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…….
- Ford opening up EV patents: Ford Motor Co. is following Tesla Motors in bringing its electric vehicle (EV) technology out to competitors in the marketplace. Ford is opening up hundreds of patents on the technology to automakers to help bring EVs and hybrids out for diverse vehicle offerings and wide adoption with consumers. Ford will be charging a fee for licensing its patents, unlike Tesla offering its patents for free. Ford has more than 650 patents and about 1,000 pending patent applications related to hybrid and plug-in vehicles. The automaker plans to hire 200 more EV engineers this year to further its R&D in electrified transportation.
- Wireless charging moving forward: Daimler AG has a partnership with Qualcomm Inc. to recharge batteries in electric vehicles, along with recharging mobile devices, using wireless charging (also known as “inductive charging”). The partnership will utilize the Qualcomm Halo wireless charging system, providing battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle drivers a way to recharge without having to plug them in; they’ll also be using Qualcomm’s WiPower technology that allows consumers to wirelessly charge smart phones and other mobile devices wirelessly inside a vehicle.
- Chicago Clean Cities reduces petroleum consumption and emissions: The Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition says that in 2014 its member fleets saved more than 25 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) of petroleum and nearly 240,000 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions. “This, the coalition’s greatest achievement yet, is the equivalent of removing 3,150 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline,” said Samantha Bingham, coordinator, Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC). “This incredible accomplishment would not be possible without the efforts of the coalition’s stakeholders, which include commercial fleets and municipalities throughout the six-county Chicago region.” Chicago Area Clean Cities recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
- More news on the connected car front: There’s been a flurry of announcements, gossip, and media coverage on what will happen next on the “Silicon Valley Marries Detroit” front. General Motors (GM) said it will become the first automaker to put the Apple CarPlay infotainment system into its lineup with 14 new Chevrolet models next year; Hyundaisays it will become the first car company to launch Android Auto on production vehicles. Apple dropped a few more hints that it may soon challenge GM, Nissan, Tesla, and others on the electric vehicle manufacturing front – and by integrating mobile devices into cars. “The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn’t it? We explore all kinds of categories,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior VP of operations during a California technology conference last week. “We’ll certainly look at those and evaluate where we can make a huge difference.”
- LG Chem gains another battery customer, A123 doubles capacity: LG Chem is on a roll as a maker of lithium-ion battery cells for electric vehicles; Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors has been added to the list. South Korean battery maker LG Chem also provides this technology to Audi, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Renault, Smart, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Great Wall will use LG Chem lithium-ion battery ells for upcoming plug-in hybrid SUVs. Plug-in hybrids are considered to have the best chance of taking off in sales in the massive Chinese market; they qualify for the government’s New Energy Vehicles policy and are expected to be most popular with workers moving into apartment towers in fast-growing cities. A123 Systems will be doubling its manufacturing capacity at its three lithium-ion battery plants. Parent-company Wanxiang Group is investing $200 million to increase capacity 1.5 gigawatt hours at plants in suburban Detroit, Hangzhou, China, and Changzhou, China over the next three years. A123 Systems has changed its end product away from lithium ion battery packs to low-voltage lithium batteries for weight savings and to power other fuel efficient technologies.
- Ford getting into carsharing: Ford Motor Co. is following the lead started by Daimler and BMW by offering services in the growing carsharing business. GoDrive will offer one-way rides with guaranteed parking; Ford will have 50 cars available through 20 London locations for GoDrive.
- CALSTART continuing to administer HVIP program: California Air Resources Board has decided to continue working with CALSTART on the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP); CALSTART will manage $10 million in additional incentives in 2015 and 2016 – the largest state clean truck and bus incentive program in the nation. CARB initiated HVIP in late 2009, and it has become the most significant program nationally that encourages fleet operators to purchase hybrid and electric trucks instead of conventional ones, CALSTART says.
- Tesla shut out of Texas: Tesla Motors has been blocked from directly selling its electric cars in the state of Texas for the second time in two years. That follows strong moves that CEO Elon Musk and his colleagues have put into being allowed to sell in that large marketplace. Auto dealers have a lot of pull in Austin, and were able to recently thwart a second bill that Tesla had supported.
- California more flexible on ZEV compliance: While the California Air Resources Board rejected a request on May 18 to be exempted from the state’s zero-emission vehicle mandate by Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volvo, there may be a way out for them. Automakers with less than $40 billion in annual global revenue – which includes those five companies – now will have the option to sell plug-in hybrids only to earn credits toward compliance, rather than being forced to sell some battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. If they don’t sell enough, they’ll still need to buy credits from automakers that sell electric vehicles in sizable numbers.
- Daimler also getting into battery storage market: Daimler AG is following the lead from Tesla Motors on getting into the energy storage market. Daimler will sell Mercedes-Benz branded lithium-ion batteries in a relationship with utility EnBW Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG. Daimler’s batteries have been tested for millions of kilometers through the toughest environments of heat and cold, the company said. Germany’s economy and government regulations are tied heavily into renewable energies; Daimler is hopeful it’s a smart market to move into.
- Plus: In this week’s Green Auto Market – Extended Edition, “What 3D printing is bringing to automakers and their engineering design teams.” 3D printing has become the “topic du jour” in the auto industry. It’s ideal for racecar teams, and for automakers looking to speed up design-to-manufacturing while cutting production costs. One reason 3D printers is taking off is that the cost has plummeted downward; new 3D printers have dropped to less than $1,000 in price. That’s how a company like Local Motors and its electric car can enter the automotive space. You can read more about subscribing to Extended Edition here.