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.

For Today: GM and Ford move the electrification revolution a few steps further

A well-known automotive market analyst last year told me that he expects sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to make up 10% to 15% of U.S. new vehicle sales about a decade from now. That will mean that plug-in vehicle sales will have a real impact on manufacturing, marketing, infrastructure, and aftermarket products and services. The days of early adopters have come to an end, and the next phase is beginning – as made evident yesterday by announcements from General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

GM plans to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. Two new all-electric cars will come out in the next 18 months. Whether that’s coming from upcoming fossil fuel bans in several countries, the popularity of Tesla, China’s new energy vehicle market, launching the Chevy Bolt, the emergence of other long-range all-electric vehicles, and a long list of EVs in manufacturer product pipelines, the future is here now.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain EVP. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”

The automaker is also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of its zero emission vehicle drive. One of these is the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a four-wheel drive concept vehicle that runs on fuel cells. These provide power to electric motors, making it an ideal ZEV platform for delivery trucks, ambulances, and other applications. Yet EVs will be gaining most of the automaker’s focus and support.

Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years. Seven have been announced, including a 300-mile range crossover EV that will come out in 2020.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles, said that the automaker will increase the number of all-electric vehicles it will offer, but did not provide details.

Ford is establishing an internal team its calling “Team Edison” to study and develop battery electric cars.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Marakby said. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Here’s my take on a few trends and developments to watch for:

  • Battery electric vehicles will likely win out over plug-in hybrids in the next decade. While the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime will continue to do well, automakers tend to use plug-in hybrid variations of existing models as a way to transition car owners over to plug-in vehicles. EV range will be getting better, and all-electric vehicles are easier to maintain and keep in operation than internal combustion engine vehicles and plug-in hybrids. They use a lot less parts and components and are easier to maintain. Tires and brakes have to be replaced but there isn’t much else to changeover, given that the electric drive train is well made for EVs that are strong in sales.
  • Tesla is playing a leading role in public perception and experience with the technology. The Tesla Model 3 is expected to play a leading role in mass adoption, but the upcoming Model Y electric crossover will be built at mass scale, too. There will be other models coming out including the semi truck aimed at buyers of heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Tesla’s stock performance continues to stay strong and validates that institutional and individual backers believe in the business model. (As a side note, GM and Ford stock prices did well after announcing strong September sales and serious electrification campaigns.)
  • German automakers may be just as important as Tesla in moving the product development and sales trend forward. Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW made big announcements a year ago in the wake of the “Dieselgate” scandal, and with growing pressure from German regulators and from a few other countries. Tesla was taking the lead in the luxury EV side, but an impressive list of pre-orders on the Model 3 opened up the playing field. The product pipeline is covering the bases from Tesla-competitive automakers – electric sedans, SUVs and crossovers, and luxury vehicles.
  • Car buyers want to see realistic, real-world numbers on per-charge driving range, charging time, fast charging, option and trim levels, resale value forecasts, top speeds, horsepower, and torque. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency range ratings are gaining more confidence than the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with the NEDC using a very different cycle analysis and much longer range.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t reach mass adoption, with EVs winning out. They won’t be going away, with automakers such as Toyota, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler, and BMW committed to the technology. They’ll probably stay at a low level in passenger vehicle sales with a few of the automakers going over to military and commercial vehicle applications. But the barriers will be hard to cross – having enough fueling stations, the cost of the technology and sticker prices coming way down, and finding broad support and trust in the technology. The typical pump price for fueling with hydrogen isn’t known yet, and concerns are being expressed on how expensive it will be to collect and extract hydrogen from natural gas and other sources; and to deliver it by truck and pipelines to gas stations. The ZEV aspect makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles very attractive, but where is the hydrogen coming from? And EVs are getting cheaper and better all the time, along with the charging infrastructure.
  • Countries adopting fossil-fuel bans will likely have to back off those holistic mandates. It’s much more likely to take several more years (another half century?) before ZEV adoption becomes accepted at that level. It will be tied into radical transformation in how we drive and get around town. An integration of autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electrification will be behind it, but that is going to take decades to meet thorough testing and safety standards, insurance and liability issues, and to gain enough confidence and trust to reach mass scale. I expect that governments will go back to mandating a certain percentage of new vehicle sales meet their mandates; incentive programs will probably have to be deployed in China and other markets.
  • There’s also the issue of fleet and commercial vehicles used in transport, delivery, and moving employees and customers from Point A to Point B. Fleets are likely to integrate the fuels and technologies – with trucks and buses powered by renewable natural gas and renewable diesel, electrification, and propane and natural gas; and hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric passenger vehicles used by law enforcement agencies, administrative vehicles, and other functions. Fleet operators make decisions based on economic and environmental factors, along with functionality and ease of use, as do consumers.

For Today: Joint venture no longer required for electric carmakers in China, AeroVironment proving BMW and Mini-branded TurboCord EV chargers

Joint ventures no longer mandatory in China:  China will be making a huge change for automakers who want to build electric cars locally – setting up their own shops without having to forge a joint venture with a Chinese automaker. That will lower costs for companies like Tesla that have to pay steep tariffs to import their cars into China, and which choose to run their own factories similar to how they do it overseas. Foreign automakers will be able to go into free-trade zones to establish their factories. The country has 12 free-trade zones in Shanghai, Fujian, Guangdong, and Zhejiang. China will “actively implement the opening up of the new-energy manufacturing sector to foreigners, together with other departments under the direction of the State Council,” the nation’s Ministry of Commerce told Bloomberg. Other carmakers like General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen, are tapping into JVs with Chinese makers to set up EV manufacturing subsidiaries.

LeEco using Faraday Future patents:  Parent company LeEco used some of Faraday Future’s electric vehicle design in LeEco’s LeSee electric car, according to patents filed with the U.S. government. A Faraday Future representative confirmed that two of its patents are being used in the development of LeEco’s electric car. The look and design will be used across the FF and LeSee brands. One patent will be used for the look of the exterior design and the other is for the steering wheel. The two companies have been quiet about their working relationship as parent company LeEco has gone through the wringer financially, including a failed $2 billion acquisition of Vizio. In July, FF walked away from its planned $1 billion factory in Nevada. The company has leased an existing factory in Hanford, Calif., as it seeks new investment funds.

AeroVironment working with BMW and Mini:  AeroVironment has been selected as the North American provider of BMW and Mini-branded TurboCord accessory electric vehicle chargers. The dual-voltage charger features a small and lightweight design with a convenient 20 ft. charging cord. That brings 120-volt and 240-volt charging to BMW and Mini electric cars. The TurboCord charger can be purchased with the EV at all North American BMW and Mini dealerships and online. It also integrates state-of-the-art safety features such as unit and plug temperature monitoring, automatic shut-off and a rugged, being waterproof, and submersible enclosure (NEMA 6p) that enables users to safely and reliably charge anywhere indoor and outdoor.

For Today: BMW i-Series booming in sales, Ioniq wins green design award

BMW i-Series booming:  BMW reported a surge in global sales for its i and iPerformance electric series in May and throughout 2017. In its monthly corporate report, the German automaker said that the i-Series was up 73.4% in May at 7,336 units sold. Year-to-date deliveries of electrified models through the end of May reached 33,221, up 80.6%. The BMW 530e iPerformance has been available since March. Starting this summer, the 530e will be manufactured at Magna Steyr’s plant in Graz, Austria. That’s where Jaguar’s I-Pace electric SUV will be built starting early next year. The company also announced that the MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid will expand the product line-up of electrified vehicles beginning in late June.

Study on automated vehicles:  Navigant Research expects highly automated Level 3 and 4 systems to be here very soon – starting in 2020. They’ve being tested extensively, including in public pilot programs, and governments globally are starting to approve legislation to allow commercial deployment on public roads. Highly automated light duty vehicles (LDVs) will begin introduction to the market in 2020, with steady growth anticipated beginning in 2025 to ward Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles. It will be a slow and steady process, according to the report. The start of the growth period is expected to lag by between 3 and 5 years and vary by vehicle type. Like other research firms, previous Navigant reports do anticipate integration of autonomous vehicles to electrification and ridesharing mobility.

Hyundai Ioniq wins green design award:  The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is one of the winners of the 2017 Green Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. These awards celebrate important examples of sustainable designs and provide awareness on what companies are designing and producing to make the most positive impact on the environment. Ioniq is the first vehicle in the world to offer three distinct electrified powertrains on a single, dedicated vehicle platform – the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models. “Hyundai is committed to progressing the future of eco-friendly driving and the Ioniq is just the beginning,” said Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design Center. “The future-focused character of the Ioniq along with its innovative use of recycled and ecologically-sensitive materials has made Ioniq the most fuel-efficient vehicle and a leader in the environmentally-friendly vehicle space.”

For Today: Electrified vehicle sales stronger than auto market, VW settlement funds directed to California disadvantaged communities

Game changing role in auto market:  Electrified vehicles are in a good position to play a more important role for automakers and dealers as the U.S. new vehicle market continues to slip. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. factory output slipped by 0.4% last month, a big drop from the 1.1% increase in April. The dip in manufacturing ties into increasing production cuts in the auto industry. Analysts warn that more job cuts are in the works if car sales don’t continue declining. General Motors has announced it will extend its usual two-week shutdown this summer to five weeks at some plants in the Midwest. During May auto sales, the auto industry saw a streak of declining sales for five straight months. HybridCars.com reported that as of the end of May, all three electrified vehicle segments were up substantially over the previous year. Year-to-date sales for hybrids were up 10.5%, plug-in hybrids were up 48%, and battery electric vehicles increased by a third over the first five months of 2016. That presents big opportunities for the auto industry to increase electrified vehicle sales and see more profits, and to up the small share that electrified vehicles make of total U.S. new vehicle sales.

Lyft goes renewable:  Ride-hailing firm Lyft has set a big target over the next eight years – to provide one billion rides per year using electric, autonomous vehicles. Lyft want to see all of the electric rides to eventually be powered by renewable energy. The company will be purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset emissions from the fueling of its electric autonomous vehicles with gasoline. It will take several years for its fleet to be electrified and for renewable energy to make up a large part of energy in the U.S. But as battery-powered technology matures, Lyft expects “the vast majority of the vehicles on our platform will be electric,” the company said.

VW settlement:  California Governor Jerry Brown will likely sign a bill that directs Volkswagen to spend a portion of its Electrify America in disadvantaged communities in the state. It’s part of a larger budget package that Brown had already agreed to sign. Critics of VW’s recent plan said that the first $200 million, of the $800 million to be spent in California from the settlement, could give the German automaker a competitive advantage over other automakers and charging station makers; and it would ignore low-income communities in a state that has become committed to improving air quality in disadvantaged communities that are hardest hit by polluting vehicles such as heavy-duty trucks coming from ports.