This Week’s Top 10: California ZEV credits tightening up, Tesla shareholders have mixed feelings about SolarCity deal

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. Chevy Volt at dealershipZEV credits tightening: California’s zero emission vehicle
    mandate, adopted by nine other states, is heading for change in 2018 as the credit structure enters its next phase. Automakers have been able to earn partial credits from sales of plug-in hybrids and hybrid electric vehicles, along with low-emissions and fuel efficient conventional vehicles. Regulations will be tightening in 2018 in a way that limits the impact of those partial credits and requires more sales of pure ZEVs, or battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. California and nine other states – Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont – accounted for 28% of new-vehicle registrations in the U.S. last year, according to IHS Automotive data. Automakers are feeling the pressure to comply soon while rolling out more competitive, affordable, 200-mile-plus electric vehicles.
  2. Tesla and SolarCity: Tesla shareholders had mixed reactions to Tesla’s plan, announced last week, to take over SolarCity for $2.8 billion. Tesla said that by acquiring SolarCity, the two companies would create a unique package of clean energy offerings, including solar panels, home battery storage, and electric cars under a single trusted brand. Investors, however, have been cool to the deal, sending the value of Tesla down more than what it proposed to pay for SolarCity. Critics have argued the two companies cater to different groups of customers, with little crossover. Elon Musk, a founder of Tesla and SolarCity who owns about a fifth of each, has to rely on outside investors to decide where this deal will go, and the process is being led by major fund companies such as Fidelity Investments. Some investors are concerned that this new investment will take away the focus needed to run the gigafactory and roll out the Model 3 the way it should be rolled out; others perceive trouble in taking on more than $3 billion in debt carried by SolarCity, a company run by Musk’s cousins. Tesla shares closed at $198.55 yesterday after reaching a recent peak of $235.52 on June 8.
  3. Faraday testing self-driving cars: Faraday Future will begin testing prototype self-driving electric vehicles on California roads later this year after winning approval from the state, an industry source said. A spokesperson from California DMV confirmed that Faraday had been approved to test self-driving vehicles on public roads on June 17. While the company plans to begin selling high-performance electric vehicles next year in the U.S., no details have been revealed yet on its self-driving car.
  4. Karma starts assembly: Karma Automotive opened up its 555,670-square-foot factory in Moreno Valley, Calif., with its first Karma Revero rolling of the assembly line last month. “A flame-red 1993 Chevrolet Camaro was the last car to roll off an assembly line in Southern California 24 years ago,” the automaker said. “We changed that this May when the first Karma Revero rolled off our Moreno Valley assembly line. The first of many.”
  5. Nissan said it will introduce two new technologies this year to move the automaker along in becoming a leader in electric vehicles and self-driving cars. The first is a new range extender that Nissan says will tackle two of the biggest hurdles confronting electric vehicles: cost and limited range.The new hybrid system, dubbed e-Power, debuted as a concept, the Gripz compact crossover shown last fall at the Frankfurt auto show.
  6. EV market forecast: Navigant Research expects the North American electric vehicle market will grow by around 62% year-over-year in 2016, nearing 200,000 sales. Growth is anticipated to come from expanding sales of the Tesla Model X, the second-generation Volt, and the introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt 200-mile range BEV, Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV later in the year. Navigant Research projects that the introduction of the Tesla Model 3 in late 2017 will likely boost the North American PEV market by around 60% in 2017 and then nearly double the market in 2018 after the first full year of Model 3 sales.
  7. Ford’s sustainability report: As part of its 2015/2016 Sustainability Report, Ford is introducing Project Better World, a mobility health services pilot program aimed at improving lives in developing countries while supporting new technological advancements and data analytics experiments. Through this program, Ford is working with World Vision South Africa and Riders for Health in Nigeria to donate two Ford Rangers, equipped to work as mobile health clinics, to meet the mobility needs of underserved communities in each country. Ford says that its continuing to invest in and strengthen its core business of designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing cars, SUVs, trucks, and electrified vehicles. At the same time, the automaker is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility – its plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.
  8. According to global EV sales data, consumers and fleets bought 58% battery electric vehicles and 42% plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as of last year. That’s shifting this year as PHEVs gain share. BEVs are showing more strength lately through strong sales in China.
  9. Fuel cell submarines: General Motors is working with the U.S. Navy in an effort to develop a new generation of unmanned undersea vehicles driven by hydrogen fuel-cell technology that can operate for as long as 70 days at a time. The technology would replace the more limited battery-drive systems currently in use in so-called UUVs, according to Navy officials.
  10. Audi vs. Tesla: Audi says that having roots going back to 1885 give it decades of experience that will help it win over Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors. “For over 100 years, automobiles have always gotten better,” Stefan Niemand, the German engineer who is the architect of Audi’s electric-car strategy, said. “Drivers won’t adopt electric cars if they’re seen as smaller, uglier and more expensive.”


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Big Picture: Nissan joins Tesla in selling ZEV credits, Volvo Trucks upping its green credentials, Toyota improving Prius performance

Nissan Leaf ZEV creditsHere’s my take on top news stories of the week:

  1. One of the gains made by selling plug-in electric vehicles in California is gaining zero emission vehicle (ZEV) credits and selling them to your competitors. Nissan Motor Co. now joins Tesla Motors in selling green-car credits. California requires large automakers to sell electric or other ZEVs in proportion to their market share in the state. Nissan has sold enough Leafs that it can sell its excess carbon credits to other automakers. The Tesla Model S can generate up to seven ZEV credits because of its range of as much as 300 miles per charge and the option of swapping its battery pack with a charged one (the company will open its first battery swap facility by year’s end). The Leaf earns three credits through the state program.
  2. Volvo Trucks is upping its green credentials even more – Through its Climate-Smart City Distribution project, emissions from 400 distribution trucks were cut between 30% and 80% over three years. Volvo worked with several partners to improve the efficiency of distribution operations in Gothenburg, Sweden. Conventional diesel distribution trucks were replaced with vehicles using renewable fuels – biodiesel, biogas, and dimethyl ether (DME); hybrid technology; and methane-diesel fuel. Volvo and Mack Trucks are committed to bringing DME powered trucks to roads soon; earlier this year, Volvo unveiled plug-in hybrid buses as part of a field test.
  3. Toyota is optimistic that its next generation Prius will get even better fuel economy and cost even less. Improvements will come through using lighter materials and significant advances in battery, electric motor, and gas engine technologies, the company said. Toyota thinks its miles per gallon rating on the hatchback Prius will gain from 50 mpg to near 55. It’s likely to come out in 2015. It next generation batteries will have higher energy density. For the Prius and other Toyota models, the automakers is working on a diverse set of batteries – lithium ion, nickel metal hydride, solid state, lithium air, and magnesium.
  4. Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) and its GoElectricDrive Foundation have a partnership with Green Sports Alliance dedicated to improve the environmental performance of sports teams and facilities. Since being founded in March 2011 by six professional teams and five venues, Green Sports Alliance now has over 170 professional and collegiate teams from 15 different sports leagues. Members include Anaheim Ducks, Baltimore Ravens, Boston Red Sox, LA Dodgers, Miami Marlins, New York Jets, and University of Texas Longhorns. EDTA and Green Sports Alliance will show organizations the benefits of integrating electric drive in their fleets, and giving fans a place to charge up their EVs while watching a ballgame, said Brian Wynne, president of EDTA.
  5. The 2013 AltCar Fleet Conference and Expo will be put on by the City of Santa Monica on Sept. 20-21. It tends to offer the best green vehicle display and ride and drive with just about e everything you can think of available to check out. As for speakers at the Friday fleet conference, these will include Terry Tamminen, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; David Friedman, deputy administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration; JR DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center at UCLA; Randall Winston, special assistant to the executive secretary, office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.; Jon Coleman, fleet sustainability & technology manager for Ford Motor Co.; and Richard Battersby, Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year, from East Bay Clean Cities. Vehicle debuts will include Southern California Gas Company’s west coast introduction of four new prototype consumer vehicles built to run on compressed natural gas and capable of using gasoline as backup.
  6. CleanFUEL USA has just brought in Blair Poulsen as its director of sales; Poulsen brings more than 23 years of propane industry experience to the company. He was most recently regional sales and marketing director for Heritage Propane and AmeriGas Propane, and currently serves on the Nevada Board of Regulation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas. Poulsen will lead a team serving clients in propane refueling infrastructure and OEM vehicle technology, including Thomas Built Bus, Collins Bus, General Motors Corp., and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.
  7. You think regenerative braking is pretty cool? How about a regenerative suspension? German automotive parts maker ZF says it’s bringing the first technology of its kind to the world. ZF Friedrichshafen AG has teamed up with Levant Power Corp. to product a system that works like regen braking, recapturing energy when the suspension gets put in motion. It would take away the large amount of energy needed by suspension systems and increase fuel economy.
  8. Is your community burdened by dirty coal? How about converting over to cleaner natural gas? Navigant Research is hosting a webinar on Sept. 10 that will explore that topic. Utilities are shutting down a lot of aging coal-powered plants through 2020. There are costs and complexities involved in switching over to natural gas that will be discussed by panelists, including examples of plants that have gone through these conversions in recent years.
  9. States like California are digging into the best financial models for reducing traffic congestion and repairing worn out roads. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) taxes, gasoline tax increases, road tolls, increasing vehicle licensing and registration fees, transportation-focused sales tax, and infrastructure bonds – and all they pluses and minuses – are explored in an article that was just published in Westways. It’s a very tough issue that states are going through.
  10. Reincarnated electric carmaker Detroit Electric will still be making its all-electric SP:01, only it won’t be happening in Detroit. Its Lotus-based sports car will be made in the Netherlands, and production will start in the fourth quarter of this year. The company was going to bring jobs to Detroit initially – 2,500 cars per years with a workforce of 100. Plans started being delayed in June, as the company said it couldn’t find the right manufacturing location in Wayne County, Mich., where Detroit is located.