For Today: Joint venture no longer required for electric carmakers in China, AeroVironment proving BMW and Mini-branded TurboCord EV chargers

Joint ventures no longer mandatory in China:  China will be making a huge change for automakers who want to build electric cars locally – setting up their own shops without having to forge a joint venture with a Chinese automaker. That will lower costs for companies like Tesla that have to pay steep tariffs to import their cars into China, and which choose to run their own factories similar to how they do it overseas. Foreign automakers will be able to go into free-trade zones to establish their factories. The country has 12 free-trade zones in Shanghai, Fujian, Guangdong, and Zhejiang. China will “actively implement the opening up of the new-energy manufacturing sector to foreigners, together with other departments under the direction of the State Council,” the nation’s Ministry of Commerce told Bloomberg. Other carmakers like General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen, are tapping into JVs with Chinese makers to set up EV manufacturing subsidiaries.

LeEco using Faraday Future patents:  Parent company LeEco used some of Faraday Future’s electric vehicle design in LeEco’s LeSee electric car, according to patents filed with the U.S. government. A Faraday Future representative confirmed that two of its patents are being used in the development of LeEco’s electric car. The look and design will be used across the FF and LeSee brands. One patent will be used for the look of the exterior design and the other is for the steering wheel. The two companies have been quiet about their working relationship as parent company LeEco has gone through the wringer financially, including a failed $2 billion acquisition of Vizio. In July, FF walked away from its planned $1 billion factory in Nevada. The company has leased an existing factory in Hanford, Calif., as it seeks new investment funds.

AeroVironment working with BMW and Mini:  AeroVironment has been selected as the North American provider of BMW and Mini-branded TurboCord accessory electric vehicle chargers. The dual-voltage charger features a small and lightweight design with a convenient 20 ft. charging cord. That brings 120-volt and 240-volt charging to BMW and Mini electric cars. The TurboCord charger can be purchased with the EV at all North American BMW and Mini dealerships and online. It also integrates state-of-the-art safety features such as unit and plug temperature monitoring, automatic shut-off and a rugged, being waterproof, and submersible enclosure (NEMA 6p) that enables users to safely and reliably charge anywhere indoor and outdoor.

For Today: Car Charging Group brings Blink brand name to corporate identity, Lyft doing well enough to expand to 32 more states

Blink Charging Co. new corporate name:  Car Charging Group, Inc. is tapping into the Blink electric vehicle charging network’s market identity by changing its corporate name over to Blink Charging Co. The company had taken over the network after founder ECOtality filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Car Charging Group began operating thousands of Blink charging stations, and the software that manages, monitors, and tracks these stations and stores charging data. Blink Charging Co. also started a 1 for 50 reverse stock split, effective two days ago. After a period of 20 business days from then, the company’s stock symbol will be CCGID and will then revert to CCGI. The company’s website has switched over to “Changing the name of the Company to Blink Charging continues our integration efforts and corporate rebranding, which allows us to unify our identity and illustrates the company’s primary products and services,” stated Mike Calise, Blink Charging’s CEO. “The reverse split is also another step in the right direction towards achieving a listing on a national stock exchange and to build additional shareholder value.”

Bosch offering extended range:  Global auto supplier Bosch just released e-axle, a new electric axle combining three powertrain components into one unit – that will bring longer range to electric vehicles and hybrids and more torque and speed to these vehicles – and to compact cars, SUVs, and pickups. It’s capable of delivering between 50 and 300 kilowatts. Torque at the axle can cover a range of about 1,000 to 6,000 Newton meters (737 to 4,425 foot-pounds). EVs will be able to travel further on each charge, and they won’t have to draw more power from the battery with the new e-axle system in place. It’s being tested now with a few Bosch customers, and the supplier company says it will go into mass production starting in 2019. The German supplier says it has already provided components to over 500,000 hybrids and EVs out on roads.

Lift spreading across country:  Ride-hailing company Lyft is making a big move in its U.S. presence, expanding from eight states up to 40. The Uber competitor has been able to see growth in riders and revenue and recent years, and can now tap into chaos that the global ride-hailing giant entered into earlier this year. Lyft has been able to bring over a lot of customers and drivers from Lyft. An upgraded smartphone app has helped, along with a new marketing campaign that’s helping Lyft grow from serving 160 more cities for a total of about 350. Lyft is an ideal situation, with its General Motors partnership and recent deals with other companies on autonomous vehicle test projects. Uber’s excessive market valuation and ability to raise about $14 billion in private equity since its inception is causing a huge shakeup as investors want to see transparent, professional management of the company. Uber this week hired Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to take the place of ousted and controversial founder Travis Kalanick. The new CEO is also known for being outspoken, and is expected to bring the company forward to an initial public offering within 18 to 36 months. Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer work on keeping the company simple and direct. They say they haven’t done beyond asking employees and drivers to make sure passengers are treated like guests at a fine hotel.

For Today: ChargePoint going public to support Europe network, Uber choosing former Expedia CEO to stabilize troubled company

ChargePoint in Europe:  ChargePoint is looking to launch an initial public offering in the next five years as the company expands further into Europe, CEO Pasquale Romano told Reuters. ChargePoint, operator of one of the world’s largest charging station networks for electric cars, joins other players in the game including utilities, engineering groups, automakers, and startups seeking to establish strong footing. BMW, Daimler, and Siemens already have a strong presence in Europe as demand continues to increase – and they see ChargePoint as an option to expand their networks. The charging company has so far raised about $300 million in funds, with Daimler and Siemens joining up this year. BMW first supplied funds in 2012. The company also operates about 40,000 charging spots in the U.S. and Mexico.

California AB 1184 moves forward:  The California legislature is pushing forward a $3 billion program that could raise electric vehicle rebates up from the current $2,500 per vehicle all the way to $10,000 or more. It’s been approved by Senate and Assembly committees, and still needs to see legislative approval and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown by the end of the current session in Sacramento on Sept. 15. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), said Assembly Bill 1184 ties into the state’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to a level reached in 1990. “If we want to hit our goals, we’re going to have to do something about transportation,” he said.

Uber gets new CEO:  Uber has named former Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO, according to two people familiar with the matter. It’s expected to help stabilize the ride-hailing company’s contentious battle in recent months that resulted in former CEO Travis Kalanick leaving in June. Kalanick had been overseeing the company as it eventually reached $70 billion in estimated market valuation until a series of controversies took over this year – driving investors to shake up Uber management. Khosrowshahi has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which was another heated issue for Uber earlier this year. His family had immigrated to the U.S. during the Iranian revolution. Expedia, along with Amazon, became one of two technology companies to contribute declarations to a lawsuit filed by Washington State’s attorney general objecting to the travel ban executive order. That had focused on seven predominantly Muslim countries. Other finalists for the Uber CEO position include Jeffrey Immelt, the former chief of General Electric, and Meg Whitman, the chief of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the sources said.


Two studies look at the state of vehicle electrification

ChargePoint and McKinsey & Co. have put out studies in the past week offering an interesting look at the state of plug-in electrified vehicles and the charging infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad.

California continues to be the leading U.S. market for registered PEVs on its roads, with about half of all battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle sales taking place there, according to the ChargePoint study. Georgia, known for its generous PEV incentives, was No. 2 on list. Washington was No. 3, but a surprising ranking was Oregon coming in at No. 9 when it’s been very competitive with Washington and California as part of the PEV charging highway infrastructure. Florida and Texas came in at Nos. 4 and 5 on list. Four other strong markets made the list with New York at 6, Michigan at 7, Illinois at 8, and New Jersey at No. 10.

As for the PEV market growth, another surprising state made the list, with Utah at No. 1, followed by Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Arizona. ChargePoint compiled the report’s findings with date provided by IHS Market through the third quarter of 2016. Growth figures for these top 10 states represent growth over Q3 2015.

As for cities seeing the strongest presence based on PEVs in operation, California had three of the cities, with Los Angeles at No. 1 over San Francisco at No. 2 (another surprise), and San Diego at No. 5. New York came in at 3, Atlanta at 4, Seattle at 6, Chicago at 7, Washington, D.C. at 8, Detroit at 9, and Portland, Ore., at 10.

As for PEV growth cities, several of them are considered to be significant business centers for conferences and meetings. Charging stations are being installed at airports, hotels, retail stories, and workplaces, supporting regions that have economic growth and interest in PEVs. Las Vegas was the No. 1 city in PEV growth in the past year, followed by Kansas City, Raleigh/Durham, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

The charging company also reported on the Top 5 PEVs sold in the U.S. last year. The Tesla Model S was No. 1, followed by the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, Tesla Model X, and the Nissan Leaf. According to Baum and Associates and, it split at 53% battery electric and 47% and for plug-in hybrids.

Gasoline prices were an interesting trend to see studied in the report. PEV sales used to be very tied to gas prices, but for over two years these prices have stayed down in and stable in the U.S. Consumers had been very interested in saving money. Now the sales chart shows that PEV sales have gone up as gas prices have stayed down. Consumers are interested in PEVs for reasons beyond gas savings, according to the study.

McKinsey on seeing breakthroughs in PEV sales

A new study by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. looked at where consumers in key markets, and automakers, see adoption of PEVs going in the next few years. Electrifying insights: How automakers can drive electrified vehicle sales and profitability digs into consumer tastes and interests, and where auto manufacturing is heading in response.

Two studies were conducted with consumers interested in PEVs and consumers who own them. About 3,500 people were surveyed in the U.S., Germany, and Norway; and a second study was done with about 3,500 people in China interested in, and owning, PEVs.

The core issue for automakers is being overwhelmed by new technologies to invest in to meet emissions standards around the world, and to prepare for growing interest in PEVs of all types. As automakers invest a great deal of capital in fuel efficient technologies like start-stop, turbocharging, and lightweighting, investing sufficiently in battery packs and other needed components loses some of its value. That’s been intensified by growing interest in connected, autonomous vehicle systems.

Consumers are becoming more interested, and have a few factors they’re questioning and considering:

  • About half the surveyed consumers in the U.S. and Germany say they understand how PEVs work. Between 30-and-45 percent of vehicle buyers in the U.S. and Germany, respectively, have considered a PEV purchase. Strong demand is being seen in Norway and China, where incentives have been ample and have been seen in sales results.
  • The study sees reaching the other half of consumers in these countries to be an important opportunity, but the message will need to be revised.
  • Making batteries with more capacity will be a big part of getting past limited sales, and getting their cost down for manufacturers is part of it. The study says it’s costing automakers about $13,600 for the battery pack with 60 kWh of power. There are other costs that go into it such as the electric motor, high-voltage wiring, on-board chargers, and inverters.
  • There’s also keeping it all within economies of scale. Adding a new PEV and building it at decent numbers means a lot of capital being place in opening up a new factory, or opening lanes at an existing plant, tooling, R&D and getting the product to market through dealer networks retail stories, and launching marketing campaigns.
  • Premium luxury cars by Tesla Motors and a few competitors are taking a lot of the sales, but there’s been a bit of a void for consumers interested in a wide selection of small cars, SUVs, and crossovers. McKinsey sees this as one of the opportunities, especially for consumers living in cities looking for more options and spending less on their vehicles.
  • Automakers and dealers would be smart to sell PEVs from a different perspective. Instead of purchase price and lease deals, focusing on total cost of ownership (TCO) would be a better way to go. For example, PEV owners are typically paying about 20% to 40% less on maintenance costs over a five-year period compared to vehicles with internal-combustion engines.
  • Growth in ride-hailing, carsharing, and peer-to-peer car rental are expected to have strong PEV market potential, according to McKinsey. The study found that more than 30 percent of consumers surveyed would prefer a PEV model over an ICE when using ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft; and about 35 percent would pay a premium to ride in a PEV.
  • Carsharing provides an opportunity to get consumers to try out a PEV through promotional offers. Companies such as Maven, Zipcar, and Car2go could tap into this market potential.
  • Another service to provide could be P2P (peer-to-peer) car rental. Consumers who own a PEV could make money renting out their car when it’s not being used.

This Week’s Top 10: California utilities request approval for major charging projects, Tesla not facing recalls over Autopilot crash

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. Utilities supporting charging: California’s three large investor-owned utilities have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to support more than $1 billion in funding for electric vehicle charging stations. Southern California Edison asked for permission to collect $570 million from customers over five years to pay for equipment installations supporting about 1,800 charging stations for electric trucks and other projects. Pacific Gas & Electric requested $253 million to meet several objectives including charging systems for electric buses and delivery trucks. San Diego Gas & Electric applied for $246 million for installation of up to 90,000 charging stations at single family homes in the utility’s service area; and other projects, including installing up to 45 charging ports to enable electrification of about 90 new pieces of ground support equipment at San Diego International Airport. The utilities intend to install thousands of chargers at homes, workplaces, airports, and port locations. It ties into the state’s goal of cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
  2. No recall for Tesla: Tesla Motors was cleared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following an investigation over the fatal crash in Florida last May where the driver had been using Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system. Investigators didn’t find a defect in Autopilot requiring a safety recall for Model S and Model X owners who have purchased that option. NHTSA analyzed changes made to the system since the crash, including how the crash rate dropped by nearly 40% for the Autosteer component, which can safely change lanes, became available. The crash rates in the study compared airbag deployment crashes before and after Autosteer installation.
  3. Wireless charging: Automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and technology companies have reached agreement on the upcoming SAE Recommended Practice Wireless Power Transfer and automated parking alignment and charging of electric vehicles. Taskforce members have agreed on specifications for the SAE J2954 Test Stations; automakers will use that standard as a basis to develop their wireless charging systems, and to make sure they can interoperate with charging systems and vehicles sold by other automakers. The meeting held in Ingolstadt, Germany, is expected to set the foundation for moving wireless charging forward. Several automakers, suppliers, and technology providers see wireless charging being pivotal in helping move forward both electrified and autonomous vehicles.
  4. ZEV rules in Quebec: Automakers are upset that the Quebec province has followed a mandate similar to California and nine other states’ zero emission vehicle policy. Starting with the 2018 model year, 3.5% of all vehicles sold in the province will need to be all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. That bumps up to 15.5% for 2025 models. Companies that don’t hit the marks will have to buy credits from automakers that do. Penalties for failing to comply haven’t been spelled out yet. The legislation, which was passed last October, should be delayed, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada. Electric vehicle sales make up less than 1% of new vehicle sales in Quebec and 0.5% of all new vehicle sales across Canada.
  5. EPA chief nominee: Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general being considered as the new EPA administrator, is working at taking a more civil approach in his new role (which still needs Senate approval). He’s pledged to be a good listener and lead the agency “with civility,” especially when dealing with controversial issues like climate change and the EPA’s decision on the midterm review of 2025 mpg standards. He said the EPA’s proposal to finalize light-vehicle greenhouse-gas standards for 2022-25 model-year vehicles just 14 days after the comment period expired was a bit rushed and “merits review.” In related news, the EPA was sent a notice by the new administration temporarily halting all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources. The EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on Monday. It’s not known yet whether this move will have an effect on the auto industry.
  6. Elio Motors reports losses in SEC filing: Elio Motors has been taking losses in the past year, which has been investigated by a news channel in its corporate hometown. Local news channel KTBS in Shreveport, La., found in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the three-wheel carmaker had $101,317 in cash and about $123.2 million in accumulated deficit as of Sept. 30, 2016. The document also reported having about $6.8 million in cash and a deficit of about $2.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2015. The news channel also found that the company has once again postponed the launch of its affordable, 84 mpg three-wheeler, this time until 2018.
  7. Renault-Nissan top spot: Renault-Nissan has sold more than 400,000 electric cars globally and has plans for further investments to maintain its market lead, CEO Carlos Ghosn told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We are going to increase investment, we are going to have lot of new cars coming, better batteries, better performance, lower prices,” he said. Nissan’s Leaf opened up the auto industry to a mass produced all-electric vehicle, which was followed two years later by alliance partner Renault’s Zoe, a hatchback subcompact.
  8. CARB on midterm review: The California Air Resource Board last week published a 667-page Midterm Review of Advanced Clean Cars Program report. It finds that the state’s original intentions are being met, and the elements are in place to continue making advancements well beyond the 2025 target. The CARB staff, “recommends that California make a major push now to develop new post-2025 standards while working with automakers, federal regulators and partner states to further develop the market for electric cars,” according to a statement. The report also addressed the state’s zero emission vehicle policy, stating that more support is needed to grow the charging infrastructure. The agency will likely be pleased with proposals submitted this week by utilities to grow the state’s infrastructure.
  9. Ford PHEV vans: Ford has established a 12-month trial with the Transport for London agency’s fleet. Ford will provide 20 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle Transit Custom vans that the automaker says improves fleet productivity while reducing emissions. Scheduled to start in the fall, the test project will receive 4.7 million pounds ($5.9 million) in UK government funding. Ford and Transport for London will invite commercial fleets into the trial project.
  10. Infiniti performance EV: Infiniti is getting ready to roll out its very first electric car, though the launch date and other details have yet to come out. In 2012, the Nissan luxury division showed the LE electric concept car that was supposed to roll out in two years, but has yet to show up. Infiniti boss Roland Kreuger says he’s driven the prototype of this electric car as it’s “very good.” Krueger does however note that this is an “early” prototype, meaning its years away from production. The company will tapping into Nissan’s electric car technology, but will build a dedicated platform for the Infiniti model. Autocar and InsideEVs did a bit of speculating on it: it could be a 2020 Infiniti performance battery electric vehicle with its own platform packed full of Nissan’s EV tech.

Alternative Fuel Corridors and DOE data show where clean transportation infrastructure stands

ev-corridor-in-fhwa-mapAs you probably know by now, the Federal Highway Administration released a map last week showing 55 routes across the U.S. for charging plug-in vehicles and refueling alternative fuel vehicles, with 48 designated charging routes in the new corridor. The Alternative Fuel Corridors covers 35 states and nearly 85,000 miles, according the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FHWA. More miles will be added to the network to accommodate electric, hydrogen, propane autogas, and natural gas vehicles as more alternative fueling and charging stations are built.

The designation of these corridors comes from the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act, which was signed by the president in December 2015. In July, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx put the alternative fuel station provision in motion by calling on states to nominate national plug-in electrified vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling corridors along major highways.

You can view an Alternative Fuel Corridors resources page that includes a map showing each of the charging and fueling networks. There’s only one electric charging route linking the nation, which crosses the Great Plains with Highway 70 bridging between Utah and Colorado. Charging station routes are concentrated in the Northeast, East Coast, Great Lakes region, Texas, and the West Coast. Compressed natural gas will have corridors very similar to charging networks. Hydrogen fueling routes will be concentrated in California, Colorado, the Midwest, and the Northeast.

During a telephone interview with CNBC on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t support the corridor project. Tesla’s Supercharger fast-charging network has been in place with its own cross-country corridor for quite a while now, he said, and he didn’t see the point in talking about the federal program. Musk’s comments reflected Tesla’s competitive philosophy of having the best electric cars and charging in the industry, and the company doesn’t see the point of cooperating on, or supporting, industry and government standards. That response also speaks to challenges the fast charger network faces with the CHAdeMO, SAE combo charger, and Tesla standards differing.

Looking at the Alternative Fuel Corridors maps, and the Energy Department’s data on alternative fuel stations, you can get a good look at where the clean transportation infrastructure stands in the U.S.

Infrastructure: US Fueling and Charging Stations
Biodiesel (B20 and above): 170, down from 236 a year ago
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): 958, up from 867 a year ago
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: 14,683, up from 10,998 a year ago
Ethanol (E85): 2,757, up from 2,678 a year ago
Hydrogen: 31, up from 12 a year ago
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG): 83, up from 73 a year ago
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Propane): 427, down from 1,524 a year ago
Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center

Propane has seen a dramatic drop in fueling stations during the past year – from 1,524 a year ago to 427 in the U.S. now, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center. That’s likely been coming from propane networks consolidating stations to better serve the market. Some of the propane autogas stations are on private grounds not available to the public, such as school bus fleets. ICF International, Inc., based in Fairfax, Va., projects consumer propane sales to grow by about 9% between 2014 and 2025. Most of the growth will come from the propane engine fuel market, although lower propane prices associated with the growth in domestic propane supply and lower oil prices will also make propane more competitive in traditional propane markets, including residential and commercial space heating, and forklift markets, according to an ICF report prepared for the Department of Energy.

Biodiesel has also seen a drop in the past year, at 236 last year and down to 170 stations recently. That may have to do with the EPA dragging out its ruling on the federal Renewable Fuel Standards and decreasing volume mandates on the advanced biofuel. Biodiesel is also seeing more competition come from renewable diesel, which is being adopted by several large fleets in California to tap into low carbon fuel standard credits.

Electric charging stations, compressed natural gas, and hydrogen stations have seen impressive growth ratios in the past year. Charging stations grew by nearly a third in the past year, up to 14,683 stations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 114,533 gas stations in the U.S. at the end of 2012, the last year for which data is available, so there will need to be another 100,000 charging stations to match the reach of retail gas stations.

The corridor routes will be seeing signs posted similar to what’s been typical on highways for years alerting drivers to upcoming gas stations, food, and lodging. It will play an important role in the federal government’s mission to reduce carbon. Supporting lower-emission vehicles will help the U.S. meet its 2015 pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050, according to the FHWA.

“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx in the press release. “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”

This Week’s Top 10: Workplace charging and Plug-In 2014, Audi enters plug-in space with its A3 Sportback E-Tron

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…….

workplace charging1. Workplace charging and Plug-In 2014 conference
Workplace charging has become the most discussed topic in the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)  infrastructure community. Check out comments from Electric Power Research Institute’s Morgan Davis on some of the issues that will be discussed next month at Plug-In 2014 in San Jose, Calif. Scheduled speakers from Google, SAP, Nissan, Georgia Power, and San Diego Gas & Electric, will talk about their experience with deployment of workplace charging stations. Other topics being explored at the conference include:  the future of DC fast charging; PEV incentives and economics; the latest in vehicle technology; and, two pre-conference seminars: vehicle-grid integration and fleet implementation of PEVs.

2. Audi enters the plug-in space with A3 Sportback E-Tron
Audi AG began rolling out its A3 Sportback E-Tron plug-in hybrid model; it’s the first of four plug-in hybrids that will roll out and compete with BMW for luxury electric vehicle customers and its first-ever plug-in model (and eventually with Tesla as it increases its presence in Europe). The A3 Sportback E-Tron is said to get 31 miles of battery power. There is a price – it starts at 37,900 euros ($51,700) in Germany – 15,100 euros more than the base gasoline-powered version of the A3.

3. US Supreme Court stays out of California low-carbon fuel standard ruling
The US Supreme Court has decided to let stand a ruling from September by the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco upholding the California low-carbon fuel standard – at the chagrin of out-of-state ethanol producers and oil companies. Ethanol producers from the Midwest challenged the fairness of the rule, as their fuel is given higher cost to buyers due to the state’s “carbon-intensity ratings.” California’s rating system is giving out-of-state producers a higher price for their credits than identical fuel being produced in California. Oil refiners also challenged the standard’s premise that the cost of transportation and processing for bringing the fuel into the state is adding more carbon. California Air Resources Board recently approved a funding of $200 million in the 2014-15 budget to encourage the deployment of more low-carbon transportation choices. Rebates of $2,500 for battery-electric vehicles and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids will be available; fuel-cell electric vehicle buyers will be eligible for $5,000 rebates.

4. Longer wait expected for next-gen Prius
Toyota Motor Corp. has decided to delay the launch of the fourth-generation Prius until December 2015 instead of next spring. The automaker hasn’t announced reasons for the delay, but those familiar with the matter confirmed the delay; one of them said Toyota engineers are trying out various configurations to improve fuel economy including adjusting the body and chassis. Production of the plug-in Prius may take even longer – sources say that will begin in October 2016. Also, more details have been announced on its first-ever hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It will debut in the Japan market next April for around 7 million yen ($69,348); it will go on sale in the US and Europe by the summer of 2015, according the company.

5. Pennsylvania takes action on Tesla corporate stores and sets limits
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill last week after it was amended to cap the number of factory-owned stores allowed at five. The bill only applies to Tesla Motors and goes now to the Pennsylvania house. The original bill had no cap on the number of retail outlets that Tesla could have set up; that drew pressure on the state from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the major trade group representing 12 automakers but not Tesla.

6. SAP and Cox Enterprises add to their corporate sustainability campaigns
Software giant SAP will is taking a three-prong approach to promote sustainable driving behavior:  economic incentives for employees to lease electric vehicles; bringing in a new app from Toyota and Verifone that will get them by dashboard of mobile device to determine fuel levels, get to the closest gas station, authorize electronic payments, and receive personalized coupons; and in collaboration with Volkswagen, SAP will try out a pilot project that uses SAP’s mobility and cloud services that will help drivers locate parking and nearby food offerings in urban settings. Cox Enterprises (which owns Manheim Auctions, AutoTrader, and Kelley Blue Book) is utilizing an energy storage system at its Manheim Southern California auction location in Fontana, Calif. An 18 kilowatt PowerStore system provides the location with real-time data analytics that are used to optimize efficiency and reduce electricity costs. Since 2007, the Atlanta-based company has prevented approximately 120,000 tons of carbon from entering the environment and saved more than 125 million gallons of water.

7. Greenlots will bring open standard DC fast chargers to San Francisco Airport
Greenlots will install four open standards-based DC fast chargers at the San Francisco International Airport; it’s part of a two-year pilot program supported by the California Energy Commission through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The chargers will be part of its “Sky” electric vehicle charging platform that utilizes Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), the largest open standard for charger-to-network communications. Sky “obsoletes the subscription-based model by providing drivers with flexible payment solutions including dynamic queuing and pay-by-phone,” the company said. The charging station host can mix and match charging station types, while setting pricing options: by kilowatt-hour, session, or length of time charging.

8. Minnesota starts 10% biodiesel blend
Minnesota has become the first state to require that a minimum blend of 10% biodiesel be sold in diesel fuel sold at retail fuel station pumps. Biodiesel sales are expected to jump from 40 million to 60 million gallons per year through the new Minnesota standard. That will bring three production plants in the state up to their capacity to make biodiesel that’s typically coming from soybean and other oils.

9. Ford bumps Toyota off on greenest automaker list
While Ford is getting chastised for again overstating its mileage ratings, Interbrand has been impressed enough with the global automaker to name it the world’s greenest brand. Conducted with Deloitte Consulting, the annual survey (taken long before the latest MPG controversy) gauges consumer perceptions in markets around the world, combined with data on how companies operate internally and report their environmental behavior.

10. Zap Jonway electric cars going on sale as Urbees in China
Zap Jonway, an electric vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Santa Rosa, Calif., received from SunRa (which is also called Xinri Electric Vehicle Company) a volume purchase agreement for its Urbee electric car through its subsidiary Jonway Auto for the Chinese market. It’s an agreement by SunRa to purchase 1,000 Urbees per month from Jonway Auto to sell through its distribution network in China, starting with the first shipment of 500 units from Jonway Auto’s production line in June 2014.

AeroVironment and KnowWhatYouDrive educate EV car shoppers

AVEV101Education and accessible, clear information is needed out there to get past the stumbling block that holds consumers back from owning an electric vehicle. If you take a look at a new educational website for electric vehicle (EV) shoppers, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions:

  • What’s the difference between EVs, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids?
  • Why lithium ion batteries?
  • What do you get out of it? Why make the investment?
  • What’s the latest on charging technologies?
  • How long does it take to charge and how far do you travel?

AeroVironment is working with Saginaw, Mich.-based KnowWhatYouDrive on an educational initiative to help consumers take the plunge and purchase an EV and a home charging port. The free online course at walks through all of the questions that typically come up for car shoppers – or those with some interest in owning an EV. Details are presented on the types of available charging stations, charging time, and how the installation process works. You can test your electric vehicle IQ and instantly earn $25, $50, or $100 coupon codes for an electric vehicle charging station and installation.

“Education is one of the key factors that will help speed EV adoption,” said Wahid Nawabi, senior vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Efficient Energy Systems business segment. Doug Taylor, founder of KnowWhatYouDrive, says that it can be a daunting task with all of the EVs on the market now through Ford, Nissan, Fiat, and other OEMs. KnowWhatYouDrive works with charging station supplier Eaton on its website, and offers a discount program for EV charging stations.

AeroVironment has been committed to making the EV ownership and charging experience more accessible to consumers. It launched a dealer program last year offering a turnkey residential charging package. Consumers can purchase the EV and the charger in combination at the time of sale and build it into the financing. The home installation process is built into the transaction so that it can take place in a faster, more seamless way than it typically happens.