FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent company of Jeep, is bringing electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities to the off-road icon as part of $4.5 billion investment in U.S. plants.
“Today’s announcement . . . allows Jeep to enter two white space segments that offer significant margin opportunities and will enable new electrified Jeep products, including at least four plug-in hybrid vehicles and the flexibility to produce fully battery-electric vehicles” said FCA CEO Mike Manley.
The term “white space” refers to future but not yet defined “must-have” vehicles, and electric certainly appears to be what Jeep has in mind.
As for specifics, three manufacturing sites (Mack Avenue, Jefferson North, and Warren Truck) will all be capable of producing plug-in hybrid versions of their respective models following the upcoming investment, and they will each have the flexibility to build fully electric models in the future.
The accompanying video highlights some vehicles in Jeep’s pipeline; no electrics quite yet, but stay tuned.
Is your community and company ready for the coming wave of EVs?
For the past few years the electric vehicle industry has focused on California. Now, though, states across America are enjoying the benefits of transportation electrification. Here is a partial list of recent developments ranging from early-stage regulatory/legislative initiatives all the way to actual investment:
New York: Recent approval of funding for corridor DC fast charging state-wide.
Maryland: Recent approval of ~$40 million utility-led investment in EV charging infrastructure.
New Jersey: Request by state’s largest utility to invest $364 million in EV charging infrastructure.
Massachusetts: Proposal by National Grid to substantially expand investment in EV charging infrastructure.
Iowa: Recent holding by state regulators that EV charging service providers are not necessarily regulated utilities (consistent with findings elsewhere but not resolved universally).
Washington: Proposed legislation to require state-owned vehicles to be electric.
Georgia: $63 million investment in electric buses (using funds from Volkswagen diesel settlement).
Minnesota: Adopted goal of increasing number of EVs from 6,000 today to 200,000 by 2030.
These and other initiatives provide a host of societal benefits, ranging from saving consumers money due to lower total cost of ownership for EVs to reduced healthcare costs and better quality of life (especially for children) from reduced tailpipe pollution. Speaking on the subject of advances in the Midwest, Rolf Nordstrom, president and CEO of the Great Plains Institute, commented that:
This vision for electric vehicles offers . . . the chance to quite literally pave the way for a technological revolution in mobility as transformative as the switch from horses to cars. Collaborative public-private efforts . . . are essential to fully realizing the many benefits that electrifying our transportation system will have on the health of residents, the total costs of driving, and the economy.
EVs Ready For Mass Market
Demand for electric vehicles is increasing because customers like the performance and technology associated with EVs as well as the lower total cost of ownership. Upfront price and driving range have been obstacles in the past, but battery costs are falling and energy storage capacity is increasing. Moreover, regulatory imperatives are pushing auto manufacturers to develop EVs that customers find desirable and affordable. The result is that at least 100 electrified models are expected to hit the U.S. market by 2022. And in sharp contrast to just a few years ago when real-world range was around 100 miles, fully electric EVs now provide ranges exceeding 225 miles and plug-in hybrids often satisfy most consumers’ daily needs solely with electricity.
Urban and suburban use will surely continue to grow as scores of plug-in vehicles enter the market. But with longer ranges and increased capabilities, electrified vehicles (including plug-in hybrid as well as fully-electric) actually offer far greater benefits to rural drivers who tend pile on the miles. (The benefits being that electricity is generally equivalent to $1/gallon gasoline, and maintenance for fully electric vehicles is practically non-existent.)
A recent report by Dan Gatti of the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the average rural driver will save $870 per year by choosing an electric vehicle over a conventional sedan. From an air pollution perspective, that driver will also cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3 metric tons per year (almost twice the average emissions reduction from an EV in most urban counties).
Recognizing that more than 2/3 of all vehicles sold in America are trucks and SUVs, EV start-up Rivian is aiming squarely at this opportunity by bringing to market a fully electric pickup. The company gained substantial momentum with the recent $700 million equity investment round led by Amazon. The investment comes on the heels of Rivian’s reveal of the all-electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show last November.
Next Up: Commercial Electric Vehicles
On the commercial side, meanwhile, Chanje is developing a fully electric medium duty panel van designed and built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of the last mile industry. The company recently announced that FedEx will be adding 1,000 Chanje vehicles to its fleet. Electric trucks appeal to all constituencies: Financially they are economical to operate; environmentally they hasten the transition away from diesel; optically they position the operator as an innovator and supporter of clean technology.
“FedEx continually seeks new ways to maximize operational efficiency, minimize impacts and find innovative solutions through the company’s Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize approach to sustainability,” said Mitch Jackson, FedEx Chief Sustainability Officer. “Our investment in [electric] vehicles is part of our commitment to that approach of serving our customers and connecting the world responsibly and resourcefully.”
For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, including tips on how you can help bring EVs and EV charging to your community, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.
Given the high cost and complexity of developing new vehicles, mass market automakers tend to stick to models with broad appeal while shying away from particularly distinctive or offbeat designs. But Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB), the central element in the company’s electric vehicle future, will help Volkswagen deliver a wide array of vehicles customized for particular regions and purposes, in addition to offering global efficiencies for all models by using a single cost-effective platform.
To illustrate this efficiency and flexibility, and show that the MEB platform can be used for more than just large-scale series production models, Volkswagen at next month’s International Geneva Motor Show will unveil an MEB-based fully electric dune buggy.
Why did Volkswagen choose a dune buggy? Says Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer at Volkswagen, “A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels. These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, non-retro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create.”
MEB: The Heart of Volkswagen’s Electric Vehicle Strategy
According to a recent report in Automotive News, Volkswagen’s electrification seeds were planted at a crisis meeting arising out of the company’s emissions cheating scandal. Held in Wolfsburg on October 10, 2015, then-VW brand chief Herbert Diess convened nine top managers on a Saturday to discuss the way forward in the aftermath of the scandal that cost the company more than €27 billion in fines.
“It was an intense discussion, so was the realization that this could be an opportunity, if we jump far enough,” said Juergen Stackmann, VW brand’s board member for sales. “It was an initial planning session to do more than just play with the idea of electric cars,” he told Reuters. “We asked ourselves ‘What is our vision for the future of the brand? Everything that you see today is connected to this.'”
Just three days after the emergency meeting of the VW brand’s management board, Volkswagen announced plans to develop an electric vehicle platform, codenamed MEB, paving the way for mass production of an affordable electric car.
Fast-forward a few years, and the MEB is firmly positioned to make the manufacture of electric vehicles more efficient — i.e., less expensive — in the long term. The MEB will allow Volkswagen to produce electric vehicles with a more systematic focus and to cater to increasing demand for electric vehicles. The MEB also ensures vehicles using the platform are optimally equipped for EV-specific requirements by taking into account what axles, drive units, wheelbases, and weight ratios need to look like. It also considers the best design and position for the batteries.
The Plan: Transform 2025+
Streamlining vehicle architecture is key to the electrification aspect of Volkswagen’s Transform 2025+ plan. A big part of Transform 2025+ is an electric offensive aimed at making the company a global market leader and be the world’s first manufacturer to sell more than 1 million pure electric vehicles.
To that end, Volkswagen is investing €30 billion in electrification (in addition to tens of millions of euros in battery technology) and plans to have about 20 fully electric vehicles by 2025 with annual production of 3 million units. The company anticipates sales of 100,000 units during the first full production year, in part by deploying MEB at eight sites on three continents by 2022.
Volkswagen is currently converting its Zwickau plant to be run as an e-mobility site, and the company announced that Emden and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover will switch to the production of electric vehicles in 2022. Collectively, these three sites will become Europe’s largest e-production network. Two EV plants are also taking shape in Anting and Foshan in China, with MEB scheduled for 2020. For North America, VW announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it will invest $800 million to construct a second assembly plant dedicated to EVs in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
For more information about electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, including tips on what you can do to make your property and community EV-friendly, please contact me. I also invite you to subscribe to receive future posts via email, view my other posts, and follow me on Twitter.
Super Bowl ads cost upwards of $5 million for 30 seconds, so brands are deliberate in featuring products and services most likely to bring growth, profit, and success.
As evidence that electric vehicles are ready for prime time, Audi this Sunday will air a 60-second commercial during the big game’s second quarter called “Cashew” that highlights Audi’s electrification strategy by offering a glimpse of the fully electric e-tron GT concept car.
Making a cameo appearance in Cashew is the e-tron SUV, the first of three all-electric models Audi plans to introduce in the U.S. (expected to arrive this spring). The other two models are expected to be the Audi e-tron Sportback (debuting in 2019) and the Audi e-tron GT (debuting in 2020). Audi anticipates offering more than 20 fully electric and plug-in hybrid models globally by 2025.
While this ad is from an automaker, every company can benefit from association with electric vehicles. Let’s talk about how I can deliver your brand a lift in consideration, purchase intent, and perception through association with electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging.
Have you seen fully electric buses in your town yet? If not, keep an eye out. BYD this month reached a new milestone with the completion of its 50,000th fully electric bus. Transit and fleet operators worldwide are noticing the cost savings, quiet rides, and lack of tailpipe pollution that cities enjoy with electric vehicles from BYD, Proterra Inc., and others. What’s more, the agencies burnish their image by showcasing their commitment to clean air, new technology, and a healthier future.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, operating 50,000 electric buses is equivalent to taking 1.35 million cars off the road and eliminating 84.5 million tons of C02 over 12 years. And emissions by electric vehicles are 40% lower than internal combustion engines—even when using electricity generated by coal power plants according to Bloomberg NEF (and they will get even cleaner over time as old coal plants retire and are replaced with cleaner natural gas and renewables).
Early success in the transit market is apparent by a wave of electric bus announcements in at least 30 states and the District of Columbia. Recognizing that governmental budget cycles sometimes focus more on upfront costs as compared to lifetime cost, many of these purchases benefit from local, state, and federal funds.
California, in particular, offers substantial incentives through its Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. HVIP lowers the up-front purchase price, and sample offerings (as of October 8, 2018) include $120,000 for a BYD 35’ transit bus carrying a 350 kWh battery, $90,000 for a Gillig 29’ low-floor transit bus carrying a 296 kWh battery, and $150,000 for a Proterra 40’ transit bus carrying a 126 kWh battery. Revenue from the state’s LCFS significantly offset the cost of electricity. The result is a lower total cost of ownership for electrics as compared to diesel powered vehicles. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a typical bus with a 250kWh battery charging slowly once per day at the depot and operating around 166km/day has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) ($0.99/km) than diesel ($1.05/km) or CNG ($1.19/km).
At the federal level, the Federal Transit Administration administers the “Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle Program.” The Low or No Emission competitive program provides funding to state and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. Under the FAST Act, $55 million per year is available until fiscal year 2020. Eligible projects include:
purchasing or leasing low- or no-emission buses;
acquiring low- or no-emission buses with a leased power source;
constructing or leasing facilities and related equipment (including intelligent technology and software) for low- or no-emission buses;
constructing new public transportation facilities to accommodate low- or no-emission buses; and
rehabilitating or improving existing public transportation facilities to accommodate low- or no-emission buses.
Case Study #1: Chicago Transit Agency
The Chicago Transit Agency (CTA) is an example of a large metropolitan bus operator that is an early adopter: the CTA has been operating two New Flyer e-buses for three years. Each bus carries 300 kWh of battery storage, which provides about a 100 mile range. The buses charge using 100 kW chargers. At that rate, each bus takes about three hours to charge to 80 percent if starting at empty.
Each of the CTA buses today serves the AM and PM rush periods, and they cover 120 to 140 miles per day. Because the routes require more energy than provided by a single charge, each bus is dispatched for about six hours in the morning, during which it covers 50 to 60 miles. The bus then returns to the depot to charge at mid-day for a few hours before returning to service for the afternoon rush, during which it covers 70 to 80 miles over about an 8 hour period. The CTA expects to purchase at least 20 more e-buses in the next few years along with five fast chargers and an option for an additional 25 e-buses.
Case Study #2: State of Georgia
The state of Georgia is also making a significant investment in electric buses through its share of the Volkswagen consent decree arising from the company’s diesel emissions litigation. States are permitted to invest in ten different mitigation actions including large trucks, eligible buses, port cargo handling equipment, and EV charging infrastructure. Georgia’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan allocates 100% of its $63 million to electric buses at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the State Road and Tollway Authority’s (SRTA) Xpress system, both of which are nonattainment areas for the ozone NAAQS standard (the SRTA buses will be a mix of clean diesel and full-electric).
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 Twitter.
Nissan unveiled at this week’s CES the Leaf e+, the latest addition to the popular and fully-electric Leaf lineup that sports a bigger battery for longer range as well as enhanced power output and faster charging. The Leaf was the first mass-market EV of the century in when it launched in 2011, and Nissan to date has sold more than 380,000 Leafs globally and 128,000 in the U.S.
Extended Range Matches the Competition
The Leaf e+ is a welcome addition to the Leaf lineup as the nameplate’s sales trajectory has declined in the face of competition from moderately-priced fully electric competitors with considerably longer ranges. For example, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, both of which are also fully-electric, have approximately double the range of the prior Leafs.
Enter the Leaf e+. With a 62 kWh battery pack (EPA-estimated range of up to 226 miles) and enhanced power output (160 kW motor in the LEAF e+ combine to produce 45 percent more power over prior Leafs and 250 lb-ft (340 Nm) of torque), the Leaf e+ is now a real contender against the Bolt (60 kWh battery, 238 EPA-rated miles, 150 kW motor, 266 lb-feet (360 Nm) torque) and Model 3 Mid-Range (62 kWh, 260 EPA-rated miles, power TBA).
Keeping in mind the importance of maximizing cabin and storage space, the new battery imposes no sacrifices. Even with a 25 percent increase in energy density and the increase in energy storage capacity, the LEAF e+ battery pack is almost the same size and configuration as the pack in the prior Nissan Leaf. Other than a 5-millimeter increase in overall height (16-inch wheels), the car’s exterior and interior dimensions are unchanged.
Just as important as the extended range is the new Leaf’s 70 kW (100 kW peak) CHAdeMO Direct Current (DC) fast charging system. This means the Leaf e+ can charge up to twice as fast as previous generation Leafs, which peaked at 50 kW. The CHAdeMo port is pictured below, on the left, which is next to the universal Level 2 port.
Based on early testing, according to Nissan, Leaf e+ owners can expect similar charging times when hooked up to a 100 kW charger as current LEAF owners do with a 50 kW charger, despite a 55 percent larger battery storage capacity. Most non-Tesla DC fast chargers installed in the U.S. today offer a peak charge of 50 kW, but network operators such as EVgo and Electrify America are planning now for more powerful chargers to serve the new Leaf and other fast-charging EVs.
Nissan Energy Services and Grid Integration
The Leaf family of cars plays a vital role in Nissan’s efforts to integrate electric vehicles and energy systems into customer’s lives – creating an “EV ecosystem.” Among these efforts is Nissan Energy, the company’s initiative for its electric vehicles to connect with energy systems to charge their batteries, power homes and businesses, or feed energy back to power grids, as well as new efforts to reuse batteries.
“Nissan Energy will enable our customers to use their electric cars for much more than just driving – now they can be used in nearly every aspect of the customer’s lives,” said executive vice president Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s global head of marketing, sales and electric vehicles. “Our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision calls for changing how cars are integrated with society, and Nissan Energy turns that vision into reality.”
While many of the two-way services (“Vehicle to Grid” or V2G) are not yet widely available in the U.S., the desire for them among customers, policymakers, energy services companies and energy suppliers is great.
In the meantime, there is much interest in harnessing the ability to modulate vehicles’ rates of charge in real-time to respond to grid conditions. Because this service does not actually put power back onto the grid it is not true V2G, but instead is referred to as V1G. V1G can be extremely meaningful at scale as a demand response resource. For example, reducing the load of 1,000 EVs by a mere 2 kW each shaves two megawatts from the bulk power system. Similar adjustments can be made at the distribution level, thereby potentially avoiding costly upgrades, based on time, price, load, and parameters provided by customers.
The Leaf e+ contains many of Nissan’s advanced technologies including ProPILOT Assist semi-autonomous driving system and e-Pedal mode for one-pedal driving, both of which are common among electric vehicles.
“The new Nissan LEAF e+ offers all of the style, convenience and electric vehicle benefits that have helped make Leaf the best-selling electric vehicle in the world, plus even more driving excitement, range, power and choice,” said Denis Le Vot, senior vice president and chairman, Nissan North America. “Nissan Intelligent Mobility is at the core of everything we do and the new Nissan LEAF e+ takes this vision even further,” Le Vot continued. “EVs will play a significant part in our product lineup as we move forward and will lead the way to providing an efficient and sustainable future for the world.”
Availability and Pricing
Leaf e+ sales in the U.S. are expected to begin in the spring of 2019, with pricing to be announced closer to the sales-date.
“Opel is going electric!” announced CEO Michael Lohscheller, as the company celebrates the release of two electrified vehicles in 2019, a plug-in hybrid Grandland X SUV (pictured above) and a fully electric Corsa.
The electric version of the best-selling Corsa “will make electro-mobility affordable for many customers, it will be a real electric car for the people,” said CEO Loscheller. The Grandland X plug-in hybrid brings electrification to a larger vehicle class and will deliver up to 300 hp along with “e-All Wheel Drive” technology.
As Opel enters its 120th year in auto manufacturing in 2019, Lohscheller emphasized that “We are putting maximum effort into the electrification of our portfolio.” Opel’s next step is to offer a fully electric midsize van, the Vivaro, in 2020, as well as a fully electric subcompact SUV, the Mokka.
Opel’s electrified vehicles are consistent with parent company PSA Group’s mandate that every new model come in a hybrid or all-electric version, and by 2025 every single model from the PSA Group family will have an electrified version (Opel plans to achieve this milestone by 2024). As evidence of the company’s commitment to this aggressive goal, the company will launch fifteen new electrified vehicles in the next two years.
Volvo announced this week an investment in FreeWire Technologies, a company specializing in mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging units. Other investors in FreeWire’s $15 million Series A include the integrated energy giant BP, manufacturing powerhouse Stanley Black & Decker, and the United Kingdom’s Innovate UK.
FreeWire was founded about five years ago by Arcady Sosinov, who was born just outside of Chernobyl in the year of the nuclear catastrophe. His family emigrated to the U.S. when Arcady was young, but the life-altering experience of growing up in a disaster zone influenced his decision to pursue a career in cleantech. Arcady identified electric vehicle charging infrastructure as a pain point, and today the goal of minimizing EV charging infrastructure guides his company’s direction.
The move into charging makes sense for Volvo, which is aggressively embracing transportation electrification.
“Volvo Cars’ future is electric, as reflected by our industry-leading commitment to electrify our entire product range,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank. Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”
Earlier this year Volvo committed that every new car launched from 2019 will be electrified, with plans for half of all sales by 2025 to be fully electric. Describing itself as “a human-centric car company,” Volvo’s Fasihuddin explains that one of the company’s goals is to make customers’ lives easier. This explains the fit with FreeWire, which offers mobile “infrastructure light” chargers that can be installed quickly without major construction, along with portable batteries that the company is marketing to workplaces and multifamily communities that lack electrical infrastructure. Lastly, FreeWire can deliver truck-based mobile batteries that pull up to an EV and provide a charge wherever the customer’s vehicle happens to be.
To deliver on its promise to investors, FreeWire has entered into partnerships with contract manufacturers here in the U.S. as it lays the groundwork for scaling up manufacturing capabilities from dozens of systems to hundreds. Within about a year, says founder and CEO Sosinov, FreeWire expects to have a full production line shipping hundreds of units per month to customers around the world. To get to that point, the company has hired staff including a COO and VP of Operations to bulk up its supply chain expertise, documentation, and testing to maintain consistency and reliability.
Volvo’s electrification strategy does not envision direct ownership of charging or service stations, but the investment in FreeWire reinforces the company’s overall commitment to supporting a widespread transition to electric mobility together with other partners.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe about EVs and EV charging, Volvo’s Fasihuddin said “There are so many issues to think about and we want to get out ahead of that because we think there is a tsunami coming. And we’re part of creating that.”
Uber announced this week that the company will help drivers in London convert to cleaner transportation by raising $260 million toward electric vehicle purchases. Many drivers shy away from EVs today because EV sticker prices are higher than for internal combustion engines, and purchase decisions are determined in large part based on the monthly payment rather than the lifetime total cost of ownership.
By transitioning to electric vehicles, drivers will benefit from a lower total cost of ownership and the public will benefit from reduced tailpipe pollution, so Uber’s efforts to help buy down the monthly payments will bring both financial and environmental benefits.
London was targeted because the city plans to have only EVs on the road by 2025. To raise the capital to ease Uber drivers’ transitions, passengers in that market will pay a slightly higher fee per mile to help Uber drivers save up. One hundred percent of the fees will be put into an individual savings account for the driver who earned the revenue. Drivers will have no minimum commitment to using the EV for Uber driving, and if a driver leaves Uber before withdrawing the funds the money will be spent on other clean air initiatives said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
As plug-in electric vehicles begin to steal marketshare from internal combustion engines, what’s an engine block and cylinder head maker to do? Nemak, the giant global manufacturer of complex metal automotive components, is applying its expertise to specialized parts such as battery trays and electric motor housings that are critical to both passenger safety and battery performance in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Minimizing weight is particularly significant for plug-in vehicles, and Nemak has already sold more than 3 million parts in this category resulting in annual revenue of approximately $400 million, or 10 percent of the company’s business. Not only are more cars requiring lightweight parts, but electric vehicles also present a bigger opportunity on a per-vehicle basis than traditional vehicles:
Because of this new business opportunity, “we decided to create an organization focused exclusively on driving execution and growth in [lightweight components and electric vehicles] — in addition to successfully ramping up production of these components, we are already seeing its contributions materialize in the form of cutting-edge innovations linked to vehicle lightweighting and electrification, primarily in battery, body-in-white, and chassis and suspension applications,” said Armando Tamez, Nemak´s CEO.
At its current pace, the company expects by 2020 that it will have a 20 percent share of the total U.S. and European market for battery housings for plug-in hybrid vehicles with annual sales of $1 billion by 2022 as more vehicles globally transition to electricity.