EV tax credit continues: While still awaiting signature by the president, the comprehensive tax bill does keep the current tax credit alive. Electric vehicle owners will still be able to claim a tax credit up to $7,500 on the purchase. The 200,000 unit cap will still be in place with Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan expected to hit that ceiling sometime next year. Automakers and organizations such as CALSTART and Plug In America had been lobbying for inclusion of the tax credit, which had been initially cut from a House tax bill.
Musk’s accidental tweet: Tesla CEO Elon Musk received a wave of phone calls yesterday when he accidentally sent out his phone number to his 16.7 million Twitter followers. He’d been intending to send out the number to John Carmack, chief technology officer at Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality division. Several people tried calling his phone number and reported hearing a voicemail message from Musk stating, “By the Gods you’ve done it. Somehow you’ve found your way here to me. I offer you my congratulations and my respect.”
Uber loses big lawsuit in Europe: Uber is legally defined as a transport company, according to a ruling this week by the European Court of Justice. The ride-hailing giant had argued that it merely provides a mobile app linking riders to car owners, and not a taxi or livery company. The case had come out after Barcelona ruled that Uber was to obey local taxi rules in that city. Uber downplayed the court ruling, saying that the company already operates under transportation laws in most European Union countries. Analysts say the ruling will have serious implications for Uber and other similar companies operating in the new gig economy. Uber and its new management team have a set of challenges to face after going through a difficult year.
Newsworthy: Lyft continues to see a very strong year, now finding that its initial plan to raise $1 billion has gone up to $1.5 billion from a group of investors. Backers include Fidelity Management & Research Company and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, Janus Henderson Investors, and Rakuten. CapitalG led the billon-dollar round. The ride-hailing firm’s valuation is now at $11.5 billion. Alphabet, the Google parent company, played a key role in bringing in more investors for Lyft during October – after pulling away from financial support for arch-competitor Uber and filing its intellectual property theft lawsuit affecting its Waymo division……………..
A Morgan Stanley analyst expects that Tesla Inc. could lose attention from CEO Elon Musk, who may be devoting more time to his SpaceX intergalactic travel company. Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas wrote in a report Tuesday that we may see more of an alliance between Tesla and SpaceX in the future. “Investors widely expect Elon Musk to, over time, devote increasing amounts of his time and talents to SpaceX, raising the very real question of who could replace him at Tesla,” Jonas wrote. “A combination of efforts between the two firms could address this important issue.” The two companies will play on the alliance during an commercial in January. A SpaceX rocket will carry a Tesla Roadster sports car owned by Musk as payload when it travels toward Mars………….
Gladstein, Neandross & Associates was profiled in a newsletter article this week by California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. Along with putting on ACT Expo and other clean transportation events, GNA has played a key role in raising millions of dollars in grant funding for clients during its history. The consulting firm will celebrate its 25 year anniversary next year. The company has effectively supported the use of renewable fuels, and has provided research and analysis for all parts of the clean transportation industry. GNA also does emissions modeling, assists with technical fleet planning, monitors government affairs, and provide communications and media services to clients, CNGVC said.
Blink Charging Co. new corporate name: Car Charging Group, Inc. is tapping into the Blink electric vehicle charging network’s market identity by changing its corporate name over to Blink Charging Co. The company had taken over the network after founder ECOtality filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Car Charging Group began operating thousands of Blink charging stations, and the software that manages, monitors, and tracks these stations and stores charging data. Blink Charging Co. also started a 1 for 50 reverse stock split, effective two days ago. After a period of 20 business days from then, the company’s stock symbol will be CCGID and will then revert to CCGI. The company’s website has switched over to www.BlinkCharging.com. “Changing the name of the Company to Blink Charging continues our integration efforts and corporate rebranding, which allows us to unify our identity and illustrates the company’s primary products and services,” stated Mike Calise, Blink Charging’s CEO. “The reverse split is also another step in the right direction towards achieving a listing on a national stock exchange and to build additional shareholder value.”
Bosch offering extended range: Global auto supplier Bosch just released e-axle, a new electric axle combining three powertrain components into one unit – that will bring longer range to electric vehicles and hybrids and more torque and speed to these vehicles – and to compact cars, SUVs, and pickups. It’s capable of delivering between 50 and 300 kilowatts. Torque at the axle can cover a range of about 1,000 to 6,000 Newton meters (737 to 4,425 foot-pounds). EVs will be able to travel further on each charge, and they won’t have to draw more power from the battery with the new e-axle system in place. It’s being tested now with a few Bosch customers, and the supplier company says it will go into mass production starting in 2019. The German supplier says it has already provided components to over 500,000 hybrids and EVs out on roads.
Lift spreading across country: Ride-hailing company Lyft is making a big move in its U.S. presence, expanding from eight states up to 40. The Uber competitor has been able to see growth in riders and revenue and recent years, and can now tap into chaos that the global ride-hailing giant entered into earlier this year. Lyft has been able to bring over a lot of customers and drivers from Lyft. An upgraded smartphone app has helped, along with a new marketing campaign that’s helping Lyft grow from serving 160 more cities for a total of about 350. Lyft is an ideal situation, with its General Motors partnership and recent deals with other companies on autonomous vehicle test projects. Uber’s excessive market valuation and ability to raise about $14 billion in private equity since its inception is causing a huge shakeup as investors want to see transparent, professional management of the company. Uber this week hired Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to take the place of ousted and controversial founder Travis Kalanick. The new CEO is also known for being outspoken, and is expected to bring the company forward to an initial public offering within 18 to 36 months. Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer work on keeping the company simple and direct. They say they haven’t done beyond asking employees and drivers to make sure passengers are treated like guests at a fine hotel.
Polestar electric brand: Volvo Cars just started a high-performance electric car brand, called Polestar. Volvo acquired Polestar Performance in 2015. Polestar Performance had been a business that Volvo hired to jointly develop high-performance versions of its vehicles. The two companies will tap into economies of scale and other resources Volvo offers. Polestar will reveal its business plan this fall. Thomas Ingenlath to be CEO at Polestar. He previously had helped Volvo increase sales of several vehicles including the XC90. Polestar will challenge Tesla and BMW i subbrand as a global brand.
Putting restrictions on influencing biofuels policy: U.S. Democratic lawmakers have been concerned about the influence of billionaire Carl Icahn, head of oil refiner CVR Energy, on biofuels policy. Members of Congress have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to clarify procedures that would prevent Icahn from influencing biofuels policy for personal gain. Icahn would like to see the federal government reconfigure the Renewable Fuels Standards for blending ethanol in gasoline. He’d like to see biofuels producers and blenders take on more of the cost – and that oil refiners and oil companies be relieved of some of the burden.
Uber CEO leaves: There’s been a lot of reflection lately on how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has left his company, and how the world’s largest ride-hailing company has taken a dive since early 2017. Since starting up in May 2010, Uber invented a new segment of mobility – a business model adopted by Lyft, food delivery companies like Postmates and DoorDash, and dozens of other startups; and that’s put several taxi companies out of business. Uber became the most valuable private company in the world with Kalanick able to bring several venture capital backers onboard. The CEO was known for his aggressive style and for leading a workplace that hasn’t been good for women to work in; or many of the other male executives who’ve left in recent weeks. No matter what happens, the Uber brand name is likely to be carried forward as it’s become the icon of mobility services; maybe by another group of owners.
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…….
- Didi buying Uber’s China business: Uber’s arch-rival in China, Didi Chuxing, will be acquiring Uber’s Chinese business unit. It will effectively halt a fierce competitive battle and price war for the Chinese ridesharing and ride-hailing market. Didi will take over all of Uber China and will operate it as a separate brand. Uber will receive a stake in Didi and Uber founder Travis Kalanick will join the Chinese company’s board, according to news coverage. Uber has already lost $2 billion in China in two years there, people familiar with the matter have said, prompting Uber investors to pressure the company to cut a deal. As part of the arrangement, Didi will invest $1 billion in Uber’s global company, sources said. Business has been profitable in the U.S. and Canada, but losses in developing markets like China have undercut progress for Uber. The huge losses in China have been one of the main sticking points holding up Uber’s potential initial public offering (IPO), according to people familiar with the matter. Didi has received backing from more investors, including the recent announcement of $1 billion coming from Apple.
- Tesla merging with SolarCity: Independent board members of both Telsa Motors Inc. and SolarCity Corp. have approved a $2.6 billion all-stock deal. SolarCity stockholders would receive 0.11 Tesla shares for each SolarCity share they own. The deal still requires approval by a majority of shareholders at both companies, including Elon Musk, who is the largest investor at both companies. SolarCity is still open to bids over the next 45 days to see if any other bidder can top Tesla’s offer. Tesla and SolarCity shares were down after the announcement. Tesla shares dropped after the initial announcement in June, but have since come back. Wall Street has been concerned over whether combining the companies will be the best way to go.
- Volt passes 100K mark: Chevrolet has sold over 100,000 Volts in the U.S. since the plug-in hybrid’s launch in December 2010. In its current version, the Volt can go 53 miles on a charge and travel a total of 420 miles on electricity and gasoline. “The Chevrolet Volt delivers not just a fun driving experience behind the wheel, but has become the first vehicle with plug-in electrification technology to truly become mainstream,” said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. “Not only is the Volt a class-creator, it serves as the foundation of a Chevrolet electric family that will soon add the first long-range, affordable EV available to customers across the U.S., the Chevrolet Bolt EV.”
- Model X vanpooling: Green Commuter is rolling out a Tesla Model X fleet in carsharing and vanpooling services in the Los Angeles market. The company says that the Model X was chosen because it’s the only all-electric vehicle currently able to seat seven. Its official launch date is today, August 2, and coincides with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign offering its services at discounted rates. Packages start at $10 an hour and $150 per weekend rental.
- Details from Gigafactory tour: During the media tour last week at its Nevada-based Gigafactory, Tesla announced its Model 3 will start production about six months earlier than anticipated. Instead of late 2017, the Model 3 will start being built in the summer of next year, CEO Elon Musk said. Musk is confident the company will reach a price of $100 kilowatt hours by 2020, down from an average price of $1,200 in 2010. That will play a big part in keeping the Model 3 cost competitive, as batteries can make up about a third of the price of an electric car. Tesla and Panasonic will be building components in-house instead of the usual costs shipping and repackaging – keeping supply chain costs down.
- Changes in store for electric racer series: Formula E will be adopting changes to electric racers allowed to enter the global racing competition. Power output will remain at 200 kW and rise next season to 220 kW and 250 kW in season five; the regenerative braking level will increase to 150 kilowatt (up from 100 kW), and the weight drops from 888 kilograms to 880 kg. The design is starting to change with “unique visual identify” that will be displayed later this month during test days at Donington Park in the UK. The organizer says that “the new two-tier wing makes the fully-electric single-seater look more aggressive and unlike any other racing car in the world.”
- Mission E scheduled for launch: The Porsche Mission E is due to go into production in 2020 as a rival to the Tesla Model S. Codenamed J1, the electric car will be built on an all-new platform developed specifically around its electric drive system, which is different from the structure being developed by parent company Volkswagen for its new range of electric cars. Porsche revealed the 600-horsepower Mission E concept at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The German automaker has raised the number of new jobs it will create to more 1,400 from more than 1,000 already announced for the Mission E. More than 1,200 of the new positions will be created at the brand’s base in Zuffenhausen, near Stuttgart, Germany
- Elio lobbies for “autocycle” category: Elio Motors has been seeing positive results in its efforts to lobby for allowing licenses for driving its three-wheel vehicle in states across the U.S. Elio vehicle owners are benefiting from the new state laws including the “autocycle” category; this has brought the number up to 41 states that say you don’t need a motorcycle to drive the three-wheeler. Elio Motors says that its vehicle will have a targeted base price of $6,800 that will get up to 84 mpg.
- VW top seller: Volkswagen became the top-selling global automaker during the first half of 2016, even after being absorbed in the “dieselgate” scandal since September of last year. Toyota lost first place following a series of production stoppages in the first half of the year. While sales of its mass-market VW brand have suffered, sales have been more than offset by strong demand for luxury Audi and Porsche models as well as Czech brand Skoda.
- Wastewater to hydrogen: Fukuoka, Japan, now has a hydrogen fueling station in place fueled by biogas coming from a combination of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the breakdown of wastewater from a central sewage plant. Fuel cell car owners can fuel up at what’s being called a “toilet-to-tank filling station.” It’s now the second of its kind, following a demonstration facility that used similar technology at a Fountain Valley, Calif., wastewater plant that is no longer in operation.