This Week’s Top 10: Massachusetts supreme court gives Tesla the green light, Kia Soul EV rolling out this fall

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market 

Tesla fights state restrictionsHere’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. Tesla wins right to operate retail stores in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ state Supreme Judicial Court granted Tesla Motors to operate retail stores in the state today. The state’s highest court upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Association of Automobile Dealers and a few individual dealers against Tesla. The court ruled that the case lacked standing to block direct Tesla sales under a state law designed to protect franchise owners from abuses by car manufacturers. Tesla operates one retail store in the Boston area in the Natick mall; in March, Tesla won approval to build another store on West Central Street in Natick. As for other states: Nevada is allowing Tesla to make direct sales in the state as part of its deal with the automaker to provide $1.3 billion in tax breaks for its “Gigafactory.” Earlier this year, New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission pulled Tesla’s license to operate two stores; that was followed in June by the General Assembly passing legislation that would allow Tesla’s sales to resume – if the bill becomes enacted into law. Tesla is not allowed to conduct direct sales in Arizona, Maryland, and Texas, the company said.
  2. And in other Tesla news…….. The “Gigafactory” deal went through in Nevada; Gov. Brian Sandoval signed tax breaks worth up to $1.3 billion and a measure allowing Tesla Motors to sell direct to Nevada residents……. Vanity Fair has named Tesla CEO Elon Musk No. 1 on its list of “disrupters” (versus “powers that be”) in technology, entertainment, finance, and politics.
  3. Hyundai Motor Group is entering the battery electric market with its Kia Soul EV. It will cost $33,700 before shipping and government incentives. It gets an average of 93 miles of range on a charge, compared with 84 miles for the Nissan Leaf. Kia plans to offer a 36-month lease to start at $249 per month with $1,999 due at signing, though it will announce a final lease offer when the car arrives in US showrooms (mostly in California) this fall.
  4. Sacramento Clean Cities is hosting North American Fleet Forum & Green Fleet Expo on Oct. 15-16. Mark Smith from the US Department of Energy’s National Partner Program and Bill Van Amburg of CALSTART will be speaking on Thursday during a keynote luncheon.The conference offers top level training in alternative fuels in a program presented by West Virginia University’s National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC). You can also learn the practices of the best managed fleets in the country presented by Tom Johnson’s nationally acclaimed, “The 100 Best Fleets – Top Green Fleet’s Best Practices & Case Studies.” Sacramento Clean Cities is now offering a 50% discount.
  5. BMW has been placed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World index for 15 years now, since the inception of the index. This year’s assessment criteria included covered tax strategy; social and environmental reporting factors; human capital development policies; and performance scoring related to occupational health and safety, and talent recruitment and retention.
  6. The Biofuels vs. Big Oil fight continues with major biofuels producers (including POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, which was profiled last week) warning President Obama that they might take their business overseas if the federal government can’t come through. In a letter to the president, the biofuels group urged the government to raise proposed targets for biofuels use this year and adjust the way it was calculated. The American Petroleum Institute was very upset with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy’s recent comments that the EPA may be raising the ethanol mandate when it released the revised Renewable Fuel Standard in the coming weeks.
  7. Nissan may be adding LG Chem to its list of suppliers for electric vehicle batteries. That would be in addition to its own manufacturing with NEC Corp., says CEO Carols Ghosn. LG may product battery packs at existing Nissan production sites in the UK or US. Working with LG Chem would reduce the cost of its batteries; LG Chem has a very strong reputation in the industry and is supplying several automakers with lithium batteries.
  8. The all-electric FIA Formula E Championship began on Saturday in Beijing, China. The United States is being represented by two teams — Andretti Formula E, with driver Franck Montagny; and Dragon Racing, with drivers Mike Conway and Jerome d’Ambrosio. Two US events are scheduled for the spring of next year, with Miami on March 14 and Long Beach on April 4. The single-seat electric racers have been designed for a new audience of motor sport fans. The first of 10 races takes place in Beijing around the iconic Olympic Stadium with the season finale taking place in London on June 27.
  9. GreenTech Automotive, which started in 2009 by Democratic Party fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe (now the governor of Virginia), anticipates launching US production by the end of this year. The company has completed construction of its assembly plant in Tunica, Miss. The company has a modest target of producing a few thousand low-speed “neighborhood” electric vehicles per year.
  10. Electric vehicle marker ZAP, a company incorporated in Santa Rosa, Calif., and its subsidiary Jonway Auto have sold over 2,000 electric vehicles since June 2014. EV mass production had started at its electric vehicle type-approved certified factory. ZAP and Jonway Auto hosted the first of a series of promotional events in China to qualify new dealerships last week at its headquarters.  More than 150 dealership participants attended. The companies’ strategy is to continue to build its sales presence with new dealership networks skilled at developing EV markets for the different regions in China.