Subaru R1 as electric car
The author -- who is the Associate Director of the Kentucky Council of Churches -- wants to see Subaru begin building affordable, highway-capable battery-electric versions of its new R1e coupe.

I Want My R1e

A Plan to Get Subaru to Build Highway-Capable EVs for the Rest of Us

By Rev. W. Christopher Benham Skidmore

Hear me out. I have a plan. Well, it's more like a dream, but with your help we can make and implement a powerful plan for pressuring an OEM to bring a nice EV to market.

PHASE ONE: Putting Our Heads Together
Let's launch a concerted, organized, grass-roots, highly-focused campaign to bring another full-sized highway-capable EV to market in the United States of America.

Target one manufacturer.

Make them know it will be profitable for them because we will each: PLEDGE TO BUY THE CAR WHEN IT IS PRODUCED.

Believing that progress can be made in the corporate sector when a large number of consumers make their voices heard in a loud way, I want to start a campaign to get progressive-minded consumers (and potential EV consumers) uberfocused-- and put pressure on one car maker: Subaru.

Here's why I want us to target Subaru:

They have proven themselves in a niche market here in the U.S. and the EV market is still perceived as only niche by auto makers. Subaru only sells five cars in the U.S. and have positioned themselves well as doing something no one else does and being the exclusive go-to company when consumers know what they want, e.g. all-wheel drive standard on every vehicle.

They already have a network of nearly 600 dealers across the United States poised for service and distribution. They have a dealership and service department in every state in the United States of America. I would really love to have an EV with a nice warranty and capacity for local service.

In 2003, they only sold 186,819 units. If we can convince anyone to take control of an entire, wide-open niche in the U.S., who better to target than a small niche-market company. We would not need to guarantee them many sales to make it worth their while. Even with a challenging sales environment and an increasingly competitive marketplace, they have continued to sustain strong sales growth in the U.S.

They have taken a step forward with a "hybrid" because what they have designed for the B9SC is adaptable to the existing drive trains in their other vehicles and basically turns a gas vehicle into a completely electric vehicle until it is operated over 50mph or needs unusually quick acceleration.

They make some quality products. Consumer Reports recommends 3/4 of everything Subaru has ever built-- and that's not an easy achievement.

They need to clean up their image on the environmental front after their decision to pollute more and consume more fuel by tweaking their wagons to obtain new light-truck classifications and add turbochargers.

And of course, they have already made a 240V conductive charging, laminated lithium-ion, totally electric R1e.

Let's tap the wellspring of wisdom and pool our resources for some potent and honest analysis. Here's what I propose.

I want every person who has ever complained about OEMs not making an EV for the general public to e-mail, write to via USPS mail, and call every upper-level executive at Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Subaru of America, Inc., and the owner of their nearest Subaru dealer-- within a set span of time, (perhaps around Earth Day)-- and vow to purchase an EV from them if they will meet certain specifications. I am imagining a massive concerted effort in which we decide what we want, and then all ask for the same thing. For example we take polls and discuss in forums until we can come to some kind of a consensus about what we'd all like to have in this EV and then we all call, write, and visit dealerships pledging to purchase a $25,000.00, reliable, full-sized, vehicle-to-grid, 115and240V onboard charging, lithium ion powered sedan, that gets 100 miles of range, that looked like a legacy sedan, with side curtain and passenger airbags, a proper marketing campaign, five star crash rating, seating for five, our whole wish list, etc. etc. etc. and offer them a down payment on the vehicle immediately in advance.

If you are reading this, it means we already into phase one here. We can make this happen if we all get involved. Bill Moore has provided us with a forum for the initial hashing out of details, so read-on and then give your input about this plan to launch a massive telephone-calling campaign in which we would have people call every sales manager in all 600 dealerships making a vow to purchase the EV from their nearest Subaru dealer, and to also show up in person at their nearest dealer with the same pledge. Phase one is putting our heads together-- vetting the plan by imagining every conceivable scenario, brainstorming, criticizing, and then actually deciding, through polls and discussion groups exactly what we can realistically expect to "demand." I wouldn't want to launch a campaign that involved asking people to pledge to buy any EV that Subaru might produce

PHASE TWO: Putting Our Energy Together:
Phase two is putting our energy together. It won't be easy to decide on what we want to ask for, but once we are in agreement, we need to grow the base of activists before we take action. I don't know how many individuals are members of the Electric Auto Association, EV World, Electrifying Times, Alternative Fuels groups, and other networks, but these members are the initial base. Phase one will include input from all these members, and perhaps many more. Once we have established a realistic product to demand, we need to get as many people on board with this plan as we possibly can. This involves organizing, educating, motivating, and making commitments to spread the word and motivate potential customers. The campaign could only be successful if we can convince a company they have a large number of guaranteed sales.

In phase two we will need to reach out to every conceivable environmental group from BushGreenWatch to REPAMerica -- to champion this cause and get folks onboard. During this phase we’d need folks to volunteer to make slick and brief educational and campaign materials available to these other groups to lobby first for the need for EVs and then for our particular plan.

It might be possible to even tap into something like Josh Tickell's network of 10,000 biodiesel supporters as well. Could you imagine what we could do if we had 10,000 people making a solemn vow to Kyoji Takenaka to buy this product? Subaru only sold 10,694 units of their Baja model in 2003, and that was their best Baja sales year ever.

PHASE THREE: Putting Our Money Together:
Phase three is putting our money together. No, I do not want us to pool our money; don't send me any money: pledge it to an automaker. Money talks. Let's shout.

Once we've decide what we are going to ask for and have executed a successful campaign to grow the numbers of people in our concerted movement, then we must take action and pledge to buy a specific EV if Subaru will bring it to market. We could use capwiz and meetup technology to help make this happen, but we would really need to make this a top priority everywhere we gather and in all communication channels. We'd need to carve out time from every EVAA meeting for a letter-writing campaign. This has to be a concerted effort with a strong commitment to make the in-person visits, surface-mail individualized (and even handwritten) letters bread for the world style, and multiple personal phone calls. If phase one reveals a dramatic show of interest, then I envision implementation of phase two and phase three could begin almost concurrently.


It's not perfect, but I haven't heard anyone suggest something this radical in a while, and I'd like to see what you think about it. Am I totally off my rocker? Do you have insider info that says the reason why the R2 was non-electric was because the existing R1e failed so miserably that Andreas Zapatinas was fired in disgrace? Is Subaru the right place to target? I think it is.

The really big OEMs obviously ignore what they consider to be niche markets (that's why Woodbury will make a go of the Tango. Don't get me wrong, I want a Tango, I just can't pay $85,000.00 for one right now.) I really don't want to hurt the upstart EV makers, but I have heard a lot of people complain that OEMs can do this but won't. If you have ever complained about existing automakers not producing EVs, then please consider giving this movement all you've got.

There are other reasons why I think this will work than I have mentioned here, but I'd rather hear what you think of the idea. I do not work for Subaru, but I have driven one for the past three years and I love it. If you can make the case for targeting a different manufacturer and the larger community backs you up, then that's where I will put my energy and efforts.

If you even think this has a snowball's chance in Death Valley, then please let us know what you think.

If it is easier for you, please post your response in the Reader Response window below, but the EVWorld YahooGroup might facilitate easier conversations. Wherever you respond, give a quick gut reaction, or take some time to think through many dimensions of such a campaign and let us know what you think with regard to the following items.

Is there a better company to target than Subaru, and if so who and why?

What would be our biggest hurdles to making this happen and how can we navigate these hurdles with success?

Exactly what features of a vehicle should we demand?

Specifically, what type of batteries should we demand, what type of charging system, what range, top speed, renewable components, etc.?

What safety ratings and features like ABS, curtain air bags, should we specify, if any?

What additional features should we specify, e.g. air-conditioning, etc.?

What advertising and marketing strategies should we suggest/demand that they employ to help them insure this will be a profitable venture for them? We have blasted GM and others for botching this side of things, so let's help our targeted manufacturer learn from the mistakes of others.

What (realistically) is the maximum/optimum/ amount you are willing to pay for the car you want?

Are you interested in spearheading this campaign? I have no desire to make this all about me; I'd rather one of you supervise this campaign who has far more experience with EVs or with community organizing than I.

Should we couple this plan with a concerted initiative to also lobby the government to fund the development of wind and/or solar technologies? I live in coal country. Many people have argued that so long as so much of grid is using dirty, non-renewable sources, EVs actually become part of many problems instead of the solution.

Should we try to use our organized might to simultaneously make a strong showing to Subaru -- AND -- make a concerted effort to call all U.S. Senators, Representatives, Governors, U.S. Cabinet Officials, the White House, etc. to demand a very particular accomplishment: namely, to give the U.S. Department of Energy x number of dollars to fund research into developing cost effective PV technology, specifically -- Professor Michael Graetzel's (of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs) (with an emphasis on replacing the liquid electrolytes that are mostly used today for the hole-transport function by conductive polymers) and a full organic approach, in which a mixture of electron-acceptor and electron-donor organic materials is sandwiched between two electrodes, such as that being explored by STMicroelectronics.

Perhaps we can engage in a concerted effort to level the energy playing field for wind by citing examples such as the High Winds Energy Center between San Francisco and Sacramento, seems to be an example that has refined most, if not all, previous problems with wind turbines.

Just my two cents worth.

Now let's have yours.

Times Article Viewed: 49212
Published: 04-Feb-2004


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