EV tax credit could be salvaged in Washington, Vincentric finds more hybrids offer lower cost of ownership than gas counterparts

EV tax credit:  The electric vehicle tax credit may be salvaged as House and Senate leaders negotiate revisions the sweeping tax bill, according a Republican source familiar with the matter. The $1.5 trillion House bill had eliminated the $7,500 tax credit and had also curtailed a wind energy tax credit. The senate bill had left both in place. EV advocates and automakers have been lobbying to salvage the tax credit, which has been an integral part of marketing EV sales especially to first-time buyers.

Lyft going global:  Ride-hailing firm Lyft will be going beyond the US market for the first time by serving the greater Toronto area. Lyft has been part of a global alliance with ride-hailing and ridesharing firms competing with market leader Uber. Canadian consumers had been choosing between Uber and taxi rides and are expected to welcome having another choice for mobility services.

Hybrid more efficient for owners:  Vincentric just released its 2017 U.S. Hybrid Analysis results today showing a change in the market over the past year with consumers finding more options in fuel-efficient hybrids. The percentage of cost-effective hybrids has increased 16 percentage points compared to the 2016 study. For 26 of the 65 hybrids evaluated, or 40%, these hybrids have a lower total cost of ownership compared to their closest all-gasoline powered counterpart. Since 2012 the percentage of cost-effective hybrids had steadily decreased with the trend changing this year. Luxury hybrids had the highest percentage of cost-effective hybrids at 46%, The Lexus CT200h had the largest savings in the study, showing that buyers could save $7,750 over five years of ownership compared to the similarly equipped Lexus IS 200t.

“Our study showed a significant increase in the percentage of hybrids that can save buyer’s money over five-years when compared to an all-gas counterpart,” said Vincentric President, David Wurster. “Understanding the value of hybrids requires looking at all ownership costs, and not just fuel savings. Only then can buyers determine whether it makes sense to pay the hybrid price premium.”

China may return to supporting hybrids as another channel for hitting targets in cutting emissions and oil imports

toyota-levin-in-chinaChina is facing a challenge similar to the U.S. – how to get car shoppers to buy more clean vehicles and less gas guzzling pollution emitters like large SUVs. While plug-ins, or “new energy vehicles,” have taken off in sales during the past couple of years, China’s regulatory and incentive structure appears to be changing toward a broader definition of clean vehicles. Toyota and a few Chinese automakers and suppliers are asking the government to support plug-less hybrids as another way to reduce tailpipe emissions and dependence on imported oil

In 2013, incentives in China for purchasing plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs), along with electric buses, jumped up while hybrid electric vehicle subsidies were cut. The definition of new energy vehicle changed exclusively to PEVs as previous new energy incentives for plug-less hybrids were cut.

That may change course as the government is considering mandating policy requiring 25% of new vehicle sales to be plug-less hybrids by 2030, according to comments made last week by Ouyang Minggao, who leads a group that China’s auto industry regulator commissioned to set targets for energy-saving vehicles. The report recommends increasing hybrid sales to 8% of total passenger vehicle sales by 2020, and then up to 20% by 2025 and one quarter of sales by 2030.

China is also considering extending a tax cut beyond the end of this year for small-engine cars with up to 1.6 liter engines, an industry ministry official said last week. That move could help sustain a sales rebound in small, fuel-efficient vehicles in the world’s largest auto market.

China requires automakers to lower the average fuel consumption of their vehicles to 5 liters per 100 kilometers by 2020 from the current 6.9 liters. New energy vehicles will play a part, but now China may be looking to hybrids and small cars to help hit the fuel consumption and emissions targets. This year has seen a steep increase in large SUV sales in China as gasoline prices stay down and consumers with more spending power find SUVs appealing, similar to what’s been seen in the U.S. market. That puts more pressure on China to meet emissions and fuel economy goals.

Subsidies to manufacture and purchase PEVs have made a huge difference in the market. Through September, China came close to selling as many cumulative PEVs as the U.S. has seen since they first appeared in the market in late 2010; with the U.S. total at 522,519 cumulative PEVs sold and China finishing the month at 521,649 sold. At the end of 2012, China had only seen 27,800 PEVs sold, with dramatic sales surges seen in 2014 and 2015. If electrified buses were to be included in the total, China would be clearly the world’s leader with 733,447 new energy vehicles sold through the end of 2015, according to HybridCars. Generous government incentives are considered to be a big part of rapid growth in China’s PEV sales.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced plans to cut 2017-2018 new energy/plug-in vehicle subsidies by 20% from those granted in 2016, and 2019-2020 subsidies will be 40% less than this year. These subsidies will stop after 2020, the government said. Instead, China will support development of a points-based credit system similar to that used in California to encourage production and use of new-energy vehicles.

Cutting PEV subsidies may be exacerbated by a scandal reported in September on rule violations by several vehicle manufacturers. Five Chinese bus makers were penalized by the government for taking about 1 billion yuan ($150 million) in illegal subsidies for new energy vehicles. Soon after, an additional 20 automakers were called out for violating these rules. These included global automakers Nissan and Hyundai, and Chinese makers Geely, JAC Motor, and a subsidiary of electric carmaker BYD.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers changed its forecast for PEV orders to 400,000 from 700,000 vehicles, down 43 percent, last month. China’s top auto industry association slashed its forecast of new energy vehicles that will be ordered this year as the government subsidy scandal widened.

Manufacturers such as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. and Hunan Corun have been lobbying the Chinese government to increase support for development of plug-less hybrids. Hunan Corun supplies batteries for Toyota’s China-built hybrids.

Toyota has made the argument in China that hybrid technology could be more widely accepted by consumers as a solution.

Toyota plans to bring a hybrid version of its RAV4 sport utility vehicle to market in China as soon as possible, Matsumoto Shinichi, executive vice president of Toyota’s local engineering and manufacturing unit, said prior to the Beijing auto show earlier this year. The Japanese automaker plans to localize the development and production of hybrid SUVs in China, after introducing its Corolla and Levin hybrid compact cars late last year for a 2018 introduction, including plug-in hybrid variations.

A look at year-to-date numbers on U.S. green car sales

Chevy Volt at dealershipCar shoppers are weighing the pros and cons of buying their first-ever or next-generation acquisition of clean technologies in new vehicles. Gasoline prices staying down and the 2016 model year launch of refreshed models are influencing purchase decisions.

  • Hybrids are down 15.7% year-to-date compared to the first nine months of 2014; sales are down 5% from September and declined 1.3% from October 2014. Gasoline prices are staying down, and are expected to do so into at least the first months of 2016. With more cost-competitive, highly rated small cars and crossovers, the competition is steep. The Toyota Prius hybrid models made up nearly half of October hybrid sales, and Toyota and Lexus models made up six of the top 10.
  • On the plug-in electric vehicle side, the Tesla Model S continues to lead in sales. The revised 2016 Chevy Volt is starting to roll out slowly to dealerships, and is getting a turnaround on soft sales – coming in at 2,035 compared to 2,100 for the Model S and 1,238 for the Nissan Leaf. Consumers seem to be waiting longer for the new Leaf. The Volt closely trails the Leaf in total U.S. sales to date since the initial launch in late 2010, with 84,656 delivered and the Leaf at 87,190. The Leaf is about 3,500 units sold ahead of the Volt year-to-date in 2015.
  • Fueleconomy.gov just released its 2016 EPA mileage ratings. The BMW i3 led the list in estimated mileage (MPGe) with 117 combined MPGe for the BMW i3 REX (range extender) plug-in hybrid and 124 combined MPGe for the BMW i3 battery electric model. The Volt came in at #2 on the plug-in hybrid ranking with 106 combined MPGe for the 2016 model; and the Chevrolet Spark EV finished at #2 on the battery electric chart with 119 combined MPGe. At 986 total sales in October, the BMW i3 has held a steady position in the top five this year.
  • The Ford Fusion and C-Max continue to hold a steady pace mid-way on the sales list this year for the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid; and the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.
  • The first wave of the Volkswagen TDI diesel emissions scandal has hurt sales on the VW models named on the list; and that list looks to be expanding with a new EPA report (which is being fought by VW). The Ram Pickup continues to dominate the list of diesel passenger vehicle sales, which was in the works long before the VW scandal. That truck has had a strong share of diesel sales for several years, and hasn’t been dragged into allegations of misreporting its emissions. At 48,789 pickups sold this year, it far outpaces No. 2 on the list for October – Audi Q7 diesel, which has sold 3,579 units in the U.S. this year.

Why driving cars is dropping in popularity in Southern California

traffic in LASouthern California has always been a key bellwether for transportation trends in the US and in the world. The region that had one of the best mass transit systems through the 1940s became the hub of auto sales and traffic congestion starting in the 1950s. Now that trend appears to be changing course.

Automotive News pointed to several key indicators showing that the love affair with the car is fading…

  • Light rail has been expanded 26% in the past eight years with 18 miles more of track coming by 2015. Bike lane networks have doubled to 292 miles. Bus and train ridership is growing – up nearly 5% in May 2013 versus May 2011.
  • Even more significant – the total number of passenger cars has declined in Los Angeles. The market rebounded from the recession, but the 2012 sales numbers were 28,000 less than five years earlier.
  • Consumers have a lot more options that gain their interest away from traditional cars – electric cars, hybrids, bike lanes, light-rail, and car-sharing plans such as Zipcar are on the rise.
  • Toyota and Honda have sold a lot of small-to-midsize cars in this market for several years and are putting a lot of emphasis now on hybrids, natural gas vehicles, and plug-in electric vehicles.
  • Traffic congestion is getting worse – LA had its longest congestion-related delays in the US in April. The average driver wasted 5.2 hours, up from 4.5 hours in April 2012.
  • Sharing rides is gaining in popularity especially with young people, through social circles, and there’s more interest in bus and rail rides and car sharing.