Tesla’s Berlin plant speeding up faster than China, AD publisher looking for Fixes and Solutions to everything

Tesla speeding up European plant:  Rumors are floating that Tesla may be able to beat the timing on its second plant opening in China with its Berlin vehicle manufacturing facility. Some of those working on the German plant are bragging they are three months ahead of where the Chinese plant was at this time last year. You can also view a video on the plant’s construction, with the nickname of GiGA4Berlin. Tesla continues to work quickly through the COVID-19 crisis and inner turmoil over management turnovers. One theory is that CEO Elon Musk and team are learning big lessons from crafting two vehicle plants and one battery factory to produce four models to production scale (with the fifth, the Model Y, slowed down for now with some production issues). That lesson would be how to standardize building the production plants and speeding everything up. Tesla is on its way to become a true global automaker serving the biggest markets: North America, China, and Europe.

Automotive Digest going away, welcoming new media platform:  Automotive Digest will soon be closed down for good, sad to say. But Chuck Parker will be staying in the game, having recently launched his Fixes and Solutions new media content platform. His new title describes it well: Editor, Publisher, Strategist, & Fixer. The focus here is on identifying and exploring the problems, issues, and obstacles along with possible fixes and solutions that are shaping the country, society, and the world — and not just the automotive industry. It’s also a good space for experts/analysts to voice their concerns, as editorial contributions are being accepted.

What does that look like? A few topics featured in its published articles tell the story…….. How robotics startup Starship Technologies is making its way through COVID-19 and building up its fleet of autonomous sidewalk delivery vehicles……… Federal courts are starting to protect laws that the Trump administration has been dismantling over fossil fuels’ impact on the climate…………. Can leaders from the US and Europe seize the moment to take on the challenges of stopping pandemics, solving climate change, and dealing with inequities of race and economies?…….. How online therapy app, Talkspace, has given counselors, therapists, and medical professionals a new functional means to delivering therapy without being in the same room or office with the client……. and much more.

China investing heavily in coal power:  China is in the process of undercutting all the capital and resources invested in clean energy and electric vehicles. The country permitted more new coal-fired power plants in March than it did in all of 2019. It comes right after a surge in coal plant construction last year. China already consumes more than half of the world’s coal. The country has almost as much new coal generation in planning or construction (206 gigawatts) as the US has in operation (235 GW at the end of 2019). It came from the economic turmoil the country started experiencing a decade ago, with the government putting investing huge sums through state-owned enterprises, with much of it going into coal-fired power.

Zobel heading hydrogen council:  The California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC) has named Bill Zobel, a prominent figure in natural gas vehicles, as the executive director of the organization. Zobel joins CHBC after over ten years at Trillium, where he served as vice president of business development and marketing. During those years, Zobel helped to diversify the company’s alternative fuel portfolio to include hydrogen refueling in order to meet changing market conditions, customer needs, and company goals. He also worked to secure two premier hydrogen projects in the transit sector with the Orange County Transportation Authority and Champagne-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Clean Transportation group looking for active members:  If you’re a LinkedIn member, come by the Clean Transportation group. I’d started it a few years ago, but let it go dormant. Like other LinkedIn groups, it’s a good platform for telling the story on projects you’re working on, and critical issues facing the future of clean transportation, alternative fuels, and the future of transportation. Another one to check out is Sustainability Working Group, which delves into how sustainability is embedded in organizations and the impact this has on environmental stewardship, stakeholder well-being, community development and shared value. And one more thing, check out my article published in LinkedIn, “What’s the state of the economy as the ‘new normal’ drags on?”

Hyundai and Kia tapping into heat pump EV efficiency:  Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation released details of their innovative heat pump system, deployed in Hyundai and Kia’s global electric vehicle (EV) line-up to maximize their all-electric driving range in low temperatures. It’s extending per-charge driving range by tapping into waste heat to warm the cabin for passengers traveling through cold weather. It was first tied out in the first-generation Kia Soul EV, which used its compressor, evaporator, and condenser, so that the heat pump was able to capture waste heat given off by the vehicle’s electrical components, recycling this energy to heat the cabin more efficiently.

Republic Services gaining more recognition in sustainable transportation, Uber releases jarring sexual assault numbers

Republic Services, Inc., just became a member of California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition after several years of adding NGVs to its fleet and making gains in recycling and waste disposal. The company joins Waste Management, Inc., and other refuse companies, in showing the leadership role these companies can make in clean transportation, renewable fuels, and waste-to-energy projects.

Fleets with refuse trucks are among the largest private fleets in the country; bringing in natural gas makes a real difference in reducing carbon emissions and fuel costs. In Fleet Owner’s Top 500 Top Private Fleets (which tracks heavy-duty vehicles), refuse fleets (under the “Sanitation” category) make up three of the top 10 largest fleets, with Waste Management, Inc., at No. 4 and Republic Services at No. 8. Waste Connections & Operating Co., No. 9, is not running NGVs. The refuse company uses fuel efficient vehicles and is deploying energy conserving practices.

In Fleet Owner’s top 500 private fleet rankings, as of April 2019 there were 18,652 total vehicles in Republic Service’s fleet — 148 tractors, 18,504 trucks, and 947 trailers. In the company’s 2018 annual report, it was reported that 20 percent of its fleet operated on natural gas — which could theoretically put that number out to about 3,600 trucks running on compressed natural gas (CNG) and some of these NGVs on renewable natural gas (RNG). However, the latest data from the company states that the number of CNG-powered trucks would be somewhere between 2,200 and 3,100 or more units (with 3,100 running on “alternative fuels”). The Phoenix-based company’s fleet is spread out over 41 states.

The annual report said that in California, the vast majority of Republic’s fleet runs on natural gas — with more than 90 percent utilizing renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG has the lowest carbon intensity of all commercially available fuels, according to the company. Overall, using CNG provides the company with a competitive advantage in communities with strict clean emissions standards and initiatives.

The company’s fleet is making a gradual conversion over to natural gas and that will continue. In 2018, about 13 percent of the replacement vehicle purchases were CNG vehicles. By the end of 2018, the company operated 37 CNG fueling stations.

Waste Management, Inc., has been carrying the lead — and playing a very visible role — in sustainable fleet operations for the refuse industry. The company also belongs to California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition and other organizations. NGVAmerica’s board of directors includes Marty Tufte, Waste Management’s corporate fleet director; and the company has been a major sponsor at NGVAmerica’s annual meeting and industry summit.

In Fleet Owner’s top 500 private fleet rankings in 2019, there were 32,056 total vehicles in Waste Management’s fleet — 1,000 tractors, 31,056 trucks, and 2,600 trailers. At the end of 2017, the company reported it had 6,536 NGVs in operation, with 38 percent of its routed collected trucks running on natural gas, and 80 percent of new vehicle purchases going to NGVs.

In Waste Management’s 2019 sustainability report, the company reported having 7,944 alternative fuel vehicles, 132 natural gas fueling stations, and 130 landfill gas-to-electricity facilities. It also had 247 active solid waste landfills, and five active hazardous waste landfills.

Its landfill-gas-to-fuel plants convert landfill gas into RNG that can be used in its vehicles in the form of CNG or liquefied natural gas (LNG). It achieves the end goals of lowering fuel costs and reducing GHG emissions more than 80 percent compared to vehicles powered by diesel. As for converting over from diesel refuse trucks, the company reported it had 855 million diesel gallons displaced over the useful life of existing NGVs.

US Dept. of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center reports that natural gas powers more than 175,000 vehicles in the US and roughly 23 million vehicles worldwide. The advantages of natural gas as a transportation fuel include its domestic availability, widespread distribution infrastructure, fuel cost savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions over conventional gasoline and diesel fuels.

The cost of converting trucks over to NGVs or replacing diesel-powered trucks with new refuse trucks running on natural gas, and the cost of installing enough natural gas dispensers to keep these fleet vehicles fueled, has always been a hard sell for fleets seeking funding and support. Conventional diesel-powered refuse trucks can start at about $250,000, with pricing being reduced through fleet purchase incentives. Incremental costs for converting these vehicles over to CNG-powered could be about $40,000 per vehicle, according to a study; and that figure will vary based on government incentives offsetting that price. A new NGV can cost a fleet up to about 50 percent more than the cost of a conventional diesel-powered refuse truck, and that could be much less depending on available incentives. Natural gas fueling stations can range from $10,000 for a smaller fueling unit up to $1.8 million to build a new fuel station with several fuel pumps.

Fleets included in NGV studies are usually reaching operating cost savings in two-to-three years from these clean-fuel vehicles. Much of that comes from the stable, consistent price of natural gas compared to the higher and more volatile pricing for diesel. Diesel has been averaging a bit over $3 per gallon in the US lately, with the equivalent price per gallon for CNG at around $2.25. That gap can be widened by state and local programs bringing fleet fuel costs down for CNG, LNG, and RNG.

NGVAmerica said that there are currently more than 17,000 natural gas refuse and recycling trucks operating across the US, and about 60 percent of new collection trucks on order are powered by natural gas. Clean Energy Fuels reported that beyond Waste Management and Republic, Progressive (in Canada and the US) and Emterra (in Canada) have been bringing NGVs into their fleets for years.

The City of New York’s Department of Sanitation runs the largest municipal refuse fleet in the US, and decided to switch over to NGVs several years ago. That took place when the city of New York seriously took on its air pollution issue.

In October, Republic Services announced it will operate an additional 156 CNG-powered solid waste collection trucks serving customers throughout the country by the end of 2019, bringing the total number of vehicles running on alternative fuels to more than 3,100. It’s fleet is saving about 26 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Earlier this year, the company announced that it will utilize increasing amounts of Clean Energy Fuel’s Redeem RNG fuel across 21 states over the next five years. This is projected to reduce fleet emissions by roughly 250,000 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year.

In its 2018 annual report, Republic said that during that year, new landfill gas-to-energy projects came online, increasing the production of energy used to power homes, businesses and, in some cases, the company’s own vehicles.

In Waste Management’s 2018 sustainability report, the company said that it had four facilities that produce RNG: Altamont Landfill (Livermore, Calif.), Milam Landfill (St. Louis, Illinois.), American Landfill (Waynesburg, Ohio), and Outer Loop Landfill (Louisville, Kentucky). Collectively, they’re capable of producing enough RNG to fuel about 1,850 natural gas collection trucks.

Republic’s 2018 sustainability report said that the company’s fleet emissions had been reduced by three percent through the use of CNG and RNG. Things are looking up on the emissions and safety fronts, according to the report: “Our recycling and waste collection trucks are complex, high performance machines designed to be safe, comfortable and efficient. As we retire and replace older trucks, we are able to take advantage of advancements in alternative fuels in addition to safety technology and other modern efficiencies.”

This year in July, Republic expanded its sustainability goals over the next decade in Blue Planet: 2030 Goals. Along with working toward zero employee fatalities and reducing workplace injuries, two of the other corporate objectives will be to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent by 2030; and cultivate regenerative landfills that will increase biogas sent to beneficial reuse by 50 percent by that same year.

And in other news……..
Uber sexual-assault incidents:  Ride-hailing giant Uber just released its first-ever report featuring staggering statistics on sexual assaults and homicides involving Uber drivers and passengers. During 2017 and 2018, more than 3,000 people were sexually assaulted during Uber rides. About 42 percent of those reporting sexual assaults were drivers, and the most severe incidents were put upon passengers; 92 percent of people who experienced sexual assault involving penetration were passengers, according to reports. Women and female-identifying survivors made up 89 percent of the sexual-assault survivors. During 2017 and 2018, there were 19 fatal physical assaults occurring in a total of 18 incidents in relation to Uber; 8 were riders; 7 were drivers using the Uber app; and 4 were third parties (such as bystanders outside the vehicles).

Lyft also faces accountability for several sexual assault incidents committed during rides. These crises show the level of inadequacy in driver background checks, and the ability of non-Uber driers to manipulate the app and take rides. Some have been able to hide their identities when using the Uber app. The strict standards applied to other transportation industries will inevitably make it over to the ride-hailing apps.

Fleet EV study:  Find out what fleets think about bringing electric vehicles into their vehicle selector lists from a new study by consulting firm Mortenson. The adoption of zero and near-zero emission vehicles in public and private fleets is growing. The rapid change is causing fleet owners, policymakers, and public infrastructure experts to examine what clean technology means for them. Over 200 professionals were interviewed at the 2019 ACT Expo.

And a few more news briefs………

  • The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid equipped with front-wheel drive beats out the segment with best-in-class EPA-estimated ratings of 44 mpg city and 41 mpg combined, according to Ford. The 2020 Escape Hybrid Titanium with front-wheel drive has an EPA-estimated rating of 37 mpg on the highway.
  • Elon Musk was cleared by the Los Angeles jury on the defamation lawsuit British caver Vernon Unsworth had filed over the Tesla CEO’s “pedo guy” Twitter comment.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that the application period for the competitive Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Combustion Freight and Marine project funding is open. This solicitation is open to eligible owners of in-use freight trucks, switcher locomotives, ferries, tugboats and towboats throughout California.
  • Tesla said its Model 3 cars built in China will qualify for that government’s new energy vehicle subsidies.
  • Eighteen private-sector companies released Road Map to a US Hydrogen Economy that could support zero emissions transportation and significant economic gains.
  • Tesla said on its blog that the Model X won a 5-star rating from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), which evaluates a car’s safety assistance features as well as its ability to protect adults, children, and vulnerable road users.


Taking a look at next-generation transportation fuels and the future of oil

Last week’s announcement of the $155 million that oil giant BP will be placing in Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem renewable natural gas (RNG) shows a microcosm of much larger trends:

  • The oil industry is seeing a global marketplace out there where investing in clean fuel and energy is becoming more economically viable; it’s also being pushed by new government and corporate policies being enacted as the Paris climate change agreement takes hold – even if the Trump administration pulls out of the agreement.
  • Natural gas vehicle acquisitions are expected to grow, and there’s already thousands of those vehicles in fleets across the country. Using RNG is the same as using biodiesel or renewable diesel – the engine technology, and much of the fueling infrastructure – is already in place, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly overnight by switching over. RNG has about 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than equivalent gasoline or diesel fueled vehicles; and renewable diesel offers similar benefits in emissions reductions.
  • Fossil fuel consumption, including gasoline and diesel, is expected to decline worldwide in the near future under stringent government regulations and increasing sales of vehicles consuming less gasoline and diesel. More pressure has been coming from increasing concern over air quality, health hazards, and climate change; in that context, stakeholders are pushing for change at the legislative, regulatory, corporate, interest group, and consumer levels. This is true of both the developed economies in Europe, North America, and Asia; and of developing economies such as China, India, and Brazil. Renewable energy used to generate electricity is seeing more government support in developing nations; as is vehicle electrification and alternative fuels as government regulations and subsidies flourish.

Here’s a look at the landscape of alternative, renewable fuels and energy for this year and beyond……..

BP and Clean Energy agreement:  BP is buying Clean Energy’s existing biomethane (RNG) production facilities, its share of two new facilities, and its existing third party supply contracts for RNG. The oil company will continue to subcontract the operations of these facilities to Clean Energy, and the natural gas fueling company has an extensive network of natural gas fueling stations around the country for purchasing RNG. Clean Energy will have a long-term supply contract with BP, and will buy RNG from the oil company and collect royalties on the Redeem fuel sold at its stations. Redeem comes from organic waste; Clean Energy sold 60 million gasoline gallon equivalents of the fuel in 2016. Customers buying Redeem have included UPS, Republic Services, Ryder, Kroger, and the City of Santa Monica’s transit agency. Using RNG and renewable diesel gives fleets and transport companies access to California’s low carbon fuel standards and cap-and-trade funding programs. Other governments, including Canada, are adopting the standard calling on fleets to reduce carbon emissions by 10%, no matter what the fuel may be.

Oil companies investing in alternative fuels and energy:  Seven oil and gas companies – BP, Shell, Eni, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Statoil and Total – are creating an investment fund to develop technologies to promote renewable energy. The industries face mounting pressure to take an active role in the fight against climate change; that joint announcement was also tied into more formal guidelines being issued on the 2015 Paris Agreement to phase out man-made greenhouse gases in the second half of the century. BP had invested heavily in biofuels and other alternative fuels years ago but then had backed off. That investment has been picking up again lately with the Clean Energy Fuels deal and other sustainable energy including biofuels and wind energy. Finland-based oil refining company Neste Corp. is now the world’s leading supplier of renewable diesel and has been investing in jet biofuel. It’s been producing over two million tons of renewable diesel annually. Shell CFO Simon Henry said in a November interview that demand for oil is expected to peak in about five years. Hydrogen has been an alternative energy of choice for Shell with investments made in six hydrogen stations that are open for fueling – four in Germany and two in the Los Angeles area, and a seventh near London’s Heathrow Airport opening soon; and the new agreement with Toyota to jointly construct seven hydrogen stations in California. Shell is also part of a global hydrogen council that formed last month that will be investing about $10.7 billion in hydrogen products within five years. Last year, Shell also did what other companies such as Total, Statoil, and ExxonMobil are doing through investments in wind farms, electric battery storage systems, and carbon capture and storage.

Oil consumption will be declining: A new study by Edinburgh-based consultancy WoodMackenzie is in agreement with comments made by the Shell executive (and other oil company leaders) that what we used to call “peak oil” is showing clear signs of coming up. WoodMackenzie analysts say that the rising number of hybrid and electric vehicles being sold around the world, and greater engine efficiency, along with higher fuel standards and emissions reduction targets in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, will cause an historic shift in consumption patterns. Oil consumption reached a record high last year from oil prices plunging in 2014; the study forecasts demand for oil will reach its peak in the U.S. next year and by 2021 globally. Vitol, the world’s top oil trader, thinks it will take a few years longer with demand for gasoline and diesel reaching their peak in 2027-2028; but it will happen. Major oil companies and processors face an historic period of change as several countries, along with the Paris agreement, support getting rid of fossil fuels entirely in the next few decades.

Renewable energy being taken seriously as its own industry:  There was another $287 billion in clean energy investments made in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance – a sign that the clean energy economy has global reach. Natural Resources Defense Council reported that India had installed 11 gigawatts of solar and 29 gigawatts of wind capacity during 2016; that helped move things along toward the country’s goal of having 100 gigawatts of solar and 75 gigawatts of wind by 2022. China became the world’s leader in solar power capacity last year, surpassing Germany; that came through adding more than 34 gigawatts of solar capacity last year, nearly 1.5 times the amount the U.S. has installed in its entire history. China also installed more than 23 gigawatts of wind power in 2016, almost three times as much as the U.S. added last year. Latin America has also been a bright spot in renewable energy with three out of the top five developing countries for clean energy coming from this region: Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay. In the U.S., more than half of about 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity added to the grid in 2016 came from renewable resources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration also reported that more than half of electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid last year came from renewable energy. Last year, National Renewable Energy Laboratory issued a report forecasting that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, could supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand in every region of the country.


Natural gas vehicles may be hurt in California by CARB decision on Low Carbon Fuel Standard

NGV fueling stationAs the NGVAmerica North American NGV Conference and Expo starts up today in Kansas City, Mo., one issue is inevitably going to be mentioned by speakers and at luncheon tables. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) just-released proposed changes to adopting the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard would give natural gas vehicles lower clean fuel ratings as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That would likely mean less funds will be available for grants, incentives, and through participation in California’s cap-and-trade credit market.

NGVAmerica is challenging CARB to refrain from adopting its proposed GREET 2.0 model that puts natural gas lower on the scale due to emissions of unburned methane escaping from a natural gas vehicle’s tailpipe. “We respectfully urge CARB to refrain from making changes in the California GREET model at this time,” NGVAmerica’s Jeffrey Clarke, director of regulatory affairs and general counsel, wrote in a letter to CARB. Similar letters have been filed by Clean Energy Fuels Corp, Westport Innovations, the California NGV Coalition, Southern California Gas Co., and others. They’re making the point that the methodology CARB used in its proposed policy drew from obsolete data; and it was released in October with only nine days to respond.

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the cap-and-trade market came from the passage of AB 32 in California with targets to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. Credits being traded by oil companies, refineries, utilities, and other carbon producers through cap-and-trade have brought more funds to the state with a sizable chunk of it now being available for clean transportation projects. There will be an important meeting by CARB coming up in February on adopting changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard that will affect the future of natural gas vehicles in the state.

Renewable natural gas (such as Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem fuel) has made financial gains through California’s carbon credits. Whether biomethane will be included in CARB’s natural gas vehicle cutback is yet to be seen.

Another significant development coming up in 2015 is transportation fuels being added to the cap-and-trade system. Starting in January, oil companies and refineries will begin adding fuel that ends up in gas stations to the credit allowances that they buy that make up for the excessive greenhouse gases that they’re releasing at their refineries. In 2015, they’ll have to buy extra allowance credits to pay for the emissions coming from gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel sold in the state. One major oil company is sending a loud warning to the legislature and residents of California: this will cause a big spike in gasoline prices.Chevron Corp., based in San Ramon, Calif., has been warning that gasoline prices will spike up because of AB 32 implementation adding fuels to its cap-and-trade list next year. State officials and economists don’t see this happening, but it has been an effective argument for Chevron and its oil industry colleagues to make. Gasoline prices aren’t expected to go up next year, but their analysts warn that adding transportation fuel to the carbon credit market could jack up credit prices, which will make its way back to gasoline and diesel going up as much as 50 cents a gallon at gas pumps.

CARB chairman Mary Nichols says that it will take a few years for transportation fuel to see the effect of cap-and-trade. Compliance starts on January 1, but it’s phased in over time. Transportation fuel was added to the cap-and-trade process later than other energy sources to make adoption of the rules more viable, she said. Transportation fuel is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the state and bringing it in after credits being used by electric utility companies and other industries has expanded the number of allowances in the system and makes the whole program much more liquid, she said.