For Today: Ford changes over chief executive as profit pressure mounts, California sees leap in electric car sales

Ford changes over CEO:  Ford’s Mark Field is stepping down as chief executive as profit pressures increase from shareholders. He’ll be replaced by Jim Hackett, who’s known for his efforts transforming the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer, Steelcase, and hiring popular University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh while serving as athletic director. He most recently served as chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, a new division created last year to oversee Ford’s ventures in autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Ford Motor Co.’s share price has dropped 39% since Fields took over the CEO job from Alan Mulally in 2014, and the company’s U.S. auto sales are down 5.1% year-to-date. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving car projects and ride-sharing units. While the company hasn’t introduced any new plug-in vehicles in its lineup lately, Fields did have big plans for increasing Ford’s electrified vehicle presence in China and adding slowly to Ford’s electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles, including the all-new hybrid police car. Several other management changeovers were announced by the company, including moving Jim Farley up to executive vice president and president, Global Markets. Fields had been seeing increasing pressure from shareholders lately, which was heightened earlier this month during the annual directors and shareholder’s meeting. Officially, the company said Fields has chosen to retire after 28 years with the company. Hackett, the new CEO, is being placed in a similar role to ex-Boeing executive Alan Mulally, an outsider brought in to stabilize the company in 2006. Executive Chairman Bill Ford compared Hackett to Alan Mulally during today’s announcement. “Alan captured the hearts and minds of our employees and made them feel not only could we win but that we would win,” Ford told reporters. “I think that’s something that you’ll see very much with Jim. Jim is a cultural change agent.”

PEV sales in California way up:  California saw a 91% increase of plug-in electrified vehicles during the first quarter compared to that same time period in 2016. All-electric vehicles led the way at 13,804 units sold, with the Chevy Bolt doing especially well at 2,735 vehicles sold during the first quarter. Tesla models and the Nissan Leaf also did well. Plug-in hybrids performed well, making up 10,466 units sold, a 54% increase over last year. Conventional hybrids like the Prius were down almost 10% during the quarter at 22,328 sold. The Toyota Prius Prime did well in the plug-in hybrid category. PEV sales made up 2.7% of new vehicles sales in California during the first quarter.

BMW wants leadership in electric:  BMW CEO Harald Krueger said the German automaker is focusing more on electric vehicles and connectivity than on increasing vehicles sales. Last year, the company reached its highest sales level at 2.37 million units sold from the BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands. It reached sales of 62,000 plug-in hybrids and 25,000 all-electric i3s last year. The goal is to hit the 100,000 units sold mark this year with electrified vehicles. While the company is committed to selling more battery-powered cars, Krueger sad that fuel cell vehicles will be important in the company’s future plans, as well.

Vehicle Launches: Subaru going electric on current models as it transitions from PZEVs to ZEVs

Subaru Corp. is taking electric cars more seriously than ever, as most automakers add these vehicles to their plans. The company is looking into adding electric drives to current models over designing an all-new electric car, said Chief Executive Officer Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, in an interview on Friday.

 

Subaru wants to stay with its reputation for making safe, well-rated vehicles, which would eliminate the need for partnering with another automaker, Yoshinaga said. The company will explore selection of suppliers for the battery and motor. A decision on it will have to be made in about a year, he said.

 

There had been a Subaru Crosstrek hybrid, but it was discontinued in 2017.

 

Subaru has been able to hit emissions targets through California’s partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) standards created in 1998 as part of the state’s vehicle emissions laws, which then were stricter than federal rules. It’s typical to see Subaru models with the PZEV badge all over the country. PZEV standards could be met by add-ons such as anti-permeation fuel system liners, carbon air intake traps, and close-coupled catalytic converters.

 

Government policies and subsidies are having their impact globally.

 

“If there’s already an attractive Subaru model, for example the XV crossover, and if a customer in Beijing wants one but is only allowed to buy an electric vehicle, if there’s no electric version then he can’t buy it,” he said. “Providing the choice of an EV means the customer can still desire the same Subaru.”

 

The company is spending more on electrification research and development than other technologies like connected, automated cars. Subaru is budgeting 134 billion yen ($1.2 billion) on R&D in the year through March 2018, more than double what it spent in the year ended March 2014.

 

It’s much less than other Japanese automaker like Toyota and Honda. Toyota, which owns a 16.9% stake in Subaru, plans to spend 1.05 trillion yen ($9.4 billion) on R&D in the current fiscal year and Honda plans to invest 750 billion yen ($6.7 billion).

 

Subaru will continue spending on automated technology by investing more in the EyeSight driver-assist system. The CEO said that they’ll be limiting price increases on the technology, allowing them to offer the same safety suite across all models.

 

EyeSight uses cameras that can detect objects such as vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, according to the company. It will be updated this year, with plans to add the ability to autonomously follow a car on congested highways. Fully autonomous highway driving is expected to be added in 2020, including the capability to change lanes.

For Today: More on the all-new Nissan Leaf, Qualcomm and Mercedes moving forward on wireless charging

All-new Leaf reveal:  A Nissan executive says that the next-generation Leaf will be unveiled on Sept. 6 in Tokyo. Pierril Pouret, Senior VP in Europe, confirmed the date and that the 2018 Leaf be an all-new offering. “This will be a brand new model, designed from a blank sheet, that will make sure we are still in the front,” he said. The company put out a teaser photo yesterday of the new headlights and announced that more will be revealed this summer. The automaker said that the Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle with more than 260,000 on the road globally.

Qualcomm and Mercedes bringing wireless charging forward:  Qualcomm is getting ready to bring wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) to market in a big way, starting next year with Daimler. Mercedes-Benz S550e plug-in hybrid drivers can park over a charging pad where charging begins automatically once the plug-in hybrid is close enough to the charging platform. It’s meant to take away the problem of plug-in vehicle owners forgetting to charge. The Qualcomm Halo division has designed WEVC units that use resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy. The WEVC system will be manufactured by an automotive electronics supplier which has licensed the technology Qualcomm Halo. Qualcomm worked with Mercedes on the FIA Formula E. Besides running the Qualcomm Safety Car with wireless charging, the company has worked with the Mercedes factory Formula One team, Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Uber gets into trucking:  Uber announced yesterday that it’s bringing its role as a third-party broker matching customers to drivers over the freight hauling business. Uber Freight is now available to large trucking firms and smaller independent operators nationwide; a test version had been run in Texas since September. It will be separate from its Otto driverless truck business, which has been at the center of a lawsuit by Google’s Waymo against an Uber employee who’s been accused of stealing its self-driving car technology.

Solar energy storage:  Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar will bring the Mercedes-Benz customizable home energy storage system to the U.S., starting in California. It will offer cost savings to homeowners on energy bills, backup energy during blackouts, and clean energy for those driving electric cars. Vivint Solar is one of the largest solar providers in the U.S and will bring its experience installing solar at more than 100,000 homes across the country.

RNG academic research center:  The University of California, Riverside and Southern California Gas Co. this week announced the establishment of a new Center for Renewable Natural Gas. The Center is the first academic establishment in the U.S. dedicated to the study and applied research of renewable gas technologies. It was funded in part by SoCalGas with a matching donation from the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. It’s part of UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research & Technology (CE-CERT). “Renewable gas can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gases and meeting California’s renewable energy goals,” said Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas.  “In California, the agriculture and waste industries produce a great deal of methane that could – and should – be used as renewable gas to heat homes, and fuel power plants and near-zero-emissions trucks.”

 

Global Markets: India’s potential and challenges for vehicle electrification

India’s national government is supporting vehicle electrification in a fast growing global auto market. Some of that will take place through generous incentives, government fleet vehicle acquisitions, and a growing charging infrastructure. The government wants to get rid of traditional petroleum-powered vehicles in the near future – but there are serious barriers to cross.

“The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country,” India’s coal and mines minister Piyush Goyal said. “We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way.”

Goyal said the government is ready to subsidize the development and sale of electric cars and to help Indian companies install electric charging infrastructure.

 

An advisory panel had recommended that the government place an order to purchase 2.7 lakh (about 270,000) electric vehicles including 20,000 buses for its agencies. The panel also suggested that the government provide free charging stations for the first three years to attract potential vehicle buyers.

 

The report has been issued as the government is working on a policy for electric vehicles expected to be put in place by the end of the year. “The aim is to reduce air pollution and our dependence on import of crude oil,” Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari said recently.

 

The Indian government would like to see vehicle electrification play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and being dependent on foreign oil.

 

Niti Aayog, a government think-tank, recently sent a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032. It’s likely to shape a new transport policy, according to government and industry sources.

 

However, like the U.S. and other countries, vehicle electrification has a long way to go in India’s new vehicle sales. Plug-in electrified vehicle sales, like in most large vehicle markets around the world, have been slight in India. PEVs represent slightly more than 1% of new vehicle sales in that market.

 

Indian corporation Mahindra & Mahindra is the largest manufacturer and seller of EVs in the nation. The Mahindra e20 small electric hatchback is the top seller in India for that segment. Most of the EVs are built in India, such as the Mahindra e20 and e-Verito, and Maruti Suzuki electrified models. The BMW i8 import is another top seller in that market, as is the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid.

 

Tesla plans to enter the marketing. “Hoping for this summer,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this year.

 

Automakers are seeing other global markets as being a higher priority for overall manufacturing, and for PEV manufacturing and sales.

 

General Motors is one of them. GM just announced plans to stop selling vehicles in India, along with South Africa, by the end of this year.

 

The company announced on Thursday it will take a $500 million charge in the second quarter to restructure operations in India, Africa, and Singapore. GM will also cancel most of a previously planned $1 billion investment to build a new line of low-cost vehicles in India.

 

China is different for GM, and a few other automakers. The company and its joint venture partners sold 3.87 million vehicles in China in 2016, up 7.1% from the previous year. China has been the U.S. automaker’s top market for a fifth consecutive year.

 

GM is also bringing several electrified vehicles to China, similar to several competitors such as Volkswagen. China is the leading market in the Asia-Pacific region for many automakers, and not India.

For Today: Revero delivered to dealers, Uber CEO wanted to partner with Tesla

  1. Here comes the Revero: Karma Automotive’s Revero are showing up at dealerships around the country, with 10 of the $130,000 plug-in hybrid sports cars being loaded up and starting deliveries on Friday. The company has set up a sales network with dealers in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth (Texas), Miami, Montreal, Palm Beach (Fla.), Pasadena (Calif.), Philadelphia, and Toronto. Customers need to make an appointment at some of the dealerships for a test drive. The cars are being built at the Moreno Valley, Calif., assembly plant, and the batteries are coming from A123, another Wanxiang-owned company that had previously supplied batteries to Fisker Automotive.
  2. Self-driving car partnership: A book coming out next week says that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick put in a call last year to Uber CEO Elon Musk to become partners in autonomous vehicle development. Kalanick said that Musk spent the rest of the call trying to convince him that the whole idea was too far out, and that Kalanick should stick to what Uber does best and stay focused. That was just a few days before Musk published his 1,500-word blog post outlining a series of very big moves, such as encouraging Tesla vehicle owners make income off renting out their self-driving Tesla instead of leaving the cars sitting around for hours in a parking space.
  3. Light & Charge stations: BMW Group is bringing Light & Charge stations to North America through an alliance with BMW’s ReachNow mobility service, Woodland Park Zoo, and the City of Seattle. The system uses the city’s existing street and parking lot infrastructure through a smart city network. Existing light poles are set up with LED lighting, electric car charging, and a sensor unit. The partners opened the first of 20 charging locations Monday that will host both DC fast chargers and Level 2 chargers, bringing 100 new chargers to the city. BMW started up the Light & Charge system three years ago in Europe. The ReachNow fleet has the BMW i3 and other BMW vehicles in its fleet.
  4. Pickens on succeeding: Boone Pickens, a founder of Clean Energy Fuels and an icon from the oil and gas industry, published “An Open Letter to This Year’s Graduating Seniors,” in LinkedIn. He gave graduates a few tips on succeeding in today’s economy, which he’s learned from several years out in the field. Pickens, who’s turning 89 years old on May 22, made a reference to being 68 years old and “basically starting my career over.” A reporter interviewing him came from the idea that Pickens was going to need to step aside – the old horse was going to have to step aside from the trough. “That’s simply not true: The feeding trough in America is endless. Step up, work hard, and everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” Pickens wrote.
  5. Urban mobility terminology: Want to know the difference between carsharing and carpooling? Dynamic ridesharing and driverless driving? Audi announced that it has founded a working group together with city governments, business and scientific institutions. Together, they’ve put together a catalogue of terms for the city of the future. It comes from a DIN specification (Germany’s institute for standardization), with more than 200 related terms, for “intelligent individual urban mobility.“

RNG Will Be Important Part of Hitting Port Clean Truck Goals

There’s a lot happening right now as the largest port in the U.S. moves farther toward clean transportation.

 

Earlier this month at ACT Expo, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) announced submission of the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The coalition is giving input as the ports adopt the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), the next phase of the clean truck program. They want to see emissions further reduced from the 13,000 heavy-duty trucks that currently serve the ports.

 

The ACT Now Plan encompasses all zero- and near-zero emission technologies and fuels, including natural gas, propane, battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell electric, and others that meet a 0.02 g/bhp-hrNOx standard and can achieve a minimum 40% reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using renewable fuels or energy.

 

For now, port commissioners are showing more interest in electrified transportation in hitting emissions targets. While that would more than meet these emission reduction targets, it will take several years for the heavy-duty electric trucks to become available at that scale. Renewable natural gas could serve as an ideal bridge fuel during that time, according to members of the coalition.

 

Currently, the ports have about 700 natural gas-powered trucks serving them, according to the Southern California Gas Co. All of these trucks operating in the region currently have access to RNG, also known as biomethane, through natural gas fueling stations. Southern California has been the hub of these natural gas fueling stations, which will help drayage and carrier truck companies convert over to the fuel.

 

The benefits of using RNG in trucks equipped with natural gas-powered engines are becoming well known among fleet managers. In a 2011 study of RNG production methods (PDF), Argonne National Laboratory concluded that all RNG methods show significantly less GHG emissions and fossil fuel consumption than conventional fossil natural gas and gasoline.

 

Both of the ports are reviewing the ACT Now Plan as part of the process, with more expected to be decided upon this summer. You can read the announcement here, find a summary here, and the see the plan here.

 

For those interested in learning more about the port’s clean truck program and the role ACT Now Plan will play, attending the upcoming FuturePorts 2017 Annual Conference would be ideal. Conference speakers will be looking at the 10-year mark since the Clean Air Action Plan was implemented at the ports; and some of them have been involved in bringing clean trucks to the ports. The conference “will focus on the trends in energy, port operations and efficiency that are disrupting historical business models and setting the course for a competitive future.” It’s taking place Thursday, June 22, 2017, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach.

For today: Lift joins up with Waymo, Musk boring underground LA

  • Lyft partners with Waymo: Ride-hailing firm Lyft has forged a partnership with the Waymo self-driving car firm. The partners will work on pilot projects and product development in self-driving car technology, with the end goal of bringing needed transportation to fast-growing cities. The timing of the deal comes about as Waymo has taken ride-hailing giant Uber to court over allegedly stealing that technology. Uber had acquired the Otto startup, which led Waymo filing the lawsuit based on claims of intellectual property theft. Yesterday, the federal judge ruled that Uber must return Waymo documents. The judge also said that Uber can continue working on self-driving car technology, but Anthony Levandowski must be removed from any work relating to a key automated technology called lidar. Levandowski had been a leader in Google’s self-driving car research and a founder of the Otto self-driving truck firm.
  • Boring in LA: In a set of photos and video on his Instagram page Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed what’s been happening with The Boring Company concept. What started in late 2016 as a set of Twitter posts about his frustrations being stuck in traffic while driving to Hawthorne (SpaceX HQ and Tesla service center), shows an “electric sled” that can go up to 125 mph through an underground tunnel somewhere in Los Angeles. The word “Boring” has to do with boring a tunnel underground. Musk has been secretive about where it’s located, and how much ground it covers. The tunnel has got to be at least a mile long, if you watch the videos. Musk said that the tunnel will run from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Culver City, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sherman Oaks. There will be more tunnels, and they’ll cover all of the greater Los Angeles area, he said. No word yet on whether Musk has regulatory approval to continue the track – or Boring Machine 1, which he’s nicknamed Godot.
  • Chinese EV plant: Guangzhou Automobile Group, or GAC Group, has started building a vehicle assembly plant in China’s southern Guangdong province that will have the capacity to product up to 200,000 electric cars a year by the end of 2018. It should cost the company about $700 million to get there. The company’s first electric car, the GE3, was introduced at the 2017 Detroit auto show in January. Its new plug-in hybrid sedan, the GA3S, and plug-in hybrid SUV, the GS4, were unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in April.
  • Propane fueling acquisition: Agility Fuel Solutions’ Powertrain Systems unit has acquired the assets of CleanFUEL USA and some of its employees. The company will add business locations in Wixom, Mich., to focus on fuel systems, and Georgetown, Texas to focus on refueling equipment. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Powertrain Systems will be able to offer complete propane fuel systems for commercial vehicles based on patented liquid propane injection technology. The company said it will be able to offer “turnkey propane fueling packages for both private fleet and retail locations, enabling a complete propane solution for commercial fleets globally.”
  • Renewable diesel station: Ryder System has begun to offer renewable diesel (RD) fuel at its San Francisco fueling facility, located at 2700 3rd Street. With this implementation, Ryder customers will be better able to address their sustainability goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while still utilizing diesel vehicles. Based on production levels and availability of RD, Ryder will continue to monitor other markets with plans for expanding this offering. The company also plans to analyze market opportunities that would benefit its customers to have RD available for their fleets.
  • GM’s sustainable tires: General Motors Co. is taking on another corporate sustainability drive by changing over to tires made from sustainable natural rubber. The automaker is working several tire suppliers to create an industry first. The definition of sustainable tires includes that the natural rubber “did not lead to deforestation,” was harvested to aid an area’s economic and social development, and is “managed in a transparent and traceable manner.” This will apply to about 49 million tires that the Detroit automaker buys each year. GM is also known for its going “landfill-free” at its facilities around the world, with all waste from daily operations recycled, reused or converted to energy.

Clean Fuels and Energy: What happened to big carmakers endorsing LCFS?

If you take a take a look at a letter sent last week to California officials supporting extension of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, you’ll see an impressive list of sustainable transportation stakeholders.

 

Calstart played a role organizing representatives of 155 vehicle fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, fuel producers, and industry groups to endorse a letter last week that was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, Kevin De León, Senate President Pro Tempore, and Anthony Rendon, Assembly Speaker. The group supports LCFS, which is aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuels 10% by 2020, and at a higher level by 2030.

 

Stakeholders want their say in Sacramento as policymakers consider extending the state’s comprehensive climate change laws going back to AB 32 in 2006. LCFS came about in 2009 and was first implemented in 2011. It’s said to have increased the use of clean fuels in the state by 57% between 2011 and 2016. The carbon intensity standards take into account every step of producing, transporting, and consuming the fuel. It’s fuel-neutral, which means it doesn’t favor any one fuel but opens the door for those using the fuels to choose from the best, economical, low-carbon options.

 

The endorsement list provides a comprehensive look at leaders in the clean transportation sector, with most of them playing a visible role earlier this month at ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicle makers are well represented, but what’s missing is light-duty vehicle manufacturers. Tesla and BYD, leaders in plug-in electrified vehicles, are the only two carmakers on the list; however, BYD isn’t currently selling any cars in the U.S., just electric buses and trucks.

 

So what happened to automakers that have been selling a lot of green vehicles in California? General Motors, Nissan, Ford, Toyota, and Honda should be on the list – especially given that they’ve sold a lot of vehicles across the spectrum of fuels – GM and Ford with CNG and propane conversions of trucks and vans, and all five offering electrified vehicle options.

 

On the federal level, these automakers and several others have called out to President Donald Trump to extend the fuel economy and emissions public comment periods; and some, especially Ford CEO Mark Fields, would like to see the mandate softened up.

 

What’s the deal with California? Could it be related to the state’s zero emission vehicle mandate, that several automakers don’t see viable for being able to meet? Is it too California-centric, giving the state even more influence over future policies nationwide?

 

Any thoughts? Then email me.

Green Auto Market switching from weekly to daily newsletter

Hello,

Starting tomorrow, Green Auto Market will be emailed out to readers daily. News coverage will be shared along with a central topic for the day significant in clean transportation.

The newsletter had originally been published monthly, and went weekly in the summer of 2013 once the website was launched.

As media colleagues have suggested, going daily is necessary. Daily content is needed to stay current and informed on the issues – and to stay relevant with readers.

The challenge for media sources, and for those receiving the information, is to not be consumed with information overload these days. We’re receiving a high volume of emails, newsletters, pings on our smartphones, and aggregated newsfeeds from Google, Amazon, Apple, and specialized sources.

The good news is that we have a lot more options to customize our interests and news sources. That helps readers stay informed and use their time well.

Green Auto Market will have news summaries and a focal point for the day:

  • Vehicle Launches & Demonstrations
  • Clean Fuels & Energy
  • Regulatory Climate
  • Fueling Infrastructure
  • Mobility & Innovation

Coverage will also explore critical developments in key global markets outside North America, including Europe, China, Japan, Korea, and India. Automakers, fuel and energy producers, technology companies, and policymakers, continue to see their approach shaped by economic globalization, trade agreements, corporate merges and joint ventures, and technology advancements shared across borders.

Thanks to those of you who leave comments, even if the article’s factual accuracy is questioned. Good to know, and your feedback is appreciated. To leave a comment, just click on the title and scroll down below the article for the Leave a Reply – Comment box.

The subscriber edition, Green Auto Market – Extended Edition, will continue to be published. It will go out at two-times-per week intervals. It provides readers with news analysis and market data trends covering hybrid and electric vehicle sales, fuel prices, regulatory issues, global market developments, and other topics. Those interested can subscribe here.

You can also follow Twitter and Facebook pages.

Thanks for being part of the readership.

Jon LeSage
Editor and Publisher
Green Auto Market

This Week’s Top 10: Congresswoman challenges Trump’s EPA budget cut, Toyota Prius Prime takes top spot in April

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Challenging EPA cuts: President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will shut down the Ann Arbor, Mich., vehicle emissions testing lab and put 435 employees out of their jobs, according to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. Dingell toured the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory on Monday, which is part of her congressional district. She’d been denied access to visiting the site in April. Trump’s 31% budget cut to the EPA would be the biggest cut to any federal agency; the Ann Arbor lab has been the home base for vehicle emissions testing in the U.S. “This is extremely troubling and raises serious questions about the executive branch closing access to government facilities and preventing members of congress from conducting necessary oversight,” Dingell wrote in a recent letter to Trump.
  2. PEV sales in April: The Toyota Prius Prime took top spot for the first time, nudging out the Chevy Volt at 1,819 units sold versus 1,807. Another interesting one was seeing the Bolt move up higher in the rank to No. 3 with 1,292 sold, up 32.1% over March sales. Overall plug-in electrified vehicle sales in the U.S. were up 7.82% over April 2016 and down 25.6% from March, according to HybridCars’s Dashboard. For hybrid vehicle sales, the Toyota Prius moved back to No. 1 in April, beating out the Ford Fusion Hybrid 5,802 versus 4,509. Overall hybrid sales were down 3.3% from March and up 6.8% from the previous year.
  3. Softening subsidies hurt BYD: The world’s leading seller of electric vehicles has taken a dive in China since government subsidies have been reduced. BYD saw its sales drop 34% during the last quarter. BYD had seen double-digit sales growth, driving China to the global lead in EV sales. The company is now looking at how to cut costs in producing cars without cutting into profits. The Chinese electric carmaker had been seeing 45% annual sales growth in recent years. That led the Chinese EV market to see more than 500,000 in sales last year.
  4. Q1 PEV sales: The U.S. and Europe saw a great first quarter for sales of plug-in electrified vehicles. U.S. sales of PEVs jumped 49% during the first quarter, according to Bloomberg. That figure reached 40,700 units sold, which indicates sales will go up noticeably this year over last year. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association reported that sale of PEVs have increased by 37.6% compared to the first quarter of 2016. Battery electric vehicles saw a 49% increase and plug-in hybrids were up 13% in Europe during the first quarter.
  5. Uber supporting university AI project: Uber is taking a new tactic to affirm its place in the autonomous vehicle market, and stabilize that part of the business as the Waymo legal battle comes to a conclusion. The ride-hailing giant will be setting up a new artificial intelligence (AI) team in Toronto to improve its autonomous vehicle software and to tap into university resources. The Toronto office will be led by professor Raquel Urtasun of University of Toronto, an expert on the technology. Uber and Waymo are watching for a ruling by Judge William Alsup over a potential preliminary injunction, which could happen as soon as next week against Uber’s autonomous vehicle program. The Google self-driving car division has claimed that its former employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole files while he was working for Waymo and then brought them over to Uber. In related news, the city of Portland, Ore., is clamping down on Uber for using software called Greyball that helped its drivers evade local transportation regulators.
  6. India going electric: India appears to be leaning toward plug-in electrified vehicles over hybrids and traditional gasoline engine cars, according to a draft document from a government think-tank read by Reuters. Current incentives for hybrids may go away, as India appears ready to follow China’s lead in providing subsidies for plug-in vehicles while taking hybrids off the list. India is looking to cut oil imports by half and follow the Paris climate treaty.
  7. M-B offers energy storage: Mercedes-Benz is going into the energy storage business, starting in the U.K. with up to 20 kWh storage available to home residents. A commercial property program is also coming out in that country. It’s being tied into solar power, with alliances being worked out with partner companies. Daimler first started the energy storage unit in 2015, soon after Tesla did so. BMW and Nissan are also getting into this side of the business that tapes into the lithium-ion batteries going into their electric cars.
  8. Tesla goes to Mexico: Tesla held interviews in Mexico over the weekend to bring in more experienced manufacturing engineers to its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant. The electric automakers has big plans on the table, preparing to manufacture 500,000 units a year starting in 2018. Mexican engineers have a lot of experience working for automakers, with 19 automotive plants now open in Mexico. The Trump administration has different things in mind, not wanting foreign workers to come to the U.S., and not supporting the NAFTA free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
  9. Year of the plug-in hybrid: Automakers see plug-in hybrids as an important stepping stone toward all-electric vehicle sales, and will be rolling out quite a few of them this year. These will be price-competitive models such as the Kia Niro plug-in hybrid version compared to the gasoline-engine Niro crossover. Federal tax incentives are helping, with cars like the Chevy Volt getting the maximum $7,500 tax credit. State incentives are helping, too, with New York recently starting a $2,000 rebate program.
  10. What’s helped China PEV sales: While Chinese government subsidies are likely to see a cutback this year, they have been critical in getting China to where it is as the leading global PEV market. A new report from Oak Ridge National Laboratories took a wide-angle view, studying all of the incentive programs being offering by the national and local governments. One of these has been significant investment in the charging infrastructure and a diverse vehicle portfolio receiving subsidies. The government has been supporting electric buses and other fleet applications such as electric taxis. The boom in “new energy vehicle” sales has been a mix of electric small cars, luxury cars, and commercial vehicles.