Lyft raises $1.5 billion, GNA profiled as 25 year anniversary approaches

Newsworthy:  Lyft continues to see a very strong year, now finding that its initial plan to raise $1 billion has gone up to $1.5 billion from a group of investors. Backers include Fidelity Management & Research Company and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, Janus Henderson Investors, and Rakuten. CapitalG led the billon-dollar round. The ride-hailing firm’s valuation is now at $11.5 billion. Alphabet, the Google parent company, played a key role in bringing in more investors for Lyft during October – after pulling away from financial support for arch-competitor Uber and filing its intellectual property theft lawsuit affecting its Waymo division……………..

A Morgan Stanley analyst expects that Tesla Inc. could lose attention from CEO Elon Musk, who may be devoting more time to his SpaceX intergalactic travel company. Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas wrote in a report Tuesday that we may see more of an alliance between Tesla and SpaceX in the future. “Investors widely expect Elon Musk to, over time, devote increasing amounts of his time and talents to SpaceX, raising the very real question of who could replace him at Tesla,” Jonas wrote. “A combination of efforts between the two firms could address this important issue.” The two companies will play on the alliance during an commercial in January. A SpaceX rocket will carry a Tesla Roadster sports car owned by Musk as payload when it travels toward Mars………….

Gladstein, Neandross & Associates was profiled in a newsletter article this week by California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. Along with putting on ACT Expo and other clean transportation events, GNA has played a key role in raising millions of dollars in grant funding for clients during its history. The consulting firm will celebrate its 25 year anniversary next year. The company has effectively supported the use of renewable fuels, and has provided research and analysis for all parts of the clean transportation industry. GNA also does emissions modeling, assists with technical fleet planning, monitors government affairs, and provide communications and media services to clients, CNGVC said.

ACT Expo 2017: Highlights from clean transportation show themes and new product launches

Electrified trucks and buses, the significance of renewable natural gas, and growing interest among users in mobility services and automated transport, were leading topics at ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif. The exhibit hall was filled with the latest clean vehicles, drivetrain components, and fueling infrastructure dispensers and stations available to the fleet market.

Electrified vehicles:  While several prominent electric work truck makers went out of business not too long ago, fleets now have a diverse selection of offerings to choose from companies that look ready to stay on the market and service the vehicles long-term. Vehicles include buses, shuttles, port drayage trucks, work pickup trucks, and delivery trucks.

Workhorse Group unveiled its W-15 electric concept pickup. It can go 80 miles per charge through its 60 kWh battery pack. Buyers can also pay for an extended range plug-in hybrid version that can go a total of 310 miles on electricity and gasoline. As reported in Green Auto Market, the company is seeing a lot of interest in the market, with letters of intent received for the purchase of 3,000 units from a few utility and government fleets. It has a starting price of $52,000 and its platform was built on the E-Gen electric technology used in Workhorse medium-duty delivery trucks. Along with emissions reduction benefits, the company said it the W-15 has 460 horsepower with the ability to carry 2,200 pounds in payload and tow 5,000 pounds.

Renewable natural gas:  One fleet manager told me how RNG has been taking off in California for municipal fleets, with major gas suppliers now offering the clean fuel and state incentives backing it. His natural gas used in the fleet has been made up of about half traditional natural gas and half RNG. The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition released a study forecasting the economic impact RNG is bringing to the state. Deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ says that a switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals.

Award winners:  Fleet Owner’s Green Fleet of the Year: Walmart. The company, with its huge fleet of 6,400 tractors and 61,000 trailers, has seen several sustainability innovations adopted since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Like several transport companies and vehicle makers, the strategy has been corporate-wide, with fleet vehicles on part of it. Recently, 75% of Walmart’s global waste is diverted from landfills and 25% of its operations are powered by renewable energy sources. Since setting its sustainability targets in 2005, the company has removed about 35 million metric tons of carbon emissions from its supply chain despite its continuing growth over that time period.

ACT Expo awards:
Leading Carrier Fleet:  Saddle Creek Logistics Services. The carrier has 550 tractors with 250 of them powered by CNG moving through the southeast U.S.

Utility Fleet:  ForticBC. The British Columbia electric power and gas distribution utility now operates about 600 CNG and LNG heavy duty vehicles. The goal is bringing the fleet up to 50% alternative fuels by the end of 2018. The utility operates 15 CNG and seven LNG fueling stations.

Transit & Mobility Fleet:  North Kansas City School District. So far, 159 Type C school buses have been converted to run on CNG.

Private Fleet:  Frito-Lay, Inc. The company currently has 580 CNG freight trucks, 17 CNG public fueling stations, and 200 electric vehicles; that makes for the largest commercial EV fleet in the U.S.

Public Fleet:  City of Los Angeles. The city reported that 2,041 of its vehicles have been displaced from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. The fleet is now made up of hybrid vehicles, CNG street sweepers, LNG and CNG refuse trucks, 143 LNG and CNG heavy-duty trucks, and 100% of LA DOT’s buses are green.

“In It For the Long Haul” award:  Waste Management, Inc. The company reported having 5,791 of its collection vehicles running on natural gas. It has 95 CNG, LNG, and liquefied compressed natural gas (LCNG) fueling stations in place. About 40% of its natural gas vehicles are fueling by renewable natural gas coming from landfill biogas.

GM’s take on mobility:  General Motors is in a strong position to experience firsthand transportation trends of the next decade. In an interview, Alex Keros, manager and senior project engineer for Maven and GM, talked about what’s working with the Maven carsharing unit since GM launched it last year. About 60% to 70% of renters are members of the millennial generation who have less interest in owning a vehicle but do need to become acclimated to mobility options. GM is also in a good position to analyze data on the ridesharing side of the business through its investment in Lyft, which is also part of testing out self-driving Chevy Bolts. Lyft drivers and Maven renters are trying out driving the Bolt and the Chevy Volt. It’s turning into an excellent learning experience for users; the Lyft drivers are playing a role in sharing their experience with Lyft riders on what it’s like to drive an electric car. They’re not hearing complaints about the limited range issue, which has to do with the Bolt’s 238 miles and the Volt’s extended range. Even more important, Keros said, is drivers learning how to live with and respect the technology. They do adapt quickly to electrified mobility, he said. The company is working with EVgo on getting drivers set up to charge in their network. That’s also part of the learning experience with drivers finding out how long it takes; and how you can get away with taking a shorter charge to make a short trip, and then doing a full charge at night. Doing less than a 100% full charge is typical, he said.

In a separate interview, Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for GM, said that he doesn’t expect to see surging growth in ridesharing firms Lyft and Uber, and carsharing through Maven and Zipcar, along with the introduction of autonomous vehicles, to mean we’ll see a lot less vehicles on roads in the next 10 years. With drivers of these shared rides putting 25,000 to 50,000 miles per year on their cars, it will accelerate the replacement cycle, he said. Car sales aren’t likely to drop significantly.

Mohatarem doesn’t see EV sales skyrocketing in the near future. While diesel cars are going away in Europe since the Volkswagen scandal started, traditional engine vehicles won’t be going away anytime soon. With development of U.S. shale reserves, the supply will be plentiful and domestic for the foreseeable future, he said. Regulatory pressure in markets like Europe is a factor that will bring more EVs to market, he said. The chief economist doesn’t see EVs becoming viable until they make up at least 10% of new vehicle sales.

GM does see demand for natural gas and propane autogas vehicles growing among fleets. It’s also driven by overall fuel prices. Both of the alternative fuels are seeing a wider product range, which is helping with vehicle sales. The automaker is seeing demand for CNG-powered versions of the Chevy Equinox and Cruze and its pickup truck lineup. Good range and strong fuel economy are helping, Mohatarem said.

Cap and trade funds:  The California Air Resources Board announced at ACT Expo that California Climate Investments in zero-emission vehicles have reached $599 million since 2013. That’s supported putting hundreds of thousands of clean cars and zero-emission trucks and buses on California roads. That’s come from 115,000 light-duty zero emission vehicles including battery electric, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles. On the commercial truck side, 46 Class 7 and 8 zero-emission trucks; 950 electrified delivery, utility, and refuse trucks; 407 zero emission transit buses, shuttles, and light-rail cars; 29 electric school buses; and 46 zero emission off-road vehicles, have received cap-and-trade funding from the state. Capital comes from the quarterly cap-and-trade auctions that came from the state’s AB 32 global warming law enacted in 2006. Some of the investment has supported demonstration projects of various specialty vehicles serving the ports and other applications.

And in other ACT Expo news………

  • BYD showcased its class 8 battery electric refuse trucks, which the company said is the first heavy-duty refuse truck built by an original equipment manufacturer that’s 100 percent battery electric. The Chinese automaker said that its North American division now offer these vehicles for purchase and delivery. BYD also announced that its first 60-foot articulated battery electric transit bus has been delivered to Antelope Valley Transit Authority. It’s part of the Los Angeles county-based transit agency’s goal to convert its bus fleet to electrification by 2018, and is the first of 13 60-foot electric buses that will end up with the transit agency.
  • Cummins Westport will make a new launch of near zero emissions vehicles in 2018, according to president Rob Nietzke. All three of its engines – the 6.7, 8.9, and 11.9 liter versions – will be renamed next year and will feature refinements from the Near Zero design launched in 2015. The 8.9-liter L9N and the ISX12N will be certified by CARB at just 0.02 grams of NOx per brake-horsepower hour, which is 90% cleaner than the current standard. The 6.7-liter B6.7N is to be certified at 50% cleaner than the current standard.
  • UPS will deploy a prototype fuel cell electric vehicle in its Rolling Laboratory fleet. UPS is working with the U.S. Department of Energy and other partners to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that meets the same route and range requirements of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles. Unlike fuel cell auxiliary power units, this vehicle will use the onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle. This project is an important step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of zero tailpipe emissions trucks to fleet operators and the developing FCEV supply chain, the company said.
  • Ryder System will be the strategic service partner for Workhorse Group. Ryder will be the exclusive maintenance provider for Workhorse’s entire light- and medium-duty range-extended electric vehicle fleet in North America and will provide a combination of warranty and maintenance services as part of Ryder’s SelectCare fleet maintenance portfolio. Ryder will also serve as the primary distributor in North America for Workhorse’s E-100 and E-GEN range-extended medium-duty vehicles, as well as the new W-15 electric pickup truck.

This Week’s Top 10: CARB stays with clean car program, Keystone pipeline backed by Trump administration

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

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

  1. California stays with it:  The California Air Resources Board has approved the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) program, which reaffirms vehicle emissions standards set through 2025 should stay on track. The approved measure also mandates development of stronger requirements for vehicles manufactured in subsequent model years. It was created in 2012 in conjunction with the federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules, which may be weakened in Washington by the Trump administration over the next year. It could be the start of a clash between California and the federal government. California’s zero-emission vehicle regulation requires auto manufacturers to produce an increasing number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel-cell electric vehicles. CARB also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.
  2. Keystone pipeline approved:  The U.S. State Department’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is expected to face a series of hurdles in states directly affected and which have yet to approve. President Donald Trump had committed to Canadian oil company TransCanada to lift the Obama administration’s ban on the pipeline. The 1,200-mile pipeline will transport heavy crude oil from tar sands mines in Canada to a second existing pipeline, which will deliver the crude oil to specialized refineries in Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club are expected to file legal challenges to final approval and building of the pipeline.
  3. Tesla gets new investor:  Tesla Inc. reported that Chinese tech giant Tencent Holding has taken a 5% stake in the electric automaker for $1.78 billion. Tencent has been playing a role investing in U.S. and Chinese mobility startups in self-driving, electrified vehicles. The company has been best known for its WeChat mobile messaging app. Other EV-maker investments include NextEV, a Shangai-based startup which recently renamed itself Nio. That company has a Silicon Valley office not far from Tesla’s headquarters. Future Mobility is another Chinese startup Tencent has funded.
  4. Uber crash:  Uber is returning part of its autonomous test fleet to San Francisco after experiencing a collision Saturday that ended up grounding the fleet. Uber has been cleared from the accident in Tempe, Ariz., with police saying the crash occurred because a human-driven vehicle failed to yield to the autonomous Uber test vehicle. Uber’s test vehicles are able to travel autonomously, but the company keeps a human driver in the passenger seat ready to take over the car if necessary. Uber, as a company, continues to deal with a wave of bad news.
  5. Musk backs artificial intelligence venture:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken on another passion: Neuralink. Musk is backing the startup venture that, as he says, will merge “biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The business will be centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain. The end game will be helping human minds partner with software and keep pace with advancement in artificial intelligence. Memory could be improved, and the capacity for human minds to interface with computing devices will be tested. The new system will explore how brain interfaces might alleviate the symptoms of dangerous and chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy and severe depressive disorder. Musk is excited about being part of the “neural lace,” which is a sci-fi term for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves. He’s been known for debating other entrepreneurs in the artificial intelligence community, which is tied into SpaceX, robotic manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and other topics.
  6. New York EV incentives:  New York has set up an incentive program for purchasing electric vehicles that supports longer range, affordable cars. Only a few vehicles, like the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV, will take advantage of the full $2,000 incentive. Requirements for the full incentive are selling electric cars with a range of over 120 miles and a price tag at less than $60,000. Expensive electric cars like the Tesla Model S and Model X, and the BMW i8, can only receive a $500 incentive.
  7. Aerovironment and eMotorWerks:  AeroVironment will be integrating eMotorWerks’ JuiceNet smart-grid electric vehicle charging platform into AeroVironment’s line of charging products. The worked relationship is aimed at helping consumers find increased charging capabilities utilities to assist in managing demand load aggregation. EV drivers will be able to tie in their smartphones, web, and Amazon Alexa voice control over charging. They’ll also be able to tap into other features like looking at real time and historic energy usage for charging and notifications of charging status and other resources for lowering their utility bills.
  8. ACT Expo keynoters:  The speaker lineup has been announced for ACT Expo 2017. Thom Shea, President and CEO of Adamantine Alliance, will share his experience on navigating through challenging times based on his experience as a highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL, author, and leadership and human performance coach. With a number of policy and budget changes at the federal level, and the always present oil price roller coaster, the advanced technology and alternative fuels sectors face continued uncertainty and possible headwinds. Other speakers announced by ACT Expo include: Pete Melin, Director of Zero Emission Technology, Metro Transit of King County on managing a transit fleet integrating 120 battery electric buses into its operations; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, New York City Department of Sanitation on the world’s largest sanitation department testing DME and other efficiency measures; Sandra Berg, Vice Chair, California Air Resources Board on the agency’s role in advanced clean transportation policies; Kary Schaefer, General Manager, Marketing and Strategy, Daimler Trucks North America on leading the way in technology development for advanced clean trucking; Rob Neitzke, President, Cummins Westport on the company’s experience launching the game changing .02g NOx engine. Plus dozens more. See the full agenda and you can get a good look at the display vehicles.
  9. MUD chargers:  A new report by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation identifies multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) that could be targeted for outreach as they exhibit high latent demand for plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) and low-cost installation of charging equipment. In order to reach California’s goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles by 2025, residents of apartments, condominiums and other MUDs need to be assured that they can charge their PEV at home, writes, Alex Turek, Project Manager, at Luskin Center.
  10. Cost of fuel economy standards:  International Council on Clean Transportation, an independent research group, released a report stating that automakers costs could be reduced by 34 percent to 40 percent per vehicle in the 2022 through 2025 phase of the federal fuel economy standards if enacted from what was approved in January by the Obama administration. Much of that is already happening with automakers utilizing new technologies like turbochargers and advanced transmissions, and lighter weight materials such as aluminum. ICCT has played a role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal investigations, and worked closely with California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the findings.

This Week’s Top 10: EV sales were down a little bit in September, Electric Drive Transportation Association joins up with ACT Expo

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

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

  1. electric vehicle sales, EV salesNissan Leaf continues to lead the pack. Electric vehicle sales saw a little bit of softening in September after two months of strong numbers – falling short of the recent 10,000 per month mark with 9,340 units sold last month. That was 15% greater than one year earlier; for the year, 88,149 units have been sold – a 30% gain over the first nine months of 2013. The Nissan Leaf continues to steam along, reaching its 19th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. Hitting 2,881 units sold last month was nearly a 50% gain over last year’s 1,953. The Chevy Volt didn’t do as well – hitting 1,394, its lowest sales number since February and down from September 2013’s 1,766. The new 2016 Volt will be rolled out at the Detroit Auto Show in January, and current sales are expected to remain down for 2014 and 2015 models. The Tesla Model S isn’t reported but was expected to sell about 1,300 last month. Right behind the Model S is the BMW i3, which sold 1,022 last month – its second month over 1,000 sold. The company expects to roll out a higher share of i electric and plug-in hybrid models in the US in coming months. Tesla has raised interest with CEO Elon Musk’s recent tweet about unveiling its mysterious Model D on Oct. 9. Tesla also gained interest in its used car remarketing strategy in an Automotive News feature article. Tesla is developing a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle program for its off-lease Model S units. That should make it more competitive with pre-owned luxury models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the company said.
  2. EVs will play a larger role at ACT Expo. Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo and Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) have formed a new event partnership for 2015 ACT Expo, taking place May 4-7 in Dallas. The partnership signals a renewed focus on the rise of electric vehicles; it’s one more significant step that event manager Gladstein Neandross & Associates (GNA) has taken to expand the fuels and technologies being embraced by the clean transportation community.
  3. RFS gets an impressive list of supporters. A group of 33 state governors is asking the US Environmental Protection Agency to increase blending mandates for its soon-to-be-announced ruling on Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition says that decreasing RFS volumes could hurt production of biofuels from waste products.
  4. Spiking gas prices is a scare tactic, UCS says. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says that the possibility of rising gas prices in California being warned by oil companies won’t take hold. With California’s cap-and-trade rule from AB 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard coming from that legislation, oil companies are saying that with their increasing state taxes, they’ll have to pass that on to gas station pumps. A new report by UCS states that concerns about rising gas prices are overblown; the group thinks that any increases in transportation costs will be offset by savings from decreased oil consumption.
  5. What happened at Paris Motor Show? Green Car Reports traveled overseas for the opening of the famous auto show. Here’s their list of impressive debuts…… Citroen C4 CactusAIRFLOW concept car…… 2016 Ford C-Max……… Infiniti Q80 Inspiration concept….. 2017 Jaguar XE diesel…….. 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid…….. Renault Eolab concept…….. Volkswagen Passat GTE Plug-In Hybrid and Volkswagen XL Sport.
  6. USDA investing $91M in biofuel plant. Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the US Department of Agriculture is offering a $91 million loan guarantee to help finance an innovative advanced biofuel plant in Rapides Parish, La, with the Cool Planet corporation. The Cool Planet facilities will produce about eight to 10 million gallons of reformate per year at full capacity. Often referred to as a “drop-in” fuel, reformate is an ingredient in gasoline and jet fuel that can be added during the regular refinery process.
  7. Full-size Transit van on propane. Roush CleanTech will be offering a propane-powered Ford Transit full-size van to fleets by the middle of 2016. The Transit is in development now with Roush, and will be certified under Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) program. For the latest on the benefits of bringing propane autogas into a fleet, see a recent Q&A article by Michael Taylor, director of propane autogas business development at Propane Education & Research Council.
  8. Lamborghini enters EV space. Lamborghini announced at the Paris Motor Show it will roll out its first-ever plug-in hybrid vehicle. The Asterion LPI 910-4 concept car has a V-10 aspirated engine and three electric motors. The company said the Asterion can get 30 miles to the gallon on the lithium electric battery alone.
  9. Green Across America Trip #2. The compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Honda Civic road trip across the country that started in 2012 by Evelynn Corbitt and Curtis Martin, national chairman for Green Across America, will make its run this month in coordination with Alternative Fuel Vehicle Odyssey Day 2014. There will be scheduled stops in Lynden, Renton, Portland, Lebanon, Eugene, Medford, Saratoga, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego. The road trip will be supported by Clean Cities coalitions in Washington, Oregon, and California, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), and CNGChat.com.
  10. More propane conversion centers in Alliance AutoGas. Alliance AutoGas now has 100 member companies in its network with Virginia-based Better Fuels and Oklahoma-based CNG Interstate. CNG Interstate has traditionally specialized in compressed natural gas conversions for light- and medium-duty fleet vehicles and has become active in the propane autogas space.

ACT Expo 2014 sees strong attendance and a broad platform for alternative fuels and technologies

ACT Expo 2014Alternative, clean transportation appears to be gaining support – as evidenced last week during ACT Expo 2014 at the Long Beach, Calif., convention center. Now in its fourth year since inception, the conference’s attendance was up – perhaps as many as 4,000 attendees, making it the largest event of its type in the US and perhaps the world. ACT Expo keynote speakers, workshops, ride and drive, and an expanded exhibit hall, featured the latest in alternative fuel vehicle technology, the regulatory environment, and cost-benefit analysis by fleets.

ACT Expo has become something of a broad platform for fuels, vehicles, and technologies of all types to be well represented, and for stakeholders in these industries to network. The American Trucking Associations worked with organizers of the event for the first time this year; NAFA Fleet Management Association also played a key organizing role along with the US Dept. of Energy’s Clean Cities, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Another innovation launched this year was co-located events. Propane Education & Research Council was one of the leading sponsors of the event and held its “Lead the Way” propane autogas summit; NGV Global held its annual conference in tandem with ACT Expo and led a Technical Forum; California Hydrogen Business Council held its spring summit there; “Alternative Fuel Toolkit for Local Governments, Fleet Managers, and Employers Workshop” was presented by another leading sponsor, South Coast Air Quality Management District; and “Women in Alternative Clean Transportation Summit” was organized by ACT Expo management firm Gladstein, Neandross & Associates. There were a few field trip events coordinated with ACT Expo as well, including a heavy-duty natural gas tour with site visits to the Clean Energy station at Port of Long Beach and the Waste Management Carson station featuring LNG and CNG fueling.

The kickoff keynote speaker during Tuesday’s luncheon was Dennis Slagle, executive vice president group truck sales & marketing Americas, Volvo Group. The truck manufacturer aims to be the world leader in sustainable transportation through its Volvo, Mack, UD, Prevost, Novobus, and other heavy duty truck and bus brands. Volvo operates a comprehensive green vehicle portfolio in transport with natural gas, clean diesel, dimethyl ether (DME), and bi-fuel vehicles. Volvo is working with Cummins on bringing in a 13 liter LNG engine next year. Slagle called for a common sense regulatory approach in Washington, and asked for renewal of expired tax incentives.

Erik Neandross, CEO of event organizer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, led a panel right after Slagle’s presentation featuring prominent leaders in the industry. Clean Energy Fuels president and CEO Andrew Littlefair gave some interesting statistics including heavy duty trucks using 25 billion gallons of natural gas last year, taking the lead, by far, as a user category. There are 19 million natural gas vehicles in operation globally today, but only 142,000 are in the US. There is a lot happening out there, and Littlefair made reference to supermarket giant Kroger’s announcement that day on how it replaced 40 diesel trucks with that same amount of LNG trucks in Oregon.

Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) president and CEO Roy Willis said that in addition to light and medium duty trucks, propane is being widely used in material handling, generators, irrigation, and landscaping (such as mowers). There are about 600,000 propane-powered forklifts in operation in the US. There are about 140,000 propane-powered passenger and commercial vehicles on US roads; as for sales, there were about 14,000 units sold in the US last year (about half OEM and half conversion);  75% are light duty (mostly pickups and police cars) and 25% are medium duty including school buses. PERC forecasts that there will about 18,500 propane autogas vehicles sold in the US this year and about 25,000 in 2015. In a separate interview, Willis said there’s a strong sense of momentum being experienced in propane autogas, even with expiration of the fuel tax credit at the end of 2013. Direct injection engines are holding a lot of promise; Willis talked about the PERC project with Southwest Research Institute, Ford, General Motors, and Hyundai on direct injection.

National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe talked about the ongoing battle in Washington – and how oil industry spokespeople are lobbying with misinformation about the Renewable Fuel Standard (with examples being shown in video segments) while also covering up their abundant federal subsidies. States are opening up to biodiesel such as Minnesota mandating that 10% of its diesel will soon be biodiesel. Via Motors chairman of the board Bob Lutz championed the breakthroughs electric vehicles are on the cusp of experiencing. He said that next-gen, lithium-sulfur batteries will have five times as much energy density as lithium-ion batteries.

Alex Freitag, director of diesel systems engineering at Robert Bosch, led a panel on light-duty diesel as a growing alternative. The 20% to 30% of fuel efficiency gains, along with huge reductions in NOx, hydrocarbons and particulate matter, have made diesel-powered vehicles much more viable for fleets and for consumers in the US. Mike McGarry, fleet product planning manager and green fleet support at General Motors, and William Craven, general manager of regulatory affairs at Daimler AG/Mercedes-Benz, discussed investments OEMs are making in clean diesel options. Advancements are being made in diesel technology, Freitag said, including thermodynamic optimization, turbochargers, idle reduction, and stop-start systems. As for biodiesel, OEMs are supportive of the alternative fuel but need to feel confident in the quality of the fuel before they embrace it, McGarry and Craven said.

ACT Expo 2014 hosted a ride and drive on Wednesday afternoon last week. Vehicles included an EVI medium-duty electric truck and a VIA Motors eRev extended range van; a propane-powered Ford E-Series van; fuel cell vehicles such as the Mercedes F-Cell and Honda FCX Clarity; natural gas vehicles such as the Honda Civic Natural Gas and Volvo VNL CNG tractor; and two clean diesel vehicles – the Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel and Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee with EcoDiesel.

Penske working with customers on hitting sustainability targets in EPA SmartWay and through state programs

Penske CNGPenske led a panel discussion last week at ACT Expo 2014 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership. Drew Cullen, Penske vice president of fuels and environmental affairs, moderated the panel that included EPA SmartWay’s Tracie Jackson-Hall and Joe Ringhoffer, director global sourcing at Penske Logistics.

In April, Penske Truck Leasing repeated its win as one of 10 companies named in the EPA SmartWay Affiliate Challenge Award; Penske was also cited for its strong marketing efforts. The EPA acknowledged Penkse for doing an exceptional job in promoting the partnership’s freight sustainability goals. Penske Truck Leasing has been assisting its customers in implementing SmartWay objectives including establishing fuel economy and emissions benchmarking; and has been educating customers on implementing SmartWay strategies into their own operations. “It is in our company DNA to not only be good environmental stewards ourselves, but to also aid customers in identifying, quantifying and implementing sustainable transportation solutions,” Cullen said.

Last October, Penske Logistics was a recipient of the 2013 SmartWay Excellence Award for being an industry leader in freight supply chain performance energy and efficiency. Penske earned this award in part for reducing its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, nitrous oxide emissions by 40%, and particulate matter emissions by over 50%.

Penske works with customers using the SmartWay tools to improve environmental performance and quantify emissions calculations. Onboard technologies and alternative fuels are explored to improve fuel economy and improve the fleet’s efficiency. One of the workshop panelists, Chip Dorger, general manager at Letica Resources, explained how integrating the SmartWay program has meant less miles traveled, less fuel used, and CO2 reduction in total tons transported per year. Along with C02 reductions, SmartWay tools assist fleets in reducing NOx and particulate matter.

Offering customers compressed natural gas Freightliner Cascadia semi-tractors has been part of Penske’s sustainability initiatives, Cullen said. Penske Truck Rental has 85 compressed natural gas (CNG) Freightliner Cascadia semi-tractors available for commercial rental use in select markets. Penske works with customers to explore the environmental and economic benefits of going with CNG-powered trucks. There are challenges of going with these trucks – CNG trucks have less range than diesel-powered trucks and the tanks do take extra space; Penske works with customers to see when it makes sense to go with CNG. There is the potential to break even or to save two-to-three cents per mile; there’s been a lot of interest in these alternative fuel vehicles by food service, linen, and dry cleaning fleets, Cullen said.

During ACT Expo, Penske Truck Leasing also announced that it has been awarded grants totaling $525,000 through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) in Diamond Bar, Calif. Seven Penske facilities in Southern California have been awarded $75,000 grants to modify the facilities to provide maintenance services on trucks with natural gas-powered engines. “These facility retrofits will enable us to better serve our truck and fleet customers in the region and support their sustainability goals now and in the future,” said Jennifer Sockel, senior vice president of administration and facilities for Penske Truck Leasing.

These California grants are assisting Penske in working with customers on reaching their sustainability goals, Sockel said. CNG retrofits can become expensive; Penske works with customers on implementing options such as aggregate use and consolidating facilities, or trial use with a small percentage of the fleet. Staff training is also offered by Penske for maintenance of these engines, and for working safely on the vehicles. Working on CNG trucks is quite different than the diesel trucks they’re used to servicing, so training is needed by maintenance staff.

Penske has also received a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the purchase of 23 CNG vehicles. The Natural Gas Vehicle Program in Penske’s home state of Pennsylvania is helping to support development of a new CNG fueling infrastructure, Cullen said. Penske is working with customers on exploring options in CNG trucks and fueling, such as analyzing dynamic roadway routes. Pennsylvania is encouraging fleets to deploy CNG trucks in counties with poor air quality. Customers are now looking at when it makes sense to go with CNG, Cullen said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more!……..

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