Monthly Archives: October 2016

This Week’s Top 10: The latest on zero emission credits in California, Fisker says his car will have 400 mile range

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. ZEVsZEV credits: The California Air Resources Board may plan this week for the state’s emissions targets to remain largely unchanged through 2025 and then jump after that year, according to three people familiar with the proceedings. This will disappoint Tesla CEO Elon Musk and environmental groups that have called for expansion of the zero emission vehicle incentives. Tesla sold 80,227 credits during the 11 months through August, which accounted for 86% of the total. And even at prices below what Musk wants, the sales helped Tesla report a profit in the third quarter after having sold $139 million worth of ZEV credits during that quarter. CARB is reassessing its targets as part of the so-called mid-term review of President Barack Obama’s fuel-economy and emissions goals for 2025.
  2. Longest range ever: Henrik Fisker is striving to earn the bragging rights on plug-in electric vehicle performance. The head of the Fisker Inc. startup on Monday claimed that the all-electric luxury sedan to be released next year, called EMotion, will be able to travel 400 miles on a single charge, reach a top speed of 161 mph, and it will come equipped with hardware allowing for fully autonomous driving. The company said it will announce its self-driving car technology supplier “soon” without providing further details.
  3. Renewable diesel: San Diego is becoming the largest fleet in the nation to use renewable diesel, with 1,125 diesel vehicles using the clean fuel, including street sweepers, refuse packers, and firetrucks. Doing so will release 80-percent fewer emissions than traditional diesel, according to state officials. That helps the city meet its goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2035 under its Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in December. The city’s fleet was at first reviewing the option of converting vehicles over from diesel to compressed natural gas, but discovered renewable diesel to be cheaper and much cleaner in reducing emissions. The city doesn’t have to invest in conversion to start using the renewable diesel.
  4. Bolt production: In May, General Motors had stated the all-electric Chevy Bolt would start production in October, but then pulled the document off its website and wouldn’t comment on it anymore. There’s only been a rumor shared on Twitter so far; that source said that the production line at the Orion assembly plant has officially started. It was posted by the WaterlooRegionVoltec group of Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada.
  5. Tesla supporters cult members: Lutz on Ex-vice chairman of General Motors and champion of the Chevy Bolt, Bob Lutz, shared another zinger on Tesla Motors and its CEO, Elon Musk. “Tesla supporters are like members of a religious cult,” Lutz said during an interview with CNBC last week. “Just like Steve Jobs was worshiped at Apple, it’s the same way with Elon Musk … seen as a new visionary god who promises this phantasmagorical future, a utopia of profitability and volume.” Watch the video to hear more.
  6. Health and climate study: The health impact of air pollution has become a widely cited source for implementing emissions reductions rules for transportation. Another study has been released tracking the damage. A new report from the American Lung Association of California states that vehicles are responsible for $37 billion in health and climate costs each year. The study tracked California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—the 10 states that have zero emission vehicle sales programs.
  7. Wind and solar: International Energy Agency reported that renewable energy that last year marked a turning point for renewables. Led by wind and solar, renewables represented more than half the new power capacity around the world, reaching a record 153 Gigawatt (GW), 15% more than the previous year, and surpassing coal power. Renewables are also expected to be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation over the next five years, increasing market share from 23% in 2015 to 28% in 2021.
  8. Wheego goes autonomous: Previously known as Wheego Electric Cars, the revamped company now known as Wheego Technologies no longer manufactures electric cars. It considers itself to be an R&D company, supplying its electric drive and autonomous driving systems. After starting in 2009, the company sold about 400 units through its network of dealers, but it’s been nearly three years since any have been built. The company now is focused on developing products for autonomous vehicles that use machine learning and artificial intelligence. It has two divisions with about a dozen employees each, and was recently granted a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California.
  9. Chicago electric buses: Electric bus maker Proterra just won a large contract in Chicago. JLL, a leading professional services firm specializing in real estate, announced the first commercial agreement to provide commuter shuttle services via a fleet of electric buses. The service will operate between Chicago’s commuter train stations and two of the city’s tallest buildings, the Prudential Plaza and Aon Center, both of which are managed by JLL. Proterra has leased 10 Catalyst electric shuttle buses to JLL.
  10. Flying car ride-hailing: Uber has conducted a report on what it calls Uber Elevate, which may become the name of its division providing riders with flying car trips. Along with Otto, the self-driving trucking unit, and the Pittsburgh autonomous car rides, Uber says it wants to find a manufacturer of flying cars to partner with and build an on-demand urban aviation system. Uber is talking to flying car startup makers Aero, Joby Aviation, eHang, and Terrafugia, and others about working together; though it will be several years from now until you’ll get to book a trip on your smartphone.

China may return to supporting hybrids as another channel for hitting targets in cutting emissions and oil imports

toyota-levin-in-chinaChina is facing a challenge similar to the U.S. – how to get car shoppers to buy more clean vehicles and less gas guzzling pollution emitters like large SUVs. While plug-ins, or “new energy vehicles,” have taken off in sales during the past couple of years, China’s regulatory and incentive structure appears to be changing toward a broader definition of clean vehicles. Toyota and a few Chinese automakers and suppliers are asking the government to support plug-less hybrids as another way to reduce tailpipe emissions and dependence on imported oil

In 2013, incentives in China for purchasing plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs), along with electric buses, jumped up while hybrid electric vehicle subsidies were cut. The definition of new energy vehicle changed exclusively to PEVs as previous new energy incentives for plug-less hybrids were cut.

That may change course as the government is considering mandating policy requiring 25% of new vehicle sales to be plug-less hybrids by 2030, according to comments made last week by Ouyang Minggao, who leads a group that China’s auto industry regulator commissioned to set targets for energy-saving vehicles. The report recommends increasing hybrid sales to 8% of total passenger vehicle sales by 2020, and then up to 20% by 2025 and one quarter of sales by 2030.

China is also considering extending a tax cut beyond the end of this year for small-engine cars with up to 1.6 liter engines, an industry ministry official said last week. That move could help sustain a sales rebound in small, fuel-efficient vehicles in the world’s largest auto market.

China requires automakers to lower the average fuel consumption of their vehicles to 5 liters per 100 kilometers by 2020 from the current 6.9 liters. New energy vehicles will play a part, but now China may be looking to hybrids and small cars to help hit the fuel consumption and emissions targets. This year has seen a steep increase in large SUV sales in China as gasoline prices stay down and consumers with more spending power find SUVs appealing, similar to what’s been seen in the U.S. market. That puts more pressure on China to meet emissions and fuel economy goals.

Subsidies to manufacture and purchase PEVs have made a huge difference in the market. Through September, China came close to selling as many cumulative PEVs as the U.S. has seen since they first appeared in the market in late 2010; with the U.S. total at 522,519 cumulative PEVs sold and China finishing the month at 521,649 sold. At the end of 2012, China had only seen 27,800 PEVs sold, with dramatic sales surges seen in 2014 and 2015. If electrified buses were to be included in the total, China would be clearly the world’s leader with 733,447 new energy vehicles sold through the end of 2015, according to HybridCars. Generous government incentives are considered to be a big part of rapid growth in China’s PEV sales.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced plans to cut 2017-2018 new energy/plug-in vehicle subsidies by 20% from those granted in 2016, and 2019-2020 subsidies will be 40% less than this year. These subsidies will stop after 2020, the government said. Instead, China will support development of a points-based credit system similar to that used in California to encourage production and use of new-energy vehicles.

Cutting PEV subsidies may be exacerbated by a scandal reported in September on rule violations by several vehicle manufacturers. Five Chinese bus makers were penalized by the government for taking about 1 billion yuan ($150 million) in illegal subsidies for new energy vehicles. Soon after, an additional 20 automakers were called out for violating these rules. These included global automakers Nissan and Hyundai, and Chinese makers Geely, JAC Motor, and a subsidiary of electric carmaker BYD.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers changed its forecast for PEV orders to 400,000 from 700,000 vehicles, down 43 percent, last month. China’s top auto industry association slashed its forecast of new energy vehicles that will be ordered this year as the government subsidy scandal widened.

Manufacturers such as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. and Hunan Corun have been lobbying the Chinese government to increase support for development of plug-less hybrids. Hunan Corun supplies batteries for Toyota’s China-built hybrids.

Toyota has made the argument in China that hybrid technology could be more widely accepted by consumers as a solution.

Toyota plans to bring a hybrid version of its RAV4 sport utility vehicle to market in China as soon as possible, Matsumoto Shinichi, executive vice president of Toyota’s local engineering and manufacturing unit, said prior to the Beijing auto show earlier this year. The Japanese automaker plans to localize the development and production of hybrid SUVs in China, after introducing its Corolla and Levin hybrid compact cars late last year for a 2018 introduction, including plug-in hybrid variations.

This Week’s Top 10: Honda Clarity longest range ZEV, Faraday Future unveiling first production electric car

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. honda-clarity-fuel-cellLongest range ZEV: The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan, launching later this year, received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency driving range rating of 366 miles and fuel economy rating of 68 miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent combined, according to American Honda. That makes it the longest range zero emission vehicle that will be sold in the U.S. “Not only does the Clarity Fuel Cell fit five passengers and refuel in three to five minutes, it offers customers a driving range on par with gasoline-powered cars,” said Steve Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office at American Honda Motor Co. “The Clarity leads the pack with a 366 mile driving range rating, and with a growing network of hydrogen stations and fast fueling time, the zero-emissions family road trip is no longer science fiction.”
  2. Faraday reveal at CES: Faraday Future will unveil its first production vehicle at CES 2017, at the same consumer electronics show where the Chinese startup was originally introduced. The company hasn’t revealed details on the first car and whether it will be the FFZERO1 electric concept car. It’s just shown a teaser image on its Twitter page so far. A spokesman told Fortune that the first product “will be a premium electric vehicle that combines extreme technology, industry leading range, and holistic design.”
  3. Green truck nominees: Green Car Journal and the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show named 10 finalists for the 2017 Green Truck of the Year and Commercial Green Car of the Year awards, which will be presented in San Antonio on November 10. Finalists for 2017 Green Truck of the Year include the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford F-250 Super Duty, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, and RAM 1500. Vying for 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year are the Ford F-250 Super Duty, Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Nissan Titan XD, and RAM ProMaster City. This year’s finalists do the ‘heavy lifting’ in every day life, while achieving greater levels of environmental performance without sacrificing core capabilities expected from these highly-functional vehicles, said Green Car Journal editor and publisher Ron Cogan. Green Car Journal has yet to announce its 2017 Green Car of the Year award nominees. Earlier this month, journalists from 22 different countries named nominees for a separate award – the 2017 World Car of the Year. One of the categories was nominees for 2017 World Green Car of the Year: Chevrolet Bolt, Chevrolet Malibu, Tesla Model X, Audi Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI, BMW 740 e iPerformance, Mercedes GLC 350 e, Honda FCV Clarity, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Prius Prime, Hyundai Ioniq, and Kia Niro.
  4. LeEco mishap:  LeEco, a backer of Faraday Future, planned to unveil a self-driving electric car in San Francisco last week. LeEco founder, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, was supposed to ride out on stage driven by the concept car, but instead had to run out on stage by himself. The misfire was caused by a delay getting the LeSee car prototype from London – where it is being used in the film “Transformers 5” – to San Francisco, the company. “It shouldn’t be me running out here, we didn’t have any other choice,” Jia told the audience, speaking through a translator. “What we wanted was me in the car, and the autonomous car drives me out.”
  5. Honda green car sales forecast: Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said that by 2030, he wants more than two-thirds of U.S. Honda and Acura volume to come from green cars such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and all-electric vehicles, as reported in Automotive News. That would translate to more than one million electrified vehicles a year sold by American Honda Motor Co., based on its present volume. That would be a steep climb over the next 14 years. American Honda sold only 2,329 hybrid vehicles in the U.S. in the first half of the year, and sales of the Accord plug-in hybrid and Fit EV have been very small this year.
  6. GM in China: General Motors says that it will be introducing 20 new or redesigned Chevrolet models by 2020 in China, including hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The automaker said five of the 20 vehicles have been introduced this year, including the Malibu XL, the Malibu XL Hybrid, the new Cruze, a Cavalier family sedan, and the sixth-generation Camaro. Most of the vehicles will be made in China by the company’s SAIC-GM joint venture. “Chevrolet will continue to strengthen the best model lineup in the brand’s history in China,” Alan Batey, GM North America president and head of Global Chevrolet, said in a statement. “In the coming years, we will roll out breakthrough products with technologies that improve safety, performance and fuel efficiency for our customers.”
  7. Butterfly wings: Fisker, Inc. has released a teaser photo of its all-electric vehicle that will be launched next year. In the image, you can view raising wings on a sports car. Henrik Fisker has released a teaser image of his first new car. Fisker has tweeted the image with the caption: “A Breakthrough: Innovative new butterfly doors in our new Fisker model, for easier ingress/egress.” He also promises that more will be shared soon on the new vehicle.
  8. Fuel-cell buses: Toyota has announced plans to begin selling hydrogen fuel-cell buses starting early next year. The company plants to be selling more than 100 of these buses in and near Tokyo in advance of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The fuel-cell system is based on what’s used in the Mirai modified to work in a municipal bus.
  9. Atieva launching Tesla competitor: Atieva, a Silicon Valley that began making batteries for Chinese buses before hitting financial troubles, is expected to unveil a Tesla competitor in early December, an electric sedan named Atvus. The company started in 2007 and developed batteries and electric drivetrains, plus battery packs for electric buses in China. Since then, investments by Chinese state-owned carmaker BAIC and LeEco seem to have given the company solid financial backing. Atvus will have the same electric drivetrain as the Mercedes-Benz Vito van named Edna shown in videos earlier this summer. Atvus looks a lot like a Tesla Model S, according to Recode.
  10. Survey on electric cars: Forty-three percent of Californians say they are considering buying or leasing an electric vehicle before 2025, according to a Vrge Analytics survey of 837 conducted in August. When informed that there are EVs in development that are roughly the same price as traditional vehicles with a range of more than 200 miles per charge, sixty-five percent of respondents say they would consider buying or leasing one. “Californians are ready to trade-in their gas guzzlers for clean cars,” said Mike Montgomery, Executive Director of CALinnovates, an advocacy group focused on improving industries and expanding economic opportunities for Californians through innovative technologies. “This research suggests that the EV industry in the state is at a tipping point. Automakers should seize on this opportunity and go all-in – by putting a fleet of world-class, innovative, affordable EVs on the roads.”

Tesla separates new fully automated Level 5 system from semi-autonomous Autopilot Level 2 features

tesla-video-on-fully-automated-systemTake a look at Tesla’s new video, released hours after the Wednesday evening media conference call announcing its full self-driving hardware. It starts with a statement separating the new system from semi-autonomous Autopilot features: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”

A passenger sits in the driver’s seat of a Tesla Model X and places his hands under the steering wheel just as the Rolling Stone’s 1966 song, “Paint It Black,” provides background music. That song refers to black and white screen images laced into the video that shows viewers the new full self-driving capabilities that Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained Wednesday evening during the conference call. “Right rearward vehicle camera” is the first feature displayed in black and white during the video. After taking a spin around on city streets and a freeway, the all-electric SUV comes back to Tesla’s office. The passenger gets out of the Model X in the parking lot, which then moves forward without a human driver, and stops to let a pedestrian safely cross the lot. The Model X parks itself against a curb as the song comes to an end.

Tesla has said that Autopilot is at Level 2 on the autonomous vehicle scale, with a combination of two technologies designed to make driving easier. The new system will be what some organizations, include the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) would define as Level 5, which does not have any option for human driving – no steering wheel or controls. Automakers and suppliers are running the gamut over which level they’re supporting in the next few years. Tesla seems to be joining in with Google and Ford in supporting Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles, with Tesla having the potential to bring it first to market.

Tesla shares the viewpoint of Google, and other self-driving car advocates, on the necessity of bringing fully automated vehicles to roads to save lives. During the media Q&A on Wednesday night, Musk addressed the issue, referring to the fatal crashes in Florida and China this year tied to the Autopilot system:

“One of the things I should mention that frankly has been quite disturbing to me is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes, which are basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes. [It is] something that I think does not reflect well upon the media. It really doesn’t. Because, and really you need to think carefully about this, because if, in writing some article that’s negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you’re killing people.”

The fully autonomous system will need to gain government approval before it’s allowed to be activated and used by Tesla owners. Tesla said that high-end Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with hardware for full autonomy are already in production, and the upcoming Model 3 will have it as well. Previously built vehicles without the new hardware won’t have the fully autonomous features.

During that conference call, Musk said his goal is to demonstrate a vehicle traveling in fully autonomous mode from Los Angeles to New York by the end of 2017. Autonomous features will be introduced gradually over a period of time, and will be based on what Musk called “Hardware 2.”

The software for reaching the fully self-driving mode will need to be validated, and the new system still need to be approved by regulators. Tesla expects to reach those milestones in time, which Musk said would be much safer than cars currently on roads driven by humans.

“It will take us some time into the future to complete validation of the software and to get the required regulatory approval, but the important thing is that the foundation is laid for the cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better,” Musk said Wednesday.

The Tesla blog article, posted Wednesday, describes the new fully automated system. It will provide eight surround cameras with 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range, compared to one camera in previous Tesla vehicles. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors improve the range, allowing for detection at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data through whatever weather and lighting conditions the vehicle is traveling through.

The question of whether Tesla will follow a similar path as is being tested by Uber, General Motors and Lyft, and Ford’s strategy to integrate autonomous systems to ride-hailing services, was clarified on Thursday. Yes, Tesla will be entering that space, and it will be called Tesla Network.

Tesla posted a disclaimer to its website on Thursday providing more information to a comment Musk made Wednesday. He said Tesla is building new vehicles with the necessary hardware to eventually enable full autonomy.

“Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car-sharing and ride-hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year,” read the Tesla website disclaimer.

The concept was originally announced by Musk in his July blog post, “Master Plan, Part Deux.” The Tesla CEO outlined a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleet using a mobile device app, allowing it to “generate income for you” and lower the cost of ownership. Musk said that in cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet.

This Week’s Top 10: Apple backing away from building cars, California clean vehicle rebate revised

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Apple electric minivanApple backs off: Apple Inc. has dramatically scaled back Project Titan, with a new business plan based on partnering with automakers rather than becoming one. Apple has made hundreds of job cuts and reassignments and has taken a new direction, according to people familiar with the project. Apple seems to be taking a similar approach as Google; Apple will be focusing on developing an autonomous (and, most likely, electric) driving system that gives the company flexibility to partner with existing carmakers or to go back to designing its own car in the future, sources said.
  2. California rebates revised: California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) is implementing increased incentive levels for lower-income consumers and new high-income eligibility caps, according to a release yesterday by the Center for Sustainable Energy. Following a public workshop held Sept. 30, the California Air Resources Board issued the program updates, as directed by a legislative act. They will apply statewide to consumers who purchase or lease rebate-eligible vehicles effective Nov. 1, 2016, providing lower-income consumers an additional $500. Rebates vary by vehicle type. For the average consumer, they are $2,500 for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), $1,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and $5,000 for fuel cell vehicles. For lower-income consumers, CVRP rebates for all types of eligible light-duty passenger vehicles are increasing by an additional $500 for a total of $2,000 more per rebate ($4,500 for BEVs, $3,500 for PHEVs, and $7,000 for fuel cell vehicles). When combined with the maximum federal tax credit for eligible vehicles, the increased rebates provide savings of up to $12,000 for BEVs, $11,000 for PHEVs and $15,000 for fuel cell vehicles. See the press release for more details.
  3. NextEV opens office:  Chinese electric-car startup NextEV opened an office last week in Silicon Valley at a well-attended event. Founder William Li, a Chinese entrepreneur who created online car sales company Bitauto, has plans to build a series of electric and autonomous cars that that will at first be sold in China and then to consumers around the world. Li recruited former Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior, to lead his U.S. division. At the event, Warrior described the company’s mission is “to change transportation.” NextEV also has entered the Formula E electric racing series and has its own racing team. For the 2015/16 season, NextEV is registered as one of eight manufacturers in the series and is racing with a self-designed powertrain. The NextEV Formula E Team is also set for the 2016/17 season.
  4. Gauging trucking fuel economy rules: The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute conducted a survey with 96 heavy-duty fleet managers who operate a combined total of just over 114,500 truck-tractors and approximately 350,000 trailers. Biodiesel blends (B5, B10, and B20) have been the most common alternative fuels in use, according to the survey. Fuel-saving technologies have played a big part in fleets getting closer to meeting federal fuel economy and emissions rules, with the most common fuel-saving technologies on truck-tractors being aluminum wheels, speed limiters, and low-rolling resistance dual tires. As for using alternative fuels, fleet managers appreciate lowering operating costs, reducing emissions, and availability of alternative fuels.
  5. Solar partnership:  Tesla and Panasonic have entered into a non-binding letter of intent to collaborate on manufacturing and production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules in Buffalo, N.Y. The agreement is contingent upon shareholders’ approval of Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity next month. Tesla will use the cells and modules in a solar energy system that will work seamlessly with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products. With the aid of installation, sales and financing capabilities from SolarCity, Tesla will “bring an integrated sustainable energy solution to residential, commercial, and grid-scale customers,” according to the Tesla blog.
  6. Maven comes to SF: General Motors is bringing its Maven car-sharing program to San Francisco, the ninth city in the network. Maven, which debuted in January, is already available in Ann Arbor, Mich., Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. San Francisco has been a hub for carsharing and ridesharing, with several companies starting up there and setting up headquarters. Maven will compete with Zipcar, Evercar, Getaround, Turo, and City CarShare. Maven customers can rent GM models such as the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Malibu, and Chevrolet Cruze, as well as luxury Cadillac models like the Escalade, and eventually, the Chevrolet Bolt.
  7. Warning on Autopilot: Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) had written to Tesla asking the electric automaker to stop advertising its vehicles as having an Autopilot function because this might suggest drivers’ attention is not needed. On Friday the KBA wrote to Tesla car owners, warning them that their vehicles could not be operated without their constant attention and that under traffic regulations they must remain alert.
  8. RNG and NZE in refuse:  Renewable natural gas from waste resources and near-zero emission engines are revolutionizing clean refuse collection operations. On Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, Southern California Gas Company is hosting a one-hour webinar to learn about technology and implementation options for low-carbon, near-zero tailpipe emission refuse fleets. Topics covered will include: How the combination of ultra-low NOx natural gas engines and renewable natural gas technologies can help meet state emission targets; resources available to analyze the cost and emission benefits of renewable natural gas and a near-zero-emission engine project (“RNG+NZE”) for your refuse operations. Click here to register.
  9. Renewable energy increasing: Carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity generation during the first six months of 2016 were the lowest since 1991, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with most of that coming from the displacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. Coal saw the more dramatic decline, with consumption decreasing by 18 percent, compared to 1 percent for natural gas. Use of renewable-energy sources increased 9 percent during the first six months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015.
  10. Workhorse makes deals with BMW and UPS:  Workhorse Group announced that BMW i has signed a multi-year supply agreement for BMW i3 range extender (REx) units for the Workhorse E-Gen electric delivery vehicle. The Workhorse E-Gen delivery vehicles are used by last mile delivery companies to fulfill their customers’ delivery needs, the company said. Workhorse also announced that it has received an order to produce 200 additional E-Gen hybrid electric delivery trucks for UPS’ alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. Workhorse is also known for its FAA compliant unmanned aerial systems (UAS) delivery drones.

 

Delivery facing rapid change and growing demand in crowded metro areas

ford-transit-connect-vanDelivery is seeing a fast-changing environment, from packages to food. Delivery vans and small, high mileage cars (especially hybrids) are passing through a paradigm shift in who owns the vehicles and how they’re being used. While the U.S. won’t be switching over to delivery bikes and three-wheelers, commonly used in crowded Asian and European cities with narrow streets, competition for leadership in delivery services is getting fierce.

Some of this drive is coming from Amazon and Google taking on UPS and FedEx. The U.S. Postal Service is undergoing its own change. On the food side, the classic pizza delivery model is being taken over by app-based alternatives like UberEats, Postmates, and GrubHub. Companies entering the space also point to the state of fast-growing cities squeezed with bigger buildings, more cars and pedestrians, and less parking spaces. Delivery companies need to have smaller, nimble, and quick vehicles to meet surging demand. Younger consumers are getting spoiled by services like Uber and Lyft, where you can tap your phone and have a car in front of your place in less than 10 minutes. Older generations are tapping into these convenient services as well, in this new age of the on-demand economy.

Demand for quick delivery is driving change, along with the challenge of driving and parking in crowded city streets. Some of the carriers also support sustainability, removing vehicles from roads and switching over to alternative energy sources for their vehicles. UPS and FedEx have led the way here. Independent contractors delivering restaurant meals and fast food are preferring to drive a Toyota Prius or a small gas-engine car to keep costs contained.

The Ford Transit Connect van (as shown in the photo above) has been a hot commodity for deliveries. The 2017 model has an EPA-estimated rating of 29 highway mpg when equipped with the available 1.6L EcoBoost I-4 engine. It has substantial storage capacity for such a small vehicle – with 103.0 cubic feet of storage capacity designed for easy maneuvering and parking on tight city streets. The Azure electric Transit Connect van left the market in 2012 and doesn’t appear to be coming back. The other increasingly popular model for urban deliveries has been Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter utility van. The next-gen edition may get an all-electric powertrain, according to the Detroit Bureau. The automaker is designing the vehicles with both batteries and autonomous-driving features; these features will be available as soon as 2018, the publication reported.

The federal postal service, which was originally created in 1775, took on another form in 1971 when it was transformed into the U.S. Postal Service as an agency of the U.S. government. Within that decade, rival carrier UPS would experience substantial growth in the U.S. and overseas and Federal Express had its first profitable years.

A few years back, USPS was outsourcing a lot of its package delivery to UPS. That started to change recently, especially with the promotion of postmaster general Megan Brennan last year. Under Brennan, USPS has ramped up same-day delivery in order to compete with rivals FedEx, UPS, and Amazon for the growing share of packages with tight delivery schedules. During this time, USPS made a deal with Amazon.com to deliver groceries in selected cities for Amazon when the online retailer wasn’t able to meet that demand.

Amazon is investing heavily to compete with UPS and FedEx in same-day deliveries. Amazon is trying out a few new services including Amazon Prime package deliveries and Amazon Fresh food delivery. Amazon Flex and Middle Mile Providers have recently started up in a few U.S. cities. If you ever see a white Ford Transit Connect with an Amazon logo, that van will be delivering goods through one of the new services.

Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service for Amazon, commented on Amazon Flex at an industry conference last year. Amazon Flex is an app-based delivery platform that “enables people to be their own bosses while earning $25 or more an hour,” making Amazon Prime Now deliveries, he said. Drivers will use their own car and smartphone, similar to other popular delivery and ride-hailing services on the market. Amazon is usually promoting an offer for customers that includes free two-hour deliveries. The claim of paying drivers up to $25 an hour sounds quite optimistic, since drivers at other mobility services are typically making $10 to $15 an hour.

With Middle Mile Providers, fleet owners with carrier licenses through the U.S. Department of Transportation will be able haul loads for Amazon. Drivers must be employees of the delivery provider and will likely be required to carry commercial driver’s licenses. They need to drive a cargo van or similar vehicle with at least 200 cubic feet of volume. It appears to be in startup phase with job openings listed in Seattle for a division called Middle Mile Logistics Technology.

In June, Amazon launched a British version of its AmazonFresh food delivery service to break into the UK grocery market. AmazonFresh has previously been deployed in a few U.S. markets, too.

UberEats is counting on the food delivery service being worth the investment. Started in test mode about two years ago, it became its own mobile app in the spring of this year. Uber launched food delivery in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco earlier this year. The initial launch was in Toronto; other growth markets include Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. After trying it out as part of the Uber experience, the company realized that didn’t make sense, with both of these experiences being separate from each other; they needed their own brand names and separate mobile apps.

Self-employed drivers are asked to gather in select parking lots for UberEats and pickup packaged orders for the day from partner food services. They’ll deliver lunch or dinner to workplaces or homes in the vicinity. That differs from other food delivery services where the driver will be picking up food orders directly from the vendors and delivering them to the customers.

Food delivery has been taking off like a rocket trajectory over the past year in transactions. Making the business profitable and finding the right financial backing has been tough. Bloomberg reported a story last week about on-demand meal delivery service Caviar’s parent company trying to sell it off and find better partners in food delivery. Payment processing company Square reportedly tried to unload Caviar early this year. Square reportedly had discussions with Uber, Grubhub, and Yelp between late last year and the start of 2016, but disagreements on pricing ended the talks. With Square backing away, startup Caviar is in a tough position in a very competitive market.

UK’s Deliveroo was funded about £250 million ($306 million) earlier this year, and Berlin-based Delivery Hero was rumored to be lining up an IPO, according to VentureBeat. In the U.S. GrubHub, DoorDash, and Postmates have grabbed a lot of attention; Uber and Lyft riders are known for tapping into these delivery services and tend to look for special discount promotions on meals. Private equity funds are coming in for these food delivery companies, but they haven’t been perceived yet as hot commodity investment opportunities like Uber has been able to win over. Postmates is working hard to be seen as unique in the marketplace – the only delivery service out there that will pick up orders from anywhere that the customer requests – a restaurant, donut shop, BevMo! liquor store, grocery store, 7-Eleven, or some other business.

The business model for food delivery companies was borrowed from Uber and Lyft, with a similar mobile app; driving directions and alliances with Waze and Google Maps; it’s all right there on the phone for customers, from ordering to paying; there are special offers with local and chain restaurants, juice bars, coffeehouses, and fast food stores; and all the drivers are independent contractors passing basic vehicle and driving record checks.

Google has been getting ready to take on Amazon Prime for a leading position in fast, on-demand deliveries and has backed away from food delivery. Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express, told Business Insider that the company plans to spread its coverage from about 20 states and regions to the entire country by the end of the year. To get there, Google Express decided to close down part of its grocery business and stop selling perishables; these were pilot projects started earlier this year in parts of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Fast delivery is becoming more important for firms to retain their market presence. Amazon was getting a lot more searches and orders placed on a wide variety of products like bottled water and flat screen TVs. Google Express was a way for Google to reinstate itself as the go-to choice for product searches, and to make it easier for people to purchase the goods they’d searched for.

This Week’s Top 10: Fisker Inc. bringing ‘spiritual successor’ to market, Tesla doubling Fremont plant size

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. fisker-inc-logoFisker Inc.:  Henrik Fisker is bringing his brand name back to the electric car space through Fisker Inc., which will be launching a car he refers to as the “spiritual successor” to the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. The new model will probably be all-electric, and will be revealed in the second half of 2017. He says it will have a driving range of more than 400 miles, and will come equipped with an industry-leading battery life that will potentially match the life of the vehicle. The company has a battery division called Fisker Nanotech based in northern California. Jack Kavanaugh will serve as chairman of Fisker Nanotech, while Fisker will be chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc. He will lead other business units including being head of design and product strategy at VLF Automotive, the company he founded with former GM executive Bob Lutz and Gilbert Villarreal in January 2016. Fisker Automotive went through a structured bankruptcy auction in February 2014, where Wanxiang Group bought certain assets, excluding the Fisker brand name. Fisker also retained his logo, as you can see in this article.
  2. Tesla doubling plant size:  Tesla Motors has filed for a zoning proposal in Fremont, Calif., to double in size its assembly plant and meet a 500,000 vehicle annual production goal. In May, CEO Elon Musk said the company would be building a million vehicles a year by 2020, but that will also involve setting up more factories overseas. Tesla has set a goal of producing 500,000 Model 3s a year from 2018 to 2020. Earlier this year, the company said that about 373,000 pre-orders of the Model 3 had been placed. Tapping into the capital needed to ramp up factories will be difficult for the company. Last week, Goldman Sachs downgraded Tesla Motors soon after Morgan Stanley did the same. That came at a bad time – right before Musk begins rallying investors for a new fundraising round.
  3. Battery partnership:  Faraday Future announced a partnership last week with LG Chem to supply lithium-ion cells for the startup’s electric supercars. Both companies have agreed to collaborate on EV battery technology that they say will have the world’s highest energy density for a production automotive battery. These cells will be incorporated into Faraday Future’s VPA platform, the company’s “universal and scalable modular battery structure.” LG Chem says it now has more than 20 global automaker as customers.
  4. Formula E:  Mercedes-Benz will be gearing up to race in the 2019/18 Formula E electric racing series. Pending approval from FIA World Motorsport Association, Mercedes-Benz’s British-based subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix, hopes to bring its experience in motorsports over to electric racing. The automaker gained a lot of electrified racing experience through its hybrid Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One racer. Mercedes-Benz is expected to use Formula E as a marketing platform for its newly created EQ electric car sub-brand.
  5. Concerns over Autopilot 8.0:  Consumer Reports tested out Tesla’s new Autopilot system 8.0 upgrade. The changes were appreciated, and the magazine encouraged the automaker to keep working on making the system safer. One issue is that drivers have time to drive hands-free for about a minute and even longer on highways. The publication thinks the Autopilot name should be changed, since it’s not really in autopilot mode. There’s also concern that system remains a beta release. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had said last month the system isn’t really a true beta release, but the company labels it a beta release to reduce people’s comfort level when turning the system on – keeping them more aware and safe.
  6. STORM electric motorcycle trip:  Cal State LA College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology and EcoCAR team today are welcoming on campus a team of students from Eindhoven, Netherlands, going around the world in 80 days with their STORM Wave electric motorcycle. STORM Eindhoven left the Netherlands to tour the world on Aug. 14, and traveled through Europe, the Middle East, and China before coming to the U.S. A short impression of their tour so far can be found through this  link. The motorcycle runs on a battery pack designed by Eindhoven students. The pack consists of 24 cartridges that have 28.5 kWh of energy, which enables the motorcycle to travel 380 kilometers (236 miles) on a single charge. It is possible to adapt the whole pack to enable a lighter motorcycle for a more sporting driving style. The bike will travel down the West Coast and through the South and Midwest before finishing its tour of America in New York on Oct. 26. STORM will make stops in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Columbus, and Pittsburgh, among others. During each stop, the STORM team will meet with universities and companies interested in smart urban planning and sustainability to demonstrate the potential of sustainable transportation and recharge the motorcycle. Track and trace the team live on this page.
  7. EPA on ethanol blends:  A new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal would reclassify ethanol blends above E15 as “ethanol flex fuels,” potentially opening the door to wider use of these blended fuels. The proposal would place fuels with 16 to 50 percent ethanol in the same category as E85. The agency believes its proposal could encourage more interest in flex-fuel vehicles and the “blender pumps” needed at fueling stations to add greater amounts of ethanol to gasoline. Some gas station owners have expressed concern that there’s a lack of consumer interest in blends of E15 or higher, and the cost of installation isn’t worth it. It’s not clear whether the new proposal will settle the oil vs. biofuel industry battles, or if advanced biofuels would be supported through the revised rules. The EPA is expected to put its new proposal for adding more ethanol blends to the flex-fuel category up for public comment in the near future.
  8. Hydrogen and fuel cell day:  U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory released a Q&A guide to commemorate October 8th as National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day. Check out the Six Things You Might Not Know About Hydrogen guide. Here’s an interesting one: The day is celebrated on October 8 (10/08) because the atomic weight of hydrogen is 1.008 atomic mass units…. Hydrogen can also be used as a way to store energy, and this use has the potential to have a large impact on our future…….. Current commercial fuel cells use platinum, a rare and expensive metal, as the catalyst. Researchers are working on new catalysts that use less of this expensive metal, or that don’t need platinum at all……. Argonne operates four different divisions where labs conduct research on hydrogen and fuel cells.
  9. Wheego and Valeo win self-driving car permits:  Wheego Electric Cars and Valeo North America have received permits to test self-driving cars on public roads in California. Wheego is based in Atlanta and is led by former EarthLink Inc. president Mike McQuary to design and sell electric vehicles. Valeo is a unit of French auto supplier Valeo SA, which joins several other parts makers trying to develop technology that auto makers may need to put self-driving cars on the road. Cruise Automation received a permit before General Motors Co. in March agreed to acquire the startup in a deal valued at $1 billion.
  10. 48V taking off:  Navigant Research just published a report on the increasing importance of 48V systems adding to fuel efficiency and performance. While 12V has been the standard for many years, 48V is taking off for stop-start systems combined with other technologies including electric turbochargers that can increase efficiency in traditional gas engine vehicles without the adoption of hybrid or plug-in vehicle capability. For comparison purposes, several plug-in electric vehicles have battery packs with about 360 volts. According to Navigant Research, global sales of light duty stop-start vehicles will exceed 61 million by 2025, accounting for 59% of all light duty vehicle sales. Of these, about 15% will feature 48V components.

Why utility vehicles will play an increasingly important role in the future of plug-in vehicles

2016-toyota-rav4If you were to study U.S. new vehicle sales data and compare it to Plug In America’s plug-in vehicles directory, you’d see something that the two sources have in common: popularity of utility vehicles. By utility vehicles, I would include SUVs, crossovers, vans, and hatchbacks. If you take a close look at new vehicle sales in the U.S. and upcoming vehicle launches announced by automakers at the Paris Motor Show, you can get a look at the increasingly important role these vehicle categories will be playing.

“Crossovers and vehicle electrification are again expected to be key reveals at the event,” said Ian Fletcher, the principal analyst for IHS Markit, at the Paris Motor Show. “The key trends are being determined by a combination of consumer demand – in terms of the number of crossovers being revealed – and legislative emissions factors, through a focus on electrification.”

Plug In America lists 27 all-electric and plug-in hybrid 2017 model year passenger vehicles available in the U.S. market on its website, and of those I would break out 12 of them being utility vehicles. For September 2016 new vehicle sales in the U.S., the largest sales category, by far, was crossovers. Combined, crossovers and SUVs made up 555,497 of the 1.4 million units sold in the U.S. during September, according to Autodata Corp. Midsize and small cars continued to be sizable categories, but overall, light-duty truck segments continue to outsell cars in the U.S. as gasoline prices stay down and the popularity of utility vehicles increases.

Americans have become more interested in buying utility vehicles over the past decade, especially crossover utility vehicles. For crossovers and SUVs, top selling models in the U.S. lately have included the Toyota RAV4 (see photo above), Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, and Subaru Forester and Outback. There are no plug-in versions of these vehicles on the market in the U.S. The Toyota RAV4 EV was pulled from the market about two years ago, while a hybrid version of the RAV4 came to market earlier this year. Toyota also offers the Highlander Hybrid.

The Toyota Prius is credited for popularizing hatchbacks, with owners appreciating the ability to lift the back door, fold down seats and gain the ability to move boxes, surfboards, grocery bags, camping gear, etc. The Nissan Leaf tapped into that accessibility along with the Tesla Model S and Ford C-Max Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid. Car shoppers could add these practical functions to their lists along with being environmentally friendly. Subaru has used the utility functionality in its TV ad campaigns, with a family loading up gear and heading for the mountains.

Auto analysts had predicted growing popularity in utility vehicle sales for a few reasons – transporting gear like bicycles and home repair materials, families carrying more passengers, functionality for projects like moving to a new home, and the growing popularity that SUVS were having over vans and large sedans. Making them more fuel efficient helped, too, long before gas prices plunged downward. Consumers also give kudos to all of the utility vehicles, including pickups, becoming much smoother to ride in and more like cars in their seating comfort and dashboard displays.

Here’s a roundup of new vehicle launches at the Paris Motor Show and other electric vehicles in the pipeline tapping into the interest in, and functionality of, utility vehicles:

Chevy Bolt:  General Motors classifies its upcoming all-electric vehicle as a crossover SUV. It’s been chevy-bolt-in-citygetting as much attention lately as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt did during their late 2010 launches. While the range of 238 miles per charge, and its price-competitive position against the upcoming Tesla Model 3, are seen as key selling points, GM decided to invest more in a crossover SUV; as opposed to a small car like the Chevy Spark EV, which never did well in sales. The Chevrolet Sonic may have been more of a useful platform to model for the Bolt. The EPA is rating the Sonic and the Bolt as small wagons, though GM considers them differently. For some reason, the EPA has yet to adopt the crossover category.

Generation EQ: Daimler previewed its new EQ electric car brand through launching the Generation generation-eqEQ concept in Paris. The EQ brand unveiling is the first step in launching 10 new battery-electric models by 2025 in Daimler’s strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicle technology; it appears to serve as a sub-brand of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division. Daimler said that the Generation EQ electric crossover will have a range up to 500 kilometers (311 miles), which is probably based on Europe’s NEDC standards; that will be lower in U.S. mileage range under EPA measures. The concept SUV is being moving closer to production, and is being built on an architecture developed specifically for all-electric models. That architecture is adaptable for crossovers, SUVs, sedans, coupes, and other model series, the company said.

Volkswagen I.D.: Volkswagen’s chairman, Herbert Diess, was on the stage to unveil the new crossover volkswagen-i-dconcept, called I.D., at the show. It will be the first new model built on the automaker’s MEB modular electric platform. Its battery in-flat-floor architecture is built within a futuristic exterior design with a glass roof, artistic wheel covers, digital headlamps, and sliding rear doors. It’s expected to hit production level in 2019 for purchase starting in 2020. It’s part of the automaker’s Strategy 25, where the company will be building up to one million EVs by the middle of the next decade. Last week, the automaker announced it will be expanding sales of its e-Golf nationwide in the U.S., beyond a few select states. However, VW also revealed in Paris that the I.D. will eventually replace the e-Golf (but not the Golf). Several of VW’s concept vehicles in recent years have been rolled out on SUV and crossover platforms, including the Budd-E concept.

Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept: Mitsubishi unveiled the GT-PHEV SUV, which has been designed mitsubishi-gt-phev-conceptaround the automaker’s next-generation plug-in hybrid system. The system uses three electric motors and an internal combustion engine designed specifically for hybrid applications. Mitsubishi’s Executive Vice President of Overseas Operations, Kozo Shiraji, introduced the GT-PHEV concept (which stands for Ground Tourer Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) as the “possible form for a future large SUV.” The company said that the driving range for its next plug-in vehicle promises to expand on the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s range. The Outlander PHEV is a strong selling plug-in vehicle in the European market.

Chrysler Pacifica: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is finally entering the plug-in space. According to a new chrysler-pacifica-plug-in-hybridreport, Fiat Chrysler engineers are putting the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid through final testing and calibration checks on the streets of metro Detroit ahead of the start of production, which is scheduled for next month. It looks just like the gasoline-powered version, except for special badges and a battery charging port on the left front fender.

 

BMW X3:  BMW i3 electric utility vehicle sales have been disappointing for the automaker. Luxury bmw-x3vehicle owners will buy gasoline-engine CUV and SUV versions from BMW and competitors, but so far the i3 hasn’t clicked. It has gone over well with a few EV advocates and sales have been okay. For now, BMW seems to be counting on a plug-in hybrid variant of the X3. The next-generation X3 is on its way and BMW wants to create a hybrid version as the company sees it as a more mainstream offering to the consumer. While current BMW plug-in hybrid cars (BMW X5 xDrive40e and 740e) are pricey, the X3 would give buyers another mainstream offering next to the BMW 330e, according to BMW Blog.

Range Rover and Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover is working on two new plug-in hybrid models land-rover-discoverythrough its Range Rover and Land Rover brands. The company is first developing a new plug-in hybrid powertrain set to be offered on the Range Rover Sport. It will be based around the firm’s four-cylinder Ingenium gasoline engine, mated to the engine with an electric designed to work with the company’s existing eight-speed automatic transmission. For the second hybrid system being developed, it will be designed for the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. It’ll utilize a three-cylinder diesel engine with an electric turbocharger and a small electric motor. Additionally, a 48-volt electrical system will provide power to the water pump and air conditioner. These models aren’t expected to debut until the end of 2018.

Audi E-Tron Quatro:  Audi debuted the E-Tron Quattro Concept last year in Frankfurt. Known audi-a3-e-troninternally as the C Bev, this all-electric SUV claims a 311-mile range by European standards. Audi says that it will be sized between its Q5 and a Q7 SUV models. Audi has been quite pleased by how high its sales numbers have been in the SUV segment in recent years, so an electric SUV makes a great deal of sense to the company for hitting emissions targets. Earlier this year, the company announced it will be going into production on the E-Tron Quatro by 2018. Audi said that the new model will use three electric motors and a quick charging, high‑capacity battery.

 

This Week’s Top 10: September plug-in sales, $200K ticket to Mars with SpaceX

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. 2016 Chevrolet VoltSeptember sales: The Chevy Volt continues to be the best selling plug-in hybrid, by far, on the market with 2,031 units sold in the U.S. during September. At 16,326 Volts so far this year, there’s a thin chance it could catch up to 2013’s 23,094 units sold, if not also 2012’s 23,461. The Volt redesign seems to have taken off very well. The all-electric Nissan Leaf saw its first increase in year-over-year sales since December 2014. In September, there were 1,316 Leafs sold, a 5.5% improvement over September 2015. Tesla Motors just reported its third quarter deliveries, which were up 70% over the second quarter. Of the 25,185 units sold and delivered during the third quarter, 15,800 were Model S and 8,700 were Model X. For September sales, one estimate shows the Model S and Model X well ahead of the Chevy Volt and all other plug-ins sold in the U.S.
  2. Ticket to Mars: Elon Musk gave a speech last week topping the Gigafactory and Hyperloop announcements. As SpaceX chief, he spoke last week at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. Once the company’s Interplanetary Transport System is fully operational, he estimates that a person will be able to travel to Mars for about $200,000 – much cheaper than the $10 billion it would cost you to buy a rocket that you fly to the red planet. One hundred passengers will ride to Mars with 42 Raptor engines, carbon fiber fuel tanks, reusable rockets, and other features. Musk was making the pitch to gain financial backing from current client NASA and others attending the event.
  3. Uber and Otto: Self-driving truck startup Otto talked about its strategy now that ride-hailing giant Uber owns the new company. Uber plans to make Otto the leader in self-driving truck technologies in freight hauling. The ride-hailing company has started the process of selling services directly to shippers, trucks fleets, and independent truck drivers. Otto is expanding its fleet from six to 15 trucks, and is bringing in independent truckers to manage the trips. Those freight hauling trips will start next year with deliveries to warehouses and stores. Uber made the acquisition in August for an estimated $680 million. It ties into Uber’s strategy of developing self-driving car systems through its Pittsburgh test drive project.
  4. Lyft drivers getting Bolts: Lyft drivers will be the first to receive key fobs for their Chevy Bolt when it arrives at dealerships later this year. “Drivers on the Lyft platform will be receiving Bolts to drive first,” said Emily Castor, Lyft’s director of transportation. Castor spoke last week at the World Mobility Leadership Forum at Metro Airport in Detroit. Ride-hailing service Lyft links riders with about 315,000 contractor drivers in about 200 U.S. cities. General Motors and Lyft created the Express Drive rental program for Lyft drivers earlier this year after GM’s $500 million investment in the company. Express Drive offers Lyft drivers the opportunity to rent the GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu, Volt and, by the end of this year, the 2017 Bolt EV.
  5. First driver’s license for autonomous vehicle: Nevada last week granted the first autonomous vehicle-related driver’s license to Sam Schmidt, a former race car driver and The state granted Schmidt a license to drive a semi-autonomous test car on public roads under restricted conditions. Earlier this year, Schmidt drove more than 150 mph in the Arrow SAM Car during demonstration laps at the Indy 500. Arrow Electronics designed the SAM car for Schmidt in 2014, and they worked together to get the state to revise regulations allowing Schmidt to drive on roads in addition to race tracks. Schmidt used to be a race car driver, but lost his ability to drive years ago during a near-fatal speedway crash. Schmidt is able to control the car, a modified Corvette Z06, using his voice, head, and breath to steer, accelerate, and brake.
  6. No price cutting: Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent out an email to employees last week asking them to stop offering discounts to drive up sales numbers for the Model S and Model X. Discounts are appropriate for when for Tesla vehicles that had been used in test drives or that were damaged before delivery, he said. Musk asked them to stay away from price cutting and to adhere to a sales approach he called “fundamental to our integrity.”
  7. USPS test project: The U.S. Postal Service has identified six “prime suppliers” that will be producing 50 prototype vehicles from which a Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) will be chosen. The companies are: AM General, Mahindra, Oshkosh, Utilimaster, VT Hackney, and Karsan. The new prime suppliers’ contracts total $37.4 million in business. It may lead to an electric or hybrid design, according to recent reports and USPS.
  8. DMV supports fully autonomous: The California Department of Motor Vehicles revised its recommended policy on fully autonomous vehicles. While the agency had supported having steering wheels and pedals in autonomous vehicles for drivers to take over in case emergency conditions came up, that policy recommendation has changed. DMV revised draft regulations that the most advanced self-driving cars would no longer be required to have a licensed driver if federal officials deem them safe enough.
  9. Report on mobility services: Navigant Research released a report examining trends associated with emerging mobility services most likely to influence the future transportation market, including automated systems and shared vehicle services. A nexus of trends related to emerging mobility services is converging to influence the future transportation market: autonomous vehicles, the consumer shift, multimodal integration solutions, and urban versus rural/suburban population distribution. From parking habits to the number of vehicles in operation, these trends and related factors will have far ranging effects on the transportation landscape, according to Navigant Research.
  10. Testing e-trikes: UPS is testing electric-assist cargo tricycles and several other clean transportation and alternative fuel options in various scenarios around the world as part of a “rolling laboratory” project. The company is looking to resolve a serious challenge: how to keep up with the boom in e-commerce while at the same time reducing its impact on the environment. The e-trikes have a range of 21 miles and a top speed of 15 miles per hour and ample cargo capacity, They’re ideal for narrow European streets, but UPS customers in Portland, Ore., will soon see drivers pedaling around their neighborhoods in a similar model.

Paris Motor Show reflects paradigm changes in the global auto industry

paris-auto-show-logoAs previewed last week, the Paris Motor Show has gone through a do-over – what was once the hallmark auto show for high-performance luxury and sports supercars (with many of them powered by diesel engines) is now shifting over to electric cars as the stars of the show. Crossover utility vehicles with battery power is another trend noticed by observers.

Paris Motor Show 2016 has also been marked by the disappearance of several automakers deciding to cut expenses through attending less auto shows and marketing through other channels such as social media. Paris has been the largest auto show in the world, with 1.25 million attending in 2014. Those attending this year are expected to be disappointed by several brands disappearing: Ford, Mazda, Volvo, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Maserati, McLaren, Genesis, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, and others are skipping the show altogether.

Along with the diesel emissions reporting scandal, the impact of Tesla’s presence in the European market (and the hype and pre-orders for the Model 3) has been stirring up European automakers on the electrification front. Stricter emissions targets in Europe, the U.S., and China, are behind the EV launch as well; falling battery costs with more energy storage capacity is also playing its part.

“Crossovers and vehicle electrification are again expected to be key reveals at the event,” said Ian Fletcher, the principal analyst for IHS Markit, to Bloomberg. “The key trends are being determined by a combination of consumer demand – in terms of the number of crossovers being revealed – and legislative emissions factors, through a focus on electrification.”

Here’s a roundup of interesting announcements during the media days:

EQ electric brand launched: Daimler previewed its new EQ electric car brand through the Generation EQ concept, which is an electric small crossover utility vehicle. The EQ brand unveiling is the first step in launching 10 new battery-electric models by 2025 in Daimler’s strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicle technology; it appears to serve as a sub-brand of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division. Daimler expects electric cars to account for 15 to 25 percent of its global sales by 2025, CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the auto show. The German automaker’s chief confirmed what has been rumored lately – that the new electric cars will be launched under the EQ brands. Daimler said that the Generation EQ will have a range up to 500 kilometers (311 miles), which is probably based on Europe’s NEDC standards; that will be lower in U.S. mileage range under EPA measures. The concept car is being moving closer to production, and is being built on an architecture developed specifically for all-electric models. That architecture is adaptable for crossovers, SUVs, sedans, coupes, and other model series, the company said.

Volkswagen I.D. concept: Volkswagen’s chairman, Herbert Diess, was on the stage to unveil the new concept, called I.D., at the show. The Volkswagen I.D. will be rear-motored and rear-wheel-drive, much like the original Beetle, an interesting point that the automaker has emphasized in its press releases. It will be the first new model built on the automaker’s MEB modular electric platform. Its battery in-flat-floor architecture is built within a futuristic exterior design with a glass roof, artistic wheel covers, digital headlamps, and sliding rear doors. It’s expected to hit production level in 2019 for purchase starting in 2020. It’s part of the automaker’s Strategy 25, where the company will be building up to one million EVs by the middle of the next decade. Last week, the automaker announced it will be expanding sales of its e-Golf nationwide in the U.S., beyond a few select states. However, VW also revealed in Paris that the I.D. will eventually replace the e-Golf (but not the Golf).

Porsche Panamera plug-in:  VW’s Porsche brand unveiled its Panamera 4 E-Hybrid plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the Paris Motor Show. The large luxury hatchback will have a range of 31 miles and top battery-powered speed of 86 mph. The company says that the car generates some 340 kW of system power and delivers fuel consumption figures of 2.5 l/100 km in the European NEDC cycle for plug-in hybrid models. That corresponds to CO2 emissions of 56 g/km. “At Porsche, the term ‘hybrid’ is synonymous with not only sustainable mobility, but performance too – a fact proven not least by the victory of the 919 Hybrid in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2015 and 2016,” the company said in its press release.

BMW X3 and new Mini:  BMW said on Friday it will offer all electric versions of its next generation BMW X3 compact sport utility vehicle and electric Mini models. The electric Mini is expected to debut in about three years, company officials said. BMW had played a leading role in luxury plug-ins, but slow sales for the i3 and i8 have put plans back on the drawing board. BMW is also showing the new electric i3 and i8 Protonic Dark Silver special edition model. The German automaker said it will begin production of the BMW i8 Protonic models in December and in early 2017, but it will be in limited production; that’s similar to what happened with its previous Protonic Red Edition. BMW is also showing its new 3 Series Gran Turismo four-door, a C evolution e-scooter, and the X2 Concept SUV that is expected to go into full production late next year. The company chose to have its executive leadership stay in Germany to debate the future of its electric vehicle strategy.

Renault Zoe in 200-mile range:  During the show, Renault confirmed that the next-generation Zoe all-electric car will come with a 41 kWh battery rated at 400 kilometers (248 miles) on the European NEDC cycle. The company acknowledged that the actual range per charge will vary, from around 186 to 200 miles per charge depending on how and where the electric car is driven. Chevrolet and Tesla have been getting all the attention for the upcoming Chevy Bolt (with 238 miles) and the 200-plus mile Tesla Model 3. Renault may have already crossed the barrier, and is now taking orders in Europe for delivery – and will be ahead of sister company Nissan’s Leaf reaching that range anytime soon. It beats the Bolt and Model 3 in cost, with a starting price of $24,500 before incentives.

Citroen CXPerience:  French automaker Citroen is showing the plug-in hybrid CXperience concept car. It’s a low-to-the-ground sedan with rear suicide doors and a short rear deck. It combines a front-mounted gasoline engine with an electric motor, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The company claims that the battery range is 37 miles. The five-door hatchback was presented online a month ago, and may be the foundation for future Citroen plug-in models.

Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept: Mitsubishi will introduce a few hybrid and all-electric vehicles, including a plug-in hybrid SUV concept vehicle. The GT-PHEV SUV has been designed around the automaker’s next-generation plug-in hybrid system. The system uses three electric motors and an internal combustion engine designed specifically for hybrid applications. Mitsubishi’s Executive Vice President of Overseas Operations, Kozo Shiraji, introduced the GT-PHEV concept (which stands for Ground Tourer Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) as the “possible form for a future large SUV.” The company said that the driving range for its next plug-in vehicle promises to expand on the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s range. The Outlander PHEV is a strong selling plug-in vehicle in the European market.

Opel Ampera-e:  General Motors’ Opel division unveiled the Ampera-e, the European version of the Chevy Bolt. Opel says it will cost less than a Tesla and will go 250 miles on a charge, using NEDC European standards longer than U.S. range. “With the new Ampera-e, we continue the largest model offensive in Opel’s history,” said Opel CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann. “The Ampera-e with its outstanding range makes electric mobility fully feasible for everyday use and also lots of fun.”

Smart electric cars:  The Smart ForTwo has a next-generation platform that will be extended over to the Cabrio and Smart ForFour models for a 2017 launch. Smart says it will be the only automaker to offer its entire lineup with both gasoline engines and all-electric versions. The Smart electric cars will compete with the Renault Zoe and Volkswagen e-Up. Smart says its electric cars will go 100 miles on a charge, and take around 45 minutes to recharge from a fast charger.

LaFerrari Aperta:  Ferrari will be attending to represent classic, high-performance luxury brands. Ferrari will show the LaFerrari Aperta (aptera translates to “open” from Italian), which is an open-top version of the $1.1 million, limited-edition LaFerrari hybrid. Ferrari said that the entire production line has already been sold out, for an undisclosed price. Ferrari also unveiled the supercar grabbing most of the attention at the show – the GTC4Lusso T, a rear-wheel-drive, turbocharged V8 version of Ferrari’s rather all-wheel drive V12-engined grand tourer.

Toyota fuel cell and hybrids:  Toyota thinks the future of green cars will be built around fuel cell vehicles and hybrids (not plug-ins), as expressed in its latest ad campaign comparing the Toyota Mirai to the historic role the Prius played. The company is showing the Toyota FCV Plus fuel cell car, shown for the first time in Europe after being revealed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Owners will be able to produce electricity directly from hydrogen coming from an exterior source – to power something else beyond the fuel cell car. Toyota’s Lexus division will show the UX SUV concept. The SUV is expected to have 3D driving and hologram components that would be new for the Toyota-owned brand. Lexus is also showing the LC 500h hybrid, which Toyota says will be getting a brand new Multi Stage Hybrid System engine. It will combine a 3.5 liter V6 engine with a “powerful electric engine,” a lithium-ion battery, and “a revolutionary automatic transmission delivering the sensations of a 10-speed gearbox.”

VW mobility brand:  Volkswagen AG announced prior to the show that it has established a new subsidiary to handle carsharing and logistics, which is yet to be named. The so-called 13th brand in the VW family will be based in Berlin, according to VW CEO Matthias Muller. According to the chief of the new brand, Ole Harms, it will focus on on-demand mobility, with the help of Moscow’s number one ride hailing app, Gett, in which VW recently invested $300 million. VW’s recent partnership with the city of Hamburg may be the best market to introduce the service; and Gett’s presence in New York make it a likely market for the new VW service to expand to. European cities will be more of a priority for now. “Our new group brand is to rank among the leading mobility services providers and become the market leader in Europe by 2025,” Muller said.