Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Mar 23

Workhorse Pickup Gets Fleet Support


By Claiborne Booker

This week Workhorse Group announced it had lassoed some utilities for its four-wheel-drive truck.

At least three electric utilities — Duke Energy, Portland General Electric and Southern California Public Power Authority — among others have signed a letter of intent for what would likely lead to fleet commitments of 2,150 pickups when available. This suggests a potential $113 million in revenue at Workhorse’s MSRP of $52,500. While far short of what Tesla has garnered for its Model 3, the commitments give Workhorse enough of an indication of interest to begin further plans for its pickup.

Workhorse is still developing the truck, known as the W-15. Using a BMW-sourced gasoline range extender and Panasonic batteries, the pickup would have an all-electric range of 80 miles. Total range would be around 310 miles as the gasoline engine tops up the batteries. The target is an EPA rating of 75 mpg equivalent, recognizing that the engine provides 32 mpg highway, 28 city. Electric motors would power both front and rear axles for added agility in all weather conditions.

In addition to the pickup, Workhorse is already working with UPS on a similar technology for delivery trucks, and has added drones to the mix. Potentially, a UPS truck could make remote deliveries from the main highway, allowing the drone to zip over to the final destination. Workhorse has also developed logistics software to help companies monitor fleet location and improve delivery times.

The company expects to have a W-15 prototype available for demonstration at this year’s ACT EXPO in Long Beach, California, on May 2.

Link: Workhorse website


Mar 22

Is It Time for Barack Obama to Buy a Chevy Volt?


In February 2012, then-President Barack Obama promised he’d buy a Chevrolet Volt in five years when he’s out of office and that time is now.

Inquiries to Obama’s representatives so far have gone unanswered whether arrangements to acquire the now-second generation extended-range EV are being made, but the timing is noteworthy at any rate.

SEE ALSO: President Obama Says He Will Buy a Chevy Volt

And, the statement he made to 1,600 United Auto Workers in Detroit seemed sincere enough.

“Five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself,” said Obama after saying the secret service allowed him to sit in it, but not take it anywhere for obvious reasons. “Yes, that’s right,” he reiterated to the applause of the union workers.

And whether he gets one or not, Obama has otherwise been a supporter of the Volt, and electrified vehicle technology in general.

In fact, since his presidency began in 2008, he’d been on board with an electrified vehicle agenda, citing economic benefits including that the U.S. stood to set the pace and establish a new green industry.

Because of this, he endorsed federal loan and grant programs that were to lead to over $6 billion in government backing for electrified vehicle research, development, and infrastructure. That commitment was over and above $2.4 billion given to automakers, startups, and battery companies.

Some of those ventures like Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems battery makers, as hindsight shows, did not pan out as well as planned, and actually Obama caught heat during the 2012 election season for championing the Volt.

Obama’s last official ride was not as good on gas, but was much better at deflecting bullets and bombs.

Worse yet for green car supporters, President Trunp is now proposing an end to the U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program (ATMVP) and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The new president’s rationale is the private sector is at this point better positioned to back its own research and commercialize these innovative technologies. And, said Trump of proposals to the 2018 budget, money would be better spent on things like defense – as much as $54 billion is in consideration now.

But whatever the spin on the past and present rhetoric over electrified tech may be, true is the Volt has benefitted from a pro-EV federal boost to consumers and industry. And, to date the Volt remains the most competent in the all-important electric range department among full-range plug-in hybrids.

Originally rated in 2011-12 with 35 miles EV range – which was raised to 38 in 2013, and 53 miles in 2016 – this all-electric drive capacity has yet to be equaled unless one considers the BMW i3 REx, which lacks the Volt’s power and range in range-extended operation.

2017 Chevy Volt. Now better than ever.

The Volt however has not sold as well as GM once predicted, although to balance that account, it has sold better and yet does better than other plug-in hybrids.

Really, it’s a back-and forth story of pros and cons, but on the “pro” side, the Volt also gave GM experience and confidence to launch the Bolt EV, and commit to more electrified tech potentially to come.

But with the exiting of Obama from the White House, there has been a change in sensibility however, so whether that would play into the advisability of his buying a Volt – in addition to obvious security risks – is unknown.

And if he doesn’t, it would not be the first time a politician said he’d do something that he did not, but meanwhile it is a matter of record.

Obama said he’d buy a Volt five years from February 2012, and the time of that pledge is now.


Mar 21

Chevrolet Dealers Offering Discounts Up to $5K On Bolt EV


By Jon LeSage

Car shoppers in the seven states thus far delivering the Chevrolet Bolt EV in its ongoing nationwide rollout are seeing dealers slashing prices already.

Automotive News researched what dealers have been doing on website car listings, with many of them offering discounts off sticker prices in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.

One Chevy dealer in southern California is offering $4,439 less for a Bolt packaged with the same options as a Bolt being sold at another Chevy dealer just five miles away without the discount.

The largest EV market in the country, California is seeing a lot of this price war competition, being also the first market along with Oregon to see Bolt deliveries in December.

According to TrueCar data, consumers paid $1,400 below the sticker price nationally in January, which increased to $2,200 in February.

Fremont Chevrolet, based in that California town that’s home also to Tesla’s assembly plant, was the first to deliver Bolts in mid-December. Its discounts went up from $2,000 in February to $3,000 in March. Nearby at Dublin Chevrolet, $3,000 discounts have been seen lately on its listings. Both of these dealers have been promoting three-year lease deals at $260 a month with $3,995 down at time of delivery.

Bolt sales have been relatively strong since the December launch, but General Motors and Chevrolet are dealing with the challenge luxury carmakers face in fighting Tesla. How do you get your dealers to take it seriously and effectively market the electric car?

The closest competitor, the Tesla Model 3, will see its earliest deliveries by the fall of this year. CEO Elon Musk in the past has commented on the profit-making challenge automakers and their dealer networks have in selling electric cars that need less maintenance, which cuts into a profit center for dealers.

“It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business,” Musk wrote in a 2012 blog post.

The Chevrolet division has no cash-back incentives for buyers, but is offering a 3.9-percent financing deal. Dealers have to decide how many Bolts they’ll be bringing into their floorplan inventories – and how much of a discount they can afford to offer.

Chevrolet has marketed the starting price at $37,495 for the Bolt LT with the Premier starting in the lower 40s. Consumers can tap into the $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives, if offered in their state. Car shoppers in California can take $10,000 off the sticker price with the federal incentive and $2,500 California rebate.

GM had hoped to stay at $30,000 or more for the Bolt to be profitable. That would require upselling customers on performance package upgrades, but several dealers have been fixed on selling the electric cars with hefty price discounts.

GM and Chevrolet are getting the revenue by delivering the Bolts to dealers, but dealer management has to decide on the marketing strategy. The Bolt will be sitting on their lots with several other Chevy models to sell, and probably other car brands within their franchise that could take away customer interest and sales.

“If somebody’s marking them down, it’s coming out of their margin,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said. “Dealers are independent businesses, and capitalism at work tends to drive local market pricing.”

SEE ALSO:  Chevrolet Announces State-by-State Rollout Plan for Chevy Bolt

Dealers in smaller towns have been cutting costs to get consumers out there.

“We’re here to sell cars, and we’re in a smaller town, so we need to be a little bit more aggressive,” said Marty Greenwood, managing partner of Greenwood Chevrolet in Hollister, Calif. “We just watch the market and what’s going on out there. What is the magic number to move the vehicle?”

Greenwood Chevrolet is located about 100 miles south of San Francisco. This month, the business is advertising discounts of $2,000 to $3,000 on its Bolt inventory.

Chevrolet sold 2,693 Bolts from the mid-December launch through the end of February. Starting in California and Oregon, the Bolt next went over to New York and other East Coast states. The GM division hopes to have the electric car spread nationwide by September.

Automotive News,


Mar 20

Opel Confirms Ampera-e Plus Other EVs Will Be Wearing Its Badge


By Jon LeSage

Opel has confirmed that it will continue with plans to produce the Chevy Bolt-based Ampera-e along with follow-up models under its new ownership.

Company CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann told German automobile magazine auto motor und sport that more electric vehicles will follow the Ampera-e. He declined to comment on an earlier report that he’d been planning to turn Opel into an electric car-only brand before General Motors had decided to sell the company to French Automaker PSA.

On March 6, GM had announced it will sell Opel to PSA, along with Vauxhall and some financing operations in Europe. Questions came up about the future of Opel Ampera-e, which is built on the Chevrolet Bolt platform.

The deal between GM and PSA included intellectual property licenses from GM until vehicles transition over to PSA platforms. It looked like the Ampera-e rollout in Europe would be able to continue, which is now confirmed.

Along with more EVs, Opel will continue with its plan to launch a flagship SUV model.

Neumann said the company will be launching seven new models as part of its biggest-ever product launch campaign. He didn’t specify how many of these seven will be electric.

SEE ALSO:  Opel Drove the Ampera-e 260 Miles to Its Paris Debut

The chief executive also confirmed that he’ll stay in his job as Opel’s CEO under the new ownership, and that other top Opel management will stay in place.

For now, Opel will design and develop its own new vehicles. Future products will be based on PSA platforms instead of GM’s, but it will take several years for that transition to be completed, he said.

While there had been talk about the Opel brand being introduced in China, Neumann is skeptical about it happening.

Opel’s first priority will be to make the division profitable in Europe through tapping into its relationship there with PSA instead of expending resources in Asia.

“The Chinese market is no longer the cure-all to help solve the problems on all the other markets,” he said.

Automotive News,


Mar 17

VW Reveals Tesla-like EV Charging Plans


By Jeff Nisewanger

Volkswagen expects to build fast DC charging sites in the U.S. over the next two years that would rival and in some ways exceed today’s Tesla Supercharger network.

This news comes via a draft plan released by the California Air Resources Board a couple days ago in advance of a board meeting later this month. Final approval of the plan is on track for April with construction to begin soon after.

Volkswagen says it plans to spend a total of $200 million in California over the first of four 2.5 year investment cycles. A further $300 million would be spent nationally in states other than California. In total, VW expects to spend $2 billion over 10 years as one part of its recent settlement of claims related to its cheating on 2.0 liter diesel engine emissions.

As part of this first cycle of its investment plan, VW would spend $120 million on EV charging infrastructure in California.

About $65 million of that would go toward long-distance highway corridor fast DC charging at 50 locations. Each location would typically have about five chargers or charging stalls. All of the chargers would be next-generation units designed to support a maximum charging rate of at least 150 kilowatts with about half of the chargers supporting a rate of up to 320 kilowatts, according to Volkswagen’s draft plan. The sites are being designed to be “future proof” for medium to long-term use rather than just meeting the immediate needs of today’s electric cars.

About 25 of the new highway charging locations would be built along the I-5 and US-101 highways which independently run between the Oregon border and the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Smaller numbers of stations would be added to intersecting highways throughout the state consistent with a broader plan to build a nationwide network.

SEE ALSO: VW Settlement May Supercharge non-Tesla DC Rollout in US

Almost all existing non-Tesla DC charging stations support between 25 and 50 kilowatts in the United States so VW’s stations could support charging at up to three- to six-times faster when plugged into some future electric vehicles. Even some existing cars may be able to charge somewhat faster than they can on today’s chargers.

A further $40 million would be spent on metropolitan area community charging at up to 350 locations in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento. These locations at workplaces, public parking garages, and multi-family residential buildings would get a mixture of 150 kilowatt and 50 kilowatt DC chargers plus so-called Level 2 AC chargers supplying 240 volts typically at up to 7 kilowatts.

Some $15 million would be set aside to cover ongoing maintenance, networking, and other operating fees. VW says they may be able to pay for some electric utility peak grid demand charges from these funds but customers of the sites will have to pay the cost of ordinary electricity. Estimated customer prices for using the new VW-owned stations are not yet known but they will be available to be used with all DC-capable car models and will not be located at or near VW dealerships.

The new California highway corridor charging and community charging efforts combined would cost $120 million and be located at 400 locations with a total of 2,000 to 3,000 charging stalls. Both the CHAdeMO and CCS standard plugs used by non-Tesla EVs would be supported.

Tesla has built a proprietary fast DC Supercharger network of its own since late 2012 that supports maximum theoretical charging rates of up to 145 kilowatts at just over 50 Supercharger locations in California. Some current Tesla vehicles can charge at a peak rate of about 120 kW at these stations.

Most of these Tesla sites are located along highways away from large metropolitan areas and are primarily intended for use by travelers on long-distance trips. Roughly 33 of these rural locations have a combined 260 charging stalls in California versus VW’s plan to build about 50 locations with 250 charging stalls along highways by the summer of 2019.

Tesla’s remaining 20 or so California locations are in metropolitan areas with roughly 180 charging stalls that serve highway travelers as well as some local drivers. Some of VW’s 350 community charging locations will likewise have 150 kilowatt and 50 kilowatt charging but the plan is vague about how many.

Tesla’s overall nationwide Supercharger network has just over 350 highway and metropolitan locations. Full details about Volkswagen’s charging infrastructure draft plans for outside of California have likely been filed with the EPA but are not yet publicly available. However, the company has talked about building 200 highway fast DC charging locations nationwide with a further 300 metropolitan locations on its Electrify America website.

By the time VW has completed its first buildout of charging stations in 2019, Tesla itself will likely have greatly expanded their Supercharger network to support an expected wave of less expensive Model 3 sedans hitting the road late this year.

One detail that is known about the national non-California plan is that of the $300 million budget for this first 30 month spending cycle the large majority of it, some $250 million or twice California’s $120 million amount, will go towards building charging infrastructure.

VW has no plans to fund hydrogen fuel cell vehicle filling stations during this first round of spending but may do so in the future. California is strongly encouraging VW to add hydrogen fueling investments in later years.

The new electric chargers are expected to support flexible payment schemes including both simple credit cards and subscription-based plans. VW said they aim to create shared billing agreements with other charging providers. This presumably would be similar to or include the ROEV Association being created to link the billing systems of ChargePoint and EVgo.

EVgo, a spin-off of the NRG electric utility, today has a nationwide network of over 900 DC charging stations at over 600 locations but they are 50 kilowatt or less and are often clustered in big cities leaving large gaps without charging on the highway.

State grants approved by the California Energy Commission last year would add about 100 additional fast DC highway corridor charging sites over a similar two year time period finishing by late 2019 with typically only one or two chargers at each site. Some of those new state-funded sites will include chargers capable of up to 100 and 125 kilowatts. ChargePoint, one of the four service providers to receive the CEC grants, says it plans to begin installations later this year using its recently revealed next generation station hardware.

The good news for Tesla drivers is that they can utilize nearly all of these new charging locations by using a $450 CHAdeMO adapter sold by Tesla. However, the existing adapter is limited to about 50 kilowatts and will not be able to take full advantage of the faster new chargers. Tesla joined the CCS standards consortium last year and there is speculation that they could release a new higher-powered adapter in the future.

At California’s request, VW has plans to concentrate a further $44 million towards so-called Green City initiatives that seek to demonstrate transformative use of electric vehicles within a city. Sacramento has been tentatively identified as the first city to be targeted to receive services such as electric car sharing along with electric delivery and taxi fleets.

In order to promote public awareness of electric vehicles, VW plans to spend about $20 million of its California budget and a further $25 million or so from its non-California national budget. About half of that spending would go towards television ads beginning this fall.

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Embraces EVs So You’ll Forget Dieselgate

VW says their expenses for personnel and other administrative overhead would be about 8 percent of the overall budget or $16 million out of California’s $200 million during the first 30 month spending cycle.

The company has already held a round of meetings with suppliers and plans to begin negotiating contracts this month. It says it does not intend to “reinvent the wheel” and will purchase hardware and software from existing companies. It plans to operate the network in a sustainable long-term fashion “in line with the same economic constraints faced by others in the charging industry”. In the past, ChargePoint has strongly urged that VW not be allowed to use its diesel settlement funds to unfairly dominate the industry.

Further details about VW’s plans may be revealed at a CARB public meeting in Riverside, Calif. on Friday, Mar. 24.


Mar 16

Trump Extends For One Year MPG Rules Review Obama Had Tried To Lock Down


As expected, the Trump administration said today it would re-open review of tough federal mpg and emissions standards that had been finalized under the Obama EPA.

For the past few months clouds have been brewing over what the New York Times reported could lead also to an attack on California’s right to set its own clean air rules, and advocates have been lining up to preemptively counter the perceptive attack.

Under the new U.S. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who like Trump questions man-made climate change, the agency will allow automakers another year to make their case on why rules should be weakened.

At present, federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules call for an ostensible “50 mpg” or more on average by 2025, although that is done under simplified testing, and the real number on window stickers may average in the high 30s. Today the average is about 25-26 mpg.

A White House official told reporters today that the carmakers doing business in the U.S. were right to decry what was perceived as a power play by the Obama administration. Under Obama’s orders, the EPA moved ahead of an April 2018 deadline to lock in final determination of a “midterm review” for 2022-2025 rules.

A total of 18 automakers had petitioned Trump to reconsider, and as a letter by the Auto Alliance to Pruitt observes, they feel they were handled improperly.

Excerpt from a letter by the Auto Alliance to Scott Pruitt, Trump’s new EPA administrator who has a history of opposing the EPA in his prior career.

Meanwhile environmental and consumer advocates have said they want a “place at the table” in what may be an intense struggle between ideologically and politically divided factions.

Among those wasting no time to comment today was Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union.

“The Administration should reconsider today’s action. The EPA finalized the standards after a thorough study of costs and benefits,” said Baker-Branstetter. “A decision to withdraw the standards is nonsensical, as it would merely funnel more money to oil companies at consumers’ expense and halt the progress that can be made in both savings for consumers and vehicle efficiency. The standards already take the cost into account, and the record shows that they are a reasonable, cost-effective approach to improving fuel efficiency and lowering consumers’ expenses.

“EPA conducted a robust review of these standards for nearly two years, taking into account the input from automakers, including thousands of pages of technology and cost assessments, and concluded that the standards were appropriate,” Baker-Branstetter continued. “By rejecting the EPA’s final determination now, its new Administrator is signaling the agency plans to weaken the standards instead.”

As for California, Mary Nichols, chairman of California’s Air Resources Board said she would consider fine-tuning rules to a point.

“We’re not going to refuse to participate in the newly-reopened review process,” Nichols said in a phone interview. “We’ll be there and we’ll be active.”

This said, Nichols does not believe California should be expected to cease its own stance in favor of clean vehicles.

How things might affect Tesla which defiantly stands as an all-electric carmaker also remains to be seen.

“We have the technical and legal ability to run a program that recognizes where electrification of vehicles is headed,” she said. “We’re trying to put together a mix of incentives and regulations to move the entire industry in this direction. This is what we’re going to do.”

It is believed a major legal fight will ensue if Trump makes an unprecedented attack against California. The state – which influences as much as 30 percent of the U.S. car market – otherwise does stand as a de facto rulemaking body. Automakers recognize this, and the Trump administration does too, so even if EPA rules were reduced, carmakers would still have to design, market and sell vehicles made for California rules.

SEE ALSO: Will US Consumers Benefit From Strong MPG Regulations?

That, to some, is a threat that will need to be eliminated, though today’s announcement did not touch on this.

But while others have called the Trump EPA’s initiative an attack, a moderate tone is otherwise being issued. Automotive News reported U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and former GM executive said carmakers don’t want to gut EPA rules.

Rather, the review will allow automakers to air views they feel they were deprived of initially by Obama’s heavy handed maneuver to lock in rules before leaving office.

This story that touches on hundreds of billions of dollars, and that stands to affect the kinds of cars Americans will buy into next decade is only now just beginning.