Musk complains of ‘fascist’ response to Covid-19 during earnings report, Ford and Rivian cancel Lincoln EV for now

Tesla Inc.’s profitable quarterly report was overshadowed yesterday by CEO Elon Musk’s angry comments, well represented by this one: “To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom!”

Musk would like to see the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory opened again. A government-ordered shutdown kicked in on March 24 with Covid-19 quarantine orders in effect at least until May 31. Musk told shareholders he didn’t know when Tesla could resume production in California and called the state stay-at-home order a “serious risk” to the business.

It was the third quarterly profit in a row for Tesla, Inc. Gross margins in the first quarter jumped to 25.5 percent for the company. About 7 percent of its $5.1 billion first quarter revenue came from regulatory credits — funds paid by other automakers to buy the company’s carbon emissions credits. That revenue nearly tripled from the last quarter.

Tesla’s quarterly report came just a day after Ford Motor Co. reported a $2 billion first-quarter loss, and forecasted losing another $5 billion in the current quarter as the Covid-19 pandemic takes away its new vehicle sales. Ford, like other major competitors, has seen its stock price slide down in recent weeks.

Tesla has not seen that happen. Shares were coming in at $858.16 on Thursday morning, with the profitable quarterly report helping to strengthen that price. That trend has been upward since the beginning of April. Beginning production and deliveries in China is helping the company’s perceived value.

Musk may be able to benefit generously from the financials. He may soon be making $750 million or more through his pay structure agreement made with shareholders in 2018. The Tesla chief has the option to buy 1.69 million Tesla shares at $350.02 each. Taking Monday’s Tesla closing stock price of $798.75 as an example, Musk could sell those shares for a profit of $758 million — once it reaches the $100 million at six-months average mark. It reached $145 billion this week, and around $96 billion for the latest six-month count.

Ford and Rivian:  Ford Motor Co. has canceled its Lincoln-brand all-electric SUV that was going to be made in partnership with a powertrain provided by startup Rivian. The two companies are still talking about working closely together, and putting out a Lincoln vehicle that will also be based on Rivian’s EV “skateboard” platform. Rivian recently announced that it’s pushing back the release of its first two vehicles — an all-electric pickup truck and SUV — to early 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Ford made a deal with Rivian to invest $500 million in the startup company just two months after Amazon led a $700 million investment in the Michigan-based startup. As part of Ford’s investment, it announced that it would develop an electric vehicle that used Rivian’s battery pack and electric motor setup. “Given the current environment, Lincoln and Rivian have decided not to pursue the development of a fully electric vehicle based on Rivian’s skateboard platform. Our strategic commitment to Lincoln, Rivian and electrification remains unchanged and Lincoln’s future plans will include an all-electric vehicle,” a spokesperson from Lincoln told The Verge in a statement.

Natural gas stability:  As petroleum prices continue to go through upheaval in the Covid-19 economic environmental, natural gas can once gain offer fleets certainty during during a period of instability. Ryan Forrest, Western United States Region Manager at Trillium, makes the case that fleets can get hit hard depending on gasoline and diesel when the prices inevitably go back up — as seen many times during pricing instability from 2008 to 2014. Being a domestic fuel has helped natural gas retain its $2 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) for several years. Fleets using renewable natural gas (RNG) in their CNG-powered vehicles are also enjoying making contributions to climate benefits and improved air quality. That point is reinforced by an April 20 announcement from Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) and Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) today that 39 percent of all on-road fuel used in natural gas vehicles in calendar year 2019 was RNG.

BYD and Hino commercial EVs:  BYD and Hino Motors signed a strategic business alliance for collaborating on commercial battery electric vehicles development. The two companies will work together to develop the best-fit commercial BEVs for customers to achieve carbon reductions. Commercial fleet customers will be served, and BYD and Hino will cooperate in retail and other related business that will promote the adoption of BEVs. Hino’s director and senior managing officer Taketo Nakane said, “We are pleased with this collaboration aiming to realize commercial BEVs that are truly beneficial to customers both practically and economically. By bringing together BYD’s achievement in BEV development and Hino’s electrification technology and reliability built over years of experience in developing hybrid vehicles, we will develop the best-fit commercial BEV products for consumer in working towards swift market introduction.”

Deepwater Horizon oil spill 10-year anniversary sends out reminders on safety and avoiding eco-disasters

Two days before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank. The explosion and subsequent fire on April 20, 2010, caused the sinking of BP’s oil rig, the deaths of 11 workers, injuries to 17 other workers, and the spilling of four million barrels of oil over an 87-day period. The catastrophe in the Guif of Mexico, approximately 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, led to British oil major BP, the Swiss drilling contractor Transocean, and oil field services company Halliburton, struggling to bring the damage under control.

The spill cost BP over $65 billion in criminal penalties, civil claims, and clean-up costs. More than 47,000 people worked on the response effort in the summer of 2010. It became the biggest oil disaster ever in the US. Scientists estimated 184 million gallons were spilled — 18 times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Tourism was hit hard, along with the prime fishing grounds in Louisiana. For the oil industry, the Deepwater Horizon explosion represented the largest public relations crisis in its history. As the company said in a statement: “The accident and spill forever changed BP.”

What about the environmental and safety impact? Endangering marine wildlife and throwing local ecosystems out of balance came from it. For anyone viewing news coverage of the disaster, oil soaked birds and beaches slick with crude were typical to see.

PAH, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, was found up to eight miles from the Deepwater Horizon and was later found to be causing cardiac arrest in fish. Pockets of methane led to oxygen-starved zones, which caused marine life to smother. Large numbers of fish kills in the area were reported; and utero infections, fetal issues, and late-term pregnancy failures in dolphins. The Audubon Society reported that more than one million birds died as a result of the disaster.

The oil spill’s most lasting effects have been in deep-water zones, wetlands, and in the the population of larger marine animals like turtles, whales, and dolphins with long lifespans, according to Donald Boesch, a professor of marine science at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Boesch was appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling by President Barack Obama. Taking a look at a photo gallery from NPR will show you what it looked like and how the impact is still being felt.

The US is far from enacting fail-safes against a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon happening again; though the Obama administration did enforce rules coming from oversight agencies after the BP disaster. But it’s far from over. An even larger oil spill took place gradually over several years. The US Coast Guard was finally able to contain the Taylor Energy oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico last May that had gone on for more than 14 years. It started in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan triggered an underground mudslide that caused Taylor Energy’s oil platform to topple and sink. The leak is thought to have topped the 2010 BP disaster by more than 241 million gallons, potentially making it one of the largest – and slowest – oil disasters ever recorded.

The Trump administration has been supporting offshore oil drilling. The Department of the Interior will be allowing offshore exploratory drilling in about 90 percent of the outer continental shelf (OCS) acreage, under the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. The oil and gas sector in the region is expected to open up new opportunities to the market once challenges have been addressed and the program is belatedly approved and enacted.

Two other energy and environmental disasters had their share of impact over the past decade. Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011; and the Volkswagen emissions scandal, also known as Dieselgate, that kicked off in September 2015, eventually overshadowed the Deepwater Horizon oil crisis. While Covid-19 has taken over this year, once its contained and vaccines become common, attention will inevitably go back to climate change, air pollution, and avoiding future energy disasters that bring heavy costs to human, marine, and animal life, the global economy, and clean transportation.

And in other news……….
Speaking of Earth Day, now it’s time for the 50th anniversary on April 22. An anniversary event started on Sunday, April 19 to kick off Earth Week with a virtual stage of high-profile speakers, including public officials, activists, scientists, and performers. Event participants include Al Gore, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Bill Nye (the Science Guy), NRDC president and CEO, and former EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, and actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt. During April 22-24, millions of people around the world are going online for a three-day mobilization to stop the climate emergency.

How will clean car rules be affected by the Covid-19?  Climatewire’s feature (subscription required) doesn’t offer any real surprises. Global auto sales are gone for now, including electric vehicles. Tesla stock is doing alright with its China plant now open and running, and the Model Y coming out soon. Another interesting fact is that zero emission vehicles now make up 10 percent of new vehicle sales in Los Angeles County. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to see that go up to 30 percent by 2028, by the the summer Olympics come back to the city. Overall, one quote in the article says it all on the state’s ZEV program: “California is aiming for 100 percent electrification of light-duty vehicles and most heavy-duty vehicles,” said Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. “So this current lapse in the market is of great concern.”

Making improvements to EV battery supply chain:  Questions always come up about where electric vehicles are getting their batteries — and the environmental and economic costs of making it happen. UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) are conducting a stakeholder-led research initiative focused on identifying strategies to improve sustainability and governance across the EV battery supply chain. The massive global EV deployment has been raising concerns over the sustainability of the battery supply chain, from mining impacts to vehicle carbon emissions. CLEE and NRGI have prepared a background brief to address key questions.

Market analyst gives auto industry forecast during crisis:  Trucks.com conducted an interview with Adam Jonas, the transportation industry analyst at Morgan Stanley Research, on the state of the auto industry and transportation since the Covid-19 pandemic became a global crisis. A few of the interesting findings include:

  • The “work from home” mindset that several employers have been attempting to develop for years is starting to work. The duration and global scale is having an impact that could push auto sales down, as private vehicle ownership accounts for an 86 percent market share of commutes to work.
  • A scrappage plan similar to the “cash-for-clunkers” program a decade ago could stimulate auto sales and bring in newer, cleaner and safer vehicles cars and trucks in operation on our roads.
  • Car rental may see a permanent change with air travel being hit heavily, and the likelihood of travel patterns changing going forward.
  • Heavy-duty truck manufacturing looks like it will fall by more than half this year. Low oil and gasoline prices will continue to make trucks and vans more appealing for buyers.
  • Americans are now becoming more dependent on online retailers, digital logistics operations, and e-commerce players such as Amazon, Instacart, and Fresh Direct for food and household goods. It could a massive shift sparking the need for even more regional, local, and last-mile services. Drone delivery may have to be pushed forward, Jonas said.
  • Vehicle maker consolidation will continue, and economic uncertainly will keep the pressure on that trend.
  • Jonas thinks that Tesla’s retailing model will have to be used by more dealers. Leading dealer chain AutoNation has been showing signs of the chaos facing dealers, with 7,000 of its workers laid off this month due to sales dropping 50 percent.

Tesla doing just fine in China during pandemic, Doing the math when buying your EV

Tesla Inc. is clearing hurdles in the China auto market during the Coronavirus pandemic. The company had 12,709 vehicle registrations in China in March, versus 2,314 in February, marking its highest-ever monthly sales in the world’s largest auto market, according to data from LMC Automotive. Overall new passenger car sales in March were down 40.8 percent from a year earlier in that market. On Friday, the company said it has started selling two more Model 3 variants built at its Shanghai plant. That means all the Model 3s sold in China are locally made and free of import tax.
Tesla plans to start delivering Long Range Model 3s starting in June, priced at 339,050 yuan after subsidies. The rear-wheel drive version, with a driving range of about 373 miles before needing to be recharged, will be priced at 439,900 yuan. The locally made Performance Model 3, for which deliveries are scheduled to begin in Q1 2021, will be priced 419,800 yuan, the California-based automaker said without specifying the price after subsidies.

Telling Your Story: Doing the math on buying your EV
Editor:  So we have our first response to my request on sharing your stories on how you got absorbed into the topics of clean transportation, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, renewable energy, and the like. Thanks to Emile Rocher, a professional in efficient and sustainable buildings — and also an electric vehicle owner — for sharing her experiences with a Ford Focus electric and a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid. For those of you interested in sharing your thoughts on sustainable transportation, you can send your comments to jlesage378@gmail.com; or you can leave it in the Comment box at the end of the newsletter.

After spending some 40 years building efficient buildings, when affordable grid tied PV came along some 7 years ago, we invested about $10,000 (Canadian dollars) in system equipment and installed it on a long weekend with the help of a couple friends. Ended up with a surplus of capacity becoming a net exporter which is contrary to the rules in oily Alberta, and were being paid half of retail cost in any case, which inspired us to purchase our first EV — a 2 year old deeply discounted Ford Focus with no km (range). Added another 1.5 KW to the system a few years ago and still had a surplus even while driving about 10,000 km/yr. So we parked our ancient oil burning Jetta and bought a plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander. The great AWD rig which will get 7 L/100 km (33.6 mpg) after the 50 km battery range is exceeded. Collectively these investments make the equity markets pale in comparison regarding risk and return. Our total electricity bill for one full year was $185 (Canadian dollars), electric driving included.

What really needs to be driven home in this oil vs renewable debate is economics. Oil for personal transportation at this time, disregarding the global risk of climate change, just can’t compete evenly with the multiple massive subsidies that industry enjoys. Even Exxon and Shell are buying solar electricity (2 cents/kw hr recently for Exxon) and using it as one of the many other energy inputs in producing liquid fuel.

Do the math — starting with the 30 miles in which a first-gen EV can travel on 7 KW hr of electricity. Remember that the oil industry used that much electricity in the refining process alone to produce one gallon of gasoline (source: Nissan). This business model makes as much sense as turning gold into lead at a huge cost. We need a comprehensive study on all the other collective inputs that go into turning the various sources of hydrocarbons into liquid fuel, and to publicize it as aggressively as the fossil industry lobbies politicians to keep the oil flowing.

—Emile Rocher

And in other news………..
Responding to Covid19:  BYD Motors will pledge a donation of $1 million in medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPEs) and hand sanitizer to transit agencies and first responders in the US and Canada. The supplies include FDA-approved adult surgical masks and KN-95 respiratory protective devices, as well as hand sanitizer that is 99.999 percent effective. Several thousand PPEs have already been delivered to agencies that include the City of Los Angeles, the Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., the Toronto Transit Commission, and the LA County Sheriff’s Department………… Hyundai Motor America has donated $100,000 and 10,000 coronavirus test kits to support drive-up testing in Detroit, part of a larger effort by the company to support 21 US drive-up sites. About 65,000 tests have also been donated to hard-hit areas like New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit, the company said.

Supporting solar in USAF:  Pvilion, a leading solar powered fabric provider, announced it has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by the United State Air Force (USAF) to continue its development of rapidly deployable, solar powered structures. SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. The USAF has favorably evaluated the products Pvilion presented for cost, complexity, sustainability, required manual labor, as well as for energy independence all with the goal of maximizing mission-objective readiness. The company says that its solar technology is significantly lighter and more adaptable than traditional solar options. It is integrated entirely into a system already being installed, such as for a tent, shade canopy, or hangar. With fully integrated photovoltaic fabric panels, Pvilion’s structures allow for the multi-capability use by providing power, shelter, lighting, and climate control. Pvilion’s commercial customers use its solar fabric technology in structures used for events such as music festivals, in temporary industrial worksites, and in structures found in parks, municipalities, universities, and corporate campuses. Military operations are a good fit, too. “We’re now working hard to quickly delivery solar structures to Airmen who need them most. In this challenging time, instant access shelter, power, and climate control is key. This project is very important to Pvilion and, I believe, the nation as whole,” said Colin Touhey, engineer and Pvilion CEO.

Fuel cells for marine vessels:  ABB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hydrogène de France to jointly manufacture megawatt-scale fuel cell systems capable of powering ocean-going vessels. The agreement will establish a close collaboration on the assembly and production of the fuel cell power plant for marine applications. Building on an existing collaboration announced in 2018 with Ballard Power Systems, ABB and HDF intend to optimize fuel cell manufacturing capabilities to produce a megawatt-scale power plant for marine vessels. The new system will be based on the megawatt-scale fuel cell power plant jointly developed by ABB and Ballard, and will be manufactured at HDF’s new facility in Bordeaux, France.

DC charging for Kia Niro:  Electrify America has made an agreement with Kia Motors America to offer ‘Kia Select,’ a new charging program with optimized pricing for the Kia Niro electric vehicle (EV) model on Electrify America’s direct current (DC) fast charging network. The program offers a flat rate of 35 cents per-minute charging for current Kia Niro EV drivers, designed specifically for the unique DC charging characteristics of the model. The program also waives session fees and has no subscription fees for participants. To participate in the program, drivers can simply download the Electrify America charging app and complete a brief enrollment process. Drivers can also use the app to locate Electrify America charging stations, start a charging session, and remit payment using their credit or debit card entered during the registration process.

Telling your story on how you got here, Trump admin rolls back clean car standards

For those of us homebound during the Covid-19 outbreak, what’s the best way to avoid cabin fever and bleak news saturation?

A few good ones I’ve heard or experienced have been: catching up on a good TV show like Westworld, finally getting around to using an exercise machine, cooking healthy meals at home, playing board games with co-residents, chatting with friends and family on Zoom, and writing (or attempting to write) the Great American Novel.

And there’s always telling a good story. One of the best work experiences I’ve had in recent years has been asking stakeholders in advanced, clean transportation how they got here in the first place. How did they get so passionate about the subject matter?

That might have happened during a video interview for Automotive Digest; or a phone interview for an article; or during a luncheon at ACT Expo; or by exchanging emails after connecting on LinkedIn; or watching them give a presentation on the vehicle, fuel, or technology they’ve been championing for years; or talking with them during monthly calls of Green Auto Market’s editorial advisory board.

I’ve had a few more good questions to ask them, or that I got asked. These might include:

 

  • What do you really think it will take for clean vehicles to reach 10 percent (or 25 percent, 50 percent, etc.) of US new vehicle sales?
  • What are the most compelling points to make about switching over from gasoline and diesel to electric vehicles; or hybrids; or hydrogen; or natural gas; or propane autogas; or biogas; or renewable fuel?
  • What comes first — the chicken or the egg? The vehicle or the charging/fueling infrastructure? Or, are they equally important?
  • How did you pick this field of endeavor over something more established and safe?

Readers of Green Auto Market have told me quite a few fascinating stories. Their passion for the subject matter and staying informed might have started years ago when they took over fleet acquisitions for a city directed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; or they’ve been obsessed with electric vehicles ever since they made their first do-it-yourself low speed, short range EV from a kit — and years later bought a Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, or Tesla Model S; or they’ve worked for a government agency promoting adoption of alternative fuel vehicles; or they’ve worked in one or more startups breaking into the world of EVs and charging; or for a major automaker setting up a division in EVs, autonomous vehicles, or mobility services; or they just love to read and talk about the latest in cars, fuels, and vehicle tech.

For those of you interested in sharing your stories about getting hooked on clean transportation — and about what you’d like to see happen in the near future — in Green Auto Market, please email at jlesage378@gmail.com. It would be best to include your name and affiliation (employer, organization, area of interest, etc.); or you can remain confidential about your name and affiliation, if need be.

Speaking of which, here’s my story………

I started following the subject matter in the 1990s while serving as an editor at Automotive Fleet. I spent time talking to fleet managers who were testing out vehicle conversions to natural gas and propane autogas; they started receiving funding grants from Air Quality Management Districts in California (and other agencies around the country) to convert vehicles over to compressed natural gas fueling systems and to have a fueling dispenser placed at their base location.

During that time, I might also have been interviewing someone involved in testing out other alternative fuels such as ethanol and methanol. Support for methanol didn’t last very long after engine corrosion became a major concern. I’d also heard about limited test projects being done — electric vehicles (one of them later becoming General Motors’ EV1), a self-driving truck by the military, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that picked up more support from automakers and government agencies by the early 2000s.

For the most part, interest in clean transportation faded away by the second half of the 1990s. Cheap gasoline and diesel prices; attractive fleet incentives for full-size cars, trucks, and vans; and domestic manufacturer truck and van models that could be customized and equipped for utility fleets, construction, and maintenance operations, took away much of the interest in alternative fuel vehicles by the late 1990s.

The turning point for me was in 2007. As I’ve shared with some of you, on Aug. 12 of that year, I was struck with encephalitis — an inflammation of the brain caused by a previous infection activated again. That one had been herpes simplex that started when I was a child with chicken pox. It was reactivated in 2007 primarily by stress; though it was largely unknown at the time, and it wasn’t diagnosed correctly at first. On that day, my heart stopped twice and I had to be revived — or I wouldn’t have lived through it.

I was hospitalized for about two months, with the encephalitis swell blocking my memory (front, left cortex of the brain) for most of that time period. I wasn’t able to return to my office for work until after the first of the year. During that time after getting out of the hospital and staying home, I found myself going on the internet to research and read about subject matter I’d been digging into earlier — such as while attending the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles Conference in Anaheim earlier that year. Topics that grabbed my interest included concern over global warming; cleantech startups being a hot commodity, with capital available for EV startups and solar and wind power companies; and reading about corporate sustainability policies.

My interest transitioned over to fascination during 2008 — from the gasoline and diesel price spike and volatility, and doing features for LCT Magazine on chauffeured transportation fleets starting to try out alternative fuels. During that year, I profiled the Econation startup company— which was bringing in Priuses, hybrid SUVs, and CNG-powered Lincoln Town Cars to its fleet for corporate trips in Los Angeles.

I was blessed with support for my interest and fascination in these cars, fuels, and technologies while working with Automotive Digest and its team (led by Publisher Chuck Parker). Green Automotive Digest started up in 2010, which gave me an excellent channel for meeting and interviewing several stakeholders in the field.

During all of this time period, I became most fascinated with two key themes — clean transportation offering pragmatic solutions; and the absolute necessity of transportation in our economy and lifestyles. I would end up talking about, and writing about, these topics quite a few times — at least as a backstory to a news item or feature I was digging into.

Here’s a question for you to consider. What if you could help clean the air, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, and support technology innovation? Would you consider that intelligent, practical, and inspiring? That’s been a key piece of the formula when a new vehicle technology is introduced to the public. A piece of the press release might state something like: “This fuel will reduce carbon emissions by 1.2 million tons this year compared to diesel fuel.”

As for the role of transportation in our cultural and economic development, I think it’s been as important as power, communications, lighting, medical care, and distributing water. The essential value and role that ground transportation has played in human history for 200 years started with rail, and later with internal combustion engines and crank-up starters, the first electric vehicles, and bringing steam-engines over from trains to cars. With it came the eventual domination of petroleum and serious threats to air quality and sustainability of the world we live in.

I have to admit that I do love fast cars that can guzzle a lot of gasoline — with the 1968 Pontiac GTO being my favorite. That wasn’t the second car in the legendary car chase scene in the 1968 movie Bullitt — that was another of my favorites, the Dodge Charger, taking on the classic Ford Mustang. I believe we have the right to own and retain these cars, but they’re certainly not practical for daily commuting.

I would gladly ride to work in a shared, automated, electric SUV or bus. Why stay stuck in traffic, resenting other drivers and feeling bored and restless when you could be chatting with ridemates, playing a video game, watching something really good on a screen, reading your favorite humor columnist, texting comments to friends and family, and more?

I have appreciated researching and writing about the subject matter for previously mentioned publications. I’ve also appreciated my freelance writing with Autoblog Green, Hybridcars.com, and Oilprice.com. I had some good years conducting market intelligence studies on car rental, business travel, and travel management for Abrams Travel Data Services. I’ve also valued participating in speaker panels at AltCar Expo. I do look forward to what’s next, and expect that Covid-19 will be overcome and we’ll get back the business of green cars, fuels, and technologies.

And in other news:

White House finalizes clean car rules:  Last week, the Trump administration announced its rollback of Obama-era fuel-economy regulations from 2012, which aimed to require automakers to up the average fuel economy in their fleets to 54.5 mpg within the next few years. The administration finalized the second part of the rollback, which is formally known as the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule. The second part of the SAFE rule would require automakers to increase the fuel economy of passenger cars by 1.5 percent each year. That’s far less stringent than the standards set by the Obama administration, which mandated a 5 percent annual increase in fuel economy. But it’s less dramatic than the Trump administration’s original plan, which was to freeze the standards at 2020 levels through model year 2026. Court challenges are expected to be filed once again. President Trump posted tweets similar to comments he’d made last year: ”My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3500, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer,” he tweeted. “Engines would run smoother. Positive impact on the environment! Foolish executives!”

Automakers close plants, making ventilators:  Here’s a list of US auto factory shutdowns and scheduled dates of reopening in 14 states across the US. Several of the plants will be opening up again this month, between April 13 to 20. Ford and General Motors announced in late March that they’ll be building thousands of ventilators to fight Covid-19. These are taking place in plants that had been shut down from car production. Tesla is showing a new video posted on the company’s YouTube channel, where its engineers show off two versions of a ventilator, a prototype model with its components laid out across a desk, as well as a packaged model that shows how it might look when used by a hospital. CEO Elon Musk made a commitment to build the ventilators last month after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked for the company’s help.

BYD wants to improve EV battery safety:  BYD last week unveiled its Blade Battery, designed to resolve concerns about battery safety in electric vehicles. At an online launch event, Wang Chuanfu, BYD’s chairman and president, said that the Blade Battery reflects BYD’s determination to resolve issues in battery safety while also redefining safety standards for the entire industry. The Blade Battery has been developed by BYD over the past several years. Due to its optimized battery pack structure, the space utilization of the battery pack is increased by over 50 percent compared to conventional lithium iron phosphate block batteries. While undergoing nail penetration tests, the Blade Battery emitted neither smoke nor fire after being penetrated, and its surface temperature only reached 30 C (86 F) to 60 C (140 F). It would be far less susceptible to catching fire – even when they are severely damaged — than other batteries on the market.

China extending EV sales incentives:  China agreed to extend tax breaks and subsidies on electric-vehicle purchases for two years to provide relief for the struggling industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The government will keep waiving the 10 percent sales tax on EVs, a benefit that began in 2014 and was due to expire at the end of this year, through 2022, according to a media report. The state council overseeing the program also agreed to prolong subsidies for EV purchases for two years. The sales tax waiver and subsidies apply to battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Emissions drop during pandemic:  The coronavirus pandemic is offering one advantage: shutting down industrial activity and temporarily slashing air pollution levels around the world, satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows according to Wired. Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that over the past six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were markedly lower than in the same period last year. Nitrogen dioxide produced from car engines, power plants, and other industrial processes, is thought to exacerbate respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
(Editor’s Note: Look for the April issue of Wired to read a special section on climate change, entitled, “We Have One Earth — And The Technology To Save It. Go!”)

Looking for a silver lining during the global pandemic

So Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, just told us Thursday to stay in our homes and not go out to restaurants, bars, events, places of worship, gyms, parties, or any other social activity. We’re to avoid non-essential social contact to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and to stay six feet or father apart — aka social distancing. He’s not the only governor to issue emergency orders.

When this global health crisis will reach its peak and begin to change course is a troubling unknown. Pharmaceutical scientists may be developing drugs that could play a vital role for change, but the medications aren’t going to be here for a while. Onlookers want to see the number of new cases flatten out and then diminish.

We’re advised by governors, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stay informed and to practice preventive actions.

I think there’s one more step: finding reasons to be hopeful — to look for a silver lining. This is going to go on for awhile, and it would be better for loved ones and co-workers if we weren’t completely miserable to be around.

Here are a few resources and interesting news stories I’ve discovered.

Zoom offers an antidote to social distancing and isolation
If you’ve ever seen the 1968 science fiction classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, you may remember a scene where a future space traveler businessman takes a break to call his adorable little daughter on a videophone. I saw the movie again a couple of years ago, and thought, wow that will be wonderful when we someday can do something like that with such a crystal clear image and strong, consistent transmission. We could use Skype or FaceTime then, but there were a lot of glitches and inconsistencies.

That’s all changed with Zoom Video Communications and it’s remote conferencing services — which makes it seem like these participating people are right next door to you, and not 3,000 miles away. There are other products fulfilling the demand lately — Microsoft Teams, Slack, and RingCentral are out there — but for now Zoom is pervasive and everywhere with its free-to-low-cost services supporting video conferencing, online meetings, chatting, and other features. I’ve so far participated in two of these meetings, and now have a few more scheduled. Any question I’d had about it would be answered by someone on the call who’d already tried it out a few times and understood the control panel.

I’ve heard a few recurring themes — such as we’re already getting cabin fever stuck in our homes, unable to go out to dinner or do much of anything outside the house. There are a lot of stories about employees being put on unpaid leave for the next month or more; or having all their employee benefits covered but no pay for an unspecified period of time. A lot of comments are being made about dealing with fear and stress; I shared about how much I’d been remembering living through the LA Riots of 1992 and Sept. 11, 2001, both of which I happened to be in places pulled into the emergencies — at least for a few days (1992) or hours (9/11).

We can’t get close to anyone we’re not living with for now — especially to give and receive handshakes and hugs. We’re feeling an amalgam of stress, fear, dread, fatigue, and paranoia about the worst-case scenarios we’re hearing about in the media.

Giving thanks to the frontline
So far, I’ve heard a lot about the intense pressure that two segments of workers have been feeling over the past month or more — healthcare professionals and grocery store employees. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are being praised in many European cities at least one minute each night as they come together in gratitude. That can take place in open windows or balconies in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Athens, or Amsterdam, where they send cheer and applaud people too busy working in hospitals non-stop to hear them.

In America, Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, had this to say: “I’m seeing an incredible influx of nurses, heroic nurses, who are coming and working many more hours than they worked before, doctors who fearlessly go into the hospital to work. I’ve never seen the kind of volunteerism I’m seeing (now).”

Major grocery store chains are giving praise to their supermarket employees, who are feeling the pressure of serving frightened, demanding customers standing in long lines and searching for what they can get in toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, pasta, spaghetti sauce, soup, baking goods, Clorox, and other popular products. Kroger is giving full-time employees a one-time “appreciation” bonus of $300 at its Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, and other retail brand stores. Albertsons Cos. will be installing plexiglass barriers in its checkout lanes to safeguard shoppers and cashiers — and will pay employees an extra $2 an hour as an “appreciation” bonus at its Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, and other retail brand stores.

“Our associates are working around the clock to keep our stores open for our customers. I am incredibly grateful for all they are doing,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. “The true heroes in this story are our associates, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable effort.”

Musk changes course, makes contributions for coronavirus patients
While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been up to his usual antics lately by dismissing COVID-19, he’s now joining up with colleagues to contribute to support for patients impacted by the disease. He’s delivered more than 1,200 ventilators to California officials this week, an effort that will provide treatment for hospital patients with severe cases of COVID-19 — gaining kudos from Gov. Gavin Newsom. That followed soon after President Trump praised Tesla, General Motors, and Ford for contributing to the desperately needed equipment.

This happened about a week after Musk gained notoriety for dismissing the novel coronavirus in a SpaceX company email, and not long after a controversial Twitter post stating that that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” Like his auto executive colleagues, Musk is having to face the shutdown of factories and consumers putting off purchasing their products. The Fremont, Calif.-based Tesla plant did close yesterday, after Musk had pledged to keep it open. Tesla’s stock has been hit hard, like all the other automakers and tech giants. But investors and the general public do expect Musk to show signs of being a good citizen, which he has gotten around to. Stock market analysts see that Tesla and other publicly traded companies are just going to have to wait until the novel coronavirus statistics begin dropping down.

Donations are starting to come in to fund solutions
Pop star Rihanna’s charitable organization, the Clara Lionel Foundation, has announced it will be donating $5 million to coronavirus response efforts to do its part to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The organization, which Rihanna named after her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite, said it will be making the donation to several organizations – including Feeding America, The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and International Rescue Committee. Funds will go toward supporting local food banks serving at-risk communities and the elderly in the US as well as the “acceleration of testing and care in countries like Haiti and Malawi.”

The donation will also go toward “protective equipment for frontline health workers and diagnostic labs,” healthcare worker training and virus prevention “in countries that will be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response,” and the “distribution of critical respiratory supplies,” the group added.

Big-dollar donations have been pledged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies earlier this month that were aimed at supporting global response efforts to the COVID-19 outbreak. Donations are also rolling in from pharmaceutical companies supporting the research process, such as Novartis donating its malaria drug for testing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a fund to prepare for and respond to the spread of the coronavirus. The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund anticipates a need of $675 million through April to address the worldwide outbreak, and said funding needs will likely increase as the pandemic evolves.

Funds will be used to support efforts in tracking and understanding the spread of the disease, ensuring that patients can access the care they need and that frontline workers can get supplies and information. Another goal is to accelerate the development of vaccines, tests and treatments, according to UN Foundation representatives.

CALSTART turning 2030 Policy Summit into interactive online experience

CALSTART is committed to bringing partners together to transform transportation for good. In light of the COVID-19 issue, the organization has modified its format of the Policy Summit to be a highly interactive web conference. It’s taking place tomorrow, March 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific time. The agenda has been revamped to accommodate a new format with a shorter day and a dynamic format with high-energy panels and hard-hitting keynotes. CALSTART encourages people to register now, as space will be limited. The cost is $75. A Zoom call-in number and link will be sent to your email on file. Sponsors include Southern California Edison, Cummins, Volvo, the Propane Education and Research Council, Roush CleanTech, and Toyota.

The state of automotive and transportation as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds

There are several unknowns shrouding a new virus identified three months ago in China and now seeing fear spread worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported as of March 15, that there have been 153,517 confirmed cases and 5,735 deaths worldwide of COVID-19 — with 81,048 confirmed and 3,204 deaths in China. It crossed a pivotal point over the past week with the WHO declaring on Wednesday that the coronavirus is now officially a global pandemic. That announcement was followed on Friday with President Donald Trump declaring it a national emergency.

What is appearing to become the largest global development in years will continue to remain shrouded in mystery for the unforeseen future. It will take quite a while until the public can rest assured that healthcare professionals can stop the spread and bring a cure — or at least arrest worsening of symptoms — for those infected with the contagious respiratory disease. It’s been causing panic among those crowding supermarkets to purchase bottled water, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and in the past few days, nutritional basics such as canned soup, pasta, and bread. Governments around the world are placing severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings in attempts to quell panic and spreading of the infection and disease.

The global automotive and transportation sectors are starting the feel the impact first witnessed in China — and now spreading to every continent except for Antartica. The long-term impact is expected to be severe for governments pumping expenditures into testing for the infection, researching the virus in labs, and quarantining people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to their homes or to government-run facilities. Automakers and many other corporations are starting to take hits in stock market value, and many companies are expected to take huge financial losses. Some of that will come from revenue and profit loss as more and more events are being canceled if they have attendance of more than 50 people (or even less) — starting with sporting events being postponed and many other announcements such as Louisiana opting to postpone its April primary election; and schools telling students that classrooms will be closed for now and that universities will finish their semesters and quarters with online classes. Businesses around the country also have been shutting down over the past week.

There are many questions that will need to be answered in the weeks and months ahead…… Will people want to travel and take road trips, and will there be too many restrictions in place for it to work? Will their concerns for climate change and air pollution be anywhere near their fear of coronavirus spreading? As the economy is hit hard and job losses potentially get underway, will consumers be able to go check out new cars (including electric vehicles) and slap down their down payments? How will service-based sectors be impacted, such as auto sales and vehicle maintenance, public transit, and ride services, as the public will want less contact with others for fear of contagion? What will the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia — intensified by the coronavirus news — mean long-term?

Here’s an overview of how the coronavirus is beginning to impact the automative and transportation sectors………….

Impact on China car sales:  Retail sales of new vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, plunged 80 percent in February, according to the China Passenger Car Association. BYD’s electric vehicle sales dropped 79.5 percent year over year during that month. BAIC BluePark, the EV division of BAIC Group, dropped about 65 percent. Volkswagen’s EV partner JAC saw its sales drop by 63.4 percent. Coronavirus also forced temporary closures of Tesla’s new Shanghai car plant and stores throughout the country.

EV battery supply tightening:   Many automakers are struggling to find adequate supplies of electric vehicle batteries. One of the factors is China being a major global leader in refining cobalt, a major ingredient in lithium batteries. The pandemic is expected to affect cobalt processing plants and EV costs. Prices are expected to be rise for automakers such as from Chinese lithium producer Ganfeng Lithium, which supplies Tesla and Volkswagen; although that cost increase has been by less than 10 percent so far.

What will oil price war mean?:  Saudi Arabia declared a price war on Russia’s oil industry on March 8. Russian President Vladimir Putin had refused to cut back oil production in the face of depressed prices caused by an unprecedented 3.5 million barrels per day fall in demand that was thought to be caused mainly by the coronavirus crisis. The Saudis are now flooding the oil market and unilaterally slashed their own prices enough to drive down prices on Monday, March 9, by 25 percent. That overall trend was being felt over time. Brent oil plunged from $68.44 per barrel on December 30 to $34.36 on March 9. WTI went from $61.68 to $31.13 during that time. Analysts fear a serious negative impact on the US shale industry. Stock analysts assign the oil price plunge as a factor in Tesla’s share prices failing over the past week. Overall, analysts expect that the oil supply will continue increasing. Oilprice.com just reported that “the oil market is heading for the largest ever crude glut in the first half of 2020, which could be two to nearly four times bigger than the biggest surplus recorded so far.”

What about the economy?:  The Federal Reserve decided yesterday to drop its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero, and promised to boost its bond holdings by at least $700 billion. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told press by phone that the virus’s disruption meant second quarter growth would probably be weak and it was hard to know how long the pain would last. That’s why the Fed is advocating a clear role for fiscal policy to help cushion the blow. Stocks are still way down from recent highs on fears of coronavirus, an oil price war and travel bans, and the automakers have been hit particularly hard as supply-chain problems mount across the globe. The Dow Jones Transportation Average is down 11 percent as a flood of store, restaurant and event closings send shockwaves. Major publicly traded companies in trucking, airlines, auto, freight/logistics, and railroads, are down about 10 percent to 22 percent today.

Musk downplays risk of coronavirus:  Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Friday sent a company-wide email to SpaceX employees stating that evidence he had seen about COVID-19 “suggests that this is *not* within the top 100 health risks in the United States.” They have a higher risk of being killed in a car crash, he said. Days earlier, he’d tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” which was liked by about a million of his Twitter followers. President Trump had taken a similar approach not long ago, stating that more people are likely to die from influenza than coronavirus. Trump has had to back off such comments, and has taken a few steps in the opposite direction since then including declaring the national emergency.

First US auto plant employee tests positive:  The first-known employee of a Detroit automaker to be diagnosed with the coronavirus in the US works at a Fiat Chrysler Automobile plant near Indianapolis, which was confirmed on Thursday. The unnamed male employee at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, located about 50 miles north of Indianapolis, was quarantined and received medical care, according to Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union. An undisclosed number of other people who may have come into direct contact with the person diagnosed with coronavirus also have been quarantined, according to the automaker. Production at the plant continued as normal, but was later idled out of fear spreading among workers.

Air travel hit hard by restrictions:  Major airlines have been particularly hit hard by the global pandemic, with the president’s new travel ban with Europe worsening it. The prospect of losing spring and summer bookings is another part of expected losses. British Airways’ chief Alex Cruz, told 45,000 staff on Friday, for airlines this is already bigger than the SARS epidemic, the aftermath of 9/11, or the 2008 financial crisis.

Delivery services still up and running:  Amazon says its Prime delivery service is experiencing delays, and it’s running out of stock on some household staples due to the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported. Food and grocery delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Instacart are seeing a lot business. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the CDC and the FDA. A larger concern is possibly transmitting the coronavirus from delivery person to customer, or vice versa, through coughing, vaporized air particles, or other direct contact. Companies are urging drivers and shoppers to take extreme caution.

BYD becomes largest face-mask supplier:  BYD is becoming a major supplier of products that are now in extreme demand — face masks and disinfectants. Its new Shenzhen, China-based plant is able to product five million face masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. It’s been done in response to severe shortages at hospitals and agencies across China since the COVID-19 outbreak. It started production on February 9, and now hundreds of employees are working day and night to fulfill orders.

Customers dwindling at dealer showrooms:  Auto dealers are hearing worrisome news such as automakers shuttering plants in Asia and Europe, and schools closing and major events shutting down in the US. Some dealers are reporting dwindling visitors and sales. John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council, says that sales are definitely falling and that conditions are changing a little bit more every day; a sentiment echoed by several other dealers. Cox Automotive, which owns Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, and Manheim, sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the US this year. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas would like the Trump administration to consider rolling out another “Cash for Clunkers” program, which was a $3 billion federal program in 2009 that incentivized consumers to swap aging gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Editor’s note: The Colorado house of representative just passed a measure that would allow electric vehicle-exclusive manufacturers such as Tesla to sell directly to consumers if the automaker has no franchised dealers in the state. It still has a ways to go to be cleared and become a new law in Colorado.

Trucking feeling the squeeze:  West coast ports are starting to see a decline in cargo ships full of containers enter their ports, with the Port of Seattle seeing a recent decline akin to what usually happens over an entire years. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the nation’s largest port, is seeing a drop in ships entering the port and cargo containers being unloaded for truck transport. Much of that has been originating in China, where plants have been closed down for several weeks after the coronavirus outbreak became pervasive.

Automaker response to crisis:  Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have told non-factory employees to work remotely in order to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Factory workers at plants in the US, however, are being told to remain in place — despite the United Auto Workers union announcing Thursday that a Fiat Chrysler employee at the company’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana tested positive for COVID-19. Other automakers operating in the US are notifying employees with warnings. Nissan, which operates factories in Tennessee and Mississippi, said that employees who feel symptoms should notify their health care provider and not come to work. In Europe, FCA, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Audi stopped much of their production plant work today as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis and plunging demand.

South Korea and China recovering, not so for Europe and the US:  South Korea reported more recoveries from the coronavirus than new infections on Friday for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January. It’s raised hopes that Asia’s biggest epidemic outside China may be slowing. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 110 new coronavirus cases on Friday compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national total to 7,979 on that day. The death toll rose by five to 72 as of late Friday. China has seen a drastic drop in infections — from hundreds of cases per day in February, to less than 50 each day last week. The rate of resumption of work at its factories and provinces is slowly opening up. China had shut down most provinces in a bid to contain the outbreak, and roads, transportation networks as well as factories had been closed. Europe and the US are seeing their numbers continue to go up. Nearly 170 million people were under orders to remain in their homes this weekend as France and Spain joined Italy in placing strict quarantine rules on their entire populations amid alarming rises in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Facts about Coronavirus:   For those wondering about some of the terminology and what’s expected to come next…………

  • It’s now typically being called “novel coronavirus.” Why is that? Simply that it’s a new form of the coronavirus. As for coronavirus, the name covers a family of seven known viruses that can infect people, including the common cold and other respiratory infections.
  • The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the symptoms that may appear two-to-14 days after exposure as: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • The CDC recommends that you immediate get medical attention if you have any of these emergency warning signs:
    —Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    —Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    —New confusion or inability to arouse
    —Bluish lips or face
  • CDC recommends taking the following steps to protect yourself:
    —Clean your hands often
    —Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    —You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
    —Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    —Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    —Be particularly careful if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

While some people dispel vaccine as a solution, there has been a lot of interest in when we’ll be seeing a vaccine available at medical offices, similar to the flu shots our doctors and nurses have been recommending in recent years. However, it won’t be showing up anytime soon for the novel coronavirus.

“A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week. The earliest it would be deployable, he said, is “in a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.”

Uber and Lyft rides are so far adding to air pollution, Nikola Motor going public

Ride-sharing not helping to cut emissions:  Bad news for those hoping the explosive growth in Uber and Lyft rides in recent years would mean less car ownership, gasoline consumption, and air pollution in crowded cities. It’s actually getting worse. According to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, ride-hailing trips today produce an estimated 69 percent more pollution on average than the trips they displace in the US. In cities, these rides provided by Uber, Lyft, Via, Curb, and other firms, are usually taking away even more low fuel consumption and displacing mobility such as public transportation, biking, or walking. UCS recommends that these companies take efforts to electrify their fleets and increase their pooled rides. “For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking,” the report says.

But that’s a tough sell for fleets of driver-owned cars and self-employed workers struggling to make a living in ride hailing/sharing. When you take an Uber or Lyft ride, you’ll usually be picked up in a small, fuel-efficient car or crossover utility vehicle. It could be in a Kia Optima or Kia Sportage, a Honda Civic, a Toyota Yaris, a Nissan Rogue, and occasionally in a traditional Prius hybrid. Customers are not going to get a ride in an all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, unless things change. And group rides of three or more passengers can be very inconsistent for customer satisfaction; such as one passenger in a business suit angry about having to wait until being the last drop-off and maybe miss their flight.

Startup truck maker Nikola going public:  On Tuesday, hydrogen fuel cell truck maker Nikola Motor Co. announced that it’s merging with a publicly listed acquisition company called VectoIQ. The transaction is expected to close sometime in the second quarter of this year, and when it does, Nikola will be listed on the NASDAQ exchange as NKLA. The Phoenix-based truck maker will receive $525 million in new investment as a result, adding to an existing stockpile of that same amount that it previously raised across three rounds of funding; and through a joint venture the company started in Europe. Nikola and its backers see much potential in the zero emission commercial truck market as several countries are implementing greenhouse gas rules that are coming to trucking the same way light-duty vehicles are seeing it happen in several countries.

Nikola has developed three different trucks, with a pickup concept being announced not long ago. Nikola also has a grand plan to deploy a hydrogen fueling station network across America, ideal for commercial truck drivers who wouldn’t be able to find hydrogen fuel pumps otherwise. The company also has versions of its trucks that are battery-powered, too, for end users that don’t need as much long range driving as the hydrogen-powered versions of the trucks can offer.  Editor’s note: I’ll have a second market report coming out soon (see below for more on the first one) entitled Hydrogen is finally here — but there are five hurdles to clear, with more on Nikola and other companies in the field.

Demand and interest in EVs in a few states:  If you take a look at this map created by auto site partcatalog.com, the Ford Bronco had the highest search rating in 19 states by car shoppers looking at vehicle refreshes and introductions set for this year. It’s also interesting to see that the upcoming Tesla Model Y took three states (California, Washington, and Hawaii) and the Rivian R1T took the top spot in two states (Vermont and Delaware). The Ford Mach-E, an electric Mustang SUV, won top interest in Idaho and Rhode Island. Partscatalog.com utilized Google trends data covering January 1 through the first week of February, looking at consumer interest in vehicles set to be released this year.

New Green Auto Market report: Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?
Will we be riding to work in electric, autonomous, shared vehicles a decade from now? Will the traditional internal-combustion engine auto manufacturing industry be clearly transformed into a new age? Could we witness steadily declining new vehicles sales; younger consumers moving away from car ownership; electric vehicles becoming more important to automakers and vehicle owners than cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines; autonomous vehicles clearing regulatory hurdles and starting production; connected car features playing a significant role over the next decade; and mobility services leading the way in traffic- and smog-congested cities. For those of you who may have missed my coverage and analysis of these topics last fall, all of it is explored and updated in a new report, Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?  Here’s the link for those who are interested.

Audi eTron beats Model 3:  The Tesla Model 3 got trounced in Norway sales during February, with the Audi eTron doing very well in Europe’s hottest battery electric vehicle market. The eTron sold 1,131 units last month and the Model 3 only had 53 units sold. However, Tesla typically back-ends its quarterly cycle where about 50 percent of the volume takes place in the third month. The company should be doing a lot of catch up in March. The Volkswagen eGolf came in second at 740 units sold. That model will be replaced by the VW ID.3 later this year.

Smart cities meet 5G:  Smart cities will soon become one of the most important testing grounds for 5G technology and business models, according to a new Navigant Research study. The next generation wireless/cellular phone network is expected to much faster and load-intensive than 4G, but there’s been a battle over the technology going into the networks along with government communication regulations affecting the outcome. Carmakers and their tech partners are quite interested in how all this will go. The Navigant study looks at a few key areas that some of the challenges will have to be resolved for full integration of smart cities and 5G: cybersecurity, data privacy, the impact of automation, and issues of digital exclusion. The study also explores the strategies of global carriers and infrastructure vendors that are leading the development and deployment of 5G networks.

Daimler launching electric truck test project:  Daimler Trucks North America is launching the Freightliner Customer Experience (CX) Fleet for its electric truck program. The fleet of all-electric pre-series trucks includes six heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadias and two medium-duty eM2 106 trucks. Fourteen of Daimler’s commercial customers will be participating in the test project. Data collection will take place over the next 22 months/ DTNA will analyze data and feedback from the CX Fleet to continue to improve upon future vehicle design and assist customers navigating a transition to electric fleets. “It’s critical that we collaborate with customers across multiple segments to further our understanding of how commercial battery electric trucks will be part of a long-term solution in CO₂-neutral transportation,” said Richard Howard, senior vice president, On-highway sales and marketing, DTNA.

 

Waste and recycling companies working hard to make doing the right thing profitable

So there I was sitting in my car on a Saturday afternoon, taking care of something for my parents that I’d put off doing for several years. I was waiting in line to drop off 40-year-old paint cans, spray paint cans, empty lacquer thinner containers, and more paint cans. Some of the paint cans were still partially filled, and most were empty. Either way was fine to drop off, I was told the day before when I called the EDCO Disposal center in Signal Hill, Calif., for more information.

My interest had also been sparked by the Chinese government announcing in July that it would no longer be buying mega-tons of America’s recycling waste. It was described as being a potential fatal blow to the already struggling recycling industry. So what’s going to happen to all of it? Will it be dumped where it shouldn’t be?

Talking to staff at EDCO Disposal, reviewing the facility, and feeling relieved to find an accessible way to be rid of toxins and waste for no fee, motivated me to look into the company; and from there, what the waste collection and recycling industry is dealing with on these critical environmental issues — not to mention its very survival. Environmental groups are concerned about what’s happening in refuse landfills and waste being dumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans, especially during storms. There’s also concern over recycling services being abused by people dumping trash into recycling bins that doesn’t belong there; and what should be accepted as recyclable, such as grocery stores being allowed to provide customers with plastic bags with a recycling symbol of #1 to #7, that may or may not be meeting environmental rules.

“Trash can travel throughout the world’s rivers and oceans, accumulating on beaches and within gyres. This debris harms physical habitats, transports chemical pollutants, threatens aquatic life, and interferes with human uses of river, marine and coastal environments,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Properly disposing toxic waste has been a challenge for many. Years ago, there might be one Saturday afternoon a month where you had to drop-off your waste that wasn’t allowed to be dumped into trash cans. It might be taking place at a high school’s football field temporarily set up as a disposal site. But it wasn’t at all convenient or clear on how to be ready for it, and what you could include in the drop off. Cities had already started adding recycling bins to their weekly trash pickup services in the 1990s, which did help, but it didn’t resolve the question of dumping toxins and other waste that wasn’t going to be taken to the city dump.

What does EDCO allow to be picked up for recycling? Carton containers, mixed paper, styrofoam, aluminum, shredded paper, glass containers, paperboard, cardboard, and plastics can be dropped off. They do have some restrictions enforced, such as only allowing plastics with a recycling symbol of #1 to #7, and lids to these containers can be included in the drop-off. On the waste disposal side, my local EDCO disposal site allows for carpet, paint, paint cans, cleaners, oils, batteries, medical sharps and medicine, pesticides and fertilizers, electronic products, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes, instruments that contain mercury, and more.

Like some of its large waste management and recycling competitors, the company has adopted a sustainability program, and issues an annual statement on its accomplishments. Its truck fleet consist of over 200 natural gas powered vehicles including collection, transfer, flatbeds and pickup trucks. Renewable natural gas (RNG) started being brought into the fueling stations nearly two years ago; and the company operates public CNG fueling stations in Buena Park, San Marcos, and La Mesa.

EDCO has been able to fill the void of one recycling company, rePlanet, which had to close its 283 recycling locations in Southern California last August after the Chinese government put the last nail in its coffin. EDCO saw a huge increase in redeeming recyclables at several of its locations. Another driver of recycling business has been supermarkets that are required by law to buy back bottles and cans. But the stores don’t like doing it, and the process takes much longer, according to one redeemer.

The company is also tapping into California Senate Bill 1383, which was passed in 2017. That bill aims to reduce the amount of organics in landfills. The company, and several other waste management and recycling companies, saw this coming several years ago. Over the past decade, customers have been asked to help the company build up green waste by dumping material such as tree limbs, grass, and food waste, into green cycling containers. That’s increased its organics collected over 20 percent. With the new state law, EDCO is constructing a new anerobic digestion facility in Escondido, Calif., and it should be operating by early 2021. It can handle up to 500,000 gallons of material. Methane gas comes out form microorganisms breaking down the material, which will create renewable natural gas to power the company’s fleet and for other power uses.

Waste disposal and recycling has been going through a transformation for several years. The US population has been increasing at a quick pace, as have the numbers in several countries around the world. There’s more refuse to dispose of without seeing it dumped into oceans or landfills creating a multitude of problems. Cities around the country had taken on unrealistic projects, such as San Francisco pledging 16 years ago to achieve zero waste by 2020; but the city is nowhere near that goal.

But like vehicle pollution, energy inefficiency, coal-powered plants, and oil drilling, the challenges are high in waste and recycling — but there is hope. As one study describes it, solutions “will be accomplished through the implementation of cutting-edge technology and through an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between recyclers, designers, packagers, manufacturers, businesses, municipalities, governments, and others.”

And in other news:
China sees sales plunge:  China new vehicle sales plunged 92 percent during the first two weeks of February as the coronavirus outbreak kept buyers afraid to go out in public and visiting dealer showrooms. The first week was even worse, with a 96 percent plunge in sales, the China Passenger Car Association said in a report. The national government is now considering extending subsidies for electric vehicle purchases beyond this year to revive sales in its “new energy vehicle” sector. Local companies are looking forward to it, such as BYD, BAIC, and startup NIO. Tesla would also like to see it happen as new deliveries starting coming from its Shanghai factory. Sales of these NEVs tumbled 54 percent in January from the year before, along with a shrink in the overall market; and that was largely before the coronavirus outbreak hit, causing city-wide lockdowns and production line halts.

Lucid partners with LG Chem:  Lucid Motors announced a long-term partnership with leading EV battery supplier LG Chem for the Lucid Air electric sedan. The startup said it chose LG Chem because of confidence in its batteries bringing an ideal level of efficiency, and further optimizing Lucid’s goal of meeting or exceeding its targets for range, energy density, and recharge/discharge rates. The company expects it will reach full production this year at its Arizona factory, with LG Chem having an exclusive agreement to provide battery packs for standard versions of the electric car through at least 2023.

NACFE supporting electric trucks for regional hauling:  The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has determined that regional trucking operations are well suited to be early adopters of electric trucks. It is also a rather large segment of the market with sufficient scale to have a big impact on the industry. It study will be focusing a few key topics: identifying high-potential regional trucking routes in concert with changes to freight movement; supporting the implementation of initial and future deployments outside of California; scaling best practices in infrastructure development for fleets and communities; and increasing confidence in the value of electrification.
“We are embarking on a three-year project to gain a better understanding of how commercial battery electric vehicles will best fit into the regional haul market, said Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE.

LA places biggest order for electric buses:  Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Feb. 20 that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has placed the largest order for electric buses in US history and that 134 of the 155 new buses will come from BYD. It’s part of the city’s goal of having 100 percent of its buses running on electricity by the opening ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics. “The clean transportation revolution is not a distant dream — it’s happening on L.A.’s streets right now,” said Garcetti, who spoke to dozens of LA reporters and city workers after quietly arriving at the Department of Transportation in a 30-foot BYD electric bus.

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.