VW on making EVs profitable at dealerships, Space travel beyond SpaceX

Newsworthy:  Volkswagen has been in talks with its global dealer network to establish a profitable model for selling and servicing electric vehicles. With the ambitious I.D. lineup and other electric models rolling out over the next decade, VW is looking to follow Tesla and other automakers who’ve created strong networks that can make it work when servicing vehicles that don’t need nearly as much time in a garage, or parts replacement, as internal combustion engine vehicles. The company is simplifying its maintenance with over-the-air software upgrades, and lengthening the service relationship through longer coverage periods built into the sale of the vehicle……………… The BMW Group is bringing more mobility services to China. In partnership with EVCARD, a Shanghai-based electric car-sharing company, has launched its car-sharing service in Chengdu under the co-brand “ReachNow Powered By EVCARD”. The mobility service based in the capital city of Southwest China’s Sichuan province will offer station-based premium electric car-sharing starting with 100 BMW i3s.

Space travel is next:  If you’re spending time in Orlando for vacation or business, take some time to visit the Kennedy Space Center less than an hour away in Cape Canaveral. You can take a bus tour and see historic sites for Gemini and Apollo launches in the 1960s, and get a good look at the future of NASA and its partners that include SpaceX and Boeing.

For SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and others, the future of space travel is going to Mars. A few years ago, the last NASA space shuttle flight safely landed and ended a long-term focus for the federal agency. Now, it’s about researching minerals on Mars and helping commercial partners launch six-month long trips to the planet – where millions of Earth residents have expressed interest in living the rest of their lives.

Green Auto Market is taking a look in its Extended Edition at where these commercial partners are investing time, energy and talent – and lots of dollars – paving the way for space travel, flying cars, fast rail (or tube) systems, and electrified transportation. Bloomberg has conducted a study on companies and leading executives who have been making major investments in space travel with Microsoft’s Bill Gates coming in first, followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Larry Page. Tesla/SpaceX chief Musk is No. 10 on the list.

The new study will take a deeper look at why Virgin founder Richard Branson acquired Hyperloop One and services his Virgin Galactic space travel company will supply to customers. X Prize founder Peter Diamandis is leading the way on mining asteroids for rare metals, and former Blink 182 rock star Tom DeLonge has assembled an impressive list of aeronautics and space travel experts for his To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science. The academy, which launched in October, will explore the “outer edges of science” and technologies including UFOs.

What to see at LA Auto Show, Mahindra supplying EVs to Uber

Newsworthy:  AutoMobility LA, the special media preview days at the LA Auto Show, will see crossovers and SUVs take the stage, including a long-awaited Jeep Wrangler revision. Speaker panels and displays will emphasize the future of mobility, including autonomous, electrified vehicles. BMW will be showing the i8 Roadster plug-in hybrid two-seater that will go on sale in early 2018. It had been initially shown in 2014, and this one will have 358 horsepower and 330 miles of range with 14 in EV only. Porsche will show four models including the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo that gets 680 horsepower. The 2017 Top Ten Automotive Startups Competition startups range from enterprise carpooling and in-air hand controlled devices, to electric motorcycles and analytics software for commercial vehicles. The “Smarter LA 2060” challenge will show what the city would be like of a major international sporting event such as the Olympics were to be held in the city in 2060………. The Tesla Semi will start at an “expected base price” of $150,000 for a truck with a 300-mile range per battery charge, the company announced. That price will go up to $180,000 for a 500-mile range truck. The first 1,000 Tesla Semis as “Founder’s Series” models and priced them at $200,000 (but fleet orders probably won’t be included)………….. BMW AG said it’s talking to suppliers of cobalt and other battery materials as fears intensify over supply running short, pushing already inflated prices higher. Sourcing of cobalt and other materials is “the most important” question BMW has to address before it decides whether to produce its own battery cells, the company said.

Electrified shared rides:  Friday saw Indian automaker Mahindra and Mahindra and Uber announcing a pilot project to test out electric vehicles on the Uber platform in India. Hundreds of EVs will roll out in Delhi and Hyderabad starting in March, and other Indian cities will be under consideration. This announcement came days after Uber acknowledged that it had paid off hackers $100,000 over a year ago to destroy stolen data on more than 57 million customers and drivers. That’s brought up a few class-action lawsuits and a federal probe. Mahindra will be adding two new EVs to its fleet, with one being jointly developed with its South Korean unit, Ssangyong Motor Co, India’s national government continues to push forward on the plan for clean vehicles and energy, with some of it being deployed through public transportation. Uber and Mahindra will work with public agencies and private companies to establish charging stations, starting in Hyderabad.

For Today: Electrified vehicles see sales increase in October, Shell looking to grow profits beyond motor fuel

Green car sales up in October:  Hybrid and plug-in vehicle sales were up from a year ago during October but down from September, which was the case with the overall new vehicle sales market. Sales were up for each category (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric) year-to-date. Hybrids came in at 2.18% of U.S. new light duty vehicle sales in October, and plug-in electrified vehicles made up 0.996%. The Toyota Prius Liftback continues to fall out of place as the top selling hybrid in the U.S., coming in third place last month behind the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. It’s still the leading hybrid model for this year at 55,443 units sold versus 49,764 of the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The Prius Liftback is way down from last year, with 83,793 sold at this point in time during 2016. The Fusion Hybrid has almost doubled in volume form 26,699 sold through October 2016. The Chevy Bolt was the leader, by far, in plug-in electrified vehicle sales last month, with 20.7% of plug-in vehicle share. The Chevy brand took the first and third spots in total U.S. plug-in sales for the month. The Tesla Model S and Model X were way down in sales from September (75.6% and 73.5%, respectively), as the company struggles to prepare its car and battery factories for producing large volumes of the Tesla Model 3. For this calendar year, the Model S is No. 1 in U.S. plug-in sales, while the Model X is in the fifth position.

Case study on fleet savings:  Tesloop, a two-year-old company based in Culver City, Calif., that takes passengers to and from locations in Southern California in a Tesla, has released a case study showing how much money fleet operators can save going with electric vehicles over traditional gasoline-engine luxury cars. Looking at total cost of ownership over 300,000 miles with a Tesla Model S compared to a Mercedes S-class and Lincoln Town Car found that, in the case study, Tesla Model S cost only $10,500 in maintenance and fuel costs. The Mercedes had about $86,000 ($52,000 for maintenance and $36,000 for fuel) for the same mileage. The Lincoln Town Car had about $70,000 ($28,000 for maintenance and $42,000 for fuel). It is only a case study with several variables changing based on several conditions, but the cost savings are being seen by fleets for electric passenger cars and commercial vehicles; that has much to do with a lot less maintenance and replacement parts needed for electric drivetrains along with substantial fuel savings.

Shell shifting away from motor fuel:  One of the Big Oil giants, Royal Dutch Shell, is preparing to bring in more future revenue in other segments than vehicle fuel. As its executives have been stating in the past year, the company expects that demand for gasoline will likely reach its peak by the 2030s with owners switching over to electric vehicles ad traditional engines becoming even more efficient. Refined oil products and petrochemicals present a viable market growth opportunity, the company says. Examples include viable substitutes for asphalt as developing nations build more roads; or for polymers and chemicals used in production of cars, toys, and clothes. Shell will be doubling the size of its chemical operations by the mid-2020s with several new plants coming to Louisiana and Pennsylvania that benefit from access to cheap shale gas. The oil company wants about 20% of its revenue from its worldwide fuel stations to come from electric vehicle charging stations and from low-carbon fuels by 2025.

For Today: Pressure on German chancellor as election approaches, Natural gas vehicles not going away

Chancellor Merkel may ban fossil-fuel vehicles:  Germany will have to follow the lead of France and Great Britain in banning diesel vehicles, said Chancellor Angela Merkel during media interviews this week; and that will likely apply to gasoline-powered vehicles as well. Merkel wouldn’t name the exact year, but said that the UK And France’s plans to ban the sale of new vehicles with internal combustion engines starting in 2040 “were the right approach.” The pressure is on Merkel and auto industry executives as the Sept. 24 election approaches. Merkel is seeking her fourth term in the office, and has been called upon to make sure auto executives respond ethically to the vehicle emissions scandal. In a YouTube interview, she called on local government officials to meet with her on September 4 to discuss toxic emissions.

Shared mobility is stepping stone to AVs:  The current hype about autonomous vehicle is accompanied by a surge of interest from shared mobility operators. Ride-hailing companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Didi are investing heavily into autonomous vehicle technology. Earlier this year, Uber announced its partnership with Daimler to bring self-driving technology to the market. Didi has opened up an artificial intelligence lab in Silicon Valley. Lyft’s collaboration with investor General Motors will include self-driving Chevy Bolt test runs,. This month, Lyft announced an investment coming in from Jaguar Landrover to bring autonomous connected vehicles on the road. And read all about the upcoming Meeting of the Minds conference, being held October 23-25 in Cleveland.

Natural gas isn’t going away:  A Bloomberg analysis piece points to natural gas vehicles having failed in a race won by cheap gasoline prices and growth in electric vehicle sales. While oil and gas industry leader T. Boone Pickens was citied as championing the alternative fuel since about 2008, the results haven’t gone in that direction. The article cites cheap gasoline prices and growth in EV sales, including orders being placed on the Tesla Model 3, as evidence for its argument. While the natural gas-powered Honda Civic was taken off the market a few years ago, NGVs continue to play an important role for fleets converting over to clean fuel options. Transit and city fleets are bringing them in with a few major corporate fleets like UPS, Ryder System, and AT&T, continuing to acquire them and install more CNG fueling stations. Ford and GM continue to add the CNG option to their pickup trucks and van offerings. Renewable natural gas is also supporting the clean fuel and its infrastructure, as more fleets start using RNG. Liquefied natural gas is also playing a role in adoption of the fuel in various transport sectors.

For Today: Waste Management opens 100 CNG stations, Elon Musk raising bonds for Model 3

100 CNG stations:  Refuse company Waste Management just installed its 100th natural gas fueling station, in Oklahoma City. The company uses these stations, 25 of which are open to the public, to fuel its 6,000 unit fleet of natural gas trucks. It’s the largest natural gas-powered fleet of its kind in North America. The company is moving toward its goal of reducing carbon dioxide 15% from its fleet by 2020. Much of the fuel being used is renewable natural gas, which comes from waste matter stored in landfills. “We invest in building our own fueling infrastructure to refuel our vehicles, while making CNG available to other commercial fleets and individuals,” said Marty Tufte, Waste Management corporate fleet director.

Fossil fuel subsidies:  A study was just published in the World Development journal that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally is still massive –  6.5% of global GDP still goes to subsidizing fossil fuels. Those subsidies came to $4.9 trillion in 2013 and rose to $5.3 trillion two years later. The study found that petroleum and coal used in transportation and electricity receive much larger subsidies compared to counterpart fuels.

Tesla raising bonds:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk was able to raise $600 million in just a few hours meeting with bond buyers in Manhattan on Monday, according to investors briefed on the matter. It was part of a four-day road trip to raise $1.5 billion to pay for production of the Model 3 through junk-rated bonds. The company is spending a lot of cash on building out the Fremont, Calif., assembly plant, and battery packs at its Gigafactory in Nevada. The company burned through a record $1.16 billion in cash during the second quarter. It looks good for Tesla hitting the $1.5 billion this week.




For Today: Honda 2030 Vision electrified and automated, More on the Fisker EMotion

Honda EV and automated vehicle goals:  Honda will be putting more emphasis on battery electric vehicles to reach its goals for zero emission vehicles. While still committed to fuel cell vehicles, the company will release a China-specific electric vehicle in 2018. Another EV made for global markets will be launched this fall at an auto show, said President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo at a press briefing in Tokyo. A new R&D department, Electric Vehicle Development Division, was started up last fall to speed up the process, he said. The company is also committed to serving mobility needs of its customers through a Level 3 highway-driving capability by 2013; and a Level 4 automated driving system that will allow the driver to take over if needed for safety. All of the announcements were part of a presentation on 2030 Vision, the company’s global mission statement.

Ricardo and CaFCP alliance:  Ricardo Strategic Consulting just announced its collaboration with the California Fuel Cell Partnership to provide economic modelling tools. It will enable the assessment of total cost of ownership of future fuel cell trucks, and the hydrogen stations needed to support commercial operation. Ricardo’s proprietary Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) modelling capability, provides insights on the economics of fuel efficient technologies, both today and in future. This model enables vehicle manufacturers, regulators, transport authorities, urban planners, and other stakeholders in making informed decisions about new technology implementation. The collaboration with Ricardo supports CaFCP’s efforts to enable adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology in commercial trucks.

Fisker EMotion:  Fisker Inc. released more information and some teaser photos on the EMotion all-electric sports car. One of the tricks to getting up to the 400-miles per range will be lightening up the car, and it will be safer through patented crash design. The company now has a patent on the Emotion’s frontal crash structure that it says exceeds current minimum standards for occupant protection. The starting price has been set at $129,900 and it will be launched soon, with more details coming out this month.

For Today: Daimler Breaks Ground On Large Lithium Plant, NAFA Starts Sustainable Fleet Certificates

Daimler quadrupling lithium-ion capacity:  Daimler officially broke ground yesterday on a lithium-ion battery plant it says will be one of the largest in the world. German chancellor Angela Merkel joined Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and other officials for a tour of existing plant in Kamenz, near Dresden, that will quadruple production once the second plant is finished in mid-2018. Combined, the Kamenz plants will cover about 861,000 square meters. Along with powering EQ all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids, the plant will supply Mercedes-Benz Energy storage units and 48-volt on-board power systems. The Germany automaker is putting about $560 million into the new plant. The number of employees working there will double to more than 1,000 by the end of the decade. The plant will be sustainably powered from a combined heat and power plant and a photovoltaic solar plant in combination with stationary battery storage units. “The automotive industry is facing a fundamental transformation and we see ourselves as the driving force behind this change. The battery factory in Kamenz is an important component in the implementation of our electric offensive. By 2022, we will have more than ten purely electric passenger cars in series. We also continue to drive forward the hybridization of our fleet. Under the EQ brand, we are creating a holistic ecosystem for e-mobility,” Zetsche said.

Sustainable Fleet Certificate:  NAFA Fleet Management Association just released a listing of fleet managers who’ve earned a Sustainable Fleet Certificate. Fleet managers can now utilize the certificate to make a strong addition to their overall accreditation. Launched in April, the program was developed through a partnership between NAFA, Calstart, and NC State University. It’s been designed to educate fleet professionals in proven methods to develop sustainable fleet initiatives along with the skillset needed to meet their sustainability goals. Special recognition was given during the association’s recent annual conference in Tampa.

NAFA developed the Sustainable Fleet Certificate program in response to a need uncovered after NAFA launched its Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program (SFAP).

“It is clear fleet managers are extremely interested in our accreditation program,” NAFA President Bryan Flansburg said, “but many don’t know how to start a sustainable program for their fleet operations. This training provides all this information and guidance and will be a strong feeder into our accreditation program.”

The first-ever recipients of NAFA’s Sustainable Fleet Certificates are:

  • Martin Biffin, Principal Mechanical Engineer, Government of Bermuda Public Works
  • Mike Bisogno, CAFM, Director, Commonwealth of Virginia Office of Fleet Management Services
  • Anthony Bowe, Fleet Management/Shop Supervisor, State of Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Michele L. Bowles, CAFS, Fleet Manager, Washington Gas Light Co.
  • Ray Brisby, CAFM, Fleet Manager, Calgary Fire Department
  • Richard Callis, CAFM, Sr. Analyst, Enterprise Fleet Management, Charter Communications
  • Mike Camnetar, CAFM, Director of Fleet Partnership Solutions, Element Fleet Management
  • Jeffrey Carter, Fleet Manager, Portland General Electric
  • Patti Earley, CAFM, Fleet Fuel Specialist, Florida Power & Light
  • Antoine Elias, Lead Senior Plant Engineer, Br. C.A.T. International Co. LTD
  • Robert Ellingsworth, CAFM, Fleet Manager, State of Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Donald Eta, Director, Fleet Management Services, City of Vaughan, Ontario
  • Marie Gianetti, Insurance Coordinator, Varian Associates, Inc.
  • Scott Glew, Manager, Fleet Services, Town of Richmond Hill, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
  • Brad Hawthorne, Deputy Director, City of San Diego, Fleet Operations Department
  • Nina Hoffert, CAFM, Fleet Manager, City of Lakewood
  • Alia Khouri, Deputy Director, City of San Diego Fleet Services
  • James Laverty, CAFS, Manager, Vehicle Pool, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Gary Lentsch, CAFM, Fleet Manager, Eugene Water & Electric Board
  • Zachariah McLawhorn, Deputy Director, State of North Carolina, Motor Fleet Mgmt. Division
  • Quintonio Ratteray, Mechanical Superintendent, Government of Bermuda Public Works
  • William Rogers, DPW – Fleet Services Administrator, Indianapolis Fleet Services
  • Rick Sikes, CAFM, COO, CarbonBLU
  • Michael Simonds, Fleet Manager, City of San Diego Fleet Operations Department
  • James Tillman, Director, Business Development EV Services and Battery Storage, MaxGen Energy Services
  • Katherine Vigneau, CAFM, Professional Development Strategist, KMVS Fleet+ Consulting
  • Mike Wilkinson, Fleet Supervisor, Denver Water
  • Mike Wilson, CAFM, Strategic Fleet Management Specialist, Element Fleet Management

In order to earn a Sustainable Fleet Certificate, individuals had to attend a full-day training session for which they received a comprehensive study guide. The study guide provided the basis for the course materials, as well as the exam on which individuals were tested. Those who successfully completed the exam at the end of the training session earned a Sustainable Fleet Certificate.

NAFA is working to offer the sustainable certificate training in autumn 2017.   For information about NAFA’s Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program and future training events as they are released, please visit www.nafasustainable.org.

For Today: Revero delivered to dealers, Uber CEO wanted to partner with Tesla

  1. Here comes the Revero: Karma Automotive’s Revero are showing up at dealerships around the country, with 10 of the $130,000 plug-in hybrid sports cars being loaded up and starting deliveries on Friday. The company has set up a sales network with dealers in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth (Texas), Miami, Montreal, Palm Beach (Fla.), Pasadena (Calif.), Philadelphia, and Toronto. Customers need to make an appointment at some of the dealerships for a test drive. The cars are being built at the Moreno Valley, Calif., assembly plant, and the batteries are coming from A123, another Wanxiang-owned company that had previously supplied batteries to Fisker Automotive.
  2. Self-driving car partnership: A book coming out next week says that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick put in a call last year to Uber CEO Elon Musk to become partners in autonomous vehicle development. Kalanick said that Musk spent the rest of the call trying to convince him that the whole idea was too far out, and that Kalanick should stick to what Uber does best and stay focused. That was just a few days before Musk published his 1,500-word blog post outlining a series of very big moves, such as encouraging Tesla vehicle owners make income off renting out their self-driving Tesla instead of leaving the cars sitting around for hours in a parking space.
  3. Light & Charge stations: BMW Group is bringing Light & Charge stations to North America through an alliance with BMW’s ReachNow mobility service, Woodland Park Zoo, and the City of Seattle. The system uses the city’s existing street and parking lot infrastructure through a smart city network. Existing light poles are set up with LED lighting, electric car charging, and a sensor unit. The partners opened the first of 20 charging locations Monday that will host both DC fast chargers and Level 2 chargers, bringing 100 new chargers to the city. BMW started up the Light & Charge system three years ago in Europe. The ReachNow fleet has the BMW i3 and other BMW vehicles in its fleet.
  4. Pickens on succeeding: Boone Pickens, a founder of Clean Energy Fuels and an icon from the oil and gas industry, published “An Open Letter to This Year’s Graduating Seniors,” in LinkedIn. He gave graduates a few tips on succeeding in today’s economy, which he’s learned from several years out in the field. Pickens, who’s turning 89 years old on May 22, made a reference to being 68 years old and “basically starting my career over.” A reporter interviewing him came from the idea that Pickens was going to need to step aside – the old horse was going to have to step aside from the trough. “That’s simply not true: The feeding trough in America is endless. Step up, work hard, and everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” Pickens wrote.
  5. Urban mobility terminology: Want to know the difference between carsharing and carpooling? Dynamic ridesharing and driverless driving? Audi announced that it has founded a working group together with city governments, business and scientific institutions. Together, they’ve put together a catalogue of terms for the city of the future. It comes from a DIN specification (Germany’s institute for standardization), with more than 200 related terms, for “intelligent individual urban mobility.“

This Week’s Top 10: CPUC approves PG&E charging station plan, Leonardo DiCaprio promoting BYD electric vehicles

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. pge-charging-stationPG&E charging network:  A years-long struggle over Pacific Gas & Electric’s initial plan to run a 25,000 electric vehicle charging project has ended with a California Public Utilities Commission decision scaling the network down to 7,500 chargers. On Thursday, CPUC unanimously supported what will be the country’s largest utility-led charging deployment. The “Charge Smart and Save” plan includes 7,500 EV charging points in workplaces, multi-unit residential buildings, and disadvantaged communities, and is capped at a cost of $130 million – much less than the $650 million that had been earmarked for the 25,000 unit plan. Electric Vehicle Charging Association, which represents EV charging companies, and other groups had asked CPUC to consider an alternative plan; they seem to be satisfied that they’ve been given mostly what they’d been seeking. PG&E will be limited to how much of the charging network it can own, which had been a key stumbling block in the past. “This proposed decision accelerates the adoption of EV charging in northern California in a way that preserves innovation and competition,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO.
  2. DiCaprio backs BYD:  Former Fisker Karma advocate Leonardo DiCaprio has signed on to promote China-based BYD’s electric vehicles and zero emissions campaign. It comes at a time when BYD has been promoting its “Cool the Earth by 1°C” campaign for the creation of a “Zero Emissions Energy Ecosystem.” BYD and Oscar-winning actor DiCaprio will spread the word on plug-in cars, utility vehicles, buses, solar energy, renewable storage, and light electric monorail systems – all of which are being developed and produced by the company. DiCaprio launched a documentary on climate change, “Before the Flood,” in which he starred, at the Toronto International Film Festival in September; the film featured an interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
  3. VW settlement in Canada:  Volkswagen AG has agreed to spend up to C$2.1 billion ($1.6 billion) to buy back or fix 105,000 diesel vehicles and compensate owners over the emissions scandal, the automaker said. The German automaker also agreed to pay a C$15 million ($11.18 million) civil administrative penalty along with the Canadian settlement. That brings up the total to more than $18 billion to address diesel emissions issues in North America. VW expects to soon settle a deal on another U.S. recall involving buybacks or fixes for another 80,000 polluting U.S. diesel 3.0 liter Porsche, Audi, and VW vehicles. In a related story, German auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH may be settling a lawsuit filed by U.S. owners related to the diesel emissions cheating scandal for more than $300 million. Bosch had previously called the lawsuit “wild and unfounded” after it was filed last year. VW owners have claimed the supplier had helped design the “defeat device” software that VW had been using for years to pass diesel emissions tests.
  4. Musk and Kalanick join panel:  President-elect Donald Trump has named Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to a Strategic and Policy Forum that frequently will advise him on economic issues and jobs growth. Musk and Kalanick will join General Motors CEO Mary Barra on the panel, along with several other top-ranking executives from U.S. companies. Trump’s transition team said they’ll be part of a forum that is composed of “some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders” that “will be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his economic agenda.”
  5. Toyota’s environmental report:  Toyota will be lighting up its new U.S. corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas, with solar power. That was part of the recently published 2016 North American Environmental Report, where Toyota outlined these positive impacts. Over the past year, Toyota’s North American operations have reduced water usage by nearly 100 million gallons. The company also announced plans for a 7.75 megawatt solar array at Toyota’s new headquarters campus in Plano, Texas, which will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 7,122 metric tons, or the equivalent of the electricity used by almost 1,000 homes in a year. It’s all part of Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050, which focuses on completely eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicles, operations, and supply chain.
  6. DOE grants:  The U.S. Department of Energy has issued two grant funding programs involving advanced, clean transportation. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced that its Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) program will convert low-cost renewable energy into a transportable chemical fuel and use these fuels for transportation applications, while reducing production costs and environmental impact. Most selected REFUEL projects target the production of ammonia or its conversion to hydrogen or electricity. DOE also announced that $19.7 million, subject to appropriations, will be granted to support research and development of advanced vehicle technologies, including batteries, lightweight materials, and advanced combustion engines; and innovative technologies for energy efficient mobility. Its purpose is to accelerate energy efficient transportation and systems.
  7. Plug-in hybrids taking lead:  Navigant Research predicts that the current level of electrified vehicles making up 3% of global sales will go up to 9% by 2025. That includes hybrid, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles. The research firm thinks hybrids and plug-in hybrids will switch places; with hybrids currently making up 73% of electrified vehicle sales; and by 2025, plug-in hybrids trading places, coming in at 72% of sales. The Chevy Volt has been leading the way in U.S. plug-in electrified vehicle sales and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been leading in Europe. That market presence will grow as automakers roll out more plug-in offerings, including new, larger vehicle body types. All-electric vehicles aren’t typically designed to go this route as much as plug-in hybrids tend to be, said the study.
  8. SDG&E trucks:  San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has signed an agreement with XL Hybrids, a developer of hybrid truck solutions, to purchase up to 110 of its plug-in electric hybrid truck systems between 2017 and 2020. The XL Hybrids’ system will convert commercially available gasoline-powered trucks into electric hybrids, powered in part by energy generated by the sun and wind. The conversion of these trucks will deliver a 50% improvement in miles driven per gallon, reduce operating costs, extend the life of the vehicles, and increase the overall range of SDG&E’s fleet.
  9. Lucid Air launchStartup electric carmaker Lucid Motors, formerly known as Atieva, unveiled its Air “executive sedan” last week, which the company says will be able to travel up to 400 miles on a charge. That power will be stored in a 100 kWh battery pack, and its motor will be able to hit up to 1,000 in horsepower. The company is taking deposits on the car now and plans to begin deliveries in early 2019. A company executive acknowledged it’s an ambitious plan to roll out its first car in two years, but also said the company is confident it will be reached.
  10. Boring concept:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted several times over the weekend about his next grand, visionary dream: digging a below-ground tunnel for some sort of vehicle to deliver passengers. “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging …” he posted on Twitter. That was followed with more. “It shall be called the Boring Company”, and another tweet read: “Boring, it’s what we do.” Will these be Hyperloop pods traveling at lightning speeds underground? We’ll have to wait to read more.

This Week’s Top 10: Federal autonomous vehicle guidelines emphasize innovation and safety, Details released on Chevy Bolt

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. Nissan Leaf autonomousFeds issue self-driving car guidelines: Long-awaited federal guidelines have been issued on self-driving cars. Late yesterday, Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, released guidelines that encourage technology innovations from automakers and suppliers balanced with concerns over public safety. The DOT does recommend having uniform national standards for autonomous vehicles, and states will be included in the process. Several states have been years ahead of the federal government on issuing testing standards. That was part of the DOT’s 15-point safety standard for the design and development of autonomous vehicles. The agency also clarified how current regulations can be applied to self-driving cars, and other contested issues. The federal government is encouraging innovators like Tesla, Google, Apple, Ford, Intel, and others, to continue testing and developing autonomous technologies. Tesla’s fatalities in incidents where the Autopilot semiautonomous systems was involved will be closely scrutinized, along with these new federal guidelines, as the nascent technology moves forward.
  2. Details released on Chevy Bolt: Pricing of the all-electric Chevy Bolt starts at $37,495 for the LT trim, with the higher-end Premier trim starting at $40,905. With the federal tax credit, purchasing a Bolt when it rolls out late this year will start at $29,995 for the starting price. Last week, General Motors announced the Bolt will be able to travel 238 miles on a single charge through its 60 kWh battery. For those willing to pay for the Premium level, the Bolt will receive a 360-degree camera system, leather seats, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, and options for forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and several other features.
  3. Clean Technology Forum: Sacramento Clean Cities Coalition is hosting its annual fall conference, the Northern California Clean Technology Forum, Oct. 19-20, at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento. The event brings together regional and national fleet managers and industry stakeholders to explore available technology and vehicle options, as well as looking at policies, incentives, and regulations helping to move the market. CALSTART Senior Vice President Bill Van Amburg will speak on the state of the clean commercial vehicle industry, funding and incentives, future technologies and issues, and vehicle electrification. Another featured speaker will be Bill Griffiths from Montgomery County, Maryland; he was a 2015 fleet manager of the year award winner. This year’s awards will be presented on the opening night reception on Oct. 19 to five award categories: Public Fleet, Private Fleet, Individual, Lifetime Achievement “Career,” and Lifetime Achievement “Superior Accomplishment.” The conference also includes a medium-and heavy-duty Ride & Drive. There is no charge for these activities. You can register here.
  4. VW concept car: Volkswagen sent out teaser photos of an electric car that VW says will be compact and long range. It will be an integral part of the German automaker emerging from its “dirty diesel” scandal; the company expects the concept car to roll out in 2018 or 2019. It will be the first car to be built on VW’s new MEB (modular electrification kit) platform, the company said in a statement. VW is pitching the car for being as “revolutionary as the Beetle was seven decades ago.”
  5. Autonomous vehicles fast approaching, Lyft exec says: Self-driving cars will show up in real numbers five years from now, and ride-hailing firms will take the lead. That’s according to an exclusive Time interview with John Zimmer, Lyft’s cofounder and president. He doesn’t see consumers trading their cars for self-driving cars as much as consumers paying for trips in self-driving cars that they don’t own. Car ownership will “all but end” in major U.S. cities within 10 years, according to Zimmer. Zimmer’s interview was published days after Uber began adding riders to its self-driving vehicle test runs in Philadelphia, the first time this experience has been made available to the general public.
  6. Tesla makes energy deal with SCE: Tesla Energy will supply 20 megawatts of energy storage to Southern California Edison – enough to power about 2,500 homes for a full day, according to Tesla. The Tesla Energy batteries will make up the biggest lithium-ion battery project in the world in total megawatt hours, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The deal with SCE comes from the utility’s efforts to prevent blackouts by fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries.
  7. BYD expanding California plant: Chinese automaker BYD said that it’s launched the second of three expansion phases at its manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif., which will add an additional 40,000 square feet added to the existing facility. The company currently employs about 400 people working at the plant, with plans to triple employment. That’s coming from increased demand for its electric coaches and buses, along with new medium- and heavy-duty trucks. When asked if BYD plans to produce light vehicles in the U.S. (such as popular electric car models sold in China), a company spokesman declined to comment.
  8. Auto suppliers bullish on 2025 targets: Calstart recently conducted a survey of 23 suppliers selling parts directly to automakers. Seventy percent of the companies surveyed think that the U.S. shouldn’t back away from its 2025 fuel economy and emissions goal, according to John Boesel, president of Calstart. Fifty-nine percent said the target is creating job growth, according to the study.
  9. NGV sales forecast: According to Navigant Research, global annual natural gas vehicle sales are expected to grow from 2.4 million vehicles in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2025. Nearly 40 million light duty NGVs are expected to be on roads around the world by 2025. Several regions of the world have substantial markets for natural gas vehicles that are expected to continue growing over the next decade, but at a slower pace than what was projected prior to the drop in petroleum prices. Additional issues could hinder growth prospects, including ongoing political tensions in Eastern Europe that could affect supply and the prices of gas exports from Russia to Western Europe. Another trend to follow will be battery suppliers making major gains in battery cost reduction and capacity; making EVs more competitive compared to NGVs.
  10. Uber in Detroit: Uber will be adding Detroit to its office locations, to work with automakers and top suppliers. At an event hosted today by Society of Automotive Engineers in the Detroit area, Uber’s vice president of global vehicle programs Sherif Marakby announced that the company is planning on opening a facility in the Detroit area. The news follows Uber’s launch of a self-driving car test project in Pittsburgh last week that makes rides available to the general public. Uber will be looking for Tier 1 suppliers to design its hardware, he said. He also mentioned that Uber will be looking to work with automakers in that area to develop and modify its autonomous fleet.