For Today: Ford and Zotye create JV in China, AutoMobility LA coming up later this month

Ford creating JV with Zotye:  Ford Motor Company and Chinese automaker Zotye signed an agreement to establish Zotye Ford Automobile Co., Ltd., a new 50:50 joint venture that will offer a range of stylish and affordable all-electric vehicles for consumers in China under a new local brand. If it achieves regulatory approval, the new JV will design, build, market and distribute all-electric passenger vehicles for the Chinese market. The Detroit automakers already has JVs in place with Changan Ford Automobile Corporation, Ltd. and Jiangling Motors Corporation. Ford will continue working closely with each of its JV partners to develop and manufacture new energy vehicles to meet rising consumer demand in China during the impending electrification phase of the Chinese auto industry.

SJ Airport bringing in electric buses:  Electric bus maker Proterra announced that the San Jose City Council has approved the purchase of 10 Proterra Catalyst E2 battery-electric transit buses and related charging infrastructure for use at the San Jose International Airport. It marks Proterra’s first airport electric bus deployment in the San Francisco Bay Area. Scheduled to be placed in service in late 2018, the buses will be designed and built in California at Proterra’s Los Angeles County manufacturing facility. “These electric buses can help us significantly reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and represent a step towards our aspiration that an electric engine power every shuttle and bus on San Jose’s streets,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

AutoMobility LA will kick off LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA is bringing together leading technology companies, automakers, designers, entrepreneurs, government officials and more at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Nov. 27-30, 2017. Debut vehicles will be shown right after at the 2017 LA Auto Show, which will be open to the public Dec. 1-10. The AutoMobility LA conference will feature more than 50 thought leaders across several panels, discussions, and keynote addresses. The Top 10 Startups challenge sets ten startups apart from thousands of newcomers, earns them a tremendous amount of media exposure, and places their products/services on AutoMobility LA’s global stage. Automakers are expected to conduct more than 50 world-class debuts at the event. BMW will be making nine debuts during its press conference, including two global debuts. Porsche will launch the global reveal of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. Green Car Journal will announce the winner of the 2018 Green Car of the Year award. The 2018 nominated models include the Honda Accord, Honda Clarity, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf, and Toyota Camry. The announcement will take place at the LA Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 8:00 a.m. PST inside the Technology Pavilion.

 

This Week’s Top 10: VW e-Golf and other LA Auto Show e-launches, BMW shooting for 100,000 plug-ins per year

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. LA Auto ShowElectric launches at LA Auto Show: Along with crossover utility vehicles, plug-in electrified vehicles will see a few North American launches at the LA Auto Show. A refreshed e-Golf will be revealed with increased miles per charge (186 miles on European standards) and infotainment/connected car updates. The miles per charge range may be closer to 125 when defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency using its own calculation – closer to the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric. For VW, it’s a jumpstart to a much larger post-Dieselgate electrification campaign with vehicles built on the MEB platform, including the all-electric ID in 2020. Jaguar will be showing the electric I-Pace crossover concept. The production version of the Tesla-competitor luxury electric car will be shown in late 2017 and go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2018. Also during the LA Auto Show (called AutoMobility LA during pre-show media and trade days), look for: all-electric models or concept cars from Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Mini; Cadillac will show off its CT6 plug-in hybrid; and Chevrolet will be promoting the all-electric Bolt, with its 238-mile range that starts shipping to dealers within weeks.
  2. 100K EVs sold per year: BMW Group wants to boost sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars by two-thirds next year to 100,000 vehicles, the company said. The German automaker expects to increase deliveries of vehicles from its “i” subbrand to around 60,000 units this year. BMW expects electric car sales will grow three-fold. Sales of battery-powered BMW models have totaled about 100,000 cars since November 2013, according to BMW. BMW currently sells the compact i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar in its electric subbrand. The automaker has said it also plans to add an electric Mini and BMW X3 SUV by the end of the decade.
  3. Supplier on emissions mandates: BorgWarner is sticking with its plan to introduce a new generation of motors, transmissions and other gadgetry for electric cars and hybrids, even if the 54.5 mpg softens under the Trump administration. CEO James Verrier said during a presentation Friday that automakers have spent big sums to design EVs, upgrade powertrains and reduce vehicle weight over the next three to five years. “I don’t think the automakers will back off,” Verrier said. “I don’t think we’ll see regression.”
  4. LeEco cash-strapped: LeEco’s co-founder has admitted to turbulent financial conditions that may pull back the Chinese company’s plans to compete in electric “supercars” through its LeEco and Faraday Future ventures. In a letter to employees last week, co-founder Jia Yueting admitted that the company is running out of cash through its rapid expansion. The company has been questioned about its significant investment in Faraday Future’s Nevada plant. “No company has had such an experience, a simultaneous time in ice and fire,” Jia wrote in the letter to employees. “We blindly sped ahead, and our cash demand ballooned. We got over-extended in our global strategy. At the same time, our capital and resources were in fact limited.”
  5. Audi gasoline engines: Automotive litigation firm Hagens Berman has filed the first class-action lawsuit against Audi over charges that the automaker illegally installed an emission-cheating device in 3.0-liter gasoline cars. Models names in the suit include the Audi A6, Audi A8, Audi Q5 and likely the Audi Q7, as well as potentially several other 3.0-liter, automatic gasoline models. In related news, on Thursday a coalition of Audi owners sued the company’s Audi AG and Audi of America, LLC units after reports surfaced over the past weekend that certain gasoline powered Audi vehicles were equipped with emission control defeat devices. Similar to last year’s revelations involving Volkswagen’s diesel models, it is alleged that the California Air Resources Board has discovered cheat software installed by Audi engineers in certain 3.0 liter A6 and Q7 Audi vehicles.
  6. Green Car of the Year award: Green Car Journal announced the five finalists last week for its annual award, four-out-five of which are available now in plug-in hybrid variations and one being an all-electric vehicle. The five 2017 model year nominees for the Green Car of the Year award are: the BMW 330e, Chevrolet Bolt, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Optima, and the Toyota Prius Prime. The winner will be announced Thursday morning at the LA Auto Show. Green Car Journal also recently announced that the Ram ProMaster City work van won Green Car Journal’s 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year, the second year in a row it’s taken that award. The gasoline-engine ProMaster City was recognized for environmental attributes along with traditional features customers seek, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The announcement was made yesterday at the 48th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas.
  7. Europe battery factory: Tesla Motors plans to begin looking for locations in Europe next year for a second “Gigafactory” to make cars and the battery cells to power them, the company said. Possible locations for the factory include the Netherlands, France and Spain, according to local media speculation. Tesla hasn’t communicated a preference. The electric automaker already has a facility in the Netherlands that does final assembly work for European versions of Tesla cars built in the automaker’s Fremont, Calif, factory.
  8. Top 10 charging networks: Netherlands-based The New Motion charging network supplier has been ranked No. 1 in a Navigant Research report on charging networks, followed by the leading U.S., ChargePoint, at No. 2. EV-Box finished in third place, followed in order by Chargemaster, Fortum, Innogy SE, Greenlots, EVgo, Clever A/S, and Pod Point. Navigant based its rating system for plug-in electrified vehicle charger network suppliers on 10 criteria: vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; product strategy; geographic strategy; market presence; marketing and distribution; product performance and reliability; product and service capabilities; and staying power.
  9. Supercharger network: Tesla Motors announced that more than 4,600 Superchargers have been installed around the world that allow over 160,000 Tesla owners to drive across the continental U.S., from the Arctic Circle to the south of Spain, and across all of the population centers in China and Japan, among many other places. The Supercharger Network, which Tesla calls the world’s fastest charging solution, was designed by the automaker so that all customers have access to a seamless and convenient charging experience when they’re away from home, as our intention has always been for Supercharging to enable long distance travel.
  10. NHTSA noise rules: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued new standards to automakers requiring audible alerts required on all new hybrid and electric vehicles going forward beginning September 1, 2019. The new sound requirements applies across the U.S., and should help prevent as many as 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once they span the range of EVs and hybrids on the road, according to the agency. The new rule says that all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles that have four wheels and weigh under 10,000 pounds must make an audible noise when traveling either backwards or forwards at speeds up of to 19 miles per hour.

Attending LA Auto Show to view green vehicle showcase

LA Auto Show 2014 5BMW’s award-winning electric vehicles and other automakers’ hydrogen-powered cars were the spotlights on Thursday at the LA Auto Show. Like all other car shows, new vehicle introductions and sporty concept cars were prevalent; USA Today’s Chris Woodyard thought the Lexus LF-C2 concept, Audi Prologue concept, and Infiniti Q80 Inspiration concept were memorable. The Infiniti Synaptiq race car took the People’s Choice Award in the 11th annual LA Auto Show Design Challenge. As for more conventional new vehicle rollouts, three of them stood out to observers: the 2015 Mazda CX-3, 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, and 2015 Honda CR-V.

Here were some of the more interesting green vehicle developments:

  • BMW’s new electric cars won accolades, with the BMW i3 taking the Green Car of the Year Award and, on Wednesday evening, the BMW i8 winning Autoblog’s 2014 Technology of the Year Award. The i8 had also won the Motor Press Guild’s 2014 Innovation Vehicle of the Year on Wednesday (along with the 2015 Ford F150). The lightweight carbon fiber and performance of the battery electric and plug-in hybrid systems impressed award judges. For Green Car of the Year, the i3 beat the Audi A3 TDI, the Chevrolet Impala bi-fuel CNG version, Honda Fit, and Volkswagen Golf.
  • Similar to last year, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were highly visible on display and during the Green and Advanced Technology Ride & Drive. As for concept vehicles, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen HyMotion and the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron Quattro were popular during the ride and drive; and the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell and recently named Toyota Mirai were the production models to view during the show. Honda had unveiled a revised version of its FCV Concept in Japan a few days before the LA Auto Show; that car will be rolling out in 2016. For those of you interested in seeing a plug-in hybrid combined with an alternative fuel, the Audi h-tron can travel about 310 miles on hydrogen and about 31 miles on the battery.
  • The Ford Fusion Energi and Toyota Highlander Hybrid won the first-ever Green Fleet Car and Truck of the Year awards during a luncheon meeting. Readers of the Bobit Business Media publications including Green Fleet voted on the winners. The Nissan Leaf and Honda Civic Natural Gas were runners up in the car category, while the Ram 1500 Eco Diesel and Ford Transit T150 Wagon FFV finished in the top three for the truck category. Bobit Business Media had collaborated with, and received technical assistance from, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory to determine the award nomination and selection criteria.
  • Henrik Fisker has left the extended range Fisker Karma sports car behind and has gone back to another passion – designing muscle cars. Fisker and partner Galpin Auto Sports unveiled the Fisker Rocket, a 725-horsepower reworking of the 2015 Ford Mustang that Fisker called the “ultimate American muscle car.” It has several exterior modifications to give it a distinct look that Fisker has a lot of experience creating.
  • I think the most visible car on display this year was the Nissan Blade Glider, a zero emission vehicle concept car. (See photo above.) Another good one was Volvo announcing its 2016 XC90 seven-passenger SUV during the show.
  • Honda unveiled the Honda Developer Studio, an online portal and open innovation workspace in Silicon Valley. It’s part of Honda’s connected car strategy and coincides with its new Connect system for infotainment and navigation. It’s Android-based but it’s not part of Google’s Android Auto, Honda said.
  • Through Hertz 24/7, the major car rental company’s carsharing division, Hertz was demonstrating its PIN-pad six-digit code system at the ride and drive. The idea behind it is that you can leave the car or truck in a parking lot and the next Hertz 24/7 user can open and start it from the door panel or from their mobile device. Drivers can use the NeverLost dashboard device to get directions anywhere they want to go. They’re testing out the system on pickup trucks with Lowes so that users without trucks can go by some large items that won’t fit into their cars and will have access to a pickup for a couple of hours.
  • Team Fuel Saver won the Ford Car-Connected City App competition. That came out a September hackathon competition with 70 entrants that were narrowed down to 10 finalists from the developer community. The Team Fuel Saver shows all kinds of data on fuel consumption, fuel prices, and oil changes and other maintenance activities. The 10 finalists showed their apps during Connected Car Expo and the winner will be demonstrated at the CEI convention in January.
  • David Cummins, senior VP and managing director at Xerox Services, talked about the urbanization trend in US cities and how it’s affecting the future of cars. Baby Boomers – about 50-to-70 years old, are showing more interest and appeal with driverless cars; as the generation ages and loses the ability to drive, the advanced technology is expected to gain support. Millennials in the 18-to-35 year old age range are showing a lot of interest in what he called “urban mobility networks” and their implications for getting through traffic congestion and reducing air pollution as more of them live and work in metro areas. The challenge for connected, autonomous vehicles will be building a platform between public and private providers. The cornerstone must be “open data,” and a flexible network that can meet new innovations, Cummins said.

This Week’s Top 10: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel wins green truck award, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago will be opening an alternative fuel station

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. Ram 1500 EcoDieselThe Ram 1500 EcoDiesel took the first-ever Green Truck of the Year award from Green Car Journal at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show. The Ram pickup beat out four other models, including the expected winner Ford F-150 that has been receiving many accolades for its light-weight aluminum, EcoBoost, and increased mpg. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel beat another Ram model, the 1500 HFE, along with the Chevrolet Colorado, and the GMC Canyon. Along with fuel economy and emissions reductions, other factors influencing the award’s outcome are functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The timing is very interesting given that Bobit Business Media will be rolling out its first-ever Green Fleet Car and Truck of the Year Awards at the LA Auto Show – the same day that Green Car Journal Publisher and Editor Ron Cogan will hand out the annual Green Car of the Year award. It’s also very interesting to see Green Car Journal announce nominees yesterday for more categories – Technology, SUV, and Luxury Green Car Awards. Winners will be announced at the Washington Auto Show on January 22, 2015. (Editor’s note: Still no announcement yet on Green Auto Market launching its own award.)
  2. O’Hare International Airport in Chicago will be opening an alternative fuel station in early 2016 offering compressed natural gas, biodiesel, and fast-charging stations. Taxis, shuttle buses, and electric vehicle owners will have access to charging, alternative fuels, and conventional gasoline. The aviation department says that an increasing number of vehicles using the airport are powered by alternative fuels including taxis and hotel and rental car shuttles. The center will be also be open to the general public. Clean Energy Fuels will work with PMG Airport Developers, which has built and operated other airport travel plazas.
  3. The Propane Education & Research Council launched a new series of educational videos called Clean American Innovation featuring interviews with leading US equipment manufacturers discussing their efforts to develop and commercialize new propane autogas technologies. PERC visited manufacturing facilities across the US to show cutting-edge propane technologies in production. Freightliner Custom Chassis, Kohler Engines, Power Solutions International, Roush CleanTech, and other companies participated in the videos.
  4. Diversity is the word for Ward’s 10 best engines 2015 nominees. Of the pool of 38 nominees, five are diesel, two hybrids, five electric vehicles, one plug-in hybrid, one is a CNG flex-fuel V6, and one is a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Twenty one of the engines are turbocharged, and four-cylinder turbo engines prevail. For the past decade, WardsAuto says its list has become more diverse than the previous year. Winners will be named in mid-December and awards handed out at North American International Auto Show in January.
  5. Slower-than-expected demand for electric vehicles has caused Continental AG to likely end a battery cell joint venture with South Korean company SK Innovation Co. While there’s been general interest in battery-powered vehicles, people are delaying their purchases, says Continental CFO Wolfgang Schaefer.
  6. The National Auto Dealers Association’s Get the Facts campaign continues with a new ad that highlights what it calls the “benefits of price competition.” It’s a brightly-colored cartoon that emphasizes why negotiating is good for buyers. This has come out in the wake of a series of videos published by Edmunds that ridiculed this practice, which it calls “haggling.” Get the Facts also explores the value of franchised dealers as they battle Tesla Motors over state laws on franchised dealers and car sales.
  7. The new 2015 Honda Civic Natural Gas will be rolled out in 37 states on Nov. 19 with a base price of $26,740 not including the $790 destination fee. It comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, a seven-inch touchscreen audio display, rearview camera, and LaneWatch display as standard features. As for mileage, its gasoline gallon equivalent is 27 mpg city, 38 highway, and 31 combined.
  8. BMW will be running a pilot project in Munich next year where street lights will charge electric cars. BMW will be testing out two prototype “Light and Charge” street lights that combine LED with BMW’s ChargeNow charging stations. These will be the first street lights that can charge electric cars and come straight from the existing local authority street lighting infrastructure, BMW said. Drivers will be apple to pay for their charging via a mobile phone app.
  9. Fisker Automotive will continue working with Quantum Fuel Systems, licensing plug-in hybrid control software for use in the Karma. Fisker will be paying Quantum $2 million before the end of the month to close the deal to renew their relationship and continue with the same control software used previously. Fisker will also pay an additional $2 million by late October of next year to license software for its next vehicle, the Fisker Atlantic.
  10. Growth in the materials supply chain for advanced batteries over the next 10 years has been analyzed in a new Navigant Research study. Most of the materials will likely be going into lithium-ion batteries; they’re expected to have a leading market share in all three of the major application areas: stationary, portable devices, and transportation. It is also expected that other chemistries will be seeing much growth over the next 10 years

Honda green star at LA Auto Show; sneaking a ride in Via Motors plug-in hybrid

Honda Accord green car of year awardHonda enjoyed its presence at the LA Auto Show, gaining lots of media attention for its new hydrogen-powered concept car and for winning the Green Car of the Year award. The 2014 Honda Accord took the green award for its high fuel economy ratings and performance features. All three variations were honored – the gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions. The Accord beat out four other finalists – the Audi A6 TDI, the BMW 328d, the Mazda3, and Toyota Corolla. Last year, another mid-sized US-based automaker car took the Green Car of the Year award for a model with gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid variants – the Ford Fusion.

Fuel cell vehicles grabbed much media attention at the LA Auto Show. Hyundai showed off a fuel cell version of its Tucson sport-utility vehicle. Hyundai plans to sell 1,000 of these fuel cell vehicles next year in California for a monthly lease price of $499 with $2,999 down. Honda plans to roll out another fuel cell vehicle (in addition to its FCX Clarity) in the US in 2015. Honda unveiled its FCEV, its next-generation fuel cell vehicle.

During the same time that the LA Auto Show was launched, the Tokyo Motor Show was taking place. Toyota showed its FCV (fuel cell vehicle) concept sedan in Tokyo. Toyota said that it’s a “practical concept” of the fuel cell vehicle it plans to launch in 2015; the car will use hydrogen to generate electricity that can travel about 300 miles after a refueling. The concept car can hold four passengers and be refueled in minutes.

Those participating in the Green & Advanced Technology Ride & Drive at the LA Auto Show enjoyed driving the Chevrolet Spark EV, the Fiat 500e, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee with its new 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 clean diesel engine. The award winning 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid was also on hand for a drive around the LA convention center. It’s a bit pricier ($30K to $35K) than arch-competitor Toyota Prius, but it does have a bit more interior space and comfort, and its new dashboard has been designed for simplicity and style.

While Via Motors did not open up its E-REV ride and drive to the media, I was able to sneak a ride in its plug-in hybrid, extended range variation of the Chevrolet Express van; and took a peak at its plug-in version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Both models – the VTRUX cargo van and VTRUX extended cab pickup – offer impressive plug-in ports with an AC inverter and power outlets for both 120 volt and 240 volt charges; the unit also offers a J1772 charging port.

During a press announcement, Via Motors company stakeholder Bob Lutz bragged about the VTRUX’ capabilities including being able to gain a few miles of extra range from solar panels now placed on the truck’s flatbed; and the ability to tap into the VTRUX’ battery pack for backup electricity during a power outage. Lutz was joined onstage by Via’s new CEO, John Weber, former president and CEO of Remy International, a key supplier to Via and to General Motors. Weber says that Via is meeting its fleet orders and will add consumer sales in 2014.

Connected Car Expo was held for the first time ever right before the LA Auto Show started up, and featured expert panelists on telematics, advanced technologies, and a growing alliance between automakers and technology giants. Autonomous cars were discussed by panelists that included Jeff Klei, North American president of major supplier Continental AG, and Ron Medford, Google’s director of safety for self-driving cars. Google has played a major role in testing out driverless cars, but doesn’t have a timetable for when it will release its own autonomous vehicles.

Out on the ground floor of the South Hall, you could see Hyundai’s “Survive the Zombie Apocalypse.” While it may have been placed there for the LA Auto Show, it was right next to the Connected Car Expo display booths and sort of stole the show. Connected Car Expo had some interesting exhibits, but the zombie display did grab most of my attention. It showed altered versions of two of its popular models, with these being renamed the Hyundai Santa Fe ZSM and Veloster Turbo ZSM (ZSM stands for Zombie Survival Machine).  These anti-zombie packages are sure to be more expensive than the MSRP starting price versions – but you do get all kinds of perks to fight off the undead – such as knife-blade wheels, dual chainsaws, a doom whistle, and a machine gun.

Hyundai’s display was started by Robert Kirmman, creator of “The Walking Dead” comic series (that inspired the hit TV series), designing a Zombie Survival Machine around a Veloster earlier this year. The Santa Fe ZSM design was built by Galpin Auto Sports and was unveiled at the New York Comic Con last month.