Washington to expand the global energy storage industry.

"There's a lot for us to be celebrating and that's why we're here tonight," Wright explained. "The supply chain is growing regionally and globally to build the technology portfolio and the partnerships. The internal combustion engine and the diesel engine are becoming increasingly efficient. What you'll see is a whole portfolio of solutions all the way from start-stop to full electrification. There will be lots of choices for consumers that best fit our needs. As for universities, we simply have got to educate our kids in the new sciences."

The Electrifying 100 was a completely new event added to kick off the Automotive News Green Car Conference, which took place the following day at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich.

Click here to view the complete list of Electrifying 100 honorees.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The special ceremony took place inside the Anderson Theater at The Henry Ford.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Ed Kjaer is the director of plug-in vehicle readiness at Southern California Edison.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Chad Bell is the senior director of mobility/transportation at Best Buy Co.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

MaryAnn Wright is the vice president of global technology and innovation at Johnson Controls Inc.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Jon Lauckner is the president of General Motors Ventures.

 

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