Big Picture: 2013 was a good year for green machines, Ford powering C-Max Energi concept with solar

Tesla Model S fast chargerGreen vehicles saw strong sales numbers in 2013, led mainly by electric vehicles seeing an 84% leap at 96,000 units sold. Plug-in hybrids had slightly higher numbers (49,000) over battery electric (47,600) – but it was a giant leap for pure electrics – 241% over 2012 versus 27% for plug-in hybrid/extended range. Much of that came from the Tesla Model S rolling into 2013 at higher production and sales volumes than the year before – closing the year at 18,800 units sold. The Nissan Leaf also did very well with its price reduction. Leaf sales jumped 130% to 22,610 in 2013 and were up 70% in December. Dropping the base price 18% to $28,800 was smart, as was adding extra cargo room and an on-board charger that’s been cutting charging times in half.

The Chevy Volt did not have its top selling year – 23,094 sold, declining 9.2% in December and 1.6% down for 2013. However, it was the top selling EV for 2013. The Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid just launched and sold only six units in December. The Chevrolet Spark EV sold 589 units for the year.

The Toyota Prius plug-in was down 5.2% for the year at 12,088 units sold.

Hybrids hit their own sales record – 489,413 units sold last year, a 15.3% increase over 2012. Diesel vehicles are right up there – climbing 10% to 450,000 sold in 2013. Toyota saw 60% of all hybrid sales. Ford said its hybrid sales topped 80,000 this year, nearly triple the 2012 total.

And in other clean transportation news…..

  • Ford Motor Co. is displaying its C-Max Solar Energi Concept at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas on January 7-10. It harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof; a day’s worth of sunlight can deliver as much power as the conventional C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, which powers its electric motor through its battery. Using solar power in a C-Max Energi could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions generated by typical drivers by four metric tons.
  • Feedback from early adopters has been utilized by BMW and other electric vehicle makers more than other product lines typically do. Tom Moloughney, an owner of an Italian restaurant in Montclair, N.J., has participated in BMW’s test program, first driving the Mini E and then the BMW ActiveE more than 130,000 miles altogether.  Moloughney and other EV drivers have earned the title “electronauts” from BMW. One of his suggestions was adding an optional eco mode to the BMW i3; it now has the Eco and Eco-Plus modes, which minimize electrical use except for the drivetrain. He also emphasized offering a more robust quicker charging system with high wattage.
  • CleanFUEL USA has gained a top safety standard listing for publicly accessible and payment card compliant propane autogas refueling stations. The company has taken additional steps to meet the most rigorous standards for propane autogas refueling by gaining Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing for the Gilbarco Encore S liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) retail fuel dispenser. The dispenser also holds National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) approval. It’s typically installed at retail settings with public access and controlled clientele, and features full retail capabilities for Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance. The fueling dispenser is also available as a single or dual-sided unit. While the dispenser is typically used in retail settings, it can be designed for a wide variety of fleets.
  • If Chinese investor Hybrid Technology LLC completes its acquisition offer on Fisker Automotive in US bankruptcy court, the Fisker factory could be shut down. Court papers indicated that it plans on buying and then reselling the shuttered Wilmington factory. It could be the same thing if Wanxiang closes its deal – that company has indicated it’s not interested in starting up production again at the plant. (See the next article on US and Chinese competition for more on the Fisker acquisition.)
  • Speaking of electric vehicle factories – Tesla Motors’ Fremont, Calif.-plant could become unionized. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has been in talks with Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other company executives. The union has set up an organizing committee at the Fremont, Calif., plant, which used to be the NUMMI plant that was run by Toyota and GM. There are about 2,000 workers at the Tesla plant in Silicon Valley. While Detroit area workers are unionized, it’s been very hard for the union to reach foreign “transplant” factories in the south; and the UAW has been viewing the Tesla possibility for nearly four years.
  • Mitsubishi has delayed the US launch of its Outlander plug-in hybrid until 2015 because of bottlenecks in battery production. The electrified crossover utility vehicle won’t be able to be launched this year as planned. The problem has been tight capacity at its main battery supplier, Lithium Energy Japan; that company is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Motors, battery maker GS Yuasa Corp. and trading house Mitsubishi Corp.
  • EVs sold in Europe are undergoing the noise factor scrutiny similar to what’s happening in the US. Regulators have safety concerns about pedestrians, especially those with limited vision, who may not hear the silent EV approaching. Daimler is adding artificial sound to its Mercedes-Benz EVs as the European Union fine tunes regulations.
  • Along with its readers, Consumer Reports’ editors are still in love with the Tesla Model S. After a year’s worth and 11,380 miles of driving, the magazine gave kudos to the Model S for several pluses, including its “rocket-like launch feel” and well-appointed interior.
  • As the biofuel and ethanol/E15 battle continues, more outrage has been sparked by the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013. The bill, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), has been introduced to curb corn ethanol use and production. It would eliminate the corn ethanol mandate within the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which would be even more severe than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed revision on implementing the RFS and cutting back on the mandated use of ethanol as a gasoline blend.
  • Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. just received approval from the United Nations to sell its product to UN countries around the world. The UN, as part of its ECE Regulation No. 110, has allowed for Quantum’s Type-IV Q-Lite CNG tank technology to be sold. The company says this will allow it to bring its “highly successful large diameter CNG tank technology to Europe and Asia and will enable European and Asian trucking firms to realize substantial operating cost reductions that many US fleets have demonstrated through the use of CNG as a transportation fuel.”

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