Waymo and FCA bringing autonomous vehicles over to the fleet side, Aging population growing fast and needing the best in mobility and transportation

Waymo and FCA want commercial AVs:  Commercial fleet vehicles may be the key launch pad for autonomous, electric, and shared vehicles of the future with two companies, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, making moves in this direction. Autonomous vehicle leader Waymo is pushing for California to add autonomous delivery vehicles to its allowable vehicles for testing and adoption. The Teamsters union will be fighting it over job losses for truck drivers; but Waymo has been moving in this direction for awhile, starting with a passenger delivery service in Arizona in December. FCA will be partnering with Silicon Valley self-driving car startup Aurora to develop autonomous commercial vehicles. The partners will be using the Aurora Driver platform on Fiat Chrysler commercial vehicles for autonomous driving aimed at Fiat and Ram commercial customers. FCA has been working with Waymo on autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans that utilize Waymo’s hardware and software. Crosstown competitors Ford and General Motors are also working on autonomous vehicles that can move either people or goods.

Booming aging population:  If you’re looking at social trends that will shape the future of mobility and transportation, it ain’t all about Millennials and GenZers — it’s more about Baby Boomers and the GenXers following close behind. The United Nations predicts that the world’s population of over-64-year olds will double between 2018 and the mid-2040s. As of last year, that age demographic eclipsed the number of people under the age of five for the first time in recorded history. These numbers are based on the assumption that medication and healthcare will continue to improve. Demand will continue to grow in senior-citizen communities and assisted-living facilities, for caregivers and medical professionals, and those providing rides in buses, vans, and cars. Google (and later Waymo) build this into autonomous vehicle test rides years ago. Lyft is working with GoGoGrandparent to offer monitored rides for senior citizens. Start-up company Voyage is bringing self-driving shuttles to large senior-living communities in Florida and California. Amazon Fresh and competitors like Instacart are bringing groceries to the elderly (though that usually needs to be initiated by offspring). Those providing travel services and adventure experiences to customers who don’t have to go back to work are also expected to see much growth in the next few years.

News Briefs:
Climate mayors on EV procurement:  Cities devoted to fighting climate change will be making a major announcement next month, June 27, just prior to the launch of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) Annual Meeting in Honolulu. The Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle (EV) Purchasing Collaborative will give details on its plans to “step up” its commitment to procuring public fleet electric vehicles. During the Climate Mayors Summit on June 27, this press briefing on moves being made in fleet electrification will be led by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Roaming partnership forged:  Volkswagen’s Electrify America and ChargePoint have created a roaming partnership to further expand access to electric vehicle charging across the US. The interoperability agreement that will begin later this year will allow drivers to seamlessly charge their EVs on public chargers between both networks using their existing account credentials to start a session, without any additional fees. It also takes away the need to have to create new memberships, registrations, or payment configurations to charge at the other network.

FCA and Renault merger:  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Renault SA may still be looking for ways to resuscitate their collapsed merger plan and secure the approval of the French carmaker’s alliance partner Nissan Motor Co Ltd , according to sources close to the companies. The deal has officially been declared over, but one tactic being discussed is Nissan urging Renault to significantly reduce its 43.4% stake in the Japanese company in return for supporting a FCA-Renault merger. FCA and Renault are blaming the French government, Renault’s largest shareholder, for demanding more time to win Nissan’s backing. FCA is under much pressure to comply with regulations, such as increasingly stringing European Union rules, to honor emissions reductions mandates. Renault’s and Nissan’s electric vehicle offerings would be part of it. It would, in FCA’s words, have “a strong position in transforming technologies, including electrification and autonomous driving.”

Electric trucks the star of the show at ACT Expo 2019

Electric trucks took up a lot of space in the exhibit hall at this year’s ACT Expo — and that meant medium and heavy trucks along with commercial applications such as electric delivery and refuse trucks. This time major truckmakers took center stage, and specialized makers had announcements to share as well. With about 4,000 attendees, it was the largest ACT Expo yet.

During his keynote speech, Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in North America, said his company will be putting about 50 battery electric test vehicles on roads by the end of this year through its Freightliner division, built at a renovated plant in Oregon. 20 of them will be medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks for Penske Corp. and NFI Inc., a major third-party logistics company, under a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Near-zero-emissions natural gas medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are currently available and will continue from Freightliner as an interim solution until full commercialization of the battery-electric Freightliner eM2 and eCascadia, he said. Its Thomas Built unit will be rolling out Proterra-powered electric school buses.

Peterbilt Motors Co. showed off new electric trucks, including the Model 220EV, Model 520EV, and Model 579EV. The 220EV is spec’d with the Meritor Blue Horizon eAxle and the 520EV will feature the Transpower mid-ship powertrain configuration, while the 579EV will feature the new Allison AXE Series e-Axle. Six of the 579EVs were demonstrated at the exhibit that have been finished for customers. “Today, we have 14 electric vehicles built, on our way to more than 30 by the end of the year, for real customer routes and to analyze performance so that our production options meet the standards customers expect when buying a Peterbilt,” said Peterbilt’s Chief Engineer Scott Newhouse.

While it was outside ACT Expo, Ford on Wednesday announced it’s putting $500 million into electric truck startup Rivian Automotive. Both companies have agreed to work together to develop a battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

Volvo Trucks North America Wednesday hosted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they presented a $44.8 million check to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) for the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project. The Volvo LIGHTS project is a partnership among the Volvo Group, South Coast AQMD and industry leaders in transportation and electrical charging infrastructure. The project was created ti demonstrate the ability of battery electric vehicles to improve freight and warehouse efficiencies, reduce emissions, and improve air quality. As part of the project, Volvo Trucks will introduce all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrators in California later this year, with vehicle sales planned to begin in 2020.

Other introductions at ACT Expo 2019 included:

  • BYD Motors will deliver 14 yard tractors to two BNSF Railway intermodal facilities in Southern California, adding to an ongoing demonstration project.
  • Chanje has partnered with refrigeration unit supplier Thermo King on a prototype zero-emissions refrigerated van.
  • Xos, the new name for electric truck startup Thor Trucks, will retrofit two Loomis Armored US cash-hauling trucks. An order for 100 more trucks awaits if the test models show the trucks’ value.
  • EV Connect is launching a program aimed at standardizing EV charger management and use for both transportation fleets and charging-equipment developers. The EV Charge Station Certification program already has been completed by seven of the industry’s largest charger makers.
  • Ryder’s booth featured a comprehensive charging infrastructure solution, provided by In-Charge Energy. In-Charge provides nationwide turnkey energy and commercial electric vehicle infrastructure solutions to ensure customers maximize the full economic benefits of adopting electric vehicles into their fleet. Its end-to-end model focusing on behind the meter solutions is an industry first.
  • An Amply Power Inc. white paper showed fleets saved an average 37 percent compared with traditional fuels by electrifying their buses and light-duty vehicles. Fleets that charged during off-peak hours could save as much as 60 percent, according to the white paper.
  • Tritium created the “world’s most powerful charger,” the Veefil-PK 175-475kW DC High Power Charger which can add nearly 300 miles range to an EV in just 10 minutes.
  • The first production fuel cell-powered heavy-duty truck jointly developed by Toyota and Kenworth Truck Co. is going forward. The new truck is the first of 10 planned under a $41 million California Air Resources Board grant matched by Toyota, Kenworth, and Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Penske Truck Leasing announced it will open commercial heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations with 14 high-speed chargers at four of its existing facilities in Southern California. These will be among the first DC fast charging stations in the U.S. designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles.
  • The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently released a report, Regional Haul: An Opportunity for Trucking, that looks at this growing market segment and was shared during a seminar at ACT Expo. Long-haul trucking isn’t what it used to be, according to the report. Forty five percent of the Class 8 tractors produced today are day cabs and a high percentage of those trucks are involved in regional haul operations.
  • Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA) and the University of California at Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) announced the launch of the Low and Zero Emission Readiness (LAZER) Initiative. This new collaboration will support organizations —including transit agencies, refuse operations, trucking carriers, delivery fleets, school districts, municipalities, and more — in evaluating the real-world economic and environmental benefits of advanced transportation technologies.

2015 ACT Expo showcases several new product and technology unveilings

ACT Expo 2015The fifth annual Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, held May 4-7 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, was a showcase for new product and technology unveilings to an audience of more than 3,500 clean transportation stakeholders and 200 plus exhibitors. Electric Drive Transportation Association became one of the new partners for the event, and conference attendees navigated through a series of keynote speakers, workshops, and exhibit hall visits while using a new mobile device application introduced by ACT Expo organizer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates.

Some of the significant announcements included:

  • Ford Motor Co. said that the 2016 F-150 pickup will be available with a 5.0-liter V8 engine that can run on compressed natural gas or propane.
  • Alliance AutoGas introduced the first-ever Class 8 truck propane-diesel blended fuel system, which has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency as emissions-compliant. The California Air Resources Board has also certified the two bi-fuel engine models that include a 13-liter Volvo engine and 14-liter Detroit Diesel engine.
  • Cummins Westport will offer the ISB6.7 G, a 6.7-liter dedicated natural gas engine for medium-duty trucks, shuttle buses, and vocational vehicles. It’s based on the Cummins ISB6.7 diesel engine platform and will operate exclusively on natural gas – either compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas – and will begin production by mid-2016.
  • UPS announced that it has an agreement with Clean Energy Fuels to purchase its Redeem brand renewable natural gas (RNG). UPS fueling stations in Sacramento, Fresno and Los Angeles will begin dispensing RNG this month; the delivery giant said that the deal makes it the largest user of RNG in the U.S. shipping industry.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles is coming back to the market, announcing a $35 million joint venture with Hong Kong battery and vehicle producer FDG Electric Vehicles Limited. The JV allows Smith to “go to our partners and say, we have stability, capital, capacity,” said business strategy and process VP Terry Pageler.
  • Penske Truck Leasing announced that the US Department of Energy has awarded the transportation company a $400,000 grant for the company’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Demonstration and Enhanced Driver Experience Project, to be administered by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Penske will utilize the funds to further introduce alternative fuel vehicles to its customer base.
  • Toyota named eight Northern and Southern California dealerships that will sell its upcoming Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota is working with FirstElement Fuel on a California fueling station network, and will offer free fuel to its first customers. Air Liquide will build 12 hydrogen fueling stations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
  • Clean Energy Fuels Corp. showcased its station that sells both liquefied and compressed natural gas as part of a tour in Dallas. Other tours included a Penske Truck Leasing maintenance facility and visits to Shell LNG, Questar Fueling, and Love’s natural-gas fueling stations.
  • This year’s program featured a number of new workshops and forums coordinated with Electric Drive Transportation Association. They focused on electric drive technology and how these vehicles are meeting the needs of drivers and fleet operators while advancing energy security, environmental sustainability, and economic independence from a monopoly fuel.

Highlights from speakers included:

  • BSR, a global nonprofit that researches sustainable fuels, issued reports exploring the challenges faced by fleets and truck operators in making clean fuels work. With biofuel mandates, California’s low-carbon fuel standard, and other market forces, fleets and truck operators can feel like they are being pulled in multiple directions, BSR said. In the near future, BSR will be offering truckers and others companies in the logistics supply chain an analysis to help them make decisions on what types of trucks they should purchase.
  • Trucking industry executives said they see a future for natural gas as a viable fuel for the industry despite relatively low gasoline and diesel prices. One of the panelists, Drew Cullen, senior vice president for fuels and facility services for Penske Truck Leasing, said he was optimistic even though grant programs are not coming together as fast as they could be.
  • Frito-Lay North America has 300 compressed natural-gas tractors and plans to add another 100 by the end of the year, along with 280 electric box trucks, said Gregg Roden, the company’s senior vice president, during a speaker session.
  • Margo Oge, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, participated in a speaker panel on the challenges women face while working in the trucking industry. Women are still greatly underrepresented in that industry, and those who are employed still face challenges balancing work and home life, according to a panel of female executives. They also tend to be the sole representative of their gender in the board room, Oge said.
  • T. Boone Pickens said that he’s observed six collapses in the price of oil since 1980, like the recent one with a 50% drop in prices that made diesel much cheaper. Diesel will continue to dominate trucking fuel for several years, but Pickens thinks that the price of natural gas will continue to be cheaper than diesel.

The next ACT Expo will take place May 2-5, 2016, in Long Beach, Calif. Click here for conference coverage of 2015 ACT Expo.

Who will name the greenest car of the year at LA Auto Show?

LA Auto Show, alternative fuel vehicles, clean transportation, fleetsFor those of us who regularly attend the Green Car of the Year presentation at the LA Auto Show, a very interesting announcement was made last week that caught our attention. Bobit Business Media will present the first-ever Green Fleet Car and Truck of the Year Awards at the 2014 Connected City Summit on Nov. 20, 2014, as part of the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo.

Bobit Business Media publishes the flagship magazine in the fleet industry, Automotive Fleet, and a few years ago started up Green Fleet and its annual conference. The company will select three finalists in each category, car and truck fleet of the year, based on submissions by OEMs. The finalists will then be voted upon by the readers of Green Fleet, Automotive Fleet, Work Truck and Business Fleet magazines through an online ballot.

Deciding factors will include fuel economy, petroleum displacement, EPA air pollution score, EPA greenhouse gas emissions, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Association ratings, and passenger capacity for cars and payload capacity for trucks. Bobit Business Media received input on the award criteria from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory.

“Fuel efficient, environmentally-friendly cars continue to be a hot topic,” said LA Auto Show President Lisa Kaz. “We are excited to include the Green Fleet Awards this year and shed some light on the cars and trucks that make the most positive impact on the environment.”

Per usual, the Green Car of the Year Award appears on the schedule on a Thursday morning during Press & Trade Days at LA Auto Show. At 8:35 am on Nov. 20, the award will be named. It’s not clear whether that will be the Bobit award or the one presented for several years at that day and time by Ron Cogan, publisher and editor of the Green Car Journal magazine.  Last year, the winner of that Green Car Journal annual award was the Honda Accord ninth generation line-up, including gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid variants. The finalists for Green Car of the Year are usually announced in October.

Another confusing point is how close these two award presentations will come to crossing over each other. If the usual Green Car of the Year is handed out at 8:35 in the South Lobby of the convention center, will it clash with the Connected City Summit, scheduled to start at 9:00 that morning? The Bobit press release says it will take place that day at Connected City Summit, but the Connected Car Expo site doesn’t specify those details. It’s possible that LA Auto Show forgot to revise the schedule to say that the Green Fleet Car and Truck Award winners will be handed out at 8:35 in South Lobby. Maybe both awards will be given out that day. I guess I could always ask somebody involved with putting on the conferences to clear up my questions.

WEX whitepaper educates fleets on alternative fuel vehicles as demand increases

WEX going green saving green whitepaperWhile alternative fuel vehicles started noticeably showing up in fleets in the early 1990s, they haven’ t become significant in numbers or budgets until recently. Now fleets are acquiring all types of green vehicles, and that includes government fleets, corporate, service and delivery, utility, trucking, car rental, and car sharing companies. They’re also continuing to buy the most fuel efficient vehicles on the market, but alternative fuels have more importance now than 20 years ago when Clean Cities started up.

WEX Inc., formerly known as Wright Express, just sponsored a new whitepaper on the topic“Going Green, Saving Green: A Fleet Manager’s Guide to Alternative Fuels Best Practices.” WEX is the leader in fleet fueling payment cards systems, and is now bringing that over to electric vehicle charging and natural gas refueling stations.  It’s interesting to see a company like WEX release this type of whitepaper – the importance of alternative fuel vehicles has gained enough presence to inspire a whitepaper. It’s reminiscent of NADA Used Car Guide recently releasing a special report on resale value trends for the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt – after having ignored the issue for quite a long time.

The WEX paper pro­vides fleets with best prac­tices for cost-effective imple­men­ta­tion of alter­na­tive fuels in a fleet. While media primarily focus on consumer behavior with green vehicles, this paper asserts that fleets are much better positioned to use alternative fuels – their choices are premeditated, unlike consumers’. They’re usually traveling along predetermined routes and can stop for recharging and refueling at given points. That makes it much more viable to plan strategically and contain costs. Here are five recommended tips on making it work….

#1: Know the station coverage in your area.
US government agencies have made significant infrastructure investments, bringing up the number to 11,800 stations – of which about 6,000 are charging stations. About 82% of alternative fueling sites are accessible to the public. The Dept. of Energy offers a comprehensive directory of charging/fueling sites around the country.

#2: Compare historical fuel costs.
Starting in 2008, the commonly used fleet industry terminology for spiking gasoline prices was “fuel price volatility.” It was quite volatile that year, which shot up fuel costs for fleets and hurt vehicle financing and remarketing programs. Switching over to alternative fuels can bring price stability to fleets, though they do have to build in the conversion costs and lifecycle costs of choosing hybrids and EVs over fuel efficient gasoline and diesel engine vehicles.

#3. Think in terms of total ownership cost.
While green vehicles tend to sell for a premium price over typical internal combustion engine vehicles, total cost of ownership can be very appealing – especially for fleets putting a lot of mileage on their vehicles. Fleets tend to study four cost categories: capital costs; maintenance costs; end of life recycling and replacement costs; and indirect costs.

#4: Find and use tax credits wherever you can.
It goes without saying that incentives like federal tax credits and state rebates are very attractive for fleets – and there are a lot of these offerings to choose from now. Calstart encourages fleets to stay informed on state voucher programs to reduce ownership costs. The DOE offers a useful site to find out about the latest federal and state programs. Keep in mind that you need to have good fleet reporting mechanisms in place to cash into these incentives.

#5. Think holistically about fleet fuel costs.
This is where experience will come to play. It depends very much on the regional location of the fleet – in some areas like California, the infrastructure is more solidly in place for natural gas fueling and EV recharging than in most other states. A fleet might have very limited routes with plenty of downtime, making EVs with Level 2 chargers a good buy. Other fleets may choose hybrids and fuel efficient cars and crossovers, depending on their mileage and coverage area and the available infrastructure in that area.

Stay tuned for more specialized reports on green vehicles and infrastructure to be released.  These reports are likely to focus on the US and other key economic markets – China, India, Japan, Korea, Brazil, European Union, and Canada being the most important. Eventually, the economic impact of green vehicles and fueling will grab more attention as the numbers grow and the industry adds more layers to operations.