Polestar offers electric car subscription service, Cummins Westport wins EPA and CARB certification

Polestar 1 available to subscribers:  Volvo Cars will be bringing Polestar, its new electric performance car brand, to the U.S., China, and Europe through an innovative subscription service. The company said that since the launch in October, enthusiasm has been high enough to sell off the early production volume. The first model, the Polestar 1, will be start production in mid-2019 at a new factory in Chengdu, China. The monthly subscription cost will be $2,000 for the entry-level Launch package that covers registration, insurance, and maintenance, with no deposit required. The Polestar 1 has a 600 horsepower electric performance hybrid powertrain. It will be the longest running battery-only plug-in hybrid out there with the ability to go 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) on battery power.

Criminal charges for ex-Uber employee:  A former Uber executive is facing criminal charges likely to be filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office over alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property for self-driving cars. Alphabet’s self-driving car division, Waymo, has alleged that one of its former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, stole its trade secrets before founding, Otto, the startup autonomous truck company that he sold to Uber for $680 million last year. The November 22 letter confirms that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation without naming targets of the investigation. The letter was unsealed Wednesday by a federal judge. Uber has denied all the allegations made by Waymo, and fired Levandowski in May.

Cummins Westport wins EPA and CARB certification:  Cummins Westport Inc. has received certification from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board for its 2018 L9N and B6.7N natural gas engines. Both engines meet CARB optional Low NOx standards, as well as 2017 EPA greenhouse gas emission requirements. That makes them some of the cleanest engines available today for truck and bus customers, according to the company. It will be of interest to truck and bus fleets investing in powertrains for future vehicles tapping into the full emission-reduction benefits of renewable natural gas. The L9N is certified to the CARB optional Low NOx standard of 0.02 g/bhp-hr ‒ a 90% reduction from engines operating at the current EPA NOx limit of 0.2 g/bhp-hr, and is available with ratings from 250 to 320 horsepower and 1,000 lb.-ft. peak torque. The B6.7N is certified to the CARB optional Low NOx standard of 0.1 g/bhp-hr – a 50% reduction from current EPA levels. It’s available with ratings from 200 – 240 hp and 560 lb.-ft. peak torque.

For Today: Toyota developing faster charging and longer range EVs, SoCalGas releases toolkit for streamlining renewable natural gas

Toyota going with solid-state batteries:  Toyota will be going with solid-state batteries to speed up charging and lengthening trips, according to a report published Tuesday in the Chunichi Shimbun daily. Recharging will happen in just a few minutes, versus competitor’ EVs taking at least 20-to-30 minutes using fast chargers for a range of just 185 to 250 miles. The first Toyota electric vehicle built on the new platform will come as early as 2022. Toyota is ready to compete with market leaders including Nissan and Tesla as EVs become more widely adopted in the next few years. An in-house unit led by President Akio Toyoda is working on developing and marketing a new lineup of EVs, as the company changes course from its previous path focusing only on hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as alternative powertrains. The automaker has also been reported to plan entry into mass production of EVs in China as early as 2019.

Tesla-competitive batteries:  Tesla is seeing new competitors enter the electric vehicle battery space, and they happen to be ex-employees. Romeo Power, a small startup company in Los Angeles staffed by former Tesla and SpaceX engineers, has begun making battery packs they say is lighter, more energy dense, and longer lasting than what’s being placed in Tesla’s EVs. The first units have gone to energy storage, but after a $35 million round of raising seed money, the company is adding other projects including electric cars, forklifts, golf cars, and robots. That came from $65 million worth of placed orders that will be delivered in 2018. Potential customers include U.S. and European automakers, according to founder Michael Patterson.

SoCalGas tools for RNG:  Southern California Gas Co. has just released tools for renewable natural gas production facilities to connect with SoCalGas’ natural gas pipeline system in the region. A downloadable toolkit has been set up to renewable natural gas (RNG) producers and developers interested in joining up their projects with the SoCalGas pipeline network. In addition, changes have been adopted that will accelerate the interconnection process. SoCalGas reports that about 80% of all methane emissions in California come from the state’s dairy and farm operations, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants. That methane can be harnessed and cleaned to produce RNG for use in transportation as well as in homes and businesses.


This Week’s Top 10: Low emission NGVs and RNG big at ACT Expo, Ports urged to clean up truck air pollution

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. Low emission NGVs and fuels highlighted at ACT Expo: A new jobs study was released on the opening day of ACT Expo 2017 in Long Beach, Calif., predicting that deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ examines the economic potential of fueling heavy-duty trucks with renewable natural gas produced in California, instead of being powered by petroleum-based diesel. The study was released jointly by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC). A switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals, the two coalitions say…….. Cummins Westport introduced new 2018 model year natural gas engines for regional haul truck / tractor, vocational and transit, school bus, and refuse applications. The new B6.7N, L9N, and ISX12N engines feature Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board Optional Low NOx certification, on-board diagnostics, closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems, and performance and reliability improvements. The new ISX12N features a redesigned fuel system with fewer parts and improved performance. All CWI engines offer customers the choice of using compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) or renewable natural gas (“RNG”) as a fuel.  Using low carbon intensity RNG fuel provides significant well-to-wheel GHG reductions and is an important aspect of a move to zero emissions strategy, the company said.
  2. ACT Now Plan: Members of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) yesterday urged the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to develop and implement an aggressive clean truck program as part of the updated 2017 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). To accelerate the CAAP, the Coalition developed the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan, which offers a cost-effective opportunity, using proven technology, to drastically and immediately reduce emissions from the 13,000 heavy-duty trucks serving the two ports. Coalition members outlined the ACT Now Plan at ACT Expo 2017. The plan calls on port leaders to immediately increase the number of zero- and near-zero emissions trucks to improve regional air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and drive job growth. “The latest generation of low-NOx, zero-equivalent natural gas engines powered by renewable natural gas exceed the required air quality standard by 90 percent and they are available today,” said Thomas Lawson, president of CNGVC. “There is no reason to wait to clean Southern California’s air.”
  3. Tree planting for Earth Month: Ford and Zipcar planted 20,869 trees on Saturday through One Tree Planted as a result of their college Earth Month campaign. The program further encouraged the use of sustainable transportation on campus by committing to plant one tree for every reservation made in a Ford Zipcar, and an extra tree for students who carpooled and shared a picture using the hashtag #FordZipsters. The campaign was open to over 500 college and university campuses with existing Zipcar programs from April 13-23. The resulting trees were planted through One Tree Planted, a non-profit on a mission to reforest the planet and provide education, awareness and engagement on the importance of trees. The trees were planted in the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon as part of the McKay Creek Floodplain Reconnection Project. Zipcar members can reserve any of the company’s more than 12,000 self-service vehicles across the globe, including a variety of Ford models, by the hour or day, including the cost of gas, maintenance and insurance.
  4. Fuel cell delivery vans: UPS showed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell Class 6 delivery truck today during ACT Expo. The van, developed as part of a $10-million federal Department of Energy program, is the first of 17 hydrogen fuel-cell vans the company will be deploying in the U.S. by the end of 2018. The initial van showed today at ACT Expo will start in service later this year serving the Sacramento market.
  5. EVs for Uber rides in Oregon: Uber drivers in Portland, Ore., are being encouraged to switch over to electric vehicles for rides. Similar to a program launched in London, this one will start in late May and taps into a combination of incentives and educational programs. Uber says it has about 6,000 drivers in Oregon now; while about 100 of them drive EVs now, the company wants to utilize the program to bring the number up to around 600 EVs by 2019. The company is working with Drive Oregon, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more EVs on the state’s roads. The organization will work with Uber drivers on how to share the benefits of EVs with their riders. In separate news, Drive Oregon announced that its name has been changed to Forth. After being a big part of helping bring together leaders for the state to become the nation’s “living lab” for electric mobility, the organization is expanding beyond its home state, expanding to other regions and incorporating smart, shared mobility technology. You can visit the new website to learn more about the new look, expanded mission, and new Go Forth Electric Vehicle Showcase.
  6. Audi’s sustainable suppliers: Audi AG introduced sustainability ratings for its automotive suppliers last month. The Volkswagen subsidiary is increasing its commitment to achieving a sustainable value chain. The ratings are based on checks carried out at the suppliers’ production plants as well as on company reporting. The premium car manufacturer is starting the ratings system with the selection of suppliers for the new Audi e-tron electric SUV and for the successor to the Audi A3.
  7. ZEV fees and fuel taxes jumping up in CA: California will raise $52.4 billion over the next decade to repair its roadway infrastructure through zero emission vehicle fees and raising taxes on gasoline and diesel. Owners of all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles will have to pay an annual $100 fee to the state starting on July 1, 2020. That’s expected to raise $200 million for the state funding program. Gasoline taxes will go up another 12 cents a gallon from the current 30 cents per gallon as of Nov. 1, 2017. Diesel taxes will go up another 20 cents from the current 13 cents per gallon, and a sales tax for diesel vehicles will go up another 5.75% on that date. These tax increases are expected to bring in tax revenue of $24.4 billion, $7.3 billon, and $3.5 billion, respectively. Funds from the new Road Repair and Accountability Act just signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will cover various projects such as $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes; $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation; and $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs.
  8. Tesla dealing with safety rating ding: Tesla started an over-the-air update to reinstate the emergency automatic braking (AEB) feature in all of the Model S and Model X vehicles produced since late October without AEB. The company started adding it fully autonomous vehicle technology and had temporarily set aside AEB and other functions. Consumer Reports has dropped the Model S sedan’s overall score to 85 from 87, down from the top of the luxury vehicle list into third place behind the BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. The Tesla Model X also took a hit, dropping from 58 to 56, putting it near the bottom of the midsized luxury SUV segment. Consumer Reports says that Tesla had been making promises to upgrade the software and deal with the safety problem since late 2016, but had not yet taken action.
  9. Total SA sees EVs taking off: A leading oil producer predicts that electric vehicles could make up to 30% of global new vehicle sales by 2030. Speaking recently at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York, Total SA’s chief energy economist, Joel Couse, predicted that EVs will make up 15 to 30 percent of global new vehicle sales by that year. Oil demand used in transportation will flatten out after 2030 and possibly even decline, he said. That’s the most aggressive forecast ever made by a major oil industry company, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  10. VW settlement in California: Automakers have expressed concerns that Volkswagen is being give a competitive advantage in California over how the German automaker will be spending $200 million in the state through its diesel emissions settlement. The California Air Resources Board has taken public comments and is reviewing VW’s proposal on how the $200 million will be spent in the first 30 months on plug-in vehicle infrastructure and other zero emission vehicle projects. Competitor automakers said that VW has chosen several locations that already have many electric vehicles in place, and support should go elsewhere in California to spur more EV interest and sales. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai also filed a statement asking the state to direct a “significant portion” of the funds into hydrogen fueling stations to meet zero emission vehicle goals. Sierra Club in its CARB filing asked the automaker to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities.”


Taking a look at next-generation transportation fuels and the future of oil

Last week’s announcement of the $155 million that oil giant BP will be placing in Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem renewable natural gas (RNG) shows a microcosm of much larger trends:

  • The oil industry is seeing a global marketplace out there where investing in clean fuel and energy is becoming more economically viable; it’s also being pushed by new government and corporate policies being enacted as the Paris climate change agreement takes hold – even if the Trump administration pulls out of the agreement.
  • Natural gas vehicle acquisitions are expected to grow, and there’s already thousands of those vehicles in fleets across the country. Using RNG is the same as using biodiesel or renewable diesel – the engine technology, and much of the fueling infrastructure – is already in place, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly overnight by switching over. RNG has about 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than equivalent gasoline or diesel fueled vehicles; and renewable diesel offers similar benefits in emissions reductions.
  • Fossil fuel consumption, including gasoline and diesel, is expected to decline worldwide in the near future under stringent government regulations and increasing sales of vehicles consuming less gasoline and diesel. More pressure has been coming from increasing concern over air quality, health hazards, and climate change; in that context, stakeholders are pushing for change at the legislative, regulatory, corporate, interest group, and consumer levels. This is true of both the developed economies in Europe, North America, and Asia; and of developing economies such as China, India, and Brazil. Renewable energy used to generate electricity is seeing more government support in developing nations; as is vehicle electrification and alternative fuels as government regulations and subsidies flourish.

Here’s a look at the landscape of alternative, renewable fuels and energy for this year and beyond……..

BP and Clean Energy agreement:  BP is buying Clean Energy’s existing biomethane (RNG) production facilities, its share of two new facilities, and its existing third party supply contracts for RNG. The oil company will continue to subcontract the operations of these facilities to Clean Energy, and the natural gas fueling company has an extensive network of natural gas fueling stations around the country for purchasing RNG. Clean Energy will have a long-term supply contract with BP, and will buy RNG from the oil company and collect royalties on the Redeem fuel sold at its stations. Redeem comes from organic waste; Clean Energy sold 60 million gasoline gallon equivalents of the fuel in 2016. Customers buying Redeem have included UPS, Republic Services, Ryder, Kroger, and the City of Santa Monica’s transit agency. Using RNG and renewable diesel gives fleets and transport companies access to California’s low carbon fuel standards and cap-and-trade funding programs. Other governments, including Canada, are adopting the standard calling on fleets to reduce carbon emissions by 10%, no matter what the fuel may be.

Oil companies investing in alternative fuels and energy:  Seven oil and gas companies – BP, Shell, Eni, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Statoil and Total – are creating an investment fund to develop technologies to promote renewable energy. The industries face mounting pressure to take an active role in the fight against climate change; that joint announcement was also tied into more formal guidelines being issued on the 2015 Paris Agreement to phase out man-made greenhouse gases in the second half of the century. BP had invested heavily in biofuels and other alternative fuels years ago but then had backed off. That investment has been picking up again lately with the Clean Energy Fuels deal and other sustainable energy including biofuels and wind energy. Finland-based oil refining company Neste Corp. is now the world’s leading supplier of renewable diesel and has been investing in jet biofuel. It’s been producing over two million tons of renewable diesel annually. Shell CFO Simon Henry said in a November interview that demand for oil is expected to peak in about five years. Hydrogen has been an alternative energy of choice for Shell with investments made in six hydrogen stations that are open for fueling – four in Germany and two in the Los Angeles area, and a seventh near London’s Heathrow Airport opening soon; and the new agreement with Toyota to jointly construct seven hydrogen stations in California. Shell is also part of a global hydrogen council that formed last month that will be investing about $10.7 billion in hydrogen products within five years. Last year, Shell also did what other companies such as Total, Statoil, and ExxonMobil are doing through investments in wind farms, electric battery storage systems, and carbon capture and storage.

Oil consumption will be declining: A new study by Edinburgh-based consultancy WoodMackenzie is in agreement with comments made by the Shell executive (and other oil company leaders) that what we used to call “peak oil” is showing clear signs of coming up. WoodMackenzie analysts say that the rising number of hybrid and electric vehicles being sold around the world, and greater engine efficiency, along with higher fuel standards and emissions reduction targets in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, will cause an historic shift in consumption patterns. Oil consumption reached a record high last year from oil prices plunging in 2014; the study forecasts demand for oil will reach its peak in the U.S. next year and by 2021 globally. Vitol, the world’s top oil trader, thinks it will take a few years longer with demand for gasoline and diesel reaching their peak in 2027-2028; but it will happen. Major oil companies and processors face an historic period of change as several countries, along with the Paris agreement, support getting rid of fossil fuels entirely in the next few decades.

Renewable energy being taken seriously as its own industry:  There was another $287 billion in clean energy investments made in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance – a sign that the clean energy economy has global reach. Natural Resources Defense Council reported that India had installed 11 gigawatts of solar and 29 gigawatts of wind capacity during 2016; that helped move things along toward the country’s goal of having 100 gigawatts of solar and 75 gigawatts of wind by 2022. China became the world’s leader in solar power capacity last year, surpassing Germany; that came through adding more than 34 gigawatts of solar capacity last year, nearly 1.5 times the amount the U.S. has installed in its entire history. China also installed more than 23 gigawatts of wind power in 2016, almost three times as much as the U.S. added last year. Latin America has also been a bright spot in renewable energy with three out of the top five developing countries for clean energy coming from this region: Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay. In the U.S., more than half of about 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity added to the grid in 2016 came from renewable resources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration also reported that more than half of electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid last year came from renewable energy. Last year, National Renewable Energy Laboratory issued a report forecasting that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, could supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand in every region of the country.


This Week’s Top 10: Nissan Leaf class-action suit settled, Tesla unveils “Ludicrous” mode offerings in Model S

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. Lithium battery in Nissan LeafNissan Leaf class-action suit settled: Nissan has reached a settlement agreement over the class-action lawsuit filed in 2012 claiming Nissan was not accurately reporting the real-world range of its Leaf lithium-ion batteries in its advertising. That class-action suit had started up in 2012 on behalf of all Leaf owners in Arizona and California; previous settlements had not closed the case, but now it appears all parties have agreed to the final settlement. Under the new terms, Nissan will have to replace battery packs with updated versions identical to those used in the 2015 Leaf, which use a newer and more heat-tolerant cell chemistry. The automaker will no longer have the option to repair a battery pack that shows less than nine “bars” of indicated capacity on the dashboard gauge. Nissan will also provide 90 days offree access to DC fast-charging through its EZ Charge card program, where users can access stations within the NRG eVgo, AeroVironment, and Car Charging Group networks.
  2. From Insane to Ludicrous: Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the “Ludicrous” mode offerings in the Tesla Model S P85D and P90D variants; and it will be faster than the “Insane” mode introduced last fall – from the current 3.1 second zero to 60 mph down to 2.8 seconds. Maximum acceleration with be 1.1g, which Musk described as “faster than falling.” Tesla also upgraded the main battery contacts from steel to a more advanced metal; that increased maximum power delivery from 1300 amps to 1500 amps. In other news, Tesla Motors said that it expects to start selling its new Model X in China during the first half of next year, after being introduced in the U.S. in Q3. The company is also opening five to six new showrooms by the end of this year, bringing the total number in China to about 15. Tesla hopes the SUV model will increase interest and sales in a country where interest has been weak,
  3. Renewable natural gas (RNG) continues to see more acceptance and adoption as a viable clean transportation option. The City of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) announced that it has become one of the country’s first municipal transit authorities to convert its fleet to renewable natural gas (RNG), rated 90% cleaner than diesel and is considered the cleanest transportation fuel available. The transit agency is transitioning its buses using liquefied natural gas (LNG) over to RNG through Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem renewable LNG, which is non-fracked methane harvested from organic waste in landfills. With that decision, BBB unveiled a new ad campaign called “Bigger, Bluer, Skies” to emphasize the lower emissions and sustainability of this type of fuel. The city council supported using a more sustainable product at an equal cost, said BBB’s Transit Director, Ed King.
  4. Incentives not Fees: Automakers would prefer to see federal and state governments offer more incentives for electric vehicle (EV) purchases rather than higher vehicle registration fees. In a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said lawmakers should be offering incentives instead raising fees, since incentives encourage purchases and fees tend to discourage them. The alliance represents a dozen global automakers, including the Detroit 3. The alliance is lobbying against efforts to have extra fees, which go up to $100 for EVs, going toward a $1.5 billon road funding plan.
  5. Argonne study on dual-fuel vehicles: Ford Motor Co. and FCA US have partnered up with the US Dept. of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to study the benefits of dual-fuel vehicles such as natural gas and gasoline. The study aims to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10% increase in overall efficiency and a 10% improvement in power density.
  6. Sierra Club site shows EV incentives: Interested in finding out about all the incentives available in your state to purchase electric vehicles (EVs) and chargers? Then visit the Go Electric campaign site operated by Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has launched the national campaign to promote EVs as a way to slash pollution, reduce our dependence on oil, create American jobs, and improve national security. “Pick a Plug-In” helps consumers look at EVs available on the market that will fit best with their specific driving needs.
  7. Good news for used Leafs: While the Nissan Leaf has looked pretty bad in used car market studies, including ones released by NADA Used Car Guide, Consumer Reports offered a bright spot. The testing team has been impressed with how well it has held up since its launch in late 2010; staffers have been impressed by its quietness, smooth acceleration, and interior space. The Leaf received a “better than average” rating in the Consumer Reports testing – the second-highest ranking a car can attain. The 2011 Leaf gets a “much better than average rating,” 2012 and 2014 models get “better than average,” and 2013 models are rated just “average.”
  8. Much better roads: A small company in the Netherlands offers PlasticRoad, which replaces conventional asphalt and concrete with prefabricated roads made out of recycled plastic. The city of Rotterdam has been impressed enough to consider using the material in a pilot “street lab” project to see whether it can hold up to daily urban driving. The PlasticRoad materials could last as much as three times longer than conventional pavement and withstand temperatures ranging from -40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Biofuels Bonanza: More news and reports came out…… China and India could play increasingly important roles in the development of the biofuels market going forward, according to a Wall Street Journal DuPont will license its biofuel technology to China’s largest cellulosic ethanol manufacturing plant. The licensing agreement will provide DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol technology and use DuPont Accellerase enzymes to produce renewable biofuel from the leftover biomass for the Chinese company. As for the U.S., only seven states–Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington – have mandates that require ethanol to be blended in their state fuel supply. But new research appears to show that pure gasoline – known as G100 or E0 – is more corrosive to various engine parts than is E10.
  10. Boston works with Waze: Real-time traffic data company Waze has partnered with the city of Boston to learn more about an annoying source of traffic slowdowns – double-parked cars. A team from the city’s Transportation Dept., the Dept. of Information Technology and Boston’s New Urban Mechanics group analyzed three months’ worth of citizen-reported data from Waze to find streets most likely to have double-parked and illegally standing cars. When the worst parts of the city were identified, additional bike-riding parking enforcement officers were deployed to those areas to get the double-parked cars to move.