For Today: Dyson joining electric vehicle race, California may ban fossil-fuel vehicles

Dyson launching EV:  British company Dyson, best known for home appliances such as its bagless vacuum cleaners, will be launching an electric car by 2020. The company will be investing about $2.7 billion in solid-state battery technology and designing the EV. It will be put together by a team of more than 400 employees, said founder James Dyson. It won’t be an affordable Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, and Nissan Leaf competitor. Dyson said it will be an expensive car, and those interested will have to “wait and see” what it’s going to look like. Rumors have been floating about the company getting into the EV race for a few years now, which was clarified last year in a government document filing. The company’s sales have grown in recent years as it expanded its presence in Asia. That will be a big part of its EV launch.  “We see a very large market for this car in the far east,” Dyson said.

Ford working with Lyft:  Ford will be partnering with ride-hailing company Lyft to share information supporting acceleration of a commercial self-driving car service launch. It’s the third alliance the startup has formed following last year’s investment by General Motors; Waymo and autonomous software and hardware firm Drive.ai forged alliances with Lyft earlier this year. Lyft wants to be the first ride-hailing company to deploy self-driving cars by a major automaker, according to the company. Pilot programs should be launched fairly soon and fully operational by 2021. Ford said the partnership will be make self-driving rides available quickly and safely to customers using the mobile app. Ride-hailing giant Uber had been investing heavily in autonomous vehicle testing through automaker alliances. That’s been sidelined since explosive scandals have broken this year with co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick being replaced by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Lyft is well positioned for growth in mobility services and deploying self-driving mobility services from the trial phase through commercial deployment.

California may ban fossil-fuel vehicles:  California may join up with China, the UK, France, and Norway in banning fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg Friday that Gov. Jerry Brown is interested in exploring barring the sale of vehicles in California with internal combustion engines. The earliest ban would be a decade away and ties into the state’s campaign to battle climate change. The move would send shockwaves to automakers, which have already been working on meeting the state’s zero emission vehicle mandates in the world’s largest auto market. A more pressing issue for California has been how the Trump administration will be ruling on the fuel economy and emissions standards, and if California’s ZEV guidelines will be included.

For Today: Bill Ford called to lead emissions talks by former EPA official, Daimler Trucks testing platooning in U.S.

Calling on Bill Ford for leadership:  The former Environmental Protection Agency official who played a leading role in 2011 negotiating fuel economy and emissions standards has called upon Ford Motor Co.’s executive chairman Bill Ford to lead the dialogue on the midterm review and beyond. Former EPA official Margo Oge sees Ford, a longtime environmental advocate, well suited to help California, the federal government, and automakers negotiate any flexibility needed through 2025 and to set a road map for 2030. Automakers had been able to have the Trump administration reopen the 2022-2025 midterm review after it had been approved right before the end of the Obama administration. The former EPA official sees it as a win-win for Ford’s stock price and for resolving a difficult issue. “I believe if he does that, we will see the investor community respond with a stock price increase in Ford because investors are looking for companies that are not behaving like the traditional OEMs with competition from Silicon Valley, Tesla and China,” Oge said.

CARB on CAFE and emissions standards:  Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday that California is fine with reopening discussions on greenhouse gas limits for passenger vehicles through 2025. The state’s expectation is that the Trump administration will support the tougher targets that the state is seeking beyond 2025. California is willing to discuss reviving talks with automakers and federal regulators on “a whole laundry list of things they’ve (automakers) asked for.” Nichols said that “California remains convinced that there was no need to initiate this new review of the review and that the technical work was fully adequate to justify going ahead with the existing program, but we’re willing to talk about specific areas if there were legitimate concerns the companies raised — in the context of a bigger discussion about where we’re going post-2025.”

Uber kicked out of London:  Uber lost the right to do business in London as the Transport for London agency ruled that the ride-hailing company not “fit and proper.” The agency that oversees London’s subways, buses, and taxicabs has taken a measure expected to have much impact in Great Britain and with other cities. The company had been temporarily forced out a few market such as Delhi and Austin, Texas. The ride-hailing giant had also agreed to leave China through a deal made with its arch-competitor in that country, Didi Chuxing. Leaving a market as important as London is putting in new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a tough position as the company recovers from founder Travis Kalanick leaving.

Daimler testing platooning in U.S.:  Daimler Trucks North America revealed that it has been testing platooning systems on test tracks and a few U.S. highways. The truckmaker reports that test results show how the new technology can improve fuel efficiency, driver productivity, convenience, and safety. The first step of platooning is called “pairing,” where two trucks travel in tandem at distances closer than what is possible under normal driving conditions; as you can see in the photo. Daimler Truck engineers are overseeing a pilot project on Oregon and Nevada highways in cooperation with state officials. The company is also testing braking on a closed track at its High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, Ore. Daimler Trucks is getting ready for a fleet trial early next year. “Platooning holds the potential to offer significant fuel economy advantages, while assisting drivers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO, DTNA. “To be sure, the platooning technology is not meant to replace drivers – it’s designed to help drivers.”

For Today: ChargePoint going public to support Europe network, Uber choosing former Expedia CEO to stabilize troubled company

ChargePoint in Europe:  ChargePoint is looking to launch an initial public offering in the next five years as the company expands further into Europe, CEO Pasquale Romano told Reuters. ChargePoint, operator of one of the world’s largest charging station networks for electric cars, joins other players in the game including utilities, engineering groups, automakers, and startups seeking to establish strong footing. BMW, Daimler, and Siemens already have a strong presence in Europe as demand continues to increase – and they see ChargePoint as an option to expand their networks. The charging company has so far raised about $300 million in funds, with Daimler and Siemens joining up this year. BMW first supplied funds in 2012. The company also operates about 40,000 charging spots in the U.S. and Mexico.

California AB 1184 moves forward:  The California legislature is pushing forward a $3 billion program that could raise electric vehicle rebates up from the current $2,500 per vehicle all the way to $10,000 or more. It’s been approved by Senate and Assembly committees, and still needs to see legislative approval and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown by the end of the current session in Sacramento on Sept. 15. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), said Assembly Bill 1184 ties into the state’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to a level reached in 1990. “If we want to hit our goals, we’re going to have to do something about transportation,” he said.

Uber gets new CEO:  Uber has named former Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO, according to two people familiar with the matter. It’s expected to help stabilize the ride-hailing company’s contentious battle in recent months that resulted in former CEO Travis Kalanick leaving in June. Kalanick had been overseeing the company as it eventually reached $70 billion in estimated market valuation until a series of controversies took over this year – driving investors to shake up Uber management. Khosrowshahi has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which was another heated issue for Uber earlier this year. His family had immigrated to the U.S. during the Iranian revolution. Expedia, along with Amazon, became one of two technology companies to contribute declarations to a lawsuit filed by Washington State’s attorney general objecting to the travel ban executive order. That had focused on seven predominantly Muslim countries. Other finalists for the Uber CEO position include Jeffrey Immelt, the former chief of General Electric, and Meg Whitman, the chief of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the sources said.

 

For Today: Mazda goes sustainable, car2go increasing ridership

Mazda sustainability drive:  Mazda just released details on Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 that includes the first ever commercialized gasoline engine with a compression ignition. That will bring 20% to 30% more fuel efficiency than current models on the market with Mazda’s Skyactiv technology. The corporate sustainability campaign will shoot for 2019 to roll out the new Skyactiv-X and its first electric vehicle. That could be coordinated with its Toyota alliance for jointly developing EVs. Sustainable Zoom-Zoom is structured around reducing corporate carbon dioxide emissions, well-to-wheel, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

Uber battle continues:  Former Uber chief Travis Kalanick won’t be returning to his previous job leading the ride-hailing company, co-founder Garret Camp said. The company is committed to bringing in a new “world-class CEO to lead Uber,” he said in an email to challenge a news report published in Recode. Kalanick stepped down in late June, seven years after starting the global giant with a group of Silicon Valley buddies. The pressure was intensifying following a series of revelations of questionable business practices, including being a bad place for women to work. Kalanick told Recode that he is “Steve Jobs-ing it,” which means he thinks Uber will have to bring him back to lead the company to victory, as Apple had done with Jobs. Several Uber board members disagree with Kalanick.

car2go seeing growth:  Daimler’s car sharing unit, car2go, reported that its usage increased 40% year-over-year in the first half of 2017 compared to a year prior. That’s taking place at 11 North American locations with 4.5 million trips taken so far this year. Members are spending 33% more time traveling this year than last. The company is in discussions with other cities about car2go opening shop there, with the company emphasizing the environmental and economic benefits of using its one-way carsharing model.

For Today: Electrified Hyundai Kona, Uber facing more upheaval

Hyundai Kona:  Hyundai will be offering electrified versions of its new Kona crossover SUV. While the 2018 Hyundai Kona is scheduled to come to the U.S. later this year, it’s not clear which electrified options will be available and if any of those variations will come to the U.S. The all-electric model is supposed to come out in 2018 and will have range of about 240 miles; though that will likely be fewer miles in the U.S. under the Environmental Protection Agency rating. “Clean mobility is a core strategy of the Hyundai Motor Company in the future,” the company said during unveiling of the Kona in Seoul. It could join the Ionic as part of the Korean automaker’s ambitious global strategy for green vehicle introductions. All three electrified versions of the Ioniq were displayed on the freeway side of the Hyundai’s U.S. headquarters office recently.

Electric Transit postal vans:  Deutsche Post, Germany’s postal carrier, has entered an agreement with Ford’s German subsidiary, Ford-Werke GmbH, to manufacture battery-electric vans. The chassis of the Ford Transit will be used by Deutsche Post and fitted to a battery-electric drive train. The German postal carrier had previously designed and produced the all-electric smaller van StreetScooter. The new van will be larger and offer more shipping capacity. Production with Ford will start next month. The target is to build and deliver at least 2,500 vehicles before the end of 2018, which would make Deutsche Post DHL Group the largest manufacturer of battery-electric medium-duty delivery vehicles in Europe, the company said.

Uber upheaval:  Uber board member David Bonderman is leaving the company after making a disparaging comment to another board member, Arianna Huffington. After Huffington talked about how having one woman on the board often leads to more women joining, Bonderman said, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” This followed news of CEO Travis Kalanick taking a leave of absence from the company, and a plan released by the company Tuesday that more accountability will be brought to executives for their actions. Huffington has been part of a panel investigating allegations made by a female ex-employee back in February over sexual harassment by an Uber executive. Earlier this month, Uber fired 20 employees over harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate behavior stemming from the February blog post by the female ex-employee. This has been a stormy year for Uber that includes an intensive court room battle with Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary in its claims against Uber stealing its intellectual property for self-driving cars. Uber’s main U.S. competitor, Lyft, seems to be benefiting from the storm Uber is under, and continues to add partner companies to its future.

For Today: More on the all-new Nissan Leaf, Qualcomm and Mercedes moving forward on wireless charging

All-new Leaf reveal:  A Nissan executive says that the next-generation Leaf will be unveiled on Sept. 6 in Tokyo. Pierril Pouret, Senior VP in Europe, confirmed the date and that the 2018 Leaf be an all-new offering. “This will be a brand new model, designed from a blank sheet, that will make sure we are still in the front,” he said. The company put out a teaser photo yesterday of the new headlights and announced that more will be revealed this summer. The automaker said that the Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle with more than 260,000 on the road globally.

Qualcomm and Mercedes bringing wireless charging forward:  Qualcomm is getting ready to bring wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) to market in a big way, starting next year with Daimler. Mercedes-Benz S550e plug-in hybrid drivers can park over a charging pad where charging begins automatically once the plug-in hybrid is close enough to the charging platform. It’s meant to take away the problem of plug-in vehicle owners forgetting to charge. The Qualcomm Halo division has designed WEVC units that use resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy. The WEVC system will be manufactured by an automotive electronics supplier which has licensed the technology Qualcomm Halo. Qualcomm worked with Mercedes on the FIA Formula E. Besides running the Qualcomm Safety Car with wireless charging, the company has worked with the Mercedes factory Formula One team, Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Uber gets into trucking:  Uber announced yesterday that it’s bringing its role as a third-party broker matching customers to drivers over the freight hauling business. Uber Freight is now available to large trucking firms and smaller independent operators nationwide; a test version had been run in Texas since September. It will be separate from its Otto driverless truck business, which has been at the center of a lawsuit by Google’s Waymo against an Uber employee who’s been accused of stealing its self-driving car technology.

Solar energy storage:  Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar will bring the Mercedes-Benz customizable home energy storage system to the U.S., starting in California. It will offer cost savings to homeowners on energy bills, backup energy during blackouts, and clean energy for those driving electric cars. Vivint Solar is one of the largest solar providers in the U.S and will bring its experience installing solar at more than 100,000 homes across the country.

RNG academic research center:  The University of California, Riverside and Southern California Gas Co. this week announced the establishment of a new Center for Renewable Natural Gas. The Center is the first academic establishment in the U.S. dedicated to the study and applied research of renewable gas technologies. It was funded in part by SoCalGas with a matching donation from the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. It’s part of UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research & Technology (CE-CERT). “Renewable gas can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gases and meeting California’s renewable energy goals,” said Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas.  “In California, the agriculture and waste industries produce a great deal of methane that could – and should – be used as renewable gas to heat homes, and fuel power plants and near-zero-emissions trucks.”

 

Why is Apple investing $1B in Chinese ridesharing giant Didi?

Didi in ChinaIt’s been a big year for breaking news on the clean mobility front, with General Motors investing a half billion in Lyft and Apple announcing last week that it’s investing $1 billion in Didi Chuxing Technology. Apple appears to be just as serious about investing in mobility services as is Silicon Valley neighbor Google and its self-driving car project.

Here’s my thoughts on what’s behind all of it:

  • Uber’s global domination: Didi is part of an international coalition announced in late 2015 with Lyft in the U.S., India’s Ola, and Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi, to compete with ridesharing giant Uber. Uber has spent millions of dollars to grow its share of the Chinese market, but is far behind Didi with its larger fleet of cars. Uber has set a target of operating in 100 Chinese cities by the end of this year. The company said it’s able to invest in the China market because it’s making $1 billion in annual profit from its 30 largest global markets. Uber is facing pressure in other markets where cities like Austin, Texas have blocked it from competing with taxis; and a $100 million settlement with drivers in California over the “employee vs. independent contractor” job classification legal issue. China is still on the top of its list of priorities.
  • Didi is booming: Didi and its ridesharing platform serves more than 11 million rides a day and about 300 million users across China, according to the company. Apple’s investment brings Didi’s funding round to $3 billion to a startup company now valued at about $26 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Didi already has backing from Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, the country’s two largest Internet companies. Didi, formally known as Xiaoju Kuaizhi Inc., was created last year when separate apps backed by Tencent and Alibaba merged. Didi now serves 400 Chinese cities with 14 million registered drivers.
  • The future of Apple: Apple continues to lose share in the smartphone business, a segment the company propelled in 2007 when it launched the first iPhone. Google’s Android phone has taken the lion’s share of that market. China has been a very important market for Apple to focus upon, where it’s invested heavily in a manufacturing plant for its mobile devices. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn recently sold his position in Apple, largely due to the company’s lagging performance in China and that region overall. In its most recent earnings report, the company revealed its revenue in China fell by 26%. Apple has been looking at other technology services in recent years with mobility at the top of the list, which is behind its near-secret testing grounds for autonomous and electric vehicles. CEO Tim Cook has highlighted higher-margin services such as ride-hailing firm Didi as a growth area, and suggested he would use some of the company’s $200 billion-plus cash reserves for investments.
  • China is a very hot market: Automakers have joined ranks with other industries, such as mobile devices, in setting up manufacturing plants and marketing to consumers in China’s booming economy. Labor is cheap and skilled in China, and government incentives and low-cost leasing offers are plentiful for the largest automakers to come to China to set up factories. The audience is massive as well, with China hosting the world’s largest market for electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Chinese consumers are buying their share of technology products and are tapping heavily into e-commerce and internet usage. It’s very typical to hear about internet companies like LeEco, led by billionaire founder and internet icon Jia Yueting, investing in Faraday Future and the recently revealed LeSEE electric concept car. Tesla Motors also sees growth in China as integral for its future profitability. China’s economy and vehicle sales have softened in the past year, but compared to other markets around the world, China is still considered to be the most important one to be established within.
  • Mobility pivotal in crowded cities: China has several cities seeing dramatic growth in population, vehicle traffic jams, and air pollution. Established cities like Beijing and Shanghai are congested with cars and trucks, creating serious air pollution hazards being addressed by the government. Beihai, China is predicted to be the world’s fastest growing city in the next few years with annual growth rates of 10.58% in population from 2006 through 2020. As U.S. cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles have discovered in recent years, area residents are clamoring for more mobility options like ride-hailing and ridesharing firms Didi, Uber, and Lyft; carsharing services such as Zipcar and Car2Go; improved rail and municipal transportation; protected bike lanes and racks; and creative options such as what Lyft and investor GM are testing out in short-term rental of electrified vehicles and gas-engine cars to Lyft drivers. Cities around the world are facing very similar conditions as Beijing and Los Angeles with congestion and pollution and are taking on measures to improve it – including Rio de Janeiro, London, and Mexico City. Didi has been a fast-growing mobility service in China as consumers demand to get from Point A to Point B for less cost and cleaner air.
  • Sustainability theme: Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft, spoke on a panel last week at ACT Expo on the future of clean mobility. Castor talked about how its ridesharing now makes up 40% of the rides in 15 U.S. cities testing out the Lyft Lanes ridesharing service. Castor also talked about a short-term lease program Lyft is trying out with General Motors offering Lyft drivers an opportunity to rent a Chevrolet Volt for rides. Sustainability has been built into Lyft’s strategy of providing mobility services in cities, Castor said. Didi and other Aboptions to reduce their stress and transportation cost, and to feel like they’re contributing something to their community’s improving air quality.
  • The sharing, on-demand economy is taking off: Ride-hailing and ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Didi find mobility services to be highly profitable. They serve as a third-party company joining together consumers looking for rides with car-owner drivers looking to make additional income. They use the sharing platform invented and branded by Uber and competitors to gain access to fast, affordable, efficient rides. This model of the “sharing economy” or the “on-demand economy” is being used by AirBNB to match up homeowners who have an extra bedroom with travelers looking for good lodging deals. Amazon has been expanding its use of independent contractors nationwide to meet a promise to deliver its Prime Now orders within two hours of the order being placed. Amazon is competing with Google, Wal-Mart, and other retailers offering fast and cheap delivery services. Food delivery services like Postmates, GrubHub, and DoorDash are taking off in cities across the U.S. Their business model is nearly the same as Uber and Lyft – independent contractors driving their own cars and using the mobile app to deliver service and produce income.
  • How Didi could play into Apple’s autonomous vehicle technologies: Analysts have been speculating that Apple’s investment could be tied into its autonomous vehicle strategy. For one thing, Didi provides Apple with a rich data source for its self-driving vehicle push. Didi’s ride-hailing app is closely linked to payment services, such as Apple Pay. Didi ride transaction data can be the foundation for other mobile commerce transactions such as deliveries. Apple will gain extremely valuable date on driving patterns, rider habits, traffic data, and payment transactions. Apple, like Google, will be part of the technologies that shape the future of autonomous vehicles just as much as the self-driving car will provide.

This Week’s Top 10: More on VW diesel scandal, San Diego Gas & Electric installing 3,500 chargers

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. Volkswagen diesel recallMore on the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal……… Frank Tuch, previously head of VW’s group quality control, has left the company with details yet unknown beyond Tuch leaving “to take on new responsibilities elsewhere.” Tuch was appointed in 2010 by former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who did take partial blame for the scandal and left the company in September. Current CEO Matthias Mueller has been overhauling senior management positions in the wake of the emissions test-rigging scandal……… VW will be offering compensation packages to about 600,000 Americans who own one of these TDI diesel cars violating emissions limits. The U.S. attorney is finalizing the package and it’s not yet clear whether this will be a buy-back, cash, car replacement, repair, or some combination………  The European Union has become more flexible about considering new emissions rules soon after a protest measure was rejected by lawmakers. The new rules may be flawed, but lawmakers believe they will at least provide some greater regulation of emissions testing, according to Giovanni La Via, chair of the EU’s Environment Committee. Members of the European Parliament recently rejected a proposal to require on-road emissions testing for new vehicles.
  2. SDG&E installing 3,500 chargers: San Diego Gas & Electric has received regulatory approval to install up to 3,500 electric vehicle charging stations at 350 sites. The California Public Utilities Commission has approved its Electric Vehicle Grid-Integration pilot project, which may cost SDG&E $45 million to construct. The power utility thinks it’s a great opportunity to maximize use of renewable energy to charge EVs and reduce the need for new fossil-fuel power plants. That follows Southern California Edison winning CPUC approval for its $22 million “Charge Ready” initiative. SCE says it’s a pilot project installing up to 1,500 charging stations in its service territory.
  3. Incentives for fleet EV acquisition: Nissan’s Marc Deutsch and GNA’s Joe Annotti will be covering critical issues fleets face in deploying plug-in electric vehicles. ACT Expo is hosting a complimentary, one-hour webinar, which will highlight key incentives that help to substantially buy down the cost of electric vehicles, charging, and other costs of traditional vehicle ownership to maximize fleet deployment. Deutsch will be talking about significant fleet incentives; and Annotti will go over GNA’s Funding 360° Program that helps companies, municipalities, and organization track, evaluate, and apply for funding programs throughout North America. Click here to register for the free webinar, “Making Cents of Electric Vehicles: Key Incentives for Fleet Deployment,” which takes place tomorrow, Feb. 10, 2016, at 10:00-11:00 a.m. PT.
  4. Leaf turns around in used values: The Nissan Leaf has seen a reverse in its used vehicle valuation dilemma. During the fourth quarter of 2015, Kelley Blue Book Auction Values on model-years 2012 through 2015 Leafs were up three percent from where they were in the third quarter. That was while gasoline prices continued to plunge – 14.2%, or 32 cents, during that time period. “This rebound could be attributed to consumers now finding the current value of electric vehicles more attractive at their current price point following months of steady declines,” KBB analyst Sean Foyil said in the latest edition of Blue Book Market Report. That was during a time period when most used vehicles saw prices dropping as off-lease vehicle returns oversupplied the market.
  5. Goodbye Cadillac ELR: Cadillac won’t be building the next-generation version of its plug-in hybrid luxury ELR model. It has been released as a 2016 model year car, but General Motors hasn’t announced when it will be pulled off the market. It gained a lot of attention when launched as a 2014 model year electric vehicle with a $76,000 price tag. It was the only competitor out there, at the time, to the Tesla Model S. GM didn’t produce very many of them, and sales numbers were slight. It runs off a powertrain similar to the Chevrolet Volt, and it did get a lot of raves when it was first launched.
  6. More Google driverless car testing: Google is adding to its testing grounds for self-driving cars with a new route added in Kirkland, Wash., later this month. That follows six years of road testing in Mountain View, Calif., near its corporate campus; and Austin, Texas, which allowed for autonomous vehicle testing last summer. So far, 1.4 million miles of testing has been done. The company said that going up the Pacific Northwest provides “different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.”
  7. Oil tax in budget: President Obama today will be proposing a tax of $10 per barrel on oil in the 2017 budget to Congress. The goal is to create “a clear incentive for private-sector innovation to reduce our reliance on oil, and at the same time invests in clean energy technologies that will power our future,” the White House said. Tax proceed would go to the nation’s transportation infrastructure and to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from transportation. That proposal could be killed off in the Republican majority House. “President Obama’s proposed $10 per barrel tax on oil is dead on arrival in the House,” House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said.
  8. RMI on fuel price increases: As we’ve seen clearly in the past year, rapidly declining gasoline and diesel fuel prices can hurt sales of, and support for, plug-in electric, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles. Amory Lovins, chief scientist at Rocky Mountain Institute, thinks that these market conditions are set to turn around. Read on for his perspectives.
  9. Army testing autonomous vehicles: The U.S. Army is going back strong to its R&D efforts that started in the 1980s. The Army recently has been testing convoys of autonomous vehicles that follow a truck driven by a human. These tests have included up to 10 vehicles equipped with cameras, radar and onboard computers to identify potential road hazards. The equipment is costing the Army about $175,000 per vehicle; the Army thinks this will go down to one tenth that cost once it becomes mass produced.
  10. Uber taking heat for changing logo: Along with increasing “surge pricing” that is driving up the cost of Uber trips, the latest controversy on the ridesharing giant is that its emblem has been changed dramatically. The title of a Washington Post piece tells the story, “Why everyone hates Uber’s new logo.” Riders has grown accustomed to its grey “U” logo. At the beginning of this month, the logo on the mobile app transformed into a circle with a thin line through the left side; and it rests within an aqua green background with etchy, thin lines in some sort of diagram. It could be the logo for any company, and the iconic U has gone away.

This Week’s Top 10: Bosch jumps into the EV battery race, LAX allowing ridesharing

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. Bosch logoWho will lead EV battery market?: The race is on to be the leader in advanced batteries for plug in electric vehicles with auto parts giant Robert Bosch buying California-based Seeo Inc., which is developing lithium-ion batteries that could double the range of electric vehicles (EVs). While EV and hybrid sales have been softening this year, the consensus seems to be that lithium batteries will be increasing in demand for EVs and energy storage. Seeo is a solid-state battery developer of next-generation energy storage, and the acquisition includes all of the company’s IP and research staff. “For now, solid-state batteries are the best positioned to take that crown, but other families like lithium-sulfur, high-voltage cathodes, and alternative ions are worth watching, too,” said Lux Research Senior Analyst, Cosmin Laslau. It’s not surprising to see a Tier One supplier in the auto industry enter the lithium battery space. Tesla Motors and Panasonic are preparing to lead the way in volume at the Gigafactory in Nevada; with Tesla investing in the energy storage market, as well. Nissan is half owner of battery maker AESC, and LG Chem is doing lithium-ion battery business with several major automakers.
  2. Ridesharing sees breakthrough: It’s taken a little while, but ridesharing/ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have been granted permission to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), one of the largest airports in the U.S. The taxi industry had spent a lot of money attempting to defeat it, and there’s been intense debate about whether drivers are being given enough background checks for passenger safety. City officials will continue researching whether more extensive background checks will be required, including fingerprinting.
  3. Enterprise carsharing taking off in Boston: Enterprise Rent-A-Car has seen huge growth in carsharing users through its Boston Enterprise CarShare fleet. Since acquiring Mint Cars On-Demand and building its presence in the market, Enterprise has seen membership grow more than 300% in the city. Enterprise CarShare now has a retail presence in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Toronto, and Washington, D.C., and other markets. In total, the service is available in more than 35 U.S. states, Canada and the U.K – and offered through more than 100 university campuses and hundreds of business and government accounts across the country.
  4. Alt-fuel vehicle conversions have a strong week: Anheuser-Busch is converting all 97 of its diesel-fueled tractors throughout the Midwest to compressed natural gas in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The company first converted 66 diesel trucks at its Houston brewery last year…… General Distributors Inc. reported that since switching 10 cargo vans from gasoline to propane autogas, the beverage distributor has cut greenhouse gas emissions 20% and saved about $10,000 in fuel costs……. amp Trillium has opened of a new public-access compressed natural gas station in Newport, TN. The station can also fuel multiple Class-8 trucks simultaneously with Trillium CNG’s proprietary fast-fill hydraulic intensifier compressors, which efficiently pump seven-to-12 gallons of CNG fuel per minute, similar to diesel fueling rates……. Clean vehicle and fuel provider Alliance AutoGas has received new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications covering the following vehicles: Ford Taurus Interceptor 3.5L (2015, 2014, 2013), Ford Explorer Interceptor 3.5L and 3.7L (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013), Dodge Charger 3.6L (2015) and Dodge Charger 5.7 HEMI (2015, 2014, 2013).  Specifically of interest to U.S. law enforcement fleets are the certifications of the Explorer Police Interceptor, Taurus Police Interceptor, and Charger Pursuit.
  5. Tesla scores big with Consumer Reports: Tesla Motors just received another strong review from Consumer Reports, earning a 103 on a 100-point scale for its Model S P85D, setting what the magazine staff calls a new standard for perfection. The team testing out the “insane mode” that can go from zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds. In other news, Tesla Motors has been drawing complaints in California from dealers on discounts offered to Tesla buyers for making referrals. A letter from the California New Car Dealers Association argues that the program is illegal under a state law that bans compensation of people who arrange sales without a license – a practice known in the car business as “bird dogging.” Tesla is offering current owners $1,000 off their purchase price and will also receive a $1,000 discount that can be applied to a new Tesla car purchase in the future, a service center visit, or accessories.
  6. Award winners announced at Fleet Technology Expo: At the first-ever (former Green Fleet Conference) Fleet Technology Expo last week in Long Beach, Calif., six fleet managers took awards for sustainability and efficiency categories for Light & Medium Duty Fleets. During the Fleet Technology Expo’s Light & Medium Duty Fleet awards winners of the sustainability category are Alameda County, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and the Eugene (Ore.) Water and Electric Board. DISH, NPL Construction, and Osram Sylvania took home top honors in the efficiency category. For HDT (heavy-duty truck) fleets, Con-way Freight, Toyota, and Celadon Trucking Services won awards for HDT Efficiency. Republic Services, Raven Transport, and Ryder System received the awards for HDT Sustainability.
  7. Wheego staying quiet for now: Small electric car manufacturer Wheego Electric Cars has put production of electric vehicles on hold for now, and will no longer build the Whip or LiFe. “We are not making the Whip or LiFe any more, but still support and service the cars. We are working on two new models which will first be introduced in China, followed a few years later by introduction to the U.S. market.”
  8. New president at EDTA: The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) Board of Directors appointed Genevieve Cullen to the position of President. Cullen previously served as EDTA Vice President, developing and leading the organization’s policy program. “As the electric drive market enters an exciting new phase, we are fortunate to have a leader with Genevieve Cullen’s outstanding record and unique understanding of the industry to advance EDTA’s mission,” said Tracy Woodard, the chair of EDTA’s Board of Directors.
  9. 2K vehicles in voucher program: The California Air Resources Board, elected officials and industry last week celebrated the 2,000th Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher, awarded to Redwood Products of Chino, a small business that invested in a clean, low-carbon hybrid delivery truck. Since its launch in 2010, the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) has provided more than $63 million to help California fleets statewide purchase more than 430 zero-emission trucks and buses and 1,800 hybrid trucks and buses – and additional funding is on the way.
  10. Denso investing in algae biofuels: Denso Corp., a major supplier of fuel injectors, air conditioners and electronics to Toyota and other OEMs, is getting into the algae biofuels space. The company will open a cultivation and testing center in April in Japan that will have three oval ponds for growing algae. The company has been working on microalgae test projects since 2008, and sees the biofuel as an excellent option to reduce dependence on petroleum products and carbon emissions. Fans of the fuel say it beats corn ethanol in several ways.
  • Plus breaking news from Automotive News: “A group of deep-pocketed China-based internet entrepreneurs and financial investors, including Tencent and Hillhouse Capital, is backing an effort to create NextEV, a new rival to U.S. electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc…….”

Carsharing and ridesharing services gaining more interest from major automakers

UberAutomakers may follow Daimler’s lead in carsharing and ridesharing services. Daimler’s Car2Go carsharing service has been opening new locations in North America and Europe this year – and now Toyota and Ford are investing more in these alternative transportation services.

 

Toyota’s i-Road is a small three-wheel car that’s being tested out in a carsharing program in Tokyo designed to support public transport. It’s also being used as part of a carsharing program in the French city of Grenoble. Toyota’s concept is tied into commuting workers in cities who may choose to switch from their car to trains while going to and from work.

 

The Toyota i-Road is small enough to cut through traffic and may help alleviate congestion in cities. It’s being tested out for now with carsharing service Park2 and is being marketed to corporate clients and individual members.

 

Ford is also funding a test project that could bring a ridesharing service to the market that would compete with Uber. Ford is working on its own ridesharing mobile device application and a vehicle that would provide the transportation. Ford’s ridesharing shuttle may be tested out on the streets of London staring later this year.

 

There are no details on the vehicle yet, but it will be a “dynamic social shuttle,” that’s part of about 25 experiments Ford has taken on. It’s part of Ford’s game plan to focus less on vehicle manufacturing and more on mobility.

 

Automakers are closely following the growing interest in ridesharing services like Uber and carsharing services such as Car2Go and Zipcar. They’re following the demographic trends of more people moving into major urban environments, and younger potential customers putting off getting their drivers licenses and vehicles. Vehicle sharing could also help alleviate traffic congestion and air pollution in densely populated cities.

 

BMW also sees it as a way to get consumers more excited about owning one of their products. Richard Steinberg, who used to head up BMW and Mini’s electric car sales in North America, now serves as CEO of DriveNow USA, a BMW-owned carsharing program. “We definitely get lots of people excited about being behind the wheel of a premium product,” Steinberg said.

 

BMW appears to agree with Ford on the changing role of automakers. BMW has added that it not only leads the way on premium products but it now includes the phrase “and premium services for individual mobility” in its mission statement, according to Steinberg.

 

Major auto insurance provider USAA is taking ridesharing very seriously. USAA is working with state insurance departments in Colorado and Texas to offer coverage for drivers in Uber and other ridesharing services. “Ridesharing is a growing industry, and it’s important that our members have the right insurance coverage,” said Alan Krapf, president, USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. State Farm and Allstate are also looking into different insurance coverage options for drivers who work for ridesharing companies.