EV sales providing a bit of stability during a continued period of chaos in the supply chain and at fuel pumps

Gasoline and diesel prices have skyrocketed due to supply shortage, though not necessarily caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. That seems to be a factor, but whatever the cause, it is helping consumer interest to rise in buying electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle sales stayed strong in the U.S. while overall new vehicle sales were down in March. TrueCar expects Tesla will be the only automaker to see a gain during the month. The war in Ukraine and what remains of the Covid-19 pandemic have disrupted supply chains along with continued shortage of computer chips. Skyrocketing gasoline prices also had quite an impact.

Looking at quarterly numbers, Reuters reported other markets are seeing a strong gain for green car sales with 40% going to electric and hybrid vehicles in France. On the other side of the green car sales coin, gas guzzling, expensive SUVs did well in the U.S., with the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade, seeing sales rise during the quarter compared to a year ago.

Tesla should be reporting strong numbers as its quarterly report comes out soon. Wall Street expects a gain over its fourth quarter deliveries of 308,650 electric vehicles. However, they will be watching to see if the company having to shut down its Shangai factory to comply with Covid-19 lockdowns could have a downward effect.

Kia has enjoyed marginal success in EV sales. Kia America just reported that it sold 3,156 all-electric EV6 models in March, its best-ever monthly sales. The company also reported a 55% increase of all its electrified during March.

Fuel prices reached highest level ever last month. AAA Gas Prices reports an average U.S. retail gasoline station price of $4.21 as today, compared to $2.87 as of a year ago. California has the highest price, with an average of $5.88. Diesel fuel’s national average is $5.10 versus $3.09 a year ago, AAA reports. The highest U.S. fuel prices ever recorded by AAA happened last month — $4.33 for regular unleaded on March 11 and $5.13 for diesel on March 12.

President Biden just announced the release of 1 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve every day through October to address the soaring prices, and which he blames on Russia’s chief Vladimir Putin. He’s hoping that could drop gas prices down by about 50 cents per gallon. Oil analysts don’t think it will have that much effect with a temporary dip that will go away from the usual spikes seen from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The gas pump price hike is being felt with spikes like $6.25 per gallon at some California gas stations — and similar surges across the country relative to their average prices. But that price spike did start creeping up right before Russia invaded Ukraine. One the EV side of the business, those sales have been doing well for awhile — with significant increases in 2021 coming from more appealing and cost effective products to choose from, concern over climate change and air pollution, and improvements in charging stations and EV range.

The impact of Russia on the fuel prices and the global auto market is still too early to be determined. The country is the third biggest producer of oil in the world, behind the US and Saudi Arabia. Europe is feeling it the most, with more than half of Russia’s exports going there. That’s behind the tensions between Germany and Russia about production of a long-awaited oil pipeline — which Germany has put on hold for now.

The US is less reliant on Russian oil — getting about 3% of its imports from that country in 2020. That number went up to 7.9% in 2021 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and it is thought to be a part of fuel prices spiking in the U.S. That places Russia right behind Mexico for third place in U.S. oil imports, with Canada still providing over five times as much oil as either Mexico or Russia provided last year.

EV maker startup Rivian Automotive Inc. has sent out a warning on the impact of chaos in Eastern Europe. In a regulatory filing Thursday, the electric truck and van maker blamed the war, along with the ongoing pandemic and inflation, for “disruptions to and delays” in operations. The company also listed the military conflict as a factor in higher component costs —  including battery metals, which Rivian said have risen “considerably.”

Chaos continues in Ukraine. News is coming out daily on the impact of air strikes in the region with the latest being Russia accusing Ukrainian forces of sending two helicopters to attack a fuel facilitate at Belgorod, about 20 miles inside Russia. A video showed the storage tanks on fire. A U.S. official did confirm the airstrike, and that another one had occurred at a Russian ammunition depot in that area two days earlier.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the attack yet, but they have raised concerns this week about the country’s national nuclear plant operator, Energoatom, reporting that the last of the Russian forces that had occupied the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant had pulled out. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian troops who dug trenches in the still-contaminated forest around Chernobyl had been exposed to radiation. There have been no confirmation of reports that troops have been sickened by the radiation exposure. Global nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, is conducting an investigation, and on Thursday said that it had “not been able to confirm reports of Russian forces receiving high doses of radiation” in the exclusion zone around the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

And in other news………….

EVs visible at the Oscars: Aside from another type of chaos coming from the Will Smith slap, electric vehicle had a few shining moments during Academy Award commercials on Sunday night. While most automakers stayed away from the awards show TV spots they usually run, EV startup Lucid showed of its Air model. Disney’s ABC was asking for between $1.7 million and $2.2 million for a 30-second ad during the Oscars. Lucid has been promoting a few attractive features in its marketing materials lately — an EPA range of up to 520 miles per charge, a fast charging system, and the ability to design the details on Air ordered.

Other TV spots during they Academy Awards included:
—The BMW iX all electric SUV
—The Mercedes EQS Electric sedan, which the company just announced has a starting price of $147,500.
—FedEx’s “Priority Earth” commercial featuring electric vans.

Editor’s note: You may not have seen any or some of these TV commercials while watching the Oscars on Sunday night. The TV ads that we view will vary by how we watch TV, which has been affected by the near-end of traditional broadcast TV, explosive growth in streaming channels and how each one is showing its commercials, and whether we’re still watching cable TV.

NHTSA rules detailed: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today it has finalized its light-duty vehicle fuel economy standards, which will:
—Increase fuel efficiency 8% annually for 2024-25 model years.
—Increase fuel efficiency 10% annually for the 2026 model year.
—Require an industrywide fleet average of approximately 49 mpg in the 2026 model year.
—Reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by more than 200 billion gallons, as compared with continuing under standards changed over by the previous administration.
—Reduce average fuel costs over the lifetime of 2029 model-year vehicles by $1,387, while increasing the average cost of those vehicles by about $1,087.

That average has been adjusted over the years from the initial target of about 54.5 mpg under the Obama administration. The revised and finalized standards will require an industrywide fleet average of approximately 49 mpg in the 2026 model year. It will start with an in increase fuel efficiency by 8 percent annually for cars and light trucks in the 2024 and 2025 model years, and by 10 percent annually for 2026.

ACT Expo speaker lineup announced for May event
Organizers of the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo this week announced the roster of featured speakers for the 11th annual event, taking place again at the Long Beach Convention Center from May 9-12, 2022.

Attendees will hear speakers talk about the history-making trend of rapidly accelerating decarbonization of commercial transportation during the four-day event. Top executives fromf all sectors will be present — global vehicle manufacturers, supplier partners, fleet operators, and other key stakeholders in the field.
That list includes:
John O’Leary, President and CEO, Daimler Truck North America 
Mathias Carlbaum, President and CEO, Navistar
Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO, Cummins 
Art Vallely, President, Penske Truck Leasing
Peter Voorhoeve, President, Volvo Trucks North America
Carlos Maurer, Executive Vice President, Sectors and Decarbonization, Shell
Mary Aufdemberg, General Manager of Product Strategy and Market Development, Daimler Truck North America
Marie Robinson, Executive Vice President, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Sysco 
Craig Harper, Chief Sustainability Officer, EVP, J.B. Hunt
Drew Cullen, Senior Vice President, Fuels & Facility Services, Penske Transportation Solutions
Matt McLelland, VP of Sustainability and Innovation, Covenant Logistics
Bill Bliem, Senior Vice President of Fleet Services, NFI Industries 
Patrick Browne, Vice President, Sustainability, UPS 
Emily Conway, Fleet Sustainability Manager, PepsiCo 
Jeff Wismans, National Director of Fleet Operations, UNFI
Lisa McAbee, Vice President, McAbee Trucking
Thomas Healy, CEO, Hyliion
Craig Knight, CEO, Hyzon Motors
Andreas Lips, CEO, Shell Recharge Solutions
Pablo Koziner, President, Energy and Commercial, Nikola Motor Company
Lining Zhou, President & Co-Founder, Coulomb Solutions (CATL)
Aaron Gilmore, CEO, WAVE
Çetin Meriçli, CEO & Co-Founder, Locomation
Charlie Jatt, Head of Commercial Trucking, Waymo
The full list of ACT Expo speakers can be viewed on the ACT Expo site.

How much clean fuel can a cow provide per year?
“With a good natural gas car, one cow could get you across the country,” said Neil Black, president of California Bioenergy, which installs the digesters that trap and repurpose the gas. “In addition to producing milk and cheese and yogurt and ice cream … each cow produces about 125 diesel gallon equivalents of methane a year.”

Read all about it, and the challenges being faced by renewable fuel suppliers, in an LA Times feature article.

And read about RNG Coalition members providing a bullish outlook on the future of that clean fuel hitting growth targets.