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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Government policies and subsidies are having their impact globally.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Global Markets: India’s potential and challenges for vehicle electrification

India’s national government is supporting vehicle electrification in a fast growing global auto market. Some of that will take place through generous incentives, government fleet vehicle acquisitions, and a growing charging infrastructure. The government wants to get rid of traditional petroleum-powered vehicles in the near future – but there are serious barriers to cross.

“The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country,” India’s coal and mines minister Piyush Goyal said. “We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way.”

Goyal said the government is ready to subsidize the development and sale of electric cars and to help Indian companies install electric charging infrastructure.

 

An advisory panel had recommended that the government place an order to purchase 2.7 lakh (about 270,000) electric vehicles including 20,000 buses for its agencies. The panel also suggested that the government provide free charging stations for the first three years to attract potential vehicle buyers.

 

The report has been issued as the government is working on a policy for electric vehicles expected to be put in place by the end of the year. “The aim is to reduce air pollution and our dependence on import of crude oil,” Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari said recently.

 

The Indian government would like to see vehicle electrification play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and being dependent on foreign oil.

 

Niti Aayog, a government think-tank, recently sent a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032. It’s likely to shape a new transport policy, according to government and industry sources.

 

However, like the U.S. and other countries, vehicle electrification has a long way to go in India’s new vehicle sales. Plug-in electrified vehicle sales, like in most large vehicle markets around the world, have been slight in India. PEVs represent slightly more than 1% of new vehicle sales in that market.

 

Indian corporation Mahindra & Mahindra is the largest manufacturer and seller of EVs in the nation. The Mahindra e20 small electric hatchback is the top seller in India for that segment. Most of the EVs are built in India, such as the Mahindra e20 and e-Verito, and Maruti Suzuki electrified models. The BMW i8 import is another top seller in that market, as is the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid.

 

Tesla plans to enter the marketing. “Hoping for this summer,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this year.

 

Automakers are seeing other global markets as being a higher priority for overall manufacturing, and for PEV manufacturing and sales.

 

General Motors is one of them. GM just announced plans to stop selling vehicles in India, along with South Africa, by the end of this year.

 

The company announced on Thursday it will take a $500 million charge in the second quarter to restructure operations in India, Africa, and Singapore. GM will also cancel most of a previously planned $1 billion investment to build a new line of low-cost vehicles in India.

 

China is different for GM, and a few other automakers. The company and its joint venture partners sold 3.87 million vehicles in China in 2016, up 7.1% from the previous year. China has been the U.S. automaker’s top market for a fifth consecutive year.

 

GM is also bringing several electrified vehicles to China, similar to several competitors such as Volkswagen. China is the leading market in the Asia-Pacific region for many automakers, and not India.

Cleantech stock prices beyond Tesla, plus options if the IPO doesn’t work out

If you’re looking to add cleantech stock to your portfolio, is there anything to buy beyond Tesla Inc. (TESLA)? If you’re a startup cleantech or clean transportation company, is going public viable for your financial future?

Tesla’s stock price and market valuation grabbed a lot of attention last week, with the irony of its market capitalization rising over $49 billion versus Ford Motor Co. (F) being at $44.63 billion (as of late Friday). Ford’s shares were trading at $11.23 and Tesla closed Friday at $302.54. Not bad for a company that’s never earned a quarterly profit.

It continued into yesterday with the Tesla stock climbing 3.3% Monday to $50.9 billion in market capitalization, eclipsing General Motors (GM) to become the highest ranking automaker in the U.S. – not in vehicle sales but it market valuation. Tesla is within $1 billion of Honda and making it into the top five global automakers in market value.

“Tesla engenders optimism, freedom, defiance, and a host of other emotions that, in our view, other companies cannot replicate,” said Alexander Potter, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., who upgraded the stock Monday. “As they scramble to catch up, we think Tesla’s competitors only make themselves appear more desperate.”

Some critics worry that Tesla has become a cult of personality around charismatic CEO Elon Musk; while others see the real value coming from the quality and performance of the Model S and Model X and the impressive figure of bringing in over 400,000 pre-order down payments last year on the Model 3; not to mention Superchargers and Tesla Energy. A few Wall Street analysts are worried Tesla won’t be able to hold a stable financial position in the next couple of years as it ramps up to produce more than 500,000 vehicles a year and increases its debt. There’s also the big question of whether the SolarCity merger was a wise way to go. The latest stock surge is a clear sign that electric vehicles are being seen as an integral part of transportation’s future – with Tesla well positioned to tap into it.

If you look at cleantech stocks or take a visit to Alternative Energy Stocks, you’ll find it difficult to locate stocks that are growing in price and have market valuation anywhere near Tesla’s. Leading solar power company SolarCity had been doing very well in stock market performance up to about a year ago, but then started seeing its stock value plummet. The company was facing a few serious hurdles, which prompted the company to merge late last year with Tesla. That meant SolarCity stock was no longer listed in NASDAQ market quotes.

Green Auto Market Extended Edition tracks stock performance on a monthly basis. Tesla is the only publicly traded company on the list that has over a billion in market cap, though SolarCity used to be on that list. Vivint Solar, the second largest solar power company in the U.S., was looking very good about two years ago in stock price increases and market value. It had been split off from parent company Vivint Smart Home and was doing well after its IPO. SunEdison was going to acquire the company last year, but the deal fell apart, which brought stock prices down. The two Vivint companies are partnering now to go after more market share dominated by Tesla’s SolarCity; and that includes increasingly popular smart-home tech offered by companies like Vivint.

Some companies tracked in Alternative Energy Stocks have only a small portion of their business in cleantech. AeroVironment, Inc. (AVAV) is a good example. While it plays a leading role in bringing electric vehicle charging stations to the U.S., that segment of the company’s revenue pales in comparison to AeroVironment’s role in aerospace.

About 10 years ago, cleantech stock and private equity funding was a hot commodity with renewable energy and electric car startups gaining backing. That took a dive after the Great Recession grabbed hold and venture capitalists and institutional stock fund managers started looking elsewhere, such as mobile device applications and Silicon Valley tech firms.

Government grants, especially through the U.S. Department of Energy, filled some of that void for a few years. It became a battleground in Congress, and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used the public funding and bankruptcies of solar startup Solyndra, plug-in hybrid sports carmaker Fisker Automotive, and lithium battery company A123 Systems as campaign fodder against President Obama.

Private equity has filled some of the void, with much of it coming from China. Wanxiang Group, a major auto parts supplier, has helped salvage and rejuvenate Fisker and A123 Systems through post-bankruptcy acquisitions. Karma Automotive is now using the Fisker Karma drive train system in its Karma Revero plug-in hybrid sports car. A123 Systems has switched over from lithium iron phosphate to nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) technology to meet the market demand for advanced battery chemistries in high energy applications, some of which will include plug-in vehicles. A lot of the company’s focus lately has been on 48-volt batteries.

Some of the investments coming from China aren’t working out so well. U.S.-based startup Faraday Future is owned by LeEco and Chinese tech entrepreneur Jia Yueting. LeEco has faced its own set of financial problems and may be backing away from Faraday Future at this time.

LeEco is a major investor in another electric car startup grabbing a lot of attention these days. California-based Lucid Motors is looking for $700 million to establish its Arizona factory and build the “Air” electric luxury sedan. Lucid claims that the Air will go 400 miles per charge through two AC induction motors capable of producing 1,000 in combined horsepower.

Lucid Motors is now working on a Series D financing round. Once that funding is secured, ground will be broke on its production plant. It will carry out the process gradually in three phases.

For those interested in filling out their stock portfolio with companies getting good marks in sustainability performance, it might be a good idea to look at the supply chain and tech company partnerships.

Johnson Controls International (JCI) is getting strong sustainability ratings, and is considered to have tangible value on the stock market. The company has been included in 40 sustainability indices in recent years and claims to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions intensity 41% from 2002 to 2014. JCI is a leading supplier of batteries for hybrids and EVs, along with being a recycler of lead-acid batteries; and a large producer of automotive electronics and parts such as seats and instrumental panels. It’s also well known for being a leading provider of energy management products and HVAC for buildings.

Renewable Energy Group (REGI) has been finding supporters, including a stock market analyst making annual recommendations to Renewable Energy World. The company has becomes a leading producer and seller of biomass-based diesel in the U.S. Turbulence over renewable fuel standard credits and low oil prices have hurt the company and many others, though the company’s fuel and stock prices are finding more backers in the market. The company is also doing well through a Services department that provides facility management and operational services to biofuel and cleantech facilities.

Several major automakers and their supply chain partners have been working on using less energy and water in their factories and other facilities. Ford just made the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the eighth year. The automaker was acknowledged for making Partnership for a Cleaner Environment (PACE) part of its ethics and sustainability drive. That program was set up to encourage sustainability practices, including water and energy conservation, throughout its global supply chain. General Motors (GM) now has 122 landfill-free facilities around the world that recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste from daily operations, about three fourths of which are manufacturing plants. The company has committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) launched a six-phase sustainability initiative through 2050. Along with clean energy and water efficiency, the company says that 100% percent of its new vehicles sold that year will be zero emission.

Tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have gained a lot of backing supporting their share prices. They’re also heavily engaged in powering their facilities with clean energy, as detailed in a 2GreenEnergy blog post. Apple and Facebook clouds are powered by renewable energy. Amazon’s web service, which hosts Amazon.com, Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify, and many other major websites, said it will utilize 100% clean energy for its global network.

You can also take a look at Cleantech Group’s list of companies and weightings for those included in the Cleantech Index. There are no automakers on the list, but a few suppliers and tech companies are being followed including Siemens, ABB, Schneider Electric, Johnson Controls, Borg Warner, Trimble Navigation, Intertek Group, and engineering firm Ricardo.

Tesla has been wise to tap into just about every imaginable source of funding out there, short of crowdfunding (unless you want to put the $1,000 down payments for the Model 3 in that category). The electric carmaker took a Department of Energy loan that it paid back early. Its stock market value continues to be strong with Musk continuing to be the largest shareholder in the company.

Musk has said that Tesla could likely have disappeared if it weren’t for significant investments made by global automakers Daimler and Toyota in 2009 and 2010. Both of these companies have sold their shares in Tesla for excellent profits. They did tap into Tesla’s electric drive system for some of their first steps into electric vehicles before ending the partnerships.

Like many automakers, China will be a vital growth more for Tesla in the future. Musk had said China will someday become Tesla’s largest market, and the company just reported making $1 billion sales last year in that market.

A Chinese company has also become one of the largest investors in Tesla. Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings just invested $1.78 billion, or about 8.2 million shares, making it Tesla’s fifth-largest shareholder. The first four largest shareholders are Musk and investment companies Fidelity, Baillie Gifford, and T. Rowe Price.

Tesla needs strong cash flow to get the Model 3 launched in high volume. Tencent wants to diversify its portfolio and is a big believer in how sizable EVs and the charging infrastructure will be. The company has been investing in Chinese EV startups. One of these, NextEV, also has a U.S. office near Tesla’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, and is committed to rolling out an electric supercar that will be Tesla-competitive.

What’s next for fuel economy and emissions mandates: Who’s fighting the fight

President Donald Trump’s statement on Wednesday reopened the fuel economy and emissions midterm review through the next year, possibly up to the original deadline of April 2018. It’s expected that the Trump administration will weaken the mandate, which when set in 2012, was to double average fleetwide fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025. That mandate was actually based on real-world window sticker average mpg in the high-30s when factoring in automakers’ ability to trade credits and other factors that go into the corporate average fuel economy numbers. The midterm review was included in the 2012 negotiations, with automakers pushing to take a look at how the 2022-25 phase-two period would be going.

The Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in January to finalize the rules before Trump took office intensified the conflict. Automakers had begun lobbying Trump right after he won the election to extend the review and soften the mandate; and organizations that had advocated for the fuel economy standard and its enforcement issued statements supporting the Obama administration’s move.

Here’s a look at the roles that several parties to the matter are expected to play:

Automakers: Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen have led the argument that the numbers aren’t there. Low gasoline prices have supported record demand for SUVs, crossovers, and pickups and dragged on demand for hybrids and small, fuel-efficient vehicles. Plug-in electrified vehicle sales have grown to about 1% of the total market, but the growth rate over the past year isn’t helping on the fuel economy front. In Michigan last week, Trump met with the CEOs of GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and top U.S. executives from Toyota, Nissan, Daimler, others.

Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the Auto Alliance, which represents 12 major automakers, including GM, Ford and Toyota, applauded the Trump administration’s decision last week. “We applaud the Administration’s decision to reinstate the data-driven review of the 2022-2025 standards. By restarting this review, analysis rather than politics will produce a final decision consistent with the process we all agreed to under ‘One National Program’ for GHG and fuel economy standards,” Bainwol said.

He said the industry will work with the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board “in carefully determining how we can improve mileage and reduce carbon emissions while preserving vehicle safety, auto jobs and affordable new cars and trucks.”

Truckmakers:  In August, the EPA issued phase-two standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from commercial trucks, buses, and vans, in three phases by 2027. The regulation is intended to cut carbon emissions by about 25% compared to the current rules. The trucking industry has not asked the Trump administration to reverse those rules, according to Sean McNally, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations.

Legislators: As expected, this decision continues to be more of a Republicans vs. Democrats debate. Republicans support the Trump administration’s decision, and like his argument on supporting American automakers grow their companies and create more jobs here. “We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” Trump said. “We’re gonna help the companies and they’re gonna help you.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D.-Mass.) has been a vocal critic of the move. The action will lead to needless uncertainly for the auto industry, and consumers will end up having to pay more at the fuel pump, he said. He and other Democratic senators criticized the EPA emissions review before it had been issued. Senator Jeff Merkley said that its bad for the economy, environment and middle class families.

Consumer groups: In late February, Consumers Union (which publishes Consumer Reports) and the Consumer Federation of America sent a letter to Trump asking the administration to maintain the strong fuel economy standards – to help to lower fuel costs for middle class families across the country, support job creation and innovation, and improve air quality. Consumers Union’s research shows that consumers will have net savings of $3,200 per car and $4,800 per truck, over the life of a vehicle that meet the 2025 standards, even at today’s low gas prices. If gas prices rise, which two organizations expect they will, the savings would be significantly higher. Consumers will have more money to spend in other parts of the economy.

The two consumer organizations also make the case that automakers are already ahead of the standards through developing innovative, fuel-efficient technologies. “Thanks to fuel economy standards, the automakers have invested in innovative technologies to improve fuel economy, and their efforts have paid off. Automakers have not only met today’s fuel economy standards, but they have exceeded the standards in many cases, all while enjoying record profits and record sales,” the letter said.

Environmental groups:  These groups see the announcement as part of a larger move by the Trump administration to overturn the Obama administration’s policies on climate change, and disregard for long-term air pollution standards like the Clean Air Act. Environmentalists have vowed to sue if the Trump administration weakens the rules, which they expect to happen.

Natural Resources Defense Council thinks it makes no sense, since the mileage standards would save consumers money at the gas pump, make the U.S. less dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution, and advance technology innovation. It was also one of the ways GM was able to go from bankruptcy and return to financial strength.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy said that the Trump administration’s move was a bad one. Best known for its “Greenest and Meanest” awards, the organization usually stays out of public policy. This time, the ACEEE released findings from its study: it would reduce fuel consumption more than two million barrels of oil by day by 2025; eliminate six billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetimes of vehicles of model years 2012-2025; and would save consumers over $1 trillion at the gas pump.

California:  Trump didn’t mention California’s role in the future of the national standards. He won’t seek to revoke California’s clean car rules and zero emission vehicle mandate, according to a White House official. However, the official didn’t rule out the administration seeking to withdraw California’s authority on the matter in the future. Nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted its zero-emissions vehicle mandate, which uses a credit system that will require automakers to sell about 1.5 million passenger by 2025. These include battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

Governor Jerry Grown and California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols have made strong statements that California will move forward on ZEV mandates regardless of what the federal government decides to do. They are taking things seriously, though. The state has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder in anticipation of legal challenges, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Market dynamics:  Automakers and advocates of clean vehicles have for years been debating the structure behind the federal mandates. Under the rules, automakers have to hit fuel economy standards for manufacturing fuel efficient vehicles, but will enough of them be sold to meet the fuel economy and emissions targets?

That debate brings up the commonly cited conundrum of which economic side has to lead the way: supply or demand? It could bring up the “If you build it, he will come” line to call in Shoeless Joe Jackson during the Field of Dreams movie. Or, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Or, putting the cart before the horse.

On the consumer side, the U.S. has seen hybrid sales soften and stagnate, but PEV sales increase at a faster pace than hybrids did 15 years ago. That’s been driven by passionate Tesla fans, PEV advocates well represented by groups like Plug In America, and consumers who like to lead the way as one of the first to adopt new technologies, and others who like the deals they’re getting through incentives and fuel savings.

Fleets will be playing an increasing important part of the PEV sales drive. Beyond a few major fleets like UPS, most had taken a very hesitant approach to electrified cars and trucks. That will be getting a major boost by the campaign taken on by 30 U.S. cities, led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, to get good deals from automakers. They have about $10 billion in acquisition funds for about 114,000 PEVs for their city fleets. These could go to vehicles like police patrol cars, street sweepers, trash trucks, and other applications. Buying that many PEVs would increase the segments U.S. sales by about 72%.

Market forecasters see PEV and hybrid sales staying at about this level for now. However, that’s expected to increase dramatically in the near future, with one noted analyst expecting to see PEVs and hybrids making up 10% to 15% of total U.S. sales in the next 10 years. State incentives and federal tax credits play into it, along with extended range, improved performance PEVs coming to market. Ford said it will bring an all-electric SUV with 300-miles of range to market by 2020, GM started doing well selling the 238-mile range Chevy Bolt; Nissan has said a new generation Leaf with 200 mile range will be rolled out; and in January Tesla started making batteries at its Gigafactory for the Model 3 to roll out later this year.

China:  That country has been another important market for global automakers to consider for its PEV sales strategy. The numbers have been huge in recent years as China beat out the U.S. as the leading global PEV market. Government policies are starting to change, which appear to be softening that lead. Sales of “new energy vehicles,” the term China uses to refer to battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars, dropped 74% in January from a year earlier to 5,682 units, according to China’s auto association. The government had cut subsidies more than a fight at the beginning of the year. Rules may be revised that had mandated automakers to produce and sell certain volumes of PEVs in the market.

Geneva Motor Show reveals a few electrified supercars for global competition

Held March 9-19 at the Geneva Palexpo convention center, automotive media have been seeing several premiers at the 87th annual Geneva Motor Show.

The Geneva car show is best known for showing off supercar concepts, and this event is featuring a few electric performance cars that seem to be targeted at Tesla and a few startups from the U.S. and China. This year, a few of them have been electrified, one is designed for urban mobility, and another will be a combination of a self-driving car and a flying pod…………

Artega Scalo Superelletra:  This German supercar maker was founded in 2007 and has been through a series of prototypes, starting with the Scalo sports car and Karo quad bike. The company said those concepts served as testing grounds for its first production electric car, the Scalo Superelletra, which was just unveiled at the Geneva auto show. It’s being built with a 120-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. It may be able to go 300 miles on a single charge, though that’s yet to be determined; and if drivers gun it like a race car, the range will be a good deal lower. Artega says it it will come with four electric motors, two at each axle, which combined can deliver 1,020 horsepower. It will go 0 to 62 mph in just 2.7 seconds. The top speed has made it up to 186 mph. The electric supercar has been developed in partnership with Artega’s parent company, German automotive electronics supplier Paragon. They’re using energy dense batteries that can add another 60 miles of range in four minutes, and 80% capacity after 17 minutes.

Audi hypercar:  CEO Rupert Stadler said in Geneva that the company is working on what’s being called a “hypercar,” and which may be in the early development phase with a launch coming up at the end of the decade.  The hypercar may come from the Audi R8 e-tron project that was halted about 19 months after being started up for development. That prototype test model was powered by two electric motors producing a combined 456 brake horsepower and 679 lb.-ft., with 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. The new hypercar could be a rival to similar vehicles in the works, such as the Mercedes Project One and Aston Martin Valkyrie. (The featured image is another Audi concept released a few years ago.) The German VW subsidiary has committed to having three electric production cars on sale by the end of the decade. The Audi Q6 e-tron sport utility vehicle should be the first to come out, and ready for launch later this year. Stadler also expressed interest in the company’s role in the Formula E series and the idea of electromobility.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e:   British luxury automaker Bentley Motors revealed the EXP 12 Speed 6e concept electric convertible at the Geneva Motor Show. Details haven’t been released on the motor or battery pack, but it will be an all-electric convertible sports car and the automaker is promoting access to wireless charging as one of its offerings. If rapid wireless charging isn’t available for a few years, the electric car can be charged through an auxiliary charging point that will be out sight behind the rear license plate. The compmany reiterated its plan to introduce plug-in hybrid electric vehicle models across the Bentley model range, which will start with the Bentayga in 2018. As for the EXP 12 Speed 6e, “Bentley is committed to offering an electric model in its future portfolio and we are interested to receive feedback on this concept,” said Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive.

Honda NueV:  Honda Motor Europe’s President and COO Katsushi Inoue announced that the European division will be following the Honda brand’s new ‘Electric Vision.’ Two-thirds of its European sales will have electrified powertrains by 2025, he announced in Geneva. The Honda NeuV (New Electric Urban Vehicle) will be part of it and was announced in Geneva. The all-electric concept vehicle will offer owners both personal trips and a revenue model for automated ridesharing when the owner doesn’t need to use the vehicle. Rolling out hybrid technology across of its vehicle line will be the first part of the Electric Vision; and the automaker said it will also make available a line of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the European market. “We will leverage Honda’s global R&D resources to accelerate the introduction of a full portfolio of advanced, electrified powertrains for the European customer,” Inoue said. In other car show news, Honda announced that the all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the Clarity will be launched next month at the New York Auto Show.

Hyundai FE Fuel Cell Concept:  The Korean automaker announced it will be launching its second fuel cell SUV next year – and it will break the world record for driving range in a zero emission vehicle. The company says it will go 800 kilometers (497 miles) on a tank of hydrogen. Hyundai said it will be 20% lighter and have 10% greater efficiency than the Tucson Fuel Cell (called the ix35 in Europe). Energy density will be improving quite a bit, by 30%, which the company said will be integral in boosting the range from 265 miles in the Tucson Fuel Cell to 497 miles in the FE Fuel Cell Concept (at least for now; EPA fuel economy ratings will probably bring down that total for the concept fuel cell vehicle).

Italdesign and Airbus flying car:  Italdesign, Audi’s design and engineering subsidiary, and Europe-based aircraft giant Airbus debuted a concept car at the Geneva auto show that will be self-driving and able to release its passenger to a flying drone. A drone will hover over the car, attach itself, and then carry the passenger pod to its destination. Italdesign’s Capsula concept goes back all the way to the 1982 Turn auto show. The new concept vehicle from Italdesign and Airbus would offer the latest in ground mobility tapped into flying vehicle technology being tested – ideal for crowded city streets.

Lexus LS 500h: The LS 500h debuted last week in Geneva as an electric- and gasoline-fueled version of Lexus’s flagship sedan. The Toyota division hasn’t released the price, but it could compete directly with the Tesla Model S at a base level and go near $90,000 at the high end. It has a V6 gasoline engine paired with two electric motors, a lithium-ion battery, and 354 horsepower on a multi-stage hybrid transmission. It will come out as a 2018 model year vehicle.

Mercedes-AMG GT Concept:  This concept vehicle has EQ Power+ designation, which indicates that the German sports car brand is looking at adding the new model to electrification of its future models under the new electric brand. All performance hybrids from AMG will carry this EQ Power+ designation. This concept taps into a combination of a gas-powered 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, a high-performance electric motor, and a powerful yet lightweight battery to get a total system output of 805 horsepower. The concept vehicle is being tied into Mercedes-AMG’s 50th anniversary.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid:  Porsche world-premiered the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid in Geneva, and will be launching it in the European marketing in July 2017. The company is promoting it as the flagship in the Panamera brand for its impressive power delivery. It can deliver 500 kW/680 horsepower of system power and 850 Nm of torque. It goes from zero to 100 km/m (62.13 mph) in 3.4 seconds, and can hit a top speed of 310 km/h (192.62 mph). The power comes from a 100 kW electric motor combined with a four-liter V8 engine that can bring the hybrid system 550 in horsepower.

Renault Zoe e-Sport:  The Zoe e-Sport Concept displayed at the Geneva car show brings together the automaker’s commitment to electric vehicles with winning two titles in FIA Formula E races. The e-Sport Concept will be built on the Zoe all-electric car’s platform and will have some of the same aerodynamic design and styling of the Renault e.dams team’s Formula E single-seaters. It will also utilize lightweight carbon fiber, as does Renault e.dams’ racer. The Renault e-Sport is powered by two motors that deliver a total of 340 kW of power. It will come with two batteries for energy storage with a total capacity of 40 kWh.

Toyota i-TRIL:  Toyota’s urban mobility concept vehicle, the new electric i-TRIL concept, debuted globally at the Geneva Motor Show. It’s been designed to be smaller than other specialized cars ideal for roaming through crowded city streets and parking garages. The market will be SMESTO (Small to Medium Sized TOwns) in which Toyota references European Union studies. The automaker thinks that these types of cities in Europe and other markets will be ideal.