High Expectations for Toyota’s Plug-In Electric RAV4 Prime

Electrified vehicles notched another milestone last month when, for the first time, sales of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid outpaced sales of the less-expensive standard (and non-electrified) RAV4. The count was close, but consumers purchased 17,051 hybrids and 17,042 non-hybrids. This high level of interest bodes well for the new all-wheel-drive RAV4 Prime that is launching nationwide this summer.

The RAV4 Prime differs from the hybrid primarily because the Prime is a plug-in electric vehicle. The Prime’s $38,100 base MSRP is about $10,000 more than the standard RAV4, but the Prime is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and many states offer additional incentives.

The reason to be optimistic about the RAV4 Prime plug-in is that the RAV4 Hybrid is selling so well compared to the standard when the hybrid offers only marginal improvements. For example, the standard RAV4 has 203 hp and the hybrid has 219 hp, while the plug-in Prime has 302 hp. And the hybrid’s hwy/local/combined mileage of 41/38/40 is better than the standard’s 27/34/30, but neither come close to the plug-in Prime’s 94 miles per gallon equivalent.

Given the small price difference (after the federal tax credit and other incentives), performance and fuel savings make the Prime a virtual no-brainer. The 0-60 acceleration in 5.7 seconds makes the RAV4 Prime the quickest four-door model in the entire Toyota lineup. And while the mileage described above is outstanding by any measure, many drivers will hardly ever have to fill up the gas tank anyway because the Prime’s 18.1 kWh battery powers the vehicle for about 42 miles without using an ounce of gasoline. And there’s no need to worry about the battery, because it’s covered under a 10-year/150,000 mile warranty that is transferrable across ownership.

The RAV4 Prime is available in two trim lines, the SE and the XSE, both of which are AWD and can tow up to 2,500 lbs. Other than typical differences between versions such as infotainment systems, the SE is equipped with a 3.3 kW charger and the XSE has the option for a 6.6 kW charger. Both are the standard J1772 universal “Level 2” 240V connector, but the 3.3 kW (240V/16 amp) version charges at a rate of a little less than 10 miles in an hour while the 6.6 kW (240V/32 amp) version charges a bit faster than 15 miles in an hour. Both charge at the same speed of about 3.5 miles per hour when plugged in to a standard 120V (12 amp) outlet.

Unlike many other major automakers, Toyota remains focused on hybrids (plug-in as well as non-plug-in) as compared to fully electric vehicles. But if recent sales are an indication of future trends, the RAV4 Prime may accelerate the company’s electrification plans.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Lucid Air, All-New EV, Coming Soon

Exterior view of Lucid Studio

Lucid Studios

Get ready to add Lucid to the list of options when you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Lucid Motors announced this week plans to open 20 retail locations, which the company calls “Lucid Studios,” as well as service centers throughout North America by the end of next year. The first batch of locations will be relatively small-footprint spaces in high-traffic areas in California, Florida, New York, and near Washington, DC.

While customers will have the option to design and purchase their vehicle fully or partially online, the studios offer a place “to start conversations and to help educate people about the performance and efficiency benchmarks possible in an electric vehicle,” said Peter Rawlinson, Lucid’s CEO and CTO. “A Lucid Studio is a place for people to learn about our unique brand while supporting every facet of the customer journey.”

Lucid is also Lucid is creating a digital experience to complement the purchase process and that will continue into ownership. The company will soon be launching a new website, which is expected to include configuration options that will enable prospective owners to customize their own car and view it from any angle in a variety of environments.

Image of Lucid Studio Digital Experience

About the Lucid Air

The company’s first production vehicle, the Lucid Air, will feature a driving range of more than 400 miles on a single charge and achieve 0-60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds. Contributing to this fuel efficiency and speed is the vehicle’s extreme aerodynamics. Lucid recently completed tests at Windshear’s advanced rolling-road wind tunnel, where engineers verified a coefficient of drag of 0.21; this makes the Lucid Air the world’s most aero-efficient luxury car. 

Image of Lucid Air aerodynamics test.

The Lucid aerodynamics team comprises leading technologists and analysts drawn from the worlds of automotive and motorsport, with four Formula One World Championships under their belt.

“Key to our development process was creating Lucid’s own meticulous aerodynamic design philosophy for electric vehicles honed from years of success in Formula One. We applied lessons learned from shaping the world’s highest performance racing machines as integral to the Lucid Air’s design process. It’s not just about achieving the lowest coefficient of drag, it’s also key to have a highly balanced performance vehicle with precisely managed airflow in all aspects.” 

Jean-Charles Monnet, Lead Aerodynamicist, Lucid Motors.

Production is expected to begin later this year in Arizona, and the vehicle will be officially revealed online on Sept. 9.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Date Set for Cadillac Lyric EV Reveal

Cadillac announced the company’s fully electric Lyriq, a crossover, will be revealed (online) on August 6 at 7:00 PM (Eastern).

“Building on more than a century of innovation, the Cadillac LYRIQ marks the beginning of a new chapter for the brand – one that is all-electric and redefines the boundaries and limits of mobility and connectivity,” said Cadillac in a news release.

Parent company General Motors is also garnering attention for the upcoming GMC Hummer, which is being reincarnated as a fully electric SUV, and earlier this year announced a $2.2 billion investment at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to produce a variety of fully electric trucks and SUVs.

Vehicles such as the Lyriq, that are built on General Motors’ third-generation EV platform, will be powered by the company’s proprietary Ultium batteries. These batteries are notable because they will contain zero cobalt and zero nickel cathodes, and are expected to achieve a driving range of at least 400 miles.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Major Battery Announcement Expected from Tesla

Photo of Tesla PowerPack with solar panels in background.

Mark your calendar for September 15; according to a tweet by Elon Musk, that is the tentative date for Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting and “Battery Day,” which will include a tour of the company’s cell production system. Musk first described the battery event about a year ago as including “a comprehensive review of cell chemistry, module and pack, architecture, and manufacturing plan that has a clear roadmap to a terawatt-hour per year.”

One terawatt hour is one billion kWh of energy storage, and this capacity is about 30 times that of the company’s existing battery production. Assuming an average 100 kWh of storage per vehicle, a terawatt hour could supply 10 million EVs per year. Tesla batteries can also support stationary storage such as the Powerwall and Powerpack.

Below is a photo of Tesla’s second Gigafactory, a 1.2 million square-foot facility in Buffalo, New York, where the company produces solar cells and modules as well as electrical components for Superchargers and energy storage products.

Aerial photo of Tesla's second Gigafactory.

An increase in manufacturing capacity would be reason enough for a major announcement, but what else might Musk have up his sleeve? A decrease in cost would certainly attract a lot of attention by broadening the market for Teslas, but so too would the following:

  • Better energy density. This would allow for more energy storage per cell, resulting in a smaller and lighter-weight battery while providing the same distance. Alternatively, higher energy density would allow for greater driving range without increasing from today’s size.
  • Faster charging speeds. Faster charging would provide drivers with shorter stops on long road trips, and would also reduce queueing at popular charging stations.
  • More cycles. Battery life is measured in charge cycles. After a certain number of cycles, degradation can become noticeable. Given the near absence of critical parts in an EV that are susceptible to failure other than the battery, lengthening the life of batteries has a near 1:1 effect on the entire vehicle’s life. Longer vehicle life at top performance means better value up front and better residual value on resale (including a second life for the batteries as grid resources after a presumably long life in the vehicle).
Tesla Powerwall (photo courtesy of Tesla)

As discussed above, stationary storage already is a significant market. The Powerwall, for example, is a wall or floor mounted rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed for the residential market to enable self-consumption of solar power, emergency backup, time-based control and other grid service applications. It stores 13.5 kWh of usable power.

The Powerpack is intended for commercial and utility customers and provides from 200 kWh to more than 100 MWh of energy storage. Conceptually similar to the Powerwall, the Powerpack benefits utilities and customers alike through cost savings, reliability and resiliency. Examples of specific benefits include demand response, frequency response, backup power, storage for intermittent resources, load shifting, and potentially the ability to defer costly and time-consuming grid upgrades.

Given Musk’s successful track record and propensity for technological advances, the upcoming announcement could include any number of breakthroughs. Stay tuned for more updates as they become available.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Vehicle To Grid (V2G) Technology Achieves Milestone Toward Commercialization

Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology offers what might be characterized as the holy grail for electric vehicles, and the future got a lot closer on March 12 with the news that a bidirectional EV charging system by Fermata Energy was the first such system in the world to earn the UL 9741 safety standard. UL 9741 features the ability to prevent the discharge of energy when a connected device is not capable of safely receiving backfed power and is a critical milestone toward commercial deployment of V2G.

According to Francisco Martinez, business development director of UL’s Energy Systems and eMobility division, “UL’s role in making the most of the stored energy in electric vehicles is to help ensure that this happens safely,” said Martinez.

Photo of Nissan Leaf plugged in to Fermata Energy V2G

The ability of electric vehicles to discharge energy holds great potential because the vehicles tend to have large batteries with more energy than drivers typically need on any given day; moreover, as with most noncommercial passenger vehicles, EVs are are parked an average of 95% of the hours in a year. The combination of having excess energy and being available a large percentage of time results in benefits that will accrue to:

  • The grid, which can use energy from EV batteries to displace higher cost and potentially dirtier energy from power plants when demand for energy is high; and
  • EV owners, who can monetize the energy as it is dispensed (assuming the energy was purchased and stored at a lower cost).

All indications are that V2G is going to introduce significant new resources to the grid. According to comments this week in Berlin by Volkswagen’s chief strategist Michael Jost:

By 2025 [Volkswagen] will have 350 gigawatt hours worth of energy storage at our disposal through our electric car fleet. Between 2025 and 2030 this will grow to 1 terawatt hours worth of storage. That’s more energy than is currently generated by all the hydroelectric power stations in the world. We can guarantee that energy will be used and stored and this will be a new area of business.

Even today’s relatively small number of EVs is providing hundreds of millions of dollars in net revenue to utilities, according to a recent report by Synapse Energy Economics and as illustrated in the following table from the Synapse report:

Table showing net benefits EVs deliver through V2G technology
Total costs and contributions of incremental EV load, 2019-2030.

As vehicles begin to not only consume energy (providing revenues to the system) but also provide value by sending energy back to the grid, the financial and environmental benefits to EV owners, utilities, and all other utility customers will multiply.

“By unlocking the full potential of electric vehicles, Fermata Energy is helping to accelerate the shift to more electric vehicle usage,” said David Slutzky, CEO and founder of Fermata Energy. “We believe bidirectional energy solutions such as Fermata Energy’s V2G system will play an important role in reducing energy costs, improving grid resilience and combating climate change. We’re excited to be the first company to receive UL 9741 certification and look forward to partnering with other organizations to advance V2G applications.”

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

EV Charging Network ChargeLab Bets Future on Open Standards and Interoperability

Electric vehicle charging network provider ChargeLab announced this week that eligible multi-family communities and office buildings in Canada can receive EV charger installations for $0 in upfront costs.

Canada’s new Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP) program (funded by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)) offers 50% of the total project cost, up to a maximum of $5 million. And for a limited time, ChargeLab is matching NRCan’s contribution for eligible projects, bringing the upfront deployment cost for buildings to $0. These investments are subject to repayment over time based on pay-per-use fees generated by the EV chargers installed.

Innovative financing models like this signal the expectation that while limited co-investment by the public sector may be required in the short run, over the long run EV charging will be a successful commercial venture. As described in the video below by ChargeLab CEO Zachary Lefevre, one of the company’s distinguishing features is its support of interoperability and open standards such as Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). OCPP avoids vendor-lock by allowing station owners to switch networks by simply downloading new software over the air.

In the absence of open and interoperable hardware and networks, station owners such as apartment and office building landlords may incur steep costs, including potentially replacement of the entire charger, just to switch networks. The position taken by ChargeLab, which is that customers should be able to have options about which network to run on a charger, and which is consistent with that of other networks including Greenlots and Driivz, is highly favorable to customers and will serve the industry well.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Porsche Opens Europe’s Most Powerful Charging Hub

Photo of Porsche Turbo Charging, Rapid-charging park, Leipzig, 2020.

Porsche this week announced the expansion of its charging hub in Leipzig, Germany. The location is home to twelve DC fast chargers, each with a nameplate rating of 350 kW, as well as four 22 kW AC chargers. All energy is produced from renewable resources.

“The new charging park between the number 9, 14 and 38 motorways will significantly enrich the charging infrastructure in central Germany. Electric and hybrid vehicles of all brands are welcome”,

 Gerd Rupp, Chairman of the Board of Management of Porsche Leipzig GmbH

The DC fast chargers, which use the CCS plug format, are capable of providing about 60 miles of range in as little as five minutes. This extreme charging speed will enable drivers to complete their journey with minimal downtime, and will also enable each charger to serve a large number of vehicles per day.

For more information about EVs and EV charging, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and visit my other posts at www.EVadvisors.com.

Another 100% Electric Pickup Joins the Pack

Photo of Nikola Badger 100% Electric Pickup Truck

This week brings an announcement by Nikola Motor Company that the 100% electric Badger pickup truck will make its first appearance later this year. The Badger will join what is becoming a crowded field of high-end zero-emission pickups including:

  • Cybertruck by Tesla
  • Hummer by General Motors
  • R1T by Rivian

Nikola’s fully electric pickup, which is expected to have a range of 300 miles, will be equipped for both camping and job sites with features such as a 15-kilowatt power outlet for tools, lights and compressors. Nikola is also developing a fully electric heavy duty truck with an expected range of 800 miles.

Ford Mustang All-Electric Mach-E “First Edition” Sells Out in Five Weeks

Photo of Mustang Mach-E

The First Edition of the fully electric Mustang Mach-E by Ford Motor Company is officially sold out. Despite not delivering until the end of 2020, the company received 50,000 deposits in the last five weeks of 2019. Other models such as the Premium edition and the GT are still available for pre-order.

Here are some data points from Ford’s reservations bank:

  • Carbonized Gray is the most popular choice at 38%; Grabber Blue Metallic is second at 35% and Rapid Red third at 27%
  • More than 80% of U.S. customers are reserving the Mach-E with a 98.8 kWh Extended Range Battery that will charge at a rate up to 150 kW and is targeted to deliver a 270 mile range
  • About 55% are opting for all-wheel drive featuring peak power of 248 kW/332 HP and peak torque of 417 lb.-ft.
  • Almost 30% of U.S. customers are choosing the Mach-E GT, expected to arrive in the spring of 2021 and targeting 0 to 60 in the mid three second range!
  • More than a quarter of all reservations are coming from California

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EV Incentives Introduced In Vermont

Picture of Vermont State House in Montpelier, Vermont.

The State of Vermont today launched an incentive program for the purchase or lease of new plug-in electric vehicles, which includes all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Vermont is far behind its goal of more than 50,000 plug-in vehicles by 2025.

More than 20 plug-in models are eligible for the program, with $1500 incentives for plug-in hybrid vehicles and $2500 incentives for fully electric vehicles. Larger incentives are available for individuals whose households qualify for Vermont’s Weatherization Program. (All incentives in this program are limited to individuals with an annual household income of $92,000 or less applying for a new PEV with a base price of $40,000 or less).

The new state incentive will be in addition to rebates proposed by Green Mountain Power (currently under review by the Vermont Public Utility Commission), which would equal $1000 for plug-in hybrids, $1500 for new fully electric vehicles, and $750 for pre-owned EVs, each of which will be supplemented by a free networked EV charger valued at $600.

Although the total cost of owning (i.e., purchasing and operating) an EV is already below that of an internal combustion-powered vehicle, higher up-front costs remain a barrier for some. These incentives will reduce that cost and are expected to result in increased vehicle sales.

For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.