For Today: GM and Ford move the electrification revolution a few steps further

A well-known automotive market analyst last year told me that he expects sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to make up 10% to 15% of U.S. new vehicle sales about a decade from now. That will mean that plug-in vehicle sales will have a real impact on manufacturing, marketing, infrastructure, and aftermarket products and services. The days of early adopters have come to an end, and the next phase is beginning – as made evident yesterday by announcements from General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

GM plans to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. Two new all-electric cars will come out in the next 18 months. Whether that’s coming from upcoming fossil fuel bans in several countries, the popularity of Tesla, China’s new energy vehicle market, launching the Chevy Bolt, the emergence of other long-range all-electric vehicles, and a long list of EVs in manufacturer product pipelines, the future is here now.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain EVP. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”

The automaker is also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of its zero emission vehicle drive. One of these is the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a four-wheel drive concept vehicle that runs on fuel cells. These provide power to electric motors, making it an ideal ZEV platform for delivery trucks, ambulances, and other applications. Yet EVs will be gaining most of the automaker’s focus and support.

Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years. Seven have been announced, including a 300-mile range crossover EV that will come out in 2020.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles, said that the automaker will increase the number of all-electric vehicles it will offer, but did not provide details.

Ford is establishing an internal team its calling “Team Edison” to study and develop battery electric cars.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Marakby said. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Here’s my take on a few trends and developments to watch for:

  • Battery electric vehicles will likely win out over plug-in hybrids in the next decade. While the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime will continue to do well, automakers tend to use plug-in hybrid variations of existing models as a way to transition car owners over to plug-in vehicles. EV range will be getting better, and all-electric vehicles are easier to maintain and keep in operation than internal combustion engine vehicles and plug-in hybrids. They use a lot less parts and components and are easier to maintain. Tires and brakes have to be replaced but there isn’t much else to changeover, given that the electric drive train is well made for EVs that are strong in sales.
  • Tesla is playing a leading role in public perception and experience with the technology. The Tesla Model 3 is expected to play a leading role in mass adoption, but the upcoming Model Y electric crossover will be built at mass scale, too. There will be other models coming out including the semi truck aimed at buyers of heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Tesla’s stock performance continues to stay strong and validates that institutional and individual backers believe in the business model. (As a side note, GM and Ford stock prices did well after announcing strong September sales and serious electrification campaigns.)
  • German automakers may be just as important as Tesla in moving the product development and sales trend forward. Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW made big announcements a year ago in the wake of the “Dieselgate” scandal, and with growing pressure from German regulators and from a few other countries. Tesla was taking the lead in the luxury EV side, but an impressive list of pre-orders on the Model 3 opened up the playing field. The product pipeline is covering the bases from Tesla-competitive automakers – electric sedans, SUVs and crossovers, and luxury vehicles.
  • Car buyers want to see realistic, real-world numbers on per-charge driving range, charging time, fast charging, option and trim levels, resale value forecasts, top speeds, horsepower, and torque. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency range ratings are gaining more confidence than the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with the NEDC using a very different cycle analysis and much longer range.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t reach mass adoption, with EVs winning out. They won’t be going away, with automakers such as Toyota, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler, and BMW committed to the technology. They’ll probably stay at a low level in passenger vehicle sales with a few of the automakers going over to military and commercial vehicle applications. But the barriers will be hard to cross – having enough fueling stations, the cost of the technology and sticker prices coming way down, and finding broad support and trust in the technology. The typical pump price for fueling with hydrogen isn’t known yet, and concerns are being expressed on how expensive it will be to collect and extract hydrogen from natural gas and other sources; and to deliver it by truck and pipelines to gas stations. The ZEV aspect makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles very attractive, but where is the hydrogen coming from? And EVs are getting cheaper and better all the time, along with the charging infrastructure.
  • Countries adopting fossil-fuel bans will likely have to back off those holistic mandates. It’s much more likely to take several more years (another half century?) before ZEV adoption becomes accepted at that level. It will be tied into radical transformation in how we drive and get around town. An integration of autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electrification will be behind it, but that is going to take decades to meet thorough testing and safety standards, insurance and liability issues, and to gain enough confidence and trust to reach mass scale. I expect that governments will go back to mandating a certain percentage of new vehicle sales meet their mandates; incentive programs will probably have to be deployed in China and other markets.
  • There’s also the issue of fleet and commercial vehicles used in transport, delivery, and moving employees and customers from Point A to Point B. Fleets are likely to integrate the fuels and technologies – with trucks and buses powered by renewable natural gas and renewable diesel, electrification, and propane and natural gas; and hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric passenger vehicles used by law enforcement agencies, administrative vehicles, and other functions. Fleet operators make decisions based on economic and environmental factors, along with functionality and ease of use, as do consumers.

For Today: Test drive new Nissan Leaf at NDEW, Longer range EVs and FCVs from Hyundai

Drive the new Nissan Leaf:  Nissan will be showing the next-generation Leaf all-electric car during National Drive Electric Week, following right after the global reveal on September 5. In eight cities, you can sign up for the “Drive and Discover Experience” for a test drive. Nissan is the official sponsor of the event for the third straight year. “The timing couldn’t be better. Bringing LEAF to some of the most enthusiastic EV advocates just days after its global debut is the perfect way to kick things off for this technology-packed car,” said Brian Maragno, director, Nissan EV Marketing and Sales Strategy.

Electric vans for postal delivery:  The StreetScooter WORK XL has started being manufactured for postal carriers in Germany at a plant in Aachen. It comes through a partnership between Deutsch Post DHL and Ford using the Ford Transit chassis to build electric delivery vans. About 150 pre-production WORK XL models will be build this year, and more than 2,500 of these production vehicles by the end of 2018. It will be equipped with battery pack options going from 30-90 kWh, offering 80-220 kilometers (50-124 miles) of range. It has 20 cubic maters of storage space, capable of hauling over 200 packages. Deutsch Post DHL is also building the StreetScooter WORK and WORK L vans.

Hyundai launches longer range EVs and FCV:  Hyundai will be launching long-range electric vehicles and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can travel farther. The South Korean company has also upped its green car strategy under the Hyundai and Kia brands, which has gone up to 31 eco-friendly vehicles coming out by 2020, up from the previous goal of 28. The company announced today that one of its new EVs will go 500 kilometers (311 miles) per charge when it comes out after 2021. A small electric SUV will have a driving range of 390 km (about 242 miles) will come out during the first half of next year. The company also announced that it will be launching a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can travel more than 580 kilometers (360 miles) after being fueled. The second-generation fuel cell SUV will be coming out early next year. Hyundai said it be going 40% farther than its first-generation fuel cell vehicle, the Tucson ix FCEV. So far, the green car campaign has been led by the Ioniq hybrid, all-electric, and upcoming plug-in hybrid version.

For Today: Nissan Leaf coming with e-Pedal, California extending cap-and-trade funds

Nissan Leaf with e-Pedal:  Nissan has just added the e-Pedal to the upcoming refreshed Leaf electric car. Flipping a switch turns the accelerator into an e-Pedal, where you get to accelerate, decelerate, and stop the car all on one pedal. That will include driving on hills, and will ease some of the burden of being stuck in traffic – with 90% of driving needs now being met on one pedal. The new feature comes from Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which is dedicated to transforming how cars driven, powered and integrated into society. More will be revealed on e-Pedal, along with several other interesting changes, during the new Leaf launch in September.

Ports looking at Clean Air Action Plan:  The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this week will be releasing updates to their Clean Air Action Plan. Mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Robert Garcia of Long Beach have vowed to bring several near-zero emissions to the ports by 2035. Concerns over the increased cost of the trucks have been raised by trucking companies and others, and support for the measures has been coming from local residents, environmentalists, and an industry coalition. California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition has accelerated education efforts on the financial and environmental benefits of using renewable natural gas as a transportation fuel; that alternative fuel is expected to play a big part in the ports hitting the near-zero goal. The Coalition just hosted an RNG advocacy day in Sacramento, participated in a joint agency workshop on renewable gas, and co-hosted a webinar on the economic impacts of fueling low-NOx natural gas trucks with RNG.

Cap-and-trade continuing:  California on Monday extended the cap-and-trade program through 2030, which will raise more funds for clean vehicle programs in the state. Support came through when eight Republicans broke ranks and joined with Democrats to continue the program that came from AB 32; it requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gov. Jerry Brown has been committed to adding the bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and bringing more electric vehicles and infrastructure to the state. Sources say there’s already more than $200 million available through the cap-and-trade auctions, now in their fifth year, that can go toward alternative fuels and infrastructure in the state.

For Today: Musk taking first Model 3 as birthday present, PEVs offer way for automakers to hit fuel economy target

Musk gets birthday present: Tesla started production of the Model 3 on Friday, and CEO Elon Musk will be taking the very first one off the line. Musk tweeted on Saturday with two photos of the first model to roll off the production line. Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis had been the first make a down payment on the Model 3, but had turned over his rights to the first production model to Musk as a birthday gift. Musk, who turned 46, had previously purchased the very first Tesla Roadster and Model X, but not the Model S. The company is scheduled to deliver 30 of these units by the end of this month and aims to reach 20,000 units per month by December.

Oregon offers rebates:  Oregon is offering a plug-in vehicle incentive similar to California’s. Cars with batteries up to 10 kilowatt-hours, will receive a $1,500 rebate and electric cars with larger batteries will get $2,500. It’s part of a larger $5.3 billion transportation funding. It took the state a few years to get there, with purchase rebates having failed a few times in previous legislative sessions. This time, $12 million was included for rebates of six years for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles with a base price of $50,000 or less.

Hitting the federal mpg standard:  Plug-in electrified vehicles may be the way that automakers hit the federal standards for corporate average fuel economy, according to a new study. A team from the University of Central Florida and MIT has found that the federal fuel economy standard offers an effective policy solution that will increase adoption of PEVs. That will be the case whether implemented alone or with another policy such as government incentives, according to the study. The current standards determine an automaker’s compliance based on annual production volume-weighted average fuel economy of the automaker’s fleet of total vehicles manufactured. The Trump administration is expected to wait until the original deadline of April 2018 to finalize the second phase of rules through 2025; and will probably soften the standards. Selling much higher volumes of PEVs would resolve that problem; automakers will be motivated to build a wide selection of PEV models and market them effectively to hit federal targets, even if softened by the Trump administration.

What studies are finding: Adoption of clean vehicle technologies will stay small-scale for now but we’re likely approaching the cusp of change

Nissan Leaf on dealer lotWhile plug-in electrified vehicles did break the 1% mark for total U.S. new vehicle sales last month, and hybrids moved back to being over 2%, we’re still a long ways away from them making up a substantial share of the market. The same is true for advanced fuels like renewable diesel – sales volumes are up but it’s still very early in adoption of these new alternative fuels.

There are a few studies that expect market forces to continue shifting away from petroleum and toward clean, renewable energy and fuels.………

Driver survey on PEVs:  Altman Vilandrie & Company, a strategy consulting group, surveyed more than 2,500 U.S. consumers in July and polled more than 20 automotive industry experts. Despite significant advancements in PEV technology, 60% of American drivers said they were unaware about electric cars and 80% have never ridden in or driven one. The survey shows that a perceived lack of charging stations (85%), high costs (83%) and uncertainty over duration of charge (74%) were the top reasons for not wanting to purchase a PEV. Most of the survey respondents who’ve been inside an electric car enjoyed it; and many more would purchase a PEV if lower-priced models were available, with $35,000 being the price point asked about.

“While the EV adoption rate is low, there are signs of strong latent demand in the marketplace,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Moe Kelley, who co-directed the survey.  “The auto industry still needs to make more low-priced models available to consumers, as well as finding a way for more drivers to try out an EV.  If those things happen we should see the EV adoption rate accelerate.”

PEVs could be one third of global sales:  PEVs could make up 15% to 35% of global new vehicle sales in 2040, according to IHS Markit. While still making up a very small percent of global sales, the consulting firm points to 2016 sales being up more than 1000 percent since 2010, a trend that IHS Markit expects to continue with the potential to make PEVs more than one third of the new vehicle sales in 2040. China and Europe, where government policies are favorable to PEVs, were behind the consulting firm’s estimates that PEVs could comprise over half of their new passenger vehicle sales in 2040.

“Significant advances in battery technology, financial support from governments, regulations and values of millennials will be key factors leading to increases in electric vehicle adoption,” said Jim Burkhard, study co-director and chief of research at IHS Markit for crude oil markets and energy scenarios.

IHS Markit will be conducting a comprehensive new study to be completed in 2017, Reinventing the Wheel. Other critical factors to be examined by the study include the potential impacts of car sharing, ride hailing and autonomous vehicles on the transportation ecosystem.

“The key question is whether we are approaching a transformative shift akin to the first decade of the 20th century, when the internal combustion engine, cheap gasoline, bicycle technology and mass production combined to usher in the automotive age,” said Dr. Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit and author of The Quest, which tracked the beginnings and growth of the auto and oil industries. “Converging developments along multiple tracks are leading us to focus on this important question.”

Low carbon fuel standard becoming methodology of choice:  Lux Research conducted a detailed study concluding that California’s low carbon fuel standard is more likely to become the industry standard for governments to hit emissions reduction targets over the federal government’s biofuel blends policies. New policies are coming out supporting the LCFS models for being “technology-agnostic carbon intensity metrics,” according to the study. Lux concludes that well-to-wheel analysis will become the analytical model with more governments adopting the carbon intensity model. That model measures the amount of carbon by weight emitted per unit of energy consumed. Feedstock, process technology, and power sources in well-to-wheels metrics were analyzed in the Lux study. The report said that renewable diesel and conventional electricity will be the near-term winners in low-carbon transportation fuels, followed by renewable electricity.

In separate news, Canada moved forward in adopting the low-carbon fuel policy. Last month, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced that Canada will adopt a national clean fuels standard. Similar guidelines previously adopted in California, Oregon, and British Columbia, were studied in the adoption of the new Canadian standard.

Municipalities, fleets, and energy companies have been tapping into California’s policies in recent years. Renewable diesel is the fuel source for vehicles in the cities of San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Long Beach, and other California municipalities. Propel Fuel is brining renewable diesel and other alternative fuels to retail gas stations around the state. DuPont is bringing its cellulosic ethanol to the state; and Clean Energy is tapping into state incentives to get its Redeem renewable natural gas product moving forward.

Diesel fading away even farther:  Earlier this month, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City announced plans to remove diesel cars and vans from their roads by 2025. Other cities are being urged to do the same to reduce air pollution. This development coincides with a UBS forecast that diesel will “almost disappear” from the global vehicle market within 10 years. The fossil fuel faces serious competition from cheaper electric cars and tougher stances by regulators, according to the report by the global firm providing financial services.

Falling costs of PEV and hybrid vehicles is taking away the once-competitive price advantage diesel vehicles had over the new technologies. Emissions rules are tightening up, along with soured public sentiment, over the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. UBS forecasts that sales of diesel vehicles will fall from 50% to just 10% in European new vehicle sales. Diesel had been a viable option for reducing emissions, as they emit about a fight less carbon than petroleum equivalents. It’s no longer the easy option it once was, with tightening rules over nitrogen oxide emissions, which are emitted by diesel engines.

The study predicts that 48-volt electrical systems, sometimes called “mild-hybrid,” will be part of the transition away from diesel cars. UBS predicts that sales of 48V cars that increase fuel efficiency will overtake diesel sales globally in 2021, and will account for about 25% of all light passenger vehicles sold by 2025. The study does forecast that diesel would remain dominant in trucks and large SUVs.

This Week’s Top 10: VW e-Golf and other LA Auto Show e-launches, BMW shooting for 100,000 plug-ins per year

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. LA Auto ShowElectric launches at LA Auto Show: Along with crossover utility vehicles, plug-in electrified vehicles will see a few North American launches at the LA Auto Show. A refreshed e-Golf will be revealed with increased miles per charge (186 miles on European standards) and infotainment/connected car updates. The miles per charge range may be closer to 125 when defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency using its own calculation – closer to the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric. For VW, it’s a jumpstart to a much larger post-Dieselgate electrification campaign with vehicles built on the MEB platform, including the all-electric ID in 2020. Jaguar will be showing the electric I-Pace crossover concept. The production version of the Tesla-competitor luxury electric car will be shown in late 2017 and go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2018. Also during the LA Auto Show (called AutoMobility LA during pre-show media and trade days), look for: all-electric models or concept cars from Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Mini; Cadillac will show off its CT6 plug-in hybrid; and Chevrolet will be promoting the all-electric Bolt, with its 238-mile range that starts shipping to dealers within weeks.
  2. 100K EVs sold per year: BMW Group wants to boost sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars by two-thirds next year to 100,000 vehicles, the company said. The German automaker expects to increase deliveries of vehicles from its “i” subbrand to around 60,000 units this year. BMW expects electric car sales will grow three-fold. Sales of battery-powered BMW models have totaled about 100,000 cars since November 2013, according to BMW. BMW currently sells the compact i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar in its electric subbrand. The automaker has said it also plans to add an electric Mini and BMW X3 SUV by the end of the decade.
  3. Supplier on emissions mandates: BorgWarner is sticking with its plan to introduce a new generation of motors, transmissions and other gadgetry for electric cars and hybrids, even if the 54.5 mpg softens under the Trump administration. CEO James Verrier said during a presentation Friday that automakers have spent big sums to design EVs, upgrade powertrains and reduce vehicle weight over the next three to five years. “I don’t think the automakers will back off,” Verrier said. “I don’t think we’ll see regression.”
  4. LeEco cash-strapped: LeEco’s co-founder has admitted to turbulent financial conditions that may pull back the Chinese company’s plans to compete in electric “supercars” through its LeEco and Faraday Future ventures. In a letter to employees last week, co-founder Jia Yueting admitted that the company is running out of cash through its rapid expansion. The company has been questioned about its significant investment in Faraday Future’s Nevada plant. “No company has had such an experience, a simultaneous time in ice and fire,” Jia wrote in the letter to employees. “We blindly sped ahead, and our cash demand ballooned. We got over-extended in our global strategy. At the same time, our capital and resources were in fact limited.”
  5. Audi gasoline engines: Automotive litigation firm Hagens Berman has filed the first class-action lawsuit against Audi over charges that the automaker illegally installed an emission-cheating device in 3.0-liter gasoline cars. Models names in the suit include the Audi A6, Audi A8, Audi Q5 and likely the Audi Q7, as well as potentially several other 3.0-liter, automatic gasoline models. In related news, on Thursday a coalition of Audi owners sued the company’s Audi AG and Audi of America, LLC units after reports surfaced over the past weekend that certain gasoline powered Audi vehicles were equipped with emission control defeat devices. Similar to last year’s revelations involving Volkswagen’s diesel models, it is alleged that the California Air Resources Board has discovered cheat software installed by Audi engineers in certain 3.0 liter A6 and Q7 Audi vehicles.
  6. Green Car of the Year award: Green Car Journal announced the five finalists last week for its annual award, four-out-five of which are available now in plug-in hybrid variations and one being an all-electric vehicle. The five 2017 model year nominees for the Green Car of the Year award are: the BMW 330e, Chevrolet Bolt, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Optima, and the Toyota Prius Prime. The winner will be announced Thursday morning at the LA Auto Show. Green Car Journal also recently announced that the Ram ProMaster City work van won Green Car Journal’s 2017 Commercial Green Car of the Year, the second year in a row it’s taken that award. The gasoline-engine ProMaster City was recognized for environmental attributes along with traditional features customers seek, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The announcement was made yesterday at the 48th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas.
  7. Europe battery factory: Tesla Motors plans to begin looking for locations in Europe next year for a second “Gigafactory” to make cars and the battery cells to power them, the company said. Possible locations for the factory include the Netherlands, France and Spain, according to local media speculation. Tesla hasn’t communicated a preference. The electric automaker already has a facility in the Netherlands that does final assembly work for European versions of Tesla cars built in the automaker’s Fremont, Calif, factory.
  8. Top 10 charging networks: Netherlands-based The New Motion charging network supplier has been ranked No. 1 in a Navigant Research report on charging networks, followed by the leading U.S., ChargePoint, at No. 2. EV-Box finished in third place, followed in order by Chargemaster, Fortum, Innogy SE, Greenlots, EVgo, Clever A/S, and Pod Point. Navigant based its rating system for plug-in electrified vehicle charger network suppliers on 10 criteria: vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; product strategy; geographic strategy; market presence; marketing and distribution; product performance and reliability; product and service capabilities; and staying power.
  9. Supercharger network: Tesla Motors announced that more than 4,600 Superchargers have been installed around the world that allow over 160,000 Tesla owners to drive across the continental U.S., from the Arctic Circle to the south of Spain, and across all of the population centers in China and Japan, among many other places. The Supercharger Network, which Tesla calls the world’s fastest charging solution, was designed by the automaker so that all customers have access to a seamless and convenient charging experience when they’re away from home, as our intention has always been for Supercharging to enable long distance travel.
  10. NHTSA noise rules: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued new standards to automakers requiring audible alerts required on all new hybrid and electric vehicles going forward beginning September 1, 2019. The new sound requirements applies across the U.S., and should help prevent as many as 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once they span the range of EVs and hybrids on the road, according to the agency. The new rule says that all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles that have four wheels and weigh under 10,000 pounds must make an audible noise when traveling either backwards or forwards at speeds up of to 19 miles per hour.

This Week’s Top 10: Apple stirs up frenzy as potential EV maker, EPA refining fuel economy testing procedures

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. Apple electric minivanIs Apple becoming an electric automaker competing directly with Tesla and the majors? The answer is yet to be determined, but it stirred up a media frenzy last week as big as Google’s self-driving car venture last year. The stories were captivating: lithium battery maker A123 Systems sues Apple for allegedly stealing away top engineers to build its own battery pack – and these and other Apple engineers are likely to apply for several patents protecting the new technology. Sources told media that Apple is working on an electric car that may roll out by 2020. The Wall Street Journal piece that started the wave of coverage said that Apple’s secret project has been named “Project Titan,” and hundreds of Apple employees have been assigned to design the electric minivan. Apple has large cash reserves and could be positioning itself to offer cutting-edge technologies for cars that could be as significant as the iPhone has been in the smartphone space. Former General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz doubts Apple will be setting up vehicle manufacturing assembly plants. “Do I think they are going to work with vehicles? Yes,” Lutz said. “Do I think they intend to produce entire cars? No.”
  2. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is updating fuel economy test procedures to make them more accurate than they’ve been criticized for being in the past couple of years. The revision focuses on testing rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag of vehicles as they roll from 70 mph to a stop on a straight, flat track. These calculations are used to program dynamometers that determine fuel economy ratings in EPA test cycles. The new standards will need to more accurately address the effects of road load levels over a broad range of speed. The EPA will be meeting with automakers in the next few months to discuss their testing procedures, said Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation Air Quality.
  3. West coast ports may see their work stoppage go away and shipping go back to normal. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association have reached tentative agreement on a new labor contract that had been backing up cargo carriers in long lines in recent weeks. Japanese automakers had been feeling the squeeze, especially Honda which said that the backup cost the automaker about 25,000 vehicles in lost production. US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez last week brokered a deal in San Francisco between the union and a group of shipping companies.
  4. Fisker Automotive is considering three options for its company name: eLux Technology, Elux Automotive, or keeping its current name. According to an inside source, including “Lux” in the name could commemorate the company’s chairman, Lu Guanqui; the Chinese billionaire and founder of Wanxiang Group Corp. acquired Fisker about a year ago in bankruptcy court for $149.2 million in cash.
  5. For those interested in working with the US military on advanced vehicle technology projects…… the US Marine Corp. issued a Request for Information (RFI) for its next Expeditionary Energy Concepts technology demonstration that will be held June 23-25, 2015, at Camp Lejeune, NC. Three vehicle technology areas will be included in this year’s demonstration: hybrid/electric all-terrain vehicles; advanced batteries and energy storage; and fuel cells up to 10 kW. The deadline to respond to the RFI is Friday, March 6.
  6. Tesla Motors has a diverse group of backers in its fight against franchised dealers. Ten public-interest groups have signed a letter to US governors and legislators supporting Tesla’s right to directly sell its electric vehicles at retail stores across the country. Among the 10 groups were the environmentalist Sierra Club and Americans for Prosperity – a political action group founded by the Koch brothers. In other news, Tesla may be granted permission to open up to 12 stores in Texas. Six state legislators have filed bills that would give permission to Tesla to directly sell to customers.
  7. Navigant Research expects electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to see big gains in coming years. Global revenue for EVSE charging services should grow from $81.1 million in 2014 to $2.9 billion in 2023. That would include residential and commercial electric vehicle charging for Level 1, Level 2, DC fast charging, and wireless EVSE.
  8. Volvo will be launching an autonomous vehicle pilot program by 2017. The Drive Me project will use Volvo vehicles equipped with a variety of sensors designed to detect weather and traffic, pedestrians, and other safety and mobility factors. Some of that data will come from a combined radar and camera system mounted at the top of the windshield.
  9. Ryder System has set up an online natural gas vehicle maintenance program for all of its North American maintenance network with more than 6,000 employees at Ryder’s 800 facilities. Technicians will learn about the entire spectrum of all natural gas vehicle platforms and configurations. Ryder trucks have put in more than 30 million miles driven as natural gas vehicles for the commercial transportation industry; the company has 14 natural gas vehicle maintenance facilities and 260 natural gas vehicle trained technicians.
  10. California Air Resources Board received a letter signed by about 100 businesses, organizations and individuals, highlighting key benefits of the state’s six-year-old Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Key benefits mentioned in the letter included diversifying the state’s fuel supply and increasing independence from fluctuating oil prices and gas pump prices; spurring greater use of clean alternative fuels and vehicles; and cutting air pollution and improving public health.