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…….
- Electric launches at LA Auto Show: Along with crossover utility vehicles, plug-in electrified vehicles will see a few North American launches at the LA Auto Show. A refreshed e-Golf will be revealed with increased miles per charge (186 miles on European standards) and infotainment/connected car updates. The miles per charge range may be closer to 125 when defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency using its own calculation – closer to the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric. For VW, it’s a jumpstart to a much larger post-Dieselgate electrification campaign with vehicles built on the MEB platform, including the all-electric ID in 2020. Jaguar will be showing the electric I-Pace crossover concept. The production version of the Tesla-competitor luxury electric car will be shown in late 2017 and go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2018. Also during the LA Auto Show (called AutoMobility LA during pre-show media and trade days), look for: all-electric models or concept cars from Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Mini; Cadillac will show off its CT6 plug-in hybrid; and Chevrolet will be promoting the all-electric Bolt, with its 238-mile range that starts shipping to dealers within weeks.
- 100K EVs sold per year: BMW Group wants to boost sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars by two-thirds next year to 100,000 vehicles, the company said. The German automaker expects to increase deliveries of vehicles from its “i” subbrand to around 60,000 units this year. BMW expects electric car sales will grow three-fold. Sales of battery-powered BMW models have totaled about 100,000 cars since November 2013, according to BMW. BMW currently sells the compact i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar in its electric subbrand. The automaker has said it also plans to add an electric Mini and BMW X3 SUV by the end of the decade.
- Supplier on emissions mandates: BorgWarner is sticking with its plan to introduce a new generation of motors, transmissions and other gadgetry for electric cars and hybrids, even if the 54.5 mpg softens under the Trump administration. CEO James Verrier said during a presentation Friday that automakers have spent big sums to design EVs, upgrade powertrains and reduce vehicle weight over the next three to five years. “I don’t think the automakers will back off,” Verrier said. “I don’t think we’ll see regression.”
- LeEco cash-strapped: LeEco’s co-founder has admitted to turbulent financial conditions that may pull back the Chinese company’s plans to compete in electric “supercars” through its LeEco and Faraday Future ventures. In a letter to employees last week, co-founder Jia Yueting admitted that the company is running out of cash through its rapid expansion. The company has been questioned about its significant investment in Faraday Future’s Nevada plant. “No company has had such an experience, a simultaneous time in ice and fire,” Jia wrote in the letter to employees. “We blindly sped ahead, and our cash demand ballooned. We got over-extended in our global strategy. At the same time, our capital and resources were in fact limited.”
- Audi gasoline engines: Automotive litigation firm Hagens Berman has filed the first class-action lawsuit against Audi over charges that the automaker illegally installed an emission-cheating device in 3.0-liter gasoline cars. Models names in the suit include the Audi A6, Audi A8, Audi Q5 and likely the Audi Q7, as well as potentially several other 3.0-liter, automatic gasoline models. In related news, on Thursday a coalition of Audi owners sued the company’s Audi AG and Audi of America, LLC units after reports surfaced over the past weekend that certain gasoline powered Audi vehicles were equipped with emission control defeat devices. Similar to last year’s revelations involving Volkswagen’s diesel models, it is alleged that the California Air Resources Board has discovered cheat software installed by Audi engineers in certain 3.0 liter A6 and Q7 Audi vehicles.
- Green Car of the Year award: Green Car Journal announced the five finalists last week for its annual award, four-out-five of which are available now in plug-in hybrid variations and one being an all-electric vehicle. The five 2017 model year nominees for the Green Car of the Year award are: the BMW 330e, Chevrolet Bolt, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Optima, and the Toyota Prius Prime. The winner will be announced Thursday morning at the LA Auto Show. Green Car Journal also recently announced that the Ram ProMaster City work van won Green Car Journal’s 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year, the second year in a row it’s taken that award. The gasoline-engine ProMaster City was recognized for environmental attributes along with traditional features customers seek, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The announcement was made yesterday at the 48th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas.
- Europe battery factory: Tesla Motors plans to begin looking for locations in Europe next year for a second “Gigafactory” to make cars and the battery cells to power them, the company said. Possible locations for the factory include the Netherlands, France and Spain, according to local media speculation. Tesla hasn’t communicated a preference. The electric automaker already has a facility in the Netherlands that does final assembly work for European versions of Tesla cars built in the automaker’s Fremont, Calif, factory.
- Top 10 charging networks: Netherlands-based The New Motion charging network supplier has been ranked No. 1 in a Navigant Research report on charging networks, followed by the leading U.S., ChargePoint, at No. 2. EV-Box finished in third place, followed in order by Chargemaster, Fortum, Innogy SE, Greenlots, EVgo, Clever A/S, and Pod Point. Navigant based its rating system for plug-in electrified vehicle charger network suppliers on 10 criteria: vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; product strategy; geographic strategy; market presence; marketing and distribution; product performance and reliability; product and service capabilities; and staying power.
- Supercharger network: Tesla Motors announced that more than 4,600 Superchargers have been installed around the world that allow over 160,000 Tesla owners to drive across the continental U.S., from the Arctic Circle to the south of Spain, and across all of the population centers in China and Japan, among many other places. The Supercharger Network, which Tesla calls the world’s fastest charging solution, was designed by the automaker so that all customers have access to a seamless and convenient charging experience when they’re away from home, as our intention has always been for Supercharging to enable long distance travel.
- NHTSA noise rules: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued new standards to automakers requiring audible alerts required on all new hybrid and electric vehicles going forward beginning September 1, 2019. The new sound requirements applies across the U.S., and should help prevent as many as 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once they span the range of EVs and hybrids on the road, according to the agency. The new rule says that all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles that have four wheels and weigh under 10,000 pounds must make an audible noise when traveling either backwards or forwards at speeds up of to 19 miles per hour.