This Week’s Top 10: Nissan Leaf class-action suit settled, Tesla unveils “Ludicrous” mode offerings in Model S

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. Lithium battery in Nissan LeafNissan Leaf class-action suit settled: Nissan has reached a settlement agreement over the class-action lawsuit filed in 2012 claiming Nissan was not accurately reporting the real-world range of its Leaf lithium-ion batteries in its advertising. That class-action suit had started up in 2012 on behalf of all Leaf owners in Arizona and California; previous settlements had not closed the case, but now it appears all parties have agreed to the final settlement. Under the new terms, Nissan will have to replace battery packs with updated versions identical to those used in the 2015 Leaf, which use a newer and more heat-tolerant cell chemistry. The automaker will no longer have the option to repair a battery pack that shows less than nine “bars” of indicated capacity on the dashboard gauge. Nissan will also provide 90 days offree access to DC fast-charging through its EZ Charge card program, where users can access stations within the NRG eVgo, AeroVironment, and Car Charging Group networks.
  2. From Insane to Ludicrous: Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the “Ludicrous” mode offerings in the Tesla Model S P85D and P90D variants; and it will be faster than the “Insane” mode introduced last fall – from the current 3.1 second zero to 60 mph down to 2.8 seconds. Maximum acceleration with be 1.1g, which Musk described as “faster than falling.” Tesla also upgraded the main battery contacts from steel to a more advanced metal; that increased maximum power delivery from 1300 amps to 1500 amps. In other news, Tesla Motors said that it expects to start selling its new Model X in China during the first half of next year, after being introduced in the U.S. in Q3. The company is also opening five to six new showrooms by the end of this year, bringing the total number in China to about 15. Tesla hopes the SUV model will increase interest and sales in a country where interest has been weak,
  3. Renewable natural gas (RNG) continues to see more acceptance and adoption as a viable clean transportation option. The City of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) announced that it has become one of the country’s first municipal transit authorities to convert its fleet to renewable natural gas (RNG), rated 90% cleaner than diesel and is considered the cleanest transportation fuel available. The transit agency is transitioning its buses using liquefied natural gas (LNG) over to RNG through Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem renewable LNG, which is non-fracked methane harvested from organic waste in landfills. With that decision, BBB unveiled a new ad campaign called “Bigger, Bluer, Skies” to emphasize the lower emissions and sustainability of this type of fuel. The city council supported using a more sustainable product at an equal cost, said BBB’s Transit Director, Ed King.
  4. Incentives not Fees: Automakers would prefer to see federal and state governments offer more incentives for electric vehicle (EV) purchases rather than higher vehicle registration fees. In a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said lawmakers should be offering incentives instead raising fees, since incentives encourage purchases and fees tend to discourage them. The alliance represents a dozen global automakers, including the Detroit 3. The alliance is lobbying against efforts to have extra fees, which go up to $100 for EVs, going toward a $1.5 billon road funding plan.
  5. Argonne study on dual-fuel vehicles: Ford Motor Co. and FCA US have partnered up with the US Dept. of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to study the benefits of dual-fuel vehicles such as natural gas and gasoline. The study aims to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10% increase in overall efficiency and a 10% improvement in power density.
  6. Sierra Club site shows EV incentives: Interested in finding out about all the incentives available in your state to purchase electric vehicles (EVs) and chargers? Then visit the Go Electric campaign site operated by Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has launched the national campaign to promote EVs as a way to slash pollution, reduce our dependence on oil, create American jobs, and improve national security. “Pick a Plug-In” helps consumers look at EVs available on the market that will fit best with their specific driving needs.
  7. Good news for used Leafs: While the Nissan Leaf has looked pretty bad in used car market studies, including ones released by NADA Used Car Guide, Consumer Reports offered a bright spot. The testing team has been impressed with how well it has held up since its launch in late 2010; staffers have been impressed by its quietness, smooth acceleration, and interior space. The Leaf received a “better than average” rating in the Consumer Reports testing – the second-highest ranking a car can attain. The 2011 Leaf gets a “much better than average rating,” 2012 and 2014 models get “better than average,” and 2013 models are rated just “average.”
  8. Much better roads: A small company in the Netherlands offers PlasticRoad, which replaces conventional asphalt and concrete with prefabricated roads made out of recycled plastic. The city of Rotterdam has been impressed enough to consider using the material in a pilot “street lab” project to see whether it can hold up to daily urban driving. The PlasticRoad materials could last as much as three times longer than conventional pavement and withstand temperatures ranging from -40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Biofuels Bonanza: More news and reports came out…… China and India could play increasingly important roles in the development of the biofuels market going forward, according to a Wall Street Journal DuPont will license its biofuel technology to China’s largest cellulosic ethanol manufacturing plant. The licensing agreement will provide DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol technology and use DuPont Accellerase enzymes to produce renewable biofuel from the leftover biomass for the Chinese company. As for the U.S., only seven states–Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington – have mandates that require ethanol to be blended in their state fuel supply. But new research appears to show that pure gasoline – known as G100 or E0 – is more corrosive to various engine parts than is E10.
  10. Boston works with Waze: Real-time traffic data company Waze has partnered with the city of Boston to learn more about an annoying source of traffic slowdowns – double-parked cars. A team from the city’s Transportation Dept., the Dept. of Information Technology and Boston’s New Urban Mechanics group analyzed three months’ worth of citizen-reported data from Waze to find streets most likely to have double-parked and illegally standing cars. When the worst parts of the city were identified, additional bike-riding parking enforcement officers were deployed to those areas to get the double-parked cars to move.

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