For Today: Alphabet investing in Lyft, Greenkraft receives CARB certification

Alphabet investing in Lyft:  Ride-hailing firm Lyft may be gaining $1 billion in a funding round organized by CapitalG, an investment arm within Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Alphabet’s self-driving driving division, Waymo, created an alliance with Lyft earlier this year on an autonomous vehicle project. Another funding division within Alphabet in 2013 made a $250 million investment in Lyft’s competitor, Uber. That ended badly after Uber entered the world of testing self-driving cars, with a major lawsuit coming from Waymo for allegations of intellectual property theft by Uber. The CapitalG funding round isn’t closed yet. One part of the agreement would be having CapitalG partner David Lawee join Lyft’s board.

UQM and Lightning Systems alliance:  UQM Technologies, Inc. announced that it will collaborate with Lightning Systems to support Ford Transit concept vehicles for Lightning Systems’ beta programs through Ford’s Advanced Fuel Qualified Vehicle Modifier (eQVM). Lightning Systems is already in production with hydraulic hybrid applications, and is in the process of expanding its customer offerings to electric vehicles. This early production program supports the initial vehicles that are expected to be delivered to customers during the first quarter of 2018. “This relationship will allow us to provide leading edge technology that will exceed our customers’ expectations for high quality and cost-effective zero emissions vehicles,” said Tim Reeser, President and CEO of Lightning Systems.

Greenkraft receives CARB certification:  Greenkraft Inc. announced that its 8L V8 gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG), and propane autogas (LPG) fuel-injected engine received new certification from the California Air Resources Board’s On-Road New Vehicle and Engine Certification Program. The company’s 8L V8 fuel-injected engine achieved a NOx emission value less than 0.02 g/bhp-hr, which meets the optional near-zero NOx level set by CARB, on three different fuels: LPG, CNG and gasoline. The Greenkraft 8L spark-ignited engine is among the first to be certified at this near-zero NOx level on three different fuels, according to Greenkraft. It’s available as a stand-alone product, or it can be installed ln one of Greenkraft’s 26,000 GVW or 33,000 GVW heavy-duty trucks.

For Today: Plug-in vehicle sales up 80% in China, Amazon gets patent for drone EV charger

China EV sales strong:  China is seeing a very strong plug-in electrified vehicle market this year. During September, the market saw 59,000 plug-in vehicle sales, up 80% over September 2016. Year to date, China had 338,000 units sold, up 48% over the first nine months of 2016. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles made up 1.8% of new vehicle sales in the market, up from 1.5% a year ago. The top five sellers during September, in rank order, were the BAIC EC-Series, the Zhidou D2 EV, the BYD Song PHEV, BYD Qin PHEV, and Chery eQ. BYD took 19% of the “new energy vehicle” sales for the month, beating former leader BAIC, which had 15% of the share.

Model 3 seeing slower forecast:  Telsa, Inc., will be delivering 100,056 total vehicles in 2017, with 3,005 of them being Model 3s. It will be far from the original goal, which included ramping up to build 5,000 Model 3s per week in December. That forecast comes from investment firm Oppenheimer & Co., which also said that Model 3 manufacturing bottlenecks have been slowing down the original delivery forecast for the new electric car. The research note to Oppenheimer investors came from a New York dinner meeting with Tesla management. Executives reaffirmed that all the needed equipment for Model 3 production has been installed, and that the EVs are moving their way through the production line. Musk dispelled a recent report claiming that large portions of the Model 3 were being built by hand.

Amazon drone chargers:  Amazon has gained a patent that will allow the company to create a drone that can charge electric cars, including EVs that are still in driving mode and need more power to get to a charging station. The patent granted to the tech giant also includes a rooftop docking station that the drone can land on to stay connected with the EV and provide power while it continues the trip. It would mean working directly with automakers to be adaptable to the technology, or making aftermarket modifications. The product isn’t scheduled to be launched anytime soon, but it ties into Amazon’s overall strategy tied to drone delivery services. The company could see demand for the product, with sales of EVs increasing each year.

For Today: Polestar 1 could be longest range plug-in hybrid, Toyota showing long range fuel cell vehicle

Polestar 1 could be longest range PHEV:  Volvo Car Group took a step forward on its commitment to electrify its fleet through the new Polestar division. The Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid is scheduled to roll off the production line in mid-2019. It’s a two-door, 2+2 seat coupe with an ‘Electric Performance Hybrid’ drivetrain capable of going about 93 miles on battery power. That could be less in the U.S., with Polestar not specifying whether range is based on European or U.S. standards. If it is 93 miles, it would be the longest range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle on the market. It will have a lot of power, with an output of 600 horsepower and 1000 Nm of torque, appealing to the high-performance car buyer. It will be built on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) but approximately 50% is new and created by Polestar’s engineers. A carbon fiber body reduces bodyweight. The company confirmed plans are in place for three Polestar models to be built at a production facility in China. Polestar 2 will be a battery electric vehicle, mid-sized to compete with the Tesla Model 3. It’s slated to start production in late 2019 and will have higher production volumes than the Polestar 1.

Autonomous Bolts in NYC:  General Motors will be testing out self-driving Chevy Bolts in New York City through its Cruise Automation subsidiary. The automaker will be the first to test Level 4 autonomous vehicles in the state, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo; Level 4 allows the car to go into fully autonomous mode with the driver capable of taking control. GM engineers will travel along in the driver’s seat to monitor performance, with a second person riding in the passenger seat. The state of New York has taken a cautious approach to testing out self-driving cars, with its current rules expiring on April 1, 2018. Participating automakers need to list specific vehicles being used for the tests in their application, and each tested vehicle must be covered by a $5 million insurance policy. Another rule under the state’s law is for each testing company to pay for a police escort to accompany the autonomous test vehicle. Other states are taking a more flexible approach to testing autonomous vehicle, with New York requiring the most oversight.

Toyota showing hydrogen-powered concept:  Toyota will be showing the Fine-Comfort Ride fuel cell concept vehicle next week at the Tokyo Motor Show. The company claims it can be refueled at a hydrogen station within three minutes, and will have 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of driving range. That would be double the U.S. rating of 312 miles of range for the Toyota Mirai; however, Toyota said that the 1,000 km range rating is based on Japan’s JC08 test cycle, which would likely be farther than the U.S. rating. The concept car will also come with artificial intelligence and automated driving features, Toyota said. The “premium saloon” will have room for six passengers. The seat layout can be flexibly adjusted to make the vehicle as comfortable and user-friendly as possible.

For Today: Tesla Model 3 slowdown may come from steel, EVS30 successful in Stuttgart

Why Model 3 slowed down:  What’s been slowing down an expected higher Tesla Model 3 production volume? Auto analysts say that Tesla is struggling with welding together a mostly steel vehicle with the Model 3, which has differed quite a bit from the mainly aluminum bodies of the Model S and Model X. That showed up with the electric carmaker falling short on its third quarter production target for the Model 3. The Wall Street Journal had reported on the slowdown and more light was shed on it during a video about the Model 3 production line posted on Twitter by CEO Elon Musk. Tesla is in a tight spot, pinning much of its future on the Model 3 production line ramped up to big numbers starting at the end of this year. Automakers such as General Motors with the Chevy Bolt, and several other automakers with their long-range EVs, have been anxiously waiting to see the impact of the Model 3 on the market.

RNG at ports:  You can watch a new video from the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) to learn more about how renewable natural gas is being tried out in near-zero emission trucks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “Powering with the Cummins-Westport ISX12N Natural Gas Engine” shows how a new 12-liter natural gas engine vehicle from Cummins-Westport is being tried out by the ports. A Class 8 heavy-duty truck carries loads from the ports to drop-off points in Southern California. “For us, having an engine that can haul the loads in these conditions, while offering us the emissions benefits of a near zero natural gas engine, is essential to the future success of our business,” said Victor LaRosa Jr., operations manager of port drayage trucking company Heavy Loads Transfer.

Startups competing with Tesla:  You can get a good idea of the challenges of competing with Tesla as small startup company getting into the high-performance electric vehicle race. Automotive News takes a look at how Faraday Future, Lucid Motors, Bollinger Motors, Local Motors, and Elio Motors (not to mention, Karma Automotive and Fisker Inc.) are taking on a very big challenge with Tesla; along with entering the auto manufacturing business in the first place. Starting from scratch will cost hundreds of millions of dollars without any revenue, and recruitment of talented professionals to design and build the electric cars while passing strict government safety tests.

EVS30 successful in Stuttgart:  Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS30) had been going strong in Stuttgart, Germany, with more than 1,700 participants attending panel discussions from Oct. 9-11. Overall, about 9,500 people have been in attendance as participants and trade fair visitors. Panelists and those visiting exhibits have been discussing the future of mobility at the 30th EVS. The mood was positive, and discussions focused on the next phase of the EV industry’s future coming together this year. “Technological prerequisites have been created and some electrification products are already available, as demonstrated by the 353 exhibitors…….” according to conference planners.

For Today: Mahindra investing $600M in EVs, Tesla fires hundreds of workers

Mahindra investing more in EVs:  India’s electric vehicle market is seeing more support coming from Mahindra & Mahindra, which just announced a $600 million investment in the technology. Electric versions of its current crossover SUVs will be scheduled in the near future. Mahindra had just lost a bid for a 10,000 EV contract with the government’s Energy Efficiency Services Limited agency to its main Indian competitor, Tata Motors. Mahindra was awarded part of the contract after lowering prices to match Tata’s lowest bid; the company admitted it won’t make any profits off the sales of its eVerito electric sedan to the Indian agency. Tata was able to win the majority of the contract even though it has yet to manufacture any EVs. Mahindra has been in the segment for a few years with its e20 and e20 plus small electric hatchback models, the eVerito electric sedan, the eSupro electric van, and the e-Alfa Mini three-wheeler. The government wants to stop sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles and is supporting electric vehicle development. The company’s subsidiary, Mahindra Electric, will operate as a separate entity supplying components to the Mahindra & Mahindra company, which will manufacture the EVs. The company currently operates a battery manufacturing plant and hopes to set up another larger facility soon.

Paris saying goodbye to fossil-fuel cars:  The city of Paris wants to speed up the elimination of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by ending their sales starting in 2030. France had already set a target date of 2040 for banning sales of cars running on fossil fuels. The nation’s capital, which will host the summer Olympics in 2024 and not long ago hosted a worldwide agreement on climate change, had already been moving toward banning diesel cars by the time of the Olympics. City officials said it will probably not be a formal ban, but will be introducing a deadline to phase out internal-combustion engine vehicles. “This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases,” said Christophe Najdovski, an official responsible for transport policy at the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers…. so we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.”

Tesla employees terminated at crucial time:  Tesla has fired hundreds of employees, according to a recent report in the San Jose Mercury News, as pressure mounts to build more of the Model 3 sedans. Workers estimated between 400 and 700 employees have been fired, including engineers, managers, and factory workers. Tesla wouldn’t say how many employees were let go, although the company expects employee turnover to be similar to last year’s attrition. They were not layoffs, the company said, but were dismissals based on a company-wide annual review. In interviews with the newspaper, former and current employees said there was little or no warning was given prior to the dismissals. “As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” a Tesla spokesman said. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”

For Today: Tesla recalling Model X electric SUV, Richard Branson investing in Hyperloop One

Tesla Model X recall:  Tesla is recalling about 11,000 Model X electric SUVs to correct a problem in the second-row seats. For the Model X units manufactured between Oct. 28, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017 with a second row seat that folds down flat, Tesla will be correcting an error that could mean the second row seats would move forward in a crash. The problem stems from incorrectly adjusted seat cables and was discovered through internal testing. It only affects about 3% of those vehicles. The electric automaker is taking on the voluntary recall through a 10-minute procedure done by mobile service operators. The company hasn’t received reports of any issues or accidents related to the problem; customers were to be alerted starting yesterday.

What Ford learned from workplace charging:  Ford Motor Co. will be tripling its electric vehicle charging stations available to its employees in North America from 200 to 600 chargers over the next three years. The first 200 have been in place for three years and have been the source of data on charging habits used by the automaker in its electrification strategy. Ford reported that access to workplace charging appears to be crucian for EV owners and can influence their purchase decisions. Bringing more workplace charging will be part of mass market adoption of EV technology for Ford and the overall industry, the company said. Through early August, Ford’s charging network had provided about 2 million miles of electric driving to its employees.

VW electric trucks and buses:  Volkswagen Group’s truck and bus division will be investing about $1.7 billion into new technology to support battery electric commercial vehicles targeted at urban markets with growing concern over poor air quality. Andreas Renschler, head of the unit, said Wednesday that the investment will go into electric drivetrains, autonomous systems, and cloud-based software. The new technology will end up in systems used by the company’s U.S. truck affiliate, Navistar International. In Europe, it will go to the company’s MAN and Scania nameplates for all-electric buses that will come to European cities next year, he said. That goes with offerings to bus operators that include biodiesel, hybrid systems, and natural gas vehicles.

Clean vehicle jobs:  A new interactive map shows that the Midwest, Northeast, and California have been at the heart of job creation and economic growth in clean vehicles. As the federal standards for fuel economy and emissions are under review, the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation issued a study looking at what’s happened since the federal standards were finalized five years ago. The map highlights advanced vehicle, component, and material manufacturing facilities, and jobs across the U.S. It was done to provide a local-level view of innovation across the industry that supports energy security, economic growth, and global competitiveness.

California supports more clean vehicle programs:  On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills to strengthen California’s zero- and near-zero-emission vehicles. One of them, A.B.739, requires at least 15% of specified heavy-duty vehicles newly purchased by state agencies to be zero emission vehicles beginning in 2025; and at least 30% of those vehicles to be ZEVs beginning in 2030. S.B.498 will require at least 50% of the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet to be ZEVs by 2025, up from the current goal of 25% by 2020. The bill also requires the California Air Resources Board to develop policies and programs that will increase ZEVs in private-sector fleets. Several other assembly bills were signed into law, including one that allow certain clean vehicles to access high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and another authorizing local jurisdictions to dedicate on-street parking spaces for electric vehicle charging.

USPS going electric:  The U.S. Postal Service is getting ready to bring in electrified delivery trucks, according to photos received by Trucks.com. One of the publication’s readers sent in photo of a road tests being done about 30 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., of a USPS badged mail delivery truck likely coming from Workhorse Group and truck body manufacturer VT Hackney. They’re among five entries into the USPS’ Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Program. Workhorse confirmed it was their truck in a tweet Monday after the story was first published in Trucks.com. Workhorse will supply the powertrain and chassis, and VT Hackney will build the body if they win the contract with USPS.

Richard Branson investing in Hyperloop One:  Hyperloop One has gained funding from billionaire Richard Branson and will be changing its name to reflect it. The company announced Thursday it will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One, and it followed a significant but undisclosed investment by the Virgin Group founder. Based in downtown Los Angeles, Hyperloop One comes from a concept released a few years ago by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The transport system will carry passengers and cargo in pods through tubes at speeds of more than 250 miles per hour; and that could eventually go as high as 750 miles per hour. The company has been testing its pods in Nevada. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has been setting up office space in Southern California and will be directly competing with SpaceX in the space transport business.

For Today: Finalists named for Green Car of the Year award, Tata Motors wins first contract to supply electric vehicles

Green Car of the Year nominees:  Five finalists have been named for the 2018 Green Car of the Year award, which will be presented on Nov. 30 during the LA Auto Show’s partner event, AutoMobility LA. Honda received two of the nominations. The 2018 Honda Accord comes with three now powertrain options – two direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and the third generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid powertrain. The Honda Clarity comes in all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell options. The Hyundai Ioniq comes in three versions – hybrid, battery electric, and plug-in hybrid. The all-new Nissan Leaf comes with a redesigned look, longer driving range, and Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, Toyota’s eighth generation Camry is available with three new powertrains – a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6, and a Hybrid powered by the automaker’s next-generation Toyota Hybrid System. The winner will be named at 8:00 am PST on Nov. 30 inside the Technology Pavilion.

BMW forging China JV alliance:  BMW may be forging another alliance with a Chinese automaker to serve that market, which will likely focus on electric vehicles. The German automaker is now creating a joint venture agreement with Great Wall Motor in China, according to two sources familiar with the matter. BMW previously set up a JV in China with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings; the partners produce cars at two plants in Shenyang. The company is now it talks with Great Wall about setting up a JV company to manufacture cars in the eastern city of Changsu, a BMW executive said.

EV sales in India:  Tata Motors has won a major contract with the Indian government to supply an order for 10,000 electric cars. It will be the very first EVs that the major Indian automaker has sold. The country is making efforts to reduce emissions and curb fuel imports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees the EV acquisition as a way to support the country’s pledge to ban the sale of internal combustion engine light-vehicles by 2030. Mahindra and Mahindra has so far been India’s only domestic carmaker that currently makes EVs. India is far behind China in EV sales, with China selling about 336,000 units last year versus about 450 in India, according to the International Energy Agency.

 

For Today: Tesla semi-tractor is being delayed yet again, Waymo promoting the safety of self-driving cars

Another delay on Tesla truck:  The Tesla semi-tractor heavy-duty truck is being delayed yet again, this time until mid-November. Resources will go instead to fix production bottlenecks for the Model 3. Another priority, in which Musk tweeted about, is diverting resources to help bring Puerto Rico back through battery production to help the island recover from hurricane devastation. Residents have been going without electricity. Tesla was below its production target to build more than 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter. The company had just delivered around 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the quarter. Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

Charging study:  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a study on the state of charging stations in the U.S. The study looked into best practices for avoiding wasting funds on charging equipment that could be the wrong type or located in the wrong places. There are quite a few variables to consider including the ratio of plug-in hybrid to battery electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids have smaller battery packs than all-electrics; they charge faster and become depleted more quickly. Drivers do have the advantage of running out of battery power and getting there powered by a gasoline engine.

Waymo public education drive:  Waymo is teaming up with non-profit groups to talk Americans into believing in the safety of self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car company is teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving.” Waymo also emphasizes that autonomous vehicles can eliminate most alcohol-related fatal crashes, and would offer the blind a transportation option. The company said the public awareness ad campaign will begin in Arizona on Monday. That’s where Waymo has been doing a lot of its self-driving car testing. The ad campaign will be delivered through digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising, and radio spots.

 

For Today: Continental testing out robo-taxi technology, Proterra announces longer range drivetrain

Continental joins robo-taxi movement:  Major auto supplier Continental is making moves to join the futuristic robo-taxi world, starting with an autonomous shuttle called CUbE at its Frankfurt corporate campus. Continental won’t become a manufacturer – CUbE is a testing ground for automated technology that can be supplied to OEMs. The German supplier is watching several OEMs – including General Motors, Ford, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler – making moves toward autonomous mobility services. That might be through an alliance with Lyft, Uber, Maven, Waymo, or another partner committed to the new technology and ride services it has to offer. While the robo-taxi label has stuck in the past year, it’s much more than a taxi ride. This will include shared rides, point-to-point short trips, transporting groups, taxi rides, and shuttle services.

Propane-powered Ford E-350:  Roush CleanTech is now offering a propane-powered Ford E-350 single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel cutaway targeted to buyers of transit shuttles, Type A school buses, and delivery trucks. The company has delivered over 1,000 Ford E-450 propane autogas cutaways to fleets across the country. For agencies and companies looking for smaller, lighter clean vehicles, the new propane Ford E-350 will be available at the beginning of the 2018 model year. They will be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board and compliant with heavy-duty onboard diagnostics.

Proterra makes two announcements:  Electric bus maker Proterra just introduced the DuoPower drivetrain for its Catalyst all-electric vehicles. The Catalyst bus will be five times more efficient than a standard diesel bus with a lot more horsepower and acceleration. It offers a 20% increase in efficiency over Proterra’s standard ProDrive system. For the Catalyst E2 max model, the DuoPower drivetrain enables a nominal range of 426 miles on a single charge, which the company says far exceeds the average distance of North American transit routes. Separately, the company announced that major bus and coach manufacturer Van Hool has selected Proterra to provide its highly efficient battery platform for Van Hool’s first all-electric motor coach. Van Hool’s CX Series electric vehicle will utilize the E2 battery technology.

 

 

For Today: Amazon competing with UPS and FedEx, Possible spy photo of Tesla semi truck

Amazon ramping up for delivery services:  Amazon.com is getting ready to take over deliveries that it had counted on UPS and FedEx to take care of. The company is trying out a new delivery service that will offer free two-day delivery and reduce overcrowding at its warehouses, according to two people familiar with the plan. Testing the new service, called Seller Flex, began two years ago as a trial project in India. The company has been marketing the service to U.S. merchants to prepare for national expansion. It started out this year in west coast states with a broad rollout scheduled for 2018, according to the sources. It’s tied into heavy-duty and medium-duty delivery trucks that will service its Amazon Prime and Amazon Flex units. Amazon last year launched Seller Fulfilled Prime, which lets merchants in the Amazon network who don’t stow items in Amazon warehouses still have their products listed with the Prime badge. That gives these merchants the opportunity to tap into the two-day delivery service. Amazon is gaining control over these deliveries, though it may still use third-party couriers to carry out deliveries with their own fleet vehicles.

Fuel economy stays flat:  Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak, of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, reported that average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in September was 25.3 mpg. That was unchanged from August and below the 25.5 mpg peak reached in August 2014. The value for September is up 5.2 mpg since October 2007, the first month of the monitoring. Emissions have improved. The University of Michigan Eco-Driving Index (EDI), which estimates the average monthly emissions of greenhouse gases generated by an individual U.S. driver, improved to 0.81 in July 2017; that’s down from 0.83 in June 2017.

Tesla truck photo:  A possible spy shot photo of Tesla’s soon-to-be-launched Class 8 semi-tractor heavy-duty truck was spotted and posted this week on the Reddit social media site. It was posted then abruptly removed on Tuesday morning after showing what could be the Tesla truck on a delivery truck bed in the California desert. It does look similar to a design teaser released earlier this year by Tesla. The EV-maker declined to comment on it. Tesla plans to reveal the truck later this month – on Oct. 26. It’s scheduled to be operating on public roads by 2020.