This Week’s Top 10: Trump releasing fuel economy policy, VW pleads guilty in U.S. and faces more in Europe

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

  1. Fuel economy policy: President Donald Trump is expected to announce the new administration’s stance on the fuel economy and emissions policy on Wednesday. After meeting with automaker executives in a Detroit suburb, Trump will likely announce extending the public comment period and softening the mandates for automakers. The largest automakers have been asking the Trump administration to revise the mandate to be more in line with the market – making it difficult to sell smaller, fuel efficient cars, hybrids, and plug-in vehicles. Auto executives started approaching Trump administration transition team members soon after the election and staff members and advisors after the inauguration. They were upset with the Obama administration over cutting off the comment period and finalizing the mandate.
  2. VW guilty plea: Volkswagen pleaded guilty on Friday to fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements in the diesel car emissions scandal. It was part of a $4.3 billion settlement that had been reached with the U.S. Justice Department in January and was the first time the automaker has pleaded guilty to criminal charge in any court around the world. Legal battles also started heating up in Europe about the same time. Criminal investigations are intensifying across Europe, and thousands of consumer lawsuits have been filed. The lawsuits could add up, as there are a lot more owners in Europe of VW brand diesel cars.
  3. BMW sales double: BMW Group announced that global sales of its plug-in vehicles more than doubled in the first two months of 2017, over that period the year before, to more than 10,000 units sold. Vehicles currently for sale include the BMW i3 in battery electric and extended range plug-in hybrid versions; and the i8, X5, 3-Series, and 7-Series plug-in hybrids. Coming up next will be the BMW 530 iPerformance plug-in hybrid and the Mini Cooper SE Countryman All4 The company expects plug-in vehicles sales to increase through the launch of the plug-in hybrid BMW 530e iPerformance this month, and the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid in June.
  4. Renewable diesel: Oil refining company Neste has become the world’s largest supplier of renewable diesel. Recent additions to the client list include UPS for delivery vans and Google for its buses that transport employees to and from work. Fleets are taking to it for reasons found in support for renewable diesel – cutting carbon emissions, particulates, and NOx significantly without having to convert over diesel vehicles. Nearly 80% of the company’s renewable products are based on waste and residues.
  5. Detroit Electric: Detroit Electric has a $1.8 billion investment through a joint venture with a Chinese company that will roll out the long delayed SP:01 and other vehicles. The startup electric sport carmaker launched in 2008 and took the name of one of the very first electric carmakers that hadn’t been building cars for over a century.  Detroit Electric has created a joint venture with Far East Smarter Energy Group, a Chinese company that makes batteries and electrical components. The two companies will get production started by the end of this year for the SP:01, and are  planning for two more electric car models in the near future.
  6. Tesla energy storage: Tesla Energy is working on getting business overseas – Australia and Kauai. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made an offer to Australia by tweeting with Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes. Musk pitched him on bringing Powerwall and Powerpack products to the South Australia state to have the necessary energy backup in case of another emergency. South Australia was hit by a state-wide blackout during September and are interested in Musk’s $25 million, 100 megawatt hour offer. In another deal, Tesla Energy has set up a a 13 megawatt solar farm that generates energy stored in a 52 MWh Tesla Powerpack storage set. It fits well into Hawaii’s mission to free the islands from fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Watch the video.
  7. In-wheel drive: Protean Electric is partnering with Consolidated Metco to develop an electric in-wheel drive system to provide hybrid-electric solutions for the medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle markets. The companies say that the drive system will enable ConMet’s OEM and fleet customers to address the tightening of  safety and emissions regulations, increasing demands for improved fuel efficiency, weight and drivetrain packaging optimization, and shifts in vehicle demands for long-haul and urban delivery.
  8. Ford wins award for sustainability practices: Ford was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the eighth straight year by Ethisphere Institute, which the automaker says is the longest streak for any auto manufacturer. The award honors companies “who recognize their role in society to influence and drive positive change in the business community and societies around the world.” Ford’s Partnership for a Cleaner Environment (PACE) program with its supply chain partners helped the company make the list. The program, which started in 2014, added tools that help suppliers reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and waste. Members of PACE share best practices in reducing carbon and adopting procedures for reducing water and energy consumption.
  9. Site tours: ACT Expo 2017 has announced three technical tours for those attending the conference in Long Beach, Calif., in early May. Monday, May 1, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Join American Honda at its North American Headquarters in Torrance for a reveal of its three Clarity models. The reveal will include an overview of national marketing efforts to deploy the Clarity as well as an opportunity to get in the new vehicles and test them out. Monday, May 1, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: City of Long Beach has one of the most diverse and innovative municipal fleets in the nation, offering an array of fuel and vehicle types with renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Attendees will see an assortment of city vehicles, as well as its renewable fueling infrastructure, extensive maintenance shop, and fleet charging infrastructure. Thursday, May 4, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Long Beach Container Terminal is the world’s first zero-emission marine container terminal. It uses fully automated battery electric cargo handling equipment to move containers through its terminal. While there is a lot of talk of heavy-duty vehicle automation, LBCT has more than 60 battery electric units running in every day service. Visit this incredible project, and also see how these units autonomously change their own battery packs! Enhance your ACT Expo experience by adding an offsite tour for just $50. You can also view a video about the upcoming event.
  10. Low carbon pathways: The California Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) staff has released for public comment four new Tier 2 renewable diesel (RD) pathways using soy oil, used cooking oil, tallow, and corn oil at the Diamond Green facility in St. Charles, Louisiana. Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) uses the UOP Ecofining Process to produce RD from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), tallow, corn oil, and soybean oil. The Ecofining Process hydrogenates triglycerides and free fatty acid feedstocks which are then isomerized to create a high-quality hydrocarbon fuel.

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