Gas2 Week in Review, October 15: International EV News Makes Headlines

International EV news is always tantalizing, and this week was no different on Gas2. Until 2015, the United States accounted for the largest portion of the global electric car stock. Of course, with the surprise election of Donald Trump to the U.S. executive office, the future of EV incentives in the U.S. is tenuous. Even with a primer from a source like FedEx’ CEO Fred Smith, who advised Trump that fuel economy standards are essential to national security, the current U.S. administration’s support for EVs is dissipating fast.

That’s why this week’s edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review” looks to how international EV players, from government officials to transportation execs and investors, are addressing the promise and challenges of EV technology. Paris’ “day without cars” was so successful that the city’s call to be carbon neutral by 2050 actually seems possible. Conversely, Norway’s conservatives are pushing for a new registration fee that would significantly raise the costs of EVs and make the buying public much more reluctant to invest in this alternative transportation. And Sergio Marchionne, that busy guy who is the Chairman of CNH Industrial, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Chairman and CEO of Ferrari, and Chairman of Maserati, has publicly cried out against EVs as actually detrimental to the environment.

But many others are not so easily dissuaded from the possibilities within alternative transportation modes. Indeed, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has just invested a boatload of money into the Hyperloop One endeavor.  And, to demonstrate the absolute financial faith that the international EV marketplace has for the future, Royal Dutch Shell has just announced that it has acquired NewMotion, which operates one of western Europe’s largest EV charging networks.

Here are those stories and more on this week’s edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”

International EV

Paris Wants To Rid Itself Of Conventional Cars By 2030

After a month of overwhelming smog in March, 2017, Paris has put its symbolic place in the COP21 climate accords to the forefront of its policy-making. The mayor of Paris has announced a plan that, if successful, will remove all gasoline and diesel powered vehicles from its streets by 2030. Through a series of investments and incentives designed to encourage citizens to abandon fossil fuel-burning transportation and to adopt alternative transportation modes like walking, bicycling, and driving electric cars, Paris could become a carbon neutral city by 2050.

A sample of what such a combustion engine-free Paris could look like took place on October 1, 2017, which was “a day without cars” that saw nitrogen dioxide levels drop 25 percent, and noise levels fall to 20 percent. On the Champs-Élysées — one of the world’s busiest thoroughfares — noise levels dropped by 54 percent.

“Sensitizing residents to the need to modify their behavior towards the car was part of the objectives of this day,” the mayor’s office said in a statement, adding that it was also meant to be a symbol “that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight air pollution caused by traffic.”

The proposed climate plan will be submitted to the Council of Paris for approval next month.

Norway Considers Taxing Electric Cars Based On Vehicle Weight

New registrations of electric cars hit a new record in 2016, with over 750 thousand sales
worldwide. With a 29% market share, Norway has achieved the most successful deployment of electric cars of any country around the world. Partially, this is because Norway exempts electric cars from a new car tax that can double the total list price. Conservatives have recently proposed that electric cars should incur a a one time fee (read: tax) upon registration.  What would the hit mean when someone registers a Tesla Model X? About $12,000.

Electric car advocates are pissed. Christina Bu, head of Norway’s Electric Vehicle Association, says the proposed fee increase in unconscionable. “The government knows very well that many car manufacturers take this step to develop the electric cars with more space and increased range due largely to interest from customers in Norway. The new one time fee will make it more difficult to get families to buy electric cars. And it will be more difficult to reach the…..goal of selling only zero emissions cars by 2025.”

Marchionne Believes Too Many Electric Cars Could Endanger The Planet

Sergio Marchionne, CEO for the Fiat Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari auto group, among others, recently disputed the claim that electric cars save as much CO2 as everybody believes. He implores the EV international community to “consider cradle-to-grave life cycle.” His objection is based on the continued reliance on horrific coal-fired generating plants to produce electricity, which, in turn, release enormous amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Therefore, Marchionne says more electric cars will inevitably lead to more emissions, not less, and too many EVs will increase carbon dioxide pollution and increase global security threats.  Until more is known, Marchionne says that governments should stop mandating an international EV transportation future.

His statements come as countries like India, China, France, the UK, and Germany have begun legislative moves to ban cars with internal combustion engines as early as 2030. Even the stalwarts at Ford and GM have begun a shift — albeit reluctantly — to join Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Honda in the transition to cars with electric motors within the next 15 years or so. What’s motivating Marchionne, anyway? Does he fear a fall from industry dominance with an international EV transportation transformation?

Richard Branson Buys Into Hyperloop One

Passengers queue into a line and enter a pod. Cargo is loaded, and then the pod accelerates gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. Quickly lifted above the track using magnetic levitation, the pod glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.

The Hyperloop technology has so much allure that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has invested an undisclosed amount in Hyperloop One, the leading candidate to bring Elon Musk’s amazing idea of ground magnetically-propelled high-speed transport system to life.  Hyperloop One says it completed an $85 million funding round in September, bringing the total investment in the company since its founding in 2014 to $245 million. And, although the Virgin group’s financial contributions aren’t being made public quite yet, the new name for the company has become Virgin Hyperloop One. “This is an incredibly innovative and exciting new way to move people and things at airline speeds on the ground,” Branson acknowledged. He added that the the technology behind Virgin Hyperloop One “could transform passengers’ lives.”

Shell Acquires NewMotion EV Charging Network

European oil giant Royal Dutch Shell recently completed a deal to acquire NewMotion; they’re one of Europe’s largest EV charging networks. NewMotion has around 30,000 private electric charge points in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the UK and also runs around 50,000 public charge points in various countries in Europe for over 100,000 customers.

Shell clearly sees the financial sense in investing in the international EV industry, as consumers are increasingly accepting EVs as part of mainstream life. The deal will add diversification to the Shell asset portfolio. By 2025, Shell aims to attain 20% of its global fuel station sales from electric vehicles recharging and alternative and low carbon fuels like biofuels, battery recharging, and liquefied natural gas. The company will invest approximately $1 billion per year till 2020 in its New Energies division. The acquisition of NewMotion by Shell marks the most significant deal by an energy SuperCompany in the international EV market.

Photo credit:

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.