Ford outlines China strategy, Comments on EPA biofuels decision

Newsworthy:   Ford Motor Co. outlined the next phase of its expansion in China yesterday, with 50 new Ford and Lincoln models going to that market by 2025. There will be at last 15 new electric vehicles under these brands, and the separate Zotye-Ford joint venture will offer a range of affordable all-electric vehicles under a new brand. Sport utility vehicles will be emphasized, with eight new utility vehicles being rolled out under the 50-vehicle launch. Connectivity will play a greater role, with all Ford and Lincoln vehicles in China connected through either embedded modems or plug-in devices by the end of 2019. As for autonomous vehicles, Ford will tap into its board member presence of Chinese company Baidu’s Project Apollo. The Apollo Open Platform will facilitate the development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles, the company said………… Electric bus manufacturer Proterra announced yesterday that Yosemite National Park will add two Proterra Catalyst buses to its fleet. It will be the first U.S. National Park to permanently add zero-emission buses to its shuttle fleet, offering its visitors a modern, ecologically-friendly transportation option, Proterra said. Beginning service in late 2018, the Catalyst buses are expected annually to reduce 887,000 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions and save approximately $150,500 on maintenance and operating costs for the national park………… Volkswagen AG’s Moia mobility service division yesterday unveiled a six-seater, all-electric minibus that will be deployed in Hamburg during the second half of 2018. The EV will be rolling out globally after the launch, Ole Harms, chief executive of the division, said on Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin. Harms expects services using Moia minibuses to replace 1 million cars across European and U.S. cities by 2025. It will start with 200 units and will scale up to about 1,000 in the following years; drivers of the electric minibus will be offered by Moia, as well as the service being offered to fleet operators and municipalities, he said.

Next phase of biofuels:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement on Thursday on the Renewable Fuel Standard volumes brings to an end a long-awaited and embattled regulatory question for biofuel producers and advocates and the oil industry. Here are a few details on the decision:
*  2018 targets require fuel companies to blend 19.29 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply, up slightly from the 19.28 billion gallons required for 2017. That breaks down to 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels like corn-based ethanol, in line with 2017, and 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, up from 4.28 billion in 2017. For 2019, the agency set a target for biodiesel at 2.1 billion gallons, unchanged from 2018.
*  “Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to … upholding the rule of law,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press release.
*  “We think this action is bad for U.S. manufacturing and American consumers,” said Chet Thompson, president and CEO of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. He said the EPA’s final decision showed it was “bowing the knee to King Corn.”
Biofuels groups such as Renewal Fuels Association praised the decision.
*  National Biodiesel Board and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa were disappointed to see an increase in biodiesel levels not included in the new rule.
*  Clean Energy Fuels was pleased to see that renewable natural gas was included as an advanced renewable fuel. “Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upheld its commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard, and particularly renewable natural gas (RNG), thereby giving the market a clear sign of confidence which will result in its continued growth. This action sent a very positive message to those who produce, sell and consume RNG,” said Clean Energy Fuels President and CEO Andrew Littlefair.

This Week’s Top 10: ARPA-E awards $125 million to 41 projects, Geely and Cadillac adding plug-ins to meet China mandates

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. ARPA-EARPA-E awards $125 million: The U.S. Dept. of Energy announced the awarding of $125 million for innovative energy technologies by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The 41 projects include advanced vehicle technologies and alternative fuels, including: Achates Power, Inc. of San Diego, Calif., winning $9,002,986 to develop a multi-cylinder opposed piston engine operating with compression ignition; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will develop a high-efficiency engine system that integrates a compact micro-hybrid configuration of a supercharger with an electric waste heat recovery system and employs high rates of recirculated exhaust gases, which was granted $1,923,845; another University of Michigan project was granted $3,500,000 for electrode structures and manufacturing techniques to incorporate lithium-conducting ceramic electrolytes into solid-state batteries; researchers at Corning Incorporated in Corning, N.Y., won $3,102,359 and will develop roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques to produce thin ceramic electrolytes for solid-state batteries for higher energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Read more about other transportation and energy grants made in the ARPA-E announcement.
  2. Geely and Cadillac take on China mandates: Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings has committed to meeting “new energy” vehicle government mandates more than any other domestic OEM; during the next five years, more than 90% of its new models will come equipped with alternative-energy powertrains. About two-thirds of Geely’s new-energy vehicle models will be conventional gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids by 2020, with the remaining new-energy vehicles being battery-electric vehicles. Geely, which has been developing vehicles with Volvo Cars, also said it aims to make “substantial progress” on fuel cell vehicles by 2020. Cadillac will be rolling out plug-in hybrid versions of most of its vehicles in coming years to meet China’s tightening regulations, according to Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen. Adding a battery electric luxury car to compete directly with Tesla isn’t in the brand’s business plan, he said. There are plenty of other models meeting U.S. fuel economy and emissions regulations, including the Chevy Volt and fuel efficient cars, he said.
  3. GM & Daimler committed to diesel: The Volkswagen diesel reporting scandal isn’t pushing General Motors or Daimler out of diesel-engine vehicles. GM product chief Mark Reuss thinks that diesel demand among truck buyers won’t be affected by the fallout from the VW scandal, and that its diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze will be doing well. GM has begun production of diesel-equipped Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups. These pickups will join the V-8 Duramax diesel engines on its heavy-duty full-size pickups. Next year, GM will roll out a 1.6L diesel in the next-generation Cruze; the automaker will roll out at least one more diesel car, but hasn’t yet released details on it. Daimler’s commercial truck operation will invest $375 million at a complex near Detroit to build diesel engines for medium-duty trucks, expanding a strategy of building and selling trucks, engines, transmissions and axles as a package. It’s not competing directly with VW light-duty passenger cars, but the commitment to diesel technology is still significant during this time. In other VW news, U.S. Dept. of Justice investigators are investigating German auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH for its role in VW’s scheme to cheat U.S. emission standards. Bosch built key components in the diesel engine used in six Volkswagen models and one Audi model that the automaker has admitted to rigging to defeat emissions tests.
  4. Tesla researches German battery factory: Tesla Motors has been in discussions with the German government over the prospect of building a battery factory in the country. Tesla may seek financial backing from the government. This may be targeted at Tesla’s competition in the luxury electric vehicle space with German automaker BMW and would support the opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada. Tesla wouldn’t make comments to the media on a German battery factory, saying that there are “no current plans to build a battery factory in Germany.” Tesla did announce that it will recall the entire Model S fleet to deal with a potential seat belt defect. That will mean brining in 90,000 of these cars for inspection by Tesla. The recall came from the discovery in Europe two weeks ago of a single Tesla Model S with a “front seat belt that was not properly connected to the outboard lap pretensioner,” Tesla told its customers by email.
  5. Green truck awards: The Ford F-150 pickup has been named the Green Truck of the Year, and the Ram ProMaster City has won the Commercial Green Car of the Year. While the 2016 Chevrolet Volt won Green Car of the Year at the LA Auto Show (see article that follows), the truck awards were announced at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show.
  6. Volvo and Microsoft going for autonomous vehicles: Volvo’s partnership with Microsoft will also extend to autonomous driving and other advanced automotive tech. The automaker announced it will work with Microsoft yet-to-be-released HoloLens augmented reality device. Volvo will also be working on autonomous driving technologies as well with Microsoft, and plants to use the enormous amount of data generated from connected cars to create other new services.
  7. Green Truck Summit expanding: The Green Truck Summit, held annually in conjunction with The Work Truck Show, features a more comprehensive educational program for 2016. The event includes a full day of in-depth general sessions on innovations for vocational trucks on March 1. Attendees can also choose from more than 30 Green Truck Summit and Work Truck Show concurrent sessions covering a range of topics March 2-3. Produced by NTEA, the Summit takes place at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
  8. Google Express expands in delivery business: Google has joined up with Amazon in the product delivery space by expanding its Google Express service into Southern California. Just in time for holiday shopping, Google Express is offering next-day service for shoppers in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. Google Express is already been in place in Northern California and West Los Angeles, along with Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, Washington, and in several states in the Midwest. Participating retails merchants include Costco, Target, Kohl’s, and Walgreens. Soon after the Google Express announcement, Amazon said that it’s expanding its same-day Prime Now delivery service in the San Diego area. Amazon now offers free same-day delivery options in 24 metropolitan areas — including Los Angeles and San Diego.
  9. Renewable diesel takes off at Propel stations: Consumer adoption of Propel Fuel’s Diesel HPR (High Performance Renewable) fuel has shot up 300% since its introduction in Southern California in August 2015, the company said; that’s compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). Diesel HPR is a low-carbon fuel that meets the ASTM D-976 petroleum diesel specifications for use in diesel engines while offering drivers better performance and lower emissions. A California Air Resources Board study shows that renewable diesel can reach up to 70% greenhouse gas reduction compared to petroleum diesel.
  10. Lightning Hybrids wins NREL award: Lightning Hybrids received the “Best Venture” award for its hydraulic hybrid system at the Industry Growth Forum held last week in Denver, which was hosted by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The hydraulic hybrid system for medium and heavy duty vehicles has strong global market opportunities and provides benefits to a large and diverse group of stakeholders by providing fleets with a way to run cleaner and more efficient vehicles, the company said. The award named 30 emerging cleantech industry company finalists from a field of 115 to present their technologies and business models to a panel of knowledgeable investor judges.