The state of automotive and transportation as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds

There are several unknowns shrouding a new virus identified three months ago in China and now seeing fear spread worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported as of March 15, that there have been 153,517 confirmed cases and 5,735 deaths worldwide of COVID-19 — with 81,048 confirmed and 3,204 deaths in China. It crossed a pivotal point over the past week with the WHO declaring on Wednesday that the coronavirus is now officially a global pandemic. That announcement was followed on Friday with President Donald Trump declaring it a national emergency.

What is appearing to become the largest global development in years will continue to remain shrouded in mystery for the unforeseen future. It will take quite a while until the public can rest assured that healthcare professionals can stop the spread and bring a cure — or at least arrest worsening of symptoms — for those infected with the contagious respiratory disease. It’s been causing panic among those crowding supermarkets to purchase bottled water, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and in the past few days, nutritional basics such as canned soup, pasta, and bread. Governments around the world are placing severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings in attempts to quell panic and spreading of the infection and disease.

The global automotive and transportation sectors are starting the feel the impact first witnessed in China — and now spreading to every continent except for Antartica. The long-term impact is expected to be severe for governments pumping expenditures into testing for the infection, researching the virus in labs, and quarantining people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to their homes or to government-run facilities. Automakers and many other corporations are starting to take hits in stock market value, and many companies are expected to take huge financial losses. Some of that will come from revenue and profit loss as more and more events are being canceled if they have attendance of more than 50 people (or even less) — starting with sporting events being postponed and many other announcements such as Louisiana opting to postpone its April primary election; and schools telling students that classrooms will be closed for now and that universities will finish their semesters and quarters with online classes. Businesses around the country also have been shutting down over the past week.

There are many questions that will need to be answered in the weeks and months ahead…… Will people want to travel and take road trips, and will there be too many restrictions in place for it to work? Will their concerns for climate change and air pollution be anywhere near their fear of coronavirus spreading? As the economy is hit hard and job losses potentially get underway, will consumers be able to go check out new cars (including electric vehicles) and slap down their down payments? How will service-based sectors be impacted, such as auto sales and vehicle maintenance, public transit, and ride services, as the public will want less contact with others for fear of contagion? What will the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia — intensified by the coronavirus news — mean long-term?

Here’s an overview of how the coronavirus is beginning to impact the automative and transportation sectors………….

Impact on China car sales:  Retail sales of new vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, plunged 80 percent in February, according to the China Passenger Car Association. BYD’s electric vehicle sales dropped 79.5 percent year over year during that month. BAIC BluePark, the EV division of BAIC Group, dropped about 65 percent. Volkswagen’s EV partner JAC saw its sales drop by 63.4 percent. Coronavirus also forced temporary closures of Tesla’s new Shanghai car plant and stores throughout the country.

EV battery supply tightening:   Many automakers are struggling to find adequate supplies of electric vehicle batteries. One of the factors is China being a major global leader in refining cobalt, a major ingredient in lithium batteries. The pandemic is expected to affect cobalt processing plants and EV costs. Prices are expected to be rise for automakers such as from Chinese lithium producer Ganfeng Lithium, which supplies Tesla and Volkswagen; although that cost increase has been by less than 10 percent so far.

What will oil price war mean?:  Saudi Arabia declared a price war on Russia’s oil industry on March 8. Russian President Vladimir Putin had refused to cut back oil production in the face of depressed prices caused by an unprecedented 3.5 million barrels per day fall in demand that was thought to be caused mainly by the coronavirus crisis. The Saudis are now flooding the oil market and unilaterally slashed their own prices enough to drive down prices on Monday, March 9, by 25 percent. That overall trend was being felt over time. Brent oil plunged from $68.44 per barrel on December 30 to $34.36 on March 9. WTI went from $61.68 to $31.13 during that time. Analysts fear a serious negative impact on the US shale industry. Stock analysts assign the oil price plunge as a factor in Tesla’s share prices failing over the past week. Overall, analysts expect that the oil supply will continue increasing. Oilprice.com just reported that “the oil market is heading for the largest ever crude glut in the first half of 2020, which could be two to nearly four times bigger than the biggest surplus recorded so far.”

What about the economy?:  The Federal Reserve decided yesterday to drop its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero, and promised to boost its bond holdings by at least $700 billion. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told press by phone that the virus’s disruption meant second quarter growth would probably be weak and it was hard to know how long the pain would last. That’s why the Fed is advocating a clear role for fiscal policy to help cushion the blow. Stocks are still way down from recent highs on fears of coronavirus, an oil price war and travel bans, and the automakers have been hit particularly hard as supply-chain problems mount across the globe. The Dow Jones Transportation Average is down 11 percent as a flood of store, restaurant and event closings send shockwaves. Major publicly traded companies in trucking, airlines, auto, freight/logistics, and railroads, are down about 10 percent to 22 percent today.

Musk downplays risk of coronavirus:  Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Friday sent a company-wide email to SpaceX employees stating that evidence he had seen about COVID-19 “suggests that this is *not* within the top 100 health risks in the United States.” They have a higher risk of being killed in a car crash, he said. Days earlier, he’d tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” which was liked by about a million of his Twitter followers. President Trump had taken a similar approach not long ago, stating that more people are likely to die from influenza than coronavirus. Trump has had to back off such comments, and has taken a few steps in the opposite direction since then including declaring the national emergency.

First US auto plant employee tests positive:  The first-known employee of a Detroit automaker to be diagnosed with the coronavirus in the US works at a Fiat Chrysler Automobile plant near Indianapolis, which was confirmed on Thursday. The unnamed male employee at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, located about 50 miles north of Indianapolis, was quarantined and received medical care, according to Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union. An undisclosed number of other people who may have come into direct contact with the person diagnosed with coronavirus also have been quarantined, according to the automaker. Production at the plant continued as normal, but was later idled out of fear spreading among workers.

Air travel hit hard by restrictions:  Major airlines have been particularly hit hard by the global pandemic, with the president’s new travel ban with Europe worsening it. The prospect of losing spring and summer bookings is another part of expected losses. British Airways’ chief Alex Cruz, told 45,000 staff on Friday, for airlines this is already bigger than the SARS epidemic, the aftermath of 9/11, or the 2008 financial crisis.

Delivery services still up and running:  Amazon says its Prime delivery service is experiencing delays, and it’s running out of stock on some household staples due to the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported. Food and grocery delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Instacart are seeing a lot business. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the CDC and the FDA. A larger concern is possibly transmitting the coronavirus from delivery person to customer, or vice versa, through coughing, vaporized air particles, or other direct contact. Companies are urging drivers and shoppers to take extreme caution.

BYD becomes largest face-mask supplier:  BYD is becoming a major supplier of products that are now in extreme demand — face masks and disinfectants. Its new Shenzhen, China-based plant is able to product five million face masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. It’s been done in response to severe shortages at hospitals and agencies across China since the COVID-19 outbreak. It started production on February 9, and now hundreds of employees are working day and night to fulfill orders.

Customers dwindling at dealer showrooms:  Auto dealers are hearing worrisome news such as automakers shuttering plants in Asia and Europe, and schools closing and major events shutting down in the US. Some dealers are reporting dwindling visitors and sales. John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council, says that sales are definitely falling and that conditions are changing a little bit more every day; a sentiment echoed by several other dealers. Cox Automotive, which owns Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, and Manheim, sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the US this year. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas would like the Trump administration to consider rolling out another “Cash for Clunkers” program, which was a $3 billion federal program in 2009 that incentivized consumers to swap aging gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Editor’s note: The Colorado house of representative just passed a measure that would allow electric vehicle-exclusive manufacturers such as Tesla to sell directly to consumers if the automaker has no franchised dealers in the state. It still has a ways to go to be cleared and become a new law in Colorado.

Trucking feeling the squeeze:  West coast ports are starting to see a decline in cargo ships full of containers enter their ports, with the Port of Seattle seeing a recent decline akin to what usually happens over an entire years. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the nation’s largest port, is seeing a drop in ships entering the port and cargo containers being unloaded for truck transport. Much of that has been originating in China, where plants have been closed down for several weeks after the coronavirus outbreak became pervasive.

Automaker response to crisis:  Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have told non-factory employees to work remotely in order to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Factory workers at plants in the US, however, are being told to remain in place — despite the United Auto Workers union announcing Thursday that a Fiat Chrysler employee at the company’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana tested positive for COVID-19. Other automakers operating in the US are notifying employees with warnings. Nissan, which operates factories in Tennessee and Mississippi, said that employees who feel symptoms should notify their health care provider and not come to work. In Europe, FCA, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Audi stopped much of their production plant work today as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis and plunging demand.

South Korea and China recovering, not so for Europe and the US:  South Korea reported more recoveries from the coronavirus than new infections on Friday for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January. It’s raised hopes that Asia’s biggest epidemic outside China may be slowing. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 110 new coronavirus cases on Friday compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national total to 7,979 on that day. The death toll rose by five to 72 as of late Friday. China has seen a drastic drop in infections — from hundreds of cases per day in February, to less than 50 each day last week. The rate of resumption of work at its factories and provinces is slowly opening up. China had shut down most provinces in a bid to contain the outbreak, and roads, transportation networks as well as factories had been closed. Europe and the US are seeing their numbers continue to go up. Nearly 170 million people were under orders to remain in their homes this weekend as France and Spain joined Italy in placing strict quarantine rules on their entire populations amid alarming rises in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Facts about Coronavirus:   For those wondering about some of the terminology and what’s expected to come next…………

  • It’s now typically being called “novel coronavirus.” Why is that? Simply that it’s a new form of the coronavirus. As for coronavirus, the name covers a family of seven known viruses that can infect people, including the common cold and other respiratory infections.
  • The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the symptoms that may appear two-to-14 days after exposure as: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • The CDC recommends that you immediate get medical attention if you have any of these emergency warning signs:
    —Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    —Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    —New confusion or inability to arouse
    —Bluish lips or face
  • CDC recommends taking the following steps to protect yourself:
    —Clean your hands often
    —Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    —You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
    —Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    —Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    —Be particularly careful if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

While some people dispel vaccine as a solution, there has been a lot of interest in when we’ll be seeing a vaccine available at medical offices, similar to the flu shots our doctors and nurses have been recommending in recent years. However, it won’t be showing up anytime soon for the novel coronavirus.

“A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week. The earliest it would be deployable, he said, is “in a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.”

Uber and Lyft rides are so far adding to air pollution, Nikola Motor going public

Ride-sharing not helping to cut emissions:  Bad news for those hoping the explosive growth in Uber and Lyft rides in recent years would mean less car ownership, gasoline consumption, and air pollution in crowded cities. It’s actually getting worse. According to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, ride-hailing trips today produce an estimated 69 percent more pollution on average than the trips they displace in the US. In cities, these rides provided by Uber, Lyft, Via, Curb, and other firms, are usually taking away even more low fuel consumption and displacing mobility such as public transportation, biking, or walking. UCS recommends that these companies take efforts to electrify their fleets and increase their pooled rides. “For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking,” the report says.

But that’s a tough sell for fleets of driver-owned cars and self-employed workers struggling to make a living in ride hailing/sharing. When you take an Uber or Lyft ride, you’ll usually be picked up in a small, fuel-efficient car or crossover utility vehicle. It could be in a Kia Optima or Kia Sportage, a Honda Civic, a Toyota Yaris, a Nissan Rogue, and occasionally in a traditional Prius hybrid. Customers are not going to get a ride in an all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, unless things change. And group rides of three or more passengers can be very inconsistent for customer satisfaction; such as one passenger in a business suit angry about having to wait until being the last drop-off and maybe miss their flight.

Startup truck maker Nikola going public:  On Tuesday, hydrogen fuel cell truck maker Nikola Motor Co. announced that it’s merging with a publicly listed acquisition company called VectoIQ. The transaction is expected to close sometime in the second quarter of this year, and when it does, Nikola will be listed on the NASDAQ exchange as NKLA. The Phoenix-based truck maker will receive $525 million in new investment as a result, adding to an existing stockpile of that same amount that it previously raised across three rounds of funding; and through a joint venture the company started in Europe. Nikola and its backers see much potential in the zero emission commercial truck market as several countries are implementing greenhouse gas rules that are coming to trucking the same way light-duty vehicles are seeing it happen in several countries.

Nikola has developed three different trucks, with a pickup concept being announced not long ago. Nikola also has a grand plan to deploy a hydrogen fueling station network across America, ideal for commercial truck drivers who wouldn’t be able to find hydrogen fuel pumps otherwise. The company also has versions of its trucks that are battery-powered, too, for end users that don’t need as much long range driving as the hydrogen-powered versions of the trucks can offer.  Editor’s note: I’ll have a second market report coming out soon (see below for more on the first one) entitled Hydrogen is finally here — but there are five hurdles to clear, with more on Nikola and other companies in the field.

Demand and interest in EVs in a few states:  If you take a look at this map created by auto site partcatalog.com, the Ford Bronco had the highest search rating in 19 states by car shoppers looking at vehicle refreshes and introductions set for this year. It’s also interesting to see that the upcoming Tesla Model Y took three states (California, Washington, and Hawaii) and the Rivian R1T took the top spot in two states (Vermont and Delaware). The Ford Mach-E, an electric Mustang SUV, won top interest in Idaho and Rhode Island. Partscatalog.com utilized Google trends data covering January 1 through the first week of February, looking at consumer interest in vehicles set to be released this year.

New Green Auto Market report: Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?
Will we be riding to work in electric, autonomous, shared vehicles a decade from now? Will the traditional internal-combustion engine auto manufacturing industry be clearly transformed into a new age? Could we witness steadily declining new vehicles sales; younger consumers moving away from car ownership; electric vehicles becoming more important to automakers and vehicle owners than cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines; autonomous vehicles clearing regulatory hurdles and starting production; connected car features playing a significant role over the next decade; and mobility services leading the way in traffic- and smog-congested cities. For those of you who may have missed my coverage and analysis of these topics last fall, all of it is explored and updated in a new report, Will we see transformation of ground transport by 2030?  Here’s the link for those who are interested.

Audi eTron beats Model 3:  The Tesla Model 3 got trounced in Norway sales during February, with the Audi eTron doing very well in Europe’s hottest battery electric vehicle market. The eTron sold 1,131 units last month and the Model 3 only had 53 units sold. However, Tesla typically back-ends its quarterly cycle where about 50 percent of the volume takes place in the third month. The company should be doing a lot of catch up in March. The Volkswagen eGolf came in second at 740 units sold. That model will be replaced by the VW ID.3 later this year.

Smart cities meet 5G:  Smart cities will soon become one of the most important testing grounds for 5G technology and business models, according to a new Navigant Research study. The next generation wireless/cellular phone network is expected to much faster and load-intensive than 4G, but there’s been a battle over the technology going into the networks along with government communication regulations affecting the outcome. Carmakers and their tech partners are quite interested in how all this will go. The Navigant study looks at a few key areas that some of the challenges will have to be resolved for full integration of smart cities and 5G: cybersecurity, data privacy, the impact of automation, and issues of digital exclusion. The study also explores the strategies of global carriers and infrastructure vendors that are leading the development and deployment of 5G networks.

Daimler launching electric truck test project:  Daimler Trucks North America is launching the Freightliner Customer Experience (CX) Fleet for its electric truck program. The fleet of all-electric pre-series trucks includes six heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadias and two medium-duty eM2 106 trucks. Fourteen of Daimler’s commercial customers will be participating in the test project. Data collection will take place over the next 22 months/ DTNA will analyze data and feedback from the CX Fleet to continue to improve upon future vehicle design and assist customers navigating a transition to electric fleets. “It’s critical that we collaborate with customers across multiple segments to further our understanding of how commercial battery electric trucks will be part of a long-term solution in CO₂-neutral transportation,” said Richard Howard, senior vice president, On-highway sales and marketing, DTNA.

 

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.

10 reasons electric automated shared rides will take off in a decade or two

As explored in Green Auto Market during fall 2019, the transformation of cars and fuels will likely take much longer than 2030. That being said, it looks quite likely that over the next 10-to-20 years, we’ll be seeing a growing part of ground transportation moving toward the forecasted transition. So, here’s a look at why we’re going to be willing to take an electric automated shared ride 10 years from now.

1. Traffic congestion will be getting worse.
A Texas A&M Transportation Institute study from last year expects that traffic congestion across the country will increase by roughly 20 percent in 2025. Five cities will see the worst of it: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, New York City, and Boston. For now, we’re looking for alternative routes and better times to drive somewhere (such as leaving extremely early for an important appointment). New vehicle sales are expected to continue to increase in the developed (and developing) world over the next decade, and these vehicles are made to last longer than in the past — perhaps 12 to 15 years before being taken off roads. Another trend having an impact will be young people moving to cities around the world, and needing some form of transportation. Uber rides, and competitors in mobility, will be part of it; along with personal and fleet vehicles, and commercial trucks and buses. Another key indicator of urban growth: trillions of dollars are being secured to fund development of sporting and entertainment centers; university R&D zones; office buildings; residential properties for both young urban dwellers and senior living communities; and new and revitalized retail shopping districts. This means more and more commercial vehicles will be showing up in metro areas along with more passenger vehicles for personal mobility.

2. Car crashes and road repair will have an exponential effect.
More people moving into major metro areas means more car crashes. The fatality rate per capita has been declining in the US for several years, but we’re going to see a lot more vehicles on highways and city streets. Anyone doing a good deal of driving in major metros these days knows the debilitating effect a car crash can have on traffic; and that also applies to maintenance crews blocking off a lane or two for road construction or repair. Highway construction projects plus car crashes, major or minor, means a lot more headaches for drivers. For drivers planning their day with a tight schedule to get from Point A to Point B by a set time, there’s nothing worse than suddenly seeing warning lights up ahead and long lines of stopped traffic.

3. The magic GPS mapping system will not be invented.
Realtime traffic data is getting better all the time, but it has a very long way to go as cities expand exponentially. Products like StreetLight Data, Garmin, Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps, are getting better all the time. But there are too many cars out there, and traffic will become more congested every year. Throw in car crashes, road and lane closures, bad weather, crowded events, and other occurrences, realtime traffic data won’t be fast enough to help divert traffic jams with more and more vehicles coming to roads. And what if there aren’t any viable alternate routes, as if all the traffic is being blocked off? Bad news for those who hate being stuck in traffic.

4. You can expect more tickets and expensive parking.
It’s much easier to get a parking ticket these days, and the cost of parking in a garage or outdoor lot is going up. When you do go to park you car, especially in a residential neighborhood, take a careful look at the posted signs. City planners are trying to keep their curbsides and streets from being taken over by drivers needing to park their cars somewhere. Residents and business owners complain about the stress and inconveniences of parking becoming a rare, valuable commodity, and want to see their city enforce parking codes. Some people wonder if cities are also bringing in additional revenue by putting parking meters and red zones all over town. Drivers usually have to pay for parking to go anywhere, and the hourly rates are going up. You can always download parking apps to find available parking spots, hopefully at a reduced rate. But if the parking spaces are gone, they’re gone.

5. Gasoline and diesel will eventually go up and stay high in pricing.
Consumers and fleets have been spoiled since 2014 when gasoline and diesel prices dropped and stayed relatively low over the years in the US. But it will eventually become more expensive to pump deeper for oil as the supply dries up. Fuel consumers will also have more options to choose from. Global oil demand will hit a plateau around 2030 after seeing an increase of 1 percent globally over the next decade, the International Energy Agency predicts. More energy efficient cars and electric vehicle growth will offset demand, the study said. The cost of electric cars and other clean vehicle options (hydrogen fuel cell, natural gas, propane autogas, hybrids, renewable fuels, and maybe even fuels that are yet to become viable today), will come down in cost and will become more accessible in fueling infrastructures.

6. Desperation over climate change.
Climate scientists have been putting out dark and dreary reports in the past couple of years on the global environmental crisis and expectations for the next few years. Climate change is gradually morphing into climate catastrophe. While the predictions are bleak, I still find many people out there who want to do something about it — drive a clean vehicle, get solar power on their roof, become more energy efficient, recycle all they can, and analyze where they’re going to spend their money, who to vote for, and where to share their opinions on climate change and social responsibility.

7. Car buffs are not looking forward to the future.
For folks who love part of the American dream, its depressing to think of the near future taking away their choices as a car owner. What if your dream car is a 1968 Pontiac GTO or a Dodge Charger from that model year? A 1958 two-tone Cadillac Eldorado? And what happens to your giant, loud Harley Davidson motorbike? Will they be able to give up their gas-guzzling performance cars and bikes to go to work in a quiet, boring electric autonomous shuttle? They’ll have to grieve and move on, but some of them won’t be able to give up their dream cars — and may once again lobby the Environmental Protection Agency to allow a loophole for a few classic cars.

8. The idea is appealing for people who don’t want to feel chained to their steering wheels.
If you ask around, and review a few studies, surveys, and feature articles, you’ll find that there are many consumers who look forward to not feeling enslaved by having to drive their cars. They look forward to avoid feeling knotted up in tension from getting stuck in traffic once again, being late for work, or burned out and exhausted when they finally make it home. It’s discouraging to wait and wait for traffic to lighten up, and then find out you only get to go another three feet forward and then stop again for what can feel like eternity. Many of us look forward to doing something else during that downtime instead of being chained to the steering wheel. It would be much more interesting to engage in conversations with fellow ride-sharers, or to friends by way of phone. What about reading that great book — or writing that book you’ve been thinking about for years? There’s plenty more to do such as responding to emails, watching a movie or TV series, getting more skilled at playing video games, online dating messaging, listening to good music, catching up on social media, and much more. Sound good? It does to me.

9. Saving money on transportation.
When you include the cost of auto financing, insurance, maintenance and repairs, tire replacement, and gasoline, you are looking at spending around $750 per month, or $9,000 per year, on average, for car ownership in the US. What if you lived fairly close to work and didn’t want to own a car anymore? You could ride the bus, take a few Uber or Lyft rides, ride your bike, rent a car or pay for a few hours of car-sharing, and put in a lot of miles walking. What would that cost you? You could probably whittle that down to around $250 per month. That would save you about $500 per month.

10. Competition will rise and choices will be plentiful.
What will it look like to see companies such as General Motors, Ford, Tesla, Waymo, Uber, Lyft, Apple, Daimler, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and China’s Baidu, launching advanced mobility services? Alphabet’s Waymo division took the first step in December 2018 by starting the Waymo One autonomous ride service in Phoenix’s suburb of Chandler. Members of its early rider program (that will go out to the general public eventually) have access to an autonomous ride-hailing service. There are many other test projects underway in North America, Asia, and Europe. These companies are hoping to build significant profit channels and to play leading roles in the future of mobility; with the expectation that car sales will be declining over the years. For now, it’s a wait and see on which companies will line up all the requirements to achieve government-approved, safe, efficient, and durable shared rides.

And in other news………

Formula E:  Jaguar driver Mitch Evans surprised racer Andre Lotterer who looked to be giving Porsche the top spot Sunday at Mexico’s E-Prix. Evans took the trophy for the fourth Formula E electric car race this season, surviving a turbulent race in Mexico that meant 14 drivers crashed and couldn’t finish the race. One of them was Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne, hitting the wall at the exit of Turn 3. Vandoome finished fourth in the championship, the first time he failed to score first place this season.

Kenworth electric truck:  Kenworth will collaborate with vehicle component supplier Meritor on electric powertrain development for Class 8 Kenworth T680E battery-electric vehicles. The electric Kenworth T680E will be a short-hood day cab in tractor configurations of 4×2 and 6×4 axles and as a 6×4 axle straight truck. The T680E will offer an operating range between 100 to 150 miles, depending on application.

Hydrogen trucks:  Hyundai Motor Corp. is entering the hydrogen truck market. The South Korean automaker is partnering with Yeosu Gwangyang Port Corp. to commercialize hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in their country — a move with a broader market potential as Hyundai plans to introduce two hydrogen trucks for logistics transportation by 2023, and then add 10 more. Hyundai is preparing to compete with Nikola, Toyota, and Tesla’s Cybertruck and Semi on the truck side and support its offerings in the fuel cell car segment.

German Gigafactory:  Tesla has been ordered to temporarily halt preparations for a car and battery factory in Berlin after environmentalists won a court injunction on Sunday. The company had been clearing forest land near Germany’s capital city, ahead of building its first European car and battery plant.

The facts about propane school buses, Hyundai and Energy Dept. working together on hydrogen and fuel cells

Editor’s note: Here’s a detailed look at how propane autogas is making headway in clean transportation programs that school districts around the country are deploying. Funding is available, and it’s important to know the selling points of the clean fuel being integrated into the fleet. Many thanks to Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) for contributing. 

School districts and school bus contractors across the nation are moving toward cleaner fuels, in part because of the availability of Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds allocated by their state. They have many options to replace older, dirtier diesel school buses with modern counterparts, as Green Auto Market’s Feb. 3 post correctly points out.

The challenge is reducing nitrogen oxides, which is one of the nation’s biggest air quality problems. The federal government regulates nitrogen oxide emissions due to their harmful impact on both the environment and human health.

Propane autogas is one of the most sought-after options to reduce nitrogen oxides. According to a recent study by West Virginia University’s Center of Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions, NOX emissions are 34 times higher in a diesel school bus than in a propane bus, over a stop-and-go route. Propane buses cut particulate matter to virtually zero and nitrogen oxides by 96 percent.

Right now, more than 19,700 propane school buses transport about 1.2 million kids to school across the nation each day. Almost 1,000 school districts have discovered this advanced clean fuel system technology. Propane buses can be found in major urban areas like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta, along with smaller districts, such as Neosho, Mo. and Chenango Forks, N.Y.

Compare that to 2,500 CNG school buses and 200 electric school buses across the nation.

Here’s another benefit: economics. Propane autogas is naturally much cleaner than diesel in composition and combustion, which translates to substantially lower maintenance costs. Plus, propane fuel costs about 50 percent less than diesel. According to ANL AFLEET Tool data, in a dollar-for-dollar comparison of Type C school buses, propane buses reduce nitrogen oxide emissions more than any other type of fuel.

Those transportation department savings can go back into classrooms. The World LP Gas Association’s 2018 report, “The Role of LPG in Shaping The Energy Transition,” states that if all the nation’s diesel school buses were converted to propane, U.S. school districts could hire 23,000 additional teachers with the fuel and maintenance savings.

When it comes to fueling, there are already thousands of public propane stations across the country. For districts that want onsite infrastructure, propane providers will install a station for little or often zero cost with a fuel contract. And with a range of up to 400 miles on a single refill, propane buses provide the distance that school systems need to get through daily routes and after school events.

But the most important takeaway must be the health and safety of our children, and that means reducing nitrogen oxides.

“The biggest thing we have noticed is that the clean operation of the propane buses has reduced the emissions in our garage and around our schools,” said Barry Bryan, director of transportation for the Bradford Area School District in Bradford, Pennsylvania. “There is far less crude build-up on our computer screens inside of our maintenance bays, which is obviously a plus for our lungs.”

Propane is unique in that its upfront and maintenance costs, range, ease of use and, most importantly, ultra-low emissions are all in the same package. With propane, districts get all the cost and emission-reducing benefits without the sticker shock of electric school buses or the complexity and dirtiness of diesel.

Tucker Perkins is the president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council based in Washington, D.C.

And in other news…………

  • Hyundai Motor Company on Monday announced the expansion of its partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its support of the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program. The automaker says that its commitment aims to increase technical collaboration to better understand challenges and to collect and publish independently validated data from demonstrating fuel cell technologies and hydrogen infrastructure under real world operating conditions. Hyundai will provide the energy department with five Nexo fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for use in various regions of the country including Washington, DC, to help advance research and development of fuel cell technologies. Data from the vehicles and infrastructure will be collected, analyzed and published to identify additional research needs in key areas.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board released findings on its investigation into fatal crashes that involved Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system. NTSB disclosed yesterday that in March 2018, Walter Huang, a 38-year-old Apple software engineer, was driving his Tesla Model X in Mountain View, Calif., in Autopilot mode at about 70 mph when it crashed into a safety barrier.  Huang had reported that on prior trips, the car had steered away from the highway, according to the documents made public.
  • Waste Management CEO Jim Fish indicated his company will continue to bet big on converting its fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) in comments at the company’s annual Phoenix sustainability forum. “By the end of the year, almost 70% of our trucks on the road will run on CNG, and by the end of next year it will be almost 75%,” he said at the Jan. 30 event.
  • Amazon and Instacart are leading the path toward grocery shopping and delivery. But don’t forget about competitors including parent company Albertson’s Vons and Pavilions grocery delivery services. Vons has been in this business since the 2000s, and you can still see its dedicated delivery vans bringing groceries to customers. Pavilions is promoting its Unlimited Delivery Club with a few incentives like $20 off your groceries and free delivery on you first order if you spend $75 or more. Albertsons is working with Instacart, and are other majors like Kroger and Costco. But they’re all trying out their own services. The Pavilions promo clarifies it: “Not valid on orders fulfilled by Instacart.”
  • Homeless population:  Ever hear of the homeless opera singer sharing her aria with the general public on a subway platform in Los Angeles? That was Emily Zamourka, who had several viewers of the video reach out to her for housing and support last fall. Zamourka is part of a growing population in California, and other parts of the country, of people living in abandoned building, tents, and other places you wouldn’t want to spend the night in. Here’s my take on why the growing homeless community has become a major concern for cities to face; and for those of us living here in homes wondering what all of it will mean.

Fact guide on a major clean transportation growth sector: Green Buses

Buses used by transit agencies and school districts have become one of the most significant growth sectors for clean transportation in the US and worldwide, with electric buses gaining much of that attention over the past year. However, it is useful to get a big picture overview of where green buses are today — and that includes buses powered by natural gas, hybrid systems, biodiesel, battery electric, propane, and hydrogen.

Chinese maker BYD is perceived as the dominant force in electric bus development and sales — but it’s not the largest e-bus maker in China or the world. Plus, there are a number of domestic and global busmakers that are making big moves in this space.

Natural gas and diesel hybrid buses were the first to be added to several transit fleets in US cities between 2005 and 2010, with biodiesel, battery electric, hydrogen, and propane following. A chart in American Public Transportation Association’s 2019 report tells a lot more of this story, and how diesel has been declining in recent years…………..

Source: 2019 Public Transportation Fact Book, American Public Transportation Association

According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), alternative fuels and advanced hybrid drivetrains powered more than half of all transit buses in 2017 and 2018. Between 2008 to 2018, the share of conventional diesel buses dropped from 70 percent to 42 percent.

Natural Gas:
The fuel became the first alternative replacing diesel to be tried by several transit agencies, with incentives coming from several states to convert existing buses over to compressed natural gas powertrain systems and to construct refueling infrastructures at existing onsite gas stations. NGVAmerica reported that transit agencies have about 11,000 natural-gas powered buses in operation. It makes up about 35 percent of new transit bus orders these days. US school districts have also taken the fuel very seriously, with more than 150 of them operating about 5,500 natural gas powered vehicles in their fleets to move students.

Seven vehicle manufacturers have offerings in heavy-duty CNG-powered buses for the US market — Thomas Built Bus, Optima/NABI, New Flyer, Motor Coach Ind., Gillig, El Dorado, and Blue Bird Bus. Selling points include saving millions in fuel cost, reducing emissions (especially when renewable natural gas can be utilized), and running quieter buses than what comes from diesel engines. Bus fleets around the world have been able to make the case for bringing in CNG-powered vehicles in recent years. New Delhi is operating the largest fleet — about 5,500 CNG-powered buses through Delhi Transport Corp. and the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal System (DIMTS).

Hybrid Buses:
Metro bus operators are using hybrid diesel-electric buses manufactured by Azure Dynamics Corp., Ebus, New Flyer, Gillig, Motor Coach Industries, Orion Bus Industries, North American Bus Industries, Mitsubishi Fuso, Volvo Buses, and many more. Many bus makers are partnering with three major hybrid system manufacturers — GM-Allison Transmission, BAE Systems, and ISE Corporation. Most of the hybrid buses end up in the US, Canada, China, UK, Norway, and Germany.

Biodiesel:
Using B20 and lower biodiesel blends has been a way for hundreds of US school districts and universities to reduce the health risks for staying with diesel fuel. It blends biodiesel fuel meeting ASTM D 6751 requirements with petroleum-based diesel fuel. School boards back it as it offers of low-cost method to meet air quality concerns on its fleet of diesel buses that require no modifications. It can run on existing engines and fuel injection equipment. The fuel is made from vegetable oils or animal fats with restrictions on what can be used to protect engine life.

Battery Electric:
All-electric metro buses have seen a wave of growth in recent years — including 32 percent in 2018. There are about 430,000 of them in operation today — about 17 percent of the world’s buses. But about 99 percent of them are in China, according to a report last year by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance. Cities in North America and Europe are bringing them in, and California is requiring all new bus purchases to be zero emission by 2029. Europe has seen an increase from around 200 e-buses to 2,200 over five years.

China’s BYD has been the star of the show, signing contracts for acquisitions all over the world and especially in the US and Latin America. However, another Chinese manufacturer, Yutong, has the lead in the market. Yutong has already sold more than 120,000 battery-electric buses, compared to No. 2 competitor BYD with its 50,000-plus unit mark. (By the way, Yutong is also the world’s largest bus manufacturer.)

BYD continues to sign impressive deals including bringing a 20-bus order to Los Angeles World Airports in December, and passing the 400th e-bus delivery mark from its Lancaster, Calif., assembly plant. That makes up the lion’s share of the estimated 650 electric transit buses in service in the US. However, BYD is nervous about the National Defense Authorization signed recently by President Trump. It takes effect in two years, and would ban mass transit agencies from using federal funds to purchase buses or rail cars from Chinese-owned or Chinese-based companies. But there are other markets, including selling about 1,000 electric buses in Latin America so far, and setting up plants in Canada, France, Hungary, and a new joint venture in the UK. The BYD K9 low-floor bus had been one of the most popular of its models.

In the US, local businesses are taking on e-buses to become BYD-competitive. Thomas Built Buses will delivery 50 of them to Dominion Energy in its partnership with Virginia school districts. The utility and school district want that to go up to 1,000 units by 2030 (though Thomas Built has not been handed over that entire contract).

Proterra is considered to be BYD’s leading competitor in electric buses, with contracts signed transit authorities in New York City, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia; and airports in San Jose, Calif., Raleigh, and Sacramento. Belgian busmaker Van Hool has announced a partnership with Proterra, to provide drive trains and batteries for its new line of electric coaches. Proterra, Inc., operators two plants and also offers electric charging systems and energy storage. Its Catalyst series ranges in sizes from 35 to 40 feet in length with various battery configurations.

Other companies to watch breaking into the North American e-bus market: GreenPower Motor Co. in all-electric transit and the micro-transit market; other markets served include school buses, shuttles, a cargo van, and a double decker. Gillig Electric Bus Co. started last year through bus giant Gillig LLC and engine maker Cummins Inc. Another major player, New Flyer, continues to close impressive deals such as one with King County Metro what will delivery up to 120 of its all-electric Xcelsior Charge buses.

Propane:
Propane leads the way with school buses switching over the clean fuels — more than 15,200 propane-powered school buses are out there now, according to research from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). And more of these vehicles have been added to school bus fleets since the report was published. Transit districts are also using propane-powered buses in their fleets. That list includes San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Delaware Transit Corp., and Michigan’s Flint Mass Transportation Authority.

Bus manufacturer Blue Bird has partnered with Roush CleanTech, bringing in its liquid propane autogas system to models such as the Blue Bird 4th Generation Vision Propane bus and Micro Bird G5. The school bus market has been the main focus. Navistar is entering the market through a partnership with Power Solutions International Inc. and its 8.8-liter propane engine.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell:
Hydrogen is just starting to break into the bus market, primarily in California transit agencies and the Hubei provide in China, which plans to bring in 3,000 fuel cell buses over the next two years. Toyota will be operating more than 100 hydrogen-powered buses during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fuel cell bus makers in the US include Van Hool, ENC, Ebus, New Flyer, ElDorado, and BYD. Ballard, US Hybrid, UTC Power, and Hydrogenics are major fuel cell suppliers. Daimler, the world’s largest truck maker, plans to commercialize a hydrogen-powered transit bus in the next two to three years.

Overal Bus Market — who could be gaining share in clean fuels at some point
Bus majors to watch include Daimler, Scania, Volvo, China’s King Long, Yutong, Hyundai, Iveco, Tata Motors, and Paccar. In the US, the three largest suppliers of buses in the transit market are Canadian company New Flyer, Gillig, and North American Bus Industries (although New Flyer and NABI merged in 2013, creating the industry’s giant). Ontario-based Orion also supplies some of that market. Major players in Europe include ADL Solaris, VDL, Volvo, Ursis, and Bollore. The green bus market is expected to become even more competitive over the next decade.

Other interesting news………

  • Elon Musk has a new enemy that uses the $TSLAQ hashtag. The group consists of accountants, lawyers, hedge fund managers, and former Tesla employees, who post social media analysis of Tesla executive departures, lawsuits, customer complaints, accidents, and other topics.
  • UPS has placed an order for 10,000 electric delivery vans from UK-based company Arrival. The initial 10,000 vehicles will be rolled out in the UK, Europe, and North America from 2020 to 2024 with the option to purchase a further order of 10,000 vehicles. UPS venture capital arm also announced an investment in Arrival of an undisclosed amount.
  • For those preparing the next disaster: The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DoD) will support an opportunity to address disaster mitigation through the use of an advanced fuel truck technology concept known as H2Rescue. The H2Rescue is a fuel cell/battery hybrid truck that first responders and the military can drive to disaster mitigation sites. It can provide sufficient hydrogen to provide power, heat, and even potable water for up to 72 hours.

Cruise Origin wants to be first electric AV for shared rides, Corporate EV fleet alliance led by Ceres

Cruise Origin pushing the boundaries:  Cruise, General Motor’s self-driving vehicle unit, last week in San Francisco launched the Cruise Origin, a large battery-electric autonomous shuttle van that can carry up to six passengers. All of this without a steering wheel or a brake pedal — but it still needs to be cleared by government officials. GM and Cruise are waiting for an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards that would allow the companies to test vehicles without these manual controls. If that gets approved, GM will be able to deploy up to 2,500 robs-taxis a year through its own Uber-competitive ride-sharing business. The US Dept. of Transportation is taking a hands-off approach to regulation on the national level. Elaine Chao, the US transportation secretary, says that this was going to be left to the companies developing these vehicles to self-regulate.
Corporate EV fleet alliance:  Amazon, AT&T, Clif Bar, Consumers Energy, DHL, Direct Energy, Genentech, IKEA North America, LeasePlan, Lime, and Siemens are leading a campaign for an expanded electric vehicle market and improved policy landscape through the Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance, led by Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization. The alliance is focused on decarbonizing transportation to tackle the climate crisis. The group is promoting the benefits of transitioning over to electrified fleets — cost savings on fuel and maintenance, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, freedom from reliance on volatile oil and gas prices, improved driver safety, enhanced company reputation, and bolstered workforce recruitment and retention. Amazon’s purchase of 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans, and a commitment to deliver 50% of shipments with net zero carbon by 2030, is part of the “climate pledge” the member companies are taking, according to Amazon.

Top Selling US Electric Vehicles in 2019
1. Tesla Model 3: 300,471
2. Tesla Model S: 157,992
3. Chevrolet Volt: 157,054
4. Nissan Leaf: 141,907
5. Toyota Prius Prime: more than 109,003 (by September 2019)
6. Tesla Model X: 85,077
7. Ford Fusion Energi: more than 66,679 (by September 2019)
8. Chevrolet Bolt EV: 58,313
9. Ford C-Max Energi: 42,231
10. BMW i3: 41,988

The Tesla Model 3 continues to dominate electric vehicle sales in the US, at nearly double the volume sold of the Tesla Model S and the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt went out of production in the spring and will be running out of inventory available for sale soon as new vehicles. The Model S finally overtook the retiring Volt in December. The Toyota Prius Prime and Ford Fusion Energi will later include more sales units recorded for the year, as these numbers only went through the end of September. Through the end of October, the Model 3 was the top selling EV in the world, followed by the BAIC EU-Series, BYD Yuan/S2 EV, Nissan Leaf, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Another report shows a steep drop for the Tesla Model 3 in The Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, compared to December; however, details on overall EV and new vehicle sales during that time period were not available in this analysis piece.

GAM readership changes:  Green Auto Market has switched over to Mailchimp, bringing over only a list of readers who’ve opened and read the newsletter recently. For those interested in joining the list, the subscriber link on the right column has been reactivated. And you can follow GAM and its editor on Twitter (both the publication and my page), LinkedIn, and Facebook.

RNG study:  Navigant Research just released a study on the growth boom in renewable natural gas. It includes it within the global biogas market, which is expected to continue to grow with a large and relatively established market in Europe and a rapidly growing market in Asia Pacific. Government incentives are making a big difference. “Transportation mandates such as the US Renewable Fuel Standard and California Low Carbon Fuel Standard have been instrumental in the RNG market,” according to the report.

DOE funding announcements:  The US Department of Energy (DOE) will offer an investment of nearly $300 million in funding for research and development of sustainable transportation resources and technologies through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). These Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) will be issued on behalf of the three sustainable transportation offices: Vehicles, Fuel Cells, and Bioenergy Technology Offices. EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) will provide funding support under two of the FOAs that will catalyze research, development, and adoption of energy-related advanced manufacturing technologies and practices to drive U.S. economic competitiveness and energy productivity. Topic areas within this FOA address priorities in advanced batteries and electrification; advanced engine and fuel technologies, including technologies for off-road applications; lightweight materials; new mobility technologies (energy efficient mobility systems), and alternative fuels technology demonstrations. The DOE’s H2@Scale initiative investment will support innovative hydrogen concepts that will encourage market expansion and increase the scale of hydrogen production, storage, transport, and use, including heavy-duty trucks, data centers, and steel production. In a separate announcement, the DOE said it will provide funding of about $96 million for bioenergy research and development. One project will be focused on reducing the price of drop-in biofuels, lowering the cost of biopower, and enabling high-value products from biomass or waste resources.
LCFS verification:  California Air Resources Board has set up its Low Carbon Fuel Standard verifier accreditation training program. The LCFS relies on accurate data monitoring, reporting, and verification to ensure the highest quality data are used in the program. In 2018, CARB approved amendments to add third-party verification requirements consistent with the verification programs under Mandatory Reporting and California’s Cap-and-Trade Programs, and international best practices. The LCFS verification program provides confidence and reliability in reported data for stakeholders, market participants, and the public. You can research accreditations on the LCFS Verification program webpage.

Volvo plug-in vehicles:  Volvo Cars has started taking orders for its XC40 Recharge P8 AWD, the company’s first all-electric car based on the best-selling SUV, in selected markets. The company said its already received several thousands of pre-orders well ahead of availability of the vehicle. The Swedish automaker has a very big goal to make battery-electric vehicles 50 percent of global sales by 2025, with the rest having hybrid variations. The company sold nearly 46,000 plug-in hybrids last year, a 23 percent increase over 2018. In Q4 2019, plug-in hybrids made up more than 20 percent of all its vehicles sold in Europe.

Hydrogen cost coming way down, New Jersey rolls out EV incentive

What’s been happening lately?
Hydrogen is looking better in costs now for fueling clean vehicles and in a few other areas including industrial feedstock and as an energy storage medium. That comes from a new study by Hydrogen Council and McKinsey & Co., that concludes there are now three core market drivers: a steep drop in production costs, higher load utilization cutting distribution and refueling costs, and additional cost drops from scaling up of end-use equipment manufacturing. The study looked at 25,000 data points gathered and analyzed from 30 global companies with cost reductions expected across several different hydrogen applications. These sectors include long-distance and heavy-duty transportation, industrial heating, heavy industry feedstock, and others, which make up about 15 percent of global energy consumption. Of course, much support is needed and Hydrogen Council is championing effective government policies to be adopted in key geographies, along with investment support of around $70 billion in the lead up to 2030 in order to scale up and produce for a much more cost-competitive fuel. “The Hydrogen Council believes that the report’s findings will not only increase public awareness about the potential of hydrogen to power everyday lives, but also debunk the myth that a hydrogen economy is unattainable due to cost,” said Euisun Chung, executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council. “If we are to reach our global climate goals by mid-century and reap the benefits of hydrogen, now is the time to act.”

New Jersey wants to take on greenhouse gases through a new transportation policy. Gov. Phil Murphy just signed an electric vehicle bill into law that offers a clear roadmap for state houses and governors nationwide to tackle climate change. The new law makes it easier for residents of New Jersey to buy an EV by providing a largest-in-the-nation rebate of up to $5,000. It also creates a statewide high-speed charging network, making driving an EV more convenient. Beyond cars, the law also requires NJ Transit to only purchase electric buses by 2032.

Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving vehicle division, has announced the Cruise Origin, developed with Honda Motor Co. It’s been designed with more space for passengers and to take on mobility competitors. The autonomous taxi will give ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft another rival, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said Tuesday during the vehicle’s introduction. GM is putting all its AV efforts into the Cruise unit these days, and giving the business space to work with competitors like Honda, which became an investor in October 2018. That’s helped Cruise move more quickly to develop a self-driving electric vehicle platform. GM created the platform that doesn’t require a backup driver or steering wheel. Honda contributed to the engineering and production of the vehicle. GM is waiting for an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards that would allow Cruise to test vehicles without these manual controls. If that gets approved, GM can deploy up to 2,500 robs-taxis a year that can be hailed vis a smartphone app.

And a few other new briefs:

  • President Trump said that Elon Musk is “one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius.” 
  • Tesla Autopilot crashes put in a more realistic overview perspective by a mobility expert.
  • The latest on the AB 5 battle, California’s law requiring gig-economy workers to be treated as employees.

Autonomous a decade away? What about connected smart apps until then?

Last week saw the big CES show in Las Vegas, where autonomous vehicles took over five years ago; the star then was the Audi A7 self-driving prototype. Many attendees this year were very disappointed that automakers and tech partners have changed their story from the AV Revolution over to cool, connected features being added to new cars.

This topic has been further explored in a Green Auto Market analytical report. Click here to see the market report available for purchase and download.

 

 

Highlights from this year’s CES:

  • Sony unveiled an electric car concept that could set the Japanese tech giant up as a partner for self-driving EVs of the future. The company said sensors are embedded within the vehicle, in order to “detect and recognize people and objects inside and outside the car, and provide highly advanced driving support.” Magna Steyr built prototype, and Sony listed Benteler, Blackberry, Bosch, Continental, Elektrobit, Genetex, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and ZF Friedrichshafen as partners.
  • Along with reminders about its intelligent mobility offerings, Nissan revealed a new twin-motor, all-electric, all-wheel-drive system. It’s expected to debut in Nissan’s first all-electric crossover utility vehicle that may arrive in the US in 2021. Called e-4ORCE, the new system will deliver high-torque, precision handling and stability, Nissan said. This will be possible by optimizing power delivery to each of the four wheels.
  • Toyota’s Woven City was shown off as a prototype community of the future that will be built near Mount Fuji in Japan. The 175-acre site will house an experimental laboratory of future technologies including self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes and new forms of personal mobility. People will be able to live in this community of the future.
  • Hey there, hardcore gamers:  This year, both Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation will launch new, next-generation game consoles. Both are scheduled to arrive this holiday season, and both are being slowly finished up for major launches. And you can always get a cutting-edge TV of the future to play the games on and watch your favorite show. Samsung showed off its Q950 8K TV with a minimal 15mm frame and AI processor that can track screen objects and position the sound to match. LG unveiled its latest rollable OLED TV, that can roll down from the ceiling like a projector screen with no need for a projector; there’s also a more affording OLED TV with a smaller 48-inch display.
  • Uber and Hyundai Motor Co. have a new partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network, and the new partners unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept. Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, bringing automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles.
  • Renault is developing a solution enabling automatic and secure interaction and communication between cars and connected objects in homes in partnership with French smart-home startup Otodo. Users will be able to control their home’s connected objects directly from their vehicle’s dashboard, as well as send instructions from their home, using a smartphone or connected speaker, to their connected Renault vehicle to prepare or share an itinerary, and other functions. It will be available in all Renault models that have the new Renault EASY LINK multimedia system, including the all-new Zoe, Clio, and Captur.
  • Hey there, Avatar fans:  Something that could be called “Ava-car” will be launched to promote upcoming sequels to the hugely popular Avatar movie made by the legendary director James Cameron. He spoke at CES to announced an Avatar-themed partnership with Mercedes-Benz, revealing the futuristic AVTR concept car. It offers what the German carmaker sees as the future of automotive design, featuring things like a steering wheel that will “merge” man and machine. AVTR will be able to recognize the driver based on their heartbeat and breathing patterns. The look of the car is based on non-human characters from Avatar’s fictional eco-universe. The seats and floor are made from sustainable materials, and the battery is recyclable, too.

What to watch for in 2020, Changes in GAM email distribution list

Here are 10 trends and developments that are bound to have a big impact on clean transportation and other sectors — including the presidential election, European emissions rules, and what’s next for car sharing and autonomous vehicles.

1. No continuation of federal EV tax credit
The federal tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles is ending for automakers selling the highest volumes and hitting their caps on allowable sales — and it appears that won’t be extended. The cap is at 200,000 units sold by brand of battery electric vehicles with a $7,500 tax credit. Tesla and General Motors have already passed that mark, and just had their pleas for extension ignored by the Trump administration and Congress in the new federal budget. Nissan will be next in line, followed by Ford and BMW. Automakers and EV advocates will need to turn to state incentives. The Top five sales states in EV sales during 2018 — California (about 45 percent of total), New York, Washington, Florida, and Texas — have their own state incentives that will have to be tapped into more.

2. Trump campaign clear about environmental and energy issues
The Trump administration continues to campaign for 2020 re-election, regardless of the president’s impeachment. The odds are that the US Senate, with its Republican majority, will not vote to remove Donald Trump from office — making him the third US president after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton to be impeached by the House but failing to reach the two thirds (67 votes) needed to be removed from office. Trump says he’s ready to continue on as president, and the Democrats are continuing to wend their way through candidates. For now, Joe Biden is the leading candidate, according to polls taken of regular voters.

As for the policies, Democratic candidates aren’t mentioning specific issues like the EV tax credit or incentives for fleets to acquire alternative fuel vehicles. As for taxing carbon emissions to get businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, John Delaney, and Andrew Yang, support it. On extending a cap-and-trade program such as the one started years ago in California, only Tom Steyer is endorsing it for now. As for the Trump campaign, you can review the campaign website and see that the administration will continue it’s crusade to gut environmental regulations, softening fuel economy and emissions rules, and denying climate change exists — statements that can be validated and detailed by environmental groups. Here are a few of the Trump 2020 campaign website statements………

“President Trump and his administration acted aggressively to increase exports of energy resources to the global market. This allowed financing for coal and fossil energy projects………. President Trump has approved the infrastructure and provided the resources needed to unleash oil and gas production in the US……… The Trump administration reversed President Obama’s moratorium on new leases for oil and gas development on federal lands………. President Trump rescinded President Obama’s costly Clean Power Plan and instead has proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule……… The EPA has rescinded President Obama’s methane emissions rule that would cost American energy developers an estimated $530 million annually……… 
The EPA is reviewing a rule that if rescinded would relax costly fuel standards and save $340 billion in regulatory costs……… President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the US from the unfair Paris Climate Agreement.”

3. Long-anticipated emission rules starting in Europe
Light-duty vehicle manufacturers will see more stringent emissions standards take effect in Europe in the new year with a phase-in period extending into 2021. Automakers will have to sell a lot more hybrid and electric vehicles in European Union member countries or they’ll pay costly fines, a situation similar to China. Scientists say that about 20 percent of Europe’s carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases come from light-duty vehicles, and heavy-duty trucks add to that emissions share even more. Shareholders worry that profit will be hurt as these green cars can’t be sold at higher prices than conventional gasoline and diesel models, which means they won’t be profitable until battery costs come down. The regulations will eventually cover heavy-duty trucks, albeit with a longer timeline. In Europe, commercial trucks will have to emit 30% less greenhouse gases by 2030. The US will have to continue to wait and see how the Trump administration is ruling on light-duty vehicles and later on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles — though it certainly will be at a less strict standard.

4. Going from NAFTA to USMCA
The House of Representatives voted Dec. 19 in favor of a new trade deal replacing NAFTA. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 385 to 41, with a large majority of Democrats approving the deal — a day after House Democrats voted to impeach the president. The Senate plans to ratify USMCA next year, potentially after it holds a January trial on whether to remove Trump from office. According to the new USMCA rules, 75 percent of car or auto parts need to have originated in a country partnership. Under NAFTA’s rules, the floor was 62.5 percent. Additionally, 70 percent of a car’s steel and aluminum purchases must be made in North America.

The new rules also require that a certain percentage of vehicles imported duty-free must be made in a place where employees make an average of $16 per hour. But the critical question remains to be seen — if the new agreement will force enough changes to shift production of vehicles from Mexico to the US. While the U.S would likely replace some of its duty-free imports with its own production, it will still need to rely on more expensive imports. It will cost automakers nearly $3 billion over the next ten years, according to budget projections made by the Congressional Budget Office. And it won’t face the reality of globalization of automotive manufacturing and distribution, and that new vehicles sold in the US already display a mix of foreign-made parts and components. As for now, General Motors and Ford support the new USMCA rules, as does the American Automotive Policy Council, which lobbies for Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler. Labor unions had been pushing for the bill, too, to protect domestic workers.

5. Tesla bucking downward sales slump in China
While new vehicle sales in China — including electric vehicles — continued to see a downward slide in November, Tesla broke that cycle with a 14-fold gain in new-vehicle registrations. Registrations of Tesla vehicles climbed to a five-month high of 5,597 in November, compared with 393 vehicles sold a year earlier. The China-built Model 3s are set to start at about $50,000, slightly cheaper than imported versions. Tesla thinks it can lower that price by 20 percent or more next year as it starts using local components and parts, reducing costs. There’s much at stake for Tesla as China accounts for about half of the world’s electric-vehicle sales — and with the company seeing the country becoming its largest global market after the US. The electric carmaker needs to see another burgeoning market as EV tax incentives will be going away soon in the US for Tesla and other makers.

6. New EVs that are gaining the most interest
In recent weeks following the LA Auto Show and announcements on 2020 product offerings, a few electric vehicle models have been getting much of the attention. One interesting question is will Tesla’s new Cybertruck will cannibalize sales of the upcoming Tesla Model Y crossover SUV………. Electric truck maker Rivian has raised $1.3 billion for the R1T pickup in a new financing round led by T. Rowe Price. Prior investors including Amazon, Ford, and BlackRock participated in the deal. Amazon, of course, will be buying a lot of the trucks………… Ford’s Mustang Mach-E electric SUV was very hot at the LA Auto Show. It will start arriving in late 2020, and Ford will only make 50,000 units globally in the first model year……….. The 2022 Fisker Ocean crossover SUV can be secured with a $250 down payment. It will offer 250 to 300 miles of range and will feature recycled materials from the ocean……… Volvo and its Polestar subsidiary will only be sending out its Polestar 2 electric car to select dealers in the network. It’s so popular that dealers in Illinois are fighting the Polestar Automotive USA’s plans to limit the dealer distributions…………. Watch for battery- and hydrogen-powered commercial trucks and buses to make a splash in 2020.

7. The latest in autonomous vehicle regulations
Autonomous, light-duty trucks can now be used for commercial purposes on public roads in California. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced the proposal this month, which outlines a permitting process for companies wishing to test or deploy driverless trucks for commercial use. The new rule only applies to autonomous vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds — Class 1 and 2 trucks that would include minivans, pickup trucks, utility vans, and step vans. This would be ideal for delivery companies………. At the moment, all autonomous vehicles undergoing testing must have a few controls in place, those being steering wheels and backup drivers. General Motors wants to roll out a small fleet of autonomous vehicles that don’t have these two things. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it will have a decision soon on the automaker’s request.

8. Will female CEOs carry over to automakers?
Enterprise Holdings announced earlier this month chief operating officer Chrissy Taylor would take on the role of chief executive in a planned succession. Taylor, the granddaughter of company founder Jack Taylor, will take the wheel on January 1. She’ll replace Pam Nicholson, the No. 23 person on the Fortune Most Powerful Women in business list who had served as CEO of the car rental giant since 2013. They join Hertz president and CEO Kathryn Marinello, making for two of the three US car rental conglomerate chiefs. In the auto industry — US and global — General Motors CEO Mary Barra is the only woman to run one of these companies. For now, it’s still a boys club — although women make up a third of the technology team on Ford’s Mach-E.

9. Car-sharing continues to be a tough business
Daimler and BMW have called it quits on Share Now, its joint car-sharing unit. A low adoption rate was citied. Share Now will exit the North American market and cease operations in London, Brussels and Florence, at the end of February. Another sad story also came this month, that BlueIndy will cease operations four years after the electric-car-sharing program arrived in Indianapolis. Members of the car-sharing network were told by email that financial reasons were behind the closure. The collaboration with the City of Indianapolis will end on May 21, 2020. BlueIndy said in a news release that 11,000 members took about 180,000 rides over the course of four years, but “Indianapolis drivers have been slow to adopt alternative transportation options and car ownership remains extremely high.”

10. Impact of sulfur emission rules on fuel prices
With the International Maritime Organization (IMO) ready to release its regulation on sulfur emissions on January 1, concerns are being raised over the impact on fuel prices and the economics of transportation. The ocean shipping industry accounts for 90 percent of global trade, and the IMO’s international mandate to reduce “bunker fuel” sulfur content in marine fuel oil from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent is expected to have a major impact. That will go for maritime shipping and trucking.

According to an IMO analysis at Wood Mackenzie, the global refining system is not equipped to produce the volumes of low sulfur fuel needed to power the world’s shipping industry by the time the regulation goes into effect. While there are existing stockpiles of low sulfur fuel available, the consulting firm expects that existing supply will likely not be enough to buffer global reserves until supply eventually catches up with demand. That consumption rate was about 3.5 million barrels a day from the global maritime sector in 2018. The shipping industry can be turning to diesel products instead of bunker fuel as the supply runs out and bunker fuel goes up in price. Higher prices are expected to be carried over to the trucking industry and other segments. That increased demand would bring higher diesel prices globally, having a profound impact on the trucking industry — especially in the US where trucking provides the lion’s share of freight transportation from these ships to buyers.

Changes at GAM reader subscriber list
Green Auto Market has stopped working with its distribution partner, and the subscriber box will be changing. Until that’s done, new subscribers or those with changing email addresses will need to contact the editor at jlesage378@gmail.com to be placed on the new email distribution list.