This Week’s Top 10: Federal fleet bringing in lots of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles, Tesla given the greenlight again in New Jersey

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. Federal fleet electric vehicleThe White House says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the federal fleet by 30% by 2025 as it ramps up purchases of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles. By 2020, zero emission (battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will make up at least 20% of new vehicle purchases, and that will go up to 50% by 2025. Federal agencies have also been directed to make sure adequate charging becomes available for these fleet vehicles. It’s part of a broader effort by the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2025 over 2008 levels and save $18 billion in energy costs.
  2. Tesla Motors has been given the greenlight in New Jersey to sell its electric cars at non-dealership corporate stores. A bill signed by Governor Chris Christie will once again allow Tesla to directly sell its electric cars in the state through its retail locations. A year ago, the governor enacted a rule that blocked Tesla from selling cars this way, only allowing for franchised dealers to sell new cars in the state. Tesla can no go back to operating up to four retail locations in the state and one service center.
  3. It’s cheaper to pay for a two-year lease now $199 per month versus the previous $259 for the Honda Fit EV. Customers can extend their lease with unlimited mileage, routine maintenance, and collision coverage if they prefer; new customers can get the same deal on used Fit EV. The Fit EV is powered by a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 92-kilowatt electric motor.
  4. Medium duty plug-in hybrids are popular with fleets – as was discussed during an ACT Expo webinar last week, “Electrify Your Fleet.” Matt Jarmuz, director of sales at Odyne Systems, is seeing fleets save up to 50% or more on fuels switching over to plug-in hybrids, and some are utilizing EPAct credits. Ned Biehl, chief of staff for the Transportation Services & Aviation department at PG&E, says that his fleet is being agnostic to suppliers but sound in their business strategy in choosing the best technology. The fleet has a broad mix of electric, hybrid, natural gas, propane, and biodiesel-powered vehicles.
  5. BMW Group CEO Norbert Reithofer sees the obvious: political initiatives in a number of the carmaker’s key markets are important in helping to boost sales of its i3 electric compact car. Norway is a good example of it for Reithofer, where the government offers a well-established charging structure with free parking and charging and where there are no sales or registration taxes on electric vehicles (EVs); that helped BMW sell 2,000 i3s last year in that country, almost one quarter of its total sales in Norway. Half of its US i3 sales were in California with its rebate for buying an EV and its dedicated carpool lane stickers. EV buyers in Shanghai get to avoid the restrictive and expensive vehicle licensing process; in Europe, the UK and France offer EV buyers financial incentives and Germany exempts EVs from its annual vehicle tax for 10 years. BMW disputed media reports saying its third EV model after the i3 and i8 would be a variant of the X5 premium large SUV. Last year, BMW’s global sales of the i3 and the i8 were a combined 17,800 units.
  6. Automakers are covering their bets when it comes to meeting strict standards in global markets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with fluctuating fuel prices. Navigant Research predicts that gasoline-engine vehicles will still be dominant in new vehicle sales and will meet demand from car buyers who aren’t yet ready for electric vehicles. The research consultancy predicts 59% of light-duty vehicles purchased in 2025 will feature turbochargers. Other changes include implementing more lightweight materials in the vehicles, using smaller engines, stop-start technology, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and transmissions with eight or more speed ratios and high-efficiency internal components.
  7. Tesla Motors doesn’t have a radical new technology rolling out to deal with range anxiety – that worry will be addressed through a software upgrade, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Over-the-air software updates to its Model S sedan will deliver Version 6.2 with two new features — Range Assurance and Trip Planner. One will automatically plan charging stops using the navigation system and the other will warn a driver if a road trip is likely to leave them stranded. These are being tested now with drivers and will be sent out to cars in about a week. Beaming software upgrades will also move the Model S forward on its Autopilot semi-autonomous features. Version 7.0 will arrive this summer. New features haven’t been revealed yet, but it will add to current Autopilot offerings such as the ability to automatically change lanes by flicking on the turn-signal lever.
  8. Ford Motor Co. continues to add to its sustainability roster – its environmentally responsible, high-performance REPREVE fiber that comes originally from plastics dumped into landfills will be available in the all-new F-150 pickup truck. Using the recycled material in the F-150 will allow Ford top divert more than five million plastic bottles from landfills this year.
  9. At the Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz announced that it will add 10 new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) to its lineup by 2017. That means a new PHEV will be rolled out about every four months. The first one was launched last year in the S500 Plug-In Hybrid, and this month, the new Mercedes C350e will roll out.
  10. To comply with stringent emissions and fuel economy standards while nearly doubling its global sales by 2018, Jeep may roll out a new pickup along with the brand’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Jeep CEO Mike Manley talked about it during a preview of seven concept SUVs Jeep will take out onto the trails during its annual Easter Safari in Moab, Utah.
  11. Extra: a teaser for Green Auto Market Extended Edition. This week:  The Formula E race series appears to be taking electric vehicle technology to a new level, gaining passionate support from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and the family dynasty of racing legend Mario Andretti. Several people are very excited about that racing event coming to Long Beach, Calif., next month.

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