This Week’s Top 10: Reality check for Tesla Motors on manufacturing vehicles, Bill Ford says company looking for partners to expand beyond building and selling cars and trucks

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. Tesla factoryTesla taking heat over immigrant worker and supplier relations: Tesla Motors has been facing challenges lately on the vehicle manufacturing front; one of these controversies comes from a Slovenian electrician named Gregor Lesnik working at the Tesla plant in Fremont, Calif., falling through the roof in May 2015 and suffering broken bones in his legs and ribs and head injuries, including a concussion. Lesnik survived and sued his employers, as reported last week in a San Jose Mercury News’ watchdog report. He’d entered the U.S. in March 2015 with a B1/B2 visa on behalf of his employer, ISM Vuzem, as a supervisor of electrical and mechanical installation. He was going to work in a paint shop at a South Carolina BMW plant but instead was diverted to the Tesla plant to install an industrial heating and cooling system, something his visa did not allow him to do. The lawsuit and media report raised the flag on exploiting immigrant workers and committing fraud; and if the federal government should be watching more carefully. Lesnik alleged in his suit that although his hourly rate was over $10 an hour, it averaged out to a little over $5 an hour, far below minimum wage, because he wasn’t paid overtime for weeks that often reached 80 hours. The same work by a local employee would have cost more than $50 an hour. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied wrongdoing and said his company is auditing the contracts to see if its contractors met wage obligations……. That news story came days after Reuters reported on concerns raised by analysts and supplier executives who asked not to be identified that Tesla’s plan to manufacture 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2018 has been called into question by several sources close to the issues. Tesla’s ambitious plan has called for moving up high-volume Model 3 production two years earlier than originally projected, which they claim will be very difficult and costly. Larger automakers have had to adjust production volumes to lower levels per year at assembly plants to realistically hit their targets. Tesla continues to have delivery delays for its Model X crossover, and its Model S also missed delivery targets when launched and that’s likely to continue with the Model 3, they say. Tesla says that orders and deposits for the Model 3 have been reduced to 373,000 following cancellations of about 8,000 cars and 4,200 duplicates canceled by the company. As capital intensive as auto manufacturing can be, Tesla also announced last week plans to sell about $2 billion in stock to help finance the accelerated launch of the Model 3.
  2. Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said the company is looking into more partnerships with other companies as it moves to expand beyond manufacturing and selling cars and trucks. The game is changing for automakers this year following General Motors’ moves with Lyft, Sidecar, Cruise Automation, and Maven; and Fiat Chrysler’s deal with Google on self-driving cars. Ford has been investing heavily in electric cars, self-driving vehicle technology, and other initiatives, Ford said. Earlier this year, the company launched Ford Smart Mobility LLC, as part of its efforts to delve into carsharing and other mobility services. Asked about a potential alliance with Google, Ford said, “Anything’s possible with anybody. We have a good relationship with Google” but no alliance to disclose. (Editor’s note: Read the clean mobility feature in this week’s Green Auto Market that includes Volkswagen’s upcoming announcement on mobility services it will be launching during its diesel emissions scandal.)
  3. The 29th World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS29) event organizers have announced more keynote plenary speakers for day two of the event. Dan Neil, Pulitzer Prize winning auto columnist from the Wall Street Journal, will sit down with industry leaders to talk electric drive innovation and automaker strategies for scaling success during a robust roundtable discussion. Roundtable participants include: Christoph Huss, Vice President Engineering, BMW of North America; Kazuo Yajima, Alliance Global Director, EV and Engineering Division, Nissan and Renault; Kevin Layden, Electrification Programs and Engineering Director, Ford Motor Company; and Michael Lord, Executive Engineer, Toyota Motor Engineer & Manufacturing. The EVS29 conference takes place June 19-22, 2016 in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Register now and gain access to the entire electric drive value chain under one roof.
  4. SAE International approved for publishing “SAE TIR J2954 Wireless Power Transfer for Light-Duty Plug-In/ Electric Vehicles and Alignment Methodology,” a guideline to establish wireless power transfer between infrastructure, vehicle suppliers and OEMs for plug-in electric and electric vehicles (PH/EV). The document will be available from the SAE website on May 31st. SAE TIR J2954 is the first step in standardization and was developed by SAE International’s PH/EV Wireless Power Transfer committee, established in 2010. Jesse Schneider serves as the Chair of SAE International’s Wireless Power Transfer committee and is the Fuel Cell, Electric Vehicle and Standards Development Manager at BMW North America.
  5. AltCar Expo: Oakland hosted the third annual Northern California AltCar Expo on May 20-21. Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Nissan showcased hydrogen fuel cell cars, electric vehicles, hybrids, and natural gas vehicles, and renewable diesel vehicles. Attendees were able to test drive the vehicles for free both days. Keynote speakers included Richard Battersby, Equipment Manager and Director, City of Oakland and East Bay Clean Cities Coalition; Peter Van Deventer, Program Director & Diplomatic Liaison, Coast to Coast EV Connection and Consulate General of the Netherlands; John Kato, Deputy Director, Fuels and Transportation Division, California Energy Commission; David Meisel, Senior Director, Transportation & Aviation Services, Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Tim Lipman, Ph.D, Co-Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, UC Berkeley; and Rick Sikes, Chief Operations Officer, carbonBLU.
  6. Mercedes-Benz will likely be launching two electric sedans and two SUVs by 2020. They may be plug-in hybrid, battery electric or both, and are being built with minimal changes from the internal combustion engine models. The electric SUVs may be built on the Mercedes GLA and GLC platforms, and the electric sedans could come from the C-Class and S-Class platforms. Going this route could give the company the opportunity of pricing these EVs lower than the Tesla Model S and Model X.
  7. Volvo will be rolling out its new 40 series compact cars and SUVs, including a plug-in hybrid and an electric car, starting in spring 2018 in the U.S. Details on plug-in hybrid and all-electric variants of the 40 series haven’t been released yet.Last year, Volvo released its new “global electrification strategy,” which will include new plug-in versions of its cars, SUVs, and wagons.
  8. xStorage battery packs: Nissan, through its U.K. division, is following Tesla’s lead by entering the energy storage market. Available for pre-order in September, the xStorage line of battery packs was developed with power-management company Eaton. The partnership between Nissan and Enel SpA, Italy’s largest utility, will let Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 owners sell excess energy back to the grid. Owners can sell energy from their lithium-ion batteries during periods of peak demand to the utility.
  9. Self-driving car survey: The University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation conducted its second annual survey on self-driving vehicles – and found that Americans might tend to agree more with the California DMV’s suggested policy than with Google’s argument for owning completely autonomous vehicles. The survey yielded completed responses from 618 licensed drivers in the U.S. and found that the most frequent preference for vehicle automation continues to be for no self-driving capability, followed by partially self-driving vehicles, with completely self-driving vehicles being the least preferred choice. Respondents still overwhelmingly want to be able to manually control completely self-driving vehicles when desired.
  10. ACT Expo highlights: Check out the photo gallery, conference program, and event summary for ACT Expo 2016, which just took place in Long Beach, Calif. Set for May 1-4, ACT Expo 2017 will return to the Long Beach Convention Center. Event organizer Gladstein Neandross & Associates will be presenting Rethink Methane Symposium 2016 in Sacramento, Calif., on June 29-30, 2016.

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Clean Mobility: The latest on VW, Maven, Lyft, Uber, and Google

Matthias Muller at press conferenceVolkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller will be speaking to the company’s senior management in mid-June on how VW will emerge from the diesel emissions scandal more as a “mobility provider” than as an automaker. Based on comments Mueller and other VW executives have made recently, it might look something like this:

  • Developing a strategy to handle the demands of increasingly connected vehicles, driver assistance systems, and the need to develop autonomous technology.
  • Last October after reorganizing management, VW announced its Modular Electrification Toolkit, a standardized technical model for developing plug-in electric vehicles within the Volkswagen Group. The focus is on plug-in hybrids with an even greater range, high-volume electric vehicles with a range of up to 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) and eventually to 500 kilometers (310.7 miles), a 48-volt power supply system (mild hybrid), along with more efficient diesel, gasoline, and CNG concepts. It’s all part of what VW earlier announced as its Modular Transverse Toolkit.
  • In late April, Mueller gave a presentation on the company’s 2015 annual financial statements. He reiterated plans to launch over 20 additional ‘e-vehicles’ by 2020, as VW pushes ahead with developing its bespoke architecture in the form of its Modular Electrification Toolkit. The first vehicles produced on the MEB module are slated to hit the streets at the end of the decade. “We plan to make electric cars one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks,” Mueller said.
  • VW will be shifting its strategy to profitability, not sales volume. Being No. 1 in global sales won’t be its top priority anymore. It will mean limiting the number of volumes its builds and sales, and using its own resources more efficiently. It will also ties into what other automakers like BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, and Toyota have been experimenting with lately: testing out business ventures focused on mobility services and new technologies: carsharing, ridesharing and ride-hailing, delivery services, autonomous vehicles, vehicle electrification, and urban commuter cars.
  • VW’s investment resources for mobility and electrification will be limited by the vehicle recall. The company said that it lost 16.2 billion euros ($18.2 billion) for 2015 alone once the diesel scandal was revealed last September, and that’s likely only a part of the total cost.

Maven is rolling out to cities as GM’s hourly carsharing/car rental service expands its Ann Arbor, Mich., operations and moves over to Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

  • In its Ann Arbor office, prices for renters range from $6 an hour for the Chevrolet Spark and Volt, to $12 an hour for the Tahoe; and $42 per day for the Spark and Volt, to $84 a day for the Tahoe.
  • As part of the Maven brand expansion, certain residential buildings in Chicago, Washington, and Boston will be equipped with Maven cars for tenants to use for an hourly rate. Other Maven vehicles will be parked throughout the cities for anyone to reserve using a smartphone app developed by GM.
  • Speaking recently at a women’s technology conference in Detroit, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said carsharing services like Maven can help eliminate the headaches of car ownership in cities where congestion and parking costs are challenging.
  • The automaker sees Maven as critical for its mobility strategy as it competes with carsharing companies like Avis Budget Group’s Zipcar and Daimler’s Car2Go and ridesharing giant Uber through its Lyft alliance. Earlier this year, GM bought a 9% stake in ride-hailing/ridesharing company Lyft Inc. for $500 million.
  • GM working to develop a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles. GM and Cruise Automation, another mobility company GM recently invested in, have begun testing autonomous prototypes of the Bolt in San Francisco. Cruise Automation is providing technology for the test cars. One of GM’s goals is to launch of a fleet of autonomous self-driving taxis with Lyft within a year.
  • About a year ago, GM hired a Silicon Valley engineer, Zafar Razzacki, to lead the marketing and user experience for Maven. Razzacki, who worked for Google and a few tech startups, was profiled by Automotive News as leading the way for shaping the Maven “personal mobility” brand. GM’s objective is to get young drivers in its cars, even if they don’t own them. Assembling a team of outsiders is necessary to get there. “We literally view ourselves and are treated by the company as a small startup within GM,” he said. “We’ve got this crazy assortment of engineers and creatives and technologists and business people all working together. We are breaking a lot of rules. We are trying a lot of new things.”

Uber showed off its latest self-driving test cara hybrid Ford Fusion outfitted with a variety of sensors and high-resolution cameras to gather mapping data and refine the vehicle’s autonomous driving capabilities. It’s being driven through Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. Uber had previously been involved with Carnegie Mellon University and its group of experienced experts in autonomous vehicle technologies, enough to have donated $5.5 million to the department; and to hire over some of its staff for the Uber project. As of March, CMU had not worked with Uber on its self-driving car test project, according to CMU faculty and administrators. Uber recently joined a coalition that includes Google and to advocate for safety regulations for self-driving cars and help bring them to American roads.

Google recently received a patent for enhancing safety features on its self-driving cars. Google’s approved patent involves coating the front of a car with adhesive for pedestrian safety. It focuses on what would happen if that self-driving car were to hit a pedestrian. Google says coating the front of a car with adhesive could prevent someone from bouncing onto the windshield, sliding under the wheels, or flying into the air and landing in the road. “The adhesion of the pedestrian to the vehicle may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing off the vehicle after the pedestrian impacts the hood,” the patent says.


This Week’s Top 10: Colorado offers attractive EV incentive, Renault-Nissan takes 25% of EV sales in Europe

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. Nissan Leaf on dealer lotColorado EV incentive: Colorado, which has long been an electric vehicle friendly state, is switching over from a formula-based tax credit to a flat $5,000 tax credit. That will shave off $12,500 from an EV’s purchase price when combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit. The state also gives the buyer the choice of trading the credit upfront off the retail price or by waiting for their next tax return. Colorado’s Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) says that the state tax credit can be assigned to a dealership or finance company, which takes off $5,000 from the purchase price. It’s the “best EV tax incentive in the nation,” according to SWEEP.
  2. EV sales in Europe: Renault-Nissan Alliance took 25% of plug-in electric vehicle sales in Europe during the first quarter of 2016, with the Nissan Leaf selling 6,168 units and 13.1% of the market in the No. 1 spot; and the Renault Zoe came in at 5,578 units sold and 11.9% of the share and finishing at the No. 3 spot. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV came in second place at 6,159 sold and nearly tying with the Leaf at 13.1% of the market. The Tesla Model S came in fourth with 3,378 units sold and 7.2% of the market share; the Volkswagen Golf GTE came in fifth with 2,979 units sold and 6.3% of the share. Overall sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were up 29% in the first quarter over the same time period in 2015. Plug-in sales made up a little bit over 1% of new vehicles sales in Europe during the first quarter, according to data compiled by the European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO), a European Commission initiative to provide alternative fuels statistics and information.
  3. Audi’s EV plan: Audi says it will be introducing a new electric vehicle model every year beginning in 2018, as it races to catch-up to Tesla and other rivals in the luxury car market. The first model to be rolled out will be an its first all-electric luxury SUV based on the e-tron Quattro concept car that was revealed last fall at the Frankfurt motor show. Several luxury plug-in hybrids will be released by competitors in the near future, usually variants of existing models from BMW, Cadillac, Hyundai’s Genesis, Infiniti, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo.
  4. Updated AFLEET tool released: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has released an updated version of its AFLEET tool to reflect the latest advances in alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and updated emissions data. Sponsored by the DOE Clean Cities program, AFLEET stands for the Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation Tool. The free, publicly-available tool provides users with a roadmap for assessing which types of vehicles and fuels are right for them. The 2016 AFLEET Tool and user guide are available online. Although anyone can download and use the tool, AFLEET was designed for managers that purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles.
  5. Serious injury at Tesla plant: Tesla Motors Inc. is investigating how a worker from Slovenia was critically injured in a fall while on the job at the company’s plant in Fremont, Calif. An article in The Mercury News said Gregor Lesnik fell nearly three stories during the incident last year, breaking both his legs and ribs, tearing ligaments in his knee and giving him a concussion. His job was to lift heavy pipes and install them into the ceiling and through the roof of the plant’s paint shop, according to the article. The newspaper also reported that Lesnick was only making $5 an hour. Tesla said that Lesnik in through a sub-contractor company that only paid him that amount.
  6. More energy stored in battery: Proterra, a maker of battery-electric buses in North America, announced a new battery design for the Proterra Catalyst XR transit vehicle at the American Public Transportation Association Bus and Paratransit Conference (APTA). Within the same energy storage footprint as the original Catalyst XR, the battery-enhanced vehicle now holds 28% more energy at 330 kWh and a lightweight vehicle body. All current Catalyst XR customers will receive a complimentary upgrade to the higher energy level.
  7. Nissan diesel SUV: South Korea is enforcing a penalty against Nissan Motor Co. including a fine and a recall of its Qashqai diesel sport utility vehicles after accusing the automaker of manipulating emissions. Nissan has denied the allegation. Nissan had blown the whistle on Mitsubishi Motors Corp’s mileage-cheating scandal and last week announced it was buying a $2.2 billion stake in Mitsubishi. South Korea’s environment ministry said it believed Nissan had used a “defeat device” in the Qashqai to turn off its exhaust reduction system under regular driving temperatures and will recall 814 of these vehicles sold so far in the country; with a fine of 330 million won ($279,920).
  8. Propane road show: Alliance AutoGas has embarked on a nationwide trip, coast-to-coast, to educate people on propane autogas’ quality technology, clean air, and American fuel. The Oklahoma State Capitol Building was the midway point stop of the Alliance AutoGas Coast-to-Coast Clean Air Ride in Oklahoma City. Central Clean Cities coordinator Eric Pollard, said that the event brought together the propane marketers, fleet managers, equipment providers, and transportation professionals to focus on the air quality and energy security benefits of increased propane use in transportation. At the 2016 NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Alliance AutoGas converted an Ford F-150 to run on propane autogas. It was the fastest vehicle conversion to propane autogas in history at only one hour and thirty-two minutes, the company said.
  9. Meeting federal standards: Check out a guest editorial by Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim in on the company’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint across the entire business 80% by 2050. Solheim wrote about what it’s like to run a large freight of trucks transporting ice cream products while complying with federal standards and making it all economically viable.
  10. Biodiesel fraud: A U.S. District Court judge has sentenced Jack Holden, 76, of Eugene, Oregon, to 87 months in prison, restitution of $1,410,760, and a separate $1,500 fine for his role in a fraudulent biodiesel scheme that spanned three continents. Holden was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. His codefendant, Lloyd Benton Sharp, 81, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on Nov. 19, 2014, and was sentenced to 60 months in prison the following spring.

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Why is Apple investing $1B in Chinese ridesharing giant Didi?

Didi in ChinaIt’s been a big year for breaking news on the clean mobility front, with General Motors investing a half billion in Lyft and Apple announcing last week that it’s investing $1 billion in Didi Chuxing Technology. Apple appears to be just as serious about investing in mobility services as is Silicon Valley neighbor Google and its self-driving car project.

Here’s my thoughts on what’s behind all of it:

  • Uber’s global domination: Didi is part of an international coalition announced in late 2015 with Lyft in the U.S., India’s Ola, and Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi, to compete with ridesharing giant Uber. Uber has spent millions of dollars to grow its share of the Chinese market, but is far behind Didi with its larger fleet of cars. Uber has set a target of operating in 100 Chinese cities by the end of this year. The company said it’s able to invest in the China market because it’s making $1 billion in annual profit from its 30 largest global markets. Uber is facing pressure in other markets where cities like Austin, Texas have blocked it from competing with taxis; and a $100 million settlement with drivers in California over the “employee vs. independent contractor” job classification legal issue. China is still on the top of its list of priorities.
  • Didi is booming: Didi and its ridesharing platform serves more than 11 million rides a day and about 300 million users across China, according to the company. Apple’s investment brings Didi’s funding round to $3 billion to a startup company now valued at about $26 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Didi already has backing from Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, the country’s two largest Internet companies. Didi, formally known as Xiaoju Kuaizhi Inc., was created last year when separate apps backed by Tencent and Alibaba merged. Didi now serves 400 Chinese cities with 14 million registered drivers.
  • The future of Apple: Apple continues to lose share in the smartphone business, a segment the company propelled in 2007 when it launched the first iPhone. Google’s Android phone has taken the lion’s share of that market. China has been a very important market for Apple to focus upon, where it’s invested heavily in a manufacturing plant for its mobile devices. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn recently sold his position in Apple, largely due to the company’s lagging performance in China and that region overall. In its most recent earnings report, the company revealed its revenue in China fell by 26%. Apple has been looking at other technology services in recent years with mobility at the top of the list, which is behind its near-secret testing grounds for autonomous and electric vehicles. CEO Tim Cook has highlighted higher-margin services such as ride-hailing firm Didi as a growth area, and suggested he would use some of the company’s $200 billion-plus cash reserves for investments.
  • China is a very hot market: Automakers have joined ranks with other industries, such as mobile devices, in setting up manufacturing plants and marketing to consumers in China’s booming economy. Labor is cheap and skilled in China, and government incentives and low-cost leasing offers are plentiful for the largest automakers to come to China to set up factories. The audience is massive as well, with China hosting the world’s largest market for electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Chinese consumers are buying their share of technology products and are tapping heavily into e-commerce and internet usage. It’s very typical to hear about internet companies like LeEco, led by billionaire founder and internet icon Jia Yueting, investing in Faraday Future and the recently revealed LeSEE electric concept car. Tesla Motors also sees growth in China as integral for its future profitability. China’s economy and vehicle sales have softened in the past year, but compared to other markets around the world, China is still considered to be the most important one to be established within.
  • Mobility pivotal in crowded cities: China has several cities seeing dramatic growth in population, vehicle traffic jams, and air pollution. Established cities like Beijing and Shanghai are congested with cars and trucks, creating serious air pollution hazards being addressed by the government. Beihai, China is predicted to be the world’s fastest growing city in the next few years with annual growth rates of 10.58% in population from 2006 through 2020. As U.S. cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles have discovered in recent years, area residents are clamoring for more mobility options like ride-hailing and ridesharing firms Didi, Uber, and Lyft; carsharing services such as Zipcar and Car2Go; improved rail and municipal transportation; protected bike lanes and racks; and creative options such as what Lyft and investor GM are testing out in short-term rental of electrified vehicles and gas-engine cars to Lyft drivers. Cities around the world are facing very similar conditions as Beijing and Los Angeles with congestion and pollution and are taking on measures to improve it – including Rio de Janeiro, London, and Mexico City. Didi has been a fast-growing mobility service in China as consumers demand to get from Point A to Point B for less cost and cleaner air.
  • Sustainability theme: Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft, spoke on a panel last week at ACT Expo on the future of clean mobility. Castor talked about how its ridesharing now makes up 40% of the rides in 15 U.S. cities testing out the Lyft Lanes ridesharing service. Castor also talked about a short-term lease program Lyft is trying out with General Motors offering Lyft drivers an opportunity to rent a Chevrolet Volt for rides. Sustainability has been built into Lyft’s strategy of providing mobility services in cities, Castor said. Didi and other Aboptions to reduce their stress and transportation cost, and to feel like they’re contributing something to their community’s improving air quality.
  • The sharing, on-demand economy is taking off: Ride-hailing and ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Didi find mobility services to be highly profitable. They serve as a third-party company joining together consumers looking for rides with car-owner drivers looking to make additional income. They use the sharing platform invented and branded by Uber and competitors to gain access to fast, affordable, efficient rides. This model of the “sharing economy” or the “on-demand economy” is being used by AirBNB to match up homeowners who have an extra bedroom with travelers looking for good lodging deals. Amazon has been expanding its use of independent contractors nationwide to meet a promise to deliver its Prime Now orders within two hours of the order being placed. Amazon is competing with Google, Wal-Mart, and other retailers offering fast and cheap delivery services. Food delivery services like Postmates, GrubHub, and DoorDash are taking off in cities across the U.S. Their business model is nearly the same as Uber and Lyft – independent contractors driving their own cars and using the mobile app to deliver service and produce income.
  • How Didi could play into Apple’s autonomous vehicle technologies: Analysts have been speculating that Apple’s investment could be tied into its autonomous vehicle strategy. For one thing, Didi provides Apple with a rich data source for its self-driving vehicle push. Didi’s ride-hailing app is closely linked to payment services, such as Apple Pay. Didi ride transaction data can be the foundation for other mobile commerce transactions such as deliveries. Apple will gain extremely valuable date on driving patterns, rider habits, traffic data, and payment transactions. Apple, like Google, will be part of the technologies that shape the future of autonomous vehicles just as much as the self-driving car will provide.

This Week’s Top 10: Plug-in hybrids see surge in sales, Tesla’s Q1 financial performance

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. 2016 Chevrolet VoltEV sales in April: Plug-in hybrids are taking the lead this year, jumping 40 percent in first quarter U.S. sales versus that same period in 2015, according to In April, they were up 96.4% over April 2015 and up 9.6% over March 2016. Battery electric vehicles were down nearly 12% from the previous month and were up 3.8% over the previous year according to and Baum & Associates. At 6,266 units sold, BEVs were still in the lead over PHEVs at 5,842, but the gap is tightening. BEVs had been dominant in the market for the past two years. The Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi led the way for PHEVs, and were up 119.1% and 87.2%, respectively, over last year. The Tesla Model S was down 10.5% from last year and the Nissan Leaf was down 49.3% from April 2015. The Leaf finished 6th on the list after the BMW i3; not long ago, it was in the top sales position. The all-electric BMW i3 broke the market trend for this year, doubling its sales since a year ago and going up 145.2% in sales over March 2016. In the top positions, the Volt finished the month with 1,983 units sold, and number two was the Model S, finishing at 1,700 units sold.
  2. Tesla Q1 performance: Customer deposits for the $35,000 (or more, depending on options chosen) Model 3 helped Tesla raise cash on hand during the first quarter of 2016 as it reported a wider net loss of $282 million. Revenue rose 22% to $1.1 billion. Struggling to solve quality problems with its first two models while getting ready to launch the all-new Model 3 has been costly for Tesla Motors. It was another deficit for the automaker which has yet to see a profitable quarter, but losses narrowed, taking industry analysts by surprise. Using Tesla’s preference for non-GAAP accounting, the loss shrank to $75 million, or 57 cents a share, which was better than Wall Street had forecast. Analysts and shareholders took even more interest in a dramatic statement from CEO Elon Musk during the quarterly call – the electric carmaker will build 500,000 cars in 2018 and close to one million by 2020, two years ahead of the original schedule.
  3. Self-driving Bolt taxis: Ridesharing company Lyft and its major investor General Motors will likely be working together on a self-driving test project with Chevrolet Bolt taxis on public roads within a year; though neither company has confirmed this news story. The testing program will make use of technology developed by Cruise Automation Inc., the self-driving technology startup GM plans to buy for $1 billion. GM did say that the “Chevrolet Bolt EV is the ideal platform for ride sharing solutions,” the automaker said in a statement. “We believe electrification blends perfectly with autonomy when it comes to technology integration.”
  4. EcoCAR 3: Cal State Los Angele’s EcoCAR 3 team has just shipped its modified 2016 Camaro to General Motors’ testing facility in Yuma, Ariz. That’s where all 16 teams’ cars will be inspected and scored on how far teams were able to progress on hybrid vehicle integration since receiving their Camaros in December 2015. There are two more years to go in EcoCAR 3. It’s the third racing competition from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) series. All 16 North American university teams are competing to redesign a Chevrolet Camaro to reduce its environmental impact, while maintaining the muscle and performance expected from this iconic car. Sponsored by DOE and GM and managed by Argonne National Laboratory, the EcoCAR  racing series have been excellent training grounds for students in developing hybrid technologies, working effectively on a team, and opening doors for excellent job opportunities in the auto industry.
  5. Another legal fight for Uber: Less than a month after ridesharing giant Uber settled two class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, another one has been filed in a federal court. The new lawsuit affects all current and former Uber drivers in the U.S., except for those in California and Massachusetts. The suit, filed last week in federal court in Chicago, asks the court to classify Uber divers as employees rather than independent contractors and other issues similar to the San Francisco case. In another news development, voters in Austin, Texas, have rejected a proposal for loosening regulations affecting Uber and Lyft. Both companies are pulling operations out of the city for now. In late 2015, Austin’s City Council approved an ordinance requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to be regulated like taxis with fingerprinting for background checks. Both ride-hailing companies pushed for a ballot proposal that ended up working against them.
  6. Goodbye, Joe Jobe: Joe Jobe is leaving his position as CEO of National Biodiesel Board after nearly 20 years of service, to pursue other opportunities. The board will be searching for a permanent replacement immediately. Jobe started with NBB in 1997 and was named CEO in 1999. During that time, he helped lead the industry from 200,000 gallons of biodiesel use to over two billion gallons projected in 2016. Biodiesel is being used as a clean fuel by a growing number of fleets for their trucks, as was mentioned last week at ACT Expo.
  7. Looking for office space: Apple is looking for 800,000 square feet in the Bay Area to set up its autonomous vehicle and Titan electric car project. Google is looking for 400,000 more square feet for its self-driving car research and development operations. Victor Coleman, a notable San Francisco Bay Area landlord told Wall Street Journal that Apple seeks real estate in the area. He said that Google (Alphabet), and several automakers are actively searching out large real estate spaces as well; the areas may be used for autonomous vehicle development, he said.
  8. Networking charging stations: A new Navigant Research study says that communications technologies like RFID and Wi-Fi are one of the main reasons that electric vehicle charging installations are able to spread around the world. Having the right communications systems in place helps EV drivers gain access to charging power and pay for it. Whether it’s free or for a fee, the charging station must be able to communicate consumption data to the site owner or network operator, the study says.
  9. Hybrid supercars: As part of its business plan through 2022, more than half its cars will be hybrids, said Mike Flewitt, CEO of British supercar maker McLaren. McLaren will be working with other high-end luxury performance carmakers facing global emissions regulations and upscale car buyers interested in the new technologies, including British carmaker, Bentley, and Chinese EV start-up LeEco.
  10. BeeZero fuel cell carsharing: Starting this summer, 50 Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell cars will be stationed around Munich for short-term rentals using a mobile app. European industrial gas producer Linde will be helping make that a viable possibility by setting up the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered BeeZero carsharing system. Renters can keep the cars as long as they need them, though rates aren’t yet available on the BeeZero website.

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ACT Expo switches name and focus to advanced clean mobility at sixth annual event

BYD medium duty truckACT Expo 2016 reflected a few changes emerging in the clean transportation space – adoption of more electrified vehicles by fleets and freight movers; results of a study detailing the benefits of using renewable natural gas; speaker panels delving into the future of urban mobility and autonomous vehicles; and a revised name for the sixth annual conference and expo.

Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, formerly known as Alternative Clean Transportation Expo, was held May 2-5 in Long Beach, Calif. The sixth annual event was well attended and its expo hall was filled with displays from vehicle manufacturers and alternative fuel conversion companies, fueling infrastructure suppliers; electric vehicle charging suppliers; and tables staffed by government agencies and NPOs serving the community. The event was co-hosted with the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), NGVAmerica, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), and the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC). Penske Truck Leasing was the 2016 presenting sponsor.

Conversations were filled with discussions of two hot topics coinciding with the event: the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan being released Tuesday in draft form with a two-month comment period. The plan calls for the launch of more than 100,000 zero- and near-zero emissions trucks and other freight-moving equipment throughout the state by 2030. A day later, the state awarded $23.6 million to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) for a zero-emission drayage truck development and demonstration project. It will bring 43 battery electric and plug-in hybrid drayage trucks to major California ports. The South Coast air district is teaming up with air districts in the Bay Area, Sacramento, San Diego and San Joaquin Valley to roll out demonstration trucks and charging infrastructure for emission reduction benefits in key areas of California with drayage truck activity. California Air Resources Board Vice Chair Sandy Berg and L.A. City Councilman and SCAQMD Board Member Joe Buscaino led a presentation of the award Wednesday afternoon in the ACT Expo hall.

On Tuesday morning, event organizer Gladstein Neandross & Associates (GNA) released “Game Changer,” a technical white paper – written on behalf of multiple private and public sector organizations – that explores the need and approaches to start deploying zero-emission and near-zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technologies on a wide-scale basis in the U.S. The white paper has compared four fuel-technology combinations to address these goals and has concluded that there is only one pathway that meets the commercial feasibility and logistics tests to immediately begin this transformation. This is near-zero-emission heavy-duty natural gas vehicles fueled by increasing volumes of ultra-low-GHG renewable natural gas (RNG). This topic was also part of a speaker panel that morning at ACT Expo featuring SoCalGas president and CEO Dennis Arriola. Read more about the white paper.

On Thursday morning, Genevieve Cullen, president of Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), kicked off “Charging Ahead with EVs.” Hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and fuel cell vehicles are gaining interest and acquisitions from light-duty fleets; PHEVs and BEVs are starting to see penetration in medium-duty fleets; BEVs are taking off with transit bus fleets; and extended range and hybrid configurations are gaining interest in the market as more technologies roll out, Cullen said. Technology drivers include 50% fuel efficiency gains from hybrid systems, up to 80% with PHEVs, reduced fuel costs and overall operating costs, and measureable emissions reductions, she said.

Jedediah Greenfield, public information and sustainability officer for the City of Houston, chaired a panel on automakers and electric vehicles being used in fleets. Jamie Hall, manager of public policy at General Motors, said that the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt is gaining interest from fleets and consumers for its 200-plus charging range and the various applications it offers as a crossover utility vehicle. Hall said that battery degradation continues to be an area of concern for EV acquisitions; and that none of the Chevrolet Volt batteries have needed to be replaced. Robert Langford, manager, plug-in electric vehicle sales for American Honda Motor Co., thinks that public charging is a driver of EV adoption that needs more support. Smart locations, available charging, and continued growth in DC fast chargers are needed, he said. Langford also talked about two plug-in versions of the Honda Clarity rolling out, joining the Clarity Fuel Cell. Marc Deutsch, EV business development manager for Nissan North America, said that Nissan is selling a lot of certified pre-owned and used Leafs. Pre-owned Leafs are bringing opportunities to disadvantaged communities. Challenges continue for bringing Leafs and other EVs to multiple-dwelling units along with the needed chargers, Deutsch said.

Keynote speaker Andrea Pratt, green fleet and fuel program manager at City of Seattle, explained the total cost of ownership (TCO) model the city has been using in vehicle acquisitions and reporting. Switching over from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf has brought big savings to the city – over $2.2 million in operating cost savings by bringing in 150 EVs, she said. It’s been part of the Drive Clean Seattle program transitioning away from fossil fuels in transit and the city fleet, Pratt said.

Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft, spoke on the “Autonomous and Connected Urban Mobility: Tackling Challenges & Opportunities” panel. Castor talked about how its ridesharing now makes up 40% of the rides in 15 U.S. cities testing out the Lyft Lanes ridesharing service. Castor also talked about a short-term lease program Lyft is trying out with General Motors offering Lyft drivers an opportunity to rent a Chevrolet Volt for rides. Sustainability has been built into Lyft’s strategy of providing mobility services in cities, Castor said.

Workhorse Group received a good deal of attention during the week. Steve Burns, CEO of the company gave a presentation on Workhorse Group’s medium-duty, battery-electric trucks and fully integrated unmanned aerial delivery drones. At its booth, the company showed a video at its display featuring a small drone launching from the top of a delivery truck, flying a package to a nearby house and returning to the vehicle. There was also a display vehicle in the hall featuring a UPS electric vehicle provided by Workhorse Group. Last year, UPS announced the deployment of 18 electric, zero emission delivery vehicles to the Houston-Galveston area in Texas; and 125 hybrid electric delivery trucks rolling into the fleet in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida during the first half of 2016. These electric and hybrid delivery vehicles are being produced by Workhorse Group in collaboration with UPS.

During a keynote address, Carlton Rose, president of global fleet maintenance and engineering for UPS, discussed the company’s 6,800 clean vehicles running on CNG, LNG, propane, electric and hydraulic hybrid combinations, and all-electric. Rose called on his colleagues in the audience, especially truck operators and government agencies, to collaborate on investing in the clean technology and fuel, and adopting forward-thinking polices and incentives.

Highlights from the ACT Expo show floor included:

  • Los Angeles Police Department electric display vehicles showcasing BMW i3 and Tesla Model S patrol cars, which were introduced last fall.
  • BYD’s electric bus being used by Long Beach Transit, and medium-duty electric trucks for delivery fleets. BYD was one of the vehicle manufacturers acknowledged for the SCAQMD zero emission truck grant, along with Kenworth, Peterbilt, and Volvo.
  • Love’s Travel Stops and Trillium CNG unveiled the companies’ new consolidated logo showing a visual representation of how the two companies will continue to serve the market. Love’s recently acquired Trillium CNG, a veteran compressed natural gas company. This will expand the company’s reach across the country and offerings to customers, the company said.
  • ChargePoint unveiled the new CPF25 charging station and upgrades to its Fleet Plan. That announcement coincided with the company raising $50 million from private investors to expand its offerings.
  • ClipperCreek unveiled the HCS Series with ChargeGuard, an affordable access control solution designed for fleet, workplace, multi-tenant, hospitality, and residential charging applications.
  • The California Truck Equipment Company (CTEC), of Downey, Calif., and Rockport Commercial Vehicles, out of Elkhart, Ind., are two of the latest vehicle builders to offer all-electric versions of their existing commercial vehicles using the Motiv All-Electric Powertrain. Motiv said that it will make the Rockport all-electric box truck available for test drives through demonstrations and short-term leases to support fleets in making the decision to add electric vehicles.
  • Spire Natural Gas Fueling Solutions and Mainstay Fuel Technologies, Inc. announced a partnership that will link Spire’s CNG fueling station offerings with Mainstay’s CNG vehicle fuel system expertise to provide “customized” CNG vehicle and fueling station solutions tailored to specific fleet needs; along with competitive pricing both on the road and at the pump, said Peter Stansky, senior vice president and COO of Spire.
  • While the company announced it after ACT Expo, J-W Power Company announced that it has developed a new patent-pending compressed natural gas (CNG) technology, J-W PowerFill Compressor, that significantly improves the customer’s fueling experience with decreased fill time at the dispenser. “If you are planning to build a CNG fueling station, J-W PowerFill Technology increases flow rates without increasing horsepower, significantly increases use of onsite storage, reduces starts and stops on equipment, and ultimately enhances the customer’s fueling experience,” said James Barr, Vice President J-W Power Company.

The ACT Expo Fleet Awards launched this year to recognize fleet operators showing true leadership in sustainable transportation. Winners were:

Shipper Award: Unilever
Awardee: Fabio Baldassari, Logistics Strategic Sourcing Manager – Americas
Unilever’s commitment to sustainability throughout their supply chain has grown into CNG for transporting their products to market.
The first pilot project with GAIN Clean Fuel took place in Edwardsville, IL, where carriers for Unilever consume over 1 Million gallons of CNG/year moving goods to market.
The company has additionally reduced energy consumption in its factories by 20%.

Carrier Award: Central Freight Lines
Awardee: Donald Orr, President
Central Freight Lines has been a leader in promoting the use of CNG in the State of Texas.
Became one of the first LTL carriers to purchase CNG tractors in 2012.
Don Orr has been a visionary who realized the impact of CNG usage in heavy duty trucks and has “walked the talk” with his clean air initiatives.

Shipper/Carrier Partnership Award: Lowe’s & NFI
Awardees: Kevin McDonough, Regional Transportation Director, Lowe’s and Bill Bliem, Vice
President, Maintenance, NFI
Lowe’s dedicated fleet at Mount Vernon is among the first serving a major retail distribution center in North America to run solely on natural gas.
Currently working with carriers to transition all regional distribution center dedicated fleets to natural gas by end of 2017.
The company began using natural gas trucks last year at its distribution center in Kissimmee, Fla., and teamed with longtime carrier partner NFI to launch the natural gas dedicated fleet in Texas.

Private Fleet Award: Ruan Transportation
Awardee: Steve Larsen, Director of Procurement and Fuel
Ruan Transportation Management Systems maintains a fleet of approximately 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) tractors.
Currently, nearly 50% of their CNG fleet, 42 trucks in total, provides service for the Indiana dairy, Fair Oaks Farms.
This is a particularly unique case as the trucks are fueled by renewable CNG produced at the dairy. The methane is created from animal waste in an onsite anaerobic digester and piped to a station where it is compressed for fueling by the fleet.

Public Fleet Award: City of Seattle
Awardee: Andrea Pratt, Green Fleet & Fuel Program Manager
Andrea is an enthusiastic champion for cleaner fuels and has helped position the City of Seattle as one of the most progressive fleets in the region.
Seattle was one of the first cities to purchase EVs for a fleet application back in 2011.
The City’s motor pool has nearly 80 plug-in electric/electric-hybrid vehicles – the majority of which are dedicated battery electric. She also established a contract with a local biodiesel provider for more favorable rates than what was offered on the state contract.
Seattle is now planning one of the largest EV infrastructure projects ever seen in the US, with over 400 charging stations.

Transit & Mobility Award: SuperShuttle
Awardee: Karen Fish, Director of Franchising (award will be accepted by Bird Dave, President)
SuperShuttle has been an early adopter of various alternative fueled vehicles, including a significant amount of CNG and LPG, in various markets.
Has been deploying AFVs since 2009.
Purchased 130 CNG vans in 2014.
Has 160 propane vans nationwide as of 2014.
The San Francisco operation is 100% CNG.

Utility Award: PG&E
Awardee: Dave Meisel, Senior Director – Transportation & Aviation Services (award was accepted by Brian Pepper, Senior Program Manager)
PG&E operates one of the cleanest fleets in the utility industry.
Fleet includes hybrid electric utility trucks, electric bucket trucks, extended-range pickups, and battery electric and plug-in hybrid sedans.
The Class 5 utility truck features exportable power capable of supplying 120 kW, which allows the vehicle to be plugged directly into the grid and power up to 100 homes during outages.
Bucket trucks have a plug-in battery-powered system called JEMS that operates the auxiliary systems, including the bucket, lights, hydraulic lifts, heating and air conditioning, and tools.

Work Truck Award: AmeriPride Services
Awardee: Banny Allison, Fleet Services Manager
Banny Alison has lead AmeriPride in their fleet’s commitment to the environment and the communities where they work.
As one of the biggest operators in the textile delivery industry, they are setting the standard for clean operations and continue to make improvements to delivery operations and invest resources to test and help advance new green technologies.
They have invested in a variety of alternatively fueled walk-in vans, including those that operate on electricity, propane, compressed natural gas and hybrid drivetrains.
The company also invests in efficiency technologies including trailer skirting and doubledecker semi-trailers, fuel efficient sedans for the service team, and the installation of telematics technology and route optimization software to reduce mileage and increase efficiency.

“In it For the Long Haul” Award: UPS
Awardee: Mike Britt, Director of Maintenance & Engineering International Operations Ground
Fleet (award was accepted by Carlton Rose, President, Global Fleet Maintenance & Engineering)
UPS has always been an early adopter of innovative technologies. In the early 1930s, they introduced electric vehicles into our fleet.
Today, they operate one of the industry’s largest private alternative fuel and advanced technology fleets made up of more than 5,000 low-emissions vehicles.
UPS tests and deploys a variety of vehicle types, matched to the terrain and delivery conditions at each location. This approach helps UPS continuously integrate new technologies and operational efficiencies in its large, global delivery fleet.
UPS has demonstrated their commitment to the NGV market through their continued acquisition of both heavy and medium duty CNG vehicles.
They have additionally deployed electric and ethanol vehicles in vehicles that complete short city trips, propane vehicles in rural areas, and LNG in long-haul applications.
Since 2000, their alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles have logged more than 500 million miles in the U.S., Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Chile, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

NGVAmerica President Matthew Godlewski honored two recipients with the 2016 NGV Achievement Awards, FCA US LLC and Anheuser-Busch, during the Fleet Awards dinner. FCA, the first to market a factory-built pickup truck powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), the bi-fuel Ram 2500, recently committed approximately $40 million to FCA Transport, an FCA US-owned truck fleet, to convert 179 diesel-fueled parts-haulers to run on clean-burning natural gas at its Detroit Terminal. Annually, this new fleet will displace nearly 3.3 million gallons of diesel fuel and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. Through its “Seed-To-Sip” sustainability initiative, Anheuser-Busch is committed to reducing the energy and emissions in both the brewing and transportation of their beers. In 2015, its flagship brewery in St. Louis replaced all 97 diesel-fueled tractors with new CNG-powered trucks, following the deployment of 66 CNG trucks in Houston the prior year.

This Week’s Top 10: GM launching 10 electrified vehicles in China, GNA releases Game Changer white paper

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. GM China logoGM China Launching EVs: General Motors, along with China-based partner SAIC, plans to launch more than 10 new electrified vehicles in China by 2020, Matt Tsien, president of GM China said. These plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles will be sold by the Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Baojun brands, Tsien said. While luxury vehicles and crossovers are experiencing double-digit gains in an overall soft auto market, EVs hold great potential. Tsien said the Chinese government is promoting greater investment in so-called “new energy” vehicles, the official term for electrified vehicles. He thinks China will be an even larger market than the U.S. for the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt and other EVs. GM China will begin producing a plug-in hybrid version of the Cadillac CT6 later this year; that model will be exported to U.S. dealers.
  2. Game changer in trucking: Gladstein Neandross & Associates (GNA) today released “Game Changer,” a technical white paper – written on behalf of multiple private and public sector organizations – that explores the need and approaches to start deploying zero-emission and near-zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technologies on a wide-scale basis in the U.S. The white paper has compared four fuel-technology combinations to address these goals and has concluded that there is only one pathway that meets the commercial feasibility and logistics tests to immediately begin this transformation. This is near-zero-emission heavy-duty natural gas vehicles fueled by increasing volumes of ultra-low-GHG renewable natural gas (RNG). This topic is also part of a speaker panel this morning at ACT Expo. Read more about the white paper.
  3. Range extended BMWs: The next versions of the BMW i3 and i8 will see extended range and power. The i3 electric car in 2017 will have a bigger battery to boost its electric range from 80 to 114 miles. The i3 will have a 50% increase in battery capacity. With its denser lithium ion batteries, the i3 goes from 22 kWh to 33 kWh without physically increasing the size of the battery pack. The BMW i8 will have more horsepower and longer battery range when released in the next year. It will be gaining a more powerful electric motor that would go a little bit faster than its current 0 to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds. It may gain an increase of 50 percent range, just like the i3. The BMW i3 is due to roll out later this year in dealer showrooms as a 2017 model. The revised i8 isn’t expected to reach showrooms until next year.
  4. DOE offering $22.3 million in funding: The U.S. Department of Energy will issue a $22.3 million funding opportunity for vehicle technologies including medium- and heavy-duty plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs); direct injection propane engines; and alternative fuel vehicle community partner projects. Applications and questions are not currently being accepted. It is anticipated that this Funding Opportunity Announcement will be posted to the EERE Exchange website in June 2016.
  5. Associate of Science degree approved: Rio Hondo College, based in Whittier, Calif., has been granted approval for its Automotive Technology Program to offer California’s first Associate of Science degree in hybrid/electric vehicle/fuel-cell technology. The approval from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office came in just 22 days – an incredibly quick turnaround that acknowledges the strength of the program, said Professor John Frala, who designed the Associate of Science degree. “Companies are calling me about employees already,” Frala said. “These cars are in heavy demand in California and there is a shortage of qualified technicians right now. Not many technicians out in the field are safely trained to work on high-voltage vehicles.”
  6. Resources for multi-unit dwelling charging: The California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative (PEVC) has been compiling and collecting case studies for the past four years on completed multi-unit dwelling (MuD) vehicle charging in California to publish on the PEVC website. These are being made available to all to illustrate the spectrum of approaches that can be taken to achieve vehicle charging in these communities. Examples of past case studies are available on this site. You can also access the MuD Guide, MuD Survey Form, and other resources that have been put together and will be expanding. You can also register to view the webinar “emPower the People: EV Charging for Apartment & Condo Residents,” from Plug In America. It’s scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. PDT. The program features the “emPower the People Toolkit” (em = electric mobility). The toolkit has been designed to help guide residents in organizing and requesting vehicle charging in their communities.
  7. Best SUV fuel economy: The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been rated by Consumer Reports as having the best overall fuel economy of any SUV that doesn’t plug in. It came in at 31 mpg in the tests, with 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, which is better than most midsized sedans. The standard engine is a 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that drives through a six-speed automatic transmission. The RAV4 Hybrid surges ahead of the previous mileage champs, the Lexus NX 300h and Lexus RX 450h with their 29 mpg overall.
  8. 500K gallons of RNG: Fred Meyer Stores, a division of The Kroger Co., formed an agreement with Clean Energy for up to 500,000 gallons of Redeem renewable natural gas (RNG) fuel for its fleet of 40 LNG trucks based out of its Clackamas, Ore., distribution center. Fred Meyer is the first company in the State of Oregon to take advantage of the Oregon Clean Fuel Program, which calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the use of cleaner fuels such as natural gas and renewable natural gas, according to Clean Energy.
  9. Fleet charging: ChargePoint is today unveiling the new CPF25 charging station and upgrades to its Fleet Plan at the 2016 ACT Expo. The CPF25 station is a fully networked, 32 amp, Level 2 charging station with design features that include an RFID card/smartphone reader for authentication, robust Wi-Fi, and an easy-to-mount, compact case rated for indoor or outdoor use. It comes in 18 and 23 foot cable options with a standard J1772 connector that can plug into to any EV. ChargePoint has optional mounting accessories that support wall or pedestal installations with optional cable management.
  10. Uber infographic: Ridesharing giant Uber is getting so much press and social media attention, and increasing ridership, to inspire the creation of an elaborate infographic, “39 facts about Uber.” Uber is becoming something like Tesla as a fascinating symbol of the new mobile device, advanced tech, shared economy in the U.S. and globally. Here’s a passage from the report that says it well: “Founded in 2009 by a college dropout, Uber is a classic tech success story, and the company’s exponential growth/colossal funding over the past six years have launched it to the forefront of the startup world.”

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Sustainable mobility for fleets, freight, and workforce commuting

Smith electric truckFleets, freight and logistics companies, and urban transportation planners are looking at best practices for hitting targets in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, fuel consumption, and mobility in crowded cities. That will be a discussion topic this week at ACT Expo in Long Beach during corporate sustainability speaker panels.

Erik Neandross, chief executive of Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, a clean transportation and energy consulting firm and organizer of ACT Expo, says that a hot topic at the conference will be California’s Sustainable Freight Action Plan. The plan will likely shake up the freight industry, he wrote in, “as it aims to transform the state’s freight system by 2050, making it more efficient, connected and advanced, while transitioning to zero-emission technologies.”

The plan will include an implementation strategy for deploying over 100,000 freight vehicles capable of zero-emission or near-zero-emission operation by 2030 aimed at meeting the state’s air quality and climate protection goals. It comes from a collaboration with the California Department of Transportation, the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

The draft Sustainable Freight Action Plan was scheduled to be released to the public on Friday, April 29. The anticipated plan is sure to be a key discussion topic at ACT Expo, Neadross said.

Fleets and freight transport companies can reduce road transport carbon emissions 29% in 2030 by deploying a clean transportation strategy, according a Lux Research Study. The sharp cut – exceeding the target of 24% set by 188 nations at the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) in 2015 – will be realized from a combination of low-carbon fuels, alternative fuel vehicles, and improved fuel efficiencies; biofuels and natural gas vehicles together will account for 45% of potential fossil fuel displacement as nations look for new technologies to cut emissions, Lux Research says.

Biofuels recommended for use to hit these targets include cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel and biomethane (renewable natural gas). These fuels, “have lower well-to-wheel carbon intensities compared to their first-generation counterparts and play a pivotal role in cutting emissions, as does renewable electricity,” said Yuan-Sheng Yu, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report.

Without improved fuel efficiencies, emissions reduction falls short of the COP21 target in 2030 by nearly 5%.  Automakers will have a range of lightweight materials available as multinationals and start-ups develop the next-generations of steel, aluminum, and composite technologies, Lux Research says.

Corporate sustainability policies have pushed fleets and logistics operations in this direction. Walmart has set a goal to double its fleet efficiency compared to 2005, and is 87% of the way to meeting this target. General Mills has cut its fuel consumption 22% compared to 2005 levels. DHL has improved the carbon efficiency of its business activities by 25% compared to 2007. The company recently added nearly 1,000 electric vehicles to its fleet, bringing that total to more than 13,500 in use network wide.

UPS is growing its alternative-fuel vehicle fleet every year and improving efficiency with its proprietary routing software ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation). The company’s “green fleet” is comprised of about 6,840 vehicles, or about 7 percent of its total feet, and includes propane, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and hybrid and electric vehicles.

Employers are working with city planners and transportation agencies to help deal with traffic congestion, air pollution, and to reduce stress for the local workforce. Susan Shaheen, a researcher at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center of the University of California, Berkeley, says ridesharing carpool services are a solution being explored that could help fix some of the “first-mile, last-mile” issues with U.S. transportation grids.

In Late March 2016, Lyft launched Lyft Carpool, a pilot program in the San Francisco metro area. The focus has been to address a heavily congested section of Highway 101 between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The program matches up commuters for carpool rides. Commuters would pay through mobile apps and the services would take a percentage of the money charged.

Lyft also is working with the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission to expand carpool lanes along that route, said Emily Castor, director of transportation policy for Lyft. The company also is working with transportation agencies in Nashville, Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, and other cities to provide more connections from homes to mass transit.

This test program and other carpooling and ridesharing services are gaining traction and interest with public transportation planners. A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association suggests that ridesharing trips using Uber and Lyft are replacing trips made with personal vehicles more than trips using public transport. The report recommended that public-transit officials start working on ways to make ridesharing part of their services.

This Week’s Top 10: Electric vehicles hot at Beijing Auto Show, Karma Automotive renames its cars

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. LeEco LeSeeHighlights from Beijing Auto Show: Along with the downturn in the Chinese economy and the growing popularity of SUVs with car shoppers, plug-in electric vehicles have been providing a central theme at this year’s Beijing auto show. Government incentives for electric vehicles continue to be influential in automaker commitment to rolling out more electrified models; along with an understanding of the worsening of air pollution in China’s fast-developing cities. Faraday Future’s investor LeEco (formerly called LeTV, or China’s Netflix, and led by billionaire founder Jia Yueting) unveiled the LeSEE concept car. While the Batmobile-like Faraday FFZERO1 turned heads at the CES show in Las Vegas earlier this year, LeEco appears to be more of a Model S-like electric luxury car than a high-performance supercar. LeEco CEO Yueting touted the car’s user-friendly features including memory foam seats, automatic driving mode and a steering wheel that folds toward the dash when the car is in autopilot mode to give the driver more space. It’s a sleek four-door sedan with suicide doors. Volkswagen is attempting to distance itself from the diesel car reporting scandal with the T-Prime Concept GTE, a plug-in SUV that may become the next Touareg. The T-Prime is powered by a 375-horsepower that combined battery and 2-liter engine; it will go 34 miles on electricity alone before the gas engine kicks in. Plug-in hybrid Corollas will be the first stepping stone for Toyota to meet stringent emissions standards and to receive incentives for doing so in China, according to Toyota executive Hiroji Onishi. Toyota plans to launch plug-in hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla and Levin in China in 2018; the Levin is built on the same platform as the Corolla. Ford will start its green car rollout in China with the launch of the hybrid version of the Mondeo later this year. The next step will be the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid arriving in early 2017. Ford will be bringing to the Chinese market vehicles with a downsized turbocharged engine, a traditional hybrid powertrain, a plug-in hybrid setup, and eventually an all-electric variant, to meet strict emissions standards tightening up over the next five years, the company said. Chinese carmakers showed off a list of concept electric vehicles at the show (and some that have been in production for a few years), including offerings from BAIC, Beijing Auto, BYD, Chery, FAW, Jianghuai Motor Co., and SAIC.
  2. Karma Automotive continues to change its name in its post-Fisker Automotive identity, with Chinese auto parts giant Wanxiang Group as its owner. Its plug-in hybrid sports car is now called the Revero, and will go on sale later this year. The new name is a combination of the Latin “re” and “vero,” which the company says translates to “truth,” the company says. The company declined to divulge the price range for the new vehicle or provide a delivery date. Karma plans to formally unveil this summer with a new battery and charger and electrical controls.
  3. Ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft settled legal and regulatory battles last week. Uber will pay up to $100 million to drivers who had sought to be classified as employees in California and Massachusetts. That settled two lawsuits that posed a threat to the company’s on-demand business model, which relies on independent contractors. Drivers will continue to be considered independent contractors and not employees. The settlement brings to a close what employment experts believe was the biggest existential threat to the fast-growing start-up. In the ruling, Uber is being required to institute several changes in the way it disciplines drivers. The company will no longer be able to deactivate drivers’ accounts at will. Drivers will now receive warnings and have an opportunity to correct any issues before they are cut from the service. Uber will also make it clear to riders that tips are not included in Uber’s fares. Drivers will be permitted to solicit tips from passengers – a policy that competitor Lyft has long offered. The carpooling decision and specific guidelines to Uber still need to be approved by Judge Edward Chen of the District Court of Northern California, which should take several months to finalize. Uber and Lyft will need to wait for California regulators to rule on another issue: whether they’ll be permitted to offer short-term car rental programs to their drivers. Lyft has been working with its major investor, General Motors, on a program in Chicago where Lyft drivers can lease Chevrolets for up to eight weeks as part of the Express Drive program. California regulators are mulling over whether to block it from some of the country’s biggest car-booking markets in that state. Regulators are concerned that short-term leases enable Uber and Lyft’s fleet to act as taxi drivers without being subject to the same rules. Another legal issue still being pondered is whether Uber and Lyft will be required to have fingerprint background checks on its drivers, which other ground transportation service providers are required to carry out. Lyft does have to adopt practices already in place with Uber; its drivers will need to have annual inspections of their vehicles conducted by certified vendors. Uber and Lyft did have a victory in the California rulings by the California Public Utilities Commission. State regulators on Thursday granted companies such as Uber and Lyft permission to offer carpooling, sanctioning a service that has allowed fast-growing San Francisco companies to offer lower-cost rides. These services are called “ridesharing” by these ride-hailing companies and operate under the brands UberPool and Lyft Lanes.
  4. 5 mpg standard: Automakers are doing more than ever before to meet national fuel efficiency standards, with 56 percent of available vehicle models matching or exceeding today’s targets, according analysis of vehicle data by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). “Fuel efficiency increasingly comes standard with new cars, trucks, and SUVs” said Jack Gillis, Director of Public Affairs for CFA. Model year 2016 is the third in a row in which more than half of all passenger car and truck models offered for sale in the United States meet or beat the national standards, according to the CFA.
  5. Honda Clarity and Accord Hybrid: Honda had a few major announcement last week in its green vehicle offerings. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle went on sale in Japan last month and will be offered in the U.S. late this year with a range of 300 miles and a refueling time of three-to-five minutes. The Clarity Fuel Cell will be followed by an all-electric Clarity next year that will launch in California and other states still to be determined. By the end of 2017, Honda will add the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid that can go 40 miles before the extended range kicks in. Honda also gave details on the new 2017 Accord Hybrid. Honda expects to double sales of 2017 Accord Hybrid when it goes on sale this spring. The new Accord Hybrid is expected to get 49 miles per gallon in the city and 47 mpg on the highway for a combined 48 miles per gallon under new, more stringent U.S. EPA tests.
  6. Vehicle Technologies program funding: The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to reauthorize a $1.6 billion for the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies program, which is intended bolster development of hybrid and electric vehicles. The Senate energy bill calls for spending about $339 million per year “to support domestic research, development, engineering, demonstration and commercial application and manufacturing of advanced vehicles, engines and components. The approval came despite objections of conservative groups that have complained about past government loans to auto companies — including Fisker Automotive — that have gone bankrupt.
  7. ZEV bus funding: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it will provide $22.5 million in funding for seven different transit properties to purchase 51 zero emission buses. The FTA also announced that an additional solicitation is now on the street that would provide a total of $55 million for the purchase of additional low and no emission buses. “The FTA is providing catalytic investment that will help spur the growth of the zero emission bus market. It’s very possible that as a direct result of this FTA program by 2020 ten percent of all new transit buses sold will be emission free,” said CALSTART President and CEO John Boesel.
  8. Nissan takes on Model 3 in ad: A new Nissan Leaf ad campaign is poking fun at how long it will take for the Tesla Model 3 to end up in owners’ garages starting in late 2017. ““Why wait when you can drive an all-electric Leaf now?” Nissan asks in the ads. “And why drop $1,000 to stand in line when you can get $4,000 cash back and best-in-class range?” The ads remind consumers that Nissan has been mass-producing the Leaf since 2010.
  9. Volvo wants to sell one million electrified vehicles by 2025 with “at least two” hybrid versions of every model, as well as an all-electric car. The latter will come in 2019. Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson is aware that the million electrified cars sold by 2025 are an aspiring target, but he explained that it is “deliberately ambitious.” So far, Volvo has only released the C30 battery electric vehicle.
  10. Hydrogen fuel cell buses: New Flyer of America has completed a demonstration of the Xcelsior XHE60 heavy-duty articulated hydrogen fuel cell transit bus. Representatives from Alameda County Transit (AC Transit) of California and the Metro Transit of Minneapolis – were on hand to participate in the vehicle’s debut and demonstration. Based on the Xcelsior X60 heavy-duty transit bus platform, New Flyer partnered with Ballard Power Systems Inc. and Siemens to develop the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system.

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Regulators cracking down on fuel economy and emissions reporting in major global markets

Volkswagen diesel recallThe Volkswagen diesel car emissions reporting scandal has triggered a wave of regulatory pressure in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. It’s going way beyond the VW brands, as Mitsubishi faces pressure on honest mpg fuel economy reporting that harkens back to Hyundai, Kia, and Ford in 2012-14. Mercedes-Benz is now facing diesel exhaust emissions reporting pressure in the U.S. and Europe.

As covered last week in Green Auto Market, China is setting the pace on where sustainability and emissions reporting is heading in the auto industry. Beyond incentivizing electric vehicle sales, the Chinese government is setting the strictest standards on reducing air pollution.

Regulators around the world are getting tougher on automakers after a series of cheating scandals on fuel economy and emissions, with China set to become the strictest, said Ford CEO Mark Fields. While stricter standards are being adopted around the world on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy, China will be the toughest regulatory regime over the next five years “given some of the societal factors around air pollution,” Fields said.

Fields spoke to reporters on the eve of the Beijing Auto Show, China’s largest car show. Ford faced a reporting scandal of its own in 2013 and 2014, when it twice lowered the mileage ratings of several hybrid models. Fields said that Ford is supportive of Europe considering on-road testing for emissions and would comply if China follows suit.

VW settlement in U.S.: On Thursday, VW agreed to a tentative plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board  to buy back or repair 500,000 diesel-powered cars sold in the U.S. Consumers now have the choice of whether to sell their vehicles back to Volkswagen or get repairs. The deal includes “substantial compensation” for owners of cars powered by two-liter “clean diesel” engines that were fitted with software to cheat emissions tests, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said during the hearing in San Francisco. VW will be required to invest funds to “promote green automotive” initiatives and establish an environmental remediation fund to offset the years of cars putting out nitrogen oxide emissions at harmful levels.

The judge issued a gag order and scolded parties for leaking previous details to the media as more finalized details on the settlement will be released later affecting the VW, Audi, and Porsche brands. VW still faces as many as 50 attorney general fraud cases for false advertisement, having made claims that its vehicles are a clean alternative to hybrids. VW also faces lawsuits from dealerships and customers.

Recall in Germany: The vehicle recall related to diesel emissions management software has added two more automakers – Daimler and General Motors – in a German government ruling. That government has ordered recalls and testing for NOx emissions in diesel cars for VW, Audi, Porsche, and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and GM’s Opel brands with about 630,000 diesel cars being recalled for a software fix. BMW was not part of the recall. German motor transport authority KBA had done extensive testing on diesel cars and determined automakers have been using a legal loophole allowing them to throttle back emissions treatments under certain circumstances, with OEMs claiming that’s been done to protect engines.

The decision in Germany is yet another challenge VW is facing in global markets. VW Group is recalling 8.5 million cars in Europe that are among 11 million diesel cars sold worldwide by its VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, and Seat brands equipped with emissions-cheating software. The U.K. government just released results after testing 37 car models on NOx emissions reporting; it found that only VW has been using so-called defeat devices.

Mitsubishi mileage scandal: Mitsubishi has admitted manipulating fuel economy ratings for its vehicles sold in the Japanese market. The company said it had overstated the fuel efficiency of 625,000 cars. Media outlets have reported that the Japanese automakers had submitted misleading mileage data on its i-MiEV electric car, which is also sold overseas. The automaker is also suspected of using non-Japanese test methodology on its RVR, Outlander, Pajero, and Minicab MiEV models.

The scandal expanded on Friday as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was seeking information; it may affect at least one more model than disclosed and likely several others. In Japan, the government may mandate that Mitsubishi will have to reimburse consumers and the government if investigations find the vehicles were not as fuel-efficient as claimed.

Daimler diesel emissions: Along with its recall in Germany, Daimler AG is facing more scrutiny in the U.S. market. On Thursday, the company said it is conducting an internal investigation of its certification process for diesel exhaust emissions at the request of the U.S. Justice Department.

The latest action stems from an EPA request in February for information from Daimler coming from a lawsuit filed by U.S. Mercedes owners. In early April, owners of U.S. Mercedes diesel cars filed a new class action suit by U.S. law firm Hagens Berman, which had already filed a complaint in February. The suit claimed its vehicles likely contained a “defeat device” used to cheat emissions testing, an accusation that Daimler denied.

Daimler said the lawsuits “are considered to be without merit and Daimler will defend itself against them with all available legal means.” The automaker has committed to cooperate fully with U.S. government investigations.