Ghosn says Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance rolling out a dozen new EVs, IHS Markit takes a look at the future of personal mobility

Newsworthy:  The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will be rolling out 12 new all-electric models using common platforms by 2022, according to CEO Carlos Ghosn. Plug-in hybrid models will also be utilized, coming from Mitsubishi’s experience with the Outlander PHEV. Two other utility plug-in hybrids will be coming to market over the next two years. The alliance companies have collectively already sold more than a half million plug-in electrified vehicles…………. Solid-state batteries are gaining more support for fast charging, long-range electric vehicles for the next decade. Fisker, Inc., has filed patents for these types of batteries, and expects to see them used in mass-scale production of its EMotion electric sedan around 2023. Toyota believes enough in the technology to launched EVs with energy stored in solid-state batteries around 2022…………. Major Chinese automaker Geely will be buying up U.S. flying car startup Terrafugia for an undisclosed amount. Terrafugia plans to bring its first flying car to market in 2019. The company will remain headquartered in the U.S…………… The BMW Group announced that by 2020, the company will only sources its electricity from renewable energy; that’s up from 63% of it coming from renewables at the end of 2016. The automaker made the announcement during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

Going Mobile:  Plug-in electrified vehicles will make up 30% of new vehicle sales in four critical markets by 2040 – China, the U.S., Europe, and India – according to a new study by IHS Markit. You’ll notice that the percentage isn’t anywhere near 100% if fossil-fuel bans were to be enacted across these four markets. China, India, France, Great Britain, and other markets are considering banning gasoline and diesel powered engines entirely.

Reinventing the Wheel is a new multi-client, scenarios-based research initiative by IHS Markit that combines its energy, automotive and chemical teams for system-wide analysis of the new reality of transportation. It includes the future of mobility and car ownership, which is expected to have a major impact on the energy chosen to power vehicles of the future.

Consumers will be shifting away from car owners to paying for mobility services during the transition time, the study says. By 2040, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will have grown to an all-time high of around 11 billion miles per year in the four studied markets. That makes for a 65% increase of VMTs from now. Over that times, sales growth of new light-duty vehicles will slow substantially, according to the study. Use of autonomous vehicles will also be a driving force for change.

“A great ‘automotive paradox’—where more travel via car than ever, but fewer cars will be needed by individuals—will be a defining quality of the new automotive future,” said Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman. “The shift is just beginning. By 2040, the changes in transportation will be accelerating in a way that will be visible on roads and highways around the world. The pace and degree of this dynamic shift will have significant implications for industry, for public transportation systems and for how people get to work and live their lives – and spend their money on transport.”

While the U.S. may not ban fossil-fuel vehicles and could soften mileage and emissions rules under the Trump administration, market forces will still be at play for EVs to hit the 30% mark across the four major auto markets included in the study. The IHS Markit study concludes that higher fuel economy and emissions standards and reduction in gasoline’s share of new vehicle sales will lead to an aggregate decline for oil that ends up in gas stations during the 2020s. Another tipping point cited in the study will be seeing the cost of EV battery packs drop significantly by the 2030s, making EV costs much more competitive with internal combustion engines.

For Today: New Leaf make its debut, New EV incentives in California gone for now

New Leaf launched:  The 2018 Nissan Leaf made its debut in Tokyo with its 150-mile per charge range and starting price of $29,990. It will be going on sale in the U.S. in early 2018, powered by a 40 kWh battery and an 80-kilowatt electric motor. The Japanese automaker promised to release a faster, more powerful version with longer range in 2019. The new Leaf is not meeting the 200-mile electric vehicle standard that’s becoming the norm, but it is going about 40 miles further than the current Leaf and costs a bit less; and it can deliver 147 horsepower, 38% more than the previous version. It’s got a new sharp-edged aerodynamic look and a few tech features. That includes the ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system, ProPILOT Park, and the e-Pedal that allows for accelerating, decelerating and stopping the car by using the accelerator pedal alone.

Automotive-Electrification Index:  Global consulting firm AlixPartners just released its Automotive-Electrification Index that tracks vehicle electrification advances by automaker and by country. It combines the number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles sold with other measures. These include the “e-range,” a combined percentage of the total ranges of all cars and trucks sold by each automaker; the “e-share” by automaker; and the combined e-ranges and e-shares by country and by major regions of the world. The new product was designed as a more meaningful tool supporting companies and countries striding toward bringing more electrified vehicles to market.

$3B EV incentives goes away:  California’s AB 1184 was amended late Friday, having its $3 billion taken out for future electric vehicle rebates. It now directs the California Air Resources Board to conduct studies on the best ways to write and implement EV rebate legislation. The report won’t be due until Sept. 1, 2019. Language was also removed from AB 1184 that offered a formula for providing higher rebate amounts. The full legislature will consider the amended bill. The $3 billion originally in AB 1184 would have offered rebates until 2030. It would have been six times higher than the nearly $500 million spent on EV rebates so far in the state.

For Today: NLRB investigating Tesla worker safety conditions, Nissan Leaf sales doing well as next-gen version approaches

NLRB investigating Tesla factory conditions:  The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint and opened an investigation into worker safety conditions at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., plant. The investigation comes from complaints filed by Tesla factory employees and the United Auto Workers union with charges of unfair labor practices. The Fremont factory has been picking up production volume as the Tesla Model 3 is being delivered to first buyers, and with production volumes speeding up later this year. Tesla sees it as a campaign by UAW to unionize Tesla workers, which has failed to gain enough support so far to win a union election. Employees have voiced their own concerns about working conditions in the factory. A study released by Worksafe in May found injuries at the Fremont plant to be much higher than the industry average in recent years.

Groups asking feds to retain fuel economy rules:  Several groups have asked to be heard when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds a Washington D.C. public hearing on Sept. 6. That hearing will explore possible changes to phase two of the fuel economy and emissions rules. Several groups have filed opinions opposing the Trump administration rolling back on the 2022-2025 standards adopted in the last days of the Obama administration. These groups include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, International Council on Clean Transport, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), American Lung Association, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and BlueGreen Alliance. They’d like to see it stay in place over concerns for the environment, health, consumer and business interests, oil imports, and national security.

Nissan Leaf sales doing well:  Nissan reports that sales of its all-electric Leaf have been doing well lately, with an 8.3% increase over July. At 9,685 units sold in the U.S. so far in 2017, it’s up 22.3% over that same period last year. There’s been a lot of interest in the Leaf lately with the all-new version being launched in September. It will be longer range than the current Leaf and will feature a new set of tech features, including ePedal. Consumers are looking for more affordable electric cars and have a lot of interest in the new Leaf, along with the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt.

For Today: Renault-Nissan and Dongfeng forge EV venture, Ford and Domino῾s delivering pizzas through self-driving car

Renault, Nissan and Dongfeng forge JV:  The Renault-Nissan Alliance is preparing to enter the world’s largest electric vehicle market through a joint venture with a Chinese partner. The alliance has forged a JV partnership with Dongfeng Motor Group Co. to bring an electric SUV to market by 2019 through eGT New Energy Automotive Co., Ltd., the new company. The three companies have been in alliance for years with a shared factory already in place. It will tie into CEO Carlos Ghohn strategy to maximize economies of scale and become more EV competitive, along with Donfeng’s mission to bring “light, electric, intelligent, interconnected and shared” vehicles to the new energy vehicle market. China is in the process of becoming stricter on subsidies and watching out for another cheating scandal. The government is expected to soon announce a zero emission vehicle mandate similar to California’s. Whatever the government requires, automakers are not backing off China’s booming EV market.

BYD profit declining:  Chinese EV manufacturer BYD reports that its profit margin has slimmed this year since the national government has been cutting back on generous new energy vehicle incentives to consumers and automakers. Increasing market competition is also taking its toll. The company expects its net profits will drop up to 25% during the first nine months of this year, compared to shooting up nearly 79% last year. Vehicle sales fell 14.8 percent to 183,637 units sold during the first half of the year. BYD has been the world’s largest manufacturer of plug-in electrified vehicles over the past two years. As passenger cars decline, the company is benefitting from bringing out more electric buses and trucks – such as what’s being built now at its Lancaster, Calif., plant. “We have seen a sales recovery trend for BYD during the past few months, especially in Q2. In addition, BYD is pushing green public transportation in China and globally,” said Bill Russo, managing director at consultancy Gao Feng Advisory Co.

Ford and Domino’s self-driven pizza deliveries:  Ford Motor Co. and Domino’s Pizza are testing out delivering pizzas in a Ford self-driving car. They’re asking customers what it’s like to receive a pizza through a self-driving vehicle. Over the next few weeks, customers in Ann Arbor, Mich., will have the opportunity to receive their order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle. It will be manually-driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers. Ford plans to begin producing self-driving vehicles in 2021 and will tap into the data from this test project.

For Today: Nissan Leaf getting enhanced vision / CALSTART symposium speakers

Nissan Leaf enhanced vision:  Nissan continue to promote new tech features on the upcoming 2018 Nissan Leaf. Along with longer range and zero emissions, a new video says that it will have enhanced vision that will give the driver a better sense of what’s going on around the electric car. That could tie well into the Pro Pilot Assist features announced earlier. There’s also the e-Pedal, allowing the driver to do everything from one pedal. The Leaf will be coming out first in the U.S. on Sept. 5 with the world launch taking place in Japan the next day.

 

Audi EVs with solar panels:  Audi will be working with a partner to rollout electric vehicles with solar panels on their roofs for extended range. Through an alliance with Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Chinese solar company Hanergy, thin-solar cells will be added to roofs that can power the car’s air-conditioning system and seat heaters. A prototype is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Later versions will cover the entire rood and eventually provide power for the battery pack driving the electric car. Audi will be competing with Toyota and Panasonic bringing solar panels to the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Audi is hard at work developing battery electric vehicles using its e-tron drive train.

CALSTART symposium speakers:  CALSTART’s 25th Anniversary Symposium is coming up on Oct. 24-25 at the Pasadena Convention Center, with an impressive list of speakers being announced. Speakers include: Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board; Diarmuid O’Connell, Vice President, Business Development, Tesla; Caroline Choi, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Southern California Edison; and Scott Phillippi, Senior Director of Maintenance & Engineering, International Operations, UPS. The hotel block is filling up, so it would be a good idea to register soon.

For Today: Test drive new Nissan Leaf at NDEW, Longer range EVs and FCVs from Hyundai

Drive the new Nissan Leaf:  Nissan will be showing the next-generation Leaf all-electric car during National Drive Electric Week, following right after the global reveal on September 5. In eight cities, you can sign up for the “Drive and Discover Experience” for a test drive. Nissan is the official sponsor of the event for the third straight year. “The timing couldn’t be better. Bringing LEAF to some of the most enthusiastic EV advocates just days after its global debut is the perfect way to kick things off for this technology-packed car,” said Brian Maragno, director, Nissan EV Marketing and Sales Strategy.

Electric vans for postal delivery:  The StreetScooter WORK XL has started being manufactured for postal carriers in Germany at a plant in Aachen. It comes through a partnership between Deutsch Post DHL and Ford using the Ford Transit chassis to build electric delivery vans. About 150 pre-production WORK XL models will be build this year, and more than 2,500 of these production vehicles by the end of 2018. It will be equipped with battery pack options going from 30-90 kWh, offering 80-220 kilometers (50-124 miles) of range. It has 20 cubic maters of storage space, capable of hauling over 200 packages. Deutsch Post DHL is also building the StreetScooter WORK and WORK L vans.

Hyundai launches longer range EVs and FCV:  Hyundai will be launching long-range electric vehicles and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can travel farther. The South Korean company has also upped its green car strategy under the Hyundai and Kia brands, which has gone up to 31 eco-friendly vehicles coming out by 2020, up from the previous goal of 28. The company announced today that one of its new EVs will go 500 kilometers (311 miles) per charge when it comes out after 2021. A small electric SUV will have a driving range of 390 km (about 242 miles) will come out during the first half of next year. The company also announced that it will be launching a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can travel more than 580 kilometers (360 miles) after being fueled. The second-generation fuel cell SUV will be coming out early next year. Hyundai said it be going 40% farther than its first-generation fuel cell vehicle, the Tucson ix FCEV. So far, the green car campaign has been led by the Ioniq hybrid, all-electric, and upcoming plug-in hybrid version.

For Today: Nissan Leaf coming with e-Pedal, California extending cap-and-trade funds

Nissan Leaf with e-Pedal:  Nissan has just added the e-Pedal to the upcoming refreshed Leaf electric car. Flipping a switch turns the accelerator into an e-Pedal, where you get to accelerate, decelerate, and stop the car all on one pedal. That will include driving on hills, and will ease some of the burden of being stuck in traffic – with 90% of driving needs now being met on one pedal. The new feature comes from Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which is dedicated to transforming how cars driven, powered and integrated into society. More will be revealed on e-Pedal, along with several other interesting changes, during the new Leaf launch in September.

Ports looking at Clean Air Action Plan:  The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this week will be releasing updates to their Clean Air Action Plan. Mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Robert Garcia of Long Beach have vowed to bring several near-zero emissions to the ports by 2035. Concerns over the increased cost of the trucks have been raised by trucking companies and others, and support for the measures has been coming from local residents, environmentalists, and an industry coalition. California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition has accelerated education efforts on the financial and environmental benefits of using renewable natural gas as a transportation fuel; that alternative fuel is expected to play a big part in the ports hitting the near-zero goal. The Coalition just hosted an RNG advocacy day in Sacramento, participated in a joint agency workshop on renewable gas, and co-hosted a webinar on the economic impacts of fueling low-NOx natural gas trucks with RNG.

Cap-and-trade continuing:  California on Monday extended the cap-and-trade program through 2030, which will raise more funds for clean vehicle programs in the state. Support came through when eight Republicans broke ranks and joined with Democrats to continue the program that came from AB 32; it requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gov. Jerry Brown has been committed to adding the bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and bringing more electric vehicles and infrastructure to the state. Sources say there’s already more than $200 million available through the cap-and-trade auctions, now in their fifth year, that can go toward alternative fuels and infrastructure in the state.

This Week’s Top 10: Tesla facing possible opposition on placing Gigafactory in Nevada, Nissan Leaf breaks its own sales record in August

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

Tesla Gigafactory2Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Tesla Motors will soon find out whether it’s deal to set up its Gigafactory in Reno, Nev., will pass through the state legislature – and there could be a wave of opposition. The factory would be impressive – powered by renewable energy and expected to produce up to 500,000 lithium batteries annually, and the Gigafactory will cost $5 billion to build. The challenge is that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval needs legislative approval for the $1.25 billion package of tax breaks needed to lure Tesla into the state. Speaker of the Assembly Rep. Marilyn Kirkpatrick said she did not know whether or not the deal will pass at a special session next week. Legislators have questions, Kirkpatrick said. The deal will need support of Democrats from the Las Vegas area that are skeptical of the plan, according to a media report. They are leaning toward voting for the plan but have questions needing to be answered. Established business groups might oppose the tax breaks due to how they’ll affect other companies in the state; car dealers may also oppose the Gigafactory as part of their fight to keep Tesla retail locations out of the state. There’s a lot at stake here – “This factory is very important to the future of Tesla — without it we can’t do the mass-market car,” Musk said at a press conference with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval in Carson City, Nevada. As for other Tesla news……. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company may have another “significant” joint project in two or three years with Toyota, and it would be at higher volumes than its recently ended Toyota RAV4 EV alliance…… Musk reiterated his pledge to bring a partially self-driving car to market in three years; it will be developed in-house using sensors and components from suppliers. He thinks all Tesla cars will someday be self-driving……. Tesla is arguing against a complaint filed against it by Georgia dealerships with the Georgia Department of Revenue last week. Dealers say Tesla is breaking the state rules which limit non-dealers to selling fewer than 150 of its electric cars directly to customers each year.
  2. The Nissan Leaf broke its own sales record in August selling 3,186 units and marking its 18th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases. In the nearly four years that the electric car has been on the market, it’s sold more than 61,000 units. The Chevrolet Volt came it at 2,511 sold, its best performance month since a year ago. A new 2016 Volt will be introduced in January; and nearly 67,700 units have been sold since its launch in December 2010. Sales of the Tesla Model S go unreported, but it was estimated to be about 1,200 units sold in August. BMW saw sales of its BMW i3 leap from less than 400 units in the three previous months up to 1,025 in August, according to industry and analyst reports.
  3. Growth in the heavy-duty natural gas truck market was underemphasized in the Wall Street Journal, according to natural gas vehicle (NGV) leaders. The market for these trucks is growing at an annual rate of about 20%, which is “extraordinary,” says NGVAmerica president Rich Kolodziej. Ron Eickelman, president of Agility Fuel Systems and chair of NGVAmerica, says demand for his firms compressed natural gas fuel systems has been very strong. NGV leaders disagree with the premise of the WSJ article that it takes four years for payback to be seen from the fuel-savings; operators can see that payback in as little as two years, say leaders at NGV organizations. In other NGV news, Ryder System, Inc., announced that it’s partnering with Anheuser-Busch to bring in 66 CNG diesel-tractor trucks to its fleet. GE Capital Fleet Services has made an agreement with VNG to support expansion of the CNG refueling infrastructure for light-duty fleet vehicles.
  4. Leading ridesharing company Uber has been banned from Germany until a hearing this year by a court in Frankfurt. Uber faces fines up to 250,000 euros (about $330,000) and its local employees could be jailed up to six months if the temporary injunction is violated. In April, a Brussels, Belgium-based court imposed a 10,000 euro fine on Uber drivers for every ride they accept in the city. Uber’s fight continues with taxis and governments.
  5. Daimler distanced itself from Uber as it announced acquisitions of two smartphone applications when acquiring Mytaxi and Ridescout. Daimler said these deals will not disrupt the taxi industry, a large client of its Mercedes-Benz cars. Through its Moovel GmbH, Daimler bought the Mytaxi app, which allows customers to hail a cab and other functions using a smartphone. RideScount helps customers find the best way of reaching a destination through both public and private transportation options, along with carsharing services. Daimler has been in the carsharing business through its car2go subsidiary.
  6. A Volkswagen Group executive thinks that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t be doing well beyond Japan’s borders. Government subsidies of as much as three million yen ($28,500) by the Japanese government for hydrogen-powered vehicles will probably be too high for other countries to match; and refueling will be impractical even in Japan as handling hydrogen is challenging and building the infrastructure is costly, says Shigeru Shoji, Volkswagen Group’s Japan president.
  7. A $5,000 rebate on purchasing a propane autogas vehicle or converting an existing vehicle to propane are available to New York residents, including fleet users. New York Propane Gas Association is making the rebate available to one vehicle per fleet, and the incentive is available through the end of this year.
  8. The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC awarded $667,452 in an advanced battery technology development contract for next-generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicle applications to Xerion Advanced Battery Corporation of Westminster, Colo. The consortium is a collaborative organization operated by Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors.The competitively bid contract award is co-funded by the US Department of Energy and includes a 50% Xerion cost-share.
  9. Average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles sold in the US in August reached an all-time high, according to a University of Michigan report. Those new vehicles reached 25.8 mpg, up from 25.6 in July and 24.9 a year ago.
  10. Oberon Fuels had its dimethyl ether (DME) biogas fuel approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in commercial vehicle applications. Oberon Fuels secured approval under the Renewable Fuel Standard and is now eligible for several renewable identification numbers (RINs) under the cellulosic and advanced categories. EPA says that Oberon’s DME has a 68% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to traditional diesel fuel. Oberon Fuels is working with Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks to bring DME to Volvo and Mack trucks.

This Week’s Top 10: Leaf still No. 1 in plug-in sales, Tesla Model S drivers wreak havoc in Los Angeles

Nissan Leaf sales successby 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. The Nissan Leaf continues to lead plug-in sales, delivering 2,347 units during June. While that’s 770 units lower than May’s best-ever Leaf sale volume, it set a record for June and was up 5.5% over a year ago. That makes for 16 straight months of record sales for the Leaf and deliveries up almost one third over the first half of 2013. The Chevrolet Volt saw an increase in sales in June versus May – 1,777 units sold versus 1,684. That was down from its best-ever June sales. Volt sales are stabilizing, but they are down about a third from the first half of 2013. Another interesting trend to watch is that the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid beat the Volt for the first time in monthly sales — 1,939 deliveries beat the Volt’s 1,777 units sold. Tesla doesn’t report its monthly sales, but it’s estimated to have sold about 1,200 Model S units in June. That’s much more than luxury electric car competitor BMW and its i3, which closed the month with 358 units sold.

2. Two drivers wreaked havoc in Los Angeles during separate incidents on July 4th, with both of them driving a Tesla Model S. A Tesla driver hit the back end of a Toyota Corolla at 10:35 pm on Highway 14 in Palmdale; three passengers in the Corolla were killed and two seriously injured while the Tesla driver suffered minor injuries and was released from the scene late Friday. One person was injured and is in critical condition after another crash on Friday morning in West Hollywood; the injured person may have been an unidentified driver who stole the Model S. The car had been stolen early Friday morning, most likely from the Tesla service center on the 5800 block of Centinela Ave. The driver led police officers on a wild chase, getting near 100 mph and eventually crashing in West Hollywood. The Model S collided with a light pole that split the car in half. The front half of the car caught fire after the battery pack was ignited. Prior to the crash, police officers chasing the Tesla crashed their police car near La Brea Ave. The two police officers were treated for minor injuries. Several other drivers were hurt in the Tesla crash, although it is still unclear how many.

3. Fleet managers are gaining more experience with electric vehicles and are making the business use case for acquiring them, says Morgan Davis of Electric Power Research Institute in this segment of our recent video interview. Check out the Plug-In 2014 website for more information on for the conference taking place later this month – July 28-30 in San Jose, Calif.

4. A webinar is being offered to learn about an important area for alternative fuels – emergency planning for communities hit with disasters. The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) is presenting a webinar on July 17th at 4:00 pm eastern time to explore the benefits and opportunities of integrating alternative fuel vehicles in energy assurance planning. Panelists Linda Bluestein, National Clean Cities Director for the US Dept. of Energy, and Jeff Pillon, Energy Security Director for NASEO, will help participants examine strategies to promote information sharing and stakeholder coordination among state energy offices and Clean Cities coordinators. To register for this webinar, visit this site.

5. Toyota Motor Corp. has requested a two-year exemption from a rule governing electric cars to clear the way for the company to sell its upcoming hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota says that the federal rule, FMVSS No. 305, would render its vehicle inoperable. The rule requires automakers to isolate high-voltage parts in electric cars in the event of a crash. The company’s new fuel-cell car doesn’t fully meet this requirement because a mechanism for protecting against electrical shocks in lower-speed crashes would render its vehicle inoperable, Toyota said. Toyota has taken another approach to insulating the car’s high-voltage cables and surrounding components, and would like more time to work this out with NHTSA.

6. The Tesla Model S has taken yet another award – this time winning the annual Total Quality Index study issued by market-research firm Strategic Vision. The study is based on responses from 38,361 vehicle owners and “encompasses positive and negative product experiences including reliability, actual problems, driving excitement and other measures.” Earlier this year, Strategic Vision ranked the Model S the single “most-loved car” in the US. The Nissan Leaf also ranked high on that poll.

7. Tesla Motors heard some good news from the Pennsylvania legislature – the automaker has been given more approval in the state to directly sell its cars to consumers even though dealers have been objecting. Tesla will be able toincrease the number of stores in Pennsylvania and add more service centers. The bill that was already approved by the state senate would allow for as many as five retails stores in the state; it still needs to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.

8. Electric buses and trucks have secured more private funding. Proterra, a builder of electric municipal buses, has raised $30 million in fourth-round venture capital funding that was co-led by KPCB and GM Ventures. That makes for a total of $180 million raised with another $10 million expected to close in coming weeks. Motiv Power Systems raised $7.3 million for an electric school bus. Motiv provides a power train control system that can power a truck or bus chassis with commercially available battery packs and motors.

9. Hybrid electric vehicles used in commercial vehicles just lost a supplier. Eaton is exiting the market in North America for utility trucks and parallel drives for delivery trucks; that comes from weakened market demand, especially in the US, the company said. Contributing factors include expiring government incentives, a general stabilization in diesel prices, and the rise of natural gas as a heavy duty vehicle fuel.

10. Natural gas vehicles might be selling like hotcakes in China. About 3.8 million cars, trucks and buses in China will be fueled by compressed or liquefied natural gas by 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China is the world’s largest energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases; China would nearly double the number of its natural gas vehicles by 2020 as President Xi Jinping seeks to reduce smog.

Big Picture: Nissan Leaf leading pack in plug-in sales, Zipcar offers one-way trip with guaranteed parking

Nissan Leaf sales successThe Nissan Leaf continues to lead the plug-in electric vehicle space, selling 2,088 units in the US during April – compared to the Toyota Prius Plug-in bringing in 1,741, the Chevrolet Volt selling 1,548, and Tesla selling about 1,400 of its Model S units. While Leaf sales were down nearly 17% from March, they were up nearly 8% over April 2013 and were one-third higher than that same four month period during 2013. The previous neck-and-neck race between the Leaf and Volt appears to be going Nissan’s way. Volt sales for the first four months of 2014 are down about 7% from that same time period in 2013. Toyota is seeing different results in the plug-in hybrid segment – its 2014 Prius Plug-in sales figures are up 70.6% over the first four months of 2013.

Toyota’s hybrids were down in sales from March, but still accounted for four of the top five in April sales figures. The Toyota Camry Hybrid was up 20.2% in sales over April 2013 and the Prius C was up 2.4% over that same time period. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid saw the largest sale gain among top-selling hybrid models last month; at 2,055 units sold in April that was 42% over a year ago. As for clean diesel passenger cars, the Volkswagen Jetta lead the pack – 4,355 units sold in April, up 7.5% over March and 37.9% over April 2013.

And in other clean transportation news…….

  • Here’s a correction to the news item last week on ClipperCreek co-founder and former President Dave Packard taking on a new job with ChargePoint. Packard is now running ChargePoint’s utilities business development. He will not be leading ChargePoint as a whole, which was incorrectly reported last week.
  • Zipcar customers can simplify the driving experience even more with the new ONE>WAY car-sharing service. Zipcar drivers can access the 2015 Honda Fit for one-way travel with a guaranteed parking spot at the end. Throughout several cities and at certain airport locations, Zipcar users get to have the carsharing experience along a guaranteed parking spot at the end of it. (You can also sign-up for Zipcar and get $25 in free driving.)
  • Tesla Motors will soon be naming at least two US states for its upcoming “gigafactory” battery manufacturing plant. Tesla is getting ready to product lithium ion battery packs that may coincide with the launch of its first affordable mass-market electric car.
  • Electric Car Guest Drive, a California-based initiative, is offering consumers an opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience driving and electric vehicle. Events are being hosted throughout May in 12 California cities. Details can be found on its website. It’s been set up by a car club called EV Quorum. EV owners are offering others a chance to try out just about any EV you can think of – and it’s much more than the typical driving experience you’ll find at dealerships.
  • Schneider Electric and ChargePoint yesterday announced a collaboration to unveil Schneider Electric’s new EVlink™ cloud connected charging stations with the ChargePoint network. It includes hardware, software, ChargePoint connectivity and advanced services such as installation, deployment planning, project management, and ongoing maintenance. The collaboration will serve host station owners and electric vehicle drivers. “With this partnership, Schneider Electric makes it easier for EV drivers and station owners to leverage ChargePoint, the world’s largest and most open EV charging network,” according to the press release.
  • If you’re looking for a domestically grown plant offering environmental and economic benefits, how about hemp? Twenty-three states have now adopted supportive hemp legislation and it’s becoming well understood that it contains little to no THC like its same-species cousin marijuana. Some of the benefits include:  a 2009 University of Connecticut study found that hemp seed oil made a viable and attractive feedstock for producing biodiesel. Lotus has practiced using hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler since 2008, leading to many automakers switching to hemp composites from plastic for door panels and other components. Environmentalists appreciate that hemp absorbs CO2 while it grows through natural photosynthesis; and economists like that fact that hemp imports are declining and that the US has a strong change of creating domestic jobs and financial gains – Canada’s hemp industry is expected to bring in a billion dollars in earnings this year.
  • The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is set to show up this summer at US showrooms. It’s powered by a Tesla Motors-developed electric motor and a 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It starts with a base price of $41,450.
  • Volvo and Google are taking the self-driving car to the next phase – city street driving. “Drive Me” has begun testing in 100 cars on the streets of Volvo’s home base in Gothenburg, Sweden. That follows several years of test drives on freeways by Google.
  • IBM has made a revolutionary claim – that it can create “an affordable photovoltaic system that can concentrate solar radiation 2,000 times.” IBM is working with other researchers on a High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal system that can convert 80% of incoming solar radiation into useful energy.
  • The US Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that brings back the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; it’s a regulatory structure in 28 eastern US states that requires states to cut emissions that cause downwind states to exceed the EPA’s air quality standards. It’s considered a landmark win for the Obama administration and public health advocates. The program had been stopped in August 2012 by a federal appeals court in a case initiated by utilities and several states. That Supreme Court ruling happened right before President Obama’s long-awaited climate change report, which will be released today; so, it’s a very interesting time for federal environmental policy.