The State of Nikola Tesla’s Dream for Wireless — in the World of EV Charging

The Wardenclyffe Tower was central to Nikola Tesla struggling to bring inductive, wireless electricity transmission to the world.

Did electric engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla lose his mind at the Wardenclyffe Tower in Long Island, NY, while striving to demonstrate that long-range wireless electricity transmission could be possible? While Tesla did live with mental health issues tied to obsessive-compulsive disorder, he didn’t seem to be wrong about wireless power transmission.

His main problem was that investor J.P. Morgan stopped funding the “Tesla Tower” experiments, and the project had to be shut down in 1906. The tower was later demolished in 1917. The ending of the test project happened about five years into developing the revolutionary technology — that would have freed up countries around the world from having to lay down the costly and laborious electric power grids on land with wired power stations, substations, and endless utility poles. Tesla discovered magnetic resonant coupling – the ability to wirelessly transmit electricity by creating a magnetic field between two circuits, a transmitter and a receiver.

While it’s yet to be taken as seriously as the current electric vehicle charging infrastructure that’s rolling out, the dream of seeing wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging hasn’t gone away. It is seeing something of an uptick lately. These days, inductive (wireless) charging has become the norm for everything from smartphones and laptops to kitchen appliances. Why not EVs?

Experts say it has great potential to make EV ownership more convenient, cost-effective, and appealing for drivers and fleet operators. There are multiple technologies in the works that could free EV drivers from the inconvenience of manually plugging in with a cable. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) continues to research the requirements and feasibility of wireless electric vehicle charging. Roadway classes to be electrified, and roadway charging segment locations and lengths, are part of the study.

Here’s more on some of the players in the game………

WiTriCity
Headquartered in Watertown, Mass., WiTricity Corp. is considered to be the largest supplier and service provider in this space. The company specializes in wireless electricity, wireless power transfer, wireless charging, magnetic resonance, and charging electric vehicles. The company serves the automotive, consumer electronics, industrial, and medical industries in the US, Europe, China, Japan, and South Korea. The company came from the merger of Qualcomm and HaloIPT, a leading provider of wireless technology for electric road vehicles. The team was moved over to Qualcomm’s European Innovation Development group based in the UK. In 2019, Qualcomm sold off Halo’s technology to MIT spinoff WiTriCity for a minority stake in the company. The company has developed the WiTricity Halo™ Receiver, which is placed in electric vehicles and which captures energy from the magnetic field produced by the charger and converts the energy to direct current for charging its battery. The company has been talking to luxury carmakers (Genesis being one of them) about making this service a perk for luxury EV owners.

InductEV 
Formerly known as Momentum Dynamics, the King of Prussia, Penn.-based company serves fleets in commercial, transit, and intermodal vehicles. It’s considered to be a leading company in high-power, wireless EV charging. With nearly 50 patents issued and in process, InductEV’s solution lowers owners’ and operators’ total carbon footprint by minimizing dependencies on people and real estate while also maximizing vehicle uptime due to on-route charging, resulting in a reduction in the total cost of commercial fleet ownership. The company is led by founder Andrew Daga, whose time at NASA and working on inductive charging for the International Space Station inspired the company. 
Its pilot project in Oslo, Norway, made electric taxis there operate more efficiently — in an automotive market where nearly two-thirds of new passenger vehicles sold there in 2021 were electric.

Plugless Power 
The company has delivered over one million wireless charging hours for EVs with EV drivers. It has installed wireless charging stations at Google’s office in California and Hertz’s office in Florida. The company describes itself as “the world’s first hands-free proximity charging system for electric vehicles.” Its charging system wirelessly delivers electrical power to the on-board EV battery charger using electromagnetic induction without a physical connection (cable) to the vehicle. An EV equipped with a Plugless Vehicle Adapter can be charged by parking it over an inductive Plugless Parking Pad. In 2020, the company acquired the wireless inductive charging patent portfolio, and other related intellectual property, of Evatran Group, Inc. Trial partners have included Duke Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, along with Google. In 2016, the more powerful second generation Plugless Power wireless charging system was released, supporting the Tesla Model S and BMW i3. The third generation version came out in 2021.

WAVE
WAVE is considered to be a leading provider of wireless charging solutions for medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles. Embedded in roadways and charging vehicles during scheduled stops, the fully automated, hands-free WAVE system eliminates battery range limitations and enables fleets to achieve driving ranges that match that of internal combustion engines, the company says. Based in Salt Lake City and founded in 2011, the company was later acquired by Ideanomics for $50 million in 2021. More recently, the company has been focused on what it calls “opportunity charging,” an innovative charging method that facilitates the recharging of EVs during regular operational activities where downtime already exists in duty cycles, including layovers for transit buses and lunch breaks for cargo handling equipment. This approach differs from traditional plug-in depot charging, where vehicles are required to return to a central charging station, the company said.

Other companies in this space include:
Tesla just acquired German startup Wiferion, and while the electric automaker didn’t report on the acquisition cost its second-quarter cash flow statements noted that $76 million was spent on “business combinations.” Wiferion focuses on the performance of industrial electric vehicles such as autonomous guided vehicles (AGV), autonomous mobile robots (AMR), forklifts, and collaborative robots (CoBots) – with inductive charging systems that revolutionize the intra-logistical workflows.
EFI Automotive, a Stellantis partner, has developed an inductive robot charger that moves under a vehicle after it’s parked, reports Automotive News.. The automaker announced it at CES in January tied to its Ram 1500 Revolution pickup truck. EFI said the device is able to charge both light-duty and commercial vehicles.
Ford was granted a patent this year that brings together coils connected to an electricity source and embedded in the road surface with an electric vehicle capable of wirelessly receiving the power transmission, InsideEVs reports. ‘Ground penetrating radar (preferably Ultra-Wideband or UWB radar) detects and maps out the embedded charging coils so that a vehicle path can be laid out with the optimal charging capacity. A detection range of the radar extends beyond the charging coil presently beneath a vehicle, potentially beyond the next few coils in the travel direction of the vehicle,” according to the patent filing.
Toyota was awarded a patent in 2022 for what it calls “Optimizing Energy Transfer During EV Charging.” That would apply to developing systems that can optimize the amount of energy transferred from multiple sources along a travel route to individual EVs. It will use a blockchain technique to efficiently use the energy sources.
Electreon, based in Beit Yanai, Israel, has developed smart road technology using a dynamic wireless electric system for the electrification of transportation. The firm uses wireless electric system technology to reduce the need for heavy batteries. It focuses on smart road technology, wireless energy, public transportation, electric vehicles, E- mobility, and autonomous vehicles.
—Founded in 2011 and based in Brooklyn, N.Y., HEVO Inc., offers wireless charging solutions for electric vehicles, focusing on providing users with advanced charging technologies.The company’s wireless charging solution consists of three components: App & Cloud Sync, Power Station, and Wireless Receiver. The HEVO app shows nearby charging stations, monitors and evaluates charging statistics and bill payment status, and indicates charging stations’ availability. With its subsidiaries and distribution network, the company has a presence across North America and Europe, with offices in Brooklyn, Amsterdam, and Silicon Valley.
Hyundai’s Genesis luxury division is involved in a wireless charging pilot project in South Korea. WiTricity’s magnetic resonance wireless charging technology was tried out in the first half of this year through a fleet of Genesis GV60 and electrified GV70 luxury sport utility vehicles. Genesis said that 23 wireless charging pads were placed around the country with a power control station and a base pad placed on the ground. The company said that its wireless charger has an output of 11kW.
—German alternative energy company, Neutrino Energy, is investing 2.5 billion euros in India for developing a self-charging electric car, the Pi Car project. It will be using Neutrino’s patented neutrino voltaic technology. The German company says that neutrino voltaic would have applications across industries and products which involve storing and consuming electricity. The company says that its neutrino voltaic technology derives electrical energy from neutrinos, which are invisible particles that bombard the Earth in roughly equal numbers every moment of every day.
Other major international suppliers have been involved in supplying parts of the wireless EV charging technology for several years — Continental AG, Toshiba, Daihen, and Lumen.

And in other news…….

San Francisco struggling with robotaxis: While the Public Utilities Commission granted San Francisco the right to allow robotaxis without human drivers on its streets on August 10, it’s been a tumultuous situation ever since. General Motors’ Cruise division has agreed to cut its fleet of robotaxis in half after a recent crash in the city. That request had come from the California Department of Motor Vehicles after one of its robotaxis collided with an emergency vehicle on Thursday. The passenger in the robotaxi was taken by ambulance to a hospital to treat injuries that were not severe, Cruise said. A series of other safety and traffic-congestion incidents with Cruise and Waymo robotaxis, and objections expressed over whether they should be allowed to operate in the city, prompted the San Francisco City Attorney to urge state regulators to reconsider allowing autonomous vehicles to operate in the city.

CALSTART has released its Phasing in U.S. Charging Infrastructure report, which is aimed at building an infrastructure for rapid zero-emission (ZE) medium- and heavy-duty vehicle (ZE MHDV) adoption in the commercial transportation industry. In this roadmap, infrastructure buildout meets the pace and volume of ZE-MHDV market growth set by the Global Memorandum of Understanding on Zero-Emission Mediumand Heavy-Duty Vehicles (Global MOU), which the U.S. signed in 2022. The Global MOU, co-led by the Government of The Netherlands and CALSTART’s Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero campaign and program (Drive to Zero), calls for 30 percent new commercial vehicle sales being zero-emission by 2030 and 100 percent being zero-emission by 2040. This adoption rate is 45 percent deeper than the vehicle penetration rates assumed by EPA’s proposed Phase 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for HeavyDuty Vehicles. CALSTART representatives, including president and CEO John Boesel and report author Michael Joseph, are available for interviews. Please contact Dirk Evenson (devenson@calstart.org; (619) 908-2903) or Shane Glaseman (sglaseman@calstart.org; (626) 744-5617) to make arrangements.

Hydrogen from methane: Researchers Richard Blair and Laurene Tetard, both professors at the University of Central Florida (UCF), have developed a process that allows methane to be converted into hydrogen and carbon at room temperature using nothing but sunlight. Making hydrogen by reforming methane gas presents much opportunity with the US getting more than 95% of its supply from it, but it also creates enormous carbon emissions in the process. Extracting hydrogen from methane at room temperature using only sunlight would mean no carbon dioxide emissions.

More on How Hydrogen and FCVs are Moving Forward, BYD top seller in Sweden

The Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell was the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck, according to the automaker.

More on hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, from Automotive News:

  1. The U.S. Department of Energy is in the process of investing $7 billion into a series of regional hydrogen production hubs to make sure it’s available for transportation and heavy industry.
  2. A hydrogen fuel cell system by cellcentric, a joint venture between Daimler and Volvo, was shown at at Daimler Truck Capital Market Day. cellcentric has been a fuel cell provider for cars for a few years, but with the Daimler and Volvo JV acquisition, the company is focusing on developing that technology for the truck market.
  3. The European Union is considering making a regulatory change that would place hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks as zero-emission vehicles.
  4. General Motors has created a lab where cells are built into stacks that are used fuel cell systems. The stacks each have 300 cells that create 300 watts of power.
    Hydrogen Fuel News also reported that the automaker has been developing its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell technology project, and is now ready to start equipping heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as trucks with the technology.
  5. GM and a few industry experts believe that hydrogen will be a solid replacement for diesel, more than gasoline. That suggests cars will be replaced more by electric vehicles and zero emission commercial trucks will be a mix of hydrogen and EVs.
  6. InsideEVs reported that the second quarter saw the sales volume increase year-over-year in California, where the series-produced models are available for sale. It was also the highest quarterly volume ever — 1,076 new hydrogen fuel cell cars were sold, which is 34% higher than a year ago. The Toyota Mira same most of those sales, with the Hyundai Nexo reporting 40 of these vehicles sold.

And in other news………

BYD ATTO 3 top seller in Sweden. The Chinese automakers’ all-electric SUV sold in the European market came in at No. 1 for electric vehicles sold in Sweden in July 2023. At 721 units sold, it beat No. 2 VW ID.4, which came in at 710 units sold in that country last month. That ATTO3’s battery pack is a 60.48 kWh BYD Blade Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LFP). It has claimed range/battery capacity – 260 miles, and 351 city (WLTP) — Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure. The highway cruising range estimate – 158.6 miles, according to Forbes. The ATTO 3 has a top-of-the-range version ipriced at £38,990 ($50,000) after tax in Britain. The automaker also recently launched that model in Italy along with its all-election BYD Han.

Lucid lowers price on Air: Lucid announced it will be dropping its Lucid Air to $83,900 for the Dual Motor all-wheel drive version, that includes the $1,500 destination fee. That would make it more competitive to the base Tesla Model S Dual Motor that currently starts at $89,880 including a $1,390 destination charge. The Lucid Air Pure has an EPA-rated range of 410 miles with standard 19-inch wheels and 384 if you go with the 20-inch wheels. Tesla’s offering has an EPA-rated 405-mile range with its standard 19-inch wheels or 375 miles with the available 21-inch wheels. In other new, Lucid’s net loss for the second quarter was $764.2 million, or 40 cents per share. A year ago, Lucid reported a net loss of $555.3 million, or 33 cents per share. Revenue in the second quarter rose to $150.9 million from $97.3 million in the same period in 2022, according to CNBC.

Musk may be having surgery: Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on X (formerly known as Twitter) that he may need to have surgery and will be having an MRI on his neck and upper back. He’ll be posting more information on it during this week. Musk, 52, may need to hand over duties for a while — as head of X, Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Greenwashing Looking Bad for Many Companies

Here’s an ideal way that Procter & Gamble could have bolstered its efforts to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.

Is Cincinnati-based multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) standing up to its commitment to prohibit forest degradation? Reuters reported that the company has dropped its pledge to not buy wood pulp from degraded forests like the Canadian Boreal Forest.

More than a million acres of that climate-climate forest are clear-cut each year. That’s one go the forests P&G taps into for toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissues. It’s an important forest in the fight against climate change, with more than 300 billion tons of climate-altering carbons — twice as much carbon as the world’s oil reserves — in its soils, plants, and wetlands.

P&G is one of many companies violating previous sustainability commitments and greenwashing their efforts.

In 2020, a majority of P&G’s investors passed a non-binding resolution requesting that it assess how it could bolster efforts to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains. That came from scrutiny and pressure the company had been placed under environmental non-profit groups and some shareholders. The boreal forest deals violate the resolution.

The company is under a lot of scrutiny now with the Reuters report and the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati airing a an investigative series called, “Conscience of the Company” that explores how the descendants of Procter & Gamble’s founders are trying to influence the company today.

Another challenge is that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) late last year filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to evaluate if P&G’s claims that it prohibits forest degradation were materially misleading investors. 

In March, Greenpeace Australia Pacific asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate whether environmental claims by Toyota have been misleading or deceptive. The greenwashing complaint focused on claims about the environmental performance of Toyota’s vehicles and its net zero ambitions.

Greenpeace’s complaint includes allegations Toyota’s net zero by 2050 plans are not what the company is carrying out in its vehicle production plans, it was lagging way behind on making electric vehicles, and it has lobbied globally to heal, weaken, or delay vehicle emissions standards.

“Toyota Australia has a long track record in helping customers reduce their vehicle emissions, including through the supply of over 315,000 hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in reduced tailpipe emissions vehicles and carbon neutral technologies,” the company said.

Toyota and Honda had the worst EV availability. Only 11% of Honda dealers and 15% of Toyota dealers had an electric vehicle available for sale. That came from the Sierra Club’s new report “Rev Up Electric Vehicles: A Nationwide Study of the Electric Vehicle Shopping Experience,” which shows that the U.S. auto industry is largely failing to meet consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and automakers are greenwashing their EV commitments.

ExxonMobil tops the charts
ExxonMobil has topped the list for worst-case scenario for global automakers seeking to stay completely dependent on fossil fuels. The company had made some big claims about joining the climate change fight and getting out of oil and into other energy. Shell and BP tend to also end up on greenwashing lists.

Last year, PBS’ Frontline news series presented “The Power of Big Oil,” provided a three-part investigative series the role the fossil fuel industry, particularly ExxonMobil, has failed to confront climate change. The evidence was damning — on how much scientists, corporations, and politicians have known about human-caused climate change for decades, and the missed opportunities to mitigate the problem.

“We have continued to maintain a position that has evolved with science and is today consistent with the science,” said Darren Woods, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, in an October 2021 congressional hearing.  

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is in a very tough situation. The company provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 16 million people throughout a 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California. As climate change hits hard, PG&E is at the epicenter of wild brushfires raging through the region. The company may be wise to break up the covered area and sell off some of it to other utilities or state-owned entities.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved a settlement PG&E for the utility’s involvement in the 2020 Zogg Fire. PG&E will pay a total of $150 million — $10 million will be paid as a penalty to California’s General Fund, and $140 million in shareholder funds will be invested for new wildfire mitigation initiatives designed to mitigate the risk of similar events occurring in the future. The Zogg Fire was caused when a tree fell on energized conductors owned and operated by PG&E in Shasta County on September 27, 2020. The Zogg Fire burned 56,338 acres, caused four fatalities and one injury, and destroyed 204 structures. A state agency conducted an investigation and alleged that the tree that caused the fire was not removed in time because of PG&E’s poor record-keeping.

Of course, there are automotive, transportation, and energy companies that are being socially responsible.

Newsweek has partnered with global research and data firm Statista for its fourth annual list of America’s Most Responsible Companies 2023.

General Motors is the only automaker to be placed on this list of 500 companies, coming in at No. 56. It came in at 82.94 points on the scale with Environmental Score being the highest, followed by Corporate Governance Score and Social Score down in points and third on the list.

It’s one of 17 companies on the list in the Automotive & Components category. It’s mostly parts and component suppliers. The other manufacturers besides GM are Harley-Davidson, Winnebago Industries, and Polaris Inc., a manufacturer of power-sports vehicles.

For the Energy & Utilities there are no oil companies. Waste Management made No. 73 on the list. Renewable Energy Group, a biodiesel production company headquartered in Ames, Iowa, came in at No. 410.

And in other news………..
US fuel economy standards going up: The Biden administration on Friday proposed to hike fuel economy standards by 2032 to a fleet-wide average of 58 miles per gallon as it seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce fuel use. That will equate to a real-world fleet efficiency average of about 43.5 mpg. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal, which covers the 2027 through 2032 model years, would boost Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements by 2% per year for passenger cars and 4% per year for light trucks. The agency’s new proposal would save 2032 vehicle owners about $1,043 per vehicle in lifetime fuel costs, while increasing average vehicle costs by $932. The agency is also proposing new fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans for 2030-2035 rising 10% per year.

Green hydrogen: A tracker by Aranca allows you to follow all green hydrogen projects around the world. Since 2018, there have been 461 projects put into operations. Register here with your email to get on the Green Hydrogen Hub – Aranca list. You can look at it by country and other parameters.

Tesla owners still love their electric vehicles but are not on good terms with CEO Elon Musk. Bloomberg recently revisited its survey of 5,000 Tesla owners that were first polled in 2019. Most of them think Musk’s recent public statement had harmed Tesla’s reputation, and that his acquisition of Twitter (now called X) was a distraction from his duties at Tesla. The Model 3 is getting “near-universal praise,” Bloomberg said. A majority of owners are satisfied with its reliability, and it’s help up well since the previous survey in 2019.

More than 300 RNG stations: The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) reported that in North America, there are more than 300 operational Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facilities, up from just over 30 facilities in 2011 when RNG Coalition was founded. This extraordinary growth reflects the RNG industry’s steadfast commitment to mitigating climate change, fostering energy security, and ensuring a cleaner, greener future for present and future generations, the coalition said. 

RNG plays a pivotal role in reducing global methane emissions — a greenhouse gas estimated by leading scientists to have 80 times the climate-warming impact of an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. By investing in methane capture and RNG distribution, North America is curbing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing circular economies and enhancing the overall environmental sustainability of the region. 
RNG is a sustainable, clean fuel derived from organic waste found at landfills, wastewater treatment plants, dairy farms and other waste streams. RNG facilities capture and refine biogenic methane emissions produced by this waste, turning it into a valuable energy resource. 

J.D. Power announced that its J.D. Power EV Index, an analytics tool to track the growing electric vehicle (EV) market in the US has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help establish benchmarks and monitor ongoing development of EV infrastructure nationwide. DOE research using the J.D. Power EV Index will be led by Argonne National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the DOE’s Office of Science. The J.D. Power EV Index delivers detailed data on EV infrastructure development and consumer experience with public charging networks at the ZIP Code level across the country. It also provides vital information on regional trends in infrastructure growth and potential barriers to widespread consumer adoption.

Seven Automakers Forge Fast Charger Network, More on Renewable Diesel

Photo source: CleanTechnica

Seven automakers are forming a new company that will be installing 30,000 faster chargers in the US in the new few years. They’re going to be dual-port stations with both CCS1 and NACS (Tesla’s connector), but CHAdeMO won’t be included. The stations will be in urban areas and along state highways.

The seven automakers are BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis. Automakers who had recently agreed to adopt Tesla’s NACS were Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar/Volvo, and Rivian. Automakers reportedly in talks with Tesla: Hyundai, Stellantis, and Volkswagen. ChargePoint and Electrify America had agreed to adopt NACS, according to Car and Driver.

One of the key points in the announcement that this new company’s network hopes to solve a recurring problem: reliability problems. Users will have to plug and replug, or wonder why the charging speed is so low, or is no longer available.

They’re expecting roll out the chargers in mid-2024.

Who Consumes Nearly All Renewable Diesel? California.
California accounts for nearly all renewable diesel consumption in the US, but most of it isn’t made in the state, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). More than eight times the renewable diesel was consumed in California than was produced there in 2021. California imports renewable diesel, with Singapore as the leading overseas market, and purchases it from other states producing it.

Six states—Louisiana, North Dakota, California, Wyoming, Washington, and Kansas—accounted for all renewable diesel (RD) production in the US in 2021.

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which went into effect in 2011, is behind all of it. Between 2011 and 2021, consumption grew from 1 million barrels to 28 million barrels per year in the state.

California continues to make gains in renewable natural gas (RNG) investment and production. In just the first half of 2020, RNG made up nearly 90% of all natural gas vehicle fuel consumed in the state, according to Trillium.

LCFS has been adopted in California and is in the beginning phase in Oregon. Other states are considering it.

Soybeans might make up the bulk of RD. While RD and biodiesel both come from vegetable oils, animal fats, and recycled restaurant grease, 100% of RD comes from these ingredients and is chemically the same as petroleum diesel. Vegetable oils are the most economically viable which can be met by oilseed production. Soybeans make up about 90 percent of U.S. oilseed production, while other oilseeds—including peanuts, sunflowerseed, canola, and flax—make up the remainder, says the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

And in other news……..

Taking on methane: Colorado is taking on a major environmental problem: the release of methane gas into the atmosphere. A public-private coalitions has worked together to adopt new rules that requires oil and gas companies to directly measure methane emissions at production and publicly report it; and it empowers a new formed division to have the authority to enforce compliance. It also built in a public process for continuous evaluation of a robust companion protocol to make sure it gets carried out long term.

Tesla rigged range estimates: Tesla played with the numbers on available driving range on its electric vehicles for years, according to an investigation by Reuters. A source said that the company rigged the range-estimating software on the cars’ dashboard, providing a “rosy” projection of how far the driver could go before running out of power, the report said.

ACT Expo speakers:  Interested in being a speaker at ACT Expo 2024? Here’s a link for submitting your abstract on topics that would be of interest to clean transportation advocates. The show organizer would prefer to have presenters from fleets. 

Self-driving cars and Uber drivers:  News of driver jobs going away has been floating around since 2014 after Google started testing self-driving cars. Companies such as Waymo, Tesla, and Uber are still testing and developing autonomous vehicles, but there are major challenges they still have to overcome. Regulatory hurdles, technological limitations, and public acceptance remain significant walls to climb. 

E-fuels being taken very seriously these days, NHTSA back to discussing autonomous vehicle rules

Porsche 911s will soon be powered by e-fuels, the automaker said.

There are three options that fleets consider for converting over to clean vehicles:

  1. Drop-in the alternative fuel into an existing internal combustion engine (ICE) and fuel system, such as e-fuels, ethanol blended with gasoline, or renewable diesel.
  2. Retrofit or modify over to an alternative fuel and powertrain, such as compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, renewable natural gas, or propane autogas.
  3. Replace vehicles entirely with another technology such as electric vehicle drive train systems or hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Porsche, Stellantis, Ferrari, BMW, and other automakers are digging into e-fuels as a way of hitting government mandate emissions targets along with zero emission vehicles — battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — on the passenger vehicle side. On the commercial vehicle side, Amazon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are taking drop-in e-fuels quite seriously, too.

Drop-ins make much sense for fleet operators, especially fueling vehicles that have been in the fleet for years with much data collected on performance and dependability, adaptability to fleet applications (such as utility trucks), availability, and affordability.

Internal combustion engines continue to dominate fleets, making converting over partially to electric vehicles and bringing in e-fuels as a viable pathway to hitting internal and external targets.

What’s known so far about e-fuels?
It’s a class of synthetic fuel used as a drop-in replacement fuel. Vehicles, ships, and airplanes will be using e-fuels, and they don’t need any modifications.

The process starts with renewable energy such as wind and solar obtaining hydrogen by way of electrolysis. Oxygen is separated from hydrogen through a filtration process. C02 is captured and condensed from the atmosphere, which helps clean the air. Hydrogen obtained by electrolysis is combined with the captured C02 through a process called synthesis. The first result is e-methanol, which can be converted into synthetic gasoline with the help of a methanol-to-gasoline synthesis. This produces the carbon-neutral e-fuel, according to Porsche.

Start-up company Infinium Electrofuels is nearing first production of its e-fuel from a plant in Texas, and its first customer is Amazon. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been an early investor in the company. Potential customers in aviation, marine shipping, and chemicals, are looking at e-fuels as well, the startup said.

In December, Porsche began working with Chilean operating company Highly Innovative Fuels (HIF) to begin production of synthetic e-fuels. Porsche hopes to be annually selling 145 million gallons of it before the end of the decade. It’s being built at the Haru Oni Demonstration Plant in southern Chile. They’re hoping the synthetic fuel made with renewable energy, green hydrogen, and recycled C02 could displace fossil fuels without having to modify vehicle engines and the fueling infrastructure. For now, it will power Porsche race cars and is being tried out in Porsche 911s.

In late march, the European Union passed a mandate ending sales of carbon-emitting cars by 2035, with the exception that vehicles running on internal combustion engines powered by e-fuels can stay on roads. They’re still debating and looking into the actual carbon dioxide emissions of battery electric vehicles versus ICEs running on e-fuels made from electricity powered by renewable energy. They may allow ICEs to continue to be sold after 2035 but they will need to be fitted or retrofitted with technology called a “fuelling inducement system” to prevent the use of fossil fuels in the vehicle. E-fuel vehicles do have some C02 and other emissions, however they are usually considered to be carbon neutral because the process involves capturing CO2, which will offset the vehicle emissions.

There are critics and observers out there who are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to whether synthetic e-fuels can deliver what advocates promise and whether the fuel will be economically viable. The fuel is currently expensive to produce and won’t be realistic for fleets and consumers to consider as an affordable option for a few years.

Skeptics would like to see honest, realistic reporting on what it will really take to produce the fuel — and the emissions released into the atmosphere during that process and how much energy it will use up to produce. Carbon capture is also very questionable, they say. Does that technology really deliver on what it’s supposed to do, and will that work from an economic perspective?

And in other news……….

Self-driving car rules: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking on autonomous vehicle guidelines, called the AV STEP. That came from NHTSA acting administrator Ann Carlson speaking at the Automated Road Transportation Symposium. It will offer an alternative regulatory route from previous possible regulations, and it may include removal of limitations on the maximum authorized number of these vehicles that can go on roads. General Motors has yet to hear back on its February 2022 request for exemption for its Cruise Origin robotaxi. GM and other automakers are interested in seeing more details come out on revised rules, which had been sitting on hold since before Covid-19 started.

Truckmakers complying: Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association and California Air Resources Board on July 6 announced an agreement on the state’s plan to phase out sales of Class 4-8 diesel-powered trucks. California regulators agreed to relax existing standards for nitrogen oxide pollution so they align with the federal government’s rules. Engine and truck makers will probably be granted more time to meet new requirements and more protection for legacy engines. The truck makers say they can now meet the state’s zero-emission vehicle targets, even if they’re later overturned in court. Engine and truck makers who’ve signed on include Cummins Inc., Daimler Truck North America, Ford, GM, Hino Motors Limited Inc., Izuzu Technical Center of America Inc., Navistar Inc., Stellantis, and Volvo Group North America.

Industry Shifting Over to Tesla’s NACS — and So Is Kentucky, Sustainability Investing Isn’t Going Away

Kentucky is the first state to require that electric vehicle charging companies include Tesla’s Supercharger fast-chargers — if they want to be part of a state program to electrify highways that’s getting federal funding. That went into effect on Friday, while Texas and Washington are considering it, according to Reuters. Along with the federal requirement for having the Combined Charging System (CCS) in place, Kentucky is following the federal lead of also including Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS). These would, of course, apply to other chargers below the fast charging level in these networks.

Tesla owners are worried that supercharging will be getting difficult now that more automakers have come over to the North American Charging Station (NACS). They’d appreciated not have to wait for long periods or have their charger break down. Ford, General Motors, Rivian, and Volvo have joined up — bringing together the Combined Charging System (CCS) fast charging network with Tesla’s Supercharger network. Tesla owners are enthusiastic about the effectiveness and speed of NACS, but is the network large enough at this point? Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, told Business Insider that by 2027, that we probably won’t see anymore new EVs built for the North American market with CCS ports; so the NACS will be getting crowded.

With more than 17,000 locations in North America alone, Tesla’s Supercharger network is the most extensive fast-charge public charging network in the world. It also benefits greatly from users being generally satisfied with it as reliable and easy to use — unlike other charging networks that have grown in complaints over the past year.

Volkswagen had been the only automaker so far to say that it’s committed to the CCS standard. Some of that probably comes from CCS provider Electrify America, which came from $2 billion VW agreed to put into the “Dieselgate” settlement. That network has 840 stations and plans to double that number by 2026. But all of that’s changing now, according to The Verge. On Wednesday, VW said in a statement that it’s in talks with Tesla about installing ports in its EVs compatible with Tesla’s plugs. That came right after Electrify America said it would soon be adding NACS charging plugs. There’s been talk about Toyota possibly coming over, too, but the Japanese automaker is staying silent about it.

Volvo will be equipping its US electric cars with the NACS charging ports starting from 2025. The company plans to manufacture only electric cars by 2030. Polestar, it’s luxury EV subsidiary, will bring in Tesla’s NACS starting in 2024.

Companies considering going over to NACS include Hyundai, Kia, and Stellantis (Jeep, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Ram, Maserati, Dodge, Renault, Fiat, and more). Stellantis doesn’t yet sell any battery electric vehicles (BEVs). It does sell three plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — the Dodge Hornet, Alfa Romeo, and Chrysler Pacifica. For BEVs, the global automaker has two all-electric vehicles in the works — the Ram ProMaster commercial van and Ram pickup.

SAE International would like to see NACS meet the performance and interoperability criteria that is standard in the industry, which has led to a working dialogue moving forward. The US Joint Office of Energy and Transportation was instrumental in fostering the SAE-Tesla partnership and expediting plans to standardize NACS, SAE said.

Charging companies such as ChargePoint and Blink Charging, which have exclusively used CCS plugs, have already said they too will add Tesla’s NACS plugs to their chargers

And in other news……….

Sustainability won’t be fading away: “So far in 2023, investors have put just over $17 billion into global seed- through growth-stage financings for sustainability-focused companies, per an analysis of Crunchbase data. That’s on track to come in pretty close to 2021 totals but likely below the record-setting investment tallies of 2022,” according to Crunchbase. That’s quite significant as climate change forecasts keep getting worse, so the demand for solutions-based technology is there. And investors do give it more value than nearly all other sectors; sustainability has dipped in market value, but not by as much as nearly everything else that the venture capital markets follow.

Aston Martin partners with Lucid Motors: Aston Martin, an iconic British luxury and performance car brand, plans to launch its first plug-in model, the mid-engine hybrid Valhalla, in early 2024, followed by a battery-electric vehicle the following year. All of the company’s models will be hybrid or BEV by 2026 and all-electric by 2030. Lucid will supply Aston Martin with its electric motors and batteries that have been used to power the California-based company’s Lucid Air sedan. Aston Martin will then take that technology and adapt it to it to its own lineup of electric models.

Electrify America and Lyft find discounted charging: Lyft drivers will get discounted EV charging through an alliance between VW’s Electrify America and Lyft. This will take place at Electrify American charging stations coast-to-coast.

“This new agreement expands our existing relationship with Lyft and helps Electrify America advance EV adoption by advancing electrification of ride-share miles,” said Robert Barrosa, president and CEO of Electrify America. “Not only will drivers on Lyft enjoy the advantages of Electrify America’s ultra-fast and convenient charging network, but by using the new benefits, they can also quickly get back on the road to transport passengers to their destinations in a more sustainable way.”

Classic Tale Returns: Lack of Corporate Commitment to EVs

This image, created by Bosch, depicts a landscape that automakers like BMW were promoting heavily over the past decade, but which is nowhere near becoming a reality.

So the merry go round goes round and round, and the electric vehicle story continues.

General Motors is discontinuing the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV at the end of 2023. It will be missed, according to Plug In America and according to a lot of other Bolt owners. Like Ford and other makers, GM will be focusing on more expensive premium models, even though the Chevy Bolt was doing well in sales and brand identity.

Have you ever tried to rent an EV? Saahil Desai, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, explored the question after a bad experience with Hertz. After booking the “Manager’s Special” to get the most economical gasoline-engine rental car, she was given the last available car, an EV. A vacation rental driving from the Brooklyn store to upstate New York became a nightmare. With no guidance or support from Hertz, she and friends had to search for “public chargers in desolate parking lots, the top floors of garages, and hotels with plugs marked for guests only.”

Hertz wants to go up to 25% of its fleet in EVs starting by end of next year. Avis and Enterprise are bringing in EVs as well, but the same questions remain for how trustworthy it will be. How available will these EVs be for those who prefer them? Will car rental staff help customers on the need-to-knows for renting an EV — and driving one for possibly the first time?

BMW had 7,107 EVs sold in the US during Q1 2023, or 2.76% of that EV market, through the i4 sedan, iX SUV, and the i7 sedan. Compare that to Tesla selling 6,545 of the Model X in the US market during that time period, and Volkswagen selling 10,053 of its ID4 electric SUVs. BMW has invested a lot into bringing EVs to the US market and promoting them. BMW’s high-performance brand image isn’t enough. BMW has put a lot into building that image along with creatively marketing its role as a leader in the future of urban mobility/electromobility.

GM, Hertz, and BMW, aren’t the only major corporations in automotive and transportation sloughing off their commitment to hitting government targets and rising up to their corporate sustainability commitments.

Why might all of this be?

  1. EVs are not profitable, but pickups, SUVS, and luxury vehicles are money makers.
    Major global automakers have stayed with the argument that manufacturing and selling trucks, SUVs, and luxury sedans and SUVs, has been a more profitable route to go. That applies mostly to pickup trucks and SUVs, with luxury models being more costly for R&D, production, and marketing. Major competitors like BMW and Mercedes-Benz build and sell their luxury lines at a lower production volume than a company like GM or Ford will do in pickups. But they can be very profitable and dealer networks love to sell and maintain their luxury vehicles; along with dealers selling and maintaining trucks and SUVs for GM, Ford, Toyota, and other makers.

Tesla has a different story to tell, being the only sizable EV-only maker out there. Stock prices and profits may fluctuate, along with the public image of CEO Elon Musk, but the company continues to do well. As for switching over to more affordable models than the previous market leaders, the Model S and Model X, Tesla says that it’s made more sense to produce and market a lot more Tesla Model Ys and Model 3s than the higher-end offerings; and to lower the price points on all of them. Customers continue buying them, and demand is growing for the Model Y and Model 3. There are, of course, lower-priced compacts and midsize EVs on the market than the Model Y and Model 3, but Tesla still dominates the space; and, as for now, that automaker is still going to leave all four models on the market and will be bringing out the Cybertruck this year.

  1. Battery packs are still expensive.
    High battery costs make EVs more costly for automakers. Demand far exceeds available lithium supply from mines that are in good operational order to supply the global market. Federal tax incentives and a few states with rebates help increase EV sales, but the core problem that’s been there from the beginning persists. Automakers around the world are getting ready to balance out the necessary supply chain relationships and manufacturing plants needed to reach aggressive goals by 2035.

Car rental companies and other fleets have to weigh and balance their investment in EVs and the needed charging infrastructure from this angle. How much will consumers pay to rent these vehicles, and what will it take to maintain them? Would it be worth it for the fleet to bring in a fairly high number of them to take advantage of the savings fleet buyers usually experience? They’re still inexperienced working with them, unless their fleet operations staff had worked with EVs elsewhere. They have to gain the valuable experience of acquiring EVs, operating and maintaining them, and seeing how they do on the used vehicle market. It will take a few years to adapt to having EVs in their fleets.

  1. Over promise, under deliver.
    By promising its investors that its next-generation EVs, built on a new architecture known as Ultium, would be profitable, GM is delving into the recurring theme that global automakers have been stuck in for years. Federal mandates and California’s zero-emission vehicle target — not to mention regulatory requirements put in place throughout Europe and Asia — have set a new playing field for global automakers over the past dozen years. GM and major global competitors have made very big commitments to meet the mandates that will spike up in the next decade.

It goes hand-in-hand with commitments to hit targets in connectivity, and eventually, autonomous vehicles. It also ties into their ability to adapt to crowded urban environments and to meet the demands of younger buyers who want mobility options — as illustrated by the previous BMW reference. But will BMW and competitors really get into small electric city cars, e-scooters, and autonomous electric shuttles?

Volkswagen has had to recover from the “Dieselgate” scandal that exploded in September 2015. It has taken VW and competitors several years to ramp up production of EVs and bring them to market – something that Tesla has been able to take advantage of over the years. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Cadillac, and Volvo, have impressed customers over the years with their distinct performance capabilities in sedans and SUVs — and they’ve paid attention to their commitments to roll out impressive offerings in the EV space.

But they’ve yet to become leaders in the EV market overall, or to even have much of a strong presence there. At the end of the day, automakers will talk about the pressures they’re under to perform. Government mandates, globalization and competition in the industry, and the higher cost of engineering and producing EVs, will usually come up.

  1. Market share is the golden key
    Some analysts are concerned that Tesla has fallen victim to this reality in the auto market — corporate value is heavily tied to marketshare. You have to do anything to be No. 1 in the world — or at least No. 1 in a few countries and market segments. Gaining market share usually means that profits grow thinner, and production must be ramped up to hit those high marks. But what if one of the segments, such as EVs, doesn’t sell enough, or its profit margin forecast wasn’t realistic? Most automakers and transportation companies would rather stay out of really taking on that risk.

And in other news…………

Rivian follows Ford and GM: Rivian drivers will be able to have access to 12,000 Supercharger connectors next year. The electric SUV and truck maker will incorporate Tesla’s North American standard charge port into its vehicles starting in 2025. They’l follow Ford and General Motors, who’ve made similar deals with Tesla.

Gas stations still a problem: Going to the gas station can be dangerous for your health. The owners still haven’t taken care of that storage tank changeover and leakage problem. Gas stations caused a $20 billion toxic mess — and it’s not going away anytime soon, according to the report. Leaks can come from the storage tanks, gas pumps, and in the pipes that connect all of them. From that hazardous chemicals can be leaked out and spread through soil, groundwater, and into lakes and rivers.

The Green Transportation Summit & Expo (GTSE) is set for Aug. 22–24, 2023.
CALSTART is offering a 20% discount rate for those using the code today: CALSTART-20! This year, GTSE will take its focus to a new level–investigating clean vehicle technology and taking advantage of funding opportunities at the local, state, and national levels. Technology providers in the electrification, hydrogen and alternative fuel industries will bring their knowledge to discuss with fleet practitioners how to move forward.   

Plug In America and the Bolt: As mentioned, Plug In America has been advocating for GM to stay with the much-loved Chevy Bolt. The organization is encouraging EV owners to send GM a letter with a format that is set up for users to create a personalized message that tells them their story; and to tell GM that their leadership in offering affordable electric models has been needed and appreciated.

Reading into the Fast Charger Partnerships Between Tesla, GM and Ford

It’s been over a decade since direct current (DC) electric vehicle fast-charger ports started showing up at public charging stations, and it’s now taking another pivotal turn. With CHAdeMO and the Combined Charging System (CCS1), at different times it had seemed that one of them would likely become the universal, open-source fast-charging platform. Now it looks like Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) will take that position — or at least the leader, with adapters that can make room for the other two platforms.

In an agreement very close to the recent deal set with Ford, General Motors and Tesla announced during a Twitter event last week that Tesla’s Supercharger network will be open to GM electric vehicle drivers starting next year. That will at first require an NACS to CCS1 adapter. In 2025, GM will adopt Tesla’s connector design into its EVs, and the adapter won’t be needed. GM EV drivers will also have the Supercharger network placed into their dashboard and mobile apps so that they can locate, pay for, and access charging at available Supercharger ports.

By reading over EV-focused news sources and social media, you’ll find debate on the subject — with a lot of concern expressed over whether the Tesla agreements with GM and Ford is the best way to go. Most of it supports the alliances, but not all of them do, including CharIN, the largest global association focused on the electrification of all forms of transportation enabled by CCS and the Megawatt Charging System (MCS).

However, the association released a second statement today supporting standardization of Tesla’s NACS…….

“CharIN is pleased that NACS is using DIN 70121 and ISO 15118 protocols based on power line communication (PLC) enabling CCS functionality. These protocols were created for CCS but are versatile communication standards that could help build bridges across all charging standards in North America. These standards are also deeply rooted in CharIN membership and activities. Like the process for the Megawatt Charging System, CharIN will work to convene an open task force to align requirements with the goal of submitting NACS to the standardization process. An open standardization process ensures proper peer review of the technology and the ability of all interested parties to contribute to the development of this standard.”

CHAdeMo was at first adopted by Japanese automakers as the standard, until the the Combined Charging System (CCS), which was a DC fast charging protocol certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), was introduced in 2011 and adopted by seven US and European automakers as the standard. CHAdeMO and CCS could both be accessed at the same charging stations, while Tesla’s Supercharger networks at first stayed on their own proprietary stations. Tesla more recently developed an adapter called the “Magic Dock,” which incorporates the popular CCS charging standard into the existing Tesla plug.

At this time, the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are the only vehicles still using CHAdeMo for fast charging, with CCS having become the norm for non-Tesla EVs. In November, Tesla announced it would open up its proprietary network for non-Tesla EVs, assuming it would spread to become the North American charging standard for AC and DC charging. That standard, NACS, has not been officially endorsed by SAE or any other entities. It looks like its called the North American Charging Standard because Tesla deemed it be so.

Superchargers have a connector to supply electrical power at maximums of 72 kW, 150 kW or 250 kW. Tesla’s V4 Supercharging station is capable of providing up to 350 kW of power starting next year. The first V4 Supercharging station is located in the Netherlands; it was launched in March and was opened up to non-Tesla electric vehicles in April. V4 will eventually spread around the world to Supercharger stations. CCS does already have a maximum power delivery of 350 kW.

Tesla, GM and Ford together have about 70% of current U.S. EV sales. Tesla Superchargers account for a little bit more than 60% of the total fast chargers in the US and Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Dept. of Energy reports that there are 34,184 DC fast charger ports in the U.S. at 8,965 locations, as of June 9, 2023. Of these, 9,118 are CHAdeMO, 12,798 are CCS
and 21,217 are Tesla ports, which also includes some Level 2 ports. However, in January, S&P Global Mobility estimated that there are presently around 16,822 Tesla Superchargers and Tesla destination chargers in the US.

The White House recently announced that EV charging stations using Tesla standard plugs would be eligible to tap into the pool of $7.5 billion in federal funding as long as they included the U.S. charging standard connection, CCS, as well.

Another interesting point about these recent forged agreements — there’s one more EV maker that endorses NACS. Aptera, a maker of three-wheeled solar electric cars that’s in the process of gaining funding for production, has been an advocate of making NACS the new standard. Last year, Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony, co-CEOs of Aptera, started a Change.org petition to ask Congress to require by law that Tesla’s connector and chargers become the standard for new EVs in the US. The petition received over 42,000 signatures, the company said.

And in other news………..

ICCT names EV leaders and laggards: A new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) evaluated how well the world’s 20 largest auto manufacturers are transitioning to zero emission vehicles. A set of measures were used to make the assessment: technology performance and strategic vision for future decarbonization. Six markets were included in the study: China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, and the US. Tesla took the lead followed by a company that’s catching up, BYD. BYD and Volkswagen did well. six automakers are lagging behind their competitors out of the list of 20. Of those, five are headquartered in Japan.

Clean Energy Fuels Corp. has signed a number of new deals with several well-known consumer brands and some of the nation’s largest and most environmentally-conscious transit agencies who are using renewable natural gas (RNG) to power fleet vehicles. Liberty Coca-Cola, one of the country’s largest bottlers and distributors of Coke and other brands and serving the Northeast U.S., will power trucks in New York and Philadelphia with RNG. Electrolux North America, a leading global home appliance company, has signed a fueling agreement with Clean Energy for an estimated 200,000 gallons of RNG to be used by new trucks from a contracted carrier that will fuel at Clean Energy’s station in Ontario, Calif. Several other RNG contracts have been signed including with Recology, a waste management company, and the Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, Calif.

Mitsubishi’s Outlander Plug-in Hybrid seven-passenger flagship plug-in hybrid electric SUV earned high marks in IIHS safety testing. Priced from $39,9951, Outlander Plug-in Hybrid offers up to 420 miles of total range and 38 miles of all-electric range. The Outlander has been named a Top Safety Pick by IIHS. The award applies to vehicles built after May 2023.

Self-driving Uber rides: For those interested in getting an Uber ride in an autonomous vehicle while in Phoenix, there is good news. Beginning later this year, visitors will be able to hail Waymo taxis through Uber. This comes from a new “multi-year” partnership between the two companies. Waymo also separately announced that it’s doubled its Phoenix service area to 180 square miles.

GNA acquisition: California-based consulting firm, Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), has been acquired by major consulting and engineering firm TRC. GNA’s business model as a leading consulting firm in advanced, clean transportation, fuels, and technologies, and its industry conferences, will stay in place with support coming from TRC’s team of more than 7,000 employees. TRC provides environmental, consultative, engineering and applied technology experience to clients in power and utilities, transportation, real estate, water, and government. The entire GNA team, including its eight partners – Erik Neandross, Sean Turner, Karen Mann, Patrick Couch, Tony Quist, Sarah Gallagher, Joe Annotti, and JoAnne Golden – will remain at the company to lead its continued growth.

What AI could mean for clean transportation and mobility

The first-ever factory robotic was tried out by GM in 1961.

It’s been fascinating to see artificial intelligence become an even more significant, pervasive topic than Covid-19 in the news this year. While it certainly didn’t start this year, it took a turn on Nov. 30, 2022, with the release of the ChatGPT, an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI. Congressional hearings this month with Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, have stirred the pot even more.

In late May 2014, Google launched its first self-driving test car at its corporate campus. That event launched a huge wave of attention and discourse — and ambitious announcements made by automotive CEOs. While that technology is still in development, and awaits government approval to roll out on roads beyond where it stands today, AI was always a core theme and actuality that would come up during discourse.

Here’s an overview on how significant it has been for the auto industry and its potential for advanced, clean transportation………….. 

  1. Follow the money
    Following an excellent earnings report issued by technology company Nvidia, its shares shot up 24.4% on the NYSE yesterday — a near-record gain in a one-day increase in market capitalization for a US company. Nvidia is a key player in the game. It makes the chips used to train AI platforms such as ChatGPT, which powered the company’s training by using 10,000 Nvidia graphic processing units (GPUs) on a Microsoft supercomputer, according to the BBC.

Crunchbase reported that $20 billion has been raised by startups using AI in 2023.

According to equity market analyst PitchBook’s report, venture capitalists have steadily increased their positions in generative AI, from $408 million in 2018 up to $4.8 billion in 2021 and $4.5 billion in 2022. Generative AI is a type of AI system capable of generating text, images, or other media in response to prompts. It rapidly learns the patterns and structures of their input training data, and then generates new data that’s very similar.

ChatGPT falls into this segment, with GPT standing for Generative Pretrained Transformer architecture. That language model tool can answer questions and assist users with tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code. While all this attention has raised concerns over job loss in several categories, arguments are also being made about the benefits the technology can bring to assist workers in this fast-changing, stressful workplace. One ChatGPT rival, Anthropic, recently raised $450 million in Series C funding.

Bessemer Venture Partners, one of the oldest venture firms in the U.S., has set aside $1 billion of its most recent fund solely for investments in AI. Sameer Dholakia, a partner at the firm, sees this level of investment in AI inevitable. He sees the adoption curve being much faster than previous platform shifts such as cloud computing.

“Literally trillions of dollars of value gets created when you have these massive tectonic shifts,” Dholakia said.

2. It’s been in the works for over 60 years Manufacturing robotics: The first robotic system was introduced in New Jersey, on a General Motors assembly line, in 1961. Today, the auto industry is usually considered to be the fastest and most extensive adopter of the technology with the focus on creating the most efficiient supply chainz. That hasn’t always gone over well with UAW and job loss, but union contracts and management pratices have had to adapt to these significant changes over the years.
Cruise control: American Motors introduced the first car with that option in 1965. After the OPEC oil embargo and gasoline price crisis of 1973, it gained popularity as a way to drive efficiently and save gas.
Telematics: General Motors launched OnStar in 1996, which at first become the first-ever in-vehicle telematics system; along with a safety emergency service responding to airbag deployments. Other safety and convenience services were added over the years tied to smartphones and dashboards.
Connectivity: Over the past 15 years, connected, semi-autonomous features have been added — lane changing, safety warnings, self parking, app to car connectivity, entertainment/infotainment, security functions, and eventually, vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Mass adoption of the iPhone and Android phones was behind this surge.

  1. Autonomous electric vehicles depend on AI to clear safety standards
    About eight years ago, I moderated a panel during a Clean Cities event that discussed future modes of transportation and urban mobility that were going to be tested and eventually deployed. One moment that stood out was how much everyone in the room seemed to agree that autonomous electric vehicles made a great deal of sense — and needed to be developed. These vehicles need a lot less maintenance and replacement parts, and would maximize the energy stored in their batteries.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to overcome for autonomous vehicles to become viable is resolving the safety question. AI is being used to simulate real-world conditions to safety-test autonomous vehicles. Without AI, there will be no self-driving vehicles.

General Motors, and several other global automakers, sees all of this coming together in the near future. Personal vehicles with internal combustion engines played a vital role in giving Americans a great sense of personal freedom in their lives. But that also brought about huge challenges in the form of pollution, congestion and accidents.

“At GM, our vision of a future with Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions and Zero Congestion has guided the development of our self-driving test vehicles and our belief that all fully autonomous vehicles should be electric vehicles,” the company said on its website.

  1. Driving is heading toward a new wave of ease, safety, traffic avoidance, and efficiency
    Wendy Gonzalez, CEO of Sama,  which provides best data annotation services for AI and machine learning models, sees AI’s contribution being the driving force behind transforming vehicles through integrated innovations across the industry.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers must create datasets that will ensure their AI can enable safe hands-free driving. That will be the primary element for enabling accident prevention — accurate risk assessment and monitoring the driver.

This technology revolution can enhance the luxury experience and personalize the vehicle, she said. AI can tap into machine learning to adapt the vehicle specifically to that driver, according the Porsche. The automakers trained more than 270 machine learning models during development to create the most effective recommendations possible — with its AI recommendations becoming more than 90% accurate; and with accuracy improving through each use and data input.

In-car voice assistance is another pathway to reacing a high level of efficiency and safety, Gonzalez said. It used to be offered only in luxury vehicles, but 90% of all new vehicles sold globally are likely going to have voice assistants by 2028. Saying, “Hey Honda” (or whatever manufacturer made that vehicle), “turn on my Apple Music,” is much safer than the driver becoming distracted and unsafe to have that perk.

  1. Going outside the norm, with SPACs being a good example of it
    Anything to do with AI is requiring a “thinking outside the box” approach. There’s always the humans vs. machines paradigm, and fear of something going very wrong. Backers of AI appear to be driven by the other side of that coin — creating much better living conditions for fellow human beings in upcoming centuries. And if you’re worried about massive job cuts, then what about all the good jobs it will take to build out and manufacture the technology, repair and maintain it, manage and direct it, learn from it, and carry it over to 2.0 versions?

Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have been one of the alternative routes that AI startups are using to get the funding needed for R&D and to find financial backers. It may not get as much respect and street cred as IPOs, but it might be a more advantageous route to take — as was discovered in recent years by electric vehicle startups. In AI, SPAC funding rounds began showing up and working out; and are still part of the business plans for a few startups. iLearningEngines, a training provider offering “AI-powered learning automation,” announced in April that it plans to list on Nasdaq at an initial valuation of around $1.4 billion through a merger with shell company Arrowroot Acquisition Corp. Finding that senior partner company, or more than one, is part of getting SPAC deals made.

News Synopsis —
A few snippets of need-to-know news stories………….

Tesla and Ford just announnced a previously unheard-of alliance. The two companies went on Twitter Spaces for a live audio discussion between Tesla’s Elon Musk and Ford’s Jim Farley. Current Ford vehicle owners will get to access 12,000 Tesla supercharges across the US and Canada beginning early next year; but they’ll need to get an adapter. Next-gen Ford electric vehicle owners will receive Tesla’s charging plug; that will begin in mid-decade.

Two South Korean giants, Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution, have forged an EV battery cell manufacturing joint venture in the U.S. Starting construction in the second half of this year, the JV plans to start battery production at the end of 2025 at the earliest.

Tesla may have failed to protect 100 gigabytes of confidential data leaked by a whistleblower, according to Germany’s Handelsblatt data protection watchdog for the Netherlands. That data was tied to customers, employees and business partners, according to the agency.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced the Clean Fuels & Products Shot, with the goal of substantially decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) coming from carbon-based fuels used by the fuel and chemical industries. That decrease would come from utilizing more environmentally friendly carbon sources, that would target a minimum reduction of 85% in GHG emissions compared to fossil-based sources by 2035.

Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a recent note to clients that things are not as bad for Tesla as you might think — with all the competition the company is facing and the negative attention that Twitter-focused CEO Elon Musk has been going through. The electric vehicle maker’s brand loyalty is staying strong, according to quarterly S&P Global data, and in a report from Barron’s. The data analytics show that Tesla’s brand loyalty remains high and that the automaker continues to take share away from other automakers.

Lyft leaving ridesharing, and the future of car ownership

What’s next for clean, automated, efficient, and safe transportation? Well, that boils down to a case-by-case basis. For example, the No. 2 in America ride-hailing company is getting out of the ridesharing business.

Lyft Inc. announced it’s officially ending shared rides, according to the company’s new CEO David Risher. Customers are tired of being taken away from their intended route and putting in extra time on the ride, Bloomberg reported.

Market leader Uber is going to stay in the shared ride service. The company is still moving forward with reviving its carpool service, now dubbed UberX Share. The company today rolled out its Uber Carpool ride (available during peak commute hours) option where you can lock in your price; and you can expect to pay 35% less than you’d pay for UberX, according to the company. It pairs customers up with riders going in the same direction.

Lyft would like to make the airport ride pickup easier for customers. Customers can now hail a ride the moment they land, as opposed to putting in the request when arriving and moving over to the pickup area, Risher said.

The May 2023 edition of Green Auto Market’s Market Intel explored this question of what’s happening in mobility in the context of what’s going with car ownership. While car ownership and new and used vehicle sales have stayed high in the US, there are several indicators out there showing that a deep downward shift is well on its way. This is being driven by economic factors, concerns over traffic congestion and safety, air pollution, and climate change rules.

For many urban transportation planners, taking a multi-facedted approach to the future of mobility is becoming a necessity. Let’s take a look at a few figures:

  1. The average annual cost of ownership in the US has gone up to $9,282 per year recently, a five percent increase over the the previous year. Where does all that come from? Fuel costs, maintenance, repair, and tires costs went up about 10% with vehicle registration and tax fees also seeing their way up.
  2. Car prices have gone up significantly — Kelley Blue Book reporting that the biggest price increases last year was for full-size cars (up 12.6 percent to $48,314). Luxury cars and vans also had significant price increases. It’s part of why Tesla has lowered its MSRPs in recent months — to increase sales share and to adapt to car buyers facing significant price increases on several fronts.
  3. The charging infrastructure needs some work. That’s a recurring theme for electric vehicle owners of all types — from fleet operators to veteran EV owners. They’d like to see more consistency and availability for fast charging, and to see consistent rate prices for recharging away from home or work.
  4. The question of when autonomous vehicles will become available beyond the test phase is still a mystery. Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave permits to self-driving units of General Motors and Alphabet Inc to allow for passenger service in autonomous vehicles with safety drivers present for the Cruise and Waymo divisions, respectively. The Phoenix market is seeing a lot of activity here. Waymo One and May Mobility are providing services to small groups of customers, and are poised to expand their businesses to other markets when the regulatory environment clears.
  5. However, nearly two thirds of Americans are still concerned about the safety of taking self-driving vehicles. Roughly six-in-ten adults (63%) say they would not want to ride in a driverless passenger vehicle if they had the opportunity, while a much smaller share (37%) say they would want to do this. According to Pew Research. Makers of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology will have to work together to get Americans over the hump — such as participating in test rides, and finding ways to use AVs for practical purposes — such as shuttle rides on college campuses and senior living facilities, and other practical applications.

Vehicles — sales trends, launches, incentives and funding, regulatory, vehicle manufacturer news

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) was present last week at ACT Expo to share about, among several items, its Run on Less – Electric DEPOT program. This event will feature eight fleet depots with 15+ Class 3 to 8 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) operating in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. These eight fleets have been chosen for the research project. The end goal is to provide more clarity on fleet scaling considerations such as charging infrastructure, engagement with utilities, total cost of ownership management, driver and technician training, charge management, and more. It will also highlight effective partnerships between fleets, OEMs, and utilities — with a deep dive look into utilities, charging equipment, and construction.

Sustainability and carbon reduction — setting and hitting targets, studies, regulatory, global alliances, sustainability drives

“Hertz Electrifies Orlando” Hertz and the city of Orlando have launched Hertz Electrifies Orlando, a public private partnership aimed at accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and expanding the environmental and economic benefits of electrification across Orlando. Hertz will be adding up to 6,000 rental EVs to its existing fleet in Orlando, for availability to leisure and business customers as well as rideshare drivers.

To help expand charging, Hertz will support the installation of up to 50 public fast chargers across the Greater Orlando area, in partnership with bp (BP plc oil company). In addition, Hertz is working with Orange Technical College (OTC) to help bring EV tools and training to its auto servicing students. Hertz is also making summer jobs available through the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Hertz Electrifies Orlando aligns with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2030 Electric Mobility Roadmap goals to accelerate EV adoption in multiple transportation sectors and develop a robust charging ecosystem to reduce emissions that harm public health, bolster climate change resilience, and increase access and affordability for all communities.

SVT Fleet Solutions (SVT) has restructured the company to focus on comprehensive fleet solutions on pressing issues — from regulatory compliance and funding support to zero-emission vehicle procurement and operations. SVT President Don Kelley sees taking an end-to-end fleet management approach even more necessary with actions being taken such as California’s recently passed Advanced Clean Fleets Rule.

The company’s executive team is bringing together resources for fleet management clientele including regulatory compliance support; a fleet sustainability strategy to help clients hit emission targets cost effectively; covering the spectrum for vehicle funding and financing including identifying and securing grant funding and incentives to reduce total cost of ownership for low-and-zero emission vehicles; and analyzing diverse procurment options from light-to-heavy vehicles that include battery-electric, propane autogas, natural gas, and fuel-cell powered cars, vans, and trucks.

Other services offered include comprehensive uptime support that taps into predictive analytics; centralized fleet administration support that will also assist clients in driver recruitment and retention strategies; and managing vehicle remarketing for vehicles reaching end of useful lives or fixed terms.