Need to Know: Delayed Tesla Robotaxis, Cost Saving EVs, Clean Hydrogen Job Growth & Breakthroughs in Climate Tech

October, not August: The grand unveiling of Tesla’s robotaxi won’t be taking place on August 8. It will be taking place in October, though that date has yet to be released. The company’s engineering design team has to rework some elements of the self-driving electric car, according to sources familiar with the matter. The August 8 launch was announced in early April after news came out that the carmaker had canceled its long-awaited inexpensive car. This development ties into two elements that Tesla analysts deal with: overpromising of launches, and how much the company is counting on robotaxis in its long-term strategic model. There’s also the problem of getting regulators to allow for autonomous vehicles to be released beyond limited robotaxi rides in a couple of U.S. cities.

J.D. Power on Cheapest Electric Vehicle States: States with the biggest savings from EVs: New Jersey where $10,345 can be saved; and Nevada with $9,216 in savings. States with losses from EVs: West Virginia: $-1,800, and Maine: $-1,619. That comes from J.D. Power in a detailed analysis conducted in the first quarter for Automotive News. Maine and West Virginia were the only two states where cost savings can’t be gained. The study looked at total cost of ownership for en EV over five years.

Hydrogen getting cleaner: Clean hydrogen, which is generated from both renewables and fossil fuels through the use of carbon capture and storage technology, is taking off in America, with the U.S. being the largest producer in the world, accounting for almost 37% of global supply by 2030. That comes from a study by Gary Perman, president of PermanTech. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is one of the reasons this growth rate is expected, through tax credits for hydrogen production. The study says that these incentives are making hydrogen an increasingly attractive energy source and feedstock.

There is still hope, former Microsoft chief said: Bill Gates was thrilled to be in London recently for the Breakthrough Energy Summit, which brought together global leaders, industry executives, innovators, and investors to develop solutions for fighting climate change. Key stakeholders will have to get creative, cooperative, and committed to success during these days of progressively worsening climate conditions. Fortunately, technology breakthroughs are showing up, and that’s a necessity these days. “But it was clear that meeting these goals would require unprecedented investment from the private sector to drive innovation. It would also require extraordinary collaboration across all sectors to get clean energy ideas out of the lab and into the market affordably and at scale,” Gate write in his LinkedIn column.

Facts about EV charging in US and Europe: According to a new analysis report by Chargepoint, there are more than 170,000 publicly available charging ports across the United States and Canada based Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) statistics. At ChargePoint, the saw year-over-year port growth in North America increase by 31% in 2023. According to European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO), there were over 380,000 public charging ports available to drivers across the European Union and more than 30,000 in the U.K. at the end of 2023. There was a 47% overall increase in public charging ports in the EU year-over-year.

Peak demand for oil is here: Demand for global oil supply looks like it will be hitting its peak sooner than some experts had predicted. Oil use won’t be disappearing anytime soon, but measuring “peak demand” shows where the amount of oil being consumers will start falling rather than rising permanently. The climate crisis is driving things along, with global demand increasing another 2% to 3% over three to four years; and then the tipping point comes after that peak with oil consumption continuing to decline. It will need to be replaced by something, hopefully an alternative fuel.

Challenges of Electric Vehicle Business: Longevity and Lifecycle Costs

There’s quite a lot to follow lately with used electric vehicle prices dropping, and changeovers taking place at Rivian and Fisker.

For over a dozen years now, automakers have been producing electric vehicles on assembly lines in the U.S. — starting with the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Tesla Model S. Other EVs had been rolling out in smaller numbers prior to that time, too, including the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Tesla Roadster. But it would take a few years to see new battery electric and plug-in hybrid models launched from established OEMs and post-startups. EV sales would at first see impressive gains for the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, and later from competitors.

Some of these models, such as the Chevy Volt and i-MiEV plus several commercial electric trucks and vans, have been pulled from the market. Automaker have had a difficult goal to meet: making EV models profitable and realistically tied to market demand and innovations.

Plug-in electric vehicles only make up about 1% of the total light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads, but the number is large enough to track its impact on used vehicle market values; and other parts of vehicle lifecycle analysis. The number went up to about 3.3 million units at the end of 2023 — up from 2 million in 2022 and 1.3 million in 2021, according to Experian Automotive Market Trends report.

Used electric vehicle values had stayed strong over these years, with limited volume on the market and enough car shoppers fascinated with the new technology to pay more for a used EV than a used gasoline-powered car. Things started changing earlier this year. Hertz announced it would sell 20,000 EVs, mostly the Tesla S. They would be replaced by gasoline-powered cars. The car rental giant also put a hold on an order for 65,000 battery-powered cars made by Polestar.

In February, used EV prices fell below average gasoline-powered cars for the first time ever. That market trend has continued, with car search engine and sales channel iSeeCars analyzing 2.2 million 1- to 5-year-old used cars in May 2023 compared to May 2024. The company recently found that the average used EV price came in at $28,767, or 8.3 percent below the average gas car at $31,424. Compare that to one year earlier when the average used EV cost $40,783 and the average used gasoline-powered car cost $33,469, according to iSeeCars data.

What are some of the factors impacting used EV prices? “It’s clear used car shoppers will no longer pay a premium for electric vehicles and, in fact, consider electric powertrains a detractor, making them less desirable – and less valuable – than traditional models,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.

Comparing Tesla Model 3 prices the BMW 3 Series sheds some light on this issues, according toe iSeeCars. A used Tesla Model 3 was priced $2,635 above a BMW 3 Series in June 2023. By May 2024 the Model 3 was priced $4,806 below the 3 Series.
The Tesla Model Y had a $4,570 price premium over the X3 in January 2024, but that difference fell to only $175 by May 2024.

Some of the other factors impacting used EV valuation includes consumer concern over EV battery life; the growing volume of used EVs coming to market; and consumer showing less willingness to pay a premium for EVs. It’s also taking place during a time when the overall U.S. used vehicle market has been seeing a downturn since late 2023.

What’s happening with EV makers?
As we’ve been observing over the past dozen-plus years, the auto market is a very tough one to break into — with EVs and their expensive battery packs being part of the challenge in being viable and profitable. Incentives like federal tax credits and state rebates have helped drive demand for these vehicles, but they’ve reached a mass-production level that’s typical of all segments of new and used vehicles on American roads.

Here’s some new developments that have come up for three significant players in the EV market…….

Rivian: Volkswagen is putting about $5 billion into Rivian in exchange for stock and the right to use Rivian’s EV and software technology through a joint venture. The startup company had paused plans in March to open up a new manufacturing plant in Georgia. Rivian had taken losses of about $39,000 per vehicle built last quarter.

Fisker: Fisker filed for bankruptcy protection last week, as the EV maker began selling assets and restructuring its debt. That was after burning through cash in an attempt to ramp up production of its Fisker Ocean SUV model. Other EV makers have gone through BK protection in the the past two years as well, including Proterra, Lordstown and Electric Last Mile Solutions. Demand had been lower than expected, and finding investment backers became difficult along with having its supply chain needs met during a disruptive period. Henrik Fisker and team were unable to secure an investment from a major automaker, which lead to filing for BK.

BYD: Berkshire Hathaway is reducing its share in Chinese EV giant BYD — from a little bit over 7% to a little under 6%. Owning shares of the company started for BH in 2008 with $230 million for about 225 million shares, which came out to around a 10% stake. Last year, the automaker beat Tesla for the first time ever in global EV sales. Tesla took the title back in the Q1 of this year.

And in other news………

Ford in Long Beach: Ford Motor Co. is setting up a research-and-development team to work on the company’s next generation of electric vehicles. It will soon be headquartered in Douglas Park, adjacent to Long Beach Airport, Mayor Rex Richardson and Ford announced yesterday. “Long Beach is a key part of our broader strategy to attract top talent to develop future vehicles and experiences for our customers,” Doug Field, Ford’s chief EV, digital and design officer, said in a statement.

The automaker said that campus will open up in early 2025. It will include two buildings and eventually accommodate up to 450 employees working on designing “a low-cost, flexible electric vehicle platform.” Led by former Tesla executive Alan Clarke, this R&D center had already gained attention from scooping up engineering talent from other electric car manufacturers like Rivian. Ford’s history in the area goes way to 1930, when the Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant began building Model A’s on a plot of land just north of Terminal Island.

BYD school bus: The Creator, the BYD RIDE’s newest zero-emission Type C school bus, will be rolling out at the STN Reno event July 12-17. The Creator is backed by a 12-year battery warranty and offers a seating capacity of up to 78 students. The Type C has a range of up to 208 miles and has the option to include up to two wheelchair positions.

How Clean Transportation Gains Credibility and Presence, Global EV Sales Way Up

Taking a good look at news coverage illustrates the credibility and growing presence of clean transportation. Plug-in vehicles, fuel economy and emission standards, reducing urban traffic and air pollution, corporate sustainability, BYD continues getting global brand recognition, and more about Elon Musk and Tesla, were all given serious attention this week.

EV lifecycle longevity: As car buffs brag about being able to drive their electric vehicles well over a million miles, is that such a good thing for those making the cars and parts? EVs and their batteries are expected to see continued improvements for longevity, performance, and efficiency. But this will bring an even bigger challenge to global automakers. Can you make them like Apple’s iPhones, where users have to upgrade to a new phone every few years?

New CAFE standards are not enough: While the federal government’s corporate average fuel economy standards have been valuable since first starting during the 1973-74 oil embargo, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration could do a better job of supporting zero-emission vehicles. That comes from Zero Emission Transportation Association’s Executive Director Albert Gore on NHTSA’s CAFE standards just being raised to 50.4 miles per gallon by model year 2031. Electric vehicles are doing much better than gasoline-powered vehicles. Proof of this statement: the Top Ten for model year 2024 are all EVs and average more than 122 MPGe.

What about congestion pricing? New York City, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all been exploring tactics to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. They’d like to follow the leads of several international cities that have banned cars on certain streets at certain times. New York was preparing to launch a fee that would be charged to drivers in parts of Manhattan; and that revenue would be used to better fund public transportation. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has postponed the implementation of the city’s congestion pricing plan indefinitely, citing economic concerns. Congestion pricing remains stuck in New York and the other U.S. cities for now.

Tree planting to save the planet: Hyundai Motor North America is doing a great job of illustrating why corporate sustainability should be a priority — saving the planet. The automaker has added to its partnership with nonprofit organization, One Tree Planted, to plant an additional 300,000 trees this year throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. This year’s contribution will result in a total of 650,000 trees planted since the start of the partnership in 2022. One Tree Planted’s goal is to restore forests around the world, supporting efforts to restore the earth’s habitat for biodiversity and to help fellow humans survive and thrive well into the future.

BYD brand becoming better known: According to the latest Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands 2024 report, BYD has successfully retained its position within the Top 10 global automotive brands for the second consecutive year, with a brand value exceeding US$10 billion. Kantar BrandZ is based on setting standards for industry-leading brand valuation, combined with research from the world’s largest and most extensive brand equity study: 4.3 million consumers covering 21,000 brands across 525 categories in 54 markets. BYD thinks the fact that it is operating across four major industries — automotive, rail transit, new energy, and electronics — is why it’s been able to establish a strategic presence across six continents. As for new energy vehicles (battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), BYD has sold over 7.6 million NEVs.

Sexual harassment at SpaceX: Charges of sexual harassment and blurring the lines between a professional workplace and private lives have come up again for SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk. While also heading Tesla, X, Boring Co., Neuralink, and xAi, Musk has also found enough time to have a sexual relationship with a former SpaceX intern, who he later hired onto his executive team, according to The Wall Street Journal. There was also another sexual relationship with a second employee; and a third woman employee said that Musk asked her several times to have his children but she refused. He then denied her a raise and complained about her performance, this employee said. It’s been more than just Musk. In 2021, five former SpaceX employees said there was a “culture of sexual harassment” in the company. One of those women described multiple instances of being groped.

Musk’s $56 billion pay: A Tesla shareholder vote this afternoon on whether to reinstate CEO Elon Musk’s $56 billion pay package that was shot down by a Delaware judge will get passed, Musk said. Late on Wednesday, he said that Tesla shareholders have communicated that they’ll re-approve the pay package, which would get a formal vote the next day. Shareholders will address the pay package from 2018 along with moving the car company’s incorporation state to Texas, at the company’s annual meeting.

What’s up with Cybertruck: You may have noticed the futuristic 2024 Tesla Cybertruck parked somewhere near you. It’s a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model, which starts at about $80,000; there’s a $20,000 package where you can add the “Foundation Series” package with a few extra features. Steering takes place through the steer-by-wire and four-wheel steer, which brings maneuverability features to make the Cybertruck more like a pickup truck than a tank. Body panels are made from stainless steel and buyers will later have the option of buying armored-glass windows. It’s become the most controversial EV ever, which discussions delving into its looks, safety, and credibility as a truck.

Supercharger becoming Ionna?: The Tesla Supercharger had been the big hope for many about a shared fast-charger network. That’s taken a plunge recently with the company cutting out the entire Supercharger team. It doesn’t affect Ionna’s plans to put 30,000 high-power urban and highway-adjacent fast-charging connectors in the U.S. and Canada. The charging network — based in Durham, N.C., and backed by BMW, Honda, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis — got the commitment it needed late last year; and now it says that Tesla’s shutdown will not get in its way. The startup joint venture charging network company said that a total of seven “Quarterback Labs” will be placed around the country. These will be designed to help each participating automaker address charging issues following software updates, tackle customer issues closer to the source, and offer interoperability testing. The JV company plans to have a few DC fast chargers up and running by the end of 2024.

And in other news…………

Q1 plug-in sales way up: More than 3.2 million new passenger plug-in electric vehicles were registered globally during the first quarter of 2024, which is about 25% more than a year earlier. BYD Group took the lead with 624,398 units registered (19.4% share). Tesla registered 386,825 units (12% share), Geely-Volvo registered 251,106 units (7.8% share), Volkswagen Group registered 205,652 units (6.4% share), and Chinese automaker SAIC registered 190,409 units (5.9% share). EV-Volumes researcher Jose Pontes, said that these five groups continue to be responsible for more than half of all plug-in car sales.

New resources for hydrogen and fuel cells: The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) just launched a new web resource, Clean Hydrogen and Environmental Justice. The new webpage and related links provides a centralized resource that serves both to present HFTO’s environmental justice (EJ) work externally, as well as to solicit input from stakeholders. It covers a wide range of topics, including; common concerns expressed by communities about clean hydrogen; and background on the principles of environmental justice and the Justice40 Initiative. An outline of HFTO’s EJ strategy, with detailed discussion of all aspects of that strategy, is also available.

What New President of Mexico Could Mean for Transportation and Energy

Claudia Sheinbaum, who begins her six-year Mexican presidential term Oct. 1, has less than four months ahead of her to define her administration’s agenda.

Mexico’s new president, the first woman ever to hold this job in that country, is considered to be a ‘climate scientist’ who gave much attention to detail when she advanced rooftop solar, transit, and bicycle infrastructure as mayor of Mexico City. But like the president of the United States, and presidents and prime ministers of large countries throughout the world, the current realities of transportation and energy complicate the issues.

The U.S. imported over 637 million barrels of heavy crude oil from Mexico in 2022, which was 10% of the country’s total crude oil imports, according to the EIA. In March 2024, the US imported 409,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Mexico, which was the fifth largest source of crude oil imports for the month. State oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has a lot of say in government policies.

Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect on January 1, 1994, economic alliances have expanded. Audi, BMW, Fiat (FCA), Ford, General Motors, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen, all have manufacturing plants in Mexico. Mexico became more viable for these alliances after NAFTA took hold.

The country’s electric vehicle production reached 106,180 units in 2023: 94,436 Ford Mustang Mach-E EVs were produced there as well as 11,744 Chevrolet Blazer EVs, according to Odracir Barquera, CEO of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA).

Sheinbaum spent four years at California’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab analyzing energy consumption in Mexico and other industrialized countries, according to a Corporate Knights report. She was also a lead author for the fourth and fifth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She’s been part of studies on a number of relevant topics including renewable energy and and carbon dioxide demand analysis.

The new Mexican president will face complicated issues as she takes over from President Andrés Manuel López Obrado. Their country is the world’s 11th-largest oil producer, its 15th-biggest climate polluter, renewable energy financing has declined since 2018, and its the only G20 country without a net-zero target. There’s also the challenge of dealing with Mexican drug cartels being powerful and influential in recent years — and with the U.S. considered to be their largest market for drug sales.

Economically, the NAFTA alliance stays strong. It’s becoming one of the top five largest vehicle producers where U.S.-based technology and parts play a role in carrying out production targets. The country also faces the challenges of where it’s getting its batteries, electronics, and electrical motors for EVs. Much of it is coming from China for assembly in Mexico; but the strong relationship with the U.S. will play a part in whether those deals will be changing in the near future.

And in other news…………
LCFS update: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will consider approval of the proposed amendments to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in November. The original date for considering board approval had been March 21, 2024, but that was postponed in February 2024. The board meeting will be held both in-person and virtually. 

ACT Expo highlights: Keynote speaker Ryder System CEO Robert Sanchez had a lot of interesting comments to make last month in Las Vegas. Tesla Semi project lead Dan Priestley and J.B. Hunt President Shelley Simpson had a lot to say as well. Learn more about what they were saying about electrification of the trucking industry and other relevant topics.

Truckmakers Seeing More Profitable EV Results than Carmakers. Plus, What’s Up at ACT Expo

While Ford is one of the few global automakers to report losses from electric vehicle sales, it’s not the only one by far.

For full-year 2023, revenue was up 11% to $176 billion for Ford Motor Co. Net income improved year-over-year to $4.3 billion; but the company also reported that it took $4.7 billion in losses for the EV division last year — and that it’s on track to lose another $5.5 billion this year.

Ford and General Motors say that they’re able to fall back on hybrid and gasoline-powered passenger vehicles to offset those losses; with pickup trucks being particularly profitable. EV losses are coming form slashing prices following Tesla setting up a price war, according to Ford. It’s also about the cost of battery packs needed to power long-range, high-performance EVs.

A solution that Ford is working on starts with supply-chain collaboration to reduce the overall production costs. Other automakers may be doing the same.

According to a March 2024 study by Boston Consulting Group, automakers are losing as much as $6,000 per EV that’s being priced at around $50,000.

“Creating the bridge from ICE to EV, you need to add the cost of the battery, which is about $10,000,” Andrew Loh, Managing Director and Senior Partner at BCG said to InsideEVs. “You add the e-powertrain and incremental electronics, which is about another $5,000. And then you need to add the incremental investment and labor and overhead.”

With ACT Expo open to attendees, you can can expect to roam the exhibit halls in Las Vegas and see more trucks than ever before. They might be powered by hydrogen, natural gas, propane, hybrid powertrains, and plug-in hybrid and battery electric powertrains.

Electric trucks have become more important in recent years to this audience of OEMs, suppliers, and end users that include fleet managers and fleet operators in trucking and urban delivery, utility fleets, government fleets, and companies needing trucks of all types in medium-to-heavy-duty.

So I took a look at two major truckmakers who’ve had a significant presence in the market and at ACT Expo.

Volvo Trucks, being one of them, delivered 1,977 of its electric trucks during 2023, an increase of 256% compared to the previous year, according to the company. That comes from a company that saw strong overall performance last year. “Thanks to our strong finances, we can continue to provide a good return to our shareholders and at the same time invest in and seize opportunities in the ongoing industry transformation to more sustainable solutions,” Volvo Group said in a company statement.

Volvo Group CEO and President Martin Lundstedt during the first quarter earnings call expressed optimism about the company’s ability to retain production flexibility, cost control, and pricing discipline while also investing in new technologies. That will include battery-electric trucks and internal combustion engines running on alternative fuels. During the first three months of this year, Volvo finalized the acquisition of Proterra’s battery business and signed a final joint venture agreement with high-pressure, gas-injection fuel system developer Westport Fuel Systems.

For ACT Expo, Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) and Volvo Financial Services (VFS) announced that they’ve joined forces to form Volvo on Demand, a collaborative initiative based on the Truck-as-a-Service (TaaS) business model. Using 25 Class 8 Volvo VNR Electric trucks, Volvo on Demand offers clients the opportunity to simplify the acquisition and reduce the major upfront investment in battery-electric vehicles. Volvo on Demand provides qualified customers with flexible term options as short as 12 months and includes Volvo Trucks’ Gold Contract and the option to bundle vehicle insurance for physical damage and collision, route planning, and optimization guidance; as well as consultation to find the best charging solution and incentives that might be available. 

Daimler Truck reported record results in 2023, including a 39% increase in profits over 2022, and more than half of those profits came from North America. Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) prides itself on having become a leader in the development of commercial electric vehicles since 2018. 

In 2023, DTNA sold 3,443 zero-emission trucks and buses, which is 277% more than the previous year, the company reported. DTNA’s electric lineup includes the Jouley bus, the FCCC MT50e van chassis, and the Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia. However, in 2022, DTNA built excess capacity to build 2,000 Class 8 battery-electric trucks, but sales were low due to a lack of charging infrastructure. DTNA plans to have 100 Freightliner dealer locations certified by 2025. 

Truckmakers have seen strong results in providing a high-quality lineup of electric trucks along with specialized services meeting the needs of the fleet market.

In March, DTNA announced rapid expansion of its BEV Dealer Certification throughout its Freightliner dealer network. The plan aims for having 100 dealer network locations certified by 2025. The company has been working on adding technical and support services since establishing its commercial electric vehicle development strategy since 2018.

Another step in this direction was announced earlier this month with Daimler Truck setting a goal to integrate zero emissions and road safety by combining its battery electric drive and integrated autonomous vehicle technology. That will be taking shape through the autonomous Freightliner eCascadia technology demonstrator. The demonstrator truck is based on a production battery electric Freightliner eCascadia and is equipped with Torc’s autonomous driving software and the latest Level 4 sensor and compute technology. This will eventually enable Level 4 autonomous driving. Torc Robotics is Daimler Truck’s independent subsidiary for autonomous virtual driver technology, the company said.

And in other news……….

Highlights from ACT Expo: Attendees made it over to Las Vegas for  ACT Expo 2024 with signs of record-breaking attendance with nearly 500 exhibitors showcasing over 200 cutting-edge technologies. The State of Sustainable Fleets saw its fifth report come out. Highlights from the study include getting a good handle on the implications of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets rule and the U.S. EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan, both setting stringent new emission standards and mandates for zero-emission vehicles. It also explores developments in the markets for renewable fuels and electricity paired with diesel, near-zero, and zero-emission vehicles; and a look at the historic investments and innovations in renewable fuels, charging infrastructure, and future engines. You can also find out who won the 2024 Fleet Awards. GNA (a TRC Company) President Erik Neandross said during his introduction that Tesla agreed to address the ACT Expo audience for the first time this year, with Dan Priestley, the Semi program’s senior manager coming out to speak. The Tesla Semi has had some excellent test fleet performance. PepsiCo has run more than 1,000 miles with one of its three Tesla Semis in a 24-hour period during NCAFE’s Run on Less Electric demonstration last year, with the other two totaling 754 and 808 miles, respectively, the company reported.

J.D. Power study on EV interest: Americans’ interest in electric vehicles has decreased compared to 2023, according to a new J.D. Power study. Concerns over cost of the electric cars and available charging has been part of it. For the first time since the U.S. Electric Vehicle Consideration study’s launch in 2021, analysts saw a decline in consideration of EVs by new-car shoppers. Those car shoppers “very likely” to consider purchasing an EV came in at 24%, down from 26% a year ago. Those who are “overall likely” to consider purchasing an EV also decreased, from 61% in 2023 to 58% in this year’s study.

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, 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 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 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.