Tesla reveals the long-range semi, What drunk driving means for self-driving cars

Newsworthy:  Tesla revealed its electric semi truck at a long-awaited Los Angeles unveiling last night. CEO Elon Musk bragged that it will go 500 miles per charge, with 400 of those miles capable of being charged in 30 minutes. An even faster charge may be coming, too. The heavy-duty truck will be able to go zero to 60 in five seconds, and can hit 60 mph in 20 seconds with an 80,000 pound payload. Musk said that it will make a real difference in the commercial truck market with its cost savings and driver comfort features. It will also save truckers a lot in maintenance costs, with Musk expecting the trucks to not break down until they pass the one million mile mark. The Tesla chief also said that the semi truck will be able to work in a three-truck convoy, reducing its cost per mile for the fleet down to $0.85 per mile, versus diesel being at about $1.25 per mile. The truck was revealed in a larger, long-haul version and a day cab without a sleeper. Attendees at the event were also able to view a new version of the Tesla Roadster roll out of the semi’s trailer. The sports car now has a removable glass roof. Musk said the Roadster will be the fastest car in production on the market with a maximum speed of 250 mph; and the ability to go from 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds. It can go up to 620 miles on a single charge, a record for production-level electric vehicles………. Toyota is thinking about forging a joint-venture alliance with a Chinese automaker to build electric vehicles locally and meet new energy vehicle mandates issued by the government. China will be starting a quota requirement for all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles beginning in 2019 with an ambitious target of seeing 2 mission NEV sales by 2020; and a potential phase-out of fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Toyota currently operates JV companies in the country with China FAW Group Corp and Guangzhou Automobile Group………  Daimler AG will be investing 5 billion yuan ($755 million) in China for factory capacity to manufacture electric cars and their battery packs. The company wants to be well prepared for its Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands comply with new energy vehicle mandates.

Safe automated driving:  A warning sign on California freeways says that “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.” A few other states have similar public education campaigns. What is the meaning of driving buzzed, and does it have anything to do with California and a few other states legalizing marijuana consumption? No, it has to do with a key issue state regulators and safety analysts bring up – the need to eliminate drunk driving and the necessity of bringing self-driving cars to U.S. roads. Buzzed driving refers to driving a car with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .01% to .07%. That’s slightly under the .08% BAC standard used in most state’s drunk driving laws; but there’s been a great deal of concern that while .01% to .07% is legal for drivers, it can be just as dangerous as .08% or higher drunk driving for some of them. Self-driving cars are expected to dramatically reduce the highway fatality rate by taking away control of the car from drunk drivers being part of it. Drunk driving is still the leading cause of fatal crashes in the U.S. Last year was one of the worst ever, with an average of 20 people per day killed in DUI crashes. Safety experts have shared concerns about states legalizing marijuana and its possible side effects on road safety. That’s not measurable in a BAC standard used in drunk driving, but it may become part of state legislation in the future. Ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft have successfully tapped into concerns over drunk driving and see their rides as providing a solution to the problem. Uber and Lyft drivers have stories about riders expressing gratitude for their services, not having risked drunk driving after an evening at a night club or party. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been working with Uber in recent years to inform people that taking an Uber ride is much safer than getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.

For Today: Judge rules against Waymo’s damages expert, Tesla acquires Perbix to help speed up Model 3 production

Waymo faces tough ruling by judge:  Alphabet’s Waymo is facing a serious challenge in making its court case that Uber is guilty of stealing intellectual property behind its innovative self-driving car technology. The federal judge in San Francisco hearing the trial has excluded Waymo’s damages expert, Michael Wagner, from the case; and has restricted use of financial evidence at the trial, according to a docket entry. Waymo claims that it has received damages worth about $1.9 billion in losses. Uber has denied using intellectual property that had allegedly been stolen by former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski. Waymo responded to the judge’s decision with a statement that it could still pursue full damages using “the same documents” relied upon by Wagner.

Making hydrogen even cleaner:  Hydrogen fuel station company True Zero says that fuel cell vehicles in California have driven 17 million miles and have used 250,000 kilograms (250 metric tons) of clean hydrogen. That’s come from fuel supplied to 18 retail stations owned and operated by the company. There are now 31 stations open across California, supported by California Energy Commission grant funding. Two-thirds of True Zero’s hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, such as natural gas. One third comes from renewable sources such as biomass; the company says that it is working to increase the use of renewable hydrogen.

Tesla acquires automation company to speed production:  Tesla has acquired a company to further automation at its manufacturing facilities, opening the door to increase production of its closely watched Model 3. Perbix, a maker of automated machines used for manufacturing, has been acquired by Tesla after nearly three years of working with the electric carmaker. Tesla has declined to disclose the cost of the acquisition and other details. Tesla will be expanding Perbix’ operations in the Minneapolis area, where the supplier is based. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has recently been making comments about the automation challenges holding up hitting the production timeline that had originally been set for the $35,000 Model 3. In other news, Jon Wagner, Tesla’s director of battery engineering, has left the company and is launching a battery and powertrain startup in California.

 

For Today: Mahindra investing $600M in EVs, Tesla fires hundreds of workers

Mahindra investing more in EVs:  India’s electric vehicle market is seeing more support coming from Mahindra & Mahindra, which just announced a $600 million investment in the technology. Electric versions of its current crossover SUVs will be scheduled in the near future. Mahindra had just lost a bid for a 10,000 EV contract with the government’s Energy Efficiency Services Limited agency to its main Indian competitor, Tata Motors. Mahindra was awarded part of the contract after lowering prices to match Tata’s lowest bid; the company admitted it won’t make any profits off the sales of its eVerito electric sedan to the Indian agency. Tata was able to win the majority of the contract even though it has yet to manufacture any EVs. Mahindra has been in the segment for a few years with its e20 and e20 plus small electric hatchback models, the eVerito electric sedan, the eSupro electric van, and the e-Alfa Mini three-wheeler. The government wants to stop sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles and is supporting electric vehicle development. The company’s subsidiary, Mahindra Electric, will operate as a separate entity supplying components to the Mahindra & Mahindra company, which will manufacture the EVs. The company currently operates a battery manufacturing plant and hopes to set up another larger facility soon.

Paris saying goodbye to fossil-fuel cars:  The city of Paris wants to speed up the elimination of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by ending their sales starting in 2030. France had already set a target date of 2040 for banning sales of cars running on fossil fuels. The nation’s capital, which will host the summer Olympics in 2024 and not long ago hosted a worldwide agreement on climate change, had already been moving toward banning diesel cars by the time of the Olympics. City officials said it will probably not be a formal ban, but will be introducing a deadline to phase out internal-combustion engine vehicles. “This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases,” said Christophe Najdovski, an official responsible for transport policy at the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers…. so we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.”

Tesla employees terminated at crucial time:  Tesla has fired hundreds of employees, according to a recent report in the San Jose Mercury News, as pressure mounts to build more of the Model 3 sedans. Workers estimated between 400 and 700 employees have been fired, including engineers, managers, and factory workers. Tesla wouldn’t say how many employees were let go, although the company expects employee turnover to be similar to last year’s attrition. They were not layoffs, the company said, but were dismissals based on a company-wide annual review. In interviews with the newspaper, former and current employees said there was little or no warning was given prior to the dismissals. “As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” a Tesla spokesman said. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”

For Today: Elon Musk gets Whitehouse greenlight for east coast tunnels, Chrysler only marketing Pacifica as a plug-in hybrid in California

Tesla CEO gaining support for fast train tunnels:  Elon Musk’s The Boring Company received approval from the White House to build a series of tunnels that could run from New York City to Washington, D.C. “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins,” he tweeted yesterday. He later tweeted out that formal approval with the Trump administration is still needed, but after discussions they’ve had, he’s confident the project will be able to move forward. That could bring fast Hyperloop-like trains to Los Angeles and important transport routes on the east coast.

Freight haulers ask feds to keep SmartWay:  Major freight shippers, including Walmart, are asking U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees to restore funding for the voluntary SmartWay clean trucking program. Like several clean transportation programs, it had been cut from the Trump administration’s 2018 federal budget proposal. SmarWay has been working with freight haulers to save an estimated eight billion gallons of fuel and significantly reduce diesel trucks’ emissions of NOx and carcinogenic fine particulate matter. The coalition of companies said in a July 14 letter that the program has saved companies about $27.8 billion in fuel costs since it started in 2004.

Chrysler Pacifica plugging into California:  Chrysler is marketing its Pacifica minivan as a hybrid – and not what it really is, a plug-in hybrid – in every state except California. The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles division is concerned that most U.S. consumers will be confused or concerned about having to charge for the first time and be subject to range anxiety. Plugging in is less of a worry in California, which has made up about half of U.S. plug-in vehicle sales. Still, it is possible to occasionally see Chrysler billboard ads in the state that only identify the Pacifica as a hybrid.

For Today: Hyperloop One ready to move forward, OPEC and oil companies see electric cars taking away oil demand

Hyperloop One test:  Hyperloop One is getting ready to test out its 28-foot-long pod in Nevada in the next few weeks, the startup said. Inspired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One is ready to take the pod transport through vacuum tubes in what could someday be a very fast ride between San Francisco and LA. The goal is to reach 250 miles per hour, which would shorten the car trip quite a bit.

Automated trucks:  Speakers at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco on Wednesday expect that autonomous heavy-duty trucks will on the road in as little as three years – sooner than expected for light-duty passenger vehicles. Going to fully autonomous mode will take a while longer for commercial trucks, as it will for cars. Trucking companies are fascinated with the technology for its potential to make truck transport safer, improve customer service, and to help drivers become more productive. “A lot of the technology is driver assist or safety enhancement”, said Max Fuller, executive chairman of U.S. Xpress, a major U.S. trucking company. “If you look at [autonomous vehicles], it will come in pieces.”

Electric cars and oil demand:  Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a study today forecasting that electric cars will be reducing oil demand significantly by 2040. That comes from forecasts presented by OPEC, Exxon Mobil, and BP. OPEC quintupled its forecast for sales of plug-in sales, while Exxon Mobil, BP, and other oil producers also revised up their outlooks in the past year.

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: VW paying $4.3B in fines, Tesla speeding up Model 3 production

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. VW settles criminal charges:  Volkswagen’s guilty plea to three felonies in March resulted in the automaker being sentenced Friday to pay $4.3 billion in fines for importing 59,000 polluting diesel vehicles into the U.S. beginning in 2009. The charges were for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and introducing imported merchandise into the U.S. by means of false statements. Without the plea deal, VW would have faced potential criminal fines in the cases of between $17 billion and $34 billion. In a federal courtroom in Detroit, U.S. District Judge Sean Cox called VW’s actions a “deliberate, massive fraud perpetrated by VW management. We don’t know how far up the corporate ladder it goes. Hopefully, the DOJ, and more hopefully, the German government, will continue to investigate and prosecute” those responsible. That ends prosecution by the federal government, but buybacks aren’t yet completed and civil suits continue in the U.S.; criminal investigations continue in other countries, including Germany.
  2. Speeding up Model 3 production:  Tesla will begin volume production of the Model 3 in September by streamlining the tooling process, which runs the risk of facing recalls or warranty repairs. On an investor conference call last month, CEO Elon Musk said the company would skip the usual auto manufacturing procedure, which he called “beta,” to speed up production. Musk said he would instead use “advanced analytical techniques,” which are computer simulations, to speed up the process. Automakers usually test a cheaper prototype model to make sure parts and components fit correctly, adding time and cost to the process but also guaranteeing a higher level of vehicle reliability. Musk has promised to ramp up vehicle production fivefold next year, producing and selling 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018 as the Model 3 enters the market.
  3. More Pacifica plug-ins going to Waymo:  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is providing another 500 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minvans to Waymo’s self-driving vehicle test project. Last year, FCA delivered 100 of these vehicles that Waymo that both companies equipped with its autonomous technology. Waymo had worked with FCA engineers at a Michigan facility to modify the vehicle’s with the technology. Waymo is also planning on opening up test rides to the public, starting in Phoenix.
  4. Amazon goes autonomous:  Amazon is entering the autonomous technology sector by testing out applications to make its product deliveries become faster and more convenient for customers. Details aren’t coming out yet on what the team of a dozen employees is working on but it could be an autonomous fleet of delivery trucks. The internet giant is interested in autonomous trucking for its own deliveries and possibly to sell transport services to other companies such as UPS and FedEx. In January, the company secured a patent for a network that helps autonomous vehicles adjust in changing driving environments.
  5. AAA study on EV interest:  A new AAA study found that 30 million Americans say they’re likely to buy an electric vehicle, with members of the Millennial generation especially interested with 20% wanting to go that route. But the study also found that the interest level hasn’t yet turned into EV sales for most of them. AAA said that concerns include range anxiety, lack of charging stations, and running out of battery power before the end of their drive. Low ownership costs and emerging technologies will improve their sales in the future, according to AAA.
  6. EV Roadmap in Portland:  EV Roadmap 10 invites participants to “test drive the future,” learning from industry leaders as well as the leading communities and regional markets. The conference will be held June 20-21 in Portland, Ore., and will be organized around three tracks: Cars, focusing on the accelerating adoption of electric cars and other EVs. Charging infrastructure, which is evolving quickly to meet the needs of millions of new electric vehicle drivers. Community will focus on the broader “ecosystem” needed for the market to expand. Sessions will include an in-depth discussion of the Electrify America plan, programs designed to bring electric mobility benefits to underserved communities, and analysis of how electric vehicle adoption can lower electricity rates. You can register for the event online.
  7. Penske again named to SmartWay winners:  Penske Truck Leasing has, for the fifth straight year, been given the SmartWay Affiliate Challenge Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Penske is one of nine organizations to receive this honor. The SmartWay Affiliate Challenge is a national challenge developed by the EPA to acknowledge organizations that are contributing to a clean energy economy by reaching out to inform and educate businesses, their communities, truck drivers and other stakeholders about steps they can take to reduce freight emissions and their other environmental impacts. Here’s the list of winners. “EPA commends the SmartWay Affiliate Challenge honorees for their extraordinary level of commitment and enthusiasm in supporting more efficient and sustainable business practices in moving goods,” said Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “These organizations represent diverse industry sectors and stakeholders who believe that American prosperity can be preserved while protecting the environment.”
  8. Next Generation Mobility Challenge:  Toyota and Net Impact announced three finalist groups for the Next Generation Mobility Challenge, which focuses on developing solutions for critical mobility needs in local communities around the world. The winning team will be announced in early summer, and finalists were named to the list based on project design, feasibility, and social impact. The finalists are: “The Hub” – a carpooling concept based in school communities that would be more efficient than public transit and allow commuting parents to spend more time with their families, featuring students from California College of the Arts and UC Berkeley; “Project Mobius” – a company-sponsored employee transportation system for low-income individuals to help them acquire and retain jobs while boosting employee loyalty and reducing environmental impact, featuring students from University of Colorado; and “Para Pickup” – a service that gives people with disabilities safe, affordable and flexible ways to get home, improving on current options which can be inflexible and slow, featuring students from Georgia Tech.
  9. Fuel cell truck test:  Toyota announced “Project Portal,” a hydrogen fuel cell system designed for heavy duty truck use at the Port of Los Angeles. The zero-emission truck proof of concept will take part in a feasibility study examining the potential of fuel cell technology in heavy duty applications. The study will begin this summer and contribute to the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan, which has dramatically reduced harmful emissions from operations at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles since 2005.
  10. Propane autogas in Europe:  European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO) published a special edition of its report on the role propane autogas vehicles have played in the region in recent years. It’s the most widely used alternative fuel in Europe now with more than 12 million passenger vehicles placed in fleets as of 2015. Turkey has 35% of these vehicles with over four million vehicles. Italy and Poland join Turkey in being the only countries with over one million propane-powered passenger vehicles on their roads. Turkey also has the largest number of propane fueling sites, with over 10,000 stations. Germany has the second highest number of propane autogas stations despite having only the fourth largest propane-powered fleet in the region.

Cleantech stock prices beyond Tesla, plus options if the IPO doesn’t work out

If you’re looking to add cleantech stock to your portfolio, is there anything to buy beyond Tesla Inc. (TESLA)? If you’re a startup cleantech or clean transportation company, is going public viable for your financial future?

Tesla’s stock price and market valuation grabbed a lot of attention last week, with the irony of its market capitalization rising over $49 billion versus Ford Motor Co. (F) being at $44.63 billion (as of late Friday). Ford’s shares were trading at $11.23 and Tesla closed Friday at $302.54. Not bad for a company that’s never earned a quarterly profit.

It continued into yesterday with the Tesla stock climbing 3.3% Monday to $50.9 billion in market capitalization, eclipsing General Motors (GM) to become the highest ranking automaker in the U.S. – not in vehicle sales but it market valuation. Tesla is within $1 billion of Honda and making it into the top five global automakers in market value.

“Tesla engenders optimism, freedom, defiance, and a host of other emotions that, in our view, other companies cannot replicate,” said Alexander Potter, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., who upgraded the stock Monday. “As they scramble to catch up, we think Tesla’s competitors only make themselves appear more desperate.”

Some critics worry that Tesla has become a cult of personality around charismatic CEO Elon Musk; while others see the real value coming from the quality and performance of the Model S and Model X and the impressive figure of bringing in over 400,000 pre-order down payments last year on the Model 3; not to mention Superchargers and Tesla Energy. A few Wall Street analysts are worried Tesla won’t be able to hold a stable financial position in the next couple of years as it ramps up to produce more than 500,000 vehicles a year and increases its debt. There’s also the big question of whether the SolarCity merger was a wise way to go. The latest stock surge is a clear sign that electric vehicles are being seen as an integral part of transportation’s future – with Tesla well positioned to tap into it.

If you look at cleantech stocks or take a visit to Alternative Energy Stocks, you’ll find it difficult to locate stocks that are growing in price and have market valuation anywhere near Tesla’s. Leading solar power company SolarCity had been doing very well in stock market performance up to about a year ago, but then started seeing its stock value plummet. The company was facing a few serious hurdles, which prompted the company to merge late last year with Tesla. That meant SolarCity stock was no longer listed in NASDAQ market quotes.

Green Auto Market Extended Edition tracks stock performance on a monthly basis. Tesla is the only publicly traded company on the list that has over a billion in market cap, though SolarCity used to be on that list. Vivint Solar, the second largest solar power company in the U.S., was looking very good about two years ago in stock price increases and market value. It had been split off from parent company Vivint Smart Home and was doing well after its IPO. SunEdison was going to acquire the company last year, but the deal fell apart, which brought stock prices down. The two Vivint companies are partnering now to go after more market share dominated by Tesla’s SolarCity; and that includes increasingly popular smart-home tech offered by companies like Vivint.

Some companies tracked in Alternative Energy Stocks have only a small portion of their business in cleantech. AeroVironment, Inc. (AVAV) is a good example. While it plays a leading role in bringing electric vehicle charging stations to the U.S., that segment of the company’s revenue pales in comparison to AeroVironment’s role in aerospace.

About 10 years ago, cleantech stock and private equity funding was a hot commodity with renewable energy and electric car startups gaining backing. That took a dive after the Great Recession grabbed hold and venture capitalists and institutional stock fund managers started looking elsewhere, such as mobile device applications and Silicon Valley tech firms.

Government grants, especially through the U.S. Department of Energy, filled some of that void for a few years. It became a battleground in Congress, and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used the public funding and bankruptcies of solar startup Solyndra, plug-in hybrid sports carmaker Fisker Automotive, and lithium battery company A123 Systems as campaign fodder against President Obama.

Private equity has filled some of the void, with much of it coming from China. Wanxiang Group, a major auto parts supplier, has helped salvage and rejuvenate Fisker and A123 Systems through post-bankruptcy acquisitions. Karma Automotive is now using the Fisker Karma drive train system in its Karma Revero plug-in hybrid sports car. A123 Systems has switched over from lithium iron phosphate to nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) technology to meet the market demand for advanced battery chemistries in high energy applications, some of which will include plug-in vehicles. A lot of the company’s focus lately has been on 48-volt batteries.

Some of the investments coming from China aren’t working out so well. U.S.-based startup Faraday Future is owned by LeEco and Chinese tech entrepreneur Jia Yueting. LeEco has faced its own set of financial problems and may be backing away from Faraday Future at this time.

LeEco is a major investor in another electric car startup grabbing a lot of attention these days. California-based Lucid Motors is looking for $700 million to establish its Arizona factory and build the “Air” electric luxury sedan. Lucid claims that the Air will go 400 miles per charge through two AC induction motors capable of producing 1,000 in combined horsepower.

Lucid Motors is now working on a Series D financing round. Once that funding is secured, ground will be broke on its production plant. It will carry out the process gradually in three phases.

For those interested in filling out their stock portfolio with companies getting good marks in sustainability performance, it might be a good idea to look at the supply chain and tech company partnerships.

Johnson Controls International (JCI) is getting strong sustainability ratings, and is considered to have tangible value on the stock market. The company has been included in 40 sustainability indices in recent years and claims to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions intensity 41% from 2002 to 2014. JCI is a leading supplier of batteries for hybrids and EVs, along with being a recycler of lead-acid batteries; and a large producer of automotive electronics and parts such as seats and instrumental panels. It’s also well known for being a leading provider of energy management products and HVAC for buildings.

Renewable Energy Group (REGI) has been finding supporters, including a stock market analyst making annual recommendations to Renewable Energy World. The company has becomes a leading producer and seller of biomass-based diesel in the U.S. Turbulence over renewable fuel standard credits and low oil prices have hurt the company and many others, though the company’s fuel and stock prices are finding more backers in the market. The company is also doing well through a Services department that provides facility management and operational services to biofuel and cleantech facilities.

Several major automakers and their supply chain partners have been working on using less energy and water in their factories and other facilities. Ford just made the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the eighth year. The automaker was acknowledged for making Partnership for a Cleaner Environment (PACE) part of its ethics and sustainability drive. That program was set up to encourage sustainability practices, including water and energy conservation, throughout its global supply chain. General Motors (GM) now has 122 landfill-free facilities around the world that recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste from daily operations, about three fourths of which are manufacturing plants. The company has committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) launched a six-phase sustainability initiative through 2050. Along with clean energy and water efficiency, the company says that 100% percent of its new vehicles sold that year will be zero emission.

Tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have gained a lot of backing supporting their share prices. They’re also heavily engaged in powering their facilities with clean energy, as detailed in a 2GreenEnergy blog post. Apple and Facebook clouds are powered by renewable energy. Amazon’s web service, which hosts Amazon.com, Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify, and many other major websites, said it will utilize 100% clean energy for its global network.

You can also take a look at Cleantech Group’s list of companies and weightings for those included in the Cleantech Index. There are no automakers on the list, but a few suppliers and tech companies are being followed including Siemens, ABB, Schneider Electric, Johnson Controls, Borg Warner, Trimble Navigation, Intertek Group, and engineering firm Ricardo.

Tesla has been wise to tap into just about every imaginable source of funding out there, short of crowdfunding (unless you want to put the $1,000 down payments for the Model 3 in that category). The electric carmaker took a Department of Energy loan that it paid back early. Its stock market value continues to be strong with Musk continuing to be the largest shareholder in the company.

Musk has said that Tesla could likely have disappeared if it weren’t for significant investments made by global automakers Daimler and Toyota in 2009 and 2010. Both of these companies have sold their shares in Tesla for excellent profits. They did tap into Tesla’s electric drive system for some of their first steps into electric vehicles before ending the partnerships.

Like many automakers, China will be a vital growth more for Tesla in the future. Musk had said China will someday become Tesla’s largest market, and the company just reported making $1 billion sales last year in that market.

A Chinese company has also become one of the largest investors in Tesla. Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings just invested $1.78 billion, or about 8.2 million shares, making it Tesla’s fifth-largest shareholder. The first four largest shareholders are Musk and investment companies Fidelity, Baillie Gifford, and T. Rowe Price.

Tesla needs strong cash flow to get the Model 3 launched in high volume. Tencent wants to diversify its portfolio and is a big believer in how sizable EVs and the charging infrastructure will be. The company has been investing in Chinese EV startups. One of these, NextEV, also has a U.S. office near Tesla’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, and is committed to rolling out an electric supercar that will be Tesla-competitive.

Details coming out on Autopilot fatality in Tesla Model S

Tesla AutopilotThe fatality of a driver in a Tesla Model S with Autopilot is being described as the very first casualty from an autonomous vehicle technology. Here are details from the incident and where this may lead in the near future..……..

  • The crash took place on May 7 in Williston, Fla., but wasn’t in the public spotlight until June 30 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said preliminary reports indicated that the crash occurred when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla, and the car failed to apply the brakes.
  • The 2015 Tesla Model S sedan crashed in northern Florida into a truck that was turning left in front of it on a double-lane highway. The Tesla didn’t stop, hitting the trailer and traveling under it. The Tesla then ran off the road, hitting a fence and a power pole before coming to a stop.
  • It is the first known fatal accident involving a vehicle being driven by itself by means of sophisticated computer software, sensors, cameras and radar. Federal regulators, who are in the early stages of setting guidelines for autonomous vehicles, have opened a formal investigation into the incident.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol identified the Tesla driver who was killed as Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio. He was a former Navy SEAL known for dismantling bombs for the Navy during the Iraq war, then coming home to start his own company to extend internet service into rural America. He loved his Model S so much he nicknamed it “Tessy.” He celebrated the Autopilot feature that made it possible for him to cruise the highways, making YouTube videos of himself driving hands-free. In the first nine months he owned it, Brown put more than 45,000 miles on the car. In a YouTube video that Brown posted a month before the fatal crash showing the technology saving him from another collision and wrote that he was “very impressed. “Tessy did great. I have done a lot of testing with the sensors in the car and the software capabilities,” Brown wrote on April 5 in comments posted with the 41-second video.
  • Tesla Motors issued a statement on the incident and investigation on June 30 that said it’s the first known fatality in over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. In “A Tragic Loss,” posted in the company’s blog, Tesla said that neither Autopilot nor the driver “noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”
  • A digital video disc player was found in the Model S after the crash, the Florida Highway Patrol officials said on Friday. Whether the portable DVD player was operating at the time of the crash has not been determined. Witnesses who came upon the wreckage gave differing accounts on Friday about whether the player was showing a movie.
  • The 62-year-old driver of the tractor trailer, Frank Baressi, told the Associated Press that the Tesla was driving so quickly that it “went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.” Combined with the alleged high rate of speed the Model S was traveling, Baressi told the AP that he witnessed the Tesla “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” though he acknowledged that he only heard the movie and couldn’t see it. “It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road,” Baressi said to AP.
  • One driver on the Florida highway said that right before the crash, the Model S was driving well over the speed limit, according to a local resident interviewed during a TV news report who had spoken to the witness.
  • Evidence from the crash will take NHTSA several weeks to issue a statement. NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash. During the preliminary investigation, NHTSA will gather additional data regarding this incident and other information regarding the automated driving systems. “The opening of the Preliminary Evaluation should not be construed as a finding that the Office of Defects Investigation believes there is either a presence or absence of a defect in the subject vehicles,” NHTSA said in a statement.
  • The federal government is expected to release its national guidelines for autonomous vehicles this month, and will likely acknowledge the NHTSA investigation of the Tesla crash. Speaking last month at a telematics conference in Novi, Mich., Mark Rosekind, head of NHTSA, expressed concern over how much is really known about the safety of autonomous vehicle technology. “We need new safety metrics,” Rosekind said. “We also are going to have to broaden our view on the data sources for what those metrics might be. We have laboratory work. We have simulations and real world data.” The industry and regulators don’t know everything they don’t know about the safety of the most advanced autonomous technologies, he said.
  • Google has collected a lot of data from its self-driving car test runs in recent years. Its self-driving test cars have been in several minor collisions, but on the receiving end. Earlier this year, Google filed a California DMV accident report confirming that one of its autonomous vehicles (a Lexus RX450h) collided with a bus in Mountain View, Calif. The vehicle and its test driver incorrectly assumed that a bus approaching from behind would slow or stop to let the car through. The Lexus smacked into the side of the bus at low speed, damaging its front fender, wheel and sensor in the process. It was a minor incident with no injuries.
  • Google test cars primarily use a laser system known as Lidar (light detection and ranging), a spinning range-finding unit on top of the car that creates a detailed map of the car’s surroundings as it moves. Lidar is also used now on many of the experimental autonomous vehicles being developed by Nissan, BMW, Apple and others, but not by Tesla. The Tesla uses a computer vision-based vehicle detection system, but according to the company, it is not intended to be used hands-free and parts of the system are unfinished. Some experts speculate that a Lidar-driven car might have avoided this fatal crash.
  • Safety of vehicle drivers and passengers, and pedestrians and bicyclists, have been the core issue behind allowing autonomous vehicles to be tested, and eventually to roll out, on U.S. roads. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles made that very clear when the state adopted the nation’s first permission and guidelines for testing self-driving cars on its roads. Google and other companies have emphasized that issue more than any other reasons for investing in the technology. The Tesla fatality will heighten the debates – over whether cars should be fully autonomous as Google advocates, or they should have allowances for humans to take over in emergencies as the California DMV and others have expressed.
  • NHTSA just released a statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2015, which estimates that 35,200 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. That’s an increase of about 7.7% as compared to the 32,675 fatalities reported in 2014. It would will mark the highest level of fatalities since 2008, which saw 37,423 fatalities. This data will likely affect the debate even more.
  • Tesla just announced it will be releasing this month its Autopilot software version 8.0. That was in the works long before reporting of the investigation of the fatal crash, but the company says the update is the most important to its touchscreen since the launch of the Model S in 2012 and features significant improvements to the Autopilot. It will allow for improvements in the general Autopilot experience in traffic, but more significantly, it will introduce automatic off-ramp in exits on the highway, Tesla says.

This Week’s Top 10: Renewable Fuel Standard biofuel blends may be resolved, Tesla Motors announces Model S 70D

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. Renewable Fuel StandardThe long-dragged-out biofuels standards may be coming to a conclusion. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will propose draft biofuels targets for 2015 by June 1 as part of a lawsuit settlement with oil industry trade groups. The American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers had filed a lawsuit stating that EPA delays in setting renewable fuel use requirements have led to uncertainty and volatility in biofuel markets; oil trade groups are tired of dealing with market volatility of Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credit prices, which is part of the Renewable Fuel Standard rules requiring that fuel refiners mix a certain volume of ethanol into gasoline and biodiesel into diesel each year. The EPA has been dragging out defining the rules that it will set for biofuel volumes. Its decision in late 2013 to reduce the ethanol mandate and maintaining the biodiesel mandate led to a wave of public outcry by biofuels producers and anger by oil industry trade groups over the instability and whether the EPA would reduce the biofuels targets.
  2. Tesla Motors continues grabbing our attention. Last fall, it was the Tesla Model S P85D with “P” standing for performance; now, there’s the Model S 70D with more power, longer range per charge, and price tag with $5,000 added. The 70D is an all-wheel-drive Model S with a 70-kilowatt-hour battery pack, with 240 miles of range and priced at $75,000 before incentives; and it gets 514 horsepower (hp) to all four wheels from two electric motors. That compares with 208 miles on a charge and 380 hp on the base model rear-drive Model S. As for the “D” in Model S 70D, that stands for dual motor, which will be standard.
  3. Henrik Fisker is dropping the Thunderbolt supercar. Former Fisker Automotive co-founder, and previous Aston Martin design director, Henrik Fisker, has settled a lawsuit by Aston Martin against plans to produce the $400,000 Thunderbolt. Fisker claimed it was based on the current Aston Martin Vanquish, a V-12 powered supercar that was to have been modified with custom styling and cosmetic features. Aston Martin says it was too close to the iconic sports car featured in James Bond movies and infringed on Aston Martin’s intellectual property rights. Fisker had shown off the Thunderbolt at the Amelia Island Coucours d’ Elegance car show last month, and said it would be marketed through the Galpin Aston Martin dealership in California.
  4. ClipperCreek releases cost-competitive charging station. ClipperCreek announced availability of its popular LCS-20 EV charging station with a plug, previously available only as a hardwired unit. ClipperCreek released the LCS-20P Level 2 EV Charging Stations now starting at $379 hardwired and $395 with four plug options, the four most common residential 240V supply power plugs.
  5. Elio Motors CEO Paul Elio still needs a few more investors. Elio just spoke at the New York Auto Show and said that to meet the $230 million to begin production of its two-seat, three-wheel fuel efficient vehicle is still falling short – the company needs another $165 million to get these cars on the road. Elio thinks that the $6,800, 84 mpg vehicle is ideal for cost-conscious fleets and consumers. A big question will be whether Elio Motors will be able to qualify for a low-interest loan through the US Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program that will be re-launched soon.
  6. Rethink Methane Symposium coming up. Gladstein, Neadross & Associates (which puts on ACT Expo) is launching the inaugural Rethink Methane Symposium on June 9-10 in Sacramento, Calif. It’s focused on helping stakeholders understand how renewable methane from biological and synthetic sources can help California meet its climate protection and air quality improvement goals. Featured speakers will be Hector De La Torre of the California Air Resources Board, Peter Lehner of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Julia Levin of the Bioenergy Association of California, and Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation.
  7. Massachusetts offering more EV rebates. Electric vehicles have been popular enough in Massachusetts to use up the initial $2 million incentive funding. Now Governor Charlie Baker has allocated an additional $2 million to the state’s Mor-EV rebate program. Mor-EV, which stands for Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles, provides up to $2,500 to state residents who buy or lease electric vehicles.
  8. BMW wants to double plug-in sales. BMW would like to double sales of its i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid models this calendar year. The BMW i3 had 6,092 in sales from its launch in May of last year through December; the German automaker would like to double that to 12,000 units sold of its i3 battery electric and i3 REX range-extended small hatchbacks by the end of this year. The i8 was introduced in August and took in 555 in sales last year; that number is intended to be 1,000 this year. BMW is happy to see strong demand for both models, said BMW North America CEO Ludwig Willisch.
  9. GM prepping for redesigned Volt. General Motors says it will stop production of its 2015 Chevrolet Volt in May to reduce US stockpiles and to prepare for the highly anticipated 2016 Volt plug-in hybrid. Production of the redesigned 2016 Volt is expected to start late this summer. The suspension comes from lower-than-expected sales, factory renovations and engineering changes, the company said. Volt sales had dropped 19% to 18,805 units in 2014, and 48% in the first quarter of this year to 1,874 units. In other news, GM is thinking about spending $1 billion to renovate its Tech Center campus in Warren, Mich. GM has asked the city for tax breaks on the project. The Tech Center has been the hub of many projects since the 1950s including hosting a battery lab for electric-drive vehicles like the Volt.
  10. Kevin Wood, project manager for clean transportation, at Center for Sustainable Energy, sees the plug-in and fuel cell vehicle markets taking off right now. They have a proven track record in fleets. While they don’t meet the needs in every duty cycle yet, in passenger vehicles and sedans, there’s no reason to not be looking at these technologies. You can hear his perspective on these plug-ins and fuel cell vehicles, and other alternative fuel vehicles, in this Fleet Management Weekly video.
  11. Extra from this week’s Green Auto Market Extended Edition: How Hawaii has become a significant electric vehicle (EV) marketplace. EVs with strong incentives have their appeal in Hawaii – with destination charges and a higher price for gasoline than any other market in the US, EVs become as, or more, attractive with cost-conscious car shoppers living in the state. Hawaii ranks second in the US behind California in the number of electric vehicles registered in the state, according to figures recently release by the US Energy Information Administration. The adoption of electric vehicles is a key component in the state’s target of reaching of 70% in clean energy by the year 2030. Here’s more on how to subscribe to that weekly newsletter and read all about it, plus a section on clean transportation company publicly traded stocks – and resources to check out on following these stocks and market trends.