This Week’s Top 10: GM and Lyft will offer ridesharing and autonomous vehicles, Justice department files civil suit against VW

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. GM and LyftGM and Lyft forge alliance: General Motors is making its largest single investment ever in another company – $500 million will go to Lyft, Inc. to support advancement of autonomous vehicles and ridesharing. GM has been working on autonomous vehicle technology for several years, and plans to start testing autonomous Chevy Volts in 2016. The deal with Lyft, which is No. 2 in ridesharing services in the U.S. behind Uber, will leverage GM’s experience in autonomous technology and Lyft’s ridesharing service offerings. This deal was made not long after Ford Motor Co. and Google announced an alliance to develop autonomous vehicles. Google Ventures is a major investor in Uber, and that ridesharing company has been testing out driverless cars over the past year with the Carnegie Mellon University research center. Uber may be a channel for Ford vehicles and autonomous vehicle testing, as Lyft will be for GM. As part of the arrangement announced yesterday, GM will become a preferred provider of short-term use rental vehicles to Lyft drivers through rental hubs in various cities in the U.S. Lyft drivers and customers will have access to GM’s wide portfolio of cars and OnStar services, as well.
  2. DOJ files VW suit: The Department of Justice filed a civil complaint yesterday against Volkswagen claiming that nearly 600,000 cars with diesel engines in the U.S. violate emissions laws – and that many were imported in violation of the Clean Air Act. The DOJ and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may be putting pressure on VW to reach a deal on how to resolve recall issues. Talks haven’t been going very well so far, according to EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles. The suit was filed in Detroit on behalf of the EPA. VW says it is “working with EPA on developing remedies to bring the TDI vehicles into full compliance with regulations as soon as possible” and with government agencies investigating these matters.
  3. Faraday Future EV supercar: The FFZero1 concept car has been unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show 2016. The Zero1 is a single-seat electric race car. The design is wild – sort of like the Batmobile meets Grand Prix racer. It’s called the “UFO Line” and will become a defining feature of all Faraday Future’s next supercars, the company says. Another news story coming from Las Vegas has been the company losing its chief battery architect ahead of introducing its concept vehicle at CES. Porter Harris lists his current employer as Lotus Research and Development LLC on his LinkedIn page. Harris was responsible for engineering and designing Faraday’s battery packs.
  4. Ford investing in battery technology: Ford Motor Co. may be competing with another automaker, Tesla Motors, as a developer of its own hybrid and electric vehicle battery technologies. Ford will be investing $4.5 billion into electrification R&D, and is adding 13 new EV vehicle nameplates while expanding its electrified offerings into Taiwan, South Korea, and China. When Ford recently announced a range increase for its 2017 Focus Electric, company executives also shared information on battery chemistry research and developing its own battery cells for its future EVs.
  5. Hyundai Ioniq competing with Prius: Hyundai Motor Co. will be rolling out its Ioniq model in U.S. this month, which comes in three electrified versions – a traditional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric version. The company says that the Ioniq hybrid will deliver better highway fuel economy than the Toyota Prius.
  6. Suggestion to CARB on VW scandal: A collaborative of 15 environmental, conservation, and health organizations issued a rebuttal to a letter submitted to the California Air Resources Board on the Volkswagen diesel scandal. The original letter, signed by Tesla CEO and others last month, requested CARB work to have VW bring zero emission vehicles to the state as a higher priority than fixing non-compliant diesels. That proposal doesn’t deal with the real health impacts, and offers no remedy to purchases of defective VW diesel cars, the letter said. This group is calling for a full investigation and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
  7. California ending green stickers: If you’re thinking of buying a plug-in hybrid in California, keep in mind that the green carpool lane stickers for solo drivers will no longer be available. The state has issued all of the 85,000 green HOV lane stickers for plug-in hybrids, unless the state legislature authorizes more of them. They may be going away like the yellow stickers for hybrids went away a few years ago. There are still an unlimited number of “white stickers” for available for battery-electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell cars, and compressed natural gas vehicles.
  8. New Clean Cities site: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities has just launched an all-new website designed around easier navigation and a fresh new look. According to the Clean Cities blog, there are five new features to explore that were designed around offering a bold new look and enhanced user experience.
  9. Top sales mark for Tesla: Tesla Motors passed the 50,000 sales mark for 2015, its best-ever effort and slightly more than the maker had signaled it would deliver for the year. During the fourth quarter, Tesla delivered 17,400 of its cars, including a small number of the new Model X SUVs. That was 75% more than the same quarter in 2014, and a 48% increase over Tesla’s previous quarterly record. In other news, Tesla officials are investigating another Model S fire incident. A mysterious fire destroyed a Model S sedan Friday at one of the company’s Supercharger stations in Kristiansand, Norway, about 200 miles southwest of Oslo, the capital.
  10. Home charger incentive: The South Coast Air Quality Management District is offering a residential electric vehicle charging incentive pilot program to offset Level 2 (240 volt) EV charger hardware costs. This program will be available to residents within the SCAQMD’s four-county jurisdiction on a first come, first served basis. The program provides up to $250 for the cost of hardware for Level 2 residential chargers; and an additional incentive of up to $250 will be available for low-income residents.

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