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…….
- BMW’s next phase: BMW is making a move to reaffirm its top spot as the largest global luxury carmaker with announcements on the iNEXT autonomous electric vehicle, additions to the i3 and i8 models, and more versions of the high-end 7-series sedan and X7 SUV. During BMW’s annual financial press conference, CEO Harald Krueger said the iNEXT will arrive in the next 10 years and will use new sensor technology and powerful software for automated driving. Krueger said it “will set a new benchmark in this area.” The company will soon launch a roadster version of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, a new version of its i3 with increased battery capacity and a longer range, as well as a plug-in hybrid for its Mini brand. Daimler has been poised to seize the No. 1 luxury spot, and BMW has been reevaluating its product lineup and market identity. BMW would also like to strengthen sales of the i3, which have dropped lately, and its image as the most sustainable luxury brand in the world competing head on with Tesla.
- EVI acquisition: Electric Vehicles International (EVI), a maker of battery electric light- and medium-duty trucks and a plug-in hybrid utility service truck, has been acquired by First Priority GreenFleet. First Priority GreenFleet describes itself as “a total solutions provider to sustainable fleets that brings customers a full range of zero and low-emission vehicles that allow them to select the products and infrastructure that best fits their needs.” Its parent company, First Priority Global, manufactures a variety of specialty vehicles, including firefighting, medical, rescue, and public safety equipment. EVI also sells powertrains and performs conversions.
- Federal tax credits: For those electric vehicle owners looking at federal income tax credits before their annual tax filing next month, Green Car Reports has provided an update on vehicles sold through the end of December 2015……. 2012-2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: $2,500; 2013-2016 Ford Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi: $4,007; 2011-2016 Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and other battery electric and plug-in hybrid models: $7,500.
- Audi expands e-gas: Audi’s new Allendorf plant in Germany is expanding capacities for its sustainably produced e-gas through its partner company, the Viessmann Group. Viessmann is the first partner company to produce additional quantities of the synthetic fuel in a new type of biological process. In the Audi e-gas plant in Werlte, e-gas has been produced using a chemical-catalytic process under high pressure and high temperature. In the new Viessmann plant, methanation is now purely biological and creates a new molecule methane. Audi will be able to supply a growing number of customers with sustainably produced e-gas in the future.
- UPS investing in NGVs: UPS is making a major investment in natural gas vehicles and fueling stations – $100 million on 12 more U.S. fueling stations and 380 more heavy-duty tractors powered by compressed natural gas. TruStar Energy is building the fueling stations, Kentworth Truck is providing the tractors, Cummins Westport the ISX 12G engines, and Agility and Quantum Fuel Systems will provide the CNG systems on the trucks. UPS is now operating 6,840 all-electric, hybrid-electric, hydraulic-hybrid, CNG, liquefied natural gas, and propane-powered vehicles.
- Renewable diesel webinar: Check out a webinar on renewable diesel and the EPA’s Clean Diesel Program. Hosted by the Center for Alternative Fuels and the Green Transportation Summit and Expo, Dan Brown of the US EPA Region Nine and Gary Lentsch from Eugene Water & Electric Board talked about new tools to help you offset your carbon footprint and maintain regulatory compliance. Other discussion topics included options for accessing public funding to offset the cost of compliance with CARB and EPA regulations; and discovering the benefits and arguments for renewable diesel.
- Hydrogen racer: Attendees at the Geneva Motor Show got to see the world’s fastest hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, H2 Speed. Italian car design firm and coachbuilder Pininfarina showed off the H2 Speed Concept. So far it’s a track-only hydrogen-powered car that can go 180 mph and can shoot from 0 to 62 in 3.4 seconds. The company estimates 300 to 350 people in the world are prepared to pay a seven-figure sum to own the zero emission exclusive sports car.
- EV advocate dealer: Max Myers Chevrolet, of Middlebury, Ind., has been credited by electric-car advocates Chris Neff and Tiffany Raim as being a leader in bringing plug-in electric vehicles to the heartland of America. Second-generation owner Neal Myers has sold out every Chevrolet Volt it’s had delivered since they went on the market in 2011. Customers include out-of-state buyers and locals. The dealers’ staff has been trained on Chevrolet’s plug-in vehicles; and Myers regularly sends them to training courses to make sure they’re staying current. Even with low gasoline prices, Myers says the trick is reaching interested consumers and inviting them to visit for a test drive.
- VW remediation fund: Volkswagen has been in talks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California regulators to establish a national remediation fund and a separate one for California, according to an inside source. This will be a penalty enforcement for emissions from its cars after the automaker cheated on diesel-emissions tests. The EPA fund would be used to promote clean transportation throughout the U.S.; the other would be run by California to promote zero-emission vehicles in the state.
- Dealer group suing Virginia and Tesla: The Virginia Automobile Dealers Association (VADA) sued both Tesla Motors and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles alleging a conspiracy to ‘hide’ the opening of a second Tesla retail store. The state is considering a second Tesla location in the city of Richmond; the suit alleges that Virginia’s DMV and Tesla have been violating the terms of a 2013 agreement that prevents Tesla from opening a second facility in the state until 2017.