For Today: Daimler brings eCanter electric trucks to America, Mazda planning on adding an electrified version to all of its vehicles

eCanter electric truck comes to America:  Daimler beat Tesla in bringing commercial electric trucks first to the U.S. market. Mercedes brought Mitsubishi Fuso’s eCanter electric trucks to New York City yesterday. UPS, the Bronx Botanical Garden, Habitat for Humanity, and Big Reuse have begun two-year leases on a small number of the medium-duty electric trucks that can go up to 80 miles on a charge. Daimler had previously made a deal with 7-Eleven to send 25 of the trucks to Japan. The electric trucks can carry three to four and a half tons of cargo, which is a few tons less than the diesel equivalent.

New president at NGV advocacy group: NGVAmerica named Daniel Gage as its new president, as previous president Matthew Godlewski leaves for a position with Ford Motor Co. Gage comes to the natural gas vehicle advocacy group from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, where he served as senior director of communications and public affairs since 2011. He holds more than 20 years of experience in government and community relations and public affairs. “It’s a defining moment for natural gas in transportation,” said Gage, “and I am honored to lead a talented group of professionals dedicated to advancing cleaner air through the expanded use of natural gas innovation.”

Mazda’s plan to electrify fleet:  Mazda Motor Corp. is planning on adding an electrified version to all of its vehicles by the early 2030s, according to a Kyodo News report. They’ll be all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles. The company currently offers one hybrid vehicle, a version of its Mazda3, and has focused on its fuel efficient Skyactiv system in gasoline engines. Electric powertrain technologies are being developed and may be deployed in Mazda vehicles starting in 2019. At that time, the company plans to reveal a very efficient gasoline engine that be used in plug-in hybrid models. Mazda previously forged an alliance with Toyota to develop electrified technology.

Three key questions CNG system integrators should pose when vetting alternative fuel tank suppliers

By Wayne Powers, Alternative Fuels General Manager
Worthington Industries

Arguably the most important component of a CNG fuel system is the fuel tank, which demands consistently reliable performance over up to 25 years of service. Pictured is a 26.2-inch Type III CNG fuel tank from Worthington Industries, which features a carbon-fiber reinforced aluminum liner that eliminates gas permeation.

Arguably the most important component of a compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system is the fuel tank, which demands consistently reliable performance over many years of service. Depending on a fleet’s driving range requirements, along with the vehicle platform and other factors, multiple fuel tanks can be specified by a CNG system integrator, with variations for type, diameter and length. Keep in mind that CNG fuel tank specifications are very precise, because they are often specified for a given vehicle application. If there is an eventual need, an exact replacement is necessary, in order to seamlessly synch with system components.

Therefore, there is some risk involved for system integrators as they select a fuel tank supplier. The best way for integrators to mitigate that risk is to do their homework on the front end, starting with the following three questions:


  • Does the CNG fuel tank supplier’s product range match my vehicle designs? This includes not only length, diameter and tank type, but also custom designs. Sometimes, a very specific tank is required based on available dimensions and the supplier’s design and manufacturing expertise.
  • What is a supplier’s process for managing design changes? An integrator may start with a particular system design, but based on vehicle platform evolution, that design will change. Does a fuel tank supplier have demonstrated ability to be flexible over time, and in-house engineers that are experienced enough to adapt? Remember, if there is a design change, and a new fuel tank is required years later, that tank will have to be re-qualified.
  • What type of support can be expected? Since CNG fuel tanks are meant to last up to 25 years, choice of a partner that can support that product over its usable lifespan is key. Support includes availability of parts, like O-rings and valves, along with direct-replacement tanks. But support also includes customer service and repairs. A fuel tank supplier is more valuable if it has representatives that can head into the field, diagnose a problem and fix it.

These three questions should be considered a starting point. Answers to these, and other questions, will provide system integrators important data on how a fuel tank supplier’s processes maximize system design and performance, which will help meet the needs of fleet operators, both today and well into the future.

Wayne Powers leads the strategic growth and day-to-day operations of Worthington Industries’ Alternative Fuels business.

Proposed EPA rules on cutting methane emissions from natural gas present challenges and opportunities to the transportation fuel

natural gas vehicle fueling stationLast week’s proposed standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on cutting methane emissions from oil and gas by 40% to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025 will eventually have an impact on natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure. For those tracking the impact of natural gas in the US economy, transportation fuel, and electricity generation, legal and legislative battles have become pervasive in the U.S. at the state level; there’s been a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to issue clear national standards on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and methane emissions governing the oil and gas industry.

The Obama administration is remaining committed to natural gas as a clean, domestic energy source,  but expects it to align with overarching plans on clean energy; which the electric power industry is going through right now with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. How natural gas is extracted and delivered to end users has become a pressing issue for the federal government to face. “Cleaner-burning energy sources like natural gas are key compliance options for our Clean Power Plan and we are committed to ensuring safe and responsible production that supports a robust clean energy economy,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, about the proposed oil and gas rules.

Here’s an overview of the proposed rules and how they may affect the natural gas industry:

  • The proposed EPA standards would deal with finding and repairing leaks; capturing natural gas from the completion of fracked oil wells; limiting emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; and limiting emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.
  • The EPA says the proposed standards will complement voluntary efforts, including the Methane Challenge Program, and are based on practices and technology currently used by industry. It would complement programs made during the last 20 years through the successful Natural Gas STAR Program, while significant opportunities remain to reduce methane emissions, improve air quality, and capture and monetize this valuable energy resource.
  • In related news, seven oil and gas businesses have committed to reduce their methane emissions and back the United Nation’s campaign for a global standard for controlling emissions from oil and gas infrastructure. BG Group, ENI, PEMEX, PTT, Southwestern Energy, Statoil, and Total submitted pledges for reducing methane output through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal.
  • The EPA’s proposed rules for the oil and gas industry could address concerns over methane leaks producing a lot more greenhouse gas emissions. A study last year by scientists at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory raised concerns over benefits gained by the transportation fuel. The study found that methane leaks negate the climate change benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel.
  • The “Rethink Methane” conference held in Sacramento, Calif., on June 9-10, explored the potential of renewable natural gas (RNG) and power-to-gas in transportation and energy. Speakers looked at the challenges and opportunities of how biogas can help California meetings climate protection and air quality improvement goals and strengthen the state’s economic future. Energy Vision, a nonprofit advocacy group, has been following how states like New York are adopting similar policies on RNG as a transportation fuel and on the potential benefits of organic waste.
  • Next month’s NGVAmerica annual conference will host workshops on how natural gas is being addressed in environmental regulations and in government funding programs. The federal Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) is holding its MOVE Program Review, an invitation-only conference, Sept. 14-15 in Denver. MOVE is the Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy initiative overseen by ARPA-E; it will be followed immediately by the 2015 North American Natural Gas Vehicle Conference & Expo hosted by NGVAmerica in Denver, which is taking place Sept. 15-17. ARPA-E awarded $30 million to 13 organizations under the MOVE initiative in mid-2012. Nine of the projects addressed the challenge of storing natural gas onboard a vehicle, and four of the projects were for development of home fueling equipment.
  • “GHGs and Climate Change: NGVs and the Road Toward a Sustainable Future” will take place during the NGVAmerica conference and will feature Todd Campbell, VP, Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Clean Energy Fuels Corp., and Kathryn Clay, Vice President, American Gas Association. They’ll be discussing how the growing focus on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions could affect policies and regulations for natural gas vehicles. The discussion also will address the potential of RNG and its role in the future growth of the natural gas vehicle market.


This Week’s Top 10: California Gov. Jerry Brown gets three EV bills sent to his desk, Natural gas trucks behind diesel with fleets

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. electric vehicle incentives, EVsCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has three bills to sign before the end of September that will affect electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging infrastructure. Wealthy people over a certain income level would have their $2,500 state EV rebate phased out; another bill would increase the number of carpool-lane permits for solo drivers using plug-in hybrid cars. The third bill addresses multi-unit dwelling chargers; the bill would prohibit landlords from stopping renters from installing electric car chargers as long as the tenant pays for installation. California has been the leading market for EV sales in the US – about one third of EVs sold in America are sold in California. The rebates have been a key incentive for people in California, along with carpool lane access stickers. California’s rebates of up to $2,500 for EV buyers have been instrumental in the state hitting its target of having 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on its roads by 2025. Changing its incentive program comes from pressure felt in Sacramento that the rebates are just a windfall for the wealthy. While there’s a strong market for luxury EVs like the Tesla Model S, it’s a limited niche market; consumers at average income levels will need to see state and federal incentives, and have been responding well to automaker incentives like discounts and attractive leasing deals.
  2. Natural gas vehicles are not winning the natural gas vs. diesel fight in commercial vehicles, according to a Wall Street Journal feature. About 10,480 natural gas heavy-duty trucks should be sold this year in North America, down from the 16,000 initial forecast. Fleets are spending about $150,000 for heavy-duty trucks and an additional $50,000 for natural gas versions; that’s taking about four years to pay off. Saving $1.60 to $1.70 for the gas equivalent of diesel is appealing, but the acquisition cost differential and scarcity of NGV fueling stations in some parts of the country are tipping the scale toward diesel. Diesel fuel and diesel-powered trucks are also gaining more interest and credibility with fleets, as well.
  3. Tesla Motors’ stock price reached a record level Friday after closing a charging station network deal in China. The shares closed at $269.70, up 2.2%, after reaching a high point of $271.40 during the day. Tesla began selling its Model S electric sedan in China in April, and just signed an agreement with China United Networks Communications Corp., the second-largest mobile phone company in China. The companies will build 400 charging stations in 120 cities at China Unicom outlets; and 20 Supercharger fast-charger stations.  Both Tesla and BMW are now adding public chargers in China.
  4. Kia is going with open-standards for DC fast-chargers as it rolls out its 2015 Kia Soul EV at select Kia dealerships on the west coast. Greenlots, a global provider of open standards-based technology solutions for electric vehicle (EV) networks, is partnering with Kia Motors America and ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, to offer these DC fast-chargers. The partnership illustrates the increasing role interoperability among EV charging technology networks plays in meeting pricing flexibility demands from automakers and providing a seamless experience for EV owners, Greenlots says.
  5. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel scored big, winning Consumer Reports’ top spot among full-size light-duty pickups and beating out Ford, GM, Toyota, and Nissan. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel earned high marks for best-in-class fuel economy at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; and for its “whisper quiet” interior.
  6. Owners of the 2012 Fisker Karma will be getting something they need from Fisker’s new owner – supplies of spare parts. Fisker Automotive had built about 3,000 Karmas when it stopped production in July 2012; parent company Wanxiang America and Fisker management is negotiating with over 300 suppliers. Most of these supplier relationships have been set up, and Fisker will have access to needed parts.
  7. Sakti3, a Michigan-based battery technology company, says that it will be able to double the energy density for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Sakti3’s co-founder and CEO Ann Marie Sastry says the company’s solid-state lithium cells have reached 1,143 Watt-hours per liter; that would drive your electric car about 300 miles on a charge and would reduce the battery cost, too.
  8. Volvo will roll out a first-of-its-kind vehiclea plug-in electric vehicle that can seat seven passengers. The 2016 Volvo XC90 will offer both a seven-seat options and the availability of a twin engine plug-in hybrid model. The SUV will also have a weight savings of 250 pounds, which will increase its fuel economy.
  9. China will offer tax breaks on purchases of electric vehicles predominantly made by Chinese automakers. The government posted a list of 17 vehicles from 11 automakers, including one model each from the China joint ventures of Nissan, General Motors, and Daimler. It’s the latest policy measure to boost green vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market, part of its strategy to deal with rising concern over air pollution.
  10. Toyota’s “Choices” TV commercial for its Prius Plug-In Hybrid shows a father facing a tough choice in his garage. Does he unplug the fish tank or the refrigerator in the garage so he can charge his Prius Plug-In Hybrid? His son shakes his head no as his father prepares to unplug the fish tank and risk the pet fish’s life. “It’s also a hybrid,” the voice over says as the father puts away his power chord and decides to go without a charge.

Why I’m passionate about (and obsessed with) clean transportation and alt-fuel vehicles

AFVs beat gasoline“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”  U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy said in a 1959 speech.

I’ve been fortunate to have fascinating conversations with several readers of this newsletter in recent years. That could have happened while preparing for an Automotive Digest video interview, during an article interview, while seated near each other at industry conferences, or while standing in line at ride and drive events. Some people in my social circles tune out while I sermonize on the benefits of clean transportation being deployed in the US and around the world. Other people have their share of passion on the topic – including personally driving a hybrid, electric vehicle, natural gas car, or something similar. Sometimes they manage hundreds of these vehicles in their fleets.

Beyond the bells and whistles of a particular green car, here are typical points that I, and many of my peers, make during these conversations………

  • Reducing tailpipe and carbon emissions. As the article on China covers this week, the number of vehicles on roads is increasing and bringing serious ramifications to urban centers around the world. Ground transportation makes up a big chunk of carbon emissions and air quality impact – whether that be through passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, or buses. I tend to be “technology neutral” about how we do it. Some advocate plug-in electric vehicles as the only way to go, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, or natural gas vehicles, or clean diesel, or small cars that get high mileage, or……. you name it. I tend to support all of them – as long as the case can be made that they’re all built on scientifically tested, safe technologies and fuels that meet government rules.
  • Turning problems into solutions. As you read the quote from JFK above from my consulting website, it points to a realistic assessment of global conditions. China, India, and Brazil are the emerging economic markets – the US no longer plays its dominant role, nor does Europe. All of these economies are becoming more interlinked and dependent on each other (as was clearing demonstrated by the Japanese earthquake of 2011). For the US, clean transportation and alternative fuel vehicles represent four huge opportunities: job creation; research and development for advanced technologies; breakthrough technology and fuel innovations; and capital investments. It is definitely tough to gain support from venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and other regions for green vehicles compared to smartphones and tablets – but there’s a lot of growing interest out there in clean transportation and for cleantech overall.  Turning waste into energy also points to another problem-into-solution, such as renewable natural gas being made from sewage and garbage.
  • Training and development opportunities. There are a lot of Millennials/GenYers out there who’ve had great, expensive college educations but are working at Starbucks; along with talented service technicians who want good paying jobs. There a quite a few people in their 40s and 50s who’ve burned out on their office jobs or have been laid off during the Great Recession. How about getting them into automotive and charging and fueling infrastructure jobs? There’s a need for engineers, designers, service technicians, charging station installers, renewable energy technicians, alternative fuel station and storage tank experts, vehicle service and repair departments, emergency first responders, battery makers, dealers, vehicle remarketers, and others to make clean transportation thrive. And don’t forget educators – there are some excellent training and development programs out there that need our support.
  • Recovery from fossil fuel addiction. As 2GreenEnergy’s editor Craig Shields depicts in blog posts and books, fossil fuels used in electricity and transportation dominate decisions in Washington and in corporate boardrooms. That is starting to change, but the challenges are enormous. While Shields would likely not get along with former president George H.W. Bush, they would agree on one thing:  “We’re addicted to oil,” as Bush said in his State of the Union speech in 2006. Former oil tycoon and natural gas champion T. Boone Pickens would agree with that statement and always talks about how many barrels of foreign oil the US imports every day. As for me, I would go back to the JFK quote – turn problems into opportunities. Whether you believe in climate change or not, how about cleaning air quality, creating jobs, and recovering from oil addiction through clean transportation and alternative fuel vehicles? That sounds pretty darn good to me.
  • This isn’t just a momentary fad. All of the technologies and fuels have gone through spurts of possibility in the past before quickly fading away – natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the early 1990s, electric vehicles (EVs)  in the late 1990s, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the early 2000s, and flex-fuel vehicles in the second half of the past decade……… This time, none of them are likely to go away. EVs have recently hit an overall sales trend stronger than the early days of hybrids; there are more green vehicles being announced by OEMs or in the pipelines than ever before; the charging and fueling infrastructure is moving forward at public and private stations; incentive programs aren’t going away anytime soon; gasoline and diesel prices are high enough for consumers to take notice; corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations are adding clean transportation to their sustainability programs and policies, and they seem to be expecting that their employees comply; and sales figures for EVs, hybrids, clean diesel, NGVs are still small, but nearly all the forecasts say the numbers will be growing through the next 10 years along with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, propane autogas, and biofuels. And take a look at media coverage in a given week, such as what gets summarized in Green Auto Market. There are always significant, substantial vehicle launches, studies, government policies and incentives, partnerships, and innovations. It appears that clean transportation and alternative fuel vehicles are here to stay.

GM, Schneider and Waste Management honored in sustainability awards

Environmental Leader awardsGeneral Motors, Schneider Electric, and Waste Management were honored for sustainability initiatives in the second annual Environmental Leader Product & Project Awards. A panel of distinguished judges scored entrants in the competition based on excellence in energy and sustainability management. Click here to download the report.

General Motors was honored for “Driving a Global Movement for Zero Waste,” through its global manufacturing sustainability campaign. It’s based on reducing landfill waste to zero, and from turning those scraps and waste materials into a revenue stream.

In 2012, GM generated an estimated $1 billion in reuse and recycling revenue from its byproducts; the automaker eliminated 11 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions. GM has also become known for its land-fill free production facilities with 108 of them now in place. The goal is to bring that number up to 125 by 2020.

To accomplish its goals, GM uses a variety of methods including data collection and monitoring systems, employee and external engagement initiatives, and creative reuse and recycling. Results are reported monthly by GM plants, offering a company standard to benchmark against. GM has been sharing its strategies with members of its value chain and to the manufacturing industry.

Schneider Electric, which plays a significant role in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) were recognized for development of “Higg Index 2.0.” SAC’s index was first introduced 18 months ago; this new version brings in an online platform developed by Schneider Electric; it’s added the ability to share users’ sustainability data, increase accuracy, and add measurability for materials and processes. This brings greater transparency and accountability through the apparel industry’s supply chain. The companies say that Higg Index 2.0 adds to the 1.0 version by including new measurement data to help assess chemical and social impacts of products.

Waste collection giant Waste Management was honored for what it brought to the Phoenix Open golf tournament. The PGA’s most highly attended golf tournament was turned into its most sustainable one. The company aimed to make the tournament a zero waste event by diverting all of its waste to recycling, composting or waste-to-energy. Along with using the renewable energy sources of wind, solar, and biomass, greywater to save water, 63% of the transportation vehicles used during the golf tournament were run on alternative fuels.

Waste Management has more than 3,000 heavy-duty natural gas trucks in North American cities today; the company plans to ultimately convert its entire fleet of 18,000 collection vehicles over to natural gas and has more than 50 natural gas fueling stations in place.

Expired federal tax credit raises natural gas prices and its challenges

Ford CNG F-150For those in the natural gas vehicle business, a new challenge took hold on January 1, 2014 – a federal tax credit expired, which has been adding 50 cents on each gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) of natural gas sold at a lot of fueling stations. That’s been a 30% cost increase at some fuel stations, and it’s a cause for concern for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle owners and for those providing the vehicles and infrastructure. Prices are varying in the US – around $1.65 to $2.50 per gallon equivalent around the country (according to on January 20). Gasoline prices were about $3.28 and diesel is around $3.85 nationwide according to AAA. Taking an estimated average of $2.10 for natural gas GGE in the US, that makes it about 64% the cost of gasoline and 54% the cost of diesel. Not long ago, natural gas was costing well under half the price of gasoline and only about one third the cost of diesel.

It is being felt in Oklahoma, which has more CNG fueling stations per capita than any other state. It apparently hasn’t caused uproar yet, since Oklahoma has been seeing cheaper price per gallon – still under $2.00 per gallon equivalent in parts of the state, but it is being noticed. Operators of fueling stations have some decisions to make in that market and around the country about how the pricing will go. Natural gas producers had been passing the credit on to consumers. Time will tell who will be paying that increase, but based on scanning the news and talking to someone in the business, natural gas prices are starting to rise for consumers now that the credit has gone away.

For example, natural gas producer Apache has passed on a 50 cent increase to its 19 fueling stations in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Apache had seen an 88% increase in CNG sales at its stations in 2013 due to the low prices for natural gas.

All things considered, here a few points to follow:

• The tax credit might come back in Washington; it was part of the “fiscal cliff” fight over a year ago, and could return as a tax credit or another incentive from the federal government. NGV advocates like T. Boone Pickens have been knocking on doors in Washington and lobbying for it. NGVAmerica reported that Sen.  Max Baucus (D-MT) had drafted a bill to modify all energy taxes including the CNG fuel credit in a tax extender bill. His proposal, if adopted, would extend the fuel credit for three years (until 2016) and modifies them with a clean fuel credit based on BTU and emission factors. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has introduced a senate bill that includes an extension of related credits until 2014, and other elected officials have been supportive in the talks. It’s a wait-and-see situation, according to NGVAmerica.

• The benefits of going with natural gas are still there; the fuel is expected to remain very cost competitive for years to come in the US due to its abundant supply. The reduced emissions with CNG and LNG is very appealing to fleets directed by carbon and smog emissions targets.

• The vehicle offerings are getting better. There are a lot of EPA and CARB-certified commercial vehicles and pickup trucks out there. Consumers like the Honda Civic Natural Gas and Ford F-150 – it appears to be slowly growing in interest from consumers who might have bought a hybrid or clean diesel vehicle before. The price is higher for NGVs due to gasoline and diesel comparable vehicles – usually around $10,000 for a conversion (sometimes cheaper); so it takes about a year and a half to break even and loss of the tax incentive will add a few months to that calculation.

• The infrastructure has a long way to go, but it is getting better each year. Navigant Research predicts that 40% of the stations to that will be opened in the next two years will be in North America. Growth in the fueling station networks will help take away some of the hesitation.