Plug-in Electric Vehicles Archive to Be Housed at UC Davis Library

Professor Andrew Frank and three students look at small model cars in 1992 photo.
UC Davis Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Andrew “Andy” Frank, who has been called “The Father of the Modern Plug-In Hybrid,” studies electric car models with a group of students in 1992. (UC Davis Library/Archives and Special Collections)

During National Drive Electric Week, the University of California, Davis, today (Sept. 27) announced that it has begun to build a Plug-in Electric Vehicles Archive. It will be housed at the UC Davis Library’s Archives and Special Collections with support from the UC Davis Electric Vehicle Research Center.

The archive will focus on the decades-long story of how plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs — long seen as a science project — shifted from prototypes and modifications to mass production. The archive will help chronicle the development and commercialization of all varieties of electric vehicles, highlighting the unique role that UC Davis played in this process.

UC Davis has been involved through both the College of Engineering, with leadership from Andy Frank in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and through the Institute of Transportation Studies, or ITS-Davis, under the leadership of Dan Sperling. 

The collection will include the unique records and memorabilia from two key players:

  • Andy Frank, called “The Father of the Modern Plug-in Hybrid.” Now a professor emeritus, he started working on PHEVs 50 years ago at the University of Wisconsin. Later as a UC Davis professor with students in “Team Fate,” Frank built a series of PHEV conversions that caught the attention of both EV fans and automakers. As he turns 90, he is actively involved in advancing Strong Plug-in Hybrids, or SPHEVs.
  • Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative. The DIY hybrid conversions by his organization sparked a coalition of activists, advocates, analysts and entrepreneurs. They inspired and prodded the auto industry in a successful campaign from 2002 to 2010 that led to the arrival of the Chevy Volt and, later, many other PHEVs.
A group of seven people surround Professor Andy Frank
 Professor Emeritus Andy Frank, bottom center, is pictured with others at the Electric Vehicle Symposium this year. From left to right are Gil Tal, director of the EV Research Center; Dan Sperling, founder and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies; Dahlia Garas, director of the research program at the EV Research Center; Felix Kramer, founder of and WeCantWait.World; Christopher Nitta, associate professor at UC Davis; Mark Duvall, general manager at HeyCharge; and Rob Schurhoff, senior technical leader at Electric Power Research Institute. (Courtesy photo) 

The archive will feature unique digital and physical materials that showcase the engineering developments and grassroots efforts that led to the mass production of PHEVs by automakers today.

A public event related to the archive will be held online, at 1 p.m. PDT on Oct. 1, coinciding with the final day of National Drive Electric Week.

The archive is currently being processed, and the library anticipates it will be available for research, study and instruction by the end of 2024.

Members of the public with memorabilia or other materials related to the history of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles at UC Davis can contact the library’s Head of Archives and Special Collections Kevin Miller at or 530-752-2114.

Subscribe to the Science & Climate newsletter

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

Primary Category

Secondary Categories