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…….
- VW EV 2025 target: As Volkswagen Group emerges from its diesel emissions scandal and faces increasingly strict government mandates on reducing vehicle carbon emissions, the German automaker expects electric vehicle sales to increase substantially by 2025. VW says it will have to sell about one million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle per year by that year. VW projected that volume by analyzing regulatory environments in key markets, including draft legislation in China. That will require a huge leap from where VW stands right now in EV sales. Total cumulative volumes of all VW brand electrified cars (including VW, Audi, and Porsche) sold since the start is expected to be about 103,000 by the end of this year. For the first four months of 2016, the company sold just shy of 3,000 EV units in the U.S. with the Audi A3 Plug In, VW e-Golf, and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, according to HybridCar’s Dashboard.
- Automakers going mobile: Mobility services continue to expand through investments by major automakers. Not long after Apple announced its $1 billion investment in Chinese ridesharing service Didi, Toyota, Volkswagen, and BMW made similar deals. Toyota is investing an undisclosed amount in Uber and is offering lease deals to Uber drivers. Volkswagen said on the same day it would invest $300 million in Gett, a smaller ride-hailing company. BMW is investing an undisclosed amount in a smartphone-powered carpooling service called Scoop. (Read more about it in the UberMan )
- Green bonds: Automakers are taking the green bond market very seriously with $2.5 billion raised in 2016 to finance electric and hybrid vehicles. In May, Toyota’s financial arm sold a $1.6 billion green bond to fund consumer purchases and leases of energy-efficient Toyota and Lexus vehicles; that was upsized from an earlier plan to sell $1.2 billion in green bonds. Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group raised $400 million this month in a green bond sale to finance development of zero-emission black cabs in the U.K. The bond was close to six times oversubscribed. Other automakers are likely to come to market with green bonds, said Stephen Liberatore, a portfolio manager at TIAA. Libatore’s TIAA-CREF Social Choice Bond Fund holds about $75 million of Toyota’s green bonds.
- Gigafactory tour: Tesla Motors will be opening the doors on its “Gigafactory” to the general public on July 29. The 130-acre battery-making plant isn’t due to start production on lithium ion cells until 2017. The date was revealed in email sent to customers, who won invitations to the customer-focused event by referring customers via Tesla’s referral program. Although only about 15% finished as of early May, the factory is already producing Tesla’s Powerpacks and Powerwalls.
- 2017 Fusion Energi mpg: Ford has been promoting its Fusion Energi as the plug-in hybrid with the longest range out there on battery and gasoline engine. The 2017 Fusion Energi does get a few improvements including getting 42 mpg over 38 the previous year; 97 MPGe over 88 last year; and 22 miles “Elec+Gas” range, over 20 miles for 2016. Its total driving range extended from 550 miles to 610.
- Hydrogen stations: Leading hydrogen station supplier FirstElement has 13 True Zero stations in operation now, mostly in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas. The company hopes to have the rest of the 19 done by early next year. That would give True Zero a dominant share of the market in California; there are just six other retail hydrogen stations not owned by the company.
- Lithium ion batteries: Popular Mechanics just published an educational article titled, “5 Things To Know About Making Electric Car Batteries Better.” Having tried out a radio-controlled Yeti Trophy Truck with a lithium battery, writer Ezra Dyer researched and answered a few questions. For one thing, the term lithium-polymer “is a reference to the packaging material, which is a polymer aluminum laminate. The inside is still lithium-ion, but the complete battery is dramatically different compared with a production electric car’s lithium-ion battery.” As far as all the advanced batteries being tested out in r&d centers, Dyer thinks that lithium-ion is the winner for now.
- Carsharing report: According to Navigant Research, global carsharing services revenue is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2024. Growth in one-way carsharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model. Utilization of the vehicles has improved as carsharing members can use one-way carsharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in carsharing services is expected to increase as automakers promote this technology.
- Trump on biofuels and oil: Donald Trump has a plan for “complete American energy independence” in his campaign for president. In a recent speech, Trump said that he endorses repealing President Obama’s climate regulations, gaining independence from OPEC oil, and “canceling” the COP21 agreement. Trump would also like to “remove obstacles” to increased oil and gas development in the US. He does support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol production. Biofuel group Growth Energy says that both Trump and Hilary Clinton support the RFS.
- Start-stop: General Motors will be offering start-stop systems on at least one powertrain in every model it manufactures and sells by 2020. It comes from pressure to increase fuel efficiency in its fleets and because of advances in hardware. Starting with the 2017 model year, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency will award credits toward compliance with fuel economy standards to automakers who equip vehicles with start-stop systems.
Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller will be speaking to the company’s senior management in mid-June on how VW will emerge from the diesel emissions scandal more as a “mobility provider” than as an automaker. Based on comments Mueller and other VW executives have made recently, it might look something like this:
- Developing a strategy to handle the demands of increasingly connected vehicles, driver assistance systems, and the need to develop autonomous technology.
- Last October after reorganizing management, VW announced its Modular Electrification Toolkit, a standardized technical model for developing plug-in electric vehicles within the Volkswagen Group. The focus is on plug-in hybrids with an even greater range, high-volume electric vehicles with a range of up to 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) and eventually to 500 kilometers (310.7 miles), a 48-volt power supply system (mild hybrid), along with more efficient diesel, gasoline, and CNG concepts. It’s all part of what VW earlier announced as its Modular Transverse Toolkit.
- In late April, Mueller gave a presentation on the company’s 2015 annual financial statements. He reiterated plans to launch over 20 additional ‘e-vehicles’ by 2020, as VW pushes ahead with developing its bespoke architecture in the form of its Modular Electrification Toolkit. The first vehicles produced on the MEB module are slated to hit the streets at the end of the decade. “We plan to make electric cars one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks,” Mueller said.
- VW will be shifting its strategy to profitability, not sales volume. Being No. 1 in global sales won’t be its top priority anymore. It will mean limiting the number of volumes its builds and sales, and using its own resources more efficiently. It will also ties into what other automakers like BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, and Toyota have been experimenting with lately: testing out business ventures focused on mobility services and new technologies: carsharing, ridesharing and ride-hailing, delivery services, autonomous vehicles, vehicle electrification, and urban commuter cars.
- VW’s investment resources for mobility and electrification will be limited by the vehicle recall. The company said that it lost 16.2 billion euros ($18.2 billion) for 2015 alone once the diesel scandal was revealed last September, and that’s likely only a part of the total cost.
Maven is rolling out to cities as GM’s hourly carsharing/car rental service expands its Ann Arbor, Mich., operations and moves over to Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
- In its Ann Arbor office, prices for renters range from $6 an hour for the Chevrolet Spark and Volt, to $12 an hour for the Tahoe; and $42 per day for the Spark and Volt, to $84 a day for the Tahoe.
- As part of the Maven brand expansion, certain residential buildings in Chicago, Washington, and Boston will be equipped with Maven cars for tenants to use for an hourly rate. Other Maven vehicles will be parked throughout the cities for anyone to reserve using a smartphone app developed by GM.
- Speaking recently at a women’s technology conference in Detroit, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said carsharing services like Maven can help eliminate the headaches of car ownership in cities where congestion and parking costs are challenging.
- The automaker sees Maven as critical for its mobility strategy as it competes with carsharing companies like Avis Budget Group’s Zipcar and Daimler’s Car2Go and ridesharing giant Uber through its Lyft alliance. Earlier this year, GM bought a 9% stake in ride-hailing/ridesharing company Lyft Inc. for $500 million.
- GM working to develop a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles. GM and Cruise Automation, another mobility company GM recently invested in, have begun testing autonomous prototypes of the Bolt in San Francisco. Cruise Automation is providing technology for the test cars. One of GM’s goals is to launch of a fleet of autonomous self-driving taxis with Lyft within a year.
- About a year ago, GM hired a Silicon Valley engineer, Zafar Razzacki, to lead the marketing and user experience for Maven. Razzacki, who worked for Google and a few tech startups, was profiled by Automotive News as leading the way for shaping the Maven “personal mobility” brand. GM’s objective is to get young drivers in its cars, even if they don’t own them. Assembling a team of outsiders is necessary to get there. “We literally view ourselves and are treated by the company as a small startup within GM,” he said. “We’ve got this crazy assortment of engineers and creatives and technologists and business people all working together. We are breaking a lot of rules. We are trying a lot of new things.”
Uber showed off its latest self-driving test car – a hybrid Ford Fusion outfitted with a variety of sensors and high-resolution cameras to gather mapping data and refine the vehicle’s autonomous driving capabilities. It’s being driven through Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. Uber had previously been involved with Carnegie Mellon University and its group of experienced experts in autonomous vehicle technologies, enough to have donated $5.5 million to the department; and to hire over some of its staff for the Uber project. As of March, CMU had not worked with Uber on its self-driving car test project, according to CMU faculty and administrators. Uber recently joined a coalition that includes Google and to advocate for safety regulations for self-driving cars and help bring them to American roads.
Google recently received a patent for enhancing safety features on its self-driving cars. Google’s approved patent involves coating the front of a car with adhesive for pedestrian safety. It focuses on what would happen if that self-driving car were to hit a pedestrian. Google says coating the front of a car with adhesive could prevent someone from bouncing onto the windshield, sliding under the wheels, or flying into the air and landing in the road. “The adhesion of the pedestrian to the vehicle may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing off the vehicle after the pedestrian impacts the hood,” the patent says.
by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market
Here’s my take on the eight most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….
- EPA testing: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be expanding on-roads emissions tests for all diesel vehicles. The EPA practice had been to test only a handful of new vehicle each year to confirm laboratory results. Its first tests have recently included diesel vehicles from other Volkswagen Group brands, which found that about 10,000 VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles using a 3.0-liter diesel V-6 also had illegal software. European regulators also plan to add on-road testing, although for somewhat different purposes than their U.S. counterparts.
- Hyundai plug-in hybrid: The 2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle launched by Hyundai and comes with a 27 mile All-Electric Range (AER). “The flexibility of this alternative powertrain delivers efficient hybrid operation and eliminates any concerns for range anxiety, while providing an impressive total driving range capable of 600 miles,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president, corporate and product planning, Hyundai Motor America. The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid’s 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery system helps deliver 99 MPGe.
- Best mpg pickup: The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado two-wheel drive with the Duramax turbo-diesel is the most fuel-efficient pickup in the U.S. with an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 31 mpg highway fuel economy. The EPA-estimated highway fuel economy for 2016 Colorado four-wheel drive diesel is 29 mpg. With the Colorado’s 21-gallon fuel tank, the 2WD model offers an estimated maximum highway range of 651 miles per tank.
- EcoBoost benchmark: Ford launched its EcoBoost fuel-efficient engines in 2007 and is getting close to selling one million vehicles with these downsized, gasoline turbocharged, direct-injected (GTDI) engines. Currently every Lincoln-brand vehicle and every Ford from the Fiesta through the F-150 has at least one EcoBoost engine available as either standard equipment or an option. EcoBoost has been part of Ford hitting its fuel economy targets along with hybrid and plug-in vehicles.
- Fuel cell alliances: Audi may be getting into the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle business, and has acquired a number of patents on fuel cell technology from Canadian company Ballard Power Systems, a developer of fuel cells. Ballard has an agreement with Audi, with the two working together through 2019. Ballard thinks that the patents will help Audi develop a fuel cell vehicle that will be ready for the commercial market at some point in the future. In another alliance, 3M will support Plug Power’s expansion into hydrogen-enabled electric vehicle applications outside of the material handling market. 3M will supply Plug Power with membrane electrode assemblies to be used in Plug Power designed proton exchange membrane fuel cell stacks under a new strategic supply agreement.
- Recycled seat material: Carol Kordich, Ford lead designer, global sustainability materials strategy development, accepted the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Automotive Innovation Award in the Environmental category. Kordich was recognized for her work to replace traditional seat fabric with one made of 100% recycled material. Kordich’s effort helps to divert more than 11 million water bottles from landfills annually.
- Port of LA SCIG court hearings: On Nov. 16-17, California Superior Court Judge Barry Goode will listen to attorneys representing environmental organizations, community members, and regulatory agencies. Several parties have filed suit and will be heard by the court over two days over the planned Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard. This plan was first announced in 2005 for a train path adjacent to West Long Beach. The Port of Los Angeles and Burlington Northern Santa Fe have committed to allow the Port to handle more cargo and reduce air pollution. Those filing suit have said that the SCIG will make air pollution worse, especially for the low-income, disadvantaged communities.
- Ford begins Mcity testing: Ford will become the first automaker to test out the 32-acre Mcity facility at the University of Michigan. Ford has been testing autonomous vehicle technologies for more than 10 years, and will expand testing of its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research vehicle. The research project combines driver-assist technologies, such as front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, with four LiDAR sensors to produce a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.