This Week’s Top 10: Apple backing away from building cars, California clean vehicle rebate revised

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. Apple electric minivanApple backs off: Apple Inc. has dramatically scaled back Project Titan, with a new business plan based on partnering with automakers rather than becoming one. Apple has made hundreds of job cuts and reassignments and has taken a new direction, according to people familiar with the project. Apple seems to be taking a similar approach as Google; Apple will be focusing on developing an autonomous (and, most likely, electric) driving system that gives the company flexibility to partner with existing carmakers or to go back to designing its own car in the future, sources said.
  2. California rebates revised: California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) is implementing increased incentive levels for lower-income consumers and new high-income eligibility caps, according to a release yesterday by the Center for Sustainable Energy. Following a public workshop held Sept. 30, the California Air Resources Board issued the program updates, as directed by a legislative act. They will apply statewide to consumers who purchase or lease rebate-eligible vehicles effective Nov. 1, 2016, providing lower-income consumers an additional $500. Rebates vary by vehicle type. For the average consumer, they are $2,500 for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), $1,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and $5,000 for fuel cell vehicles. For lower-income consumers, CVRP rebates for all types of eligible light-duty passenger vehicles are increasing by an additional $500 for a total of $2,000 more per rebate ($4,500 for BEVs, $3,500 for PHEVs, and $7,000 for fuel cell vehicles). When combined with the maximum federal tax credit for eligible vehicles, the increased rebates provide savings of up to $12,000 for BEVs, $11,000 for PHEVs and $15,000 for fuel cell vehicles. See the press release for more details.
  3. NextEV opens office:  Chinese electric-car startup NextEV opened an office last week in Silicon Valley at a well-attended event. Founder William Li, a Chinese entrepreneur who created online car sales company Bitauto, has plans to build a series of electric and autonomous cars that that will at first be sold in China and then to consumers around the world. Li recruited former Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior, to lead his U.S. division. At the event, Warrior described the company’s mission is “to change transportation.” NextEV also has entered the Formula E electric racing series and has its own racing team. For the 2015/16 season, NextEV is registered as one of eight manufacturers in the series and is racing with a self-designed powertrain. The NextEV Formula E Team is also set for the 2016/17 season.
  4. Gauging trucking fuel economy rules: The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute conducted a survey with 96 heavy-duty fleet managers who operate a combined total of just over 114,500 truck-tractors and approximately 350,000 trailers. Biodiesel blends (B5, B10, and B20) have been the most common alternative fuels in use, according to the survey. Fuel-saving technologies have played a big part in fleets getting closer to meeting federal fuel economy and emissions rules, with the most common fuel-saving technologies on truck-tractors being aluminum wheels, speed limiters, and low-rolling resistance dual tires. As for using alternative fuels, fleet managers appreciate lowering operating costs, reducing emissions, and availability of alternative fuels.
  5. Solar partnership:  Tesla and Panasonic have entered into a non-binding letter of intent to collaborate on manufacturing and production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules in Buffalo, N.Y. The agreement is contingent upon shareholders’ approval of Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity next month. Tesla will use the cells and modules in a solar energy system that will work seamlessly with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products. With the aid of installation, sales and financing capabilities from SolarCity, Tesla will “bring an integrated sustainable energy solution to residential, commercial, and grid-scale customers,” according to the Tesla blog.
  6. Maven comes to SF: General Motors is bringing its Maven car-sharing program to San Francisco, the ninth city in the network. Maven, which debuted in January, is already available in Ann Arbor, Mich., Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. San Francisco has been a hub for carsharing and ridesharing, with several companies starting up there and setting up headquarters. Maven will compete with Zipcar, Evercar, Getaround, Turo, and City CarShare. Maven customers can rent GM models such as the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Malibu, and Chevrolet Cruze, as well as luxury Cadillac models like the Escalade, and eventually, the Chevrolet Bolt.
  7. Warning on Autopilot: Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) had written to Tesla asking the electric automaker to stop advertising its vehicles as having an Autopilot function because this might suggest drivers’ attention is not needed. On Friday the KBA wrote to Tesla car owners, warning them that their vehicles could not be operated without their constant attention and that under traffic regulations they must remain alert.
  8. RNG and NZE in refuse:  Renewable natural gas from waste resources and near-zero emission engines are revolutionizing clean refuse collection operations. On Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, Southern California Gas Company is hosting a one-hour webinar to learn about technology and implementation options for low-carbon, near-zero tailpipe emission refuse fleets. Topics covered will include: How the combination of ultra-low NOx natural gas engines and renewable natural gas technologies can help meet state emission targets; resources available to analyze the cost and emission benefits of renewable natural gas and a near-zero-emission engine project (“RNG+NZE”) for your refuse operations. Click here to register.
  9. Renewable energy increasing: Carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity generation during the first six months of 2016 were the lowest since 1991, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with most of that coming from the displacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. Coal saw the more dramatic decline, with consumption decreasing by 18 percent, compared to 1 percent for natural gas. Use of renewable-energy sources increased 9 percent during the first six months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015.
  10. Workhorse makes deals with BMW and UPS:  Workhorse Group announced that BMW i has signed a multi-year supply agreement for BMW i3 range extender (REx) units for the Workhorse E-Gen electric delivery vehicle. The Workhorse E-Gen delivery vehicles are used by last mile delivery companies to fulfill their customers’ delivery needs, the company said. Workhorse also announced that it has received an order to produce 200 additional E-Gen hybrid electric delivery trucks for UPS’ alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. Workhorse is also known for its FAA compliant unmanned aerial systems (UAS) delivery drones.


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