Big Picture: California’s ZEV targets adopted by seven more states, NHTSA not recalling Tesla Model S and now there’s been another crash

ZEV Action PlanGovernment fleet vehicles are expected to play an integral role in California and seven other states requiring 15% of new vehicles sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. Governors from seven states – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Vermont – met in Sacramento on Thursday with California’s governor to say they’re following California’s rule. The governors agreed to buy more ZEVs for their fleets, and will be taking other important actions that could spur sales. A lot more charging stations will need to be there, and the agreement includes efforts to have building codes simplify installations. Cash incentives and discounted electricity rates for home charging are being considered, and developing shared standards for charging networks and common road signage are part of the agreement. Charging station installations should play a big part in all of this coming together.
The non-binding agreement will likely push sales of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in those states. Automakers have been supportive of the agreement, and say it will be easier to sell them if the initiative applies to eight states and not just California; these eight states make up 23% of US new vehicle sales. If the states meet this ambitious target, it would bring 3.3 million of these vehicles on their roads by 2025.

Tesla Model S not getting recalled by NHTSA for battery pack fire, but what about Mexico fire?
It appears that Tesla Motors is walking away from its post-crash battery fire and won’t be getting recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On October 1 in Kent, Wash., a lithium-ion battery in a Model S caught fire after the car collided with a large metallic object on the state highway. NHTSA has found no evidence that the fire came from a vehicle defect or from violations of US safety standards. It was day one of the 16-day federal government shutdown, and NHTSA didn’t send an investigator to the scene of the crash. The agency consulted with Tesla and is still “gathering data” on the fire, but it is not going to conduct an investigation process that could lead to recalls. Two other plug-in electric vehicles have gone through NHTSA investigations and recalls due to fires – the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma.
Tesla now has another Model S fire to deal with as reports and video footage have come out on an Oct. 18 crash and fire in Merida, in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. According to media reports, the driver was under the influence of alcohol and escaped with no injuries. The driver was speeding into a roundabout and then collided with a tree. It’s too early to tell if the crash pierced into the battery and started the fire.

Truck makers in federal appeals court over EPA compliance
Implementing federal regulations on fuel economy and emissions for commercial trucks has become a legal battle. Truck makers are split over whether one of the major OEMs should be granted the ability to pay penalties instead of complying with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard. Navistar International Corp. paid a penalty to allow its non-conforming engines to go to market. Daimler Trucks North America, Mack Trucks, and Volvo Group North America are challenging EPA rules following its 2001 heavy-duty engine standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx).
The EPA wanted to see 95% of NOx emissions reduced by 2010. That led to a split among truck makers on how to comply – Daimler, Mack, and Volvo have used selective catalytic reduction technology and did meet the standard; Navistar relied on a different technology and failed to comply, hence paying a penalty of $2,000 per engine. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been hearing the case on the EPA ruling and whether Navistar’s efforts could comply for a Clean Air Act exemption that allowed for the engine to enter the market if the penalty fine was paid. Daimler and other OEMs are claiming the exemption unfairly penalized their successful efforts to comply.

And in other green car news……

  1. Cost of ownership analyst company Vincentric says that hybrids can be pretty darn good for lifecycle ownership cost. In its 2013 Hybrid Analysis, 13 of the 33 hybrid vehicles on the market have lower cost-of-ownership than their gasoline-only counterparts; that’s two more hybrid models than was on the 2012 Vincentric study. However, with the increased number of hybrids on the market, the number of financially cost-effective hybrids out there dropped from 44% to 39%.
  2. Tesla Motors hired Doug Field as vice pres­i­dent of vehi­cle pro­grams. Field was an Apple Inc. exec­u­tive and for­mer Ford engi­neer and will be respon­si­ble for dri­ving devel­op­ment of new vehi­cles for the lux­ury elec­tric vehi­cle car­maker. He was in charge of devel­op­ment of sev­eral Apple prod­ucts such as the lat­est Mac­Book Air, Mac­Book Pro, and iMac.
  3. A bipartisan group of 13 House members asked the regulatory Commodity Futures Trading Commission to investigate the alleged manipulation of the market for ethanol credits. A letter to the commission said price volatility experienced this year in the market used by oil refiners to meet renewable fuel standard may be due to fraud and manipulation. Credit prices shot up to $1.44 in July and have gone back down to the 30-cent range.
  4. EvCarCo, Inc., has secured a license for electric/hybrid vehicle technology. The company says that the technology allows for production of lightweight fully wheel chair accessible electric and hybrid buses and has the capability to be utilized for niche utility vehicles such as garbage trucks and city utility vehicles. EvCarCo says that it is an automotive retailer deploying a coast-to-coast network of eco-friendly dealerships and vehicles.
  5. Things might be changing on the dating circuit. About 2,000 women in the United Kingdom were surveyed recently and the majority found owners of Toyota Prius hybrids and Nissan Leaf electric cars to “conscientious” and “intelligent,” and more likely to be safe drivers. On the other hand, a majority of respondents said that owners of expensive sports are “arrogant” and some of them find them to “self-centered.” As for safety, 38% said that male sports car owners are a “danger on the roads.”
  6. Ford Motor Co. is focusing on “big data” and analytics to increase fuel economy, reduce vehicle emissions, and support other sustainability initiatives, said John Viera, global director of sustainability, at the 2013 Net Impact conference in San Jose, Calif. Ford is using a science-based model that forecasts CO2 emissions that will be generated by the fleet of vehicles on roads worldwide for the next 50 years. That’s helping Ford set aggressive fuel economy targets to help reduce carbon. Ford’s EcoBoost engines play into it, as do Ford hybrid plug-in hybrid, all-electric, flex-fuel, biodiesel, CNG and LPG vehicles. The automaker’s analytics also optimize millions of possible vehicle combinations exploring all possible transportation scenarios. This has resulted in green products such as Ford Auto Start-Stop, which reduces fuel consumption and emissions when the car is idling.

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