Big Picture: EPA releases finalized Tier 3 standards on emissions; Tesla Motors has another revolutionary goal: a Gigafactory

EPA gasoline sulfurThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday finalized what it calls “Tier 3 standards” requiring gasoline sulfur levels to be reduced by two thirds from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm. EPA says that its new emission standards for cars and gasoline will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks. Smog emissions, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, are expected to drop 80% compared to today’s vehicles and particulate matter (soot) will drop by 70%. These standards will begin being implemented in model year 2017. The Tier 3 standards are being supported by automakers, labor, consumers, and public health advocates. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, according to the EPA.

And in other clean transportation news……

  • Tesla Motors has yet another potential breakthrough concept in the works –its “Gigafactory” concept could bring more affordable electric vehicles to market through a large scale lithium battery factory. It would mean investing up to $5 billion with partners in a battery plant that can supply 500,000 electric vehicles a year by 2020, after opening up in 2017.  Panasonic may be considering joining in; Panasonic is currently Tesla’s largest supplier of lithium ion batteries. “In cooperation with strategic battery manufacturing partners, we’re planning to build a large scale factory that will allow us to achieve economies of scale and minimize costs through innovative manufacturing, reduction of logistics waste, optimization of co-located processes and reduced overhead,” Telsa posted last week on its blog. By the end of the first year of production, the per kilowatt cost of the battery pack could be reduced by more than 30%. Tesla is looking for plant locations in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and said that site selection will be happening soon. When you view the charts Tesla compiled, the first one shows that its new battery factory will be producing more batteries by 2020 than all the other lithium battery makers combined are making today – that’s quite a claim.
  • Nissan did better in Leaf sales – at 1,425 cars sold it was a record for the month of February, more than double the amount from a year earlier. That makes for 12 straight months of year-over-year sales increases. Its top two markets last month were San Francisco and Atlanta; the rest of the top five was Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. The Chevrolet Volt’s sales have been seeing a decline – at 1,210 it was higher than January’s 918, but down a third from February 2013’s total of 1,626. Tesla continues to not report monthly sales, but the estimate was 1,000 to 1,200 units of the Model S sold.
  • Honda appears ready to pull its Insight hybrid off the market – one of the very first hybrids to come to market when it was introduced in 1999, before the Toyota Prius. The original two-seater hybrid got even better mileage than the Prius or the Honda Civic hybrid. It was redesigned in 2009 with a backseat, but it failed to grow in sales numbers even though it sold for less than $20,000.
  • President Obama is bringing to medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses what was previously brought to passenger cars – a second level of fuel efficiency standards. The first round covered model years 2014 through 2018; the new standards will be in place in about tow years and will extend the rules into the next decade.
  • Even though ECOtality is out of business, its Blink electric vehicle charging stations are still around. IKEA added four stations at one of its Chicago-area stores as part of its partnership with Car Charging Group, Inc. IKEA started installing stations in 2011 in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington and wants to place them at 55 US locations.
  • Daimler will be launching a new battery electric vehicle in partnership with China’s BYD. It will go through the Denza brand and be shown as a concept hatchback car at the next Beijing Motor Show. It will be called the “NEV” – or New Energy Vehicle, which means it’s being built for China. One of the popular car trends in that market will be met – rear seating will have the feel of a lounge area, perfect for riding in when you have a chauffeur in the front seat doing all the driving.

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