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…….
- VW deadline extended and company recalling e-Golfs: Volkswagen had its March 24 deadline extended to April 21 to submit its fix for about 580,000 diesel vehicles in its emissions scandal. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer had previously scheduled a March 24 deadline for VW to report where it stood on remediation efforts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board. Breyer, VW, and the regulators agreed at the hearing in San Francisco that progress has been made in negotiations, but issues remain and no settlement had been reached yet. While plug-in electric vehicles might be mandated as part of the settlement, VW has to address a recall of nearly 5,600 e-Golf electric cars to deal with a battery problem that can cause stalling. The recall covers all of the electric vehicles it’s sold in the U.S. since it launched in November 2014, which may be caused by a software malfunction. Dealers will be installing updated software into the electric cars during the recall process. VW may not be the only OEM dealing with emissions scandals. A report by CDP forecasts that 15 automakers could be facing up to $4.8 billion in emissions penalties primarily from U.K. and U.S. regulators. The study says that General Motors and Ford are the most at risk and could face a combined $1.8 billion in emissions penalties.
- Webinar on training stakeholders: A complimentary ACT Expo webinar will be held on April 7 at 10:00 a.m., “Comprehensive Training for AFV Deployment: Internal & External Stakeholders.” William Davis, Director at National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), will cover the training needs for each audience, including: internal staff and external support stakeholders; possible alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) codes and standards and how they may impact stakeholders; what to do/not to do when providing AFV training for impacted stakeholders; and resources available and where to find training. You can register at this site for the webinar.
- Biodiesel ranks high with fleets: According to a new 2016 Fleet Purchasing Outlook study conducted by the NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry – biodiesel is now the most commonly used alternative fuel option on the market. Survey data shows 18% of fleets use biodiesel now – up from 15% in 2015. For future alternative fuel interest, biodiesel also did very well in the study, with more fleets planning to acquire or continue using biodiesel than any other alternative fuel option.
- EV incentives study: Incentives have been a vital element for launching and selling plug-in electric vehicles in the U.S. and aboard. A new Navigant Research study looks at incentives affecting vehicle purchase price, registration process, vehicle operation, and vehicle charging. Demand-side policies have been particularly effective at driving sales growth to specific markets. Leading electric vehicle markets covered in the study include North America, Europe, and select Asia Pacific countries, including China, Japan, and South Korea.
- Ford shares on energy-efficiency projects with G7: Ford is sharing its Partnership for A Cleaner Environment (PACE) with G7 nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – to share best practices and innovations with businesses and public agencies. PACE is an environmental reporting tool for Ford suppliers that will help partners save money and reduce their environmental impact. In 2013 alone, Ford invested more than $5 million in energy-efficiency projects and significant energy-related upgrades were included in its global manufacturing system upgrades. The company has also implemented a number of water-reduction technologies and process improvements, including using membrane biological reactors and reverse-osmosis processes to recycle water from on-site wastewater treatment plants; this allows Ford to avoid using drinking water in its manufacturing processes.
- Breaking electric car speed record: An electric car conversion company claims to have broken the fastest speed record for production-based electric cars. Genovation Cars converts Corvettes to electric vehicles, creating a high-performance sports car it calls the Genovation eXtreme Electric (GXE). The car was able to reach a top speed of 186.8 mph after one mile around a track at NASA’s former Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The test track run beat a previous record of 177 mph as certified by the International Mile Racing Association. The GXE uses An electric powertrain that can generate 700 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque, the company says.
- Anticipation building for Model 3 launch: Interested in getting one of the first Tesla Model 3 electric cars? Online reservations will open up Thursday morning of this week hours before the car is revealed at the Tesla and SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, Calif. It will price, prior to incentives, at $35,000 and will go 200-plus miles on a charge. Tesla Motors is counting on high volume sales for corporate growth in coming years; the company expects to be selling hundreds of thousands of Model 3 units per year.
- Don’t overstate the impact, Deutsche Bank says: While technological innovations and revolutionary business models, like the launch of Uber and self-driving vehicles, carry huge potential for commuters and carmakers, one international bank thinks perspectives are being overinflated on the initial impact. Analysts at Deutsche Bank AG think that there are a lot of misconceptions about how the on-demand revolution will affect automakers, especially its impact on sales volumes. “The consensus view is that auto sales will decline, and that this will be negative for U.S. original equipment manufacturers,” wrote Deutsche Bank’s team led by Rod Lache. “We believe that the consensus view may be wrong.” However, growth in use of on-demand vehicles could ultimately reduce the number of cars on the road in the U.S. by more than 25 million, with population density serving as a key determinant of the size of the on-demand fleet, the analysts say.
- Charge Ready bringing stations to SoCal: Southern California Edison has launched a $22 million pilot program, called Charge Ready, to install 1,500 electric charging stations throughout its covered area. Installations will likely start this fall, pending approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, and will see chargers placed at locations where cars are parked for extended periods of time, such as workplaces, campuses, and apartment complexes.
- Timing for autonomous vehicles: Don’t get too optimistic about self-driving roads hitting our roads in large numbers anytime soon, according to an expert in the field. Speaking before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, Missy Cummings, an engineering professor and human-factors expert at Duke University (and director of Duke’s Humans and Autonomy Lab) shared her perspective that self-driving cars are “absolutely not ready for widespread deployment.” Cummings, 49, had been one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots from 1988 to 1999 and managed a $100 million Navy program to build a sensor-laden robotic helicopter.