Automakers spending $90 billion on electrification, Ford issues anniversary edition of Bullitt’s Mustang

$90 billion on EVs:  Ford Motor Co. on Sunday said it’s more than doubling its investment in vehicle electrification to $11 billion. It will be part of $90 billion that global automakers have committed to spending on electric vehicles, and that total is still growing. That will include at least $19 billion by automakers in the U.S., $21 billion in China, and $52 billion in Germany, according to a Reuters analysis. U.S. and German automakers said in interviews at the Detroit auto show that most of the investments are earmarked for China, where escalating EV quotes will be staring in 2019. Ford executives just announced that 40 electrified vehicles will be launched by the company by 2022 – 16 battery electric and 24 will be hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Autonomous vehicle federal guidelines:  New federal guidelines will be introduced this summer, expanded to include autonomous trucking, infrastructure, transit, and other industries affected by self-driving vehicle technology. Transportation Secretary revealed the DOT’s plans during a Sunday speech prior to the start of the 2018 Detroit auto show. The Obama administration’s Safety Assessment Letters have been kept in place, asking automakers and tech companies to release information on testing their autonomous vehicles. Chao sees General Motors’ recent announcement launching a robotaxi fleet next year as being possibly viable. “With the rapid advancement of the self driving technology, this request is now a reality. We will view the petition carefully and responsibly,” she said.

50th anniversary of Bullitt’s Mustang:  Ford Motor Co. has launched a 50th anniversary edition version of the Ford Mustang in tribute to the most famous car chase scene ever. In the 1968 film “Bullitt,” San Francisco Police Department Lieutenant Frank Bullitt spots two mob hitmen in a 1968 Dodge Charger tailing him in his 1968 Ford Mustang GT. He ends up turning the table on the hitmen, and pursues them on a high-speed chase through the streets of San Francisco, as the muscle cars leap over hills. It ends with the Mustang forcing the Charger off the road and into a gas station, where it explodes in a fireball.

Bullitt star Steve McQueen’s granddaughter Molly appears in a short movie tribute that was introduced at the Detroit auto show. Molly drives her new third-generation Mustang through a parking structure, battling two men in a Dodge Charger for the final space. Molly guns the Bullitt to win the space with its upgraded 5.0-liter V8 engine that can go up to 475 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque. It can reach a top speed of 163 mpg, an 8 mph increase over the latest Mustang GT.

She also gets to sit in the actual 1968 Ford Mustang GT that her grandfather drove. It was one of two versions of the Mustang used in the film. The stunt double version had been recovered in early 2017 in Baja, Calif. The other version that had been driven by the actor recently showed up again for the first time in nearly 50 years. Owner Sean Kiernan had inherited McQueen’s Mustang in 2014 from his late father, Robert, who had purchased it in 1974. Kiernan contacted the automaker in time for it to be shown alongside the 2019 Mustang Bullitt at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

GM wants to start robotaxi service in 2019, Study looks at cost of fueling gasoline-powered cars versus electric

GM asks for approval of electric, autonomous rides by 2019:  General Motors could be launching public ride-hailing services in autonomous vehicles as early as next year, according to a petition filed with NHTSA. GM has asked for a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards waiver on 16 rules covering vehicles with human drivers but that don’t apply to self-driving cars. If granted, GM could launch as many as 2,500 autonomous vehicles a year starting in 2019. The automaker described the “Cruise AV” self-driving vehicle in the filing, which is based on the Chevy Bolt and includes fourth-generation AV technology from its Cruise Automation subsidiary. It includes five Lidars, 16 cameras, and 21 radars for safety and functional, efficient driving. GM says its would be a type of robotaxi providing ride-hailing services. GM’s Maven carsharing division and its investment in Lyft could provide channels for bringing these electric, autonomous rides to customers.

Federal report on fuel economy:  A federal government report said that 2016 model year vehicles hit a record 24.7 miles per gallon, just 0.1 mpg increase, according to the Environmental Protection Agency . It’s projected to reach 25.2 mpg for the 2017 model year, the study said. The increase for the 2016 model year came with a few automakers buying credits to meet federal requirements. Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have emission deficits but still have three years to reach the compliance level. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had the biggest deficit but had credits saved up to meet the federal requirements. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said that the 2016 fuel economy improvement fell far short of the 1 mpg target that the Obama-era rules called for and that vehicle technology is available for vehicles to meet the standard.

Gasoline Vs. electric:  Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation just authored a study comparing the costs of driving electric and gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S. overall and by individual states. The fueling cost for charging electric vehicles is only half the cost of internal combustion engine vehicles, according to findings. The study found that the average fuel cost for operating a typical new gasoline-engine vehicle in the U.S. is $1,117, with a maximum of $1,509 in Hawaii and a minimum of $993 in Alabama. The current average annual cost of driving a typical new battery electric vehicle in the United States is $485, with a maximum of $1,106 in Hawaii and a minimum of $367 in Louisiana.

 

ACT Expo themes announced, VW creates e-mobility division

Core themes announced for ACT Expo:  Organizers of the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo announced the core themes for this year’s event, to be held April 30-May 3 at the Long Beach Convention Center. The six core agenda themes planned for the 2018 ACT Expo are: trucking efficiency for reducing the cost burdens of a trucking fleet; connected vehicle technologies; commercial electric vehicles; alternative fuels; urban mobility through congested, polluted cities; and goods movement. Keynote speakers and panelists will explore issues such as fuel efficiency improvement strategies and drivetrain electrification will be key focal points, set against the backdrop of increased use of alternative fuels, innovative powertrain solutions and economic and environmental fleet sustainability. The ACT Expo show floor will give attendees hands-on access to the wide range of advanced clean transportation solutions available.

BYD SkyRail:  BYD has launched an autonomous driving system for its monorail – BYD SkyRail in the city of Yinchuan in northwest China. The system, a BYD creation, is combined with Huawei’s proprietary 4.5G eLTE technology to offer seamless connectivity that allows data to be transmitted securely, while ensuring a safe ride for passengers. It signifies an upgrade for the SkyRail which was first made public in October 2016. At level 4, the vehicle is now fully autonomous and capable of performing safety critical driving functions.

Ford accused of cheating on emissions report:  Ford’s F-250 and F-350 Super Duty diesel pickups sold from 2011 to 2017 are releasing emissions as much as 50 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide pollutants, according to a lawsuit filed by drivers. This took place after Ford rigged at least 500,000 of the pickup trucks to cheat on emissions test, according to the suit. German supplier Robert Bosch GmbH has also been named in the suit. Bosch has been accused to covering up the actual emissions while working with partner Ford Motor Co. “The vehicle’s own on-board diagnostic software indicates emission control system to be operating as Ford intended, even though its real world performance grossly exceeds the standard,” attorney Steve Berman, a managing partner at Hagens Berman, said in the complaint.

VW e-mobility division:  Volkswagen announced that it’s creating an e-mobility division that will be part of the company becoming the leader in mass-production electric vehicles. Thomas Ulbrich will head the new division as he moves over after having been the brand’s production chief. The German automaker has named five core electric vehicle models as the first wave in its ambitious EV strategy. The I.D. hatchback will go on sale in Europe in 2020. The I.D. Crozz crossover will start sales in the U.S. the same year. The MEB platform will also be used by VW’s Audi, Seat, and Skoda brands.

Feds working with CARB on clean vehicle rules, Ford and Postmates testing self-driving deliveries

Working out fuel economy and emissions rules:  Federal officials met last month with California Air Resources Board members to work out differences in fuel economy and emissions standards. On Dec. 15, William Wehrum, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy chief Heidi King, and Mike Catanzaro, a senior White House aide, discussed goals with CARB officials on maintaining one set of national requirements for automakers in the cars they sell, according to Automotive News. Automakers have been asking the Trump administration to be lenient on fuel economy standards based on the realities of new vehicles being sold with gasoline prices staying low and consumers being more interested in trucks and SUVs. California has taken a more independent, stringent tactic on its zero emissions rules. “We’ve had productive conversations under way with CARB and I would hope those conversations continue to be productive,” Wehrum said. “I think a shared goal is to maintain one national program.”

AeroVironment’s TurboDX chargers:  AeroVironment introduced TurboDX, the company’s next-generation EV charging station for commercial, workplace, utility and residential customers around the world, during CES 2018 in Las Vegas. TurboDX includes 120 and 240 volt charging in a durable, reliable, fast, and safe solution adaptable to a wide range of users’ needs. It’s been certified by Underwriters Laboratory to North American UL Standards for safety and reliability. European variants are certified to IEC standards and bear the CE Mark. Chinese configurations have met CQC certification. An OEM-branded version of the TurboDX has begun manufacturing in China and will ship to customers starting this month.

Hydrogen stations in Japan:  A consortium of 11 companies have signed an agreement to scale up deployment of hydrogen stations and fuel cell vehicles in Japan. A new company will be started up in the spring of 2018 to develop refueling stations. The list includes Toyota, Nissan, Honda, financial institutions, and oil and energy companies including Air Liquide Japan. One of the targets will be to have 160 stations in place fueling 40,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Ford testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates:  During CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Co. announced a test project being conducted with the Postmates delivery service. City dwellers and workers can tap into the convenience of having deliveries made through a quick and easy process on their mobile device. It will support future efforts to deliver meals and store purchases to consumers though self-driving vehicles. Both the merchants and the consumers’ experiences will be explored during the test project.

In late August, Ford began placing a self-driving test car through a trial project with Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s Pizza employees carried out pizzas for delivery in a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle in an Ann Arbor, Mich., test project. Users were able to track the delivery through Domino’s Tracker mobile app.

Ford safety engineers and a few other researchers went on these delivery rounds to make sure it was being carried out safely and accurately. Consumer opinions about the Domino’s ordering and delivery experience were also tapped into.

Postmates is distinct in the market for delivering just about anything – fast food, restaurant meals, groceries, and hardware store items. Much larger companies, such as Amazon, and exploring deliveries and forging their own alliances in all these areas.

Last year, Uber created an alliance with McDonald’s to bring Happy Meals and other menu offerings to those who order it. Automakers see huge potential in forging alliances with technology companies and mobility services like Lyft. Consumers and employers are showing high demand for specialized mobility services that remain fast, efficient, and affordable. It’s much better than being stuck in traffic and looking endlessly for a place to park.

Plug-in sales pass million mark, How green vehicles did in the U.S. last year

Newsworthy stories:  Global plug-in electrified vehicles surpassed the one million mark in sales during 2017, according to a new report from Navigant Research. The
report anticipates that annual market growth will continue at 38% through 2020. Since PEVs rolled out in 2011, sales have grown by 40% or more each year. The rollout of long-range EVs at prices below $40,000 will have much do with it, Navigant Research says………….. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance has set up a $200 million mobility technology fund. CEO Carlos Ghosn will be announcing details during a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas early next week. The alliance had also announced plans to set up a consortium that will bring robotaxis into commercial use. That will include ride sharing services and autonomous vehicle technologies…………..  CES 2018, which will run through Jan. 12 in Las Vegas, will be a showcase for autonomous vehicle technology and has become probably the most important event for the auto industry. Automakers and tech suppliers will be demonstrating their systems that will include 3D solid state Lidar. Chinese company Byton introduced its debut concept vehicle, a connectivity-focused electric crossover. Hyundai will showcase a trio of new technologies focused on connecting future technology with evolving mobility challenges. Hyundai’s next-gen fuel cell electric vehicle equipped with new Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technologies will be featured and its new name revealed at the show.

How green vehicles performed last year in the U.S.:  Electrified vehicles had a better year in 2017 for the U.S. auto market. Plug-in vehicles were up significantly from about 158,000 units sold in 2016. It was also impressive compared to overall U.S. auto sales being down for the first time since 2009.

The Toyota Prius Liftback was the top selling hybrid at 65,631 units sold; though it was down 33.6% from 2016. Hybrid sales finished the year at 364,174, up 4.9% over 2016. The Ford Fusion Hybrid finished the year in second place at 57,474 sold, and the Toyota RAV4 came in third at 50,559.
As for plug-in vehicle segments:
Battery electric vehicle sales in 2017: 104,487 (up 24% over 2016)
Plug-in hybrid sales in 2017: 89,992. (up 23.4% over 2016)

During December, the Tesla Model S and Model X led the way in battery electric vehicles. For the year, the Model X saw more growth at a 20% increase, while the Model S was down 9% for the year. The Tesla Model 3 had disappointing results at 1,050 units sold in December – much lower than the company had promised earlier to manufacture and deliver.

The Chevy Bolt did very well, coming in close to 25,000 units sold even though its wasn’t fully available until mid-2017.

The Nissan Leaf had a weak sales month. Production of the new Leaf has begun, and sales volumes are expected to increase in the coming months.

The Toyota Prius Prime continues to lead the plug-in hybrid segment, up significantly over 2017. It’s edged out the Chevy Volt, which was down nearly 18% from 2017.

The days of the Volt may be numbered. General Motors is looking into ending production of the Volt in 2022, according to a report by AutoForecast Solutions. Sluggish sales of the Volt, and improvements made to battery packs in range and cost, are influencing GM management to phase out of plug-in hybrids. By now, GM had been expected to launch spin-offs based on the Volt drivetrain, but the business plan has instead shifted over to battery electric and fuel cell vehicles.

 

Tesla resets target dates for Model 3 production, VW partnership for smart mobility services

Newsworthy stories:  Tesla Inc. is slowly ramping up to meet its original production target for the Model 3, moving the 5,000 unit target into the second quarter. In its quarterly statement this week, the company announced that it delivered 1,550 Model 3 small sedans in Q4 2017, up from 220 the previous quarter. Tesla expects to reach a 2,500 unit weekly rate by the end of the first quarter, and the 5,000 per week milestone by the end of the second quarter. It was a good quarter and year for the electric automaker, with 101,312 of the Model S and Model X vehicles delivered in 2017 – a 33% increase over 2016. It was the best quarter ever for Tesla, with 15,200 Model S and 13,120 Model X vehicles delivered, representing a 27% increase over Q4 2016. As for the new Model 3, the company will “continue to focus on quality and efficiency rather than simply pushing for the highest possible volume in the shortest period of time.”…………. Westport Fuel Systems Inc. has entered into a development and supply agreement with Tata Motors for their 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder natural gas spark-ignited commercial vehicle engines to meet the Indian government’s new Bharat Stage VI emission standards, scheduled to take effect in April of 2020. Westport Fuel Systems has been working with Indian automaker Tata Motors since 2012, most recently working together on developing their next generation of natural gas spark-ignited engines to meet the BS-VI emission standards. Upon completion of the program, Westport will be supplying the critical natural gas components to Tata Motors, including advanced gas injection systems and controls…………..  CALSTART’s Clean Transportation Summit – California: 2030 will be taking place March 26-27 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This summit succeeds the Clean, Low Carbon Fuels Summit, which ran annually for the past five years with the purpose of building political support for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The first day of this year’s summit kicks off with concurrent sessions focused on electrification, Low NOx Natural Gas Vehicles market development, voucher incentives, and opportunities and issues for autonomous, electric and connected vehicles. The day concludes with a reception followed by a full day of General Session programming. Early bird discount registration will end on January 25. Learn more about the event here……………  U.S. car owners now lease almost 80% of battery electric vehicles and 55 percent of plug-in hybrids, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The lease rate for the country’s entire new vehicle purchases has been around 30% recently. However, Tesla does not reveal how many of its vehicles are leased. Consumers seem to be turning to leasing for the payment savings and because used vehicle values for electric vehicles have been weak in the marketplace. Consumers concerned about used vehicle values also tend to expect that the next generation of EVs with new technology and longer range will have stronger value on the used car market……………. California would ban the sale of new vehicles powered by fossil fuels in 2040 under legislation introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature. If passed, it would be a significant part of the state’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The law would require that all new vehicles sold after Jan. 1, 2040, would be zero emission vehicles such as battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” said Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill’s author.

VW adding to its automated mobility presence:  The Volkswagen Group and self-driving technology company, Aurora Innovation, announced a strategic collaboration ahead of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Aurora Innovation also signed a deal with Hyundai this week, similar to its alliance with VW, to bring its self-driving software into commercial use. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Penn., Aurora designs and builds self-driving technology, partnering with automakers to integrate, pilot and deploy advanced self-driving platforms into vehicles. Founded by CEO Chris Urmson, Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson and Chief Technical Officer Drew Bagnell, Aurora is working to solve today’s most complex AI, automation and engineering challenges to improve transportation and positively impact cities. Urmson had played a leading role at Google’s self-driving car unit, before it became Waymo.

The collaboration between VW and Aurora aims to bring self-driving electric vehicles in cities as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets. The collaboration will bring together a world-class engineering team to the ongoing development of software and hardware for driverless vehicles, and for mobility services for urban and rural areas. Cities can use the smart mobility solutions to help solve their traffic, pollution, and traffic safety challenges.

Automakers have been making serious investments in mobility and autonomous technology companies in the past two years. Ford acquired on-demand shuttle service Chariot in 2016 and then bought a majority stake in self-driving startup Argo.AI for $1 billion. Daimler now owns Hailo, MyTaxi, Taxibeat, and Ridescout. General Motors owns Cruise Automation and has a stake in Lyft.

Volkswagen’s MOIA division is preparing to bring mobility services to cities around the world. In early December, MOIA unveiled an all-electric car at the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin event. It’s been designed to provide usable space for up to six passengers. It will make its official debut in service on roads beginning in Hamburg in 2018, where the company expects to put about 200 cars on the road at first. It’s based on ridesharing for users who seek to pool their vehicle use.

EVs make top news story of the year, What soft oil prices mean for the U.S.

Newsworthy stories:  What made Automotive News’ No. 1 news story of the year for 2017? “Virtually every automaker becomes an EV evangelist,” is the lead story, even though EVs didn’t even make the the top 10 for the previous year. More than 100 battery-electric models will be sent to dealerships globally within five years. Its become easier to list which automakers don’t have big plans for EVs in the near future. Cheaper batteries will drive it, along with several countries saying they’ll ban gasoline-powered vehicles within a few decades…………… LeEco CEO Jia Yueting had been ordered by Chinese regulators to return to China before the end of 2017, but did not make that appearance. Jia had said he’d stayed in the U.S. to do fundraising for his other electric car company, Faraday Future. The Beijing branch of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) issued a notice last week ordering the CEO to return to China to address mounting debt and to protect investors’ rights. Jia said he’d asked his brother, Jia Yuemin, to meet with the commission last Friday to provide a report. “I am deeply sorry and blame myself for the negative impact of LeEco’s debt crisis. The fundraising for Faraday Future in the United States is making significant progress and there are many tasks I need to push forward in order to ensure the production and timely delivery of the FF91,” he said in a statement…………. Lyft will be showing off an autonomous ride-hailing service at CES in Las Vegas later this month, in partnership with Aptiv Plc and its automated driving platform. Aptiv was launched in December when auto supplier Delphi Automotive split into two companies. Lyft and Aptiv will offer rides to attendees at CES in the “point-to-point” ride-hailing system utilizing Lyft’s mobile app and Aptiv’s platform. Lyft is poised to play a leading role in working with technology partners to tap into the ride-hailing firm’s resource of providing about one million rides per day. Analysts predict that autonomous ride-hailing and ridesharing mobility services will lead the way in adoption of self-driving cars.

What declining oil prices mean:  Shale oil drillers have become good enough at what they due to bring record highs to U.S. crude oil production, according to a Washington Post feature.

Shale oil drills can now plunge deep, pivot, and tunnel sideways for miles until they find an oil pocket, said Frank Verrastro, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here a few trends to follow on the impact of U.S. oil production capacity:

  • Global oil demand is increasing in an expanding world economy, and production cutbacks by Russia and OPEC nations have helped push the price of a barrel of oil above $60 in recent days.
  • Trump administration policies, along with bountiful supply from shale oil drills and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), are expected to keep oil and gasoline prices down in the U.S. Trump administration has approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and may be loosening offshore oil drilling regulations. Another move could come from the tax bill that was just approved on Dec. 22; it allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a potentially rich oil supply but a move that conservationists and environmentalists oppose.
  • This trend will be increasing U.S. energy independence even more, taking away the type of pressure felt during the 1970s during the OPEC oil embargoes.
  • High gas and diesel prices have been critical selling points for the marketing of electric and alternative fuel vehicles. As Tesla and a few competitors have found, there are other strong points to make and experiences to offer car shoppers. Driving one of the cars is the best one, and answering questions about the environmental gains made in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; plus savings in lifecycle costs even if gas prices stay down through this year.

Chevy Volt ending production in 2022, How to reach consumers the right way

Newsworthy events for the new year:  General Motors may be shifting its focus away from the Chevrolet Volt and other plug-in hybrids and onto battery electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt. The company is reportedly looking at ending production of the Volt in 2022, according to a report by AutoForecast Solutions. Sluggish sales of the Volt, and improvements made to battery packs in range and cost, are influencing GM management to phase of out of plug-in hybrids. By now, GM had been expected to launch spin-offs based on the Volt drivetrain, but the business plan has instead shifted over to rolling out two more all-electric vehicles over the next 10 months. At least 20 all-electric or fuel-cell models are due to come out by 2023………..  The health impact on humans from air pollution has been researched in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, finding it contributes to more than 20,000 fatalities a year in the U.S. The study used Medicare files and air pollution data looking at fatalities between 2000 and 2012; the study found that day-to-day increases in air pollution, even at levels that had been considered acceptable, have devastating consequences. Those impacted had lived in areas with greater exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which are small particles of soot that easily enter the lungs and bloodstream…………  China has seen the impact of a rapidly growing vehicle population in recent years, with heavy air pollution setting off hazard warnings in cities like Beijing. The government is adding another measure to fight off air pollution by ending sales of 553 vehicle models that don’t meet fuel-consumption standards. Beginning January 1, production has been halted of the 553 models, according to Bloomberg News. That list includes models made by Audi, Beijing Benz, and Chevrolet………….  Tesla will be adding electric pickup trucks to its lineup, according to CEO Elon Musk. That will happen after the Model Y electric crossover is launched, he said. It will be the size of a Ford F-150. “I promise that we will make a pickup right after Model Y. Have had the core design/engineering elements in my mind for almost 5 years. Am dying to build it,” Musk tweeted last week Tuesday…………  North Korea will see its oil supply reduced through a United Nations-imposed sanction in response to the country’s nuclear weapon testing program. South Korean authorities last week seized a second ship that was suspected of supplying oil to North Korea in violation of the international sanctions, officials told BBC. The oil tanker, with its Panama flag, is being held at a port town near the western city of Pyeongtaek. South Korea had already impounded a Hong Kong-registered ship that was suspected of delivering 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean vessel.

Green Auto Market resources for the new year:

  • Sponsorship program reaching stakeholders in clean transportation who read Green Auto Market.
  • Subscribing to Green Auto Market Extended Edition for weekly data analysis on green car sales, regulatory issues, global market trends, energy, and emerging mobility companies and technologies. See the article below on reaching consumers through practical methods, which comes from the recent edition of GAM EE on key trends from 2017 extending into the new year.
  • Market research firms and strategic planning consultants have interviewed GAM editor Jon LeSage on electric vehicle sales trends, consumer attitudes on the technology, the challenges that fuel cell vehicles face, and automaker partnerships with tier one suppliers.
  • Contact jon at jon@jonlesageconsulting.com for more information.

Consumers more interested in practical than theoretical when buying cars
Jumpstart Automotive Media released a report in December analyzing the impact that a revised strategy being tried out at auto shows is having on car shopping. Events such as the LA Auto Show have been less about the wonders of far-out advanced technology, and more about bringing to life the innovations found in today’s vehicles. Learning more about the new vehicles and their capabilities goes far beyond those visiting the showrooms, with millions of consumers gaining digital access to the car shows online. Cars are coming equipped with interactive systems like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa that allow for verbal commands and touch screens simplifying the process — and getting car owners to see new possibilities coming through the technology. Connected car systems are expected to be the gateway to fully autonomous vehicles coming to roads over the next decade. Today, drivers can tap into mobility functions to manage charging their electric vehicle through voice commands, and to find out about available public charging spots.

Electric vehicle tax credit revived, Uber loses major lawsuit in Europe

EV tax credit continues:  While still awaiting signature by the president, the comprehensive tax bill does keep the current tax credit alive. Electric vehicle owners will still be able to claim a tax credit up to $7,500 on the purchase. The 200,000 unit cap will still be in place with Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan expected to hit that ceiling sometime next year. Automakers and organizations such as CALSTART and Plug In America had been lobbying for inclusion of the tax credit, which had been initially cut from a House tax bill.

Musk’s accidental tweet:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk received a wave of phone calls yesterday when he accidentally sent out his phone number to his 16.7 million Twitter followers. He’d been intending to send out the number to John Carmack, chief technology officer at Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality division. Several people tried calling his phone number and reported hearing a voicemail message from Musk stating, “By the Gods you’ve done it. Somehow you’ve found your way here to me. I offer you my congratulations and my respect.”

Uber loses big lawsuit in Europe:  Uber is legally defined as a transport company, according to a ruling this week by the European Court of Justice. The ride-hailing giant had argued that it merely provides a mobile app linking riders to car owners, and not a taxi or livery company. The case had come out after Barcelona ruled that Uber was to obey local taxi rules in that city. Uber downplayed the court ruling, saying that the company already operates under transportation laws in most European Union countries. Analysts say the ruling will have serious implications for Uber and other similar companies operating in the new gig economy. Uber and its new management team have a set of challenges to face after going through a difficult year.

UPS orders 125 Tesla Semi electric trucks, Virgin Hyperloop One raises $50 million

UPS places largest Semi order:  The largest operator of commercial trucking fleets in the world has taken the largest order so far of the Tesla Semi electric trucks. UPS has played an order for 125 of Tesla’s new all-electric Semi tractors. It falls into the company’s extensive clean transportation fleet that includes vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas, and propane. Tesla Semis are poised to usher in a new era in improved safety, reduced environmental impact, and reduced cost of ownership, UPS said in a statement. Last week, PepsiCo Inc. had placed the largest Semi order with Tesla at 100 units in its efforts to reduce fuel costs and fleet emissions.

Cap-and-trade auction strong:  The California Air Resources Board reported strong transfer activity in its most recent cap-and-trade auction results for November. Since the program’s inception, the total amount of auction proceeds that have been placed into the California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund comes out to about $6.4 billion. California’s cap-and-trade program began auction sales in late 2012 as an offshoot of the state’s AB 32 global warming act. Under the state’s regulatory structure, large polluters buy carbon credits that come from businesses generating surplus allowances. Collected funds from the auctions fund emission-reducing endeavors, including sustainable energy projects and rebates for electric vehicles and solar panels.

Branson becomes chairman:  Virgin Hyperloop One has raised an additional $50 million ahead of its Series C round of funding. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, will become chairman of the high-speed transportation company. Branson joined the board of directors in October after Virgin Group invested in the company. The company has also completed its third phase of testing achieving historic test speeds of 387 kilometers per hour (240.4 miles per hour). Branson is internationally known for achievements in air, rail, and space transportation, and his commitment to sustainability.