This Week’s Top 10: ACT Expo agenda released, VW hopes electric vehicles can help restore its image
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…….
- ACT Expo: The agenda was released and the early bird registration opened last week for the sixth annual 2016 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, taking place May 2–5 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Southern California. Co-hosted with the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Propane Education & Research Council, and the California Hydrogen Business Council, ACT Expo has become North America’s largest advanced clean vehicle event. The conference’s name was changed from Alternative Clean Transportation Expo to Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, emphasizing the emerging importance of urban mobility, and connected and autonomous vehicle technologies, in the clean transportation sector. Electrified transportation will also play a significant role in the event, as reflected in a complimentary, one-hour webinar this morning at 10:00 a.m. PST, which explains what we can expect from the electric vehicle charging infrastructure industry. Attendees at ACT Expo will gain hands-on access to the wide range of clean transportation solutions available, which includes electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, renewable fuels, and advanced efficiency, telematics, and connected vehicle technologies.
- Latest on VW: Volkswagen is hoping its commitment to advanced electric vehicles will help restore its corporate responsibility image in the wake of the diesel car scandal. The VW Tiguan GTE Active Concept is making its North American International Auto Show debut, as an “extreme off-road version” of the current VW SUV with a plug-in hybrid system that can get up to 20 miles on battery power. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was also a showcase for VW’s cleantech mission. The VW BUDD-e concept offers a new modular platform toolkit designed for electric vehicles that the automaker intends to deploy across its brands. (Read more in the CES feature). As for the diesel cars, Volkswagen Group assumes it will have to buy back about 115,000 cars in the U.S. to deal with the scandal. The German automaker expects it will have to either refund the purchase price or offer a new car at a significant discount. The automaker expects that the rest of the vehicles will need major fix-its. In other news, a former FBI director has been named by a federal judge to help settle cases. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he would name Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, as “settlement master” in the VW lawsuits. Breyer is overseeing more than 500 lawsuits filed against Volkswagen AG over its excess diesel emissions.
- Chrysler is entering the plug-in market with the very first electrified minivan. Displayed at Detroit Auto Show, the all-new Pacifica is the first minivan with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Chrysler has used the name Pacifica for a crossover utility vehicle sold in the mid-2000s. It replaces Chrysler’s Town & Country, which rolled out in 1989 and became iconic in the emerging minivan market along with the Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan. Its official names is the Pacifica Hybrid, uses the latest Pentastar V-6 from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
- CALSTART opens clean transportation center: CALSTART yesterday announced it has opened the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center, the goal of which is to accelerate the use of clean vehicles and fuels and help the region more quickly meet its air quality targets. With funding from the California Energy Commission, the Center will provide technical assistance, project development expertise, and support with acquiring funding for vehicles for fleet owners, local governments, businesses, and residents. Based in Fresno, Calif., the Center’s work will expand the use of zero-emission vehicles, clean trucks, and high-efficiency non-road equipment.
- EPA certifications: Three companies and an industry trade group have earned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifications for alternative fuel vehicle technologies. Greenkraft Inc. has received EPA and California Air Resources Board certifications for compressed natural gas and propane autogas conversions of the model-year 2016 General Motors 6.0L V8 engine. Cummins has received certification for its lineup of on-highway diesel and natural gas engines from the EPA. IMPCO Automotive has received EPA certification for its 2016 Ford F150 (half ton). The truck features the 5.0-Liter TI-VCT V8 engine converted for bi-fuel operation. Alliance AutoGas has secured EPA certifications for bi-fuel propane autogas conversions of two heavy-duty spark-ignited engine platforms: the 6.8-liter V10 from Ford and the 6.0-liter V8 from General Motors. Depending on the engine certification, model year coverage ranges from 2010 up to 2016.
- Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide has received an additional development contract from Karma Automotive for software control and system development of the Karma vehicle platform. Quantum received a payment of $2 million in October from Karma Automotive which will also allow Karma Automotive to use the Quantum software on future vehicle line platforms, as well as the Karma vehicle to be introduced in 2016. In November, Karma Automotive exercised its option to acquire joint ownership of Quantum’s control software for $1 million.
- MPG down: The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported that average fuel economy of light vehicles purchased last year fell below 25 mpg for the first time in nearly two years. Light vehicles sold in December averaged 24.9 mpg, down from November’s revised 25.1 mpg. Fuel economy is down 0.9 mpg from August 2014’s peak of 25.8 mpg; it’s still up 4.8 mpg since October 2007, when the institute began recording the data.
- Elio Motors may have a serious challenge to face with a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal to change its regulations for three-wheeled vehicles. Elio wants to classify three-wheelers as motorcycles to avoid the stricter safety and efficiency regulations that govern cars; but if the rule is changed, that classification would only be assigned to traditional motorcycles.
- Micro-hybrids and 54.5 mpg: Lux Research’s analysis has found that micro-hybrids will provide the most economical route to meeting 2025 targets. Micro-hybrids stand a better chance of meeting the federal 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard than will alternative technologies like all-electric vehicles, super-light carbon fiber composites, and hydrogen fuel cells. Lux Research says that a micro-hybrid car can automatically stop its engine when it would otherwise be idling, using an improved or an additional battery (or another type of energy storage) to quickly restart it when it’s time to move; with some even capture braking energy and do propulsion assist. Improved batteries, lighter structural materials, and improved fuels will support micro-hybrids in meeting the federal targets, Lux Research says.
- NGV forecast: While drops in oil prices since the second half of 2014 and gains in battery cost reduction and capacity are hindering some of the advantages of natural gas vehicles, the market is still expected to experience growth. Navigant Research does predict growth in the NGV market through 2025, though at a slower pace than was assumed a few years ago. Other factors will be affecting regional markets – including ongoing political tensions, the availability of refueling infrastructure, tightening tailpipe emissions requirements, and total cost of ownership, says Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.