BMW and Daimler forging JV for robotaxis, 15 transportation companies named to 2018 Global Cleantech 100

BMW and Daimler JV for robotaxi fleets:  It looks like BMW and Daimler may be merging their car-sharing divisions together to take on Uber and Lyft. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that BMW has bought out its partner, German car rental company Sixt, from its joint venture that had backed the DriveNow car-sharing unit. The two automakers are talking about a new JV that would offer car sharing, ride-hailing, electric vehicle charging, and digital parking services. Daimler’s Car2Go has had a strong presence in Europe and the U.S., and DriveNow has been growing in these regions. Ride-hailing itself is expected to be a $285 billion segment by 2030 once self-driving ride-hailing services are in place, according to Goldman Sachs. A senior executive at one of the two German carmakers who declined to be named said the new JV “will create an ecosystem which can also be used for managing robotaxi fleets.”

California increasing EV goal and incentives:  California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed an executive order “to curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks and boost the number of zero-emission vehicles driven in California.” Brown’s plan had previously been to have 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on California roads by 2025; the governor now wants to see at least five million ZEVs in the state by 2030. That will be supported by a $2.5 billion plan, with much of that going to buyer rebates and the charging infrastructure.

Winners named for Green SUV, Luxury Car, and Connected Green Car:  Three automakers were handed green vehicle awards last week during the Washington Auto Show. The Kia Niro took Green Car Journal’s Green SUV of the Year. The small crossover initially debuted in a hybrid with 52 city and 49 highway mpg; a plug-in hybrid with 105 MPGe; and an all-electric version displayed earlier in the month at the Consumer Electronic Show with a production version expected to come out later this year. The Karma Revero was named Green Luxury Car of the Year. It has an aluminum spaceframe and powered by an electric drivetrain using two electric motors. It also comes with a solar roof to supply some of the recharging, and more of it through an onboard engine-generator. The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid won the Connected Green Car of the Year category. The General Motors’ division flagship sedan travels up to 31 miles on battery power with an overall range of 430 miles and offers a high level of luxury and performance. It took the award category for its connectivity, driver assist systems, and on-board electronics.

Winners of Global Cleantech ranking:  Fifteen transportation companies made it to the prestigious 2018 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group. The Global Cleantech is based on recognizing the most innovative and promising ideas impacting the future from a wide range of industries. As for the transportation, here are the 15 that made the list:

Bla Bla Car – French carpooling online marketplace
Chargepoint – one of the world’s largest electric vehicle charging station suppliers.
Didi – Chinese ride-hailing company
eMotor Works – Developer of software and hardware to turn EV chargers into networked nodes of a cloud-connected, grid services platform
Gogoro – Developer of electric scooters and the necessary battery swapping infrastructure for their use
Lilium – Developer of a battery-powered, fan-propelled vertical takeoff and landing commuter aircraft
Lyft – one of the world’s largest ride-hailing companies
Moovit – An Israeli developer of a mobile app that aggregates real-time public transportation data
Nauto – is building a data platform for autonomous mobility that makes driving safer and fleets smarter.
Navya – French developer of a self driving electric vehicle capable of carrying up to 15 passengers
Nutonomy – a developer of autonomous car software
Otonomo – a developer of software to connect autonomous cars with each other and with digital infrastructures and exchange data in real time
Peloton – a developer of vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems for truck fleets
Proterra – an innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation, primarily electric buses
Visedo – a Finland-based manufacturer of heavy-duty hybrid and electrical drive trains


Speculating on what the Trump administration will mean for cleantech and transportation

white-houseAs the stunning election results settle in, speculation on the implications is pervasive through news and social media channels.

I do have two questions. What will President-elect Donald Trump’s administration be doing, and opposing, in the realm of cleantech and transportation? What can clean transportation stakeholders do to respond?

To start off, what happened with the election that set up such stunning results? Media analysts and pundits were using early polling findings and experience from past elections to assume they knew the outcome, until election evening. Pollsters assumed they knew how voters were going to vote, and they did seem to be accurate about how regular voters were going cast their ballots. It turns out that quite a few disenfranchised voters who hadn’t punched a ballot in years showed up and cast their vote for Trump. A lot of Millennial generation voters who had loved Bernie Sanders but settled for Hillary Clinton didn’t bother to show up and vote or to mail an absentee ballot. Clinton may have won the popular vote but lost in key electoral vote states, the fourth time that’s happened in U.S. history; but ballots are still being counted to determine the popular vote total.

We may have received a signal of where the new administration will be standing on some of the relevant issues. Right after Election Day, a statement was released on a review of the fuel economy and emissions standards by the new administration.

“The Trump Administration will complete a comprehensive review of all federal regulations. This includes a review of the fuel economy and emissions standards to make sure they are not harming consumers or American workers,” said John Mashburn, a senior policy adviser for Trump, as reported by Automotive News. “It is important to remember that this particular program was first put in place as a way to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, not for purposes of global warming regulation. Mr. Trump will be focused on bringing jobs, including auto manufacturing, back to the U.S., and making sure that government policies are in the national interest.”

On Thursday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent a letter to President-elect Trump’s White House transition team asking to ease regulatory pressure from the Obama administration’s fuel economy and emissions rules calling for 54.5 mpg by 2025. The rules, which become increasingly stringent in the 2017 model year, are considered to be a “substantial challenge” for the industry, according to the letter. While alliance members (including General Motors, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, VW, Mazda, Volvo, Fiat, and Toyota) have supported the program, the industry is concerned about the timing and costs of the rules, which will require billions of dollars in investment.

Here are a few legislative, regulatory, and economic issues to follow:

  • Grant funding:  U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding is likely to be scaled back as the Obama administration leaves office. That means low-interest loans and grants for advanced vehicle technology projects by automakers, suppliers, universities, and research center partners will probably lose funding. Other parties likely to lose funding include electric vehicle charging infrastructure suppliers; alternative fuel vehicles being deployed in the federal fleet; grants for research and development of alternative fuels like biofuels and renewable natural gas and diesel; and clean transportation projects aimed at cargo transport. Fleets, OEMs, and suppliers will need to tap into other resources like state, regional, and city funding programs; and university R&D projects.
  • EV incentives: The Trump administration is likely to lose interest in renewing and expanding federal tax incentives for purchasing electric vehicles, which go up to $7,500. General Motors and Nissan are close to reaching the cap on allowable EVs qualifying for the tax incentives, and other automakers will follow. These incentives will go away unless renewed. Trump has expressed opposition to the government picking “winners and losers” and tends to not show support for government action continuing these types of programs. Like grants, automakers will need to turn to other sources like states for funding and utilizing their own purchase incentive programs to attract green car buyers.
  • Watch for gridlock in Washington: Trump and his campaign statements have been opposed to the Obama administration on clean energy policies. Trump has called climate change a hoax during the campaign, and promised to renegotiate the United Nation’s Paris climate accords. He’s opposed to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is directing utilities to reduce carbon emissions. Some of Trump’s dramatic proposals may also see resistance from Republican committee chairs in Congress. To carry out his wish of abolishing the EPA would need broad support in the House and Senate. When it comes to the huge investment Trump promised to spend on roads and other infrastructure, he will likely face stiff opposition from fiscally conservative Republicans. Environmental groups have expressed deep concerns over where Trump’s policies will be heading. “We’re feeling angry and sad and contemplative,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Trump is now, as president-elect, soon to be the only head of state on the planet that doesn’t believe in climate change, nor thinks we should do anything about it. That should strike fear in the hearts of every parent in this country.”
  • Globalization: Trump took on Ford Motor Co. and its plans to move all its small-car assembly plants to Mexico as a pivotal issue during stump speeches from the very beginning of his campaign. Ford is not the only automaker in Mexico, with Trump also taking aim at General Motors for its plans to invest $5 billion more in Mexico. Other companies have been there for years like BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Honda, and Volkswagen. It certainly goes way beyond Mexico with automakers also investing heavily in operations overseas in places like China, India, and Brazil. Trump has been able to stir up anger and frustration for workers at vehicle manufacturing and parts and components plants who’ve lost their jobs in the Great Lakes region, or who’ve feared it will happen to them next. Union members who usually vote Democrat leaned toward Trump. Fear of losing jobs to overseas markets has touched a nerve. The United Auto Workers, which had campaigned against Donald Trump this fall, is prepared to support his bid to overturn the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has also said he plans to reject or renegotiate other trade deals. Automaker executives will have to sort this out in dealing with the Trump administration and its decisions on tariffs, trade agreements, and statements affecting the public’s attitudes about the auto industry.
  • China: The alliance between the U.S. and China has been a central part of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and clean energy initiatives. The Chinese national government and regional entities have given generous subsidies to foreign companies and investors to set up manufacturing and assembly plants in China. That strategy has contributed significantly to China’s economy, with companies like Apple and General Motors taking it very seriously. That international alliance has been tracked closely in the past year by Green Auto Market and other publications as sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have taken off in China, making Chinese company BYD the third largest seller of EVs in the world. Chinese backers such as Wanxiang Group have played a vital role in seeing companies like Karma Automotive and A123 Systems establish a foothold in the U.S. and, eventually, in China. As reported in media, developing and maintaining a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with China has been, to say the least, challenging for the Obama administration; relations between the two nations are much more tense now than they were in 2009. The Trump administration may not do well with that tension and could break ties that have been set in the past eight years – if U.S. interests in China and the Asia-Pacific region aren’t perceived as making forward gains. The climate change agreement with China is also likely to languish under the new presidency. If you review the Trump website’s policy section, you’ll find a few statements on free trade that indicate where things may be going with China: Instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator…… Instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO (World Trade Organization). China’s unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO…….. Use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets.”
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s viewpoint: “I think a bit strongly that (Trump) is probably not the right guy” for the presidency, and wouldn’t be the best candidate to represent the U.S. abroad, he told CNBC on the Friday before the election. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s economic and environmental policies “are the right ones,” Musk said. Other automakers have expressed concerns over policies likely to be adopted by the Trump administration, but have kept a neutral stance on the outcome of the election.
  • CARB: California’s Air Resources Board has rescheduled a key hearing from Dec. 8-9 until sometime in February; that will be after Trump has taken office and there’s more clarity on where the nation’s clean-air rules overseeing vehicles are headed. The delay in the hearing is needed to give more time to gather reaction to recommendations the board staff is now preparing, a board spokesman said. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers also wants to see states follow CARB’s lead on the zero emission vehicle policy to avoid a patchwork of problems. Automakers would like to see the nine other states that have adopted the ZEV policy to follow California’s practice of supporting the mandate with tax incentives and other programs. That’s led to “dramatically” different ZEV credit purchase rates outside of California, the trade group said.
  • Biofuels vs. oil: The EPA said on Thursday it plans to deny several petitions from oil groups to change the country’s biofuels program, an issue that has deeply divided the petroleum industry. The oil industry has spent millions lobbying against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates biofuels being blended into gasoline and supports development of advanced alternative fuels such as biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. A final decision will probably not be made until Trump is in the White House. The Trump administration is more likely to consider the refiners’ requests, said Timothy Cheung, vice president at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington. A policy statement from Trump’s campaign website may shed some light on the new administration’s support for oil and gas: “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”
  • As for possible responses to the Trump administration potentially blocking support for electrified transportation, alternative fuels, and infrastructure – along with market dynamics moving forward no matter who had won the presidential election – here are a few to watch for:
  • Adoption of electrified vehicles: A report by Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum forecasts that by 2018, the number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric models sold in the U.S. will jump to 92 from 58 this year. Baum expects hybrid and EV sales to rise well above their current margin of about 3% of U.S. new vehicle sales in the next 10 years. Daimler and BMW both have predicted plug-in electrified vehicle sales will account for as much as 25 percent of their total deliveries in about 10 years. Volkswagen said in June that the company will launch more than 30 all-electric vehicles over the next 10 years with a goal of selling two to three million of these EVs in 2025. Tesla will be producing about 500,000 electric vehicles beginning in 2018 as the Model 3 comes to market in late 2017. General Motors plans to compete directly with the Model 3 with its Chevrolet Bolt electric car, which just started rolling off assembly lines.
  • Fleets will continue to play an important role: Fleets are among the early adopters for new vehicle technologies and will continue to play that important role. If Trump makes the climate change argument harder to buy into, fleets are usually skilled at making the case for adoption of clean vehicles other ways, including emphasizing energy independence and return on investment. The clean vehicle may be higher in acquisition cost but will reach payback in a reasonable amount of time compared to the cost of gasoline and diesel; and the cost of maintaining internal combustion engine vehicles when compared to plug-in electrified vehicles. Clean Cities coalitions have been very helpful in assisting fleets, and their OEM and supplier partners, to make the business case for adopting clean vehicles.
  • Trade disputes: Arguments between the U.S. and China over fair trade practices will likely mean less in the coming years. GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai, BMW, Daimler, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and other automakers already have joint-venture alliances with Chinese automakers. EVs are being added to their product lineups for sale in China. Chinese automaker BYD has a large stake owned by Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway. Tesla is investing heavily in setting up stores and service centers in China, and is eying Shanghai for setting up a factory. A similar trend is carrying over to the U.S. market, where Wanxiang America has set up its headquarters in Chicago, BYD is manufacturing and selling electric buses, and other Chinese investors have stakes in U.S.-based electric vehicle makers and suppliers. Whether Trump or auto workers like it or not, globalization is a dominant economic force, right up there with new technologies being developed. Automakers are looking at opportunities all over the world, including Renault-Nissan planning on bringing more hybrid vehicles to Europe to replace diesel cars; and Mitsubishi bringing its Outlander PHEV over the U.S. market after seeing it become a top-selling plug-in electrified model in several European countries.
  • Creative financing: Federal grants and low-interest loans are likely to fade away, but there are other sources to consider. California is well known for grant programs, including through the AQMD entities; Chicago and New York have been funding clean transportation programs, and other cities and states are renewing their incentive programs. Startup OEMs, suppliers, and charging and alternative fueling infrastructure companies have turned to other capital sources and will continue to do so. Watch for more activity coming from crowdfunding, angel investors, and private equity firms. Ride-hailing giant Uber has set the tone for private investors to come through, and that’s crossing over to competitors and startups in food and packaged goods delivery.
  • Keep on keeping on: During Hillary Clinton’s concession speech Wednesday, she encouraged young professionals to stay committed to their goals no matter how an election may turn out. Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Ceres issued their own statements reaffirming their commitments to environmental objectives. NRDC published its own statement on the matter the day after the election: “Know this: NRDC will fight for our environment, for our climate, and for our shared clean energy future — harder than we ever have fought before.”

Solar power, Tesla and GM drive clean energy and transportation job growth in second quarter

clean transportation, green jobsSolar power and electrified transportation were key drivers of US job growth in the second quarter of 2014, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Arizona topped the list of states with the largest number of announced jobs in clean energy. Solar Wind Energy Inc. expects to hire at least 350 permanent jobs for a new project in San Luis, AZ. California came in at No. 2 on the list, driven by Tesla Motors announcing 500 new jobs and the utility-scale solar industry making its share of announcements. Michigan placed third on the ranking, with General Motors Corp. expected to add as many as 1,400 jobs producing advanced battery technologies.

E2, a nonprofit, nonpartisan business group, reported that more than 12,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the second quarter  – more than double the number of jobs announced in the first quarter of this year. The remaining states in the top 10 for announced clean energy and clean transportation jobs in the second quarter were: Utah (4), Massachusetts (5), New York (6), Nevada (7), New Mexico (8), North Dakota (9), and North Carolina (10).

During a media conference call on Thursday, two factors were discussed driving economic growth in clean energy and transportation. One of these is more states adopting renewable portfolio standards, which are policies designed to increase generation of electricity from renewable resources. Another factor has been greater interest and support for clean energy in venture capital markets such as in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Nancy Floyd, managing director of San Francisco-based venture capital firm Nth Power, and John Cheney, founder of San Francisco-based Silverado Power, both acknowledged that cleantech, clean transportation, and alternative fuels are gaining traction with investors; not long ago, mobile devices and social media had a lot more funding.

California’s AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, is also helping drive corporate decisions.  Transportation fuels will be included in AB 32 beginning in January 2015, and E2 expects to see more job announcements in the clean vehicles sector. Economic gains from AB 32 are being seen in the state.

“I’ve had companies we invest in open offices or relocate their entire companies to California, specifically due to AB 32,” Floyd said. Cheney shares that perspective: “What AB 32 and other good policies do is create certainty that there will be demand for clean energy and clean cars in the future,” he said.

Washington, DC, has seen mixed signals for support on clean energy policies from Congress. However, there has been new confidence about future clean energy growth tied to the recently announced federal Clean Power Plan that’s designed to cut carbon pollution and increase clean energy and energy efficiency, according to E2. You can review the report and see how clean energy sectors break out by state at E2’s Clean Energy Works for Us site.