RNG Will Be Important Part of Hitting Port Clean Truck Goals

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Any thoughts? Then email me.

Green Auto Market switching from weekly to daily newsletter


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also follow Twitter and Facebook pages.

Thanks for being part of the readership.

Jon LeSage
Editor and Publisher
Green Auto Market

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

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

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

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

ACT Expo 2017: Highlights from clean transportation show themes and new product launches

Electrified trucks and buses, the significance of renewable natural gas, and growing interest among users in mobility services and automated transport, were leading topics at ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif. The exhibit hall was filled with the latest clean vehicles, drivetrain components, and fueling infrastructure dispensers and stations available to the fleet market.

Electrified vehicles:  While several prominent electric work truck makers went out of business not too long ago, fleets now have a diverse selection of offerings to choose from companies that look ready to stay on the market and service the vehicles long-term. Vehicles include buses, shuttles, port drayage trucks, work pickup trucks, and delivery trucks.

Workhorse Group unveiled its W-15 electric concept pickup. It can go 80 miles per charge through its 60 kWh battery pack. Buyers can also pay for an extended range plug-in hybrid version that can go a total of 310 miles on electricity and gasoline. As reported in Green Auto Market, the company is seeing a lot of interest in the market, with letters of intent received for the purchase of 3,000 units from a few utility and government fleets. It has a starting price of $52,000 and its platform was built on the E-Gen electric technology used in Workhorse medium-duty delivery trucks. Along with emissions reduction benefits, the company said it the W-15 has 460 horsepower with the ability to carry 2,200 pounds in payload and tow 5,000 pounds.

Renewable natural gas:  One fleet manager told me how RNG has been taking off in California for municipal fleets, with major gas suppliers now offering the clean fuel and state incentives backing it. His natural gas used in the fleet has been made up of about half traditional natural gas and half RNG. The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition released a study forecasting the economic impact RNG is bringing to the state. Deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ says that a switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals.

Award winners:  Fleet Owner’s Green Fleet of the Year: Walmart. The company, with its huge fleet of 6,400 tractors and 61,000 trailers, has seen several sustainability innovations adopted since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Like several transport companies and vehicle makers, the strategy has been corporate-wide, with fleet vehicles on part of it. Recently, 75% of Walmart’s global waste is diverted from landfills and 25% of its operations are powered by renewable energy sources. Since setting its sustainability targets in 2005, the company has removed about 35 million metric tons of carbon emissions from its supply chain despite its continuing growth over that time period.

ACT Expo awards:
Leading Carrier Fleet:  Saddle Creek Logistics Services. The carrier has 550 tractors with 250 of them powered by CNG moving through the southeast U.S.

Utility Fleet:  ForticBC. The British Columbia electric power and gas distribution utility now operates about 600 CNG and LNG heavy duty vehicles. The goal is bringing the fleet up to 50% alternative fuels by the end of 2018. The utility operates 15 CNG and seven LNG fueling stations.

Transit & Mobility Fleet:  North Kansas City School District. So far, 159 Type C school buses have been converted to run on CNG.

Private Fleet:  Frito-Lay, Inc. The company currently has 580 CNG freight trucks, 17 CNG public fueling stations, and 200 electric vehicles; that makes for the largest commercial EV fleet in the U.S.

Public Fleet:  City of Los Angeles. The city reported that 2,041 of its vehicles have been displaced from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. The fleet is now made up of hybrid vehicles, CNG street sweepers, LNG and CNG refuse trucks, 143 LNG and CNG heavy-duty trucks, and 100% of LA DOT’s buses are green.

“In It For the Long Haul” award:  Waste Management, Inc. The company reported having 5,791 of its collection vehicles running on natural gas. It has 95 CNG, LNG, and liquefied compressed natural gas (LCNG) fueling stations in place. About 40% of its natural gas vehicles are fueling by renewable natural gas coming from landfill biogas.

GM’s take on mobility:  General Motors is in a strong position to experience firsthand transportation trends of the next decade. In an interview, Alex Keros, manager and senior project engineer for Maven and GM, talked about what’s working with the Maven carsharing unit since GM launched it last year. About 60% to 70% of renters are members of the millennial generation who have less interest in owning a vehicle but do need to become acclimated to mobility options. GM is also in a good position to analyze data on the ridesharing side of the business through its investment in Lyft, which is also part of testing out self-driving Chevy Bolts. Lyft drivers and Maven renters are trying out driving the Bolt and the Chevy Volt. It’s turning into an excellent learning experience for users; the Lyft drivers are playing a role in sharing their experience with Lyft riders on what it’s like to drive an electric car. They’re not hearing complaints about the limited range issue, which has to do with the Bolt’s 238 miles and the Volt’s extended range. Even more important, Keros said, is drivers learning how to live with and respect the technology. They do adapt quickly to electrified mobility, he said. The company is working with EVgo on getting drivers set up to charge in their network. That’s also part of the learning experience with drivers finding out how long it takes; and how you can get away with taking a shorter charge to make a short trip, and then doing a full charge at night. Doing less than a 100% full charge is typical, he said.

In a separate interview, Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for GM, said that he doesn’t expect to see surging growth in ridesharing firms Lyft and Uber, and carsharing through Maven and Zipcar, along with the introduction of autonomous vehicles, to mean we’ll see a lot less vehicles on roads in the next 10 years. With drivers of these shared rides putting 25,000 to 50,000 miles per year on their cars, it will accelerate the replacement cycle, he said. Car sales aren’t likely to drop significantly.

Mohatarem doesn’t see EV sales skyrocketing in the near future. While diesel cars are going away in Europe since the Volkswagen scandal started, traditional engine vehicles won’t be going away anytime soon. With development of U.S. shale reserves, the supply will be plentiful and domestic for the foreseeable future, he said. Regulatory pressure in markets like Europe is a factor that will bring more EVs to market, he said. The chief economist doesn’t see EVs becoming viable until they make up at least 10% of new vehicle sales.

GM does see demand for natural gas and propane autogas vehicles growing among fleets. It’s also driven by overall fuel prices. Both of the alternative fuels are seeing a wider product range, which is helping with vehicle sales. The automaker is seeing demand for CNG-powered versions of the Chevy Equinox and Cruze and its pickup truck lineup. Good range and strong fuel economy are helping, Mohatarem said.

Cap and trade funds:  The California Air Resources Board announced at ACT Expo that California Climate Investments in zero-emission vehicles have reached $599 million since 2013. That’s supported putting hundreds of thousands of clean cars and zero-emission trucks and buses on California roads. That’s come from 115,000 light-duty zero emission vehicles including battery electric, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles. On the commercial truck side, 46 Class 7 and 8 zero-emission trucks; 950 electrified delivery, utility, and refuse trucks; 407 zero emission transit buses, shuttles, and light-rail cars; 29 electric school buses; and 46 zero emission off-road vehicles, have received cap-and-trade funding from the state. Capital comes from the quarterly cap-and-trade auctions that came from the state’s AB 32 global warming law enacted in 2006. Some of the investment has supported demonstration projects of various specialty vehicles serving the ports and other applications.

And in other ACT Expo news………

  • BYD showcased its class 8 battery electric refuse trucks, which the company said is the first heavy-duty refuse truck built by an original equipment manufacturer that’s 100 percent battery electric. The Chinese automaker said that its North American division now offer these vehicles for purchase and delivery. BYD also announced that its first 60-foot articulated battery electric transit bus has been delivered to Antelope Valley Transit Authority. It’s part of the Los Angeles county-based transit agency’s goal to convert its bus fleet to electrification by 2018, and is the first of 13 60-foot electric buses that will end up with the transit agency.
  • Cummins Westport will make a new launch of near zero emissions vehicles in 2018, according to president Rob Nietzke. All three of its engines – the 6.7, 8.9, and 11.9 liter versions – will be renamed next year and will feature refinements from the Near Zero design launched in 2015. The 8.9-liter L9N and the ISX12N will be certified by CARB at just 0.02 grams of NOx per brake-horsepower hour, which is 90% cleaner than the current standard. The 6.7-liter B6.7N is to be certified at 50% cleaner than the current standard.
  • UPS will deploy a prototype fuel cell electric vehicle in its Rolling Laboratory fleet. UPS is working with the U.S. Department of Energy and other partners to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that meets the same route and range requirements of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles. Unlike fuel cell auxiliary power units, this vehicle will use the onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle. This project is an important step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of zero tailpipe emissions trucks to fleet operators and the developing FCEV supply chain, the company said.
  • Ryder System will be the strategic service partner for Workhorse Group. Ryder will be the exclusive maintenance provider for Workhorse’s entire light- and medium-duty range-extended electric vehicle fleet in North America and will provide a combination of warranty and maintenance services as part of Ryder’s SelectCare fleet maintenance portfolio. Ryder will also serve as the primary distributor in North America for Workhorse’s E-100 and E-GEN range-extended medium-duty vehicles, as well as the new W-15 electric pickup truck.

This Week’s Top 10: Low emission NGVs and RNG big at ACT Expo, Ports urged to clean up truck air pollution

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. Low emission NGVs and fuels highlighted at ACT Expo: A new jobs study was released on the opening day of ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif., predicting that deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ examines the economic potential of fueling heavy-duty trucks with renewable natural gas produced in California, instead of being powered by petroleum-based diesel. The study was released jointly by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC). A switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals, the two coalitions say…….. Cummins Westport introduced new 2018 model year natural gas engines for regional haul truck / tractor, vocational and transit, school bus, and refuse applications. The new B6.7N, L9N, and ISX12N engines feature Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board Optional Low NOx certification, on-board diagnostics, closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems, and performance and reliability improvements. The new ISX12N features a redesigned fuel system with fewer parts and improved performance. All CWI engines offer customers the choice of using compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) or renewable natural gas (“RNG”) as a fuel.  Using low carbon intensity RNG fuel provides significant well-to-wheel GHG reductions and is an important aspect of a move to zero emissions strategy, the company said.
  2. ACT Now Plan: Members of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) yesterday urged the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to develop and implement an aggressive clean truck program as part of the updated 2017 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). To accelerate the CAAP, the Coalition developed the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan, which offers a cost-effective opportunity, using proven technology, to drastically and immediately reduce emissions from the 13,000 heavy-duty trucks serving the two ports. Coalition members outlined the ACT Now Plan at ACT Expo 2017. The plan calls on port leaders to immediately increase the number of zero- and near-zero emissions trucks to improve regional air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and drive job growth. “The latest generation of low-NOx, zero-equivalent natural gas engines powered by renewable natural gas exceed the required air quality standard by 90 percent and they are available today,” said Thomas Lawson, president of CNGVC. “There is no reason to wait to clean Southern California’s air.”
  3. Tree planting for Earth Month: Ford and Zipcar planted 20,869 trees on Saturday through One Tree Planted as a result of their college Earth Month campaign. The program further encouraged the use of sustainable transportation on campus by committing to plant one tree for every reservation made in a Ford Zipcar, and an extra tree for students who carpooled and shared a picture using the hashtag #FordZipsters. The campaign was open to over 500 college and university campuses with existing Zipcar programs from April 13-23. The resulting trees were planted through One Tree Planted, a non-profit on a mission to reforest the planet and provide education, awareness and engagement on the importance of trees. The trees were planted in the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon as part of the McKay Creek Floodplain Reconnection Project. Zipcar members can reserve any of the company’s more than 12,000 self-service vehicles across the globe, including a variety of Ford models, by the hour or day, including the cost of gas, maintenance and insurance.
  4. Fuel cell delivery vans: UPS showed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell Class 6 delivery truck today during ACT Expo. The van, developed as part of a $10-million federal Department of Energy program, is the first of 17 hydrogen fuel-cell vans the company will be deploying in the U.S. by the end of 2018. The initial van showed today at ACT Expo will start in service later this year serving the Sacramento market.
  5. EVs for Uber rides in Oregon: Uber drivers in Portland, Ore., are being encouraged to switch over to electric vehicles for rides. Similar to a program launched in London, this one will start in late May and taps into a combination of incentives and educational programs. Uber says it has about 6,000 drivers in Oregon now; while about 100 of them drive EVs now, the company wants to utilize the program to bring the number up to around 600 EVs by 2019. The company is working with Drive Oregon, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more EVs on the state’s roads. The organization will work with Uber drivers on how to share the benefits of EVs with their riders. In separate news, Drive Oregon announced that its name has been changed to Forth. After being a big part of helping bring together leaders for the state to become the nation’s “living lab” for electric mobility, the organization is expanding beyond its home state, expanding to other regions and incorporating smart, shared mobility technology. You can visit the new website to learn more about the new look, expanded mission, and new Go Forth Electric Vehicle Showcase.
  6. Audi’s sustainable suppliers: Audi AG introduced sustainability ratings for its automotive suppliers last month. The Volkswagen subsidiary is increasing its commitment to achieving a sustainable value chain. The ratings are based on checks carried out at the suppliers’ production plants as well as on company reporting. The premium car manufacturer is starting the ratings system with the selection of suppliers for the new Audi e-tron electric SUV and for the successor to the Audi A3.
  7. ZEV fees and fuel taxes jumping up in CA: California will raise $52.4 billion over the next decade to repair its roadway infrastructure through zero emission vehicle fees and raising taxes on gasoline and diesel. Owners of all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles will have to pay an annual $100 fee to the state starting on July 1, 2020. That’s expected to raise $200 million for the state funding program. Gasoline taxes will go up another 12 cents a gallon from the current 30 cents per gallon as of Nov. 1, 2017. Diesel taxes will go up another 20 cents from the current 13 cents per gallon, and a sales tax for diesel vehicles will go up another 5.75% on that date. These tax increases are expected to bring in tax revenue of $24.4 billion, $7.3 billon, and $3.5 billion, respectively. Funds from the new Road Repair and Accountability Act just signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will cover various projects such as $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes; $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation; and $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs.
  8. Tesla dealing with safety rating ding: Tesla started an over-the-air update to reinstate the emergency automatic braking (AEB) feature in all of the Model S and Model X vehicles produced since late October without AEB. The company started adding it fully autonomous vehicle technology and had temporarily set aside AEB and other functions. Consumer Reports has dropped the Model S sedan’s overall score to 85 from 87, down from the top of the luxury vehicle list into third place behind the BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. The Tesla Model X also took a hit, dropping from 58 to 56, putting it near the bottom of the midsized luxury SUV segment. Consumer Reports says that Tesla had been making promises to upgrade the software and deal with the safety problem since late 2016, but had not yet taken action.
  9. Total SA sees EVs taking off: A leading oil producer predicts that electric vehicles could make up to 30% of global new vehicle sales by 2030. Speaking recently at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York, Total SA’s chief energy economist, Joel Couse, predicted that EVs will make up 15 to 30 percent of global new vehicle sales by that year. Oil demand used in transportation will flatten out after 2030 and possibly even decline, he said. That’s the most aggressive forecast ever made by a major oil industry company, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  10. VW settlement in California: Automakers have expressed concerns that Volkswagen is being give a competitive advantage in California over how the German automaker will be spending $200 million in the state through its diesel emissions settlement. The California Air Resources Board has taken public comments and is reviewing VW’s proposal on how the $200 million will be spent in the first 30 months on plug-in vehicle infrastructure and other zero emission vehicle projects. Competitor automakers said that VW has chosen several locations that already have many electric vehicles in place, and support should go elsewhere in California to spur more EV interest and sales. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai also filed a statement asking the state to direct a “significant portion” of the funds into hydrogen fueling stations to meet zero emission vehicle goals. Sierra Club in its CARB filing asked the automaker to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities.”


Tesla seeking joint venture partner and other interesting news from China

If you take a look at which global automakers have joint ventures with government-backed Chinese companies, you’ll notice only one missing: Tesla. Even Chinese automaker BYD, the global leader in electric vehicle sales, has a JV partnership with Daimler through Shenzhen DENZA New Energy Automotive Co., Ltd.

Tesla’s place in China may be changing soon. Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with Chinese vice premier Wang Yang. China’s Xinhua news service posted a photo from their meeting on Twitter. It’s the first time that Wang has met with only one automaker executive, according to Li Anding, a former automotive reporter for Xinhua and now a consultant with automakers doing business in China. “Wang usually meets with groups of people,” he said.

Li predicts the meeting and Twitter post are part of talks between the carmaker and government about creating a joint venture partnership for Tesla to manufacture electric cars locally.

A high-level official from China’s auto lobby said that Tesla has been holding meetings with potential partners in Chinese cities. Musk’s meeting with Wang, who previously headed the Guandong province, suggests that the province is a potential region for Tesla to build another plant beyond Fremont, Calif., and its Nevada “Gigafactory” battery plant.

Going this route would eliminate the steep 25 percent tariff Tesla currently pays to China on its imported cars selling in that country. The market has become the most important in the world for plug-in vehicle sales, and it’s going that way for Tesla as Musk has said in the past. Tesla earned $1 billion in revenue there last year, compared to $4.2 billion in the U.S.; and the electric carmaker has been exploring building a new factory in China in recent years.

Tesla could be well positioned in the near future to reach China’s two market segments for plug-in vehicle sales:  wealthy consumers looking for luxury vehicles, and workers who’ve moved to the city and need their first car.

Luxury carmakers see China as being vital. The BMW Brilliance alliance is the German luxury performance carmaker’s platform in China. On the affordable end for new car buyers, the Tesla Model 3 is expected to be very competitive against BYD and others in the China market. Taking away the 25 percent tariff by establishing a JV production plant would be part of bringing down the price of all Tesla vehicles sold in China – and offering a much more profitable prospect for the U.S. company.

As covered last week in Green Auto Market, the Chinese government may very well enact a steep mandate that is making automakers quite anxious – and is moving them to increase their plug-in vehicles sales volume in that market.  China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology proposed last fall that “new energy vehicles” make up at least 8% of new vehicle sales as soon as 2018, and that would go up to 12% by 2020. Included in those zero emissions vehicle numbers (based on California’s ZEV structure) would be all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles covering light, medium, and heavy duty vehicles. That includes all new cars, trucks, and buses sold in the country.

The national government is considering blocking or delaying these proposed measures after industry feedback concluded that the targets are overly ambitious. It may be finalized one way or another by June, according to a government official. Even if that measure fails, the move toward solidifying China as the world’s largest plug-in vehicle market isn’t expected to go away, but demand has started to soften this year.

Sales of plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars fell nearly 5% in January to March compared with the same period a year ago, China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. Analysts say that demand has dropped this year from the dramatic increases over the past three years due to a 20% cut in subsidy payouts by the national government this year, barriers being raised for entry of new car models, and debate over easing the proposed sales mandate for new energy vehicles.

Another sign that foreign companies won’t be backing away from China came last week from Tesla’s battery partner, Panasonic. The Japanese company announced last week that it had an opening ceremony for a new automotive lithium-ion battery factory in Dalian, China.

The company says that the factory is Panasonic’s first automotive battery cell production site in China, and it’s part of a corporate goal to have strong footing in the plug-in vehicle battery market. “Panasonic will further strengthen its global competitiveness in the automotive battery industry by the establishment of production sites in Japan, the U.S., and China,” the company said.