This Week’s Top 10: California Gov. Jerry Brown gets three EV bills sent to his desk, Natural gas trucks behind diesel with fleets

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. electric vehicle incentives, EVsCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has three bills to sign before the end of September that will affect electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging infrastructure. Wealthy people over a certain income level would have their $2,500 state EV rebate phased out; another bill would increase the number of carpool-lane permits for solo drivers using plug-in hybrid cars. The third bill addresses multi-unit dwelling chargers; the bill would prohibit landlords from stopping renters from installing electric car chargers as long as the tenant pays for installation. California has been the leading market for EV sales in the US – about one third of EVs sold in America are sold in California. The rebates have been a key incentive for people in California, along with carpool lane access stickers. California’s rebates of up to $2,500 for EV buyers have been instrumental in the state hitting its target of having 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on its roads by 2025. Changing its incentive program comes from pressure felt in Sacramento that the rebates are just a windfall for the wealthy. While there’s a strong market for luxury EVs like the Tesla Model S, it’s a limited niche market; consumers at average income levels will need to see state and federal incentives, and have been responding well to automaker incentives like discounts and attractive leasing deals.
  2. Natural gas vehicles are not winning the natural gas vs. diesel fight in commercial vehicles, according to a Wall Street Journal feature. About 10,480 natural gas heavy-duty trucks should be sold this year in North America, down from the 16,000 initial forecast. Fleets are spending about $150,000 for heavy-duty trucks and an additional $50,000 for natural gas versions; that’s taking about four years to pay off. Saving $1.60 to $1.70 for the gas equivalent of diesel is appealing, but the acquisition cost differential and scarcity of NGV fueling stations in some parts of the country are tipping the scale toward diesel. Diesel fuel and diesel-powered trucks are also gaining more interest and credibility with fleets, as well.
  3. Tesla Motors’ stock price reached a record level Friday after closing a charging station network deal in China. The shares closed at $269.70, up 2.2%, after reaching a high point of $271.40 during the day. Tesla began selling its Model S electric sedan in China in April, and just signed an agreement with China United Networks Communications Corp., the second-largest mobile phone company in China. The companies will build 400 charging stations in 120 cities at China Unicom outlets; and 20 Supercharger fast-charger stations.  Both Tesla and BMW are now adding public chargers in China.
  4. Kia is going with open-standards for DC fast-chargers as it rolls out its 2015 Kia Soul EV at select Kia dealerships on the west coast. Greenlots, a global provider of open standards-based technology solutions for electric vehicle (EV) networks, is partnering with Kia Motors America and ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, to offer these DC fast-chargers. The partnership illustrates the increasing role interoperability among EV charging technology networks plays in meeting pricing flexibility demands from automakers and providing a seamless experience for EV owners, Greenlots says.
  5. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel scored big, winning Consumer Reports’ top spot among full-size light-duty pickups and beating out Ford, GM, Toyota, and Nissan. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel earned high marks for best-in-class fuel economy at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; and for its “whisper quiet” interior.
  6. Owners of the 2012 Fisker Karma will be getting something they need from Fisker’s new owner – supplies of spare parts. Fisker Automotive had built about 3,000 Karmas when it stopped production in July 2012; parent company Wanxiang America and Fisker management is negotiating with over 300 suppliers. Most of these supplier relationships have been set up, and Fisker will have access to needed parts.
  7. Sakti3, a Michigan-based battery technology company, says that it will be able to double the energy density for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Sakti3’s co-founder and CEO Ann Marie Sastry says the company’s solid-state lithium cells have reached 1,143 Watt-hours per liter; that would drive your electric car about 300 miles on a charge and would reduce the battery cost, too.
  8. Volvo will roll out a first-of-its-kind vehiclea plug-in electric vehicle that can seat seven passengers. The 2016 Volvo XC90 will offer both a seven-seat options and the availability of a twin engine plug-in hybrid model. The SUV will also have a weight savings of 250 pounds, which will increase its fuel economy.
  9. China will offer tax breaks on purchases of electric vehicles predominantly made by Chinese automakers. The government posted a list of 17 vehicles from 11 automakers, including one model each from the China joint ventures of Nissan, General Motors, and Daimler. It’s the latest policy measure to boost green vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market, part of its strategy to deal with rising concern over air pollution.
  10. Toyota’s “Choices” TV commercial for its Prius Plug-In Hybrid shows a father facing a tough choice in his garage. Does he unplug the fish tank or the refrigerator in the garage so he can charge his Prius Plug-In Hybrid? His son shakes his head no as his father prepares to unplug the fish tank and risk the pet fish’s life. “It’s also a hybrid,” the voice over says as the father puts away his power chord and decides to go without a charge.

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