Ford outlines China strategy, Comments on EPA biofuels decision

Newsworthy:   Ford Motor Co. outlined the next phase of its expansion in China yesterday, with 50 new Ford and Lincoln models going to that market by 2025. There will be at last 15 new electric vehicles under these brands, and the separate Zotye-Ford joint venture will offer a range of affordable all-electric vehicles under a new brand. Sport utility vehicles will be emphasized, with eight new utility vehicles being rolled out under the 50-vehicle launch. Connectivity will play a greater role, with all Ford and Lincoln vehicles in China connected through either embedded modems or plug-in devices by the end of 2019. As for autonomous vehicles, Ford will tap into its board member presence of Chinese company Baidu’s Project Apollo. The Apollo Open Platform will facilitate the development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles, the company said………… Electric bus manufacturer Proterra announced yesterday that Yosemite National Park will add two Proterra Catalyst buses to its fleet. It will be the first U.S. National Park to permanently add zero-emission buses to its shuttle fleet, offering its visitors a modern, ecologically-friendly transportation option, Proterra said. Beginning service in late 2018, the Catalyst buses are expected annually to reduce 887,000 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions and save approximately $150,500 on maintenance and operating costs for the national park………… Volkswagen AG’s Moia mobility service division yesterday unveiled a six-seater, all-electric minibus that will be deployed in Hamburg during the second half of 2018. The EV will be rolling out globally after the launch, Ole Harms, chief executive of the division, said on Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin. Harms expects services using Moia minibuses to replace 1 million cars across European and U.S. cities by 2025. It will start with 200 units and will scale up to about 1,000 in the following years; drivers of the electric minibus will be offered by Moia, as well as the service being offered to fleet operators and municipalities, he said.

Next phase of biofuels:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement on Thursday on the Renewable Fuel Standard volumes brings to an end a long-awaited and embattled regulatory question for biofuel producers and advocates and the oil industry. Here are a few details on the decision:
*  2018 targets require fuel companies to blend 19.29 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply, up slightly from the 19.28 billion gallons required for 2017. That breaks down to 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels like corn-based ethanol, in line with 2017, and 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, up from 4.28 billion in 2017. For 2019, the agency set a target for biodiesel at 2.1 billion gallons, unchanged from 2018.
*  “Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to … upholding the rule of law,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press release.
*  “We think this action is bad for U.S. manufacturing and American consumers,” said Chet Thompson, president and CEO of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. He said the EPA’s final decision showed it was “bowing the knee to King Corn.”
Biofuels groups such as Renewal Fuels Association praised the decision.
*  National Biodiesel Board and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa were disappointed to see an increase in biodiesel levels not included in the new rule.
*  Clean Energy Fuels was pleased to see that renewable natural gas was included as an advanced renewable fuel. “Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upheld its commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard, and particularly renewable natural gas (RNG), thereby giving the market a clear sign of confidence which will result in its continued growth. This action sent a very positive message to those who produce, sell and consume RNG,” said Clean Energy Fuels President and CEO Andrew Littlefair.

For Today: Bill Ford called to lead emissions talks by former EPA official, Daimler Trucks testing platooning in U.S.

Calling on Bill Ford for leadership:  The former Environmental Protection Agency official who played a leading role in 2011 negotiating fuel economy and emissions standards has called upon Ford Motor Co.’s executive chairman Bill Ford to lead the dialogue on the midterm review and beyond. Former EPA official Margo Oge sees Ford, a longtime environmental advocate, well suited to help California, the federal government, and automakers negotiate any flexibility needed through 2025 and to set a road map for 2030. Automakers had been able to have the Trump administration reopen the 2022-2025 midterm review after it had been approved right before the end of the Obama administration. The former EPA official sees it as a win-win for Ford’s stock price and for resolving a difficult issue. “I believe if he does that, we will see the investor community respond with a stock price increase in Ford because investors are looking for companies that are not behaving like the traditional OEMs with competition from Silicon Valley, Tesla and China,” Oge said.

CARB on CAFE and emissions standards:  Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday that California is fine with reopening discussions on greenhouse gas limits for passenger vehicles through 2025. The state’s expectation is that the Trump administration will support the tougher targets that the state is seeking beyond 2025. California is willing to discuss reviving talks with automakers and federal regulators on “a whole laundry list of things they’ve (automakers) asked for.” Nichols said that “California remains convinced that there was no need to initiate this new review of the review and that the technical work was fully adequate to justify going ahead with the existing program, but we’re willing to talk about specific areas if there were legitimate concerns the companies raised — in the context of a bigger discussion about where we’re going post-2025.”

Uber kicked out of London:  Uber lost the right to do business in London as the Transport for London agency ruled that the ride-hailing company not “fit and proper.” The agency that oversees London’s subways, buses, and taxicabs has taken a measure expected to have much impact in Great Britain and with other cities. The company had been temporarily forced out a few market such as Delhi and Austin, Texas. The ride-hailing giant had also agreed to leave China through a deal made with its arch-competitor in that country, Didi Chuxing. Leaving a market as important as London is putting in new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a tough position as the company recovers from founder Travis Kalanick leaving.

Daimler testing platooning in U.S.:  Daimler Trucks North America revealed that it has been testing platooning systems on test tracks and a few U.S. highways. The truckmaker reports that test results show how the new technology can improve fuel efficiency, driver productivity, convenience, and safety. The first step of platooning is called “pairing,” where two trucks travel in tandem at distances closer than what is possible under normal driving conditions; as you can see in the photo. Daimler Truck engineers are overseeing a pilot project on Oregon and Nevada highways in cooperation with state officials. The company is also testing braking on a closed track at its High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, Ore. Daimler Trucks is getting ready for a fleet trial early next year. “Platooning holds the potential to offer significant fuel economy advantages, while assisting drivers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO, DTNA. “To be sure, the platooning technology is not meant to replace drivers – it’s designed to help drivers.”

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Top 10: Trump appoints EPA opponent to head agency, Musk attending Trump’s tech leader meeting

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. us-epa-officeEPA opponent appointed:  President-elect Donald Trump hit hard last week in his Environmental Protection Agency appointment – naming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator, which will need to meet Senate approval. Pruitt has fought the EPA in lawsuits over several of its policies and rules, including slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a water pollution measure, and the principle of reducing carbon dioxide to protect public health. He hasn’t taken on the fuel economy and emissions standards, but is expected to go the same route; and he’s been a strong advocate of fossil fuel industries. As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has also opposed the White House over “Obamacare” health care regulations. He’s opposed to the federal government pushing its power over states, and thinks that climate change is a hoax. The Trump administration is expected to block the EPA’s decision to finalize approval of the 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard with Pruitt at the helm, reversing the EPA’s decision. If that doesn’t work, Trump is likely going to take the issue to Congress for support. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbied Congress last week to reverse the EPA decision, but failed to gain enough support before Washington closes down for the holiday season. They’ll have to wait until after January 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration. Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are preparing to block the appointment of Pruitt in the first part of 2017.
  2. Musk meeting Trump:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected to attend a meeting of technology leaders hosted by President-elect Donald Trump. Other invited executives include Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and heads of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet/Google, Intel, and Microsoft. Musk, who also chairs the board at SolarCity and leads SpaceX, is likely to be attending, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The meeting will take place on Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York City, according to Recode. Musk, who endorsed Hillary Clinton days before the election last month, is in a position faced by several other executives as the administration changes hands next month and companies look for workable business relationships in the capitol. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has agreed to be part of an economic policy team expected to meet frequently with Trump after he takes office on government policy and its impact on economic growth, job creation, and productivity. Trump had taken on automakers, especially Ford, for leaving the U.S. to open shop in Mexico and overseas. GM has plants in Mexico and a lot of its business is taking place now in China. GM has had strong relations with President Obama ever since the federal bailout in 2009.
  3. Bolts being delivered:  Chevy Bolts are on their way to dealerships before the end of the month, according to a photo posted on GM-Volt.com. The image was posted last week after being taken on I-75 as a Bolt-loaded carrier truck rolled down the highway in Lake Orion, Mich. They’ll first be delivered to California and Oregon by way of trucks and trains. Several Bolt buyers have received announcements that their all-electric car is being assembled, assigned a VIN, and has reached status 4000, meaning that it’s ready to be shipped, according to GM’s ordering system.
  4. AeroVironment charging Bolts:  General Motors has named AeroVironment’s level 2 charger as the official home charging station for the Chevy Bolt. GM has named AeroVironment’s 32-amp EVSE-RS as an official accessory labeled with a GM part number, available through Chevrolet dealerships. The company said the EVSE-RS can charge up to five-times faster than standard cordsets available in the market. GM now joins Nissan, Ford, and Fiat in partnering with AeroVironment for charging stations. “We selected AeroVironment due to their strong brand recognition, reputation for reliability, and decades of leadership in supporting EVs,” said Darin Gesse, Bolt EV Product Manager, in the press release.  “In addition, their EVSE-RS provides proven performance, making AeroVironment a great partner for Chevrolet.”
  5. Analysis of EPA fuel economy rules:  The University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation issued a paper on the EPA’s Nov. 30 approval of the 54.5 mpg by 2025 standards. The research center said that under the right vehicle blend of cars and trucks, such as the model year 2015 mix of 57.4% cars and 42.6% light trucks, significant fuel consumption reductions would be accomplished. Compared to a possible mix of 40% cars and 60% light trucks without the new 2022-2025 standards, the fuel saved by the new vehicles during the first four years under the 2015 ratio would be about 3.3 billion gallons of fuel, according to the paper.
  6. Pacifica electric:  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be announcing an all-electric vehicle based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan at CES in Las Vegas next month, according to confidential sources who spoke to Bloomberg. The company is also working on an electric Maserati sports car, according to people familiar with the matter. FCA declined to comment. Formerly called Consumer Electronics Show, CES has become an important event for launching advanced technologies by automakers and electronics companies. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne had avoided developing electric cars for years due to concerns over the cost of investment and marketing, citing losses from the Fiat 500e electric car. Conditions have changed in the post-Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal as stricter emissions rules are being enforced. The company displayed the plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica minivan at the LA Auto Show.
  7. Two more events coming up:  Thanks to Richard Battersby, Fleet Manager at City of Oakland and Coordinator and Executive Director of East Bay Clean Cities, for contributing two more significant clean transportation events coming up next year: EV Roadmap 10 – June 20-21, 2017 in Portland, OR. The EV Roadmap Conference has established itself as one of the leading electric vehicle conferences in the United States. Founded by Portland General Electric and Portland State University, and now produced by Drive Oregon, the conference provides a “graduate course” in electric vehicle deployment. Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE) – April 11-12, 2017 in Portland, OR. The Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE) is the region’s premier fleet modernization and alternative fuels event. GTSE events offer the best combination of information-packed sessions, prominent national and regional speakers, and the latest technologies from industry leaders.
  8. Hybrids make WardsAuto list: Three electrified vehicles made the 2017 best engine awards from WardsAuto. The Chevy Volt returned from last year’s list and was joined by another plug-in hybrid, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The Honda Accord Hybrid was the only hybrid vehicle included. Three electrified vehicles made the top 10 list last year, too, but the Volt is the only one of those three to return to this year’s list. The other seven vehicles on the list have turbocharged engines as automakers focus more on fuel efficient options tied to government fuel economy and emissions rules. Turcharged engines taps into forced induction and direct fuel injection and allows for downsizing engines, according to WardsAuto. This was the first time that none of the top 10 featured a V-8 engine since the awards started in 1995.
  9. PG&E’s charging network: California Public Utilities Commission will vote Thursday on a proposal that would give northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. permission to install 7,500 Level 2 chargers. That was down from the initial plan last year to install 25,000 charging points, which stirred much debate and opposition in Sacramento from charging companies and other entities. More chargers could be added in later phases, if CPUC agrees to it. The utility says that its investment will support electric car adoption across the region, including bringing charging to workplaces, multi-unit dwelling locations, and disadvantaged communities. It does seem to be gaining more support, as voiced by ChargePoint. “This proposed decision accelerates the adoption of EV charging in northern California in a way that preserves innovation and competition,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO. “Just as importantly, it extends the benefits of EV charging to disadvantaged communities and those who live in apartments and condominiums.”
  10. EV rebate program: Massachusetts now has $12 million in funding allocated to the Commonwealth’s electric vehicle (EV) rebate program, Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV). Consumers can qualify for rebates ranging from $750-$2,500 on the purchase or lease of more than 25 qualifying new vehicles, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell vehicles. Since June 2014, the MOR-EV program has issued or reserved over $6 million for 2,931 vehicles, cutting the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions output by an estimated 8,123 short tons annually. “With the continued growth and consumer choice for electric vehicles, our administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to promote the host of positive benefits electric vehicles offer,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

Will top-selling Chinese electric carmaker BYD plunge into the U.S. market?

BYD logo and carsChina-based plug-in electrified vehicle manufacturer BYD has become the third largest seller of PEVs in the world. The company is following Renault-Nissan and right behind Tesla Motors in cumulative annual global sales through September; at 161,000 sold versus Tesla’s 164,000, BYD could become No. 2.

BYD has now surpassed Mitsubishi as the third largest global seller of PEVs. Mitsubishi has seen most of that sales volume come through its Outlander plug-in hybrid doing well in Europe. During the summer, Mitsubishi announced that the long-delayed launch of the SUV in the U.S. market will be delayed yet again, the fifth time that delay happened since its 2013 Japan-market launch.

BYD is seeing a limited but growing presence in the U.S. through its electric buses and sanitation trucks. But what about selling electric cars in hotspots like California and other U.S. markets with a lot of interest in PEVs?

There have been rumors and analytical speculation about BYD, with its 10% ownership stake from Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway, bringing some of its top-selling electric car models to the U.S. The company dominating the fast-growing Chinese PEV market should be able to grab hold of solid footing in America, right? Even with climate-change doubter Donald Trump taking over the White House, other automakers are counting on U.S. electric car sales to grow quite a bit.

So far, China is winning out. BYD’s top-selling model, the BYD e6 all-electric car, was flat in sales not long ago with 33 units sold in China in 2010. BYD sold 3,118 e6 units in China last month. The company held five of the top 12 spots for PEVs sold in China during October. Competition has been with other Chinese brands, with the Tesla Model S coming at No. 12 that month. Tesla and other automakers with partnerships in China, including General Motors, are rolling out Chinese market versions of cars like the Chevy Bolt to compete in that fast-growing market.

Why China?

Chinese government incentives for new energy vehicles (NEVs).have made that growing market more attractive than the U.S. for BYD. Government subsidies in China can be as high as 90,000 yuan ($13,000) and more consumers are buying in. Chinese automakers are taking the market even more seriously with a wide range of passenger cars, crossovers, and SUV selling to Chinese consumers. Local Chinese automakers make up most of the electric car market and are now seriously investing in research and development, developing better cars with more power and longer range, which is helping sales. This year’s Guangzhou Auto Show, held this month in China, saw the debut of over 30 new energy vehicles.

Starting in 2013, plug-in hybrids such as the BYD Qin and Tang, were top sellers for the company. More recently, all-electric models have taken the lead, with the e6 and newcomer models e5 and Qin EV300 doing very well. Increasing battery capacity and range for all-electric models has helped sales increase. BYD has also done well selling to both consumers and fleets in the Chinese market, as both customer segments show more interest in plug-in models overall and more confidence in all-electric models and China’s charging infrastructure.

BYD America

Incentives have been stronger in China for BYD. Earlier this year, BYD America Vice President Michael Austin said that the $7,500 tax credit provided by the U.S. federal government is insufficient if there isn’t support from the federal and local governments in the form of more charging infrastructure. Austin said that about 80 BYD e6 electric cars have been imported to the US, with about 50 of those brought to New York for taxi and ride-hailing purposes.

“Right now, we really don’t have parts and distribution or consumer warranty service, and we don’t have a dealer network,” said Austin to Autoblog. “It’s easier to service fleets.”

BYD America has been visible at events in the U.S. such as ACT Expo with its electric bus models, which lead the North American market in electric bus sales. Other commercial vehicles are coming up. BYD America operates a manufacturing assembly plant in Lancaster, Calif.

This month, BYD America launched the industry’s first all-electric, long-range electric garbage truck. The refuse truck was a project jointly developed with Wayne Engineering, an Iowa-based refuse truck equipment maker.

There has been concern that Trump, with his doubts about climate change and the EPA, and support for fossil fuels, could alter national environmental and fuel-efficiency policies. Is the electric garbage truck a dying cause? Probably not, according to industry insiders.

“No one has a crystal ball, but there are some business case and regional and global market trends that make us believe that electric truck development and targeted deployment will continue,” Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president and trucking programs director at Calstart, told Trucks.com.

The trend toward greater electrification is meeting customer demands for efficiency and operational improvements and is not tied to U.S. energy policy, wherever that may end up going, he said.

That perspective, for now, seems to be shared by automotive executives interviewed about the post-Trump election impact on U.S. auto sales. Ambitious goals of launching several new PEV models in the U.S., Europe, and other markets, still seem to be in place for Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, GM, Tesla, and a few others.

While selling more electric cars in the U.S. appears to be on hold now for BYD, expanding beyond China is not off the company’s strategic planning. Korea is one of those markets

Last week, BYD completed registration of its office in Korea and secured a dealership to sell its cars. Tesla is also set to open a store soon, in the city of Hanam.

This Week’s Top 10: DOE offering $58M in green vehicle advancements, Ethanol debate hot in Republican primaries

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. doe-logoDOE offering $58M in funding: U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz appeared at the Washington Auto Show to announce an additional $58 million in funding for vehicle technology advancements and released a report highlighting the successes of DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Moniz announced a $55 million funding opportunity that will solicit projects across vehicle technologies like energy storage, electric drive systems, materials, fuels and lubricants, and advanced combustion. Moniz also said that two projects at CALSTART and the National Association of Regional Councils will receive $3 million to develop systems that help companies combine their purchasing of advanced vehicles, components, and infrastructure to reduce incremental cost and achieve economies of scale. The ATVM loan program was acknowledged for investing $8 billion in supporting the production of more than four million fuel-efficient cars and creating more than 35,000 direct jobs across eight states.
  2. Ethanol debate hot in Republican primaries: Presidential candidate Donald Trump says that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should meet ethanol volumes that Congress set in 2007. Trump has been antagonizing one of his leading opponents for the White House, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who has been opposed to the federal biofuels mandate. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) had previously told voters that they shouldn’t vote for Cruz because of his opposition to ethanol.
  3. President Barack Obama visited the Detroit Auto Show to champion his administration’s support for General Motors and Chrysler following their bankruptcies. Obama also reminded the public about his support for plug-in electric vehicles during his visit to the newly launched 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. Obama sat in the electric car during a wave of flashbulbs that reminded media about his 2010 visit to GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, when he sat in the soon-to-be-launched 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
  4. Apple’s EV chief leaving: Apple Inc.’s Steve Zadesky, who has been overseeing the company’s electric car project for the last two years, has said he is leaving the company. Zadesky and Apple declined to comment. Apple won’t comment on its electric or autonomous vehicle R&D projects, but most insiders say Apple is taking it very seriously. Apple CEO Tim Cook went to BMW’s headquarters in 2014, and senior Apple executives toured the German automaker’s Leipzig factory to learn how it manufactures the i3 electric car. In other news, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that a recent trip to Silicon Valley revealed that Apple and Google have made more progress on automotive projects than he had assumed, especially in self-driving cars. Daimler’s luxury brand Mercedes-Benz has followed Google’s lead by developing an S-class sedan which drove about 64 miles without needing any driver input.
  5. Honda releases details on Clarity fuel-cell vehicle: American Honda has announced that the retail price for its upcoming Clarity fuel-cell car will be about $60,000, and that a lease will be offered for under $500 per month. That will start up later this year in select California markets. The Clarity was unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show last year before being introduced to the U.S. market in November at the LA Auto Show. The company says that it will be shipped to a limited number of dealers in L.A., Orange County, the Bay Area, and Sacramento.
  6. New electric school bus: Motiv Power Systems and Creative Bus, Inc., announced they will partner on a new all-electric school bus. Called the Starcraft e-Quest XL, the zero-emission school bus will use the Motiv All-Electric Powertrain, a Ford F59 chassis and Starcraft body. Features of the e-Quest XL bus include passenger capacity of up to 48, a range of up to 85 miles, 50% charge within 2 hours, among others. “Developing more options for all-electric school buses offers more opportunities for school districts to reduce harmful pollutants near children who are especially vulnerable to health impacts from diesel emissions,” said Motiv founder and CEO Jim Castelaz.
  7. Uber more popular now with travelers: Ridesharing giant Uber is becoming a popular option with business travelers. Expense management system provider Certify found that Uber made up 41% of all ground transportation receipts among Certify clients, while car rentals constituted 39%, and the remaining 20% went to taxis. At the start of 2015, Uber had made up 29% of all ground transportation trips. In other news, Uber recently scored a victory in London. Regulatory agency Transport for London agreed to drop proposals to place restrictions on Uber serving that market. That decision followed a public consultation on a range of proposals, some of which might have imposed hardships on Uber, including a five-minute minimum wait time between booking a car and starting a journey.
  8. Amazon may be in legal battle over on-demand delivery: Amazon may be facing labor law challenges similar to what and other transportation services providing on-demand services with independent contractors. Amazon has been expanding use of independent contractors nationwide to meet a promise to deliver its Prime Now orders within two hours of the order being placed. So far, going this route has been more than worth it for Amazon as it contends with Google, Wal-Mart, and other retail competitors to meet the fast growing market of customers seeking nearly instant gratification for having their orders delivered instantly.
  9. Top 6 EV sales countries: China made up 34.2% of global plug-in electric vehicle sales last year with 176,627 sold and finished in first place. The U.S. was No. 2 with 115,262 EVs sold in 2015, making up was 22.3% of the total. The Netherlands came in at No. 3 with 43,971 units sold last year. Norway finished the year in 4th place, with 34,455 plug-ins sold. The United Kingdom came finished in 5th place with 28,188 EV sales last year. France finished in 6th place, with 27,701 units sold last year.
  10. More green car award winners announced: Green Car Journal has announced the winners of its prestigious 2016 Green Car Awards at a press conference held today during the Washington Auto Show’s Public Policy Day in Washington DC. Distinguished as 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ is Volvo’s new XC90 T8. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid tops the field as 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year™ and Honda’s HR-V earns Green Car Journal’s 2016 Green SUV of the Year. “Rising to the top as award winners means these three exceptional vehicles set a benchmark in the auto industry’s effort to create vehicles that are desirable and efficient, while also achieving environmental milestones so important for our driving future,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com.

Three key questions CNG system integrators should pose when vetting alternative fuel tank suppliers

By Wayne Powers, Alternative Fuels General Manager
Worthington Industries

Arguably the most important component of a CNG fuel system is the fuel tank, which demands consistently reliable performance over up to 25 years of service. Pictured is a 26.2-inch Type III CNG fuel tank from Worthington Industries, which features a carbon-fiber reinforced aluminum liner that eliminates gas permeation.

Arguably the most important component of a compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system is the fuel tank, which demands consistently reliable performance over many years of service. Depending on a fleet’s driving range requirements, along with the vehicle platform and other factors, multiple fuel tanks can be specified by a CNG system integrator, with variations for type, diameter and length. Keep in mind that CNG fuel tank specifications are very precise, because they are often specified for a given vehicle application. If there is an eventual need, an exact replacement is necessary, in order to seamlessly synch with system components.

Therefore, there is some risk involved for system integrators as they select a fuel tank supplier. The best way for integrators to mitigate that risk is to do their homework on the front end, starting with the following three questions:

 

  • Does the CNG fuel tank supplier’s product range match my vehicle designs? This includes not only length, diameter and tank type, but also custom designs. Sometimes, a very specific tank is required based on available dimensions and the supplier’s design and manufacturing expertise.
  • What is a supplier’s process for managing design changes? An integrator may start with a particular system design, but based on vehicle platform evolution, that design will change. Does a fuel tank supplier have demonstrated ability to be flexible over time, and in-house engineers that are experienced enough to adapt? Remember, if there is a design change, and a new fuel tank is required years later, that tank will have to be re-qualified.
  • What type of support can be expected? Since CNG fuel tanks are meant to last up to 25 years, choice of a partner that can support that product over its usable lifespan is key. Support includes availability of parts, like O-rings and valves, along with direct-replacement tanks. But support also includes customer service and repairs. A fuel tank supplier is more valuable if it has representatives that can head into the field, diagnose a problem and fix it.

These three questions should be considered a starting point. Answers to these, and other questions, will provide system integrators important data on how a fuel tank supplier’s processes maximize system design and performance, which will help meet the needs of fleet operators, both today and well into the future.

Wayne Powers leads the strategic growth and day-to-day operations of Worthington Industries’ Alternative Fuels business.

Electric vs. CNG Buses – which will lead in next 10 years?

Bus fueling station CNGPublic transit buses operating in the U.S. are showing some impressive numbers for alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)’s annual Earth Day report in April said that 41.3% of public transportation buses use alternative fuels or hybrid technologies (as of the start of 2014); that’s broken down into 16.9% hybrid, 16.7% natural gas, 7.4% biodiesel, and 0.3% other alternative fuels including propane and hydrogen. Electric buses are starting to take off with transit agencies, as well.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will be investing in hybrid and natural gas vehicles. MassDOT’s board of directors approved a $222.2 million contract for 325 new replacement buses for the MBTA fleet – 40 of these will be 40-foot low floor hybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to begin in July 2016. The buses are coming from New Flyer, Inc., and are being funded with 80% Federal Formula funds and 20% Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Revenue Bond funds.

 

MassDOT’s alternative fuel strategy has been similar to one adopted 15 years ago in California, where several cities are now operating hybrid and CNG buses. About 60% of California buses now run on CNG, compared with 17% nationwide.

 

California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has mandated a switch to “zero-emission” buses by 2040, creating a challenge for suppliers of hybrid and CNG buses to find a market in the state. As of March, there were 22 battery-powered electric buses and seven fuel-cell powered buses in California transit fleets, according to CARB. One challenge with electric buses is range – about 155 miles typically on a charge versus about 300 miles on a fueling for diesel- or natural gas-powered buses. Fuel cell buses have a much longer range than electric buses, but the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure limits range.

 

In response, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition has proposed expanding the definition of “zero-emission vehicles” to include buses powered by renewable natural gas, which comes from cow manure or decomposing organic matter in landfills. The payoff is enormous, according the coalition. While traditional natural gas offers a reduction in greenhouse gases of about 15% to 20% over diesel, renewable natural gas offers a reduction of about 90% over diesel, the coalition says.

 

The charging/fueling cost is different, too – with a natural gas bus costing an average of $27,000 to fuel annually and an electric bus costing about $10,500 for charging. Fuel cost savings is helping to make CNG, hybrid, and electric buses more attractive when compared to diesel-powered buses.

More thoughts on 54.5 mpg fuel economy target and what it really means

Federal fuel economy standardsIf you take a look at the auto industry benchmark for where corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) stands for new vehicle sales, the US could be very far away from even getting close to hitting the 54.5 mpg by 2025 mark in the next 10 years. The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute reported that new vehicles sales averaged 25.5 mpg in May.

That’s a big step forward from the 20.1 mpg recorded in October 2007, when the Transportation Research Institute (TRI) began tracking that data. But if that same ratio for fuel economy improvements were to be continued over the next 10 years, it would mean that the actual CAFE of new vehicles sold would be closer to being somewhere in the low 30s for mpg – way off the 54.5 mpg mark. What it comes down to is how those measures are being defined.

The Consumer Federation of America is hopeful about seeing the federal targets being met. Other analysts have been skeptical about it being achieved. To get a better feel for what fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions will look like for new vehicle sales in 2025, I did some more homework on the subject. Here’s some analysis on how the federal standards are being implemented:

  • TRI bases its numbers on sales-weighted arithmetic to determine the average of window sticker ratings, not the average fuel consumption rate, for new vehicles sold during that month. It’s based on the combined city/highway fuel-economy ratings published the EPA Fuel Economy Guidefor each model. The TRI calculations don’t include the various credits and adjustments available to automakers under the federal rules and guidelines that will be used in determining final CAFE performance values.
  • The federal standards include incentives for battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, compressed natural gas vehicles, and flex-fuel vehicles. Its methodology is based on the “multiplier approach,” which means that each of these alternative fuel vehicles would count as more than one vehicle in the automaker’s compliance calculation. Electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles will start with a multiplier value of 2.0 in the 2017 model years, and that will phase down to a value of 1.5 in the 2021 model year.
  • California’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) policy was factored into the equation by the US Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when finalizing the fuel economy rules in 2012. California offers ZEV credits for battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles. Tesla Motors and Nissan have been trading ZEV credits with automakers who need to catch up on their compliance with California rules. California’s ZEV credits also apply to vehicles sales in seven other states that have adopted these rules – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These eight states would like to see 3.3 million ZEVs on their roads in the next 10 years.
  • The ZEV program is being enforced by the California Air Resources Board, which is now lightening up on its rule interpretation. Automakers with less than $40 billion in annual global revenue now will have the option to sell plug-in hybrids only to earn credits toward compliance, rather than being forced to sell some battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. If they don’t sell enough, they’ll still need to buy credits from automakers that sell electric vehicles in sizable numbers.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects that the majority of fuel economy improvements will come from fuel efficiency advancements in internal combustion engines and reducing the weight of vehicles on the road by using aluminum alloy and other lighter metals. Automakers will also get mpg credits for adopting efficient technologies that often show no effect on the official test cycles. These include active grille shutters, electric heat pumps, stop-start systems, high-efficiency lights, and solar roof panels. Earned credits could amount to about 3 mpg if several are used, or even more if an automaker provides testing data.
  • EPA also expects that vehicle air conditioning systems will continue to become more efficient, reduce leakage, and use alternative refrigerants with lower hydrofluorocarbon emissions. That has shaved off about 5 mpg from the 54.5 mpg target.
  • Light-duty trucks (pickups, SUVs, and vans) are being given more flexible compliance rules. For example, there are separate incentives for “mild” and “strong” hybrid trucks if they’re sold in sufficient quantity. There will also be credits for natural-gas–powered vehicles to match their reduction in greenhouse gases.
  • Another layer to consider is how the fuel economy standards are being interpreted – whether that be the CAFE standards enacted in the 1970s or the new model adopted in 2007. In 2007, the EPA adjusted its model for 2008 model year vehicles by adding three additional tests that utilize greater technological sophistication to arrive at the EPA-estimated values. The three new tests include a high-speed test that maxes out at 80 mph, the air condition test under “hot ambient conditions,” and a cold temperature city test conducted at 20 degrees. The current EPA model discounts its finding by about 20% and that’s what is shown on the window sticker. These adjusted values may bring the actual 2025 target down to about 40 mpg.
  • I think there are two other market forces that could have a big impact on hitting targets for 2025 and beyond. One is that plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales growth is expected to continue, which could play a larger role in increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Navigant Research just reported that it expects North American plug-in electric vehicle sales to reach 1.1 million by 2024. Last year, there were 133,000 units sold in North America (with only about 5,000 of these vehicles sold in Canada). “Automaker adoption of PEV technologies as adaptations for existing model lines is growing significantly, and these technologies are being placed into larger vehicle segments such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs), trucks, and minivans,” said Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research, in the report. “Similarly, the introduction of next-generation, fully electric vehicles with ranges near or over 200 miles and price points below $40,000 is expected to drastically increase mass-market PEV acceptance as a pragmatic transportation option.”
  • As for the second market trend to consider……. The federal fuel economy standards were based on reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. There’s another way that goal could be achieved: seeing less vehicles on the roads and less miles driven. Urban planners and several automaker executives expect traffic congestion to worsen dramatically in the near future as more people move into cities to work and reside – which is called “urbanization.” Some auto executives and analysts expect new vehicle sales to decline in the US, Europe, and Asia as younger consumers (Millennials) opt for bus and rail, walking and bike riding, and transportation alternatives. These transportation alternatives include carsharing and ridesharing services (including Car2go, Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft), which have been seeing dramatic user growth in the past two years – and investments by automakers and car rental companies into the carsharing market. As for Millennials who are buying new cars (which has been growing lately), many of them are showing much interest in hybrids and electric vehicles.

What’s next? The EPA is expected to propose regulations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from medium-to-heavy duty trucks any day now. Truck makers have been expressing much concern about these increasingly stringent rules, and may fight them in court or through private negotiations with regulators. As for light-duty passenger vehicles, automakers for the most part don’t expect the feds to soften the planned targets.

In June 2016, the EPA and California will release a technical assessment report as a midterm review, according to Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Transportation and Air Quality office. The agency won’t make any conclusions on the feasibility of the final rules and will accept public comments during town hall meetings. The final decision on the outcome of the midterm review will be made by April 2018.

This Week’s Top 10: More DOE funding for advanced vehicles proposed, States consider EV taxes and incentives

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. doe-logoDOE’s Vehicle Technology Program: Funding for the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) advanced vehicle technology program may be reauthorized in Washington. U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill that would reauthorize the Vehicle Technology Program’s budget at $314 million in the next fiscal year; it would also include a 4% annual increase after that through 2020. That DOE program has been running without congressional reauthorization for the past seven years; in that program, DOE works with researchers on alternative fuel vehicle projects. The new funding program would add R&D on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure to its roster.
  2. EV taxes and incentives: On July 1, Oregon will begin testing a first-in-the-nation model that will be of interest to states attempting to add electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids to its tax revenues. Up to 5,000 volunteers can sign up to drive with devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where; test project volunteers will agree to pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on Oregon roads instead of the tax now added when filling up on gasoline at the pump. The state thinks it would help pay for road and bridge projects during a time when tax-based revenue from gasoline taxes has been declining across the country during an era of more fuel efficient vehicles and purchases of hybrids and EVs. In other news, the state of Connecticut is now offering a cash rebate up to $3,000 for those purchasing EVs. It’s part of the state’s efforts to bring more charging stations to Connecticut and to promote the use of EVs. Along with that, the state is now offering auto dealers bonuses for selling EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
  3. Rio Honda College wins hydrogen grant: Professor John Frala announced that Rio Hondo College has been awarded with three-year grant funding to develop a training model for stationary and mobile fuel cell technicians. National Science Foundation is funding the first-ever hydrogen program that will support training and development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technicians. Frala also said that Rio Hondo College, based in Whittier, Calif., is the first college to now offer a bachelor of science degree in Automotive within the state of California; that was announced last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, Frala said.
  4. Analysis of used green vehicles: Used green vehicles – including compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, hybrids, electric vehicles, flex-fuel vehicles, and propane autogas vehicles – are seeing increasing volume and activity at auctions. Green Fleet published a comprehensive report on what fleet managers and remarketing experts are seeing in used vehicle values out in the US market. Bobit Business Media, which publishes Green Fleet, also announced it will host what it describes as the largest Green Ride & Drive Event in the US; that will take place during Fleet Technology Expo (which was previously called Green Fleet Conference and Expo), which is taking place Aug. 24-26, 2015 at the convention center in Long Beach, Calif.
  5. Uber testing out driverless cars and EVs: Uber, which is considered to be the giant of the new ridesharing/ride-hailing transportation segment, is testing out a driverless car in Pittsburgh with the label, “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” painted across its side and rotating sensors on top of the car. It’s in partnership with the autonomous vehicle research center at Carnegie Mellon University and will be researching mapping, safety, and autonomous systems, according to the company. In March, the company announced that it’s trying out 25 battery electric vehicles as part of its offerings in Chicago. That test program is in partnership with BYD, where drivers and passengers are trying out the BYD e6 electric car. In other significant news, the New York Times reported yesterday that US airports are becoming more willing to try out allowing Uber and other ridesharing companies (such as Lyft) to have access to the airports – as a fee revenue source and because consumers are demanding access for Uber to drop them off and pick them up at major airports. Taxi and livery companies have been fighting ridesharing companies from having access to their markets without paying medallion and trip fees that they’ve had to pay all these years.
  6. $15M in California grants: The California Energy Commission has approved nearly $15 million in state grants for alternative fuel vehicles. Transportation Power, Inc., won nearly $9 million for an electric garbage truck, an advanced battery-electric truck and a heavy-duty electric yard tractor in three different projects; nearly $3 million is going to Motiv Power Systems, Inc., to demonstrate an electric refuse and loader truck in the Sacramento region. North American Repower won $3 million to demonstrate six armored security trucks that were converted form diesel to plug-in hybrid that also runs on renewable natural gas.
  7. Audi adding more electric drive: Audi will expand its electric vehicle offerings next year with an electric-powered Q1 crossover coming out next year. An electric sporty SUV will be launched in 2018 and an electric version of its flagship Q8 SUV will roll out in 2019, the company said. It’s part of building “a solid foundation” for Audi’s growth plan as the world’s top global premium brand in vehicle sales.
  8. IMPCO added to GM’s CNG vehicles: IMPCO Automotive was awarded General Motors’ bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Cab Chassis for model year 2016, 2017, and 2018. The new Cab Chassis program expands IMPCO Automotive’s existing OEM working class vehicle programs for GM, which includes Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and GMC Sierra 2500HD pickups with multiple Cab and bed configurations, and dedicated CNG full-size Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans.
  9. Kansas City competes for EV crown:  Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), which provides electricity to Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., is moving full steam ahead on installing 1,001 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to solve the range anxiety dilemma and bring more EVs to the area. “If you build it, they will come,” Chuck Caisley, KCP&L vice president of marketing and public affairs, said. Clean Charge Network, announced in January, initially will consist of 1,001 240-volt stations and 15 direct current fast-charging stations. About 150 of the charging stations have so far been installed, and the utility plans to finish the job this year. The program has gained automakers as sponsors, including Nissan.
  10. Propane paratransit buses: SMART, a regional public transportation provider in southeast Michigan, has become one of the five largest propane autogas powered paratransit fleets in the US by adding 61 new Connector paratransit propane-powered buses. SMART expects the propane buses to reduce emissions, lower fuel and maintenance costs, and extend the life of the vehicle. SMART researched various alternative fuels, and made that decision based on the fuel being more affordable and readily available and for resolving “the stringent and complicated emission control issues experienced with the diesel-fueled paratransit buses,” according to SMART’s propane-autogas vehicle supplier, ROUSH CleanTech.