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. The Nissan Leaf continues to lead plug-in sales, delivering 2,347 units during June. While that’s 770 units lower than May’s best-ever Leaf sale volume, it set a record for June and was up 5.5% over a year ago. That makes for 16 straight months of record sales for the Leaf and deliveries up almost one third over the first half of 2013. The Chevrolet Volt saw an increase in sales in June versus May – 1,777 units sold versus 1,684. That was down from its best-ever June sales. Volt sales are stabilizing, but they are down about a third from the first half of 2013. Another interesting trend to watch is that the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid beat the Volt for the first time in monthly sales — 1,939 deliveries beat the Volt’s 1,777 units sold. Tesla doesn’t report its monthly sales, but it’s estimated to have sold about 1,200 Model S units in June. That’s much more than luxury electric car competitor BMW and its i3, which closed the month with 358 units sold.
2. Two drivers wreaked havoc in Los Angeles during separate incidents on July 4th, with both of them driving a Tesla Model S. A Tesla driver hit the back end of a Toyota Corolla at 10:35 pm on Highway 14 in Palmdale; three passengers in the Corolla were killed and two seriously injured while the Tesla driver suffered minor injuries and was released from the scene late Friday. One person was injured and is in critical condition after another crash on Friday morning in West Hollywood; the injured person may have been an unidentified driver who stole the Model S. The car had been stolen early Friday morning, most likely from the Tesla service center on the 5800 block of Centinela Ave. The driver led police officers on a wild chase, getting near 100 mph and eventually crashing in West Hollywood. The Model S collided with a light pole that split the car in half. The front half of the car caught fire after the battery pack was ignited. Prior to the crash, police officers chasing the Tesla crashed their police car near La Brea Ave. The two police officers were treated for minor injuries. Several other drivers were hurt in the Tesla crash, although it is still unclear how many.
3. Fleet managers are gaining more experience with electric vehicles and are making the business use case for acquiring them, says Morgan Davis of Electric Power Research Institute in this segment of our recent video interview. Check out the Plug-In 2014 website for more information on for the conference taking place later this month – July 28-30 in San Jose, Calif.
4. A webinar is being offered to learn about an important area for alternative fuels – emergency planning for communities hit with disasters. The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) is presenting a webinar on July 17th at 4:00 pm eastern time to explore the benefits and opportunities of integrating alternative fuel vehicles in energy assurance planning. Panelists Linda Bluestein, National Clean Cities Director for the US Dept. of Energy, and Jeff Pillon, Energy Security Director for NASEO, will help participants examine strategies to promote information sharing and stakeholder coordination among state energy offices and Clean Cities coordinators. To register for this webinar, visit this site.
5. Toyota Motor Corp. has requested a two-year exemption from a rule governing electric cars to clear the way for the company to sell its upcoming hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota says that the federal rule, FMVSS No. 305, would render its vehicle inoperable. The rule requires automakers to isolate high-voltage parts in electric cars in the event of a crash. The company’s new fuel-cell car doesn’t fully meet this requirement because a mechanism for protecting against electrical shocks in lower-speed crashes would render its vehicle inoperable, Toyota said. Toyota has taken another approach to insulating the car’s high-voltage cables and surrounding components, and would like more time to work this out with NHTSA.
6. The Tesla Model S has taken yet another award – this time winning the annual Total Quality Index study issued by market-research firm Strategic Vision. The study is based on responses from 38,361 vehicle owners and “encompasses positive and negative product experiences including reliability, actual problems, driving excitement and other measures.” Earlier this year, Strategic Vision ranked the Model S the single “most-loved car” in the US. The Nissan Leaf also ranked high on that poll.
7. Tesla Motors heard some good news from the Pennsylvania legislature – the automaker has been given more approval in the state to directly sell its cars to consumers even though dealers have been objecting. Tesla will be able toincrease the number of stores in Pennsylvania and add more service centers. The bill that was already approved by the state senate would allow for as many as five retails stores in the state; it still needs to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.
8. Electric buses and trucks have secured more private funding. Proterra, a builder of electric municipal buses, has raised $30 million in fourth-round venture capital funding that was co-led by KPCB and GM Ventures. That makes for a total of $180 million raised with another $10 million expected to close in coming weeks. Motiv Power Systems raised $7.3 million for an electric school bus. Motiv provides a power train control system that can power a truck or bus chassis with commercially available battery packs and motors.
9. Hybrid electric vehicles used in commercial vehicles just lost a supplier. Eaton is exiting the market in North America for utility trucks and parallel drives for delivery trucks; that comes from weakened market demand, especially in the US, the company said. Contributing factors include expiring government incentives, a general stabilization in diesel prices, and the rise of natural gas as a heavy duty vehicle fuel.
10. Natural gas vehicles might be selling like hotcakes in China. About 3.8 million cars, trucks and buses in China will be fueled by compressed or liquefied natural gas by 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China is the world’s largest energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases; China would nearly double the number of its natural gas vehicles by 2020 as President Xi Jinping seeks to reduce smog.