Feds working with CARB on clean vehicle rules, Ford and Postmates testing self-driving deliveries

Working out fuel economy and emissions rules:  Federal officials met last month with California Air Resources Board members to work out differences in fuel economy and emissions standards. On Dec. 15, William Wehrum, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy chief Heidi King, and Mike Catanzaro, a senior White House aide, discussed goals with CARB officials on maintaining one set of national requirements for automakers in the cars they sell, according to Automotive News. Automakers have been asking the Trump administration to be lenient on fuel economy standards based on the realities of new vehicles being sold with gasoline prices staying low and consumers being more interested in trucks and SUVs. California has taken a more independent, stringent tactic on its zero emissions rules. “We’ve had productive conversations under way with CARB and I would hope those conversations continue to be productive,” Wehrum said. “I think a shared goal is to maintain one national program.”

AeroVironment’s TurboDX chargers:  AeroVironment introduced TurboDX, the company’s next-generation EV charging station for commercial, workplace, utility and residential customers around the world, during CES 2018 in Las Vegas. TurboDX includes 120 and 240 volt charging in a durable, reliable, fast, and safe solution adaptable to a wide range of users’ needs. It’s been certified by Underwriters Laboratory to North American UL Standards for safety and reliability. European variants are certified to IEC standards and bear the CE Mark. Chinese configurations have met CQC certification. An OEM-branded version of the TurboDX has begun manufacturing in China and will ship to customers starting this month.

Hydrogen stations in Japan:  A consortium of 11 companies have signed an agreement to scale up deployment of hydrogen stations and fuel cell vehicles in Japan. A new company will be started up in the spring of 2018 to develop refueling stations. The list includes Toyota, Nissan, Honda, financial institutions, and oil and energy companies including Air Liquide Japan. One of the targets will be to have 160 stations in place fueling 40,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Ford testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates:  During CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Co. announced a test project being conducted with the Postmates delivery service. City dwellers and workers can tap into the convenience of having deliveries made through a quick and easy process on their mobile device. It will support future efforts to deliver meals and store purchases to consumers though self-driving vehicles. Both the merchants and the consumers’ experiences will be explored during the test project.

In late August, Ford began placing a self-driving test car through a trial project with Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s Pizza employees carried out pizzas for delivery in a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle in an Ann Arbor, Mich., test project. Users were able to track the delivery through Domino’s Tracker mobile app.

Ford safety engineers and a few other researchers went on these delivery rounds to make sure it was being carried out safely and accurately. Consumer opinions about the Domino’s ordering and delivery experience were also tapped into.

Postmates is distinct in the market for delivering just about anything – fast food, restaurant meals, groceries, and hardware store items. Much larger companies, such as Amazon, and exploring deliveries and forging their own alliances in all these areas.

Last year, Uber created an alliance with McDonald’s to bring Happy Meals and other menu offerings to those who order it. Automakers see huge potential in forging alliances with technology companies and mobility services like Lyft. Consumers and employers are showing high demand for specialized mobility services that remain fast, efficient, and affordable. It’s much better than being stuck in traffic and looking endlessly for a place to park.

For Today: Musk taking first Model 3 as birthday present, PEVs offer way for automakers to hit fuel economy target

Musk gets birthday present: Tesla started production of the Model 3 on Friday, and CEO Elon Musk will be taking the very first one off the line. Musk tweeted on Saturday with two photos of the first model to roll off the production line. Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis had been the first make a down payment on the Model 3, but had turned over his rights to the first production model to Musk as a birthday gift. Musk, who turned 46, had previously purchased the very first Tesla Roadster and Model X, but not the Model S. The company is scheduled to deliver 30 of these units by the end of this month and aims to reach 20,000 units per month by December.

Oregon offers rebates:  Oregon is offering a plug-in vehicle incentive similar to California’s. Cars with batteries up to 10 kilowatt-hours, will receive a $1,500 rebate and electric cars with larger batteries will get $2,500. It’s part of a larger $5.3 billion transportation funding. It took the state a few years to get there, with purchase rebates having failed a few times in previous legislative sessions. This time, $12 million was included for rebates of six years for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles with a base price of $50,000 or less.

Hitting the federal mpg standard:  Plug-in electrified vehicles may be the way that automakers hit the federal standards for corporate average fuel economy, according to a new study. A team from the University of Central Florida and MIT has found that the federal fuel economy standard offers an effective policy solution that will increase adoption of PEVs. That will be the case whether implemented alone or with another policy such as government incentives, according to the study. The current standards determine an automaker’s compliance based on annual production volume-weighted average fuel economy of the automaker’s fleet of total vehicles manufactured. The Trump administration is expected to wait until the original deadline of April 2018 to finalize the second phase of rules through 2025; and will probably soften the standards. Selling much higher volumes of PEVs would resolve that problem; automakers will be motivated to build a wide selection of PEV models and market them effectively to hit federal targets, even if softened by the Trump administration.

This Week’s Top 10: Trump releasing fuel economy policy, VW pleads guilty in U.S. and faces more in Europe

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

  1. Fuel economy policy: President Donald Trump is expected to announce the new administration’s stance on the fuel economy and emissions policy on Wednesday. After meeting with automaker executives in a Detroit suburb, Trump will likely announce extending the public comment period and softening the mandates for automakers. The largest automakers have been asking the Trump administration to revise the mandate to be more in line with the market – making it difficult to sell smaller, fuel efficient cars, hybrids, and plug-in vehicles. Auto executives started approaching Trump administration transition team members soon after the election and staff members and advisors after the inauguration. They were upset with the Obama administration over cutting off the comment period and finalizing the mandate.
  2. VW guilty plea: Volkswagen pleaded guilty on Friday to fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements in the diesel car emissions scandal. It was part of a $4.3 billion settlement that had been reached with the U.S. Justice Department in January and was the first time the automaker has pleaded guilty to criminal charge in any court around the world. Legal battles also started heating up in Europe about the same time. Criminal investigations are intensifying across Europe, and thousands of consumer lawsuits have been filed. The lawsuits could add up, as there are a lot more owners in Europe of VW brand diesel cars.
  3. BMW sales double: BMW Group announced that global sales of its plug-in vehicles more than doubled in the first two months of 2017, over that period the year before, to more than 10,000 units sold. Vehicles currently for sale include the BMW i3 in battery electric and extended range plug-in hybrid versions; and the i8, X5, 3-Series, and 7-Series plug-in hybrids. Coming up next will be the BMW 530 iPerformance plug-in hybrid and the Mini Cooper SE Countryman All4 The company expects plug-in vehicles sales to increase through the launch of the plug-in hybrid BMW 530e iPerformance this month, and the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid in June.
  4. Renewable diesel: Oil refining company Neste has become the world’s largest supplier of renewable diesel. Recent additions to the client list include UPS for delivery vans and Google for its buses that transport employees to and from work. Fleets are taking to it for reasons found in support for renewable diesel – cutting carbon emissions, particulates, and NOx significantly without having to convert over diesel vehicles. Nearly 80% of the company’s renewable products are based on waste and residues.
  5. Detroit Electric: Detroit Electric has a $1.8 billion investment through a joint venture with a Chinese company that will roll out the long delayed SP:01 and other vehicles. The startup electric sport carmaker launched in 2008 and took the name of one of the very first electric carmakers that hadn’t been building cars for over a century.  Detroit Electric has created a joint venture with Far East Smarter Energy Group, a Chinese company that makes batteries and electrical components. The two companies will get production started by the end of this year for the SP:01, and are  planning for two more electric car models in the near future.
  6. Tesla energy storage: Tesla Energy is working on getting business overseas – Australia and Kauai. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made an offer to Australia by tweeting with Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes. Musk pitched him on bringing Powerwall and Powerpack products to the South Australia state to have the necessary energy backup in case of another emergency. South Australia was hit by a state-wide blackout during September and are interested in Musk’s $25 million, 100 megawatt hour offer. In another deal, Tesla Energy has set up a a 13 megawatt solar farm that generates energy stored in a 52 MWh Tesla Powerpack storage set. It fits well into Hawaii’s mission to free the islands from fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Watch the video.
  7. In-wheel drive: Protean Electric is partnering with Consolidated Metco to develop an electric in-wheel drive system to provide hybrid-electric solutions for the medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle markets. The companies say that the drive system will enable ConMet’s OEM and fleet customers to address the tightening of  safety and emissions regulations, increasing demands for improved fuel efficiency, weight and drivetrain packaging optimization, and shifts in vehicle demands for long-haul and urban delivery.
  8. Ford wins award for sustainability practices: Ford was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the eighth straight year by Ethisphere Institute, which the automaker says is the longest streak for any auto manufacturer. The award honors companies “who recognize their role in society to influence and drive positive change in the business community and societies around the world.” Ford’s Partnership for a Cleaner Environment (PACE) program with its supply chain partners helped the company make the list. The program, which started in 2014, added tools that help suppliers reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and waste. Members of PACE share best practices in reducing carbon and adopting procedures for reducing water and energy consumption.
  9. Site tours: ACT Expo 2017 has announced three technical tours for those attending the conference in Long Beach, Calif., in early May. Monday, May 1, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Join American Honda at its North American Headquarters in Torrance for a reveal of its three Clarity models. The reveal will include an overview of national marketing efforts to deploy the Clarity as well as an opportunity to get in the new vehicles and test them out. Monday, May 1, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: City of Long Beach has one of the most diverse and innovative municipal fleets in the nation, offering an array of fuel and vehicle types with renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Attendees will see an assortment of city vehicles, as well as its renewable fueling infrastructure, extensive maintenance shop, and fleet charging infrastructure. Thursday, May 4, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Long Beach Container Terminal is the world’s first zero-emission marine container terminal. It uses fully automated battery electric cargo handling equipment to move containers through its terminal. While there is a lot of talk of heavy-duty vehicle automation, LBCT has more than 60 battery electric units running in every day service. Visit this incredible project, and also see how these units autonomously change their own battery packs! Enhance your ACT Expo experience by adding an offsite tour for just $50. You can also view a video about the upcoming event.
  10. Low carbon pathways: The California Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) staff has released for public comment four new Tier 2 renewable diesel (RD) pathways using soy oil, used cooking oil, tallow, and corn oil at the Diamond Green facility in St. Charles, Louisiana. Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) uses the UOP Ecofining Process to produce RD from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), tallow, corn oil, and soybean oil. The Ecofining Process hydrogenates triglycerides and free fatty acid feedstocks which are then isomerized to create a high-quality hydrocarbon fuel.

This Week’s Top 10: Automakers shocked by EPA decision, November strong for green car sales

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Federal fuel economy standardsFuel economy rules:  Automotive executives are very upset about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week to shorten the midterm feedback and approval process until the end of this year on the 54.5 mpg by 2025 mandate. The midterm evaluation process was originally given a deadline of April 2018 for the EPA to issue its final ruling. Automakers felt a compromise deal made with the Obama administration in 2011, known as the One National Program, is being violated. Mileage gains and emissions reductions are set to go up much higher in the second round following the midterm review. Auto executives were hoping to reduce the target under current market conditions shaped by low gas prices, high pickup and SUV sales, and hybrid and plug-in vehicles staying at low volumes. While Trump’s election to the White House was surprising to them and many others, they’d been making contact with the president-elect to soften the mpg targets. There’s been a lot of speculation about how the Trump administration will respond to the EPA’s action, including attempting to reverse it or supporting a new law in Congress overriding the agency’s decision. Late yesterday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, and Daimler, urged congressional negotiators to include wording in a short-term budget resolution that would bar the Obama administration from finalizing the rules before it leaves office next month.
  2. Green car sales:  November was a very good month for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicle sales. Hybrids were up 7.6% over the previous month and 13.3% over the previous year. Electric vehicles were up nearly 25% over the previous month and nearly 38% over November 2015. The Chevrolet Volt continued to do well and the Ford Fusion Energi surged passed the Tesla cars and the Nissan Leaf for the first time.
  3. Fast chargers in Europe:  Six automakers – Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Daimler, and Ford – are planning a joint venture to bring more fast chargers to Europe starting next year. The automaker collective wants to set up about 400 charging sites in the first phase, and by 2020, they’d like to make sure electric car drivers have access to thousands of charging points. The charging network will use combined charging system (CCS) technology, which enhances existing AC and DC charging standards and allows for ultra-fast power levels up to 350 kilowatt hours.
  4. Pacifica plug-in: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles started production on Thursday in Windsor of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the auto industry’s first plug-in minivan. The plug-in hybrid minivans are expected to begin arriving in dealerships over the next several months. The starting price will be $34,495 with the U.S. federal tax credit (not including state and local incentives). The Pacifica Hybrid earned an EPA-certified 84 miles per gallon equivalent, including 33 miles in all-electric mode until an enhanced 3.6-liter V-6 takes over. The gas engine also kicks in under hard acceleration and other conditions.
  5. New mobility and autonomous services:  German automakers are plunging into the mobility space to take on Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and several other startups around the world. Volkswagen yesterday launched a new mobility services brand called Moia that eventually will have its own electric, autonomous passenger vehicles; it will start with shuttle services. It will be VW’s 13th brand and is part of its efforts to transform beyond the diesel emissions scandal. BMW Group said Friday that it will test autonomous vehicles in Munich next year. The automaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities, BMW executives said on Friday. The test cars will contain test drivers, the company said.
  6. Toyota making changes: Toyota announced today it will be expanding development of its hybrid technology over the next five years to be ready for stricter emissions standards by governments around the world. Lower emission hybrid engines will be rolled out. It’s the latest move by the Japanese automaker aimed at making cars “greener” as global automakers face tighter regulations in China, the U.S., and Europe. Last week, president and CEO Akio Toyoda announced he will lead a group of executives overseeing upcoming all-electric vehicle launches.
  7. RNG plant:  Air Liquide will design, construct and operate its first landfill gas (LFG) to renewable natural gas (RNG) purification plant in the U.S. at the Northeast Mississippi Landfill, in Walnut, Miss. The site, owned by the Northeast Mississippi Solid Waste Management Authority, is operated by national solid waste company, Waste Connections, Inc., and receives approximately 350,000 tons of waste per year. Air Liquide is a French multinational company which supplies industrial gases and services to various industries including medical, chemical, and electronic manufacturers. The company is well known in the U.S. for its role in the hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
  8. BYD fast trains:  BYD unveiled an electric monorail system last week at the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City. The company’s President and Chairman Wang Chuanfu unveiled the Chinese company’s SkyRail electric monorail before representatives from over 93 cities. SkyRail is part of BYD’s urban transportation solution, which aims to address air pollution and traffic congestion. Like Tesla Motors, BYD has invested in several cleantech services including solar energy, energy storage, electric cars, and electric commercial vehicles including buses and refuse trucks.
  9. Tesla sales in Virginia:  Richard Holcomb, commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, allowed Tesla Motors to sell its cars in the state, by reversing a September ruling denying Tesla a dealership license to operate a store in Richmond. Tesla had faced a number of legal obstacles to open stores in Virginia. In 2012, the electric carmaker applied for a license to open a store in northern Virginia and was denied by Holcomb.
  10. Countries agree to reduce GHG:  The Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, announced that eight nations have agreed to reduce their own government fleet transportation and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Canada, China, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., signed the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative. The agreement comes from resolutions made at COP21 during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Transport Focus.

 

This Week’s Top 10: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric takes top MPGe rating, Trump administration and EVs

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. hyundai-ioniq-plug-inBest fuel economy rating: The soon-to-be-released 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric took the No. 1 ranking for MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) at 136 MPGe in combined fuel economy. The Ioniq Electric beat the all-electric BMW i3 with its 124 MPGe rating and 60 Amp-hour battery. The BMW i3 with a 94 Amp-hour battery came in fourth place at 119 combined MPGe. The BMW i3 REX (94 Amp-hour battery) and its range extender gasoline engine came in 7th place at MPGe combined. The upcoming Chevy Bolt took third place at 119 combined MPGe. It will have nearly double the range with the Bolt able to go 238 miles per charge versus 124 miles for the Ioniq Electric. These rankings come from the Fuel Economy Guide for model year 2017, which was just released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  2. Trump and EVs: It’s too early tell what actions the Trump administration will take affecting electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. “The short answer is that we don’t know what will happen with the Trump administration and electric vehicles,” said Dave Reichmuth, senior engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists clean vehicles program. “It might be awhile before we understand the policy priorities for the new administration.” Reichmuth said that the federal EV tax credit, which can go as high as $7,500 per electric car, is embedded in the larger federal tax code; removing it would require action from Congress. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, appears unfazed by the potential of less-EV-friendly regulations. Dan Sperling, founding director of the University of California Davis Institute for Transportation Studies, said the automaker industry’s letter to the Trump transition team should not be interpreted as a plea to drop emission or fuel economy standards altogether. “The industry has made a massive investment in electric vehicles,” Sperling said. “While some would prefer to slow it down, most companies are going to continue along that path.”
  3. Sustainable freight: The two largest North American ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, have proposed the next version of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) that would aggressively deploy zero and near-zero emissions trucks and cargo-handling equipment. The ports also propose expanding programs that reduce ship emissions. Other proposals focus on freight infrastructure investment, innovation, and technology to improve supply chain efficiency and comprehensive energy planning. The updated CAAP provides one of California’s first opportunities to implement what was laid out in the state’s Sustainable Freight Action Plan.
  4. Toyota EVs: Toyota Motor Corp. is setting up a small in-house unit to develop battery electric vehicles. For now it will be a small team of four, with one from Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Industries, Aisin Seiki Co., and Denso Corp. The company said it will be part of a larger strategy to develop alternative powertrain technologies. Toyota still emphasizes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which it called the “ultimate eco-car.”
  5. Mazda diesel and electric cars: Mazda Motor Corp. is moving beyond fuel efficient Skyactiv gasoline engine vehicles by adding diesel to the next-generation CX-5 crossover next year. Mazda also will introduce an electric vehicle in 2019 and a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2021 or later, to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy rules. A revamped 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D clean diesel engine, modified to meet more stringent U.S. regulations for nitrogen oxide emissions, will be offered in the second-generation CX-5 during the second half of 2017, the company said. The next CX-5 debuted Tuesday at the L.A. Auto Show.
  6. Faraday factory: Electric supercar maker Faraday Future has stopped construction of its $1 billion electric vehicle factory in North Las Vegas, Nev. The Gardena, Calif., company, which has received backing and recent financial restructuring from tech billionaire Jia Yueting and Chinese company LeEco, said it plans to restart work on the plant in 2017. Last month, a construction firm working on Faraday Future’s factory warned the electric-car startup that it could face a work stoppage over millions of dollars in unpaid bills, raising questions about Faraday Future’s financial condition.
  7. 15 electric buses: California’s Central Valley took a major step to reduce emissions last week with a California Air Resources Board (CARB) funds award. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) will deploy 15 Proterra Catalyst electric buses, 11 Proterra depot-chargers, and four Proterra fast-chargers in order to improve local air quality and public health in disadvantaged communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Buses and charging deployment areas will reportedly include: the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency, the California State University Fresno, the City of Visalia Transit Division, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District, and the City of Modesto Transit Services.
  8. Sound factor: Hybrid and electric vehicles will now be required to make noise when traveling below 19 miles per hour. That ruling came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after a long period of research and industry feedback. Known as the “quiet car” rule, regulators have taken a long time to decide on passing the regulation, as a ruling has been in the works since 2013. In the original proposal, the estimate was that it could reduce instances of injuries caused to pedestrians and bicycle riders by 2,800 per year, a figure that has since been reduced to 2,400 per year.
  9. NextEV: Chinese electric vehicle startup NextEV yesterday unveiled its record-breaking electric supercar, the first vehicle launched under the company’s new NIO brand. The new brand and the NIP EP9 electric supercar, which recently broke an electric vehicle lap record at Nürburgring Nordschliefe, were unveiled at a launch event in London. This is the first official launch since NextEV was founded in 2014. The company opened its Silicon Valley headquarters in October. Padmasree Warrior, former CTO at Cisco, is now serving as the U.S. CEO of NextEV.
  10. VW and Didi: Volkswagen announced last Thursday that it has been is in talks with China’s Didi Chuxing to set up a high-end ride-hailing service; the deal would also involve ambitious sales goals for electric and hybrid vehicles in the world’s largest auto market. That would help VW in its bid to beat General Motors as the largest-selling automaker in China. It would also be a channel for selling its ambitious plan for electric vehicle introductions in the wake of last year’s diesel emissions scandal. The automaker plans to sell 400,000 “new energy vehicles” in China by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025. Didi is China’s largest ride-hailing company, with 300 million users across more than 400 cities.

This Week’s Top 10: Feds release phase 2 of commercial truck emissions rules, National Research Council issues study on 54.5 mpg rules

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. Trucking efficiencyPhase 2 of commercial truck rules: A long-awaited ruling on medium- and heavy-duty trucks on greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel economy has been released by federal agencies. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing emissions and fuel economy improve by up to 24% through 2027, and federal efficiency standards for new trailers have been included for the first time. The proposed second-phase rules on vehicle and engine standards would run from 2021 through 2027 and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types of buses and work trucks. Emissions and fuel consumption from heavy-duty pickups and vans will need to be reduced by 16% between the 2021 and 2027 model years, according to the federal standards. As for feedback on the ruling, American Truck Dealers voiced concern that’s been heard for years from truck makers and suppliers – about the higher costs of compliance and economic impact if prices for commercial trucks rise. Fiat Chrysler’s FCA said it “supports and commends” the coordinated approach taken by the federal agencies. NGVAmerica and its member companies commend the rule, as does CALSTART. The Consumer Federation of America released results of a survey conducted in mid-May with more than 1,000 US consumers; 71% favor increasing fuel efficiency mandates for heavy-duty truck, while 24% oppose it.
  2. As for federal rules on light-duty passenger vehicles: The National Research Council (NRC), an 18-member committee nonprofit group that advises federal policymakers, found that the federal 54.5 mpg by 2025 model year standards are based on sound assumptions on its technological progress and costs – even if electrified transportation doesn’t hit high sales volumes. The NRC study also expressed concern over how much consumers will be willing to pay for the fuel-efficient vehicles. The report comes out during a time when automakers, environmental groups, and regulators are determining the final federal fuel economy standards from 2022 through 2025. This midterm review process was demanded by automakers before they make the investment in retooling to reach the high mpg and emissions targets.
  3. Fisker Karma coming back: Fisker Automotive and Technology Group will be working out of a manufacturing plant to relaunch its Karma plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in Moreno Valley, located in California’s Riverside county. Fisker will create 150 new jobs, with about 100 of them being engineers. The company is also looking into keeping a portion of its former Anaheim headquarters. Chinese owner Wanxiang Group had promised to utilize Fisker’s Delaware plant, but the future of that plant has yet to be determined.
  4. Watch these videos: NAFA’s past president Claude Masters and CALSTART’s Bill Van Amberg talked to Fleet Management Weekly in these video interviews about NAFA’s Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program and hitting clean transportation targets. Masters talks about the programs being set up to provide data fleet managers need. Van Amberg says that the true role of CALSTART is to build a clean transportation technologies industry – creating jobs that, in turn, create cleaner air.
  5. Hyperloop competition: It’s been nearly two years since SpaceX/Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent out the Hyperloop concept – and now it’s gaining more attention and enthusiasm. The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition asks entrants to design passenger vehicles for the super high-speed Hyperloop train system. It’s intended to appeal to both university students and independent engineering teams, SpaceX says. Hyperloop Technologies, an unrelated startup with proprietary technology based in downtown Los Angeles, pledged on Twitter to support student teams submitting pod designs for the competition. Hyperloop is gaining enough traction to inspire a feature in Popular Science with this intro: “Elon Musk proposed a ridiculously audacious form of transportation. Now, startups are racing to bring the Hyperloop to life.”
  6. Ford land-fill free in Mexico: Ford Motor Co.’s Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant has earned zero waste-to-landfill status, making the automaker landfill-free at all of its Mexico manufacturing facilities. That means Ford’s Mexico plants are diverting 1.5 million pounds of landfill waste this year and going forward. This is part of a global campaign by Ford to reduce waste-to-landfill by 40% per vehicle produced from 2011 to 2016; Ford previously hit that target by reducing global per vehicle waste-to-landfill by 40% from 2007 to 2011.
  7. Toyota might gain more ZEV credits in California: Toyota is not getting out of the plug-in business entirely to focus instead on hydrogen fuel cell cars. Developed with the new 2016 Prius hybrid, the new Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will likely have longer electric range than its 11 miles on battery only in the current version. That will probably help tip the scales a little bit more in the automaker’s favor in California. The state is loosening up on its zero emission vehicle (ZEV) credits, and Toyota will be able to gain more credits if it sells more of these models than it’s been achieving lately. The 2016 model could generate that enthusiasm and sales increase, and could be a way for other companies to meet their targets. Mazda and Subaru, for example, will fall under ZEV requirements for the first time starting in 2018 and might be interested in buying Toyota’s technology for their vehicles to meet the targets – similar to what Toyota had previously done with Tesla Motors in its RAV4 EV.
  8. Nevada wants to see Electric Highway: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced that five new electric vehicle chargers will be placed on highway US 95 in between Reno and Las Vegas; that will go with the 150 charging stations already in place in the state. State officials are working with Tesla Motors to set up additional fast chargers, Tesla Superchargers, along the Nevada Electric Highway. That’ likely to happen given that Nevada will soon be home to Tesla’s Gigafactory lithium-ion battery plant near Reno.
  9. Biofuels get mixed message in Washington: Fans of biofuels got some “good news/bad news” out of Washington, DC. Last week, Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a bill that would completely recall the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, with its ethanol and biodiesel blends and advanced biofuels provisions. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have made several attempts to remove the ethanol blend mandate, but leave in other biofuels, such as biodiesel. For those in the biofuels business needing funding, the federal government now is offering $100 million in grants under the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP). That funding has been made available to support the infrastructure needed to make more renewable fuel options available to consumers. It will be administered by the Farm Service Agency; but those interested need to move fast – applications must be submitted by July 15, 2015.
  10. Continental wants to win electrified turbocharger market: Tier 1 automotive supplier giant Continental AG is throwing down the gauntlet to compete with Valeo SA, BorgWarner, and Honeywell. Similar to Valeo’s 48-volt electric motor that will soon power a new Audi vehicle, Continental is working on an electric motor to pressurize a turbocharger that will eliminate what’s called “turbo lag.” Besides bringing more power, the electrified turbocharger improves fuel economy. BMW already uses Continental turbochargers on its BMW i8 and Mini Cooper.

Big Picture: EPA releases finalized Tier 3 standards on emissions; Tesla Motors has another revolutionary goal: a Gigafactory

EPA gasoline sulfurThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday finalized what it calls “Tier 3 standards” requiring gasoline sulfur levels to be reduced by two thirds from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm. EPA says that its new emission standards for cars and gasoline will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks. Smog emissions, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, are expected to drop 80% compared to today’s vehicles and particulate matter (soot) will drop by 70%. These standards will begin being implemented in model year 2017. The Tier 3 standards are being supported by automakers, labor, consumers, and public health advocates. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, according to the EPA.

And in other clean transportation news……

  • Tesla Motors has yet another potential breakthrough concept in the works –its “Gigafactory” concept could bring more affordable electric vehicles to market through a large scale lithium battery factory. It would mean investing up to $5 billion with partners in a battery plant that can supply 500,000 electric vehicles a year by 2020, after opening up in 2017.  Panasonic may be considering joining in; Panasonic is currently Tesla’s largest supplier of lithium ion batteries. “In cooperation with strategic battery manufacturing partners, we’re planning to build a large scale factory that will allow us to achieve economies of scale and minimize costs through innovative manufacturing, reduction of logistics waste, optimization of co-located processes and reduced overhead,” Telsa posted last week on its blog. By the end of the first year of production, the per kilowatt cost of the battery pack could be reduced by more than 30%. Tesla is looking for plant locations in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and said that site selection will be happening soon. When you view the charts Tesla compiled, the first one shows that its new battery factory will be producing more batteries by 2020 than all the other lithium battery makers combined are making today – that’s quite a claim.
  • Nissan did better in Leaf sales – at 1,425 cars sold it was a record for the month of February, more than double the amount from a year earlier. That makes for 12 straight months of year-over-year sales increases. Its top two markets last month were San Francisco and Atlanta; the rest of the top five was Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. The Chevrolet Volt’s sales have been seeing a decline – at 1,210 it was higher than January’s 918, but down a third from February 2013’s total of 1,626. Tesla continues to not report monthly sales, but the estimate was 1,000 to 1,200 units of the Model S sold.
  • Honda appears ready to pull its Insight hybrid off the market – one of the very first hybrids to come to market when it was introduced in 1999, before the Toyota Prius. The original two-seater hybrid got even better mileage than the Prius or the Honda Civic hybrid. It was redesigned in 2009 with a backseat, but it failed to grow in sales numbers even though it sold for less than $20,000.
  • President Obama is bringing to medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses what was previously brought to passenger cars – a second level of fuel efficiency standards. The first round covered model years 2014 through 2018; the new standards will be in place in about tow years and will extend the rules into the next decade.
  • Even though ECOtality is out of business, its Blink electric vehicle charging stations are still around. IKEA added four stations at one of its Chicago-area stores as part of its partnership with Car Charging Group, Inc. IKEA started installing stations in 2011 in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington and wants to place them at 55 US locations.
  • Daimler will be launching a new battery electric vehicle in partnership with China’s BYD. It will go through the Denza brand and be shown as a concept hatchback car at the next Beijing Motor Show. It will be called the “NEV” – or New Energy Vehicle, which means it’s being built for China. One of the popular car trends in that market will be met – rear seating will have the feel of a lounge area, perfect for riding in when you have a chauffeur in the front seat doing all the driving.