The state of automotive and transportation as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds

There are several unknowns shrouding a new virus identified three months ago in China and now seeing fear spread worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported as of March 15, that there have been 153,517 confirmed cases and 5,735 deaths worldwide of COVID-19 — with 81,048 confirmed and 3,204 deaths in China. It crossed a pivotal point over the past week with the WHO declaring on Wednesday that the coronavirus is now officially a global pandemic. That announcement was followed on Friday with President Donald Trump declaring it a national emergency.

What is appearing to become the largest global development in years will continue to remain shrouded in mystery for the unforeseen future. It will take quite a while until the public can rest assured that healthcare professionals can stop the spread and bring a cure — or at least arrest worsening of symptoms — for those infected with the contagious respiratory disease. It’s been causing panic among those crowding supermarkets to purchase bottled water, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and in the past few days, nutritional basics such as canned soup, pasta, and bread. Governments around the world are placing severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings in attempts to quell panic and spreading of the infection and disease.

The global automotive and transportation sectors are starting the feel the impact first witnessed in China — and now spreading to every continent except for Antartica. The long-term impact is expected to be severe for governments pumping expenditures into testing for the infection, researching the virus in labs, and quarantining people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to their homes or to government-run facilities. Automakers and many other corporations are starting to take hits in stock market value, and many companies are expected to take huge financial losses. Some of that will come from revenue and profit loss as more and more events are being canceled if they have attendance of more than 50 people (or even less) — starting with sporting events being postponed and many other announcements such as Louisiana opting to postpone its April primary election; and schools telling students that classrooms will be closed for now and that universities will finish their semesters and quarters with online classes. Businesses around the country also have been shutting down over the past week.

There are many questions that will need to be answered in the weeks and months ahead…… Will people want to travel and take road trips, and will there be too many restrictions in place for it to work? Will their concerns for climate change and air pollution be anywhere near their fear of coronavirus spreading? As the economy is hit hard and job losses potentially get underway, will consumers be able to go check out new cars (including electric vehicles) and slap down their down payments? How will service-based sectors be impacted, such as auto sales and vehicle maintenance, public transit, and ride services, as the public will want less contact with others for fear of contagion? What will the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia — intensified by the coronavirus news — mean long-term?

Here’s an overview of how the coronavirus is beginning to impact the automative and transportation sectors………….

Impact on China car sales:  Retail sales of new vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, plunged 80 percent in February, according to the China Passenger Car Association. BYD’s electric vehicle sales dropped 79.5 percent year over year during that month. BAIC BluePark, the EV division of BAIC Group, dropped about 65 percent. Volkswagen’s EV partner JAC saw its sales drop by 63.4 percent. Coronavirus also forced temporary closures of Tesla’s new Shanghai car plant and stores throughout the country.

EV battery supply tightening:   Many automakers are struggling to find adequate supplies of electric vehicle batteries. One of the factors is China being a major global leader in refining cobalt, a major ingredient in lithium batteries. The pandemic is expected to affect cobalt processing plants and EV costs. Prices are expected to be rise for automakers such as from Chinese lithium producer Ganfeng Lithium, which supplies Tesla and Volkswagen; although that cost increase has been by less than 10 percent so far.

What will oil price war mean?:  Saudi Arabia declared a price war on Russia’s oil industry on March 8. Russian President Vladimir Putin had refused to cut back oil production in the face of depressed prices caused by an unprecedented 3.5 million barrels per day fall in demand that was thought to be caused mainly by the coronavirus crisis. The Saudis are now flooding the oil market and unilaterally slashed their own prices enough to drive down prices on Monday, March 9, by 25 percent. That overall trend was being felt over time. Brent oil plunged from $68.44 per barrel on December 30 to $34.36 on March 9. WTI went from $61.68 to $31.13 during that time. Analysts fear a serious negative impact on the US shale industry. Stock analysts assign the oil price plunge as a factor in Tesla’s share prices failing over the past week. Overall, analysts expect that the oil supply will continue increasing. Oilprice.com just reported that “the oil market is heading for the largest ever crude glut in the first half of 2020, which could be two to nearly four times bigger than the biggest surplus recorded so far.”

What about the economy?:  The Federal Reserve decided yesterday to drop its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero, and promised to boost its bond holdings by at least $700 billion. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told press by phone that the virus’s disruption meant second quarter growth would probably be weak and it was hard to know how long the pain would last. That’s why the Fed is advocating a clear role for fiscal policy to help cushion the blow. Stocks are still way down from recent highs on fears of coronavirus, an oil price war and travel bans, and the automakers have been hit particularly hard as supply-chain problems mount across the globe. The Dow Jones Transportation Average is down 11 percent as a flood of store, restaurant and event closings send shockwaves. Major publicly traded companies in trucking, airlines, auto, freight/logistics, and railroads, are down about 10 percent to 22 percent today.

Musk downplays risk of coronavirus:  Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Friday sent a company-wide email to SpaceX employees stating that evidence he had seen about COVID-19 “suggests that this is *not* within the top 100 health risks in the United States.” They have a higher risk of being killed in a car crash, he said. Days earlier, he’d tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” which was liked by about a million of his Twitter followers. President Trump had taken a similar approach not long ago, stating that more people are likely to die from influenza than coronavirus. Trump has had to back off such comments, and has taken a few steps in the opposite direction since then including declaring the national emergency.

First US auto plant employee tests positive:  The first-known employee of a Detroit automaker to be diagnosed with the coronavirus in the US works at a Fiat Chrysler Automobile plant near Indianapolis, which was confirmed on Thursday. The unnamed male employee at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, located about 50 miles north of Indianapolis, was quarantined and received medical care, according to Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union. An undisclosed number of other people who may have come into direct contact with the person diagnosed with coronavirus also have been quarantined, according to the automaker. Production at the plant continued as normal, but was later idled out of fear spreading among workers.

Air travel hit hard by restrictions:  Major airlines have been particularly hit hard by the global pandemic, with the president’s new travel ban with Europe worsening it. The prospect of losing spring and summer bookings is another part of expected losses. British Airways’ chief Alex Cruz, told 45,000 staff on Friday, for airlines this is already bigger than the SARS epidemic, the aftermath of 9/11, or the 2008 financial crisis.

Delivery services still up and running:  Amazon says its Prime delivery service is experiencing delays, and it’s running out of stock on some household staples due to the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported. Food and grocery delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Instacart are seeing a lot business. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the CDC and the FDA. A larger concern is possibly transmitting the coronavirus from delivery person to customer, or vice versa, through coughing, vaporized air particles, or other direct contact. Companies are urging drivers and shoppers to take extreme caution.

BYD becomes largest face-mask supplier:  BYD is becoming a major supplier of products that are now in extreme demand — face masks and disinfectants. Its new Shenzhen, China-based plant is able to product five million face masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. It’s been done in response to severe shortages at hospitals and agencies across China since the COVID-19 outbreak. It started production on February 9, and now hundreds of employees are working day and night to fulfill orders.

Customers dwindling at dealer showrooms:  Auto dealers are hearing worrisome news such as automakers shuttering plants in Asia and Europe, and schools closing and major events shutting down in the US. Some dealers are reporting dwindling visitors and sales. John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council, says that sales are definitely falling and that conditions are changing a little bit more every day; a sentiment echoed by several other dealers. Cox Automotive, which owns Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, and Manheim, sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the US this year. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas would like the Trump administration to consider rolling out another “Cash for Clunkers” program, which was a $3 billion federal program in 2009 that incentivized consumers to swap aging gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Editor’s note: The Colorado house of representative just passed a measure that would allow electric vehicle-exclusive manufacturers such as Tesla to sell directly to consumers if the automaker has no franchised dealers in the state. It still has a ways to go to be cleared and become a new law in Colorado.

Trucking feeling the squeeze:  West coast ports are starting to see a decline in cargo ships full of containers enter their ports, with the Port of Seattle seeing a recent decline akin to what usually happens over an entire years. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the nation’s largest port, is seeing a drop in ships entering the port and cargo containers being unloaded for truck transport. Much of that has been originating in China, where plants have been closed down for several weeks after the coronavirus outbreak became pervasive.

Automaker response to crisis:  Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have told non-factory employees to work remotely in order to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Factory workers at plants in the US, however, are being told to remain in place — despite the United Auto Workers union announcing Thursday that a Fiat Chrysler employee at the company’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana tested positive for COVID-19. Other automakers operating in the US are notifying employees with warnings. Nissan, which operates factories in Tennessee and Mississippi, said that employees who feel symptoms should notify their health care provider and not come to work. In Europe, FCA, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Audi stopped much of their production plant work today as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis and plunging demand.

South Korea and China recovering, not so for Europe and the US:  South Korea reported more recoveries from the coronavirus than new infections on Friday for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January. It’s raised hopes that Asia’s biggest epidemic outside China may be slowing. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 110 new coronavirus cases on Friday compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national total to 7,979 on that day. The death toll rose by five to 72 as of late Friday. China has seen a drastic drop in infections — from hundreds of cases per day in February, to less than 50 each day last week. The rate of resumption of work at its factories and provinces is slowly opening up. China had shut down most provinces in a bid to contain the outbreak, and roads, transportation networks as well as factories had been closed. Europe and the US are seeing their numbers continue to go up. Nearly 170 million people were under orders to remain in their homes this weekend as France and Spain joined Italy in placing strict quarantine rules on their entire populations amid alarming rises in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Facts about Coronavirus:   For those wondering about some of the terminology and what’s expected to come next…………

  • It’s now typically being called “novel coronavirus.” Why is that? Simply that it’s a new form of the coronavirus. As for coronavirus, the name covers a family of seven known viruses that can infect people, including the common cold and other respiratory infections.
  • The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the symptoms that may appear two-to-14 days after exposure as: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • The CDC recommends that you immediate get medical attention if you have any of these emergency warning signs:
    —Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    —Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    —New confusion or inability to arouse
    —Bluish lips or face
  • CDC recommends taking the following steps to protect yourself:
    —Clean your hands often
    —Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    —You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
    —Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    —Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    —Be particularly careful if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

While some people dispel vaccine as a solution, there has been a lot of interest in when we’ll be seeing a vaccine available at medical offices, similar to the flu shots our doctors and nurses have been recommending in recent years. However, it won’t be showing up anytime soon for the novel coronavirus.

“A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week. The earliest it would be deployable, he said, is “in a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.”

Uber and Lyft rides are so far adding to air pollution, Nikola Motor going public

Ride-sharing not helping to cut emissions:  Bad news for those hoping the explosive growth in Uber and Lyft rides in recent years would mean less car ownership, gasoline consumption, and air pollution in crowded cities. It’s actually getting worse. According to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, ride-hailing trips today produce an estimated 69 percent more pollution on average than the trips they displace in the US. In cities, these rides provided by Uber, Lyft, Via, Curb, and other firms, are usually taking away even more low fuel consumption and displacing mobility such as public transportation, biking, or walking. UCS recommends that these companies take efforts to electrify their fleets and increase their pooled rides. “For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking,” the report says.

But that’s a tough sell for fleets of driver-owned cars and self-employed workers struggling to make a living in ride hailing/sharing. When you take an Uber or Lyft ride, you’ll usually be picked up in a small, fuel-efficient car or crossover utility vehicle. It could be in a Kia Optima or Kia Sportage, a Honda Civic, a Toyota Yaris, a Nissan Rogue, and occasionally in a traditional Prius hybrid. Customers are not going to get a ride in an all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, unless things change. And group rides of three or more passengers can be very inconsistent for customer satisfaction; such as one passenger in a business suit angry about having to wait until being the last drop-off and maybe miss their flight.

Startup truck maker Nikola going public:  On Tuesday, hydrogen fuel cell truck maker Nikola Motor Co. announced that it’s merging with a publicly listed acquisition company called VectoIQ. The transaction is expected to close sometime in the second quarter of this year, and when it does, Nikola will be listed on the NASDAQ exchange as NKLA. The Phoenix-based truck maker will receive $525 million in new investment as a result, adding to an existing stockpile of that same amount that it previously raised across three rounds of funding; and through a joint venture the company started in Europe. Nikola and its backers see much potential in the zero emission commercial truck market as several countries are implementing greenhouse gas rules that are coming to trucking the same way light-duty vehicles are seeing it happen in several countries.

Nikola has developed three different trucks, with a pickup concept being announced not long ago. Nikola also has a grand plan to deploy a hydrogen fueling station network across America, ideal for commercial truck drivers who wouldn’t be able to find hydrogen fuel pumps otherwise. The company also has versions of its trucks that are battery-powered, too, for end users that don’t need as much long range driving as the hydrogen-powered versions of the trucks can offer.  Editor’s note: I’ll have a second market report coming out soon (see below for more on the first one) entitled Hydrogen is finally here — but there are five hurdles to clear, with more on Nikola and other companies in the field.

Demand and interest in EVs in a few states:  If you take a look at this map created by auto site partcatalog.com, the Ford Bronco had the highest search rating in 19 states by car shoppers looking at vehicle refreshes and introductions set for this year. It’s also interesting to see that the upcoming Tesla Model Y took three states (California, Washington, and Hawaii) and the Rivian R1T took the top spot in two states (Vermont and Delaware). The Ford Mach-E, an electric Mustang SUV, won top interest in Idaho and Rhode Island. Partscatalog.com utilized Google trends data covering January 1 through the first week of February, looking at consumer interest in vehicles set to be released this year.

New Green Auto Market report: Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?
Will we be riding to work in electric, autonomous, shared vehicles a decade from now? Will the traditional internal-combustion engine auto manufacturing industry be clearly transformed into a new age? Could we witness steadily declining new vehicles sales; younger consumers moving away from car ownership; electric vehicles becoming more important to automakers and vehicle owners than cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines; autonomous vehicles clearing regulatory hurdles and starting production; connected car features playing a significant role over the next decade; and mobility services leading the way in traffic- and smog-congested cities. For those of you who may have missed my coverage and analysis of these topics last fall, all of it is explored and updated in a new report, Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?  Here’s the link for those who are interested.

Audi eTron beats Model 3:  The Tesla Model 3 got trounced in Norway sales during February, with the Audi eTron doing very well in Europe’s hottest battery electric vehicle market. The eTron sold 1,131 units last month and the Model 3 only had 53 units sold. However, Tesla typically back-ends its quarterly cycle where about 50 percent of the volume takes place in the third month. The company should be doing a lot of catch up in March. The Volkswagen eGolf came in second at 740 units sold. That model will be replaced by the VW ID.3 later this year.

Smart cities meet 5G:  Smart cities will soon become one of the most important testing grounds for 5G technology and business models, according to a new Navigant Research study. The next generation wireless/cellular phone network is expected to much faster and load-intensive than 4G, but there’s been a battle over the technology going into the networks along with government communication regulations affecting the outcome. Carmakers and their tech partners are quite interested in how all this will go. The Navigant study looks at a few key areas that some of the challenges will have to be resolved for full integration of smart cities and 5G: cybersecurity, data privacy, the impact of automation, and issues of digital exclusion. The study also explores the strategies of global carriers and infrastructure vendors that are leading the development and deployment of 5G networks.

Daimler launching electric truck test project:  Daimler Trucks North America is launching the Freightliner Customer Experience (CX) Fleet for its electric truck program. The fleet of all-electric pre-series trucks includes six heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadias and two medium-duty eM2 106 trucks. Fourteen of Daimler’s commercial customers will be participating in the test project. Data collection will take place over the next 22 months/ DTNA will analyze data and feedback from the CX Fleet to continue to improve upon future vehicle design and assist customers navigating a transition to electric fleets. “It’s critical that we collaborate with customers across multiple segments to further our understanding of how commercial battery electric trucks will be part of a long-term solution in CO₂-neutral transportation,” said Richard Howard, senior vice president, On-highway sales and marketing, DTNA.

 

Hydrogen cost coming way down, New Jersey rolls out EV incentive

What’s been happening lately?
Hydrogen is looking better in costs now for fueling clean vehicles and in a few other areas including industrial feedstock and as an energy storage medium. That comes from a new study by Hydrogen Council and McKinsey & Co., that concludes there are now three core market drivers: a steep drop in production costs, higher load utilization cutting distribution and refueling costs, and additional cost drops from scaling up of end-use equipment manufacturing. The study looked at 25,000 data points gathered and analyzed from 30 global companies with cost reductions expected across several different hydrogen applications. These sectors include long-distance and heavy-duty transportation, industrial heating, heavy industry feedstock, and others, which make up about 15 percent of global energy consumption. Of course, much support is needed and Hydrogen Council is championing effective government policies to be adopted in key geographies, along with investment support of around $70 billion in the lead up to 2030 in order to scale up and produce for a much more cost-competitive fuel. “The Hydrogen Council believes that the report’s findings will not only increase public awareness about the potential of hydrogen to power everyday lives, but also debunk the myth that a hydrogen economy is unattainable due to cost,” said Euisun Chung, executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council. “If we are to reach our global climate goals by mid-century and reap the benefits of hydrogen, now is the time to act.”

New Jersey wants to take on greenhouse gases through a new transportation policy. Gov. Phil Murphy just signed an electric vehicle bill into law that offers a clear roadmap for state houses and governors nationwide to tackle climate change. The new law makes it easier for residents of New Jersey to buy an EV by providing a largest-in-the-nation rebate of up to $5,000. It also creates a statewide high-speed charging network, making driving an EV more convenient. Beyond cars, the law also requires NJ Transit to only purchase electric buses by 2032.

Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving vehicle division, has announced the Cruise Origin, developed with Honda Motor Co. It’s been designed with more space for passengers and to take on mobility competitors. The autonomous taxi will give ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft another rival, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said Tuesday during the vehicle’s introduction. GM is putting all its AV efforts into the Cruise unit these days, and giving the business space to work with competitors like Honda, which became an investor in October 2018. That’s helped Cruise move more quickly to develop a self-driving electric vehicle platform. GM created the platform that doesn’t require a backup driver or steering wheel. Honda contributed to the engineering and production of the vehicle. GM is waiting for an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards that would allow Cruise to test vehicles without these manual controls. If that gets approved, GM can deploy up to 2,500 robs-taxis a year that can be hailed vis a smartphone app.

And a few other new briefs:

  • President Trump said that Elon Musk is “one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius.” 
  • Tesla Autopilot crashes put in a more realistic overview perspective by a mobility expert.
  • The latest on the AB 5 battle, California’s law requiring gig-economy workers to be treated as employees.

Autonomous a decade away? What about connected smart apps until then?

Last week saw the big CES show in Las Vegas, where autonomous vehicles took over five years ago; the star then was the Audi A7 self-driving prototype. Many attendees this year were very disappointed that automakers and tech partners have changed their story from the AV Revolution over to cool, connected features being added to new cars.

This topic has been further explored in a Green Auto Market analytical report. Click here to see the market report available for purchase and download.

 

 

Highlights from this year’s CES:

  • Sony unveiled an electric car concept that could set the Japanese tech giant up as a partner for self-driving EVs of the future. The company said sensors are embedded within the vehicle, in order to “detect and recognize people and objects inside and outside the car, and provide highly advanced driving support.” Magna Steyr built prototype, and Sony listed Benteler, Blackberry, Bosch, Continental, Elektrobit, Genetex, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and ZF Friedrichshafen as partners.
  • Along with reminders about its intelligent mobility offerings, Nissan revealed a new twin-motor, all-electric, all-wheel-drive system. It’s expected to debut in Nissan’s first all-electric crossover utility vehicle that may arrive in the US in 2021. Called e-4ORCE, the new system will deliver high-torque, precision handling and stability, Nissan said. This will be possible by optimizing power delivery to each of the four wheels.
  • Toyota’s Woven City was shown off as a prototype community of the future that will be built near Mount Fuji in Japan. The 175-acre site will house an experimental laboratory of future technologies including self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes and new forms of personal mobility. People will be able to live in this community of the future.
  • Hey there, hardcore gamers:  This year, both Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation will launch new, next-generation game consoles. Both are scheduled to arrive this holiday season, and both are being slowly finished up for major launches. And you can always get a cutting-edge TV of the future to play the games on and watch your favorite show. Samsung showed off its Q950 8K TV with a minimal 15mm frame and AI processor that can track screen objects and position the sound to match. LG unveiled its latest rollable OLED TV, that can roll down from the ceiling like a projector screen with no need for a projector; there’s also a more affording OLED TV with a smaller 48-inch display.
  • Uber and Hyundai Motor Co. have a new partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network, and the new partners unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept. Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, bringing automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles.
  • Renault is developing a solution enabling automatic and secure interaction and communication between cars and connected objects in homes in partnership with French smart-home startup Otodo. Users will be able to control their home’s connected objects directly from their vehicle’s dashboard, as well as send instructions from their home, using a smartphone or connected speaker, to their connected Renault vehicle to prepare or share an itinerary, and other functions. It will be available in all Renault models that have the new Renault EASY LINK multimedia system, including the all-new Zoe, Clio, and Captur.
  • Hey there, Avatar fans:  Something that could be called “Ava-car” will be launched to promote upcoming sequels to the hugely popular Avatar movie made by the legendary director James Cameron. He spoke at CES to announced an Avatar-themed partnership with Mercedes-Benz, revealing the futuristic AVTR concept car. It offers what the German carmaker sees as the future of automotive design, featuring things like a steering wheel that will “merge” man and machine. AVTR will be able to recognize the driver based on their heartbeat and breathing patterns. The look of the car is based on non-human characters from Avatar’s fictional eco-universe. The seats and floor are made from sustainable materials, and the battery is recyclable, too.

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.

 

This topic has been further explored in a Green Auto Market analytical report. Click here to see the market report available for purchase and download.

 

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.”