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…….
- Audi takes on Tesla: Even though reaching out to upscale, climate change-conscious car shoppers probably won’t be enough to take electric vehicle sales to the next level, Audi thinks there’s enough potential in that segment to take on Tesla Motors. In 2017, Audi will be rolling out an electric crossover that will compete with Tesla for business among wealthy, environmentally conscious consumers. It will be a battery-powered version of the $115,900 R8 sports car – Audi’s first battery electric vehicle. It will follow deliveries of the A3 E-Tron plug-in hybrid hatchback this year. Competition with Tesla (and BMW) for the luxury electric car buyer market will be tough. Tesla Model S drivers who recently took a Consumer Reports survey say they’re more likely than Porsche owners (or any other brand) to buy one of these Tesla cars again. The car shopping experience is one of the reasons Tesla drivers are staying very loyal to the brand. Even though most franchised dealers hate Tesla for running their own stores, they are showing an example of what luxury car buyers are expecting from the experience. Major dealer chain Sonic Automotive was recently dubbed the “Tesla of dealers” by Morgan Stanley for giving their customers a faster and better buying experience.
- Tax credits on AFVs. If you’re looking for tax credits for vehicles running off of compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and propane autogas, there’s good news. The House last week passed HR 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which includes a 50-cent per gallon tax credit through the end of this year. That credit had previously expired at the end of 2013, and the US Senate is now reviewing the bill.
- Simplifying electric vehicle (EV) charging monitoring and reporting. Siemen’s energy management division is working with Duke Energy on the next phase of a US Dept. of Energy-funded project. Siemens has what it says is the first Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-approved residential EV supply equipment (EVSE) to demonstrate the ability to monitor status, report energy use, and be controlled from the local area network and the cloud. That comes out of an 18-month test project to reduce cost and expand charging technologies.
- British OEMs “onshoring” jobs back to UK. British automakers are expected to create 50,000 new jobs in the UK over the next two years; 63% of them are planning on developing low-carbon or electric vehicle technology. According to a study by Lloyds Bank, 70% of car manufacturers or their supply chain partners plan to return more of their production to the UK; improved economic conditions there and a desire to support local communities are reasons why – along with creating more reliable and shorter supply chains.
- Ryder System joins Trucking Efficiency. Major fleet management and supply chain company Ryder System is supporting this joint initiative between the Carbon War Room and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.org provides fleet owners and operators with data on available vehicle technologies and the benefits and challenges of deploying them.
- More workplace charging. Coca-Cola Company will provide electric vehicle charging at seven of its facilities across California, and NRG eVgo will install and manage them. It’s part of offering support with the state’s goal of bringing 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to its roads by 2025.
- Diesel plug-in hybrid. Volkswagen will enter the plug-in hybrid diesel market through its Audi brand. The Audi Q7 will debut next year with gasoline and diesel powertrains, and a plug-in diesel will come later to Europe and the US.
- Getting NGV support in Washington. Executives from Daimler Trucks, UPS, Clean Energy Fuels, and other companies spoke last week before the US Senate Finance Committee asking for support of federal tax incentives for natural gas vehicles. High-ranking senators agreed that reform is needed on tax and energy policies to level the field for alterative fuels. However, how and when this will take shape was not resolved by the finance committee.
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery fire. National Transportation Safety Board reported that the lithium-ion battery fire last January in a parked Boeing 787 Dreamliner came from design and certification defects. The NTSB is recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration improve guidance and training provided to industry FAA certification engineers on safety assessments and compliance methods. NTSB made 15 safety recommendations to FAA, two to Boeing, and one to battery manufacturer GS Yuasa.
- Fuel Efficient Military Vehicles. GMZ Energy, which produces high temperature thermoelectric generation (TEG) solutions, announced the successful demonstration of a 1,000W diesel TEG that directly converts waste heat into usable electricity to increase fuel efficiency by reducing the load on the alternator. This announcement follows GMZ’s June 2014 demonstration of its 200W diesel TEG, and marks the next milestone in the $1.5 million vehicle efficiency program sponsored by the US Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and administered by the US Dept. of Energy. TEG could save the US military billions of dollars per year by increasing fuel efficiency in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which get less than one mile per gallon.