House bill would remove tax credit: A proposal by House Republicans to eliminate the $7,500 federal tax incentive could be a blow to sales of electric cars that are being marketed for affordability. As part of the tax overhaul bill proposed to House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, the repeal would take effect at the end of 2017. The Senate is working on its own version of a tax overhaul. General Motors is asking legislators to repeal that part of the bill and other automakers are likely to join in with the bill expected to hurt efforts to bring in more consumers as electric vehicle buyers. “That will stop any electric vehicle market in the U.S., apart from sales of the highly expensive Tesla Model S,” said Xavier Mosquet, senior partner at consultant Boston Consulting Group. “There’s no Tesla 3, no Bolt, no Leaf in a market without incentives.”
All-electric vehicle demand will leap in near future: Battery electric vehicles will make up a much larger share of global vehicle production and sales, but not for a few years, according to a new study released yesterday by Boston Consulting Group. EVs won’t see much serious growth until after 2025 and will likely make up about 14% of global vehicle production by 2030 after reaching about 6% in 2025, the study said. That will be a huge leap from its current level, at about 1% of global new vehicle sales. Incentives like the $7,500 federal tax credit will be needed for now, but that will eventually go away. The study’s authors said that improved battery technology, lower costs, and government mandates will be the drivers of greater consumer demand. Market forces will take over by 2030. “Eventually, we’ll reach a point where we don’t need incentives anymore,” said Xavier Mosquet, BCG senior partner and lead author of the study.
Fast charging comes to Europe: An alliance of automakers will be deploying about 400 fast charging stations across Europe by 2020. BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen with its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries have formed a joint venture called IONITY to carry it out. The High-Power-Charging (HPC) network will install chargers that will have the capacity to go up to 350 kW and will use the brand-agnostic Combined Charging System as the standard. Automakers hope the wide distribution of the fast chargers will make electric vehicles more appealing for consumers. This year will see 20 of these HPC stations installed. The IONITY joint venture is based in Munich and led by CEO Michael Hajesch, who expects to see 50 employees in place by early 2018. “The first pan-European HPC network plays an essential role in establishing a market for electric vehicles. IONITY will deliver our common goal of providing customers with fast charging and digital payment capability, to facilitate long-distance travel,” Hajesch said.
New York incentives helping sales: The state of New York’s $2,000 rebate program on plug-in vehicles has helped sales spring up 74% this year. Signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and launched on March 21, the rebate program has helped plug-in electrified vehicle sales go up from 1,476 to 2,574 units year-over-year. Most people are receiving rebates of $1,100 or more, with $3 million having been set aside by the state to fund the program through participating dealers (with Tesla not qualifying for the incentive program). More than 40% of the funds have gone to Toyota Prius Prime purchases, with the Chevy Bolt coming in second at 12%, and the Chevy Volt and Ford Fusion Energi each getting 10% of the funds. It’s all part of Gov. Cuomo’s move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030. The state is also supporting growing its public charging infrastructure – from about 1,700 chargers currently available to about 3,000 in 2018.
New offerings expected to help EV sales: Bloomberg just published a think piece on why electric vehicles have achieved an historic year of notoriety, with the technology being seen as reaching mass market in the fairly-near future. A listing of strategically planned EVs in the next few years helps paint the picture. That product lineup includes: Audi coming out with the e-tron Quatro luxury electric SUV in 2018; it will be followed by Sportback coupe in 2019, and a third vehicle, yet to be named, by 2020. Porsche will roll out its Mission E electric sports sedan in the next couple of years, with production starting in 2019. BMW will put out a dozen new EVs by 2025, starting with an electric Mini in 2019, an X3 subcompact SUV in 2020, and 10 more by that year. Daimler will roll out the EQ sub-brand of all-electric cars, with 10 new vehicles coming out by 2022. Volvo has committed that all new models launched in 2019 or later will be offered only as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric versions. Beyond the Model 3, Tesla will begin building the Model Y small SUV in 2019 or 2020.
SpaceX going to Mars: Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will be taking a cargo load to Mars in 2022 and a manned mission in 2024. A decade later, passengers can take trips to Mars, the company’s CEO announced Friday. The company has shrunk the size of the spaceship to make the intergalactic journey. Construction of the new ship will begin the first half of next year, he said, and it will be able to carry up to 100 passengers. SpaceX thinks it will be available to also carry passengers around the world in ultra-fast flights – such as New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes. SpaceX is one of several companies planning on taking trips to the red planet. Lockheed Martin Corp. announced its own plans for a manned Mars journey on Friday. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space travel startup is also designing a ship that will be capable of trips to Mars. Virgin Galactic founder and billionaire Richard Branson thinks that Mars should be colonized and his intergalactic division can provide transportation.
Taking fleets to EV100: Ten companies have committed to making their fleets 100% electric vehicles at Climate Week NYC. Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever, and Vattenfall this week committed to meeting the “EV100” campaign. Member companies will be transitioning from gasoline and diesel vehicles to EVs and a charging infrastructure by 2030. These companies will set out timetables for rolling over their fleets. They’re convinced it will help drive EV adoption, reduce costs, and make electric cars more affordable in markets around the world. It follows two other initiatives led non-profit organization The Climate Group – RE100, which seeks to accelerate the adoption of 100% renewable energy targets; and EP100, which aims to increase the number of companies doubling their energy productivity.
Study sees PEV growth continuing: A new study by Navigant Research sees North American sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to continue their upward growth trend – 50% growth over 2016 sales. So far, PEV sales have grown tenfold since 2011; while the report doesn’t break out PEVs by vehicle type, the sales data probably includes both battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Growth is coming from California and other states adopting zero emission vehicle mandates, with some of them and other states in the U.S. offering incentive programs for purchasing them such as rebates. Positive demographics related to EV interest and adoption have also been helping sales, according to the study. Most buyers have been in urban areas with high levels of education and income, and driving patterns suitable for PEVs on the market. Navigant Research expects that demographic trend to decline, with buyers expanding to other demographic groups on a wider scale as PEVs become cheaper.
AB 134 adopted in California: California’s legislature passed AB 134, bringing about $900 million in funding to the state for clean transportation initiatives. It was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown over the weekend. Of that total, $140 million will fund the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project specifically targeted to low-income applicants, and $100 million will go to light-duty equity pilot projects. About $180 million will go to the state’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). That program offers incentive dollars for the purchase of electric and fuel cell vehicles and ultra low-NOx natural gas technologies. Another $250 million is being directed to the state’s air quality management and air pollution control districts through the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program. That state program started in 1998 and is aimed at helping fleets and individuals switch over to clean trucks, school buses, transit buses, and other vehicles.
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…….
- Colorado EV incentive: Colorado, which has long been an electric vehicle friendly state, is switching over from a formula-based tax credit to a flat $5,000 tax credit. That will shave off $12,500 from an EV’s purchase price when combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit. The state also gives the buyer the choice of trading the credit upfront off the retail price or by waiting for their next tax return. Colorado’s Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) says that the state tax credit can be assigned to a dealership or finance company, which takes off $5,000 from the purchase price. It’s the “best EV tax incentive in the nation,” according to SWEEP.
- EV sales in Europe: Renault-Nissan Alliance took 25% of plug-in electric vehicle sales in Europe during the first quarter of 2016, with the Nissan Leaf selling 6,168 units and 13.1% of the market in the No. 1 spot; and the Renault Zoe came in at 5,578 units sold and 11.9% of the share and finishing at the No. 3 spot. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV came in second place at 6,159 sold and nearly tying with the Leaf at 13.1% of the market. The Tesla Model S came in fourth with 3,378 units sold and 7.2% of the market share; the Volkswagen Golf GTE came in fifth with 2,979 units sold and 6.3% of the share. Overall sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were up 29% in the first quarter over the same time period in 2015. Plug-in sales made up a little bit over 1% of new vehicles sales in Europe during the first quarter, according to data compiled by the European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO), a European Commission initiative to provide alternative fuels statistics and information.
- Audi’s EV plan: Audi says it will be introducing a new electric vehicle model every year beginning in 2018, as it races to catch-up to Tesla and other rivals in the luxury car market. The first model to be rolled out will be an its first all-electric luxury SUV based on the e-tron Quattro concept car that was revealed last fall at the Frankfurt motor show. Several luxury plug-in hybrids will be released by competitors in the near future, usually variants of existing models from BMW, Cadillac, Hyundai’s Genesis, Infiniti, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo.
- Updated AFLEET tool released: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has released an updated version of its AFLEET tool to reflect the latest advances in alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and updated emissions data. Sponsored by the DOE Clean Cities program, AFLEET stands for the Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation Tool. The free, publicly-available tool provides users with a roadmap for assessing which types of vehicles and fuels are right for them. The 2016 AFLEET Tool and user guide are available online. Although anyone can download and use the tool, AFLEET was designed for managers that purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles.
- Serious injury at Tesla plant: Tesla Motors Inc. is investigating how a worker from Slovenia was critically injured in a fall while on the job at the company’s plant in Fremont, Calif. An article in The Mercury News said Gregor Lesnik fell nearly three stories during the incident last year, breaking both his legs and ribs, tearing ligaments in his knee and giving him a concussion. His job was to lift heavy pipes and install them into the ceiling and through the roof of the plant’s paint shop, according to the article. The newspaper also reported that Lesnick was only making $5 an hour. Tesla said that Lesnik in through a sub-contractor company that only paid him that amount.
- More energy stored in battery: Proterra, a maker of battery-electric buses in North America, announced a new battery design for the Proterra Catalyst XR transit vehicle at the American Public Transportation Association Bus and Paratransit Conference (APTA). Within the same energy storage footprint as the original Catalyst XR, the battery-enhanced vehicle now holds 28% more energy at 330 kWh and a lightweight vehicle body. All current Catalyst XR customers will receive a complimentary upgrade to the higher energy level.
- Nissan diesel SUV: South Korea is enforcing a penalty against Nissan Motor Co. including a fine and a recall of its Qashqai diesel sport utility vehicles after accusing the automaker of manipulating emissions. Nissan has denied the allegation. Nissan had blown the whistle on Mitsubishi Motors Corp’s mileage-cheating scandal and last week announced it was buying a $2.2 billion stake in Mitsubishi. South Korea’s environment ministry said it believed Nissan had used a “defeat device” in the Qashqai to turn off its exhaust reduction system under regular driving temperatures and will recall 814 of these vehicles sold so far in the country; with a fine of 330 million won ($279,920).
- Propane road show: Alliance AutoGas has embarked on a nationwide trip, coast-to-coast, to educate people on propane autogas’ quality technology, clean air, and American fuel. The Oklahoma State Capitol Building was the midway point stop of the Alliance AutoGas Coast-to-Coast Clean Air Ride in Oklahoma City. Central Clean Cities coordinator Eric Pollard, said that the event brought together the propane marketers, fleet managers, equipment providers, and transportation professionals to focus on the air quality and energy security benefits of increased propane use in transportation. At the 2016 NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Alliance AutoGas converted an Ford F-150 to run on propane autogas. It was the fastest vehicle conversion to propane autogas in history at only one hour and thirty-two minutes, the company said.
- Meeting federal standards: Check out a guest editorial by Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim in Trucks.com on the company’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint across the entire business 80% by 2050. Solheim wrote about what it’s like to run a large freight of trucks transporting ice cream products while complying with federal standards and making it all economically viable.
- Biodiesel fraud: A U.S. District Court judge has sentenced Jack Holden, 76, of Eugene, Oregon, to 87 months in prison, restitution of $1,410,760, and a separate $1,500 fine for his role in a fraudulent biodiesel scheme that spanned three continents. Holden was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. His codefendant, Lloyd Benton Sharp, 81, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on Nov. 19, 2014, and was sentenced to 60 months in prison the following spring.
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…….
- May sales: Plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles saw the start of a seasonal pattern – up for May, the first month of a strong selling period that usually extends through August. Electric vehicles saw increases over April – plug-in hybrids increased 21.1% and battery electric vehicles are up 16.9%. The Nissan Leaf, number two behind the Tesla Model S, has now seen more than 80,000 units sold in the US since its launch. The Leaf had 2,104 units sold in May and the Model S had 2,300 units sold. Sales are down about a third from a year ago for the Leaf, and trouble lies ahead when the Georgia tax credit ends after July 1.The Chevrolet Volt saw an improvement in sales – at 1,618 it was the best monthly sales figure since August. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been seeing a similar pattern – sales have been down in recent months with the revamped 2016 model coming out soon. Like the Volt, the Prius Plug-in had better results during May. At 727 units sold, it was the best sales month since August.
- EV incentives dwindling: Electric vehicle (EV) incentive programs are going away in two states, while other states are limiting funding for these programs in a climate of state budgetary restrictions. Automakers will also be facing federal tax incentives drying once they pass 200,000 units sold point for that EV. Georgia’s tax credit of up to $5,000 will end on July 1; owners of noncommercial EVs in the state face an annual license fee of $200, while owners of commercial EVs will pay $300. For Illinois, state legislators indefinitely suspended its rebate program that had provided up to $4,000 on alternative fuel vehicles including EVs; that program had given out $14 million in incentives since 1998. Last month, Connecticut started a rebate program from up to $3,000 on the purchase or lease of an eligible EV; however, only $1 million was set aside for this program, which means it may not last very long.
- CAFE up in May: The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in May went up quite a bit – 0.3 mpg over the previous month, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. For light-duty vehicles sold in the US during May, the average window-sticker value of new cars, crossovers, pickups, SUVs, and vans sold that month as 25.5 mpg – up from 25.2 in April. The increasing price of gasoline had something to do with it, according to Transportation Research Institute researcher Michael Sivak; dropping gas prices also influence fuel economy dropping in previous months. (See this week’s feature article for more analysis of hitting the 54.5 mpg target by 2025.)
- NGVs coming back: Falling gasoline and diesel prices may have softened demand for natural gas vehicles, but that’s likely to turn around, according to a new study by IHS. The study, LNG in Transportation: Challenging Oil’s Gripsays that use of natural gas as a transportation fuel could displace more than 1.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil demand by 2030. The study says that it’s often more economic for truck fleets to switch to alternative fuel sources. Truck fleets have a relatively quick turnover which could lead to faster adoption of new technology. A combination of drivers – environmental, technological and commercial – will drive greater adoption of natural gas in transport, according to the IHS study.
- Some dealers support Tesla: Executives at publicly traded dealer groups are “quietly supporting Elon Musk,” according analysts at Morgan Stanley about the Tesla Motors chief executive. Publicly traded dealers, which were not named in the report, said they would be delighted with deregulation, which would even help their business. Morgan Stanley analysts see the “Tesla vs. dealers” battle as the first of many legal challenges to existing state franchise laws; after numerous discussions with dealers, carmakers, and fleet managers on this topic, they wouldn’t be surprised to see today’s 10,000-plus dealer groups scaled down to as few as tens of dealer groups in the future.
- Charging for fleets: Car Charging Group, Inc., has launched a new feature for fleet customers utilizing Blink EV chargers and Blink Network, software that operates, monitors, and tracks the Blink stations and all of its charging data. The company solicited feedback from fleet managers when creating the product and found that requiring drivers to enter odometer data before charging their plug-in electric vehicle was a control that needed to be put in place.
- India facing severe air pollution: While China’s megacities have been taking the rap for severe air pollution, India is facing far worse air quality. New Dehli, India, is facing air pollution that’s twice the level of what’s being found in Beijing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly half of that city’s 4.4 million school children already have irreversible lung damage from air pollution, according to the WHO study.
- San Diego may see more charging: San Diego Gas & Electric is working with a group of automakers, labor representatives, environmentalists, and service providers on the utility’s proposal to substantially increase its local electric-vehicle infrastructure and incentives. The program calls for SDG&E to install charging stations for electric vehicles at up to 550 sites throughout its service territory and offer special rates to encourage use at times that are optimal for power-grid efficiency. Agencies signing on in support of the pilot effort include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, California Coalition of Utility Employees, Greenlining Institute, ChargePoint Inc., NRG EV Services LLC, Smart Grid Services Siemens AG, Plug in America, GM, Honda, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, KN Grid, CALSTART, the Center for Sustainable Energy, and the Green Power Institute. The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule on the proposal sometime this year.
- Panasonic moves forward on Gigafactory: Panasonic Corp. will be sending hundreds of its employees to Tesla Motor’s Gigafactory in Nevada starting this fall, as preparation for lithium-ion battery production moves forward for startup next year. Yoshio Ito, head of Panasonic’s automotive and industrial systems (AIS) division, said the company plans to invest around $478 million this fiscal year in the Gigafactory and the company’s joint development project with Spanish auto parts maker Ficosa International SA, which specializes in advanced driver assistance systems featuring blind spot detection and assisted parking.
- Sending power back to grid: Electric vehicles with excess power stored under their hoods are a good source of electricity to send back to the local grid, according to Japanese auto executives. These company leaders are part of the movement supporting the CHAdeMO charging standard who think electric vehicles can be a good energy source for building, external batteries, and appliances. The strategy was unveiled during the annual meeting of companies backing CHAdeMO, a high-speed direct-current charging protocol for EVs and plug-in vehicles – and a target for competition by automakers in the US and Europe adopting SAE standards instead of CHAdeMO. “I think that’s how CHAdeMO can expand,” said Toshiyuki Shiga, CHAdeMO Association president and vice president of Nissan.