Keeping hybrid and electric vehicle sales figures in perspective

plug-in salesWe’ve seen sales numbers decline on hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) in the past few months. When you look at the broad spectrum of market reports and analysis of that data, it’s a good reminder to keep things in perspective. That being said, here’s the latest…………

  • Automakers do believe that sales of hybrids and EVs will go up eventually; even though recent sales figures have declined, their production schedules are still staying on track – and that includes expecting demand for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. BMW now plans to sell a plug-in hybrid version of every major model in its vehicle lineup. Daimler will be investing 100 million euros to increase production of batteries for its EVs; Tesla is clearly optimistic with its grand vision of building the $5 billion “gigafactory.” Toyota is preparing to sell its first fuel-cell vehicle in Japan, which it recently named the Mirai. One of the reasons for the trend is that automakers do believe gasoline prices will eventually climb up. “We think the trend is clear,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “Over time, we believe gas prices around the world will continue moving higher.”
  • Hybrid sales were down nearly14% from last year in November, but EV sales were up slightly over last year and last month. Hybrids did see a 0.7% increase over October 2014. Hybrids are down nearly 5,000 units year-to-date from last year as of the end of November. Plug-in electric vehicles have a different story, according to Electric Drive Transportation Association: “With 9,785 plug in vehicles (3,609 plug-in hybrids and 6,176 battery EVs) sold last month, the total number of plug-ins that have been sold in 2014 rose to 107,487. This year-to-date cumulative number represents a 24 percent increase over the 86,912 plug-in vehicles that had been sold thru the same period last year,” the association reported.
  • Retail vehicle sales guru Art Spinella and his CNW Research firm just reported its consumer survey study indicating upper-middle class Americans are not crazy about buying EVs. “High Yield” new-car customers, upper-middle income Americans in their middle to late forties pre-disposed to buying a vehicle regularly, are not interested in buying an EV. That would be the case if the EV had identical prices as comparably-sized gasoline or diesel cars. That demographic group doesn’t represent the lion’s share of new vehicle sales in the US, but the study does point to a telling trend: you can’t depend on upper income early adopters to make a new technology successful. As suggested last week in Green Auto Market, long-term success in green vehicle sales will need to come from cost-sensitive fleets and consumers. They’ll be bringing in the larger sales numbers long term as these vehicles become more mainstream and accepted – and affordable. Marketing messages need to deliver more than concern over climate change or “keeping up with the Joneses” on cool new technologies.
  • The Nissan Leaf saw 2,687 units sold last month; what was its 22nd straight month of sales increases year-over-year. Overall, battery electric vehicles are continuing to see stronger sales than the plug-in hybrids in the US. There are likely a few influential factors behind it:  car shoppers are impressed and confident in the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and BMW i3; their lease programs are attractive and make the deals more affordable; there are more charging stations installed in major metros across the US, relieving range anxiety; and battery range is increasing with each new model year.
  • Keep your eyes on the big picture. When you look at studies that are being released, such as the new EV City Casebook, you’ll see signs that perspectives are changing on EV ownership in global markets (including the US) that should increase EV adoption. Fleets are definitely influencing this trend, with a good example coming from California-based consulting firm Vision Fleet and its fleet partners. In late October, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was enthusiastic to announce the city’s “Freedom Fleet,” which will bring in 425 plug-in sedans. That project with Vision Fleet is expected to save the city 2.2 million gallons of gasoline over the next decade. The greenhouse gas reduction will be impressive, too.

This Week’s Top 10: Henrik Fisker has suprises in store at LA Auto Show, Toyota and Daimler sell off Tesla Motors stock shares

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Henrik FiskerFisker surprise announcements scheduled for LA Auto Show: Fisker Automotive’s co-founder and former CEO has come back on the scene for the first time after quitting, and later attempting to acquire, his extended-range sporty luxury car company last year. Henrik Fisker says he’ll be unveling two new cars on November 20, a media day at next month’s LA Auto Show. Back-to-back press conferences are scheduled with no details yet revealed, except for the fact that they’re being sponsored by the mega-Ford dealer Galpin. The first session will be taking place with Galpin Auto Sports, the dealer chain’s custom-car division and the other session will be hosted by Galpin Motors. One of them is predicted to be more of a muscle car than an environmentally sound, fuel-efficient model. Fisker has been known to be quite a designer, overseeing the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage sports cars, plus a few others. One of his other businesses has been Fisker Coachbuild, which made restyled versions of the BMW and Mercedes-Benz luxury cars.
  2. Toyota and Daimler have sold off some, or all, their stock shares in Tesla Motors. Daimler made big gains of selling off its remaining 4% shares and bringing in $780 million from its original $50 million stake. Toyota didn’t reveal the timimg or amount of its latest sale. Its initial investment of $50 million gave it 2.5% share in the company in May 2010. While the Toyota RAV4 battery and motor deal is ending later this year between Toyota and Tesla, their relations appear to be solid. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company would sign a new deal with Toyota in the next two-to-three years. Daimler and Toyota were likely taking advantage of the extremely high value of Tesla shares – closing yesterday at $221.67.
  3. Sierra Club releases tool for EV shoppers. The Sierra Club is now offering car shoppers its “pick-a-plug-in” website tool to find the right electric vehicle (EV) for them. Pick-a-plug-in asks the user a few questions about driving habits and vehicle needs, and then generates a list of EVs that fit the bill. There’s no recommended car featured, but leading models are given based on how many miles a day the person drives, whether the person takes frequent long trips, whether there is a place to plug in the car, and how much money the person is prepared to spend.
  4. ChargePoint says you can pay for your charge on PayPal. While over half the 19,000 chargers in the ChargePoint network are free, the company is now moving forward in the payment process. ChargePoint employees at its San Jose, Calif., campus, can go to 34 charging ports and pay for ChargePoint with PayPal. This must be entertaining for Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, a former PayPay co-founder.
  5. Asplundh, a tree expert company, is bringing in propane-powered medium-duty trucks. Asplundh provides tree management services to utilities and municipalities, and will start off its propane autogas vehicles with two Ford F-650 trucks powered by Roush CleanTech’s propane augogas fuel systems. “We were searching for a cost-effective alternative fuel that provides an adequate refueling infrastructure and also meets our environmental initiatives,” said John Talbot, director of fleet services for Asplundh Tree Expert Co. “Propane autogas was our answer.”
  6. GM adds to its sustainability credentials with more solar. Along with its landfill-free facilities, General Motors is adding to its solar power. A new 2.2 megawatt, ground-mounted solar array will be set up by the end of this year at its assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Once the last of the more than 8,500 solar panels are in place, it will be GM’s largest solar installation in the western hemisphere, the automaker said.
  7. Navigant Research expects EV growth, though not an easy one. Navigant Research expects the global light-duty electric vehicle (EV) growth to be sizable – from 2.7 million sold in 2014 to 6.4 million in 2023. These numbers include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. That growth rate will take a lot of hard work, according to the study, with much competition coming from automakers producing more fuel effient internal combustion engine vehicles. Stop-start technologies, lightweight materials, engine downsizing, and growing interest in clean diesel, is putting the pressure on OEMs to reach the level they’re stiving for in electrified vehicle sales.
  8. Smart parking tools available through ParkMe and Microsoft. For those of you affected by “urban mobility” (carsharing, ridesharing, e-bikes, parking, etc.), there was an interesting announcement made by ParkMe, which is probably the largest provider of real-time parking data to car owners through the mobile devices. ParkMe will provide parking data to Microsoft Corp. to be integrated into its Bing search engine. Users will be better able to access smart parking tools to find nearby parking, check real-time availability, and pre-pay for the cheapest and most convenient parking at their destinations.
  9. Telsa and US Bank offering cheaper lease payments. Tesla CEO Elon Musk just wrote in the company’s blog how the agreement with the major bank can lower monthly lease payments by as much as 25% on a new Model S. Another perk: the Tesla happiness guarantee. If you don’t like the car for any reason in the first three months, you can return it and the lease obligation is waived. “The only catch is that you can’t then immediately lease another Model S,” Musk wrote.
  10. Brazil loves biofuels but holding back on EVs. The Brazilian government just released a green-car incentives programs that excludes battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Import duties are cut on new hybrid cars, though that does not include tax breaks or other perks. Electric vehicles are excluded entirely because the country’s electricity grid doesn’t have the capacity to handle an influx of EVs and all the charging they need. Recent droughts have lowered water levels in the dams that power hydro-electric electricit plants. Brazil has had to look for other methods of electricity generation.

Four reasons I was wrong about California and electric vehicles

EV charging in CaliforniaNot long ago, I wrote about a sticking point I’ve had for a long time – it’s not all about California electric vehicle sales for bringing zero emission vehicles to US roads. Well, I may have been wrong about some of it……. California does lead the way in collaborative projects between government, industry, and non-profits organizations. Here are a few clear examples………….

  • The governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and the Japanese government organization New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) agreed last week to conduct a feasibility study for an electric vehicle (EV) demonstration project to develop new fast charging EV stations in California. During the roughly half-year feasibility study, NEDO in coordination with GO-Biz will develop a detailed plan for the possible demonstration project. It comes from a memorandum signed by the two governments in September on climate change, renewable energy, vehicles, and other issues.

  • The County of Los Angeles has deployed 82 EVlink charging stations at 34 locations, including hospitals, sheriff stations, and the LA Civic Center. Users will get free charging up to four hours during the first year of the pilot program. Schneider Electric makes the EVlink stations and it makes a lot of sense to work with that county. “LA County is leading the way in providing their communities with EV charging solutions,” said Mike Calise, Senior Director of Electric Vehicle Solutions, for Schneider Electric. “We hope other counties will take this lead and pursue similar projects, since the sum of multiple county involvements will create a tipping point for the state.”

  • Major utility NRG’s eVgo company has installed what it says is the largest corporate deployment of EV charging stations in Southern California – 60 Level 2 workplace charging stations at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s historic facility in Culver City. Sony began offering incentives to employees in 2008 to buy EVs, and so far 300 employees have done so. The Ready for Electric Vehicle (REV) program provides Sony and other workplaces with turnkey EV charging solutions, providing charger maintenance and driver support.

  • An impressive meeting took place Thursday at the South Coast Air Quality Management District office in Diamond Bar. Officials from eight states say their country is on track to have 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025 – with about 1.5 million of them in California. Beyond a vivid display of a wide range of Evs in its parking lot, officials from members of the multi-state EV task force praised California and talked about what’s been accomplished in their states. A commissioner with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said that Evs are playing a vital role in his state’s goal of dropping green house gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

While I would still love to see other states embrace EVs, California is leading the way. That’s also true for natural gas vehicles, hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (which fall under the zero-emission vehicle category). I think there are three other reasons why California is leading the pack: plentiful funding programs through California Energy Commision and other state sources; university think tanks such as the UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center with its excellent study on dealerships and EVs; and California Air Resources Board is up there with the US Environmental Protection Agency for certification standards governing OEMs in alternative fuel vehicles including natural gas and propane autogas.

Toyota moving out of California and the jobs will follow

factoryCalifornia is the best place in the US to sell hybrids, plug-ins, and other alt-fuel vehicles, but not necessarily the best place to base your vehicle manufacturing operations. Toyota will be moving from the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance to the Dallas suburb of Plano. The Japanese automaker will also expand its technical center in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Toyota’s facility in Kentucky will also move over to Texas. About 4,000 employees will be impacted by the move, yet it’s too early to say how many of them will be moving to Texas.

The formal announcement sounds grand – “to better serve customers and position Toyota for sustainable, long-term growth,” was the official company announcement. Unofficially, according to reports that began leaking out prior to the corporate announcement, it’s more about slashing expenses and moving away from California’s strict regulatory environment.

While Tesla Motors will continue building luxury electric cars in Fremont, Calif., and its newly acquired idle-parts distribution center is located in rural California, its advanced battery project will be out of state. Tesla’s upcoming lithium battery plant, Gigafactory, will be opening up in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, or Nevada. It’s anticipated to require about $5 billion in investments with partners and would generate about 6,500 manufacturing jobs.

While cheaper land and hourly wages, and looser regulations, are probably playing their part, Tesla has another strategy: getting into markets where strict dealer franchise laws have blocked Tesla’s retail store growth strategy. Texas is very important for that reason, though one analyst thinks Nevada will be the winner. Nevada has a railroad line that connects directly to Tesla’s Fremont plant. Nevada is also rich in lithium pools, a big part of what goes into Tesla’s battery cells.

Fisker Automotive will likely be finding an office elsewhere. As new parent company Wanxiang America, a unit of China’s largest auto parts supplier, has taken over, there’s word of Fisker leaving its headquarters office in Costa Mesa, Calif., and moving out of state. (See Big Picture for more details.

California is not going away as an essential place to be for the auto industry. Engineering and design firms are based primarily in Southern California, and they play a key role in producing the next wave of new vehicles. In fact, Toyota’s design and racing units are expected to stay in Orange County. Some of the largest dealerships in the country are based in the state; and several alternative fuel providers (especially natural gas) have set up shop in California – with one of the principal reasons being state programs providing incentives. Fleets are very good customers, especially municipal fleets with dedication to clean transportation.

The auto industry will continue to be an integral part of the US economy and job creation – especially given that most other manufacturing sectors have shut down or moved overseas. California will continue to be a vital part of the industry’s future, but the limitations are always a factor. The weather’s great and there’s always something fun to do (surfing, Disneyland, Hollywood Blvd., riding BART into the city, etc.), but corporations are always looking into slashing costs and moving somewhere else.

Big Picture: GM has high hopes for a redesigned Chevy Volt; Smith Electric Vehicles shuts down production

Chevy Volt plant productionGeneral Motors would like to pick up steam on sales of its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. To get there, GM will be selling two versions of the redesigned 2016 Volt. One will be a lower-priced version with a smaller battery pack and shorter driving range. That will be carried overseas through GM’s Opel division in Europe. The next versions of the Volt will go into production in about 16 months at the automaker’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant. That plant will get a $384 million investment that will be aimed toward the Volt and a new flagship Cadillac sedan and a redesigned Buick LaCrosse.

GM would like to reduce product cost and make the Volt more profitable, and expects to achieve necessary cost reductions in the 2016 model. The automaker would also like to see stronger sales results without investing so much on incentives. The Chevrolet brand reported selling just 58,158 units since the Volt was launched nearly 40 months ago.

And in other clean transportation news……

  • More bad news on the EV startup front: Smith Electric Vehicles, based on Kansas City, Mo., has temporarily stopped plant operations. The company is best known for its Smith electric delivery truck, and says that it’s not shutting down operations for good. CEO Bryan Hansel says manufacturing the vehicles has yet to become profitable; he says suppliers and investors have been informed that it’s a temporary shut down and is part of the company’s plan to scale up production and sell enough of them to turn a profit.
  • Tesla Motors is setting up a new finance arm to entice companies to lease the Model S as one of their fleet vehicles. Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to calculate the leasing cost on Tesla’s website will offer them an attractive value proposition. The new Tesla Finance unit offers leases through partner banks with a guaranteed resale value. Tesla is also getting ready to start selling cars in China this month. Tesla CEO Elon Musk will be delivering a few of the first ones to customers. He’ll also be meeting with representatives from China Petroleum & Chemical (also known as Sinopec) this month about constructing charging units in the refiner’s nationwide network of service stations. The charging network is expected to start in Beijing and then roll out to surrounding areas.
  • CleanFUEL USA has rolled out the propane autogas industry’s first complete fuel network management system for electronic dispensers. Using CleanFUEL eCONNECT, fleet managers can economically monitor and control fuel inventories faster and easier than ever before with real-time data insight, flexible report storage, and remote access capabilities.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency may continue to be sympathetic to the biofuels industry; EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently spoke to the issue at North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington DC. McCarthy expects the EPA’s final rule to be different than the proposed version released in late 2013. After reviewing more than 200,000 on the Renewable Fuel Standard proposal, EPA is looking more closely at the realities of the fuel market, with one of them being the realities of the fuel blend wall. The agency expense more legal challenges for any RFS standards. “We need to be able to justify it in court, McCarthy said.
  • Tesla Motors has taken a swing at “lemon law king” attorney Vince Megna’s lawsuit against the electric vehicle maker. While insisting that it doesn’t believe in automotive “lemon laws,” the company says there are several good reasons to be skeptical about the lawsuit and denied some of the claims. Megna made a big splash on the internet with a Youtube video on behalf of client Dr. Robert Montgomery of Franklin, Wis.; Montgomery stated in the filing that he had a number of problems (such as a malfunctioning door handles) with his Tesla Model S that led to it being pulled of the road for 66 days. He wants Tesla to buy it back under a law that take affect after the vehicle is pulled off the road at least 30 days during its first year of life.

Breaking through range anxiety and other EV stumbling blocks

For those of you championing the benefits of plug-in electric vehicles, here’s a few points you may want to mention…..

  • Nissan is sharing real-world experience from Leaf owners on its website. Those interested can submit questions that will be answered by Leaf owners who drive the electric cars every day.  Range anxiety continues to be the leading concern; owners say that the Leaf’s EPA rating of 84 miles on a charge is more than adequate for suburban or urban commuting. Two Leaf owners did run out of energy while driving – one of them was stranded by a closed charging station and the other admitted not having learned how to read the car’s range meter.
  • US electric vehicle owners saved themselves $100 million last year by not having to buy gasoline. The Union of Concerned Scientists said that 160,000 Americans saved that much by not having to go to gas stations and buy 45 million gallons of gasoline last year. Carbon reduction is another point to make; for example, California EV drivers were able to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 140,000 tons last year.
  • A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates one of every eight deaths around the world can be traced back to exposure to air pollution.  WHO estimates that in 2012 about seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure. Government agencies around the world are expecting EVs (along with other zero emission vehicles such as plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) to play a significant role in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • As I’ve discovered talking to stakeholders in alternative fuel vehicles, being able to effectively answer questions from consumers, fleets, company executives, and regulatory agencies, is essential for growth in adoption of EVs and other fuels and technologies. Education and public awareness programs are very much needed. Some of the issues that typically come up during conversations include:
  1. Where the electricity comes from – coal versus cleaner energy.
  2. Lifecycle ownership costs, price comparisons to similar gasoline-engine cars, maintenance, and resale values.
  3.  Safety issues for EV owners and first responders in the event of a crash.
  4. Where the EV battery technology is going – becoming lighter, longer range, and less expensive.
  5. Charging infrastructure – how many charging stations are being installed, how available and reliable are the chargers, and the cost of charging.
  6. What will it take for fast chargers to become more widely available.

Big Picture: Hydrogen FCEVs facing rite of passage; Dates announced on two alt-fuel vehicle conferences

Toyota FCVTo paraphrase the Kevin Costner movie, “Field of Dreams” – If you build it, they will come.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles continue to struggle with “chicken or the egg” quandary. There’s only a slim hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the US, and the questions of how much fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will be priced for and how serious car shoppers will take the products and pricing are far from being answered. Plug-in electric vehicle loyalists like Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk tend to scoff at FCEVs. Yet, other automakers seem to be taking these vehicles seriously.

Hyundai is preparing to launch a fuel cell crossover in the US next year. Hyundai’s president of research and development Kwon Moon-sik thinks cost factors are pointing the company in the direction of FCEVs instead of batteries. Several of his auto industry colleagues share that perspective. Kwon says that advanced lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles remain expensive, and he sees few opportunities for cost reductions coming soon. He thinks hydrogen fuel cells offer more hope for volume savings. The zero emissions part of FCEVs also offers appeal to automakers. Executives at Toyota, Honda, Daimler, General Motors, Ford, and Nissan are mapping out FCEV launches between 2015 and 2020; some of them share Kwon’s perspectives about the cost of FCEVs falling. It’s all part of the partnership alliance formed earlier this year on fuel cell systems between GM and Honda; and another, similar alliance between Nissan, Daimler, and Ford.

The process does require patience. Hyundai already started production of a hydrogen-powered version of its Tucson crossover; the company plans to produce only 1,000 units for sale globally by 2015. Toyota just offered a sneak peak at its FCV concept hydrogen-powered vehicle that it plans to roll out in 2015 (see photo above); the company is hoping to use it to popularize FCEVs as the Prius did for hybrids. “We think it could be the best zero emissions solution that hits the market,” said Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota’s US sale division.

Honda has helped car show attendees gain enthusiasm for FCEVs after driving its limited production FCX Clarity. Another FCEV will be joining the Honda lineup; the automaker just put out a sketch that hints at what will be shown at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show. Honda says the new FCEV Concept expresses a “potential styling direction” for a next-generation FCEV due in 2015. Honda appears to be preparing for competition from Toyota’s FCEV being launched that same year.

As for the limited number of hydrogen refueling stations, California plans to open 68 more of them by 2015. There are only nine open in the state now; 19 are in development and another 12 private or demonstration stations are operational. The governor recently signed a bill offering funding for 100 hydrogen fueling stations in the state. California is also thinking about changing its tax credit system so that it would stop favoring plug-in electric vehicles over FCEVs. The US Dept. of Energy continues to make amends with the hydrogen and fuel cell communities through its H2USA program launched in May. It’s a public-private partnership with Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Toyota to promote development of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure. The Obama administration just announced a $4 million grant for research into hydrogen fuel storage systems. Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger might have aided the skeptics with his campaign nearly 10 years ago for the “hydrogen highway” to come soon; but steps are being taken forward these days.

Northern California AltCar Expo and ACT Expo release dates
Two significant alt-fuel vehicle conferences have been scheduled. AltCar Expo is seeing its partnership with Bay Area Air Quality Management District come together. The Northern California AltCar Conference & Expo will take place on Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, 2014, at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, Calif. Check out the event’s website to stay current on the schedule.

The Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo is looking forward to seeing its record attendance numbers go up yet again. Next year’s conference has been scheduled May 5-8, 2014, back at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif. It will be co-located with the 14th biennial NGV Global Conference and Exposition. “Merging North America’s largest clean fleet expo with the world’s leading natural gas vehicle conference will result in the largest gathering of clean transportation stakeholders that North America has ever seen,” Erik Neandross, CEO of event manager Gladstein, Neandross and Associates, said in the press release.

Clean Cities offers AFLEET tools and mobile app for stations
Argonne National Laboratory has developed the Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) Tool for Clean Cities stakeholders to estimate petroleum use, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutant emissions, and cost of ownership of light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles using simple spreadsheet inputs. The US Dept. of Energy’s Clean Cities Program enlisted the expertise of Argonne to develop a tool to examine both the environmental and economic costs and benefits of alternative fuel and advanced vehicles. You can download the AFLEET tool in Excel and user guide in PDF free of charge at this website.

The tool provides three calculation methods depending on the user’s goals. The Simple Payback Calculator examines acquisition and annual operating costs to calculate a simple payback for purchasing a new alternative fuel vehicle as compared to a similar conventional vehicle, as well as average annual petroleum use, greenhouse gases (GHGs), and air pollutant emissions. The Total Cost of Ownership Calculator evaluates the net present value of operating and fixed costs over the years of planned ownership of a new vehicle, as well as lifetime petroleum use, GHGs, and air pollutant emissions. The Fleet Energy and Emissions Footprint Calculator estimates the annual petroleum use, GHGs, and air pollutant emissions of existing and new vehicles; it takes into consideration that older vehicles typically have higher air pollutant emission rates than newer ones.

For those seeking information on more than 15,000 charging and alternative fuel stations within the US, Clean Cities and National Renewable Energy Laboratory now have a mobile app for iPhone or iPad users. You can quickly find out where EV public charging stations, and fueling pumps for B20 biodiesel, compress and liquefied natural gas, E85 ethanol, hydrogen, and propane, can be found.

But wait, there’s more!……..

  • Brett Hauser, a founding member of the Open Charge Alliance (OCA), a global consortium of public and private electric vehicle infrastructure leaders, and president of Greenlots, had a few things to say about the solutions offered by open standards for electric vehicle charging stations instead of proprietary networks. Here’s a little bit of what he wrote in Greentechmedia….. Charging networks based on open communications standards are an excellent alternative to proprietary networks and have been future-proofing Europe’s EV networks for close to four years now. The open model provides site hosts the freedom to switch network management providers without having to purchase new charging stations. It also stimulates technical innovation by allowing free market competition to push down the costs of both charging station hardware and back-end software, while dramatically derisking the hardware purchase for site hosts.
  • Pricing is coming out on Cadillac’s extended-range ELR$75,995 as a starting price and there’s a marketing deal with the famous department store. For $89,500, you can buy the 2014 Saks Fifth Avenue ELR. You get a White Diamond exterior finish, a Jet Black or Light Cashmere interior shade, a 240-volt charger thrown in the deal, and a relationship with an “ELR Concierge Representative.” These are only available to 100 people, and General Motors only expects to sell a limited number of ELRs anyways.
  • Nissan/Renault chief Carlos Ghosn is backing off big numbers for electric vehicle sales targets. The global automaker was going to sell 1.5 million EVs by 2016. So far, it’s only been about 120,000 units, primarily Nissan Leafs. At the current speed, it’s going to take about five years longer than initially anticipated, he said.
  • Energy Vision is now offering a new publication, “Turning Waste into Vehicle Fuel.” Funded in part by Clean Cities, it’s a first-of-its-kind roadmap for cities, communities, farms, and other generators of organic waste to develop renewable natural gas.
  • Kia is planning on producing an electric version of its Soul crossover subcompact to arrive next year in the US. It will be Kia’s first EV sold outside South Korea and is expected to travel 120 miles on a single charge.

How AltCar Expo has become a workable event model

AltCar Expo logoChristine Dzilvelis, one of the partners who organizes AltCar Expo in Santa Monica, Calif., has a different perspective on what constitutes a successful community event than what I wrote about recently. For example, on Friday afternoon, September 20, during AltCar Expo, a speaker panel on electric vehicle charging stations at multi-family housing units led to action being taken by stakeholders. The intensive three hour discussion led to a planned installation in Santa Monica; key players like Schneider Electric began working out the details.

Dzilvelis said the feedback the organizers are getting is appreciation from local residents and from stakeholders such as automakers on hosting a grass roots, hands-on annual event. People are overwhelmed by all of the new technologies, and AltCar Expo makes it easier for fleets, industry, and the public to experience the vehicles and have their questions answered. “AltCar Expo is not a business to make money,” she said.

What seems to be working best is strong local/regional events. Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo and Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS) have been receiving kudos, but other national events like Green Fleet Conference & Expo and Plug-in 2013 are only getting small-to-medium attendance that are very supplier-intensive. ACT Expo is getting better feedback, but there’s still a lot of concern that it’s dominated by CNG vehicles. AltCar Expo, now in its eighth year, gets positive feedback for playing a role in pushing alternative fuel vehicles forward by bringing together leaders in government, fleets, automakers, and infrastructure, along with local residents who are very interested and supportive of having this event each year. This year, they especially loved seeing and driving the Chevrolet Spark EV, Dzilvelis said.

Dzilvelis is part of two other events with similar goals for public education and bringing stakeholders together. The first annual Northern California AltCar conference will be taking place March 14-15, 2014 at the Craneway Pavilion (a former Ford plant) in Richmond, Calif.; it’s sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. On March 28-29, 2014, the fifth annual Texas AltCar conference will be held at the Irving Convention Center in Irving, Texas, and is being sponsored by Dallas Fort Worth Clean Cities. (Next year’s AltCar Expo will be taking place Sept. 19-20, 2014.) AltCar Expo organizers are being contacted regularly by stakeholders in cities across the country that want to get their own AltCar conference going. It does seem to be the most realistic event model for bringing the technology and experience to a lot more people.

Tesla-Mania: Eric Cartman cusses out Tesla Model S; Millennials can bring electric scooters to America

Cartman at gunpoint in Model SWhile it has taken awhile for the creative team at “South Park” to slap around the Model S, the plug-in car did get a few moments on screen. Tesla Motors joins the ranks of Scientology and the Toyota Prius in getting lampooned. In an episode inspired by a variation of the George Zimmerman court verdict (called “World War Zimmerman”), extremely angry young man Eric Cartman stops a Model S and its driver at gunpoint. He yells at her: “We’ve got about ten minutes before this entire country is up in flames! If you wanna live, you’d better step on the gas! Oh wait, is this a Tesla? Sh*t! Well press on the prissy pedal! We’re gonna die!”  
In more serious Tesla news….. Tesla was the top seller of zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) credits in California from Oct. 1 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013 (and Toyota led hybrid credit trades). Tesla transferred 1,311.52 ZEV credits during that time, according to a California Air Resources Board filing. The number two company was Suzuki and was far behind Tesla; Suzuki discontinued US auto sales in 2012 but was able to transfer credits accumulated in the past. Companies that acquired ZEV credits to meet their requirements included Chrysler, GM, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Subaru, and Volkswagen (though it’s not reported if they acquired their credits through Tesla or another automakers). California requires automakers to sell electric or other non-polluting vehicles in proportion to their market share in the state.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk spent $989,000 at a London auction on a Lotus Esprit used in The Spy Who Loved Me by the James Bond character. Bond drove the car off a pier in the movie as it transformed into a submarine by merely pressing a button. Musk had fun with it, telling the USA Today he loved watching it as a kid in South Africa. He was disappointed to find out you can’t press the button and make it happen, but plans to upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain so that it can transform for real.

Millennials can bring electric scooters to America
Check out this video interview Terry Duncan, chief of consumer engagement at Mahindra GenZe, a US startup that has backing from India’s Mahindra. GenZe is rolling out an electric scooter in early 2014 targeted toward Millennials in the US. The product and audience was chosen based on two premises – urbanization is happening in the world’s major cities and transportation is being heavily impacted; Millennials in their late teens to early 30s are the right market to start with, since they’re not buying cars as much as previous generations, are moving to cities, and want functional, practical transportation alternatives. In another video, you’ll hear him discuss the design decisions made on the bike; while these types of vehicles have huge sales numbers in countries like China, they need to be extremely pragmatic and, let’s say, cool, to make it in the US.

Top News of the Week:

  1. A group of Chinese investors based on Hong Kong and led by Richard Li are investing in Fisker Automotive for an unreported amount. This should finish the US Dept. of Energy’s loan to Fisker – most all of the $192 million loan needs to be paid back and the investor deal will probably only meet some of it, which the US government has been ready to accept. A small chunk of the payback will come through former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz. VL Automotive, a small Detroit company that has Lutz’ backing, will be converting 25 unsold Karmas from plug-in hybrid power to Corvette power. VL had to settle a dispute with an Asian investor that had prevented them from accessing codes operating the car’s infotainment system. Lutz says these converted Karmas will come out in 2014 for something close to $200,000.
  2. Clean­Fuel USA has installed 85 retail propane auto­gas fuel­ing sta­tions across 13 states. This was funded by a $12 mil­lion grant from the US Depart­ment of Energy’s Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act. Texas State Tech­ni­cal Col­lege – TSTC – served as the lead grantee. The major­ity of the 85 sta­tions are located near heav­ily traf­ficked road­ways, exist­ing fuel­ing sta­tions, major air­ports and home improve­ment stores, Clean­Fuel said.
  3. Don’t believe in climate change? What about lung cancer? The International Agency for Research on Cancer, based in Lyon, France, has released a study that formally declares air pollution is causing lung cancer. The research arm of the World Health Organization focused on diesel cars and trucks in operation around the world as a major source of the problem.
  4. ChargePoint is offering a lease-to-purchase program for businesses and cities to install its charging system. The systems usually cost between $6,000 to $12,000 to buy and can cost about $3 to $6 a day over five-to-seven years to pay off under the finance program.
  5. GM will be offering a bi-fuel version of the Chevrolet Impala that will be able to travel up to 500 miles on gasoline and natural gas.
  6. General Electric Co. is converting heavy-duty trucking fleets from diesel to natural gas. GE has partnered with Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and truck fleet operators can apply for loans and leases through GE Capital to make the conversions.
  7. Plug-ins missed the Green Car of the Year award nominee list. The winner will be announced next month at the LA Auto Show form the following list: Audi A6 TDI, BMW 328d, Honda Accord (though the plug-in hybrid was included with the hybrid and ICE versions of the Accord), Mazda3, and Toyota Corolla.
  8. Experts speaking at the annual ITS World Congress in Tokyo expressed concerns over issues that do tend to come up with self-driving cars – technical challenges, lack of industry standards, vague and minimal regulations, implementation costs, and liability issues. Toyota is being a little more optimistic, expecting that elderly drivers could likely make up a strong market segment for self-driving cars.
  9. A study by UK-based Kantar Media says that the BMW i3 saw huge media gains in the third quarter after its debut last month at the Frankfurt auto show. It was No. 2 in online news coverage from No. 60 during the second quarter. It came in 8th place in both Tweets and blog mentions during the third quarter versus being in low 100s rankings for both segments in the previous quarter.

Schneider Electric’s Mike Calise on what EVs and charging need to succeed

Calise_Mike_Schneider ElectricFor Mike Calise, director of electric vehicles at Schneider Electric, mainstream adoption of plug-in electric vehicles boils down to widespread deployment of the charging infrastructure everywhere – homes, workplaces, retail stores, carsharing, car rental, and public sites. When asked about California’s recently enacted Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Open Access Act, Calise says he and his company support the open system for charging station access and payment. Calise says there are two larger issues to address than roaming – electric vehicle battery capacity and the number of charging stations out there.

The company would also like to see European Union countries adopt a consistent charge and plug standard, as it varies by which country you’re charging in now. Schneider Electric, a global company specializing in energy management, has been very involved in charging station installations across the US and Europe. Prominent recent installations have included Caesars Entertainment Corp. at its northern Nevada Casino properties, Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter, and the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton, Calif.

Hacienda Business Park serves Oracle, Kaiser, and Schneider Electric and offers an interesting example of a new business model using an electric vehicle car-sharing service. This collaboration between Schneider Electric, Toyota, City Carshare, and other business park tenants, allows employees at this location to commute to work by train and bike and have a rental car available for errands, lunch, and other short trips, through City CarShare, with the EVlink charging infrastructure from Schneider Electric.

Fleets that are bringing in plug-in electric vehicles and on-site charging stations are discovering a few key benefits of making the investment – one of them being strengthening employee retention, says Calise. “Drivers understand the benefits of EVs, including the dollar-cost benefits – and it gets replicated (among their peers),” he said.

Workplace charging is definitely an amenity – an employee perk – and has been part of several companies strengthening their images in the community, he said. “Installing a $10,000 charger, and having HOV lanes in certain states, has employees bragging about it and the company they work for,” he said.

EVlink is a complete electric vehicle charging solution that delivers flexible, safe, reliable, and compatible charging of electric vehicles. Schneider Electric’s EVlink charging stations are used in public and private locations such as residential, retail stores, restaurants, resorts/hotels, hospitals, office buildings, universities, apartment complexes, and destination centers.

In late September, Schneider Electric announced its “Charge the World Change the World” initiative, a philanthropic program to give EV drivers an opportunity to have a meaningful impact on global sustainability when purchasing an EV charger. For every EVlink home charging station sold in North America, Schneider Electric will donate a solar powered, battery operated LED lamp to a family without access to electricity. Here’s a video to share with others – for every 100 views of the video, Schneider Electric will donate another light to a family.