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.

For Today: New study on competitive EVs, SF Motors comes to America

EV adoption:  University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute just published a study finding that recent advancements and improvements have positioned battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to become more competitive with conventional gasoline powered vehicles. A new report written by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of University of Michigan, finds a few market forces driving change. With prices of the vehicles coming down and the cost of the electricity used in charging remaining low and stable, coupled with rising interest among car shoppers and an increasing number of charging locations, plug-in electrified vehicles are becoming more competitive for replacing convention vehicles for most U.S. drivers in the relatively near future.

Tips on ride and drives:  Clean Cities just published an article examining how constructive ride and drive events can be for communities. They offer an opportunity for participants to experience the latest plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs), and can benefit organizations and event attendees. With more PEV models now available, many organizations are highlighting the technology by hosting a local ride and drive. One reason of the four states that outdoor events are highly visible and give you the opportunity to showcase your organization. You can also gain access to Ride and Drive Kit, a step-by-step guide for hosting a PEV experience.

SF Motors comes to America:  A new electric car startup has come to America, this one backed by a Chinese vehicle manufacturer. Chinese company Sokon is in the process of launching SF Motors, with its headquarters office in Santa Clara, Calif., and a development facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard will be part of launching the new SF Motors brand, which will be manufacturing and selling its own electric passenger vehicles. The parent company, Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co., offers Sokon vehicles with internal combustion engines and fleet applications – small utility trucks, vans, and buses. More will be revealed in the next few months on SF Motors and its vehicle lineup.

For Today: Real improvements made in clean energy for PEVs, PERC’s Quick-Connect Nozzle Incentive Program deadline coming at end of June

UCS rates PEV energy emissions:  The Union of Concerned Scientists is seeing real improvements in how clean plug-in electrified vehicles really are based on what’s powering the electricity. The study found that the overall global warming emissions from driving an electric vehicle is significantly lower for most of the US. Data comes from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on emissions from electricity generation through the end of 2014; the last UCS reported had looked at 2009 data reported in 2012. Global warming emissions from electricity generation have fallen in since 2009 in many parts of the US, making PEVs even cleaner. The average electric vehicle in the US now produces emissions equivalent to a hypothetical gasoline car achieving 73 mpg, according to UCS. About half of PEVs sold have gone to California, which had a 95 mpg emissions equivalent rating. The next 5 states for PEV sales (Georgia, Washington, New York, Florida, and Texas) made up 20% of US PEV sales and are regions that have emissions ratings of 50 mpg or better.

Daimler and BAIC forge joint venture:  Daimler has signed a partnership with Chinese automaker BAIC Group for investing in new energy vehicles in the China market. Daimler will acquire a minority share in Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. (BJEV), a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, for strategic collaboration with BAIC in the NEV sector. As another part of the agreement, investment will also be placed in the upgrade of the current production facilities at their joint venture Beijing Benz Automotive Co., Ltd. (BBAC), to facilitate electric vehicle production. Last month, Volkswagen and Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC Motors) were granted approval to manufacture plug-in vehicles in China. The joint venture’s approval by China is to build 100,000 battery electric vehicles.

Another electric pickup:  Canadian startup Havelaar this week unveiled the Bison all-electric pickup truck. It appears to be in the concept phase and will take a few years to get out there and compete with electric pickups like the Workhorse W-15 and maybe Tesla. It would be impressive, if it makes it to market, with a driving range of 186 miles per charge. It’s being built to drive through rough, weather-extreme sections of Canada and other markets. Havelaar Canada is being led by Tony Han, who helped launch the Havelaar Electric Vehicle Research Center (UTHEV) at the University of Toronto. Two other professors will be leading the venture with Han.

Propane autogas incentive program deadline:  Time is running out for fleets to take advantage of the Propane Education & Research Council’s Quick-Connect Nozzle Incentive Program. Private fleets and public refueling stations have until June 30 to apply for the incentive program, which provides $100 per tank-side connector and $1,000 per hose-end connector. The new double incentives of $100 per tank-side connector and $1,000 per hose-end connector were expanded on March 1, 2017, to further help fleet owners replace their current refueling technology. Begin the application process by completing the online form at propanecouncil.org.

For Today: Ford changes over chief executive as profit pressure mounts, California sees leap in electric car sales

Ford changes over CEO:  Ford’s Mark Field is stepping down as chief executive as profit pressures increase from shareholders. He’ll be replaced by Jim Hackett, who’s known for his efforts transforming the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer, Steelcase, and hiring popular University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh while serving as athletic director. He most recently served as chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, a new division created last year to oversee Ford’s ventures in autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Ford Motor Co.’s share price has dropped 39% since Fields took over the CEO job from Alan Mulally in 2014, and the company’s U.S. auto sales are down 5.1% year-to-date. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving car projects and ride-sharing units. While the company hasn’t introduced any new plug-in vehicles in its lineup lately, Fields did have big plans for increasing Ford’s electrified vehicle presence in China and adding slowly to Ford’s electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles, including the all-new hybrid police car. Several other management changeovers were announced by the company, including moving Jim Farley up to executive vice president and president, Global Markets. Fields had been seeing increasing pressure from shareholders lately, which was heightened earlier this month during the annual directors and shareholder’s meeting. Officially, the company said Fields has chosen to retire after 28 years with the company. Hackett, the new CEO, is being placed in a similar role to ex-Boeing executive Alan Mulally, an outsider brought in to stabilize the company in 2006. Executive Chairman Bill Ford compared Hackett to Alan Mulally during today’s announcement. “Alan captured the hearts and minds of our employees and made them feel not only could we win but that we would win,” Ford told reporters. “I think that’s something that you’ll see very much with Jim. Jim is a cultural change agent.”

PEV sales in California way up:  California saw a 91% increase of plug-in electrified vehicles during the first quarter compared to that same time period in 2016. All-electric vehicles led the way at 13,804 units sold, with the Chevy Bolt doing especially well at 2,735 vehicles sold during the first quarter. Tesla models and the Nissan Leaf also did well. Plug-in hybrids performed well, making up 10,466 units sold, a 54% increase over last year. Conventional hybrids like the Prius were down almost 10% during the quarter at 22,328 sold. The Toyota Prius Prime did well in the plug-in hybrid category. PEV sales made up 2.7% of new vehicles sales in California during the first quarter.

BMW wants leadership in electric:  BMW CEO Harald Krueger said the German automaker is focusing more on electric vehicles and connectivity than on increasing vehicles sales. Last year, the company reached its highest sales level at 2.37 million units sold from the BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands. It reached sales of 62,000 plug-in hybrids and 25,000 all-electric i3s last year. The goal is to hit the 100,000 units sold mark this year with electrified vehicles. While the company is committed to selling more battery-powered cars, Krueger sad that fuel cell vehicles will be important in the company’s future plans, as well.

Vehicle Launches: Subaru going electric on current models as it transitions from PZEVs to ZEVs

Subaru Corp. is taking electric cars more seriously than ever, as most automakers add these vehicles to their plans. The company is looking into adding electric drives to current models over designing an all-new electric car, said Chief Executive Officer Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, in an interview on Friday.

 

Subaru wants to stay with its reputation for making safe, well-rated vehicles, which would eliminate the need for partnering with another automaker, Yoshinaga said. The company will explore selection of suppliers for the battery and motor. A decision on it will have to be made in about a year, he said.

 

There had been a Subaru Crosstrek hybrid, but it was discontinued in 2017.

 

Subaru has been able to hit emissions targets through California’s partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) standards created in 1998 as part of the state’s vehicle emissions laws, which then were stricter than federal rules. It’s typical to see Subaru models with the PZEV badge all over the country. PZEV standards could be met by add-ons such as anti-permeation fuel system liners, carbon air intake traps, and close-coupled catalytic converters.

 

Government policies and subsidies are having their impact globally.

 

“If there’s already an attractive Subaru model, for example the XV crossover, and if a customer in Beijing wants one but is only allowed to buy an electric vehicle, if there’s no electric version then he can’t buy it,” he said. “Providing the choice of an EV means the customer can still desire the same Subaru.”

 

The company is spending more on electrification research and development than other technologies like connected, automated cars. Subaru is budgeting 134 billion yen ($1.2 billion) on R&D in the year through March 2018, more than double what it spent in the year ended March 2014.

 

It’s much less than other Japanese automaker like Toyota and Honda. Toyota, which owns a 16.9% stake in Subaru, plans to spend 1.05 trillion yen ($9.4 billion) on R&D in the current fiscal year and Honda plans to invest 750 billion yen ($6.7 billion).

 

Subaru will continue spending on automated technology by investing more in the EyeSight driver-assist system. The CEO said that they’ll be limiting price increases on the technology, allowing them to offer the same safety suite across all models.

 

EyeSight uses cameras that can detect objects such as vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, according to the company. It will be updated this year, with plans to add the ability to autonomously follow a car on congested highways. Fully autonomous highway driving is expected to be added in 2020, including the capability to change lanes.