Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Feb 22

Plug-in Vehicles Continuing To See Soft Used Car Prices

 

By Jon LeSage

Used car prices for electric cars continue to show signs of a soft market and loss for plug-in vehicle owners.

InsideEVs had reported last month that off-lease and trade-in EVs were showing signs of “dirt cheap prices.” The Fiat 500e was auctioning as low as $4,000, and a few Tesla Model S vehicles are selling as low as $30,000.

U.S. News & World Report confirmed that price downturn after doing some research on used car price ranges for several plug-in electrified vehicles on the market, which InsideEVs presented in a table:

  • 2016 Fiat 500e:  $6,333-$8,022
  • 2013 Smart Fortwo ED:  $10,619-$11,355
  • 2011-2013 Chevrolet Volt: $12,398-$18,422
  • 2012-2013 Nissan LEAF:  $13,896-$16,749
  • 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf:  $15,845-$18,652
  • 2015 Kia  Soul EV:  $18,345-$21,512
  • 2013-2015 Ford Focus Electric:  $20,717-$24,475
  • 2014 BMW i3:  $27,003-$30,287
  • 2013-2014 Tesla Model S:  $42,192-$57,403

 

Car buyers are tapping in to $7,500 federal tax incentives and rebates in several states for PEV purchases; and lease rates have highly competitive and cheap during sales seasons in recent years. That hasn’t helped their used car prices.

Automotive analysts covering used vehicle valuation have been warning about this market trend in recent years. Low gasoline prices have been behind it, with hybrid vehicles seeing an even bigger impact in used vehicle values and new vehicle sales than plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. The generous government incentives and lease deals, along with PEVs being a relatively new vehicle technology, have hurt their used prices, according to market reports.

SEE ALSO:  NADA Used Car Guide Sees Electrics Gaining Ground Over Hybrids in Sales

Used vehicle prices do vary by several market forces in all areas of the country, and some vehicles have been doing much better than others. Fiat has been offering ultra-cheap used car deals. Tesla has been known to see strong results for the Model S on the pre-owned market. Offering lifetime free supercharging on the older models is attractive, as is over-the-air software updates, according to InsideEVs.

Inside EVs, HybridCars.com.

 

Feb 21

GM Readying Thousands Of Self-Driving Bolts For 2018

 

By Jon LeSage

General Motors plans to be the first company to bring thousands of self-driving vehicles to roads through its partnership with ride-hailing firm Lyft.

Two sources familiar with GM’s plan told Reuters last week that thousands of self-driving all-electric Chevrolet Bolts will roll out by 2018, with most of them going to Lyft.

The automakers has no immediate plans to sell autonomous Bolts to the public, the sources said.

Lyft declined to comment, but GM hasn’t denied the report.

“We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV (autonomous vehicle) technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think,” GM said in a Friday statement.

So far, Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car subsidiary has the most autonomous vehicles on the roads with about 60 being tested in four states. Ford has a similar plan to GM’s with self-driving ride sharing fleets scheduled to come out in 2021. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be providing a few Chrysler Pacificas to Waymo for conversion to self-driving test minivans.

Reuters, which broke the story Friday, thinks that its November interview with GM executive Mike Abelson shed some light on the subject. Though he isn’t the first company executive to discuss GM’s AV strategy, with several of them acknowledging during interviews that self-driving cars will be mass produced and deployed in mobility fleets. Details on scale of production and timing of deployment were left out.

Ableson told Reuters that GM carsharing service Maven will likely be included in the roll out of self-driving Bolts for fleet testing. Maven and Lyft are likely to find more business opportunities with the first wave of more costly autonomous vehicles.

“If you assume the cost of these autonomous vehicles, the very early ones, will be six figures, there aren’t very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money,” Ableson said. “But even at that sort of cost, with a ride sharing platform, you can build a business.”

In December, the company revealed that fully automated Bolts will starting being built in early 2017 at GM’s Orion Township plant in the Detroit area. Testing of about 40 self-driving Bolts will also come to Detroit this year after the first wave was tried out in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz.

SEE ALSO:  GM’s Maven Car-Sharing Service Adds Bolt EVs in LA

Abelson suggested in his November interview that GM could be uniquely positioned to engineer, manufacture, and test out AVs at a high-volume scale.

“If you take those three things, no one company has all three,” he said.

Abelson thinks that GM having a stake in Lyft, launching Maven, and last year acquiring AV technology startup Cruise Automation, could be a tipping point in GM’s favor in leading the way in the nascent technology.

“Cruise, Lyft, Maven are all bringing different parts of this singular solution around autonomous on-demand networks in urban environments,” he said.

Reuters, HybridCars.com

 

Feb 20

GM’s Maven Car-Sharing Service Adds Bolt EVs in LA

 

By Tim Healey

For those of you who haven’t heard of Maven, it’s a car-sharing app that’s owned by General Motors.

And in a neat bit of corporate synergy, GM is adding its new Chevrolet Bolt EV to the fleet, at least in Los Angeles.

The Bolt has a promised range of 238 miles and has now been on sale for three months. GM plans to add more than 100 of them to the Los Angeles fleet, according to a press release.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Review – First Drive

Maven has been in existence for 13 months and counts 24,000 members in 17 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

GM says that Maven members have amassed over 78 million miles traveled through 28,000 trips. The automaker also says that the average trip length is 12 hours and 121 miles – meaning that users are likely booking a car for a full day to run errands or commute to work – or both.

The City of Los Angeles said in a statement that it wants “to evolve mobility and provide easier, more sustainable and more convenient options for Angelenos to navigate the city.”

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevy Bolt EV Priced From $37,495; Premier is $41,780

Maven rolled out in the city in October and has grown over 50 percent per month since then.

Ride-sharing service Lyft is offering its L.A.-area drivers the chance to rent Bolts via the Lyft Express Drive program – which allows drivers to rent GM vehicles by the week to use as Lyft vehicles. GM has a stake in Lyft.

Adding the Bolt to the fleet will give Angelinos who might not otherwise consider an EV a chance to get exposure to the Bolt, so while Maven and GM’s stake in Lyft may be attempts by the company to explore non-traditional automotive markets, there may be a benefit to the core business, as well.

HybridCars.com

 

Feb 17

Automakers and Environmental Groups Prepare to Battle Over Fuel Economy Rules

 

By Jon LeSage

Automakers appear to be bracing for a long-term battle with environmental groups over the federal government’s 2025 fuel economy and emissions rules.

Environmental groups are threatening legal action if the rules gets weakened.

More is being revealed following a letter sent Friday to President Donald Trump by 18 auto industry executives asking him to reinstate a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of fuel economy regulations through 2025. Automakers say that EPA unfairly cut the process short right before the Obama administration left office.

Automotive executives had been sending out warnings to the Trump administration on job loss and heavy costs related to manufacturing and marketing these increasingly strict policies. Friday’s letter was signed by chief executives including Mary Barra of General Motors, Mark Fields of Ford, and Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. These three chiefs expressed these and other concerns to Trump during a meeting last month.

The letter warned that “ignoring consumer preferences and market realities will drive up costs for buyers and threaten future production levels.”

“We’ll see him in court,” Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said about Trump and the group’s planned response if the rules are weakened. “There are a lot of reasons to keep the standards in place and there will be a fight.”

Automakers aren’t basing their arguments on the technical standards used in the federal mandate for fuel efficient vehicles, according to another source. The review process came last summer from a 1,200-page Technical Assessment Report that had examined costs, technology effectiveness, and other aspects of the federal standards.

“The primary issue here is we do not see any kind of technical basis for weakening the standards,” said Roland Hwang, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We’re looking at our options,” he said.

Hwang described the technical review “one of the most thorough decision-making processes I’ve seen by an agency.”

The NRDC views automakers’ request to open up the review again for more input as a move to “politically meddle with what should be a science-based decision,” he said.

“I don’t know what information they could bring to the table that hasn’t been brought to the table already,” Hwang said.

Hwang declined to say whether NRDC would file litigation.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, told a Senate panel last month that he planned to review the EPA’s final determination that the emission rules should remain intact.

Automakers are hoping that Trump’s strategy to ease regulatory burdens on corporations will help make the case for easing the fuel economy and emissions standards.

Even if the automakers are gaining support from the Trump administration, weakening the standards will take a long time. Automotive News reported that it’s likely that Trump would need to carry it out as a joint exercise with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA would then be writing fuel economy standards for those same years, said Jeff Holmstead, a former assistant administrator at the EPA and now a partner at Bracewell LLP in Washington.

“I don’t think they’d completely eviscerate those regulations,” Holmstead said. “But there are probably ways to make them more flexible and reduce the cost.”

SEE ALSO:  Trump Meets Big 3 CEOs Pledging to Dismantle ‘Unnecessary’ Environmental Regulations

Reinstating the mid-term review would require public notices and comment periods that would probably last a year. If he becomes EPA head, Pruitt would need to provide a formal explanation on why he’s scrapping the Obama administration’s decision.

Legal entanglements are likely to be inevitable, an academic said.

“While the auto industry might welcome lower fuel efficiency standards, environmental groups and consumer advocates almost certainly would sue,” said David Uhlmann, director of the University of Michigan’s Environmental Law and Policy Program.

“The reviewing court is not likely to view favorably the fact that a new administration tried to do a 180-degree turn from the previous administration” and will “want to be assured there’s a rational basis for the change,” he said.

Automotive News, HybridCars.com

 

Feb 16

Three Automakers and Lyft Ask Feds to Adopt National Standard for Self-Driving Cars

 

By Jon LeSage

Automakers and ride-hailing firm Lyft have asked Congress to unify self-driving car guidelines by a national standard.

Executives from Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, and Lyft urged lawmakers in Washington yesterday to unify the patchwork of state laws governing testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The federal government has constitutional authority to override conflicting state laws, they said.

Laws, and enforcement of them, are varying by state. California has become known for sparring with companies including ride-hailing firm Uber, over self-driving test protocols. Michigan’s recently adopted rules are considered to be much broader, making room for fully autonomous vehicle to eventually be allowed on the state’s public roads.

Nine states – California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia, along with Washington D.C. – have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The association also said that governors in Arizona and Massachusetts issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

This patchwork of varying and conflicting state laws threatens to hold back innovation, said Lyft government relations vice president Joseph Okpaku in testimony before a House subcommittee. Legislators in more than 20 states have proposed nearly 60 bills to regulate self-driving vehicles since January 1, he said.

Lyft is looking forward to test driving autonomous Chevy Bolts with partner company General Motors. The two companies are preparing to test out a fleet of self-driving Bolt taxis beginning this year. GM has already started testing out 50 of these electric vehicles in California and Michigan.

GM would like to the U.S. Department of Transportation secretary have power over the question.

Congress should grant authority to the Transportation secretary “to grant specific exemptions for highly automated vehicle development,” said Michael Ableson, a General Motors vice president, during a hearing.

These companies were likely pleased to hear the September announcement by then-DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx issuing long-awaited federal guidelines on testing and developing fully autonomous vehicles. The DOT called for uniform nationwide policies applying to autonomous vehicles.

State and federal lawmakers have been concerned about laws keeping up with self-driving vehicle technology breakthroughs. Car shoppers can now purchase semi-autonomous, connected car features; some auto executives predict that fully automated vehicles could be available within five years.

The Congressional subcommittee gave signs of bipartisan support for the development of autonomous vehicles. They were noticeable silent over the question of adopting a national standard that would override state rules, according to USA Today.

SEE ALSO:  Chevrolet Bolt is Front and Center For GM’s Self-Drive Technologies

Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt expressed concerns over vehicle safety. A federal standard should be clear on how safe autonomous vehicles should be on roads. The public won’t support the new technology until that issue is addressed, he said.

“Society tolerates a significant amount of human error on our roads. We are, after all, only human,” he testified. “Humans show nearly zero tolerance for injuries or deaths caused by flaws in a machine.”

The Obama administration made statements about supporting self-driving car technology as a way to eliminate road fatalities within 30 years. The Trump administration so far hasn’t been clear about policy on autonomous vehicles.

For now, states are leading the way.

USA Today, HybridCars.com

 

Feb 15

Midwest Coalition Forms to Support Plug-in Vehicle Interest and Adoption

 

By Jon LeSage

A seven-state Midwest coalition is preparing to strengthen plug-in vehicle sales beyond the west and east coasts.

Launched during a Chicago Auto Show news conference, a new group called Evolve will bring together supporters of electrified vehicles from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Non-profit entities, including the American Lung Association, are joining together with these states to promote the campaign.

“Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, due to their better batteries, decrease in cost, an increase in choice, and the rollout of charging infrastructure,” said Lew Bartfield, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest.

“The Midwest is often overlooked as a market for electric vehicles,” he said.

Evolve is also partnering with eight regional Clean Cities coalitions. These coalitions, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, will be hosting more than 200 events across the Midwest states starting this year through 2020.

Promotional events include 78 ride-and-drives featuring plug-in electrified vehicles. There will also be several conferences and other educational events spreading the word on the benefits of owning and driving a PEV.

The goal is to “get the word out,” Bartfield said. “There’s no better way to learn about the performance and environmental advantages of electric vehicles than personal experience.”

Delivery services and other fleets will be invited to attend these Clean Cities events. These fleets will be very interested in how reliable range will be in urban settings. They’ll also have questions about the impact of severe weather conditions, especially sub-freezing temperatures, will have on lithium battery pack range and longevity.

Automakers have been seeking more hands-on experiences for car buyers to break through their reservations and concerns about driving and owning a PEV. Nissan, General Motors, Ford, and BMW, have been visible sponsors of green-themed events in recent years; ride and drives have been part of it.

Tesla has been a strong believer in the hands-on experience through its scheduled driving events; and Tesla’s store protocol where interested consumers can drive a Model S or Model X with a Tesla employee riding along.

SEE ALSO:  New Study Says EVs Actually Create Pollution in the Midwest

Now these types of experiences need to spread to the Midwest, and the coalition is seeing signs for hope in the region.

“We believe we’re having great success moving (electric vehicle) technology forward,” said Michael Berube, the director of the Office for Vehicle Technologies at the U.S. Department of Energy, during Evolve’s Chicago Auto Show announcement.

Clean Cities may not see much support from the Trump administration on its campaign, but they will reach out.

Berube said that his office “will work with the new team (as it) sets the direction.”

The Detroit Bureau, HybridCars.com