Ghosn says Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance rolling out a dozen new EVs, IHS Markit takes a look at the future of personal mobility

Newsworthy:  The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will be rolling out 12 new all-electric models using common platforms by 2022, according to CEO Carlos Ghosn. Plug-in hybrid models will also be utilized, coming from Mitsubishi’s experience with the Outlander PHEV. Two other utility plug-in hybrids will be coming to market over the next two years. The alliance companies have collectively already sold more than a half million plug-in electrified vehicles…………. Solid-state batteries are gaining more support for fast charging, long-range electric vehicles for the next decade. Fisker, Inc., has filed patents for these types of batteries, and expects to see them used in mass-scale production of its EMotion electric sedan around 2023. Toyota believes enough in the technology to launched EVs with energy stored in solid-state batteries around 2022…………. Major Chinese automaker Geely will be buying up U.S. flying car startup Terrafugia for an undisclosed amount. Terrafugia plans to bring its first flying car to market in 2019. The company will remain headquartered in the U.S…………… The BMW Group announced that by 2020, the company will only sources its electricity from renewable energy; that’s up from 63% of it coming from renewables at the end of 2016. The automaker made the announcement during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

Going Mobile:  Plug-in electrified vehicles will make up 30% of new vehicle sales in four critical markets by 2040 – China, the U.S., Europe, and India – according to a new study by IHS Markit. You’ll notice that the percentage isn’t anywhere near 100% if fossil-fuel bans were to be enacted across these four markets. China, India, France, Great Britain, and other markets are considering banning gasoline and diesel powered engines entirely.

Reinventing the Wheel is a new multi-client, scenarios-based research initiative by IHS Markit that combines its energy, automotive and chemical teams for system-wide analysis of the new reality of transportation. It includes the future of mobility and car ownership, which is expected to have a major impact on the energy chosen to power vehicles of the future.

Consumers will be shifting away from car owners to paying for mobility services during the transition time, the study says. By 2040, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will have grown to an all-time high of around 11 billion miles per year in the four studied markets. That makes for a 65% increase of VMTs from now. Over that times, sales growth of new light-duty vehicles will slow substantially, according to the study. Use of autonomous vehicles will also be a driving force for change.

“A great ‘automotive paradox’—where more travel via car than ever, but fewer cars will be needed by individuals—will be a defining quality of the new automotive future,” said Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman. “The shift is just beginning. By 2040, the changes in transportation will be accelerating in a way that will be visible on roads and highways around the world. The pace and degree of this dynamic shift will have significant implications for industry, for public transportation systems and for how people get to work and live their lives – and spend their money on transport.”

While the U.S. may not ban fossil-fuel vehicles and could soften mileage and emissions rules under the Trump administration, market forces will still be at play for EVs to hit the 30% mark across the four major auto markets included in the study. The IHS Markit study concludes that higher fuel economy and emissions standards and reduction in gasoline’s share of new vehicle sales will lead to an aggregate decline for oil that ends up in gas stations during the 2020s. Another tipping point cited in the study will be seeing the cost of EV battery packs drop significantly by the 2030s, making EV costs much more competitive with internal combustion engines.

For Today: Finalists named for Green Car of the Year award, Tata Motors wins first contract to supply electric vehicles

Green Car of the Year nominees:  Five finalists have been named for the 2018 Green Car of the Year award, which will be presented on Nov. 30 during the LA Auto Show’s partner event, AutoMobility LA. Honda received two of the nominations. The 2018 Honda Accord comes with three now powertrain options – two direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and the third generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid powertrain. The Honda Clarity comes in all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell options. The Hyundai Ioniq comes in three versions – hybrid, battery electric, and plug-in hybrid. The all-new Nissan Leaf comes with a redesigned look, longer driving range, and Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, Toyota’s eighth generation Camry is available with three new powertrains – a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6, and a Hybrid powered by the automaker’s next-generation Toyota Hybrid System. The winner will be named at 8:00 am PST on Nov. 30 inside the Technology Pavilion.

BMW forging China JV alliance:  BMW may be forging another alliance with a Chinese automaker to serve that market, which will likely focus on electric vehicles. The German automaker is now creating a joint venture agreement with Great Wall Motor in China, according to two sources familiar with the matter. BMW previously set up a JV in China with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings; the partners produce cars at two plants in Shenyang. The company is now it talks with Great Wall about setting up a JV company to manufacture cars in the eastern city of Changsu, a BMW executive said.

EV sales in India:  Tata Motors has won a major contract with the Indian government to supply an order for 10,000 electric cars. It will be the very first EVs that the major Indian automaker has sold. The country is making efforts to reduce emissions and curb fuel imports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees the EV acquisition as a way to support the country’s pledge to ban the sale of internal combustion engine light-vehicles by 2030. Mahindra and Mahindra has so far been India’s only domestic carmaker that currently makes EVs. India is far behind China in EV sales, with China selling about 336,000 units last year versus about 450 in India, according to the International Energy Agency.

 

For Today: What happened at AltCar Expo, GM’ electrification and mobility strategy in China

AltCar Expo:  Fleets, government agencies, automakers, and technology suppliers are looking forward to the next phase of clean vehicles and infrastructure, according to speakers at AltCar Expo on Friday. Adam Mandel, supervisor, product strategy at EVgo, introduced speakers throughout the day, starting with Gary Lentsch, fleet manager at Eugene Water & Electric Board, on NAFA’s sustainable fleet accreditation program. Resources regional fleets are tapping into for clean vehicles and fuels were discussed in the next panel by Craig VanItem, fleet maintenance supervisor at City of Santa Monica, Vartan Yegiyan, police administrator II and assistant commanding officer at Los Angeles Police Department, Laura Renger, principal manager of air and climate at Southern California Edison, and Mike Bolin, senior account executive at SoCalGas. Issues discussed included finding the real cost of ownership for EVs in fleets; the “chicken or the egg” debate over what needs to be prioritized first – clean vehicles of the charging and fueling infrastructure; SCE’s $450 Clean Fuel Rewards Program; and SoCalGas on how landfills and waste are being converted into renewable natural gas. Marco Anderson, senior regional planner at Southern California Association of Governments, led an afternoon panel on EV charging at multi-unit dwellings and workplaces. The Santa Monica event hosted a wide range of vehicles on Friday and Saturday, including the new Nissan Leaf and improved Rogue Hybrid; a BYD electric bus customized for UCLA events; the Chevy Bolt; the Kia Optima and Nero plug-in hybrids and Soul electric; an RNG-powered commercial truck with 400 horsepower; the Toyota Mirai and Prius Prime; the Honda Clarity in its three variations – fuel cell, electric, and plug-in hybrid; and the Karma Revero plug-in hybrid sports car. AltCar Expo was tied into National Drive Electric Week, as the event provides a great opportunity to test drive and check out the latest in plug-in vehicle offerings.

Ford working with Mahindra:  Mahindra Group and Ford Motor Company announced a strategic alliance, designed to leverage the benefits of Ford’s global reach and expertise and Mahindra’s scale in India and successful operating model. The areas of potential cooperation include: mobility programs, connected vehicle projects, electrification, product development, and sourcing and commercial efficiencies. Mahindra has been leading the utility vehicles segment in India for the past seven decades, and is the only automaker with a portfolio of electric vehicles commercially available in India. The Indian automaker is also developing products like the GenZe – the world’s first electric connected scooter. “Ford is committed to India and this alliance can help us deliver the best vehicles and services to customers while profitably growing in the world’s fifth largest vehicle market,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of Global Markets.

GM in China:  General Motors CEO Mary Barra, speaking to media in Shanghai on Friday, said that the automaker is rolling out at least 10 new energy vehicles (NEVs) in China by 2020. Three of them were already placed in that market over the past year – the Cadillac CT6 and Buick Velite 5 plug-in hybrids and the Baojun E100 all-electric vehicle. Barra explained how it will be part of a larger move bring together autonomous vehicles, connectivity, and shared mobility services. The Chinese government is taking very seriously the need to address fast-growing cities with air pollution, traffic congestion, and safety. By 2025, nearly all of the Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet will have an electrified version. GM’s joint venture  company with Chinese automaker SAIC Motor, called SAIC-GM, will be opening a new battery assembly plant in Shanghai sometime this year to support the electrification strategy.

 

 

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.