This Week’s Top 10: Bill Gates announces investor coalition at COP21, FAST Act approved in Washington

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. COP21Investors announced at COP21: COP21, the United Nations climate change conference being held in Paris, is about halfway through the negotiation process. Nearly 200 countries have gathered for the challenging task of forging a deal; reducing fossil fuel use in energy and transportation is at the heart of discussions. Early last week, billionaire Bill Gates announced formation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of 28 investors that will include Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. The dollar amount hasn’t been announced, but investment funds will be available for biofuels, solar and wind power, efforts to capture carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and other clean energy projects. Another coalition that has met during COP21 is the ZEV Alliance, a group of local and national governments that plans drastic reductions in vehicle emissions over the next 35 years. Members include California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Quebec, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. While the U.S. government hasn’t joined yet, the U.S. said it intends to double its current $5 billion R&D investment portfolio in advanced transportation systems and fuels, along with other cleantech products and technologies.
  2. FAST Act approved in Washington: House and Senate negotiators passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five-year, $305 billion package, late Tuesday in a 1,300 page transportation bill. President Obama signed the bill into law on Friday, with just hours to spare before the scheduled expiration of the nation’s road and transit spending. Critics have warned it doesn’t provide enough funding to deal with several infrastructure issues – nor does it provide a long-term source of funding. Advocates are pleased to see support for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program; incentives for natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure; and support for intelligent transportation systems.
  3. EV sales in November: The Tesla Model S continued its strength as the No. 1 selling plug-in electric vehicle in the U.S. in November. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf continue swapping the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the list. In its second full month on sale, the 2016 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid sold 1,980, bringing sales over for October and November to more than 2,000 a month. With year-to-date sales of 13,279, the Volt follows the Nissan Leaf, which so far has sold 15,922 units in the U.S. The Ford plug-in hybrids – the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi – continue to see moderate and steady sales figures.
  4. SCAQMD strengthens pollution credit trading: The South Coast Air Quality Management District has significantly strengthened the region’s pollution credit trading program, requiring major emission reductions from some of the largest facilities in Southern California. SCAQMD has ordered cumulative reductions of 12 tons per day of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) credits from 56 RECLAIM (Regional Clean Air Incentives Market) facilities to be implemented from 2016 to 2022. Along with internal combustion engines, compliance levels are being monitored for fluid catalytic cracking units, refinery boilers and heaters, refinery and non-refinery gas turbines, cement kilns, glass melting furnaces, metal heat treating and petroleum coke calciners, and other equipment affecting air quality in the region. The AQMD says that since RECLAIM’s adoption in 1993, there’s been a 71% reduction in emissions, new technology for pollution controls, better monitoring and reporting, and a high level of compliance in achieving facility emissions caps.
  5. NYC going electric: New York City will be deploying a lot of electric vehicles into its fleet by 2025, says Mayor Bill de Blasio. EVs could make up half of the city’s non-emergency fleet by that time, and a large network of charging stations will be installed to keep them fueled up. That will include about 2,000 cars used by the Parks and Recreation Department. The fleet will have a mix of battery electric models like the Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt.
  6. Plug-in roundup: More announcements on upcoming plug-in electric vehicles…… Porsche is getting ready to launch its first pure battery-electric supercar, the Mission E. It will deliver a maximum output of 600 horsepower, and will be able to go from 0 to 62 mph (based on kilometer conversion rating), in 3.5 seconds. Porsche said it will be able to travel at least 310 miles per charge, about 5-to-10% more than the Tesla Model S……… Hyundai will launch a new vehicle in January named the Ioniq. It will have available three electrified drivetrain options in one body type – all-electric, traditional gasoline-electric hybrid, or plug-in hybrid powertrain. It will debut in South Korea next month, and then be shown at the Geneva and New York auto shows in March………. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt battery electric vehicle’s production version will be unveiled January at International CES in Las Vegas. A spy photo near Palm Springs, Calif., shows that it closely resembles the 2016 Chevrolet Volt in its grille and side styling. But it looks a bit different than the concept model shown at the 2015 Detroit auto show.
  7. The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), in partnership with the Tulsa Area Clean Cities (TACC), today is launching three newly developed Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) First Responder Safety Training classes at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Okla. Focused on targeted information for firefighters, emergency medical services, and law enforcement, these three courses feature techniques to safely respond to vehicle collisions, incidents and injuries involving alternative fuel vehicles. In addition to the training sessions, activities associated with the training launch include a press conference and an alternative fuel vehicles display. The vehicles on display will be utilized as part of the training sessions and available for viewing by the media and press conference attendees. For more information, contact Judy Moore of NAFTC at Moore@mail.wvu.edu.
  8. M-B fuel cell SUV: Mercedes-Benz will be rolling out a hydrogen fuel cell powered version of its GLC luxury SUV. It will replace the GLK and will be called the GLC F-Cell when it comes out in 2017; and will be revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show to reach showrooms the following year. The SUV is targeted to have a combined range for the fuel cell and battery of up to 373 miles, and a refueling time of three minutes.
  9. Latest on VW diesel scandal: About 50 Volkswagen employees have come forward to testing in an “internal witness program” in Germany; that followed a raid of corporate offices by German prosecutors. In the U.S., sales by the VW brand tumbled by a 24.7% last month. A federal judicial panel will decide soon how to handle the more than 300 lawsuits already filed over the scandal. Plus, VW has lined up a $21 billion bridge loan it may need to cover the costs it’s expected to incur.
  10. Growth in workplace charging: This year, the Workplace Charging Challenge (sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy) celebrated a major milestone – it reached the halfway point to its goal of 500 Challenge partners committed to installing workplace charging by 2018. Their efforts have resulted in more than 600 workplaces with over 5,500 charging stations accessible to nearly one million employees. In 2015, more than 9,000 PEV-driving employees charged at these worksites on a regular basis.

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