This Week’s Top 10: Workplace charging and Plug-In 2014, Audi enters plug-in space with its A3 Sportback E-Tron

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…….

workplace charging1. Workplace charging and Plug-In 2014 conference
Workplace charging has become the most discussed topic in the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)  infrastructure community. Check out comments from Electric Power Research Institute’s Morgan Davis on some of the issues that will be discussed next month at Plug-In 2014 in San Jose, Calif. Scheduled speakers from Google, SAP, Nissan, Georgia Power, and San Diego Gas & Electric, will talk about their experience with deployment of workplace charging stations. Other topics being explored at the conference include:  the future of DC fast charging; PEV incentives and economics; the latest in vehicle technology; and, two pre-conference seminars: vehicle-grid integration and fleet implementation of PEVs.

2. Audi enters the plug-in space with A3 Sportback E-Tron
Audi AG began rolling out its A3 Sportback E-Tron plug-in hybrid model; it’s the first of four plug-in hybrids that will roll out and compete with BMW for luxury electric vehicle customers and its first-ever plug-in model (and eventually with Tesla as it increases its presence in Europe). The A3 Sportback E-Tron is said to get 31 miles of battery power. There is a price – it starts at 37,900 euros ($51,700) in Germany – 15,100 euros more than the base gasoline-powered version of the A3.

3. US Supreme Court stays out of California low-carbon fuel standard ruling
The US Supreme Court has decided to let stand a ruling from September by the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco upholding the California low-carbon fuel standard – at the chagrin of out-of-state ethanol producers and oil companies. Ethanol producers from the Midwest challenged the fairness of the rule, as their fuel is given higher cost to buyers due to the state’s “carbon-intensity ratings.” California’s rating system is giving out-of-state producers a higher price for their credits than identical fuel being produced in California. Oil refiners also challenged the standard’s premise that the cost of transportation and processing for bringing the fuel into the state is adding more carbon. California Air Resources Board recently approved a funding of $200 million in the 2014-15 budget to encourage the deployment of more low-carbon transportation choices. Rebates of $2,500 for battery-electric vehicles and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids will be available; fuel-cell electric vehicle buyers will be eligible for $5,000 rebates.

4. Longer wait expected for next-gen Prius
Toyota Motor Corp. has decided to delay the launch of the fourth-generation Prius until December 2015 instead of next spring. The automaker hasn’t announced reasons for the delay, but those familiar with the matter confirmed the delay; one of them said Toyota engineers are trying out various configurations to improve fuel economy including adjusting the body and chassis. Production of the plug-in Prius may take even longer – sources say that will begin in October 2016. Also, more details have been announced on its first-ever hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It will debut in the Japan market next April for around 7 million yen ($69,348); it will go on sale in the US and Europe by the summer of 2015, according the company.

5. Pennsylvania takes action on Tesla corporate stores and sets limits
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill last week after it was amended to cap the number of factory-owned stores allowed at five. The bill only applies to Tesla Motors and goes now to the Pennsylvania house. The original bill had no cap on the number of retail outlets that Tesla could have set up; that drew pressure on the state from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the major trade group representing 12 automakers but not Tesla.

6. SAP and Cox Enterprises add to their corporate sustainability campaigns
Software giant SAP will is taking a three-prong approach to promote sustainable driving behavior:  economic incentives for employees to lease electric vehicles; bringing in a new app from Toyota and Verifone that will get them by dashboard of mobile device to determine fuel levels, get to the closest gas station, authorize electronic payments, and receive personalized coupons; and in collaboration with Volkswagen, SAP will try out a pilot project that uses SAP’s mobility and cloud services that will help drivers locate parking and nearby food offerings in urban settings. Cox Enterprises (which owns Manheim Auctions, AutoTrader, and Kelley Blue Book) is utilizing an energy storage system at its Manheim Southern California auction location in Fontana, Calif. An 18 kilowatt PowerStore system provides the location with real-time data analytics that are used to optimize efficiency and reduce electricity costs. Since 2007, the Atlanta-based company has prevented approximately 120,000 tons of carbon from entering the environment and saved more than 125 million gallons of water.

7. Greenlots will bring open standard DC fast chargers to San Francisco Airport
Greenlots will install four open standards-based DC fast chargers at the San Francisco International Airport; it’s part of a two-year pilot program supported by the California Energy Commission through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The chargers will be part of its “Sky” electric vehicle charging platform that utilizes Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), the largest open standard for charger-to-network communications. Sky “obsoletes the subscription-based model by providing drivers with flexible payment solutions including dynamic queuing and pay-by-phone,” the company said. The charging station host can mix and match charging station types, while setting pricing options: by kilowatt-hour, session, or length of time charging.

8. Minnesota starts 10% biodiesel blend
Minnesota has become the first state to require that a minimum blend of 10% biodiesel be sold in diesel fuel sold at retail fuel station pumps. Biodiesel sales are expected to jump from 40 million to 60 million gallons per year through the new Minnesota standard. That will bring three production plants in the state up to their capacity to make biodiesel that’s typically coming from soybean and other oils.

9. Ford bumps Toyota off on greenest automaker list
While Ford is getting chastised for again overstating its mileage ratings, Interbrand has been impressed enough with the global automaker to name it the world’s greenest brand. Conducted with Deloitte Consulting, the annual survey (taken long before the latest MPG controversy) gauges consumer perceptions in markets around the world, combined with data on how companies operate internally and report their environmental behavior.

10. Zap Jonway electric cars going on sale as Urbees in China
Zap Jonway, an electric vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Santa Rosa, Calif., received from SunRa (which is also called Xinri Electric Vehicle Company) a volume purchase agreement for its Urbee electric car through its subsidiary Jonway Auto for the Chinese market. It’s an agreement by SunRa to purchase 1,000 Urbees per month from Jonway Auto to sell through its distribution network in China, starting with the first shipment of 500 units from Jonway Auto’s production line in June 2014.

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