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…….
- California stays with it: The California Air Resources Board has approved the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) program, which reaffirms vehicle emissions standards set through 2025 should stay on track. The approved measure also mandates development of stronger requirements for vehicles manufactured in subsequent model years. It was created in 2012 in conjunction with the federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules, which may be weakened in Washington by the Trump administration over the next year. It could be the start of a clash between California and the federal government. California’s zero-emission vehicle regulation requires auto manufacturers to produce an increasing number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel-cell electric vehicles. CARB also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.
- Keystone pipeline approved: The U.S. State Department’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is expected to face a series of hurdles in states directly affected and which have yet to approve. President Donald Trump had committed to Canadian oil company TransCanada to lift the Obama administration’s ban on the pipeline. The 1,200-mile pipeline will transport heavy crude oil from tar sands mines in Canada to a second existing pipeline, which will deliver the crude oil to specialized refineries in Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club are expected to file legal challenges to final approval and building of the pipeline.
- Tesla gets new investor: Tesla Inc. reported that Chinese tech giant Tencent Holding has taken a 5% stake in the electric automaker for $1.78 billion. Tencent has been playing a role investing in U.S. and Chinese mobility startups in self-driving, electrified vehicles. The company has been best known for its WeChat mobile messaging app. Other EV-maker investments include NextEV, a Shangai-based startup which recently renamed itself Nio. That company has a Silicon Valley office not far from Tesla’s headquarters. Future Mobility is another Chinese startup Tencent has funded.
- Uber crash: Uber is returning part of its autonomous test fleet to San Francisco after experiencing a collision Saturday that ended up grounding the fleet. Uber has been cleared from the accident in Tempe, Ariz., with police saying the crash occurred because a human-driven vehicle failed to yield to the autonomous Uber test vehicle. Uber’s test vehicles are able to travel autonomously, but the company keeps a human driver in the passenger seat ready to take over the car if necessary. Uber, as a company, continues to deal with a wave of bad news.
- Musk backs artificial intelligence venture: Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken on another passion: Neuralink. Musk is backing the startup venture that, as he says, will merge “biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The business will be centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain. The end game will be helping human minds partner with software and keep pace with advancement in artificial intelligence. Memory could be improved, and the capacity for human minds to interface with computing devices will be tested. The new system will explore how brain interfaces might alleviate the symptoms of dangerous and chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy and severe depressive disorder. Musk is excited about being part of the “neural lace,” which is a sci-fi term for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves. He’s been known for debating other entrepreneurs in the artificial intelligence community, which is tied into SpaceX, robotic manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and other topics.
- New York EV incentives: New York has set up an incentive program for purchasing electric vehicles that supports longer range, affordable cars. Only a few vehicles, like the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV, will take advantage of the full $2,000 incentive. Requirements for the full incentive are selling electric cars with a range of over 120 miles and a price tag at less than $60,000. Expensive electric cars like the Tesla Model S and Model X, and the BMW i8, can only receive a $500 incentive.
- Aerovironment and eMotorWerks: AeroVironment will be integrating eMotorWerks’ JuiceNet smart-grid electric vehicle charging platform into AeroVironment’s line of charging products. The worked relationship is aimed at helping consumers find increased charging capabilities utilities to assist in managing demand load aggregation. EV drivers will be able to tie in their smartphones, web, and Amazon Alexa voice control over charging. They’ll also be able to tap into other features like looking at real time and historic energy usage for charging and notifications of charging status and other resources for lowering their utility bills.
- ACT Expo keynoters: The speaker lineup has been announced for ACT Expo 2017. Thom Shea, President and CEO of Adamantine Alliance, will share his experience on navigating through challenging times based on his experience as a highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL, author, and leadership and human performance coach. With a number of policy and budget changes at the federal level, and the always present oil price roller coaster, the advanced technology and alternative fuels sectors face continued uncertainty and possible headwinds. Other speakers announced by ACT Expo include: Pete Melin, Director of Zero Emission Technology, Metro Transit of King County on managing a transit fleet integrating 120 battery electric buses into its operations; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, New York City Department of Sanitation on the world’s largest sanitation department testing DME and other efficiency measures; Sandra Berg, Vice Chair, California Air Resources Board on the agency’s role in advanced clean transportation policies; Kary Schaefer, General Manager, Marketing and Strategy, Daimler Trucks North America on leading the way in technology development for advanced clean trucking; Rob Neitzke, President, Cummins Westport on the company’s experience launching the game changing .02g NOx engine. Plus dozens more. See the full agenda and you can get a good look at the display vehicles.
- MUD chargers: A new report by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation identifies multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) that could be targeted for outreach as they exhibit high latent demand for plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) and low-cost installation of charging equipment. In order to reach California’s goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles by 2025, residents of apartments, condominiums and other MUDs need to be assured that they can charge their PEV at home, writes, Alex Turek, Project Manager, at Luskin Center.
- Cost of fuel economy standards: International Council on Clean Transportation, an independent research group, released a report stating that automakers costs could be reduced by 34 percent to 40 percent per vehicle in the 2022 through 2025 phase of the federal fuel economy standards if enacted from what was approved in January by the Obama administration. Much of that is already happening with automakers utilizing new technologies like turbochargers and advanced transmissions, and lighter weight materials such as aluminum. ICCT has played a role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal investigations, and worked closely with California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the findings.