This Week’s Top 10: Nissan sees Leaf sales slip, Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric are perplexed by how the BMW i3 works

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. Nissan Leaf sales successPlug-in sales: There’s been a wide range of estimates on Tesla Model S sales in the month of January, but they’re all ahead of what Nissan reported for the Leaf. Whether those Model S numbers might have been 1,100 units sold, 1,300, or 1,500, they’re all higher than 1,070 Nissan Leafs that were confirmed as being sold. The Leaf was down 14.5% from January 2014, ending a 23 month cycle of sales increases. The Chevrolet Volt was way down from a year ago – 41%. That likely had something to do with the refreshed model coming out later this year. com reported that plug-in hybrid sales were down 45.4% from December and down 28% from January 2014; battery electric vehicles were down 46.4% from December and were up 33.9% over January 2014.
  2. Boy, things have changed. A TV commercial for the BMW i3 shows NBC reporters Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric in 1994 discussing this “newfangled” internet thing. Fast forward to 2015, Gumbel and Couric are now confused about riding in a car with no engine with its power somehow coming from a wind turbine. It was one of the TV ads shown during the Super Bowl game on Feb. 1.
  3. General Motors will begin building a production version of its Chevrolet Bolt battery-electric concept vehicle in October 2016, according to inside sources. That will put GM into direct competition with California EV start-up Tesla Motors, Nissan, and BMW. GM’s production target for the Bolt is about 25,000 to 30,000 cars a year.
  4. CALSTART hosted its annual Low-Carbon Fuel Summit in Sacramento on Feb. 3. More than 150 people attended, representing the state legislature, clean fuels producers, and consumers. Low gasoline prices held a lot of attention during discussions, along with the California Air Resources Board’s low-carbon fuel standard.
  5. Google may be going after Uber’s ridesharing market with its self-driving car technology. Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appears to be a Google ridesharing app that is currently being used by Google employees. Google’s venture capital division, Google Ventures, had invested $258 in Uber in August 2013.
  6. The Obama administration may turn the federal tax credit for electric vehicles into a rebate program as part of its proposed budget. That idea was first put out by the administration in 2011, but it’s taken a while to gain enough Congressional support. That $7,500 tax credit could be turned into a $10,000 rebate if enough support is gained.
  7. University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported that average fuel economy of light vehicles purchased in the U.S. improved last month for the first time since August, increasing 0.3 mpg and coming in at 25.4 mpg. January’s 0.5 jump from a year earlier marks the 12th consecutive month that average fuel economy has been above 25. Average fuel economy is up 5.3 mpg from October 2007, according to the report.
  8. Oklahoma-based organization Alternative Fuels Technology Center is now offering online courses for training on alternative fuel vehicles. The courses are self-paced and take between two to three weeks to complete. Available online courses include: CNG Vehicle Code; CNG Compressor Operator Safety and Code; LPG Vehicle Code; and Introduction to Hybrid Vehicles.
  9. Natural gas fuel-storage company Agility Fuel Systems and Clean Energy Fuels have announced a joint compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system sales program to reduce the incremental cost of heavy-duty natural gas trucks. Under the program, Agility and Clean Energy will work with trucking customers and offer CNG fuel systems installed at a substantially reduced cost when there is a natural gas fueling agreement.
  10. The Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid is launching in Germany this month with a price tag of $57,645, a fuel economy rating of 112 MPGe (though not by US EPA standards), and an optional wagon version.

3 thoughts on “This Week’s Top 10: Nissan sees Leaf sales slip, Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric are perplexed by how the BMW i3 works

  1. Thank you for all of the valuable information. If you have a chance and can answer one question.
    Why as a country are we so far behind in mass producing natural gas vehicles. I believe the only mass producer of these vehciles is Honda.
    Thanks again, Kevin

    • That’s a good question. I think that Honda restricted production and sales of the Civic Natural Gas to less than 1,000 in 2014, and that number was larger in previous years. There are probably about that many natural gas commercial vehicles sold per year in trucks and vans in the US; and General Motors is now offering the bi-fuel Chevrolet Cruze. Still, there’s a long way to go. The fueling infrastructure needs to expand, and more awareness and support from fleets and consumers buying their next car. Gasoline prices have come way down, but diesel is still high and petroleum prices do tend to fluctuate dramatically. Natural gas is more stable in pricing.

    • At this point in time, due to high-vehicle first costs and the lack on infrastructure, CNG will remain primarily a fleet fuel. On the fleets side of the equation, nealry 55% of all new refuse/recycling trucks and 25% of all new transit buses are odered with the CNG option. We should see growth in the tractor and heavy-duty truck market as well – with the advent of the 12.0L Cummins-Westport CNG engine (400 hp). For the consumer market, the choices are relatively few as pointed out by gamadmin. I think until the CNG infrastructure is more mature, consumers’ best option for alternatively-fueled vehicles will be BEVs, P-HEVs, and HEVs.

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