For Today: Tesla semi-tractor is being delayed yet again, Waymo promoting the safety of self-driving cars

Another delay on Tesla truck:  The Tesla semi-tractor heavy-duty truck is being delayed yet again, this time until mid-November. Resources will go instead to fix production bottlenecks for the Model 3. Another priority, in which Musk tweeted about, is diverting resources to help bring Puerto Rico back through battery production to help the island recover from hurricane devastation. Residents have been going without electricity. Tesla was below its production target to build more than 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter. The company had just delivered around 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the quarter. Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

Charging study:  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a study on the state of charging stations in the U.S. The study looked into best practices for avoiding wasting funds on charging equipment that could be the wrong type or located in the wrong places. There are quite a few variables to consider including the ratio of plug-in hybrid to battery electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids have smaller battery packs than all-electrics; they charge faster and become depleted more quickly. Drivers do have the advantage of running out of battery power and getting there powered by a gasoline engine.

Waymo public education drive:  Waymo is teaming up with non-profit groups to talk Americans into believing in the safety of self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car company is teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving.” Waymo also emphasizes that autonomous vehicles can eliminate most alcohol-related fatal crashes, and would offer the blind a transportation option. The company said the public awareness ad campaign will begin in Arizona on Monday. That’s where Waymo has been doing a lot of its self-driving car testing. The ad campaign will be delivered through digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising, and radio spots.

 

For Today: More electric commercial trucks coming to market, Consumer Reports wants to see mpg window stickers on heavy-duty pickups

Commercial Vehicle Show includes electric options:  Volkswagen has added another electric vehicle to its product lineup through its truck division and jointly with Navistar International Corp. During the launch of the first-ever North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta on Monday, the two companies announced they’ll be jointly developing an electric medium-duty truck for the North American market. It will roll out as soon as 2019. These two companies forged an alliance earlier this year with VW investing $256 million for a 17% stake in Navistar. During a separate presentation, Daimler Trucks North America discussed its platooning efforts in North America; and how subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso recently launched the all-electric eCanter Class 4 cabover, which the company will deliver to its first customers, including UPS, by the end of this year. The company also hinted that its Freightliner Cascadia and Western Star trucks will have electric versions in the future. Buyers of commercial vehicles are looking more seriously at electric trucks as federal fuel economy rules enter their next phase, and Tesla, Nikola, and Daimler make moves in this market.

Growth in electrified buses:  Buses powered by natural gas and propane autogas have opened doors globally for deployment of medium and heavy-duty electric drive buses of all types – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric, and hydrogen fuel cells. Hybrid buses are expected to do better for now than plug-in buses, except for China, due to lower price premiums and lack of charging infrastructure. A new Navigant Research report analyzes the trends, including how fuel cell buses are expected to see further deployments as technology costs come down. Costs are also coming down in batteries, motors, and power electronics as volume increases for sales of plug-in hybrid and battery electric buses to fleets. Transit agencies have led the way, motivated to do so by new rules on emissions and reducing noise levels. Reducing operating costs is also helping sales increase with transit agencies.

Tracking mileage on heavy-duty pickups:  Consumer Reports is calling on the federal government to add heavy-duty pickups to its fuel economy ratings list. Its research team tested out three heavy-duty diesel trucks: Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, Ford F-250, and Ram 2500. All three pickups were equipped with four-door crew-cab bodies, turbodiesel engines, and four-wheel drive. While being more efficient than they were years ago, they only achieved 14-15 mpg, which was 1-2 mpg less than their gasoline-powered light-duty counterparts. Contractors and other truck buyers rely on these heavy pickups to buy hundreds of thousands of them per year. The consumer publication wants buyers to be adequately informed.

For Today: Cummins building electric drive trains, Smart offering electric autonomous cars

Cummins electric heavy-duty truck:  Cummins Inc. is adding electric drive trains to its power options, the company announced yesterday at its Columbus tech center. The 18,000-pound truck will have a 44,000-lb. maximum payload and about 100 miles of range. That beats Tesla’s announcement, which takes place next month and is expected to focus on a 200-300 mile range electric semi truck. Named AEOS after a four-winged horse-driven chariot from Greek mythology, the Cummins electric truck (built by Roush) follows an announcement in June that the company will bring out an electric bus by 2019. Cummins is looking for vehicle manufacturers to work with and large fleets interested in buying them. For now, the electric heavy-duty truck is in the concept phase. The company is well known by fleets for its natural gas truck engines.

Solar-powered dealerships:  SunPower solar dealers are working with auto dealerships across the country to put solar panels on empty rooftops and over parking lots to cut energy costs and to meet sustainability targets. Construction of the solar installations has also helped protect roofs and a fleet of new cars underneath the stations. Minnesota-based Luther Auto Group, the largest privately held auto group in the Midwest, has placed 454 kilowatts of solar at 10 of its dealer locations. They’re projected to save the company more than $2.1 million in electricity costs over 25 years.

Smart Vision EQ ForTwo:  Daimler’s Smart division will be showcasing the Vision EQ ForTwo, tapping into the company’s CASE philosophy – Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric. When it does come out years from now, customers will be able to hail a ride in the tiny electric car from their smartphone. Vision EQ vehicles will be able to flow through traffic more smoothing by “talking” to other autonomous vehicles out on the roads. It will be used for carsharing rides, and could be ideal for Daimler’s Car2Go subsidiary.

For Today: Ford sustainability report details several gains made, Tesla getting ready to announce 200-300 mile range semi truck

Ford’s 18th annual sustainability report:  Ford Motor Co. announced a series of gains made in sustainability initiatives in its annual report. The automaker joined the Business Alliance for Water and Climate “Improve Water Security” initiative supporting its drive to someday have zero usage of drinkable water in manufacturing. Since 2000, Ford has cut water use by more than 61 percent. It’s partnership with Jose Cuervo continued using agave plants for sustainable bioplastics being placed in Ford vehicles. Now about 300 vehicle parts come from renewable sources such as soybeans, cotton, wood, flax, jute, and natural rubber. Its aluminum closed-loop recycling system recycles about 20 million pounds of military-grade aluminum alloy per month, enough to build more than 37,000 F-Series truck bodies a month. Ford continues to reduce the footprint of its supply chain with an enhanced Partnership for a Cleaner Environment program that has grown to more than 40 suppliers in 40 countries – up from 25 suppliers in 2015. The automakers zero-waste-to-landfill program has been expanded to a total of 82 Ford facilities around the world, where no waste is sent to landfills. You can read the company’s 18th annual sustainability report to learn more, plus read and watch a video on improving safety and fuel economy, reducing manufacturing carbon dioxide, the company global electrification strategy, and sustainable mobility services.

Webcast on PEV sales:  On Sept. 12, UCLA, J R DeShazo, director of UCLA’s Luskin Center, will lead a webcast from Sacramento on the future of the plug-in electric vehicle market. Details on a new study will focus on the early development of the market and the factors likely to shape future growth ties into California’s public policy goals for clean vehicle sales. The study examined consumer response to PEV market offerings and tested hypotheses about potential determinants of PEV sales over time and across locations in California.

Tesla Semi range:  Tesla will be launching a semi-truck next month capable of going 200 to 300 miles per charge, according to Scott Perry, a Ryder System executive interviewed by Reuters. Perry said he met with Tesla earlier this year to discuss what the Tesla Semi truck will be like that CEO Elon Musk announced last year and said would be revealed in September. It will be ideal for short-haul trucking and won’t have anything like the capacity of 1000-miles per fueling big rigs typically seen on U.S. highways. The Tesla Semi could work for companies needing freight hauling from ports to warehouses and other day trips. Tesla will face a series of challenges including ramping up later this year for the Tesla Model 3.

 

For Today: Volvo electrifying offerings, Trucks need to electrify to stay competitive

Volvo goes electric:  Volvo Cars will be electrifying all of its new vehicle offerings starting in 2019. Five all-electric models will come out between 2019 and 2021, three under the Volvo brand and two under Polestar. These five cars will also have other electrified options that may include gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrids and 48-volt options. The Polestar high-performance electric model was launched last month. The product changeover ties into the company’s commitment to minimizing its environmental impact and making the cities of the future cleaner.

PEV drivers on charging:  Having access to public charging is still the top concern for plug-in vehicle drivers. ON World, a business intelligence firm, conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. PEV drivers and found that over half are concerned about finding enough of these chargers. Even through 80% of their charging is done at home, they do want to see more stations on the smart grid. Range matters as well; for those interested in PEVs, three quarters would prefer a vehicle that supports a minimum of 300 miles per charge. “The millions of PEVs in use over the next few years will require smart charging solutions that provide network management, dynamic billing, energy savings and vehicle-to-grid Integration,” said Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director.

Commercial trucks electrifying:  Truck companies building engines and supplying components for commercial trucks that don’t offer electric options will fall behind their competitors, according to a recent report to investors from analyst Alexander Potter of Piper Jaffray. Potter gave Allison Transmission Holding an “underweight” investment rating, advising investors to reduce their holdings in the company. Potter said that several companies, including engine maker Cummins and truck manufacturers Paccar, Navistar, and Scania, are investing in electric vehicle research and projects, potentially leaving Allison behind. While they’re still prototypes and pilot projects for now, the financial outlook will be affected for companies providing components to the industry, he said. Electric buses will provide some of the powertrain technology needed in heavy-duty trucks.

 

Electric trucks see a revival as automakers prepare to meet regulations and market demand

Daimler electric truckCommercial electric vehicles are seeing a revival this year, encouraged by government incentives and demand coming from fleets and freight haulers. Electric truckmakers and suppliers had seen several financial failures in recent years, but a turnaround is starting to pick up. California is playing a leading role, with its Sustainable Freight Action Plan aiming to see 100,000 trucks, trains, and cargo-moving machines fueled by cleaner fuels or electricity through its ports and on its roads by 2030. For the global market, Navigant Research says sales of electric drive and electric-assisted commercial vehicles are expected to grow from less than 16,000 in 2014 to nearly 160,000 in 2023. Electric hybrid vehicles are now being used in commercial applications where the improved technology offers major benefits for specific drive cycles that involve city driving in stop-start traffic, Navigant says.

Cities and states across the country are adopting tighter emissions rules for urban transport; the challenge is steep due to a lack of batteries with the durability to propel fully loaded vehicles for long periods of constant use. Automakers are starting to take these vehicles and battery packs more seriously, and a few of the startups are starting to make headway in the market. That includes Mercedes, Tesla, Nikola Motor, BYD, and Smith Electric Vehicles. Heavy-duty trucks, medium-duty delivery and work trucks, and buses, will have more electrified vehicle offerings in the near future……….

  • Mercedes-Benz outlined plans to start selling an electric heavy-duty truck in about five years, a week after Tesla Motors’ initial sketch on battery-powered commercial vehicles was announced in a Tesla blog post. Mercedes’ parent company Daimler says that its Urban eTruck will have a range of about 200 kilometers (120 miles) per battery charge and capacity for loads of as much as 26 metric tons. The electric truck is targeted for inner-city tasks such as supermarket deliveries. “Until now, there were extremely few commercial vehicles with electric powertrains,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, head of the Daimler Trucks division. “There’s now such a significant improvement on costs, performance and charging times that we’re seeing a step-by-step change.”
  • In the recent “Master Plan, Part Deux,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined a long-term strategy bringing the company’s electric drivetrain to trucks and vans. “In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport,” Musk wrote. “Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”
  • As for the electric bus that Musk referred to, in recent tweets he said that it’s going to more of a passenger van than a delivery vehicle. The planned “high passenger-density urban transport” will be not an electric city bus, but a smaller vehicle built on the Model X chassis. Musk has also said the Tesla Minibus will be modeled on an iconic vehicle – what he says is “inspired by some of the California Custom VW combi design art,” which is basically a 1960s VW van.
  • Salt Lake City-based startup, Nikola Motor, recently said that it has received 7,000 pre-orders for its Class 8 electric truck. The battery-powered prototype, Nikola One, is scheduled to be unveiled in December. The company says its electrified truck, which features a natural gas turbine range extender engine, is 10-to-15 years ahead of any other truck manufacturer in fuel efficiencies and emissions. Among a list of touted benefits, the natural-gas turbine powered rig is said to offer two-to-three times better mpg than today’s diesels and “near zero” emissions. “We are the only OEM to have a near zero emission truck and still outperform diesel trucks running at 80,000 pounds,” said Trevor Milton, founder and CEO.
  • Tesla Motors co-founder Ian Wright’s company, Wrightspeed, recently won a $30 million contract to convert hundreds of New Zealand transit buses with its turbine-powered plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Alameda, Calif.-based manufacturer of range-extended electric vehicle powertrains, also announced that it was just awarded as a World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer, a selection of the world’s most innovative companies. Designed as a replacement for conventional piston engine and transmission systems, Wrightspeed’s Route is a range-extended electric vehicle powertrain that provides extended range and fuel cost reductions for the refuse, delivery, and mass transit markets.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles, based in Kansas City, Mo., just announced its decision to streamline its structure and operations to increase shareholder returns. The medium-duty electric truck maker will consolidate its operations hub in the US and will add a division in the UK. It will sell and distribute its products worldwide. The Smith Electric Newton and Edison models are deployed in several countries across a variety of industries, including parcel, food, beverage and equipment delivery, and personnel transport.
  • While BYD is leading the Chinese market in electric car sales, in North America, its electric transit buses are taking off. Last year, California-based BYD Motors won a contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation that will allow for up to 800 heavy-duty buses from all different propulsion types that included 12 different categories for all-electric buses. The contract has the potential to be the most complete electric vehicle procurement in US history as it includes buses from 30 to 60 feet in length for both highway and transit applications, the company says. BYD is providing electric buses to other transit districts in North America, including an agreement with the Long Beach Transit, based in Long Beach, Calif., that was set up in 2015.
  • Colorado-based Boulder Electric Vehicle has a growing fleet clientele tapping into its mid-size electric truck offerings. The 500 Series offers 80 to 100 miles per charger with up to 4,000 pounds of payload, freeway-capable speeds up to 75 mph, and a variety of available configurations and options. The 1000 Series has similar specifications with up to 6,500 lbs. payload.
  • Electric Vehicles International (EVI), a maker of battery electric light- and medium-duty trucks and a plug-in hybrid utility service truck, was acquired in March by First Priority GreenFleet. The investor describes itself as “a total solutions provider to sustainable fleets that brings customers a full range of zero and low-emission vehicles that allow them to select the products and infrastructure that best fits their needs.” Its parent company, First Priority Global, manufactures a variety of specialty vehicles, including firefighting, medical, rescue, and public safety equipment. EVI also sells powertrains and performs conversions.
  • Last year, Via Motors announced that California Air Resources Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency issued emissions certification for its full-sized Plug-In Extended Range Electric (eREV) Pickup Truck, clearing the way for the company to deliver the vehicles to its fleet customers. Via had previously received similar certification from CARB and EPA for its eREV Van. Via employs a streamlined up-fitting manufacturing process to integrate its proprietary VDRIVE power train into new OEM vehicles, then sells directly to fleets under the VTRUX brand name. Via VTRUX delivers over 40 mile battery range on a single charge and unlimited extended range, averaging upwards of 100 mpg in typical daily driving.
  • In November, Mercedes finished a test project on a Fuso Canter E-Cell pilot in Portugal. The six-ton Canter e-Cell comes from Daimler’s Fuso brand. The customers in the test trial experienced the Canter E-Cell as an efficient and reliable concept fully meeting the demands of urban delivery transport, the company said.
  • Swedish truckmaker Scania is testing electric trucks powered by overhead electric cables. Since February, Scania has been testing out a new electric truck on two-kilometer struck of road between the Port of Gävle and the town of Storvik along European highway 16 in Sweden. Siemens is providing electric drive systems in the test project that operate on a catenary system, using an overhead external conductive box and cable system. Scania is finding that using hybrid electric trucks fitted with this electrified vehicle technology rather than diesel trucks can reduce fossil fuel emissions by between 80% and 90% in some cases.

Big Picture: Smith Electric Vehicles coming back through Chinese investor, AC Transit may end its support for fuel cell buses

Smith Electric VehiclesIt looks like Smith Electric Vehicles will still be there – and it wasn’t looking too good not so long ago. Smith Electric, which produces all electric medium-duty commercial vehicles, has secured a $42 million investment from Sinopoly Battery Limited, a global supplier of lithium-ion batteries and related EV products. Sinopoly will be the exclusive supplier of batteries for Smith Electric vehicles (and vehicle applications compatible with Smith Electric platforms). The supplier will also provide EV components that will be manufactured at its Hangzhou, China, facility. Smith Electric will resume production in its Kansas City, Mo., facility in mid-summer 2014. The company recently suspended production to transition its supply chain to Tier 1 suppliers; that will enable Smith Electric to produce its vehicles at a lower cost, the company said.

And in other clean transportation news……..

  • AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District) in Oakland, Calif. is considering removing fuel cell buses from its fleet, according to an anonymous source. Transit districts have been a testing ground for alternative fuel vehicles; AC Transit has been testing out a fuel cell demonstration program since 2000 and has been considered to have the most comprehensive program in the US. The transit agency currently operates 12 third-generation fuel cell buses powered by a 120 kilowatt fuel cell power system.
  • New York has modified the list of trucks that are eligible under its $19 million Voucher Incentive Program. Hino’s 195h and 195h-DC diesel electric cab-over has been approved for the program and the list also includes OEMs such as Daimler Trucks North America, Isuzu, Peterbilt, and Volvo.
  • Toyota is wrapping up its deal with Tesla Motors to buy Tesla battery packs and motors for the Toyota RAV4 EV by the end of the year. In May 2012, Toyota, which owns 2.4% of Tesla Motors, said it would buy components for 2,600 RAV4 EVs over three years. That deal had produced $15.1 million in revenue for Tesla in the quarter that just ended. The RAV4 EV has never sold very well, and Toyota will be taking it out production later this year. This comes soon after Tesla announced first quarter 2014 performance – producing a record 7,535 vehicles and delivering 6,457 of them. On the state battle front, Tesla says its ready to fight in Missouri to sell directly to consumers; a bill looks like it will be introduced in the state to bar Tesla’s company-owned store system.
  • Dates for the next AltCar Expo have been released:  Friday, Sept. 19 and Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Santa Monica ,Calif.
  • Navigant Research has launched the Transportation Forecast Research Service, an information and forecasting service that will focus on electric, stop-start, natural gas, fuel cell, propane and conventional vehicles. It’s part of Navigant’s Smart Transportation program.
  • General Motors’ Project Driveway has passed the three million miles of hydrogen-powered driving. It’s fleet of Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicles have been driven by over 5,000 drivers who’ve given feedback on their experience. Some of the crossovers have traveled more than 120,000 miles and the fleet has saved 157,894 gallons of gasoline consumptions.
  • General Motors announced pricing for its 2015 Chevrolet Impala bi-fuel model that can run on CNG or gasoline — $38,210 including destination. That makes for two CNG-powered production cars in the US with the Honda Civic Natural Gas.
  • Cal State University, Los Angeles last week opened the largest hydrogen station operated by a university in the US.
  • Texas will be offering $2,500 rebates to buyers of plug-in electric vehicles. It was approved by the state legislature last fall with in intended spring 2014 start date.
  • Chrysler Group is recalling 4,100 Fiat 500 electric cars; a power inverter module on 2013-2105 Fiat 500e may be experiencing coolant seepage that causes power loss while driving – a short circuit leading to power loss. Chrysler says there have so far been five incidents but no fires.
  • Mahindra Group is investing in a 37,000 square-foot facility in Ann Arbor, Mich., to the produce the all-new GenZe electric scooter. It’s still not been made clear when the functional, lightweight scooter with plenty of baggage carrying space will be available for sale in the US.
  • BMW Group’s factory in Moses Lake, Wash., will be getting an investment of $200 million from BMW and SGL Group to triple capacity of its carbon fiber plant. It will be the world’s largest producer of car bon fiber with an annual output of 9,000 tons by 2015 once expansion is completed. BMW’s i3 and i8 are built with carbon fiber reinforced plastics to increase their range and efficiency.

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.