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.

This Week’s Top 6: DOE awards $55M in clean vehicle projects, CARB re-adopts low carbon fuel standard

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

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

  1. DOE EV programDOE $55M in Grants: General Motors won a nearly $4 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s funding of clean vehicle technologies. The GM project “will research, develop, and demonstrate a highly integrated wide bandgap power module for next generation plug-in vehicles.” It’s one of 24 projects awarded nearly $55 million in the DOE funding round designed to strengthen the U.S. clean energy economy, reduce petroleum consumption, and support the agency’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge to make electric vehicles as cost competitive as traditional internal combustion engine vehicles by 2022. The biggest grant award went to Cummins Inc. – $4.5 million for its Cummins SuperTruck program. Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance with the DOE, the Department of the Army is contributing an additional $2.26 million in co-funding to support projects focused on battery modeling technologies and computational fluid dynamics.
  2. State reaffirms commitment to low carbon: The California Air Resources Board voted Friday to readopt its low-carbon fuel standard; the action was taken in the wake of the ambitious petroleum reduction mandate being cut from the state’s clean energy bill. It will require California to achieve at least a 10% cut in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020. CALSTART lauded CARB’s strong support for low carbon fuels. “The Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires fuel producers to innovate and invest in cleaner fuels. Because of strong policy direction, a number of California industries have been doing their part – now it’s time for the oil industry to do its fair share. Today’s action by the Air Resources Board will spur investment and encourage job growth in California, enabling the development of fuels we can truly live with for decades to come,” said John Boesel, President and CEO of CALSTART.
  3. Carsharing is taking off: Interested in reading more about ridesharing giant Uber? Don’t forget how much carsharing is expanding, says a new report. According to Navigant Research, global carsharing services revenue is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2024. The success of one-way carsharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model (which Daimler’s Car2Go is finding out). Carsharing members can use one-way carsharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Automakers have entered this market with good results, building substantial membership levels in only a few years, according to the Navigant report. In related news, Zipcar said it will be launching its car-sharing service on 100 additional colleges and universities nationwide by the end of 2015.
  4. Dealers sue VW: Independent, used car dealerships sued Volkswagen in California last week for the losses they expect to take with the “clean diesel” scandal. Dealers sued over losses they say they will incur following revelations that the company fitted some diesel models with software to cheat on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vehicle emissions tests. The proposed class action was filed in California federal court on behalf of independent car dealers in the state and seeks damages likely to exceed $1 million.
  5. China and U.S. make carbon deal: The U.S. and China are moving forward on their 2014 agreement to reduce carbon emissions. During President Xi’s visit to Washington, D.C., the U.S and China released a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change that will affect transportation, energy, and construction. The partners will develop collaborative Electric Vehicle (EV) Interoperability Centers with the goal of coordinating relative technical standards, promoting coordination, and providing technical support to the existing, successful electric vehicle work between the two countries. The U.S. and China are also committing to finalize respective next-stage fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles in 2016, and both countries are committing to implement them in 2019.
  6. Autonomous-capable vehicle forecast: Navigant Research has come up with a good tag name for self-driving vehicles – “autonomous-capable vehicles.” Advanced driver assistance features are bringing semi-autonomous driving features under specific circumstances to current vehicles and soon-to-be released models. Cars will soon have the ability to cruise on freeways and safely navigate traffic jams with minimal driver input. The research firm thinks that 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles are expected to be sold annually around the world by 2035. Improvements in traffic flow in a city are a key reason for continuing advancements in autonomous-capable vehicles, says Dave Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.