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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other interesting news………

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

Hydrogen cost coming way down, New Jersey rolls out EV incentive

What’s been happening lately?
Hydrogen is looking better in costs now for fueling clean vehicles and in a few other areas including industrial feedstock and as an energy storage medium. That comes from a new study by Hydrogen Council and McKinsey & Co., that concludes there are now three core market drivers: a steep drop in production costs, higher load utilization cutting distribution and refueling costs, and additional cost drops from scaling up of end-use equipment manufacturing. The study looked at 25,000 data points gathered and analyzed from 30 global companies with cost reductions expected across several different hydrogen applications. These sectors include long-distance and heavy-duty transportation, industrial heating, heavy industry feedstock, and others, which make up about 15 percent of global energy consumption. Of course, much support is needed and Hydrogen Council is championing effective government policies to be adopted in key geographies, along with investment support of around $70 billion in the lead up to 2030 in order to scale up and produce for a much more cost-competitive fuel. “The Hydrogen Council believes that the report’s findings will not only increase public awareness about the potential of hydrogen to power everyday lives, but also debunk the myth that a hydrogen economy is unattainable due to cost,” said Euisun Chung, executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council. “If we are to reach our global climate goals by mid-century and reap the benefits of hydrogen, now is the time to act.”

New Jersey wants to take on greenhouse gases through a new transportation policy. Gov. Phil Murphy just signed an electric vehicle bill into law that offers a clear roadmap for state houses and governors nationwide to tackle climate change. The new law makes it easier for residents of New Jersey to buy an EV by providing a largest-in-the-nation rebate of up to $5,000. It also creates a statewide high-speed charging network, making driving an EV more convenient. Beyond cars, the law also requires NJ Transit to only purchase electric buses by 2032.

Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving vehicle division, has announced the Cruise Origin, developed with Honda Motor Co. It’s been designed with more space for passengers and to take on mobility competitors. The autonomous taxi will give ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft another rival, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said Tuesday during the vehicle’s introduction. GM is putting all its AV efforts into the Cruise unit these days, and giving the business space to work with competitors like Honda, which became an investor in October 2018. That’s helped Cruise move more quickly to develop a self-driving electric vehicle platform. GM created the platform that doesn’t require a backup driver or steering wheel. Honda contributed to the engineering and production of the vehicle. GM is waiting for an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards that would allow Cruise to test vehicles without these manual controls. If that gets approved, GM can deploy up to 2,500 robs-taxis a year that can be hailed vis a smartphone app.

And a few other new briefs:

  • President Trump said that Elon Musk is “one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius.” 
  • Tesla Autopilot crashes put in a more realistic overview perspective by a mobility expert.
  • The latest on the AB 5 battle, California’s law requiring gig-economy workers to be treated as employees.

A year of chaos and change for automakers that won’t be ending anytime soon

According to a series of in-depth reports by NPR’s Marketplace, three factors are shaping the future of the economy: new technology, globalization, and corporate profit. While auto sales are coming close to a record high in the U.S. (which surprised market analysts), that may be a temporary blip. Foreign automakers have 19 assembly plants in the U.S., but General Motors is closing four American plants and Ford is going through a major reorganization. Even so, U.S. auto plants have the capacity to make three million more cars that they can sell. Analysts think that this year’s strong sales come from higher fleet sales, lower unemployment, and Tesla’s rapid production ramp up. Shareholders are putting a great deal of pressure on automakers to lead the way in new products, advanced vehicle technology, and strong profit margins. Automakers have been taking big steps to change over their product lineups (less cars, more trucks and SUVs) and prepare for launching mobility services and a higher volume of electric vehicles. Here’s a look at some of the major events that have been shaping market dynamics in the U.S. and global automotive landscape — and its impact on green vehicle sales and adoption of new technology and mobility………….

Trade war with China:  The Center for Automotive Research released a report warning that auto sales could plunge up to two million vehicles a year over the huge tariff increase launched by President Donald Trump. That could mean a loss of about 715,000 American jobs and a $62 billion hit on U.S. GDP. In September, Ford CEO James Hackett said at a Bloomberg conference in New York that steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration had cost the company about $1 billion. On Nov. 27, Trump publicly chastised GM CEO Mary Barra over her decision to close four plants in the US because of sagging demand for sedans (that includes ending production of the Chevrolet Volt). That came from his emphasis on keeping U.S. manufacturing alive and well, and keeping Americans working in the plants. The reality is that GM and other automakers have been investing heavily in global production and sales while staying as profitable as possible. The trade war with China hurts those strategies as China remains the largest auto market by far, including EV sales. On the bright side, a move three days ago by China to ease auto import tariffs are helping prices go down on imported models such as the Tesla Model 3.

Nissan loses its chief:  Nissan Motor Co.’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested again by Japanese prosecutors under allegations of financial misconduct — adding 10 more days to his month-long stay in jail. The original arrest and Dec. 10 indictment came from allegations of Ghosn understating his income from Nissan by 4.8 billion yen ($43 million) over five years through March 2015; he was then re-arrested at that time for understating earnings through March 2018. Ghosn had been credited for leading the Nissan Renault alliance and championing the all-electric Nissan Leaf and its first-ever leadership in EV sales. The next generation Leaf is expected to be revealed next month at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a battery pack at around 60-kilowatt hours. The company will also be revealing its vision for an all-electric Infiniti crossover at the Detroit Auto Show. For now, the Nissan e-NV200 electric van is making its way to fleets, with its 40kWh battery that can go between 124-187 fully charged, depending on the payload being carried.

Musk forges through Tesla’s toughest year:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk exercised his typical blunt and brutal style during a recent interview on “60 Minutes” — clarifying his jabs at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC,” he said to interviewer Lesley Stahl. Musk made a stock fraud settlement with the SEC in October that took away his chairman title (telecommunications exec Robyn Denholm was made Tesla chairwoman on Nov. 8). The SEC playing babysitter is “not realistic” because “I’m the largest shareholder in the company and I could call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want,” Musk said. The Tesla CEO had made a Twitter post about taking the company private to address financial turmoil coming from the cost of ramping up production of the Model 3. While the company’s stock and the chief’s reputation have gone up and down during 2018, its EV sales haven’t. The Model 3 had U.S. sales of 18,650 in November, a ten-fold increase over January’s sales of 1,875 units. It’s now listed in U.S. Top 10 sales for its sedan class. The Model S and Model X have also done well this year, competing with the Chevy Bolt and Volt in the top 5. The company has been invited by Ohio Governor John Kasich to consider buying a GM factory in the state the company will be shutting down next years. Musk is considering doing it to have the needed capacity to build its cars — and not have to use a tent to meet demand, as was the case this year at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant.

A strong year for natural gas:  Natural gas is taking off as a transportation fuel and as an energy source for power stations, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) playing a big role in it. Trump would like to see the U.S. be a major exporter of LNG, and competes with several other countries to take the lead. Renewable natural gas (RNG) is having a very good year as well and more compressed natural gas (CNG) stations have been built and opened this year. In its annual sustainability report, Waste Management said that growing its CNG truck fleet played a big role in reducing corporate emissions. Waste Management is playing a big role in making gains in recycling, renewable energy generation and carbon sequestration; it’s also part of the company producing its own RNG from waste materials.

SoftBank believes in mobility:  SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that started out as a PC software company and now owns Sprint and a large Japanese mobile phone carrier, is making investments from its $100 billion tech investment pool, Vision Fund. Companies receiving financial backing from Vision Fund include Uber, WeWork, food delivery startup DoorDash, ParkJockey, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, and robot-pizza maker Zume. SoftBank’s focuses on autonomous driving, ride-hailing, on-demand delivery, and real estate.

Here’s a quick look at other significant events of the year:

  • Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division launched the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle ride service in early December. That’s taking place in the Phoenix area with plans to spread out.
  • Propane autogas had a strong year with school bus fleets embracing the clean fuel and bringing in more propane-powered buses and fueling stations. The west coast and northeast have been particularly strong markets. Overall, more than 13,000 propane-powered vehicles were sold in 2017 with this year looking good.
  • At the LA Auto Show, a few competitors displayed concept cars that they hoped would light up affluent buyers who had been leaning toward Tesla. They included Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and start-ups Rivian and Byton. Jaguar just put its I-Pace electric SUV on sale, and German automakers started ramping up production of Tesla-competitive models for distribution to dealerships starting next year.
  • The bitcoin cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash that became extremely important last year, has seen its price go from $16,960 in January to $4,078 on Dec. 20. Like EVs, and autonomous vehicles, it will take a few years for it to reach mass adoption.
  • Tesla and GM are facing the end of federal tax credit incentives, and it looks like continuation won’t be supported in Washington. State rebates will become more important, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to support clean vehicle incentives when he takes office next month. Volkswagen’s Electrify America program is continuing to add EV chargers throughout the state, with the company announcing its second wave of projects in October.

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.