What the August 8 Tesla robotaxi launch could look like, RNG goes up to 79% usage last year

Why did Tesla invest $2 million in Lidar, an autonomous vehicle (AV) technology that CEO Elon Musk had dismissed years ago nearly as much as he had done with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? Does it have anything to do with his highly anticipated Robotaxi launch on August 8? Or his getting the green light by the Chinese government to test Tesla AV technology in their country?

Well, for one thing, August 8, or 8/8, is lucky in China. “I did partly pick it because 8/8 is a lucky number in China!” Musk told X user Michel de Guilhermier in late April.

Tesla’s FSD (Full Self Driving) doesn’t use Lidar (which every other AV does use), which comes from laser-based 3D mapping sensors. Tesla AVs, and Tesla vehicles equipped with its Autopilot features, use only use cameras to understand the world around it. AV experts have made convincing arguments, and have produced convincing test data, that Lidar is a must.

Tesla is obviously betting on robotaxis. The electric vehicle maker has scrapped its highly anticipated Model 2 in favor of the self-driving electric car on the same platform as the Model 2.

Tesla’s $2 million investment with Luminar is expected to produce 2,000 Lidar units for Tesla vehicles.

General Motors agrees with Tesla’s analysis that AVs tie very well to electric vehicles. Compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle, an all-electric battery pack is able to serve as a more stable power that can enable higher-powered AV components, the automaker said on its blog.

When AV technology exploded in 2014-15, arguments were made that it would be ideal to address the global trend toward crowded, polluted cities that would become even more susceptible to vehicle collisions. Then the testing began, and concerns were raised — and flags waived — about integration of the new AV technology with existing human-driven vehicles, the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, collision liability responsibility for AV owners and vehicle manufacturers, and whether consumers and fleets around the world would buy into AVs. It became obvious that adoption of AVs beyond limited fleet tests would be taking quite a few years in countries around the world.

Looking at what’s next
Here are a few recent developments that tie into the big picture of where robotaxis and AV technology are going in America, and perhaps, around the world……………….

Didi in China: A report by global consultancy IHS Markit said the market size of China’s self-driving taxi services is expected to surpass 1.3 trillion yuan ($180.7 billion) by 2030, accounting for 60 percent of the ride-hailing market nationwide. The Chinese government has been rolling out policies to promote the development and commercialization of AVs. Didi Chuxang and its ride-hailing platform has been heavily involved in testing out AVs in China and, not long ago, in the U.S. The Chinese company lost its DMV permit in California in February. Testing and development has been going on since 2016 in China, and the company began allowing customers to take self-driving car rides in Shanghai starting in 2020. Didi recently opened an automated operation and maintenance center in that city offering repairs, parking, and battery charging for AVs.

Tesla’s FSD coming to China: Musk proposed testing Tesla’s FSD technology in China by deploying it in robotaxis, during a recent visit to the country. Chinese officials told the Tesla CEO that China “welcomes Tesla to do some robotaxi tests in the country” and hopes it can “set a good example,” a newspaper reported. Musk met with the country’s second-highest-ranking politician, Premier Li Qiang, during that visit. The automaker still needs to get final approval for the rollout, and to collect and transfer data from Tesla driver-assistance features.

More on Tesla robotaxi: In April 2022, during the grand opening of Tesla Gigafactory Texas, Musk shed more light on the robotaxis that he’d first talked about in 2016. The company would be rolling it out in the near future as its own exclusive robotaxi model, he said. In X tweets, Musk has said the the robotaxi will essentially be the initially planned $25,000 electric car with out a steering wheel.

Feds testing Autopilot safety: The safety of Tesla’s Autopilot features, and how that would transfer over to its FSD technology as well, is still being evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The company had recalled more than two million vehicles last years over crashes involving its Autopilot system. The feds say they’re undergoing an investigation due to crashes continuing and concern over its safety and reliability. NHTSA put out a report last month from investigations of 956 Tesla crashes between January 2018 and August 2023, where Autopilot was involved; and in which 29 people died in the crashes. The electric vehicle maker had recalled the vehicles last year to fix Autopilot with an over-the-air software update after regulators said the driver-assist tech wasn’t doing enough to stop driver misuse. NHTSA is looking at tests of the recalled vehicles the effect of Tesla’s software update for getting drivers use the functions safely.

How Waymo is doing: Google parent Alphabet says that its self-driving Waymo One service is getting 50,000 rides a week in Phoenix, San Francisco, and more recently in Los Angeles. The company operates 24/7 service in parts of these cities. Waymo is also trying out Austin, Texas, but that only through limited rides to select members of the public. The company said that it’s taken a “safe and deliberate approach” to scaling its program for reaching the 50K milestone. Waymo says that they’re finding the autonomous robotaxi rides to be attractive from customers in all walks of life who appreciate their freedom of movement.

Cruise going to Arizona: Robotaxi competitor Cruise has had a whole set of problems with its San Francisco operations, but the General Motors subsidiary will begin testing robotaxis in Arizona this week with human drivers on board to make sure safety remains present. Cruise says it will make sure the check the vehicles’ performance against its “rigorous” safety and autonomous vehicle performance requirements as it puts its AVs in the Phoenix area.

After dragging a San Francisco pedestrian about 20 feet in October by one of its robotaxi vehicles, Cruise had its permit suspended by the California Public Utilities Commission. The PUC alleged that Cruise had covered up details about the crash for more than two weeks.

Will Tesla be offering paid robotaxi services? Good question. The company hasn’t clarified that question. In the past, Musk talked about how Tesla owners could make income offering their self-driving Teslas out to renters and riders. But with Waymo, Cruise, Didi, and other companies, testing out the autonomous ride model, it’s likely Tesla will do the same — at least their own version of it.

And in other news………..

Renewable natural gas taking off: Seventy-nine percent of all on-road fuel in the U.S. used in natural gas vehicles was renewable natural gas (RNG) last year; and it surpassed the previous year’s record-breaking level. That comes from the Transport Project (TTP) and Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition). RNG can produce carbon-negative results when fueling on-road vehicles like short- and long-haul trucks, transit buses, and refuse and recycling collection vehicles. That comes form capturing the RNG above ground from organic material in agricultural, wastewater, landfill, or food waste.

Time to bring in the experts: While upcoming greenhouse gas emission reporting standards and practices will soon become more complex in California, it’s not the only place GHG and climate reporting compliance will become more demanding. The European Union, the United Kingdom, and Japan have released proposed sustainability reporting standards that will add to the complexity.

What Q1 EV Sales Have to Say, 25 State Attorneys General Sue to Block Federal Emissions Rules

Makers of electric passenger vehicles are continuing to experience the reality of being in the auto market. Car shoppers want to see purchase prices come down, which is happening; and they also want to see range and infrastructure increase.

That comes from Kelley Blue Book (KBB), along with the following sales figures for battery electric vehicles in the U.S. While 2023 sales grew by leaps and bounds overall, this year is seeing much more conservative gains. The U.S. market saw 268,909 EVs in the first quarter of 2024 — 2.6% more than in the first quarter of last year. But that’s down from a 46.4% growth rate for Q1 2023 vs. Q1 2023.

The volume started softening in Q4 2023. The Cox Automotive Economic and Industry Insights team reported that EV sales in Q4 were higher than in Q3 by roughly 5,000 units. Cox Automotive (KBB’s parent company) expects that growth to continue this year through more new EV product, more incentives, more inventory, more leasing, and more infrastructure. If all this happens, it could lead to the share increase going up to 10% this year for battery electric vehicles. That forecast, which came out on January 9, could come down later this year with such a decrease in first quarter results.

Nearly 1.2 million (1,189,051) new EVs were sold in the U.S. in 2023. That made up about 7.6% of the domestic market last year. It was up from 5.9% of the market in 2022, and represented a 46% increase in EV sales during 2023.

Plug-in hybrids reached record sales in 2023, with more than 250,000 new vehicles sold, or about 20% of total plug-in vehicle sales, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Plug-in hybrids made up slightly less than 2% of the total U.S. market last year.

The combined market share of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs rose to 16.3% of total light-duty vehicle sales in the U.S., up from 12.9% in 2022. Non-plug-in hybrids make up a slightly larger share of those sales than EVs do, coming in just under 8% of the total market. Hybrids have been seeing their sales increase over the past two years.

KBB’s three factors (price, range, and infrastructure) comes from polls and studies. It also comes from Tesla continuing to lead the way in price cuts — as the company continues to grow and become a more mainstream part of the U.S. and global auto market. As we all know, market share continues to be the leading bragging factor for global automakers to their shareholders; no matter what the cost might be for factory and management employees who see more job cuts coming so that profits and market share continue to rise.

Tesla’s average transaction price was $52,315 in Q1, down roughly 13.5% year over year according toe KBB. Competitors are following Tesla’s lead and cutting prices. Automakers and dealers are also advertising incentives even more to stand out in the market.

Leasing is helping out
Leasing is another incentive being offered with monthly payments coming down for consumers. In the first quarter, about 27% of all EVs were leased — more than daub le the year before. Several EV models qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit rebate when leased; and far fewer qualify when purchased outright, according to KBB.

The Tesla Model Y continues to see sales gains at 96,729 units sold in the U.S. during the first quarter compared to its 394,497 total units sold last year. The Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model X, while both in the top 10, are down compared to the rate they were selling at last year. Earlier this month, Tesla announced a decline in quarterly deliveries for the first time in nearly four years.

As for models doing well, the Rivian R1S, an SUV, sold 8,017 units in the first quarter compared to 24,783 in 2023; and when compared to the 7,946 units sold during Q1 2023 for all its models. The model climbed up to No. 4 in EVs sold in the U.S. during the first quarter, following the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 has been getting a lot of accolades, but it’s sales aren’t impressive. The company sold 6,822 units in Q1 compared to 33,918 for the year. However, the South Korean automaker is certainly pleased to see that its overall EV sales shot up 62% in the quarter versus that same quarter a year ago.

One method that has been working well for Hyundai and its Kia division is that leasing offers are helping quite a bit. While the fact that they’re not made in the U.S. kept them out of the $7,500 incentive from the Inflation Reduction Act. But Hyundai and Kia took a strong approach in making lease offers to take advantage of that loophole and it is paying off.

And in other news………..

EPA rules challenged in court: Republican attorneys general from 25 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency today to challenge the passenger vehicle emissions rules finalized on March 20 in the White House. The suit alleges that the EPA exceeded its legal authority when making those rules. Those state attorneys general are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The suit was filed by attorneys general from states led by Kentucky and West Virginia in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

More on robotaxis: Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s April 5 announcement that the company will unveil a robotaxi on August 8 has been stirring up a lot more discussions on that new mobility service. General Motors’ Cruise is redeploying robotaxis in Phoenix after nearly five months of paused operations, the company recently said in a blog post. The cars will be in “manual mode,” so they won’t be driving themselves, to address safety concerns coming out of the incident last year in San Francisco where a pedestrian was stuck under and dragged by a Cruise robotaxi. The pedestrian had some injuries but survived the incident. The city is closely watching Cruise and Waymo to see how they’re doing, with many concerns being expressed. A recent announcement that Didi Global and Guangzhou Automobile Group’s (GAC) electric-vehicle unit will be entering that market also stirred more interest. A joint venture between the two Chinese companies will start producing robotaxis next year, the companies said.

Ride services In SoCal: How you can cut through the gridlock

If you come to Southern California for a work conference, a business trip, vacation time, or to visit family and friends, what’s the best way to get around? For someone who lives here and loves to go to concerts, theater, sporting events, and the beach, I’d recommend being very informed and creative about it; and if you’d like to do it in a sustainable, socially conscious and cost-effective manner, it’s good to know your options.

Traffic congestion is the top complaint by visitors to LA, and sometimes to locals. Having options for not being bound to your steering wheel can be very appealing for us. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in Blade Runner (1982) got to take LA rides in automated flying cars, but those won’t be here until a few more decades from now. It is nice to have options in place so that you’re not just stuck behind the wheel. As for now, here are a few ride options to consider………….

Mobile app ride services
There isn’t much left beyond Uber and Lyft for hailed and shared rides on mobile applications outside traditional taxi and livery services. Somewhere around 2015, Sidecar, Flywheel, and Curb were ready to compete by linking riders to drivers in taxis, black cars, and other vehicles. As for now, Curb still has a presence in the market as a taxi service in Los Angeles, along with New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Uber tends to be a cheaper ride than Lyft in California. A study by CashNetUSA found that an Uber ride will be, on average, $1.16 less than a Lyft ride. For the past couple of years, fares have stayed low in both networks. You can find the classic expensive rides, but that’s well outside the norm. You’ll usually find the drivers to be unhappy with their situation — what they’re being paid and how it could be a series of short low-paying rides that offer little appeal beyond the passengers.

Old school methods
Pre-Uber rides are still out there — shuttle vans, charter bus trips, taxi rides, chauffeured transportation, and public transportation — but the fleets are smaller and harder to find for private transportation. Some of the rides can be expensive and customized for clients who can afford to pay for it, such as corporate accounts.

Super Shuttle went of business in late 2019. Now there are several small independent operators available. Long Beach Shuttle offers a direct shuttle from Long Beach (LGB) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $52. Charter bus trips are still desirable for riders. They can cost up to $40 per passenger for the whole trip to group outings such as wineries or a Hollywood tour. However, if you do your homework it can be a lot cheaper. For example, we take a bus ride from the Lakewood Mall to the Hollywood Bowl and back for $7 for the round trip if you order ahead and $12 at the point of departure. That program is called Hollywood Bowl Park & Ride. Metropolitan Shuttle and US Coachways do a lot of business in this region — offering buses to corporate events, sporting events, festivals, public rallies, and other events.

As for taxi rides, California Yellow Cab covers Orange County, and there’s Los Angeles Yellow Cab. Independent Cab Company’s rate calculator reports that there’s a $3.10 base charge, $2.97 per mile, and $0.33 for every 37 seconds in wait time or traffic time. For trips from LAX Airport, there’s a mandated $16.50 minimum fare plus a $4 airport surcharge. Taking a taxi to and from John Wayne Airport in Orange County would be lower, with only a $3 airport surcharge.

Vanpools and rideshare services
There are more than 1,000 vanpools operating throughout Southern California, and many are seeking new riders. You can go to Go511.com, Southern California’s largest commuter database, to get a free list of vanpools in your area. Some of these workforce commuter and event rideshare services are coming through public transit agencies and California Vanpool Authority, a public transit agency, that supplies qualified drivers with late model vans.

There are also vanpool ride services set up through Metro in Los Angeles county and Orange County Transit Authority, University of California campuses, and a few cities. Rideshare services SoCal 511 at Go511.com is an online platform for counties in Southern California to manage employer rideshare services; among other resources assisting users in finding all types of people movement resources. Some of these transit organizations offer subsidies to employers to use vanpools. You can view the map section to see if there are any road closures with details on why it’s closed and how long it will go on.

Electric vehicle sharing
This has been a tough business to survive in — whether that be providing Uber and Lyft drivers with electric vehicles, or rideshare services offering EVs only. One service that’s still around is BlueLA powered by Blink Mobility. The business provides members with new, fully-electric vehicles for their everyday needs. Clean and convenient EVs can be picked up and dropped off at 40 locations around the city, eliminating the need to own a secondary car — or primary for local residents who tap into public transportation, biking and mobile app services instead of owning a car. It’s a 100% electric car-sharing service and part of the City of Los Angeles’ mobility strategy. 

Access — SoCal’s ADA paratransit network
For those needing paratransit mobility, you don’t just get to call a number or sign-up online. They’re usually vans customized with wheelchair lifts and other functions to assist disabled and elderly riders access the vehicles, with the support of the driver. Those interested in becoming riders usually need to have an evaluation done to see if they qualify, a requirement of the public funding through transit agencies. But then it will be very much worth it, with fares kept down low for those riders. Access is the service name of the ADA Complementary Paratransit service for functionally disabled individuals in Los Angeles County and beyond. OC Access Service is the Orange County Transit Authority’s service. Access does provide a network for all the Southern California agencies offering these services, as you can see from this link.

Metro Rail and Metrolink
Metro Rail is a network of seven Metrolink lines that serve the counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. The system includes a large number of stations that can help people travel to employment centers and major destinations. It’s a much better rail system than what was originally started in the 1980s and 1990s. It hasn’t restored the excellent streetcar system that was essentially hijacked through a conspiracy — automakers, tire makers, oil companies, and other companies doing behind the scenes lobbying to get the Yellow Cars removed in the 1950s to facilitate Southern California soon becoming the world’s largest car market, with plenty of gas stations. But what we have now is safer, better, and covers more ground than the original efforts to restore it; though it might be moving on some of the original train tracks.

Parking apps
If you’re driving and need to park somewhere, make sure you do a bit of research on how parking is done for an event or to a destination you’re aiming for. They might have reasonably priced parking, but you will probably also need to have parking apps on your smartphone to make sure you don’t get overcharged or have to walk way too far. ParkMobile, INRIX ParkMe, and Park Whiz do a good job of offering parking spots throughout SoCal. Prices will vary, too, but it does make the driver’s life a little bit easier.

And in other news…………..

Sustainable fleet resource: The State of Sustainable Fleets is offering a Policy and Funding Trend Brief to download. You can learn more about the impacts of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s new emissions standards, California’s zero-emission mandates, and their implications for fleets and engine makers. It covers regulatory and funding milestones transforming the commercial transportation sector.

Electric Transportation Funding Webinar: On April 11, 2024 07:00 am PST, a webinar will cover electric transportation funding options for communities in the Southeast US with specific focus on the Charging Fueling Infrastructure Program. Attendees will be able to hear presentations from recent CFI awardees, including Henrico County, VA and the Atlanta Regional Commission, as well as multiple technical assistance providers who can help in all aspects of applying for and managing federal awards for electric vehicles.

Autopia getting electric race cars: Autopia, a gas-powered attraction located within Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, is finally getting electrified. “As the industry moves toward alternative fuel sources, we have developed a roadmap to electrify this attraction and are evaluating technology that will enable us to convert from gas engines in the next few years,” Jessica Good, a Disneyland Resort spokesperson, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
(Editor’s note: In 2011, I called Disneyland’s sustainability officer and requested that the Autopia race car ride get electric cars instead of the smelly and loud gasoline-engine cars. He thought it was a good idea but doubted it would be carried out, as other sustainability projects were high priority.)

Nuclear and Hydrogen Significant Power Sources in the U.S., But at a Higher Cost

Both nuclear and hydrogen are gaining global support as clean and reliable power sources for electricity and other uses; and that would include growing support in the U.S. But the opposition is still in place, along with skeptics who make tangible points about what obstacles need to be overcome.

One of the challenges that nuclear, hydrogen, and fuel cells face is the higher cost of building, operating, and maintaining the power plants compared to other energy sources. That carries over to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as well when compared to other alternative fuel vehicles.

It wasn’t that long ago that both of these non-fossil fuel energies were dismissed by many influential leaders. Nuclear faced the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents and radiation leaks. Hydrogen could bring up the Hindenburg disaster and hydrogen nuclear bombs from the 1950s, though these examples have had little to do with how hydrogen has been used to power American spaceships, fuel cell vehicles, power plants, and other uses.

The support has been steadily increasing in recent years. At COP28 in Dubai last year, more than 20 countries from four continents expressed support for tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050 as a key element of reaching net zero. New legislation and rules from the Biden administration have been propelling a renewed bipartisan push for nuclear power.

The federal government will be providing a $1.5 billion loan to restart the Palisades plant in southwestern Michigan. Announced Wednesday, the 800-megawatt plant that was closed in 2022 is on track to be reopened in late 2025. That came from support from the Biden administration and the state of Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said it would be the first nuclear power plant to be reopened in the U.S. It still faces hurdles, including inspections, testing and the blessing of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, known as the NRC.

Supporters of nuclear power identified by Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) include: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; President Joe Biden; Bill Gates; film director Oliver Stone, Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Energy; John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Ken Kimmell, from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Capital Research Center did an August 2023 study on opponents of nuclear energy. Environmental groups made the list including the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute (WRI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the League of Conservation Voters.

While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has dismissed hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, there have been fewer opponents of the fuel and technology than nuclear power has faced. Support has increased over the past quarter century in Washington, D.C., California, European Union, Japan, South Korea, and other markets for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles.

Looking at the cost of producing electricity at power plants illustrates the hurdle that nuclear and fuel cells have to overcome in the near future. (See table, above.) It’s also helpful to look at trends in energy power plant sources over the past decade.

Energy power source trends in the US:

  1. Coal reached its peak powering electricity in the U.S. in 2008, at 1.986 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). It provided 829 billion kWh in 2022. Natural gas took the dominant role around 2015.
  2. Natural gas made up 1,689 billion-kWh or 39.8% of the 4,243 billion kilowatt-hours total in the US in 2022. Renewables powered 913 billion-kWh, or 21.5%. Coal made up 829 billion-kWh or 19.5% of the total. Nuclear provided 772 billion-kWh, or 18.2%. ‘Petroleum and other’ provided 40 billion-kWh, or 0.9% of the total that year.
  3. Renewables have had a slow and steady part of the total power-plant energy sources — about 10.35% of the total energy in 2010, versus 21.5% in 2022.
  4. Fuel cell power plants produced 350 megawatts of power in 2022, or about 8.25% of the total energy supply for the U.S. that year. As of December 2022, there were 205 fuel cell power plants in 147 facilities. Most use pipeline natural gas as the hydrogen source; while some use landfill gas and others use wastewater treatment biogas.

Source: EIA

There are a few signs that nuclear and hydrogen are gaining traction:
Amazon quietly acquired a nuclear-powered data center in Pennsylvania for $650 million, its first in the nuclear space. Amazon Web Services, the tech giant’s cloud computing unit, bought the centre from US power generator Talen Energy, which developed the site adjoining a nuclear power station. AWS will buy electricity from the Susquehanna nuclear power station, which is 130km north-west of Philadelphia, under a 10-year power-purchase agreement.

Operators of several natural gas-fired power plants are exploring the use of hydrogen to supplement or replace natural gas. Hydrogen has the potential for effectively storing energy for electric power generation. Biofuel producers also use hydrogen to produce hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) for use as renewable diesel.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Hydrogen truck maker Nikola Motors has announced that it has opened its first ever H2 refuelling station, for trucks only, in the California city of Ontario, 35 miles (56km) of downtown Los Angeles — on the same road as an existing Shell H2 filling stop for trucks. Nikola Corp plans to build up to 60 hydrogen refueling stations for heavy-duty vehicles in California over the next few years.

Nuclear power is a low-emission source of electricity, providing about 10% of global electricity generation. For those countries where it is accepted, it can support that country’s goals to get away from fossil fuel powered electricity production plants. Along with power plants, nuclear energy can be used an option for producing low-emission heat and hydrogen, according to International Energy Agency. The U.S. uses a lot of nuclear power, making up about 30% of global nuclear electricity generation, according to IEA. One-firth of America’s electricity comes from nuclear power.

Nuclear fusion power has a long way to go, but it is getting backers in venture capital. The global market paid $10 trillion for energy in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), so even a single-digit percentage of that pie would generate revenues in the tens of billions. Oh, and a commercially successful fusion power plant would change the world.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced it plans to invest 4 trillion yen ($26.46 billion) in a public-private partnership to develop a next-generation hydrogen-powered passenger jet. “It is important for us to build next-generation aircraft based on technologies where Japan is competitive while also contributing to the decarbonization of air transport,” according to that agency.

Japan expects the new sustainable aircraft development to be completed after 2035.

And in other news………..

EPA finalizes rules: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized vehicle pollution emission standards for all vehicles — from light- to heavy-duty. The final rule builds upon EPA’s standards for federal greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026, established in 2021, and leverages advances in clean car technology to unlock benefits to Americans ranging from improving public health through reducing smog- and soot-forming pollution from vehicles, to reducing climate pollution, to saving drivers money through reduced fuel and maintenance costs. These standards will phase in over model years 2027 through 2032.

Calstart sees it bringing together the Inflation Reduction Act and with the finalized EPA rules for environmental and economic gains. “Combined with 2022’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), EPA’s finalized standards mark a crucial step forward in combatting climate change and reducing harmful air pollutants emitted by vehicles. The newly finalized vehicle standards, along with the IRA, will accelerate growth of the U.S. electric vehicle market and industry. The growing market for electric vehicles in the U.S. is an unparalleled opportunity for the American auto industry and the beginning of a new era of manufacturing in the United States,” Calstart said in a statement.

Roadmap for securing funding: GNA offers more insight into securing federal funding for grid and fleet upgrades. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) present major funding opportunities, but hundreds of agencies and individual programs might be part of accomplishing a fleet operator’s mission. Cross-sector collaborations and public-private partnerships are a necessity, GNA says.

GNA’s Peter Ogundele on Making Grant Funding Work for You

Interested in seeing 50 new fast-charging stations installed in your city that can fuel medium-to heavy duty vehicles? The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates the cost for a single port EVSE unit to be $10,000 to $40,000 for DC fast charging, and installation costs in the $4,000 to $51,000 range. Let’s say the suppliers offer a competitive, discounted price for the entire project. That could be about $1.5 million for the project on the low-cost end.

That could likely be outside of a municipal fleet’s budget, and that of private companies and other entities. They may have the internal financial support to bring in new electric trucks, but they’re facing the classic ‘chicken or the egg’ question — they need to see a growing charging infrastructure to justify the truck investment.

Peter Ogundele, Director, Programs, at GNA (which will operate as TRC starting on July 1, 2024) had a lot to say to Green Auto Market about it. Over the years, GNA has worked with clients to bring in about $1.1 billion in secured grants and funding for clean vehicles and fuels — at a 90% success rate on grant applications.

Applying for grant funding and incentives for clean transportation projects is a labor-intensive, high-risk initiative for fleets, government and NPO agencies, OEMs, suppliers, and other stakeholders committed to bringing cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions to their communities. Being well prepared and focused is a necessity, and bringing in partners like GNA, Clean Cities coalitions, and other professionals experienced in the funding process, is usually the tipping point for hitting those targets.

Ogundele is from Canada and started in the oil and gas industry as a petroleum engineer. That shifted over to the clean energy and transportation space, and he’s been with GNA since December 2021. Prior experience has been in electric vehicle charging networks and hydrogen fueling stations.

Putting it into context, the process and available funds have evolved quite a bit over the past 15 years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) presented opportunities with potential for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and electric vehicle credits and funding for charging infrastructures. “It was an unbelievable watershed, because at that point (these projects) could get funding of about $300 million,” Ogundele said.

All of that has grown and scaled quite a lot over the years, and can typically be seen in diverse individual funding programs. It’s coming from multiple sources from federal, state, and local governments. We’re starting to see huge grant opportunities at the federal level and sometimes from States and other agencies as well, Ogundele said.

That has been enhanced over the years, including October 2023 when the U.S. Department of Energy announced $7 billion to launch seven Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs) across the nation. It’s also aimed at accelerating the commercial-scale deployment of low-cost, clean hydrogen.

Funding 360 behind all of it
GNA’s ‘Funding 360’ philosophy and practices have been at the heart of acquiring necessary funding. It’s a full-circle process that GNA has diligently followed, he said.

That comes through grants, rebates, loans, credits, and tax incentives for client partners. Securing the funding breaks out into a four-part process:

  1. Goals: factoring in operational needs, risk tolerance and financial requirements, fuel and technology type, and geographic location and targeted regions.
  2. Report: staying on track to meet burdensome administrative requirements and to meet reporting deadlines such as vehicle miles traveled, emissions reduced, funds distributed, and construction progress.
  3. Track: monitoring requirements for 500+ U.S. and Canadian funding programs, with relationships in place with the national, state, and local agencies that offer the funding.
  4. Apply: writing strong grants and other applications that sell your project by leveraging your knowledge of technical requirements and other facets of what goes into securing available funding programs.

Reporting requirements can extend out two-to-five years. The administrative burden can include gathering the data, managing the data, reporting on the operations, and providing feedback to the agencies.

“We want to make sure that they understand what the obligations are,” he said. “Even if it’s the same solicitation, every year the language changes,” he said.

Lately that can take the form of applying for workforce development grants, health and environmental concerns for disadvantaged communities, zero emission vehicle regulations, sustainability and climate change measures, and other policies. The “data metrics” can change based on what’s being measured for the application and its end goals, he said.

Heavy-duty electric vehicle charging is a rising concern, and the North American Charging Standard (NACS) comes up a lot. NACS is known as the Tesla charging standard and is being standardized as SAE J3400.

You can tap into GNA’s resources on the Funding & Incentives page of its website, including the Case Studies section and more details on grant writing.

One case study mentioned by Ogundele is the Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative (JETSI) project. Started in 2021 and going through March 2025, JETSI is one of the first pilot projects funded in California which provides fleets with concrete guidance and lessons learned to successfully deploy about 100 battery electric trucks and infrastructure at scale, and to enable fleets to transition to zero emission technologies. It’s being funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CSC), with South Coast Air Quality Management District as the grantee leading the project. It’s also part of the California Climate Investments program.

GNA has been pivotal working with stakeholders to bring it together and help deploy this project, he said.

Another good place to hear about some of the success stories and to seek guidance on funding projects will be at the Advanced, Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. This event will be taking place May 20-23, 2024 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Going to workshop and speaker events will be a good opportunity to connect with professional experienced in carrying out these types of projects.

“You get different people involved from the OEMs, regulatory agencies, infrastructure providers, government agencies, community leaders,” he said, “so everyone can be in the same room.”

Here’s some more resources for those doing research on this topic:

Grant opportunities and funding sources in clean transportation and energy:

EERE Vehicle Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports high impact projects that can significantly and swiftly advance market acceptance of next generation energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) provides new funding opportunities that are announced regularly. (And don’t forget to go to Grants.gov to sign up for the announcement emails.)

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
U.S. Dept. of Energy research and development to lower the cost of clean energy technologies, protect the private sector from financial risk, and ensure an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Project selections are merit-based with an emphasis on potential energy, environmental, and economic benefits.

ARPA-E Funding Opportunity Announcements
U.S. Dept. of Energy says that the objective of this solicitation is to support high-risk R&D leading to the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

U.S. EPA Technology Advancement Funding Opportunities
The Clean Technology Initiative is an ongoing effort by California agencies and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as others. These pages provide funding resources to help accelerate cleanup solutions in the form of advanced clean technologies.

U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (2021) and the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) support projects such as the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program; and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

South Coast Air Quality Management District
These programs are generally rooted in the initiatives and policies adopted by the SCAQMD Governing Board, or in state and federal programs designed to spread the use of cleaner technologies that reduce air pollution.

California Energy Commission Solicitations
Information about funding opportunities that the CEC offers that advance the state’s transition to clean energy and transportation through innovation, efficiency, and the development and deployment of advanced technologies.

California Climate & Energy Collaborative
These opportunities offer a curated list of open, upcoming and past opportunities relevant to local climate and energy practitioners that can help them advance fair and equitable climate change and energy practices. This database defaults to showing active opportunities first.

CARB — Low Carbon Transportation Investments and AQIP Grant Solicitations
The California Air Resources Board issues competitive grant solicitations for each project category listed in the Low Carbon Transportation Incentives and AQIP Funding Plans.  Current solicitations and documents for some of the most recent project solicitations are posted on this web page. 

New York’s Drive Clean Rebate
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers the Charge NY initiative, which provides electric car buyers the Drive Clean Rebate of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases. NYSERDA has several other programs that provide incentives, funding, and technical assistance to accelerate electric vehicle adoption. Charge Ready NY 2.0 offers incentives to public, private, and not-for-profit organizations that install Level 2 EV charging stations at workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, or public facilities. Charging at Multifamily Properties includes information and resources on the benefits, best practices, and financial incentives for installing EV charging stations at multi-unit dwellings. Truck Voucher Incentive Program provides vouchers and discounts for fleets to purchase or lease zero-emission trucks and buses and take high-emitting, polluting diesel vehicles off the road.

Clean Cities Coalition Network
The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Clean Cities program offers funding opportunities to implement alternative fuels, advanced vehicle technologies, and fuel-saving strategies. Funding opportunities are available from many sources inside and outside the DOE.

US EPA’s West Coast Collaborative
The West Coast Collaborative is a voluntary public-private partnership committed to reducing diesel emissions and advancing clean technologies throughout the western United States. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants provide the available funding resources.

Transportation Funding Resources in Washington State
Working together to support transportation efficient communities through Washington State Department of Transportation — federal and state programs.

Port of Los Angeles
Grant funds are available from local, state and federal agencies for air emission reductions that go beyond current regulatory requirements for the Port of Los Angeles and several other organizations. Source categories include Cargo-Handling Equipment (CHE), Harbor Craft (HC), Heavy-Duty Vehicles (HDV), Ocean-Going Vessels (OGV) and Rail Locomotives (RL). Potential funding opportunities are summarized below.

CIV:LAB leverages global capital to connect community stakeholders with the resources and funding required to launch bold responses to the threats of the climate crisis.

U.S. Venture Sustainability Accelerator
Join the 12-week startup accelerator sponsored by U.S. Venture and powered by gener8tor. With a vision to be the very best provider of transportation products, sustainability solutions, and insights driving the world forward, the U.S. Venture Sustainability Accelerator program will mirror this foundation by investing $100K into five sustainability- and mobility-related startups to provide a mentorship-based, concierge-service programming needed to experience growth and acquisition.

And in other news…………

Managing EVs after a disruptive year: Automotive Fleet’s Chris Brown analyzes how events such as Hertz getting out of EVs and used EV prices tanking are disrupting the marketplace and working environment for fleet professionals. Fleet operators have to manage challenges such as looming regulations, corporate ESG initiatives, and their organizations’ bottom line.

Cummins video: See the ‘Destination Zero’ strategy video from Cummins on how the truck and chassis manufacturer is facing 2027 with NOx and future greenhouse gas emissions requirements coming, along with new technologies and architecture in their powertrains.

Fisker in trouble: Electric vehicle maker Fisker has hired restructuring advisers to assist with a possible bankruptcy filing, according to people familiar with the matter and the Wall Street Journal. The company hired financial adviser FTI Consulting and the law firm Davis Polk to work on a potential filing, sources said. Fisker Inc. reported last month that it had $273 million in sales last year and more than $1 billion in debt. 

Safest EVs Announced in IIHS Awards, IEA’s Clean Energy Report

Fifteen plug-in electric vehicles made it to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s 2024 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards. TSP+ is the highest award given, with protection for passengers in the rear of the vehicle given more importance this year. Electric vehicles are included in vehicle size categories with traditional gasoline-powered models.

Hyundai Motor Group won the most overall awards this year — 16 awards across its three brands: Genesis, Hyundai and Kia. Mazda earned the most Top Safety Pick+ awards of any individual brand with five. Audi had the most awards — four — for the plug-in vehicles that made the rankings. Hyundai Motor Group tied Audi at the corporate level with four awards, but that was split evenly between the Hyundai and Genesis brands. Rivian took two of the awards.

The IIHS said that the standards for inclusion were toughened this year with the Institute demanding better protection for back seat passengers and improving their pedestrian crash avoidance systems. Last year’s biggest change was the replacement of the original side crash test with an updated version that uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed.

Safety is one of the selling points for electric vehicles, along with durability, efficiency, and adaptability to climate conditions such as heat and snow. To determine its ratings, IIHS includes vehicles in its rankings that perform well in crashworthiness, front crash prevention, and headlight testing.

2024 Top Safety Picks
Small Cars
Toyota Prius Plus

Small SUVs
Hyundai Ioniq 5

Midsize SUVs
Mazda CX-90 PHEV

Large SUVs
Audi Q8 e-tron
Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron
Rivian R1S

Midsize Luxury SUVs
Audi Q4 e-tron
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron
Genesis Electrified GV70
Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo XC90 Recharge

Large Pickups
Rivian R1T crew cab

2024 Top Safety Picks +
Hyundai Ioniq 6

Large luxury car:
Genesis Electrified G80

Midsize Luxury SUVs
Tesla Model Y

And in other news…………

IEA clean energy report: Continued expansion of solar, wind, nuclear power and electric cars helped the world avoid greater use of fossil fuels in 2023, according to International Energy Agency. Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose less strongly in 2023 than the year before even as total energy demand growth accelerated. The agency reported that without clean energy technologies, the global increase in CO2 emissions would have been three times larger in the past five years.
An exceptional shortfall in hydropower due to extreme droughts – in China, the U.S. and several other economies – resulted in over 40% of the rise in emissions in 2023 as countries turned largely to fossil fuel alternatives to plug the gap.

Apple out of EVs: While electric vehicle advocates have been waiting to see Apple keep its word and launch its own EV for the past decade, that it reportedly coming to a halt. Known as Project Titan, Apple was going to design and launch a fully autonomous EV that would compete with Tesla and every automaker going this route. Last month, Apple executives were said to have cancelled the project and focus more on the popular generative artificial intelligence. But, as The Atlantic said, you can’t get into most any car without seeing Apple technology in it. One was linking the smartphone to the to the car’s touch screen — and several ways that drivers have connected their car to their smartphone to take on multiple tasks without taking their eyes off the road.

Pepsi sued for plastics: The New York Attorney General’s environmental protection bureau made New York the first state to sue a company over plastic pollution. That came out of discovering that Pepsi plastic bottles made up 17% of the plastic waste found in the Buffalo River. The environmental protection bureau had been going through oil- and gas-based- plastic waste pulled from the river in western New York. Pllastic waste made up about 78% of trash that Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper volunteers had cleaned and inventoried from 2013 to 2022, according to data citied in the lawsuit from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water. Pepsi’s sustainability report says that the company has included cutting virgin plastic from non-renewable sources per serving 50% by 2030. Another goal is to reduce its absolute tonnage of virgin plastic derived from non-renewable sources by 20% in the same timer period, the company said.

Karma buys Airbiquity assets: Southern California-based electrified luxury carmaker Karma Automotive has acquired the technology assets and intellectual property of Seattle-based Airbiquity, a software company that develops and engineers automotive telematics technology and cloud services. Airbiquity has developed automotive commercial software with investors that include Toyota Motor Co. and Denso. Karma has also hired key technical employees and assumed the software company’s significant OEM contracts. “Their design maturity will help codify our strategies for software-defined and continuously connected vehicles,” says Karma President Marques McCammon.

Will AI-Powered Robots Take Over Self-Driving Cars? The Potential is There

So why do we keep focusing on, and obsessing over, artificial intelligence? Use and demand for generative AI solutions is compounding and accelerating; and it may fill some of the gaps between where we stand now and how we can accomplish far-away goals. One of them could be fully autonomous vehicles on our roads that would be electric, safe, efficient, and eventually better than what humans have been capable of so far. Generative AI is not just about creating new content for websites and reports; no, there’s a lot more potential.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Nvidia Corp. and other big technology names are giving it a shot by investing in a business that’s developing human-like robots, according to people with knowledge of the situation, part of a global surge to find new applications for AI.

Figure AI, a startup that will be building humanoid robots, is getting $675 million in a funding round that includes Nvidia, OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT), Bezos’ Explore Investments LLC, Microsoft, Intel’s venture capital firm, Samsung, and LG Innotek, an affiliate of LG Group. Figure AI is an AI-power robot that can act like a human and be used to perform tasks that real humans don’t want to do. These tasks could be dangerous and unstable compared what human workers are usually willing to do these days.

Bezos had committed $100 million through Explore Investments LLC. Microsoft is investing $95 million, while Nvidia and an Amazon-affiliated fund are each providing $50 million, according to the sources. It’s part of a funding round that carries a pre-money valuation of roughly $2 billion, they say.

Tesla has its own walking, working robot project in development. Called Optimus, it’s being designed to help eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks for humans. CEO Elon Musk has said that the AI-powered robot could end up being the electric automaker’s biggest source of business long term. It will start out working in Tesla’s factories. Musk recently said that Tesla could start shipping units of Optimus as early as next year.

Boston Dynamics, a company that has been working on this technology for over a decade, was acquired by South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., in 2021. Founder Marc Raibert recently said that he believes Musk’s ambitions are being driven by seeing the progression of Boston Dynamic’s bipedal robot, Atlas. 

As for robotics taking over cars through autonomous vehicles, that won’t be showing up anytime soon. You can take a ride in one of these robot-taxis in San Francisco and Phoenix, but the number of available rides is sparse as safety and traffic congestion concerns tend to keep them very limited. As for mass market, the autonomous vehicle industry will not develop a fully self-driving car until 2035, according to a prediction from research firm GlobalData.

AI has always been part of factory robotics, self-driving car technology and testing, and aerial drones — which so far have been the most advanced and useful robotic transport option. Advanced sensors and AI algorithms can help vehicles detect and respond to potential dangers faster and more accurately than humans, along with other benefits from the technology.

Udacity, an online training conpany, recently posted a commentary on these issues with input from its CEO Sebastian Thrun, one of the founders of Google’s self-driving car program that was later named Waymo.

AI-powered robotics has the potential to address some of the safety concerns of vehicles being on roads without human drivers who can take control of the car. AI has vast potential for replicating the human driving experience, which would include multiple levels of sensory data awareness for bringing the car to a halt to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and those riding in cars and trucks.

According to Udacity, some of the benefits of tapping into AI’s potential include: these self-driving cars can operate more efficiently, optimizing acceleration, braking, and routing to reduce fuel consumption. Eco-friendly practices can be enabled to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as deploying efficient driving routes. Another benefit: company employees can be working in their cars, or they can take time off for rest and rejuvenation by not having to drive to and from work, or while going to a business meeting or training session.

Would that mean robots would be driving these cars? It is a possibility. Automakers are always tapping into the latest mobility innovations, which is demonstrated in January of each year at the CES convention in Las Vegas. At CES 2024, the main topics presented by automakers and suppliers included autonomous driving, generative AI, EV charging, flying cars, drones, sensors, and micro-mobility, according to DigiTimes Asia.

Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, has a lot of hope for the potential of generative AI.

“First, on the hardware side, one great example is LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging sensors. Originally big, bulky, and expensive, LiDAR uses laser pulses to measure distance and create 3D point clouds of the surrounding environment.
A decade ago, a LiDAR unit cost about $100,000 and was the size of a coffee-can, Today, they’ve shrunk down 1000-fold and suppliers like Luminar have reduced the cost 100-fold, supplying units to carmakers today for $1,000, with a goal of $500 in the next few years……..
“Second, in the realm of software, it’s all about advances in AI. The same breakthroughs that have enabled applications using GPT-4 to see, listen and speak, are now being applied to robotics.

These humanoid compatriots will be equipped with AI-enhanced vision systems, offering precise image recognition, which aids in activities like component sorting and quality checks. AI’s predictive capabilities ensure machinery functions efficiently, foreseeing potential malfunctions, hence economizing maintenance.

Generative AI in particular magnifies a robot’s adaptability. Using reinforcement learning, they can autonomously refine their operations. This self-improvement, combined with decision-making algorithms, optimizes their actions. Additionally, by mimicking human interactions, be it verbal or non-verbal, they seamlessly blend into sectors like healthcare, fostering trust and collaboration,” Diamandis just wrote in his blog.

And in other news…………

Global EV sales: Interested in how electric vehicle sales are doing worldwide? Our World in Data just released a study tracking those numbers from 2010 through 2022, citing International Energy Agency data. Globally, around 1-in-5 new cars sold was electric in 2022. In Norway, the share was well over 4-in-5, and in China, it was around 1-in-3. In the U.S., 8% of new vehicles sold were plug-ins during 2022. Worldwide, it was 14%. Of that global total, 10% were battery electric vehicles and 4% were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

As for who will play the dominant role in global EV sales, journalist Will Lockett sees BYD continuing to throw off Tesla. While Tesla is getting ready to build its affordable hatchback, the Model 2, at a Mexico factory, BYD is well on its way. BYD is looking to build their own Mexico plant and enter the US market with EVs that make the Model 2 look outdated, he said. Affordable models like the BYD Dolphin were how the Chinese automaker was able to bump off Tesla by units sold. That includes plug-in hybrid and battery electric models for BYD, while Tesla is battery electric only.

For a look at the global big picture, OWID reports that there were a total of 72.86 million new vehicles sold worldwide in 2022. That broke out to 62.66 million non-electric cars sold that year, and 10.20 were electric cars. That would include passenger cars and commercial vehicles, according to Statista.

Ford halts Lightning pickups: Ford said on Friday it had halted shipments of all 2024 model year F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks. The Detroit automakers needs to perform quality checks for an issue it did not specify. Production was halted and Feb. 9, and the automaker didn’t say when it would start again. Ford recently cut prices on its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV by up to $8,100 after sales fell sharply in January.

Volvo reducing ownership of Polestar: Volvo announced plans to sell 62.7% of its stake in EV maker Polestar as it looks toward the next stage of its transformation. Volvo Cars board proposed planning to distribute the 62.7% stake on Friday. If approved, the move will result in an 18% stake in Polestar. Parent company Geely, with a 78.7% stake, had already confirmed it intends to vote in favor of the stock sale.

Clean Transportation and Energy Resources to Tap Into, Ford Cuts Prices on Mustang Mach-E

ACT Shipper-Carrier Connect:
Ports are at the heart of the global economy these days. They’re also a major source of smog and greenhouse gas emissions from the ships, trucks, and logistics providers serving them. GNA, a TRC company and organizers of the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, just announced the inaugural ACT Shipper-Carrier Connect event, taking place May 22-23, 2024, in Las Vegas, co-located with ACT Expo, to unite shippers, carriers, and logistics providers to shape the future of sustainable freight. Sustainability is a new business priority for freight and logistics companies, GNA says, and this event will showcase how effective collaboration can enable shippers and carriers to achieve shared economic and environmental sustainability goals.

Eco-friendly cargo ships:
Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and New Jersey, Georgia Ports (Savannah and Brunswick), Seattle-Tacoma, Houston, Oakland, South Carolina Ports (Georgetown and Charleston), Port Metro Vancouver, and Virginia (Hampton Roads region) are the largest ports in North America, according to Shipa Freight. One of the big frustrations for those advocating ports to reduce their emissions significantly is getting shippers to cooperate. They’re international companies, many times from China, Denmark, and other countries, and outside U.S. laws. Danish-company Maersk and other shipping companies are trying out methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen as viable alternative fuels. Canadian company Ballard Power has been very involved with these test projects by providing its fuel cell modules. The first vessels to embark on their maiden voyages last year were Norled’s MF Hydra — the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered ferry — operating in Norway; FPS Waal, a retrofitted cargo vessel expected in service on the Rhine River in Holland; and Zulu06, the first inland cargo transport vessel on the river Seine in France.

Another profitable year for Clean Harbors:
Clean Harbors, Inc. just reported its ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth; and that revenue was up 4.7% year over year in the fourth quarter — with the same number for all of 2023, according to WasteDive. The U.S.-based company is a provider of environmental and industrial services, including hazardous waste disposal for clients that include companies, small waste generators, and federal, state, provincial and local governments — including serving major ports. Safety-Kleen, a Clean Harbor company, is where much of that happens.

European Alternative Fuels Observatory:
For those wondering how alternative fuels and vehicles have been doing in Europe, go to this website to have your questions answered. If you’re interested in learning how many battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, propane-powered, and LPG- and CNG-powered vehicles are on their roads, go visit this site. You can compare by country, overall vehicles and fleet vehicles, infrastructure, legislation and incentives, and other useful information. European Alternative Fuels Observatory is the European Commission’s knowledge center, offering a wealth of data on alternative fuels in Europe.

The future of used EV batteries:
A documentary that I recently watched forecasted that planet Earth is heading for big trouble with climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, air pollution, over-population and overdevelopment, and landfills full of waste, driving the destruction. One of the examples given in the film was how bad disposal of used batteries from increasing electric vehicle ownership has been getting. For fleets and individual EV owners, staying current on options they have to make sure they’re battery packs are recycled or disposed of sustainably and efficiently is a good idea. Resource guides have been presented by Car and Driver and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that are very much worth checking out.

Renewable fuel conferences coming up:
Advanced Biofuels USA’s calendar of events is the place to go for upcoming conferences on biofuels, renewable natural gas, algae, and other topics shaping the future of advanced fuels coming from feedstocks, manure, and organic waste materials. British event planner Active Communications International is hosting the Future of RNG North America 2024 that will be taking place in Houston on March 20-21, 2024. Experts and industry leaders will delve into case studies and success stories, showcasing how RNG projects have already revitalized the biogas world and contributed to energy independence. (And don’t forget that the RNG Coalition conference will be taking place Dec. 9-12, 2024, in Dana Point, Calif., at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club.)………. Microalgae and macroalgae production, harvesting, extraction and new markets are being explored in a series of monthly webinars.  Seaweed-based technologies have been proven outside the lab as scalable and economically feasible. Learn how other microalgae and macroalgae solutions are reaching commercial algae production and new markets…………. ABLC 2024 will be taking place March 13-15, 2024, in Washington, DC. It’s connected series of seven conferences and events in total on the most important issues in the circular bioeconomy right now. These include the Advanced Biofuels Summit, the Renewable Chemicals & Biomaterials Summit, the Green Hydrogen Summit, the Advanced Agriculture Summit, the Sustainable Aviation Summit, and the Biogas & RNG Summit, and the Circular Bioeconomy Policy Forum. In addition, there will be special events, forums, and workshops.

Cal Fleet Advisor assisting fleets in ZEVs:
For fleets needing to integrate zero emission vehicles and all that goes with it, the Cal Fleet Advisor program can be very much worth looking into. This free assistance program has helped more than 300 California fleets, and is available now for owners and operators of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. It’s part of the state’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). HVIP is administered by CALSTART on behalf of the California Air Resources Board. It offers a personal advisor, resources to consider, and funding process assistance.

More about hydrogen and fuel cell transportation:
Need more information on hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles? For one, hydrogen stores and transports energy produced from other resource. See the ‘7 Fun Facts on Hydrogen & Fuel Cells’ at NREL for more information. One of the major challenges has been that hydrogen has very high energy for its weight, but very low energy for its volume, so new technology is needed to store and transport it. And fuel cell technology is still in early development, needing improvements in efficiency and durability. This video provides insights into where it’s going — as does the California Hydrogen Leadership Summit. That conference will be taking place June 16-17, 2024, at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento. During “Hydrogen Decarbonizing Transportation,” speakers will take a close look at policy changes needed at both federal and state levels to empower the use of hydrogen fuel to help make transportation more climate friendly. They’ll explore the technologies offered by leading vehicle manufacturers and dig into the air quality regulations, such as the Advanced Clean Trucks and Advanced Clean Fleets rules that will require investment into hydrogen-fueled zero-emission transportation technologies.

The absolute importance of having safe water
As a few experts have said to me, if you’re interested in tracking the future of planet Earth, then pay attention to three areas: fossil fuels, energy, and water. Actor Matt Damon has been promoting the organization and website Water.org that was founded more than a decade ago by Damon and Gary White, a civil and environmental engineer. Their goal has been to work independently to help break down barriers between people in need and access to safe water. About 2.2 billion people lack access to safe water. The global nonprofit aims to bring water and sanitation to the world.

And in other news……………..

Price cuts on Mustang Mach-E: Ford Motor Co. said yesterday that it had cut prices on its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV by up to $8,100 after sales fell sharply in January. It now has a starting price of $39,895, down from $42,995. The higher-end Mach-E GT will cost about $7,600 less, at $52,395. The extended-range premium version will drop in price by $8,100 to $48,895. Ford and other automakers, including Tesla, have had to cut sticker prices to get car shoppers to take that option more seriously.

Rivian cutting workforce down: Startup electric SUV and pickup truck maker Rivian said it would cut its workforce by 10% and that it’s EV production forecast widely missed estimates. The company says that it’s been hurt by downtime for factory upgrades and slowing demand for electric vehicles due to high interest rates. That could mean producing 57,000 new vehicles this year, down from the 81,700 units in the initial plan for 2024.

Franchised Dealers at the Crossroads on Electric Vehicles, Truck CEOs Speaking at ACT Expo

How do you get through to skeptical consumers who’ve never purchased an electric vehicle, and have held onto some false assumptions on the technology? The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) launched an innovative online EV sales training certification program to empower dealership staff, at the NADA Show 2024 in Las Vegas on February 1.

The training program is called ElectrifIQ, and it’s been structured to prepare dealers to address classic consumer questions: charging times and costs, driving range per charge, total cost of ownership, available incentives, and more. CSE is tapping into experience managing statewide EV incentive programs. The San Diego, Calif.-based organization has already done so with state dealer associations in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon on EV training, according to NADA. Dealers can tap into the staff training program for $199 per person or $495 per dealership.

It’s been a steep hill to climb since EVs started being available for sale through dealers in 2011. Nearly half of Buick’s U.S. dealerships, about 1,000, left the brand last year after it offered buyouts for those who didn’t want to invest in selling electric vehicles. They’re not the only dealers to do so, and it’s not all about selling EVs. U.S. franchised dealers have been preparing to retire and sell off assets to family members or competitors for a few years now. But EVs have been the tipping point for many.

If you take a look above at 2023 sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, you can see that some brands and their franchised dealer networks will likely be more interested in trying out ElectrifIQ than others.

Kelley Blue Book’s recent study on U.S. sales of EVs reported that there were 1,189,051 new EVs that were put into service in the U.S. last year. That includes light-duty passenger vehicles, with medium-to-heavy-duty commercial EVs not counted in this report. That included 884,475 total for the top 10 sold, or 74.38% off the total.

Of the new EVs sold in the U.S. last year, 59.3% of all of these vehicles were sold by Tesla and Rivian — who don’t have dealer networks. Both companies use a direct-to-consumer sales model. Tesla had sales of 654,888 vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, three of which you can see in the Top 10 chart above. The fourth vehicles was the Model S, which had 16,466 units sold in the U.S. during 2023. Tesla continued to hold its dominant pace in the American market, with 55.1% of the new light-duty electric vehicles sold last year.

As for the top five non-Tesla automakers in EV sales last year………

  1. Ford also sold 7,672 E-Transit vans.
  2. General Motors decided to bring the Bolt back with strong demand showing up for the car and SUV versions after the company had decided to stop production. As for the other EVs, it was thin for GM: 482 Chevy Blazer SUVs and 461 Chevy Silverado pickup trucks were sold in the U.S. last year.
  3. Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 crossover SUV led the way, followed by the Ioniq 6 sedan which came in at 12,999 units sold, and its Kona small SUV coming in at 10,644. The Korean automaker’s Kia and Genesis brands are also selling a decent volume of EVs for being so new to EVs.
  4. Southern California-based Rivian is targeted at fleets and consumers. The R1S SUV was the market leader, followed by 17,726 R1T pickup trucks and 7,679 EDV 500/700 cargo vans.
  5. BMW’s i Series has been revamped more recently to be based on lovers of luxury and sports cars — and willing to pay for it. The German automakers’ market leader in the US EV space has been the i4 Gran Coupe; followed by the iX SUV at 17,301 units sold last year; the i7 luxury sedan at 3,400; and 2,133 of the i5 luxury sedan.

And in other news……….

ACT Expo just announced that top truckmaker CEOs will be speaking at the annual event in May, this time at the Las Vegas Convention Center. ‘CEO Roundtable on Scaling Vehicle Electrification’ will include:

Art Vallely, President, Penske Truck Leasing (Moderator)  
Mathias Carlbaum, Chief Executive Officer, Navistar 
John O’Leary, President and Chief Executive Officer, Daimler Truck North America 
Jonathan Randall, President, Mack Trucks 
Peter Voorhoeve, President, Volvo Trucks North America 
Jason Skoog, General Manager, Peterbilt & Vice President, PACCAR  

For an overview of this year’s ACT Expo, click here.

Gas-Free Lawn Care Starts in California, Tesla’s Autopilot Collision Data Similar to Previous Year

Sometime around 2012, I interviewed a small business startup owner at AltCar Expo in Santa Monica, Calif. He was promoting his electric leaf blower and spoke eloquently about why we need to switch over to electric lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, and leaf blowers. The noise is one reason, but the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions was an even more serious reason, he said.

That topic has come up several times over the past year-and-a-half at a morning tai chi class I go to in Manhattan Beach. We had to move away from a park in Hermosa Beach because a lawn-care team would be there to mow lawns, run edgers, weed whackers and leaf blowers every time we showed up for class. The putrid smell and loud, obnoxious noise became too much — so we opted to move to another park.

“Wouldn’t it be great if the state banned gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers and only allowed electric?” I would put out to the group. “Remind me to contact my assembly member and suggest that a bill be introduced.”

I just found out there’s no need to take that action. On January 1, 2024, California became the first state to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered lawn mowers and other lawn-care tools. That covers small off-road engines (SOREs), spark-ignition engines powered by gasoline and rated or at below 25 hp (19kW).

California’s green lawn care law covers all lawn care and gardening equipment manufactured after Dec. 31, 2023, that use SOREs. The list includes: lawn mowers, riding mowers, string trimmers, edgers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, and log splitters. That one started January 1, and it sets zero-emission standards for outdoor equipment except generators and large pressure washers. Phase two will take effect in 2028 and includes generators and large washers.

While most Californians want the loud noise to go away, the main focus in the state has been reducing emissions from lawn-care equipment that is more polluting than all the cars in the state combined. That policy was adopted as debate goes on all over the country over getting rid of gas-powered equipment including gas stoves. This issue has faced opposition from some Republican elected officials, gas companies, and others who say the restrictions reduce consumer choice.

In California, it came from Assembly Bill 1346 in 2021, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park). It required California Air Resources Board, by July 1, 2022, to be consistent with federal law, and to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by CARB. Such regulations had to apply to engines produced on or after January 1, 2024, or as soon as CARB determined if its feasible, whichever was later. CARB ruled it would start at the first of this year.

It ties into California’s ambitious plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2045 — and that the negative impact of gas-powered lawn care equipment has to be taken seriously. CARB reported that one hour use of a gas-powered lawn mower releases as much pollution as a Toyota Camry does over 300 miles. And as you can see on the map graphic at the beginning of this article, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that lawn tools emitted more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide in this country during 2020. California, Texas, and Florida, had the highest levels of CO2 emissions from lawn and garden equipment in the U.S. during that time — another good reason for the state of California to enact this law.

And in other news……….

Autopilot safety: Tesla just reported that the number of collisions for drivers using its Autopilot semi-autonomous features was similar to 2022. The quarterly report said that for the results were 21% worse in Q1 versus that quarter in 2022, 21% better in Q2, 6% worse in Q3 and 11% better in the fourth quarter. It’s not entirely clear if the the safety factor has been been improved or is staying the same. Tesla vehicles not using Autopilot are reporting more accidents than those vehicles equipped with it, the company said. Last month, Tesla recalled more than two million vehicles to fix a function that makes sure drivers are paying attention when they use Autopilot. That followed a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot was in use, with some of them being fatal. NHTSA found that Tesla’s method of ensuring that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and needs improvement.

EV infrastructure jobs: You can now download a report on the International Council on Clean Transportation website called, Charging Up America: The Growth of United States Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Jobs. It explores how much it will need to change to expand light-duty vehicle (LDV) and medium- and heavy-duty vehicle (MHDV) charging infrastructure to meet annual charging needs through 2032. That’s being driven by growth in the electric vehicle fleet coming through newly proposed federal standards. That will mean the hiring, training, and development of skilled workers to carry out the necessary infrastructure expansion.

Mississippi battery cell production: Three partners have chosen Marshall County, Miss., as the future site of an advanced battery cell manufacturing site for their planned joint venture. Accelera by Cummins, the zero-emissions business segment of Cummins Inc.; Daimler Trucks & Buses US Holding LLC; and PACCAR, another major truck manufacturer, started all of it in September 2023 by forging the joint venture. They will be localizing battery cell production to create about 2,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs, with the option to expand it even more as demand grows. The 21-gigawatt hour (GWh) factory is expected to begin producing battery cells in 2027.

JonLeSage.com: I just completed a master’s degree program at Missouri School of Journalism in strategic communication. One of my homework assignments in December for my final course was to create a website promoting myself and my work. Part of that assignment was boiling it all down: What do I do? I’d also completed my research project last month, GenZ Journalism Majors on Discerning Valid, Legitimate News. Over the years, I’ve been fascinated with, and occasionally obsessed with, researching topics that jump out at me. One of the sections of my new website, Hot to Not Lie With Statistics, gives homage to one of my favorite books, How to Lie with Statistics. That has to do with my love for research and investigation and putting it into words and numbers. I’ve had growing concerns about how important it is for all of us to tap into fundamental research methods — making it our own. We Americans live in a country known for iconic figures such as P.T. Barnum, William ¨Boss¨ Tweed, Henry Ford, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Jim Jones, Ted Bundy, Steve Jobs, Facebook, and Elon Musk. We have some of the best marketing, entertainment, political campaigns, technology innovations, and charismatic, adventurous leaders with famous and occasionally tragic lives. But how do we determine accuracy, validity, and meaning for our own lives? Bringing it home…… Are you concerned about the cleanliness of clean energy? Then start with your research question, such as: What’s the state of clean energy in America? My career has been a mix of market research and business journalism, and its always been there in my jobs — such as tracking market indicators in industry segments or digging into what consumers and business decision makers think about electric vehicles and charging, and many other topics and interests. Visiting my website, jonlesage.com, will give you a look at how this is all coming together for me.