This Week’s Top 10: California utilities request approval for major charging projects, Tesla not facing recalls over Autopilot crash

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. Utilities supporting charging: California’s three large investor-owned utilities have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to support more than $1 billion in funding for electric vehicle charging stations. Southern California Edison asked for permission to collect $570 million from customers over five years to pay for equipment installations supporting about 1,800 charging stations for electric trucks and other projects. Pacific Gas & Electric requested $253 million to meet several objectives including charging systems for electric buses and delivery trucks. San Diego Gas & Electric applied for $246 million for installation of up to 90,000 charging stations at single family homes in the utility’s service area; and other projects, including installing up to 45 charging ports to enable electrification of about 90 new pieces of ground support equipment at San Diego International Airport. The utilities intend to install thousands of chargers at homes, workplaces, airports, and port locations. It ties into the state’s goal of cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
  2. No recall for Tesla: Tesla Motors was cleared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following an investigation over the fatal crash in Florida last May where the driver had been using Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system. Investigators didn’t find a defect in Autopilot requiring a safety recall for Model S and Model X owners who have purchased that option. NHTSA analyzed changes made to the system since the crash, including how the crash rate dropped by nearly 40% for the Autosteer component, which can safely change lanes, became available. The crash rates in the study compared airbag deployment crashes before and after Autosteer installation.
  3. Wireless charging: Automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and technology companies have reached agreement on the upcoming SAE Recommended Practice Wireless Power Transfer and automated parking alignment and charging of electric vehicles. Taskforce members have agreed on specifications for the SAE J2954 Test Stations; automakers will use that standard as a basis to develop their wireless charging systems, and to make sure they can interoperate with charging systems and vehicles sold by other automakers. The meeting held in Ingolstadt, Germany, is expected to set the foundation for moving wireless charging forward. Several automakers, suppliers, and technology providers see wireless charging being pivotal in helping move forward both electrified and autonomous vehicles.
  4. ZEV rules in Quebec: Automakers are upset that the Quebec province has followed a mandate similar to California and nine other states’ zero emission vehicle policy. Starting with the 2018 model year, 3.5% of all vehicles sold in the province will need to be all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. That bumps up to 15.5% for 2025 models. Companies that don’t hit the marks will have to buy credits from automakers that do. Penalties for failing to comply haven’t been spelled out yet. The legislation, which was passed last October, should be delayed, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada. Electric vehicle sales make up less than 1% of new vehicle sales in Quebec and 0.5% of all new vehicle sales across Canada.
  5. EPA chief nominee: Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general being considered as the new EPA administrator, is working at taking a more civil approach in his new role (which still needs Senate approval). He’s pledged to be a good listener and lead the agency “with civility,” especially when dealing with controversial issues like climate change and the EPA’s decision on the midterm review of 2025 mpg standards. He said the EPA’s proposal to finalize light-vehicle greenhouse-gas standards for 2022-25 model-year vehicles just 14 days after the comment period expired was a bit rushed and “merits review.” In related news, the EPA was sent a notice by the new administration temporarily halting all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources. The EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on Monday. It’s not known yet whether this move will have an effect on the auto industry.
  6. Elio Motors reports losses in SEC filing: Elio Motors has been taking losses in the past year, which has been investigated by a news channel in its corporate hometown. Local news channel KTBS in Shreveport, La., found in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the three-wheel carmaker had $101,317 in cash and about $123.2 million in accumulated deficit as of Sept. 30, 2016. The document also reported having about $6.8 million in cash and a deficit of about $2.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2015. The news channel also found that the company has once again postponed the launch of its affordable, 84 mpg three-wheeler, this time until 2018.
  7. Renault-Nissan top spot: Renault-Nissan has sold more than 400,000 electric cars globally and has plans for further investments to maintain its market lead, CEO Carlos Ghosn told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We are going to increase investment, we are going to have lot of new cars coming, better batteries, better performance, lower prices,” he said. Nissan’s Leaf opened up the auto industry to a mass produced all-electric vehicle, which was followed two years later by alliance partner Renault’s Zoe, a hatchback subcompact.
  8. CARB on midterm review: The California Air Resource Board last week published a 667-page Midterm Review of Advanced Clean Cars Program report. It finds that the state’s original intentions are being met, and the elements are in place to continue making advancements well beyond the 2025 target. The CARB staff, “recommends that California make a major push now to develop new post-2025 standards while working with automakers, federal regulators and partner states to further develop the market for electric cars,” according to a statement. The report also addressed the state’s zero emission vehicle policy, stating that more support is needed to grow the charging infrastructure. The agency will likely be pleased with proposals submitted this week by utilities to grow the state’s infrastructure.
  9. Ford PHEV vans: Ford has established a 12-month trial with the Transport for London agency’s fleet. Ford will provide 20 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle Transit Custom vans that the automaker says improves fleet productivity while reducing emissions. Scheduled to start in the fall, the test project will receive 4.7 million pounds ($5.9 million) in UK government funding. Ford and Transport for London will invite commercial fleets into the trial project.
  10. Infiniti performance EV: Infiniti is getting ready to roll out its very first electric car, though the launch date and other details have yet to come out. In 2012, the Nissan luxury division showed the LE electric concept car that was supposed to roll out in two years, but has yet to show up. Infiniti boss Roland Kreuger says he’s driven the prototype of this electric car as it’s “very good.” Krueger does however note that this is an “early” prototype, meaning its years away from production. The company will tapping into Nissan’s electric car technology, but will build a dedicated platform for the Infiniti model. Autocar and InsideEVs did a bit of speculating on it: it could be a 2020 Infiniti performance battery electric vehicle with its own platform packed full of Nissan’s EV tech.

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