For Today: Will the Chevy Volt go away, Fisker parting ways with Nanotech on batteries

Will the Volt go away?:  General Motors is evaluating continuation of six cars, including the Chevy Volt, determining which vehicles will be continued or canceled in the coming years, Reuters reported Friday. The other five would be the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Impala, and Chevrolet Sonic. GM declined to comment. Pressure from shareholders to increase sales may have GM tipping more to pickups, crossovers, and SUVs. It would be a shame to see, with the redesigned Volt doing well in sales – No. 3, close behind the Tesla Model S in the first six months of U.S. sales.

Toyota rolling out new energy vehicle:  Toyota may launch an electric vehicle in China by 2019, to comply with the government’s “new energy vehicle” policy with its strict mandates coming into effect. Toyota said it will introduce EVs in China in a few years, but wouldn’t confirm whether it would start in 2019. Reuters also citied Japanese newspaper Asahi on a story that it the first EV will be built on Toyota’s C-HR sport utility vehicle. The newspaper expects annual output to start at more than several thousand units.

Fisker parting ways with Nanotech:  Fisker, Inc., is ending its joint venture alliance with Nanotech Energy Inc., called Fisker Nanotech, which would have manufactured battery packs for the upcoming EMotion sporty, luxury sedan. The company would have had to focus entirely on Fisker and let other client projects slip away, which won’t work for the company to do, said Jack Kavanaugh, chairman and acting CEO of Nanotech Energy. That JV had started with the Henrik Fisker starting his new electric car company in October. The automaker will continue to “work with Nanotech on the applications of graphene,” but it will use battery cells provided by LG Chem for the EMotion, Fisker said.

 

This Week’s Top 10: GM unveils the Bolt crossover and Volt redesign, More news from the Detroit Auto Show

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. Chevrolet Bolt conceptThe Detroit Auto Show opened with a bang for Chevrolet as it announced the Bolt electric crossover and the redesigned 2016 Volt. Rumors about General Motors working on a crossover version of the Volt have been fairly accurate – only it has a different name and it will be all-electric, not a plug-in hybrid like the Volt. The Chevrolet Bolt is expected to roll out in 2017 and compete directly with the Tesla Model X electric crossover. General Motors says the Bolt should get 200 miles per charge and will sell for about $30,000 with the federal tax incentive; and it will play a big role in strengthening its leadership role in electrified transportation. (See photo of the Bolt concept car.) The 2016 Chevy Volt was revamped to address needed improvements, including quieting the engine, improving performance and adding space to the interior. It will also deliver a lot more range – an estimated 50 miles per charge instead of its current range of 38 miles.
  2. More from Detroit Auto Show: Winners of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards were the Volkswagen Golf “family” (which will include all-electric and clean diesel versions) and the Ford F-150 and its lightweight aluminum body and improved fuel efficiency. Mercedes debuted its new plug-in hybrid, the C350. Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche downplayed fuel economy in these days of cheap gasoline and focused on performance – zero to 60 in 5.9 second, sports-car like handling, and the ability to reach a top speed of 130. The Nissan Leaf may more than double its output in its next version – up to 200 miles on a single charge. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn unofficially made this comment following a media briefing.
  3. Nissan is working with NASA on a five-year project to enable autonomous vehicles. By the end of this year, a fleet of Nissan Leafs will be tested to use hardware and software jointly developed by Nissan and NASA. Testing will take place at Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
  4. California Gov. Jerry Brown raised the bar again during his State of the State address last week. Gasoline consumption should be reduced by 50% over the next 15 years, 50% of the state’s electricity supply should be powered by renewables by 2030, and energy efficiency should be doubled in existing buildings. Brown, at age 76, just started his fourth and final term as California’s governor and wants to see the state heighten its role in the fight against global warning.
  5. Solar-powered electric car Stella has been nominated by TechCrunch as one of the five biggest Technology Achievements for its upcoming 8th annual “Crunchies Awards.” Stella is up against an impressive list of contenders — Apple Pay, The Block Chain (Bitcoin), Rosetta Mission’s Comet Landing, and SpaceX Lateral Booster. Stella, created by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven (Netherlands) University of Technology, has been widely recognized and is gaining support. Stella took first place in the 2013 Michelin Cruiser class at the World Solar Challenge race in Australia. Partners include National Drive Electric Week, Plug In America, and the Coast to Coast EV Connection project. The team calls it the “world’s first solar-powered family car.”
  6. Pope Francis is expected to issue an “encyclical” outlining the Catholic Church’s stance on climate change. It will likely reinforce the church’s strong stance with concern over climate change and its impact on the planet and its population. This has been gaining a wave of media coverage and social media mentions for its symbolism. The leader of the Catholic Church with its 1.2 billion members is joining ranks with most of the world’s leading scientists – uniting religious and moral issues with science, at least on the global warming question.
  7. Here comes the fastest electric car………. The Detroit Electric sports car is moving forward and will soon be built at a new facility in Leamington Spa in England. Detroit Electric is shooting for building the world’s fastest electric car that will hit 60 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds and is powered by a 285-hp electric motor. It’s being built on the chassis of the Lotus Elise, the same as the now-discontinued version of the original Tesla Roadster. While still calling itself Detroit Electric, the company had to move out of that hometown overseas to England last year.
  8. Car-sharing company car2go, will be launching its service in China. That will happen in the Chinese metro market of Chongqing within the next year, and will involve a fleet of several hundred Smart Fortwo small cars. The subsidiary of Daimler AG says it now has 12,500 vehicles operating in 29 locations and serving over one million customers in Europe and North America.
  9. RIN prices have doubledRenewable Identification Number (RIN) prices have recently doubled year-over-year in all three reported categories – biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel. They’re still about 30% below the peak period during the summer of 2013, commonly referred to as “RINsanity.” High RIN prices are expected to shield biofuel producers from falling oil prices, while refiner profits will be cut into by high RIN expenses if RIN prices remain high.
  10. So who will be the dominant force behind self-driving cars? Google or Daimler? Mercedes played it up at the Consumer Electronics Show showing off its “F 015 Luxury in Motion” concept car with its futuristic metallic exterior, swiveling seats to support face-to-face passenger conversations, and touch screens every passenger could access. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that this Mercedes-Benz will provide an escape from the crowded urban environment of the future.

Big Picture: GM has high hopes for a redesigned Chevy Volt; Smith Electric Vehicles shuts down production

Chevy Volt plant productionGeneral Motors would like to pick up steam on sales of its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. To get there, GM will be selling two versions of the redesigned 2016 Volt. One will be a lower-priced version with a smaller battery pack and shorter driving range. That will be carried overseas through GM’s Opel division in Europe. The next versions of the Volt will go into production in about 16 months at the automaker’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant. That plant will get a $384 million investment that will be aimed toward the Volt and a new flagship Cadillac sedan and a redesigned Buick LaCrosse.

GM would like to reduce product cost and make the Volt more profitable, and expects to achieve necessary cost reductions in the 2016 model. The automaker would also like to see stronger sales results without investing so much on incentives. The Chevrolet brand reported selling just 58,158 units since the Volt was launched nearly 40 months ago.

And in other clean transportation news……

  • More bad news on the EV startup front: Smith Electric Vehicles, based on Kansas City, Mo., has temporarily stopped plant operations. The company is best known for its Smith electric delivery truck, and says that it’s not shutting down operations for good. CEO Bryan Hansel says manufacturing the vehicles has yet to become profitable; he says suppliers and investors have been informed that it’s a temporary shut down and is part of the company’s plan to scale up production and sell enough of them to turn a profit.
  • Tesla Motors is setting up a new finance arm to entice companies to lease the Model S as one of their fleet vehicles. Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to calculate the leasing cost on Tesla’s website will offer them an attractive value proposition. The new Tesla Finance unit offers leases through partner banks with a guaranteed resale value. Tesla is also getting ready to start selling cars in China this month. Tesla CEO Elon Musk will be delivering a few of the first ones to customers. He’ll also be meeting with representatives from China Petroleum & Chemical (also known as Sinopec) this month about constructing charging units in the refiner’s nationwide network of service stations. The charging network is expected to start in Beijing and then roll out to surrounding areas.
  • CleanFUEL USA has rolled out the propane autogas industry’s first complete fuel network management system for electronic dispensers. Using CleanFUEL eCONNECT, fleet managers can economically monitor and control fuel inventories faster and easier than ever before with real-time data insight, flexible report storage, and remote access capabilities.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency may continue to be sympathetic to the biofuels industry; EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently spoke to the issue at North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington DC. McCarthy expects the EPA’s final rule to be different than the proposed version released in late 2013. After reviewing more than 200,000 on the Renewable Fuel Standard proposal, EPA is looking more closely at the realities of the fuel market, with one of them being the realities of the fuel blend wall. The agency expense more legal challenges for any RFS standards. “We need to be able to justify it in court, McCarthy said.
  • Tesla Motors has taken a swing at “lemon law king” attorney Vince Megna’s lawsuit against the electric vehicle maker. While insisting that it doesn’t believe in automotive “lemon laws,” the company says there are several good reasons to be skeptical about the lawsuit and denied some of the claims. Megna made a big splash on the internet with a Youtube video on behalf of client Dr. Robert Montgomery of Franklin, Wis.; Montgomery stated in the filing that he had a number of problems (such as a malfunctioning door handles) with his Tesla Model S that led to it being pulled of the road for 66 days. He wants Tesla to buy it back under a law that take affect after the vehicle is pulled off the road at least 30 days during its first year of life.