Big Picture: Nissan Leaf leading pack in plug-in sales, Zipcar offers one-way trip with guaranteed parking

Nissan Leaf sales successThe Nissan Leaf continues to lead the plug-in electric vehicle space, selling 2,088 units in the US during April – compared to the Toyota Prius Plug-in bringing in 1,741, the Chevrolet Volt selling 1,548, and Tesla selling about 1,400 of its Model S units. While Leaf sales were down nearly 17% from March, they were up nearly 8% over April 2013 and were one-third higher than that same four month period during 2013. The previous neck-and-neck race between the Leaf and Volt appears to be going Nissan’s way. Volt sales for the first four months of 2014 are down about 7% from that same time period in 2013. Toyota is seeing different results in the plug-in hybrid segment – its 2014 Prius Plug-in sales figures are up 70.6% over the first four months of 2013.

Toyota’s hybrids were down in sales from March, but still accounted for four of the top five in April sales figures. The Toyota Camry Hybrid was up 20.2% in sales over April 2013 and the Prius C was up 2.4% over that same time period. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid saw the largest sale gain among top-selling hybrid models last month; at 2,055 units sold in April that was 42% over a year ago. As for clean diesel passenger cars, the Volkswagen Jetta lead the pack – 4,355 units sold in April, up 7.5% over March and 37.9% over April 2013.

And in other clean transportation news…….

  • Here’s a correction to the news item last week on ClipperCreek co-founder and former President Dave Packard taking on a new job with ChargePoint. Packard is now running ChargePoint’s utilities business development. He will not be leading ChargePoint as a whole, which was incorrectly reported last week.
  • Zipcar customers can simplify the driving experience even more with the new ONE>WAY car-sharing service. Zipcar drivers can access the 2015 Honda Fit for one-way travel with a guaranteed parking spot at the end. Throughout several cities and at certain airport locations, Zipcar users get to have the carsharing experience along a guaranteed parking spot at the end of it. (You can also sign-up for Zipcar and get $25 in free driving.)
  • Tesla Motors will soon be naming at least two US states for its upcoming “gigafactory” battery manufacturing plant. Tesla is getting ready to product lithium ion battery packs that may coincide with the launch of its first affordable mass-market electric car.
  • Electric Car Guest Drive, a California-based initiative, is offering consumers an opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience driving and electric vehicle. Events are being hosted throughout May in 12 California cities. Details can be found on its website. It’s been set up by a car club called EV Quorum. EV owners are offering others a chance to try out just about any EV you can think of – and it’s much more than the typical driving experience you’ll find at dealerships.
  • Schneider Electric and ChargePoint yesterday announced a collaboration to unveil Schneider Electric’s new EVlink™ cloud connected charging stations with the ChargePoint network. It includes hardware, software, ChargePoint connectivity and advanced services such as installation, deployment planning, project management, and ongoing maintenance. The collaboration will serve host station owners and electric vehicle drivers. “With this partnership, Schneider Electric makes it easier for EV drivers and station owners to leverage ChargePoint, the world’s largest and most open EV charging network,” according to the press release.
  • If you’re looking for a domestically grown plant offering environmental and economic benefits, how about hemp? Twenty-three states have now adopted supportive hemp legislation and it’s becoming well understood that it contains little to no THC like its same-species cousin marijuana. Some of the benefits include:  a 2009 University of Connecticut study found that hemp seed oil made a viable and attractive feedstock for producing biodiesel. Lotus has practiced using hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler since 2008, leading to many automakers switching to hemp composites from plastic for door panels and other components. Environmentalists appreciate that hemp absorbs CO2 while it grows through natural photosynthesis; and economists like that fact that hemp imports are declining and that the US has a strong change of creating domestic jobs and financial gains – Canada’s hemp industry is expected to bring in a billion dollars in earnings this year.
  • The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is set to show up this summer at US showrooms. It’s powered by a Tesla Motors-developed electric motor and a 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It starts with a base price of $41,450.
  • Volvo and Google are taking the self-driving car to the next phase – city street driving. “Drive Me” has begun testing in 100 cars on the streets of Volvo’s home base in Gothenburg, Sweden. That follows several years of test drives on freeways by Google.
  • IBM has made a revolutionary claim – that it can create “an affordable photovoltaic system that can concentrate solar radiation 2,000 times.” IBM is working with other researchers on a High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal system that can convert 80% of incoming solar radiation into useful energy.
  • The US Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that brings back the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; it’s a regulatory structure in 28 eastern US states that requires states to cut emissions that cause downwind states to exceed the EPA’s air quality standards. It’s considered a landmark win for the Obama administration and public health advocates. The program had been stopped in August 2012 by a federal appeals court in a case initiated by utilities and several states. That Supreme Court ruling happened right before President Obama’s long-awaited climate change report, which will be released today; so, it’s a very interesting time for federal environmental policy.

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