This Week’s Top 10: Future of Mobility panel at AltCar Expo, Apple cutting back on self-driving and electric car project

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. AltCar Expo logoAltCar Expo coming up: The City of Santa Monica will present the 11th annual AltCar Expo on Sept. 16-17, dedicated to alternative fuel vehicles and alternative modes of transportation. On Friday, Sept. 16, Green Auto Market Editor Jon LeSage will be part of a panel on the Future of Mobility. Moderated by Hilary Norton, CEO of FAST, the lively panel will also include Michael Brylawski, CEO of Evercar; Delilah Lanoix, Co-Founder of ButterFli; Francie Stefan, City of Santa Monica’s Mobility Planning Manager; and Kat Urquhart, LEV Policy Consultant. On Saturday, Sept. 17, AltCar will be celebrating the 10th Anniversary of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” with a special screening and panel discussion with Chris Paine, Dean Devlin, and special guests. Paine will present journalist Dan Neil with the 1st Annual AltCar Disrupter Award. The two-day event will be held at the Santa Monica Civic parking lot and East Wing, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica, CA, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day, and is free to the public. It’s a great opportunity to check out and drive the latest in clean vehicles, including trucks being used by fleets.
  2. Apple downsizing: Apple has been cutting back on its investment in autonomous, electric vehicles; it may become more of a tech supplier than an automaker. Apple has laid off dozens of employees and closed off parts of its Titan project, sources told the New York Times. In July, the company handed over leadership of the project to Bob Mansfield, a prominent Apple veteran who had left the company’s executive team in 2013. He was asked to come back following a phase of fast growth and problems for the project. During the latest round, Apple employees were told that the layoffs were part of a “reboot” of the car project. Autonomous vehicle testing is continuing on closed tracks, sources said.
  3. Autopilot upgrade: While launch of the Autopilot upgrade was a week overdue, Tesla did put out Version 8 over the weekend. CEO Elon Musk told reporters during a conference call on Sunday that the upgrade likely would have prevented the May fatality in Florida attributed to the Autopilot system. A Tesla blog post described how the Autopilot upgrade will be able to tap into its radar, rather than cameras, to improve accuracy and rapidly respond to hazards through more advanced signal processing from the radar.
  4. BMW strategy: Pre-orders of the Tesla Model 3 has caused BMW’s management board to hold a strategic meeting in lieu of attending the Paris Motor Show. German rivals Daimler and Volkswagen have also pressed the issue with aggressive electrification campaigns; the VW emissions scandal and advancements in electric car batteries have had their influence as well. BMW has had internal debate over whether to accelerate development of new electric cars, given its expensive early investments into the technology and lackluster sales of the BMW i3, which had only 25,000 deliveries last year.
  5. Using RNG in transit: A webinar will be held on Sept. 21, at 11:00 a.m. PDT, for stakeholders in the transit industry on how near-zero emission engines using ultra-low-carbon renewable natural gas (RNG) can provide an affordable strategy to achieve major reductions in emissions of criteria pollutants, air toxins, and greenhouse gases from California’s transit sector. The Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) will be hosting the webinar on the California Air Resources Board’s new emission regulations for transit agencies called the Advanced Clean Transit Rule and how this engine-fuel combination offers the lowest overall emission profile among all commercially available advanced transit technologies. To register for the webinar and to read the full speaker bios, click here.
  6. Ford Smart Mobility: Ford has forged alliances with two mobility services through the acquisition of San Francisco-based shuttle service Chariot and a partnership with bike-share company Motivate. The deals were made under the recently formed Ford Smart Mobility Program, led by office furniture maker Steelcase’s former CEO Jim Hackett. Ford CEO Mark Fields has been talking regularly about the company’s mission to move beyond vehicle manufacturing and sales and over to mobility, electrification, and a self-driving car service.
  7. Details released on Revero: Karma Automotive released more information on the Revero plug-in hybrid. The price will be about $30,000 more than the Fisker Karma, starting at $130,000. It can go 50 miles on battery power, and can travel a total of about 300 miles on gasoline and battery power. A solar roof will provide some of the power used by the electric motor. Another new feature is that it will be DC fast-charging capable.
  8. Nissan Rogue: At the Miami Auto Show, Nissan launched a hybrid version of the refreshed 2017 Rogue crossover. It can go 33 mpg city, 35 highway, and 34 combined. It also comes in an all-wheel drive model, with slightly less lower mileage numbers.
  9. Climate change laws: California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law SB32 and AB197 which increases the climate change law to reducing emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. David Reichmuth, senior engineer, clean vehicles at Union of Concerned Scientists, explored some of the issues that will affect clean transportation from the new laws. Read his article for the overview and a few interesting facts, such as: plug-in electric vehicle rebates will not be available for plug-in hybrids that have lower than 20 miles of range, and those households that make more than $300,000 per year will be ineligible ($150,000 for single filers).
  10. A123 and Argonne making long-range batteries: Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems made an agreement with Argonne National Laboratory – a cathode development program for making safe lithium-ion batteries with high energy densities and long lifetimes. A123 will take its experience and scientific talent to commercialize advances in nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) technology originally developed by Argonne, the company said. A123 predicts the joint project will more than a 60% increase in energy density over its current products, with a corresponding increase in electric range for the vehicles it supplies.

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