Polestar offers electric car subscription service, Cummins Westport wins EPA and CARB certification

Polestar 1 available to subscribers:  Volvo Cars will be bringing Polestar, its new electric performance car brand, to the U.S., China, and Europe through an innovative subscription service. The company said that since the launch in October, enthusiasm has been high enough to sell off the early production volume. The first model, the Polestar 1, will be start production in mid-2019 at a new factory in Chengdu, China. The monthly subscription cost will be $2,000 for the entry-level Launch package that covers registration, insurance, and maintenance, with no deposit required. The Polestar 1 has a 600 horsepower electric performance hybrid powertrain. It will be the longest running battery-only plug-in hybrid out there with the ability to go 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) on battery power.

Criminal charges for ex-Uber employee:  A former Uber executive is facing criminal charges likely to be filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office over alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property for self-driving cars. Alphabet’s self-driving car division, Waymo, has alleged that one of its former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, stole its trade secrets before founding, Otto, the startup autonomous truck company that he sold to Uber for $680 million last year. The November 22 letter confirms that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation without naming targets of the investigation. The letter was unsealed Wednesday by a federal judge. Uber has denied all the allegations made by Waymo, and fired Levandowski in May.

Cummins Westport wins EPA and CARB certification:  Cummins Westport Inc. has received certification from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board for its 2018 L9N and B6.7N natural gas engines. Both engines meet CARB optional Low NOx standards, as well as 2017 EPA greenhouse gas emission requirements. That makes them some of the cleanest engines available today for truck and bus customers, according to the company. It will be of interest to truck and bus fleets investing in powertrains for future vehicles tapping into the full emission-reduction benefits of renewable natural gas. The L9N is certified to the CARB optional Low NOx standard of 0.02 g/bhp-hr ‒ a 90% reduction from engines operating at the current EPA NOx limit of 0.2 g/bhp-hr, and is available with ratings from 250 to 320 horsepower and 1,000 lb.-ft. peak torque. The B6.7N is certified to the CARB optional Low NOx standard of 0.1 g/bhp-hr – a 50% reduction from current EPA levels. It’s available with ratings from 200 – 240 hp and 560 lb.-ft. peak torque.

For Today: EPA chief takes aggressive stance on emissions violators, DOE grants issued for advanced vehicle technologies

Pruitt ready to go after emissions violators:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is ready and willing to apply his aggressive, combative stance to automakers who are violating emissions rules, as Volkswagen AG was caught doing by the agency in September 2015. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was sued by EPA in May, accused of illegally using software to bypass emission controls in 104,000 diesel engine Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees sold since 2014. He doesn’t think the Obama administration was being too aggressive when taking action on emissions violations, and it’s the duty to EPA to enforce the rules. “Look what VW, and Fiat – you have this Fiat case that is on the horizon as well. The emails and the communications that I’m aware of – it was strategic and intentional and should be dealt with very aggressively,” Pruitt said.

Koch brothers back anti-EV video:  A new video attacks electric cars as losing their environmental contributions based on what’s going into their batteries. The information used in biased and used to set up an argument against the technology. It was made by Fueling U.S. Forward, which supports fossil fuels. It’s led by Charles Drevena, a long-time oil lobbyist, and is funded by the Koch brothers, who are known for advocating fossil fuels and denying climate change. The video claims that metals such as cobalt and lithium used in electric vehicle batteries come from morally reprehensible sources. One example given is the pollution and child labor problem from the metals in the Congo. While that is happening, automakers are practicing policies to avoid purchasing rare earth metals from these markets.

DOE research grants:  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $19.4 million for 22 new cost-shared projects to accelerate the research of advanced battery, lightweight materials, engine technologies, and energy efficient mobility systems.  Mercedes Benz and General Motors are joining a long list of university research centers, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Mercedes Benz is funding a project supporting solid state electrolyte membranes for high performance lithium-sulfur batteries; and GM is supporting research into pouch format cells for lithium-sulfur batteries to achieve high energy density and long cycle life.

This Week’s Top 10: Congresswoman challenges Trump’s EPA budget cut, Toyota Prius Prime takes top spot in April

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. Challenging EPA cuts: President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will shut down the Ann Arbor, Mich., vehicle emissions testing lab and put 435 employees out of their jobs, according to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. Dingell toured the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory on Monday, which is part of her congressional district. She’d been denied access to visiting the site in April. Trump’s 31% budget cut to the EPA would be the biggest cut to any federal agency; the Ann Arbor lab has been the home base for vehicle emissions testing in the U.S. “This is extremely troubling and raises serious questions about the executive branch closing access to government facilities and preventing members of congress from conducting necessary oversight,” Dingell wrote in a recent letter to Trump.
  2. PEV sales in April: The Toyota Prius Prime took top spot for the first time, nudging out the Chevy Volt at 1,819 units sold versus 1,807. Another interesting one was seeing the Bolt move up higher in the rank to No. 3 with 1,292 sold, up 32.1% over March sales. Overall plug-in electrified vehicle sales in the U.S. were up 7.82% over April 2016 and down 25.6% from March, according to HybridCars’s Dashboard. For hybrid vehicle sales, the Toyota Prius moved back to No. 1 in April, beating out the Ford Fusion Hybrid 5,802 versus 4,509. Overall hybrid sales were down 3.3% from March and up 6.8% from the previous year.
  3. Softening subsidies hurt BYD: The world’s leading seller of electric vehicles has taken a dive in China since government subsidies have been reduced. BYD saw its sales drop 34% during the last quarter. BYD had seen double-digit sales growth, driving China to the global lead in EV sales. The company is now looking at how to cut costs in producing cars without cutting into profits. The Chinese electric carmaker had been seeing 45% annual sales growth in recent years. That led the Chinese EV market to see more than 500,000 in sales last year.
  4. Q1 PEV sales: The U.S. and Europe saw a great first quarter for sales of plug-in electrified vehicles. U.S. sales of PEVs jumped 49% during the first quarter, according to Bloomberg. That figure reached 40,700 units sold, which indicates sales will go up noticeably this year over last year. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association reported that sale of PEVs have increased by 37.6% compared to the first quarter of 2016. Battery electric vehicles saw a 49% increase and plug-in hybrids were up 13% in Europe during the first quarter.
  5. Uber supporting university AI project: Uber is taking a new tactic to affirm its place in the autonomous vehicle market, and stabilize that part of the business as the Waymo legal battle comes to a conclusion. The ride-hailing giant will be setting up a new artificial intelligence (AI) team in Toronto to improve its autonomous vehicle software and to tap into university resources. The Toronto office will be led by professor Raquel Urtasun of University of Toronto, an expert on the technology. Uber and Waymo are watching for a ruling by Judge William Alsup over a potential preliminary injunction, which could happen as soon as next week against Uber’s autonomous vehicle program. The Google self-driving car division has claimed that its former employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole files while he was working for Waymo and then brought them over to Uber. In related news, the city of Portland, Ore., is clamping down on Uber for using software called Greyball that helped its drivers evade local transportation regulators.
  6. India going electric: India appears to be leaning toward plug-in electrified vehicles over hybrids and traditional gasoline engine cars, according to a draft document from a government think-tank read by Reuters. Current incentives for hybrids may go away, as India appears ready to follow China’s lead in providing subsidies for plug-in vehicles while taking hybrids off the list. India is looking to cut oil imports by half and follow the Paris climate treaty.
  7. M-B offers energy storage: Mercedes-Benz is going into the energy storage business, starting in the U.K. with up to 20 kWh storage available to home residents. A commercial property program is also coming out in that country. It’s being tied into solar power, with alliances being worked out with partner companies. Daimler first started the energy storage unit in 2015, soon after Tesla did so. BMW and Nissan are also getting into this side of the business that tapes into the lithium-ion batteries going into their electric cars.
  8. Tesla goes to Mexico: Tesla held interviews in Mexico over the weekend to bring in more experienced manufacturing engineers to its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant. The electric automakers has big plans on the table, preparing to manufacture 500,000 units a year starting in 2018. Mexican engineers have a lot of experience working for automakers, with 19 automotive plants now open in Mexico. The Trump administration has different things in mind, not wanting foreign workers to come to the U.S., and not supporting the NAFTA free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
  9. Year of the plug-in hybrid: Automakers see plug-in hybrids as an important stepping stone toward all-electric vehicle sales, and will be rolling out quite a few of them this year. These will be price-competitive models such as the Kia Niro plug-in hybrid version compared to the gasoline-engine Niro crossover. Federal tax incentives are helping, with cars like the Chevy Volt getting the maximum $7,500 tax credit. State incentives are helping, too, with New York recently starting a $2,000 rebate program.
  10. What’s helped China PEV sales: While Chinese government subsidies are likely to see a cutback this year, they have been critical in getting China to where it is as the leading global PEV market. A new report from Oak Ridge National Laboratories took a wide-angle view, studying all of the incentive programs being offering by the national and local governments. One of these has been significant investment in the charging infrastructure and a diverse vehicle portfolio receiving subsidies. The government has been supporting electric buses and other fleet applications such as electric taxis. The boom in “new energy vehicle” sales has been a mix of electric small cars, luxury cars, and commercial vehicles.

This Week’s Top 10: Ford wants to electrify China market, White House wants to pass cost of EPA vehicle emissions testing over to automakers

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. Ford joining China EV market: Ford Motor Co. is now in agreement with Daimler, Tesla, and General Motors on the importance of China in the global electric vehicle market. Ford is launching the Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid in China early next year and an all-electric small SUV in that market within five years. The EV will go more than 280 miles on a charge, and will also be sold in the U.S. and Europe. The automaker said that 70 percent of all Ford nameplates will have an electrified option in China by 2025; that will include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. That lineup will include all vehicles manufactured jointly through Changan Ford JV, which is a collaboration with Changan Automobile. EV sales are expected to stay strong in China, whether or not the government cuts back on its generous subsidies. “The time is right for Ford to expand our EV lineup and investments in China,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “We are prioritizing our electrification efforts on China to reflect its importance as a global electrified vehicle market and to make lives better, simpler and more cost effective for Chinese consumers.”
  2. EPA lab fees: The White House would like to see automakers pay for testing in the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions testing lab. The Trump administration is proposing a $48 million budget cut that would close down the lab and cut 168 jobs. It would mean “pretty much shutting down the testing lab,” said Margo Oge, who led the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality under the Obama administration. Funding would come in by increasing fees that automakers and engine manufacturers would be required to pay for testing.
  3. Cap-and-trade protected for now: California’s cap-and-trade system was solidified by a state court – at least until 2020. The state program allows companies to purchase carbon credits through an auction or a secondary market and has produced millions of dollars in funding programs for clean transportation and fuels. A state appeals court has found that it’s not an illegal tax due to voluntary participation and the purchase of something with value, which keeps it from being a tax, according to the ruling. The program will stay in place through 2020 before becoming vulnerable to legal challenges. Since its launch in 2012, California has taken in about $4.4 billion on auction proceeds to be spent on clean energy, low-carbon transportation, and other programs supporting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. 4 in I.D. lineup: According to Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff, the fourth I.D. all-electric vehicle, a concept sedan, will be revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It won’t be revealed before then, but it got a lot of “wows” from VW colleagues when they saw it for the first time, he said. That’s the fourth in the I.D. series to be built on the new MEB modular electric platform. The I.D. hatchback compact concept, unveiled in September at the Paris auto show, was the first and is scheduled for production in 2020. The I.D. Buzz microbus concept was revealed in January at the Detroit auto show, and the automaker will be showing the third one, an I.D. SUV concept, soon at the Shanghai Motor Show. The company recently told analysts that the I.D. concept hatchback is expected to have its design approved this August for a 2020 launch.
  5. Hybrid police car: Ford is rolling out the first hybrid police car, which was designed to meet certification standards law enforcement agencies require to meet their full pursuit ratings. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is being built on the Fusion Hybrid. The automaker designed the pursuit vehicle for agencies to cut fuel costs and decrease emissions while driving and idling. Ford received an EPA-estimated mpg of 38 combined city and highway, more than double that of the Ford Police Interceptor with its 3.7-liter, V6 engine and 18 mpg combined EPA rating. The police departments in Los Angeles and New York City will be taking deliveries this summer.
  6. AutoDrive Challenge: General Motors is sponsoring AutoDrive Challenge, a university competition with SAE International in autonomous vehicles. At SAE World Congress Experience in Detroit, they announced these universities will be demonstrating automated Chevy Bolts during a three-year challenge. Kettering University, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech, North Carolina A&T University, Texas A&M University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and Virginia Tech are now competing. GM and SAE have been heavily involved in student competitions for advanced vehicle technology for years. Formula SAE race car design competition started in 1980, and GM is now sponsoring EcoCar 3 with the U.S. Department of Energy.
  7. TurboDock chargers: AeroVironment Inc. announced today that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will install 102 of its TurboDock EV charging stations in the airport’s parking structures. Packed with features specifically designed to make it ideal for airports, including modular charging configurations, 120V capability and mobile app based access control, TurboDock helps EV drivers proceed with certainty, the company said. The installation is the most recent effort by the City of Atlanta and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to turn ATL into one of the greenest airports in the world.
  8. March EV sales: Tesla took No. 1 and No. 2 in U.S. electric vehicles sales, with about 3,100 and 2,500 units sold, respectively. The Chevy Volt came in third with 2,132 units sold and has been the top performing plug-in hybrid in U.S. sales through the first quarter. The Prius Prime was fourth on the list with 1,618 units sold.
  9. ACT Expo autonomous vehicle panel: “The Future of Intelligent Transportation: Connected & Autonomous Vehicles” will be one of the speaker panels at the upcoming Advanced Clean Transportation Expo (ACT Expo 2017). Attendees can learn more about the latest advancements in innovative vehicle technologies that are disrupting the way vehicles interact with other vehicles, the environment around them, and drivers. Featured speakers include Mike Roeth, North American Council for Freight Efficiency, an industry leader who understands the phases of truck automation and the expected ROI; Bill Burns, City of Columbus, Ohio, who played an integral role in combining electric and automated technology to win DOT’s Smart City Challenge; and Joanna Wadsworth, City of Las Vegas on launching the first electric autonomous shuttle on U.S. public roads. For further details on vehicle displays at the conference, you can view the vehicles list.
  10. ZEV mandate not going away: Read all about Plug In America’s history, along with the film “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, that goes back to 2003 and the California Air Resources Board’s controversial decision to become heavily influenced by pressure from automakers and scale back the zero emissions mandate. Times have changed, with CARB unanimously deciding to stay with the ZEV program as planned without any changes through 2025.

This Week’s Top 10: California utilities request approval for major charging projects, Tesla not facing recalls over Autopilot crash

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. Utilities supporting charging: California’s three large investor-owned utilities have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to support more than $1 billion in funding for electric vehicle charging stations. Southern California Edison asked for permission to collect $570 million from customers over five years to pay for equipment installations supporting about 1,800 charging stations for electric trucks and other projects. Pacific Gas & Electric requested $253 million to meet several objectives including charging systems for electric buses and delivery trucks. San Diego Gas & Electric applied for $246 million for installation of up to 90,000 charging stations at single family homes in the utility’s service area; and other projects, including installing up to 45 charging ports to enable electrification of about 90 new pieces of ground support equipment at San Diego International Airport. The utilities intend to install thousands of chargers at homes, workplaces, airports, and port locations. It ties into the state’s goal of cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
  2. No recall for Tesla: Tesla Motors was cleared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following an investigation over the fatal crash in Florida last May where the driver had been using Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system. Investigators didn’t find a defect in Autopilot requiring a safety recall for Model S and Model X owners who have purchased that option. NHTSA analyzed changes made to the system since the crash, including how the crash rate dropped by nearly 40% for the Autosteer component, which can safely change lanes, became available. The crash rates in the study compared airbag deployment crashes before and after Autosteer installation.
  3. Wireless charging: Automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and technology companies have reached agreement on the upcoming SAE Recommended Practice Wireless Power Transfer and automated parking alignment and charging of electric vehicles. Taskforce members have agreed on specifications for the SAE J2954 Test Stations; automakers will use that standard as a basis to develop their wireless charging systems, and to make sure they can interoperate with charging systems and vehicles sold by other automakers. The meeting held in Ingolstadt, Germany, is expected to set the foundation for moving wireless charging forward. Several automakers, suppliers, and technology providers see wireless charging being pivotal in helping move forward both electrified and autonomous vehicles.
  4. ZEV rules in Quebec: Automakers are upset that the Quebec province has followed a mandate similar to California and nine other states’ zero emission vehicle policy. Starting with the 2018 model year, 3.5% of all vehicles sold in the province will need to be all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. That bumps up to 15.5% for 2025 models. Companies that don’t hit the marks will have to buy credits from automakers that do. Penalties for failing to comply haven’t been spelled out yet. The legislation, which was passed last October, should be delayed, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada. Electric vehicle sales make up less than 1% of new vehicle sales in Quebec and 0.5% of all new vehicle sales across Canada.
  5. EPA chief nominee: Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general being considered as the new EPA administrator, is working at taking a more civil approach in his new role (which still needs Senate approval). He’s pledged to be a good listener and lead the agency “with civility,” especially when dealing with controversial issues like climate change and the EPA’s decision on the midterm review of 2025 mpg standards. He said the EPA’s proposal to finalize light-vehicle greenhouse-gas standards for 2022-25 model-year vehicles just 14 days after the comment period expired was a bit rushed and “merits review.” In related news, the EPA was sent a notice by the new administration temporarily halting all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources. The EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on Monday. It’s not known yet whether this move will have an effect on the auto industry.
  6. Elio Motors reports losses in SEC filing: Elio Motors has been taking losses in the past year, which has been investigated by a news channel in its corporate hometown. Local news channel KTBS in Shreveport, La., found in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the three-wheel carmaker had $101,317 in cash and about $123.2 million in accumulated deficit as of Sept. 30, 2016. The document also reported having about $6.8 million in cash and a deficit of about $2.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2015. The news channel also found that the company has once again postponed the launch of its affordable, 84 mpg three-wheeler, this time until 2018.
  7. Renault-Nissan top spot: Renault-Nissan has sold more than 400,000 electric cars globally and has plans for further investments to maintain its market lead, CEO Carlos Ghosn told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We are going to increase investment, we are going to have lot of new cars coming, better batteries, better performance, lower prices,” he said. Nissan’s Leaf opened up the auto industry to a mass produced all-electric vehicle, which was followed two years later by alliance partner Renault’s Zoe, a hatchback subcompact.
  8. CARB on midterm review: The California Air Resource Board last week published a 667-page Midterm Review of Advanced Clean Cars Program report. It finds that the state’s original intentions are being met, and the elements are in place to continue making advancements well beyond the 2025 target. The CARB staff, “recommends that California make a major push now to develop new post-2025 standards while working with automakers, federal regulators and partner states to further develop the market for electric cars,” according to a statement. The report also addressed the state’s zero emission vehicle policy, stating that more support is needed to grow the charging infrastructure. The agency will likely be pleased with proposals submitted this week by utilities to grow the state’s infrastructure.
  9. Ford PHEV vans: Ford has established a 12-month trial with the Transport for London agency’s fleet. Ford will provide 20 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle Transit Custom vans that the automaker says improves fleet productivity while reducing emissions. Scheduled to start in the fall, the test project will receive 4.7 million pounds ($5.9 million) in UK government funding. Ford and Transport for London will invite commercial fleets into the trial project.
  10. Infiniti performance EV: Infiniti is getting ready to roll out its very first electric car, though the launch date and other details have yet to come out. In 2012, the Nissan luxury division showed the LE electric concept car that was supposed to roll out in two years, but has yet to show up. Infiniti boss Roland Kreuger says he’s driven the prototype of this electric car as it’s “very good.” Krueger does however note that this is an “early” prototype, meaning its years away from production. The company will tapping into Nissan’s electric car technology, but will build a dedicated platform for the Infiniti model. Autocar and InsideEVs did a bit of speculating on it: it could be a 2020 Infiniti performance battery electric vehicle with its own platform packed full of Nissan’s EV tech.

This Week’s Top 10: Hyundai and Kia get a steep penalty for incorrect mileage ratings, Nissan Leaf sales still breaking records

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. Hyundai Kia MotorsHyundai and Kia will pay a $100 million fine for inflating the fuel economy ratings of their vehicles. The $100 million fine is the largest in Clean Air Act history, and came from an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice based on the sale of about 1.2 million vehicles with overstated ratings. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were far less than what was originally stated – about 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in excess of what the automakers claimed to the EPA. “This settlement upholds the integrity of the nation’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs and supports all Americans who want to save fuel costs and reduce their environmental impact,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
  2. Plug-in sales: October saw deliveries of 2,589 Leafs, bringing the year-to-date total to 24,411 – which exceeds the 2013 total of 22,610, the previous record. The Nissan Leaf broke its own record for most electric cars sold in the U.S. in a single year with two months left to sell them this year. The Chevrolet Volt has also been seeing a strong year, already exceeding the annual sales totals for the Volt in any of the full three years it’s been on sale. BMW sold 1,159 BMW i3s – the third month in a row it has sold more than 1,000 i3s. Tesla continued to go unreported in its monthly sales numbers, but the company says that sales went up quite a bit during the month.
  3. Very redesigned Chevy Volt: The refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Volt will be quicker, lighter and more fuel efficient than its predecessor. GM is using the redesign as an opportunity not only to optimize the plug-in hybrid technology it pioneered four years ago. It’s going to be very different with a completely difference drive unit and battery. The car will travel father on battery power, yet GM hasn’t yet said how far it will go compared to its present 38 miles on the battery.
  4. Vincentric, a leader in cost-of-ownership data, released its most recent Hybrid Analysis last week. Among the 10 hybrids with lower ownership costs were the Lexus CT200h and the Toyota Avalon Hybrid, which when compared to their all-gasoline counterparts had savings of over $7,600 and $3,200 respectively. Ten of 31 hybrid vehicles analyzed were identified as having a lower total cost-of-ownership than their closest all-gasoline counterpart. Over the past three years the percentage of cost-effective hybrids has dropped from 44% in the 2012 analysis, to 39% in 2013, to now just over 32%.
  5. Natural Gas Vehicle Conference. The 2014 North American NGV Conference & Expo to be held at the Kansas City Convention Center Nov. 11–14 in Kansas City, Mo. is set to be the largest NGV event of the year and is hosted by NGVAmerica in cooperation with the Canadian NGV Alliance. NGVAmerica has reached out to fleets of all types and sizes with special discounts to register for the conference. For more information on the 2014 North American NGV Conference & Expo, or to plan your attendance, visit the event website at www.ngvamerica.org/conference/2014.
  6. Check out this TedxDetroit video: Debbie Mielewski, the technical leader for plastics research at Ford Motor Co., says she’s been able to get up every day excited to go to work. Much of what is being added to cars these days is plastic, which comes from petroleum resources, and she’d like to do something about it. All of the polyurethane going into Ford vehicles and their seat cushions now comes from soy beans (which Henry Ford would have been proud of, having started that years ago). Using wheat straw (which is the byproduct of the food portion of wheat) to fortify plastic bins in the Ford Flex and Ford Focus, has been another step forward. And there’s more…….
  7. Big numbers from VW: Volkswagen Group claims it will launch more than 20 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China over the next few years. That will include small cars, large-sized SUVs, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric cars, said Jochem Heizmann, head of Volkswagen Group China.
  8. Home energy storage. Nissan is moving the “electric vehicle batteries as a great source for energy storage” campaign along. Nissan will soon begin testing its Leaf-To-Home energy station in Japan; they’ll be testing the ability of electric cars to provide temporary electrical power to buildings in real-world circumstances. The station converts high-voltage direct current from a Leaf’s lithium-ion battery pack into the 100-volt current used by homes in Japan.
  9. Mercedes-Benz B-class electric cars. Daimler AG’s Mercedes teamed up with Tesla Motors to put an electric motor and battery inside its B-class hatchback. Mercedes-Benz has high hopes for the alliance and sales of the B-class electric cars. The German automaker is hoping the image of working Tesla will be impressive while avoiding the pitfalls of spending billions on a technology few may want to buy.
  10. Hyundai vs. Toyota. Hyundai will roll out its first “dedicated” hybrid, designed to be marketed exclusively as a hybrid instead of being merely a copycat of an existing traditional engine edition of that model. Hyundai Motor Co. said that its hybrids will go up again the Toyota Prius.

What EPA electric power rules will cost automakers, DOE fuel cell vehicle grants, and other news from Capitol Hill

Washington DCIt’s always good to stay current on what’s happening in Washington, DC, with new regulations and funding programs regularly rolling out. Last week, more details came out on the latest in electric power regulations, grants for fuel cell vehicle projects, renewable fuel requirements for ethanol, and on the impact of the federal standards on heavy-duty truck mileage and emissions………..

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last week Monday on electric utilities reducing carbon 30% (coming mainly from coal-powered plants) had some good news for automakers. While German automakers have been hit hard financially by government mandates that they convert their power over to renewable energy sources, that doesn’t appear to be the case for US-based production plants. Jim Doyle, president of Business Forward, and  Debra Menk, an automotive economist, gave a teleconference presentation last week on that issue (coming from a report released by Business Forward). By the time utilities convert over to renewables (by 2020), it’s expected to only cost automakers an additional $7 per car or truck to utilize that clean energy. Electricity only makes for about 1% of an assembly plant’s total expenses, so automakers won’t see much of an impact that they feel compelled to pass on to consumers.
  • The US Department of Energy will issue $7 million for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle development. Meteria, based in Pasadena, Calif., will get $2 million to for its new resin system that will reduce the cost of hydrogen storage systems; $1.2 million goes to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and San Francisco-based Ardica for hydrogen storage system improvements (each one gets $1.2 million); and HRL Laboratories of Malibu, Calif., will receive around $1 million of the funding.
  • The EPA appears to be putting the ethanol compliance issue on the backburner. Refiners have been given a compliance extension – from June 30 to Sept. 30 of this year – on blending 16.55 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuels into petroleum. That comes from the EPA ruling on 2013 renewable fuel requirements; EPA thinks refiners should know the 2014 requirements before the end of the 2013 compliance year. This will affect the decisions of refiners to bank renewable fuel credits for use in the future, according to the EPA. It may give the White House some breathing room on a battleground between oil companies and refiners and corn growers and ethanol producers.
  • Federal fuel economy and emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks will lead to significant fuel savings and are likely good for the trucking industry, according to Jim Sweeney, vice president of capital equipment for AmeriQuest Transportation Services.  “The increase in overall maintenance costs for this new technology is undeniable — but looking at the big picture, the economic and operational benefits that come along with these initiatives seem to far outweigh the bad,” Sweeney wrote in his blog. Similar to passenger cars, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted the first phase of this program in 2011 for heavy-duty vehicles coming out in model years 2014 to 2018. The second phase is being worked out now by the federal agencies with truck makers.

Big Picture: EPA releases finalized Tier 3 standards on emissions; Tesla Motors has another revolutionary goal: a Gigafactory

EPA gasoline sulfurThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday finalized what it calls “Tier 3 standards” requiring gasoline sulfur levels to be reduced by two thirds from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm. EPA says that its new emission standards for cars and gasoline will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks. Smog emissions, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, are expected to drop 80% compared to today’s vehicles and particulate matter (soot) will drop by 70%. These standards will begin being implemented in model year 2017. The Tier 3 standards are being supported by automakers, labor, consumers, and public health advocates. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, according to the EPA.

And in other clean transportation news……

  • Tesla Motors has yet another potential breakthrough concept in the works –its “Gigafactory” concept could bring more affordable electric vehicles to market through a large scale lithium battery factory. It would mean investing up to $5 billion with partners in a battery plant that can supply 500,000 electric vehicles a year by 2020, after opening up in 2017.  Panasonic may be considering joining in; Panasonic is currently Tesla’s largest supplier of lithium ion batteries. “In cooperation with strategic battery manufacturing partners, we’re planning to build a large scale factory that will allow us to achieve economies of scale and minimize costs through innovative manufacturing, reduction of logistics waste, optimization of co-located processes and reduced overhead,” Telsa posted last week on its blog. By the end of the first year of production, the per kilowatt cost of the battery pack could be reduced by more than 30%. Tesla is looking for plant locations in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and said that site selection will be happening soon. When you view the charts Tesla compiled, the first one shows that its new battery factory will be producing more batteries by 2020 than all the other lithium battery makers combined are making today – that’s quite a claim.
  • Nissan did better in Leaf sales – at 1,425 cars sold it was a record for the month of February, more than double the amount from a year earlier. That makes for 12 straight months of year-over-year sales increases. Its top two markets last month were San Francisco and Atlanta; the rest of the top five was Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. The Chevrolet Volt’s sales have been seeing a decline – at 1,210 it was higher than January’s 918, but down a third from February 2013’s total of 1,626. Tesla continues to not report monthly sales, but the estimate was 1,000 to 1,200 units of the Model S sold.
  • Honda appears ready to pull its Insight hybrid off the market – one of the very first hybrids to come to market when it was introduced in 1999, before the Toyota Prius. The original two-seater hybrid got even better mileage than the Prius or the Honda Civic hybrid. It was redesigned in 2009 with a backseat, but it failed to grow in sales numbers even though it sold for less than $20,000.
  • President Obama is bringing to medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses what was previously brought to passenger cars – a second level of fuel efficiency standards. The first round covered model years 2014 through 2018; the new standards will be in place in about tow years and will extend the rules into the next decade.
  • Even though ECOtality is out of business, its Blink electric vehicle charging stations are still around. IKEA added four stations at one of its Chicago-area stores as part of its partnership with Car Charging Group, Inc. IKEA started installing stations in 2011 in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington and wants to place them at 55 US locations.
  • Daimler will be launching a new battery electric vehicle in partnership with China’s BYD. It will go through the Denza brand and be shown as a concept hatchback car at the next Beijing Motor Show. It will be called the “NEV” – or New Energy Vehicle, which means it’s being built for China. One of the popular car trends in that market will be met – rear seating will have the feel of a lounge area, perfect for riding in when you have a chauffeur in the front seat doing all the driving.