This Week’s Top 10: Trump appoints EPA opponent to head agency, Musk attending Trump’s tech leader meeting

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. us-epa-officeEPA opponent appointed:  President-elect Donald Trump hit hard last week in his Environmental Protection Agency appointment – naming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator, which will need to meet Senate approval. Pruitt has fought the EPA in lawsuits over several of its policies and rules, including slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a water pollution measure, and the principle of reducing carbon dioxide to protect public health. He hasn’t taken on the fuel economy and emissions standards, but is expected to go the same route; and he’s been a strong advocate of fossil fuel industries. As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has also opposed the White House over “Obamacare” health care regulations. He’s opposed to the federal government pushing its power over states, and thinks that climate change is a hoax. The Trump administration is expected to block the EPA’s decision to finalize approval of the 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard with Pruitt at the helm, reversing the EPA’s decision. If that doesn’t work, Trump is likely going to take the issue to Congress for support. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbied Congress last week to reverse the EPA decision, but failed to gain enough support before Washington closes down for the holiday season. They’ll have to wait until after January 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration. Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are preparing to block the appointment of Pruitt in the first part of 2017.
  2. Musk meeting Trump:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected to attend a meeting of technology leaders hosted by President-elect Donald Trump. Other invited executives include Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and heads of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet/Google, Intel, and Microsoft. Musk, who also chairs the board at SolarCity and leads SpaceX, is likely to be attending, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The meeting will take place on Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York City, according to Recode. Musk, who endorsed Hillary Clinton days before the election last month, is in a position faced by several other executives as the administration changes hands next month and companies look for workable business relationships in the capitol. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has agreed to be part of an economic policy team expected to meet frequently with Trump after he takes office on government policy and its impact on economic growth, job creation, and productivity. Trump had taken on automakers, especially Ford, for leaving the U.S. to open shop in Mexico and overseas. GM has plants in Mexico and a lot of its business is taking place now in China. GM has had strong relations with President Obama ever since the federal bailout in 2009.
  3. Bolts being delivered:  Chevy Bolts are on their way to dealerships before the end of the month, according to a photo posted on GM-Volt.com. The image was posted last week after being taken on I-75 as a Bolt-loaded carrier truck rolled down the highway in Lake Orion, Mich. They’ll first be delivered to California and Oregon by way of trucks and trains. Several Bolt buyers have received announcements that their all-electric car is being assembled, assigned a VIN, and has reached status 4000, meaning that it’s ready to be shipped, according to GM’s ordering system.
  4. AeroVironment charging Bolts:  General Motors has named AeroVironment’s level 2 charger as the official home charging station for the Chevy Bolt. GM has named AeroVironment’s 32-amp EVSE-RS as an official accessory labeled with a GM part number, available through Chevrolet dealerships. The company said the EVSE-RS can charge up to five-times faster than standard cordsets available in the market. GM now joins Nissan, Ford, and Fiat in partnering with AeroVironment for charging stations. “We selected AeroVironment due to their strong brand recognition, reputation for reliability, and decades of leadership in supporting EVs,” said Darin Gesse, Bolt EV Product Manager, in the press release.  “In addition, their EVSE-RS provides proven performance, making AeroVironment a great partner for Chevrolet.”
  5. Analysis of EPA fuel economy rules:  The University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation issued a paper on the EPA’s Nov. 30 approval of the 54.5 mpg by 2025 standards. The research center said that under the right vehicle blend of cars and trucks, such as the model year 2015 mix of 57.4% cars and 42.6% light trucks, significant fuel consumption reductions would be accomplished. Compared to a possible mix of 40% cars and 60% light trucks without the new 2022-2025 standards, the fuel saved by the new vehicles during the first four years under the 2015 ratio would be about 3.3 billion gallons of fuel, according to the paper.
  6. Pacifica electric:  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be announcing an all-electric vehicle based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan at CES in Las Vegas next month, according to confidential sources who spoke to Bloomberg. The company is also working on an electric Maserati sports car, according to people familiar with the matter. FCA declined to comment. Formerly called Consumer Electronics Show, CES has become an important event for launching advanced technologies by automakers and electronics companies. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne had avoided developing electric cars for years due to concerns over the cost of investment and marketing, citing losses from the Fiat 500e electric car. Conditions have changed in the post-Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal as stricter emissions rules are being enforced. The company displayed the plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica minivan at the LA Auto Show.
  7. Two more events coming up:  Thanks to Richard Battersby, Fleet Manager at City of Oakland and Coordinator and Executive Director of East Bay Clean Cities, for contributing two more significant clean transportation events coming up next year: EV Roadmap 10 – June 20-21, 2017 in Portland, OR. The EV Roadmap Conference has established itself as one of the leading electric vehicle conferences in the United States. Founded by Portland General Electric and Portland State University, and now produced by Drive Oregon, the conference provides a “graduate course” in electric vehicle deployment. Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE) – April 11-12, 2017 in Portland, OR. The Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE) is the region’s premier fleet modernization and alternative fuels event. GTSE events offer the best combination of information-packed sessions, prominent national and regional speakers, and the latest technologies from industry leaders.
  8. Hybrids make WardsAuto list: Three electrified vehicles made the 2017 best engine awards from WardsAuto. The Chevy Volt returned from last year’s list and was joined by another plug-in hybrid, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The Honda Accord Hybrid was the only hybrid vehicle included. Three electrified vehicles made the top 10 list last year, too, but the Volt is the only one of those three to return to this year’s list. The other seven vehicles on the list have turbocharged engines as automakers focus more on fuel efficient options tied to government fuel economy and emissions rules. Turcharged engines taps into forced induction and direct fuel injection and allows for downsizing engines, according to WardsAuto. This was the first time that none of the top 10 featured a V-8 engine since the awards started in 1995.
  9. PG&E’s charging network: California Public Utilities Commission will vote Thursday on a proposal that would give northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. permission to install 7,500 Level 2 chargers. That was down from the initial plan last year to install 25,000 charging points, which stirred much debate and opposition in Sacramento from charging companies and other entities. More chargers could be added in later phases, if CPUC agrees to it. The utility says that its investment will support electric car adoption across the region, including bringing charging to workplaces, multi-unit dwelling locations, and disadvantaged communities. It does seem to be gaining more support, as voiced by ChargePoint. “This proposed decision accelerates the adoption of EV charging in northern California in a way that preserves innovation and competition,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO. “Just as importantly, it extends the benefits of EV charging to disadvantaged communities and those who live in apartments and condominiums.”
  10. EV rebate program: Massachusetts now has $12 million in funding allocated to the Commonwealth’s electric vehicle (EV) rebate program, Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV). Consumers can qualify for rebates ranging from $750-$2,500 on the purchase or lease of more than 25 qualifying new vehicles, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell vehicles. Since June 2014, the MOR-EV program has issued or reserved over $6 million for 2,931 vehicles, cutting the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions output by an estimated 8,123 short tons annually. “With the continued growth and consumer choice for electric vehicles, our administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to promote the host of positive benefits electric vehicles offer,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

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