For Today: Nissan Renault going mobile, FuturePorts explores future of clean trucks

Nissan Renault going mobile:  The Nissan and Renault alliance is entering the self-driving, ride-hailing and shared rides business; and the cars will be electric. It won’t be happening overnight – not likely before 2020 but within 10 years, a company executive said. The two companies have been testing self-driving vehicles. The mobility service will run on pre-mapped courses with predetermined pick-up and drop-off points. The automated system is being worked out with Japanese game software maker DeNA Co Ltd and French public transport operator Transdev SA. Several companies have revealed similar plans through alliances or on their own, including Ford, Uber, Lyft, Waymo, BMW, and General Motors. Tesla will offer its buyers fully autonomous cars that they can rent out for shared rides.

25 years in clean transportation:  CALSTART marks its 25th anniversary in October, with its symposium connecting transportation, jobs, and the environment. This gathering of national policymakers and industry leaders will explore market acceleration through transportation policies and technologies that result in creating more jobs, while meeting our climate and clean air goals. Solutions and actions to stimulate thinking toward a 2030 vision for a clean transportation economy will be explored. Stakeholders will gather on October 25 in Pasadena, Calif.

FuturePorts looks at role of clean trucks in port sustainability
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are striding forward on their commitment made a decade ago to bring clean trucks to the southland. Trucks powered by renewable natural gas (RNG), batteries, and hydrogen are becoming part of entering the next phase, according to speakers yesterday at FuturePorts in Long Beach, Calif.

More support for fleet operators acquiring these vehicles is likely to come from revenue collected through the state’s cap and trade auction funds, which came from the state’s AB 32 global warming measure, said Wayne Nastri, executive officer at South Coast Air Quality Management District. A new bill in Sacramento, if passed, addresses vehicle smog checks and could also provide more funding for clean heavy-duty trucks, he said.

Fleets in Southern California have been early adopters of RNG, using the clean fuel in refuse trucks, street sweepers, and buses, said George Minter, regional vice president, external affairs and environmental strategy for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).

Yesterday also saw a major announcement by Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board authorizing the purchase of nearly 300 natural gas buses; the agency will be running them on RNG that can reduce exhaust emissions by as much as 98% when compared to MTA’s current buses.

The Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan was presented last month to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition submitted the plan directed at drayage trucks serving the ports. The coalition is giving input as the ports adopt the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan. 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-hr NOx standard. The .02 standard has been supported by public fleets and transit agencies since being adopted by California Air Resources Board and Air Quality Management Districts about two years ago.

Transit buses, refuse trucks, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks built with Cummins Westport’s ISL G near zero certified natural gas 8.9-liter engine are fueled by renewable natural gas that’s reducing NOx emissions by 90% based on the .02 standard. A Cummins Westport 11.9-liter heavy-duty natural gas engine is awaiting certification by CARB and EPA, Minter said. Other vehicle and engine manufacturers may be rolling out technology suited for near zero emission trucks, especially as the 2023 deadline for hitting Clean Air Act targets approaches, he said.

Caroline Choi, senior vice president for regulatory affairs at Southern California Edison, said her utility has been exploring ways to “decarbonize” transportation through electric power. One project involved converting over cranes to run on electricity instead of diesel at the Port of Long Beach. Electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks are on their way. The company is also getting involved in test projects using electric rubber tired gantry cranes and yard tractors, she said.

Consumers and fleet operators also want to know more about rate costs tied to charging electric vehicles, Choi said. The utility is looking into rate pricing to keep it stable and eliminate demand charges.

Ash Corson, alternative fuels vehicle manager for Toyota, talked about Toyota’s Project Portal, which is testing out heavy-duty fuel cell drayage trucks at the ports. Toyota engineers have been working on hydrogen-fueled Class 8 trucks capable of carrying up to 80,000 pounds. A Toyota video showed a fuel cell truck having a lot more torque power than a diesel truck.

Choi and Minter engaged in a bit of banter over which technology, electric or RNG, is really zero emissions – or less. Minter made the point that RNG can go lower than electric, with some of it reaching net negative in emissions when the material comes from sewage treatment plants, landfills, and particularly from dairies. Choi distinguished clean energy, coming from renewable sources like wind and solar, from renewable fuels like biomethane.

Nastri reiterated SCAQMD’s stance on being technology neutral, supporting technologies that are dramatically reducing vehicle emissions. All of the panelists agreed on that point, and emphasized being cooperative in the decades-long battle between petroleum and clean fuels.

For Today: Volvo starts Polestar electric brand, Reflecting on Uber CEO leaving

Polestar electric brand:  Volvo Cars just started a high-performance electric car brand, called Polestar. Volvo acquired Polestar Performance in 2015. Polestar Performance had been a business that Volvo hired to jointly develop high-performance versions of its vehicles. The two companies will tap into economies of scale and other resources Volvo offers. Polestar will reveal its business plan this fall. Thomas Ingenlath to be CEO at Polestar. He previously had helped Volvo increase sales of several vehicles including the XC90. Polestar will challenge Tesla and BMW i subbrand as a global brand.

Putting restrictions on influencing biofuels policy:  U.S. Democratic lawmakers have been concerned about the influence of billionaire Carl Icahn, head of oil refiner CVR Energy, on biofuels policy. Members of Congress have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to clarify procedures that would prevent Icahn from influencing biofuels policy for personal gain. Icahn would like to see the federal government reconfigure the Renewable Fuels Standards for blending ethanol in gasoline. He’d like to see biofuels producers and blenders take on more of the cost – and that oil refiners and oil companies be relieved of some of the burden.

Uber CEO leaves: There’s been a lot of reflection lately on how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has left his company, and how the world’s largest ride-hailing company has taken a dive since early 2017. Since starting up in May 2010, Uber invented a new segment of mobility – a business model adopted by Lyft, food delivery companies like Postmates and DoorDash, and dozens of other startups; and that’s put several taxi companies out of business. Uber became the most valuable private company in the world with Kalanick able to bring several venture capital backers onboard. The CEO was known for his aggressive style and for leading a workplace that hasn’t been good for women to work in; or many of the other male executives who’ve left in recent weeks. No matter what happens, the Uber brand name is likely to be carried forward as it’s become the icon of mobility services; maybe by another group of owners.

 

For Today: CFA on fuel efficient light-duty trucks, Bolt wins IIHS top safety pick

Fuel efficient light-duty trucks:  Consumer Federation of America has found out more about consumer interest in fuel efficient vehicles – this time from owners of SUVs, crossovers, and pickups. CFA found that between 2011 and 2016, light-duty trucks with mpg increases over 10% saw a surge of 59% in sales during that five-year period. It was less for light-duty trucks with less than 10% increase in fuel economy, with 41% seeing an increase in sales during that period. The Toyota RAV4 is a clear example of the trend by increasing in mileage by 10 percent in that time – with a nearly 220,000 unit increase, a 166% gain, in annual vehicle sales. The consumer group sees the federal fuel economy standards moving truck fuel efficiency forward and sales of pickups, crossovers, and SUVs. “This analysis completely debunks automaker claims that consumers don’t value good gas mileage,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s director of public affairs. “Clearly, the more improvement in MPG, the better the sales.”

GAC Motor coming to America: GAC Motor president Yu Jun announced that seven “new energy vehicle” models – battery electric and plug-in hybrid – will be launched this year. Speaking last week at Michelin’s sustainable mobility summit in Montreal, Yu said that the Chinese automaker plans to enter the U.S. market by 2019. The automaker’s target is to sell one million units annually by 2020, with 20 percent being new energy vehicles. The company has already opened a research and development office in Silicon Valley. The company has set up a global sales and service network for 14 countries.

Bolt wins IIHS top safety pick:  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 Chevy Bolt a Top Safety Pick award on Tuesday. The electric car the highest score of “Good” on all crash tests and a “Superior” score for front crash prevention. The institute said that the Bolt was the first all-electric vehicle to earn the pick for 2017. Among small cars, the Bolt joins 11 other nameplates as Top Safety Picks, including the 2017 Chevy Volt. the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will still need to crash test the Bolt.

For Today: Tesla making agreement on Chinese factory, NAFA launches new website

Will Tesla forge a Chinese JV?:  Tesla is very close to finalizing an agreement to build a factory in China, according to sources close to the matter. The agreement is being made with the city of Shanghai and is expected to be released this week. The U.S. automaker will need to set up a joint venture with at least one Chinese company, which is the case for all other automakers manufacturing vehicles in China. While Tesla wants to cut out the 25% tariff being charged to import its cars to China, creating a JV has been outside Tesla’s corporate culture (an example being creating its own Supercharger fast charger and not sharing the tech with other automakers). In early May, CEO Elon Musk had met with Chinese vice premier Wang Yang, which was reported in state-owned media as focusing on a JV being forged. The electric automaker released a statement at that time denying it will be going into business with a Chinese company. But Tesla does want to have a strong presence in China, having tripled its revenue there to $1 billion last year; creating a JV may be a necessity.

BMW 530e being outsourced to Magna:  BMW is outsourcing manufacturing of a new 5-Series plug-in hybrid to North America’s largest auto supplier, Canadian company Magna International. Production will take place at the Graz, Austria plant of the Magna Steyr subsidiary with building of the BMW 530e starting this summer. Magna is opening the door to a new space for auto suppliers – contract manufacturing at a large scale. Magna Steyr will be manufacturing the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV starting in early 2018. Companies like BMW and Jaguar will be able to outsource some of their production, keeping costs down and allowing them to use their factories for other vehicles. That means moving forward on hitting carbon emission targets and getting electric cars out at a faster pace.

New NAFA website and webinars:  NAFA Fleet Management Association (NAFA) has unveiled a new website,  which is providing more value to the memberships and visitors. It was redesigned to be easy to navigate and mobile device responsive. You can also view listings for upcoming clean transportation webinars in the Upcoming Events area. “Electrifying Your Fleet: How the latest technologies can significantly reduce the infrastructure and operating costs of driving on electricity,” will take place on August 16 and will be presented by charging infrastructure supplier ChargePoint. “Case Studies of Green Fleet Activities in Canada” will take place on October 18 and will be presented by Fleet Challenge.

For Today: BMW i-Series booming in sales, Ioniq wins green design award

BMW i-Series booming:  BMW reported a surge in global sales for its i and iPerformance electric series in May and throughout 2017. In its monthly corporate report, the German automaker said that the i-Series was up 73.4% in May at 7,336 units sold. Year-to-date deliveries of electrified models through the end of May reached 33,221, up 80.6%. The BMW 530e iPerformance has been available since March. Starting this summer, the 530e will be manufactured at Magna Steyr’s plant in Graz, Austria. That’s where Jaguar’s I-Pace electric SUV will be built starting early next year. The company also announced that the MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid will expand the product line-up of electrified vehicles beginning in late June.

Study on automated vehicles:  Navigant Research expects highly automated Level 3 and 4 systems to be here very soon – starting in 2020. They’ve being tested extensively, including in public pilot programs, and governments globally are starting to approve legislation to allow commercial deployment on public roads. Highly automated light duty vehicles (LDVs) will begin introduction to the market in 2020, with steady growth anticipated beginning in 2025 to ward Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles. It will be a slow and steady process, according to the report. The start of the growth period is expected to lag by between 3 and 5 years and vary by vehicle type. Like other research firms, previous Navigant reports do anticipate integration of autonomous vehicles to electrification and ridesharing mobility.

Hyundai Ioniq wins green design award:  The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is one of the winners of the 2017 Green Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. These awards celebrate important examples of sustainable designs and provide awareness on what companies are designing and producing to make the most positive impact on the environment. Ioniq is the first vehicle in the world to offer three distinct electrified powertrains on a single, dedicated vehicle platform – the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models. “Hyundai is committed to progressing the future of eco-friendly driving and the Ioniq is just the beginning,” said Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design Center. “The future-focused character of the Ioniq along with its innovative use of recycled and ecologically-sensitive materials has made Ioniq the most fuel-efficient vehicle and a leader in the environmentally-friendly vehicle space.”

For Today: Electrified vehicle sales stronger than auto market, VW settlement funds directed to California disadvantaged communities

Game changing role in auto market:  Electrified vehicles are in a good position to play a more important role for automakers and dealers as the U.S. new vehicle market continues to slip. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. factory output slipped by 0.4% last month, a big drop from the 1.1% increase in April. The dip in manufacturing ties into increasing production cuts in the auto industry. Analysts warn that more job cuts are in the works if car sales don’t continue declining. General Motors has announced it will extend its usual two-week shutdown this summer to five weeks at some plants in the Midwest. During May auto sales, the auto industry saw a streak of declining sales for five straight months. HybridCars.com reported that as of the end of May, all three electrified vehicle segments were up substantially over the previous year. Year-to-date sales for hybrids were up 10.5%, plug-in hybrids were up 48%, and battery electric vehicles increased by a third over the first five months of 2016. That presents big opportunities for the auto industry to increase electrified vehicle sales and see more profits, and to up the small share that electrified vehicles make of total U.S. new vehicle sales.

Lyft goes renewable:  Ride-hailing firm Lyft has set a big target over the next eight years – to provide one billion rides per year using electric, autonomous vehicles. Lyft want to see all of the electric rides to eventually be powered by renewable energy. The company will be purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset emissions from the fueling of its electric autonomous vehicles with gasoline. It will take several years for its fleet to be electrified and for renewable energy to make up a large part of energy in the U.S. But as battery-powered technology matures, Lyft expects “the vast majority of the vehicles on our platform will be electric,” the company said.

VW settlement:  California Governor Jerry Brown will likely sign a bill that directs Volkswagen to spend a portion of its Electrify America in disadvantaged communities in the state. It’s part of a larger budget package that Brown had already agreed to sign. Critics of VW’s recent plan said that the first $200 million, of the $800 million to be spent in California from the settlement, could give the German automaker a competitive advantage over other automakers and charging station makers; and it would ignore low-income communities in a state that has become committed to improving air quality in disadvantaged communities that are hardest hit by polluting vehicles such as heavy-duty trucks coming from ports.

For Today: New study on competitive EVs, SF Motors comes to America

EV adoption:  University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute just published a study finding that recent advancements and improvements have positioned battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to become more competitive with conventional gasoline powered vehicles. A new report written by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of University of Michigan, finds a few market forces driving change. With prices of the vehicles coming down and the cost of the electricity used in charging remaining low and stable, coupled with rising interest among car shoppers and an increasing number of charging locations, plug-in electrified vehicles are becoming more competitive for replacing convention vehicles for most U.S. drivers in the relatively near future.

Tips on ride and drives:  Clean Cities just published an article examining how constructive ride and drive events can be for communities. They offer an opportunity for participants to experience the latest plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs), and can benefit organizations and event attendees. With more PEV models now available, many organizations are highlighting the technology by hosting a local ride and drive. One reason of the four states that outdoor events are highly visible and give you the opportunity to showcase your organization. You can also gain access to Ride and Drive Kit, a step-by-step guide for hosting a PEV experience.

SF Motors comes to America:  A new electric car startup has come to America, this one backed by a Chinese vehicle manufacturer. Chinese company Sokon is in the process of launching SF Motors, with its headquarters office in Santa Clara, Calif., and a development facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard will be part of launching the new SF Motors brand, which will be manufacturing and selling its own electric passenger vehicles. The parent company, Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co., offers Sokon vehicles with internal combustion engines and fleet applications – small utility trucks, vans, and buses. More will be revealed in the next few months on SF Motors and its vehicle lineup.

For Today: Electrified Hyundai Kona, Uber facing more upheaval

Hyundai Kona:  Hyundai will be offering electrified versions of its new Kona crossover SUV. While the 2018 Hyundai Kona is scheduled to come to the U.S. later this year, it’s not clear which electrified options will be available and if any of those variations will come to the U.S. The all-electric model is supposed to come out in 2018 and will have range of about 240 miles; though that will likely be fewer miles in the U.S. under the Environmental Protection Agency rating. “Clean mobility is a core strategy of the Hyundai Motor Company in the future,” the company said during unveiling of the Kona in Seoul. It could join the Ionic as part of the Korean automaker’s ambitious global strategy for green vehicle introductions. All three electrified versions of the Ioniq were displayed on the freeway side of the Hyundai’s U.S. headquarters office recently.

Electric Transit postal vans:  Deutsche Post, Germany’s postal carrier, has entered an agreement with Ford’s German subsidiary, Ford-Werke GmbH, to manufacture battery-electric vans. The chassis of the Ford Transit will be used by Deutsche Post and fitted to a battery-electric drive train. The German postal carrier had previously designed and produced the all-electric smaller van StreetScooter. The new van will be larger and offer more shipping capacity. Production with Ford will start next month. The target is to build and deliver at least 2,500 vehicles before the end of 2018, which would make Deutsche Post DHL Group the largest manufacturer of battery-electric medium-duty delivery vehicles in Europe, the company said.

Uber upheaval:  Uber board member David Bonderman is leaving the company after making a disparaging comment to another board member, Arianna Huffington. After Huffington talked about how having one woman on the board often leads to more women joining, Bonderman said, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” This followed news of CEO Travis Kalanick taking a leave of absence from the company, and a plan released by the company Tuesday that more accountability will be brought to executives for their actions. Huffington has been part of a panel investigating allegations made by a female ex-employee back in February over sexual harassment by an Uber executive. Earlier this month, Uber fired 20 employees over harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate behavior stemming from the February blog post by the female ex-employee. This has been a stormy year for Uber that includes an intensive court room battle with Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary in its claims against Uber stealing its intellectual property for self-driving cars. Uber’s main U.S. competitor, Lyft, seems to be benefiting from the storm Uber is under, and continues to add partner companies to its future.

For Today: Will Apple build its own autonomous electric cars? GM builds first self-driving Bolts

Apple Project Titan:  During an interview with Bloomberg Television last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is making autonomous vehicle technology a top priority. There’s been a lot of speculation over whether Apple will one day take its secret Project Titan electric autonomous car to its own factories. Cook wouldn’t speak to that topic, but did admit that autonomous vehicles is one of three technologies directing artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley – up there with electric vehicles and ride-hailing services. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

Proterra funding:  Electric busmaker Proterra just closed another funding round with $55 million coming through BMW i Ventures and Al Gore’s sustainability focused investment firm Generation Investment Management LLP. “More than ever before, cities are looking for sustainable transportation solutions that can reduce pollution efficiently and effectively. Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy,” said Gore, the former vice president and climate change activist who serves as chairman at Generation Investment Management.

Autonomous Bolts:  General Motors just announced that it has finished building 130 autonomous Chevy Bolt test vehicles at its plant in Lake Orion, Mich. That means the company is now capable of mass producing autonomous Bolts and other self-driving models. CEO Mary Barra has said GM is the only automaker capable of building high-volume autonomous vehicles in its assembly plant. GM will also working with ride-hailing firm Lyft on testing these vehicles with Lyft drivers.

For Today: California and China ZEV alliance, Roush CleanTech sees breakthrough in low NOx

California and China ZEV alliance:  California is forging an alliance with China to move forward on zero emission vehicle technology development, batteries, and sales increases as the U.S. pulls away from the Paris climate change accord. Governor Jerry Brown and California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols met with officials from China’s leading automakers and battery manufacturers this week in an effort to expand cooperation and accelerate deployment of zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses. A new working group was formed through the China-US ZEV Policy Lab at UC Davis to expand cooperation with Chinese vehicle and batter makers. The lab comes from a partnership established in 2014 between UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and the China Automotive Technology and Research Center. Brown and Nichols have been touring China this week as the nation prepares to adopt the state’s ZEV policy with credits for automakers to purchase and trade for meeting emissions rules.

Three events to consider attending:  Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, June 19-22 in San Francisco. For 17 years, the conference has attracted international thought leaders and battery technologists from major automobile makers and their suppliers to discuss key issues impacting the technology and market of advanced vehicles and the batteries that will power them……… EV Roadmap 10, June 20-21 in Portland, Ore. Founded by Portland General Electric and Portland State University, and now produced by Drive Oregon, the conference has established itself as one of the leading electric vehicle conferences in the United States………… Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo, June 25-28 in Austin, Texas. Co-located with the US Ignite Application Summit, the conference brings together over 200 cities and their respective leadership to prospect and partner with innovative technology and service providers, linking progressive cities with state-of-the-art solutions and best practices.

Breakthrough in propane technology:  Roush CleanTech announced yesterday that it has developed the first propane autogas engine available in class 4-7 vehicles and Blue Bird Type C buses certified to the optional low nitrogen oxide (NOx) level .05 g/bhp-hr. These new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency- and California Air Resources Board-certified propane engines are 75% cleaner than the current emissions standard. “Roush CleanTech’s low NOx engine is a great step forward for the propane industry,” said Tucker Perkins, president of the Propane Education & Research Council. “Propane autogas is well established as an economical, clean-burning and domestically produced alternative fuel ideal for fleets. Now propane gets the biggest return on NOx reductions, too.”