This Week’s Top 10: Automakers shocked by EPA decision, November strong for green car sales

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 standardsFuel economy rules:  Automotive executives are very upset about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week to shorten the midterm feedback and approval process until the end of this year on the 54.5 mpg by 2025 mandate. The midterm evaluation process was originally given a deadline of April 2018 for the EPA to issue its final ruling. Automakers felt a compromise deal made with the Obama administration in 2011, known as the One National Program, is being violated. Mileage gains and emissions reductions are set to go up much higher in the second round following the midterm review. Auto executives were hoping to reduce the target under current market conditions shaped by low gas prices, high pickup and SUV sales, and hybrid and plug-in vehicles staying at low volumes. While Trump’s election to the White House was surprising to them and many others, they’d been making contact with the president-elect to soften the mpg targets. There’s been a lot of speculation about how the Trump administration will respond to the EPA’s action, including attempting to reverse it or supporting a new law in Congress overriding the agency’s decision. Late yesterday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, and Daimler, urged congressional negotiators to include wording in a short-term budget resolution that would bar the Obama administration from finalizing the rules before it leaves office next month.
  2. Green car sales:  November was a very good month for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicle sales. Hybrids were up 7.6% over the previous month and 13.3% over the previous year. Electric vehicles were up nearly 25% over the previous month and nearly 38% over November 2015. The Chevrolet Volt continued to do well and the Ford Fusion Energi surged passed the Tesla cars and the Nissan Leaf for the first time.
  3. Fast chargers in Europe:  Six automakers – Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Daimler, and Ford – are planning a joint venture to bring more fast chargers to Europe starting next year. The automaker collective wants to set up about 400 charging sites in the first phase, and by 2020, they’d like to make sure electric car drivers have access to thousands of charging points. The charging network will use combined charging system (CCS) technology, which enhances existing AC and DC charging standards and allows for ultra-fast power levels up to 350 kilowatt hours.
  4. Pacifica plug-in: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles started production on Thursday in Windsor of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the auto industry’s first plug-in minivan. The plug-in hybrid minivans are expected to begin arriving in dealerships over the next several months. The starting price will be $34,495 with the U.S. federal tax credit (not including state and local incentives). The Pacifica Hybrid earned an EPA-certified 84 miles per gallon equivalent, including 33 miles in all-electric mode until an enhanced 3.6-liter V-6 takes over. The gas engine also kicks in under hard acceleration and other conditions.
  5. New mobility and autonomous services:  German automakers are plunging into the mobility space to take on Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and several other startups around the world. Volkswagen yesterday launched a new mobility services brand called Moia that eventually will have its own electric, autonomous passenger vehicles; it will start with shuttle services. It will be VW’s 13th brand and is part of its efforts to transform beyond the diesel emissions scandal. BMW Group said Friday that it will test autonomous vehicles in Munich next year. The automaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities, BMW executives said on Friday. The test cars will contain test drivers, the company said.
  6. Toyota making changes: Toyota announced today it will be expanding development of its hybrid technology over the next five years to be ready for stricter emissions standards by governments around the world. Lower emission hybrid engines will be rolled out. It’s the latest move by the Japanese automaker aimed at making cars “greener” as global automakers face tighter regulations in China, the U.S., and Europe. Last week, president and CEO Akio Toyoda announced he will lead a group of executives overseeing upcoming all-electric vehicle launches.
  7. RNG plant:  Air Liquide will design, construct and operate its first landfill gas (LFG) to renewable natural gas (RNG) purification plant in the U.S. at the Northeast Mississippi Landfill, in Walnut, Miss. The site, owned by the Northeast Mississippi Solid Waste Management Authority, is operated by national solid waste company, Waste Connections, Inc., and receives approximately 350,000 tons of waste per year. Air Liquide is a French multinational company which supplies industrial gases and services to various industries including medical, chemical, and electronic manufacturers. The company is well known in the U.S. for its role in the hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
  8. BYD fast trains:  BYD unveiled an electric monorail system last week at the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City. The company’s President and Chairman Wang Chuanfu unveiled the Chinese company’s SkyRail electric monorail before representatives from over 93 cities. SkyRail is part of BYD’s urban transportation solution, which aims to address air pollution and traffic congestion. Like Tesla Motors, BYD has invested in several cleantech services including solar energy, energy storage, electric cars, and electric commercial vehicles including buses and refuse trucks.
  9. Tesla sales in Virginia:  Richard Holcomb, commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, allowed Tesla Motors to sell its cars in the state, by reversing a September ruling denying Tesla a dealership license to operate a store in Richmond. Tesla had faced a number of legal obstacles to open stores in Virginia. In 2012, the electric carmaker applied for a license to open a store in northern Virginia and was denied by Holcomb.
  10. Countries agree to reduce GHG:  The Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, announced that eight nations have agreed to reduce their own government fleet transportation and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Canada, China, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., signed the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative. The agreement comes from resolutions made at COP21 during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Transport Focus.


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