Gas2 Week in Review: I Wonder What’s around the Bend? EV News

EV news around clean renewable transportation this week looked — mostly — to the future with optimism. Sure, the usual EV naysayers continued to focus on an EVs’ lack of range (yawn), but 2017 saw a wider variety of cars sold in the US that offer both comfortable range limits and lots of tech features. In fact, in case you haven’t been watching, the median range for an all-electric car in the US has nearly doubled over the last 6 years or so, according to data from the US Department of Energy. EV news about range is quite good, then, as it means that — with US range growth from 73 miles per full charge in 2011 to 114 miles per full charge in 2017 — most EV commuters can be confident now that their vehicle miles traveled per day needs can be satisfied by an EV.

EV news

EV News Data and Trends

A combination of government incentives, more extensive model selections, and falling battery costs electric car sales has led to a total of about 1,000,000 EVs sold per year in the world with about 3,000,000 EV total overall sales. Indeed, the Swedish EV data tracking group, EV-Volumes, has projected that the number of battery-powered cars on the world’s roads will increase to about 5,000,000 by the end of 2018.

Indicative of the trend, the government of China has elected to extend the current tax rebate program for so-called “new energy vehicles” — all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, etc. — through the end of 2020. Originally, it was thought that the tax exemption would be phased out at the beginning of 2018. China made other recent EV news, too, as part of Ford’s plans by 2025 to launch 15 new “electrified” vehicles — including an electric car with a 300-mile range. Why is China part of the Ford announcement?  Jason Luo, chairman and CEO of Ford China, said that the company “will meet the growing desire and need in China for great new energy vehicles” through production in China. Gulp. So much for the Detroit revitalization.

Political economists now anticipate that EVs will be a better overall value than internal combustion engines (ICUs) by 2022 in the small SUV and compact car market. But wait! If you’re able to spend larger amounts to enter the EV luxury car market, you’d be able to have parity by 2019. By 2024–2025, EVs will outcompete ICUs on both features and price in pretty much every vehicle segment.

Tesla Semi Just the Start of What’s to Come for the All-Electric Company

It must be said that a significant reason why we are able to discuss EV news with such optimistic forecasts has much to do with the Tesla phenomenon. Tesla took an idea to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and has since dominated the EV market with what the company calls the “world’s best and highest-selling pure electric vehicles… the safest, highest-rated cars on the road in the world.”  The 2017 Model 3 sedan introduction added to a robust Tesla catalog. Projections for Tesla vehicle gross revenue in 2022 leap to $73.7 billion, and that doesn’t include profitability figures attributed to the Gigafactory, SolarCity, or Tesla’s full suite of energy products that incorporates solar, storage, and grid services. What recent Tesla news offers the evidence to make such conclusions?

Well, the Tesla Semi announcement — that long haul-capable vehicle that could alter what trucking transportation looks like — continues to dominate the news cycle anytime another company places an order. Last week, UPS ordered 125 Semis. This week, the largest grocery wholesaler in Norway, Asko Norway reserved 10 Tesla Semis within hours of Tesla opening the European market for Semi orders.

But the Semi is not the only truck that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has in his sights: Musk says he has been designing a Tesla Pickup for more than 5 years. And Twitter was ablaze with other Elon tweets as well this week, with references to “vastly better maps/nav coming soon,” “advanced AI neural net… exhaustive testing,” and a request for feedback within a humble “deep note of gratitude to Tesla owners WW.”

One of the underreported Tesla stories in the US concerned the company’s ability to react nearly instantaneously to a power outage in an Austrailian power plant recently. The enormous Loy Yang coal power plant went offline and immediately interrupted 560 MW of grid electricity, which was enough to power 170,000 homes. Over 600 miles away, the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery system (the official name for the Tesla system) came to the rescue within 140 milliseconds. 100 MW of power surged into the grid, and utility customers were largely unaware that anything unusual had happened. Nicely done, Tesla AU.

Of course, Tesla has received favorable publicity from the spectacular acceleration available from its Model S P100D. The “plood’s” Ludicrous mode is the fastest mass production car ever made. Others are lurking on the EV outskirts, however. The Porche Mission E, with 3 performance levels — 400 kW, 500 kW, and 600 kW — is not intended to outgun the “plood” to 60 mph. But it may complete on pricing. Starting at between $75,000 and $80,000 for the base model, the Mission E will have a comparable price to a base Tesla Model S.

EV News around the Globe + Clean Renewable Energy Integration

Volvo Cars continues to recognize that a sustainable approach is good for business and the planet. Leg 4 of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race begins this week from Melbourne, Australia with destination of Hong Kong. The Race this year brings a message about the necessity to protect the world’s oceans from plastic contamination, symbolized by the sailing team, Turn the Tide on Plastics. The Race is part of a larger Volvo company mission to reduce environmental impact. After 2019, all new Volvos will be fully electric or hybrid vehicles. The company’s response to consumer demand to reduce the carbon footprint includes having climate-neutral global manufacturing operations by 2025, which should also increase the company’s efficiency and profitability.

In other global EV news, the A3 highway outside of Frankfurt has added 4 ultra-high-speed EV charging stations to a more common 50 kW charging station onsite. European company, Allego, provides the chargers, which are rated at 175 kW each, can service 4 cars at the same time, and are capable of adding enough energy to drive an additional 60 miles in just 5 minutes. A plan is in place to boost at least two of the chargers to 350 kW by the spring of 2018.

Image courtesy Renault

Renault’s integration of electrifying cars, vans, trucks, and entire fleets into its catalog is comprehensive and a bit staggering. With plans for 8 fully electric vehicles on the market by 2022 and 12 electrified models, you might think that Renault has met the challenge within the Paris Agreement to respond to the global climate change threat by maintaining a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and additional limits to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But, no, Renault has other innovations planned, including the SYMBIOZ, an integrated house and car that share energy. Essentially, kilowatt-hours are distributed through a smart grid system in an artificial intelligence environment that anticipates people’s needs. Fascinating! And we’ll probably look at this futuristic idea one day and shake our heads in wonder that such pragmatism at one time seemed far-fetched.

Nissan and electricity provider Ecosystem Japan are offering buyers of a new LEAF the opportunity for free installation of home solar photovoltaic systems. Participants receive a discount through the Daytime Assist Plan; they’re encouraged to charge their LEAFs during the day using electricity from their solar panels or at night when demand for grid power is lower. The plan aims to promote the use of clean energy to power the 100% electric Nissan LEAF.

A 1-kilometer long solar road south of Beijing that covers 5,875 square meters will generate up to 1 million kilowatt-hours of power annually. That’s an ample amount to power 800 Chinese homes, according to XinhuaNet. The electricity will run street lights, billboards, surveillance cameras, and toll collection plazas and heat road surfaces. Excess electricity will be fed back into the local utility grid. Solar panels are laid beneath part of the ring road, which a road surface made of a transparent, weight-bearing material that allows sunlight to penetrate.

Photo by pennstatenews on / CC BY-NC-ND

Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+