LG Chem and SK Innovation in battery legal battle, Gig Economy meets the Gilded Age

Battle over South Korean battery tech:  LG Chem and SK Innovation are each asking the US International Trade Commission to bar the other South Korean electronics company from supplying batteries to Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Jaguar, Audi, and Kia. The stakes are quite high, with one analyst predicting that country’s electric vehicle battery market will grow 23 percent a year to reach $167 billion in sales by 2025.

In America, the battle ensued when LG Chem filed a claim that SK Innovation won the Volkswagen contract fraudulently by receiving trade secrets supplied by ex-LG Chem employees who’d taken jobs with the smaller competitor. SK Innovation had won a contract to build batteries for VW’s ambitious EV product launch campaign, at the automaker’s factories in Germany and in Chattanooga. SKI also was able to start work on a new battery factory in Georgia, about 150 miles from Chattanooga, and another in Hungary. The trade commission is expected to make a preliminary ruling in June and issue a final decision next October.

Tesla, Uber & Amazon — The Gig Economy meets the Gilded Age:  What do Tesla, Uber, Amazon, Lyft, Instacart, and DoorDash have in common? They’re great to buy from, but you probably wouldn’t want to work for them as an independent contractor or employee.

We love the perks — Tesla’s fun-to-drive electric cars, belonging to Amazon Prime, cheap fare Uber and Lyft rides, having the annoyances of grocery shopping taken away by Instacart, and tapping into other efficient, affordable gig economy services. But we usually don’t like working for them — just ask around and search the internet.

Case in point:  An engineer working for Elon Musk’s SpaceX intergalactic travel company told me about the intensely demanding, stressful long hours he has to work. While Musk is still an icon for him as a pioneer in space flights and electric cars, he doesn’t see himself able to live that way for very long. As we’ve heard about from executives leaving Tesla, Musk expects employees to give their lives to the cause.

Another one: A woman working for Amazon told me about attempting to be reclassified from a part-time employee to full-time employee with benefits. She and her Amazon co-workers are expected to work extra hours and take on extra duties. But she’d received a company letter detailing, once again, why she didn’t make it to full-time status with medical coverage and other benefits. Like working for other prominent, well publicized tech employers, what at first seemed like a wonderful career opportunity can go upside down.

For independent contractors working for Uber and the big wave of mobile app-based startups since then, the initial motivating factors behind doing this kind of work have been waning for the past two years.

A few key developments have been taking shape. (See my blog for more………)

And in other news:
Chaotic trade climate:  President Donald Trump said a trade agreement with China might have to wait until after the US presidential election in November 2020, tarnishing hopes that their trade war would go away and its chaotic impact on trade deals and the economic climate. “I have no deadline, no,” Trump told reporters in London, where he was due to attend a meeting of NATO leaders. “In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal. But they want to make a deal now, and we’ll see whether or not the deal’s going to be right; it’s got to be right.”

Yesterday, Trump said he would hit Brazil and Argentina with trade tariffs for “massive devaluation of their currencies.” That was followed by a US threat to slap duties of up to 100 percent on French goods, from champagne to handbags, because of a digital services tax that the Trump administration says harms U.S. tech companies.

Turbulence in Hong Kong from the uprising that’s being suppressed by Chinese military has also been part of the upheaval. Automaker stocks seem to be underperforming lately over concerns that China could retaliate over U.S. legislation in support of the protesters in Hong Kong. “The legislation’s passage carries unfortunate timing for the US auto brands, which are also coping with 16 straight months of declining China auto sales,” notes Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steve Mann.

Will 5G be here soon?:  For those wondering when 5G will be here to take our smart phones and cars to the next level, T-Mobile says it will be the first carrier to offer a nationwide network starting Friday. There are a few caveats, though. It will be using T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum that taps into airwaves like the ones used for 4G LTE and bundles them together to deliver faster speeds — offering “low-band” 5G. The company says it will be a precursor to a more robust network that will be made possible with the combination of Sprint’s vast airwave holdings — which made Sprint a direct competitor to AT&T and Verizon Wireless years ago. However, T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint still has to complete legal hurdles. The US Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission gave the merger the green light; but, it faces a lawsuit from several state attorney general, and that trial will start Dec. 9. T-Mobile is promoting the 5G launch with special prices on a new OnePlus phone and one from Samsung. The launch of 5G has been a very hot topic for those attending AutoMobility LA and CES in Las Vegas next month. It will have a lot to do with self-driving cars making it to the next level through its use of C-V2X, a communications technology using the same 5G networks coming to our phones. It will allow vehicles to communicate with each other, with traffic signals and with other roadside gear. It’s a key element of making cars safer, diverting traffic jams, and other benefits.

Reserving a Fisker Ocean:  Interested in getting one of the first Fisker Oceans to roll off the assembly line? Put down a $250 down payment by using this iPhone app, called Fisker Flexee. Coming in early 2022, the Fisker Ocean will be “the world’s most sustainable vehicle.”

Musk sued for “pedo guy” insult:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk will go on trial in a defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court starting today based on his infamous Twitter post calling a British cave explorer a “pedo guy.” The jury will decide whether Musk committed a negligent act aimed at Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue a group of boys trapped in a network of caves in Thailand in July 2018. Musk did apologize and deleted the post, but Unsworth sued Musk for damages, claiming his reputation was damaged by being baselessly branded as a pedophile. Musk plans to testify in how own defense for a trial expected to run about five days. Back in July 2018, Musk fired off a round of irate tweets after Unsworth criticized the Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s offer to help with the rescue mission by sending a mini-submarine built by SpaceX. Musk has said in court documents that “pedo guy” was a common insult “synonymous with ‘creepy old man’” when he grew up in South Africa.

US more energy independent now, Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV a star at LA Auto Show

“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”
President George W. Bush during State of the Union speech, Jan. 31, 2006 

I had a fascinating conversation with an economist at a social gathering last week. We discussed the impact of oil imports and exports on the global economy — especially its impact on US energy independence and climate change policies. The US has entered a new place in the world’s oil supply, now exporting more oil than importing it — and less vulnerable to occasionally turbulent global oil prices than was the case years ago.

This economist finds it quite ironic that two other countries have reputations for supporting sustainability and other forward-thinking policies, but are also leading global oil exporters. The US will have to face this scrutiny as well, he said.

One of them is Norway, a leading backer of the UN’s Paris agreement on climate change, and the most impressive nation in the world for per capita electric vehicle sales; along with generous government incentives for EV purchases and charging infrastructure.

Norway was the 13th largest global oil exporter last year, at 1,254,920 barrels per day.
It was named the 20th most oil dependent country in the world during 2016 in another study, with 3.84 percent of its GDP coming from oil revenue, and fuel exports making up 53 percent of its merchandise exports that year. About 45 oil wells were drilled in 2018, up from about 30 in 2017.

Canada, the second nation mentioned by the economist during our conversation, is recognized for having the best healthcare system in the world and for being proactive on climate change through its government’s policies. However, it was the fourth largest oil exporter in the world last year.

Canada exported 3.5 million barrels of oil per day to the US in 2018, 96 percent of all Canadian crude oil exports, according to Natural Resources Canada. Canada supplied 43 percent of US oil imports last year; followed by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq.

The US was the eighth largest oil exporter last year. Saudi Arabia and Russia were No. 1 and No. 2. Saudi Arabia has much larger export volume than any other country in the world.

2018 Largest Oil Exporters — Barrels Per Day

1. Saudi Arabia — 8,300,000
2. Russia — 5,225,000
3. Iraq — 3,800,000
4. US — 3,770,000
5. Canada — 3,596,690
6. UAR — 2,296,473
7. Kuwait — 2,050,030
8. Nigeria — 1,979,451
9. Qatar — 1,477,213
10. Angola — 1,420,588

Sources: CIA World Factbook and US Energy Information Administration

The US is not an oil-dependent country on the import vs. export ratio as of 2019, but the addiction to petroleum continues. On the bright side, the US is less dependent on OPEC, the league of oil producing nations that caused energy and economic chaos in the US twice in the 1970s (along with the Iranian revolution in 1979) — and that continues to be a major power player in the global oil market.

The US is now exporting crude oil to more nations than it’s importing from, the Energy Information Administration said in a new analysis in late October. During the first half of the year, US crude oil exports average 2.9 million barrels per day, according to the EIA, a number that’s gone even higher in the second half of 2019. In the first seven months of this year, the US imported oil from a maximum of 27 nations during a given month; that had gone as high as 37 nations a decade earlier.

A surge in domestic production has made the US a crude oil export powerhouse, a goal that had been the basis of the Bush administration’s energy policies in the previous decade that first created the Energy Policy Act of 2005; and with some of it carried over to the Obama administration. Bush’s famous State of the Union quote on oil addiction has been used as both an irony (raising the question: How serious was the Bush administration on weaning the US off petroleum?), and supporting moves to stabilize US energy through reducing oil imports from countries like Iraq and Kuwait where America had sent troops to; and other countries, especially OPEC members, with hostile attitudes and actions toward the US.

The Energy Policy Act promoted US nuclear reactor construction through incentives and subsidies — which has since been discredited and sidelined following Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. The Act also provided loan guarantees to entities that develop or use innovative technologies that avoid the by-production of greenhouse gases.

The Act also launched the Renewable Fuel Standard that requires transportation fuel sold in the US to include a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The RFS was expanded and extended in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. These federal laws were where standards came from governing the amount of biofuel that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the US. It soon because the source of a battle between oil companies and refineries versus corn farmers and ethanol producers.

Crude oil is produced in 32 US states and in US coastal waters, according to EIA. In 2018, about 68 percent of total U.S. crude oil production came from five states. Texas is the leader with 40.5 percent of domestic oil coming from that state. North Dakota was the second largest at 11.5 percent, followed by New Mexico at 6.3 percent, Oklahoma at 5 percent, and Alaska at 4.5 percent of domestic crude oil last year.

It’s one of the reasons gasoline is much cheaper in Texas than other states that have to ship and pipeline over their oil and might have state regulations that raise the price at the pump. For example, gasoline recently has been more than $4 a gallon at some California gas stations. In Texas, it’s been a little bit over $2 a gallon.

The US has seen its supply of oil and natural gas surge over the past dozen years through domestic wells and with natural gas coming much more from shale gas fields. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has been the key driver of change in domestic fuel — where oil and gas are extracted from tiny pores in rock formations coming from shale, sandstone, and limestone. Fracking breaks up the rock in formations creating pathways drawing out oil and gas from the rock layers. It involves forcing water, chemicals, sand, or other materials under high pressure into the wells. Steam, water, or carbon dioxide (CO2) can also be injected into a rock layer to help oil flow more easily into production wells.

Fracking has been the source of public protests and litigation from environmental groups, pushing the federal government to enforce regulations. It won’t be going away anytime soon with advocates insisting its become safer and an economical use of clean energy. Critics say fracking brings devastating consequences to drinking water supplies, air pollution, releasing more greenhouse gases, and triggering earthquakes.

More recently, new applications of fracking technology and horizontal drilling have led to the development of new sources of shale gas that have offset declines in production from conventional gas reservoirs, and has led to major increases in reserves of US natural gas. Oil supply has been helped by the Trump administration weakening environmental regulations for offshore and land oil drilling.

What does it mean for transportation fuel in the US going into next year?

The EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.65 per gallon in November and fall to $2.50 per gallon in December. The agency forecasts that the annual average price in 2020 will be $2.62 per gallon. EIA expects that Brent and West Texas Intermediate oil prices will see gradual changes next year — up to $65 per barrel compared to $61 this year for Brent; WTI prices are expected to be about $4 per barrel lower than Brent in late 2019 and throughout 2020.

The US Dept. of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center sees price stability for these fuels since 2014 — compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, electricity, ethanol (E85), and biodiesel (B20 and B99-100). Gasoline and diesel have seen more fluctuation in the past five years, but have stayed within a $2 to $3 per gallon national average (with diesel slightly over $3 lately).

Electric vehicle sales are down now in the US, and fuel-efficient smaller cars and crossovers have been down in sales compared to trucks and SUVs since oil prices plummeted downward in 2014.

Spiking oil prices in 2008, and periods of turbulent pricing in 2010 through 2012, helped automakers sell smaller vehicles, EVs, hybrids, and smaller crossovers. All of that changed in 2014 when oil prices plummeted downward — and gasoline and diesel pricing also dropped — helping pickups and SUVs take the lead in new vehicle sales.

Being less dependent on oil imports has helped US gasoline and diesel prices remain stable and less prone to price spikes than a decade ago — less affected by decisions made by OPEC and disruptive events in key supplier markets. It also raises the bar on making the case for consumers and fleets to purchase new vehicles powered by electricity, hydrogen, propane autogas, natural gas, and renewable fuels.

And in other news……..
Ford is rolling out the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric crossover SUV at this week’s LA Show press days. It will have two different battery sizes, with one of them having the capacity to go up to 300 miles per charge. Buyers can also choose from rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and different power outputs. Ford thinks the Mach-E will make a big splash, its first ever all-out competition against Tesla and the majors, tapping into the performance history and style of the Mustang. EVs are expected to play the leading role at this year’s LA Auto Show product launches, with the Audi E-Tron Sportback and, post-show, Tesla’s Cybertruck. Overall, new SUVs/crossovers will be the leading vehicle classification on display.

California announced yesterday that it will halt all purchases of new vehicles for state government fleets from General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and other automakers backing the Trump administration in a battle to strip the state of authority to regulate tailpipe emissions. It’s been a good market for OEMs on the fleet side; between 2016 to 2018, the state said it purchased $58.6 million in vehicles from GM, $55.8 million from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, $10.6 million from Toyota, and $9 million from Nissan.

Volkswagen’s Electrify America announced today an agreement with Lyft to provide the ride-hailing company’s Express Drive program renters of electric vehicles with convenient and included charging on its DC fast charging network. Express Drive is Lyft’s short-term car rental program that gives people wanting to drive on its platform access to an electric vehicle through its rental providers.

Will EVs transform the auto industry by 2030? And more on Trump administration versus California

Here’s another look at forecasts predicting 2030 will be the watershed year to watch for when vehicles, transportation, and the entire auto industry itself will look quite different than it does today. This time, we’ll look at whether plug-in vehicles are likely to overtake internal combustion engine-powered vehicles by 2030.

A new Science magazine article states that: “Electric vehicles are poised to transform nearly every aspect of transportation, including fuel, carbon emissions, costs, repairs, and driving habits.”

That will come from planned mandates coming up soon, that if enacted, include Norway wanting to have all its vehicles be battery electric or plug-in hybrid by 2025; Netherlands banning all gasoline and diesel vehicles by that year; Germany banning internal combustion engines by 2030; and France and Great Britain ending gasoline and diesel car sales by 2040. Not to mention China’s subsidies moving sales of new energy vehicles and Europe and the US seeing strong EV sales. What’s the tipping point? Battery technology, which have a host of challenges to overcome, according to the author.

I would say that two developments will likely slow the pace of EV sales growth we’ve seen over the past nine years, and extend the timing of when we see them make a substantial global impact. One is China cutting its generous subsidies, and the other being a battle between the Trump administration and California’s clean car standards (see news section for more on the battle).

EV sales are declining for now, but how long will that last?

The chart below takes a look at the past decade of battery electric and plug-in hybrid sales since the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt in late 2010. A few points stand out while reviewing the short history of mass market production-level electric vehicles.

EV sales trends since 2011:  The US was the market leader until 2015, when “new energy vehicle” subsidies began flowing in China and more electric vehicle product offerings entered that market. European countries also began seeing more acceptance of the technology and more EV models to consider. Norway continues to be No. 3 in global EV sales with its extensive government support in subsidies and charging infrastructure. Japan has been in the top five countries for cumulative EV sales.

Two thousand fifteen was the outlier year for US sales, with one of the factors being the Chevrolet Volt dropping in sales as the new next-generation Volt with range boosted from 38 miles to 53 started showing up at dealerships late in the year. Other market trends that pulled EV sales down were low gas prices, fewer incentives, and a broader market shift away from cars and toward SUVs and pickup trucks. But global EV sales kept their upward trajectory, leaping 71.58 percent in 2015 over 2014.

China is by far the leading sales market, with the US following in second with about a quarter of China’s EV sales in the past two years. China’s NEV sales data includes passenger vehicles and heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks. China’s new energy vehicle mandate and its generous subsidies have brought the purchase prices down substantially. Building out its charging infrastructure has helped, too, as has the launch of a long list of NEVs built and sold by Chinese automakers and joint ventures between foreign automakers and local automakers.

Battery electric vehicles are leading by far in key global markets over plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Last year, BEVs had 66.8% of the US plug-in vehicle market. By December 2018, the stock of new energy vehicles sold in China since 2011 saw 79.4% as BEVs. In Europe during 2018, the sales numbers were closer, with BEVs in the lead by over 40,000 units — 223,284 BEVs and 182,768 PHEVs.

As for popular models, here were the top 10 global sellers in 2018:
1. Tesla Model 3 — 145,846 units sold
2. BAIC EC-Series — 90.637
3. Nissan Leaf — 87,149
4. Tesla Model S — 50,045
5. Tesla Model X — 49,349
6. BYD Qin PHEV — 47,452
7. JAC iEV E/S — 46,586
8. BYD e5 — 46,251
9. Toyota Prius Prime — 45,686
10. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — 41,888
Source: InsideEVs

These sales figures show a few trends, one of which is how important the US continues to be for Tesla’s sales. Of the 145,846 Model 3s sold last year, 139,782 were sold in the US. About half of the Model S and Model X units delivered last year were sold in the US with Europe being important for Tesla’s growth. Now with its China plant starting up, that market is expected to be very important for future sales and model introductions.

The BAIC, BYD, and JAC models are sold almost exclusively in China, although BYD is continuing to sign more contracts for electric buses and other commercial vehicles around the world. The Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are seeing more success outside the US, with Europe being the main marketing focus.

Forecast reports usually cite upcoming vehicle emissions rules, governments moving toward banning gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles, growth in Level 2 and fast-charging stations, and a wide variety of plug-in vehicle offerings — with many more coming to market over the next decade. Automakers expect the pricing to come down as battery costs decline and EV drivetrains, parts, electronic systems, and exterior and interior design, become more economical and efficient in the near future.

What automakers have in the pipelines: Another topic in the reports has been commitments made by manufacturers to roll out an extensive lineup of plug-in vehicles — and sometimes more hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.

The Volkswagen Group continues to lead the charge, expanding its list of new launches in March from 50 to 70 in the near future. The company expects to be building 22 million plug-in vehicles with its new electric drives, such as the MEB, over the next decade on the VW, Audi, Porsche, and SEAT brands — an increase from 15 million in the initial target. The German automaker has collaborated with the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to demonstrate its vision of EVs and mobility of the future next month. “Building an Electric Future” will open November 20 and will celebrate Volkswagen’s history both globally and locally, as well as introduce VW’s new electric concept vehicles. A global concept unveiling of an all-new ID concept vehicle will take place at a private event on Tuesday, November 19.

BMW AG plans to increase sales of its battery electric and plug-in hybrids by 30 percent every year until 2025 to help meet incoming stringent emission regulation in the European Union. The company moved up its goal for rolling out a lineup of 25 all-electric and plug-in hybrid models by two years to 2023. This would mean BMW will have sold a total of about 700,000 plug-in vehicles by 2025.

Daimler plans to release 10 different all-electric vehicles by 2022. The company is taking a holistic approach to electrification under the new EQ technology and product brand and a charging infrastructure to support it. Daimler will also be electrifying the entire Mercedes‑Benz portfolio. Customers will have the choice of at least one electric alternative in every Mercedes‑Benz model series, taking the total to 50 overall.

Ford Motor Co. is increasing investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and will have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup. In April, Ford said it planned to launch more than 30 new Ford and Lincoln vehicles in China over the next three years as it tries to reverse a decline in sales in the world’s biggest auto market; and about one third of them will be EVs. This summer, Ford revealed its first all-electric SUV for that market, the Territory EV, built on Chinese partner Jianling’s compact SUV. It follows a plug-in hybrid variant of the Ford Mondeo, and will be its second plug-in vehicle for the Chinese market.

Toyota has a company goal of selling 5.5 million electrified, Toyota-brand vehicles annually by 2030, up from about 1.6 million vehicles now. The company set up a $10 billion r&d fund for catching up with competitors, and has created a new EV architecture that offers flexibility in size and battery power.

Honda announced a week ago that it will sell only plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles in Europe starting in 2022, three years earlier than previously planned. The Japanese automaker will be launching six new models in Europe over the next three years. The company said it shows its confidence in the technology and seeing regulatory changes that are changing the course of Europe’s auto industry. “The pace of change in regulation, the market, and consumer behavior in Europe means that the shift towards electrification is happening faster here than anywhere else,” said Tom Gardner, senior vice president at Honda.

Tesla has three models poised to come out in the next few years. The Tesla Roadster 2020 is the first-ever follow-up to the company’s debut electric car, the Roadster 2008. CEO Elon Musk boasts that the upcoming supercar will be able to go from 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds, and can reach a top speed of 250 miles-per-hour. It will cost at least $200,000 when it rolls out next year. The compact SUV Model Y was revealed in March 2019, and will be the company’s second mass market model after the Model 3. It will be able to go 300 miles on a single charge, and it will begin shipping in late 2020 with the standard range model following in Spring 2021. Starting prices for four different variations will go from $39,000 to $60,000. Musk brags that it will have SUV functionality, it will ride like a sports car, and will be the safest SUV in the world. The Tesla Semi heavy-duty truck will go into production next year, and will go nearly 400 miles on a 30-minute charge. The company also says it will go from 0-60 in 20 seconds while hauling 80,000 pounds. It’s expected have a $180,000 starting price.

BYD Company Ltd. sold a total of 520,687 vehicles in 2018, which was made up of petroleum-powered models, all electric, and plug-in hybrids. A Deloitte study forecasted that by 2030, the company will be selling about 18 million units, following Tesla’s expected sales that year of about 22 million vehicles. However, I consider both of these forecast numbers to be extremely optimistic. Last year, BYD narrowly beat Tesla in deliveries to be No. 1 in the world — BYD sold about 250,000 EVs compared toTesla’s 245,240. In April, the company announced six new EV models will be coming up, a mix of all-electric and plug-in hybrid. In July, BYD announced an alliance with Toyota to develop EVs that will be coming out in China between 2020 and 2025. For now, the company is investing heavily in building its clientele for commercial vehicles such as electric buses and trucks in markets all over the world.

Market softening lately:  The last three months have been tough for the Chinese makers, and the US has followed a similar pattern. Year-to-date, the end of September saw global EV sales down to 157,696 units from 175,362, breaking the traditional market growth. US EV sales dropped down to 236,067 for the year as of Sept. 30, 2019 compared to 234,635 for the year on Sept. 30, 2018. September 2018 sales reached 44,589 while September 2019 saw sales down to 33,128 units.

Reductions in electric vehicle subsidies and a cooling economy impacted the Chinese market. The US is seeing a similar sales slide withe overall new vehicle market down 12 percent in September from the previous year, while EVs were down 25.5% year-over-year. One reason for the drop is that the Tesla Model 3 had an unexpectedly high ramp up of production in the second half of 2018.

Tesla Model 3 deliveries are slightly up over last year — 236,067 for the year at the of September, versus 234,635 units through the end of September 2018. The US plug-in vehicle market is expected to decline through this year before a rebound starts next year.

What the forecast numbers look like:  The most commonly cited forecast on 2030 comes from The International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario. The study expects that by 2030, global plug-in vehicle sales will reach 23 million for that year and the stock of owned EVs will exceed 130 million vehicles (excluding two and three-wheelers). That’s under one forecast analysis including the impact of announced policy ambitions by several governments; the IEA scenario includes another potential outcome where the number shoots up to 43 million with the stock coming to more than 250 million.

There’ve been other forecasts. In May, Mining and resources giant BHP forecasted that electric vehicles could achieve more than 50 percent share of global new vehicle sales by 2030, and 100 per cent of all vehicle sales by 2050.

Global new vehicle sales are expected to come in at about 80 million units this year. Germany’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) predicts that in 2022 sales will rise back to 84 million.

Let’s say new vehicle sales reach 100 million by 2030. How much of it would likely be new plug-in vehicles?

Between 2011 and 2018, new EV sales in the US averaged a 56.8 percent annual increase, and global had an average of 67.34 percent. To refine the numbers to more recent market trends, between 2014 to 2018 the average annual growth for US plug-in sales came to 33.69 percent. For global sales, the average annual sales growth between 2014 to 2018 was 57.14 percent with China leading the boom.

Global car and light commercial vehicle sales in 2018 came to about 86 million new vehicle deliveries. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales came in at 2,018,247 units last year — 2.34 percent of the total. New vehicle sales came in at 17.27 million in the US last year; at 361,307 units, EVs made up 2.09 percent of that total.

So let’s say market conditions look similar in the next few years, without big changes enacted such as a fossil fuel ban in a sizable country. What would that look like?

At the rate of 57 percent in global annual EV sales increases, plug-in vehicles would make up 100 percent of the global new vehicles sales market during 2027. As that scenario would be impossible to reach (aside from an unforeseen miracle), what about viewing a much more conservative forecast — 10 percent annual growth in EV global sales under current market conditions? While a much lower percentage, 10 percent could be realistic given China will be soon cutting out its subsidies, blockades are coming from the Trump administration, downward auto sales in several countries will continue for a while, gasoline prices are staying fairly low, and challenges persist for convincing consumers and fleets to transfer over to EV purchases — charging infrastructure, battery capacity, range getting much better, and perceived long-term value and trustworthiness of transitioning over from ICEs to EVs.

Let’s also assume that EVs making up at least 50 percent of global new vehicle sales would make for a realistic tipping point in emissions reductions, lessening dependence on oil, and hitting a few government targets.

Going with the 10 percent annual sales growth scenario would only bring the number up to about 5,757,995 new EVs sold globally by 2030 — just shy of 6 percent of global new vehicle sales, given the forecast of 100 million units sold by 2030. A recent IHS Markit study, which takes a conservative approach, sees EVs making up 7.6 percent of total new vehicle sales by 2025.

If you take 25 percent annual EV sales growth in global sales, it’s going to look a lot more like the low-end forecast of another study this year. The IEA’s New Policies Scenario expects that by 2030, global EV sales will reach 23 million for that year and the stock of owned EVs will exceed 130 million vehicles.

Perhaps 2040 to 2050 is a more realistic scenario for EVs playing a major role in new vehicle sales, emissions reductions, and having a major impact on oil prices — in terms of hitting the 50 percent mark. If government mandates are enacted and enforced, it would be closer to 2040.

BloombergNEF’s “Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019” report came to a similar conclusion.  The report shows that EVs will take up 57 percent of global passenger vehicle sales by 2040. Electric buses will dominate their sector, holding 81 percent of municipal bus sales by the same date, according to the report.

Norway, Germany, France, China, Costa Rica, South Korea, the UK, Japan, Spain, Taiwan, Portugal, Netherlands, Israel, India, Denmark, and Ireland have proposed a ban on fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Previous Prime Minister Theresa May in June signed the “net-zero” mandate that would cut emissions 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Britain is the first G7 country to commit to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. The new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is continuing support for the net-zero emissions mandate.

BMW Group may present a more realistic view of how most global automakers are likely to perform in commitment to the new technology in the short term — a slower and gradual strategy rather than launching 20 or more new EV models with a commitment to roll them out in vast numbers by 2025 to 2030 (that VW and other OEMs are championing). BMW predicts it will have sold about 700,000 plug-in vehicles sold by 2025.

The German automaker just released a sales report on EV market share, or “Electromobility in Europe.” The study says that BMW has 13 percent of European sales and Tesla has 20 percent. As for the US, BMW had six plug-in models sold through September, coming in at 9,875 vehicles delivered — 4.18 percent of the country’s EV market.

So, what market conditions will be needed to reach the 50 percent mark? These factors are sure to be watched for:

  • Continuing falls in the price of EV batteries. One study reports that since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion batteries per kilowatt-hour has fallen by 85 percent.
  • Extended range of battery power, 300 miles per charge.
  • Fast charging networks in high-traffic zones, with free access or reasonable user pricing.
  • China’s new energy vehicle mandate, and whether the national government decides to bring it back. Subsidies have also been generously spread by a few other countries (especially Norway); and states, provinces, and cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Will these continue, and for how long?
  • The future of California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program, and the battle between the state and the Trump administration over the future of those rules and the national standard.
  • Fleet acquisitions, including the Electrification Coalition launched in 2018 and announced by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti — an online portal that provides cities with a single, equal price for EVs and charging infrastructure by aggregating the demand from Climate Mayors cities and other public agencies.
  • Commercial applications for electric vans, light- and medium-duty trucks, and for municipal buses, will make a significant difference. That’s been the case in China, and is starting to take hold in the US and Europe.

EVs have the potential to become the leading powertrain system used in autonomous vehicles in the next couple of decades. The next feature exploring the 2030 trend will analyze when its likely to see regulatory hurdles cleared and self-driving vehicles going into high-volume production.

A few interesting news briefs:
Battle over clean car rules:  General Motors, Toyota, FCA, Hyundai, and the National Automobile Dealers Association, are backing the Trump administration’s efforts to gut fuel economy standards and California’s ability to keep the bar high. These companies said that in a filing with a U.S. appeals court late on Monday, arguing the administration’s rule provided “vehicle manufacturers with the certainty that states cannot interfere with federal fuel economy standards.”
In July, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen made a deal with California supporting the state’s policies. The Trump administration is preparing to roll back next month the fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama Administration and revoke California’s ability to set stricter clean-car standards, including the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published its overhauled rule, called “SAFE Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Standard,” to take effect November 26.

Aftermath of GM strike:  The United Auto Workers and General Motors agreed to partner under their new contract to manage the impact of new technologies that could threaten thousands of jobs. The National Committee on Advanced Technology would meet quarterly review changes the automaker must implement as it tests 3D printing, plans to bring autonomous taxi rides to the streets, and globally rolls out 20 battery-electric vehicles that require fewer parts than their internal combustion counterparts. GM says these EV will come to market by 2023. The Chevrolet Bolt’s powertrain has 80 percent fewer moving parts than a comparable car with a gasoline engine, experts have said. And autonomous vehicles won’t need steering wheels, brake pedals and instrument panels, an expert said. The union has expressed concerns over thousands of jobs going away from these historic changes being made. The automaker has slashed its earnings forecast for 2019, saying that the strike would cost it around $3 billion in profits this year. Production was going back to full speed earlier this week.

Factory expansion for electric truckmaker:  Orange EV, the first original equipment manufacturer to commercially deploy all-electric electric Class 8 trucks, just announced its second facility expansion in four years, moving to a site with more than five times the production capacity in Kansas City, Mo. Orange EV’s Class 8 Heavy Duty terminal trucks have been commercially deployed since 2015, operating daily in railroad inter-modal, LTL freight, manufacturing, distribution centers, port operations, waste management, trans loading, cross docking, warehouse, yard management, third party logistics (3PL), and other container handling operations. More than 60 fleets have chosen Orange EV pure electric terminal trucks for commercial deployment in 14 states across the US. In California, Orange EV trucks have been purchased and are in use at more than 40 customer locations.

Tesla earnings:  Tesla Inc’s third-quarter revenue fell 39 percent in the US, a regulatory filing showed. A record number of cars shipped in the third quarter of 2019 were enough to help Tesla turn a modest profit, according to financial figures released by the electric carmaker on Wednesday. The company reported $143 in net income, and $6.3 billion in revenue — down slightly from second quarter and down about $530 million from Q3 2018. Tesla reported that the drop in revenue comes from a tripling in the number of customers leasing its cars, mainly from Model 3 leases that launched in April of this year.

EV cash for clunkers:  US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a plan last week in an op-ed piece that would provide car owners with “large discounts” if they trade in their polluting, gas-powered vehicles for “clean” electric ones. It would be similar to the the Obama administration’s “cash-for-clunkers” program initiated in 2009. The legislation has yet to be written and introduced, but is based on supporting that every vehicle on the road is zero-emission by 2040; and the legislation would result in 63 million fewer gasoline-powered cars on roads by 2030.

Tesla says goodbye to innovative CTO Straubel, BYD and Toyota partnering to bring EVs to China

Tesla losing Straubel:  Tesla, Inc., has taken a big loss with the departure of one of its founders, chief technology officer JB Straubel. At the beginning of Wednesday’s quarterly report, CEO Elon Musk made the stunning announcement along with news on the delivery of 95,356 electric vehicles during the past quarter. Straubel is credited with playing a pivotal role in the development of Tesla’s power systems and battery technology. The photo you see is of Straubel from 2004 in his backyard gluing lithium ion batteries to a case as part of the company’s first concept vehicle. Retiring at age 43, Straubel was still in his twenties when he became convinced that new and innovative li-ion batteries could become the power source for mass produced EVs. Straubel met Musk in 2003, when they had lunch in Los Angeles near the headquarters of Musk’s other passion in life — his rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX). Two other entrepreneurs, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, were in on the early days of the company, working with Straubel and Musk to launch the company. Eberhard and Tarpenning left Tesla in 2008, as disputes came up over the future of the company — and as Musk exerted more control.

Straubel brought a much needed calm and balance to Musk’s approach to running the company, which includes Musk making extreme demands of the company’s corporate leadership and workforce. He was known for providing insight and clarity to the technical points that could come up with shareholders and Tesla engineers. His role as a problem-solving engineer has come through as the company has had to overcome several obstacles. He’s been known for being much more easygoing and approachable than the CEO — and that’s included participating at Tesla vehicle rides and demos. He’s also become known as a leading innovator in EV batteries, energy storage, and propulsion. It’s now his time to move on. “It has been a really tough decision because I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down,” Straubel said. “But, also, you have to live life. I love inventing and creating and building things and am at peace knowing that about myself and wanting to reorient my life. I’m decompressing for a bit and having a little break, but I will have more to say in a few weeks.”

Four automakers backing California standards, Colorado makes deal on ZEVs:  Ford, BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen, signed a deal Thursday with the California Air Resources Board to comply with the state’s clean air admissions standards. They’re now siding with California’s mandate to produce fleets averaging around 51 miles per gallon by 2026, one year after the Obama-era target. This precedes an expected announcement later this summer from the Trump administration on a rollback of existing fuel economy and emissions standard targets, and taking away California’s right to set more stringent rules under the Clean Air Act (i.e., one national standard) to avoid what a Trump spokesman called a “PR stunt.” California’s Governor Gavin Newsom spoke to reporters on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with vehicle emissions being “perhaps the most significant thing this state can do, and this nation can do, to advance those goals. The Trump administration is hellbent on rolling them back. They are in complete denialism about climate change.”

In related news, automaker trade groups representing 99 percent of U.S. car and truck sales made an agreement with the state of Colorado to join the California zero emission vehicle program starting in the 2023 model year. The state agreed to allow automakers to earn credits for selling electric vehicles in the two model years prior and use other transitional credits available in other states. The Colorado agreement must be approved by the state’s Air Quality Control Commission at a meeting set for later this month. The automaker trade groups issued a statement praising the state’s flexibility in addressing their concerns “by providing the support Coloradans need to buy electric vehicles while allowing auto manufacturers to transition into Colorado’s ZEV program.”

Comeback for diesel engines:  The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 won the ranking as the most fuel-efficient light-duty truck on the market. General Motors’ pickup achieves an EPA-estimated 33 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in the city when equipped with the new 3-liter inline six-cylinder Duramax diesel engine and rear-wheel drive. Its the first diesel engine offered in a Chevy light-duty truck since 1997. Light-to-heavy-duty pickups trucks have been a saving point for diesel engines since the September 2015 collapse following Volkswagen’s confession that the company had been dishonest about emissions reporting in its “clean diesel” passenger cars. Now GM will be following market leader Ford on the diesel pickup side, with Ford leading from sales of 94,626 diesel light and heavy-duty pickup trucks during the first half of this year.

Will 5G networks make it?:  One significant area to follow is how the new 5G wireless networks are facing an uphill battle for becoming the industry norm. The stakes are huge, with 5G ready to help save thousands of lives in self-driving cars, along with reducing traffic congestion and emissions. Europe is trying out auctioning off its bandwidth spectrum to monetize the new technology, a very expensive prospect for wireless carriers and partners. Check out this commentary by Roger C. Lanctot, a Strategy Analytics executive, on the challenges BMW and its German partner Deutsche Telekom have in building a consistent and reliable network of 5G wireless connectivity in the market. It’s a challenge faced in the U.S. and other key global markets adopting 5G. “We don’t need 10 Mbit/s, but rather basic bandwidth and guaranteed latency. We need coverage,” said BMW senior VP of electronics Christoph Grote at the recent Automobil-Elektronik Kongress in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

China partnership:  BYD and Toyota announced on July 19 in Toyota City, Japan, that they have signed an agreement for the joint development of battery electric vehicles, which will be electric sedans and sport-utility vehicles. The two parties will jointly develop sedans and low-floor SUVs as well as the onboard batteries for these vehicles and others. They’ll be launched in the Chinese market under the Toyota brand at some point in the first half of the 2020s. This joint venture partnership will help resolve Toyota’s ambitions to use electric vehicles to break into China, the market where the company remains well behind other global automakers. It also ties into climate change strategies as both BYD and Toyota seek to reduce carbon emissions by promoting the widespread use of BEVs.

Plug-in vehicle sales beating overall market, Tesla quarterly numbers exceed expectations

EV sales beat overall market:  Plug-in vehicles had a strong increase in the first half of the year, while U.S. and global total new vehicle sales stalled out. InsideEVs reports that 148,704 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. during the first half of 2019, compared to 124,256 for first half of 2019. That makes for an increase of 19.67 percent over that same period last year of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. Through May, there were 840,814 in global plug-in vehicle sales, versus 591,796 for the first five months of 2018 — an increase of 42 percent over that same period last year.

As for overall new vehicle sales in the U.S., sales were down 2.4 percent halfway through 2019, and is expected to be at 16.9 million by the end of the year; that would be the first time total light-duty new vehicle sales would be below 17 million since 2014. Global new vehicle sales are expected tom come in at 78.7 million units, which is about the same level as 2017 and 2018. The global market had seen a leap in 2016 over the previous years. Sales are still considered to be strong this year; rising auto loans have hurt demand. However, some analysts believe that new vehicle sales will be declining in the U.S., and eventually other markets, as car ownership drops in importance and alternative forms of mobility become more popular.

The Tesla Model 3 continues to dominate U.S. market with 21,225 units sold in June versus No. 2 on the list, the Tesla Model X, which sold 2,725 units during that month. Battery electric vehicles are still dominating the U.S. market. For May 2019 sales, Electric Drive Transportation Association reported there were 21,248 BEVs sold, 7,138 plug-in hybrids, and 283 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Tesla performance up:  Tesla’s stock went up 7 percent Tuesday after reporting it produced 87,048 vehicles in the second quarter while delivering 95,200, strong performance that exceeded analyst forecasts. The company manufactured 17,650 Model S and X vehicles and 77,550 Model 3s. Among deliveries, 77,550 were Model 3s while the other 17,650 were Models S and X. Right before the quarterly report, CEO Elon Musk was on Twitter promoting Tesla Direct, a new service that offers some buyers of the Model 3, S and X the option to have their car dropped off at their home or office. It’s gaining a lot of interest and support, and some considering it an element of Tesla focusing on its strengths — quality EVs and a high level of customer service.

Cruise gains SoftBank investment:  Cruise Automation, a U.S. self-driving vehicle company majority-owned by General Motors Co. (and operating under the name GM Cruise), announced Friday that a U.S. national security panel approved a $2.25 billion investment in the firm by Japan’s SoftBank Corp. SoftBank has come under increasing U.S. scrutiny over its ties to Chinese firms in the face of an escalating trade and technology war between those two countries. It comes out of SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund investment pool.

VW’s Paris Accord strategy:  Volkswagen has released more information on its commitment made earlier this year to commit itself to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The commitment to carbon neutrality comes in three parts: reducing carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles and factories; adopting renewable energy sources, whether at the plant level for Volkswagen and its suppliers, or encouraging their use for Volkswagen owners; and using carbon offsets to tackle those remaining carbon emissions that can’t be further reduced. One key element of hitting its target by 2050 will be making its vehicles and production carbon neutral. That includes Volkswagen vehicles sold in the US and the factory in Chattanooga, powered by a planned Group-wide investment in EVs sold worldwide – more than $50 billion over the next four years, with approximately $10 billion from the VW brand alone.

Sharing MEB platform:  Ford and Volkswagen have reached an initial agreement to share electric and autonomous vehicle technologies, extending their alliance beyond working together on commercial vehicles, a source familiar with the matter said. VW will share its MEB electric vehicle platform with Ford, the source said. VW’s supervisory board is due to discuss deepening the alliance at a meeting on July 11, 2019, a second source told Reuters.

Toyota rolling out new EV lineup, Renault refreshes ZEO

Toyota EV lineup based on new platform:  Toyota is working hard at shedding its image as a major automaker lagging way behind on electric vehicles. The company has unveiled six new battery electric vehicle concepts it will roll out before 2025.
The new electric vehicles, with the working name of EV-e, will have long wheelbases, plenty of interior space, camera mirrors, and ventilated front corners with automated driving sensors. The company is showing off life-sized clay concepts to tell the story. They represent a lineup that Toyota designers have been working on since 2016, based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (e-TNGA) modular platform
It ties into a previously announced larger goal of bringing more than 10 EVs to the market by the early 2020s. One of these, the electric C-HR subcompact crossover, will come out next year and will be based on the existing nameplate; and there will be other electric versions of its lineup.
Toyota expects demand for EVs to go way beyond cars and sedans. The e-TNGA platform will potentially house EVs that could include a three-row SUV, a sports car, and a small crossover.

Fuel cell vehicles getting ready to take off in China:  The man credited with bringing electric vehicles to China is now focusing on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
China’s science and technology minister, Wan Gang, a former Audi executive, will be continuing the country’s subsidy program for hydrogen-powered vehicles as EVs see incentives wane and phase out next year. He’ll be leading the Chinese government committing resources to developing fuel-cell vehicles.
“We should look into establishing a hydrogen society,” said Wan, who’s now a vice chairman of China’s national advisory body for policy making, a role that ranks higher than minister. “We need to move further toward fuel cells.”
Shares of some hydrogen-related companies rose after Wan’s interview was published on June 9. Wan has a lot of influence on the market, being credited with leading China into becoming the dominant EV market in the world with half of its sales.
Wan sees electric cars dominating inner-city traffic in the near future, while hydrogen-powered buses and trucks could become commonplace on highways for long-distance travel.
He understands that fuel-cell vehicles have quite a long way to go with only about 1,500 of them on Chinese roads, versus more than 2 million battery electric vehicles. He’s championed three selling points that will carry over to hydrogen-powered vehicles: boosting economic growth, tackling China’s dependence on oil imports, and its mounting levels of air pollution.
He dismisses the list of roadblocks that typically come up over fuel-cell vehicles going mass market.
“We will sort out the factors that have been hindering the development of fuel-cell vehicles,” Wan said.
It’s no secret that the 66-year-old began his return to China by studying and researching the fuel cell industry himself—he developed three FCVs under a series called Chao Yue (meaning “to surpass”) during his time from 2003 and 2005 (link in Chinese) as chief scientist for China’s 863 Program.
Toyota Motor Corp. will supply its fuel cell vehicle technology to major Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Group Co. (BAIC) as it seeks to expand business in the world’s largest auto market. BAIC’s commercial vehicle division will manufacture buses powered by Toyota’s fuel cell system. The production of the buses may increase toward the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing.

News Briefs:
New Zoe:  Renault’s deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appears to be over for now, and life goes on. The French company just unveiled a refreshed version of this popular Zoe small electric car. The company says it will be getting 242 miles per charge based on the new WLTP conditions.WLTP was released nearly two years ago by a United Nations working group to resolve criticism of the previous NEDC standard. It’s goal is to provide uniform and more realistic test conditions worldwide. Extra power and range will come from a 52 kWh battery, and a powerful 100kW electric motor. It also has a restyled exterior and new colors.

Volvo working with NVIDIA:  The Volvo Group has signed an agreement with NVIDIA to jointly develop the decision making system of autonomous commercial vehicles and machines. The two companies want to bring autonomous trucking and freight hauling to highways built on NVIDIA’s full software stack for sensor processing, perception, map localization and path planning It could serve a wide client base in freight transport, refuse and recycling collection, public transport, construction, mining, forestry, and more. Separately, Volvo is tasing out what it’s named Vera, an electric, autonomous truck being tested moving goods from a logistics center to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s part of a new collaboration between Volvo Trucks and the ferry and logistics company, DFDS.

EVs at Disneyland:  Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) will be bringing 40 BYD all-electric buses to its fleet serving Disneyland. Visitors to California’s most popular theme park can manage admission tickets, public and private transportation all in one app. ART’s new app RideART combines everything necessary for a seamless trip to Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Volvo and Uber:  Volvo Cars and Uber are jointly developing production-level autonomous vehicles, the next step in their strategic collaboration that started in 2016. For now, the Volvo XC90 SUV that was just displayed is the first Volvo production car that in combination with Uber’s AV system is capable of fully driving itself. The XC90 base vehicle is equipped with key safety features that allow Uber to easily install its own self-driving system, enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network for shared rides.

It ain’t over till it’s over:  CEO Elon Musk and his company have been hit hard in the past year on several fronts, but new vehicle sales is offsetting some of that damage. Edmunds.com estimated that Tesla’s May sales were up 71 percent from the same month last year, which is much higher than any other automaker selling any kind of vehicle in the U.S. market. It was the central theme at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday. Scrutiny has been pervasive recently about a poor quarterly earnings report and battery fires in Teslas. Some car shoppers aren’t happy with window sticker prices, but long-term, it’s not really an issue, the CEO said. “I want to be clear: there is not a demand problem,” Musk said at the beginning of his presentation. “Absolutely not.”

 

Electric trucks the star of the show at ACT Expo 2019

Electric trucks took up a lot of space in the exhibit hall at this year’s ACT Expo — and that meant medium and heavy trucks along with commercial applications such as electric delivery and refuse trucks. This time major truckmakers took center stage, and specialized makers had announcements to share as well. With about 4,000 attendees, it was the largest ACT Expo yet.

During his keynote speech, Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in North America, said his company will be putting about 50 battery electric test vehicles on roads by the end of this year through its Freightliner division, built at a renovated plant in Oregon. 20 of them will be medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks for Penske Corp. and NFI Inc., a major third-party logistics company, under a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Near-zero-emissions natural gas medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are currently available and will continue from Freightliner as an interim solution until full commercialization of the battery-electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia, he said. Its Thomas Built unit will be rolling out Proterra-powered electric school buses.

Peterbilt Motors Co. showed off new electric trucks, including the Model 220EV, Model 520EV, and Model 579EV. The 220EV is spec’d with the Meritor Blue Horizon eAxle and the 520EV will feature the Transpower mid-ship powertrain configuration, while the 579EV will feature the new Allison AXE Series e-Axle. Six of the 579EVs were demonstrated at the exhibit that have been finished for customers. “Today, we have 14 electric vehicles built, on our way to more than 30 by the end of the year, for real customer routes and to analyze performance so that our production options meet the standards customers expect when buying a Peterbilt,” said Peterbilt’s Chief Engineer Scott Newhouse.

While it was outside ACT Expo, Ford on Wednesday announced it’s putting $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian Automotive. Both companies have agreed to work together to develop a battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

Volvo Trucks North America Wednesday hosted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they presented a $44.8 million check to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) for the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project. The Volvo LIGHTS project is a partnership among the Volvo Group, South Coast AQMD and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure. The project was created ti demonstrate the ability of battery electric vehicles to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies, reduce emissions, and improve air quality. As part of the project, Volvo Trucks will introduce all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrators in California later this year, with vehicle sales planned to begin in 2020.

Other introductions at ACT Expo 2019 included:

  • BYD Motors will deliver 14 yard tractors to two BNSF Railway intermodal facilities in Southern California, adding to an ongoing demonstration project.
  • Chanje has partnered with refrigeration unit supplier Thermo King on a prototype zero-emissions refrigerated van.
  • Xos, the new name for electric truck startup Thor Trucks, will retrofit two Loomis Armored US cash-hauling trucks. An order for 100 more trucks awaits if the test models show the trucks’ value.
  • EV Connect is launching a program aimed at standardizing EV charger management and use for both transportation fleets and charging-equipment developers. The EV Charge Station Certification program already has been completed by seven of the industry’s largest charger makers.
  • Ryder’s booth featured a comprehensive charging infrastructure solution, provided by In-Charge Energy. In-Charge provides nationwide turnkey energy and commercial electric vehicle infrastructure solutions to ensure customers maximize the full economic benefits of adopting electric vehicles into their fleet. Its end-to-end model focusing on behind the meter solutions is an industry first.
  • An Amply Power Inc. white paper showed fleets saved an average 37 percent compared with traditional fuels by electrifying their buses and light-duty vehicles. Fleets that charged during off-peak hours could save as much as 60 percent, according to the white paper.
  • Tritium created the “world’s most powerful charger,” the Veefil-PK 175-475kW DC High Power Charger which can add nearly 300 miles range to an EV in just 10 minutes.
  • The first production fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck jointly developed by Toyota and Kenworth Truck Co. is going forward. The new truck is the first of 10 planned under a $41 million California Air Resources Board grant matched by Toyota, Kenworth, and Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Penske Truck Leasing announced it will open commercial heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations with 14 high-speed chargers at four of its existing facilities in Southern California. These will be among the first DC fast charging stations in the U.S. designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles.
  • The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently released a report, Regional Haul: An Opportunity for Trucking, that looks at this growing market segment and was shared during a seminar at ACT Expo. Long-haul trucking isn’t what it used to be, according to the report. Forty five percent of the Class 8 tractors produced today are day cabs and a high percentage of those trucks are involved in regional haul operations.
  • Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA) and the University of California at Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) announced the launch of the Low and Zero Emission Readiness (LAZER) Initiative. This new collaboration will support organizations —including transit agencies, refuse operations, trucking carriers, delivery fleets, school districts, municipalities, and more — in evaluating the real-world economic and environmental benefits of advanced transportation technologies.

Tesla closing most of its stores, China showcased on 60 Minutes

Tesla closing stores, revealing Model Y:  Tesla is taking a giant leap on the car-selling front: closing down most of its shopping-mall stores, switching to online sales to cut down the high costs of running sales offices. Tesla wants to keep its pricing competitive especially on the Model 3 that starts at $35,000 while increasing the profit margin. The company does benefit from hosting invitation-only ride-and-drive events in major cities, which takes away some of the imperatives to operate retail stores. It will also be the hub for the next electric vehicle coming out, the crossover Model Y. Tesla will be revealing it March 15 at an event at the Los Angeles Design Studio, according to a recent tweet by CEO Elon Musk. It’s said to be 10% larger than the Model 3 and will cost about 10% more and will have slightly less range from the same battery. It will also share the same platform to save costs. It won’t have falcon wings like the Model X. The goal is to reach volume production of the Model Y by the end of 2020.

Lyft goes public:  Lyft has beaten ride-hailing giant Uber to the stock market with its initial public offering on Friday, raising about $100 million from placeholders. It will be traded on the Nasdaq market under the stock ticker LYFT. If Uber does make it soon the stock market, shareholders will be buying into companies that have been growing substantially while taking significant losses. Lyft’s net loss climbed to $911 million in 2018 from $688 million a year earlier. Uber lost $1.8 billion last year, according to a recently released filing by the market leader. Investors have to decide whether losses will continue for the next few quarters. Uber and Lyft have been fast-growing businesses inspiring many other mobility startups, which is part of the appeal. Lyft estimated last fall that it had reached 35% of U.S. market share. Market analyst firm Second Measure reported in October that Uber held 69.2% of U.S. market share, and Lyft had 28.4%.

DOE research funding:  The U.S. Department of Energy announced availability of up to $51.5 million for research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and the fuels that power them.  Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), this FOA addresses priorities in gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen; heavy-duty freight electrification; hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy-duty applications; and energy efficient off-road vehicles. “As the fastest growing fuel users, trucks offer an important opportunity to use innovation to improve energy productivity,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. “Through research and new developments in both energy efficiency and domestically-sourced fuel technologies, we can not only strengthen our energy security but also improve transportation affordability for our nation’s trucking industry – helping those who deliver American goods and those who use them.”

China’s EV market explored:  The “60 Minutes” news show recently broadcasted an in-depth look at China’s booming “new energy vehicle” market. Even with the possibility of generous government incentives being cut back, China is still the hottest electric vehicle market in the world. The U.S. had been the hub for years, but has been falling behind China in consumer and fleet EV purchases. Government incentives are getting harder to find as the Trump administration backs away from EV income tax incentives; and talks between the federal government and California on the state’s zero emission vehicle program have reached a stalemate. Chinese EV startup Nio was featured in the “60 Minutes” report, which helped its stock prices shoot up 8 percent last week. Nio sees itself as a Tesla-competitor. The startup has benefited from its price being about half of that of a Tesla in the Chinese market, and it doesn’t pay import taxes as it manufactures locally. Tesla hopes to cut that down, along with competition from majors in the market, by setting up its own plant and cutting away shipping costs and import taxes.

California and feds blocked on emissions agreement, Greenlots acquired by Shell

Talks breakdown between CA and feds:  Officials from California and the federal government have reached a stalemate over fuel economy and vehicles emissions standards, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. Representatives from California Air Resources Board had been meeting in December with Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials to reach a compromise between the state and federal standards. The goal had been to reach agreement by late March or early April to modify the Obama administration’s corporate average fuel economy rules. Tensions between California and other states that follow California’s zero emission vehicle guidelines had been building. The conflict has been exacerbated during a time California has been leading a group of 16 states in a lawsuit to block Trump’s use of emergency powers to build the border wall. While federal representatives didn’t respond to requests for comments, the fuel economy and emissions stalemate was acknowledged by CARB. “The administration broke off communications before Christmas and never responded to our suggested areas of compromise — or offered any compromise proposal at all,” CARB spokesman Stanley Young said in an email. “We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point.”

Amazon backs Rivian:  Electric truck and SUV startup Rivian just announced that its $700 million funding round is being led by Amazon. Rivian, a Plymouth, Mich.-based vehicle manufacturer, is raising funds to finish development and launch production of the all-electric R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV for deliveries beginning in 2020. These prototypes were displayed at the LA Auto Show in November. The investor group Amazon is leading for Rivian also includes the investment arm of a Saudi Arabian conglomerate whose holdings include a major Toyota car and truck distributorship. Sumitomo Corp. also has invested in Rivian. General Motors had been eyeing the startup as an investment, but was not part of the Amazon-led funding round.

Heavy-duty pickups hot:  Detroit automakers are moving even farther away from fuel-efficient, clean cars through the very profitable heavy-duty pickup segment. Ford has been taking the lead, and has been exhibiting a refreshed Super Duty F-Series pickup at the Chicago Auto Show. Ford has been marketing the truck’s advanced driver-assistance technology and new powertrains that will make the Super Duty its most powerful vehicle offering. Ford’s commercial vehicle business earned $10 billion in 2017 profits on $72 billion in revenue. The competitive climate is taking place at a time Ford and General Motors have announced moves to shut down production of cars for trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans. The heavy-duty truck market has failed for Ford in South America, as the automaker just announced it would be closing down its Brazilian truck plant to end losses being taken in the region.

Greenlots acquired by Shell:  Greenlots, a leading electric vehicle charging and energy management software company, has signed a deal to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell New Energies US LLC, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc. Greenlots’ network operating system, SKY, delivers comprehensive, open standards-based EV infrastructure management capabilities for site hosts and grid operators. The company was selected as the sole software provider for Volkswagen’s “Electrify America” charging program. Shell sees it as an opportunity to meet demand for low-carbon energy while making EV charging more accessible to utilities and businesses. Greenlots sees it as an opportunity to expand in global markets and support eco-mobility. “As power and mobility converge, there will be a seismic shift in how people and goods are transported,” said Brett Hauser, Chief Executive Officer of Greenlots. “Electrification will enable a more connected, autonomous and personalized experience. Our technology, backed by the resources, scale and reach of Shell, will accelerate this transition to a future mobility ecosystem that is safer, cleaner and more accessible.”

 

A year of chaos and change for automakers that won’t be ending anytime soon

According to a series of in-depth reports by NPR’s Marketplace, three factors are shaping the future of the economy: new technology, globalization, and corporate profit. While auto sales are coming close to a record high in the U.S. (which surprised market analysts), that may be a temporary blip. Foreign automakers have 19 assembly plants in the U.S., but General Motors is closing four American plants and Ford is going through a major reorganization. Even so, U.S. auto plants have the capacity to make three million more cars that they can sell. Analysts think that this year’s strong sales come from higher fleet sales, lower unemployment, and Tesla’s rapid production ramp up. Shareholders are putting a great deal of pressure on automakers to lead the way in new products, advanced vehicle technology, and strong profit margins. Automakers have been taking big steps to change over their product lineups (less cars, more trucks and SUVs) and prepare for launching mobility services and a higher volume of electric vehicles. Here’s a look at some of the major events that have been shaping market dynamics in the U.S. and global automotive landscape — and its impact on green vehicle sales and adoption of new technology and mobility………….

Trade war with China:  The Center for Automotive Research released a report warning that auto sales could plunge up to two million vehicles a year over the huge tariff increase launched by President Donald Trump. That could mean a loss of about 715,000 American jobs and a $62 billion hit on U.S. GDP. In September, Ford CEO James Hackett said at a Bloomberg conference in New York that steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration had cost the company about $1 billion. On Nov. 27, Trump publicly chastised GM CEO Mary Barra over her decision to close four plants in the US because of sagging demand for sedans (that includes ending production of the Chevrolet Volt). That came from his emphasis on keeping U.S. manufacturing alive and well, and keeping Americans working in the plants. The reality is that GM and other automakers have been investing heavily in global production and sales while staying as profitable as possible. The trade war with China hurts those strategies as China remains the largest auto market by far, including EV sales. On the bright side, a move three days ago by China to ease auto import tariffs are helping prices go down on imported models such as the Tesla Model 3.

Nissan loses its chief:  Nissan Motor Co.’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested again by Japanese prosecutors under allegations of financial misconduct — adding 10 more days to his month-long stay in jail. The original arrest and Dec. 10 indictment came from allegations of Ghosn understating his income from Nissan by 4.8 billion yen ($43 million) over five years through March 2015; he was then re-arrested at that time for understating earnings through March 2018. Ghosn had been credited for leading the Nissan Renault alliance and championing the all-electric Nissan Leaf and its first-ever leadership in EV sales. The next generation Leaf is expected to be revealed next month at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a battery pack at around 60-kilowatt hours. The company will also be revealing its vision for an all-electric Infiniti crossover at the Detroit Auto Show. For now, the Nissan e-NV200 electric van is making its way to fleets, with its 40kWh battery that can go between 124-187 fully charged, depending on the payload being carried.

Musk forges through Tesla’s toughest year:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk exercised his typical blunt and brutal style during a recent interview on “60 Minutes” — clarifying his jabs at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC,” he said to interviewer Lesley Stahl. Musk made a stock fraud settlement with the SEC in October that took away his chairman title (telecommunications exec Robyn Denholm was made Tesla chairwoman on Nov. 8). The SEC playing babysitter is “not realistic” because “I’m the largest shareholder in the company and I could call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want,” Musk said. The Tesla CEO had made a Twitter post about taking the company private to address financial turmoil coming from the cost of ramping up production of the Model 3. While the company’s stock and the chief’s reputation have gone up and down during 2018, its EV sales haven’t. The Model 3 had U.S. sales of 18,650 in November, a ten-fold increase over January’s sales of 1,875 units. It’s now listed in U.S. Top 10 sales for its sedan class. The Model S and Model X have also done well this year, competing with the Chevy Bolt and Volt in the top 5. The company has been invited by Ohio Governor John Kasich to consider buying a GM factory in the state the company will be shutting down next years. Musk is considering doing it to have the needed capacity to build its cars — and not have to use a tent to meet demand, as was the case this year at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant.

A strong year for natural gas:  Natural gas is taking off as a transportation fuel and as an energy source for power stations, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) playing a big role in it. Trump would like to see the U.S. be a major exporter of LNG, and competes with several other countries to take the lead. Renewable natural gas (RNG) is having a very good year as well and more compressed natural gas (CNG) stations have been built and opened this year. In its annual sustainability report, Waste Management said that growing its CNG truck fleet played a big role in reducing corporate emissions. Waste Management is playing a big role in making gains in recycling, renewable energy generation and carbon sequestration; it’s also part of the company producing its own RNG from waste materials.

SoftBank believes in mobility:  SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that started out as a PC software company and now owns Sprint and a large Japanese mobile phone carrier, is making investments from its $100 billion tech investment pool, Vision Fund. Companies receiving financial backing from Vision Fund include Uber, WeWork, food delivery startup DoorDash, ParkJockey, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, and robot-pizza maker Zume. SoftBank’s focuses on autonomous driving, ride-hailing, on-demand delivery, and real estate.

Here’s a quick look at other significant events of the year:

  • Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division launched the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle ride service in early December. That’s taking place in the Phoenix area with plans to spread out.
  • Propane autogas had a strong year with school bus fleets embracing the clean fuel and bringing in more propane-powered buses and fueling stations. The west coast and northeast have been particularly strong markets. Overall, more than 13,000 propane-powered vehicles were sold in 2017 with this year looking good.
  • At the LA Auto Show, a few competitors displayed concept cars that they hoped would light up affluent buyers who had been leaning toward Tesla. They included Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and start-ups Rivian and Byton. Jaguar just put its I-Pace electric SUV on sale, and German automakers started ramping up production of Tesla-competitive models for distribution to dealerships starting next year.
  • The bitcoin cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash that became extremely important last year, has seen its price go from $16,960 in January to $4,078 on Dec. 20. Like EVs, and autonomous vehicles, it will take a few years for it to reach mass adoption.
  • Tesla and GM are facing the end of federal tax credit incentives, and it looks like continuation won’t be supported in Washington. State rebates will become more important, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to support clean vehicle incentives when he takes office next month. Volkswagen’s Electrify America program is continuing to add EV chargers throughout the state, with the company announcing its second wave of projects in October.