10 reasons electric automated shared rides will take off in a decade or two

As explored in Green Auto Market during fall 2019, the transformation of cars and fuels will likely take much longer than 2030. That being said, it looks quite likely that over the next 10-to-20 years, we’ll be seeing a growing part of ground transportation moving toward the forecasted transition. So, here’s a look at why we’re going to be willing to take an electric automated shared ride 10 years from now.

1. Traffic congestion will be getting worse.
A Texas A&M Transportation Institute study from last year expects that traffic congestion across the country will increase by roughly 20 percent in 2025. Five cities will see the worst of it: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, New York City, and Boston. For now, we’re looking for alternative routes and better times to drive somewhere (such as leaving extremely early for an important appointment). New vehicle sales are expected to continue to increase in the developed (and developing) world over the next decade, and these vehicles are made to last longer than in the past — perhaps 12 to 15 years before being taken off roads. Another trend having an impact will be young people moving to cities around the world, and needing some form of transportation. Uber rides, and competitors in mobility, will be part of it; along with personal and fleet vehicles, and commercial trucks and buses. Another key indicator of urban growth: trillions of dollars are being secured to fund development of sporting and entertainment centers; university R&D zones; office buildings; residential properties for both young urban dwellers and senior living communities; and new and revitalized retail shopping districts. This means more and more commercial vehicles will be showing up in metro areas along with more passenger vehicles for personal mobility.

2. Car crashes and road repair will have an exponential effect.
More people moving into major metro areas means more car crashes. The fatality rate per capita has been declining in the US for several years, but we’re going to see a lot more vehicles on highways and city streets. Anyone doing a good deal of driving in major metros these days knows the debilitating effect a car crash can have on traffic; and that also applies to maintenance crews blocking off a lane or two for road construction or repair. Highway construction projects plus car crashes, major or minor, means a lot more headaches for drivers. For drivers planning their day with a tight schedule to get from Point A to Point B by a set time, there’s nothing worse than suddenly seeing warning lights up ahead and long lines of stopped traffic.

3. The magic GPS mapping system will not be invented.
Realtime traffic data is getting better all the time, but it has a very long way to go as cities expand exponentially. Products like StreetLight Data, Garmin, Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps, are getting better all the time. But there are too many cars out there, and traffic will become more congested every year. Throw in car crashes, road and lane closures, bad weather, crowded events, and other occurrences, realtime traffic data won’t be fast enough to help divert traffic jams with more and more vehicles coming to roads. And what if there aren’t any viable alternate routes, as if all the traffic is being blocked off? Bad news for those who hate being stuck in traffic.

4. You can expect more tickets and expensive parking.
It’s much easier to get a parking ticket these days, and the cost of parking in a garage or outdoor lot is going up. When you do go to park you car, especially in a residential neighborhood, take a careful look at the posted signs. City planners are trying to keep their curbsides and streets from being taken over by drivers needing to park their cars somewhere. Residents and business owners complain about the stress and inconveniences of parking becoming a rare, valuable commodity, and want to see their city enforce parking codes. Some people wonder if cities are also bringing in additional revenue by putting parking meters and red zones all over town. Drivers usually have to pay for parking to go anywhere, and the hourly rates are going up. You can always download parking apps to find available parking spots, hopefully at a reduced rate. But if the parking spaces are gone, they’re gone.

5. Gasoline and diesel will eventually go up and stay high in pricing.
Consumers and fleets have been spoiled since 2014 when gasoline and diesel prices dropped and stayed relatively low over the years in the US. But it will eventually become more expensive to pump deeper for oil as the supply dries up. Fuel consumers will also have more options to choose from. Global oil demand will hit a plateau around 2030 after seeing an increase of 1 percent globally over the next decade, the International Energy Agency predicts. More energy efficient cars and electric vehicle growth will offset demand, the study said. The cost of electric cars and other clean vehicle options (hydrogen fuel cell, natural gas, propane autogas, hybrids, renewable fuels, and maybe even fuels that are yet to become viable today), will come down in cost and will become more accessible in fueling infrastructures.

6. Desperation over climate change.
Climate scientists have been putting out dark and dreary reports in the past couple of years on the global environmental crisis and expectations for the next few years. Climate change is gradually morphing into climate catastrophe. While the predictions are bleak, I still find many people out there who want to do something about it — drive a clean vehicle, get solar power on their roof, become more energy efficient, recycle all they can, and analyze where they’re going to spend their money, who to vote for, and where to share their opinions on climate change and social responsibility.

7. Car buffs are not looking forward to the future.
For folks who love part of the American dream, its depressing to think of the near future taking away their choices as a car owner. What if your dream car is a 1968 Pontiac GTO or a Dodge Charger from that model year? A 1958 two-tone Cadillac Eldorado? And what happens to your giant, loud Harley Davidson motorbike? Will they be able to give up their gas-guzzling performance cars and bikes to go to work in a quiet, boring electric autonomous shuttle? They’ll have to grieve and move on, but some of them won’t be able to give up their dream cars — and may once again lobby the Environmental Protection Agency to allow a loophole for a few classic cars.

8. The idea is appealing for people who don’t want to feel chained to their steering wheels.
If you ask around, and review a few studies, surveys, and feature articles, you’ll find that there are many consumers who look forward to not feeling enslaved by having to drive their cars. They look forward to avoid feeling knotted up in tension from getting stuck in traffic once again, being late for work, or burned out and exhausted when they finally make it home. It’s discouraging to wait and wait for traffic to lighten up, and then find out you only get to go another three feet forward and then stop again for what can feel like eternity. Many of us look forward to doing something else during that downtime instead of being chained to the steering wheel. It would be much more interesting to engage in conversations with fellow ride-sharers, or to friends by way of phone. What about reading that great book — or writing that book you’ve been thinking about for years? There’s plenty more to do such as responding to emails, watching a movie or TV series, getting more skilled at playing video games, online dating messaging, listening to good music, catching up on social media, and much more. Sound good? It does to me.

9. Saving money on transportation.
When you include the cost of auto financing, insurance, maintenance and repairs, tire replacement, and gasoline, you are looking at spending around $750 per month, or $9,000 per year, on average, for car ownership in the US. What if you lived fairly close to work and didn’t want to own a car anymore? You could ride the bus, take a few Uber or Lyft rides, ride your bike, rent a car or pay for a few hours of car-sharing, and put in a lot of miles walking. What would that cost you? You could probably whittle that down to around $250 per month. That would save you about $500 per month.

10. Competition will rise and choices will be plentiful.
What will it look like to see companies such as General Motors, Ford, Tesla, Waymo, Uber, Lyft, Apple, Daimler, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and China’s Baidu, launching advanced mobility services? Alphabet’s Waymo division took the first step in December 2018 by starting the Waymo One autonomous ride service in Phoenix’s suburb of Chandler. Members of its early rider program (that will go out to the general public eventually) have access to an autonomous ride-hailing service. There are many other test projects underway in North America, Asia, and Europe. These companies are hoping to build significant profit channels and to play leading roles in the future of mobility; with the expectation that car sales will be declining over the years. For now, it’s a wait and see on which companies will line up all the requirements to achieve government-approved, safe, efficient, and durable shared rides.

And in other news………

Formula E:  Jaguar driver Mitch Evans surprised racer Andre Lotterer who looked to be giving Porsche the top spot Sunday at Mexico’s E-Prix. Evans took the trophy for the fourth Formula E electric car race this season, surviving a turbulent race in Mexico that meant 14 drivers crashed and couldn’t finish the race. One of them was Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne, hitting the wall at the exit of Turn 3. Vandoome finished fourth in the championship, the first time he failed to score first place this season.

Kenworth electric truck:  Kenworth will collaborate with vehicle component supplier Meritor on electric powertrain development for Class 8 Kenworth T680E battery-electric vehicles. The electric Kenworth T680E will be a short-hood day cab in tractor configurations of 4×2 and 6×4 axles and as a 6×4 axle straight truck. The T680E will offer an operating range between 100 to 150 miles, depending on application.

Hydrogen trucks:  Hyundai Motor Corp. is entering the hydrogen truck market. The South Korean automaker is partnering with Yeosu Gwangyang Port Corp. to commercialize hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in their country — a move with a broader market potential as Hyundai plans to introduce two hydrogen trucks for logistics transportation by 2023, and then add 10 more. Hyundai is preparing to compete with Nikola, Toyota, and Tesla’s Cybertruck and Semi on the truck side and support its offerings in the fuel cell car segment.

German Gigafactory:  Tesla has been ordered to temporarily halt preparations for a car and battery factory in Berlin after environmentalists won a court injunction on Sunday. The company had been clearing forest land near Germany’s capital city, ahead of building its first European car and battery plant.

The facts about propane school buses, Hyundai and Energy Dept. working together on hydrogen and fuel cells

Editor’s note: Here’s a detailed look at how propane autogas is making headway in clean transportation programs that school districts around the country are deploying. Funding is available, and it’s important to know the selling points of the clean fuel being integrated into the fleet. Many thanks to Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) for contributing. 

School districts and school bus contractors across the nation are moving toward cleaner fuels, in part because of the availability of Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds allocated by their state. They have many options to replace older, dirtier diesel school buses with modern counterparts, as Green Auto Market’s Feb. 3 post correctly points out.

The challenge is reducing nitrogen oxides, which is one of the nation’s biggest air quality problems. The federal government regulates nitrogen oxide emissions due to their harmful impact on both the environment and human health.

Propane autogas is one of the most sought-after options to reduce nitrogen oxides. According to a recent study by West Virginia University’s Center of Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions, NOX emissions are 34 times higher in a diesel school bus than in a propane bus, over a stop-and-go route. Propane buses cut particulate matter to virtually zero and nitrogen oxides by 96 percent.

Right now, more than 19,700 propane school buses transport about 1.2 million kids to school across the nation each day. Almost 1,000 school districts have discovered this advanced clean fuel system technology. Propane buses can be found in major urban areas like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta, along with smaller districts, such as Neosho, Mo. and Chenango Forks, N.Y.

Compare that to 2,500 CNG school buses and 200 electric school buses across the nation.

Here’s another benefit: economics. Propane autogas is naturally much cleaner than diesel in composition and combustion, which translates to substantially lower maintenance costs. Plus, propane fuel costs about 50 percent less than diesel. According to ANL AFLEET Tool data, in a dollar-for-dollar comparison of Type C school buses, propane buses reduce nitrogen oxide emissions more than any other type of fuel.

Those transportation department savings can go back into classrooms. The World LP Gas Association’s 2018 report, “The Role of LPG in Shaping The Energy Transition,” states that if all the nation’s diesel school buses were converted to propane, U.S. school districts could hire 23,000 additional teachers with the fuel and maintenance savings.

When it comes to fueling, there are already thousands of public propane stations across the country. For districts that want onsite infrastructure, propane providers will install a station for little or often zero cost with a fuel contract. And with a range of up to 400 miles on a single refill, propane buses provide the distance that school systems need to get through daily routes and after school events.

But the most important takeaway must be the health and safety of our children, and that means reducing nitrogen oxides.

“The biggest thing we have noticed is that the clean operation of the propane buses has reduced the emissions in our garage and around our schools,” said Barry Bryan, director of transportation for the Bradford Area School District in Bradford, Pennsylvania. “There is far less crude build-up on our computer screens inside of our maintenance bays, which is obviously a plus for our lungs.”

Propane is unique in that its upfront and maintenance costs, range, ease of use and, most importantly, ultra-low emissions are all in the same package. With propane, districts get all the cost and emission-reducing benefits without the sticker shock of electric school buses or the complexity and dirtiness of diesel.

Tucker Perkins is the president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council based in Washington, D.C.

And in other news…………

  • Hyundai Motor Company on Monday announced the expansion of its partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its support of the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program. The automaker says that its commitment aims to increase technical collaboration to better understand challenges and to collect and publish independently validated data from demonstrating fuel cell technologies and hydrogen infrastructure under real world operating conditions. Hyundai will provide the energy department with five Nexo fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for use in various regions of the country including Washington, DC, to help advance research and development of fuel cell technologies. Data from the vehicles and infrastructure will be collected, analyzed and published to identify additional research needs in key areas.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board released findings on its investigation into fatal crashes that involved Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system. NTSB disclosed yesterday that in March 2018, Walter Huang, a 38-year-old Apple software engineer, was driving his Tesla Model X in Mountain View, Calif., in Autopilot mode at about 70 mph when it crashed into a safety barrier.  Huang had reported that on prior trips, the car had steered away from the highway, according to the documents made public.
  • Waste Management CEO Jim Fish indicated his company will continue to bet big on converting its fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) in comments at the company’s annual Phoenix sustainability forum. “By the end of the year, almost 70% of our trucks on the road will run on CNG, and by the end of next year it will be almost 75%,” he said at the Jan. 30 event.
  • Amazon and Instacart are leading the path toward grocery shopping and delivery. But don’t forget about competitors including parent company Albertson’s Vons and Pavilions grocery delivery services. Vons has been in this business since the 2000s, and you can still see its dedicated delivery vans bringing groceries to customers. Pavilions is promoting its Unlimited Delivery Club with a few incentives like $20 off your groceries and free delivery on you first order if you spend $75 or more. Albertsons is working with Instacart, and are other majors like Kroger and Costco. But they’re all trying out their own services. The Pavilions promo clarifies it: “Not valid on orders fulfilled by Instacart.”
  • Homeless population:  Ever hear of the homeless opera singer sharing her aria with the general public on a subway platform in Los Angeles? That was Emily Zamourka, who had several viewers of the video reach out to her for housing and support last fall. Zamourka is part of a growing population in California, and other parts of the country, of people living in abandoned building, tents, and other places you wouldn’t want to spend the night in. Here’s my take on why the growing homeless community has become a major concern for cities to face; and for those of us living here in homes wondering what all of it will mean.

Fact guide on a major clean transportation growth sector: Green Buses

Buses used by transit agencies and school districts have become one of the most significant growth sectors for clean transportation in the US and worldwide, with electric buses gaining much of that attention over the past year. However, it is useful to get a big picture overview of where green buses are today — and that includes buses powered by natural gas, hybrid systems, biodiesel, battery electric, propane, and hydrogen.

Chinese maker BYD is perceived as the dominant force in electric bus development and sales — but it’s not the largest e-bus maker in China or the world. Plus, there are a number of domestic and global busmakers that are making big moves in this space.

Natural gas and diesel hybrid buses were the first to be added to several transit fleets in US cities between 2005 and 2010, with biodiesel, battery electric, hydrogen, and propane following. A chart in American Public Transportation Association’s 2019 report tells a lot more of this story, and how diesel has been declining in recent years…………..

Source: 2019 Public Transportation Fact Book, American Public Transportation Association

According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), alternative fuels and advanced hybrid drivetrains powered more than half of all transit buses in 2017 and 2018. Between 2008 to 2018, the share of conventional diesel buses dropped from 70 percent to 42 percent.

Natural Gas:
The fuel became the first alternative replacing diesel to be tried by several transit agencies, with incentives coming from several states to convert existing buses over to compressed natural gas powertrain systems and to construct refueling infrastructures at existing onsite gas stations. NGVAmerica reported that transit agencies have about 11,000 natural-gas powered buses in operation. It makes up about 35 percent of new transit bus orders these days. US school districts have also taken the fuel very seriously, with more than 150 of them operating about 5,500 natural gas powered vehicles in their fleets to move students.

Seven vehicle manufacturers have offerings in heavy-duty CNG-powered buses for the US market — Thomas Built Bus, Optima/NABI, New Flyer, Motor Coach Ind., Gillig, El Dorado, and Blue Bird Bus. Selling points include saving millions in fuel cost, reducing emissions (especially when renewable natural gas can be utilized), and running quieter buses than what comes from diesel engines. Bus fleets around the world have been able to make the case for bringing in CNG-powered vehicles in recent years. New Delhi is operating the largest fleet — about 5,500 CNG-powered buses through Delhi Transport Corp. and the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal System (DIMTS).

Hybrid Buses:
Metro bus operators are using hybrid diesel-electric buses manufactured by Azure Dynamics Corp., Ebus, New Flyer, Gillig, Motor Coach Industries, Orion Bus Industries, North American Bus Industries, Mitsubishi Fuso, Volvo Buses, and many more. Many bus makers are partnering with three major hybrid system manufacturers — GM-Allison Transmission, BAE Systems, and ISE Corporation. Most of the hybrid buses end up in the US, Canada, China, UK, Norway, and Germany.

Biodiesel:
Using B20 and lower biodiesel blends has been a way for hundreds of US school districts and universities to reduce the health risks for staying with diesel fuel. It blends biodiesel fuel meeting ASTM D 6751 requirements with petroleum-based diesel fuel. School boards back it as it offers of low-cost method to meet air quality concerns on its fleet of diesel buses that require no modifications. It can run on existing engines and fuel injection equipment. The fuel is made from vegetable oils or animal fats with restrictions on what can be used to protect engine life.

Battery Electric:
All-electric metro buses have seen a wave of growth in recent years — including 32 percent in 2018. There are about 430,000 of them in operation today — about 17 percent of the world’s buses. But about 99 percent of them are in China, according to a report last year by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance. Cities in North America and Europe are bringing them in, and California is requiring all new bus purchases to be zero emission by 2029. Europe has seen an increase from around 200 e-buses to 2,200 over five years.

China’s BYD has been the star of the show, signing contracts for acquisitions all over the world and especially in the US and Latin America. However, another Chinese manufacturer, Yutong, has the lead in the market. Yutong has already sold more than 120,000 battery-electric buses, compared to No. 2 competitor BYD with its 50,000-plus unit mark. (By the way, Yutong is also the world’s largest bus manufacturer.)

BYD continues to sign impressive deals including bringing a 20-bus order to Los Angeles World Airports in December, and passing the 400th e-bus delivery mark from its Lancaster, Calif., assembly plant. That makes up the lion’s share of the estimated 650 electric transit buses in service in the US. However, BYD is nervous about the National Defense Authorization signed recently by President Trump. It takes effect in two years, and would ban mass transit agencies from using federal funds to purchase buses or rail cars from Chinese-owned or Chinese-based companies. But there are other markets, including selling about 1,000 electric buses in Latin America so far, and setting up plants in Canada, France, Hungary, and a new joint venture in the UK. The BYD K9 low-floor bus had been one of the most popular of its models.

In the US, local businesses are taking on e-buses to become BYD-competitive. Thomas Built Buses will delivery 50 of them to Dominion Energy in its partnership with Virginia school districts. The utility and school district want that to go up to 1,000 units by 2030 (though Thomas Built has not been handed over that entire contract).

Proterra is considered to be BYD’s leading competitor in electric buses, with contracts signed transit authorities in New York City, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia; and airports in San Jose, Calif., Raleigh, and Sacramento. Belgian busmaker Van Hool has announced a partnership with Proterra, to provide drive trains and batteries for its new line of electric coaches. Proterra, Inc., operators two plants and also offers electric charging systems and energy storage. Its Catalyst series ranges in sizes from 35 to 40 feet in length with various battery configurations.

Other companies to watch breaking into the North American e-bus market: GreenPower Motor Co. in all-electric transit and the micro-transit market; other markets served include school buses, shuttles, a cargo van, and a double decker. Gillig Electric Bus Co. started last year through bus giant Gillig LLC and engine maker Cummins Inc. Another major player, New Flyer, continues to close impressive deals such as one with King County Metro what will delivery up to 120 of its all-electric Xcelsior Charge buses.

Propane:
Propane leads the way with school buses switching over the clean fuels — more than 15,200 propane-powered school buses are out there now, according to research from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). And more of these vehicles have been added to school bus fleets since the report was published. Transit districts are also using propane-powered buses in their fleets. That list includes San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Delaware Transit Corp., and Michigan’s Flint Mass Transportation Authority.

Bus manufacturer Blue Bird has partnered with Roush CleanTech, bringing in its liquid propane autogas system to models such as the Blue Bird 4th Generation Vision Propane bus and Micro Bird G5. The school bus market has been the main focus. Navistar is entering the market through a partnership with Power Solutions International Inc. and its 8.8-liter propane engine.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell:
Hydrogen is just starting to break into the bus market, primarily in California transit agencies and the Hubei provide in China, which plans to bring in 3,000 fuel cell buses over the next two years. Toyota will be operating more than 100 hydrogen-powered buses during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fuel cell bus makers in the US include Van Hool, ENC, Ebus, New Flyer, ElDorado, and BYD. Ballard, US Hybrid, UTC Power, and Hydrogenics are major fuel cell suppliers. Daimler, the world’s largest truck maker, plans to commercialize a hydrogen-powered transit bus in the next two to three years.

Overal Bus Market — who could be gaining share in clean fuels at some point
Bus majors to watch include Daimler, Scania, Volvo, China’s King Long, Yutong, Hyundai, Iveco, Tata Motors, and Paccar. In the US, the three largest suppliers of buses in the transit market are Canadian company New Flyer, Gillig, and North American Bus Industries (although New Flyer and NABI merged in 2013, creating the industry’s giant). Ontario-based Orion also supplies some of that market. Major players in Europe include ADL Solaris, VDL, Volvo, Ursis, and Bollore. The green bus market is expected to become even more competitive over the next decade.

Other interesting news………

  • Elon Musk has a new enemy that uses the $TSLAQ hashtag. The group consists of accountants, lawyers, hedge fund managers, and former Tesla employees, who post social media analysis of Tesla executive departures, lawsuits, customer complaints, accidents, and other topics.
  • UPS has placed an order for 10,000 electric delivery vans from UK-based company Arrival. The initial 10,000 vehicles will be rolled out in the UK, Europe, and North America from 2020 to 2024 with the option to purchase a further order of 10,000 vehicles. UPS venture capital arm also announced an investment in Arrival of an undisclosed amount.
  • For those preparing the next disaster: The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DoD) will support an opportunity to address disaster mitigation through the use of an advanced fuel truck technology concept known as H2Rescue. The H2Rescue is a fuel cell/battery hybrid truck that first responders and the military can drive to disaster mitigation sites. It can provide sufficient hydrogen to provide power, heat, and even potable water for up to 72 hours.