VW faces more on Dieselgate and prepares to compete with Tesla, ACT Expo panel explores last mile hurdle

VW moving beyond Dieselgate toward EVs:  Volkswagen AG is still climbing hurdles to recover from its Dieselgate scandal and to take a leading role in being Tesla-competitive on the electric vehicle front. Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in federal court in Detroit with conspiring to mislead regulators on diesel emissions cheating. VW CEO Herbert Diess has been granted safe passage in the U.S. and advance notice if prosecutors seek to charge him, sources told Bloomberg. Last week, Diess told investors during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Berlin that VW has awarded 40 billion euros ($48 billion) in contracts to battery producers, double the amount that had previously been in place. VW will be spending on EV batteries an amount that nearly matches Tesla’s entire market value. The automaker plans to sell up to three million all electric cars per year by 2025, Diess said.

VW’s Electrify America subsidiary was a topic of much interest during the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. A map was added to its website last week showing where its projects stand to install or start construction of more than 2,000 chargers across the U.S. by the end of 2019.

NGVAmerica is offering a resource center that shows where VW stands on spending $2 billion on national zero emission vehicle investments and $2.9 billion through the Environmental Mitigation Trust, which states and territories may use to invest in transportation projects that will reduce NOx emissions.

Saving the fuel economy and emissions rules:  While auto executives had pushed hard for the second phase of the federal fuel economy and emissions standards to be extended to the original timeline, they hadn’t been advocating gutting the rules. Automakers will be visiting the White House this Friday to save the national fuel economy and emissions standards close to what they’d originally agreed to with the Obama administration. A leaded draft proposal by federal agencies, the Trump administration plans to keep standards for 2020 model years vehicles in place at about 37 mpg through the 2026 model year, much lower than the 46.8 mpg fleet wide average in the current standard. It would be more than what the automakers had bargained for when requesting a revision of the 2022-25 targets; they’d asked that it be more gradual and flexible, not that it be gutted by the federal government.

ACT Expo panel on urban mobility:  “Clearing the last mile hurdle,” is viable and starting to happen in increasingly crowded and polluted cities, according
to panelists last week at ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Electric trucks, autonomous vehicles, and bicycles will play their part. Here were a few of the points they made:

Austin Hausmann, Chanje’s vice president of product development and R&D

  • The Chinese truckmaker offers a Class 5 electric delivery van – the V8070 – with 6,000 pounds of maximum payload capacity, and more than 150 miles of range from a 100-kWh battery pack. 
  • Delivery vehicles working in large cities are averaging about 70 miles traveled per day.
  • Electric vans and trucks are ideal for urban delivery. Chanje has been able to meet the range requirements and provide a 70% reduction in maintenance and fuel costs to fleet users.
  • A key challenge to be faced is charging infrastructure planning over the next five years as more electric vehicles come into fleets.

Duane Hughes, president and COO, Workhorse Group

  • Workhorse’s delivery drone, first shown in February 2017 with UPS, is offering major last mile cost savings for fleet operators. The company has found there to be 3 cents per mile in delivery costs for the drone, compared to 40 cents for an electric van and $1 for the typical UPS truck.
  • The company has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration on monitoring air traffic, no-fly zones, and weather conditions.
  • Workhorse is still in the testing phase, doing about five drone deliveries per day.
  • It will be available commercially by the end of this year, with FAA approval already being achieved. The company is sharing its data collection with the federal agency.

Chris Nordh, senior director, advanced vehicle technologies and global fuel products, Ryder Systems

  • The commercial space has to make financial sense — the last mile is a good argument for electric vehicles.
  • There is strength in partnerships, such as Ryder announcing a 10-year strategic agreement last year with Workhorse. Ryder is the primary distributor and service provider for Workhorse light- and medium-duty range-extended electric vehicles in North America. The company also established an exclusive sales channel partnership and service provider relationship for Chanje’s medium-duty EVs and energy services. In December, Ryder announced it will take delivery of 125 electric medium-duty delivery vans from Chanje. 
  • For early adopters, Ryder is providing the vetting process — getting the vehicle ready, maintenance process, and charger installation.
  • It’s important to assist site managers in understanding their buildings and charging needs, to work with utilities, and to understand the costs involved.

Thomas Madrecki, director of urban innovation and mobility, UPS

  • About 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, making it a difficult scenario for package delivery and other mobility services. E-commerce from Amazon and other companies is seeing huge growth, and that will continue.
  • Upcoming trends include worsening road and highway congestion, safety limitations on vehicle travel, and cities taking on more infrastructure supporting walking and biking. Cities area also taking a leading role on climate change, which will impact they types of vehicles allowed to drive there.
  • UPS is testing out bicycles for last-mile delivery in Hamburg, Portland, Ore., and Ft. Lauderdale. Bicycles have their limitations for what can be delivered, but UPS sees the importance of looking for diversity of solutions for each neighborhood served.

Panelists also had some insights to share during the Q&A portion:

  • Countries in Europe and Asia are dealing with congestion zones. The U.S. is taking more of a hybrid approach.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other mobility companies are adding to the challenges — bringing additional vehicles to roads and increasing traffic congestion
  • The charging infrastructure is a top concern for the future of electric mobility in cities. Charging at night, working closely with utilities, and tapping into state and local incentives is helping fleets grow their infrastructure. 

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