This Week’s Top 10: Mazda, Subaru and Toyota join the EV race, Canada adopts clean fuel standards

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. Nissan Leaf chargingThree more automakers join EV race: The days of putting a small number of “compliance cars” in California to meet zero emission vehicle rules appear to be ending. Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota are preparing to enter the global competition. Regulatory pressure is increasing across the world, and competitors have been announcing lofty electric vehicle production schedules. Honda is another Japanese automaker that has hinted that it’s going along this path, too, with an electric version of the Clarity coming out and more EVs on the way. Mazda will launch an EV in 2019, and Subaru’s will follow in 2021. Toyota recently announced it will launch an “in-house venture company” next month to start developing battery-powered cars. Not long ago, Toyota broke its ties with Tesla for using the electric car company’s drivetrain in the electric RAV4. Toyota says it’s more committed to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but EVs can’t be put off any longer.
  2. Canadian clean fuels standard: The Canadian government adopted a national clean fuels standard last week for climate action and growth in its cleantech economy and green jobs. It follows previous actions in British Columbia, Oregon, and California, and is expected to greatly improve availability of low carbon fuel choices and competition at the pump. Fuel suppliers have several options for meeting the clean fuel standard. They can employ lower carbon fuels blended into, or replacing, gasoline and diesel, or improve the emissions associated with upstream oil and gas extraction and refining. The new standard will also promote fuel switching to electric mobility and hydrogen fuel cells. The standard will require fuel suppliers to progressively reduce the carbon pollution in their fuels, with annual reduction requirements within a specified overall timeframe.
  3. In-fighting at VW: A “cut-throat battle for resources” is happening in-house between Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche premium brands as the automaker cuts costs to face the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Every VW brand with engine-manufacturing capacity now wants a leadership role when it comes to electric motors, battery packs, and battery-cell expertise, according to an unnamed source. Cost cutting will include reducing jobs dramatically as the company faces as much as 30 billion euros ($32 billion) to pay global government penalties and settle lawsuits for the diesel emissions cheating scandal. VW has set the aggressive goal of rolling out 30 new electric vehicle models by 2025. Production and labor will have to be used efficiently to reach corporate targets, with layoffs in the works. In other news, VW has agreed to extend a 20 billion-euro ($21.2 billion) bank credit line, which is part of the company’s efforts to maintain its financial strength while it counts the full cost of its diesel emissions scandal.
  4. Four reasons why the Trump administration probably won’t ground the corporate average fuel economy guidelines: “Capital commitments: Automakers plan years ahead; they’ve already sunk billions into upcoming models designed with pending fuel standards in mind. Global markets: Fuel-efficiency regulations and incentives are in place in major auto markets worldwide — including China, whose market is expanding dramatically, especially for “new energy” vehicles meant to curb urban pollution. Consumer demand: With gas prices low, Americans are buying larger vehicles. But surveys and sales figures show they want sport utility vehicles and pickups to be as fuel efficient as possible. Regulatory patchwork: California and other states concerned about global warming worked closely to harmonize their own regulations with CAFE. Gutting CAFE could break that consensus and cause automakers to adjust cars for the California market, something they’ve done in the past and would rather not do again.”
  5. RFS volume: The Environmental Protection Agency released the final Renewable Fuel Standards last week, which raised the levels from 18.11 billion gallons this year to 19.28 billion gallons in 2017. This is a 5% increase from the proposed 2017 levels — 18.8 billion gallons of renewable fuel — that the EPA announced in May. About 15 billion gallons of this will come from conventional corn-based ethanol. While the ethanol industry praised the increase, Big Oil immediately went into attack mode.
  6. EVs vs. fuel cells: Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project has released a study finding that all-electric vehicles make for a more economical choice for reducing carbon dioxide emissions due to their lower cost and significantly higher energy efficiency than do fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen offers few additional energy benefits besides only emitting water vapor from fuel-cell cars, the study said. “Studies such as these are needed to identify the lowest cost and most efficient pathways to deep decarbonization of the global energy system,” said Sally Benson, professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford and director of GCEP.
  7. Selling diesel cars: Daimler may continue selling diesel-powered cars in the U.S., even though a Der Spiegel article said otherwise. Daimler’s sales of diesel cars make up less than one percent of its Mercedes brand’s car sales in the U.S, the company said. Volkswagen did say last week that it will stop selling diesel vehicles in the U.S. and will focus its attention on sporty utility and electric vehicles.
  8. Will Trump’s press secretary hate Elon Musk?: Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio show pundit who attacks Tesla CEO Elon Musk, may be appointed Trump’s press secretary. A group called Citizens for the Republic (CftR) has taken on Musk for allegedly defrauding American taxpayers out of billions of dollars in government subsidies, grants, “and other favors.” CftR is headed by Ingraham, who has backed Trump and spoke in his favor at the Republican National Convention. CNN considers her a leading candidate to become Trump’s press secretary. As reported by Autoblog, Electrek has been digging into CftR’s tendency to be “full of misinformation about Tesla, electric vehicles, and solar energy.”
  9. RNG newsletter: Energy Vision’s Fall newsletter highlights a few developments in renewable natural gas including: Santa Monica’s “Big Blue Bus” fleet, which operates more than 200 transit buses, was the first in the country to commit to the combination of a new “near-zero” emission natural gas engine fueled by low-carbon RNG…….. Close to 140 business, government and environmental leaders and Energy Vision supporters from across the country gathered on October 13th to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary.
  10. E-bikes: Electric bike maker Zero Motorcycles’ bike series has had a few positive revisions made this year. The company now has 14 configurations with prices ranging from $8,495 to $18,690. Every Zero motorcycle gets more torque and power this year. The most powerful of the bikes, the Zero SR, now gets an impressive 116 ft.-lbs. of torque. That bike can go 202 miles in city driving and 101 miles per charge speeding around at 70 mph.