VW and Toyota highlights at LA Auto Show, Nissan tapping into energy grid

One of the stars of AutoMobility LA at the LA Auto Show has been the I.D. Buzz Cargo concept, which ties into Volkswagen’s traditional Transporter cargo van and the look of its retro-passenger microbus. It’s the largest vehicle to be built on the German automaker’s Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) platform, and it will be getting an expanded version of the microbus with a large rear cargo area in lieu of seats. It will also get a battery pack capable of going 340 miles on a charge. On the other side of the urban mobility scale, the company unveiled the Cargo e-Bike, a three-wheeled, battery-assisted electric bike that it says can deliver cargo up to 463 pounds. It’s expected to enter production in 2019.

Another LA Auto Show highlight: While the Toyota Corolla has been on the market for 53 years, the 2020 Corolla will be the first-ever to come in a hybrid edition. It’s expected to achieve more than 50 miles per gallon and will be loaded with Toyota’s standard suite of safety equipment, Toyota Safety Sense. The Japanese automaker also announced that the Prius will be getting the all-wheel-drive equipped AWD-e, that will provide additional traction through various conditions like inclement weather, snow or rain, and an estimated 52 mpg in the city. Toyota also had other product announcements during the show.

Nissan is tapping into the ecosystem and energy grid through two new programs, one out of Japan and one announced at its U.S. headquarters. The Yokohama global HQ announced Nissan Energy, where owners of Nissan electric vehicles will be able to easily connect the EV to energy systems to charge their batteries, power their homes and businesses, and feed energy back into the power grid. It will also develop new ways to reuse electric car batteries. The company is working with partners such as electric and telecom companies, conducting field tests of vehicle-to-grid and virtual power plant systems to tap into the clean energy benefits. In Franklin, Tenn., the U.S. division announced a program built around Nissan EV owners saving on electric utility costs by tapping into energy already stored in their Nissan Leaf. Working with Fermata Energy, a vehicle-to-grid systems company, Nissan North America is launching a new pilot program under the Nissan Energy Share initiative. It taps into bi‑directional EV charging technology to partially power its North American headquarters in Franklin, and its design center in San Diego, Calif. Bi-direction charging technology not only charges the Nissan Leaf, it also stories energy in the car’s battery pack to partially power external electrical loads, such as buildings and homes.

Electric scooter company Bird is offering independent operators a way to get into the mobility business. Bird is selling the scooters to local business people and getting 20% of each ride. They also get access to Bird’s chargers and mechanics, but they do have the option of charging the scooters themselves. A number of cities do regulate the number of scooters they’ll permit to run on their streets. Called the Bird Platform, the company will begin rolling out the franchisee program in December in markets where city regulators have been more relaxed about it. Municipal governments have mixed feelings about whether they should allow Bird and and its competitor, Lime, to have free rein in their cities, or if they should be limited in number of scooters allowed on their streets; as has been the case in San Francisco. Bird and Lime believe in the “micro-mobility solution,” where electric scooters will be a solution to increasing traffic congestion and an alternative to ride-sharing options like Uber and Lyft. They usually enter markets first by showing up and gaining ridership before working things out with the city; and that sometimes happens after the city initiatives regulations and forces the issue.

Ryder System has ordered 1,000 medium-duty electric panel vans from Chanje, which will be operated by FedEx Express pick-up and delivery services. FedEx is purchasing 100 vehicles and leasing the other 900; the fleet vehicles are expected to operate throughout California over the next two years. The Chanje electric van is equipped to haul up to 6,000 pounds, up to 675 cubic feet of cargo, and travel 150-miles of range on a single charge.

Vincentric announced the 2018 U.S. Hybrid Analysis results with 42 of the 79 hybrids evaluated (53%) having a lower total cost of ownership compared to their closest all-gasoline powered counterpart. It was a significant growth rate over the 2017 study, where about 40% of the hybrids analyzed were cost-effective. The Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium had the highest savings, where buyers could save close to $6,400 over five years of ownership compared to the similarly equipped all-gasoline powered version. “The number of cost-effective hybrids has increased significantly from last year’s analysis,” said Vincentric President, David Wurster. “Our research shows that the lower hybrid costs for fuel and maintenance now gives buyers a larger variety of cost-effective, eco-friendly vehicles to choose from.”

Waymo ready to launch first commercial AV service, Get ready for AutoMobility LA

The age of robotaxis is ready to launch:  Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division is preparing to launch the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle service in early December, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will be run under its own brand and compete directly with mobility companies like Uber and Lyft. It won’t be a splashy opening, but the start of a trial run in suburbs around Phoenix. That’s where Waymo’s Early Rider Program has been tested with a group of 400 volunteer families who’ve been taking autonomous rides with the company for more than a year. This news coincided with a comments made by Waymo’s chief John Krafcik speaking at Wall Street Journal’s TechD D.Live conference on Tuesday. Krafcik said the service will start with a small group of riders in the Phoenix area but will be expanding in the coming months. Passengers can pay for rides and corporate customers such as Walmart Inc. are planning on having their customers shuttled to the chain’s stores in these vehicles. Earlier this year, Waymo announced plans to buy thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover to expand its self-self-driving vehicle fleet.

VW ramping up to mass produce EVs:  Volkswagen said it will convert three German factories to build electric vehicles — to meet expected demand and complete its commitment to zero emission vehicles made after the diesel-emissions scandal broke three years ago. The VW plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, and its factory in Hannover would also start producing EVs the same year. Together with the company’s current Zwickau plant, it will make for Europe’s largest network for the production of EVs in Europe, the company said. This week, the German automaker also announced it will be spending 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on EVs, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. That will make for a plan 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) more compared to last year’s planning round by VW.

Tesla buying trucking companies, facing more investor suits:  Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has acquired a few trucking firms to meet its delivery targets. The real challenge for Tesla this year has been building and delivering enough Model 3 compact electric cars to come close to meeting its earlier commitments to do so. It will shave off at least a month of time that it takes by using rail to get its electric cars to the East Coast. “We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter,” Musk wrote without revealing details on the acquired companies.

Along with getting through hellish production schedules, the company has had to face a mounting crisis over Musk’s infamous August tweet on taking Tesla private. It will be likely be leading to two or three separate groups of securities fraud lawsuits, according to lawyers for shareholders. It would run the gamut of shareholders and their claimed losses, from traditional longtime institutional investors to others shorting the stock or holding options. The case presents “so many different types of investors and investments, long and short,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said at a hearing Thursday in San Francisco. “That may have some effect on how I measure who has the greatest financial interest.”

Get ready for AutoMobility LA and LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA will be taking place Nov. 26-29, 2018, in Los Angeles, featuring speakers and workshops on the latest in autonomy, connectivity, electrification, the sharing economy, and more. It’s the prelude to the 2018 LA Auto Show, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. More than 60 debut vehicles are scheduled for this year’s AutoMobility LA, with nearly half making their world premiere. Jeep will be rolling out a pickup, and Kia is expected to have multiple vehicles make their world debut, including one of the brand’s best-selling cars. Audi has confirmed that the e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe will make its global premiere at AutoMobility LA.

Keynote speakers during AutoMobility LA include Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Volkswagen’s Electrify America, talking about “Racing to Create an Open, Fast-Charging Network Ready for a Tidal Wave of EVs.” Ted Klaus, VP and executive engineer of Honda R&D Americas, will discuss “Safe Swarm: Preparing Highways for the Autonomous Future.” Ned Curic, VP of Amazon Alexa Automotive, will speak on “Now We’re Taking: Amazon Alexa.”

Other speakers include: Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar, Audi’s app-based car rental service; Megan Stooke, CMO of General Motor’s Maven car-sharing service; and Jenny Ha, senior exterior designer at Lucid Motors.

Tesla Model 3 helping EVs go mainstream, Subscription services come to ride hailing

EVs going mainstream: Along with plug-in electric vehicles making it to the one million mark for U.S. auto sales in October, it was historic and interesting to see the Tesla Model 3 continue to make the Top 10 in America’s light-duty car segment — in October coming in at #6 behind the Hyundai Elantra and before the Nissan Sentra. In an interview this week with Recode, CEO Elon Musk said that 5,000 cars produced a week at its Fremont, Calif. plant has become the norm, and that’s being raised to 6,000 to 7,000 units a week. To hit about 6,500 a week “it would have to stress people out and do tons of overtime,” he said.

How long for AVs to go mainstream:  It was a milestone to see California grant Waymo the right to test self-driving vehicles without human safety drivers. Waymo has been putting in the hours and reporting the data — more than 10 million miles of real-world public-road testing, and seven billion miles of simulation testing. But it’s still in the testing phase in U.S. states allowing for it, and a few other countries overseas. We’re probably looking at a decade from now before they’re commonly seen on roadways. Perhaps trucking will see it first, with the lack of available commercial-grade drivers and accidents caused by those not getting enough sleep. Cargo carriers may have to come up with their own insurance for their fleets, as insurance companies are making it difficult to find the right coverage.

Subscription services comes to ride-hailing:  Uber is following Lyft — and several automakers — by now offering customers a subscription service, called Ride Pass. Users are guaranteed set prices for a monthly fee. That comes out to $24.99 in Los Angeles, and $14.99 in Austin, Orlando, Denver, and Miami. Subscribers pay fares based on historical data and won’t change based on demand or other circumstance, such as the costly “surge pricing” during peak hours. Lyft launched its All-Access Plan last month. The service costs $299 per month and gives users 30 rides worth up to $15 each. If a ride costs more than $15, the user pays the difference. Automakers have been offering their subscription services in recent years — with BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, tapping into the car financing model where customers who might have been reluctant to come over to the brand are trying it out; with the hope they’ll be loyal brand buyers and tap into their dealer networks for service and maintenance, shared ride services, etc.

Tesla settling with SEC over fraud lawsuit, EDTA reports two thirds spike in plug-in sales

Tesla settling SEC fraud suit:  Tesla Inc. may see the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s securities fraud lawsuit settled through a joint filing Wednesday to the federal judge overseeing the case. The settlement means that CEO Elon Musk will be stepping down as chairman for three years, and that two new independent directors will be appointed to the board. Musk will be paying $20 million, and Tesla will pay another $20 million, in fines distributed to harmed investors. Musk’s insulting tweet last week on Thursday, mentioning that the SEC is changing its name to “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.”

While outgoing Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. CEO James Murdoch has been said to likely be appointed the next chairman, Musk tweeted that “This is incorrect.” That comment was directed at a Financial Times report that the son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch would be taking one of Musk’s titles. Murdoch joined Tesla’s board last year after years of work with media companies.

EDTA reports spike in plug-in sales:  The number of plug-in vehicles sold from January through September 2018 is a 64% increase over the same period last year in the U.S., according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s sales dashboard. EDTA reported that there has been 229,874 total plug-in vehicles sales in 2018, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at 144,505 and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) at 85,369 through the end of September. Sales between the two segments were close during the first half of this year, with BEVs taking a leap in the third quarter. During September, BEVs made up 34,046 of the U.S. total and PHEVs made up 10,543 units. EDTA also reported a new look for the dashboard and updates to its research methods.

BYD wins major electric bus deal:  BYD will be helping Vancouver’s largest private bus operator, WESTCOAST Sightseeing, to become a 100% clean-energy fleet by 2023. That deal will consist of 90 electric buses of various types, with the Chinese maker being named the exclusive supplier to WESTCOAST. BYD’s North America manufacturing unit, based in Lancaster, Calif., has taken orders for over 600 electric buses. The company has invested more than $250 million and has delivered 270 of the electric buses so far. BYD is also building electric commercial trucks to serve fleets outside the bus sector.

 

GM ready to roll out profitable EVs by 2021, Will Elon Musk’s superstardom be enough for Tesla to overcome hurdles?

Newsworthy:  America’s largest automaker is poised to solve the quandary automakers face on making profits building and selling electric vehicles. General Motors CEO Mary Barra yesterday told investors at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York that the company in 2021 will be launching a new, flexible platform for electric vehicle launches that will bring down costs and increase profits. The new EV platform will accommodate multiple sizes and segments, to be sold by different GM brands in the U.S. and China, she said. A new battery system will bring down costs 30% cheaper than the battery pack used in the Chevy Bolt, Barra said. The automaker will be building at least one million EVs a year by 2026, with most going into China to comply with new energy vehicle regulations. Last month, GM said it planned to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023, but did not provide details………… Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced yesterday that Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport awarded Clean Energy a renewable natural gas (RNG) fueling contract for the airport’s vehicle fleet with its Redeem brand of RNG. The airport sees using the clean fuel as a way to potentially reduce its fleet emissions by about 70%…………… Daimler will be entering the electric bus market by end of 2018 with the beginning of series production of the all-electric Mercedes-Benz Citaro E-CELL. It will use modular lithium ion battery packs that can be tailored to each customer. The company thinks that by 2030, 70% of all newly-registered urban buses will have emissions-free drive systems.

State of the Company:  It’s been a year of mega-celebrity status for Tesla CEO Elon Musk – being recognized more than Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson combined. He’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone this month, as head of both SpaceX and Tesla, reaching rock star status. People Magazine was interested enough in his breakup with actress Amber Heard, who finalized her divorce from actor Johnny Depp in January. “I was really in love, and it hurt bad,” Musk said.

Musk continues to tease fans over the Thursday night unveiling of the electric semi-truck. The latest tweets have said it will “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension.”

Reality has kept him out of the alternate dimension, with Tesla just announcing its largest quarterly loss ever and a three-month Model 3 manufacturing delay.

There’s also been an employee lawsuit over the working environment at its Fremont, Calif., production plant. An African-American employee is seeking a class-action lawsuit against the company, where he calls the production floor a “hotbed for racist behavior,” where the suit claims black workers regularly face harassment.

The Tesla chief continues to take on extra projects like the Boring Company digging up an underground train tunnel in Los Angeles, developing the Model Y electric crossover, Autopilot software, and the Buffalo, N.Y.-based solar panel factory – all the while directing SpaceX flights to Mars and working to establish Tesla’s role China.

The company plans to leap five-fold in production by the end of next year — from about 100,000 electric vehicles expected to be produced this year to 500,000 next year. That will be led by the new Tesla Model 3. The upcoming Model Y crossover is expected to also play a key role in the company hitting its second grand target — producing 1 million new vehicles per year starting in 2020.

To get there, Tesla has to make it through a rite of passage on a few pivotal challenges:

  • Achieving profitability for the first time
  • Scaling up production 10 times within three years
  • Opening up more vehicle manufacturing and battery production plants
  • Worker relations as union organizers put on the pressure
  • Establishing a presence in China and Europe

Musk’s superstar status may not be impressive enough to maintain strong relations with major investment bankers. Tesla’s stock price has taken a major hit this year, and investors wonder if the company will need to make another junk-bond offering. Model 3 production and delivery will need to be steady to meet the expectations of most investors, who count on the Model 3, and later on with the Model Y.

 

For Today: Panasonic says Tesla Model 3 production bottleneck being worked out, Europe seeing strong plug-in vehicle sales

Working out production bottleneck for Model 3:  Tesla’s battery partner said that production problems are being worked out at the Gigafactory in Nevada, which will get the Tesla Model 3 up to speed in the near future. Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga said yesterday that delays to the automation of the battery pack production line meant some of it had to be completed manually. It will soon be automated, meaning the number of vehicles to be produced will rise sharply, he said. Tsugu declined to comment on how his company sees the production schedule will be carried out compared to the original projection. Automotive demand from Tesla and other auto industry customers helped the Japanese electronics company’s operating profit rise 6% during the July-September period. Panasonic supplies battery cells for Gigafactory production of Tesla’s battery packs. Earlier this month, Tesla had said that manufacturing bottlenecks had caused the slowdown for the Model 3 – down to 260 produced versus the original goal of 1,500 during the past quarter.

Mazda will offer rotary engine plug-in hybrid:  Mazda will be bringing out a plug-in hybrid powered by battery and a rotary engine in 2019. During the Tokyo Motor Show, the company confirmed that it will be launching an all-electric and extended range electric vehicle that year. Australian online publication Motoring reported that Mazda will be announcing a series of plug-in hybrids based on existing models around 2020. After that, then a battery electric vehicle will come out. It will be co-developed with Toyota and Denso in 2021 as part of its recently launched EV joint venture.

Plug-in sales doing well in Europe:  September was the second best month ever for plug-in electrified vehicle sales in Europe. At about 33,700 all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold, growth was up 32% year-over-year by the end of September. December 2015 had been its top selling month, with just over 33,800 units sold. Sales are expected to be strong in the fourth quarter, with historic data showing sales always improving over the last three months of the year in the region. Plug-in vehicles increased to 2.2% of overall new vehicle sales in Europe during September. Tesla saw its best month ever in Europe with the Model S coming in at #1 with an estimated 2,527 units sold. The next four on the list for top five selling PEVs in Europe during September were the Renault Zoe at 2,306 units sold, the Tesla Model X at 2,137, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at 2,080, and the Volkswagen e-Golf at 2,041 units sold.

For Today: The state of EV charging, Stella wins World Solar Challenge

The state of charging in the U.S.:  The U.S. public charging infrastructure continues to grow, helping first-time electric vehicle buyers make that big decision to convert over to the new technology.  The U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center reports 16,457 EV charging stations are in place, with 44,999 chargers in operation; 2,183 of them are fast chargers, including Tesla’s Superchargers. Available charging stations are in place at retail stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants; and more are showing up at workplace parking lots and city government sites such as libraries. Recent first-time EV buyers are finding what EV owners have experienced in recent years. They charge their EVs at home overnight, and top off for shorter periods while at home our out running errands. Most of the U.S. charging infrastructure is located on the coasts, and fast charging stations differ based on the electric car being driven. EVgo is one of the infrastructure suppliers working at bringing more fast chargers to public charging sites. Most of them have 50-to-60 kW charging capacity for now, and up to 150 kW; with testing being done on chargers that can go up to 350 kW. That ultra-fast charger will be able to give long-range EV about 250 miles of range in about 15 minutes of charging. Most of the changes currently being made at charging stations come from upgrades at these stations, but moving up to high-capacity fast chargers will take more space, construction, and investments in the future. “For the new stations that we’re designing where possible, we’re reserving the power capacity required to serve those higher levels and laying out the stations so that all it will take is a booster in the back of the stations so that you can get up to the higher level,” said Terry O’Day, vice president of product strategy and market development at EVgo.

Electric transportation leaders speaking on Oct. 1:  Beyond the Beltway, an Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) Leader Series event, will be taking place in two days at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm EDT. Market and policy influencers will gather to detail market trends and policy initiatives outside Washington that are driving the future of electric transportation. The event will feature expert insights, opportunities for Q&A, networking with industry and policy leaders, and refreshments. Speakers include Karen Lefkowitz, VP Utility of the Future, Pepco Holdings, Inc.; Sue Gander, Director of Energy, Environment & Transportation Division, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and Genevieve Cullen, President, EDTA. The first panel, Scaling Solutions: Regional Electrification Strategies, will include Jeanette Shaw, Director of Government Relations, Forth, Elaine O’Grady, Senior Policy Advisor, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Bill Elrick, Executive Director, California Fuel Cell Partnership, Roland Hwang, Director of Energy & Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and moderator Lisa Jerram, Senior Policy Advisor, Navigant Research. The second panel, The New Movers in Electric Mobility: Public/Private Collaboration, will include Colleen Quinn, SVP Global Public Policy, ChargePoint, Terry O’Day, VP Product Strategy & Market Development, EVgo, Matthew Nelson, Director of Government Affairs, Electrify America, Ashley Horvat, VP Public & Private Partnerships, Greenlots, and moderator Nick Nigro, Founder, Atlas Public Policy.

Stella wins World Solar Challenge:  Solar Team Eindhoven and its Stella Vie electric vehicle earlier this month won the 30th World Solar Challenge in Australia, with 42 competitors racing to take the lead. The race covered 3,022 kilometers (1,880-mile) race from Darwin to Adelaide. Stella was able to gain double the efficiency points of the second-place team. The solar-powered electric car uses a unique Solar Navigator platform from Ericsson’s Connected Urban Transport. Stella was started and created years ago by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven (Netherlands) University of Technology, and has been widely recognized and is gaining support. In 2015, Stella won the TechCrunch award for biggest technology achievements during the 8th annual “Crunchies Awards” against an impressive list of contenders.

For Today: Tesla preparing to build EVs in China, DOE funding extreme fast charging

Tesla readying for China plant:  Tesla, Inc., yesterday reaffirmed that it’s been in talks with the Chinese government to set up shop in a free trade zone in the Shanghai region – without indicating whether an agreement has been met. Those talks were reported to have been underway earlier this year. Tesla would still have to pay the 25% import fee that it’s had all along in China, but the company would have costs reduced not having to ship the cars into that market. It would also allow Tesla to stay true to its identity of being an independent operator by avoiding the traditional joint venture with a Chinese automaker that Tesla’s competitors have been doing for years. China is becoming more flexible to grow its local EV market and remain No. 1 globally, to clean up air pollution in its growing cities, and to free up the nation from foreign oil imports. The electric carmaker has been moving in this direction in recent years, with CEO Elon Musk thinking that it’s the most significant market in the world for company growth. The company now has a 5% stake from Chinse internet company Tencent Holdings, which should support Tesla’s strategy in that market.

Ethanol beats Big Oil:  President Donald Trump is keeping his campaign promise to ethanol-producing states by backing off proposed biofuel reductions recently announced by the Environmental Protection Agency. In a letter dated Oct. 19, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agency will keep renewable fuel volume mandates at or above proposed levels, reversing a decision to cut the mandates demanded by oil companies and refineries. It’s a big win for corn-growing states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, which are economically dependent on demand for corn-based ethanol. Companies such as PBF Energy Inc. and Valero Energy Corp. have been pleading with Trump to revise the costly mandate, and it at first appeared he would be going in that direction.

UK alliance for EV growth:  Automakers are working together in the United Kingdom to better educate car shoppers on the benefits of owning and charging electric vehicles. The Electric Vehicle Experience Center in Milton Keynes, north of London, will feature a multi-brand EV showroom. Sales pitches aren’t allowed, as it will be a showcase for explaining the technology to visitors. Funding participants include BMW, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, and Volkswagen, along with Chargemaster, a UK-based supplier of charging stations. Chargemaster CEO David Martell said the showroom will be carefully watched, and could be repeated elsewhere in the UK if it works.

LG partners with Qualcomm:  LG Electronics is entering the self-driving car market through an alliance with Qualcomm to jointly research and develop autonomous, connected car technology. The two companies have opened a joint research center in Seoul, with another one slated by open in that city by the end of 2018. The partners will be focusing on fifth-generation wireless communications technology – called 5G – that will deliver data much faster than the current technology. The move supports the three major trends in the auto industry – electrification, autonomous technology, and on-demand mobility services. It will also tie into Qualcomm’s efforts to bring wireless electric vehicle charging as a mainstay to vehicles of the future.

DOE funding extreme fast charging:  The U.S. Energy Department today announced that up to $15 million will be available for research projects on batteries and vehicle electrification technologies to enable growth in fast charging. It includes electrification projects that will support the development and verification of electric drive systems and infrastructure for what it defines as “extreme fast charging” (400-kW). It’s being done through the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), which funds early-stage, high-risk research to support improved vehicle efficiency, lowers costs, and increases use of secure, domestic energy sources. It’s part of a VTO-funded report that will be released today, where researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified technical gaps to bring an extreme fast charging network to the U.S. The full report can be found on the VTO reports and publications page.

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 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.