For Today: September sees great electrified vehicle sales, Green Commuter bringing Tesla Model X carsharing to LA

September plug-in sales:  Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles had a strong U.S. sales month in September over August and September 2016. BEVs had their highest month ever, beating out the previous leading month of December 2016. Tesla led the way with the Model S and Model X doing exceptionally well and the Chevy Bolt having its highest month ever. On the plug-in hybrid side, the Toyota Prius Prime led the category at 1,899 in September, versus 1,453 for the Chevy Volt. BEVs came in at 13,421 units sold in September, versus 7,719 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Solar leading renewable source:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity grew at a fast rate last year and is expected to be higher in capacity growth than any other renewable technology in the world by 2022. PV capacity grew by 50% last year, according to a market analysis and forecast report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). This year, solar power plant additions are higher than that of the other leading global energy power sources – wind, coal, natural gas, and nuclear. For those concerned about where energy comes from, solar is starting to catch up with the most polluting energy source out there, coal. “We see renewables growing by about 1,000 GW (gigawatts) by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

Green Commuter offering Model X shared rides:  An electric vehicle carsharing service utilizing the Tesla Model X just opened in Los Angeles. Green Commuter has brought its service offering vanpoolers the opportunity to lease the electric SUV for daily commutes during typical hours, and to offer the EVs for carsharing by individuals or companies for fleet replacement the rest of the time. The startup company launched a 20-vehicle car-sharing program in Chattanooga last year, and implemented its vanpooling program in Los Angeles earlier this year. Users download the Green Commuter app, where they can rent a Model X by the hour or weekend. “Angelenos understand the impacts of congestion; L.A.’s bad traffic is an enormous waste of time and carries high human costs in terms of public health and the environment. Ridesharing and carsharing with electric vehicles brings tremendous benefits in terms of reduced traffic and improved air quality, while providing mobility and commuting savings to its users,” said Gustavo Occhiuzzo, CEO of Green Commuter.

For Today: Fisker EMotion debut at CES 2018, More on Volkswagen ID Buzz

Fisker EMotion debut:  Henrik Fisker will be launching the Fisker Emotion all-electric sedan at CES 2018 in January. It will have a starting price of $129,000 and will compete directly with the Tesla Model S and Faraday Future FF 91. Technology features include an energy dense battery pack that can be charged in just nine minutes, LiDAR for Level 4 autonomous driving, and a range that Fisker claims will go beyond 400 miles.

Possible carsharing alliance:  Daimler and BMW may be in talks to combine their car sharing services, according to the chief executive of European car rental company Sixt. BMW works with Six on tis DriveNow car sharing service and Daimler has been running the Car2Go brand for several years. They’re exploring the market potential for pay-per-use mobility services competing with Uber and Lyft.

More on I.D. Buzz:  Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess may be announcing production details on the all-electric VW I.D. Buzz microbus tomorrow beach at Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, Calif. That event has always been an elegant setting for announcing luxury and performance vehicle offerings, with Mercedes-Benz likely to use it for showing a Maybach luxury roadster this year. The Buzz is one of three I.D. EVs that the German automaker will be launching in the near future.

Snapshot of clean, smart transportation: We’re living in a very interesting time

Urban mobilityAre clean, advanced technology vehicles going away because of low gasoline prices and car shoppers turning their attention elsewhere? Do transportation alternatives like ridesharing, carsharing, and self-driving cars stand a chance of surviving and thriving? Read on for interesting market trends……….

Navigant Research expects global light-duty vehicle (LDV) sales growth to continue over the next 20 years – from 88.8 million vehicles this year to 122.6 million sold in 2035. Navigant Research sees changes driven primarily by the adoption of vehicles with various levels of drivetrain electrification and vehicles that run entirely on alternative fuels. New transportation business models for LDVs such as carsharing programs alongside increased urbanization is likely to put downward pressure on vehicle sales in the long term, Navigant Research says. As for the 20-year forecast, change is being driven by government-led initiatives to improve fuel economy and market demand for alternative transportation options and alternative fuel vehicles. “LDVs primarily fueled by gasoline are expected to fall as a percentage of the overall global fleet from 82% in 2015 to less than 71% in 2035, particularly as diesel, electricity, and other alternative fuels become more price competitive and their respective infrastructure becomes more available,” says Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research.

While gasoline prices have been hurting hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) sales in the U.S., other countries are seeing growth in EV sales. The U.S. share of the market is expected to drop as sales stall out here but grow in other countries. Global EV sales in 2015 through May came in at more than 160,000 units, of which the U.S. saw only 39,000 deliveries. In Norway, a third of its new vehicle sales were EVs in the first quarter of this year, and the Netherlands saw it become 5.7% of its share during that time (compared to about 0.8% of new vehicles sales in the U.S.). For this year, U.S. sales are expected to stay flat, but are likely surge next year and in 2017 with higher production and new entries from several high-volume makers. The 2016 Chevrolet Volt and an all-new Nissan Leaf released in 2017 or 2018 are expected to make a difference. The Tesla Model X, which is expected to double Tesla’s annual sales, is slated to show up in China in the first half of next year after being introduced in the U.S. sometime this quarter.

Automotive media and market analysts have decided that green vehicle sales are being trashed by low gasoline prices and affordable fuel efficient cars. That being said, they can’t stop dwelling on (obsessing over?) the topic. LA Times’ veteran automotive reporter Jerry Hirsch wrote two features about it, published within a day of each other last week. Hirsch is up there with USA Today’s Chris Woodyard as an expert reporter on green vehicles for a major media source. In “Setting the record straight on five common green car misconceptions,” Hirsch educates readers on topics such as range anxiety, hybrid battery cost, and the myth that EVs cause just as much pollution as gasoline-engine vehicles. In “What kind of car is the most green, fuel efficient and budget friendly?”, Hirsch worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists to examine seven powertrain options, analyzing their greenhouse gas emissions — including the power plant pollution required to produce electricity — along with their relative fuel efficiency and cost of operation. They found that battery electric vehicles are the cleanest and least expensive to operate. Richard Truett of Automotive News cares enough about the topic to have written a detailed report on gas prices and automaker product planning last week. For the federal mandate on fuel efficient vehicles, Truett thinks that, “If automakers can’t make money or at least break even on electrified and fuel-efficient vehicles, all bets are off. There are already rumblings around Detroit of asking the government to push the 54.5 mpg requirement out past 2025.”

One of the largest airports in the U.S. has allowed ridesharing leaders Uber and Lyft to begin picking up passengers. Despite protests by taxi drivers, Los Angeles (LAX) airport officials agreed Thursday to permit ridesharing/ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to pick up, and not just drop off, their passengers. That could begin as early as late August, subject to final approvals by airport officials and the city attorney. For the 2,361 licensed taxis serving that airport, many of them see LAX as their last remaining stronghold as ride-hailing eats away at their fares. Orange County’s John Wayne Airport began allowing ride-hailing services to pick up at the airport earlier this year. Uber revenue is expected to skyrocket this year – from $400 million to $2 billion, as consumers (primarily members of the 18-35 year old Millennial generation) choose Uber over taxis and other transportation sources.

Google continues to test its self-driving cars, and has seen injuries from one of the collisions for the first time. During the 14th accident from one of these test vehicles, a Google autonomous vehicle was rear-ended on July 1 near the company’s corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif. Three Google employees were taken to a hospital to receive treatment for “minor” whiplash. The driver of the other vehicle who hit the Google test car also suffered some minor injuries. Google’s test program generated headlines earlier in 2015 when it was revealed that more than a dozen crashes have occurred and the other drivers have been blamed. With the latest crash, the Google vehicles have been rear-ended in 11 of the 14 incidents. The test program has been using Google’s own driverless cars, and initially used modified Toyota and Lexus vehicles; the test project so far has driven over 1.9 million miles.

U.S. consumers are still concerned about losing control of their vehicles to self-driving cars, according to a recent survey by University of Michigan’s Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the Transportation Research Institute. The survey polled 505 people and found that 43.8% didn’t want any form of autonomous technology in their vehicles while 40.6% were comfortable with some level of self-driving tech. There was a nearly unanimous response to one question that doesn’t bode well for Google and its vehicles: 96.2% of respondents want a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal in their vehicle no matter the level of autonomy. Perhaps they will need to remain semi-autonomous vehicles? Along with Transportation Research Institute’s study, the university announced last week that it will be opening a new testing site for connected and driverless cars. The 32-acre testing grounds, called Mcity, are designed to simulate urban and suburban roads with a network of controlled intersections, traffic signals, streetlights, sidewalks, construction obstacles, and more. The test track is operated by the university’s Mobility Transformation Center and is an extension of a federally funded pilot program to study connected vehicle technologies at the university. Three years ago, the Transportation Research Institute launched a safety pilot program; that test program includes the deployment of about 9,000 vehicles – cars, commercial vans, buses, and motorcycles equipped with transmitters and data-logging devices to track position, acceleration, and velocity of vehicles and infrastructure.

Carsharing continues to see much interest as a transportation alternative in cities like Paris, San Francisco and Boston. Automakers and car rental companies continue to acquire or partner with carsharing startups like Zipcar, Car2Go, Getaround, and City CarShare. More than 1.5 million people are already using these services in the Americas, according to new research from UC Berkeley. As automakers and car rental companies expand their offerings, the business model is based on efficiency and easing congestion in crowded urban environments where carsharing makes a lot of sense. “This allows flexibility for the operator to serve more people with a single car,” said Susan Shaheen, director of Innovative Mobility Research at the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

This Week’s Top 10: Ford stepping forward as personal mobility company, Supreme Court rules against EPA on Clean Air Act

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Ford sustainabilityFord champions its evolving identity: Ford Motor Co. was highly visible last week in its evolving role as a personal mobility company, and not just as a vehicle manufacturer. “People value access more than ownership. We need to understand customers’ concerns and make their lives easier,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said in an interview. Last week, the company announced a pilot carsharing program where 26,000 Ford Motor Credit Co. customers in six US cities and London are invited to offer their vehicles for short-term rentals. It’s part of the Ford Smart Mobility plan that Fields introduced in January; another offering from Smart Mobility will be electric bikes targeted at urban commuters. The bike is able to be folded up and recharged while being stored inside any Ford vehicle. Ford Motor Co. also announced that it’s in the second of three phases of its autonomous vehicle project. Ford executives have said that a number of driver-assist features that represent steps along the path toward a self-driving vehicle will be rolled out across the company’s vehicle lineup over the next five years. Some of the testing Ford will be carrying out on these advanced technologies will take place at its Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Center, which opened in January. One development coming out of this center will be a technology that may be able to produce parts 25 to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printing.
  2. Supreme Court rules against EPA on Clean Air Act: The Obama Administration’s health care reform act survived US Supreme Court scrutiny on Thursday, but the 2011 Clean Air Act amendments were overturned yesterday by that same court. In Michigan v. EPA, the court ruled 5-4 that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underestimated the costs to utilities and other companies on toxic air pollutants. The EPA had previously estimated its rule would cost $9.6 billion, produce between $37 billion and $90 billion in benefits and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma cases annually. The court ruling found those estimates to be “unreasonably” interpreted and would be much more costly to industries. The EPA ruling had focused on coal-fired power plants, but there’s also been a good deal of concern that manufacturers would be drawn into the rule’s enforcement. “Manufacturers look to today’s victory as a sign of progress and will continue to lead the way to promote a more environmentally sustainable future, but we need a balanced approach to regulations that considers both costs and benefits to continue to create jobs and economic growth,” said National Association of Manufacturers Senior VP and General Counsel Linda Kelly. The EPA says that several utilities were already well on their way to adopting the Clean Air Act guidelines. “EPA is disappointed that the Court did not uphold the rule, but this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a statement.
  3. GM jabs at Tesla: While not being overt and blunt about it, General Motors CEO Mary Barra said that Chevrolet’s Volt and Bolt are being made “for regular people, not for the elites.” During an unveiling last week of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, Barra also made statements about GM electric vehicles. The Bolt EV Concept car has an estimated range of 200 miles, and like the Volt it will be affordable, Barra said. Earlier that day, GM’s executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, Pam Fletcher, said pretty much the same thing during a breakout session on plug-in electric vehicles. GM will make “electric cars approachable to the all, not just the elite,” Fletcher said.
  4. Fuel efficient renewable diesel road trip: History was made by a performance car running on renewable diesel that made its way across the country on one tank of fuel. On June 26th, CLP Motorsports’ Superlite Coupe crossed the finish line in Santa Monica, Calif., after making it across the US on one tank of NEXBTL renewable diesel. That came from an alliance between Neste, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel, CLP Motorsports, and multiple time X-Games and Rallycross champion Tanner Foust. “We will continue to promote this great fuel through our fleet-servicing and retail stations and of course through our racing,” said Pat O’Keefe, inventor of this project and CEO of CLP Motorsports. The coupe averaged 67 mpg while traveling an average of 68 mph, and that included a segment of the trip driving over the Rockies.
  5. Clean transportation information resource: South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) has published its quarterly Clean Transportation Policy Update. Read all about California’s administration, regulation, funding, research, and legal activities. Examples of topics covered include the groundbreaking decisions in the state on reaching the greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 through Gov. Jerry Brown’s new climate target.
  6. More crowdfunding for Elio Motors: As the three-wheeled electric vehicle manufacturer scrambles to survive and thrive in the market, founder Paul Elio’s funding activities have become even more ambitious. Elio needs to raise about $230 million more to start manufacturing its vehicle in a four-million-square-foot former General Motors plant in Shreveport, La. Elio is offering early-stage investments on the Start Engine site. That investment has been made possible through the JOBS Act of 2012. This legislation permits individuals to invest up to $15,000 in startup companies; these companies are allowed to accept up to $50 million from non-accredited investors.
  7. More support for disadvantaged communities: California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to boost the size of the rebates for low-income buyers to $4,000. At the same time, the board cut out rich car buyers completely, setting an upper limit on the income of people receiving the rebates. To qualify for the low-income rebate, buyers must make no more than 300% of the federal poverty level, which comes out to about $73,000 for a four-person family, or $48,000 for a two-person household. (See the feature article, “Key findings from webinar on fleet incentives for clean vehicles,” in this week’s Green Auto Market for more information on the state’s priority to serve disadvantaged communities, which live in the most concentrated air pollution regions of California.)
  8. Propane bi-fuel system: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted certification to Imega International USA’s GAME bi-fuel propane autogas/gasoline system. The approvals cover the 4.6-liter V8 engine line-up for the model-years 2009, 2010, and 2011 Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car, and Mercury Grand Marquis. Imega is in the process of EPA certifying many popular fleet platforms to be available soon, the company said.
  9. More OEM energy storage: Daimler and Nissan are following Tesla Motors’ lead after that luxury electric vehicle maker introduced its PowerWall in late April. Daimler and Nissan say they’ll be bringing similar products to the commercial and residential energy sectors. Daimler is offering a storage plant of up to 20 kilowatt-hours that will begin shipping in September. The next week, Nissan announced it will deploy second-life vehicle batteries for commercial energy storage markets through partner Green Charge Networks.
  10. Sustainable Transportation Day: The US Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) hosted the Sustainable Transportation Day at the Energy Department’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Visitors had the opportunity to see first-hand several of these EERE-supported technologies, ranging from high-efficiency internal combustion engines to vehicles that rely on electricity and hydrogen. The Hyundai Tucson and the Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles were among the vehicles on display.

Facing perplexed looks on what LeSage Consulting actually has to offer

Obama perplexedWhile attending Plug-In 2014 Conference last week in San Jose, I learned something beyond the state of the charging infrastructure: how people perceive what I do. That usually came across as a perplexed look on a person’s face – during an interview, seated for lunch, or during  a conversation while standing outside a seminar room. As I left San Jose McEnery Convention Center, I had the same question. What is it that LeSage Consulting offers?

I think some of the confusion deals with a perception gap between me playing a press/media role and a consulting role. In the past few years, people have known me through doing video interviews with Automotive Digest, phone interviews, sitting in on stakeholder conference calls, or chatting at a conference – while wearing my media badge. Several people congratulated me earlier this year after starting the consulting practice, and could see the logic behind it – industry expertise, market analysis, and the ability to pull it all together in content such as this weekly newsletter. For some of us, there is a crossover between the research and editorial sides. I spent a few years in market research/intel and have met a number of people who’ve been in media and now work in market research and analytics. Jobs have been changing for many of us in recent years. I think it’s my duty to keep Green Auto Market accurate and thorough – but it does come from my perspective on what’s taking place and worth paying attention to. That’s one of the more rewarding trends in the internet age for writers like me.

Since launching LeSage Consulting in January of this year, the game has changed for me. I’ve learned much more about where companies and organizations are heading in the next few years, and how my skillset and resources are perceived. I understand that for key stakeholders in automotive and transportation, it’s about much more than deciding what alternative fuel vehicle to build or buy. The landscape will be changing radically in the next 20 years, driven by growing concern over traffic congestion, emissions, safety, and what types of jobs will be available as the technology changes.

Clean transportation involves electric vehicles, hybrids, fuel cell, and other alternative fuel vehicles, and the charging and fueling infrastructure that drives it. There’s also the question of producing fuel-efficient vehicles that will meet federal mandates; and building them in environmentally sustainable factories. Advanced vehicle technology is the baseline, and is leading toward autonomous vehicles in the not-too-distant future. The theme of urban mobility is also another deciding factor, which several automakers are preparing for, in the context of carsharing and ridesharing, parking, and other aspects of making ground transportation work in a fast-changing, crowded world.

When I returned from Plug-In 2014, I revised my mission statement and service offering descriptions to get more clear about all of it, and to articulate that to colleagues. Here’s the latest…..

Mission Statement:  LeSage Consulting creates content, marketing communications, and market intelligence serving stakeholders in clean transportation, advanced and autonomous vehicles, and urban mobility. Content channels include the Green Auto Market weekly e-newsletter and through an alliance with Automotive Digest.

How it works:

Content creation:

  • Feature articles
  • Newsletters
  • Websites and blogs
  • Webinars and speaking engagements
  • Video and audio
  • Green Auto Market and Green Auto Market Extended Edition
  • Information products including white papers, reports, and e-books

Marketing communications:

  • Promotional content such as coverage of company news, product launches, and special events
  • Social media placement
  • Multiple content channels including articles, newsletters, press releases, video, audio, and webinars
  • Direct marketing through postal and email
  • Public information and marketing campaigns
  • Green Auto Market and Extended Edition sponsorships and event promotions

Market intelligence:​​

  • Surveys
  • In-depth interviews with stakeholders
  • Analytical reports focusing on emerging trends, vehicle acquisitions, technology innovations, legislative and regulatory environment, and global markets
  • Consulting and research services to clients with sustainability targets
  • Industry metrics including hybrid and EV sales; alternative fuel prices; stock market performance for companies in clean transportation; US charging and fueling stations; and green vehicle specifications and incentives.

Thanks very much for the questions and perplexed looks. I realized that it had to start with me getting clear on my purpose. Some of the main reasons I chose clean, advanced transportation as my main focus in recent years has been passion for the topic; seeing its integration with environmental and economic issues; and facing big changes in the media landscape. I’ve truly enjoyed connecting with several of you during conversations on these topics. That’s driven me in starting and building LeSage Consulting – supporting people who are passionate and committed to their mission statements in clean, advanced transportation.

Uber is public enemy No. 1 for taxis and other ground transportation companies

UberTaxi services, chauffeured transportation companies, and other players in ground transportation, are attempting to exorcise a demon: Uber. This San Francisco-based network company makes mobile applications that connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services. Taxi drivers have protested recently in Los Angeles, London, and Milan, Italy; they’re furious that Uber drivers don’t have to pay the steep prices for taxi licenses that taxi drivers end up paying off over several years. Chauffeured transportation companies are upset that Uber is entering major metro markets without complying with long-standing regulations, which can allow for undercutting of prices while using substandard practices for passenger safety and customer service.

Ride-sharing mobile apps are becoming more popular through Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. This is happening during a time when carsharing services provided by Zipcar, Car2Go, City CarShare, and DriveNow, are gaining traction and subscribers throughout the US and Europe. Ground transportation companies – taxis, limousines, livery, shuttles, and buses – would love to see these companies go away or have their market presence reduced. Uber represents a new business model that could steal business from traditional ground transportation options.

Using the mobile apps is taking off because it’s cheaper than taxi rides and you can do it all on your smartphone or tablet. It’s hot enough for Uber to recently have raised $1.2 billion in venture capital in a deal that valued the company at $18.2 billion.

Uber doesn’t own any cars and has no drivers as employees. It matches up a driver/car with a customer looking for a ride and takes a percentage of the trip fare. Uber says that its value comes from screening its drivers, its pricing/payment system where customers can choose their service level and vehicle (ranging from a car to an SUV), and convenience. Customers can track the car on their phone and get a good idea of when pickup will be taking place.

Taxi companies and other transportation providers would like to see governments address the issue of driver background checks and insurance coverage for their drivers. Not long ago, an Uber driver was arrested in Southern California on suspicion of kidnapping a woman and taking her to a Panorama City motel. Prosecutors ended up dropping the case, but Uber did ban the driver.

The North Carolina Limousine Association (NCLA) and several other chauffeured transportation associations, would like to see governments crack down on Uber and other ridesharing apps. Uber has showed up recently to compete for passenger transportation in the Raleigh/Durham area. NCLA members are concerned about “rogue apps” and drivers hurting their markets. Uber doesn’t have to comply with long-standing regulations, which can allow for undercutting of prices while using substandard practices for passenger safety, limousine operators say.

The solution would be regulatory agencies enforcing insurance coverage rules, says Mark Mazza of HUB International, a chauffeured transportation company. Several cities, including Seattle and Miami, have removed Uber and similar providers from their areas using this approach, Mazza said.