Automakers experienced their highest monthly US sales figure ever in May for battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and their second highest month for hybrid vehicle sales. Overall plug-in sales reached 12,453 – with 5,802 of them battery electric vehicles and 6,651 plug-in hybrids. For hybrids, 52,227 units were sold in the US during May, its second highest sales month on record. Plug-in vehicles hit the 211,097 sales mark in the US by the end of May; that’s more than double the total recorded one year ago. Nissan had a particularly good month for Leaf sales, hitting 3,117 units for the month – it’s best month ever and the first time Leaf sales passed the 3,000 mark. It also brought the Leaf past the 50,000 mark for its US sales – 52,511 sold, to be precise. The Leaf is still behind the Chevrolet Volt for overall sales and highest monthly sales number. The Volt continues to be sold at a lower level this year, coming in at 1,684 sold in May – only marginally up from the 1,607 sold one year ago. Sales were thin for other EV models including the Cadillac ELR at 52 units sold in May, the Honda Fit EV at 33, and the plug-in hybrid Accord selling 46 units in May. Toyota saw a much better month for its Prius Plug-in, which sold 2,692 units in May.
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And in other clean transportation news…….
- Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has an opinion that a lot of people would disagree with – driverless cars could be on roads four years from now. Most of the forecasts think it will actually take longer (maybe 10 years), but Ghosn and Google have more ambitious expectations. The real stumbling block, according to Ghosn, is regulatory red tape. “The problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around … and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside,” Ghosn said at a French Automobile Club event on Tuesday.
- Freightliner and Hino Trucks have been approved for the New York Tuck-Voucher Incentive Program. Freightliner’s M2 106 diesel electric-hybrid truck and Hino Trucks’ 195h and 195h-DC diesel electric hybrid Class 5 cabover engine trucks have been approved. New York’s program provides $19 million in incentives for clean vehicle technologies. The goal is to promote clean air by encouraging the adoption of advanced vehicle technologies in commercial trucks and buses.
- Renewable Energy Group Inc., the nation’s largest biodiesel producer, announced the acquisition today of Dynamic Fuels LLC, which operates the first US large-scale renewable diesel facility. Dynamic was formed in 2007 by Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. as a 50-50 joint venture. The facility in southeast Louisiana has the potential of producing 75 million gallons a year of renewable diesel made from animal byproducts.
- Lux Research reports that China and India dominate Asia’s alternative fuels landscape, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to hit government targets. China followed the US’s 10% ethanol mandate, but will only reach 4% of its gasoline by 2017. India is pushing for jatropha as its biodiesel blend; the Indian government wants to see it reach a 20% biofuels mandate by 2017, but the nation is way off – biofuels will only account for 0.6% of its diesel and 0.3% of its gasoline by 2017, according to Lux Research. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in China and India are being driven by cutting fuel expense – the fuel is costing nearly half that of gasoline – and the need to cut air pollution. India currently has the sixth largest volume of NGVs in the world, mostly in its public transportation.
- Clean diesel passenger vehicles are selling much more than what I would have thought, according to an R.L. Polk & Co. research report commissioned by Diesel Technology Forum. The report states that diesel passenger vehicle registrations rose 11.5% from 6.3 million to almost 7.1 million between 2010 and 2013. During that same timeframe, hybrid vehicle registrations leaped 64.6% from 1.7 million to 2.8 million. It does seem a bit confusing, as recent new car data reports have shown hybrids to be a much higher sales volume than clean diesel cars. I would imagine that has to do with quite a few diesel pickups being included in the R.L. Polk numbers, versus other market reports that just include diesel passenger cars primarily sold by German automakers in the US market.
- US fuel economy of new vehicles sold went up 0.4 miles per gallon in May to 25.6 mpg. That took place event the sales of trucks and utility vehicles were strong last month.
- Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will go into production earlier than originally announced, with production planned for mid-December 2014. Toyota says that will lead to sales starting before the end of this year instead of the original intention of starting some time in 2015.
- Ford Motor Co. has an affiliate relationship with Samsung Group that will install lithium-ion batteries and regenerative brakes on non-hybrid cars. This will be done to reduce carbon emissions; Ford also unveiled the prototype for a super-lightweight version of its Fusion.
- BMW just began deliveries of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car at 126,000 euro ($135,700). It’s built on a lightweight carbon-fiber frame, is more fuel efficient than a Toyota Prius and can go faster than a Porsche 911; BMW refers to it as a “brand shaper.” But it faces stiff competition from the Tesla Model S, which starts at 65,740 euros in Germany.
- Speaking of Tesla, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to name its third planned model, a compact battery electric car, the Model E. Ford got wind of it and threatened to sue, making reference to a 2010 agreement where Tesla agreed not to register or use Model E, which is part of Ford’s trademark. Musk explained it to CNNMoney: “A friend asked me at a party, ‘What are you going to name the third-generation car?’ Well, we have the S and the X, so we might as well make it the E.” Ford heard about Musk’s idea and called him, saying it would sue Tesla for using its Model E trademark. “And we’re like, Ford’s killing SEX … that’s terrible. So, OK, fine, we won’t use the Model E,” Musk said
- Nissan has offered more insight on its plug-in vehicle strategy. Andy Palmer, the company’s head of global product development, said that start of plug-in hybrid production for Nissan remains slated for late 2015, presumably coming to market in one or more model-year 2016 vehicles. Nissan will be selling its second electric vehicle in Japan starting in October – the e-NV200 compact commercial van. It will cost between 3.88 million yen and 4.79 million yen in Japan (between $37,900 and $46,700). It’s not coming to North America anytime soon or possibly forever due to vehicle range and charging network concerns. It will be a slow start – selling about 500 units a month in Japan, where it qualifies for up to 850,000 yen ($8,295) in government incentives.