This Week’s Top 10: The state of federal mpg standards, Fiat Chrysler purchasing greenhouse gas emissions credits

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. Federal fuel economy standardsFederal mpg standards… Automakers have been seeing the mpg progress continuing to slow down as cheap gasoline drives demand for more pickups, SUVs, and crossovers. Even with that trend, the industry did continue to get cleaner and meet U.S. targets for 2014 and 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. EPA projects fleet-wide fuel economy to average 24.7 mpg in the 2015 model year – that’s part of a 5 mpg increase in the past 10 years, a 26% improvement. Consumers are leaning toward more fuel efficient cars and trucks, which is offsetting declining sales in electric vehicles and hybrids. Automakers with the highest mpg ratings also have lighter and smaller vehicles than do OEMs selling a lot of trucks and SUVs. Mazda finished first in the 2014 model year, followed by Subaru, Hyundai, Honda, and Nissan.
  2. In news related to the 54.5 mpg by 2025 mandate, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has purchased greenhouse gas emissions credits from Toyota, Tesla, and Honda – about 8.2 million megagrams (equal to 1,000 kilograms) of emissions credits. Even without acquiring credits, Fiat Chrysler still would have been in compliance in the 2014 model year, according to the federal report. FCA said it earned credits through improvements to air conditioning systems and other technological changes. The automaker had previously purchased nearly 1.7 million megagrams of emissions credits from Tesla, Nissan, and Honda, and more recently acquired another 6.5 million credits through the end of the 2014 model year. Tesla has sold all of its 2013 and 2014 greenhouse gas emissions credits to Fiat Chrysler.
  3. Along with Faraday Future, Chinese companies are continuing to play a role in the future of EVs in the U.S. and China. NextEV is a well-funded electric-vehicle startup backed by firms in China. The startup has an 85,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters and R&D center based in San Jose, Calif. The company has named Padmasree Warrior, Cisco Systems Inc.’s former technology chief, to lead U.S. operations. NextEV plans to take on competition with Tesla Motors in the luxury electric car market. Warrior has been considered a leading advocate for women in technology in Silicon Valley, and has recently joined Microsoft’s board of directors. Martin Leach, former CEO of Maserati and president of Ford Europe, is president of NextEV. The startup plans to roll out a battery electric supercar in late 2016 that can match Tesla’s “Ludicrous” speed mode.
  4. Saab Automobile is now part of National Electric Vehicle Sweden, or Nevs, which bought the Swedish automakers assets in 2012. Nevs now has a $12 billion deal to supply 150,000 electric cars to Chinese leasing firm Panda New Energy. Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles by the end of 2020 and 100,000 other electric vehicle products and services from companies associated with Nevs and its owners, the company said.
  5. The 2016 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo will be offering a sneak-peak webinar on electrified transportation issues to be explored at the annual conference. This complimentary, one-hour webinar will highlight what we can expect from the electric vehicle charging infrastructure industry, including issues of “roaming” and being able to pay by credit card; pricing structures; challenges and the promise of inductive charging; and fleet applications. Panelists work with the nation’s premiere electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) companies. This webinar takes place on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, at 10:00 am PST. ACT Expo will be taking place May 2-5, 2016, in Long Beach, Calif.
  6. General Motors has stepped up its efforts to become a zero waste manufacturer by adding more facilities and turning byproducts such as polystyrene foam packaging into footwear. GM’s Toluca, Mexico, facilities take byproducts to a warehouse, where it is turned into pellets and combined with other polymers to create shoe soles. The Toluca complex (which has two engine plants, a warehouse and a technical center) joins GM’s Luton Assembly and Ellesmere Port Assembly plant in Europe to achieve landfill-free status. These moves have increased the landfill-free sites to 131 – another step forward toward achieving 150 landfill-free sites globally by 2020.
  7. In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions reporting scandal, Daimler said test results from the German environmental lobby group DUH allegedly showing that a Mercedes C class 200 CDI exceeded emissions of nitrogen oxides were “questionable.” DUH claims that the test model released NOx emissions that were more than twice the legal limits for Euro-5 standards when tested under new European testing cycles. “The test results are questionable as the conditions of the test are not clear. We don’t know the specific car, the temperature at the time of the tests, the loading weight,” a Daimler spokesman said. In other VW scandal news, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk co-signed a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) urging it to direct Volkswagen to accelerate production of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Musk and 44 other prominent people in the electric vehicle and charging sector sent the letter addressed to CARB chair Mary Nichols. In the place of fining VW and forcing the automaker to fix non-compliant diesel vehicles on the road, it was suggested that VW instead be forced to significantly increase the production of ZEVs. As of yesterday, CARB said it was extending a deadline to approve or reject a diesel emissions repair plan submitted by Volkswagen AG for nearly 500,000 2.0-liter vehicles until January 14.
  8. NGVAmerica applauded the U.S. Senate and House for passing tax legislation that will extend the natural gas fuel and infrastructure tax credits for two years – retroactively for 2015 and for all of 2016 – if signed into law. The credit is retroactive to 2015 and extends through 2016 and applies to compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. President Obama has yet to sign the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. “Passage of the alternative fuel tax and infrastructure credits means hundreds of millions in savings to NGVAmerica members and their customers for using clean-burning natural gas for their transportation needs,” said NGVAmerica President Matthew Godlewski. “Congress clearly recognizes the economic, environmental and energy security benefits of natural gas in powering fleets across the country.”
  9. BMW and Nissan are partnering in an effort to set up fast-charging stations at 120 locations across the U.S. The automakers plan to install dual-port chargers at 120 locations in 19 states. That list of states includes California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The chargers include two different types of ports to service Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 battery-electric vehicles – and a number of others that can use CHAdeMO and CCS connectors.
  10. Clean transportation investments funded by market-based user charges would reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also providing a net economic benefit, a study for five Northeastern states and the District of Columbia concludes. Reduced fuel costs and other economic benefits would more than offset new fees, the report found. Georgetown University’s Climate Center released the study; Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont participate in the Transportation Climate Initiative which is headquartered at Georgetown University. The study was released to coincide with COP21 in Paris and a joint pledge by the six jurisdictions to jointly “develop potential market-based policies that, when combined with existing programs, are targeted to achieve substantial reductions in transportation sector emissions and provide net economic benefits.”

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