For Today: Twelve cities commit to zero emission vehicles, Fast food fats and oils gaining LCFS credits in California

Mayors commit to ZEVs:  Twelve cities have committed to converting over to zero emission vehicles by 2030 by signing the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration. The mayors of London, Paris, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle, Auckland, and Cape Town have signed the declaration that commits to procuring only zero-emission buses from 2025, and to make sure a major area of their city is zero emission by 2030. Commitments include increasing usage of walking, cycling, public transportation, and shared transport; reducing the number of polluting vehicles on their streets; converting over to ZEVs for their city fleets; and collaborating with suppliers, fleet operators, and businesses to shift over to ZEVs and reduce vehicle miles in these cities. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who led the ban for elimination of fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the city, is serving as C40 chair. “Working with citizens, businesses and mayors of these great cities we will create green and healthy streets for future generations to enjoy,” Hidalgo said.

The state of AVs:  A new global map by Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Aspen Institute shows were autonomous vehicles stand in cities around the world. They’re broken up into two categories – Piloting Cities and Preparing Cities. Piloting cities have conducted tests of self-driving cars, or will do so in the near future. Preparing cities are conducting long-range surveys of the regulatory, planning, and governance issues raised by autonomous, but have not yet started pilot projects. The US leads the way, followed by the UK and China. Cities make the most sense to study, with technology giants, automakers, and startups focusing on these markets. That’s where future AV customers are expected to live and work, according to the study.

Fast food waste supporting renewable diesel:  California is seeing more of its fuel coming from fats and oils used by fast food restaurants as fleets comply with the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Seven years after the credit system was initiated for producers of low-carbon fuels, cities and companies are using renewable diesel coming from fats and oils for all types of vehicles, including fire trucks to UPS delivery trucks. Bloomberg reported that the value of the LCFS credits for renewable diesel exceed those from electric vehicles fourfold and are second only to ethanol. The market “is definitely growing,” said Dayne Delahoussaye, head of Neste’s North American public affairs, the largest supplier of renewable diesel in California. “Renewable diesel has become very popular with the refining community as a good tool to meet obligations.”

 

For Today: GM and Ford move the electrification revolution a few steps further

A well-known automotive market analyst last year told me that he expects sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to make up 10% to 15% of U.S. new vehicle sales about a decade from now. That will mean that plug-in vehicle sales will have a real impact on manufacturing, marketing, infrastructure, and aftermarket products and services. The days of early adopters have come to an end, and the next phase is beginning – as made evident yesterday by announcements from General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

GM plans to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. Two new all-electric cars will come out in the next 18 months. Whether that’s coming from upcoming fossil fuel bans in several countries, the popularity of Tesla, China’s new energy vehicle market, launching the Chevy Bolt, the emergence of other long-range all-electric vehicles, and a long list of EVs in manufacturer product pipelines, the future is here now.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain EVP. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”

The automaker is also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of its zero emission vehicle drive. One of these is the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a four-wheel drive concept vehicle that runs on fuel cells. These provide power to electric motors, making it an ideal ZEV platform for delivery trucks, ambulances, and other applications. Yet EVs will be gaining most of the automaker’s focus and support.

Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years. Seven have been announced, including a 300-mile range crossover EV that will come out in 2020.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles, said that the automaker will increase the number of all-electric vehicles it will offer, but did not provide details.

Ford is establishing an internal team its calling “Team Edison” to study and develop battery electric cars.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Marakby said. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Here’s my take on a few trends and developments to watch for:

  • Battery electric vehicles will likely win out over plug-in hybrids in the next decade. While the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime will continue to do well, automakers tend to use plug-in hybrid variations of existing models as a way to transition car owners over to plug-in vehicles. EV range will be getting better, and all-electric vehicles are easier to maintain and keep in operation than internal combustion engine vehicles and plug-in hybrids. They use a lot less parts and components and are easier to maintain. Tires and brakes have to be replaced but there isn’t much else to changeover, given that the electric drive train is well made for EVs that are strong in sales.
  • Tesla is playing a leading role in public perception and experience with the technology. The Tesla Model 3 is expected to play a leading role in mass adoption, but the upcoming Model Y electric crossover will be built at mass scale, too. There will be other models coming out including the semi truck aimed at buyers of heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Tesla’s stock performance continues to stay strong and validates that institutional and individual backers believe in the business model. (As a side note, GM and Ford stock prices did well after announcing strong September sales and serious electrification campaigns.)
  • German automakers may be just as important as Tesla in moving the product development and sales trend forward. Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW made big announcements a year ago in the wake of the “Dieselgate” scandal, and with growing pressure from German regulators and from a few other countries. Tesla was taking the lead in the luxury EV side, but an impressive list of pre-orders on the Model 3 opened up the playing field. The product pipeline is covering the bases from Tesla-competitive automakers – electric sedans, SUVs and crossovers, and luxury vehicles.
  • Car buyers want to see realistic, real-world numbers on per-charge driving range, charging time, fast charging, option and trim levels, resale value forecasts, top speeds, horsepower, and torque. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency range ratings are gaining more confidence than the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with the NEDC using a very different cycle analysis and much longer range.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t reach mass adoption, with EVs winning out. They won’t be going away, with automakers such as Toyota, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler, and BMW committed to the technology. They’ll probably stay at a low level in passenger vehicle sales with a few of the automakers going over to military and commercial vehicle applications. But the barriers will be hard to cross – having enough fueling stations, the cost of the technology and sticker prices coming way down, and finding broad support and trust in the technology. The typical pump price for fueling with hydrogen isn’t known yet, and concerns are being expressed on how expensive it will be to collect and extract hydrogen from natural gas and other sources; and to deliver it by truck and pipelines to gas stations. The ZEV aspect makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles very attractive, but where is the hydrogen coming from? And EVs are getting cheaper and better all the time, along with the charging infrastructure.
  • Countries adopting fossil-fuel bans will likely have to back off those holistic mandates. It’s much more likely to take several more years (another half century?) before ZEV adoption becomes accepted at that level. It will be tied into radical transformation in how we drive and get around town. An integration of autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electrification will be behind it, but that is going to take decades to meet thorough testing and safety standards, insurance and liability issues, and to gain enough confidence and trust to reach mass scale. I expect that governments will go back to mandating a certain percentage of new vehicle sales meet their mandates; incentive programs will probably have to be deployed in China and other markets.
  • There’s also the issue of fleet and commercial vehicles used in transport, delivery, and moving employees and customers from Point A to Point B. Fleets are likely to integrate the fuels and technologies – with trucks and buses powered by renewable natural gas and renewable diesel, electrification, and propane and natural gas; and hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric passenger vehicles used by law enforcement agencies, administrative vehicles, and other functions. Fleet operators make decisions based on economic and environmental factors, along with functionality and ease of use, as do consumers.

For Today: Canada bringing out ZEV policy in 2018, Two significant events coming up

Canada adopting ZEV policy: Canada will be developing a national policy supporting more adoption of zero emission vehicles for release next year. The ministries of Transport and Innovation, Science and Economic Development will work with provincial and territorial partners, industry, and stakeholders, to promote sales and infrastructure for battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles. An Advisory Group has been set up to explore five key barriers for greater adoption of these vehicles: vehicle supply, cost and benefits of ownership, infrastructure readiness, public awareness, and clean growth and clean jobs. The national government has been funding more charging stations and alternative fuel gas stations including hydrogen and natural gas.

Resolving differing fuel economy policies:  Six U.S. senators introduced legislation Friday to bring consistency to the practice of transferring fleetwide credits earned under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency emissions programs. It’s been asked for by automakers since last year, but is finding opposition from environmental and consumer advocacy groups concerned it weaken federal emission standards. The Fuel Economy Harmonization Act is aimed at correcting statutory differences between the programs related to the expiration date, amount and type of credits manufacturers can earn in one model year and apply to another. Regulators would also be called upon to harmonize other aspects of their programs.

Nissan selling stake in AESC:  Nissan is close to selling its stake in battery supplier AESC (Automotive Energy Supply Corp.), which has supplied battery cells and modules to the Nissan Leaf, e-NV200, and a few Renault models. The Japanese automaker has owned a 51% stake and NEC Corp. the remaining 49%.  Nissan will be selling its stake to Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital for $1 billion in a deal expected to be signed within two weeks.

Two events to watch for: EV Roadmap 10 and ITEC2017
The EV Roadmap Conference brings together stakeholders from utilities, local governments, vehicle manufacturers, charging providers, interest groups, and drivers to explore emerging trends, share best practices, and map the road ahead. Produced by Forth (formerly Drive Oregon), the event will take place June 20-21 in Portland, Ore. Attendees will explore widespread electric vehicle adoption and the supportive ecosystem needed for it to succeed.

ITEC2017 is aimed at helping the industry in the transition from conventional vehicles to advanced electrified vehicles. IEEE’s Transportation Electrification Conference & Expo will be held June 22-24 in Chicago. The conference is focused on components, systems, standards, and grid interface technologies, related to efficient power conversion for all types of electrified transportation, including electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; as well as heavy-duty, rail, and off-road vehicles and airplanes and ships.

This Week’s Top 10: CARB stays with clean car program, Keystone pipeline backed by Trump administration

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. California stays with it:  The California Air Resources Board has approved the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) program, which reaffirms vehicle emissions standards set through 2025 should stay on track. The approved measure also mandates development of stronger requirements for vehicles manufactured in subsequent model years. It was created in 2012 in conjunction with the federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules, which may be weakened in Washington by the Trump administration over the next year. It could be the start of a clash between California and the federal government. California’s zero-emission vehicle regulation requires auto manufacturers to produce an increasing number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel-cell electric vehicles. CARB also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.
  2. Keystone pipeline approved:  The U.S. State Department’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is expected to face a series of hurdles in states directly affected and which have yet to approve. President Donald Trump had committed to Canadian oil company TransCanada to lift the Obama administration’s ban on the pipeline. The 1,200-mile pipeline will transport heavy crude oil from tar sands mines in Canada to a second existing pipeline, which will deliver the crude oil to specialized refineries in Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club are expected to file legal challenges to final approval and building of the pipeline.
  3. Tesla gets new investor:  Tesla Inc. reported that Chinese tech giant Tencent Holding has taken a 5% stake in the electric automaker for $1.78 billion. Tencent has been playing a role investing in U.S. and Chinese mobility startups in self-driving, electrified vehicles. The company has been best known for its WeChat mobile messaging app. Other EV-maker investments include NextEV, a Shangai-based startup which recently renamed itself Nio. That company has a Silicon Valley office not far from Tesla’s headquarters. Future Mobility is another Chinese startup Tencent has funded.
  4. Uber crash:  Uber is returning part of its autonomous test fleet to San Francisco after experiencing a collision Saturday that ended up grounding the fleet. Uber has been cleared from the accident in Tempe, Ariz., with police saying the crash occurred because a human-driven vehicle failed to yield to the autonomous Uber test vehicle. Uber’s test vehicles are able to travel autonomously, but the company keeps a human driver in the passenger seat ready to take over the car if necessary. Uber, as a company, continues to deal with a wave of bad news.
  5. Musk backs artificial intelligence venture:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken on another passion: Neuralink. Musk is backing the startup venture that, as he says, will merge “biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The business will be centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain. The end game will be helping human minds partner with software and keep pace with advancement in artificial intelligence. Memory could be improved, and the capacity for human minds to interface with computing devices will be tested. The new system will explore how brain interfaces might alleviate the symptoms of dangerous and chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy and severe depressive disorder. Musk is excited about being part of the “neural lace,” which is a sci-fi term for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves. He’s been known for debating other entrepreneurs in the artificial intelligence community, which is tied into SpaceX, robotic manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and other topics.
  6. New York EV incentives:  New York has set up an incentive program for purchasing electric vehicles that supports longer range, affordable cars. Only a few vehicles, like the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV, will take advantage of the full $2,000 incentive. Requirements for the full incentive are selling electric cars with a range of over 120 miles and a price tag at less than $60,000. Expensive electric cars like the Tesla Model S and Model X, and the BMW i8, can only receive a $500 incentive.
  7. Aerovironment and eMotorWerks:  AeroVironment will be integrating eMotorWerks’ JuiceNet smart-grid electric vehicle charging platform into AeroVironment’s line of charging products. The worked relationship is aimed at helping consumers find increased charging capabilities utilities to assist in managing demand load aggregation. EV drivers will be able to tie in their smartphones, web, and Amazon Alexa voice control over charging. They’ll also be able to tap into other features like looking at real time and historic energy usage for charging and notifications of charging status and other resources for lowering their utility bills.
  8. ACT Expo keynoters:  The speaker lineup has been announced for ACT Expo 2017. Thom Shea, President and CEO of Adamantine Alliance, will share his experience on navigating through challenging times based on his experience as a highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL, author, and leadership and human performance coach. With a number of policy and budget changes at the federal level, and the always present oil price roller coaster, the advanced technology and alternative fuels sectors face continued uncertainty and possible headwinds. Other speakers announced by ACT Expo include: Pete Melin, Director of Zero Emission Technology, Metro Transit of King County on managing a transit fleet integrating 120 battery electric buses into its operations; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, New York City Department of Sanitation on the world’s largest sanitation department testing DME and other efficiency measures; Sandra Berg, Vice Chair, California Air Resources Board on the agency’s role in advanced clean transportation policies; Kary Schaefer, General Manager, Marketing and Strategy, Daimler Trucks North America on leading the way in technology development for advanced clean trucking; Rob Neitzke, President, Cummins Westport on the company’s experience launching the game changing .02g NOx engine. Plus dozens more. See the full agenda and you can get a good look at the display vehicles.
  9. MUD chargers:  A new report by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation identifies multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) that could be targeted for outreach as they exhibit high latent demand for plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) and low-cost installation of charging equipment. In order to reach California’s goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles by 2025, residents of apartments, condominiums and other MUDs need to be assured that they can charge their PEV at home, writes, Alex Turek, Project Manager, at Luskin Center.
  10. Cost of fuel economy standards:  International Council on Clean Transportation, an independent research group, released a report stating that automakers costs could be reduced by 34 percent to 40 percent per vehicle in the 2022 through 2025 phase of the federal fuel economy standards if enacted from what was approved in January by the Obama administration. Much of that is already happening with automakers utilizing new technologies like turbochargers and advanced transmissions, and lighter weight materials such as aluminum. ICCT has played a role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal investigations, and worked closely with California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the findings.

Looking beyond the White House for strategic planning in clean transportation

The Trump administration is keeping the president’s campaign promises supporting fossil fuels and pushing back on clean energy and efficient, clean transport. The State Department’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline last week raised hackles further for many. Low-to-moderate gasoline and diesel prices aren’t helping make the business case for clean fuel and technologies, either.

Breakthroughs in vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions reductions, clean fuel infrastructure, battery range, renewables, and electrified vehicles sales, are helping solidify the business case for policy and funding support; but, it isn’t the right time to gain broader support.

Fleet operators and suppliers attending the Work Truck Show and Green Truck Summit recently in Indianapolis reported on mixed results for sales. Interest in alternative fuel trucks rose from 2011 through 2013, when fuel prices approached $4 a gallon nationally, but has stayed down since then. Customers are harder to see with payback on the investment taking longer. Perception of things changing in Washington also played into the mood.

Some companies and fleets had good news to report. California-based Motiv Power Systems has been seeing an uptick for electric delivery trucks and school buses built on a Ford truck chassis. State-based incentive programs are taking the pressure off likely cuts in federal subsidies, the company said. California continues to be strong, and the New York and Chicago metro areas have paid off with similar purchase incentive programs in place. AmeriPride Services, a linen and uniform supply company, will bring 30 Motiv trucks to its fleet.

Daimler AG’s Mitsubishi Fuso division said it will bring a new line of electric work trucks to North America this year. A lease program will be offered for its eCanter medium-duty electric truck. The company said it will also rollout a second generation model within two years. Fuso forecasts growing market demand for urban electric trucks as cities in Europe consider banning fossil-fuel trucks by 2030 through climate change policies; and pressure by cities to reduce congestion, pollution, and noise is helping grow demand.

UPS, known for having the largest and most diverse alternative fuel fleet, announced it will spend $90 million to add six more CNG fueling stations and to purchase 390 CNG and 50 LNG trucks.

Ohio-based Workhorse Group showed its all-electric pickup truck that will come to market next year. Recently, the company announced it has received Letters of Intent from fleets totaling 2,150 of the Workhorse W-15 electric pickups. Deals are being made with Duke Energy, Portland General Electric, the city of Orlando, Southern California Public Power Authority, Clean Fuels Ohio, and one other utility.

Soon after the Work Truck Show, a port trucking company announced it will bring in low carbon natural gas engine trucks using Cummins Westport’s new ISX12 G natural gas engines. Total Transportation Services Inc., a large drayage trucking company serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, has started using one of the trucks to move cargo containers around the port complex.

An 8.9-liter version of the Cummins Westport engine has been certified by the California Air Resources Board to produce 90 percent less NOx than permitted in diesel engines under the current guideline of 0.2 grams per horsepower-hour; a 12-liter variation is also expected to gain CARB approval. If run on renewable natural gas, heavy-duty trucks can reduce greenhouse gas methane emissions by 70%, the company said.

On the passenger vehicle side, several auto analysts see Trump rolling back fuel economy mandates as having limited effect – with other market forces leading the way. Aggressive targets Europe and China will have more impact on the globalized auto industry than it would have had years ago. Strong and growing consumer expectations for increasing fuel efficient vehicles is another market dynamic that can’t be ignored, they say.

California, Oregon, and eight states in the northeast, are following California’s zero emission vehicle mandates. Collectively, these states make up 30 percent of U.S. auto sales. Automakers have faced many years of resenting California’s rules going back to catalytic converters and the first gas stations with E-10 gasoline. Now they’re concerned over high targets being far ahead of consumer demand for all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

Tangible growth in clean transportation and energy appear to need a combination of long-term strategic planning more common in Asia, and with technology innovations usually seen first in the U.S. and Europe. Automakers like Toyota and Honda are leading-edge in engine performance, efficiency, electronics, and alternative powertrains; but they tend to take a more conservative and gradual approach to rolling out zero emission vehicles and automated systems. That said, Toyota’s kaizen philosophy of “change for better” has influenced other global automakers and suppliers and brought improvements in quality, safety, and integrating its technologies with partners such as dashboard infotainment features.

Luxury automakers are committing to roll out futuristic and electrified vehicles in large volumes much sooner, but they’ll need to gain sustained support from board members, shareholders, and customers. There is a great deal of concern about making electric vehicles more profitable.

BMW’s “A new era has begun” video released last week says it all. Strategies are described for the company’s Vision Next 100 models from its BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce, and BMW Motorrad motorcycle brands. The Motorrad Vision looks like it was designed for the next “Batman” movie; the three car models look like they won’t be released for a long time. Everything will be connected and automated, and most of them electrified.

Commercial vehicle makers (heavy trucks, work trucks, vans, and buses) are in a similar spot, complying with stricter emissions standards and convincing buyers to reach a tipping point and make acquisitions taking longer to justify in return on investment.

Europe and China emissions targets don’t appear to be lowering. EU headed there for years with concern over diesel with VW scandal pushing it over the edge. Daimler and BMW have taken on huge goals for sales with these markets being critical and Tesla’s presence and public awareness spreading globally.

China is starting to cut back on manufacturer and car buyer subsidies, but the government stays committed to reducing emissions in the country. It’s plug-in vehicle sales boom is a sign of that, and China may take on a regulatory structure similar to California’s. While down at the beginning of the year with softening incentives, they seem to be going back up.

Most of the experts speaking on industry panels, and writing white papers and policy on the issues, do see transformational technologies and mobility models moving along much faster than expected.

The Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis just released survey results tied into the ITS-Davis’ new policy initiative, “Three Revolutions: Sharing, Electrification and Automation.” That report features a set of policy briefs written by transportation policy experts; and in-depth survey interviews with 40 experts on the subject from government and nonprofit organizations, and representatives from automakers and technology companies. About 70% think that by 2040, fully autonomous vehicles will make up more than 20% of vehicles sold in the U.S. Shared rides will go from 5% of all passenger miles by 2030 to more than 20% of miles driven by 2040, according to about 80% of the respondents.

Most vehicles used by ridesharing and carsharing firms till be zero emission vehicles by 2050, about 70 of survey respondents said. That includes battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles.

“This survey shows us that without thoughtful collaboration and community-facing policies, these changes would lead to increased inequities, vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions. We need to be creative to steer these innovations to the public interest,” said ITS-Davis Director Dan Sperling.

BMW outlined its experience in carsharing services in its new corporate sustainability report. The German automaker reported that more than 853,000 customers worldwide used the BMW Group’s carsharing services in 2016 – an increase of 45% compared with the year before. In Europe, BMW’s DriveNow fleet has more than 5,400 vehicles with all-electric i3s making up about 15% of the fleet. Around 190,000 customers have already driven approximately 6.5 million emission-free kilometers with the fleet’s electric BMW i3

The European DriveNow fleet currently comprises more than 5,400 vehicles, of which 15.4% are pure electric BMW i3s. As of 31 Dec. 2016, DriveNow served around 607,000 customers in Germany and roughly 815,000 Europe-wide (2015: over 580,000 Europe-wide). DriveNow is one of the main driving forces for electro-mobility in Germany. Around 190,000 customers have already driven approximately 6.5 million emission-free kilometers (about 4.04 million miles) with the fleet’s electric BMW i3.

Editor’s Notes: Will California and other states support plug-in hybrids on the ZEV path?

ZEVs by 2025In October 2013, eight states signed an agreement to support bringing 3.3 million zero emission vehicles (ZEV) to their roads by 2025. Led by California, governors from seven other states also signed a memorandum of understanding to do so – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. At that time, ZEVs were to include battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles – and could be used in passenger cars, trucks, and transit buses.

More recently, the California Air Resources Board, the agency implementing the ZEV rules in the state, has been leaning toward battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles while downplaying plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. California has a goal of cutting its carbon emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Vehicles would need to be fully electric, and plug-in hybrids wouldn’t cut it, said CARB Chairman Mary Nichols.

Here are my thoughts on where this trend could be heading…………..

There might be a way to realistically compromise. Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota have filed a complaint with CARB arguing that vehicle owners are more likely to accept and adopt plug-in hybrids to relieve their range anxiety – and these vehicles are more likely to be accepted in the short run. These automakers pointed to a 2014 analysis by the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to make their case. “Researchers crunched data from 21,600 EVs and plug-in hybrids and found that Volt owners were averaging 9,112 e-miles per year, just shy of Leaf owners’ 9,697 e-miles — even though the Volt can go only half as far before running out of battery power,” according to Automotive News. Dan Sperling, a CARB member and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis, tends to agree with automakers on this point. He would rather see two plug-in hybrids on the road than one all-electric vehicle. Taking a more flexible approach is the way to go, according to Sperling. The state is likely to see far more “e-miles in 2030” by supporting plug-in hybrids than would be seen with pure EVs.

Next-gen batteries are still two-to-three years away. Automakers are working with major battery suppliers to offer electric vehicles that are more affordable to consumers and can go at least 200 miles on a single charge. It’s expected to be two-to-three years from now for that to be here, but it could take longer – and there are only so many Tesla models that can go 265 or more miles out on the roads.

Commercial vehicles need extended range. While some vehicles like drayage trucks at ports might be ideal for battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell, many of them will be on roads for hundreds of miles per day and will need to get there. Trucks being tried out in agribusiness in the Central Valley of California are tipping toward plug-in hybrid systems.

Dual fuel and plug-in hybrid could be a good way to go. What if you were to drive a bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Impala that was also built on the Voltec plug-in hybrid drivetrain? That would offer the driver an opportunity to power the car on natural gas (which emits about 25% less greenhouse gas than a gasoline-engine vehicle), battery power (zero percent emissions) and then have gasoline left over to power the car to take away range anxiety. That might be ideal for fleets that worry about having drivers stuck out on roads. In the next few years, there will be a lot more clean fuels out there, including dimethyl ether (DME), biogas (renewable natural gas), algae biofuel, biodiesel, and renewable diesel. A plug-in hybrid that also runs on a clean fuel would be able to offer extended range and reduced emissions – meeting all the targets.

OEMs are leaning toward plug-in hybrids.  Battery electrics are doing better than plug-in hybrids in US sales right now, but that tends to be weighted toward the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and the BMW i3. If you look at the product pipelines for major automakers, most of the models coming out are plug-in hybrid. The challenge here will be picking up their sales volume, which will need incentives and more public education about charging and ownership cost. In the long run, plug-in hybrids/extended range electric vehicles appear likely to equal or surpass battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle sales numbers.

CARB will probably tip in this direction. Automakers are pushing for it and Mary Nichols did acknowledge compromise may be there. Battles between major OEMs and California reached a stalemate in the 1990s, and both automaker executives and government officials in Sacramento are taking a more moderate approach this time around. Nichols said she is wrestling with the best way to reach the state’s emissions goal. “I don’t know where you would find a better example anywhere in the world,” Nichols said, “of a public deliberating body struggling with a really big issue.”

Big Picture: Nissan joins Tesla in selling ZEV credits, Volvo Trucks upping its green credentials, Toyota improving Prius performance

Nissan Leaf ZEV creditsHere’s my take on top news stories of the week:

  1. One of the gains made by selling plug-in electric vehicles in California is gaining zero emission vehicle (ZEV) credits and selling them to your competitors. Nissan Motor Co. now joins Tesla Motors in selling green-car credits. California requires large automakers to sell electric or other ZEVs in proportion to their market share in the state. Nissan has sold enough Leafs that it can sell its excess carbon credits to other automakers. The Tesla Model S can generate up to seven ZEV credits because of its range of as much as 300 miles per charge and the option of swapping its battery pack with a charged one (the company will open its first battery swap facility by year’s end). The Leaf earns three credits through the state program.
  2. Volvo Trucks is upping its green credentials even more – Through its Climate-Smart City Distribution project, emissions from 400 distribution trucks were cut between 30% and 80% over three years. Volvo worked with several partners to improve the efficiency of distribution operations in Gothenburg, Sweden. Conventional diesel distribution trucks were replaced with vehicles using renewable fuels – biodiesel, biogas, and dimethyl ether (DME); hybrid technology; and methane-diesel fuel. Volvo and Mack Trucks are committed to bringing DME powered trucks to roads soon; earlier this year, Volvo unveiled plug-in hybrid buses as part of a field test.
  3. Toyota is optimistic that its next generation Prius will get even better fuel economy and cost even less. Improvements will come through using lighter materials and significant advances in battery, electric motor, and gas engine technologies, the company said. Toyota thinks its miles per gallon rating on the hatchback Prius will gain from 50 mpg to near 55. It’s likely to come out in 2015. It next generation batteries will have higher energy density. For the Prius and other Toyota models, the automakers is working on a diverse set of batteries – lithium ion, nickel metal hydride, solid state, lithium air, and magnesium.
  4. Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) and its GoElectricDrive Foundation have a partnership with Green Sports Alliance dedicated to improve the environmental performance of sports teams and facilities. Since being founded in March 2011 by six professional teams and five venues, Green Sports Alliance now has over 170 professional and collegiate teams from 15 different sports leagues. Members include Anaheim Ducks, Baltimore Ravens, Boston Red Sox, LA Dodgers, Miami Marlins, New York Jets, and University of Texas Longhorns. EDTA and Green Sports Alliance will show organizations the benefits of integrating electric drive in their fleets, and giving fans a place to charge up their EVs while watching a ballgame, said Brian Wynne, president of EDTA.
  5. The 2013 AltCar Fleet Conference and Expo will be put on by the City of Santa Monica on Sept. 20-21. It tends to offer the best green vehicle display and ride and drive with just about e everything you can think of available to check out. As for speakers at the Friday fleet conference, these will include Terry Tamminen, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; David Friedman, deputy administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration; JR DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center at UCLA; Randall Winston, special assistant to the executive secretary, office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.; Jon Coleman, fleet sustainability & technology manager for Ford Motor Co.; and Richard Battersby, Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year, from East Bay Clean Cities. Vehicle debuts will include Southern California Gas Company’s west coast introduction of four new prototype consumer vehicles built to run on compressed natural gas and capable of using gasoline as backup.
  6. CleanFUEL USA has just brought in Blair Poulsen as its director of sales; Poulsen brings more than 23 years of propane industry experience to the company. He was most recently regional sales and marketing director for Heritage Propane and AmeriGas Propane, and currently serves on the Nevada Board of Regulation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas. Poulsen will lead a team serving clients in propane refueling infrastructure and OEM vehicle technology, including Thomas Built Bus, Collins Bus, General Motors Corp., and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.
  7. You think regenerative braking is pretty cool? How about a regenerative suspension? German automotive parts maker ZF says it’s bringing the first technology of its kind to the world. ZF Friedrichshafen AG has teamed up with Levant Power Corp. to product a system that works like regen braking, recapturing energy when the suspension gets put in motion. It would take away the large amount of energy needed by suspension systems and increase fuel economy.
  8. Is your community burdened by dirty coal? How about converting over to cleaner natural gas? Navigant Research is hosting a webinar on Sept. 10 that will explore that topic. Utilities are shutting down a lot of aging coal-powered plants through 2020. There are costs and complexities involved in switching over to natural gas that will be discussed by panelists, including examples of plants that have gone through these conversions in recent years.
  9. States like California are digging into the best financial models for reducing traffic congestion and repairing worn out roads. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) taxes, gasoline tax increases, road tolls, increasing vehicle licensing and registration fees, transportation-focused sales tax, and infrastructure bonds – and all they pluses and minuses – are explored in an article that was just published in Westways. It’s a very tough issue that states are going through.
  10. Reincarnated electric carmaker Detroit Electric will still be making its all-electric SP:01, only it won’t be happening in Detroit. Its Lotus-based sports car will be made in the Netherlands, and production will start in the fourth quarter of this year. The company was going to bring jobs to Detroit initially – 2,500 cars per years with a workforce of 100. Plans started being delayed in June, as the company said it couldn’t find the right manufacturing location in Wayne County, Mich., where Detroit is located.