SEC investigates legality of Tesla’s moves to go private, Electrify America ads say EVs taking personal mobility out of Stone Age

SEC and Tesla:  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s provocative tweet Tuesday about taking the electric-car company private, according to two people familiar with the matter who’ve asked to not be named. SEC enforcement attorneys in the San Francisco office had already been gathering information on the company’s manufacturing goals and sales targets, with Musk’s tweet being added and investigated for its credibility. Tesla’s potential to go private comes during a turbulent period of hard-to-reach production targets for the Model 3. The company’s stock prices have jumped and fallen this week — up after his statement that he’s secured funding for taking the company private, and down 4.8% today to $352.45 as doubt grows over Musk’s company blog post on his goal to buy out shareholders at $420. The SEC said the inquiry is preliminary and won’t necessarily lead to anything more formal such as charges of wrongdoing.

The SEC has shown concerns over another matter regarding Tesla going private. On Wednesday, the SEC sent the company a subpoena regarding Musk’s Monday blog post that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund first approached him last year about taking Tesla private last year. Tesla could become one of around 200 investments made by Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s campaign to reduce its oil dependence and diversify its economy. Musk wrote that the country’s Public Investment Fund recently bought an almost 5% stake in Tesla, and were part of his recent tweet that his proposal to go private had “funding secured,” he said. The SEC is now facing new legislation signed this week by President Trump that expands the government’s authority to investigate and potentially block foreign takeovers of domestic companies. The federal government still has authority to examine foreign investments in U.S. companies even when its not a majority stake acquisition. If the Saudi Arabia sovereign fund comes through, it would be the second significant foreign investor in the electric carmaker. China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. owns almost 5 percent of the company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ford and AVs:  Ford Motor Co. has outlined the values and practices of its autonomous vehicle (AV) strategy in a new report, “A Matter of Trust.” The 44-page report covers Ford’s goals, philosophy, priorities and technical approach to AV development; and its provides details about its work with Argo, an artificial intelligence company that Ford invested in last year. The two companies have been researching communication between AVs and pedestrians through a partnership with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Ford and Argo and also conducting pilot programs with Postmates and Domino’s Pizza studying customer interaction with driverless vehicles. Ford is the third company after Waymo and General Motors to release such a report.

BYD in Thailand:  BYD has delivered 101 battery electric e6 hatchback cars to Bangkok, with another 1,000 more to come. The agreement with Thailand to export an additional fleet of cars moves BYD to the number one position in the country‟s market for all-electric vehicles. Bangkok‟s new e6 fleet will be utilized as VIP taxis and as part of a car sharing service. With just two hours of charging time, BYD cars are able to travel up to 400 kilometers (248.5 miles).

Bosch eCity Truck:  Bosch solution makes electrical powertrains for delivery vehicles cheaper and more efficient. The market potential is huge in its local market — three-fourths of Germany’s commercial vehicles are vans. With its eCityTruck powertrain solutions, the German auto supplier offers “economical solutions for the electrification of light commercial vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tons. These solutions are easy to integrate and facilitate the rapid implementation of vehicle manufacturers’ electrification strategies.”

Electric scooter market:  There’s a new mobility competitive battle to gain share with consumers who’d rather pay for a ride than own a car. Bird and Lime are two startups that offer electric scooter rentals in dozens of markets in the U.S. and Europe. These scooter services have Uber and Lyft beat on pricing. For example, in Los Angeles, Uber has a minimum fare of $5.60, while Bird offers just $1 plus $0.015 per minute in LA and other markets. Uber does have a partnership with Bird’s competitor Lime. The report is the first issues of The Rideshare Guy’s Mobility Report.

Ultra-low NGVs:  Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and Food Express, Inc. (FXI) announced the addition of 11 new ultra-low emission natural gas trucks to the FXI fleet. The company, with the assistance of SoCalGas, applied for and received $1.1 million in grant funding for the new trucks which started making deliveries this week. The company has an additional 35 trucks on order. Funding was received from the Prop 1B program administered by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP).

Electrify America ad campaign:  Electrify America, Volkswagen’s company investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and promoting the adoption of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), has launched its first-ever national advertising campaign leading into the fall television season. The integrated campaign kicks off with national TV broadcast, radio, and a website, www.Plugintothepresent.com. The advertising campaign, “JetStones,” used the theme song from two popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon, “The Jetsons,” and “The Flinstones,” in its TV and radio spots. The idea here is to bring personal transportation out of the Stone Age and into the future. The advertising spot features electric vehicles from six different car manufacturers to showcase a wide variety of EVs available in today’s marketplace.

 

States battling Trump’s fuel economy cut, CAR Management Briefing Seminar highlights

The Trump administration’s proposal to cap federal fuel economy rules at 35 mpg, instead of the original level around 50 mpg by 2025, has set off opposition from state governors and other leading stakeholders. California and 18 other states promised yesterday to fight Trump’s proposal to weaken fuel efficiency and emissions standards — and California will use every legal tool to fight back. Gov. Jerry Brown pledged to, “fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”

“This is a huge setback for the industry, especially suppliers that create two thirds of all U.S. auto-related jobs. Automotive suppliers are making billion-dollars bets in high-efficiency vehicle technology. Today’s announcement is likely to provoke a long battle in the courts and create a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Meanwhile, suppliers in other countries will be racing ahead to help the rest of the world meet their obligations under the global climate accord,” said John Boesel, CEO of CALSTART.

Plug In America will be joining a lawsuit to defend the electric vehicle from the “devastating effects this proposal will have — not just on the EV market, but on clean air, national security, public health and the global climate.”

 

Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars, held July 30-Aug. 2 at Traverse City, Mich.

Trade delegates from Canada and Mexico made the case for their countries not being enemies of the state. Stalled out North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, newly imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the Trump administration’s investigation into whether auto imports are a threat to U.S. security, have backed Canada and Mexico into a corner and derailed the NAFTA alliance.

Nissan is in a collaboration with NASA to develop what is billed as the “world’s safest traffic control system,” to get autonomous vehicles through busy intersections where humans and vehicles confusingly mix, or through pop-up construction zones where how to proceed may be unclear. Nissan has been emphasizing the human element. Informing Nissan’s traffic-control system is NASA’s Mars Control center and the U.S. Federal Aviation Admin. air-traffic control system.

Auto supplier Continental has been using the CAR seminars to showcase its latest biometrics technology, which lets drivers unlock and start their car with their face, fingerprint or voice commands — just like the newest cellphone. Continental’s tech is meant to provide an extra layer of safety for drivers and passengers. For example, someone would need to scan their fingerprint on a particular button or speak a password through a voice recognition system to start the car, even when they have a working key.

Toyota showed off the latest version of its hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered Class 8 commercial test truck. It’s an improved version of Toyota’s first Project Portal vehicle which began operation in April 2017 and has logged 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of real-world testing.

 

Oregon protects itself against a lawsuit attempting to block clean vehicle incentives: 

The Oregon supreme court ruled against a lawsuit filed by AAA Oregon/Idaho and the Oregon Trucking Association that challenged the state’s proposed funding mechanism for the electric vehicle (EV) rebate program. The state supreme court’s rulig againt the lawsuit allows the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program to move forward. The program offers two rebates — a rebate of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of any new electric or plug-in hybrid car with a base MSRP of $50,000 or less. The second rebate provides up to $2,500 to lower-income drivers and can be combined to provide $5,000 towards a new vehicle, or applied to a used electric car.

 

Tesla and BMW sidestepping tariff war with China, Formula E will see more powerful electric racers

Tesla and BMW making deals in China:  Tesla and BMW are preparing to avert some of the steep tariff increases coming out of the trade war between the U.S. and China. Tesla is closing a deal on its second vehicle manufarutinrg plant, in Beijing, in which the U.S. electric carmaker will own 100% of the plant. BMW, which has been in Chinese joint ventures for years, will become the first foreign automaker to own a majority share of a Chinese automobile venture. The trade war continues to escalate, with China on Wednesday vowing to add another $200 billion in U.S. tariffs in retaliation to President Trump’s moves. Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the deal on Tuesday for the Shanghai plant, which the company said will double its vehicle manufacturing capacity. The plant could cost $1 billion to built, and construction will start early next year. Tesla could be the first of many companies setting up shop in one of China’s free-trade zone that sidesteps its typical requirement for joint-ventures with Chinese companies. Beyond expanding the BMW Brilliance Automotive partnership, BMW inked a deal with Great Wall Motor to produce Mini electric vehicles through a new 50:50 joint venture, Spotlight Automotive Limited, which will be dedicated to developing and producing EVs in China.

Looking at the Big Picture:  Green Auto Market’s take on developments impacting the auto industry, global economy, and clean transportation.

Formula E will see more powerful electric racers:  The FIA Formula E racing series will be seeing stronger batteries in its next season ready to power sleek, open-cockpit race cars. These new vehicles, bearing a resemblance to the Batmobile, will be able to hold up to 250 kilowatts of power (about 335 horsepower) and reach speeds of 174 miles per hour. Owners of the electric racers will no longer have to swap cars during the race. The current season is ending in Brooklyn this weekend. The new technology will bring the electric racers up to where they’ve needed to go since Formula E’s inception. “That’s a big, big step,” said Nico Rosberg, a retired Formula 1 driver who’s now an investor in Formula E. “Battery performance is finally at a necessary level.”

Trucking seeing costs spike:  The cargo hauling trucking industry will see increased costs due to a shortage of drivers, new regulations, and strong demand. Inflation is expected to come from America’s vital cargo hauling sector, which is integral to economic growth. Truckmakers are testing out autonomous commercial trucks and platooning, but truck operators won’t be seeing those come to market anytime soon. New government regulations have been targeted at making roads safer while limiting hours on the road for truckers. Rising diesel prices are impacting truck operator profits, but costs are rising overall. The cost of a full truckload has soared this year, according to Cass Information Systems’ measure of per-mile rates. These costs, excluding fuel, leaped 9% in May from a year earlier.

Tesla losing tax credits:  Soon after hitting its 5,000 Model 3s produced per week target, Tesla will see its federal $7,500 tax credits come to an end after passing the 200,000 electric vehicles sold mark. It will be at $7,500 for the rest of this quarter and the following quarter (through the end of 2018), and then will drop to $3,750 for six months. From there, the federal tax credit is cut in half to $1,875 for another six months and then will disappear. The expected tax cut may be one of the reasons that Tesla upped deliveries to Canadian customers in June.

Details coming out on VW settlement funds, Implications of trade war on the auto industry

VW settlement funds:  Volkswagen Group’s $30.4 billion “Dieselgate” U.S. settlement is taking shape, including nearly $3 billion going out to states through the Environmental Mitigation Trust. California leads the list, so far securing $422.6 million going toward zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, buses, and charging stations. Texas was second, at $209.3 million, Florida third at $166.3 million, New York fourth at $127.7 million, and Pennsylvania in fifth place at $118.6 million. The next five on the list were Washington state at $112.7 million, Illinois at $108.7 million, Virginia at $93.6 million, North Carolina at $92 million, and Maryland at $75.7 million. School buses are a priority for several states that have received funds. More than 10 states have finalized their plans, according to the Sierra Club. State officials are deciding how the money will be spent meeting guidelines under the settlement. The funding must go towards reducing nitrogen oxides (NoX), a major component of air pollution. Only 15% can go toward the electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The settlement funds are being divvied up based on how many Volkswagen diesel cars with emission-cheating software were registered within each state.

Looking at the Big Picture:  Green Auto Market’s take on developments impacting the auto industry, global economy, and clean transportation.

Implications of trade war on auto industry:  President Trump has placed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, including auto parts. China, in retaliation, hiked tariffs on U.S. light-duty vehicles imports to 40% from 15%. The trade war has been building for months now, with automakers working hard to ship more vehicles to the U.S. to pre-empt the higher tariffs being slapped on. The ports of Baltimore, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Brunswick, Ga. — the three leading U.S. ports for importing automobiles — in May shipped out a combined 23,000 more cars than they did a year earlier. The port of Long Beach, Calif., saw imports rise 3.4% in May and exports drop 24%. Auto executives and analysts have been reminding the Trump administration that vehicles built in the U.S. are packed with foreign import parts. The cost will be extreme — tariffs that will be placed in imported parts could cost $35 billion along with a whopping $48 billion on tariffs for imported cars assembled outside the U.S., according to the American Automotive Policy Council, a lobbying group that represents the three Detroit automakers. The trade war between the U.S. and China will also have implications for electric vehicle sales, with Tesla particularly vulnerable through building its EVs in the U.S. and exporting to China.

Big oil vs. utilities:  Oil companies and utilities are wondering which of the two economic sectors will dominate the booming electric vehicle charging infrastructure around the world. BP and Shell have charging company acquisitions in the works, with Europe being a key market for EV infrastructure growth. Utilities are preparing to meet the surging demand for electric power for high-volume EV sales in the next decade and beyond. BP will be investing about $170 million to acquire EV charging company, Chargemaster. The major oil company plans to add charging stations to its network of retail fueling stations. Sweden’s Vattenfall and Finland’s Fortum Oyj utilities are currently installing chargers at homes and at workplaces; and the U.S. is seeing utilities playing a major role in building the charging infrastructure.

BYD working with Changan:  BYD has forged a strategic cooperation agreement with Changan Automobile to jointly manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. A new joint venture company has been set up in the city Chongqing in central China. Both companies plan for the total battery production capacity of 10 GWh to be staggered over two phases, with the first stage estimated to amount to 5-6GWh and the second stage 4-5GWh. “This strategic agreement marks a significant milestone in the way BYD conducts its supply and marketing. Today’s announcement has implications for the company’s battery business and the long term development of the entire organization,” said BYD President and Chairman Wang Chuanfu.

Pruitt leaving administration:  Controversial EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is stepping down, President Trump announced yesterday afternoon. The former Oklahoma attorney general, who had led multiple state lawsuits against the EPA, has been at the center of several ethics charges in recent months, describing them as “unrelenting attacks” in his resignation yesterday. Pruitt had plans to roll back the corporate average fuel economy standards and had heavily cut back on several agency measures that had been enacted by the Obama administration and other previous presidents.

 

Koch brothers campaigning against public transit, Automakers sign Transportation Electrification Accord

Americans for Prosperity beating transit:  Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch stunned observers by backing a voter campaign to thwart a $5.4 billion mass transit project from being funded in Nashville, Tenn. What had seemed like an easy shew-in was defeated this month through successful get-out-the vote activism from Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. That group is seeing success fighting against other public transit projects around the country. The Koch brothers want to see public transit go away and government funds go into restoring highways and roads. The Koch Industries conglomerate is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires, and other automotive parts. The Trump administration had promised to back highway infrastructure funding, but that has faded away. Americans for Prosperity is now filling some of that void. Supporters of transit project investments say that having light-rail and more buses reduces traffic congestion and air pollution in a city. They also see transit as a platform for bringing in more electric and alternative fuel-powered buses. The Koch brothers have an opposing agenda, and have also been opponents of electric and alternative fuel vehicle adoption.

Looking at the Big Picture:  Green Auto Market’s take on developments impacting the auto industry, global economy, and clean transportation.
Impressive list of supporters:  General Motors, Honda, BYD, Proterra, Zero Motorcycles, Siemens, Greenlots, and others have signed the Transportation Electrification Accord that outlines how vehicle electrification can be moved forward. Principles have been endorsed on building the needed energy infrastructure to guide local, state, and federal policymakers. Other organizations endorsing the accord include CALSTART, Ceres, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Electrification Coalition, NRDC, Plug In America, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, utility companies, and Clean Cities coalitions. Britta Gross, director, GM’s advanced vehicle commercialization policy, said that “the accord lays out the essential building blocks for a compelling energy infrastructure that we can all rely on for decades to come. Innovations in transportation electrification will benefit society as a whole — and cross-industry, multi-stakeholder cooperation is key.”
Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. have signed an agreement exploring a strategic alliance designed to strengthen each company’s competitiveness and better serve customers globally. The companies are exploring potential projects across a number of areas – including developing a range of commercial vehicles together to better serve the evolving needs of customers. Ownership of new ventures would not involve equity arrangements including cross ownership stakes. Commercial vehicles could be ideal for both companies to share goals in selling electric and alternative fuel vehicles through fleet purchase programs, though the issue of green vehicles wasn’t mentioned in the press release.
Events to consider attending:  CALSTART’s High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum (HTUF) is taking place Aug. 6, 2018, at the Novi Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich. It’s being held in conjunction with the Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering & Technology Symposium (GVSETS) which convenes Aug. 7-9 at the same location. The one-day HTUF event brings together industry and military stakeholders to identify barriers and opportunities for greater adoption of advanced technologies in these areas. It’s supported by the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), and focuses on vehicle efficiency, electrification, automation, and cybersecurity. The Battery Show will run alongside Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo and Critical Power Expo. It takes place Sept. 11-13 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich. The Battery Show connects you with more than 8,000 engineers and executives, and more than 600 leading suppliers, across the advanced battery supply chain. Ambri Inc. co-founder and professor of Materials Chemistry in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, Dr. Donald R. Sadoway and Chelsea Sexton, Electric Vehicle Advocate and Advisor, will keynote this year’s event. Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) and Oregon Governor Kate Brown today announced that the 33rd International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition (EVS33) will be held in June 2020 and hosted in the City of Portland. The announcement was made during the annual Roadmap Conference organized by Forth. Since 1969, EVS has been a global forum bringing together EV experts. Portland has long been a leader in transportation electrification, with some of the highest per capita electric vehicle sales and densest fast-charging infrastructure in the country, as well as the nation’s first brand-neutral electric vehicle showroom, the Go Forth Electric Showcase. Governor Kate Brown recently signed an Executive Order setting a goal of 50,000 registered electric vehicles in the state by the end of 2020.
UPS will be investing $130 million more into compressed natural gas vehicles, including 400 semi-tractors and 330 terminal trucks and five more fueling stations. Previous CNG investments by UPS included $100 million in 2016 and $90 million in 2017. The 400 semi-tractors come from Freightliner and Kenworth Truck Co., and the 330 terminal trucks by Terminal Investment Corp. UPS is well known for investing in a wide selection of alternative fuels and powertrains. “We strongly believe further investment in our natural gas fleet is a key element to help us achieve our long-term goals for reducing our CO2 emissions,” Carlton Rose, UPS president of global fleet maintenance and engineering. “We demonstrated the effectiveness of natural gas vehicles and fuel in 2017 by using 77 million total gallon equivalents in our ground fleet.”
While city planners are making the convincing argument that mobility services are adding to traffic congestion and air pollution for now, Uber is taking on an alternative approach. On Tuesday, the company announced a pilot program offering financial subsidies to drivers who use electric vehicles; build features into its app that are specific to EVs; and partner with nonprofits and UC Davis researchers to identify ways Uber and policymakers can encourage and reward adoption of EVs. Called the EV Champions Initiative, the one-year pilot program is taking place in seven cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Montreal. Incentives are specific to each market, with the company testing different benefits in different places. The incentives and benefits will vary by market.

Three states lead ZEV ranking, Looking at the big picture

Three states lead ZEV scorecard ranking:  The Electrification Coalition (EC) today released the ZEV Scorecard, a three-tier ranking system acknowledging plug-in electrified vehicle state-level actions to support adoption of the technology. California, Maryland, and Connecticut made Tier 1; followed by Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey at Tier 2; and Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Maine at Tier 3. The coalition used a weighted ranking system and appraised state-level policy actions for three categories: state-provided incentives to consumers; availability and support of public refueling infrastructure; and, outreach campaigns to educate the public. “While there are more than 700,000 EVs on U.S. roads today, electric vehicles are still only about one percent of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales. As state legislatures look to automakers to increase the availability and diversity of PEV models in all ZEV MOU states, the scorecard is meant to be used as a resource for the public and policymakers,” said Ben Prochazka, vice president of the EC. “It’s a tool that can be used to decide whether states should take new, or enhance current, actions that will accelerate consumer demand — in turn catalyzing both vehicle availability and more EVs on the road.”

The full report can be found here.

 

Looking at the Big Picture:  Green Auto Market’s take on developments impacting the auto industry, global economy, and clean transportation.

General Motors has appointed Dhivya Suryadevara as chief financial officer, the first time an auto manufacturer has seen both CEO and CFO jobs held by women; and GM is now the second of two current Fortune 500 companies to do so. Suryadevara, 39, will take over as CFO on September 1, replacing Chuck Stevens, who is retiring after 40 years with the company. She’s been serving as vice president, Corporate Finance, since July 2017 and played a leading role in the automaker’s divestiture of Opel, acquisition of Cruise, investment in Lyft, and SoftBank’s investment in GM Cruise. “Dhivya’s experience and leadership in several key roles throughout our financial operations positions her well to build on the strong business results we’ve delivered over the last several years,” said CEO Mary Barra.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a Berlin speech yesterday that the U.S. runs a trade surplus with Europe when services are included, in a move to rebuff to President Donald Trump’s sustained criticism of German manufacturing exports. Goods may be the old-fashioned way to calculate trade balance, but if you include services, the U.S. has a large surplus with Europe, she said. That follows the G7 summit, where Trump’s attacks had been particularly harsh against NAFTA partner Canada. Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration to aluminum and steel are already pushing up their costs for General Motors, according to CEO Mary Barra. The White House had imposed a 25% tariff on imported aluminum and steel. The Trump administration is also exploring the idea of imposing a 25% tariff on vehicles that are exported to the U.S. from the European Union as well as Mexico, Canada, and China. Barra is concerned that cost increases will impact affordability of the vehicles and consumer appeal. GM would need to be price competitive to maintain its role in global new vehicle sales.
German prosectors have fined Volkswagen a penalty of 1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) for cheating on diesel emissions worldwide. It’s one of the highest fines ever imposed on a company in Germany, the prosector said in an statement. It’s part of a tough campaign Germany is taking on its local companies to implement reforms and bring accountability to the VW scandal that broke in September 2015. Separately, the country’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (known as the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, or KBA) discovered five “illegal switch-off devices” on about 1 million Daimler vehicles sold in Europe since 2014. KBA believes Daimler had equipped the device in the majority of its “Euro 6” classified diesel engines manufactured after September 2014 when the pollution standard became effective.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bought $25 million worth of stock in Tesla, as the company announced it was slashing 9% of jobs due to “duplication of roles.” Musk increased his stake by about 72,000 shares, bringing the total to around 34 million shares and a 20% stake in the company. Musk would like to calm fears over Tesla’s future right after the electric carmaker on Tuesday said it would be cutting 9% of its workforce, mostly in salaried jobs. Since January, Tesla has added about 8,000 jobs and currently has about 46,000 employees. The new cut will remove about 4,100 jobs.
Ford Motor Co. is offering more electrified vehicles to fleets. It’s all-new Police Interceptor Utility, the industry’s first pursuit-rated hybrid SUV. Hybrid battery packs have been placed inside the vehicle to not compromise available space for passengers or cargo. The idea was to bring improved performance while reducing operating costs for police fleets. Ford is also rolling out the Transit Connect Taxi and Fusion Hybrid Taxi to help taxi operators reduce fuel costs. Ford says that the Transit Connect Taxi opens up space. It offers 60 cubic-feet cargo volume behind the second row, more than the Nissan NV200 Taxi.

Daimler launching medium and heavy electric vehicles, Three states investing more in EV purchases and infrastructure

Daimler electrifying trucks and buses:  Daimler Trucks is ready to play a leading role in the electric commercial vehicle space, with announcements yesterday of a line of electric trucks and buses. Pilot programs will launch later this year, and the company will go to full-scale production by 2021. During an event at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore., an electric version of its Freightliner Cascadia heavy-duty truck was revealed, along with an electric version of its M2 medium-duty truck. The eCascadia will go about 250 miles per charge, and the eM2 will go about 230, the company said. Daimler has previously shown off its Thomas Built battery electric Saf-T-Liner school bus and the electric Fuso eCanter delivery truck. “We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we want to remain in that position with regards to electric trucks,” said Martin Daum, global head of Daimler’s Trucks & Buses division.

Tesla shareholder vote:  Tesla chief Elon Musk survived the first serious attempt by major investors to cut back what he’s able to do while running the electric carmaker, but the controversies and bad news continue for the company. A few leading Tesla shareholder funds had been demanding that three board members — directors Antonio Gracias, James Murdoch and his brother, Kimbal Musk — be removed from office. They also wanted Musk’s authority to be softened by taking away one of his titles with him remaining either CEO or chairman. The opposition failed to reach vote during the annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday. Musk said the company is ready to bring its long-promised goal of producing at least 5,000 Model 3 electric cars per week into play by the end of this month. News was also revealed about plans to open up the next Gigafactory near Shanghai, China. The electric carmaker has been dealing since then with more bad news, including: 23% of Model 3 orders were refunded according to a new report that Tesla is disputing; a Tesla Model X that crashed in California while using the Autopilot semi-autonomous system sped up to 71 mpg right before slamming into a highway barrier, investigators said; and former occupational health officials say that Tesla should release more information on worker safety and injuries than the company has done so far.

China EVs:  The new energy vehicle market saw new developments yesterday. General Motors will be rolling out 10 more electrified vehicles in China from 2021 through 2023. That will join the 10 electrified vehicles GM and its Chinese joint ventures have already planned through 2020. Daimler and its partner in China, BYD, will each invest 400 million yuan ($62.5 million) to make improvements in their previously unprofitable electric vehicle joint venture, Shenzhen Denza New Energy Automotive. Denza launched sales of the Denza 300 electric compact sedan in 2014. Last year, the two companies had invested an additional 500 million yuan ($72.6 million) into the joint venture.

Three states renew EV investments:  During this past week, California, New York, and New Jersey have announced significant government incentives and funding programs for electric vehicle purchases, home charging, and the charging infrastructure. California will see $738 million made available over the next five years. The state’s goals are to expand the charging network for both personal cars, electric trucks, and other large vehicles. New York is offering $250 million for 200 fast chargers on highways and in cities, along with 400 public charging stations at parking lots, airports, and train stations. New Jersey’s public utility company is investing $300 million to build out the state’s charging network to 50,000 charging points in neighborhoods, office parks, and along major roads. The 16,000 EVs in New Jersey will potentially expand up to 275,000 in the next seven years, the New Jersey utility said.

Tesla gets good news from Consumer Reports, Waymo building 62K autonomous Pacifica minivans

Consumer Reports gives thumbs up to Model 3:  Tesla, Inc., has received some good news from Consumer Reports, which at first had appeared to be another ding during a difficult time for the company. The consumer publication reversed course and now recommends the Tesla Model 3 after the electric carmaker sent an over-the-air update this week that improved the car’s braking distance by nearly 20 feet. There are still other flaws with the electric car, but it scores high enough to recommend, said Jake Fisher, CR’s director of automotive testing. The strong rating comes after a wave of crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system where Teslas operated on Autopilot have crashed into emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder or stopped in traffic. The most recent took place in Laguna Beach, Calif., where a Model S that was allegedly driven on Autopilot crashed into a parked police vehicle. The Tesla drivers suffered minor injures and the police car had no one onboard at the time. Tesla is also struggling to increase production of the Model 3 and win back better ratings on Wall Street.

Dramatic growth expeced in EV sales:  The International Energy Agency expects to see huge growth in global electric vehicle sales — bringing the global fleet up to 13 million by the end of this decade from 3.1 million documented last year. Sales may grow 24% per year on average through 2030. The agency expects that government policies limiting air pollution and greenhouse gases will drives the change. Aggressive EV production launches by several automakers are also part of the forecast. “The dynamic policy developments that are characterizing the electric car market are expected to mobilize investments in battery production, facilitating cost reductions and ensuring that battery production takes place at scales that exceed significantly what has been seen so far,” said Pierpaolo Cazzola, senior energy and transport analyst at the IEA.

Speakers addressing e-mobility and the grid:  Electric Drive Transportation Association is hosting the next installment in its Leader Series, “Building the Modern Grid with E-Mobility” on June 13 from 1:00 to 4:00 ET at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker will provide the keynote presentation. Michael Pesin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Advanced Grid Research and Development Division in the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, will provide insights on federal initiatives on e-mobility and the grid. The afternoon program will feature key industry and policy leaders, interactive presentations and discussion.

GM Cruise gets whopping investment:  General Motors’ Cruise Automation has received $2.25 billion investment from SoftBank Vision Fund, a Japanese tech investor group, to go toward expanding its presence in autonomous vehicles. The deal will give SoftBank Vision a 19.6% stake in GM Cruise, which includes Cruise and Strobe Inc., a Lidar company that GM acquired last year. The SoftBank investment will involve two phases: a $900 million initial funding followed by a $1.35 billion round.

Waymo and FCA forge AV deal:  Waymo just made a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for an additional 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans to be deployed as robotaxis. The deal also sets the platform for the two companies to start discussions on eventually selling autonomous vehicles to buyers as personally owned vehicles. The new partnership expands the relationship between Waymo and FCA, which began in May 2016 with the purchase of 100 Pacifica Hybrids for use in Waymo’s test fleet. It indicates Waymo may be converting vehicles over to self-driving units for sale to other companies. One of them could be ride-hailing giant Uber. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said during a talk yesterday that his company is in discussions with Waymo to provide vehicles for Uber’s fleet.

Tesla registers in Shanghai to set up factory, Subaru working with Toyota on plug-in hybrid Crosstrek

Tesla setting up factory in China:  Tesla Inc. is preparing to set up shop in China and overcome the joint venture stumbling block that had been in the way. The electric carmaker has invested 100 million yuan ($15.8 million) and registered to establish a wholly owned company in Shanghai, a Chinese government agency has posted on its website. The national government has been working on ways that companies like Tesla can go outside its traditional model of establishing JVs with Chinese automakers to assemble cars in their country. Tesla’s registration includes technological development and services on EVs, auto parts, batteries, energy storage facilities and solar panel products. In this month’s earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said that the company will announce setting up a Gigafactory for batteries in China as early as the third quarter of this year; he’d previously said Tesla will probably be building the Model 3 and Model Y crossover in China.

EQ bringing strong branding to EV market:  Mercedes’ EQ subbrand is a valuable opportunity to showcase the automaker’s technical know-how and competence, according to Britta Seeger, Mercedes-Benz global sales and marketing boss. The company will showcase EQ to consumers to prepare for the EQC crossover going on sale in 2019. The Daimler division plans to sell 10 long-range EQ vehicles by the end of 2022; and thinks that the subbrand will represent 15% to 25% percent of its global sales by 2025. “This is our answer in electrified mobility,” Seeger said. “And we truly believe in strong branding.”

Subaru rolling out PHEV:  Subaru will be entering the electric vehicle market through its alliance with Toyota. The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid will soon be launched, built on the Toyota Prius Prime drivetrain. Subaru has been showcasing EV concepts for years, including the Viziv series. The company launched a conventional gas-electric hybrid version during the 2014 model year. The new version will have a larger battery pack and a plug for owners to charge up their PHEV. It can be driven as a normal hybrid using both gas and electric power, or driven on pure electric drive for local commuting, the company said.

VW faces more on Dieselgate and prepares to compete with Tesla, ACT Expo panel explores last mile hurdle

VW moving beyond Dieselgate toward EVs:  Volkswagen AG is still climbing hurdles to recover from its Dieselgate scandal and to take a leading role in being Tesla-competitive on the electric vehicle front. Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in federal court in Detroit with conspiring to mislead regulators on diesel emissions cheating. VW CEO Herbert Diess has been granted safe passage in the U.S. and advance notice if prosecutors seek to charge him, sources told Bloomberg. Last week, Diess told investors during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Berlin that VW has awarded 40 billion euros ($48 billion) in contracts to battery producers, double the amount that had previously been in place. VW will be spending on EV batteries an amount that nearly matches Tesla’s entire market value. The automaker plans to sell up to three million all electric cars per year by 2025, Diess said.

VW’s Electrify America subsidiary was a topic of much interest during the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. A map was added to its website last week showing where its projects stand to install or start construction of more than 2,000 chargers across the U.S. by the end of 2019.

NGVAmerica is offering a resource center that shows where VW stands on spending $2 billion on national zero emission vehicle investments and $2.9 billion through the Environmental Mitigation Trust, which states and territories may use to invest in transportation projects that will reduce NOx emissions.

Saving the fuel economy and emissions rules:  While auto executives had pushed hard for the second phase of the federal fuel economy and emissions standards to be extended to the original timeline, they hadn’t been advocating gutting the rules. Automakers will be visiting the White House this Friday to save the national fuel economy and emissions standards close to what they’d originally agreed to with the Obama administration. A leaded draft proposal by federal agencies, the Trump administration plans to keep standards for 2020 model years vehicles in place at about 37 mpg through the 2026 model year, much lower than the 46.8 mpg fleet wide average in the current standard. It would be more than what the automakers had bargained for when requesting a revision of the 2022-25 targets; they’d asked that it be more gradual and flexible, not that it be gutted by the federal government.

ACT Expo panel on urban mobility:  “Clearing the last mile hurdle,” is viable and starting to happen in increasingly crowded and polluted cities, according
to panelists last week at ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Electric trucks, autonomous vehicles, and bicycles will play their part. Here were a few of the points they made:

Austin Hausmann, Chanje’s vice president of product development and R&D

  • The Chinese truckmaker offers a Class 5 electric delivery van – the V8070 – with 6,000 pounds of maximum payload capacity, and more than 150 miles of range from a 100-kWh battery pack. 
  • Delivery vehicles working in large cities are averaging about 70 miles traveled per day.
  • Electric vans and trucks are ideal for urban delivery. Chanje has been able to meet the range requirements and provide a 70% reduction in maintenance and fuel costs to fleet users.
  • A key challenge to be faced is charging infrastructure planning over the next five years as more electric vehicles come into fleets.

Duane Hughes, president and COO, Workhorse Group

  • Workhorse’s delivery drone, first shown in February 2017 with UPS, is offering major last mile cost savings for fleet operators. The company has found there to be 3 cents per mile in delivery costs for the drone, compared to 40 cents for an electric van and $1 for the typical UPS truck.
  • The company has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration on monitoring air traffic, no-fly zones, and weather conditions.
  • Workhorse is still in the testing phase, doing about five drone deliveries per day.
  • It will be available commercially by the end of this year, with FAA approval already being achieved. The company is sharing its data collection with the federal agency.

Chris Nordh, senior director, advanced vehicle technologies and global fuel products, Ryder Systems

  • The commercial space has to make financial sense — the last mile is a good argument for electric vehicles.
  • There is strength in partnerships, such as Ryder announcing a 10-year strategic agreement last year with Workhorse. Ryder is the primary distributor and service provider for Workhorse light- and medium-duty range-extended electric vehicles in North America. The company also established an exclusive sales channel partnership and service provider relationship for Chanje’s medium-duty EVs and energy services. In December, Ryder announced it will take delivery of 125 electric medium-duty delivery vans from Chanje. 
  • For early adopters, Ryder is providing the vetting process — getting the vehicle ready, maintenance process, and charger installation.
  • It’s important to assist site managers in understanding their buildings and charging needs, to work with utilities, and to understand the costs involved.

Thomas Madrecki, director of urban innovation and mobility, UPS

  • About 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, making it a difficult scenario for package delivery and other mobility services. E-commerce from Amazon and other companies is seeing huge growth, and that will continue.
  • Upcoming trends include worsening road and highway congestion, safety limitations on vehicle travel, and cities taking on more infrastructure supporting walking and biking. Cities area also taking a leading role on climate change, which will impact they types of vehicles allowed to drive there.
  • UPS is testing out bicycles for last-mile delivery in Hamburg, Portland, Ore., and Ft. Lauderdale. Bicycles have their limitations for what can be delivered, but UPS sees the importance of looking for diversity of solutions for each neighborhood served.

Panelists also had some insights to share during the Q&A portion:

  • Countries in Europe and Asia are dealing with congestion zones. The U.S. is taking more of a hybrid approach.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other mobility companies are adding to the challenges — bringing additional vehicles to roads and increasing traffic congestion
  • The charging infrastructure is a top concern for the future of electric mobility in cities. Charging at night, working closely with utilities, and tapping into state and local incentives is helping fleets grow their infrastructure.