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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VW and Toyota highlights at LA Auto Show, Nissan tapping into energy grid

One of the stars of AutoMobility LA at the LA Auto Show has been the I.D. Buzz Cargo concept, which ties into Volkswagen’s traditional Transporter cargo van and the look of its retro-passenger microbus. It’s the largest vehicle to be built on the German automaker’s Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) platform, and it will be getting an expanded version of the microbus with a large rear cargo area in lieu of seats. It will also get a battery pack capable of going 340 miles on a charge. On the other side of the urban mobility scale, the company unveiled the Cargo e-Bike, a three-wheeled, battery-assisted electric bike that it says can deliver cargo up to 463 pounds. It’s expected to enter production in 2019.

Another LA Auto Show highlight: While the Toyota Corolla has been on the market for 53 years, the 2020 Corolla will be the first-ever to come in a hybrid edition. It’s expected to achieve more than 50 miles per gallon and will be loaded with Toyota’s standard suite of safety equipment, Toyota Safety Sense. The Japanese automaker also announced that the Prius will be getting the all-wheel-drive equipped AWD-e, that will provide additional traction through various conditions like inclement weather, snow or rain, and an estimated 52 mpg in the city. Toyota also had other product announcements during the show.

Nissan is tapping into the ecosystem and energy grid through two new programs, one out of Japan and one announced at its U.S. headquarters. The Yokohama global HQ announced Nissan Energy, where owners of Nissan electric vehicles will be able to easily connect the EV to energy systems to charge their batteries, power their homes and businesses, and feed energy back into the power grid. It will also develop new ways to reuse electric car batteries. The company is working with partners such as electric and telecom companies, conducting field tests of vehicle-to-grid and virtual power plant systems to tap into the clean energy benefits. In Franklin, Tenn., the U.S. division announced a program built around Nissan EV owners saving on electric utility costs by tapping into energy already stored in their Nissan Leaf. Working with Fermata Energy, a vehicle-to-grid systems company, Nissan North America is launching a new pilot program under the Nissan Energy Share initiative. It taps into bi‑directional EV charging technology to partially power its North American headquarters in Franklin, and its design center in San Diego, Calif. Bi-direction charging technology not only charges the Nissan Leaf, it also stories energy in the car’s battery pack to partially power external electrical loads, such as buildings and homes.

Electric scooter company Bird is offering independent operators a way to get into the mobility business. Bird is selling the scooters to local business people and getting 20% of each ride. They also get access to Bird’s chargers and mechanics, but they do have the option of charging the scooters themselves. A number of cities do regulate the number of scooters they’ll permit to run on their streets. Called the Bird Platform, the company will begin rolling out the franchisee program in December in markets where city regulators have been more relaxed about it. Municipal governments have mixed feelings about whether they should allow Bird and and its competitor, Lime, to have free rein in their cities, or if they should be limited in number of scooters allowed on their streets; as has been the case in San Francisco. Bird and Lime believe in the “micro-mobility solution,” where electric scooters will be a solution to increasing traffic congestion and an alternative to ride-sharing options like Uber and Lyft. They usually enter markets first by showing up and gaining ridership before working things out with the city; and that sometimes happens after the city initiatives regulations and forces the issue.

Ryder System has ordered 1,000 medium-duty electric panel vans from Chanje, which will be operated by FedEx Express pick-up and delivery services. FedEx is purchasing 100 vehicles and leasing the other 900; the fleet vehicles are expected to operate throughout California over the next two years. The Chanje electric van is equipped to haul up to 6,000 pounds, up to 675 cubic feet of cargo, and travel 150-miles of range on a single charge.

Vincentric announced the 2018 U.S. Hybrid Analysis results with 42 of the 79 hybrids evaluated (53%) having a lower total cost of ownership compared to their closest all-gasoline powered counterpart. It was a significant growth rate over the 2017 study, where about 40% of the hybrids analyzed were cost-effective. The Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium had the highest savings, where buyers could save close to $6,400 over five years of ownership compared to the similarly equipped all-gasoline powered version. “The number of cost-effective hybrids has increased significantly from last year’s analysis,” said Vincentric President, David Wurster. “Our research shows that the lower hybrid costs for fuel and maintenance now gives buyers a larger variety of cost-effective, eco-friendly vehicles to choose from.”

Waymo ready to launch first commercial AV service, Get ready for AutoMobility LA

The age of robotaxis is ready to launch:  Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division is preparing to launch the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle service in early December, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will be run under its own brand and compete directly with mobility companies like Uber and Lyft. It won’t be a splashy opening, but the start of a trial run in suburbs around Phoenix. That’s where Waymo’s Early Rider Program has been tested with a group of 400 volunteer families who’ve been taking autonomous rides with the company for more than a year. This news coincided with a comments made by Waymo’s chief John Krafcik speaking at Wall Street Journal’s TechD D.Live conference on Tuesday. Krafcik said the service will start with a small group of riders in the Phoenix area but will be expanding in the coming months. Passengers can pay for rides and corporate customers such as Walmart Inc. are planning on having their customers shuttled to the chain’s stores in these vehicles. Earlier this year, Waymo announced plans to buy thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover to expand its self-self-driving vehicle fleet.

VW ramping up to mass produce EVs:  Volkswagen said it will convert three German factories to build electric vehicles — to meet expected demand and complete its commitment to zero emission vehicles made after the diesel-emissions scandal broke three years ago. The VW plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, and its factory in Hannover would also start producing EVs the same year. Together with the company’s current Zwickau plant, it will make for Europe’s largest network for the production of EVs in Europe, the company said. This week, the German automaker also announced it will be spending 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on EVs, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. That will make for a plan 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) more compared to last year’s planning round by VW.

Tesla buying trucking companies, facing more investor suits:  Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has acquired a few trucking firms to meet its delivery targets. The real challenge for Tesla this year has been building and delivering enough Model 3 compact electric cars to come close to meeting its earlier commitments to do so. It will shave off at least a month of time that it takes by using rail to get its electric cars to the East Coast. “We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter,” Musk wrote without revealing details on the acquired companies.

Along with getting through hellish production schedules, the company has had to face a mounting crisis over Musk’s infamous August tweet on taking Tesla private. It will be likely be leading to two or three separate groups of securities fraud lawsuits, according to lawyers for shareholders. It would run the gamut of shareholders and their claimed losses, from traditional longtime institutional investors to others shorting the stock or holding options. The case presents “so many different types of investors and investments, long and short,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said at a hearing Thursday in San Francisco. “That may have some effect on how I measure who has the greatest financial interest.”

Get ready for AutoMobility LA and LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA will be taking place Nov. 26-29, 2018, in Los Angeles, featuring speakers and workshops on the latest in autonomy, connectivity, electrification, the sharing economy, and more. It’s the prelude to the 2018 LA Auto Show, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. More than 60 debut vehicles are scheduled for this year’s AutoMobility LA, with nearly half making their world premiere. Jeep will be rolling out a pickup, and Kia is expected to have multiple vehicles make their world debut, including one of the brand’s best-selling cars. Audi has confirmed that the e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe will make its global premiere at AutoMobility LA.

Keynote speakers during AutoMobility LA include Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Volkswagen’s Electrify America, talking about “Racing to Create an Open, Fast-Charging Network Ready for a Tidal Wave of EVs.” Ted Klaus, VP and executive engineer of Honda R&D Americas, will discuss “Safe Swarm: Preparing Highways for the Autonomous Future.” Ned Curic, VP of Amazon Alexa Automotive, will speak on “Now We’re Taking: Amazon Alexa.”

Other speakers include: Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar, Audi’s app-based car rental service; Megan Stooke, CMO of General Motor’s Maven car-sharing service; and Jenny Ha, senior exterior designer at Lucid Motors.

Tesla Model 3 helping EVs go mainstream, Subscription services come to ride hailing

EVs going mainstream: Along with plug-in electric vehicles making it to the one million mark for U.S. auto sales in October, it was historic and interesting to see the Tesla Model 3 continue to make the Top 10 in America’s light-duty car segment — in October coming in at #6 behind the Hyundai Elantra and before the Nissan Sentra. In an interview this week with Recode, CEO Elon Musk said that 5,000 cars produced a week at its Fremont, Calif. plant has become the norm, and that’s being raised to 6,000 to 7,000 units a week. To hit about 6,500 a week “it would have to stress people out and do tons of overtime,” he said.

How long for AVs to go mainstream:  It was a milestone to see California grant Waymo the right to test self-driving vehicles without human safety drivers. Waymo has been putting in the hours and reporting the data — more than 10 million miles of real-world public-road testing, and seven billion miles of simulation testing. But it’s still in the testing phase in U.S. states allowing for it, and a few other countries overseas. We’re probably looking at a decade from now before they’re commonly seen on roadways. Perhaps trucking will see it first, with the lack of available commercial-grade drivers and accidents caused by those not getting enough sleep. Cargo carriers may have to come up with their own insurance for their fleets, as insurance companies are making it difficult to find the right coverage.

Subscription services comes to ride-hailing:  Uber is following Lyft — and several automakers — by now offering customers a subscription service, called Ride Pass. Users are guaranteed set prices for a monthly fee. That comes out to $24.99 in Los Angeles, and $14.99 in Austin, Orlando, Denver, and Miami. Subscribers pay fares based on historical data and won’t change based on demand or other circumstance, such as the costly “surge pricing” during peak hours. Lyft launched its All-Access Plan last month. The service costs $299 per month and gives users 30 rides worth up to $15 each. If a ride costs more than $15, the user pays the difference. Automakers have been offering their subscription services in recent years — with BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, tapping into the car financing model where customers who might have been reluctant to come over to the brand are trying it out; with the hope they’ll be loyal brand buyers and tap into their dealer networks for service and maintenance, shared ride services, etc.

Tesla settling with SEC over fraud lawsuit, EDTA reports two thirds spike in plug-in sales

Tesla settling SEC fraud suit:  Tesla Inc. may see the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s securities fraud lawsuit settled through a joint filing Wednesday to the federal judge overseeing the case. The settlement means that CEO Elon Musk will be stepping down as chairman for three years, and that two new independent directors will be appointed to the board. Musk will be paying $20 million, and Tesla will pay another $20 million, in fines distributed to harmed investors. Musk’s insulting tweet last week on Thursday, mentioning that the SEC is changing its name to “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.”

While outgoing Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. CEO James Murdoch has been said to likely be appointed the next chairman, Musk tweeted that “This is incorrect.” That comment was directed at a Financial Times report that the son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch would be taking one of Musk’s titles. Murdoch joined Tesla’s board last year after years of work with media companies.

EDTA reports spike in plug-in sales:  The number of plug-in vehicles sold from January through September 2018 is a 64% increase over the same period last year in the U.S., according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s sales dashboard. EDTA reported that there has been 229,874 total plug-in vehicles sales in 2018, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at 144,505 and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) at 85,369 through the end of September. Sales between the two segments were close during the first half of this year, with BEVs taking a leap in the third quarter. During September, BEVs made up 34,046 of the U.S. total and PHEVs made up 10,543 units. EDTA also reported a new look for the dashboard and updates to its research methods.

BYD wins major electric bus deal:  BYD will be helping Vancouver’s largest private bus operator, WESTCOAST Sightseeing, to become a 100% clean-energy fleet by 2023. That deal will consist of 90 electric buses of various types, with the Chinese maker being named the exclusive supplier to WESTCOAST. BYD’s North America manufacturing unit, based in Lancaster, Calif., has taken orders for over 600 electric buses. The company has invested more than $250 million and has delivered 270 of the electric buses so far. BYD is also building electric commercial trucks to serve fleets outside the bus sector.

 

GM ready to roll out profitable EVs by 2021, Will Elon Musk’s superstardom be enough for Tesla to overcome hurdles?

Newsworthy:  America’s largest automaker is poised to solve the quandary automakers face on making profits building and selling electric vehicles. General Motors CEO Mary Barra yesterday told investors at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York that the company in 2021 will be launching a new, flexible platform for electric vehicle launches that will bring down costs and increase profits. The new EV platform will accommodate multiple sizes and segments, to be sold by different GM brands in the U.S. and China, she said. A new battery system will bring down costs 30% cheaper than the battery pack used in the Chevy Bolt, Barra said. The automaker will be building at least one million EVs a year by 2026, with most going into China to comply with new energy vehicle regulations. Last month, GM said it planned to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023, but did not provide details………… Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced yesterday that Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport awarded Clean Energy a renewable natural gas (RNG) fueling contract for the airport’s vehicle fleet with its Redeem brand of RNG. The airport sees using the clean fuel as a way to potentially reduce its fleet emissions by about 70%…………… Daimler will be entering the electric bus market by end of 2018 with the beginning of series production of the all-electric Mercedes-Benz Citaro E-CELL. It will use modular lithium ion battery packs that can be tailored to each customer. The company thinks that by 2030, 70% of all newly-registered urban buses will have emissions-free drive systems.

State of the Company:  It’s been a year of mega-celebrity status for Tesla CEO Elon Musk – being recognized more than Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson combined. He’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone this month, as head of both SpaceX and Tesla, reaching rock star status. People Magazine was interested enough in his breakup with actress Amber Heard, who finalized her divorce from actor Johnny Depp in January. “I was really in love, and it hurt bad,” Musk said.

Musk continues to tease fans over the Thursday night unveiling of the electric semi-truck. The latest tweets have said it will “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension.”

Reality has kept him out of the alternate dimension, with Tesla just announcing its largest quarterly loss ever and a three-month Model 3 manufacturing delay.

There’s also been an employee lawsuit over the working environment at its Fremont, Calif., production plant. An African-American employee is seeking a class-action lawsuit against the company, where he calls the production floor a “hotbed for racist behavior,” where the suit claims black workers regularly face harassment.

The Tesla chief continues to take on extra projects like the Boring Company digging up an underground train tunnel in Los Angeles, developing the Model Y electric crossover, Autopilot software, and the Buffalo, N.Y.-based solar panel factory – all the while directing SpaceX flights to Mars and working to establish Tesla’s role China.

The company plans to leap five-fold in production by the end of next year — from about 100,000 electric vehicles expected to be produced this year to 500,000 next year. That will be led by the new Tesla Model 3. The upcoming Model Y crossover is expected to also play a key role in the company hitting its second grand target — producing 1 million new vehicles per year starting in 2020.

To get there, Tesla has to make it through a rite of passage on a few pivotal challenges:

  • Achieving profitability for the first time
  • Scaling up production 10 times within three years
  • Opening up more vehicle manufacturing and battery production plants
  • Worker relations as union organizers put on the pressure
  • Establishing a presence in China and Europe

Musk’s superstar status may not be impressive enough to maintain strong relations with major investment bankers. Tesla’s stock price has taken a major hit this year, and investors wonder if the company will need to make another junk-bond offering. Model 3 production and delivery will need to be steady to meet the expectations of most investors, who count on the Model 3, and later on with the Model Y.

 

For Today: Panasonic says Tesla Model 3 production bottleneck being worked out, Europe seeing strong plug-in vehicle sales

Working out production bottleneck for Model 3:  Tesla’s battery partner said that production problems are being worked out at the Gigafactory in Nevada, which will get the Tesla Model 3 up to speed in the near future. Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga said yesterday that delays to the automation of the battery pack production line meant some of it had to be completed manually. It will soon be automated, meaning the number of vehicles to be produced will rise sharply, he said. Tsugu declined to comment on how his company sees the production schedule will be carried out compared to the original projection. Automotive demand from Tesla and other auto industry customers helped the Japanese electronics company’s operating profit rise 6% during the July-September period. Panasonic supplies battery cells for Gigafactory production of Tesla’s battery packs. Earlier this month, Tesla had said that manufacturing bottlenecks had caused the slowdown for the Model 3 – down to 260 produced versus the original goal of 1,500 during the past quarter.

Mazda will offer rotary engine plug-in hybrid:  Mazda will be bringing out a plug-in hybrid powered by battery and a rotary engine in 2019. During the Tokyo Motor Show, the company confirmed that it will be launching an all-electric and extended range electric vehicle that year. Australian online publication Motoring reported that Mazda will be announcing a series of plug-in hybrids based on existing models around 2020. After that, then a battery electric vehicle will come out. It will be co-developed with Toyota and Denso in 2021 as part of its recently launched EV joint venture.

Plug-in sales doing well in Europe:  September was the second best month ever for plug-in electrified vehicle sales in Europe. At about 33,700 all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold, growth was up 32% year-over-year by the end of September. December 2015 had been its top selling month, with just over 33,800 units sold. Sales are expected to be strong in the fourth quarter, with historic data showing sales always improving over the last three months of the year in the region. Plug-in vehicles increased to 2.2% of overall new vehicle sales in Europe during September. Tesla saw its best month ever in Europe with the Model S coming in at #1 with an estimated 2,527 units sold. The next four on the list for top five selling PEVs in Europe during September were the Renault Zoe at 2,306 units sold, the Tesla Model X at 2,137, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at 2,080, and the Volkswagen e-Golf at 2,041 units sold.

For Today: The state of EV charging, Stella wins World Solar Challenge

The state of charging in the U.S.:  The U.S. public charging infrastructure continues to grow, helping first-time electric vehicle buyers make that big decision to convert over to the new technology.  The U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center reports 16,457 EV charging stations are in place, with 44,999 chargers in operation; 2,183 of them are fast chargers, including Tesla’s Superchargers. Available charging stations are in place at retail stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants; and more are showing up at workplace parking lots and city government sites such as libraries. Recent first-time EV buyers are finding what EV owners have experienced in recent years. They charge their EVs at home overnight, and top off for shorter periods while at home our out running errands. Most of the U.S. charging infrastructure is located on the coasts, and fast charging stations differ based on the electric car being driven. EVgo is one of the infrastructure suppliers working at bringing more fast chargers to public charging sites. Most of them have 50-to-60 kW charging capacity for now, and up to 150 kW; with testing being done on chargers that can go up to 350 kW. That ultra-fast charger will be able to give long-range EV about 250 miles of range in about 15 minutes of charging. Most of the changes currently being made at charging stations come from upgrades at these stations, but moving up to high-capacity fast chargers will take more space, construction, and investments in the future. “For the new stations that we’re designing where possible, we’re reserving the power capacity required to serve those higher levels and laying out the stations so that all it will take is a booster in the back of the stations so that you can get up to the higher level,” said Terry O’Day, vice president of product strategy and market development at EVgo.

Electric transportation leaders speaking on Oct. 1:  Beyond the Beltway, an Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) Leader Series event, will be taking place in two days at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm EDT. Market and policy influencers will gather to detail market trends and policy initiatives outside Washington that are driving the future of electric transportation. The event will feature expert insights, opportunities for Q&A, networking with industry and policy leaders, and refreshments. Speakers include Karen Lefkowitz, VP Utility of the Future, Pepco Holdings, Inc.; Sue Gander, Director of Energy, Environment & Transportation Division, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and Genevieve Cullen, President, EDTA. The first panel, Scaling Solutions: Regional Electrification Strategies, will include Jeanette Shaw, Director of Government Relations, Forth, Elaine O’Grady, Senior Policy Advisor, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Bill Elrick, Executive Director, California Fuel Cell Partnership, Roland Hwang, Director of Energy & Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and moderator Lisa Jerram, Senior Policy Advisor, Navigant Research. The second panel, The New Movers in Electric Mobility: Public/Private Collaboration, will include Colleen Quinn, SVP Global Public Policy, ChargePoint, Terry O’Day, VP Product Strategy & Market Development, EVgo, Matthew Nelson, Director of Government Affairs, Electrify America, Ashley Horvat, VP Public & Private Partnerships, Greenlots, and moderator Nick Nigro, Founder, Atlas Public Policy.

Stella wins World Solar Challenge:  Solar Team Eindhoven and its Stella Vie electric vehicle earlier this month won the 30th World Solar Challenge in Australia, with 42 competitors racing to take the lead. The race covered 3,022 kilometers (1,880-mile) race from Darwin to Adelaide. Stella was able to gain double the efficiency points of the second-place team. The solar-powered electric car uses a unique Solar Navigator platform from Ericsson’s Connected Urban Transport. Stella was started and created years ago by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven (Netherlands) University of Technology, and has been widely recognized and is gaining support. In 2015, Stella won the TechCrunch award for biggest technology achievements during the 8th annual “Crunchies Awards” against an impressive list of contenders.