Tesla registers in Shanghai to set up factory, Subaru working with Toyota on plug-in hybrid Crosstrek

Tesla setting up factory in China:  Tesla Inc. is preparing to set up shop in China and overcome the joint venture stumbling block that had been in the way. The electric carmaker has invested 100 million yuan ($15.8 million) and registered to establish a wholly owned company in Shanghai, a Chinese government agency has posted on its website. The national government has been working on ways that companies like Tesla can go outside its traditional model of establishing JVs with Chinese automakers to assemble cars in their country. Tesla’s registration includes technological development and services on EVs, auto parts, batteries, energy storage facilities and solar panel products. In this month’s earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said that the company will announce setting up a Gigafactory for batteries in China as early as the third quarter of this year; he’d previously said Tesla will probably be building the Model 3 and Model Y crossover in China.

EQ bringing strong branding to EV market:  Mercedes’ EQ subbrand is a valuable opportunity to showcase the automaker’s technical know-how and competence, according to Britta Seeger, Mercedes-Benz global sales and marketing boss. The company will showcase EQ to consumers to prepare for the EQC crossover going on sale in 2019. The Daimler division plans to sell 10 long-range EQ vehicles by the end of 2022; and thinks that the subbrand will represent 15% to 25% percent of its global sales by 2025. “This is our answer in electrified mobility,” Seeger said. “And we truly believe in strong branding.”

Subaru rolling out PHEV:  Subaru will be entering the electric vehicle market through its alliance with Toyota. The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid will soon be launched, built on the Toyota Prius Prime drivetrain. Subaru has been showcasing EV concepts for years, including the Viziv series. The company launched a conventional gas-electric hybrid version during the 2014 model year. The new version will have a larger battery pack and a plug for owners to charge up their PHEV. It can be driven as a normal hybrid using both gas and electric power, or driven on pure electric drive for local commuting, the company said.

VW faces more on Dieselgate and prepares to compete with Tesla, ACT Expo panel explores last mile hurdle

VW moving beyond Dieselgate toward EVs:  Volkswagen AG is still climbing hurdles to recover from its Dieselgate scandal and to take a leading role in being Tesla-competitive on the electric vehicle front. Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in federal court in Detroit with conspiring to mislead regulators on diesel emissions cheating. VW CEO Herbert Diess has been granted safe passage in the U.S. and advance notice if prosecutors seek to charge him, sources told Bloomberg. Last week, Diess told investors during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Berlin that VW has awarded 40 billion euros ($48 billion) in contracts to battery producers, double the amount that had previously been in place. VW will be spending on EV batteries an amount that nearly matches Tesla’s entire market value. The automaker plans to sell up to three million all electric cars per year by 2025, Diess said.

VW’s Electrify America subsidiary was a topic of much interest during the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. A map was added to its website last week showing where its projects stand to install or start construction of more than 2,000 chargers across the U.S. by the end of 2019.

NGVAmerica is offering a resource center that shows where VW stands on spending $2 billion on national zero emission vehicle investments and $2.9 billion through the Environmental Mitigation Trust, which states and territories may use to invest in transportation projects that will reduce NOx emissions.

Saving the fuel economy and emissions rules:  While auto executives had pushed hard for the second phase of the federal fuel economy and emissions standards to be extended to the original timeline, they hadn’t been advocating gutting the rules. Automakers will be visiting the White House this Friday to save the national fuel economy and emissions standards close to what they’d originally agreed to with the Obama administration. A leaded draft proposal by federal agencies, the Trump administration plans to keep standards for 2020 model years vehicles in place at about 37 mpg through the 2026 model year, much lower than the 46.8 mpg fleet wide average in the current standard. It would be more than what the automakers had bargained for when requesting a revision of the 2022-25 targets; they’d asked that it be more gradual and flexible, not that it be gutted by the federal government.

ACT Expo panel on urban mobility:  “Clearing the last mile hurdle,” is viable and starting to happen in increasingly crowded and polluted cities, according
to panelists last week at ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Electric trucks, autonomous vehicles, and bicycles will play their part. Here were a few of the points they made:

Austin Hausmann, Chanje’s vice president of product development and R&D

  • The Chinese truckmaker offers a Class 5 electric delivery van – the V8070 – with 6,000 pounds of maximum payload capacity, and more than 150 miles of range from a 100-kWh battery pack. 
  • Delivery vehicles working in large cities are averaging about 70 miles traveled per day.
  • Electric vans and trucks are ideal for urban delivery. Chanje has been able to meet the range requirements and provide a 70% reduction in maintenance and fuel costs to fleet users.
  • A key challenge to be faced is charging infrastructure planning over the next five years as more electric vehicles come into fleets.

Duane Hughes, president and COO, Workhorse Group

  • Workhorse’s delivery drone, first shown in February 2017 with UPS, is offering major last mile cost savings for fleet operators. The company has found there to be 3 cents per mile in delivery costs for the drone, compared to 40 cents for an electric van and $1 for the typical UPS truck.
  • The company has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration on monitoring air traffic, no-fly zones, and weather conditions.
  • Workhorse is still in the testing phase, doing about five drone deliveries per day.
  • It will be available commercially by the end of this year, with FAA approval already being achieved. The company is sharing its data collection with the federal agency.

Chris Nordh, senior director, advanced vehicle technologies and global fuel products, Ryder Systems

  • The commercial space has to make financial sense — the last mile is a good argument for electric vehicles.
  • There is strength in partnerships, such as Ryder announcing a 10-year strategic agreement last year with Workhorse. Ryder is the primary distributor and service provider for Workhorse light- and medium-duty range-extended electric vehicles in North America. The company also established an exclusive sales channel partnership and service provider relationship for Chanje’s medium-duty EVs and energy services. In December, Ryder announced it will take delivery of 125 electric medium-duty delivery vans from Chanje. 
  • For early adopters, Ryder is providing the vetting process — getting the vehicle ready, maintenance process, and charger installation.
  • It’s important to assist site managers in understanding their buildings and charging needs, to work with utilities, and to understand the costs involved.

Thomas Madrecki, director of urban innovation and mobility, UPS

  • About 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, making it a difficult scenario for package delivery and other mobility services. E-commerce from Amazon and other companies is seeing huge growth, and that will continue.
  • Upcoming trends include worsening road and highway congestion, safety limitations on vehicle travel, and cities taking on more infrastructure supporting walking and biking. Cities area also taking a leading role on climate change, which will impact they types of vehicles allowed to drive there.
  • UPS is testing out bicycles for last-mile delivery in Hamburg, Portland, Ore., and Ft. Lauderdale. Bicycles have their limitations for what can be delivered, but UPS sees the importance of looking for diversity of solutions for each neighborhood served.

Panelists also had some insights to share during the Q&A portion:

  • Countries in Europe and Asia are dealing with congestion zones. The U.S. is taking more of a hybrid approach.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other mobility companies are adding to the challenges — bringing additional vehicles to roads and increasing traffic congestion
  • The charging infrastructure is a top concern for the future of electric mobility in cities. Charging at night, working closely with utilities, and tapping into state and local incentives is helping fleets grow their infrastructure. 

Federal emissions standards and vehicle electrification key themes at ACT Expo

Staying the course on federal fuel economy and emissions standards, vehicle electrification and all its challenges, and advancements in clean vehicles and fuels, were key themes addressed at this year’s Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

Keynote speakers at “Global Trends Accelerating Advanced Transportation Innovation” on Tuesday morning said they would prefer to see that the single national emissions standard launched during the Obama administration stay in effect during a time when the Trump administration prepares to roll back the federal fuel economy and emissions standards. Mary Nichols, chairman, California Air Resources Board; Steve Gilligan, vice president, product and vocational marketing, at Navistar; Tamara Barker, chief sustainability officer and vice president of environmental affairs at UPS; Julie Furber, executive director of electrification at Cummins; and James Burrell, assistant vice president, advanced powertrain group, American Honda Motor Company, Inc., spoke to the issues. 

California and 16 other states had announced that morning that they have jointly sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over EPA Administrator Scott Pruett’s decision to roll back standards for vehicles built from 2022 through 2025. While the feedback period has been reopened by the Trump administration, the EPA administrator is preparing to cut back the standards with the argument that they’re too difficult for automakers to achieve.  

ACT Expo 2018 was a platform for several significant announcements:

Electric trucks:  Battery technology is improving so rapidly, it is becoming more realistic to expect faster adoption of commercial battery electric vehicles (CBEVs), according to Mike Roeth executive director of North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Roeth gave a presentation on a guidance report released May 1 at the conference by NACFE analyzing the interest fleet owners have in electric trucks and the challenges faced to transition over from diesel to electric. Fleets using EVs for urban delivery in predictable routes between 50-100 miles per day are likely to be the first adopters of electric trucks and vans as the industry norm, according to the study. 

Several speakers and panelists during the week addressed the issues that vehicle electrification faces in fleet adoption. One of these concerns is substantial growth needed in the charging infrastructure that faces challenges in funding, securing space on real estate properties, and meeting building code enforcement.

Meritor and Blue Horizon:  Jay Craig, CEO and president of Meritor, gave a keynote presentation about how Meritor, an automotive components manufacturer, is investing and adapting to clean technologies. Rather than fighting off new clear air standards, his company decided to embrace the technology and move it aggressively to market, he said. Meritor also launched Blue Horizon during ACT Expo, a new technology brand  representing  the  company’s  emerging  platform  of  advanced technologies  centered  on  electric  drivetrain,  efficiency,  and  connectivity  systems. Products offered  under  the  new  brand will include integrated electrified  solutions for Class 4-8 commercial  vehicles  across  multiple  vocations,  including  pickup  and  delivery, drayage/terminal  tractors,  transit  and  school  buses, as  well  as  linehaul  and  other  heavy-duty applications.  

Award winners:  This year’s winners of the ACT Expo awards recognizing fleet operators who show true leadership in clean transportation were — Total Transportation Services, Inc. (TTSI) in the Leading Carrier category; Stark Area Regional Transportation Authority (SARTA) in Canton, Ohio for the Transit & Mobility category; City of Dublin, Ohio in the Leading Public Fleet category; Bimbo Bakeries USA for Leading Private Fleet; and WallyPark for Leading Airport Fleet.

Propane vehicles:  More than 13,000 propane autogas fleet vehicles were sold in 2017, according to data compiled by the Propane Education & Research Council. The new vehicles will annually consume approximately 36.8 million gallons of propane, and many will be displacing fuels with higher emissions like gasoline and diesel. “Propane autogas overcame significant challenges in 2017 — from the absence of federal incentives for alternative fuels from the federal government, to incredibly low gasoline and diesel prices throughout much of the year — and we received an overwhelming endorsement for our fuel in all markets. Propane autogas sales virtually held steady in a year where the conventional fuels held all of the advantages,” said Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development for PERC.

Clean Cities anniversary:  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. More than 100 Clean Cities coalitions have collectively saved more than 8.5 billion gallons of petroleum nationally, according to the DOE. Comprised of business leaders and fuel providers, government agencies and community groups, the coalitions continue to support and develop projects designed to cut petroleum use in transportation. 

New company name:  Trillium CNG has changed its company name to Trillium. The company has been a top supplier of CNG services for more than 20 years and will continue in that space. Company officials simultaneously announced the name change and a partnership with California-based EV Connect, a provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions. “We believe our company name should fully reflect our offerings. By adding alternative fueling solutions like EV charging and hydrogen fueling to our portfolio we are helping customers reduce tailpipe emissions. Pairing those solutions with renewable fuels reduces the total lifecycle emission profile of our customers’ fleets,” said Bill Cashmareck, managing director of Trillium.

California’s investment in clean vehicles:  California  officials  announced  that the  state  has invested  more than  $1.2  billion  into projects  that  put  a  growing  number  of  zero-emission  and low-carbon  buses, trucks,  and  cars  onto  California’s  roads  and  highways.  About 48%  of these  investments  have been directed toward low-income  and  disadvantaged  neighborhoods – those  most  in  need  of  improvements  in  air  quality. One of these projects will be delivering dozens of electric school buses to rural school districts to help bring low-carbon transportation to students and drivers.

Electric delivery van:  Workhorse Group and commercial vehicle supplier Dana Inc. unveiled a Class 5 van powered by a jointly-built electric axle. The all-electric vehicle is a combination of the chassis and battery pack from a Workhorse E-Gen van, the body of a Morgan Olson UPS delivery truck, and the new Dana axle. The concept vehicle is not yet scheduled for production but interest from potential customers could bring it to market, according to Workhorse. 

Fleets using biodiesel:  According  to  a  new  2018  Fleet  Purchasing Outlook  study  conducted  by the  NTEA – The  Association  for  the  Work  Truck  Industry – 75% of  fleet respondents  planning  to  acquire  trucks  in  2018  anticipate  maintaining or  increasing  use  of  diesel  engine powered  trucks. Additionally,  the  survey  indicated  that  biodiesel  is  now  the  most  popular  alternative  fuel  option  on  the  market, followed  by  E85, CNG, and  electric  hybrid. Survey  data  shows  18  percent  of  fleet  participants  use  biodiesel now – up  from  15% in  2017.

Ultra Clean Diesel:  Renewable  Energy Group,  Inc. unveiled REG  Ultra  Clean  Diesel,  a  patent-pending  fuel  blend  of  renewable  diesel and biodiesel. “REG  Ultra  Clean  Diesel  is  a  CARB  approved  fuel  that  significantly  reduces  emissions, blends  easily  with  petroleum  diesel,  and  is  one  of  the  cleanest  and lowest  carbon intensity  liquid  fuels  available,” said  REG’s Gary Haer,  vice  president,  sales  and  marketing.  “REG  is  uniquely  positioned  to  offer  both  our  biodiesel  and  renewable  diesel  in  a  blended  product.    We  are  committed  to  delivering  solutions  to  our customers  in support  of  clean  air  and  sustainability  initiatives.”

ROUSH unveils EVs:  ROUSH  CleanTech  unveiled  its  newest  carbon footprint-friendly  vehicle — an  all-electric  vehicle built on the Ford  F-650 chassis. The all-electric vehicles will have  a  lithium-ion  battery  system  of  up  to  225  kilowatt  hours and  700  volts.  Depending  on  the  vehicle’s  GVWR,  the  average  range  will  be  up  to  120  miles  with  a  top  speed  of  75  miles  per  hour. “An electric  battery  option  for  medium-duty  trucks  and  buses is a  great  fit  as  there  is  increasing  demand  in  this  gross  vehicle  weight  range  (GVWR)  with  very  few  OEM  solutions,” said  Todd  Mouw,  president. “This  builds  from  our  robust  foundation  already  in  place  at  ROUSH  CleanTech  that  supports  more  than  1,200  customers  and  19,000  propane  and  natural gas  units  on  the  road.”

Peterbilt also goes electric:  Heavy-duty truck manufacturer Peterbilt launched its all-electric Model 579. It was built by the company in collaboration with Transpower, the California Air Resources Board, and the Port of Long Beach. The heavy-duty Model 579 truck has been designed as a drayage application tractor that will go into service soon at the Port of Long Beach. It’s got 490 horsepower with a 200-mile range through its battery pack with the options of 350-to-440 kWh of power. The recharge takes up to five hours.