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. Model X recall: Tesla Motors has initiated a voluntary recall of 2,700 Model X sport utility vehicles due to problems with the third-row seats. The company was conducting an internal strength test prior to shipping Model X deliveries to Europe, and found that the third-row recliner unexpectedly slipped. The affected customers, all of whom live in the U.S., were sent an email about the recall. The Model X can still be driven prior to a recall, although Tesla is asking that passengers don’t sit in the third row seats until the SUV has been fixed. The recall affects vehicles that were made and delivered beginning in September and which were made before March 26. Tesla is now assembling new third-row seat backs and expects to replace them all within five weeks.
- Mobility projects: Automakers are continuing to launch test projects for mobility services of the future. Jaguar Land Rover launched a technology venture named InMotion on Monday which aims to create apps for services such as carsharing. InMotion will begin testing carsharing mobile apps in North America, Europe, and Asia in the near future. JLR and other automakers are trying to appeal to younger consumers in major global cities who are less likely to buy a car and have been attracted by new services such as carsharing veteran Zipcar and rideshare giant Uber…… Volvo will be adding to locations to its Drive Me autonomous driving pilot projects. The U.S. has been added to the list, soon after announcing that China will be part of it. Drive Me will be launched in Gothenburg, Sweden, in late 2017. In China, up to 100 self-driving cars will be tested by local drivers on public roads in limited driving situations, such as on express roads and highways…… BMW is getting back into the carsharing business with ReachNow, which is starting with 370 cars in its point-to-point carsharing business. ReachNow will offer the ability to pick up a car on the street and park in any legal curbside spot near the driver’s destination, rather than in reserved parking spaces. Like Daimler’s Car2Go carsharing firm, ReachNow will offer the ability to pick up a car on the street and park in any legal curbside spot near the driver’s destination, rather than in reserved parking spaces; it will start up in Seattle and move out to other cities.
- Alternative fuel engine innovations: Cummins Westport Inc. told Trucks.com that its 8.9-liter “near-zero NOx” engine is finishing its field test phase and the company will start taking orders this month. The engine reduces emissions of nitrogen oxide, or NOx, a smog- and ozone-causing product of fuel combustion that is particularly difficult to eradicate. The engine — called the ISL G NZ — is aimed at helping trucking companies meet regulations set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency clean-air standard that phases in from 2023 through 2031……. ROUSH CleanTech has developed a propane autogas fuel system for the Ford F-750 chassis that costs less than similar diesel counterparts. Operating up to 33,000 GVWR, the model was created in response to the growing demand for an autogas-fueled medium-duty chassis for bobtail applications, cylinder delivery trucks, and larger tank setters and box trucks, the company says.
- Global EV incentives: A new study by Navigant Research examines global demand-side polices for plug-in electric vehicles. PEVs provide a number of advantages over conventional internal combustion engine-powered vehicles, including cost reductions related to vehicle operation and maintenance and the convenience of forgoing gas stations, oil changes, and emissions tests. While these benefits have not been significant enough to justify the high cost of the technology for many consumers, government policies around the world are helping to ensure the supply and demand of PEVs. Government incentives have been critical for gaining support. Western European countries are seeing few incentives and could gain from more government incentives. For example, Germany’s PEV penetration almost matches that of the United States, however incentives are relatively non-existent, which means a modest incentive improvement could create significant impacts for the market on a country and global level, Navigant says.
- Model 3 may not see tax incentives: Tesla Motors may be able to stretch out federal tax incentives for the upcoming Model 3 by taking a creative approach – at least one discussed online by Tesla owners and analysts. Tesla will likely be approaching the cap placed on automakers of 200,000 electric vehicles sold for the $7,500 tax incentive as soon as 2018. Once the 200,000 mark is reached, the IRS cuts the tax credit in half for the next two quarters to a maximum of $3,750. Then the IRS slashes the tax credit in half again for another two quarters, and the incentive goes away. “We always try to maximize customer happiness even if that means a revenue shortfall in a quarter,” Musk replied on his Twitter page after suggestions were made on Tesla stretching out the timing.
- Ridesharing legal battles: Ridesharing leaders Lyft and Uber are attempting to sort through legal battles with settlement agreements. A federal judge in California’s Northern District has rejected Lyft Inc.’s proposed $12.25 million settlement to resolve a case filed by California drivers over their status as independent contractors of the ride-hailing service. Under the settlement, Lyft would have avoided changes to a labor model that relies on classifying drivers as independent contractors; the judge thinks drivers have been shortchanged on mileage expenses. Uber has agreed to pay up to $25 million to settle a 2014 lawsuit filed by city officials in San Francisco and Los Angeles who want to see more from Uber on driver safety guarantees. The cities argued that Uber gave customers a “false sense of security” by touting its background checks as the toughest in the industry and are superior to the ones used by the taxi industry. Taxi drivers are given fingerprint checks, but Uber drivers are not.
- Concerns over federal self-driving car guidelines: As the federal government gets closer to unveiling guidance on deployment of self-driving cars, an auto group has warned that it may be too aggressive. An automaker trade association warned Friday that U.S. auto safety regulators’ timetable for unveiling guidance on the deployment of self-driving cars may be too aggressive. The federal auto safety ageny “should not bind itself to arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines at the expense of robust and thoughtful policy analysis,” said Paul Scullion, safety manager at the Association of Global Automakers, a trade group representing Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and other major foreign automakers. “NHTSA should instead consider the development incrementally.” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said Friday the agency must move quickly, noting cars with significant self-driving features like Tesla Motors Inc’s autopilot function are already on the road.
- Bay Area AltCar Expo: The third annual Bay Area AltCar Expo & Conference is scheduled to be held May 20-21 at Oakland City Hall and Plaza. It offers a comprehensive program for the latest in vehicle technologies, ride and drive, and public education. The event is being co-presented by the City of Oakland Public Works, the East Bay Clean Cities, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Event partners include: Honda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Smart, San Francisco Clean Cities, Silicon Valley Clean Cities, Breathe California, Association of Bay Area Governments, and the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley.
- Honda CR-V plug-in hybrid: We may be seeing a redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V, and with it, a plug-in hybrid version. A Japanese media outlet is reporting that the available plug-in hybrid variant will have a 2.0-liter gas engine that mates with an electric motor. Honda hasn’t announced the fifth-generation CR-V yet, but it’s likely to be coming out around that time with current version having been launched in 2011 and a refreshed model released in 2014.
- Electric postal vans: Germany’s postal carrier service may be building its own electric vans. Deutsche Post has been planning it for years, and acquired StreetScooter in 2014. StreetScooter is a maker of prototype electric vans that the postal service demonstrated in 2012. Deutsche Post plans to build 2,000 vans this year, which will join a handful of electric vans of various types already in operation. Deutsche Post plans to eventually replace its 30,000-unit fleet of internal combustion vans with electric vehicles.