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…….
- Launched last year, NAFA’s Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program has rolled out of the beta-test phase and has become a distinct system. It’s now being structured on a four-tier rating system that evaluates fleets based on their environmental performance against world-leading goals. During the NAFA I&E conference in Orlando, NAFA Fleet Management Association, in conjunction with CALSTART, announced how the program has been designed to become an industry standard for recognizing concrete improvements in reducing emissions, increasing fuel efficiency, and reducing fuel use. “With this new program, fleets will be able to measure, manage and improve. Fleets start at any level of activity – the point is to start down the path: first by base lining where they are, then by validating their progress, and finally, by benchmarking themselves against rigorous standards and the actions of their peers,” said Bill Van Amburg, CALSTART Senior Vice President. “It is the new measure of fleet sustainability.” The NAFA standard can be applied to fleets of all sizes and types ranging from passenger cars to Class 8 big rigs. CALSTART provided technical assistance and worked with NAFA to develop the standards. To learn more, or to join the program, visit NAFASustainable.org.
- Big EV announcements from GM: The Chevrolet Spark battery-electric vehicle has a $1,650 price cut and “bonus cash” incentives, at first in California and Oregon, that can cut another $1,000 to $3,500 off the sticker price; with the $7,500 tax credit, the electric Spark can sell for as low as $15,000. Cadillac launched a plug-in hybrid version of the CT6 luxury sedan at the Shanghai Motor Show; it has an adaption of GM’s second-generation Voltec hybrid system. Cadillac has a few more plug-in hybrids in its product pipeline – and did announced that its 2016 Cadillac ELR will have a slightly different powertrain than the CT6 and 2016 Chevrolet Volt; the 2016 ELR will keep its existing 17.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack and 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine but with a lot more horsepower and torque……..
- SoCalGas is bringing together industry experts, natural gas truck manufacturers, and fleet operators for dinner and discussion on making the switch to natural gas for your truck or fleet of trucks. Topics will include making the business case for natural gas heavy-duty vehicles, natural gas truck refueling, and funding natural gas heavy-duty vehicles. Upcoming events include Inland Empire on May 12 at Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, Calif.; and San Joaquin Valley on May 19 at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield, Calif. There will be other events in Southern California in July, September, and October. Here’s a link to learn more about the event and to register.
- Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn offered some interesting statements: Nissan plans to raise sales of its electric Leaf to 50,000 units a year from about 30,000 last year, with potential growth in public charging stations driving those anticipated sales. In China – where Nissan operates under the Venucia domestic brand – Ghosn would like to see the government increase incentives to move electric vehicle sales out of the stuck phase.
- Tesla is waiting to hear whether Maryland Larry Hogan will sign a bill allowing the electric carmaker to sell directly to consumers. The bill was supported by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association and would allow Tesla up to four licenses; having a cap on the number was enough to gain support from the dealer group. The governor will sign or veto the bill in about a week, or by mid-May, his office said. (In other Tesla news, a book will be coming out next month stating that management was going to sell the company to Google for $6 billion, but pulled the plug after seeing its first profits and stock share prices shoot up.)
- A very impressive collective of trade groups has been formed to deal with the impending connected car, autonomous vehicle reality. The new Smart Transportation Innovation Coalition includes Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Association of Global Automakers, National Automobile Dealers Association, Information Technology Industry Council (which has Apple, Google, Intel and Microsoft as members), Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and Intelligent Car Coalition. The group’s main agenda will be educating lawmakers and policymakers about the potential benefits offered by advanced vehicle technologies.
- It’s been a while, but there’s been another biofuels fraud case being prosecuted by government officials. Joseph Furando of Montvale, NJ, pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Indianapolis to all of the charges he faced, including conspiracy, wire fraud, lying to investigators, and money laundering. Prosecutors said Furando and his executive team face a May trial involving an allegation of about $55 million in illegal profits being generated through the scam.
- For the third straight year Penske Truck Leasing has been honored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a SmartWay Affiliate Challenge Award winner. Penske is one of seven organizations across the US to be given the award last week at the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) Capital Ideas and Exhibition Conference in Orlando, Fla. EPA honors organizations for doing an exceptional job in supporting the SmartWay partnership’s freight sustainability goals.
- Plug-In America is honoring its 10th anniversary by profiling 10 of its early adopter leaders who had been driving early editions of the Toyota RAV4 electric model and other limited volume electric cars in California; and in more recent times, the very first models of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. Among the 10 “pioneers” are Paul Scott and Linda Nicholes who have been very visible at EV events for several years.
- Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV), a leading manufacturer of motor vehicles for commercial, fire & emergency and recreation markets, has an exclusive partnership with CleanFUEL USA, an industry leader in propane autogas technology. Under the partnership, CleanFUEL will provide products and services to expand ASV’s line of alternative fuel vehicles, namely propane autogas.
- Extra: In this week’s Green Auto Market Extended Edition…….. Clean vehicles being recognized as part of 45th annual Earth Day features coverage of Kelley Blue Book’s “Ten Best Green Cars,” Clean Auto Alliance announcing the first-ever recipients of its Environment & Safety Elite Award, and Cars.com on which cities have the most eco-friendly buyers. Plus, the latest on the US fueling and charging station infrastructure and how much it’s grown in the past year (with one category declining in size). You can read more about it here.