Monthly Archives: September 2018

Cities leading the way for EV charging, NHTSA safety rating for Model 3 a bright spot for Tesla

Cities leading the charge:  Cities, utilities, and technology suppliers are making serious commitments to expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, according to speakers at last week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The Climate Group and C40 Cities groups announced that 26 cities, states, regions and businesses took on commitments. Those include 12 states and regions joining The Climate Group’s zero-emission vehicle challenge, such as California and Washington state, Quebec, Scotland, and Australia’s Capital Territory; and 12 cities joining C40’s fossil fuel-free streets declaration, including Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood, Calif.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that 19 cities and two counties in the U.S. have formally launched the Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle Purchasing Collaborative. EVBox, which now has about 60,000 charging stations installed globally, expects to have 1 million EV chargers installed by 2025. ChargePoint announced a target of 2.5 million public chargers by 2025, mostly in North America and Europe. That will shoot up from about 53,000 public charging sites the company currently operates.

Bright spot for the Model 3:  Tesla, Inc., had a bright sport in its continuing struggle to mass produce the Model 3 and to restore its brand image. The Model 3 received a five star safety rating in all crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The rear-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model 3 earned an all-around five-star safety rating from NHTSA, the highest possible issued by the agency from frontal, side, and rollover crashes. As for the continuing challenges faced by Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, the company saw another top executive leave. Liam O’Connor, vice president of global supply management, has resigned said people familiar with the matter. O’Connor had come over from Apple Inc. in 2015, and is at least the fifth senior Tesla executive to leave the company in recent weeks. Another blow took place this week with the U.S. Dept. of Justice reportedly opening a criminal fraud investigation into the electric carmaker, stemming from Musk’s announcement last month that he would be taking the company private and that he secured the needed funding to do so. The probe appears be at an early phase, but it follows a reported Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and shareholder lawsuits over the same issue; and a libel lawsuit filed against Musk by a man he accused of being a pedophile. A Tesla spokesperson said the Justice department did send Tesla a voluntary request for documents and that the automaker has been cooperating.

Volvo supports efforts to reduce plastic:  Volvo Cars this week joined the G7 Ocean Plastics Partnership during the G7 Summit in Halifax, Canada. The company also presented its own sustainability program in detail, including its Plastics Vision that aims to substantially increase the amount of recycled material used in new Volvo cars and to support efforts to reduce plastics pollution. “Volvo Cars is the only car maker to be invited to the G7 summit, underlining the company’s position as an industry leader in sustainability,” the company said in a statement.

Lucid Motors gets $1B:  Luxury electric vehicle startup Lucid Motors gained a $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, an entity once rumored to be Musk’s potential partner in taking Tesla private. Lucid Motors will use the investment to finance the 2020 launch of its first EV, the Lucid Air. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had previously touted conversations with the Saudi fund as key in considerations to take Tesla private, which won’t be happening for Tesla.

IKEA delivering in EVs:  IKEA says all its home deliveries in the inner cities of Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai will be made by electric vehicles or through other zero-emission solutions. That will take place by 2020 and will also support adding charging stations to its retail stores. Last year, the company joined EV100, an initiative launched by the Climate Group, that aims to meet the five-city EV goal by 2020, make all home deliveries in ZEVs by 2025, setting up chargers at IKEA locations by 2020, and cut in half emissions from IKEA employees and customers by 2030.

Daimler investing in Proterra:  Daimler Trucks is investing in the fast-growing electric bus market through leading a $155-million investment round in electric busker Proterra. Tao Capital Partners, a San Francisco investment firm, is the other lead investor. Proterra and Daimler will also explore electrifying select Daimler heavy-duty vehicles. One of the first ventures will be to bring Proterra’s battery and drivetrain technologies to the North American school bus market through Daimler’s Thomas Built Buses division. “We aren’t just the leading supplier of conventional truck and buses; when it comes to electrification we also want to be the leader,” said Martin Daum, global head of Daimler Trucks and Buses, at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday.

Nio goes public and ready to compete for premium EV share, Tesla loses more executives in its turbulent workplace

Nio IPO:  Chinese electric car startup Nio made its way to the stock market, raising $1 billion in its IPO this week and market valuation at $6.42 billion; but that’s well below the $20 billion company executives had been initially hoping for. Shanghai-based Nio is targeting the premium electric-SUV segment, calling itself Tesla-competitive in its home market of China. Nio launched its first electric SUV in December, the seven-seat Nio ES8, which is priced at about half the cost of a Tesla Model X sport utility in China. Formerly known as NextEV, Nio says it will be bringing an autonomous EV to the U.S. by 2020. The ES6, an electric five-passenger SUV, is in development. Nio backers include Chinese internet giants Baidu and Tencent, as well as Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Tencent also owns a small stake in Tesla stock.

Tesla Inc. has been losing executives this year, with turbulence coming from the company transitioning into a mass market automaker with production of the Model 3. CEO Elon Musk’s erratic behavior has also taken its toll. Justin McAnear, vice president of worldwide finance and operation, said in a statement Wednesday that he is leaving to take the role of chief financial officer at another company. Tesla’s chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, announced his exit last week. The work pace at Tesla and the level of public attention of the company were cited as reasons for his departure. One executive, Jerome Guillen, may be able to keep pace with Musk’s intense demands. Guillen has been named president of automotive operations, and is known for being a skilled multitasker who’s been able to operate within the Tesla culture.

While President Trump’s high import tariffs have taken their toll on several industry sectors, solar power has been able to find growth and stability. Data reported on the the second quarter of 2018 showed signs of a market turnaround. Utility solar project procurement soared in Q2 2018 as component prices declined and home solar installations steadied after a 15% contraction last year, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (previously known as GTM Research) and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Volkswagen Group warned that it will be spending a lot more to meet its target for electric vehicle product launch. While the German automaker had originally estimated that 20 billion euros ($23 billion) would be going into it, CEO Herbert Diess says this will not suffice, without providing a new cost figure. The automaker needs to reduce expenses more to be able to invest in future technology and weather turbulent periods, he said. The target is huge — VW Group plans to launch 80 new EVs across its brands including Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat by 2025 and offer an electrified version of each of its 300 group models by 2030. “The burden for our company, such as the cost of bringing to market electric cars, will be higher than expected,” Diess said in a joint interview with labor head Bernd Osterloh in VW’s internal newsletter. “This is particularly so since some of our competitors have been making more progress.”

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) on Wednesday released its white paper analyzing the fuel efficiency of the 20 leading airlines on routes between the U.S. to Europe in 2017. Following rigorous scientific assessments, Norwegian once again rose to the top as the most fuel-efficient airline on transatlantic routes for a second time, also receiving this honor in 2015 when the ICCT released its first study.
Findings showed Norwegian, on average, achieved 44 passenger kilometers per liter, which is 33% higher than the industry average. Norwegian, flies one of the youngest fleets in the world, comprised of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 737-800s and 737-MAXes.

Amazon continues to invest in the grocery delivery business, now expanding Whole Foods Prime Delivery to 10 additional U.S. cities. The full list of 38 cities now includes Charlotte, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Raleigh, Seattle, and Tucson. Coverage will also be expanding in New York, Los Angles and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Amazon acquired Whole Foods, known for its organic and locally-grown produce, last year for $13.7 billion.

ACT Research Co. forecasts commercial electric vehicles will make up a “significant share” of the Class 4 through Class 8 market in 2030 to 2035. Growth will be coming from U.S. truck makers, new startups, and engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. Interest is coming from fleet operators who need to reduce tailpipe emissions and reliance on diesel fuel. “They want to take it into production but it all depends on how that market votes,” ACT Research Co. Vice President Steve Tam said.

 

Daimler, BMW, and Audi bringing EVs to production level, Musk smokes pot and shares wide-ranging opinions during podcast

Premier EVs rolling out:  German automakers are now stepping up to their commitment made two years ago at the Paris Motor Show to become Tesla-competitive and produce production-level premier electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Mercedes EQC all-electric SUV on Tuesday, and it will be Daimler’s first production model under the company’s electric EQ sub-brand. BMW next week will be flying the autonomous iNEXT electric crossover in a Boeing 777 Freighter to press events in Munich, New York, San Francisco, and Beijing. On Monday, Volkswagen’s Audi began mass production of the Audi e-tron, the brand’s first all-electric SUV with longer range. Audi will unveil the battery electric SUV at a world premiere in San Francisco on Sept. 17. It’s a good time to roll out these high-performance, premier EVs as Tesla and its leader, Elon Musk, face a series of challenges. Production problems for the high-volume Model 3 continue, as do controversial moments with Musk — made more so last night during a podcast (see below). Editor’s note: See my Oilprice link for more articles on EVs and energy trends.

Musk enjoys podcast:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk puffed on a marijuana joint, lit up a flamethrower, and showed off a Samurai sword during a Thursday night interview with podcast host Joe Rogan. It’s been a tumultuous month for Musk, attempting to take the electric carmaker private and releasing a series of controversial tweets that sent Tesla stock prices on a roller coaster. He appeared to be more at ease during the casual interview wearing his Occupy Mars t-shirt and commenting on the future of artificial intelligence. As for interesting comments: manufacturing electric cars is “very difficult,” getting governments to regulate artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere, and his underground tunnel in Los Angeles isn’t going forward, “Mostly because of paperwork.” While marijuana is legal in California, where the interview took place, Musk’s phone started getting hit with messages. “I’m getting text messages from friends saying, ‘What the hell are you doing smoking weed?'” he said. Musk explained that he’s “not a regular smoker of weed” because he “doesn’t find it’s very good for productivity. It’s like a cup of coffee in reverse,” he said. Using marijuana, along with taking Ambien to deal with his sleeping problem, has been of concern among Tesla shareholders and board members since a New York Times interview last month. As for flying cars, Musk doesn’t see the point of investing in it as a practical mode of transportation. “If you get one of those toy drones and imagine it’s 1,000 times heavier — that’s not going to make your neighbors happy,” Musk said. “If you want a flying car, just put wheels on a helicopter.”

Bolt going global:  The Chevrolet Bolt is getting ready to roll out to new markets. Pam Fletcher, vice president of the automaker’s global electric vehicle programs, told an audience at Citi’s 2018 Global Technology Conference that the Bolt EV electric car will ship out to new markets around the globe due to unforeseen demand. “We see demand increasing in markets we’re already in and we’ve seen new markets around the globe that we didn’t originally plan to have the Bolt in asking for it,” she said. “And so, we’ll be announcing some of these additional markets, here, in the not-so-distant future.”

California bill supporting clean trucks:  Sixty companies are urging California Governor Brown to sign a bill that will encourage more big rigs powered by clean fuels to operate on California highways and roads. Assembly Bill 2061 (D-Frazier) will speed the improvement of air quality in disadvantaged communities that are often heavily impacted by polluting diesel trucks weight limit by a small percentage. Current law restricts the gross vehicle weight of trucks to 80,000 pounds. Because the energy storage and fuel delivery systems for zero emission (ZE) and near-zero (NZE) vehicles are presently heavier than diesel tanks, the restriction means that fleet operators who use cleaner technologies must carry smaller payloads, which creates a significant disincentive. AB 2061 would increase the weight limit for ZE and NZE trucks to 82,000 pounds and thereby improve the business case for cleaner trucks. The bill is co-sponsored by CALSTART, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, and San Diego County Disposal Association.

National Drive Electric Week:  National Drive Electric Week will be starting tomorrow at nationwide EV ride and drives. Running Sept. 8-16, the nationwide celebration is geared toward heightening awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more. They are fun to drive, are less expensive and more convenient to fuel than gasoline vehicles, are better for the environment, promote local jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, according the event organizers. Those interested in buying or leasing an EV can go to one of the events and talk to owners who have successfully done so.

DOE grants:  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 42 projects totaling $80 million to support advanced vehicle technologies that can enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of critical materials, and enhance the country’s economic growth. Batteries and electrification projects won $31.9 million in funding. These research projects will develop technologies to recharge multiple electric vehicles quickly and at very high “extreme” power levels; software, controls, and hardware to provide physical and cybersecurity protection of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The projects will also work to develop cathode materials for next generation electric vehicle batteries that eliminate or significantly reduce the use of cobalt, an expensive and foreign-sourced critical material.