Lyft wants all electric fleet by 2030, Ford and VW partnering on commercial vehicles and electrification

Will Lyft go electric?  Ride-hailing company Lyft has committed to do big things by the 2030 benchmark — led by making sure its fleet is 100 percent zero emission. In collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund, other initiatives will be included in coming years such as bringing in autonomous vehicles, and rolling out its Express Drive rental car partner program for ride-share drivers. The challenge will be getting its drivers to switch over to EVs, as Lyft will continue to be a mobile app company partnering driver/car owners to customers needing a ride. The company won’t block drivers who don’t have EVs from accessing their network and getting business; Lyft has to talk them into it. That will be without incentives. The company is counting on governments spiffing up their programs for clean air and fighting climate change.

“We will aggressively promote and help drivers access incentive funds,” a Lyft told TechCrunch. “If policymakers do their part in the next few years, EVs should reach cost-parity with gasoline vehicles by mid-decade.”

Lyft will be working with EDF and other environment groups to lobby for EV incentives and charging infrastructure development. The challenge will be steep as Lyft drivers are used to getting good mileage in small, fuel efficient cars from Asian manufacturers. Another challenge will be Honda putting out a hybrid CR-V on the market soon, providing larger passenger and cargo space with great mileage from a non-EV.

Ford and VW working on electric vans:  Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen AG signed agreements on June 10 that expand their global alliance and take the next step from their initial alliance forged July 2019. They’re seeing increased demand in commercial vehicles and high-performing electric vehicles in Europe and other regions. Their alliance will produce a medium pickup truck engineered and built by Ford, for sale by Volkswagen as the Amarok starting in 2022 within the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles lineup. Next up will be a city delivery van built by VW’s commercial vehicle group; and later onto a 1-ton van created by Ford. By 2023, they’ll be powered by Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive (MEB) toolkit, expanding on Ford’s zero-emission capabilities in Europe. The two global automakers will also work with Argo AI to independently develop autonomous vehicles at scale based on Argo AI’s innovative self-driving technology. Argo AI is a Pittsburgh-based company in which Ford has ownership and development interests.

For those interested in Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E electric performance SUV, it’s coming equipped with a more precise predictor of available range. Mustang Mach-E’s innovative Intelligent Range can accurately estimate how much range the all-electric SUV has left, helping reduce anxiety about when and where customers can recharge.

NREL sees hope in blockchain tech:  Blockchain continues to be taken more seriously as unexpected parties like the US Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), based in Golden, Col., enters the game. But this won’t be about tapping into the highly volatile cryptocurrency capital market. The power grid is bringing in blockchain technology to help ensure the reliability, resiliency, and security needed to distribute energy. With this stability, NREL is ready to take on a major opportunity: how property owners can sell unused power from their rooftop solar panels. Blockchain will serve as a distributed digital record of actions agreed and performed by multiple parties, to facilitate moving clean energy and its efficient distribution effectively. NREL researchers have been evaluating the use of blockchain for transactive energy using hardware in the laboratory’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). So far, they’re impressed.

Automating driving on hold:  BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG put development cooperation in automated driving temporarily on hold. Their joined efforts on next-generation technology for automated driving will be placed on the back burner for now. Both companies are emphasizing that cooperation may be resumed at a later date and that the two companies’ underlying approach to matters such as safety and customer benefits in the field of automated driving remains highly compatible. Autonomous vehicle projects are being led by automakers in partnership with competitors and technology suppliers. As COVID-19 continues to hit all of the global markets, these ventures have to be placed on hold for now.

DOE funding advanced lithium-ion batteries:  The US Dept. of Energy is making up to $12 million available for projects that address capability gaps for enhanced lithium-ion batteries, next-generation lithium-ion batteries, and next-generation lithium-based battery technologies. Working through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Vehicles Technologies Office, funding is available for projects that address these four areas: materials processing and scale-up; innovative, advanced electrode and cell production; designer materials and electrodes; and formation. DOE will be woking with National Laboratories to establish public-private partnerships that solve engineering challenges for advanced battery materials and devices, with a focus on de-risking, scaling, and accelerating adoption of new technologies. The agency is soliciting proposals for projects that can meet these objectives.

Tesla’s Berlin plant speeding up faster than China, AD publisher looking for Fixes and Solutions to everything

Tesla speeding up European plant:  Rumors are floating that Tesla may be able to beat the timing on its second plant opening in China with its Berlin vehicle manufacturing facility. Some of those working on the German plant are bragging they are three months ahead of where the Chinese plant was at this time last year. You can also view a video on the plant’s construction, with the nickname of GiGA4Berlin. Tesla continues to work quickly through the COVID-19 crisis and inner turmoil over management turnovers. One theory is that CEO Elon Musk and team are learning big lessons from crafting two vehicle plants and one battery factory to produce four models to production scale (with the fifth, the Model Y, slowed down for now with some production issues). That lesson would be how to standardize building the production plants and speeding everything up. Tesla is on its way to become a true global automaker serving the biggest markets: North America, China, and Europe.

Automotive Digest going away, welcoming new media platform:  Automotive Digest will soon be closed down for good, sad to say. But Chuck Parker will be staying in the game, having recently launched his Fixes and Solutions new media content platform. His new title describes it well: Editor, Publisher, Strategist, & Fixer. The focus here is on identifying and exploring the problems, issues, and obstacles along with possible fixes and solutions that are shaping the country, society, and the world — and not just the automotive industry. It’s also a good space for experts/analysts to voice their concerns, as editorial contributions are being accepted.

What does that look like? A few topics featured in its published articles tell the story…….. How robotics startup Starship Technologies is making its way through COVID-19 and building up its fleet of autonomous sidewalk delivery vehicles……… Federal courts are starting to protect laws that the Trump administration has been dismantling over fossil fuels’ impact on the climate…………. Can leaders from the US and Europe seize the moment to take on the challenges of stopping pandemics, solving climate change, and dealing with inequities of race and economies?…….. How online therapy app, Talkspace, has given counselors, therapists, and medical professionals a new functional means to delivering therapy without being in the same room or office with the client……. and much more.

China investing heavily in coal power:  China is in the process of undercutting all the capital and resources invested in clean energy and electric vehicles. The country permitted more new coal-fired power plants in March than it did in all of 2019. It comes right after a surge in coal plant construction last year. China already consumes more than half of the world’s coal. The country has almost as much new coal generation in planning or construction (206 gigawatts) as the US has in operation (235 GW at the end of 2019). It came from the economic turmoil the country started experiencing a decade ago, with the government putting investing huge sums through state-owned enterprises, with much of it going into coal-fired power.

Zobel heading hydrogen council:  The California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC) has named Bill Zobel, a prominent figure in natural gas vehicles, as the executive director of the organization. Zobel joins CHBC after over ten years at Trillium, where he served as vice president of business development and marketing. During those years, Zobel helped to diversify the company’s alternative fuel portfolio to include hydrogen refueling in order to meet changing market conditions, customer needs, and company goals. He also worked to secure two premier hydrogen projects in the transit sector with the Orange County Transportation Authority and Champagne-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Clean Transportation group looking for active members:  If you’re a LinkedIn member, come by the Clean Transportation group. I’d started it a few years ago, but let it go dormant. Like other LinkedIn groups, it’s a good platform for telling the story on projects you’re working on, and critical issues facing the future of clean transportation, alternative fuels, and the future of transportation. Another one to check out is Sustainability Working Group, which delves into how sustainability is embedded in organizations and the impact this has on environmental stewardship, stakeholder well-being, community development and shared value. And one more thing, check out my article published in LinkedIn, “What’s the state of the economy as the ‘new normal’ drags on?”

Hyundai and Kia tapping into heat pump EV efficiency:  Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation released details of their innovative heat pump system, deployed in Hyundai and Kia’s global electric vehicle (EV) line-up to maximize their all-electric driving range in low temperatures. It’s extending per-charge driving range by tapping into waste heat to warm the cabin for passengers traveling through cold weather. It was first tied out in the first-generation Kia Soul EV, which used its compressor, evaporator, and condenser, so that the heat pump was able to capture waste heat given off by the vehicle’s electrical components, recycling this energy to heat the cabin more efficiently.

Hertz bankruptcy a major road sign toward the future of cars and transportation

It was sad to see the oldest car rental institution in the world, Hertz, file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, given the severe impact of COVID-19 on travel and the economy. But the story is a much bigger one — it reflects the difficulties of building a solid, profitable company in the car business with healthy cash reserves to survive a catastrophe; and it points to the fundamental changes in how people will be using cars, travel, and taking short rides in the city, in the years ahead.

I’d learned a lot about the car rental business and other elements of its supply chain — automaker fleet departments, airlines, hotels, travel management companies, reservation systems, and the used car remarking arm — as the editor of Auto Rental News; and later working with car rental industry expert and consultant Neil Abrams as the manager of his Abrams Travel Data Services business unit. Learning about the nuts and bolts of how car rental companies work gave me a wonderful education in economics, the auto industry, and the growing importance of travel to consumers and corporate executives — almost like an MBA. Automotive Digest Publisher Chuck Parker had served as the publisher of ARN, and encouraged me to take that publication where I wanted it to go — analyzing market data and offering readers a big-picture perspective on how all of this dynamic change would likely affect their future.

A Bloomberg article on the Hertz bankruptcy cited a ranking of top car rental companies that I put together for ARN in 1994. It ranked Enterprise its new No. 1 by fleet size and number of offices, bumping Hertz off its top spot for the first time. It was also during the time when Hertz’s advertising spokesman OJ Simpson was taken off his mantle and had his years-long contract with the auto rental giant taken away as his murder trial was scheduled. The 1990s also saw the beginning of company mergers and buyouts; and smaller car rental companies having to shut down and leave the business. The global economy was seeing similar trends with mergers and acquisitions taking center stage for automakers, airlines, hotels, media and entertainment companies, banking and investment firms, healthcare, and tech companies.

Over the next 20 years, we would see Enterprise purchase National and Alamo, Avis buy Budget and car sharing leader Zipcar, and Hertz buy Dollar and Thrifty. Hertz would take on Enterprise in the local market with its Hertz Local Edition division — offering replacement cars for repair and service, and weekend rentals to nearby residents who wanted a nice big vehicle to take a road trip. Hertz and Enterprise started car sharing units to compete with Zipcar and its parent Avis, along with Daimler’s car2go and General Motor’s Maven business units.

But what’s happened since then?

—Building a profitable business model continues to be tough:  Carl Icahn, a famous activist investor with plenty of holdings in the oil industry, could lose big with Hertz. Icahn, who owns nearly 40 percent of Hertz, is expected to lose his entire $1.5 billion investment if the company can’t survive its reorganization. Icahn had stepped in during 2014 to stabilize the company’s debt from its acquisition of the Dollar and Thrifty car rental competitors, and to take on competition from new modes of transportation led by Uber. Hertz had owed about $500 million in debt recently and had renegotiated a longer payment plan — given that it only had $1 billion in capital; but that payment was missed. The game is changing dramatically and COVID-19 isn’t at the root of it. It’s not the profitable model that major investors and stock market shareholders will need in the new economy. That’s the same for automakers, with Tesla going outside the norm as high-performing stock to own — unlike GM, Ford, and the other major manufacturers.

—Competitors like Enterprise, Avis, Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar, are preparing for a future with autonomous, shared, and electric rides.  That’s also the case for the two giant European car rental companies, Sixt and Europcar. But the car rental giants haven’t even started offering customers electric cars for rental. They might have a few hybrid models, but they have been sticking to the traditional vehicle choices. Hertz was set back by not getting enough SUVs into its fleet recently — as gasoline prices have stayed down and renters want to load up midsize-to-large crossovers and SUVs for long road trips. But that’s expected to change in the new decade as we emerge from the coronavirus, as environmental regulations take hold in North America, Europe, and Asia — meaning less gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, and more electric cars and fuel-efficient vehicles. Consumers and fleets are starting to become more interested in owning EVs and taking shared, automated rides in autonomous shuttle buses. That will take a while to get a firm hold in the marketplace, but expectations are starting to change. Some analysts believe that COVID-19 is continuing to cause a series of changes in the general public’s priorities and expectations.

—Most companies in the global economy are dependent on steady revenue streams based on demand with very little in capital reserves — as well illustrated by Hertz.   When demand gets sidetracked for whatever reasons, there goes the company. Japan’s lean supply chain model has had a great deal of influence on all of it, but that was discredited in part by the 2011 nuclear power disaster — and its harsh impact on automakers around the world dependent on Japanese suppliers. Some countries like Japan are more willing to bail out their major corporations and keep their share. The US gave GM and Chrysler great deals with low-interest loans on their post-bankruptcy bailouts that were paid off. Will Hertz be able to find it from the Trump administration to emerge from BK in a stronger position?

—Hertz will have to save face on generous executive payments.  Hertz Global Holdings said today it has paid about $16.2 million in retention bonuses to a range of key executives. President and chief executive officer Paul Stone was paid $700,000, and executive vice president and chief financial officer Jamere Jackson $600,000 as retention bonuses, Hertz said in a filing to US regulators. That doesn’t look very good after laying off 10,000 of its employees in April. The business community and consumers do expect more from corporations these days — honest reporting, equity, treating employees respectfully, adopting sustainability practices, and supporting their local communities.

—Car rental holding companies are in a sound position for being leading players in the future of mobility.  They have the largest fleets in the world, historic brand names and public awareness, and infrastructures in place for serving airports and, especially for Enterprise and Hertz, serving local markets including much-needed replacement vehicles. What about adding EVs, autonomous shuttles, hourly rentals, and cheaper shared rides?

—Car rental companies are facing a serious turning point.  How will they compete in car sharing when those companies start to grow their audiences and car rental companies haven’t taken the segment very seriously? What about rental electric cars? It’s not happening yet. How do you compete with ride-hailing and ride-sharing giants out there in the global market? Consumers are changing their mobility methods and business travelers have been leaning in this direction too. COVID-19 and emerging from bankruptcy offer rare opportunities for stepping forward and doing the right thing.

China auto sales coming back, but US languishing for near-term future

China’s auto market grew in April, overcoming an early-year collapse triggered by the coronavirus shutdown — and ending a nearly two-year streak of sales declines that has shaken the world’s largest auto market. Before the coronavirus, China had been seeing an economic downturn following years of historic growth in new vehicle sales.

The market’s new energy vehicles also saw a turnaround during that month. China includes all electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in these totals for passenger and commercial vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3’s sales in China fell over 64 percent last month compared with the previous month. That sales decline happened despite a 9.8 percent month-on-month increase in electric sales in China last month. The Model 3 did see very good months in the first quarter, bucking China’s trend in new vehicle sales plunging.

All of this is happening as the Covid-19 crisis impact has started softening in China’s economy and the world’s largest auto market. China’s recovery could be a good sign for the start of economic recovery that should slowly spread to the US.

But China’s leading auto trade group warns that the fight won’t be over — with sales expected to be down 15 percent overall versus the previous year. Much of that took place in the first quarter of this year, with sales improvements expected to continue for at least two more months.

US new vehicle sales volumes were down about 50 percent year over year in April. Car shoppers are staying out of dealerships during the pandemic — and that includes online sales. Tesla does have the advantage of getting its customers to go that route from its very beginning, with some analysts pointing to Tesla’s retail model as a sign of the future for competitors and their dealer networks.

Data on plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle sales in the US is very difficult to find these days, as the leading sources stopped publishing their reports last year and into this year. One analysis piece expects that EV sales will decline in the US for up to 12-to-18 months. A real double whammy has hit the market through the Covid-19 pandemic and drastically lower oil prices.

EV sales of course won’t be going away entirely in the US, and some automakers will continue to prioritize their lineups. Volvo Cars was pleased to announce that its Recharge lineup of plug-in models doubled in the first four months of this year from 7 percent of its sales to 14 percent. The company also reported seeing a nearly 44 percent drop in overall new sales last month.

Tesla chief Elon Musk was pleased to tell stakeholders at the company’s recent earnings call that the Model 3’s prices will be going down in China. That should help bring it back to competing with market leaders. BYD and Ford took the two top spots in China last month in EV sales, with the Model 3 coming in third.

Tesla wants to open up its third auto assembly plant in Germany, which appears to be going forward. For now, China will be a very important market to establish firm footing within. That’s the case for a few other major automakers that have put lots of capital into EV sales in China — including General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen.

Musk complains of ‘fascist’ response to Covid-19 during earnings report, Ford and Rivian cancel Lincoln EV for now

Tesla Inc.’s profitable quarterly report was overshadowed yesterday by CEO Elon Musk’s angry comments, well represented by this one: “To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom!”

Musk would like to see the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory opened again. A government-ordered shutdown kicked in on March 24 with Covid-19 quarantine orders in effect at least until May 31. Musk told shareholders he didn’t know when Tesla could resume production in California and called the state stay-at-home order a “serious risk” to the business.

It was the third quarterly profit in a row for Tesla, Inc. Gross margins in the first quarter jumped to 25.5 percent for the company. About 7 percent of its $5.1 billion first quarter revenue came from regulatory credits — funds paid by other automakers to buy the company’s carbon emissions credits. That revenue nearly tripled from the last quarter.

Tesla’s quarterly report came just a day after Ford Motor Co. reported a $2 billion first-quarter loss, and forecasted losing another $5 billion in the current quarter as the Covid-19 pandemic takes away its new vehicle sales. Ford, like other major competitors, has seen its stock price slide down in recent weeks.

Tesla has not seen that happen. Shares were coming in at $858.16 on Thursday morning, with the profitable quarterly report helping to strengthen that price. That trend has been upward since the beginning of April. Beginning production and deliveries in China is helping the company’s perceived value.

Musk may be able to benefit generously from the financials. He may soon be making $750 million or more through his pay structure agreement made with shareholders in 2018. The Tesla chief has the option to buy 1.69 million Tesla shares at $350.02 each. Taking Monday’s Tesla closing stock price of $798.75 as an example, Musk could sell those shares for a profit of $758 million — once it reaches the $100 million at six-months average mark. It reached $145 billion this week, and around $96 billion for the latest six-month count.

Ford and Rivian:  Ford Motor Co. has canceled its Lincoln-brand all-electric SUV that was going to be made in partnership with a powertrain provided by startup Rivian. The two companies are still talking about working closely together, and putting out a Lincoln vehicle that will also be based on Rivian’s EV “skateboard” platform. Rivian recently announced that it’s pushing back the release of its first two vehicles — an all-electric pickup truck and SUV — to early 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Ford made a deal with Rivian to invest $500 million in the startup company just two months after Amazon led a $700 million investment in the Michigan-based startup. As part of Ford’s investment, it announced that it would develop an electric vehicle that used Rivian’s battery pack and electric motor setup. “Given the current environment, Lincoln and Rivian have decided not to pursue the development of a fully electric vehicle based on Rivian’s skateboard platform. Our strategic commitment to Lincoln, Rivian and electrification remains unchanged and Lincoln’s future plans will include an all-electric vehicle,” a spokesperson from Lincoln told The Verge in a statement.

Natural gas stability:  As petroleum prices continue to go through upheaval in the Covid-19 economic environmental, natural gas can once gain offer fleets certainty during during a period of instability. Ryan Forrest, Western United States Region Manager at Trillium, makes the case that fleets can get hit hard depending on gasoline and diesel when the prices inevitably go back up — as seen many times during pricing instability from 2008 to 2014. Being a domestic fuel has helped natural gas retain its $2 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) for several years. Fleets using renewable natural gas (RNG) in their CNG-powered vehicles are also enjoying making contributions to climate benefits and improved air quality. That point is reinforced by an April 20 announcement from Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) and Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) today that 39 percent of all on-road fuel used in natural gas vehicles in calendar year 2019 was RNG.

BYD and Hino commercial EVs:  BYD and Hino Motors signed a strategic business alliance for collaborating on commercial battery electric vehicles development. The two companies will work together to develop the best-fit commercial BEVs for customers to achieve carbon reductions. Commercial fleet customers will be served, and BYD and Hino will cooperate in retail and other related business that will promote the adoption of BEVs. Hino’s director and senior managing officer Taketo Nakane said, “We are pleased with this collaboration aiming to realize commercial BEVs that are truly beneficial to customers both practically and economically. By bringing together BYD’s achievement in BEV development and Hino’s electrification technology and reliability built over years of experience in developing hybrid vehicles, we will develop the best-fit commercial BEV products for consumer in working towards swift market introduction.”

Tesla doing just fine in China during pandemic, Doing the math when buying your EV

Tesla Inc. is clearing hurdles in the China auto market during the Coronavirus pandemic. The company had 12,709 vehicle registrations in China in March, versus 2,314 in February, marking its highest-ever monthly sales in the world’s largest auto market, according to data from LMC Automotive. Overall new passenger car sales in March were down 40.8 percent from a year earlier in that market. On Friday, the company said it has started selling two more Model 3 variants built at its Shanghai plant. That means all the Model 3s sold in China are locally made and free of import tax.
Tesla plans to start delivering Long Range Model 3s starting in June, priced at 339,050 yuan after subsidies. The rear-wheel drive version, with a driving range of about 373 miles before needing to be recharged, will be priced at 439,900 yuan. The locally made Performance Model 3, for which deliveries are scheduled to begin in Q1 2021, will be priced 419,800 yuan, the California-based automaker said without specifying the price after subsidies.

Telling Your Story: Doing the math on buying your EV
Editor:  So we have our first response to my request on sharing your stories on how you got absorbed into the topics of clean transportation, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, renewable energy, and the like. Thanks to Emile Rocher, a professional in efficient and sustainable buildings — and also an electric vehicle owner — for sharing her experiences with a Ford Focus electric and a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid. For those of you interested in sharing your thoughts on sustainable transportation, you can send your comments to jlesage378@gmail.com; or you can leave it in the Comment box at the end of the newsletter.

After spending some 40 years building efficient buildings, when affordable grid tied PV came along some 7 years ago, we invested about $10,000 (Canadian dollars) in system equipment and installed it on a long weekend with the help of a couple friends. Ended up with a surplus of capacity becoming a net exporter which is contrary to the rules in oily Alberta, and were being paid half of retail cost in any case, which inspired us to purchase our first EV — a 2 year old deeply discounted Ford Focus with no km (range). Added another 1.5 KW to the system a few years ago and still had a surplus even while driving about 10,000 km/yr. So we parked our ancient oil burning Jetta and bought a plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander. The great AWD rig which will get 7 L/100 km (33.6 mpg) after the 50 km battery range is exceeded. Collectively these investments make the equity markets pale in comparison regarding risk and return. Our total electricity bill for one full year was $185 (Canadian dollars), electric driving included.

What really needs to be driven home in this oil vs renewable debate is economics. Oil for personal transportation at this time, disregarding the global risk of climate change, just can’t compete evenly with the multiple massive subsidies that industry enjoys. Even Exxon and Shell are buying solar electricity (2 cents/kw hr recently for Exxon) and using it as one of the many other energy inputs in producing liquid fuel.

Do the math — starting with the 30 miles in which a first-gen EV can travel on 7 KW hr of electricity. Remember that the oil industry used that much electricity in the refining process alone to produce one gallon of gasoline (source: Nissan). This business model makes as much sense as turning gold into lead at a huge cost. We need a comprehensive study on all the other collective inputs that go into turning the various sources of hydrocarbons into liquid fuel, and to publicize it as aggressively as the fossil industry lobbies politicians to keep the oil flowing.

—Emile Rocher

And in other news………..
Responding to Covid19:  BYD Motors will pledge a donation of $1 million in medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPEs) and hand sanitizer to transit agencies and first responders in the US and Canada. The supplies include FDA-approved adult surgical masks and KN-95 respiratory protective devices, as well as hand sanitizer that is 99.999 percent effective. Several thousand PPEs have already been delivered to agencies that include the City of Los Angeles, the Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., the Toronto Transit Commission, and the LA County Sheriff’s Department………… Hyundai Motor America has donated $100,000 and 10,000 coronavirus test kits to support drive-up testing in Detroit, part of a larger effort by the company to support 21 US drive-up sites. About 65,000 tests have also been donated to hard-hit areas like New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit, the company said.

Supporting solar in USAF:  Pvilion, a leading solar powered fabric provider, announced it has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by the United State Air Force (USAF) to continue its development of rapidly deployable, solar powered structures. SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. The USAF has favorably evaluated the products Pvilion presented for cost, complexity, sustainability, required manual labor, as well as for energy independence all with the goal of maximizing mission-objective readiness. The company says that its solar technology is significantly lighter and more adaptable than traditional solar options. It is integrated entirely into a system already being installed, such as for a tent, shade canopy, or hangar. With fully integrated photovoltaic fabric panels, Pvilion’s structures allow for the multi-capability use by providing power, shelter, lighting, and climate control. Pvilion’s commercial customers use its solar fabric technology in structures used for events such as music festivals, in temporary industrial worksites, and in structures found in parks, municipalities, universities, and corporate campuses. Military operations are a good fit, too. “We’re now working hard to quickly delivery solar structures to Airmen who need them most. In this challenging time, instant access shelter, power, and climate control is key. This project is very important to Pvilion and, I believe, the nation as whole,” said Colin Touhey, engineer and Pvilion CEO.

Fuel cells for marine vessels:  ABB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hydrogène de France to jointly manufacture megawatt-scale fuel cell systems capable of powering ocean-going vessels. The agreement will establish a close collaboration on the assembly and production of the fuel cell power plant for marine applications. Building on an existing collaboration announced in 2018 with Ballard Power Systems, ABB and HDF intend to optimize fuel cell manufacturing capabilities to produce a megawatt-scale power plant for marine vessels. The new system will be based on the megawatt-scale fuel cell power plant jointly developed by ABB and Ballard, and will be manufactured at HDF’s new facility in Bordeaux, France.

DC charging for Kia Niro:  Electrify America has made an agreement with Kia Motors America to offer ‘Kia Select,’ a new charging program with optimized pricing for the Kia Niro electric vehicle (EV) model on Electrify America’s direct current (DC) fast charging network. The program offers a flat rate of 35 cents per-minute charging for current Kia Niro EV drivers, designed specifically for the unique DC charging characteristics of the model. The program also waives session fees and has no subscription fees for participants. To participate in the program, drivers can simply download the Electrify America charging app and complete a brief enrollment process. Drivers can also use the app to locate Electrify America charging stations, start a charging session, and remit payment using their credit or debit card entered during the registration process.

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.