Big Picture: Update on the latest Tesla fire, Prius is best deal out there says Consumer Reports

Tesla Model SThe fourth fire involving a Tesla Model S that happened during the fall – on November 15 in Irvine, Calif. – wasn’t another battery fire. “Our inspection of the car and the battery made clear that neither were the source” of the fire, Tesla said in a statement that cited the report by the Orange County Fire Authority. The OFCA is done with its investigation and is leaving it up to Tesla and insurance companies to figure out what caused it.

Outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson had some critical things to say at a media conference last week about what Tesla’s going through with its battery fires; he compared it to be battery fire in the test lab incident with the Volt that happened in late 2011 and basically boasted about all the proactive responses that GM carried out instead of standing off to the sidelines.

Ohio dealers have sued to block Tesla from selling cars in the state. Tesla had been looking good recently when a proposed amendment to an unrelated bill was dropped. Dealers were hoping to block Tesla from selling in the state. The new lawsuits wants the state to revoke Tesla’s license to sell cars, stating that the automaker hasn’t met all its necessary legal requirements.

Here’s more of the latest news in clean transportation….

The Toyota Prius Liftback topped Consumer Reports’ annual value list for the second straight year. The attractive base price ($24,025), mileage (44 mpg but can be higher depending on how you drive), and resale value gave it the thumbs up. The Honda Fit subcompact, starting at $15,425, scored in second place for the compact/subcompact class.

The CALSTART clean transportation consortium has announced changes to its board of directors. Paul Rivera of consulting firm Ricardo has been appointed to the board of directors. Rivera serves as global director of hybrid and electrical systems for Ricardo. Ricardo recently expanded its business practice in California and is well-positioned to help grow the industry, fulfilling CALSTART’s mission. Puon Penn, senior VP and head of the National Clean Tech & Emerging Tech Markets at Wells Fargo, has become vice chair of CALSTART’s board. Penn is stepping in for the former vice chair, Jane Warner of American Lung Association in California, who passed away in September. Mike Britt, Director of Maintenance and Engineering for UPS, is now secretary of the board.

Hyundai pitching its fuel cell car

“Today, right here, the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is making the shift from a research project to a real consumer choice,” says Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Krafcik. See how the automaker is promoting its new Tucson Fuel Cell model in this new video, which it calls “The Next Generation Electric Vehicle.”

SAE adopting natural gas vehicle standards

At the Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress, held in October in Rosemont, Ill., industry participants in a Blue Ribbon Panel on natural gas were unanimous that standards will help the industry to quicker embrace the natural gas based technologies. In response to the heavy-duty trucking industry need, SAE International Truck and Bus Council launched an effort to establish relevant SAE standards.  “The use of natural gas as a transportation fuel is extremely important,” said Ron Eickelman, President, Agility Fuel Systems. “All indicators point to increase in the number of vehicles fueled by natural gas. To achieve universal levels of safety, reliability, and performance, there is no question that codes and improved standards are needed now!”

Hydrogen stocks have been up quite a lot this year – an average of 131% for the market. Hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen system company stocks have performed well. Plug Power, which makes hydrogen fuel cell systems for off-road vehicles is up 122% this year. Ballard Power Systems, a maker of hydrogen fuel cell systems for a number of industries, is up 133% this year. Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, a maker of fuel systems and drivetrain components for NGVs, EVs, and hydrogen FCVs, has gone up 146% and 261% from its low in April. Small investors have been the main buyers of hydrogen stock. Institutional owners have keep their stake fairly small.

Navigant Research forecasts that Japan and the US will be the largest markets for hybrids, with sales reaching just over one million and 1.1 million in 2022, respectively.  The US will remain the largest market for plug-in electric vehicles with more than 467,000 sales in 2022.  A significant majority of the EV sales will be plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

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