Bye for now from the Editor, and a long list of Elon Musk’s wild ideas

Sorry to say it, but Green Auto Market will be put on hold for now. You may see it — or short variations of it — sent out in the months ahead; but not the semi-regular publishing schedule it’s been on this year; or the regular editions that stared going out to readers in June 2013.

While it was at first completely unexpected during this turbulent year, I’ve started a new job on a new career path. It’s a demanding, good paying, rewarding, full-time job that I started in mid-October. As for now, you get to make a guess on the new job from the following list:
—Editor of a transportation newsletter
—Communications manager at a Cal State university campus
—Public safety dispatcher at a law enforcement agency
—Manager at a Tesla retail store and service shop
—Market analyst at a consulting firm in Orange County

Clean transportation, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, mobility, and autonomous vehicles continue to be fascinating topics. I do look forward to seeing where all of it goes after the election season closes and the new year begins.

I appreciate your reader feedback and interest in the subject matter — and for those of you’ve who’ve done lengthy interviews with me and contributed guest columns. Thank you for your contributions; and thanks so much for opening and reading many, many issues of this newsletter.

I expect I’ll continue writing on this subject matter, as it is so fascinating and covers a wide spectrum of topics and critical issues.

I will be putting out a newsletter. I will be writing and publishing NEWSLETTER!!! when I have time do so. Click here to see the first version of it (actually the first since 2004) that will cover topics such as my favorite conspiracy theories and where housing is headed as we continue through Covid-19.

Story idea: Elon Musk’s big ideas and where they stand today
Writing about Tesla and chief Elon Musk has taken up quite a lot of my time over the past decade-plus, but I’ve gotten a big kick out of it. Here’s my latest idea for a story, though I’ve run out of time to do the research and writing. It’s yours if you want to pursue the project. Here’s what I see as the subject matter……..

  1. Underground transit tunnel beneath Los Angeles
  2. Virgin Hyper-loop
  3. Electric heavy-duty truck
  4. Super batteries and components of the future
  5. High-speed charging networks
  6. Tesla Energy battery storage accomplishments and offerings
  7. Upcoming Tesla vehicle launches
  8. What’s up with SpaceX
  9. The company’s autonomous driving technology
  10. Owners of autonomous Teslas renting out their vehicles for side income
  11. How SolarCity is doing
  12. New York solar cell factory with Panasonic (which seemed to end earlier this year)
  13. Gigafactory in Nevada and the next wave of batteries and vehicles production in Austin, Texas, Germany, China, and elsewhere.
  14. Taking another shot at having another significant other — and having more kids.
  15. Doing his part in keeping Tesla stock performing well — even though profitable quarters continue to elude the company and we’re in the middle of Covid-19.
  16. Tesla and SpaceX being a great place for young upstarts to gain great professional experience, but you wouldn’t want to stay there for very long and put up with Musk’s intensity and work-hour expectations; and the same being true for the company’s factory workers looking to make a good living.
  17. Did I miss anything?

Best regards,

Jon LeSage
Editor and Publisher

What to watch for in Washington during historic election season

Here’s wishing for a much better year in 2021 for health, diversity, economic stability, and sustainability. Here are a few issues and challenges that I’ll be watching for in the near future…….

California’s 2035 ban and an unsurprising EPA response
Gavin Newsom issued an executive order last week that will phase out the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 in California in a bid to lead the U.S. in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the state’s drivers to switch to electric cars. Newsom’s executive order is said to be the most aggressive clean-car policy in the US. It does offer some flexibility for traditional cars and trucks vehicles to be owned and sold on the used-car market. Newsom, also supported a ban on petroleum fracking, but called on the California legislature to make that change.

US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday said the plan “raises serious questions regarding its legality and practicality” and said it could impact the state’s electrical grid. “California’s record of rolling blackouts — unprecedented in size and scope — coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today,” Wheeler wrote.

Green activists have been protesting climate denial for years now.

Wheeler’s background is reminiscent of the former EPA administer. According to Wikipedia and other sources, “He served as the deputy administrator (of EPA) from April to July 2018, and served as the acting administrator from July 2018 to February 2019. He previously worked in the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, representing coal magnate Robert E. Murray and lobbying against the Obama Administration’s environmental regulations. Wheeler served as chief counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and to the chairman U.S. senator James Inhofe, prominent for his rejection of climate change. Wheeler is a critic of limits on greenhouse gas emissions and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Will the election carry over into December, or January, or……?
If President Trump loses reelection, we may be watching an historic first for America — the challenge of getting the previous president out of the White House. He’s stonewalling, suggesting he won’t be leaving. Asked at a press conference Wednesday if he would “commit to a peaceful transferal of power” if he lost the November election, Trump said: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”

And what about his continued challenges over mail-in ballots being legitimate? Will Trump get his lawyers to drag out election results for a month or two after the election? It is going to stay interesting, especially as predictions extend out on availability of Covid-19 vaccinations; and whether a relief bill will make it through Congress. More will be revealed at tonight’s presidential debate. Then there’s the question of how you can creatively pay — and not pay — your taxes. The rules of the game continue changing; or at least can seem to be unenforceable for now.

What about the new Supreme Court justice?
Then there’s the Supreme Court, which sometimes can be the deciding force on what happens in Washington. There is a lot of concern that Trump’s choice to fill the open Supreme Court seat, Amy Coney Barrett, will be the sixth Republican-appointed justice — and a conservative justice, based on her past rulings and public comments. Legal issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy guidelines, and accountability for air pollution, will be going more in favor of fossil fuel companies and those denying climate change if Coney Barrett gets appointed. So even if Chief Justice John Roberts continues to occasionally vote with the opposition, that would still mean five justices will be winning the vote on the conservative, anti-regulatory side — if Barrett passes through senate confirmation.

What does the future of fracking look like?
Fracking won’t be going away, but which version of it gets enforced will be determined by the November election. Hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, has been credited with helping America cut down energy imports. It also became a lightning-rod issue for environmental activists.

Fracking became the extraction method that over the past decade opened up gas shale fields and made the US less reliant on foreign oil and gas imports. Oil and gas companies pushed hard for fracking to be allowed to ramp up natural gas, oil, gasoline, and diesel production in the US. President Barack Obama issued a regulatory structure over it in 2015 — the first one in more than 30 years. The Obama administration was criticized for the new rule by environmental groups fighting fracking and other issues such as whether the US was going to allow the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. The White House made the case that natural gas released half the emissions of coal and would be a much better transitional energy source for power plants. Obama also pushed for improving the process including honest reporting of the chemicals used in fracking, which some say did clean up fracking. Some environmental groups supported it as a way to displace coal.

In late 2017 under Trump, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published its ruling in the Federal Registry essentially overturning Obama’s 2015 rule. That decision was backed by a federal judge in March. California and several environmental groups had sued over the Trump administration’s repeal, claiming it was unlawful. The main argument was that the federal government was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. But Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr., an Obama appointee, sided with the Trump administration.

Biden is likely to follow a similar strategy spelled out in the Obama plan from 2015. He’s stayed out of it so far, but his campaign has said he does not want to ban fracking. He has proposed a ban on new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters. Trump would like to continue opening up all the available gas and oil reserves, no matter how damaging it could be.

Would Biden listen to Bernie and AOC?
Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a centerpiece of the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign that he released prior to the Democratic national convention. The $2 trillion plan would set the US on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It will include investing in renewable energy, advanced battery development, parts and components, and a broad charging network, to put a lot more electric vehicles on American roads and to build up clean energy. One stumbling block would be accessing enough rare-earth metals needed for making these batteries and other parts used in clean energy and tech. Most of it is mined overseas, with China leading the way. Trump’s trade battle with China makes it even more vulnerable.

The Green New Deal initiative, introduced to Congress in February 2019 by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), shares many of the clean energy goals as Build Back America but conflicts over health care and other issues. Then there’s the big question of whether clean energy and tech can really support the domestic economy and workforce, with is the foundation for Biden’s plan.

The Green New Deal, which was placed on the back burner in Washington after not gaining enough momentum, does differ widely from Biden on two fronts — medical coverage and living wages. Those two issues would bring an overhaul to the healthcare system and medical insurance coverage, and to the worker pay structure. They’re much closer to what No. 2 Democratic nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders, had been hawking during both of his runs for president; and which inspired Sanders to co-sponsor a push last year to get Green New Deal enacted starting on the public housing front along with AOC, a popular nickname for Ocasio-Cortez.

Green New Deal would expand Medicare to cover all Americans — which is far closer to socialized medicine in Canada and several European countries than what’s been enacted through Obamacare. Another policy point would be providing a job guarantee that would bring a “a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States,” as stated in the bill.

Green New Deal would also enact more stringent rules on conversion over to clean energy from fossil fuels. While Biden would agree with Markey and Ocasio-Cortez on hitting net-zero carbon emissions targets, there’s a 20 year-gap in hitting the end goal. The Green New Deal proposal calls net-zero to be achieved by 2030.

Where are campaign contributions coming from?
Fossil-fuel interests donated seven times more to the Trump campaign than the Biden campaign as of June 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group. Trump started raising campaign funds right after taking office in 2017, so those numbers could be a bit skewed because of it. But major oil and gas shareholders would like to see Trump get reelected. Anything they’ve asked for — like more access to offshore oil drilling — has been handed over by the Trump administration.

Net exports continuing?
In 2019, total annual US natural gas exports were 4.66 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) — the highest on record, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Of that total, 61 percent went through pipelines to Mexico and Canada, and the rest of it, liquefied natural gas (LNG), was shipped to global markets. Shipping gas to markets like Asia and Europe could make America a net exporter of natural gas for the fourth year in a row. Net exports of crude oil have also been on that growth path.

Veterans of clean transportation from the 1970s will tell you about the historic impact both of the OPEC oil embargoes had on fuel prices, and shifting regulations and automotive engineering over to fuel economy. Access to transportation fuel and power station energy can play a significant role in what happens in geopolitics; that fact goes back much farther than the 1970s and will continue on well into the future. Making electrification and alternative fuels commercially viable and supported by governments and corporate executives — along with car shoppers and fleets placing orders — will always play a part in elections, government policies, and other big decisions.

What came out of Tesla’s Battery Day?
As part of Tesla’s Battery Day festivities, a bold plan was revealed. Tesla will start producing its own batteries by ramping up its new 4680 battery “pilot” factory. Tesla aims to reach 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of its own production by 2022 — in addition to whatever batteries it can source from Panasonic, LG Chem, and CATL. To give an idea of the scale, 100 GWh is two-thirds of Gigafactory Nevada’s full, unrealized potential, in only two years from now.

Tesla wants to produce three terawatt-hours (TWh) of batteries by 2030. That is 30 times more than the bold goal of 2022. CEO Elon Musk is well known for making hyper claims about Tesla’s performance and that of his SpaceX company, but you never know.

Latest news bites and commentaries:
AltWheels Fleet Day 2020 Conference: ‘SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION IN A POST-COVID WORLD: Creating Opportunity from Uncertainty.’ The virtual conference is coming up Monday, Oct. 5. Keynoters will be Anirban Basu, CEO of Sage Policy Group and Bill Van Amburg, EVP of CALSTART. You will also be hearing from leaders in the field of sustainable transportation solutions including UPS, Ford, Toyota, Clean Cities, Nissan, GEOTAB, Proterra, Verizon Connect, Lion Electric, and many others.
To view agenda and speakers, please click here.

National Drive Electric Week events: National Drive Electric Week, is taking place Sep 26-Oct 4, 2020. The nationwide celebration to raise awareness of the many benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more. This year, for the 10th annual National Drive Electric Week, we will be adding online events for the first time. Enter your location below to find national, state and local online events as well as local in-person events near you. You can also use the event map or the event list to see all events.

Hyundai’s Ultimate Mobility Vehicles: Hyundai Motor Group just announced the formation of New Horizons Studio in Mountain View, Calif. It’s a new unit focused on the development of Ultimate Mobility Vehicles, or UMVs for short. One of them was unveiled at CES 2019, Hyundai Elevate and is now the inaugural vehicle for the studio. The vehicle does not rely solely on wheels and is expected to address challenging driving situations – for example, a car with robotic legs could save lives as the first responder in natural disasters; or, people who do not have access to an ADA ramp could hail a car to walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow wheelchairs to roll right in.

Renewable diesel gets good capital rating: Renewable diesel has much potential as a growing market as gasoline and diesel continue to stagnate. Morgan Stanley sees real opportunities opening up in renewable diesel as US and international oil refiners make early moves to expand business in a declining industry. While not mentioned in the study, oil refining company Neste is continuing to bet on the fuel, having just added more than 100 renewable diesel sales points in the Netherlands. 

Uber returning to London:  A London judge found the ride-hailing/sharing giant is “fit and proper” to hold a license in the city, ending a years-long battle for Uber to win back its license to operate in the city. That will help as its one of the biggest global markets for ride services.

New Fisker office opening: Fisker Inc. just announced details surrounding its first dedicated engineering and technology center, to be located in the Mission District of San Francisco, and is being given the name ‘Source Code.’ This facility will be the focal point and development center for the company’s software and vehicle electronics, including both in-car and Fisker data center elements.

Beijing Hyundai EV announcements: On Sept. 25 at the 16th Beijing International Automotive Exhibition (Auto China 2020), Beijing Hyundai Motor Company shared its electrification vision that is driving its transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider. At the show, Hyundai premiered its RM20e electric racing midship sports car prototype, Elantra N TCR and Prophecy concept EV model, demonstrating the reach of its EV ambitions.

Musk’s insane success secrets: Here are 10 success tips from CEO Elon Musk’s profile in the book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. It offers a look into Musk’s work ethic and productivity secrets he uses to run two companies. Some of his productivity secrets could be helpful for the rest of us.

Disaster management and climate crisis: Growth industries for the next few decades

A consensus seems to be emerging that a vaccination will be tested and safe enough to be accessed by the general public sometime next year — from summertime to New Year’s Eve. The infection and fatality rate is expected to stabilize before or after, and health and safety concerns should lift enough for the global economy to recover. At least that’s the theory.

Climate change isn’t getting that kind of high hope and positive expectation. Climate crisis has become the norm in the past few years with evidence of it coming from Western state wildfires and regular tropical storms hitting the East Coast; and events like it occurring around the world. Then there’s the temperature continuing to go up, with California’s Death Valley reaching 130 degrees Fahrenheit recently, the highest temperature ever measured on the planet. The death toll has been increasing from all of the devastating impact of climate change, such as cities like Phoenix recording their hottest months ever.

Stakeholders in emergency management services, land development, healthcare, waterway restoration, and transportation, have been hearing alarms sound over it for years; but it has become more pressing in the past five years with brush fires destroying millions of acres and tarnishing air quality.

So, what’s the latest?

—The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been doing much better since the president invoked the Stafford Act in March and declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. FEMA has been getting more funding and support, but onlookers acknowledge it could be much better if the federal government could play a more clear and decisive role. While FEMA and other agencies are getting better marks for responding to Covid-19, climate change continues to be ignored.

Climate change “affects almost every single thing in emergency management,” said Samantha Montano, assistant professor of emergency management and disaster science at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “We’re not ready for what is coming.”

—Bill Gates would like to see the US clean up its act on bringing a vaccine to people in this country — and coordinate with the best of what’s going on around the world. He has that suggestion for clean transportation as well. Gates said that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has played a matchmaker role between several possible Covid-19 vaccine makers, based on the connections the group made on vaccines for other diseases, like malaria.

Gates has also been leading the $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund to fight climate change. Startups need to showcase a scientifically sound technology that has the potential to reduce annual global greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 500 million metric tons. And last month, Gates posted in LinkedIn on his ideas on how to meet one of his objectives: “We want more people to be able to travel without contributing to climate change,” he wrote.

—What about investing in technology that could support firefighters in their battle with brushfires? Could there be a way to spur cloud formation and rain in given areas? Well, it’s a great idea but doesn’t appear to be approaching reality anytime soon. One methodology that is available is more realistic weather forecasting, which can be utilized for disaster preparation.

In late 2013, biotech giant Monsanto bought Climate Corporation for approximately $1.1 billion. While Monsanto was then under fire from activist groups for its role in propagating genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture, the company’s Climate FieldView system is now a standard in agriculture.

While some leaders like President Trump are climate deniers, scientists are getting it right and forecasting climate change more accurately. Earlier this year, NASA found that 10 of 17 increasingly sophisticated model projections of global average temperature closely matched observations. And after accounting for differences between modeled and actual changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other factors that drive climate, the number increased to 14. Authors of the NASA study found no evidence that the leading climate models in which they had evaluated systematically overestimated or underestimated warming over the period of their projections.

And in other news……..

At its much-hyped Battery Day, Tesla Inc. yesterday unleashed a list of innovations that CEO Elon Musk said could make battery-making cheaper and would assist rolling out a $25,000 Tesla electric car within three years. At Tesla’s socially distanced outdoor Battery Day event, Musk said the company is moving toward eliminating cobalt in its batteries; a new powertrain for the Model S that could get to speeds of 200 mph; and a new cathode plant to streamline its battery production.

Sad news for those who own the GenZe electric scooter. After setting up a temporary shutdown plan to survive Covid-19 earlier this year, the company is now in the process of closing its shutters for good. The Mahindra-owned company did look very promising a few years ago with its functional bikes and a factory that built vehicles in the US. The holding company liquidated GenZe’s assets after deciding to shutter a number of its unprofitable subsidiaries and is working on completely dissolving the company in months ahead. One friend of mine found out from a West Hollywood maintenance shop that GenZe isn’t getting any support — no parts that can be shipped, and no one is answering the hotline. GenZe says more will be coming out later.

Worried about breathing air during brush fires and climate catastrophe? Volvo Cars has introduced a world-first premium air quality technology to address these issues for its 90 and 60 Series models, based on its Scalable Products Architecture (SPA). The company’s new Advanced Air Cleaner technology comes with a sensor that measures PM 2.5 levels inside the cabin, creating a feature not available in any other car currently on the market. It’s staring out in China, where PM 2.5 measurements and related information services are well-established. Volvo drivers in China can compare air quality inside the cabin to that outside the car. PM 2.5 has become a widely-used measure for air quality, the company said, as its indicates the amount of fine particulate matters in the air.

Connecting the Dots — looking at data and analytics in economics and Covid-19

These indicators seem to look better now than in March and April, but economists warn that it’s still too early to assume that stability has returned. Unemployment has come down, but there’s concern over the accuracy of the reporting; and that it’s still way above the 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent rate when the economy is within a stable rate. The GPD being down so dramatically is a significant indicator to follow.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows mixed messages on the economy and public perception of it. The current unemployment rate and rising stock prices may be part of what could be recorded as the deepest and shortest downturn after Covid-19 hit the US. An economic recovery has started, but its growth and stability are still unknown; and that recovery is accompanied by large amounts of government borrowing. The opinion poll showed support for President Trump on the economy, but some of those who gave him a good economic leadership rating don’t plan to vote for him in November.

While the three stock market indices are looking better, the stock markets are still going through waves of volatility. Stock performance is expected to stay in the green into the new week. On the other side, it looks like Covid-19 relief spending may not be coming from Washington. Democrats and Republicans are still more than a trillion dollars apart from striking a deal.

As for economic forecasts in the pandemic climate — Global economies are expected to be several quarters away from returning to pre-pandemic levels with Asia seeing its first regional recession in 60 years……… OPEC and BP are predicting oil prices will be staying down for quite a while………. Automakers and their suppliers have been returning to near-normal activity in production plants; engineers and designers are getting back to work on the next-generation electric vehicle propulsion, and autonomous systems are still drawing support with delivery drones and robots getting the most push lately. Amazon, FedEx and other companies are lobbying for favorable regulation as automated e-commerce delivery becomes more popular due to the pandemic.

US consumers did quite a bit of online shopping in the second quarter — increasing 31.8 percent from the previous quarter; and 44.5 percent year over year, according to US Census Bureau of the Dept. of Commerce. That made for $211.51 billion in revenue — up from $160.41 from Q1. But it wasn’t enough to level out the negative impact of numerous losses from brick-and-mortar store closures; and total retail sales were down 3.9 percent from the prior quarter.

Amazon’s recent financial performance ties in closely to the online shopping numbers. The company’s sales skyrocketed 40 percent year-over-year to to $88.9 in its fiscal second year. Profits also doubled year-over-year to $5.2 billion during that quarter. The company also reported spending about $4 billion on Covid-19—related expenses such as adding additional safety measures at the company’s warehouses and facilities, personal protective equipment employees, and $500 million for bonuses to logistics and delivery workers. The company will continue hiring in its fourth round this year — 100,000 workers to meeting growing order and delivery demand; and 33,000 in corporate and tech roles with pay averaging $150,000.

Tech firms are creating new jobs — as employees have been stuck at home, employers have brought in new managers to manage the new, virtual workplace — and to prepare for a lasting remote workplace for many workers. Tech firms like Facebook are doing most of the job postings for jobs such as, “director, remote work.”

US debt last month reached its highest level compared to the size of the economy since World War II and is projected to exceed it next year as the coronavirus pandemic continues on. The Congressional Budget Office reported that federal debt held by the public is projected to reach or exceed 100 percent of US gross domestic product, the broadest measure of U.S. economic output, in the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

Questions have never been clearly answered by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on why reducing the cases and fatalities was so positive for the state in March, but so awful by summer time. California and several other states seemed to be bending to large employers and other interests. But what is the real cost of going this rate in fatalities, medical care and emergency services, and what it may be doing to education and the workplace?

Asian countries are credited with enacting strict social protocols and seeing much lower infection and fatality rates — as shown above in China’s numbers, the country where all of it began in December 2019. The trade war between China and the US has been behind many of the actions taken by both governments this year. Two Chinese companies were hit with trade sanctions last week by the US Commerce Dept., something that continues on a regular basis in the US and China; with the White House citing national security as the reason for restricting exports.

And in other news………..
General Motors is partnering with Nikola to engineer and build the Nikola Badger for both the battery electric vehicle and fuel cell electric vehicle variants. Nikola anticipates saving over $4 billion in battery and powertrain costs over 10 years and over $1 billion in engineering and validation costs. GM expects to gain more than $4 billion of benefits between the equity value of the shares, contract manufacturing of the Badger, supply contracts for batteries and fuel cells, and EV credits retained over the life of the contract. The Detroit automaker’s CEO Mary Barra said Monday that the company conducted “appropriate diligence” in the $2 billion deal with Nikola. That follows fraud claims made last week by short-selling firm Hindenburg Research. But the Securities and Exchange Commission will be examining whether the deal could be violating securities laws.

NGVAmerica’s Annual Industry Summit will transition to an online format for Fall 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will go online Oct. 20th to 22nd from 12:00 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET daily. Registration for the virtual sessions is now officially open at On-road, off-road and everything in between will be featured, from traditional freight, refuse, and transit applications to growing marine, rail, and construction use in vehicles powered by natural gas. Program details are being finalized now built around daily themes: Market, Sustainability, and Public Policy.

Possible scenarios for the next phase of these tumultuous times

Summertime is coming to an end with Labor Day over now. Students are going back to school; if the school will be opening and allowing them to attend. We’ve got a big election coming up, and interest remains high on other fronts — including whether a Covid-19 vaccine will be available soon, protesting continues, fires and hurricanes surge on, and what impact all of this is really having on the economy (more on that topic next week).

What could happen to transportation, mobility, and fuel in this environment? Election results will be the main event to answer that question, with a wide chasm between the Trump and Biden campaigns on climate change, clean fuels and energy incentives, low-interest loans for cleantech, and other key issues.

Here’s a look at some of the news coverage, polling, and forecasting that’s analyzing what’s going on out there during such a turbulent time.

Are kids going back to school?
Students in K-12 school districts, colleges/universities, and technical training programs— both public and private — have been going back to classrooms across the country; and some will have to wait a few more weeks before the school opens; or stay at home and attend through online courses for the time being. At the college level, many of the announcements came out in late July or early August, with some of them surprising students and their families by retracting earlier plans to open up again; many of these announcement came from private colleges and universities. The real challenge has been discerning when its safe enough to open up, and what health and safety protocols have to implemented. Experts have been looking at zone mapping and other reports on red zones to avoid, and yellow and green zones that can be accessed following strict guidelines.

Who’s winning electoral college votes?
Lessons learned during the 2016 election seem to be taken very seriously this year by both presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton may have had about a 2.8 million lead in popular votes, but didn’t have enough electoral college votes to score the victory. Sifting through polling data and electoral college state forecasts show Joe Biden so far to have a clear lead. The Economist, as of Sept. 8 data, shows Joe Biden taking 334 and Donald Trump taking 204 with a minimum of 270 needed to win.

Mail-in ballots — what could be the impact?
President Trump has been sounding an alarm about mail-in ballots ruining this election, which he’s called “the greatest scam in the history of politics.” Election experts say the US is not mired in election scams, as is the case in many countries around the world. Cases of mail-in voting fraud, and electoral fraud in general, are exceedingly rare in the US. While it was common to see fixed ballots in US elections many years ago, especially in small towns, the issue this year appears to be about the huge change coming from polling booths being closed due to Covid-19 and the necessity of mail-in ballots. Will the head postmaster at USPS be able to carry it out on time, and is he willing to do so? Trump may be stirring the pot in this election since he’s been trailing behind Biden in early polling surveys. If he does challenge the results from Tuesday, Nov. 3, it could be dragged out for several weeks; something like former vice president Al Gore calling out an investigation of Florida votes from the 2020 election.

Covid-19 vaccine testing and hope for recovery
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked public health officials in the states to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by late October or early November. It that coming from pressure by the Trump administration to look good for the election? Readiness to start testing? The need to pressure key players to get it started? It may take longer than hoped for, now that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and other vaccine developers are said to be planning to issue a pledge not to seek government approval until the vaccinations prove to be safe and effective. The pharmaceutical companies might issue the pledge soon, according to two people familiar with the matter.

How candidates are addressing police tactics and protesting
Messages given by the two presidential campaigns could be their most significant and long-lasting statements this year; though stopping Covid-19 and restoring the economy are up there on the list, too. The Trump campaign is downplaying charges of racist law enforcement tactics, especially treatment of black Americans; Trump instead is speaking about bringing back order and safety to cities torn by police shootings, protests, and upheaval. The Biden campaign is coming from the other side — as clearly represented by Biden speaking on the phone with Jacob Blake, the black man shot in the back and paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wis., and visiting sites in that town where demonstrations had taken place. That was soon after Trump had visited the city to praise law enforcement and reiterate his party’s messages over urban unrest.

Extremist groups taking advantage of protest demonstrations
Protests have taken a deadly turn in the last three weeks, and authorities say extremists are responsible. The Wall Street Journal released a podcast last week detailing it, with what happened in Charlottsville, NC, in 2017 during the Unite the Right rally as a predecessor of what’s been taking place in Wisconsin and Oregon. Protests started by some of these right wing groups (and a few left wing groups) in April over what they saw as extreme measures take by government to contain Covid-19. Left wing, anti-fascist Antifa groups started showing up at protests too for Black Lives Matter along with extreme groups on the right. Boogaloo Boys, Patriot Prayer, and other right-wing groups have been champions of chaos, which some would like to see take the form of another civil war. These are not like right-wing groups in the past with well known leaders showing up at events. Now these activists can just show up somewhere, cause damage, then quickly exit. The far-right vigilante who killed two protesters on the streets of Kenosha, Wis. on Aug. 25, raised more concerns about these killings increasing. Tension was added with 1,000 pro-Trump, right-wing protesters gathering outside Portland, Ore. yesterday in a show of force against left-wing protestors. Law enforcement may have to use what worked well in containing ISIS in the Middle East, analysts say; another tactic would be banning guns at events and strictly enforcing it.

California ballot initiative could stop AB5
If a California court allows the state’s AB5 implementation to precede in the coming weeks, which is expected to be the case, the business model for Uber, Lyft, and other mobile app-based company operating in the state, will be overturned. But they’re at war with the state, and may block enforcement of AB5 through Proposition 22. The ballot initiative has been funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates. While AB5 established three criteria that workers must meet to be independent contractors rather than employees, Prop. 22 would exempt app-based drivers from this test, labeling them as independent contractors. So far, they’ve raised more than $110 million to promote the bill, while opposition has only raised $900,000. If it does get passed by voters, the legal issue won’t be automatically resolved. That will probably take more time in courtrooms, which could mean years before it’s legally defined. Uber, Lyft, and the others will probably continue to operate under their current business models — unless an appeals court decisively rules that AB32 will be protected.

Auto sales and EVs
US car sales were down 19.8 percent in August, and automakers expect sales to remain depressed for the remainder of the year. Those looking for more affordable, smaller new cars and crossovers, are being nudged out to the market as automakers have limited their inventory to larger, higher-margin vehicles. “We’ve just been amazed at how resilient the market has been,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Cox Automotive. “The people who have money have plenty of it, and they are spending it on expensive vehicles. The low end — that’s where the job losses are.”

China’s auto market is expected to grow only slightly in the next five years, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).
Auto sales are expected to record 27.75 million vehicles in 2025 up from 25.77 million in 2019. Sales of new energy vehicles came in at 1.24 million units last year. The government would like to see 2 million NEVs sold per year, but that will take a while to get through the Covid-19 crisis and for more government incentives to come back to the market.

It’s been fascinating to watch Tesla’s stock perform well during Covid-19. The worst thing that’s happened lately is that company isn’t quite ready yet to be added to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rating; but CEO Elon Musk probably doesn’t care. Tesla retained 19 percent of the global plugin vehicle market during the first half of this year. What changes is that top selling corporations that own several different automotive brands as well as “alliances” of brands had higher percentages of the overall market.
Volkswagen Group had 13 percent of the market; Renault-Nissan Alliance had 9 percent of the market, and BMW Group and Hyundai–Kia each had 7 percent of the market. Sales are down from last year, unlike Europe where EV sales doubled last year’s rate, coming in at 8 percent of the market in the first half of 2020. The overall market plunged 38 percent while Europe’s EV market grew. The numbers were skewed and represent only 14 countries making up 98 percent of the battery electric vehicle market.

Mobility, travel, and fuel
Ride-sharing/hailing through the major global brands has been hard hit, while autonomous vehicle test runs where put on hold in the spring. The long-term trends may be positive for traditional automakers. For car shoppers who had used mobility services, about 39 percent say they plan to use services like Uber and Lyft less often from now on, according to a June survey. About 44 percent say they plan to take public transportation rides less often. About a third of those surveyed plan to use their personal vehicles more often when Covid-19 comes to an end. “The conclusion is that people are really seeing cars in a new light, both as an escape – a way to get away from the quarantine and stress that we’ve all had over the past several months – but also as a safe way to get around,” said Madison Gross, director of consumer insights for CarGurus.

As for travel and tourism, that global industry has seen its worst performance since 1950. Smaller countries completely dependent on the travel business have been particularly hard hit. That comes as no surprise given that cruise ships, airlines, and airports were put on hold before other industries in early 2020.

On the freight transport side, the US Dept. of Transportation unveiled the National Freight Strategic Plan on Sept. 3. The plan’s objectives include improving the safety of the freight system, modernizing infrastructure, and supporting the development of data and technologies as primary goals.

Oil prices, along with gasoline and diesel, are expected to stay down for the near future. The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, cut pricing for oil sales in October, as the oil producer sees fuel demand wavering amid more coronavirus flare-ups around the world. WTI Crude has been trading around $40 per barrel lately, a modest improvement over the crash starting in the spring. For gasoline and diesel prices in the US, the Energy Information Administration forecasts that gas will average $2.12 per gallon this year and $2.23 next year. For diesel, the EIA said it expects the average national price to stay at $2.54 per gallon this year and $2.57 next year.

Natural gas and electricity are expected to stay at about their same levels as experienced since 2018, with only a slight cost increase expected for next year according to EIA. As reported in ACT News, stability in natural gas fuel prices continues to help commercial fleets make the case for investing more in clean transportation. Compressed natural gas has been the widely used alternative to diesel in heavy freight transportation.

And in other news:

Sustainable Transportation in a Post-Covid World: Creating opportunity from uncertainty the focus of AltWheels Fleet Day

AltWheels Fleet Day will be bringing together corporate and municipal fleet managers and clean-fleet stakeholders to reduce emissions, lower costs, and create solutions for tomorrow’s sustainable transportation needs. The virtual event takes place on Monday, Oct. 5., 2020. The event consists of panels, exhibits, and vehicles offering a showcase of alternative transportation solutions.

The event’s keynotes include:
Strategies and best practices for decarbonizing transportation: how to make progress during the COVID cloud by Bill Van Amburg, CALSTART.
Overview on critical shifts: Transportation post COVID-19 and where the economy is going Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO Sage Policy Group  
Keynote speakers this year including Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of the Sage Policy Group. Anirban serves as Chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Commission, teaches global strategy at Johns Hopkins University, and serves the Chief Economist function for a number of organizations around the country.

Leading strategies from fleet managers managing in uncertain times: How to move forward and find opportunities in the current environment with speakers from UPS, NACFE, National Grid, and Trucking Association of Massachusetts.

Green Auto Market is co-hosting AltWheels along with several Clean Cities coalitions, NAFA, NACFE, and other organizations. You can register for the event here on this site.

Four pathways being backed during Covid-19, but EVs and renewable energy will have to wait

While several environmental groups and corporate executives (i.e., Elon Musk) would love to see the global fleet transformed into battery electric vehicles fueled by solar, wind, hydro, and other renewables, other fuels and technologies are taking the lead for now. They seem to be the most pragmatic moves for now with governments mandating climate change transformation — and other market forces such as capital investors gaining more interest — opening up to four pathways gaining real traction this year.

  1. Carbon capture: Capture, removal, and sequestration (storage) of carbon dioxide from power-plant combustion and other industry power sources gives end users (like large corporations) a faster and more cost-effective practice for hitting government regulations and company sustainability campaigns. It’s an effective method for extracting carbon and permanently storing it. One r&d project capturing attention and support is coming from scientists supplied by ExxonMobil, University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The team has discovered a new material that could capture more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources. It needs less energy to capture, remove, and sequester, which can bring down the cost quite a bit. It also opens the door for the technology to eventually support commercial applications.
  2. Natural gas still here: Natural gas is not going away anytime soon though renewable natural gas has a good chance of taking over some day. How long? An executive from engineering firm Black & Veatch believes that natural gas will play a key role approaching a set of strategies over the next 30 years or more before net-zero mandates start being fulfilled. Utility operators and gas companies could be key stakeholders if this were to take shape. Advanced gas turbine generator plants hold the greatest promise, once able to increase capacity and achieve efficiency scaling up to their full-load capacity.
  3. Nuclear could survive and thrive: Nuclear power has high hopes of coming back as a serious competitor in the utility sector through nuclear fusion, but it’s been requiring massive investments and several more years of development before it wins regulatory approval. One symbolic news development was hearing about the Democratic Party’s election year policy paper opening up to nuclear power — especially nuclear fusion — for the first time in nearly half a century. Presidential nominee Joe Biden is also backing nuclear fusion as another tactic for fighting climate change. Dense plasma focus (DPF) could open the door to fusion being adopted much faster and for being economically feasible. Middlesex, NJ-based Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc., known as LPPFusion, may soon be leading the way in transitioning over to nuclear fusion through DPF. It could beat the massive Torus Experimental Reactor project under construction in Southern France.
  4. Green hydrogen:  Support for hydrogen has been taking a wider base recently with concern over the cost of extracting hydrogen — and where it comes from — improving substantially. Most of it had been coming from natural gas, but that’s starting to change. For natural gas, much of the hydrogen has come from steam methane reforming (SMR), which causes the methane found in natural gas to react with steam, which then produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Green hydrogen is gaining support as it can almost completely eliminate emissions by using renewable energy for powering electrolysis of water that’s needed in producing hydrogen. However, the pace of development of green hydrogen is not fast enough to meet global energy demand despite developers announcing 50 projects in the last year, according to a new study. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) analyzed these projects and found the supply of global green hydrogen is likely to be three million tons a year; but global demand is forecast to reach 8.7 million tons annually by 2030, creating an “incredible supply shortfall.”

And in other news:
Musk tweets about extended-range battery: Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that much better batteries are on the horizon during a tweet post on Monday. “400 Wh/kg with high cycle life, produced in volume (not just a lab) is not far. Probably 3 to 4 years,” Musk tweeted in response to a Twitter thread by Sam Korus, an analyst at ARK Investment Management LLC, about why Musk keeps dropping hints about airplanes. That would make for mass production of electric vehicles with 50 percent more energy density coming out in three to four years. This is expected to be clarified at the company’s upcoming “Battery Day” event where it is expected to reveal how it has improved its battery performance.

California employees law on hold: A California appeals court ruling on Thursday avoided a shutdown of Uber and Lyft in the state, allowing drivers to remain independent contractors while the court continues reviewing the issue of driver status and whether AB 5 makes them employees. It means that voters may decide whether it will be IC vs. employees while voting on the November ballot measure.

Smog takes the lead: Air pollution is the world’s leading environmental risk factor, and causes more than nine million deaths per year, according to a new study. Published in the the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the new research study shows air pollution may play a role in the development of cardiometabolic diseases, such as diabetes. The study concludes that the devastating effects were reversible with cessation of exposure.

ACT Expo launches virtual seminars: Advanced Clean Transportation Expo recently launched a four-month speaker series, called ACT Virtual, to dig into environmental sustainability in trucking and other fleet applications. “Whether we’re going to end up with fuel cells or whether we’re going to end with hybrid technology or pure battery electric vehicles, we’re investing in companies and technology that can be supported within that,” said Ryan Laskey, senior vice president of the commercial vehicle group at Dana Inc., during the first panel last week.

Mobility Future: Uber acquiring Postmates during a tough year, Best tech news sources to read

Green Auto Market will occasionally publish two special editions, Mobility Future and Sustainable Future — two topics integral to what’s next in clean transportation.

Big news took place this week for those following mobility, on Monday, when ride-hailing giant Uber announced that it had acquired major food delivery company Postmates in a $2.65 billion, all-stock deal. Food delivery is doing well these days, while ridesharing and ride-hailing is facing a tough time during COVID-19. Uber and Lyft went public last year, with two other delivery companies preparing to going public soon, DoorDash and Instacart. Being acquired can be an even better bet for founders and early investors in firms like Postmates.

Uber Technologies Inc
IPO: May 10, 2019 opened at $41.57
Closed at $33.15 on June 9, 2020
Market cap: $57.48 billion
Q1 2020 Results: $3.54 billion revenue and a net loss of $2.9 billion

IPO: March 29, 2019 opened at $78.29 per share.
Closed at $29.84 0n June 9, 2020.
Market cap: $8.89 billion
Q1 2020 Earnings: $955.7 million revenue and a net loss of $398.1 million

Uber plans to run Postmates alongside its own food delivery business, Uber Eats. Combined, it will be No. 2 in meal delivery after DoorDash. Operations will be streamlined for efficiency, including having drivers delivering orders for both businesses. The deal came together after Uber failed to acquire another major food delivery company, Grubhub, which was instead acquired by Europe’s giant, Just Eat Takeaway, for $7.3 billion. The Postmates transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in Q1 2021, at which point the two companies will integrate more of their efforts, according to Postmates.

For anyone following Silicon Valley startups in mobile apps, devices, software, hardware, connected cars, and autonomous vehicle technology, it’s very typical to see a startup like Postmates become acquired by one or more of the major players in the industry; while other startups sometimes go after IPOs with mixed results. Silicon Valley has extended out to other zones over the past two decades — Silicon Beach in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Seattle (including gaming companies); and an extended map from San Jose to San Francisco along US Highway 101. Many times, major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook, are setting up satellite offices in other cities. But San Francisco continues to be the home base HQ for many of the startups such as Uber and Lyft.

The impact of COVID-19 has been harder on Uber and Lyft than food delivery companies or grocery shopping and delivery company Instacart. As people have stayed home from work and other activites, having meals and groceries delivered has skyrocketed in demand. But for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing firms, it’s been a tough time. One issue has been whether passengers can feel safe from Coronavirus while taking a ride.

Uber in May announced more than 6,500 layoffs, about a quarter of its workforce. The company said its ride-hailing business was down 75 percent from a year earlier. A month earlier, Lyft announced it would cut about 17 percent of its workforce (982 employees), furlough workers and slash pay in cost-cutting efforts to cope with lost sales during the pandemic. Lyft doesn’t report bookings, but analysts have estimated total rides will fall 63 percent in the quarter versus last year. Financial performance has never been strong for the two ridesharing giants, but Covid-19 has added to the pressure.


Tech innovation news sources you should know about
While I still read The Wall Street Journal and sift through news on my iPhone (typically from a few of the dwindling media outlets still in existence), I also spend more time reading relatively new publications. These media outlets cover technology innovations, startups, Silicon Valley, mobility, autonomous systems, sustainability, politics, and more. Here are the ones that seem to stand out most significantly, and that you might want to consider getting on their newsletter distribution lists.

Founded in 2005 by Silicon Valley innovator and investor Michael Arrington, TechCrunch profiles and reviews new Internet products and companies. It also profiles startups and existing companies that are making an impact (commercial and/or cultural) in the digital revolution.
Crunchbase and Crunchbase News
Crunchbase was originally founded in 2007 by Michael Arrington, as a place to track the startups that parent company TechCrunch featured in articles. In 2015, Crunchbase separated from AOL/Verizon/TechCrunch to become a private entity. You can find information on equity and angel investor deals made on startups and existing companies, with Crunchbase News offering late-breaking news on the market.
A news analysis source in the spirit of investigative journalism with a bit of wry humor. Such as this one: “Truly, what is up with Elon Musk. Musk declared he’s selling all his possessions, and Tesla’s stock price dropped 10 percent in a matter of minutes.” Vox is left leaning, but it’s also in the spirit of the critical importance of journalism in US history — the fourth pillar of democracy, just as important as the three branches of government.
This magazine goes back the birth of the world wide web — 1993. It’s been devoted to covering, exploring, and analyzing cutting-edge technology ever since then — and has delivered. Wired is still a must-read for people in the tech business.
Global news and insights including the future of mobility as one of its “obsessions” — along with global economic disruptions and the aging effect. If you’re going to read Quartz, plan for extra time to read long features (similar to The Verge).
The Verge
This is where you’ll see in-depth features on what’s behind movements in the world of mobility and tech startups, and a bit of investigative reporting. The Verge prides itself on providing breaking news in mobile app and digital tech innovations.
This one tracks media and entertainment and the latest tech toys. Mashable also covers global news impacting new media and technology, such as government crackdowns on internet companies and mobile apps; along with some coverage on the latest from Uber, Lyft, and competitors.
Interested in lightening up and having a bit of fun? Buzzfeed offers quizzes, videos, celeb news, recipes, news analysis, photo galleries, ridiculous and hilarious tweets and text messages, and the latest buzz on trends. If you scan the news app on your iPhone or Android, you might see an article with a headline such as, “26 Popular Movies with Awful Endings;” or a photo gallery and captions called “18 Dogs Who Haven’t Let the Quarantine Stop Them From Being Utterly Ridiculous.”
Founded in January 2017 based on this belief: Media is broken, and too often a scam. Stories are too long or too boring. Websites are a maddening mess. Axios has attempted to simplify it with clear, smart, and efficient coverage of topics such as robotics, machine learning and AI; China’s growing influence; and how human activity is posing threats to Earth’s climate.
Digital Trends
The Portland, Oregon-based website publication offers news, reviews, guides, how-to articles, and descriptive videos and podcasts about technology and consumer electronics products. Digital Trends is a good place to visit while shopping for the latest in smart phones and other devices, laptops, TVs, and more.
Medium, an internet platform whose “sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives.” I first discovered the website through its in-depth coverage of Google getting into the self-driving car arena and becoming Waymo. Medium seems to be customized to those working in new media and tech. Hot topics more recently have been real issues between men and women, and how dating and relationships tend to go these days. There’s also been quite a few pieces on making it in freelance writing and other digital media opportunities. And what it’s like to work for Netflix, Facebook, and Google/Alphabet.
Another mobile app to know about: TikTok
An app for sharing comedic videos, skits, and karaoke — started in 2017 that’s become wildly popular. Real people making real videos, says TikTok. It’s brand name has been all over the news lately, including President Trump’s reelection event in Tulsa. TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank.

Facebook is shutting down Lasso, it’s own version of TikTok. That decision was made as Instagram prepares to roll out Reels, a feature that will allow users to edit short videos in their stories and share it, a TikTok-like feature.

Looking for a silver lining during the global pandemic

So Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, just told us Thursday to stay in our homes and not go out to restaurants, bars, events, places of worship, gyms, parties, or any other social activity. We’re to avoid non-essential social contact to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and to stay six feet or father apart — aka social distancing. He’s not the only governor to issue emergency orders.

When this global health crisis will reach its peak and begin to change course is a troubling unknown. Pharmaceutical scientists may be developing drugs that could play a vital role for change, but the medications aren’t going to be here for a while. Onlookers want to see the number of new cases flatten out and then diminish.

We’re advised by governors, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stay informed and to practice preventive actions.

I think there’s one more step: finding reasons to be hopeful — to look for a silver lining. This is going to go on for awhile, and it would be better for loved ones and co-workers if we weren’t completely miserable to be around.

Here are a few resources and interesting news stories I’ve discovered.

Zoom offers an antidote to social distancing and isolation
If you’ve ever seen the 1968 science fiction classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, you may remember a scene where a future space traveler businessman takes a break to call his adorable little daughter on a videophone. I saw the movie again a couple of years ago, and thought, wow that will be wonderful when we someday can do something like that with such a crystal clear image and strong, consistent transmission. We could use Skype or FaceTime then, but there were a lot of glitches and inconsistencies.

That’s all changed with Zoom Video Communications and it’s remote conferencing services — which makes it seem like these participating people are right next door to you, and not 3,000 miles away. There are other products fulfilling the demand lately — Microsoft Teams, Slack, and RingCentral are out there — but for now Zoom is pervasive and everywhere with its free-to-low-cost services supporting video conferencing, online meetings, chatting, and other features. I’ve so far participated in two of these meetings, and now have a few more scheduled. Any question I’d had about it would be answered by someone on the call who’d already tried it out a few times and understood the control panel.

I’ve heard a few recurring themes — such as we’re already getting cabin fever stuck in our homes, unable to go out to dinner or do much of anything outside the house. There are a lot of stories about employees being put on unpaid leave for the next month or more; or having all their employee benefits covered but no pay for an unspecified period of time. A lot of comments are being made about dealing with fear and stress; I shared about how much I’d been remembering living through the LA Riots of 1992 and Sept. 11, 2001, both of which I happened to be in places pulled into the emergencies — at least for a few days (1992) or hours (9/11).

We can’t get close to anyone we’re not living with for now — especially to give and receive handshakes and hugs. We’re feeling an amalgam of stress, fear, dread, fatigue, and paranoia about the worst-case scenarios we’re hearing about in the media.

Giving thanks to the frontline
So far, I’ve heard a lot about the intense pressure that two segments of workers have been feeling over the past month or more — healthcare professionals and grocery store employees. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are being praised in many European cities at least one minute each night as they come together in gratitude. That can take place in open windows or balconies in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Athens, or Amsterdam, where they send cheer and applaud people too busy working in hospitals non-stop to hear them.

In America, Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, had this to say: “I’m seeing an incredible influx of nurses, heroic nurses, who are coming and working many more hours than they worked before, doctors who fearlessly go into the hospital to work. I’ve never seen the kind of volunteerism I’m seeing (now).”

Major grocery store chains are giving praise to their supermarket employees, who are feeling the pressure of serving frightened, demanding customers standing in long lines and searching for what they can get in toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, pasta, spaghetti sauce, soup, baking goods, Clorox, and other popular products. Kroger is giving full-time employees a one-time “appreciation” bonus of $300 at its Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, and other retail brand stores. Albertsons Cos. will be installing plexiglass barriers in its checkout lanes to safeguard shoppers and cashiers — and will pay employees an extra $2 an hour as an “appreciation” bonus at its Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, and other retail brand stores.

“Our associates are working around the clock to keep our stores open for our customers. I am incredibly grateful for all they are doing,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. “The true heroes in this story are our associates, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable effort.”

Musk changes course, makes contributions for coronavirus patients
While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been up to his usual antics lately by dismissing COVID-19, he’s now joining up with colleagues to contribute to support for patients impacted by the disease. He’s delivered more than 1,200 ventilators to California officials this week, an effort that will provide treatment for hospital patients with severe cases of COVID-19 — gaining kudos from Gov. Gavin Newsom. That followed soon after President Trump praised Tesla, General Motors, and Ford for contributing to the desperately needed equipment.

This happened about a week after Musk gained notoriety for dismissing the novel coronavirus in a SpaceX company email, and not long after a controversial Twitter post stating that that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” Like his auto executive colleagues, Musk is having to face the shutdown of factories and consumers putting off purchasing their products. The Fremont, Calif.-based Tesla plant did close yesterday, after Musk had pledged to keep it open. Tesla’s stock has been hit hard, like all the other automakers and tech giants. But investors and the general public do expect Musk to show signs of being a good citizen, which he has gotten around to. Stock market analysts see that Tesla and other publicly traded companies are just going to have to wait until the novel coronavirus statistics begin dropping down.

Donations are starting to come in to fund solutions
Pop star Rihanna’s charitable organization, the Clara Lionel Foundation, has announced it will be donating $5 million to coronavirus response efforts to do its part to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The organization, which Rihanna named after her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite, said it will be making the donation to several organizations – including Feeding America, The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and International Rescue Committee. Funds will go toward supporting local food banks serving at-risk communities and the elderly in the US as well as the “acceleration of testing and care in countries like Haiti and Malawi.”

The donation will also go toward “protective equipment for frontline health workers and diagnostic labs,” healthcare worker training and virus prevention “in countries that will be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response,” and the “distribution of critical respiratory supplies,” the group added.

Big-dollar donations have been pledged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies earlier this month that were aimed at supporting global response efforts to the COVID-19 outbreak. Donations are also rolling in from pharmaceutical companies supporting the research process, such as Novartis donating its malaria drug for testing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a fund to prepare for and respond to the spread of the coronavirus. The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund anticipates a need of $675 million through April to address the worldwide outbreak, and said funding needs will likely increase as the pandemic evolves.

Funds will be used to support efforts in tracking and understanding the spread of the disease, ensuring that patients can access the care they need and that frontline workers can get supplies and information. Another goal is to accelerate the development of vaccines, tests and treatments, according to UN Foundation representatives.

CALSTART turning 2030 Policy Summit into interactive online experience

CALSTART is committed to bringing partners together to transform transportation for good. In light of the COVID-19 issue, the organization has modified its format of the Policy Summit to be a highly interactive web conference. It’s taking place tomorrow, March 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific time. The agenda has been revamped to accommodate a new format with a shorter day and a dynamic format with high-energy panels and hard-hitting keynotes. CALSTART encourages people to register now, as space will be limited. The cost is $75. A Zoom call-in number and link will be sent to your email on file. Sponsors include Southern California Edison, Cummins, Volvo, the Propane Education and Research Council, Roush CleanTech, and Toyota.

Waste and recycling companies working hard to make doing the right thing profitable

So there I was sitting in my car on a Saturday afternoon, taking care of something for my parents that I’d put off doing for several years. I was waiting in line to drop off 40-year-old paint cans, spray paint cans, empty lacquer thinner containers, and more paint cans. Some of the paint cans were still partially filled, and most were empty. Either way was fine to drop off, I was told the day before when I called the EDCO Disposal center in Signal Hill, Calif., for more information.

My interest had also been sparked by the Chinese government announcing in July that it would no longer be buying mega-tons of America’s recycling waste. It was described as being a potential fatal blow to the already struggling recycling industry. So what’s going to happen to all of it? Will it be dumped where it shouldn’t be?

Talking to staff at EDCO Disposal, reviewing the facility, and feeling relieved to find an accessible way to be rid of toxins and waste for no fee, motivated me to look into the company; and from there, what the waste collection and recycling industry is dealing with on these critical environmental issues — not to mention its very survival. Environmental groups are concerned about what’s happening in refuse landfills and waste being dumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans, especially during storms. There’s also concern over recycling services being abused by people dumping trash into recycling bins that doesn’t belong there; and what should be accepted as recyclable, such as grocery stores being allowed to provide customers with plastic bags with a recycling symbol of #1 to #7, that may or may not be meeting environmental rules.

“Trash can travel throughout the world’s rivers and oceans, accumulating on beaches and within gyres. This debris harms physical habitats, transports chemical pollutants, threatens aquatic life, and interferes with human uses of river, marine and coastal environments,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Properly disposing toxic waste has been a challenge for many. Years ago, there might be one Saturday afternoon a month where you had to drop-off your waste that wasn’t allowed to be dumped into trash cans. It might be taking place at a high school’s football field temporarily set up as a disposal site. But it wasn’t at all convenient or clear on how to be ready for it, and what you could include in the drop off. Cities had already started adding recycling bins to their weekly trash pickup services in the 1990s, which did help, but it didn’t resolve the question of dumping toxins and other waste that wasn’t going to be taken to the city dump.

What does EDCO allow to be picked up for recycling? Carton containers, mixed paper, styrofoam, aluminum, shredded paper, glass containers, paperboard, cardboard, and plastics can be dropped off. They do have some restrictions enforced, such as only allowing plastics with a recycling symbol of #1 to #7, and lids to these containers can be included in the drop-off. On the waste disposal side, my local EDCO disposal site allows for carpet, paint, paint cans, cleaners, oils, batteries, medical sharps and medicine, pesticides and fertilizers, electronic products, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes, instruments that contain mercury, and more.

Like some of its large waste management and recycling competitors, the company has adopted a sustainability program, and issues an annual statement on its accomplishments. Its truck fleet consist of over 200 natural gas powered vehicles including collection, transfer, flatbeds and pickup trucks. Renewable natural gas (RNG) started being brought into the fueling stations nearly two years ago; and the company operates public CNG fueling stations in Buena Park, San Marcos, and La Mesa.

EDCO has been able to fill the void of one recycling company, rePlanet, which had to close its 283 recycling locations in Southern California last August after the Chinese government put the last nail in its coffin. EDCO saw a huge increase in redeeming recyclables at several of its locations. Another driver of recycling business has been supermarkets that are required by law to buy back bottles and cans. But the stores don’t like doing it, and the process takes much longer, according to one redeemer.

The company is also tapping into California Senate Bill 1383, which was passed in 2017. That bill aims to reduce the amount of organics in landfills. The company, and several other waste management and recycling companies, saw this coming several years ago. Over the past decade, customers have been asked to help the company build up green waste by dumping material such as tree limbs, grass, and food waste, into green cycling containers. That’s increased its organics collected over 20 percent. With the new state law, EDCO is constructing a new anerobic digestion facility in Escondido, Calif., and it should be operating by early 2021. It can handle up to 500,000 gallons of material. Methane gas comes out form microorganisms breaking down the material, which will create renewable natural gas to power the company’s fleet and for other power uses.

Waste disposal and recycling has been going through a transformation for several years. The US population has been increasing at a quick pace, as have the numbers in several countries around the world. There’s more refuse to dispose of without seeing it dumped into oceans or landfills creating a multitude of problems. Cities around the country had taken on unrealistic projects, such as San Francisco pledging 16 years ago to achieve zero waste by 2020; but the city is nowhere near that goal.

But like vehicle pollution, energy inefficiency, coal-powered plants, and oil drilling, the challenges are high in waste and recycling — but there is hope. As one study describes it, solutions “will be accomplished through the implementation of cutting-edge technology and through an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between recyclers, designers, packagers, manufacturers, businesses, municipalities, governments, and others.”

And in other news:
China sees sales plunge:  China new vehicle sales plunged 92 percent during the first two weeks of February as the coronavirus outbreak kept buyers afraid to go out in public and visiting dealer showrooms. The first week was even worse, with a 96 percent plunge in sales, the China Passenger Car Association said in a report. The national government is now considering extending subsidies for electric vehicle purchases beyond this year to revive sales in its “new energy vehicle” sector. Local companies are looking forward to it, such as BYD, BAIC, and startup NIO. Tesla would also like to see it happen as new deliveries starting coming from its Shanghai factory. Sales of these NEVs tumbled 54 percent in January from the year before, along with a shrink in the overall market; and that was largely before the coronavirus outbreak hit, causing city-wide lockdowns and production line halts.

Lucid partners with LG Chem:  Lucid Motors announced a long-term partnership with leading EV battery supplier LG Chem for the Lucid Air electric sedan. The startup said it chose LG Chem because of confidence in its batteries bringing an ideal level of efficiency, and further optimizing Lucid’s goal of meeting or exceeding its targets for range, energy density, and recharge/discharge rates. The company expects it will reach full production this year at its Arizona factory, with LG Chem having an exclusive agreement to provide battery packs for standard versions of the electric car through at least 2023.

NACFE supporting electric trucks for regional hauling:  The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has determined that regional trucking operations are well suited to be early adopters of electric trucks. It is also a rather large segment of the market with sufficient scale to have a big impact on the industry. It study will be focusing a few key topics: identifying high-potential regional trucking routes in concert with changes to freight movement; supporting the implementation of initial and future deployments outside of California; scaling best practices in infrastructure development for fleets and communities; and increasing confidence in the value of electrification.
“We are embarking on a three-year project to gain a better understanding of how commercial battery electric vehicles will best fit into the regional haul market, said Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE.

LA places biggest order for electric buses:  Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Feb. 20 that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has placed the largest order for electric buses in US history and that 134 of the 155 new buses will come from BYD. It’s part of the city’s goal of having 100 percent of its buses running on electricity by the opening ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics. “The clean transportation revolution is not a distant dream — it’s happening on L.A.’s streets right now,” said Garcetti, who spoke to dozens of LA reporters and city workers after quietly arriving at the Department of Transportation in a 30-foot BYD electric bus.

BMW beats Tesla in Europe, Prediction on electric fleet trucks

Competitors beating Tesla in Europe:  While Tesla dominates electric vehicle market share in the U.S., Europe is benefiting local automakers even more. BMW just issued a report conducted by IHS Markit based on new vehicle registrations from Feb. 2018 to Feb. 2019. BMW has 16 percent of plug-in vehicle market share in Europe, while Tesla ties for fifth place with Volvo. Volkswagen, Nissan, and Renault came in 2nd through fourth place. In Germany, BMW has 20 percent share with Tesla coming in at 3 percent. In Norway, the largest EV market in Europe, BMW has nearly 77 percent of that market while Tesla saw its sales drop there in the fourth quarter. Lack of retail stores in key European metro market areas is probably a factor. Tesla is tied with China’s BYD for first place globally, with Beijing Auto coming in second and BMW third. China is expected to play a big role in the future of EV sales. Tesla is getting ready to open its Shanghai production plant in May; while BMW was granted permission last year by the Chinese government to increase its stake in Brilliance China, the first company to take more than 50 percent in one of the joint venture vehicle manufacturers with factories in China. BMW hopes to lower its costs in that market, with EVs expected to be part of its growing presence.

Ford building more EVs and AVs in USA:  Ford has recommitted to building more electric vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology at its North American plant, with less emphasis on AVs. The $900 million Ford had planned to spend on AV production in its Flat Rock Assembly plant in Michigan through 2023 will instead be largely dedicated to EVs and the next-generation Mustang, the company said. The Flat Rock plant will become the production home to vehicles from the company’s “next-generation battery electric flexible architecture.” These vehicles will follow the all-electric performance SUV coming in 2020 from Ford’s Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant. Autonomous vehicles will be coming from a new AV manufacturing center in southeast Michigan. The company said that production of Ford’s first autonomous vehicles will begin in 2021 for deployment in commercial services to move people and goods.

Trump attack misses the point:  In the aftermath of a bitter Twitter feud with General Motors and the United Auto Workers in previous days, President Trump visited Ohio to continue attacks. After viewing the Lima, Ohio-based Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, which makes the 1M Abrams tank, on Wednesday, Trump attacked deceased Sen. John McCain and blamed Democratic union leaders for GM’s decision to close a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, eliminating about 1,700 jobs. All of this comes after announcements by GM and Ford late last year to initiate layoffs and close more plants to offset losses in the slowing economy and the steep tariffs implemented by the Trump administration. Tesla stirred up its own controversy last week after announcing it would close its U.S. retail stores and go to online sales to cut costs — which CEO Elon Musk later cut down to an expected 10 percent to 30 percent store closures. Tesla is joining several major global companies feeling pressure to close retail stores as shareholders put more pressure on management to increase performance and profits. Stores may not be worth the cost as companies such as Amazon lead the revolution toward online shopping and fast delivery services, analysts say. Overall, GM, Ford, Tesla, and competitors are facing a wave of changes in the imminent future impacting profits and market share. Job losses will continue as industries consolidate, robotics take over plants, and consumers want less retail stores and more digital transactions. The issues are much deeper than merely job losses at plant closures in Ohio and Michigan.

Model Y reveal:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the company’s Model Y a week ago, a compact SUV that had been mentioned long before. It shares the same architectural platform with the Model 3 compact electric car. It’s more conservative than Tesla’s other SUV, the Model X, with its falcon-wing doors. It’s putting safety and cost savings before flash, as Tesla continues to reach out more to middle income consumers with its Models 3 and Y. It offers the perks of a hatchback such as the Toyota Prius with the advantages of driving a smaller vehicle through crowded cities instead of a large SUV. The Model Y’s Standard Range model will roll out in the spring of 2021 with a $40,200 price tag and a 230-mile range.

Plug-in sales for February:  EDTA’s Electric Drive Sales Dashboard on U.S. sales in February reported 17,239 plug-in vehicles sold, made up of 6,792 plug-in hybrids and 10,447 battery EVs. The 34,279 plug-in vehicles sold so far in 2019 represents a 19 percent increase over the total sold thru the same period last year. The association will be including fuel cell electric vehicle sales data in future reports.

Prediction on electric trucks:  GNA’s Erik Neandross shared his thoughts on the boom coming this year with electric trucks coming to market at major trade shows and through compliance with government policy. Much will be learned in the next one-to-three years as a wave of electric work trucks come to market. Fleet managers and operators will be taking a close look at operating costs as more EVs go into daily fleet operations.