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…….
- VW diesel emissions scandal: The biggest automotive scandal of the year (and maybe the decade) carries on….. Consumer Reports did some road testing with TDI diesel Volkswagen models and found mild differences in the reporting. The team tested a 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI, powered by the now-discontinued EA 189 engine, and a 2015 2015 Jetta TDI sedan, which is equipped with the company’s new EA 288 engine. The newer engine has the latest in diesel emissions technology, a selective catalytic reduction system, while the older model does not; and both are included in the 482,000 unit U.S. recall. The 2015 VWs’ fuel economy slipped from 53 to 50 mpg in the tests, while older models’ fuel efficiency went from 50 to 46 mpg. The new model drove from 0-60 in 9.1 seconds in regular driver mode and 9.2 seconds in “cheat mode,” and the 2011 Jetta slowed from 9.9 seconds to 10.5 seconds……. W’s credit rating was cut one level by Standard & Poor’s, which said the German carmaker’s cheating on U.S. diesel-emissions tests indicates management weaknesses that may lead to a further debt downgrade……… California has given Volkswagen until November 20 to come up with a plan to fix diesel models affected by its deceptive emissions tests, according to the California Air Resources Board……… VW is offering a $2,000 loyalty bonus to current owners of its diesel and gasoline models, which can be used to buy a new gasoline or hybrid 2015 or 2016 model……. Volkswagen of America is wiring additional “discretionary funds” to dealers in its network to be used as incentives, sales bonuses, and floorplan subsidies. Diesel models have made up more than 20% of sales for VW and Audi dealers in the U.S., so incentives are needed to deal with the downturn.
- Clean Tech Forum: The Sacramento Clean Cities Coalition will be holding the Northern California Clean Technology Forum on October 14-15th at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, Calif. A tour of the Sacramento CNG Station and Natural Gas Compliant Shop will take place on the afternoon of the 14th and a reception will be held that evening. Panel discussions and networking will take place on the 15th. This year’s event will showcase vehicle and fuel technologies in the next two years and the next two decades. I’ll be moderating a speaker panel on Oct. 15, “A Panel Discussion on Future Technologies,” featuring Jason Schulz, Partnership Marketing Manager & Business Development for the 21st Century, Toyota; Jean-Baptiste Gallo, Senior Project Engineer, CALSTART; and Tim Lipman PhD, Co-Director Transportation Sustainability Research Center, UC Berkeley. You can view the agenda here.
- BlueIndy adds to carsharing membership: The new electric carsharing service in Indianapolis, BlueIndy, has surpassed the 500-member mark and the number of trips have passed the 1,500 mark. The electric service launched on September 2 and quickly began registering daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly memberships. The vast majority of members opt for the yearly plan which is the most economical with a 20-minute ride costing just $4. Indianapolis is the first American city to use the Bluecar, an electric vehicle developed by the Bolloré Group. Indianapolis was selected to be the US showcase for this unique service, with plans to expand to other leading cities around the globe; the city’s fleet has been dedicated to deploying electric vehicles and accessing carsharing services.
- Smart parking solutions: Finding parking in crowded city spaces is gradually becoming a major source of stress and more air pollution around the world. The parking industry is being transformed by new technologies that are enabling cities to reduce levels of congestion significantly. Sensor networks that detect vehicle occupancy are providing the basic intelligence behind smart parking systems. Adoption of these necessary technologies has been slower than expected, according to a Navigant Research study, but government funding is helping system adoption to grow steadily. Another solution has come from other segments of the market, such as universities, airports, and corporate campuses, ramping up deployments of smart parking systems.
- Propane autogas recognition: At this year’s BusCon Expo in Indianapolis, the Propane Education & Research Council partnered with METRO Magazine to recognize five top transit fleets for their use of clean, domestic propane autogas. Groome Transportation, Historic Tours of America, Inter-County Public Transportation Authority, LeeTran, and VIA Metropolitan Transit were each presented a “Top User of Propane Autogas” award. These transit agencies and transportation companies are operating hundreds of propane-powered vehicles for significant emissions reduction, cutting operating costs, and decreasing dependence on foreign oil.
- Ford Focus Electric ad: Ford has launched its first-ever ad campaign for the Focus Electric, which “delivers a 100% electric punch with zero C02 emissions.” It’s part of Ford’s car campaign that follows the iconic Built Ford Tough pickup truck ad campaign. The car campaign is built on the slogan, “That feeling of power? It’s By Design.”
- Peak year of fossil fuel use? Yes, according to global futurist David Houle. The supply of oil is far outstripping demand, and we’ll never see the $100 per barrel price of oil again. What’s behind it? “The transportation and building sectors have become vastly more energy efficient than in 2000, or even 2010. The price of alternative and renewable energy has dropped dramatically in the last ten years and is now comparable in cost to fossil fuels as a source of electricity. There is a rapidly growing critical mass of people who fully see and understand the magnitude of climate change,” Houle predicts. He also predicts that oil producing regions – Middle East, Africa, and Latin America – all have an abundance of sun and wind and will turn to them for their own energy rather than spending money on gas subsidies for their citizens.
- Biofuels cleaner than electric vehicles?: Yes, according to Biofuels Digest editor Jim Lane. Looking at the “well-to-wheels” emissions for plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, they’re higher in emissions than E85 or renewable diesel, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s recent Quadrennial Technical Review. Lane twists the knife a little deeper, playing on the wealthy EV owner criticism that’s grown in popularity this year: “Electrics are generally purchased by rich white guys, who get big tax breaks, at the expense of the poor and Latinos, who tend to favor renewable fuels over electrics when it comes to reducing carbon.”
- Hyperloop taking shape: Originating in August 2013 when Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a whitepaper on the 700-mph low-pressure tube train, Hyperloop Technologies Inc. is seeing gains. The team of over 50 full-time employees was founded in 2014 by Brogan BamBrogan and Shervin Pishevar, and is headquartered in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District; with former Cisco President Rob Lloyd joining the company as CEO. The team of engineers are focusing on everything from rockets, to turbines, to laser communication systems, to electric vehicles, and fusion energy research diagnostics.
- More from Elon Musk: Speaking to German newspaper Handelsblatt,Musk talked about the buzz around Apple possibly getting into the electric and autonomous car business through hiring more staff: “(Apple) have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard’. If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”