ann arbor event asks how michigan is positioned to capitalize on plug-in hybrids

This Thursday afternoon (October 23), on the campus of the University of Michigan, several leaders in the areas of automotive research, public policy, venture capital and business will be coming together to discuss the prospects for plug-in electric vehicles and what they might mean for the future of Michigan. The program, called TechKnow Forum 2008: ReCharging Michigan, is scheduled to run from 3:00 to 7:00 PM at the University’s Power Center, and will include such notable guests as John Deniston, Partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, David Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, Nancy Gioia, Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford Motor Company, David Kiley, Senior Correspondent at Business Week, several noted U-M faculty members, and many others at the forefront of the movements to bring plug-in hybrids to market, and build an electricity infrastructure (smart grid) robust enough to make it possible. (A full list of participants can be found here.)

Energy independence has become a central theme in this year’s presidential campaign. As an increasing number of Americans, for various reasons, come to the conclusion that we must wean ourselves from foreign oil, our national dialogue has rapidly evolved. When, several months ago, Al Gore first announced his aggressive 10 year challenge to get America off of fossil fuels, it was seen in many sectors as being highly unlikely, if not impossible. Now, however, with Barack Obama having accepted the challenge and with McCain making renewables a central component of his campaign, it seems as though, whoever wins, there will be a tremendous push to change the oil-based status quo in 2009. The question is, will we be able to produce enough energy for the needs of America, and, if so, can we move it around the grid reliably and efficiently.

To say that changes to sectors like transportation and agriculture will be significant is an incredible understatement. Without ready access to cheap oil, entire systems are going to need to be radically changed from top to bottom, and the ripples will be felt throughout society for decades to come. Some things are certain. The recent trend toward mass transportation will almost certainly grow, and, with it, the demand for more efficient personal vehicles that run on electricity. Among other things, the latter will likely require a new fueling/charging infrastructure to be constructed throughout the United States. This will be a massive undertaking, as will the necessary upgrading of the American electrical grid. Michigan, given its automotive history and active research in such areas as renewable energy and electricity transmission, should be a key player. It seems to be the intent of this event to start laying the groundwork between public and private entities so that we can begin working in a coordinated fashion to envision a post-oil future, set design standards, plan infrastructure, come to agreement on the role of government, and ultimately draft a transition plan.

Given the tight time constraints, audience questions will likely not be taken at the event. People with questions, for that reason, are being encouraged to submit them online now. (It’s likely that the entire event will be webcast, but no plans to do so have been announced as of the time of this posting.)

Tickets are available online… Five dollars from each ticket sold will go toward funding scholarships for students wishing to work at Michigan-based green technology companies through the U-M student entrepreneurship organization MPowered.

[note: Keynote presenter John Denniston, a co-founder of the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Greentech Investment Initiative, was recently profiled along with Al Gore and other KPCB Greentech Initiative partners, in a New York Times Magazine cover story, which can be found here.]

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  1. Posted October 21, 2008 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Note TKF is donating with the help of U of M student organization MPowered Entrepeneurs 5.00 of every ticket sold to support student interships at Michigan based green tech companies. Please join us.

  2. Ted
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Another cool local event this week:

    DATES: 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Oct. 22, 2008.

    EVENT: The opening sessions of the Scientific Applications for Google Earth Conference. This is a meeting to bring together scientists from across the country and members of the Google community to explore how to use Google Earth and related technology to enable rich, new data interaction. No registration is required for the opening sessions, which are free and open to the public.

    Google Earth, Google Maps and the KML programming language they share offer new ways of visualizing, communicating, and sharing data for scientists and policymakers as well as for hobbyists and novice users. The opening sessions will give an overview of the possibilities and share success stories. Speakers are:

    • Tim Killeen, assistant director for geosciences, National Science Foundation (NSF)

    • Dan Atkins, Kellogg Professor of Community Information in the U-M School of Information, Associate Vice President for Research Cyberinfrastructure and former director of the NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure

    • Sean Askay, Google Earth outreach evangelist

    • Michael Weiss-Malik, KML product manager, Google

    • Trey Smith, systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University West and NASA Ames Research Center’s intelligent robotics group

    PLACE: Biomedical Research Science Building, 109 Zina Pitcher Place, Ann Arbor, Mich. View a map with visitor parking noted as VP at

    SPONSORS: University of Michigan and Google Earth.

    WEBSITE: Scientific Applications with Google Earth Conference:

  3. KT
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor Business Review has an interview with Denniston.

  4. Posted November 23, 2008 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    We truly wonder how well Michigan is positioned for plug-hybrids. GM definitely had a good lead with EV-1, but chose not to go forward with it and as oil prices are dropping one wonders whether US auto manufacturers think that they are in a safer position now.
    No matter the price of oil, Michigan needs to spur Detroit to really innovate, because no matter what the price of gas might be 2 years from now, efficiency is almost effectively been sealed as the key to success.
    Hopefully, Michigan can capitalize on this wake-up call and deliver vehicles that people will want in both stressful financial and stress-free financial times.

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