For Today: Ford sustainability report details several gains made, Tesla getting ready to announce 200-300 mile range semi truck

Ford’s 18th annual sustainability report:  Ford Motor Co. announced a series of gains made in sustainability initiatives in its annual report. The automaker joined the Business Alliance for Water and Climate “Improve Water Security” initiative supporting its drive to someday have zero usage of drinkable water in manufacturing. Since 2000, Ford has cut water use by more than 61 percent. It’s partnership with Jose Cuervo continued using agave plants for sustainable bioplastics being placed in Ford vehicles. Now about 300 vehicle parts come from renewable sources such as soybeans, cotton, wood, flax, jute, and natural rubber. Its aluminum closed-loop recycling system recycles about 20 million pounds of military-grade aluminum alloy per month, enough to build more than 37,000 F-Series truck bodies a month. Ford continues to reduce the footprint of its supply chain with an enhanced Partnership for a Cleaner Environment program that has grown to more than 40 suppliers in 40 countries – up from 25 suppliers in 2015. The automakers zero-waste-to-landfill program has been expanded to a total of 82 Ford facilities around the world, where no waste is sent to landfills. You can read the company’s 18th annual sustainability report to learn more, plus read and watch a video on improving safety and fuel economy, reducing manufacturing carbon dioxide, the company global electrification strategy, and sustainable mobility services.

Webcast on PEV sales:  On Sept. 12, UCLA, J R DeShazo, director of UCLA’s Luskin Center, will lead a webcast from Sacramento on the future of the plug-in electric vehicle market. Details on a new study will focus on the early development of the market and the factors likely to shape future growth ties into California’s public policy goals for clean vehicle sales. The study examined consumer response to PEV market offerings and tested hypotheses about potential determinants of PEV sales over time and across locations in California.

Tesla Semi range:  Tesla will be launching a semi-truck next month capable of going 200 to 300 miles per charge, according to Scott Perry, a Ryder System executive interviewed by Reuters. Perry said he met with Tesla earlier this year to discuss what the Tesla Semi truck will be like that CEO Elon Musk announced last year and said would be revealed in September. It will be ideal for short-haul trucking and won’t have anything like the capacity of 1000-miles per fueling big rigs typically seen on U.S. highways. The Tesla Semi could work for companies needing freight hauling from ports to warehouses and other day trips. Tesla will face a series of challenges including ramping up later this year for the Tesla Model 3.


How Hyundai plans to become the world’s second largest green automaker

Hyundai Ioniq plug inHyundai Motor Company has been surging forward in the global auto market, and plans to become No. 2 in green car sales after Toyota by 2020. Hyundai unveiled its signature brand last month at the New York Auto Show – the Ioniq – which will be the auto industry’s first-ever model available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric iterations and built on the same drivetrain. It will be rolling out later this year. Within the next four years, the Korean automaker intends to flood the market with 26 green vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric, and hydrogen-powered models.

With 8.01 million vehicles sold through its Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands in 2015, Hyundai Motor Co. became the fifth largest global automaker; and the third largest Asian vehicle manufacturer after Toyota and Nissan. Kia and Hyundai surpassed Japanese brands for the first time last year in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study. The automaker plans to sell 300,000 electrified vehicles by 2020, a sizeable gain over the 70,000 electrified vehicles the company sold last year.

Here’s Hyundai’s formula to become No. 2 in “eco-friendly vehicles” –

  • The near-term Hyundai lineup will include the Sonata hybrid and plug-in hybrid; Ioniq hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric; Grandeur hybrid; and its Tucson Fuel Cell. The Kia brand will offer the Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid; Soul EV; Cadenza hybrid; and the upcoming Niro Hybrid.
  • Hyundai says the 2017 Ioniq plug-in hybrid will travel 25 miles on electric power alone in its plug-in hybrid version compared to Toyota’s 22 miles in the new Prius Prime. The fully electric Ioniq will travel 110 miles per full battery charge, which surpasses the current Nissan Leaf but will be overtaken by the upcoming 200 miles-per-charge models.
  • The Ioniq Electric battery electric version will use a 28 kWh lithium-polymer battery, and is expected to deliver 155 miles per charge on the European test cycle; and would likely be lower in the U.S. As previously stated, that could be about 110 miles per charge for the U.S. rating. The electric motor will have 118 horsepower and 218 lb.-ft. of torque. Its top speed is 103 mph.
  • Hyundai’s strategy appears to be driven by a mix of regulatory compliance, an environmental-friendly philosophy, and profitability. “With a goal of having a fleet-wide average of 54.5 MPG by 2025, we’re leading the future of eco-friendly vehicles,” according to Hyundai’s website. Hyundai’s Blue Drive Strategy is another element of Hyundai’s corporate strategy for fuel efficient vehicles and environmentally-friendly vehicle technologies. This has started with some of the Hyundai vehicles such as the i10, more fuel efficient version of the Elantra and Accent, the company said.
  • Hyundai has been far behind other OEMs in its green car lineup, bringing its Sonata Hybrid to market in 2010 and the Tucson Fuel Cell in 2014. It has been driven by Toyota’s leadership, and it does need to become profitable for it to be a viable option. “Except for Toyota, I can achieve some competitiveness against other companies,” said Lee Ki-Sang, head of Hyundai’s eco-car powertrain division. “Our target is before 2020, we would like to make profits on these eco-friendly vehicles,” he said.
  • Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell drivers have accumulated more than one million miles (as of mid-February) in Southern California since introduction of the hydrogen-powered car in June 2014. The first mass-market produced fuel cell vehicles has been sold to about 100 owners (in February). The Tucson fuel cell model is currently available on a 36-month lease for $499 a month with $2,999 as the down payment.
  • At the Chicago Auto Show, Kia unveiled the 2017 Optima Hybrid and Optima PHEV plug-in hybrid that can travel 27 miles on electricity alone. The Kia Optima recently received a complete redesign. The Kia Optima Hybrid uses the new Optima body, as well as a similar powertrain to the latest generation of the related Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Like the Sonata, the Optima also gets a plug-in hybrid variant for the first time.
  • Kia also introduced the Niro, the company’s first dedicated hybrid nameplate. Along with being Kia’s first dedicated hybrid, it will have an entirely unique body style. The 2017 Kia Niro is scheduled to go on sale late this year.
  • In November, the 2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid became the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle launched by Hyundai and comes with a 27 mile battery range. The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid’s 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery system helps deliver 99 MPGe.


Murky definitions of electric vehicles and hybrids make purchases more challenging

plug-in hybrid, EV, charging stationIf you’re reading media coverage and market reports on electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid sales trends, it’s easy to get confused over what’s being described. One might think it would mean plug-in electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles – with plug-ins including battery electric (Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S) and plug-in hybrid (Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Energi); and hybrids representing models such as the Toyota Prius (not including the Prius Plug-in Hybrid) and Ford Fusion Hybrid. However, lately there have been reports and media coverage that make the categories more confusing; and make the prospect of marketing, selling, and purchasing these vehicle technologies even more murky and challenging.

For many consumers and fleets, buying either of these technologies is a new and confusing experience. The price differential compared to high fuel economy gasoline engine cars is one factor; and the need for charging stations and the amount of time needed for full charging are other questions that come up all the time. Why invest in a new technology when you can get cost-competitive traditional engines with higher mileage?

A new study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, “What Do Current Owners of Hybrids and Non-Hybrids Think about Hybrids,” speaks to that challenge. The survey received responses from 1,002 hybrid owners and 1,038 owners of non-hybrid cars. It focused primarily on their experience with current hybrids and plans for future vehicle purchases.  About 80% of current hybrid owners will buy a hybrid with about one third of them intending to buy a plug-in hybrid. For those who won’t be buying another hybrid as their next vehicle, about one sixth of them will be buying an electric vehicle. This study defines and segments hybrids and electric vehicles differently than other sources have been in recent years. Most of the time, plug-in hybrids are listed as “electric vehicles” or “plug-in electric vehicles” in data reports, while Transportation Research Institute places it in the “hybrid” category. (To receive a copy of the University of Michigan report, email Michael Sivak at

Early September saw a wave of media coverage on analysts stating that EV and hybrid sales were fizzling. saw a stalled August market for battery-powered cars – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. A drop in hybrid sales offset gains made in the plug-in hybrid and battery electric market. Hybrid sales were down 9.1% since August 2013, but plug-ins were up 9.5% since a year ago. The Edmunds study said that the drop in hybrid sales offset sales gains in plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles with hybrids selling a higher volume than that achieved by plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. The study refers to all of them as “electrified vehicles.”

Here’s how leading sources of data on EV and hybrid sales are defining the numbers:

  • Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) defines “electric drive” sales figures as covering light-duty hybrid vehicles and total plug-in vehicles (with plug-ins breaking out into plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles). In September, there were 31,285 hybrid vehicles and 9,340 total plug-in vehicles sold that month. Of the total plug-ins, 3,357 were plug-in hybrids and 5,983 were battery EVs.
  • Plug In America’s Plug-in Vehicle Tracker features battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.  The difference here is that everything is covered – light duty passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses, motorcycles, and three wheelers. It doesn’t include sales figures, but it does offer pricing and driving range numbers.
  • has changed its formatting this year – breaking out battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles into separate charts; they’d previously been featured in one category as plug-in electric vehicles. The monthly report covers hybrids, plug-in hybrids, compressed natural gas (with only the Honda Civic Natural Gas featured on that chart), and diesel passenger cars (aka clean diesel).
  • AutoblogGreen considers them to be “green cars” in its monthly reporting, and includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric, clean diesel, and a few fuel-efficient technologies like the Buick Regal eAssist and Chevrolet Malibu ECO mild hybrid. The sales figures are broken out by each brand and company. Analysis of sales trends is based on the total green car sales for the month in relation to recent months and year-ago numbers.

When looking at all of these sales figures and category definitions, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Purchase incentives are being offered on battery electric and plug-in hybrid models and don’t exist on hybrids anymore. Center for Renewable Energy’s website provides an example of what’s available on the market these days. This just covers California, but it also features federal incentives and information on carpool lane stickers – other sources that are taken seriously by car shoppers. Incentives used to be offered on hybrids until their sales volume increased and plug-ins entered the market.
  • It is a very good idea to have industry standards in place, as Society of Automotive Engineers would attest to. Having uniformity in industry terminology becomes important when it comes to government legislation and regulation, corporate policies, research studies, investors, and buyers of the products.
  • Simplifying the wording is a good idea. Extended range electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle? I prefer plug-in hybrid. Pure electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle? I vote for battery electric vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle? I would take the word “electric” out of that one. Hybrid electric vehicle or hybrid? Hybrid is a good way to simplify it. And what to do about electric vehicle (EV). It seems to cover both battery electric and plug-in hybrid. Some say it should be plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) at all times; I’m fine with EV since that’s widely used and accepted – and I would rather use it regularly than throwing in “electric car” occasionally.
  • Automakers are still working out their definitions of “electrified vehicles” and sometimes group hybrids and EVs together. Ford offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its Ford C-Max and Fusion models – with the plug-in hybrids under the “Energi” label. Toyota is offering the Prius Plug-in Hybrid version of its popular Prius brand. The price is several thousand dollars higher than the traditional hybrid version of the Prius, but there are incentives on the plug-in version.
  • The experience can be confusing and stress-inducing. Survey researchers at Indiana University released an exhaustive study that found consumers are misinformed about EVs – with 75% incorrectly underestimating the benefits of the vehicles. I got a phone call recently from a friend shopping for a car with his wife. They’re open to owning a hybrid or plug-in, but confusion over the differences between hybrid and EV models doesn’t help; they could easily put off the purchase even longer.
  • Fleets that have yet to acquire any vehicles outside traditional internal combustion engine models have a similar experience and have definite concerns over their return on investments. Electrified commercial vehicles make their research a bit murky as well, especially with Smith Electric Vehicles and Boulder Electric Vehicles going through financial struggles.
  • While the total sales volume of EVs and hybrids isn’t growing by leaps and bounds, if you include clean diesel and natural gas as “alternative fuel vehicles” or “green cars,” the sales numbers represent their own segment gaining more credibility. Eventually, those sales figures will likely include hydrogen fuel cell, propane autogas, and biofuels.
  • Effective educational and question-and-answer materials are very much needed in the marketplace. EDTA and Plug In America are doing a very good job on this front, but stakeholders in clean transportation have a lot of work to do on getting the word out to consumers and fleets who will be making these acquisitions in years to come. Clear labelling of vehicle types would help simplify the process.