It was a good year for clean transportation and sustainability efforts, but not so good for the overall state of things.
Stakeholders in the field continue to do an admirable job of pushing forward the issues for government support and funding, technology innovations, sustainable transportation projects, and increasing public support for electrified, clean fuel vehicles and renewable energy.
All that, while an unstable landscape continues.
Weather disasters increased, with evidence mounting of climate change intensifying. For those attending and following COP26 — the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland — a consensus came out that the new climate agreement was too watered down, that very little came from the conference.
Positive moves came out of Washington, D.C., especially supporting electric vehicle sales and infrastructure. But the federal government has been overshadowed by investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the capitol and what came of it. And there’s the part about the federal budget not being passed yet. Of course, a resolution was passed that continues until Feb. 18. But if a deal isn’t reached and signed by the president, agencies will have to run at last year’s levels and not meet requests/demands for increases. And federal employees might not see their paychecks for a while, which is the case during typical budget agreement deals being dragged out.
The biggest issue of all — Covid-19 — is also continuing to present a distressing chain of events, with a small glimmer of hope coming through. Are we over the hump yet on it? When can we take off our masks?
It’s time to take a good look at how things are going in clean transportation and fuels — which is making very positive contributions to the planet, air quality, the economy, and opportunities for innovation. It’s also useful to look at what’s happening in the auto industry, affecting how well clean transportation adoption can go forward in 2022.
The state of the auto industry
New vehicle sales in 2021 finished a little bit over 15 million, up 3.4% from last year. That was a slight uptick from 2020 — but still about 2 million units below the year before Covid-19 hit, according to the Associated Press. Sales would have been even higher if the supply of microchips had been enough, which wasn’t the case. General Motors felt it harder than several competitors; the company lost its mantle as the No. 1 selling automaker in the U.S. to Toyota. GM reported a 13% sale drop last year, while Toyota saw its U.S. sales rise 10.4% during the year to 2.3 million units.
The must-attend CES annual conference and trade show in Las Vegas closed one day early as a pandemic safety protocol, running from Jan. 5-7, 2022, according to the Consumer Technology Association. Automakers showed more of their presence in the autonomous vehicle arena, not to mention electric vehicles. More than a dozen new production and concept cars made their debut, including some from as far away as Turkey and Vietnam.
The Cadillac Halo Concept Portfolio was displayed, including InnerSpace, a two-passenger autonomous electric vehicle. GM and Qualcomm rolled out the Ultra Cruise cruise control product. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado EV drew a lot of attention at the conference.It’s scheduled to go on sale in 2023 as a battery-powered alternative in General Motors’ popular pickup offerings. Mercedes-Benz made a bold claim at CES — its EQXX concept gets 625 miles per charge and its batteries are 50 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than those in its recently launched Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan. No production plans have been announced, but company executives say the batteries and other technologies will find their way into future Mercedes electric vehicles.
Bloomberg today published one of those articles we’ve seen quite a few times in the past decade: major automakers commit to knocking Tesla off its pedestal as the clear leader in plug-in electric vehicles. Volkswagen and Toyota are leading the charge, laying out $170 billion worth of investments to win, according to the article. We’ve heard many grand statements made by these and other companies; and yet, they still don’t really follow through. Let’s see how this one goes.
Tesla sees a good year
Tesla said it delivered 308,600 electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2021, beating its previous single-quarter record as well as analysts’ expectations. For the full year, the electric automaker delivered 936,172 vehicles, an 87% increase versus 2020 when it reported its first annual profit on deliveries of 499,647.
The company’s new facility in Austin, Tex., known as Gigafactory Texas, will begin production in mid-January. The Model Y crossover, and the upcoming Cybertruck, will come from this plant. The company is operating plants in Fremont, Calif., Nevada, New York, and Shanghai; and will be opening soon in Berlin and Austin.
Stock market analysts wonder why CEO Elon Musk has been selling so many of his Tesla shares, $16.4 billion worth since November. Perhaps $11 billion will go toward paying his federal tax bill; and another $2 billion could go toward paying off his $2 billion in taxes owed to the state of California. Some of it may go into his SpaceX company and into Gigafactory Texas. Musk did ask his Twitter followers for feedback on it in November before initiating a few efforts to sell those shares.
It probably helped for Musk to win the Time Magazine Person of the Year award for 2021. His credibility and support has been coming back.
The company just announced that it will be selling its “full self driving” (FSD) software for $12,000, up $2,000 from the previous price. Must tweeted on Friday that the new price will take affect on January 17th for customers “only in the U.S.”
Global EV sales
Global passenger plug-in electric vehicle sales not only continued to increase, but reached a new all-time record in November 2021. According to EV-Volumes data, over 721,000 global new passenger plug-in electric vehicles were registered during that month. That was 72% more than that month in the previous year, and a new monthly high. Another new record was set with EVs making up 11.5% of new vehicles sales globally for that month. About 72% of the new EV sales were battery electric — making up about 518,000 units versus 203,000 going to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles globally in November.
U.S. sales of EVs jumped 83 percent in 2021 to 434,879, but represented only 3% of the market, according to data from analytics firm Wards Intelligence. In 2020, the electric share of new vehicle sales was approximately 2.4%, for a total of 306,000 units sold in the U.S. That broke out to about 66,200 plug-in hybrids and 240,100 battery electric vehicles, according to Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 39, April 2021.
Forbes reported that Chinese automakers saw a very good sales year, with about three million EVs sold in that country last year. BYD’s EV sales increased 314% — from 189,689 in 2020 to 603,783 in 2021. Nio more than doubled sales volume with a 109% rise over 2020, coming in at 91,429 sold last year. Li Auto sold 90,491, a 177% increase over 2020. XPeng reported 98,155 EVs sold last year, a 263% increase over the previous year.
Green Car of the Year awards
In November, Green Car Journal announced the winners of its annual awards that go back to 2005 — with a few new categories having been added in recent years. These awards have acknowledged introductions of new vehicles that decrease emissions, encourage energy diversity, and improve efficiency. And the winners are…………
2022 Green Car of the Year — Audi Q4 e-tron Other finalists included the BMW i4, Kia EV6, Rivian R1T, and Volvo C40 Recharge.
2022 Luxury Green Car of the Year – Lucid Air
Vying for this award were also the Audi e-tron GT, BMW iX, Karma GS-6, and Mercedes-Benz EQS.
2022 Urban Green Car of the Year – Chevrolet Bolt
Finalists included the Hyundai Kona Electric, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, and MINI Cooper SE.
2022 Performance Green Car of the Year – Tesla Model S Plaid
Among this award’s finalists were the Audi e-tron GT RS, Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, Lucid Air Dream Performance, and Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S.
2022 Green SUV of the Year – Hyundai IONIQ 5
The top 5 finalists included Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, Lexus NX, and Volkswagen ID.4.
2022 Commercial Green Car of the Year – BrightDrop EV 600
Finalists were the ELMS Urban Delivery EV, Ford E-Transit, Lightning eMotors Electric Van, and Rivian Electric Delivery Van.
2022 Green Truck of the Year – Ford Maverick
Finalists included the GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1T, and Toyota Tundra.
2022 Family Green Car of the Year – Toyota Sienna
Finalists included Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Civic, Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV, and Volkswagen ID.4.
The state of government incentives
The Biden administration set a goal for electric vehicles to make up 50% of all new car sales by the end of this decade in order to fight climate change through ramping up emissions-free vehicle technology. But the U.S. follows China and Europe — with about 4% of new sales going toward EVs in 2021, versus 9% in China and 14% in Europe.
Here’s a good look at the latest in federal tax incentives for purchasing EVs. Of course, it no longer applies to Tesla models as the company outsold its cap on available tax credit incentives. And Clean Vehicle Rebate Program offers a look at tax credits for fuel-cell vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles at the federal level and state level in California. Charging suppler ClipperCreek offers a state-by-state look at EV rebates and tax incentives.
The federal government is looking at three possible initiatives which would help grow the number of clean vehicles on U.S. roads:
—Biden’s Build Back Better program includes a revamping of the system of federal tax credits for EV purchases. It could make improvements over the current tax credits with cash rebates, and incentive for buyers of used EVs, and it wold eliminate the incentive cap placed on Tesla and other automakers.
—The administration’s Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan would create two separate programs. One would be the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure grant program offering $2.5 billion in competitive grants for public EV charging; or in hydrogen, propane autos, or natural gas fueling stations. The National Electric Vehicle Formula Program will provide $5 billion in “formula funding” for states to use “to build a national charging network.” States will get to decide where funds go, and it’s expected not all of it will be placed in existing state EV charging infrastructure initiatives.
—Another move was made at the regulatory level. In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a set of new auto emissions standards. The new rules would be applied to model years 2023 through 2026. The new rule would require automakers to build passenger cars and light trucks with average fuel economy of 55 mpg by 2026. The current average figure is 38 mpg. It increases and extends the Obama administration’s mandate of averaging about 51 mpg by 2025. These rules will take effect, and could have a greater impact on moves by the automakers than the first two possible initiatives that were previously presented.
Another event move has been a joint effort by two federal agencies. The U.S. Dept. of Energy and Dept. of Transportation launched an initiative on Dec. 14, 2021, to build out a national EV charging network reaching 500,000 EV chargers. The agencies created a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to support the deployment of $7.5 billion from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build out a national EV charging network focusing on filling gaps in rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach locations.
States are playing a very significant role in clean vehicle manufacturing and refueling/recharging networks going forward, according to Gladstein Neandross & Associates (GNA). Through its Policy 360 program, GNA has observed that several state have adopted policies to require the sales or purchase of passenger and commercial zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). California continued to lead the way, with Policy 360 tracking several initiatives in 2021. They could set the precedent for what to expect in a number of states in 2022. For California, these actions included “ZEV sales and purchase mandates; increased incentives such as grants, rebates, and loans for the acquisition of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure; and the introduction of pilot programs and other studies to understand the impacts of zero emissions fees and taxes, vehicle production, and freight corridors,” GNA wrote in coverage of the program.
Topics to follow in the new year………..
1. Biomethane advocacy nonprofit Energy Vision studied nine options that refuse fleets have available to power their vehicles. Fuels and technologies included biodiesel, renewable diesel, fossil, renewable natural gas (RNG), hybrid technologies, battery electric vehicles, dimethyl ether (DME), and hydrogen. The report found trucks equipped with natural gas engines powered by organic waste-derived RNG fuel achieved the greatest benefits at the lowest cost. These strong ratings included performance, cost, cutting lifecycle GHG emissions, and health-damaging pollutants. RNG-powered refuse trucks, compared to diesel-powered, see their nitrogen oxides emissions cut by 90% — and significant reduction in particulate emissions.
2. The electric vehicle grabbing most of the attention lately: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning.
3. A major stumbling block for advancement of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to autonomous vehicles: the courtroom.
4. Keep your eyes on special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, which have been very attractive for more companies including batter company Solid Power, charging supplier ChargePoint, and EV startup Lucid Group.
5. International Energy Agency (IEA) says in a new report that the world’s capacity to generate electricity from solar panels, wind, and other renewable energy sources are on course to accelerate over the coming years, with 2021 expected to set a fresh all-time record for new installations.
6. A March 2021 analysis of the world’s 2,000 biggest publicly traded firms found that over 400 of them have embraced net-zero targets, according to Cleantech Group’s Ian Hayton, lead analyst, materials & chemicals. These 700 companies have some sort of neutrality pledge in place. These pledges came from several large firms across industries including Coca-Cola, General Motors, French utility Engie, and Nippon Steel.
7. Which type of vehicle is poised to lead the way over to autonomous vehicles? Commercial trucks.
8. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 electric SUV got an EPA-rating of more than 300 miles per charge. Pricing starts below $33,000 when you count in the $7,500 federal tax credit.
National Biodiesel Conference and Expo
Jan. 17 – Jan. 20, 2022 in Las Vegas
National Ethanol Conference
Feb. 21 — 23, 2022 in New Orleans
Green Truck Summit-Work Truck Show
March 8 – 11, 2022 inIndianapolis
Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Technology (SETT) Conference
March 15 — 18, 2022 in Irvine, Calif.
Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo
May 9-12, 2022 in Long Beach, Calif.