GM strike won’t be ending anytime soon, What to expect by 2030 part 2

The United Auto Workers’ strike shows no signs of ending anytime soon — putting more than 48,000 workers in the US off the job since Sept. 16 and costing General Motors more than $1 billion as of Monday; and supplier partners are loosing hundreds of thousands per day. Virtually all of its North American assembly lines are off-line as labor and management attempt to negotiate a settlement contract over wages, healthcare, and job security on the labor side and management’s vision of where it needs to go in the future. Last month, the UAW signed indefinite contract extensions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. The GM contract has historically set the tone and some of the details for the next wave with the other two major domestic automakers.

Contract settlement details from a Monday night offer from GM began to emerge yesterday. Wage increases or a lump-sum payment offered over four years of the proposed contract have been added. The union had rejected the initial offer and submitted a counterproposal Tuesday over disagreements on health care, wages, temporary workers, skilled trades, job security and “concessionary” measures. Talks are expected to resume today.

Along with the strike, two more former UAW leaders have agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as the government builds a criminal case against some of the union’s leaders for embezzling more than $1 million funds for personal luxuries. Since it started, the corruption investigation has been marked by federal raids and criminal charges against 11 people linked to the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. So far, nine convictions have been secured over breaking labor laws, taking kickbacks, bribes, and embezzlement. The crisis continues to raise flags over the future of the UAW — and how it will affect the GM strike.

Gaining loyal union membership has been a tougher sell in the US than in Europe and other parts of the world. Membership has been declining since the 1970s, with corruption scandals and strikes adding to worker frustration and declining public support. None of the “transplant” foreign automakers operating in the US have unionized workers. Volkswagen workers at the Chattanooga, Tenn., plant rejected UAW membership in June. Tesla chief Elon Musk continues to fight off moves by the UAW and complaints filed under state labor laws. A California judge ruled Friday that Musk and other company executives have been illegally sabotaging employee efforts to form a union. While these are considered unfair labor practices, Tesla doesn’t face any real penalties.

The economic trends started in the 1970s are continuing — closing plants in the US and opening them up again in other countries with cheaper labor and other costs; bringing in robotics to take over more of the assembly plant jobs; adopting the latest technologies to meet consumer demands, government regulations, and to gain competitive brand images to increase sales and profits. As economists have said in recent years, globalization, technology innovation, and corporate profits, are the defining elements in the future of corporations. Workers have less voice and are being pushed into looking for alternative futures for themselves and their kids. It’s a tough change to make for those coming from multi-generational families and communities that had done very well with auto industry jobs.

Management careers have also been hard hit over the past 30 years as well — with layoffs and forced geographic moves overseas disrupting the lives of thousands of low-to-mid-level management employees. High-level executives have also seen their share of turmoil since the Great Recession, with several surprising cuts being made as major automakers merge with former competitors and startup new business units to meet the fast-changing world of mobility. Shareholders expect to see better profit margins and stock prices, no matter what.

What to expect by 2030 part 2: What generation is most likely to lead the mobility transformation?  General Motors CEO Mary Barra is confident her company will be taking a leading role in mobility services of the future. For those less interested in owning a car, or having to drive and park it everywhere, what about sharing an autonomous Chevy Bolt through your local Maven outlet? Just tap into your mobile app and have it show up in front of your workplace.

The big question becomes: Who will be the customer?

Millennials (about 23 to 38 years old in 2019) broke open barriers by waiting longer to buy their first car — and becoming rabid fans and riders with Uber, Lyft, Zipcar. There have been other on-demand mobility services in meal delivery, groceries, and other needed services for extremely busy people ready and willing to pay.

Some things are changing — with Millennials in the US buying property less than the two generations ahead — Generation X and Baby Boomers. They’re moving to cities and seeing rent, lease payments, and property values shoot up. They’d also lived through the Great Recession, and are carrying concerns over another bout of economic turbulence coming up.

But when it comes to buying cars, Millennials are becoming a lot like previous generations, though they are interested in trying out electrified models — battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid. And Millennials still make up the lion’s share of Uber and Lyft riders; though the next generation is taking its share of rides, too.

Generation Z — teenagers through age 23 — are still a bit young to determine what sort of economic impact they’ll be having on car sales and other markets. One thing they do have in common with Millennials is being challenging in the workplace. It’s very typical to talk to managers in their 40s through 60s and hear complaints about getting them to do their jobs as they’ve been asked to do — very different from their experience. Supervisors advise that you think a bit differently about where the “youngsters” are coming from. They do tend to be talented, hard-working employees, but it might take a bit longer — and employers are advised to help them find their own sense of purpose and meaning in their work.

A recent survey study by Allison+Partners suggests that changing definitions of transportation and an influx of new mobility solutions are paving the way for the birth of the “mobility culture.”

Gen Z has even less interest in getting their driver’s licenses than previous generations. They see cars as yet another appliance they’ll need to have access to someday that ranks up their with smartphones and gaming machines like Xbox. In the study, they said autonomous vehicles make a lot of sense, and 60 percent of them believe they’ll be using self-driving cars by 2030.

Owning their own prestigious car — whether that be a Tesla or a Lexus — doesn’t matter as much, or make as much sense. Coming of age as the recession finished up, and smartphones became the new norm, pragmatism is the benchmark. The Allison+Partners study concluded that Gen Z will be the first generation in large numbers to get rides from Waymo, Maven, Uber, Lyft, and the next iteration of offerings from Tesla, Volvo, Audi, BMW, Toyota, Honda, and other makers rolling out new options in connectivity, automation, electrification, and safety — along with mobility services of their own.

Mobility won’t be taking over by 2030, with new vehicle sales continuing to see growth in global markets — and concerns over safety and reliability will take several years to be alleviated, especially for autonomous vehicles. But the transformation appears to be occurring, with Gen Z taking the lead.

A few interesting news briefs:
Ford and Mahindra:  Ford is lessening its presence in India, taking a 49 percent share to Mahindra’s 51 percent through a new joint venture managed by Mahindra in the troubled auto market. The two companies will continue working on developing battery-powered cars, but Ford is needing to scale back in a key global auto market that’s been plunging in sales for nearly a year (and one that rival General Motors left in late 2017). The Indian government has been issuing incentives to grow electric vehicle sales, which have been down to only about 2,000 a year — nowhere near what New Dehli wants to see for emissions targets and reliance on oil imports.

Tesla in China:  Tesla’s Shanghai factory plant aims to start production this month but it is unclear when it will meet year-end production targets due to uncertainties around orders, labor, and suppliers. Tesla plans to produce at least 1,000 Model 3s a week from the new factory by the end of this year. The $2 billion factory gained government approval last month and is on schedule to start production in October, the sources said.

Amazon making biggest EV purchase ever:  Michigan-based startup Rivian Automotive will be building and delivering 100,000 electric vans to Amazon over the next decade. The first 10,000 will start hitting roads in 2021 and completing the delivery the next year, with all 100,000 EVs fully operational in Amazon’s fleet by 2030. It makes for the largest EV purchase ever. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said 100,000-unit fleet will eliminate 4 million metric tons of carbon emissions when fully operational.

Electrify America chargers:  Volkswagen’s Electrify America announced yesterday that it will be offering Level 2 electric vehicle home chargers. Customers can now purchase the Electrify America Electric Vehicle Home Charger on Amazon for $499. The product is also accessible through electrifyamerica.com/charging-at-home. The company said its compatible with all electric vehicles available in the North American market today. It features a charging power of up to 7.6kW – about 6 times faster than the typical Level 1 charger provided to some new EV owners, depending on vehicle make and model.

 

 

How a major oil refiner is earning GHG credits in California

For anyone wondering how things are going in California with compliance to AB 32 and the 2016 revision demanding that greenhouse gas emissions be scaled back 40 percent to 1990 levels by 2030, here’s a quick case study. Marathon Petroleum Co. is asking for permission to generate Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits at its Tesoro refinery in Martinez, located in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. California Air Resources Board posted a refinery project application for public comment on Sept. 20, which will close on Sept. 30, 2019.

You can read CARB’s summary of the project, which the agency said it plans to endorse if all the received comments are addressed satisfactorily by Marathon. In 2017, the company took on an electrification project that replaced a natural gas-fired turbine with an electric motor that drives the refrigeration compressor at the alkylation unit. The project also reduces criteria air pollutants and toxic air contaminants emitted by the refinery. (By the way, the Tesoro brand name is going away following a 2017 rebranding as Andeavor Corp. and a $23.3 billion merger last year of Andeavor and Marathon. Now everything falls under the Marathon corporate logo.)

The Martinez refinery has crude oil capacity of 161,000 barrels per calendar day (bpcd), and employs about 740 workers. Marathon’s other California location, the Los Angeles Tesoro refinery based in Wilmington, has crude oil capacity at 363,000 bpcd, about 1,620 employees, and is the largest refinery on the west coast. Marathon is earning additional LCFS and other California credits at the Watson Cogeneration Plant located within the Wilmington refinery’s complex. The  cogeneration plant produces 400 megawatts for local refineries and sells excess electricity to the local utility grid. Marathon and Tesoro bought former majority owner BP’s share in 2012.

Marathon explained to investors in its annual report that the company has to meet compliance with the state’s stringent climate change and clean air rules — and LCFS credits and the state’s cap and trade quarterly auction system are the best ways to hit the target. “We may experience a decrease in demand for refined products due to an increase in combined fleet mileage or due to refined products being replaced by renewable fuels. Demand for our refined products also may decrease as a result of low carbon fuel standard programs or electric vehicle mandates,” Marathon said in its 2018 annual report.

The LCFS requires a gradual reduction in carbon intensity, reaching a 10 percent reduction in 2020, and last year CARB extended that out to 20 percent by 2030. CARB sees LCFS working well, helping the state meet its 3 percent annual GHG reduction targets and helping to clean the air at some of the nation’s most polluted metro zones. It’s also spurred innovation in low-carbon transportation fuels such as hydrogen, electricity, biodiesel, and renewable natural gas.

Oil companies and refineries have done their share of pushing the state to rollback some of the stringent and costly requirements that the oil industry (and others such as power plants) has to meet. But more of the battle was against farmers and ethanol producers over blocking extending the national E-10 gasoline standard to E-15 or higher. California’s compliance options have been more viable for some of the oil companies and refineries.

In June, CARB reached a $1.36 million settlement with Tesoro and owner Marathon for violating the LCFS. The company had informed CARB of its misreporting of its transportation fuels sold in California. Marathon does seem to accept the challenges of doing business in California and probably won’t be pulling the shutters on its refineries anytime soon. While there are less expensive states to do business in, California is a major market for oil shipping, refining, and keeping gas stations supplied.

It’s been a win-win scenario for California with GHG reductions and well-funded clean transportation and renewable energy programs coming from compliance. In October, CARB approved a $483 million plan to fund clean car rebates, zero-emission transit and school buses, clean trucks, and other innovative, clean transportation and mobility pilot projects. Of that total, $455 million came from the cap-and-trade program, and the remaining $28 million came from the Air Quality Improvement Program. Another recent contribution came from $92 million in LCFS credit funds supporting transportation electrification in 2016.

California’s LCFS is being adopted in other states and Canada, and its ZEV mandates and clean vehicle incentives have followed a similar path. The state led a federal lawsuit filing on Friday that includes 22 other states against the Trump administration’s move to revoke their rights to enact fuel economy and emissions rules outside the national standard. It includes those 13 states that had joined California’s coalition following its vehicle emissions rules — but it also includes states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina that Trump had won in the 2016 election. It’s a an age-old battle in the US: state rights vs. Washington’s ultimate power; and it shows the wide polarity between the Trump administration and the state of California.

Q&A on California’s AB 5 and how Uber and Lyft will be impacted, Saudi Arabia drone airstrike escalates oil tensions

A landmark law that would make many gig economy workers employees was approved by the state senate late Tuesday night in California, after months of tension between labor groups, on-demand mobile app companies like Uber and Lyft, and workers’ rights advocates. After endorsing Assembly Bill 5 on Labor Day, Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to be signing the bill into law very soon. If so, the measure will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Experts say AB5 has the potential to curb labor violations, increase employee bargaining power, and fundamentally alter California’s booming gig economy. US Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has introduced a similar bill in Washington (Workplace Democracy Act), and other states are expected to launch copycat bills in their legislatures. Labor unions could be brought in, or some other entities representing groups of workers for collective bargaining and enforcing the new law (such as new groups including Gig Workers Rising.) It was first introduced in December by Democratic Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, and since then the bill has gone through several iterations.

The state wants to stop losing tax revenue — which is another part of how it came to be. California’s Department of Industrial Relations estimates that the state loses about $7 billion a year in payroll taxes due to company misclassification.

What companies will be most affected by it?

Under AB 5, close to one million ride-hailing workers, on-demand delivery drivers, manicurists, and janitors in California will be eligible for the same benefits, minimum wage, and vacation days that full employees are. The final version of the bill includes exclusions for certain industries: lawyers, architects, realtors, hairstylists, fishermen, and freelance writers and editors. That’s based on their jobs not being subject to the law because their industries allow them to negotiate.

The companies most affected will be app-based on-demand mobility companies — in California its made up of about 400,000 people driving for Uber and Lyft, delivering meals for Postmates and DoorDash and groceries for Instacart, other competitors in mobile app services, and for those fulfilling specialized services such as Task Rabbit. A few of these companies, led by Uber and Lyft, say that the law will provide an existential threat to their continued existence. Barclays estimates that Uber’s annual operating costs in California will grow by more than $500 million, and Lyft’s will grow by $290 million.

Trucking firms are quite concerned about AB 5 impacting their profits, as working with independent contractor truck drivers has been common in the industry for years. The bill was opposed by the California Trucking Association through the argument that one of the laws’s standards would make it difficult, if not impossible, to continue using independent contractors. In more recent years, startup firms have been using Uber’s model with a software platform that can bring together drivers with trucking companies for freight-hauling trips.

Who will be representing drivers?

That’s one of the leading questions for those impacted by AB 5. Labor unions are mentioned frequently, but there will be other entities representing drivers and other workers affected by AB 5. New groups are being organized to represent independent contractors under the new law, but there are a few experienced law firms that have been representing gig economy workers in recent years.

One likely scenario is that the first version of collective bargaining will start with lawyers filing for labor arbitration hearings and class-action lawsuits in California courts. Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan is well known for filing for arbitration, and class-action suits, against Uber and other mobility companies, seeking fair pay for drivers and classifying them as employees. There are several other large law firms in California that have negotiated settlements for independent contractors working for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, and other gig economy firms.

The first suit has already been filed — on Wednesday afternoon when an Antioch, Calif.-based Uber driver filed a proposed class-action case against Uber Technologies, Inc., for misclassifying her and other California drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the case cites AB 5.

Where did all of it start?

A 2005 lawsuit in California paved the way for AB 5. In 2018, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of workers in the case Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court. Dynamex is a nationwide same-day courier and delivery service that offers on-demand pickup and delivery services. Prior to 2004, Dynamex classified its California drivers as employees. Starting in 2004, the company converted all of its drivers to independent contractors as a cost savings measure.

The 2018 ruling essentially created the “ABC test” as precedent, but it only relates to workers seeking minimum wages and overtime pay. Under the test, a worker is only an independent contractor if they meet all three parts:

> The worker is free from the control and direction of the company in relation to the performance of the work, both under the contract and in fact;

> The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hirer’s business;

> The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hirer.

Another way of saying it is that if the worker is performing a task that’s central to the company’s functioning, and if their wages are set by the company, they’re more likely to be considered employees.

What do Uber and Lyft think?

Uber and Lyft are dismissing AB 5, and say it will remain business as usual on how drivers are paid. They know that many pleas will be made to reclassify drivers, but they say they’ll be able to pass the new test and their drivers will remain independent contractors. But they and several other mobile app companies fought hard against the bill passing.

Fares will have to go up to cover these additional costs for these two publicly traded companies that have struggled to become profitable. One analyst estimates that 25 percent fare increases in California will be a necessity. That will take some of the edge away from competing with taxis, livery companies, limousine operators, shuttle services, and other transportation providers. But it will still be much lower, with Uber and Lyft typically described as being half the cost of other transportation modes.

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have all contributed $30 million each into a fund for a 2020 California ballot proposal that would counteract AB 5. The proposal hasn’t been written yet, and it’s expected to include some concessions to labor such as a guaranteed wage floor if drivers aren’t classified as employees.

What do drivers think?

Uber and Lyft drivers have had their share of work stoppages and public protests calling for fair pay, and sometimes for reclassification as employees. A lot of drivers, however, would like things to stay the same. They may not be making the kind of income they need long term, but they do appreciate the opportunity to quickly bring in decent earnings under flexible conditions.

Unlike other on-demand jobs that require scheduling, Uber and Lyft drivers can set their own hours. They can sign in and out of the app at will to take care of personal business and get some time off to relax and have a meal. Other mobile apps offer some flexibility, and drivers are allowed to set their own weekly schedules during a set time, on a first-come, first-served model.

Yet no matter how often the argument is made about freedom over strict work hours, drivers are feeling the squeeze. They’re typically given generous incentives for joining the networks, getting five-star customer ratings, bringing in their friends as drivers, and working long hours. But that eventually fades away when per trip earnings are cut back as the companies cite pressure to reduce their costs. Drivers have to find the best, peak demand hours to work where they will get rides and deliveries, and earn decent pay. They also face the ominous threat of being “deactivated,” which would mean being fired if they were employees, without warning.

The inconsistency in the work and pay can be very frustrating. There’s nothing worse than scheduling a block of hours, and then to sit there looking at your smartphone for long periods wondering when the trips will begin. Near the end of the shift, downtime could be dragging on when suddenly another ride or order is offered to you that will take an extra hour after the end time to fulfill, and may conflict with personal plans. 

Drivers do value the flexibility in meeting their goals, but the advantage always goes to drivers willing to work long hours. The new law could push Uber and Lyft to give preference to the workers who can and do work full-time hours in California, says Robert Maxim, a research associate for the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

Which labor unions could be representing these workers?

This is a gray area, as most drivers in passenger trips and freight hauling don’t have union membership. Labor unions have progressively lost membership since the 1980s, and are taking on battles as much as they can such as the UAW announcing a nationwide strike after negotiations with GM stalled. Here are a few unions that could be involved in representing California workers under AB 5………..

> Teamsters has 1.3 million members, representing heavy-duty truck freight hauler drivers and over 200,000 UPS drivers. Independent truck drivers may want to join up with them.

> Service Employees International Union (SEIU) disputed reports of a backroom deal made with Uber and Lyft executives, saying that the union supports AB 5 and full employee status for drivers. SEIU is known for its 1.9 million members in hospitals, home care, and nursing homes; public services (such as city and county workers); and property services (janitors and cleaners). With AB 5 addressing janitors and cleaners, SEIU will likely be involved in contract negotiations for these workers.

> Transport Workers Union of America represents more than 150,000 members across the airline, railroad, transit, universities, utilities, and services sectors. They’re not likely to be involved and see most of their membership on the east coast.

As mentioned earlier, new entities such as Gig Workers Rising are being created to take advantage of the opportunity to collectively organize for independent contractors.

A few interesting news briefs:

  • Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels hit major Saudi Arabian oil installations during a drone airstrike early Saturday. The Khurais oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, and the Abqaiq oil processing facility, were struck by a number of drones that caused fires at the plants. Saudi Arabia shut down half its oil production Saturday, which is expected to impact almost 5.7 million barrels of crude production a day, about 5% of the world’s daily oil production; and up to 70 percent of the country’s crude output. The government said the attacks also led to a halt in gas production that will reduce the supply of ethane and natural gas liquids by 50 percent. Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said nobody was hurt in the attacks and emergency crews contained the fires. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for ordering the attack, in tweets on Saturday, while Iran said it had nothing to do with the bombing. President Donald Trump later tweeted that the US has “reason to believe that we know” who is responsible for the attack and the country is “locked and loaded depending on verification.” Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said 10 drones had targeted the oil installations; reports are coming out that the attack may also have been caused by cruise missiles. The US secretary of state and presidents’ remarks came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Trump’s decision last year to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The Frankfurt Motor Show continues to showcase electric vehicle launches as European automakers invest tens of billions into their new lineups to comply with stricter emissions rules and expected growing demand. Volkswagen, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz unveiled electric models that will be heading to dealerships soon. VW’s ID.3, the first model from its new MEB product line, and Porsche’s high-performance Taycan electric sports car, grabbed much of the attention. Pressure is mounting on automakers to go green. On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched in front of the car show to demand a swift end to internal combustion engines and a shift to clean vehicles.
  • For fans of the HBO series, “Game of Thrones,” Henrik Fisker is in a good position to showcase his upcoming all-electric SUV. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who played Jaime Lannister on the recently completed popular TV series, has been a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for climate change and other social issues. Now he’ll be serving as a partner and sustainability adviser to Fisker Inc. chairman and CEO Fisker in working toward a future with advanced, affordable, electric mobility. It will be a good fit in helping the UN meet as many sustainability goals as possible, the company said. Fisker Inc. will unveil its electric SUV at the end of this year. The company said it will offer a range of approximately 275 to 300 miles per charge.
    German auto supplier Bosch said it has earned about 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) since the beginning of 2018 through “electromobility” orders. That product lineup includes software, production projects for electrical powertrains, automated valet parking, and other projects focused on making mobility more automated, connected, and personallzed.
  • Volvo Group North America became the first trucking OEM to join the US Department of Energy’s Better Plant Supply Chain Initiative. The company recruited eight Volvo Group vendors to commit to reducing energy consumption by 25 percent over 10 years. The federal agency said that 85 percent of US energy consumption is a result of the industrial supply chain, a majority of which is comprised of small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies.

Forecast on where global car sales are going over next decade, Ugly signs we’ve crossed the line on climate change

Expectations have been in place that the next decade will be as historically significant as the birth of mass production automobiles — when Henry Ford’s company put the first Model T in production in 1908 and watched it reach the 15 millionth unit 19 years later. But will the 2020s be likely to see these historic shifts fall in place, with the year 2030 typically used in forecasts and emissions reduction goals as the benchmark for adoption? That benchmark could include steadily declining new vehicles sales; electric vehicles becoming more important to automakers and vehicle owners than cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines; autonomous vehicles clearing regulatory hurdles and starting production; mobility services leading the way in traffic- and smog-congested cities; and younger consumers choosing autonomous, electric, shared ride services over owning their own personal vehicles.

Good questions. Let’s take a look at the first one………
Auto sales forecast: New vehicle sales increased in June in China, the world’s largest auto market, but that came during a 14 month period where 13 of them were in decline. July saw the decline fall back into place. Rising trade tensions and tariffs, a slowdown in China’s booming economy, and implementation of stricter emissions rules, have had their impact. Much of the the June sales boom was fueled by dealers cutting prices way down to clear inventory and prepare for exhaust controls coming to new vehicles. LMC Automotive estimates 2019 will see a second straight annual drop in China. India has seen sales decline at an alarming rate this year, with automakers cutting production and putting plans on hold to increase capacity. Analysts worry that U.S. auto sales reached their historic peak and will continue to see decline this year. Germany’s Center for Automotive Research says that the global auto market is about to take its biggest hit since the financial crisis of 2008, with sales declining by more than four million units at the end of this year.

There are concerns over a global economic slowdown potentially dragging out the current sales decline, yet global sales growth is far from being over. Studies by McKinsey, IHS Markit, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, and AutoForecast Solutions, predict a return to growth in new vehicle sales worldwide. Should these studies be taken seriously? Yes, as they do tap into auto executive interviews on their product pipelines in the coming years, and opinions expressed by shareholders.

A McKinsey report forecasts global new vehicle sales will return to an increase, but not at the steep rate we’d seen over the past five years. That was at 3.6 percent per year, and it should decline and level out around 2 percent annual growth rate by 2030. Consumers are buying a lot of new vehicles, many times for the first time ever. China, India, Brazil, and a few other countries with emerging economies, are expected to see economic growth return with consumers moving to growing metro regions with strong job demand and more need for transportation beyond metro trains and buses.

The McKinsey study expects that the decline and leveling out will come from macroeconomic factors and the rise of new mobility services such as ride hailing, car sharing, and eventually by automated shared rides.

“New mobility services may result in a decline of private vehicle sales, but this decline is likely to be partially offset by increased sales in shared vehicles that need to be replaced more often due to higher utilization and related wear and tear. The remaining driver of growth in global car sales is the overall positive macroeconomic development, including the rise of the global consumer middle class. As established markets are no longer expanding, growth will continue to rely on emerging economies, particularly China and India,” according to the McKinsey study.

These findings have been echoed in other market reports, with many including electric vehicles in the numbers. A dominant topic of conversation among industry panelists last month at the 54th annual CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Michigan, was the speed in which key markets around the world will adopt EVs and increasing levels of autonomous mobility. Cybersecurity was another key concern, with fear of hackers being able to take over vehicles and shut down the grid, being reiterated by speakers.

AutoForecast Solutions and IHS Markit released studies forecasting overall new vehicle sales growth to continue through at least 2026. Electric vehicles are supposed to replace internal combustion engines in large numbers by 2030, but IHS Markit sees that taking much longer — reaching only 7.6 percent of the total by 2025. Another previous forecast has been set aside, with the young Millennial generation actually buying cars like their parents did and keeping them longer.

Global plug-in vehicle deliveries reached 2.1 million units for 2018, 64 percent higher than for 2017 and 2.4 percent of the world’s overall 86 million units sold last year. The International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario expects that by 2030, global EV sales will reach 23 million for that year and the stock of owned EVs will exceed 130 million vehicles (excluding two and three-wheelers). That’s under one forecast analysis including the impact of announced policy ambitions by several governments; the IEA scenario includes another potential outcome where the number shoots up to 43 million and the stock coming to more than 250 million. Either predicted scenario would cut oil demand substantially.

China saw its first drop in recorded EV sales in July. Monthly global sales fell 14 percent with declines in China and North America during that month. Reductions in EV subsidies and a cooling economy impacted the China market. Another top auto market, India, is struggling to get consumers and rickshaw drivers to convert over to EVs and meet goals the government had laid out.

For now (and in another study), the IEA sees oil being king and the US playing a leading role over the next six years. That comes form rapid growth in the shale industry. By 2024, the US will export more oil than Russia and will come close to Saudi Arabia’s exports.

Other advanced fuels, such as renewable natural gas, will offset the advantages stable fuel prices offer petroleum suppliers when it comes to fleets. Affordable gasoline and diesel, and concern over incentives diminishing, are expected to keep EV sales at bay in the US for now with fleets and consumers. Traditional ICE vehicles with good fuel economy, strong crash safety ratings, and a full spectrum of features and connectivity, are leading the way for now. As for new vehicle purchases, it appears that major markets won’t see their numbers go way down over the next decade. It will take longer before alternative modes and energies will be fundamentally and historically altering the industry.

Signs that we’ve crossed the tipping point with climate change:  New fires are continuing to start up in the Amazon rain forest, caused by famers, cattle ranchers and other sources. The world’s largest absorber of greenhouse gases may change roles and begin emitting them, according to scientists. There are other indicators of environmental hazards approaching: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef may be seeing the end of its days….. More than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions. Seventy-one counties have already hit the benchmark 2-degree Celsius mark………. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a further rise of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C by the end of the century in oceans. It would take out many species which are already under stress from overfishing and habitat loss; and the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic…… Scientists recently announced that July equaled, if not surpassed, the hottest month in recorded history. The heat wave that wreaked havoc on Europe in late July has now reached Greenland, causing the ice in the region to melt at a rapid pace.

A few interesting news briefs:

  • On Friday, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, announced Tesla is receiving an exemption from a 10-percent purchase tax. It’s part of a broad national policy applying to domestic electric vehicles. Prior to that on August 20, Tesla was included in Shanghai’s Pilot Free Trade Zone, which will also help the EV maker gain a financial advantage in the world’s largest EV market.
  • Chinese automaker BYD took third place (behind Qualcomm and MasterCard) on Fortune Magazine’s “Change the World” list 2019, which is the American publication’s annual ranking of companies that are hitting targets to help the planet and tackle society’s unmet needs. BYD’s cited achievements include building a flexible “e-platform” for EV design and construction, competitive pricing that’s helped further commercialize EVs, and the recent deal to jointly develop electric vehicles with Japan’s Toyota that should expand BYD’s global reach.
  • The 2019 Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV has earned a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for vehicles built after June 2019. The Nexo, which is only available in California, is the first such hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that IIHS has tested for crash safety.
  • The Ford Police Interceptor Utility 2020 model is now the first-ever pursuit-rated police utility vehicle with a standard hybrid engine. Agencies in cities such as San Diego, Columbus, Ohio, and Madison, Wisc., have committed to adding hybrids to their law enforcement fleets. So far, these agencies have ordered more than 2,600 units equipped with the standard 3.3-liter hybrid engine.
  • Car sharing service Share Now, which was created this year as part of a joint venture between BMW and Daimler, will expand its electric fleet significantly under the agreement with the City of Munich. A total of 200 BMW i3s will be available to Share Now customers on Munich roads by the end of the year.
  • From GAM editor’s blog post, called The mysterious vanishing of Americans 40 to 60 — and why we were named Generation X: “The next time you go out and about, take a 365-degree look around you. Millennials (ages 23 to 38 during this year) and GenZers (ages 7 to 22) are out doing things in vast numbers, with Millennials nearly as big in population as Baby Boomers — and GenZers following right behind. But what’s happening to my peers in Generation X? We’re there, but in smaller numbers; and many of us are somewhere else — such as working long hours.”

Tesla says goodbye to innovative CTO Straubel, BYD and Toyota partnering to bring EVs to China

Tesla losing Straubel:  Tesla, Inc., has taken a big loss with the departure of one of its founders, chief technology officer JB Straubel. At the beginning of Wednesday’s quarterly report, CEO Elon Musk made the stunning announcement along with news on the delivery of 95,356 electric vehicles during the past quarter. Straubel is credited with playing a pivotal role in the development of Tesla’s power systems and battery technology. The photo you see is of Straubel from 2004 in his backyard gluing lithium ion batteries to a case as part of the company’s first concept vehicle. Retiring at age 43, Straubel was still in his twenties when he became convinced that new and innovative li-ion batteries could become the power source for mass produced EVs. Straubel met Musk in 2003, when they had lunch in Los Angeles near the headquarters of Musk’s other passion in life — his rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX). Two other entrepreneurs, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, were in on the early days of the company, working with Straubel and Musk to launch the company. Eberhard and Tarpenning left Tesla in 2008, as disputes came up over the future of the company — and as Musk exerted more control.

Straubel brought a much needed calm and balance to Musk’s approach to running the company, which includes Musk making extreme demands of the company’s corporate leadership and workforce. He was known for providing insight and clarity to the technical points that could come up with shareholders and Tesla engineers. His role as a problem-solving engineer has come through as the company has had to overcome several obstacles. He’s been known for being much more easygoing and approachable than the CEO — and that’s included participating at Tesla vehicle rides and demos. He’s also become known as a leading innovator in EV batteries, energy storage, and propulsion. It’s now his time to move on. “It has been a really tough decision because I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down,” Straubel said. “But, also, you have to live life. I love inventing and creating and building things and am at peace knowing that about myself and wanting to reorient my life. I’m decompressing for a bit and having a little break, but I will have more to say in a few weeks.”

Four automakers backing California standards, Colorado makes deal on ZEVs:  Ford, BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen, signed a deal Thursday with the California Air Resources Board to comply with the state’s clean air admissions standards. They’re now siding with California’s mandate to produce fleets averaging around 51 miles per gallon by 2026, one year after the Obama-era target. This precedes an expected announcement later this summer from the Trump administration on a rollback of existing fuel economy and emissions standard targets, and taking away California’s right to set more stringent rules under the Clean Air Act (i.e., one national standard) to avoid what a Trump spokesman called a “PR stunt.” California’s Governor Gavin Newsom spoke to reporters on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with vehicle emissions being “perhaps the most significant thing this state can do, and this nation can do, to advance those goals. The Trump administration is hellbent on rolling them back. They are in complete denialism about climate change.”

In related news, automaker trade groups representing 99 percent of U.S. car and truck sales made an agreement with the state of Colorado to join the California zero emission vehicle program starting in the 2023 model year. The state agreed to allow automakers to earn credits for selling electric vehicles in the two model years prior and use other transitional credits available in other states. The Colorado agreement must be approved by the state’s Air Quality Control Commission at a meeting set for later this month. The automaker trade groups issued a statement praising the state’s flexibility in addressing their concerns “by providing the support Coloradans need to buy electric vehicles while allowing auto manufacturers to transition into Colorado’s ZEV program.”

Comeback for diesel engines:  The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 won the ranking as the most fuel-efficient light-duty truck on the market. General Motors’ pickup achieves an EPA-estimated 33 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in the city when equipped with the new 3-liter inline six-cylinder Duramax diesel engine and rear-wheel drive. Its the first diesel engine offered in a Chevy light-duty truck since 1997. Light-to-heavy-duty pickups trucks have been a saving point for diesel engines since the September 2015 collapse following Volkswagen’s confession that the company had been dishonest about emissions reporting in its “clean diesel” passenger cars. Now GM will be following market leader Ford on the diesel pickup side, with Ford leading from sales of 94,626 diesel light and heavy-duty pickup trucks during the first half of this year.

Will 5G networks make it?:  One significant area to follow is how the new 5G wireless networks are facing an uphill battle for becoming the industry norm. The stakes are huge, with 5G ready to help save thousands of lives in self-driving cars, along with reducing traffic congestion and emissions. Europe is trying out auctioning off its bandwidth spectrum to monetize the new technology, a very expensive prospect for wireless carriers and partners. Check out this commentary by Roger C. Lanctot, a Strategy Analytics executive, on the challenges BMW and its German partner Deutsche Telekom have in building a consistent and reliable network of 5G wireless connectivity in the market. It’s a challenge faced in the U.S. and other key global markets adopting 5G. “We don’t need 10 Mbit/s, but rather basic bandwidth and guaranteed latency. We need coverage,” said BMW senior VP of electronics Christoph Grote at the recent Automobil-Elektronik Kongress in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

China partnership:  BYD and Toyota announced on July 19 in Toyota City, Japan, that they have signed an agreement for the joint development of battery electric vehicles, which will be electric sedans and sport-utility vehicles. The two parties will jointly develop sedans and low-floor SUVs as well as the onboard batteries for these vehicles and others. They’ll be launched in the Chinese market under the Toyota brand at some point in the first half of the 2020s. This joint venture partnership will help resolve Toyota’s ambitions to use electric vehicles to break into China, the market where the company remains well behind other global automakers. It also ties into climate change strategies as both BYD and Toyota seek to reduce carbon emissions by promoting the widespread use of BEVs.

Plug-in vehicle sales beating overall market, Tesla quarterly numbers exceed expectations

EV sales beat overall market:  Plug-in vehicles had a strong increase in the first half of the year, while U.S. and global total new vehicle sales stalled out. InsideEVs reports that 148,704 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. during the first half of 2019, compared to 124,256 for first half of 2019. That makes for an increase of 19.67 percent over that same period last year of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. Through May, there were 840,814 in global plug-in vehicle sales, versus 591,796 for the first five months of 2018 — an increase of 42 percent over that same period last year.

As for overall new vehicle sales in the U.S., sales were down 2.4 percent halfway through 2019, and is expected to be at 16.9 million by the end of the year; that would be the first time total light-duty new vehicle sales would be below 17 million since 2014. Global new vehicle sales are expected tom come in at 78.7 million units, which is about the same level as 2017 and 2018. The global market had seen a leap in 2016 over the previous years. Sales are still considered to be strong this year; rising auto loans have hurt demand. However, some analysts believe that new vehicle sales will be declining in the U.S., and eventually other markets, as car ownership drops in importance and alternative forms of mobility become more popular.

The Tesla Model 3 continues to dominate U.S. market with 21,225 units sold in June versus No. 2 on the list, the Tesla Model X, which sold 2,725 units during that month. Battery electric vehicles are still dominating the U.S. market. For May 2019 sales, Electric Drive Transportation Association reported there were 21,248 BEVs sold, 7,138 plug-in hybrids, and 283 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Tesla performance up:  Tesla’s stock went up 7 percent Tuesday after reporting it produced 87,048 vehicles in the second quarter while delivering 95,200, strong performance that exceeded analyst forecasts. The company manufactured 17,650 Model S and X vehicles and 77,550 Model 3s. Among deliveries, 77,550 were Model 3s while the other 17,650 were Models S and X. Right before the quarterly report, CEO Elon Musk was on Twitter promoting Tesla Direct, a new service that offers some buyers of the Model 3, S and X the option to have their car dropped off at their home or office. It’s gaining a lot of interest and support, and some considering it an element of Tesla focusing on its strengths — quality EVs and a high level of customer service.

Cruise gains SoftBank investment:  Cruise Automation, a U.S. self-driving vehicle company majority-owned by General Motors Co. (and operating under the name GM Cruise), announced Friday that a U.S. national security panel approved a $2.25 billion investment in the firm by Japan’s SoftBank Corp. SoftBank has come under increasing U.S. scrutiny over its ties to Chinese firms in the face of an escalating trade and technology war between those two countries. It comes out of SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund investment pool.

VW’s Paris Accord strategy:  Volkswagen has released more information on its commitment made earlier this year to commit itself to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The commitment to carbon neutrality comes in three parts: reducing carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles and factories; adopting renewable energy sources, whether at the plant level for Volkswagen and its suppliers, or encouraging their use for Volkswagen owners; and using carbon offsets to tackle those remaining carbon emissions that can’t be further reduced. One key element of hitting its target by 2050 will be making its vehicles and production carbon neutral. That includes Volkswagen vehicles sold in the US and the factory in Chattanooga, powered by a planned Group-wide investment in EVs sold worldwide – more than $50 billion over the next four years, with approximately $10 billion from the VW brand alone.

Sharing MEB platform:  Ford and Volkswagen have reached an initial agreement to share electric and autonomous vehicle technologies, extending their alliance beyond working together on commercial vehicles, a source familiar with the matter said. VW will share its MEB electric vehicle platform with Ford, the source said. VW’s supervisory board is due to discuss deepening the alliance at a meeting on July 11, 2019, a second source told Reuters.

Toyota rolling out new EV lineup, Renault refreshes ZEO

Toyota EV lineup based on new platform:  Toyota is working hard at shedding its image as a major automaker lagging way behind on electric vehicles. The company has unveiled six new battery electric vehicle concepts it will roll out before 2025.
The new electric vehicles, with the working name of EV-e, will have long wheelbases, plenty of interior space, camera mirrors, and ventilated front corners with automated driving sensors. The company is showing off life-sized clay concepts to tell the story. They represent a lineup that Toyota designers have been working on since 2016, based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (e-TNGA) modular platform
It ties into a previously announced larger goal of bringing more than 10 EVs to the market by the early 2020s. One of these, the electric C-HR subcompact crossover, will come out next year and will be based on the existing nameplate; and there will be other electric versions of its lineup.
Toyota expects demand for EVs to go way beyond cars and sedans. The e-TNGA platform will potentially house EVs that could include a three-row SUV, a sports car, and a small crossover.

Fuel cell vehicles getting ready to take off in China:  The man credited with bringing electric vehicles to China is now focusing on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
China’s science and technology minister, Wan Gang, a former Audi executive, will be continuing the country’s subsidy program for hydrogen-powered vehicles as EVs see incentives wane and phase out next year. He’ll be leading the Chinese government committing resources to developing fuel-cell vehicles.
“We should look into establishing a hydrogen society,” said Wan, who’s now a vice chairman of China’s national advisory body for policy making, a role that ranks higher than minister. “We need to move further toward fuel cells.”
Shares of some hydrogen-related companies rose after Wan’s interview was published on June 9. Wan has a lot of influence on the market, being credited with leading China into becoming the dominant EV market in the world with half of its sales.
Wan sees electric cars dominating inner-city traffic in the near future, while hydrogen-powered buses and trucks could become commonplace on highways for long-distance travel.
He understands that fuel-cell vehicles have quite a long way to go with only about 1,500 of them on Chinese roads, versus more than 2 million battery electric vehicles. He’s championed three selling points that will carry over to hydrogen-powered vehicles: boosting economic growth, tackling China’s dependence on oil imports, and its mounting levels of air pollution.
He dismisses the list of roadblocks that typically come up over fuel-cell vehicles going mass market.
“We will sort out the factors that have been hindering the development of fuel-cell vehicles,” Wan said.
It’s no secret that the 66-year-old began his return to China by studying and researching the fuel cell industry himself—he developed three FCVs under a series called Chao Yue (meaning “to surpass”) during his time from 2003 and 2005 (link in Chinese) as chief scientist for China’s 863 Program.
Toyota Motor Corp. will supply its fuel cell vehicle technology to major Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Group Co. (BAIC) as it seeks to expand business in the world’s largest auto market. BAIC’s commercial vehicle division will manufacture buses powered by Toyota’s fuel cell system. The production of the buses may increase toward the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing.

News Briefs:
New Zoe:  Renault’s deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appears to be over for now, and life goes on. The French company just unveiled a refreshed version of this popular Zoe small electric car. The company says it will be getting 242 miles per charge based on the new WLTP conditions.WLTP was released nearly two years ago by a United Nations working group to resolve criticism of the previous NEDC standard. It’s goal is to provide uniform and more realistic test conditions worldwide. Extra power and range will come from a 52 kWh battery, and a powerful 100kW electric motor. It also has a restyled exterior and new colors.

Volvo working with NVIDIA:  The Volvo Group has signed an agreement with NVIDIA to jointly develop the decision making system of autonomous commercial vehicles and machines. The two companies want to bring autonomous trucking and freight hauling to highways built on NVIDIA’s full software stack for sensor processing, perception, map localization and path planning It could serve a wide client base in freight transport, refuse and recycling collection, public transport, construction, mining, forestry, and more. Separately, Volvo is tasing out what it’s named Vera, an electric, autonomous truck being tested moving goods from a logistics center to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s part of a new collaboration between Volvo Trucks and the ferry and logistics company, DFDS.

EVs at Disneyland:  Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) will be bringing 40 BYD all-electric buses to its fleet serving Disneyland. Visitors to California’s most popular theme park can manage admission tickets, public and private transportation all in one app. ART’s new app RideART combines everything necessary for a seamless trip to Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Volvo and Uber:  Volvo Cars and Uber are jointly developing production-level autonomous vehicles, the next step in their strategic collaboration that started in 2016. For now, the Volvo XC90 SUV that was just displayed is the first Volvo production car that in combination with Uber’s AV system is capable of fully driving itself. The XC90 base vehicle is equipped with key safety features that allow Uber to easily install its own self-driving system, enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network for shared rides.

It ain’t over till it’s over:  CEO Elon Musk and his company have been hit hard in the past year on several fronts, but new vehicle sales is offsetting some of that damage. Edmunds.com estimated that Tesla’s May sales were up 71 percent from the same month last year, which is much higher than any other automaker selling any kind of vehicle in the U.S. market. It was the central theme at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday. Scrutiny has been pervasive recently about a poor quarterly earnings report and battery fires in Teslas. Some car shoppers aren’t happy with window sticker prices, but long-term, it’s not really an issue, the CEO said. “I want to be clear: there is not a demand problem,” Musk said at the beginning of his presentation. “Absolutely not.”

 

Waymo and FCA bringing autonomous vehicles over to the fleet side, Aging population growing fast and needing the best in mobility and transportation

Waymo and FCA want commercial AVs:  Commercial fleet vehicles may be the key launch pad for autonomous, electric, and shared vehicles of the future with two companies, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, making moves in this direction. Autonomous vehicle leader Waymo is pushing for California to add autonomous delivery vehicles to its allowable vehicles for testing and adoption. The Teamsters union will be fighting it over job losses for truck drivers; but Waymo has been moving in this direction for awhile, starting with a passenger delivery service in Arizona in December. FCA will be partnering with Silicon Valley self-driving car startup Aurora to develop autonomous commercial vehicles. The partners will be using the Aurora Driver platform on Fiat Chrysler commercial vehicles for autonomous driving aimed at Fiat and Ram commercial customers. FCA has been working with Waymo on autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans that utilize Waymo’s hardware and software. Crosstown competitors Ford and General Motors are also working on autonomous vehicles that can move either people or goods.

Booming aging population:  If you’re looking at social trends that will shape the future of mobility and transportation, it ain’t all about Millennials and GenZers — it’s more about Baby Boomers and the GenXers following close behind. The United Nations predicts that the world’s population of over-64-year olds will double between 2018 and the mid-2040s. As of last year, that age demographic eclipsed the number of people under the age of five for the first time in recorded history. These numbers are based on the assumption that medication and healthcare will continue to improve. Demand will continue to grow in senior-citizen communities and assisted-living facilities, for caregivers and medical professionals, and those providing rides in buses, vans, and cars. Google (and later Waymo) build this into autonomous vehicle test rides years ago. Lyft is working with GoGoGrandparent to offer monitored rides for senior citizens. Start-up company Voyage is bringing self-driving shuttles to large senior-living communities in Florida and California. Amazon Fresh and competitors like Instacart are bringing groceries to the elderly (though that usually needs to be initiated by offspring). Those providing travel services and adventure experiences to customers who don’t have to go back to work are also expected to see much growth in the next few years.

News Briefs:
Climate mayors on EV procurement:  Cities devoted to fighting climate change will be making a major announcement next month, June 27, just prior to the launch of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) Annual Meeting in Honolulu. The Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle (EV) Purchasing Collaborative will give details on its plans to “step up” its commitment to procuring public fleet electric vehicles. During the Climate Mayors Summit on June 27, this press briefing on moves being made in fleet electrification will be led by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Roaming partnership forged:  Volkswagen’s Electrify America and ChargePoint have created a roaming partnership to further expand access to electric vehicle charging across the US. The interoperability agreement that will begin later this year will allow drivers to seamlessly charge their EVs on public chargers between both networks using their existing account credentials to start a session, without any additional fees. It also takes away the need to have to create new memberships, registrations, or payment configurations to charge at the other network.

FCA and Renault merger:  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Renault SA may still be looking for ways to resuscitate their collapsed merger plan and secure the approval of the French carmaker’s alliance partner Nissan Motor Co Ltd , according to sources close to the companies. The deal has officially been declared over, but one tactic being discussed is Nissan urging Renault to significantly reduce its 43.4% stake in the Japanese company in return for supporting a FCA-Renault merger. FCA and Renault are blaming the French government, Renault’s largest shareholder, for demanding more time to win Nissan’s backing. FCA is under much pressure to comply with regulations, such as increasingly stringing European Union rules, to honor emissions reductions mandates. Renault’s and Nissan’s electric vehicle offerings would be part of it. It would, in FCA’s words, have “a strong position in transforming technologies, including electrification and autonomous driving.”

Tesla faces battery and Autopilot challenges, High speed rail struggles in US

Spotlight on Tesla safety in China and the U.S.
The electric vehicle manufacturer is facing scrutiny over two safety issues that have dogged the company for years — fires starting in its battery packs, and crashes happening while its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system had been activated. Reports have emerged on a Tesla fire in a Hong Kong parking log. Weeks before, a video streamed on Chinese social media platforms showed a Tesla Model S bursting into flames in a Shanghai garage. Startup competitor Nio said last month that one of its ES8 models caught future in Xi’an while being repaired. In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report that Tesla’s Autopilot system was active at the time of a fatal Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Fla. That involved a collision between a Model 3 and a semi truck on March 1st. NTSB reported that the Model 3 driver had activated Autopilot about 10 seconds before the collision, and that for about eight seconds before the crash, the Model 3 didn’t detect the driver’s hands on the wheel. Tesla is rolling out an over-the-air software update for the Model S and Model X to improve safety and battery life as it continues investigating the cause of the Hong Kong fire; and issued a statement on the Autopilot incident.

CARB’s Mary Nichols confronts White House over emissions rules
California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols was set to deliver comments that won’t go well with the Trump administration today during a meeting with California air quality and transportation agencies. Nichols is arguing that the state will match any relaxation of federal auto rules with its own more stringent anti-pollution requirements on everything from fuel to the refineries producing it. The state may be joining a few countries in eventually banning fossil-fuel powered vehicles. These comments were made as the Trump administration readies a final plan for easing emission and fuel economy standards. “CARB will be exploring ways to ensure communities get the reductions of air pollution they so desperately need to keep the air clean and breathable — and continue to fight climate change,” Nichols said in draft remarks. “That might mean, for example, tougher requirements for low-carbon fuels, looking at tighter health-protective regulations on California refineries, doubling down on our enforcement efforts on mobile and stationary sources — and might lead to an outright ban on internal combustion engines.”

What will happen in GM’s Lordstown Plant?
Last week, President Donald Trump set off a wave of attention when tweeting that General Motor’s Lordstown Plant would be bought by Workhorse Group, Inc., even though the deal had not been settled. GM had been in discussions with electric truck startup Rivian, but those talks ended. Since then, Ford has since agreed to invest $500 million in Rivian. Details have yet to come out on GM’s role in the Lordstown Plant, and whether Workhore’s W-15 electric truck will be part of it. There’s also speculation out there that the plant could be where Workhorse builds electric mail trucks for the US Postal Service; but the company would first have to win that contract.

Check out Jon LeSage’s blog:
Interested in topics other than sustainable transportation? You can check out my blog to read about a few others, such as:
“Why I’m a pragmatist, and why you’re one too”
My favorite school of American philosophy, pragmatism, was based on what I see as a few simple questions: Does it work for me? Do I buy into it? What’s in it for me?
“Grocery shopping for Instacart customers who really really really need to have it delivered”
Grocery store shopping and delivery for Instacart, Incidents #1-5……….
 “How a failed rock critic turned working writer — and a big fan of Lester Bangs and rock ’n’ roll”
You may have noticed that my blog is defined as: “writings, reviews, and ramblings from a failed rock critic turned working writer.” Ok, what’s the story behind the failed rock critic? Was there an internship with Rolling StoneSpinEntertainment WeeklyBillboard, or American Songwriter that failed to turn into a job?
“Best rock n’ roll song moments ever in movies, in my opinion”
The Rolling Stones, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ in ‘Mean Streets’ (1973). Director Martin Scorsese is credited for forging a unique connection between pop music and film, and having a lot of influence on younger filmmakers who followed his lead. But wait, there’s more……..
“Mystery guest sits next to my hospital bed, nudging me to stay alive”
Here’s Chapter 1 in a book I’m putting together, based on my experience in 2007 temporarily dying from encephalitis; and what living has been like since then. The book has the working title, Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8.
You’ll have to hit the Older Posts link at the bottom of the first page to see some of these blog posts, and there are more. You may be wondering why I do it, and placed an image of chimpanzees typing away, trying to write a book. I got hooked on writing when I was a child. My mother had been a newspaper reporter for a short period, and worked as a secretary. She would type our term papers, and boy did we get good grades. But she was my fist mentor in writing and editing. The best part is writing about topics I’m fascinated with and love learning more about. Telling the story teaches me a lot as well, and gives me a platform for sharing information that I want to spread with fans of electric vehicles and clean transportation, music and pop culture, spiritual/philosophical experiences (a la pragmatism), and more.
You can sign up for a free newsletter going out when a new piece is posted on the blog. And if you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for Green Auto Market — see the box to the right. This helps me find out what readers are most interested in, so I can stay current and keep the newsletter and blog as lively as possible.

High-speed rail takes off, but what about the U.S.?
High-speed rail continues to take off in Asia, with Thai companies building a $6.8 billion rail project that will link three major airports in the country. That follows Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi beginning testing of Alfa-X, a train capable of hitting a maximum speed of 400 km/h (248 mph). These projects support government efforts to boost investments in hi-tech industrials, robotics, and electric vehicles; and to begin unclogging traffic-jammed roadways.
What about the U.S.? The country continues to fail other leading countries, with California slowly moving forward on its long-promised high-speed rail project and other rail projects stalling. The money isn’t really there yet, but a few companies are looking for a way to bring the rail technology — which is popular in Europe and Asia — across the U.S. Automakers and air travel are fighting it, but the biggest block is funding. The U.S. has more cost per mile in building rail with resolving private property ownership, utility rules, environmental mitigation, and labor costs. Growing traffic congestion and air pollution are thought to be behind companies supporting innovative high-speed rail test projects around the country.

Electric trucks the star of the show at ACT Expo 2019

Electric trucks took up a lot of space in the exhibit hall at this year’s ACT Expo — and that meant medium and heavy trucks along with commercial applications such as electric delivery and refuse trucks. This time major truckmakers took center stage, and specialized makers had announcements to share as well. With about 4,000 attendees, it was the largest ACT Expo yet.

During his keynote speech, Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in North America, said his company will be putting about 50 battery electric test vehicles on roads by the end of this year through its Freightliner division, built at a renovated plant in Oregon. 20 of them will be medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks for Penske Corp. and NFI Inc., a major third-party logistics company, under a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Near-zero-emissions natural gas medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are currently available and will continue from Freightliner as an interim solution until full commercialization of the battery-electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia, he said. Its Thomas Built unit will be rolling out Proterra-powered electric school buses.

Peterbilt Motors Co. showed off new electric trucks, including the Model 220EV, Model 520EV, and Model 579EV. The 220EV is spec’d with the Meritor Blue Horizon eAxle and the 520EV will feature the Transpower mid-ship powertrain configuration, while the 579EV will feature the new Allison AXE Series e-Axle. Six of the 579EVs were demonstrated at the exhibit that have been finished for customers. “Today, we have 14 electric vehicles built, on our way to more than 30 by the end of the year, for real customer routes and to analyze performance so that our production options meet the standards customers expect when buying a Peterbilt,” said Peterbilt’s Chief Engineer Scott Newhouse.

While it was outside ACT Expo, Ford on Wednesday announced it’s putting $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian Automotive. Both companies have agreed to work together to develop a battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

Volvo Trucks North America Wednesday hosted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they presented a $44.8 million check to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) for the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project. The Volvo LIGHTS project is a partnership among the Volvo Group, South Coast AQMD and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure. The project was created ti demonstrate the ability of battery electric vehicles to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies, reduce emissions, and improve air quality. As part of the project, Volvo Trucks will introduce all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrators in California later this year, with vehicle sales planned to begin in 2020.

Other introductions at ACT Expo 2019 included:

  • BYD Motors will deliver 14 yard tractors to two BNSF Railway intermodal facilities in Southern California, adding to an ongoing demonstration project.
  • Chanje has partnered with refrigeration unit supplier Thermo King on a prototype zero-emissions refrigerated van.
  • Xos, the new name for electric truck startup Thor Trucks, will retrofit two Loomis Armored US cash-hauling trucks. An order for 100 more trucks awaits if the test models show the trucks’ value.
  • EV Connect is launching a program aimed at standardizing EV charger management and use for both transportation fleets and charging-equipment developers. The EV Charge Station Certification program already has been completed by seven of the industry’s largest charger makers.
  • Ryder’s booth featured a comprehensive charging infrastructure solution, provided by In-Charge Energy. In-Charge provides nationwide turnkey energy and commercial electric vehicle infrastructure solutions to ensure customers maximize the full economic benefits of adopting electric vehicles into their fleet. Its end-to-end model focusing on behind the meter solutions is an industry first.
  • An Amply Power Inc. white paper showed fleets saved an average 37 percent compared with traditional fuels by electrifying their buses and light-duty vehicles. Fleets that charged during off-peak hours could save as much as 60 percent, according to the white paper.
  • Tritium created the “world’s most powerful charger,” the Veefil-PK 175-475kW DC High Power Charger which can add nearly 300 miles range to an EV in just 10 minutes.
  • The first production fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck jointly developed by Toyota and Kenworth Truck Co. is going forward. The new truck is the first of 10 planned under a $41 million California Air Resources Board grant matched by Toyota, Kenworth, and Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Penske Truck Leasing announced it will open commercial heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations with 14 high-speed chargers at four of its existing facilities in Southern California. These will be among the first DC fast charging stations in the U.S. designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles.
  • The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently released a report, Regional Haul: An Opportunity for Trucking, that looks at this growing market segment and was shared during a seminar at ACT Expo. Long-haul trucking isn’t what it used to be, according to the report. Forty five percent of the Class 8 tractors produced today are day cabs and a high percentage of those trucks are involved in regional haul operations.
  • Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA) and the University of California at Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) announced the launch of the Low and Zero Emission Readiness (LAZER) Initiative. This new collaboration will support organizations —including transit agencies, refuse operations, trucking carriers, delivery fleets, school districts, municipalities, and more — in evaluating the real-world economic and environmental benefits of advanced transportation technologies.