Will EVs transform the auto industry by 2030? And more on Trump administration versus California

Here’s another look at forecasts predicting 2030 will be the watershed year to watch for when vehicles, transportation, and the entire auto industry itself will look quite different than it does today. This time, we’ll look at whether plug-in vehicles are likely to overtake internal combustion engine-powered vehicles by 2030.

A new Science magazine article states that: “Electric vehicles are poised to transform nearly every aspect of transportation, including fuel, carbon emissions, costs, repairs, and driving habits.”

That will come from planned mandates coming up soon, that if enacted, include Norway wanting to have all its vehicles be battery electric or plug-in hybrid by 2025; Netherlands banning all gasoline and diesel vehicles by that year; Germany banning internal combustion engines by 2030; and France and Great Britain ending gasoline and diesel car sales by 2040. Not to mention China’s subsidies moving sales of new energy vehicles and Europe and the US seeing strong EV sales. What’s the tipping point? Battery technology, which have a host of challenges to overcome, according to the author.

I would say that two developments will likely slow the pace of EV sales growth we’ve seen over the past nine years, and extend the timing of when we see them make a substantial global impact. One is China cutting its generous subsidies, and the other being a battle between the Trump administration and California’s clean car standards (see news section for more on the battle).

EV sales are declining for now, but how long will that last?

The chart below takes a look at the past decade of battery electric and plug-in hybrid sales since the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt in late 2010. A few points stand out while reviewing the short history of mass market production-level electric vehicles.

EV sales trends since 2011:  The US was the market leader until 2015, when “new energy vehicle” subsidies began flowing in China and more electric vehicle product offerings entered that market. European countries also began seeing more acceptance of the technology and more EV models to consider. Norway continues to be No. 3 in global EV sales with its extensive government support in subsidies and charging infrastructure. Japan has been in the top five countries for cumulative EV sales.

Two thousand fifteen was the outlier year for US sales, with one of the factors being the Chevrolet Volt dropping in sales as the new next-generation Volt with range boosted from 38 miles to 53 started showing up at dealerships late in the year. Other market trends that pulled EV sales down were low gas prices, fewer incentives, and a broader market shift away from cars and toward SUVs and pickup trucks. But global EV sales kept their upward trajectory, leaping 71.58 percent in 2015 over 2014.

China is by far the leading sales market, with the US following in second with about a quarter of China’s EV sales in the past two years. China’s NEV sales data includes passenger vehicles and heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks. China’s new energy vehicle mandate and its generous subsidies have brought the purchase prices down substantially. Building out its charging infrastructure has helped, too, as has the launch of a long list of NEVs built and sold by Chinese automakers and joint ventures between foreign automakers and local automakers.

Battery electric vehicles are leading by far in key global markets over plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Last year, BEVs had 66.8% of the US plug-in vehicle market. By December 2018, the stock of new energy vehicles sold in China since 2011 saw 79.4% as BEVs. In Europe during 2018, the sales numbers were closer, with BEVs in the lead by over 40,000 units — 223,284 BEVs and 182,768 PHEVs.

As for popular models, here were the top 10 global sellers in 2018:
1. Tesla Model 3 — 145,846 units sold
2. BAIC EC-Series — 90.637
3. Nissan Leaf — 87,149
4. Tesla Model S — 50,045
5. Tesla Model X — 49,349
6. BYD Qin PHEV — 47,452
7. JAC iEV E/S — 46,586
8. BYD e5 — 46,251
9. Toyota Prius Prime — 45,686
10. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — 41,888
Source: InsideEVs

These sales figures show a few trends, one of which is how important the US continues to be for Tesla’s sales. Of the 145,846 Model 3s sold last year, 139,782 were sold in the US. About half of the Model S and Model X units delivered last year were sold in the US with Europe being important for Tesla’s growth. Now with its China plant starting up, that market is expected to be very important for future sales and model introductions.

The BAIC, BYD, and JAC models are sold almost exclusively in China, although BYD is continuing to sign more contracts for electric buses and other commercial vehicles around the world. The Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are seeing more success outside the US, with Europe being the main marketing focus.

Forecast reports usually cite upcoming vehicle emissions rules, governments moving toward banning gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles, growth in Level 2 and fast-charging stations, and a wide variety of plug-in vehicle offerings — with many more coming to market over the next decade. Automakers expect the pricing to come down as battery costs decline and EV drivetrains, parts, electronic systems, and exterior and interior design, become more economical and efficient in the near future.

What automakers have in the pipelines: Another topic in the reports has been commitments made by manufacturers to roll out an extensive lineup of plug-in vehicles — and sometimes more hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.

The Volkswagen Group continues to lead the charge, expanding its list of new launches in March from 50 to 70 in the near future. The company expects to be building 22 million plug-in vehicles with its new electric drives, such as the MEB, over the next decade on the VW, Audi, Porsche, and SEAT brands — an increase from 15 million in the initial target. The German automaker has collaborated with the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to demonstrate its vision of EVs and mobility of the future next month. “Building an Electric Future” will open November 20 and will celebrate Volkswagen’s history both globally and locally, as well as introduce VW’s new electric concept vehicles. A global concept unveiling of an all-new ID concept vehicle will take place at a private event on Tuesday, November 19.

BMW AG plans to increase sales of its battery electric and plug-in hybrids by 30 percent every year until 2025 to help meet incoming stringent emission regulation in the European Union. The company moved up its goal for rolling out a lineup of 25 all-electric and plug-in hybrid models by two years to 2023. This would mean BMW will have sold a total of about 700,000 plug-in vehicles by 2025.

Daimler plans to release 10 different all-electric vehicles by 2022. The company is taking a holistic approach to electrification under the new EQ technology and product brand and a charging infrastructure to support it. Daimler will also be electrifying the entire Mercedes‑Benz portfolio. Customers will have the choice of at least one electric alternative in every Mercedes‑Benz model series, taking the total to 50 overall.

Ford Motor Co. is increasing investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and will have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup. In April, Ford said it planned to launch more than 30 new Ford and Lincoln vehicles in China over the next three years as it tries to reverse a decline in sales in the world’s biggest auto market; and about one third of them will be EVs. This summer, Ford revealed its first all-electric SUV for that market, the Territory EV, built on Chinese partner Jianling’s compact SUV. It follows a plug-in hybrid variant of the Ford Mondeo, and will be its second plug-in vehicle for the Chinese market.

Toyota has a company goal of selling 5.5 million electrified, Toyota-brand vehicles annually by 2030, up from about 1.6 million vehicles now. The company set up a $10 billion r&d fund for catching up with competitors, and has created a new EV architecture that offers flexibility in size and battery power.

Honda announced a week ago that it will sell only plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles in Europe starting in 2022, three years earlier than previously planned. The Japanese automaker will be launching six new models in Europe over the next three years. The company said it shows its confidence in the technology and seeing regulatory changes that are changing the course of Europe’s auto industry. “The pace of change in regulation, the market, and consumer behavior in Europe means that the shift towards electrification is happening faster here than anywhere else,” said Tom Gardner, senior vice president at Honda.

Tesla has three models poised to come out in the next few years. The Tesla Roadster 2020 is the first-ever follow-up to the company’s debut electric car, the Roadster 2008. CEO Elon Musk boasts that the upcoming supercar will be able to go from 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds, and can reach a top speed of 250 miles-per-hour. It will cost at least $200,000 when it rolls out next year. The compact SUV Model Y was revealed in March 2019, and will be the company’s second mass market model after the Model 3. It will be able to go 300 miles on a single charge, and it will begin shipping in late 2020 with the standard range model following in Spring 2021. Starting prices for four different variations will go from $39,000 to $60,000. Musk brags that it will have SUV functionality, it will ride like a sports car, and will be the safest SUV in the world. The Tesla Semi heavy-duty truck will go into production next year, and will go nearly 400 miles on a 30-minute charge. The company also says it will go from 0-60 in 20 seconds while hauling 80,000 pounds. It’s expected have a $180,000 starting price.

BYD Company Ltd. sold a total of 520,687 vehicles in 2018, which was made up of petroleum-powered models, all electric, and plug-in hybrids. A Deloitte study forecasted that by 2030, the company will be selling about 18 million units, following Tesla’s expected sales that year of about 22 million vehicles. However, I consider both of these forecast numbers to be extremely optimistic. Last year, BYD narrowly beat Tesla in deliveries to be No. 1 in the world — BYD sold about 250,000 EVs compared toTesla’s 245,240. In April, the company announced six new EV models will be coming up, a mix of all-electric and plug-in hybrid. In July, BYD announced an alliance with Toyota to develop EVs that will be coming out in China between 2020 and 2025. For now, the company is investing heavily in building its clientele for commercial vehicles such as electric buses and trucks in markets all over the world.

Market softening lately:  The last three months have been tough for the Chinese makers, and the US has followed a similar pattern. Year-to-date, the end of September saw global EV sales down to 157,696 units from 175,362, breaking the traditional market growth. US EV sales dropped down to 236,067 for the year as of Sept. 30, 2019 compared to 234,635 for the year on Sept. 30, 2018. September 2018 sales reached 44,589 while September 2019 saw sales down to 33,128 units.

Reductions in electric vehicle subsidies and a cooling economy impacted the Chinese market. The US is seeing a similar sales slide withe overall new vehicle market down 12 percent in September from the previous year, while EVs were down 25.5% year-over-year. One reason for the drop is that the Tesla Model 3 had an unexpectedly high ramp up of production in the second half of 2018.

Tesla Model 3 deliveries are slightly up over last year — 236,067 for the year at the of September, versus 234,635 units through the end of September 2018. The US plug-in vehicle market is expected to decline through this year before a rebound starts next year.

What the forecast numbers look like:  The most commonly cited forecast on 2030 comes from The International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario. The study expects that by 2030, global plug-in vehicle sales will reach 23 million for that year and the stock of owned EVs will exceed 130 million vehicles (excluding two and three-wheelers). That’s under one forecast analysis including the impact of announced policy ambitions by several governments; the IEA scenario includes another potential outcome where the number shoots up to 43 million with the stock coming to more than 250 million.

There’ve been other forecasts. In May, Mining and resources giant BHP forecasted that electric vehicles could achieve more than 50 percent share of global new vehicle sales by 2030, and 100 per cent of all vehicle sales by 2050.

Global new vehicle sales are expected to come in at about 80 million units this year. Germany’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) predicts that in 2022 sales will rise back to 84 million.

Let’s say new vehicle sales reach 100 million by 2030. How much of it would likely be new plug-in vehicles?

Between 2011 and 2018, new EV sales in the US averaged a 56.8 percent annual increase, and global had an average of 67.34 percent. To refine the numbers to more recent market trends, between 2014 to 2018 the average annual growth for US plug-in sales came to 33.69 percent. For global sales, the average annual sales growth between 2014 to 2018 was 57.14 percent with China leading the boom.

Global car and light commercial vehicle sales in 2018 came to about 86 million new vehicle deliveries. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales came in at 2,018,247 units last year — 2.34 percent of the total. New vehicle sales came in at 17.27 million in the US last year; at 361,307 units, EVs made up 2.09 percent of that total.

So let’s say market conditions look similar in the next few years, without big changes enacted such as a fossil fuel ban in a sizable country. What would that look like?

At the rate of 57 percent in global annual EV sales increases, plug-in vehicles would make up 100 percent of the global new vehicles sales market during 2027. As that scenario would be impossible to reach (aside from an unforeseen miracle), what about viewing a much more conservative forecast — 10 percent annual growth in EV global sales under current market conditions? While a much lower percentage, 10 percent could be realistic given China will be soon cutting out its subsidies, blockades are coming from the Trump administration, downward auto sales in several countries will continue for a while, gasoline prices are staying fairly low, and challenges persist for convincing consumers and fleets to transfer over to EV purchases — charging infrastructure, battery capacity, range getting much better, and perceived long-term value and trustworthiness of transitioning over from ICEs to EVs.

Let’s also assume that EVs making up at least 50 percent of global new vehicle sales would make for a realistic tipping point in emissions reductions, lessening dependence on oil, and hitting a few government targets.

Going with the 10 percent annual sales growth scenario would only bring the number up to about 5,757,995 new EVs sold globally by 2030 — just shy of 6 percent of global new vehicle sales, given the forecast of 100 million units sold by 2030. A recent IHS Markit study, which takes a conservative approach, sees EVs making up 7.6 percent of total new vehicle sales by 2025.

If you take 25 percent annual EV sales growth in global sales, it’s going to look a lot more like the low-end forecast of another study this year. The IEA’s New Policies Scenario expects that by 2030, global EV sales will reach 23 million for that year and the stock of owned EVs will exceed 130 million vehicles.

Perhaps 2040 to 2050 is a more realistic scenario for EVs playing a major role in new vehicle sales, emissions reductions, and having a major impact on oil prices — in terms of hitting the 50 percent mark. If government mandates are enacted and enforced, it would be closer to 2040.

BloombergNEF’s “Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019” report came to a similar conclusion.  The report shows that EVs will take up 57 percent of global passenger vehicle sales by 2040. Electric buses will dominate their sector, holding 81 percent of municipal bus sales by the same date, according to the report.

Norway, Germany, France, China, Costa Rica, South Korea, the UK, Japan, Spain, Taiwan, Portugal, Netherlands, Israel, India, Denmark, and Ireland have proposed a ban on fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Previous Prime Minister Theresa May in June signed the “net-zero” mandate that would cut emissions 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Britain is the first G7 country to commit to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. The new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is continuing support for the net-zero emissions mandate.

BMW Group may present a more realistic view of how most global automakers are likely to perform in commitment to the new technology in the short term — a slower and gradual strategy rather than launching 20 or more new EV models with a commitment to roll them out in vast numbers by 2025 to 2030 (that VW and other OEMs are championing). BMW predicts it will have sold about 700,000 plug-in vehicles sold by 2025.

The German automaker just released a sales report on EV market share, or “Electromobility in Europe.” The study says that BMW has 13 percent of European sales and Tesla has 20 percent. As for the US, BMW had six plug-in models sold through September, coming in at 9,875 vehicles delivered — 4.18 percent of the country’s EV market.

So, what market conditions will be needed to reach the 50 percent mark? These factors are sure to be watched for:

  • Continuing falls in the price of EV batteries. One study reports that since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion batteries per kilowatt-hour has fallen by 85 percent.
  • Extended range of battery power, 300 miles per charge.
  • Fast charging networks in high-traffic zones, with free access or reasonable user pricing.
  • China’s new energy vehicle mandate, and whether the national government decides to bring it back. Subsidies have also been generously spread by a few other countries (especially Norway); and states, provinces, and cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Will these continue, and for how long?
  • The future of California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program, and the battle between the state and the Trump administration over the future of those rules and the national standard.
  • Fleet acquisitions, including the Electrification Coalition launched in 2018 and announced by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti — an online portal that provides cities with a single, equal price for EVs and charging infrastructure by aggregating the demand from Climate Mayors cities and other public agencies.
  • Commercial applications for electric vans, light- and medium-duty trucks, and for municipal buses, will make a significant difference. That’s been the case in China, and is starting to take hold in the US and Europe.

EVs have the potential to become the leading powertrain system used in autonomous vehicles in the next couple of decades. The next feature exploring the 2030 trend will analyze when its likely to see regulatory hurdles cleared and self-driving vehicles going into high-volume production.

A few interesting news briefs:
Battle over clean car rules:  General Motors, Toyota, FCA, Hyundai, and the National Automobile Dealers Association, are backing the Trump administration’s efforts to gut fuel economy standards and California’s ability to keep the bar high. These companies said that in a filing with a U.S. appeals court late on Monday, arguing the administration’s rule provided “vehicle manufacturers with the certainty that states cannot interfere with federal fuel economy standards.”
In July, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen made a deal with California supporting the state’s policies. The Trump administration is preparing to roll back next month the fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama Administration and revoke California’s ability to set stricter clean-car standards, including the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published its overhauled rule, called “SAFE Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Standard,” to take effect November 26.

Aftermath of GM strike:  The United Auto Workers and General Motors agreed to partner under their new contract to manage the impact of new technologies that could threaten thousands of jobs. The National Committee on Advanced Technology would meet quarterly review changes the automaker must implement as it tests 3D printing, plans to bring autonomous taxi rides to the streets, and globally rolls out 20 battery-electric vehicles that require fewer parts than their internal combustion counterparts. GM says these EV will come to market by 2023. The Chevrolet Bolt’s powertrain has 80 percent fewer moving parts than a comparable car with a gasoline engine, experts have said. And autonomous vehicles won’t need steering wheels, brake pedals and instrument panels, an expert said. The union has expressed concerns over thousands of jobs going away from these historic changes being made. The automaker has slashed its earnings forecast for 2019, saying that the strike would cost it around $3 billion in profits this year. Production was going back to full speed earlier this week.

Factory expansion for electric truckmaker:  Orange EV, the first original equipment manufacturer to commercially deploy all-electric electric Class 8 trucks, just announced its second facility expansion in four years, moving to a site with more than five times the production capacity in Kansas City, Mo. Orange EV’s Class 8 Heavy Duty terminal trucks have been commercially deployed since 2015, operating daily in railroad inter-modal, LTL freight, manufacturing, distribution centers, port operations, waste management, trans loading, cross docking, warehouse, yard management, third party logistics (3PL), and other container handling operations. More than 60 fleets have chosen Orange EV pure electric terminal trucks for commercial deployment in 14 states across the US. In California, Orange EV trucks have been purchased and are in use at more than 40 customer locations.

Tesla earnings:  Tesla Inc’s third-quarter revenue fell 39 percent in the US, a regulatory filing showed. A record number of cars shipped in the third quarter of 2019 were enough to help Tesla turn a modest profit, according to financial figures released by the electric carmaker on Wednesday. The company reported $143 in net income, and $6.3 billion in revenue — down slightly from second quarter and down about $530 million from Q3 2018. Tesla reported that the drop in revenue comes from a tripling in the number of customers leasing its cars, mainly from Model 3 leases that launched in April of this year.

EV cash for clunkers:  US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a plan last week in an op-ed piece that would provide car owners with “large discounts” if they trade in their polluting, gas-powered vehicles for “clean” electric ones. It would be similar to the the Obama administration’s “cash-for-clunkers” program initiated in 2009. The legislation has yet to be written and introduced, but is based on supporting that every vehicle on the road is zero-emission by 2040; and the legislation would result in 63 million fewer gasoline-powered cars on roads by 2030.

Waymo ready to launch first commercial AV service, Get ready for AutoMobility LA

The age of robotaxis is ready to launch:  Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division is preparing to launch the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle service in early December, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will be run under its own brand and compete directly with mobility companies like Uber and Lyft. It won’t be a splashy opening, but the start of a trial run in suburbs around Phoenix. That’s where Waymo’s Early Rider Program has been tested with a group of 400 volunteer families who’ve been taking autonomous rides with the company for more than a year. This news coincided with a comments made by Waymo’s chief John Krafcik speaking at Wall Street Journal’s TechD D.Live conference on Tuesday. Krafcik said the service will start with a small group of riders in the Phoenix area but will be expanding in the coming months. Passengers can pay for rides and corporate customers such as Walmart Inc. are planning on having their customers shuttled to the chain’s stores in these vehicles. Earlier this year, Waymo announced plans to buy thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover to expand its self-self-driving vehicle fleet.

VW ramping up to mass produce EVs:  Volkswagen said it will convert three German factories to build electric vehicles — to meet expected demand and complete its commitment to zero emission vehicles made after the diesel-emissions scandal broke three years ago. The VW plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, and its factory in Hannover would also start producing EVs the same year. Together with the company’s current Zwickau plant, it will make for Europe’s largest network for the production of EVs in Europe, the company said. This week, the German automaker also announced it will be spending 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on EVs, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. That will make for a plan 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) more compared to last year’s planning round by VW.

Tesla buying trucking companies, facing more investor suits:  Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has acquired a few trucking firms to meet its delivery targets. The real challenge for Tesla this year has been building and delivering enough Model 3 compact electric cars to come close to meeting its earlier commitments to do so. It will shave off at least a month of time that it takes by using rail to get its electric cars to the East Coast. “We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter,” Musk wrote without revealing details on the acquired companies.

Along with getting through hellish production schedules, the company has had to face a mounting crisis over Musk’s infamous August tweet on taking Tesla private. It will be likely be leading to two or three separate groups of securities fraud lawsuits, according to lawyers for shareholders. It would run the gamut of shareholders and their claimed losses, from traditional longtime institutional investors to others shorting the stock or holding options. The case presents “so many different types of investors and investments, long and short,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said at a hearing Thursday in San Francisco. “That may have some effect on how I measure who has the greatest financial interest.”

Get ready for AutoMobility LA and LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA will be taking place Nov. 26-29, 2018, in Los Angeles, featuring speakers and workshops on the latest in autonomy, connectivity, electrification, the sharing economy, and more. It’s the prelude to the 2018 LA Auto Show, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. More than 60 debut vehicles are scheduled for this year’s AutoMobility LA, with nearly half making their world premiere. Jeep will be rolling out a pickup, and Kia is expected to have multiple vehicles make their world debut, including one of the brand’s best-selling cars. Audi has confirmed that the e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe will make its global premiere at AutoMobility LA.

Keynote speakers during AutoMobility LA include Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Volkswagen’s Electrify America, talking about “Racing to Create an Open, Fast-Charging Network Ready for a Tidal Wave of EVs.” Ted Klaus, VP and executive engineer of Honda R&D Americas, will discuss “Safe Swarm: Preparing Highways for the Autonomous Future.” Ned Curic, VP of Amazon Alexa Automotive, will speak on “Now We’re Taking: Amazon Alexa.”

Other speakers include: Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar, Audi’s app-based car rental service; Megan Stooke, CMO of General Motor’s Maven car-sharing service; and Jenny Ha, senior exterior designer at Lucid Motors.

Infiniti and Porsche committing to electrified vehicles, Bollinger Motors setting up shop in Detroit

Infiniti and Porsche electrifying offerings:  Product announcements last week from Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand and Volkswagens’ Porsche division tap into consumer interest in electric luxury, performance cars and compliance with increasing government mandates. Infiniti aims to become the premier electrified brand in a five-year plan that will extend through 2022, said Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa. These new Infiniti models will either be all-electric or will use its “e-power” hybrid system. Infiniti said it will introduce its first all-electric vehicle in 2021. The luxury brand expects that more than half of its global vehicle sales will be electric vehicles by 2025. Half of all Porsche models will have some form of electrification by 2023, said North American CEO Klaus Zellmer last week while speaking at the annual Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. The product lineup will include model offerings that may include hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric drivetrains. It will include the Mission E all-electric performance car, which is slated to come out next year. While the sales success of the Tesla Model S and Model X have had their influence, Volvo is playing a role in the luxury/near-luxury market. In July 2017, the company announced that it will be electrifying all of its new vehicle offerings starting in 2019. Five all-electric models will come out between 2019 and 2021, three under the Volvo brand, and two under Polestar. Volvo Cars will also be tapping into an innovative subscription service to bolster sales support for its new Polestar performance electric brand.

Hedge fund for EV technology:  A UK-based investor is setting up a hedge fund backing companies offering products and services in electrified transportation. Will Smith, a former partner at CQS U.K., is starting the Westbeck Electric Metals Fund that’s expiated to start trading next month and raise about $250 million, according to Bloomberg News. Major automakers are looking into alternative funding sources to secure needed resources such as metals needed to produce electric car batteries. The fund is looking at investing in more than 200 companies, and has tapped into a former CEO of a lithium company as an adviser.

Motor City getting more EV plants:  Electric vehicle truck maker Bollinger Motors said it has plans move its operations from upstate New York to Detroit. Company founder Robert Bollinger visited sites in Detroit during last week’s auto show. Originally looking at property along the I-75 corridor, he decided moving inside the city would be a better move. One advantage would be locating closer to where “the talent” lives, as well as suppliers. Bollinger Motors, which unveiled its battery electric sport-utility/truck last year, will need a facility somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000 square feet to set up the assembly plant. One other EV makers has already chosen Detroit for its headquarters. The Detroit Electric Co., named after one of the original electric car manufacturers that closed its shutters during the Great Depression, has committed to set up a factory capable of producing about 2,500 vehicles each year.

For Today: GM and Ford move the electrification revolution a few steps further

A well-known automotive market analyst last year told me that he expects sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to make up 10% to 15% of U.S. new vehicle sales about a decade from now. That will mean that plug-in vehicle sales will have a real impact on manufacturing, marketing, infrastructure, and aftermarket products and services. The days of early adopters have come to an end, and the next phase is beginning – as made evident yesterday by announcements from General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

GM plans to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. Two new all-electric cars will come out in the next 18 months. Whether that’s coming from upcoming fossil fuel bans in several countries, the popularity of Tesla, China’s new energy vehicle market, launching the Chevy Bolt, the emergence of other long-range all-electric vehicles, and a long list of EVs in manufacturer product pipelines, the future is here now.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain EVP. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”

The automaker is also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of its zero emission vehicle drive. One of these is the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a four-wheel drive concept vehicle that runs on fuel cells. These provide power to electric motors, making it an ideal ZEV platform for delivery trucks, ambulances, and other applications. Yet EVs will be gaining most of the automaker’s focus and support.

Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years. Seven have been announced, including a 300-mile range crossover EV that will come out in 2020.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles, said that the automaker will increase the number of all-electric vehicles it will offer, but did not provide details.

Ford is establishing an internal team its calling “Team Edison” to study and develop battery electric cars.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Marakby said. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Here’s my take on a few trends and developments to watch for:

  • Battery electric vehicles will likely win out over plug-in hybrids in the next decade. While the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime will continue to do well, automakers tend to use plug-in hybrid variations of existing models as a way to transition car owners over to plug-in vehicles. EV range will be getting better, and all-electric vehicles are easier to maintain and keep in operation than internal combustion engine vehicles and plug-in hybrids. They use a lot less parts and components and are easier to maintain. Tires and brakes have to be replaced but there isn’t much else to changeover, given that the electric drive train is well made for EVs that are strong in sales.
  • Tesla is playing a leading role in public perception and experience with the technology. The Tesla Model 3 is expected to play a leading role in mass adoption, but the upcoming Model Y electric crossover will be built at mass scale, too. There will be other models coming out including the semi truck aimed at buyers of heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Tesla’s stock performance continues to stay strong and validates that institutional and individual backers believe in the business model. (As a side note, GM and Ford stock prices did well after announcing strong September sales and serious electrification campaigns.)
  • German automakers may be just as important as Tesla in moving the product development and sales trend forward. Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW made big announcements a year ago in the wake of the “Dieselgate” scandal, and with growing pressure from German regulators and from a few other countries. Tesla was taking the lead in the luxury EV side, but an impressive list of pre-orders on the Model 3 opened up the playing field. The product pipeline is covering the bases from Tesla-competitive automakers – electric sedans, SUVs and crossovers, and luxury vehicles.
  • Car buyers want to see realistic, real-world numbers on per-charge driving range, charging time, fast charging, option and trim levels, resale value forecasts, top speeds, horsepower, and torque. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency range ratings are gaining more confidence than the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with the NEDC using a very different cycle analysis and much longer range.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t reach mass adoption, with EVs winning out. They won’t be going away, with automakers such as Toyota, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler, and BMW committed to the technology. They’ll probably stay at a low level in passenger vehicle sales with a few of the automakers going over to military and commercial vehicle applications. But the barriers will be hard to cross – having enough fueling stations, the cost of the technology and sticker prices coming way down, and finding broad support and trust in the technology. The typical pump price for fueling with hydrogen isn’t known yet, and concerns are being expressed on how expensive it will be to collect and extract hydrogen from natural gas and other sources; and to deliver it by truck and pipelines to gas stations. The ZEV aspect makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles very attractive, but where is the hydrogen coming from? And EVs are getting cheaper and better all the time, along with the charging infrastructure.
  • Countries adopting fossil-fuel bans will likely have to back off those holistic mandates. It’s much more likely to take several more years (another half century?) before ZEV adoption becomes accepted at that level. It will be tied into radical transformation in how we drive and get around town. An integration of autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electrification will be behind it, but that is going to take decades to meet thorough testing and safety standards, insurance and liability issues, and to gain enough confidence and trust to reach mass scale. I expect that governments will go back to mandating a certain percentage of new vehicle sales meet their mandates; incentive programs will probably have to be deployed in China and other markets.
  • There’s also the issue of fleet and commercial vehicles used in transport, delivery, and moving employees and customers from Point A to Point B. Fleets are likely to integrate the fuels and technologies – with trucks and buses powered by renewable natural gas and renewable diesel, electrification, and propane and natural gas; and hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric passenger vehicles used by law enforcement agencies, administrative vehicles, and other functions. Fleet operators make decisions based on economic and environmental factors, along with functionality and ease of use, as do consumers.

Mass adoption of EVs: It’s all about cheaper, extended-range batteries and pervasive fast charging stations

Chevrolet BoltFor plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) to move past their slight share of U.S. new vehicles sales (at 0.68% of the total in September 2015), the consensus of opinion seems to focus on three core principals: the range on a single charge needs to be at least 200 miles; the battery cost needs to come down if EVs are to become cost-competitive on the market; and the charging infrastructure, especially for fast chargers, needs to be widespread across the country – or at least along popular cross-country highway routes. Nissan, General Motors, and Tesla are taking the challenge more seriously than competitors; and bagless vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is taking the battery technology seriously enough to make a $90 million investment.

  • Nissan believes in electric cars enough to forecast the segment will account for 5% of its sales in the next six years – and 10% “in the near future” after that, according to chief competitive officer Hiroto Saikawa during an event last week at the company’s Yokohama headquarters. To get there, Nissan will need an electric car that can travel 200 miles on a single charge. That will be happening through the second-generation Leaf, which will be introduced as a 2017 or 2018 model, Saikawa said. The first-gen Leaf has evolved from its original 73 miles per charge, to 84 miles and now 107 miles as the battery has been improving with model-year changes since its inception.
  • General Motors is counting on its supplier partnership with LG Chem for development of tis first long-range EV in the Chevrolet Bolt; the Bolt starts production a year from now and will probably be a 2017 model-year vehicle. That EV is expected to go 200 miles per range with a price tag of around $35,000 before incentives. LG Chem already supplies lithium batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and Spark EV. The changing relationship with LG Chem should help place the Korean company in a leading role in supplying lithium batteries. “GM used to act more like a dictator than a customer,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s global product development director.
  • General Motors has gotten behind another battery maker in the past Sakti3 and its solid-state lithium-ion batteries. That was a $4.2 million investment by GM Ventures five years ago. A much larger investment has taken place this month, with Dyson acquiring Sakti3 in a deal worth $90 million. That’s one of the first investment from the $2.3 billion fund that UK-based Dyson set aside last year to invest in what it calls “future technologies.” Earlier this year, Dyson had invested $15 million in the battery maker. Sakti3’s batteries contain solid lithium electrodes rather than flammable liquid, which gives them higher energy density and will support longer-range EVs. Satki3 CEO Ann Marie Sastry has become well known in the lithium and EV communities, speaking at events and in media interviews.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tesla’s giant $5 billion Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada will produce its first batch of batteries next year, estimating that the plant would reach full capacity in two to three years. Musk also said Tesla could begin producing Model 3 electric cars in China in two years. Manufacturing in China has the potential to slash the sales prices of its models in the world’s largest auto market by a third; and the batteries will be made in Nevada. Tesla says the upcoming Model 3 sedan should cost around $35,000 (pre-incentives) and will have a 200-mile range. Musk said Tesla will create an alliance with a China-based manufacturer to produce the Model 3. Tesla is also counting on Chinese government purchase incentives for sales strength; and the government has committed to provide support for its nation to be a leading market for EV sales.
  • Availability of charging stations will be critical for mass adoption, especially faster chargers. The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s charging station locator reports that there are 11,056 charging stations in the U.S. that host 27,620 charging outlets. That covers Level 1, 2, and fast charger units. PlugShare shows that DC fast chargers and Tesla Superchargers are spread throughout the U.S. Its data doesn’t show CHAdeMO chargers, which are used by the Nissan Leaf and other Japanese automakers. DC fast chargers are used by European and U.S.-based automakers, and Superchargers are only available for Tesla models. For now, Tesla appears to be taking the lead in fast charging, setting up its U.S. network for Tesla model owners to charge across the country on a few major highway routes. CHAdeMO is well developed along the U.S. coasts, but charges at a slower rate than the Supercharger. The Chevy Bolt will only be able to use SAE’s Combined Charging System, which is strong in Europe but will take years to find much presence in the U.S. market. For now, Tesla is in the lead with fast charging across its national network, which it will play into with introduction of the upcoming Model 3.

Sacramento and East Bay Clean Cities Forum explores advanced vehicle technology innovations

Sacto and East Bay Clean Cities“Northern California Clean Technology Forum” featured informative speaker panels and introduction to the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car. Held at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento on Oct 14-15, and hosted by the Sacramento and East Bay Clean Cities Coalitions, stakeholders in the region met to mingle, hear the latest on advanced vehicle technologies, and check out exhibited vehicles including plug-in electric school buses; there was also one of the few remaining GM EV1 models on display in the conference room.

The event kicked off Wednesday with a tour of the Sacramento CNG Station and Natural Gas Compliant Shop. A welcome reception started off the evening prior to the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition 2015 Clean Air Champion Awards. Richard Battersby, Equipment Services Manager for the City of Oakland and Coordinator and Executive Director of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition, handed out awards to: Ben Rutledge, Resident Engineer, Anheuser Busch In-Bev, Fairfield Brewery; Pat O’Keefe, Vice President and Lori O’Keefe, Project Manager, Golden Gate Petroleum; Nina Hapner, Environmental Director and Fred Carr, EV Project Director, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewart’s Point Rancheria; Phillip Kobernick, Sustainability Project Manager, Alameda County; and Kent Leacock, Director of Government Relations, Proterra.

On Thursday, Keith Leech, President of Sacramento Clean Cities and Chief, Fleet Division & Parking for Sacramento County, made opening remarks on topics to be addressed during the day. The first speaker panel started with Kerry Drake, Associate Director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 9, talking about the gains being made in the Central Valley to meet the EPA’s top priorities, public health and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Drake compared the museum’s vehicle display of classic cars going back to the 1920s to where we are now; he described his trip to the museum using Google Maps, being a carsharing subscriber, and looking forward to seeing the upcoming Tesla Autopilot.

Mike Tunnell, Director of Environmental Affairs at American Trucking Associations, talked about the trucking industry facing the second phase of the federal regulations on fuel economy and emissions. Technology innovations need to be reached for this to be possible, Tunnell said. Waste heat recovery, 6×2 axle configurations, automatic engine shutoff, low rolling resistance tires, and automatic tire inflation are resources being tapped into for mileage improvements.

Bill Van Amburg, Senior Vice President at CALSTART, gave an overview of 2016 model year roll-outs in clean vehicles. The Mirai, a Japanese word for “future,” was up on the stage with Van Amburg and other speakers; that fuel-cell vehicle is launching this month in California.  The 2016 Toyota Prius, with its revamped exterior, is also being anticipated in the market.

On the commercial vehicle side, Van Amburg discussed innovations being adopted as increased fuel economy pushes forward in Phase 2 of the federal rules; breakthroughs on this front include a Freightliner model that has increased from 6 mpg to 12 mpg and a Cummins engine with NOx 90% below its 2010 level. Renewable natural gas is coming to market, and Cummins said that the clean fuel can now be used in its 6.6L and 12L engines. Two other innovations that Van Amburg discussed include the Cadillac Super Cruise hands-free system rolling out in 2017 Cadillac models; and the Workhorse battery electric “HorseFly” package delivery drone winning U.S. Federal Aviation Administration authorization for test flights.

Rich Piellisch, Editor of Fleets & Fuels, moderated a panel on renewable fuel sources moving forward as a viable alternative for fleets. Speakers included Teri Rohner, CA DGS Natural Gas Services Program on renewable natural gas; Pat O’Keefe, CEO of Golden Gate Petroleum on renewable gasoline and diesel; Chris Kretz, Business Development Manager at Air Products on renewable hydrogen; and Bill Boyce, Electric Transportation Supervisor at Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) on renewable electricity.

During that same day, the City of Oakland announced its commitment to renewable diesel when the first of its vehicles filled up with NEXDIESEL renewable diesel during a gathering of the Public Works Department, its supplier Golden Gate Petroleum and fuel manufacturer, Neste. Golden Gate Petroleum sells Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel under its own brand NEXDIESEL renewable diesel and had display cars outside the automotive museum.

Green Auto Market Editor Jon LeSage moderated a panel on future vehicle technologies and transportation trends. Jean-Baptiste Gallo, Senior Project Engineer at CALSTART; Jason Schulz, Partnership Marketing Manager & Business Development for the 21st Century at Toyota; and Tim Lipman PhD, Co-Director at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center, UC Berkeley, talked about the “urbanization” trend with traffic congestion and air pollution driving policy changes and increased use of transportation alternatives such as carsharing and ridesharing. Carsharing services such as Zipcar and Car2Go are taking off in membership, and ridesharing services from Uber and Lyft are seeing gains in permission to pick up at airports and in ridership numbers.

With predictions of another one billion people living on the planet by 2025, Toyota is looking at alternatives such as the electric I-Road three-wheeler being testing out in Japan, Schulz said. Automakers are looking at the changing transportation options that members of the Millennial generation who put off car purchases longer than previous generations, and who are looking for practical options in personal mobility in crowded cities.

During the panel’s discussion of autonomous vehicle technologies, Schulz said that for OEMs, safety is the driving force behind supporting test projects such as Mcity in Ann Arbor, Mich. Toyota, Honda, GM, and suppliers are exchanging data from the Mcity project to develop autonomous technologies and take away the 33,000 fatalities per year figure that continues in the U.S. Safety issues and cyber security are being addressed in the autonomous vehicle studies, as is the question of whether driverless cars will take away road traffic congestion, Lipman said. If long commutes become easier for watching TV or reading a book, it can take away the motivation to drive less miles and remove some of the traffic congestion, he said. Lipman and his colleagues have seen a strong convergence between electrified and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Electrification of urban fleets is seeing gains in passenger vehicles and truck options, Gallo said. Energy storage, smart grid technologies, and electricity price planning are being explored by companies. A recent CALSTART study analyzed how fleets are integrating electric vehicles including delivery trucks and transit buses. Managing through demand periods when energy costs rise is still new for a lot of fleets, and they’re testing out solutions in the new vehicle-to-grid systems.

An afternoon session featured fleet success stories using GPS/telematics for sustainability gains. Dave Head, President of NorCalMEMA; David Worthington, Fleet Manager, Sonoma County; Doug Bond, Fleet Manager, Alameda County; and Sam Pence, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Leadworker, CalTrans, participated on this panel.

This Week’s Top 10: Plug In America study on promoting electric vehicles, Freightliner gets first-ever autonomous truck licensed

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. Plug In AmericaEffectively Promoting EVs: A new study by Plug In America analyzes how promotional efforts have performed in the US since automakers began the latest round of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) launches in late 2010. “The Promotion of Electric Vehicles in the United States — A Landscape Assessment” delivers 11 key findings followed by recommendations Plug In America believes will stimulate PEV market growth. While the numbers are impressive – with over 300,000 PEVs now on US roads and nearly 120,000 of those being delivered last year – the report states that inconsistent governmental policies form a patchwork quilt across the country. Automakers have created over two dozen PEV models, yet only a few are actually available for purchase by consumers in all 50 states. “The U.S. stands at the crossroads of the largest technology in personal transportation in its history,” says principal researcher Kirk Brown, Plug In America’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “The question ahead is how do we capture this early market growth and deliver the benefits of these vehicles to all consumers, everywhere.”
  2. Autonomous Heavy-Duty Truck: Freightliner Trucks, a Daimler Trucks North America division, just earned the first-ever license in the US to operate an autonomous heavy-duty truck. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has given the green light to Freightliner for what it calls the Inspiration Truck; the truck was unveiled last week along with a promotional video showing the Inspiration Truck rolling over the wall of the Hoover dam. The truck was extensively tested on Nevada roads before being granted the license; Daimler cites the high percentage of truck-involved accidents that include driver fatigue and the solution that Inspiration Truck provides.
  3. Concern over Tesla Earnings: While Tesla’s new energy storage division grabbed a lot of attention and enthusiasm last week, Tesla Motors’ first quarter earnings call went in another direction. Analysts are concerned about how long the company will be depleting its cash and cash equivalents – which went down to $1.51 billion on March 31 from $1.91 billion three months earlier. Adam Jonas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, is concerned that cash could run out in about three quarters if this rate continues. During the quarterly call, Tesla executives said the spending has been focused on the upcoming Model X launch, toolings, a new paint shop, the Gigafactory, and its sales and service network. On a more positive note, Bloomberg Business reported that since launching its new battery storage product for homes and businesses, the company has taken orders for about $800 million in potential revenue.
  4. Hawaii Backs Off E10: Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill last week that would put an end to 10% ethanol blend (E10) in Hawaii gas stations. Gov. David Ige hasn’t yet made a decision on the bill, but he indicated he may be signing it. When the state followed California’s original lead and mandated the ethanol blend in 2006, the idea behind it was to support alternative fuels and to boost local agriculture. Opponents have made a convincing point that it’s missed the mark since Hawaii has been importing the blended fuel and paying a high cost for it.
  5. Customer Support from Fisker: Fisker Automotive is starting to emerge from the ashes after its 2013 bankruptcy and buyout by Chinese giant auto parts maker Wanxiang last year. Fisker has opened up a customer support program (CSP) for Karma owners that includes complementary services. For current owners of the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, the program will provide parts and labor for covered repairs free of charge up to $2,000; owners are entitled to additional CSP benefits of $2,000 for parts and $1,000 for labor for covered repairs above and beyond the program benefits.
  6. Formula E a Big Hit: The Formula E electric race car series, which went through Long Beach, Calif., in early April, is gaining a lot kudos. Sellout crowds have been showing up, major new sponsors and investors, and a long list of cities interested in hosting future races. “We have over 180 cities that have requested to have a race, and many of them are ready to pay quite substantial money for that,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.
  7. Toyota and Mazda Partnership: Toyota and Mazda haven been in discussion about trading green technologies. Under a partnership deal, Toyota would supply fuel cell and plug-in-hybrid technology to Mazda; in return, Mazda would provide its proprietary Skyactiv technology to Toyota to grow its lineup of fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel vehicles. The companies have worked together on projects for years, including 2010 when Toyota provided its hybrid vehicle system to Mazda.
  8. ARI SustainableWorks: Leading fleet management services provider ARI just launched ARI SustainableWorks, a consulting service designed to help organizations configure best-in-class fleets supported by clean, efficient, and cost-effective fleet solutions. The consulting team examines the entire life cycle of a vehicle fleet in order to determine how best to customize their recommendations and solutions. This includes evaluating fleet utilization, determining how best to strategically implement clean technology vehicles, developing more efficient driver behavior strategies, and conducting comprehensive fleet emissions reporting.
  9. Paid Public Charging: One of the classic debate topics about electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is who will pay for all the thousands of public stations that need to be deployed to reduce range anxiety. So far, it hasn’t really been EV drivers. Nearly two of out of three public charging stations in US are free to use, according to PlugShare’s quarterly report. For restricted-access public stations, that ratio increases to about 75%. Examples of restricted access charging stations include workplaces with employee-only charging, stations located behind gates, and dealerships with charging for existing customers only.
  10. GM Falling Behind on Battery-Powered Vehicles: General Motors is falling far behind on its original intent to sell at least 500,000 vehicles with some form of battery power – including the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, Chevrolet Spark battery-electric vehicle, Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid, and GM vehicles with its eAssist system that boosts fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered cars. The company said it counted 180,834 electrified GM vehicles on U.S. roads last year, up from 153,034 electric-powered vehicles in 2013. The automaker is looking forward to launching its 2016 Volt with an increased driving range of 50 miles on battery; and its Chevrolet Bolt all-electric car that will begin production in 2016 and is expected to have a 200 mile per-charge driving range.

Murky definitions of electric vehicles and hybrids make purchases more challenging

plug-in hybrid, EV, charging stationIf you’re reading media coverage and market reports on electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid sales trends, it’s easy to get confused over what’s being described. One might think it would mean plug-in electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles – with plug-ins including battery electric (Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S) and plug-in hybrid (Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Energi); and hybrids representing models such as the Toyota Prius (not including the Prius Plug-in Hybrid) and Ford Fusion Hybrid. However, lately there have been reports and media coverage that make the categories more confusing; and make the prospect of marketing, selling, and purchasing these vehicle technologies even more murky and challenging.

For many consumers and fleets, buying either of these technologies is a new and confusing experience. The price differential compared to high fuel economy gasoline engine cars is one factor; and the need for charging stations and the amount of time needed for full charging are other questions that come up all the time. Why invest in a new technology when you can get cost-competitive traditional engines with higher mileage?

A new study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, “What Do Current Owners of Hybrids and Non-Hybrids Think about Hybrids,” speaks to that challenge. The survey received responses from 1,002 hybrid owners and 1,038 owners of non-hybrid cars. It focused primarily on their experience with current hybrids and plans for future vehicle purchases.  About 80% of current hybrid owners will buy a hybrid with about one third of them intending to buy a plug-in hybrid. For those who won’t be buying another hybrid as their next vehicle, about one sixth of them will be buying an electric vehicle. This study defines and segments hybrids and electric vehicles differently than other sources have been in recent years. Most of the time, plug-in hybrids are listed as “electric vehicles” or “plug-in electric vehicles” in data reports, while Transportation Research Institute places it in the “hybrid” category. (To receive a copy of the University of Michigan report, email Michael Sivak at sivak@umich.edu.)

Early September saw a wave of media coverage on analysts stating that EV and hybrid sales were fizzling. Edmunds.com saw a stalled August market for battery-powered cars – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. A drop in hybrid sales offset gains made in the plug-in hybrid and battery electric market. Hybrid sales were down 9.1% since August 2013, but plug-ins were up 9.5% since a year ago. The Edmunds study said that the drop in hybrid sales offset sales gains in plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles with hybrids selling a higher volume than that achieved by plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. The study refers to all of them as “electrified vehicles.”

Here’s how leading sources of data on EV and hybrid sales are defining the numbers:

  • Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) defines “electric drive” sales figures as covering light-duty hybrid vehicles and total plug-in vehicles (with plug-ins breaking out into plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles). In September, there were 31,285 hybrid vehicles and 9,340 total plug-in vehicles sold that month. Of the total plug-ins, 3,357 were plug-in hybrids and 5,983 were battery EVs.
  • Plug In America’s Plug-in Vehicle Tracker features battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.  The difference here is that everything is covered – light duty passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses, motorcycles, and three wheelers. It doesn’t include sales figures, but it does offer pricing and driving range numbers.
  • HybridCars.com has changed its formatting this year – breaking out battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles into separate charts; they’d previously been featured in one category as plug-in electric vehicles. The HybridCars.com monthly report covers hybrids, plug-in hybrids, compressed natural gas (with only the Honda Civic Natural Gas featured on that chart), and diesel passenger cars (aka clean diesel).
  • AutoblogGreen considers them to be “green cars” in its monthly reporting, and includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric, clean diesel, and a few fuel-efficient technologies like the Buick Regal eAssist and Chevrolet Malibu ECO mild hybrid. The sales figures are broken out by each brand and company. Analysis of sales trends is based on the total green car sales for the month in relation to recent months and year-ago numbers.

When looking at all of these sales figures and category definitions, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Purchase incentives are being offered on battery electric and plug-in hybrid models and don’t exist on hybrids anymore. Center for Renewable Energy’s website provides an example of what’s available on the market these days. This just covers California, but it also features federal incentives and information on carpool lane stickers – other sources that are taken seriously by car shoppers. Incentives used to be offered on hybrids until their sales volume increased and plug-ins entered the market.
  • It is a very good idea to have industry standards in place, as Society of Automotive Engineers would attest to. Having uniformity in industry terminology becomes important when it comes to government legislation and regulation, corporate policies, research studies, investors, and buyers of the products.
  • Simplifying the wording is a good idea. Extended range electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle? I prefer plug-in hybrid. Pure electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle? I vote for battery electric vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle? I would take the word “electric” out of that one. Hybrid electric vehicle or hybrid? Hybrid is a good way to simplify it. And what to do about electric vehicle (EV). It seems to cover both battery electric and plug-in hybrid. Some say it should be plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) at all times; I’m fine with EV since that’s widely used and accepted – and I would rather use it regularly than throwing in “electric car” occasionally.
  • Automakers are still working out their definitions of “electrified vehicles” and sometimes group hybrids and EVs together. Ford offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its Ford C-Max and Fusion models – with the plug-in hybrids under the “Energi” label. Toyota is offering the Prius Plug-in Hybrid version of its popular Prius brand. The price is several thousand dollars higher than the traditional hybrid version of the Prius, but there are incentives on the plug-in version.
  • The experience can be confusing and stress-inducing. Survey researchers at Indiana University released an exhaustive study that found consumers are misinformed about EVs – with 75% incorrectly underestimating the benefits of the vehicles. I got a phone call recently from a friend shopping for a car with his wife. They’re open to owning a hybrid or plug-in, but confusion over the differences between hybrid and EV models doesn’t help; they could easily put off the purchase even longer.
  • Fleets that have yet to acquire any vehicles outside traditional internal combustion engine models have a similar experience and have definite concerns over their return on investments. Electrified commercial vehicles make their research a bit murky as well, especially with Smith Electric Vehicles and Boulder Electric Vehicles going through financial struggles.
  • While the total sales volume of EVs and hybrids isn’t growing by leaps and bounds, if you include clean diesel and natural gas as “alternative fuel vehicles” or “green cars,” the sales numbers represent their own segment gaining more credibility. Eventually, those sales figures will likely include hydrogen fuel cell, propane autogas, and biofuels.
  • Effective educational and question-and-answer materials are very much needed in the marketplace. EDTA and Plug In America are doing a very good job on this front, but stakeholders in clean transportation have a lot of work to do on getting the word out to consumers and fleets who will be making these acquisitions in years to come. Clear labelling of vehicle types would help simplify the process.

This Week’s Top 10: More revealed on what plug-in owners think about charging and paying for it, Four green cars made the list for Vincentric Best CPO (certified pre-owned) vehicle values

Nissan Leaf chargingby 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. More on what plug-in owners think about charging and paying for it: More is being learned about the charging habits and preferences of electric vehicle drivers, based on a study by Morepace Inc. A community of more than 250 battery electric vehicle (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners were polled in June and July on usage of public charging stations and other chargers. BEV owners are much more likely to have home chargers, with a rate of about 90%. BEV owners tend to use public charging stations when necessary, while PHEV owners use them whenever they’re available. About 88% of all the owners said they could always find an open charger when visiting stations – and they prefer to visit establishments that do have charging stations than those that don’t. As for how much they’ll pay, respondents said they’ll generally pay about $2-to-$3 for a one-to-two hour charge. About 71% do pay to charge their vehicle; of those who do not pay, about half said they will still not pay to charge if there was a fee required. All different types of payment schedules will need to be explored, according to the research company. Paying a monthly fee for a charger is only going to be worth it to the driver using that charger frequently.
  2. Four green cars made the list for the Vincentric Best CPO (certified pre-owned) vehicle values in the compact hatchback (Nissan Leaf), premium compact hatchback (Lexus CT 200h), compact sedan (Honda Civic Hybrid), and wagon (Volkswagen Jetta Diesel) segments for 2014. Vincentric’s list includes 41 segments and the vehicles that offer the best value for resale after initial ownership.
  3. Tesla Motors resolved a trademark dispute in China –Zhan Baosheng, who had registered rights to the company’s name in China before the automaker had entered the market, agreed to settle the dispute last week “completely and amicably,” Tesla said in an email statement.
  4. Why I enjoy getting my daily email from Green Car Reports – Catchy titles and spot-on analysis. Here are a few of today’s stories…… Don’t Be Fooled: Only Three Electric Cars Are Sold Nationwide Today……. Electric Cars Bought By Fleets: Cost Still An Impediment ……… Where Are Natural-Gas Vehicles Most Popular And Most Numerous? ……… More ‘Tesla Truth’ Reveals Depths Of Derangement Over Electric-Car Maker.”
  5. Propane and natural gas vehicles have new and expanded websites – Propane Education & Research Council launched a new website, Propane.com, to serve as a source for information about propane safety and newly developed propane-powered technology across the fuel’s top markets: agriculture, commercial landscape, industrial, on-road fleets, and residential. NGVAmerica launched a new website with improved and expanded features. The homepage features a navigation bar and drop-down menu with a new Stations section that provides current station counts and analysis, as well as detailed pages covering CNG and LNG station design, construction, and economics.  The Vehicles section now contains content covering the consumer, fleet, and high-horsepower market segments.
  6. Nearly three quarters of Americans surveyed by Consumer Federation of America (CFA) favor that truck manufacturers be required to increase fuel economy of large trucks to reduce their fuel costs – with much of that saving being passed on to consumers. A new CFA report estimates that the average American household spends $1,100 extra on consumer goods and services to cover the cost of fueling up inefficient medium- and heavy-duty trucks. These costs are passed on by companies to consumers through price hikes on everything from milk to large appliances.
  7. National Electric Drive Week 2014 will be taking place Sept. 15-21, 2014; cities across the US will host their own ride and drive events on one of these days. Each event is led by local plug-in electric vehicle drivers and advocates; they typically include some combination of EV parades, ride-and-drives, electric tailgate parties, press conferences, award ceremonies, informational booths, and more. Plug In America, Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association serve as the national team providing support to the events throughout the country.
  8. Clean transportation and advanced vehicle technologies were key themes at this year’s CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., organized by Center for Automotive Research….. Lighweighting vehicles is bringing significant side benefits to automakers hoping to increase fuel economy……. Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel sales have been strong since launching the highest-mileage ever full-size pickup……. Advanced technologies like active grille shutters are another way automakers are moving forward on hitting the CAFÉ standard of 54.5 mpg by 20205….. The race for domination in pickup truck fuel economy is getting more intense.
  9. Biofuels groups are taking on Big Oil again for playing a role in squeezing the Renewable Fuel Standard and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s stance on it. Taxpayers for Common Sense say that oil companies paid only 11.7% of US income on federal taxes during the past five years, compared to the statutory 35% corporate tax paid by other companies. Fuels America released its list of the top 10 people that benefit from a weakened Renewable Fuel Standard including Big Oil executives and oil spill cleanup crews.
  10. Volkswagen is taking a “holistic approach” to offset its carbon emissions including a carbon reduction project to offset emissions created from e-Golf production and distribution. The automaker also named SunPower as its official solar energy partner power provider; Bosch Automotive Service Solutions as its preferred home-charging and installation services provider, and selected ChargePoint to provide charging stations to its dealer network and to provide US e-Golf owners access to its network of more than 18,000 charging stations nationwide.

BMW i electric cars and Greenlots expanding electric transportation in Singapore

BMW i in SingaporeBMW Group Asia is working with Greenlots to bring BMW i electric cars and to expand open standards-based technology to Singapore. BMW’s 360º ELECTRIC program is being combined with Greenlots technology solutions to support Singapore’s first home and public charging network and the country’s burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) adoption. The network is based on the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), the global standard for open charger-to-network communications.

BMW’s 360º ELECTRIC program is based on four key pillars that will come standard with the purchase of every BMW i3 or i8 – home charging with the BMW i Wallbox Pure and a basic installation package for the 230 volt wallbox; public charging through BMW i’s ChargeNow that provides BMW i drivers with access to a network of public charging stations located in office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, industrial parks, and buildings in Singapore; customized flexible mobility solutions that cater to occasional long-distance trips outside the city by using the BMW 320i sedan for up to five days during the first year after purchasing a BMW i vehicle; and assistance services offering various solutions to ensure confidence in driving an EV including BMW ConnectedDrive, BMW i Remote App, and BMW Roadside Assistance.

Greenlot’s open standards-based SKY Smart Charging platform will administer ChargeNow, BMW i’s public charging program, in Singapore. That will enable local BMW i customers to access its expansive network of AC charging units by using the BMW ChargeNow card and Greenlots mobile app. Drivers will be give real-time information on the availability and location of these stations.

Greenlots has had a presence in the Singapore market since 2009, says Lin Khoo, senior vice president of Greenlots. The company began working with Bosch on a government-funded infrastructure in 2010 on installations and maintenance. The alliance with BMW assists the automaker in bringing its i3 and i8 luxury electric cars to the market and supports Greenlots in expanding the open-standards charging infrastructure to houses and to shopping malls, universities, workplaces, and other public charging locations, Khoo said.

Greenlots’ global reputation and past experience working together is how BMW chose the open standards-based technology company, said Brett Hauser, CEO of Greenlots. Open standards have been gaining more support in the past few years from several automakers and other stakeholders in electrified transportation, he said.

Hauser said that one example of this support came through the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan recently adopted by California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. One action adopted in the plan is to promote access, compatibility, and interoperability of the EV charging network. This ensures that EV drivers have the information and freedom to use any public charging station by allowing common forms of payment, not requiring subscription or membership status, encouraging open-source protocols, and making fees transparent to customers.