For Today: BMW up in plug-in sales, Sustainable fleet series at AltCar Expo

BMW up in plug-in sales:  BMW and Mini sold 8,138 electric vehicles in July, up 52.7% year-over-year. Models come under the BMW i and BMW iPerformance brands, along with the new plug-in hybrid Mini. Plug-in vehicles made up 4.5% of marketshare for all of the company’s vehicle sold last month. For the year, the automaker has delivered 50,711 plug-in vehicles, up a huge gain of 74.8% for the year.

Governments competing for autonomous vehicle mantle:  The push for autonomous technology is pitting cities and states against each other in a race to be the first to lead the way. The payoff is expected to come from economic gains and bragging rights in technology innovation; not to mention other gains expected from self-driving vehicles. Nevada and Michigan are implementing several test projects, and California continues to play a leading role. Strategy Analytics, a research firm, predicts that the “passenger economy,” a segment emerging based on autonomous vehicles will grow from $800 billion to $7 trillion by 2050.

Sustainable Fleet Series:  Early bird registration of $18 will end August 18th for fleet managers, sustainability directors, business owners, legislators, and others attending AltCar Expo & Conference. This will take place Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, at the Santa Monica Civic’s East Wing. Use the registration code AC17EB for the 67% discount. The Sustainable Fleet Series is a brand new seminar offered by NAFA,  with writing a Sustainable Fleet Plan being one of the topics discussed. This introductory session will be available to those attending AltCar 2017, the 12th annual conference sponsored by the city of Santa Monica.

 

 

 

For Today: Mazda goes sustainable, car2go increasing ridership

Mazda sustainability drive:  Mazda just released details on Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 that includes the first ever commercialized gasoline engine with a compression ignition. That will bring 20% to 30% more fuel efficiency than current models on the market with Mazda’s Skyactiv technology. The corporate sustainability campaign will shoot for 2019 to roll out the new Skyactiv-X and its first electric vehicle. That could be coordinated with its Toyota alliance for jointly developing EVs. Sustainable Zoom-Zoom is structured around reducing corporate carbon dioxide emissions, well-to-wheel, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

Uber battle continues:  Former Uber chief Travis Kalanick won’t be returning to his previous job leading the ride-hailing company, co-founder Garret Camp said. The company is committed to bringing in a new “world-class CEO to lead Uber,” he said in an email to challenge a news report published in Recode. Kalanick stepped down in late June, seven years after starting the global giant with a group of Silicon Valley buddies. The pressure was intensifying following a series of revelations of questionable business practices, including being a bad place for women to work. Kalanick told Recode that he is “Steve Jobs-ing it,” which means he thinks Uber will have to bring him back to lead the company to victory, as Apple had done with Jobs. Several Uber board members disagree with Kalanick.

car2go seeing growth:  Daimler’s car sharing unit, car2go, reported that its usage increased 40% year-over-year in the first half of 2017 compared to a year prior. That’s taking place at 11 North American locations with 4.5 million trips taken so far this year. Members are spending 33% more time traveling this year than last. The company is in discussions with other cities about car2go opening shop there, with the company emphasizing the environmental and economic benefits of using its one-way carsharing model.

For Today: Electrified Hyundai Kona, Uber facing more upheaval

Hyundai Kona:  Hyundai will be offering electrified versions of its new Kona crossover SUV. While the 2018 Hyundai Kona is scheduled to come to the U.S. later this year, it’s not clear which electrified options will be available and if any of those variations will come to the U.S. The all-electric model is supposed to come out in 2018 and will have range of about 240 miles; though that will likely be fewer miles in the U.S. under the Environmental Protection Agency rating. “Clean mobility is a core strategy of the Hyundai Motor Company in the future,” the company said during unveiling of the Kona in Seoul. It could join the Ionic as part of the Korean automaker’s ambitious global strategy for green vehicle introductions. All three electrified versions of the Ioniq were displayed on the freeway side of the Hyundai’s U.S. headquarters office recently.

Electric Transit postal vans:  Deutsche Post, Germany’s postal carrier, has entered an agreement with Ford’s German subsidiary, Ford-Werke GmbH, to manufacture battery-electric vans. The chassis of the Ford Transit will be used by Deutsche Post and fitted to a battery-electric drive train. The German postal carrier had previously designed and produced the all-electric smaller van StreetScooter. The new van will be larger and offer more shipping capacity. Production with Ford will start next month. The target is to build and deliver at least 2,500 vehicles before the end of 2018, which would make Deutsche Post DHL Group the largest manufacturer of battery-electric medium-duty delivery vehicles in Europe, the company said.

Uber upheaval:  Uber board member David Bonderman is leaving the company after making a disparaging comment to another board member, Arianna Huffington. After Huffington talked about how having one woman on the board often leads to more women joining, Bonderman said, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” This followed news of CEO Travis Kalanick taking a leave of absence from the company, and a plan released by the company Tuesday that more accountability will be brought to executives for their actions. Huffington has been part of a panel investigating allegations made by a female ex-employee back in February over sexual harassment by an Uber executive. Earlier this month, Uber fired 20 employees over harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate behavior stemming from the February blog post by the female ex-employee. This has been a stormy year for Uber that includes an intensive court room battle with Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary in its claims against Uber stealing its intellectual property for self-driving cars. Uber’s main U.S. competitor, Lyft, seems to be benefiting from the storm Uber is under, and continues to add partner companies to its future.

For Today: EVs cheaper than conventional in a decade, Trump budget cutting Clean Cities

EV battery costs dropping:  A new study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicates that declining battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025. In EVs, batteries make up about half the cost. The study predicts that prices will fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030. French carmaker Renault predicts total ownership costs of electric cars like its Zoe will be conventional to gasoline-engine cars by the early 2020s.

RNG in Metro buses:  Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has awarded Clean Energy a renewable natural gas (RNG) contract to fuel its fleet of transit buses with Redeem brand renewable natural gas. The fueling contract begins with a one-year pilot where Clean Energy will provide Redeem to one of Metro’s eleven compressed natural gas stations, which are currently operated and maintained by Clean Energy. Each station provides fuel for approximately 200 CNG buses. That may lead to the company providing its RNG to the entire Metro fleet of 2,200 natural gas buses for four more years.

Tucker Perkins new CEO:  The Propane Education & Research Council has named industry veteran Thomas “Tucker” Perkins as its next president and chief executive officer, said PERC Chairman Thomas Van Buren, who also led the executive search team. Perkins, 60, joined PERC in 2012 as Chief Business Development Officer and most recently served as Chief Operations Officer. Current president and CEO Roy Willis, 67, who has led the PERC staff since operations began nearly 20 years ago, recently announced that he will retire on July 31, 2017. Willis will serve in a supporting role for a limited time to help with the transition.

Big cuts in Trump’s DOE budget: The Trump administration is proposing dramatic cuts to the Department of Energy budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins October 1. Funding would be cut entirely for the Clean Cities program and the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program would see huge cuts. You can view the proposed DOE budget here with details on the cuts presented on pages 28, 47, and 48 in PDF document pages; these three pages can be seen on pages 22, 41, and 42 in the report’s page numbers at the bottom of each page of the Congressional Justification document.

Weeks ago, news came out that Trump’s 2018 budget proposed eliminating the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program (ATMVP) and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Trump would like to see a $54-billion increase in defense spending that would be offset in cuts to other departments. DoE would see a $1.7 billion cut for the next fiscal year. Of the $28 billion in the DoE’s budget funding, about $1.4 billion will be increased for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Will fuel cell vehicles be able to thrive and surpass plug-in vehicle sales?

toyota-mirai-at-hydrogen-stationThe question of which clean technology will prevail in the car of the future continues to permeate the auto industry. Plug-in electrified vehicle sales led the way in recent months, breaking the 1% mark of total sales in the U.S. for the first time in November; and seeing ambitious PEV product launch announcements from Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, and Toyota in the fall. That was triggered by Tesla receiving more than 400,000 down payments soon after showing its Model 3 reveal during the spring; and post-VW “dieselgate” scandal government crackdowns increased in Europe, the U.S., and South Korea.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are starting to see new vehicle launches and more stations being built, but it still has a very slight presence in the global market. But long-term, global auto executives think fuel cell vehicles will win out over PEVs in volume sales. One of the issues involved is that California’s zero emission vehicles mandate counts battery electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, but is phasing out plug-in hybrids; and nine other states are also following California’s ZEV guidelines.

A new study from KPMG took a deep look at this issue, and several other technology innovations and pressures shaping the next phase of the industry’s future. Here are a few key findings:

  • KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2017 interviewed almost 1,000 senior executives from auto industry companies, including automakers, suppliers, dealers, financial services providers, rental companies, mobility services providers, and companies from the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Additionally, more than 2,400 consumers from around the world were surveyed to share their perspectives and have them compared against the opinions of leading auto executives.
  • As for top issues auto executives see shaping the industry in the near future:

No. 1:  battery electric vehicles (BEVs) with regulatory pressure pushing awareness for             electrification
No. 2: connectivity and digitalization
No. 3: fuel cell electric vehicles
No. 4: hybrid electric vehicles
No. 8: mobility as a service/carsharing
No. 9: autonomous and self-driving cars

  • Battery electric mobility shot up from No. 9 in 2015 to No. 1 in 2017.
  • KPMG consulting analysts see the success of BEVs depending on infrastructure and application. “Success of BEVs depends on infrastructure and application. Coordinated actions for infrastructure set-up, and a clear distinction of reasonable application areas (e.g. urban, long-distance) needs to be established,” said Moritz Pawelke, global executive for automotive at KPMG.
  • The report sees a few market trends clashing together, lost in translation, between evolutionary, revolutionary, and disruptive key trends that all need to be managed at the same times. Industry executive are “torn in between” as traditional combustion engines have become even more technologically relevant, but socially unacceptable. It’s also a new phase in the industry history where connectivity, mobility services, and automated vehicles are approaching faster than expected.
  • Executives are tipping toward fuel cell vehicles may be that they have a strong attachment to the existing infrastructure and traditional vehicle applications. That comes from fast fueling and liquid gas pumps at fueling stations, and an existing fueling infrastructure carrying hydrogen in pipelines and tanker trucks.
  • Setting up a user-friendly charging infrastructure is the problem leading 62% of the surveyed auto industry executives to believe that BEVs will fail.
  • In contrast, 78% of executives believe fuel cell electric vehicles will be the “golden bullet of electric mobility.”
  • “The faith in FCEVs can be explained by the hope that FCEVs will solve the recharging and infrastructure issue BEVs face today. The refueling process can be done quickly at a traditional gas station, making recharging times of 25-45 minutes for BEVs seem unreasonable. However, this technology is far from market maturity and will bring new unsolved challenges like the cooling of hydrogen or the safe storage in a car,” the study said.

I would also list a few other major challenges fuel cell electric vehicles face competing against PEVs and petroleum-powered vehicles:

  1. Less experience with the technology by consumers and fleet operators. There’s concern over safety, reliability, cost, and refueling infrastructure outside of California.
  2. Sales volume has been soft and will take years to grow. For example, HybridCars’ Dashboard reports that there were 1,034 Toyota Mirais, the top-selling fuel cell vehicle by far, in the U.S. during 2016. That compares with 29,156 Tesla Model S units and 24,739 of Chevy Volt units, the two top selling plug-in models in the U.S. last year.
  3. Europe is beating the U.S. in hydrogen stations, but the sales are still behind the limited numbers seen so far in the U.S. The European Alternative Fuels Observatory reported in December that there are over 75 hydrogen fueling stations in operation in Europe, more than double the U.S. with its current level being 33 as of early December, according to U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. EAFO also reported that there are about 500 passenger fuel cell electric vehicles on European roads, with only about 200 of these units sold during 2016.
  4. Fast chargers are breaking through in the U.S., and will see more activity in Europe and Asia. That’s being led by Tesla’s Supercharger network and the EVgo and ChargePoint networks in the U.S.; and German automakers in Europe.
  5. Hydrogen stations are being established as singular, hydrogen-only stations and not as part of existing retail gas stations. The KPMG study indicates that those surveyed and writing the report assume that hydrogen pumps will be added to gas stations, but that hasn’t been the case so far.
  6. Hydrogen stations cost about $1 to $2 million per station to build, and need to have their hydrogen supply trucked in or coming through a hydrogen pipeline. While the Shell hydrogen station in Torrance, Calif., sponsored by Honda and Toyota, has fuel coming in from a pipeline, the other stations usually have the fuel delivered by tanker trucks like the ones used at gas stations. Government backing is helping a lot of these hydrogen stations to be developed in California, Europe, and Japan, but long-term, the fueling question will need to be resolved. That would likely include the home hydrogen station concept being explored by Honda.

Here are a few more points to consider on the future of cars:

  • Automakers are still resisting spending enough on marketing PEVs to help get car buyers to take them more seriously. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit group made up of air-quality regulators from eight states, just issued a report on this topic. Car companies are targeting them at a few select state like California and not going national like they are with gasoline-powered vehicles. Automakers are spending their finite ad budgets on vehicles known to sell well and generate profits, like pickups, SUVs, and luxury cars. PEVs haven’t become profitable for them yet.
  • Hybrids aren’t going away even if ZEV regulations are heading in that direction. Over the next 5 years, 53% of automotive executives in the KPMG study are planning to highly invest in plug-in hybrids and 52% in ICEs and full hybrids. Hybrids make up nearly 3% of new vehicle sales compared to plug-ins, and plug-in hybrids are doing very well including the Chevy Volt in the U.S. and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in Europe.
  • Carsharing, ride-hailing, and ridesharing aren’t just a momentary fad. According to the KPMG study, by 2025, more than half of all car owners today will no longer want to own a car. That comes from 59% of auto execs and 35% of consumers surveyed. Auto execs think that disruption will led to more support for mobility as a service, and shared vehicles and trips. I would agree with other analysts who also believe vehicle electrification will play a big part in the shared economy. Young consumers tend to be more interested in electric vehicles and supportive of the technology, especially if it’s powered by renewable energy. They’re more likely to use Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and other mobility services and have been losing interest in owning cars.
  • China is the leading auto market in the world, and sales of “new energy vehicles” are expected to grow. India will soon be the largest nation in the world, surpassing China’s population in the near future based on current birth rates. About two thirds of the auto executives interviewed think that the global share of new vehicle sales will reach 40% sold in China by 2030. Two-thirds of those interviewed think that India won’t come anywhere near China in new vehicle sales in 2030. PEV sales in India have been slight compared to China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and Europe.

Why utility vehicles will play an increasingly important role in the future of plug-in vehicles

2016-toyota-rav4If you were to study U.S. new vehicle sales data and compare it to Plug In America’s plug-in vehicles directory, you’d see something that the two sources have in common: popularity of utility vehicles. By utility vehicles, I would include SUVs, crossovers, vans, and hatchbacks. If you take a close look at new vehicle sales in the U.S. and upcoming vehicle launches announced by automakers at the Paris Motor Show, you can get a look at the increasingly important role these vehicle categories will be playing.

“Crossovers and vehicle electrification are again expected to be key reveals at the event,” said Ian Fletcher, the principal analyst for IHS Markit, at the Paris Motor Show. “The key trends are being determined by a combination of consumer demand – in terms of the number of crossovers being revealed – and legislative emissions factors, through a focus on electrification.”

Plug In America lists 27 all-electric and plug-in hybrid 2017 model year passenger vehicles available in the U.S. market on its website, and of those I would break out 12 of them being utility vehicles. For September 2016 new vehicle sales in the U.S., the largest sales category, by far, was crossovers. Combined, crossovers and SUVs made up 555,497 of the 1.4 million units sold in the U.S. during September, according to Autodata Corp. Midsize and small cars continued to be sizable categories, but overall, light-duty truck segments continue to outsell cars in the U.S. as gasoline prices stay down and the popularity of utility vehicles increases.

Americans have become more interested in buying utility vehicles over the past decade, especially crossover utility vehicles. For crossovers and SUVs, top selling models in the U.S. lately have included the Toyota RAV4 (see photo above), Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, and Subaru Forester and Outback. There are no plug-in versions of these vehicles on the market in the U.S. The Toyota RAV4 EV was pulled from the market about two years ago, while a hybrid version of the RAV4 came to market earlier this year. Toyota also offers the Highlander Hybrid.

The Toyota Prius is credited for popularizing hatchbacks, with owners appreciating the ability to lift the back door, fold down seats and gain the ability to move boxes, surfboards, grocery bags, camping gear, etc. The Nissan Leaf tapped into that accessibility along with the Tesla Model S and Ford C-Max Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid. Car shoppers could add these practical functions to their lists along with being environmentally friendly. Subaru has used the utility functionality in its TV ad campaigns, with a family loading up gear and heading for the mountains.

Auto analysts had predicted growing popularity in utility vehicle sales for a few reasons – transporting gear like bicycles and home repair materials, families carrying more passengers, functionality for projects like moving to a new home, and the growing popularity that SUVS were having over vans and large sedans. Making them more fuel efficient helped, too, long before gas prices plunged downward. Consumers also give kudos to all of the utility vehicles, including pickups, becoming much smoother to ride in and more like cars in their seating comfort and dashboard displays.

Here’s a roundup of new vehicle launches at the Paris Motor Show and other electric vehicles in the pipeline tapping into the interest in, and functionality of, utility vehicles:

Chevy Bolt:  General Motors classifies its upcoming all-electric vehicle as a crossover SUV. It’s been chevy-bolt-in-citygetting as much attention lately as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt did during their late 2010 launches. While the range of 238 miles per charge, and its price-competitive position against the upcoming Tesla Model 3, are seen as key selling points, GM decided to invest more in a crossover SUV; as opposed to a small car like the Chevy Spark EV, which never did well in sales. The Chevrolet Sonic may have been more of a useful platform to model for the Bolt. The EPA is rating the Sonic and the Bolt as small wagons, though GM considers them differently. For some reason, the EPA has yet to adopt the crossover category.

Generation EQ: Daimler previewed its new EQ electric car brand through launching the Generation generation-eqEQ concept in Paris. The EQ brand unveiling is the first step in launching 10 new battery-electric models by 2025 in Daimler’s strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicle technology; it appears to serve as a sub-brand of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division. Daimler said that the Generation EQ electric crossover will have a range up to 500 kilometers (311 miles), which is probably based on Europe’s NEDC standards; that will be lower in U.S. mileage range under EPA measures. The concept SUV is being moving closer to production, and is being built on an architecture developed specifically for all-electric models. That architecture is adaptable for crossovers, SUVs, sedans, coupes, and other model series, the company said.

Volkswagen I.D.: Volkswagen’s chairman, Herbert Diess, was on the stage to unveil the new crossover volkswagen-i-dconcept, called I.D., at the show. It will be the first new model built on the automaker’s MEB modular electric platform. Its battery in-flat-floor architecture is built within a futuristic exterior design with a glass roof, artistic wheel covers, digital headlamps, and sliding rear doors. It’s expected to hit production level in 2019 for purchase starting in 2020. It’s part of the automaker’s Strategy 25, where the company will be building up to one million EVs by the middle of the next decade. Last week, the automaker announced it will be expanding sales of its e-Golf nationwide in the U.S., beyond a few select states. However, VW also revealed in Paris that the I.D. will eventually replace the e-Golf (but not the Golf). Several of VW’s concept vehicles in recent years have been rolled out on SUV and crossover platforms, including the Budd-E concept.

Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept: Mitsubishi unveiled the GT-PHEV SUV, which has been designed mitsubishi-gt-phev-conceptaround the automaker’s next-generation plug-in hybrid system. The system uses three electric motors and an internal combustion engine designed specifically for hybrid applications. Mitsubishi’s Executive Vice President of Overseas Operations, Kozo Shiraji, introduced the GT-PHEV concept (which stands for Ground Tourer Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) as the “possible form for a future large SUV.” The company said that the driving range for its next plug-in vehicle promises to expand on the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s range. The Outlander PHEV is a strong selling plug-in vehicle in the European market.

Chrysler Pacifica: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is finally entering the plug-in space. According to a new chrysler-pacifica-plug-in-hybridreport, Fiat Chrysler engineers are putting the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid through final testing and calibration checks on the streets of metro Detroit ahead of the start of production, which is scheduled for next month. It looks just like the gasoline-powered version, except for special badges and a battery charging port on the left front fender.

 

BMW X3:  BMW i3 electric utility vehicle sales have been disappointing for the automaker. Luxury bmw-x3vehicle owners will buy gasoline-engine CUV and SUV versions from BMW and competitors, but so far the i3 hasn’t clicked. It has gone over well with a few EV advocates and sales have been okay. For now, BMW seems to be counting on a plug-in hybrid variant of the X3. The next-generation X3 is on its way and BMW wants to create a hybrid version as the company sees it as a more mainstream offering to the consumer. While current BMW plug-in hybrid cars (BMW X5 xDrive40e and 740e) are pricey, the X3 would give buyers another mainstream offering next to the BMW 330e, according to BMW Blog.

Range Rover and Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover is working on two new plug-in hybrid models land-rover-discoverythrough its Range Rover and Land Rover brands. The company is first developing a new plug-in hybrid powertrain set to be offered on the Range Rover Sport. It will be based around the firm’s four-cylinder Ingenium gasoline engine, mated to the engine with an electric designed to work with the company’s existing eight-speed automatic transmission. For the second hybrid system being developed, it will be designed for the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. It’ll utilize a three-cylinder diesel engine with an electric turbocharger and a small electric motor. Additionally, a 48-volt electrical system will provide power to the water pump and air conditioner. These models aren’t expected to debut until the end of 2018.

Audi E-Tron Quatro:  Audi debuted the E-Tron Quattro Concept last year in Frankfurt. Known audi-a3-e-troninternally as the C Bev, this all-electric SUV claims a 311-mile range by European standards. Audi says that it will be sized between its Q5 and a Q7 SUV models. Audi has been quite pleased by how high its sales numbers have been in the SUV segment in recent years, so an electric SUV makes a great deal of sense to the company for hitting emissions targets. Earlier this year, the company announced it will be going into production on the E-Tron Quatro by 2018. Audi said that the new model will use three electric motors and a quick charging, high‑capacity battery.

 

This Week’s Top 10: Feds investing $4.5B in nationwide charging, Tesla and SolarCity closing merger deal

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. EV salesSupport for nationwide network: The Obama administration is adding to its support for electric vehicle charging stations with $4.5 billion in U.S. Energy Department loan guarantees. The funds will support a commercial-scale roll out of charging stations, with federal, state and local governments partnering with automakers including Tesla, Ford, GM, and Nissan. The administration aims to complete a national network of fast-charging stations by 2020 to make “coast-to-coast, nationwide zero-emissions travel” easier for consumers. State, county and local governments will be encouraged to buy electric cars for their fleets, lowering procurement costs while expanding the market for the cars. Utilities supporting the infrastructure growth include Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Con Edison, Duke Energy, and Southern California Edison are also involved. Twelve utilities and charging companies have committed to increase their deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure. Supporting programs include DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge and an EV “Hackathon” this fall to create new solutions for EV charging.
  2. Tesla and SolarCity merger: Tesla Motors and SolarCity negotiated into the weekend on merging the electric carmaker with the solar power company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has recused himself from voting, serving as chair of SolarCity and working with his cousins SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and SolarCity board member Peter Rive, who have also recused themselves from voting. The companies are in the final stages of carrying out due diligence on each other, and could agree on the terms of a deal in the coming days, though it is still possible that their negotiations end unsuccessfully, sources said. Investors and analysts have been concerned about Tesla taking on too much investment in the solar company.
  3. Debate over agency midterm report: The 60-day comment period on midterm report has flared up debate over how realistic the 54.5 mpg by 2025 really is, being heavily weighted by a surge in light-duty vehicle sales. The 1,217-page draft “Technical Assessment Report” was issued on July 15 by the Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California Air Resources Board to evaluate the status of hitting the Obama administration’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions goals. The inflated sales of pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers coming from cheap gas prices has changed the outlook for the 2025 target closer to 51 mpg than 54.5 mpg.
  4. Master Plan, Part Deux: In a Wednesday blog post on the Tesla website, CEO Elon Musk outlined a new horizon for electrified vehicles the company will be taking on – heavy-duty trucks, pickup trucks, a small SUV, a buy-type vehicle. Musk also says Tesla will be playing into the Silicon Valley mobility company identity through rolling out autonomous vehicles and a mobile app where Tesla owners could earn income by opening up their electric cars for shared rides. “Master Plan, Part Deux” calls for an electrified future merging solar power, on-site energy storage, carsharing, and electric autonomous cars. The announcement came out in the weeks following Tesla taking heat over a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system; more criticism from Wall Street has come from Tesla missing production and sales targets and being questioned over the merger with SolarCity.
  5. ZEV sales forecasts: Navigant Research has forecasted growth in zero emission vehicles in two separate reports. The research firm expects the North American plug-in electric vehicle market to grow by around 62% year-over-year in 2016, nearing 200,000 sales. Growth is anticipated to come from expanding sales of the Tesla Model X, the second-generation Volt, and introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt, Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV later in the year. The report projects that the introduction of the Tesla Model 3 in late 2017 will likely boost the North American PEV market by around 60% in 2017 and then nearly double the market in 2018 after the first full year of Model 3 sales. In a second report, Navigant forecasts that global sales of hydrogen fuel cell cars and buses are expected to total more than 580,000 from 2015 to 2024. “Overall, the driver for FCV activity continues to be the sentiment that a diverse drivetrain mix will be needed if the transportation sector is to shift away from petroleum dependence,”says Lisa Jerram, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.
  6. Autonomous Facebook flights and Slurpee delivery: Pilotless drone planes are gaining more support from big names like Mark Zuckerberg and 7-Eleven. A small Facebook team has been working on a secret project – sending a high-altitude solar-powered drone plan named Aquila on test flights. The mission statement is to launch of fleet of aircraft that will deliver internet access around the world. Zuckerburg says it’s part of the company’s plan to bring the internet to all 7+ billion people on Earth. Doing so will lift millions of people out of poverty, improving education and health globally along the way, Zuckerberg says. Convenience store king 7-Eleven Inc. and tech startup Flirtey have beaten Amazon to the punch in making the first drone delivery to a customer’s home in the U.S. During the 7-Eleven delivery on July 10 in Reno, Nev., Flirtey successfully transported: Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee, and candy to the home of the family who placed the order. Flirtey is a privately held company based in Reno, which builds and operates drones to make deliveries that are needed in humanitarian and health work, retail and food industries.
  7. JLR, Ford, and BMW in battery plant talks: Jaguar Land Rover is in talks with Ford and BMW about building a battery plant with the capacity to power several hundred thousand electric vehicles. There’s been no word over whether this plant would be based in the U.K., the U.S., Germany, or another location. The plant would help Jaguar launch its first electric vehicle, and to join other luxury carmakers in a competitive battle with Tesla Motors. Ford has been working with LG and BMW with Samsung as lithium battery suppliers.
  8. Audi EV strategy: Audi says it will be rolling out three electric models by 2020, and that electric vehicles will make up 25% to 30% of its sales by 2025, CEO Rupert Stadler told a German newspaper. It will be tied into a larger corporate strategy to focus more on resources on electric cars, digital services, and autonomous driving. The rollout of electric cars will also include small vehicles in the A-(minicar) segment. The company will also set up a subsidiary, to be called SDS Co., to develop an autonomous car.
  9. Quantum has new ownership: Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide is emerging from its bankruptcy through acquisition by Douglas Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of second-position secured creditors. Quantum, based in Lake Forest, Calif., had shifted its focus to selling natural gas fuel tanks in recent years. The company recently received a delisting notice from NASDAQ. Quantum filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late March and sought a buyer through a “363” sale process, which is essentially an asset sale. The company will be renamed Quantum Fuel Systems LLC.
  10. EVs strong in used car sale days on the lot: Plug-in electric vehicles led the way in one-to-three year old used car sales during the first half of this year, according to iSeeCars.com. The fastest selling used car in the U.S. was the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, taking just 19.7 days to move. It was followed by the Nissan Leaf at 24.3 days and the Tesla Model S at 26.1 days. More than half of these cars were sold in California, where the diamond lane, HOV carpool lane stickers made them more attractive to used car buyers.

This Week’s Top 10: COP21 climate change agreement, China largest EV market and dealing with air pollution

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. COP21The COP21 climate change conference agreement, released to the public Saturday morning, may provide a solution for developed and developing countries that’s been unsuccessfully sought after for several years at these United Nations meetings. The agreement was signed by 196 nations outside Paris and sets the goal of limiting the world’s rise in average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” as read in the agreement. To help developing countries switch from fossil fuels to greener sources of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change, the developed world will provide $100 billion a year. The Obama administration was pleased with the agreement, including the section where all countries will be required to report on national inventories of emissions by source and also to report on their mitigation efforts. During the conference, mayors of five West Coast cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Eugene, Ore., – met in Portland for a two-day summit and united to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 within their cities. That announcement followed California, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia joining the International ZEV Alliance during COP21. Another interesting moment was Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaking to a group of college students at the Université de Paris Panthéon Sorbonne, laying out his vision for sustainability in transportation and the steps required to stem climate change. He also discussed the business opportunities in cost reductions from energy storage and how much mobile devices will be changing in the future.
  2. China largest EV market and dealing with air pollution: Electric vehicle sales in China are expected to top 220,000 units this year, beating the U.S. (expected to be at 180,000 units sold) for the first time as the largest EV market in the world, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufactures (CAAM). China’s “new energy” vehicle sales have seen rapid growth in the past two years thanks to subsidies and tax cuts. Air pollution in Beijing and other major Chinese cities have been driving the incentives and sales. Tesla Motors and BYD say car shoppers are more interested in owning an EV due to the air pollution – and its making for an effective marketing message. One of BYD’s online ads shows a man in a cloud of pollution calling for help from China’s fabled Monkey King hero.
  3. ACT Expo and EDTA partnering again: The Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo and the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) have renewed their strategic partnership, committing to realizing the economic, national security, and environmental benefits of alternative fuel vehicles. “The 2016 event will showcase the significant range of electric-drive technologies now available and being deployed in the marketplace and will be a hub of activity for those looking to accelerate the deployment of advanced hybrid, battery, and fuel cell electric vehicles,” said Erik Neandross, CEO of GNA, the producers of ACT Expo. ACT Expo 2016 – set for May 2-5 in Long Beach, California – will assemble more than 3,000 attendees and 250 sponsors and exhibitors to examine the latest alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies for all weight classes, including electric drive, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, renewables, and efficiency technologies. It’s become the “must attend” event in clean transportation for fleets, OEMs, infrastructure suppliers, government agencies, and industry trade groups.
  4. Tesla’s leasing program and secrecy: BWG Strategy hosted a conference call discussion last week with auto industry analysts, electric vehicle groups, and media. Most electric vehicles sold in the U.S. are being leased – coming in at 75% of sales this year versus 80% last year. It gets a bit tricky analyzing Tesla lease residual value performance since so few of them have been sold relative to other automakers and their luxury vehicles. There’s not enough resale value data from auctions, and there’s a secretiveness attached to Tesla and its residuals and overall operations. An example of this given by one of the call participants was Tesla Motors not joining the ROEV Association, a collaboration of industry stakeholders designed to support electric vehicle adoption by facilitating public charging network interoperability. BMW, Nissan, CarCharging/Blink, ChargePoint, and NRG EVgo, do belong to this group. They do know that Tesla lessees have an average income of $200,000. One analyst said that a key element of Tesla’s upcoming Model III sedan will be that it’s going to be lighter than other Tesla models and its battery will be getting denser. The Model III is expected to have 35-to-55 kilowatt hour battery packs (versus 90 kWh upgrades available in the Model S).
  5. Volvo embracing renewable diesel: Volvo Trucks North America, after concluding truck and engine lab testing, approved the use of renewable diesel fuel for all of its proprietary Volvo engines, offering environmental and cost-savings benefits to customers. Volvo says that it’s the first OEM to endorse the use of advanced hydrocarbon renewable diesel fuel. “Availability of renewable diesel fuel is growing in California and throughout the country. Renewable diesel meets the same ASTM D975 standard for petroleum diesel, making it a true ‘drop in’ fuel,” said Frank Bio, director – sales development, specialty vehicles and alternative fuels for Volvo Trucks North America.
  6. Faraday Future plans to build a $1 billion factory near Las Vegas, which is expected to create 4,500 jobs. Brian Sandoval and state and local economic development officials announced a deal with the company on Thursday that includes tax incentives valued at $217 million over 15 years, depending on the company’s actual investment. Nevada will also help with infrastructure needs at the Apex industrial site in North Las Vegas where the company plans a three million square-foot assembly plant. Earlier in the week, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting disclosed to Nevada legislators that he is backing the luxury electric carmaker; he also said he is not the only founder, but he did not name any other investors.
  7. Volkswagen scandal: There have been quite a lot of lawsuits filed against Volkswagen for the use of software to evade emissions limits in its diesel car models. More than 500 civil lawsuits filed against VW will be heard by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California. That’s the court where the first case was filed and the state where about 20% of the suits have been filed. VW and the Dept. of Justice had requested the case be sent to Detroit.
  8. Last month in Chicago, EcoCAR 3’s 16 competing university teams unveiled their advanced, energy-efficient vehicle architecture for the 2016 Chevrolet Camaros donated by General Motors. EcoCAR 3 is a four-year engineering competition where 16 North American universities are challenged to redesign the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to reduce its environmental impact while maintaining the performance and safety of the vehicle. It’s sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and GM, and managed by Argonne National Labs. One of the teams active in all three EcoCAR challenges has been Cal State LA. That team received the Camaro for Year 2 of the EcoCAR 3 competition on Friday. The Cal State LA EcoCAR 3 team will spend the rest of the academic year transforming the 2016 Motor Trend Car of the Year into a plug-in hybrid electric police vehicle that runs on E-85 fuel, preparing the car to test its capabilities at the General Motors Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz., in June.
  9. Ford will invest $4.5 billion to add new hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric vehicles to its line-up by the end of the decade, CEO Mark Fields said. Ford will also expand where it will offer those models, with two new produced, the plug-in C-Max Energi and the Mondeo Hybrid, entering the Chinese market in the coming months. By the end of the decade, Fields says that more than 40% of the automaker’s nameplates will be electrified, up from 13% today.
  10. Vision Fleet will continue its working relationship leasing electric vehicles and installing charging infrastructure for the City of Indianapolis after having been stalled out by litigation. Consulting firm Vision Fleet had been able to deliver about half of the 425 electric vehicles that came from an agreement last year with the city. Vision Fleet had filed a lawsuit alleging the city didn’t follow procurement practices. Indianapolis had put out a notice that it was seeking proposals from another firm. Vision Fleet was the only bidder, and the contract has been revised with suggested improvements.

Tesla Energy seems to be the next logical step for the Silicon Valley company

Tesla EnergyWith its new energy storage division (called Tesla Energy), Tesla Motors continues to build on a strategy that’s working for other Silicon Valley neighbors such as Google and Apple. That would be: move into the next logical technology marketplace. Advanced batteries may produce more revenue and profit than electric cars for Tesla in the next few years – and they’ll contribute to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s vision of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and supporting growth in renewable energy.

Along with its electric drive system, Tesla’s greatest strength is batteries – making its $5 billion investment in the Gigafactory potentially more than worthwhile; the company expects the Nevada factory to reach full capacity by 2020 and make more lithium-ion batteries than were produced worldwide in 2013. Tesla Energy will be ready to bring Tesla batteries to homes, business, and utilities to store energy to better manage power demand, provide backup power, and increase grid resilience – with much of it coming from solar power.

Called the Tesla Powerwall, it includes Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system, and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. Tesla Powerwall will be built into a building’s wall and will be integrated with the local power grid so that customers can draw energy from their own reserve. Benefits will include cost savings through load shifting during low rate periods; storing surplus solar energy; increasing the capacity for using more solar; and providing backup energy during grid outages.

It’s available in 10kWh, optimized for backup applications, or 7kWh, optimized for daily use applications. Tesla’s selling price to installers is $3,500 for 10kWh and $3,000 for 7kWh. Those prices exclude inverters and installation costs. The company says that deliveries will begin in the late summer of 2015.

Tesla has been testing out energy storage projects with some big-name partners including Amazon and Target. Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has been working closely with Tesla for the past year on high-capacity battery technology in data center applications. Target has partnered with Tesla on a pilot test at select Target stores to incorporate Tesla Energy Storage as part of its energy strategy. Tesla has also been supplying batteries to Walmart through pilot projects and a supply agreement with SolarCity Corp. Jackson Family Wines is using Tesla’s stationary energy storage solution in four areas that account for the most consumption in its winemaking process: refrigeration/cooling, lighting, compressed air, and process water treatment.

Utilities and solar companies are also working with Tesla on energy storage systems for meeting the next wave of energy demands. Southern California Edison has developed the nation’s largest battery storage system and has contracts in place for an additional 264 megawatts of storage, including projects using Tesla batteries.

Tesla has “channel partners” in place for producing the Powerwall. TreeHouse, a sustainable home improvement store, is working with Tesla to sell the Powerwall home battery. SolarEdge, a leader in the global photovoltaic (PV) inverter market, has a deal with Tesla for joint development of a PV storage and backup power solution for the worldwide residential solar market. Vermont-based renewable energy company Green Mountain Power and Tesla will offer Vermont residents a way to use less energy and rely on the grid as a backup system.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk does have a few things in common with executives at neighboring Silicon Valley giants – with one of them being expanding into the next logical technology marketplace. He serves as chairman of SolarCity, the largest solar power company in the US (and one started up by Musk’s cousins); he leads innovative space travel company, SpaceX (and its Hyperloop high-speed rail project); the Gigafactory, which is still being developed in Nevada; and the Tesla Motors electric carmaking company, which holds the unique position of breaking into the tough auto manufacturing sector – and surviving.

The big question will be whether all of it will work. The massive investment in Tesla since startup has come from private equity shareholders, the stock market, corporate partners (such as Panasonic on the battery side and Daimler on the car manufacturing side), a US Department of Energy loan, and personal investments from Musk from his PayPal startup profits and from other Tesla executives.  Tesla Energy will require significant investments in the next few years.

Competition in the energy storage market will be fierce. Coda Automotive may not be around anymore in the electric vehicle space, but Coda Energy does have several clients at commercial and industrial sites. Schneider Electric is known for its electric vehicle charging systems, but has a significant presence in the energy storage market. Major solar companies are entering the storage market, along with commercial building suppliers and large battery manufacturers. It may come together for Tesla, and it’s possible that advanced batteries and energy storage could make for the lion’s share of its revenue in the next 10 years.

This Week’s Top 10: Federal fleet bringing in lots of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles, Tesla given the greenlight again in New Jersey

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. Federal fleet electric vehicleThe White House says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the federal fleet by 30% by 2025 as it ramps up purchases of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles. By 2020, zero emission (battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will make up at least 20% of new vehicle purchases, and that will go up to 50% by 2025. Federal agencies have also been directed to make sure adequate charging becomes available for these fleet vehicles. It’s part of a broader effort by the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2025 over 2008 levels and save $18 billion in energy costs.
  2. Tesla Motors has been given the greenlight in New Jersey to sell its electric cars at non-dealership corporate stores. A bill signed by Governor Chris Christie will once again allow Tesla to directly sell its electric cars in the state through its retail locations. A year ago, the governor enacted a rule that blocked Tesla from selling cars this way, only allowing for franchised dealers to sell new cars in the state. Tesla can no go back to operating up to four retail locations in the state and one service center.
  3. It’s cheaper to pay for a two-year lease now $199 per month versus the previous $259 for the Honda Fit EV. Customers can extend their lease with unlimited mileage, routine maintenance, and collision coverage if they prefer; new customers can get the same deal on used Fit EV. The Fit EV is powered by a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 92-kilowatt electric motor.
  4. Medium duty plug-in hybrids are popular with fleets – as was discussed during an ACT Expo webinar last week, “Electrify Your Fleet.” Matt Jarmuz, director of sales at Odyne Systems, is seeing fleets save up to 50% or more on fuels switching over to plug-in hybrids, and some are utilizing EPAct credits. Ned Biehl, chief of staff for the Transportation Services & Aviation department at PG&E, says that his fleet is being agnostic to suppliers but sound in their business strategy in choosing the best technology. The fleet has a broad mix of electric, hybrid, natural gas, propane, and biodiesel-powered vehicles.
  5. BMW Group CEO Norbert Reithofer sees the obvious: political initiatives in a number of the carmaker’s key markets are important in helping to boost sales of its i3 electric compact car. Norway is a good example of it for Reithofer, where the government offers a well-established charging structure with free parking and charging and where there are no sales or registration taxes on electric vehicles (EVs); that helped BMW sell 2,000 i3s last year in that country, almost one quarter of its total sales in Norway. Half of its US i3 sales were in California with its rebate for buying an EV and its dedicated carpool lane stickers. EV buyers in Shanghai get to avoid the restrictive and expensive vehicle licensing process; in Europe, the UK and France offer EV buyers financial incentives and Germany exempts EVs from its annual vehicle tax for 10 years. BMW disputed media reports saying its third EV model after the i3 and i8 would be a variant of the X5 premium large SUV. Last year, BMW’s global sales of the i3 and the i8 were a combined 17,800 units.
  6. Automakers are covering their bets when it comes to meeting strict standards in global markets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with fluctuating fuel prices. Navigant Research predicts that gasoline-engine vehicles will still be dominant in new vehicle sales and will meet demand from car buyers who aren’t yet ready for electric vehicles. The research consultancy predicts 59% of light-duty vehicles purchased in 2025 will feature turbochargers. Other changes include implementing more lightweight materials in the vehicles, using smaller engines, stop-start technology, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and transmissions with eight or more speed ratios and high-efficiency internal components.
  7. Tesla Motors doesn’t have a radical new technology rolling out to deal with range anxiety – that worry will be addressed through a software upgrade, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Over-the-air software updates to its Model S sedan will deliver Version 6.2 with two new features — Range Assurance and Trip Planner. One will automatically plan charging stops using the navigation system and the other will warn a driver if a road trip is likely to leave them stranded. These are being tested now with drivers and will be sent out to cars in about a week. Beaming software upgrades will also move the Model S forward on its Autopilot semi-autonomous features. Version 7.0 will arrive this summer. New features haven’t been revealed yet, but it will add to current Autopilot offerings such as the ability to automatically change lanes by flicking on the turn-signal lever.
  8. Ford Motor Co. continues to add to its sustainability roster – its environmentally responsible, high-performance REPREVE fiber that comes originally from plastics dumped into landfills will be available in the all-new F-150 pickup truck. Using the recycled material in the F-150 will allow Ford top divert more than five million plastic bottles from landfills this year.
  9. At the Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz announced that it will add 10 new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) to its lineup by 2017. That means a new PHEV will be rolled out about every four months. The first one was launched last year in the S500 Plug-In Hybrid, and this month, the new Mercedes C350e will roll out.
  10. To comply with stringent emissions and fuel economy standards while nearly doubling its global sales by 2018, Jeep may roll out a new pickup along with the brand’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Jeep CEO Mike Manley talked about it during a preview of seven concept SUVs Jeep will take out onto the trails during its annual Easter Safari in Moab, Utah.
  11. Extra: a teaser for Green Auto Market Extended Edition. This week:  The Formula E race series appears to be taking electric vehicle technology to a new level, gaining passionate support from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and the family dynasty of racing legend Mario Andretti. Several people are very excited about that racing event coming to Long Beach, Calif., next month.