Weekly Electromobility News

Honda and GM Join Forces on Fuel Cell Vehicles; Oil Companies Shell and Total Are Installing Chargers at Their Gas Stations; Tesla Motors Changed Its Name to Tesla


Honda and GM Join Forces on Fuel Cell Vehicles

According to Reuters, Honda and GM formed a joint venture Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC to produce fuel cell power systems. Companies will together put $85 million to build a production line for this purpose at a GM plant in Michigan. The companies target around 2020 to start production and share the power systems in car models from both companies.

Honda currently sells its Clarity fuel cell sedan in both the US and Japan. GM does not have any fuel cell model at the moment.

Oil Companies Shell and Total Are Installing Chargers at Their Gas Stations

According to Green Car Reports, Shell and Total decided recently to include EV charging stations at their gas stations. Shell will add this function in both the UK and the Netherlands later this year, while Total is considering its domestic areas.

They are not the only oil companies that show interest in EV. Ricker’s Oil in Indiana added 9 DC fast-charging stations at its gas stations in 2015.

Tesla Motors Changed Its Name to Tesla

According to Reuters, Tesla Inc dropped “Motors” in its old name on Feb 1st. The change reflects the company’s move into new energy technologies from electric car products.

Besides the electric car lineup, Tesla also has businesses covering the Powerwall home battery storage systems, solar cell roof tiles, solar energy services (with SolarCity) and batteries from the Gigafactory.

Weekly Electromobility News

BMW i3 Lease as Low as $159/mo; World’s Largest Fuel Cell Carsharing Coming Online; Chevy Bolt Autonomous Driving Test Expands to Arizona


BMW i3 Lease as Low as $159/mo

According to BMW USA website, the lease offer is $159/mo and $199/mo for all-electric and range extended i3, respectively. The cash due at signing is $3,584 (all-electric) and $3,624 (range extended). The offer runs through Aug 31.

One note for Californians is that the Clean Vehicle Rebate is on a waiting list now. Nevertheless, it is pretty good deal for an electric BMW.

World’s Largest Fuel Cell Carsharing Coming Online

BeeZero carsharing service is ready to roll out in Munich. What is special is that BeeZero uses a fleet of 50 fuel cell cars – Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell SUV. The car can drive 600 kilometers (or 370 miles) on a single hydrogen tank.

Registration is open already and the service will start on Aug 16th. It charges based on time (5.5 euros/hour) and distance (0.29 euros/km).

Chevy Bolt Autonomous Driving Test Expands to Arizona

According to Fortune, Cruise Automation is using Chevy Bolt to test self-driving in Scottsdale of Arizona. The company is also hiring an automated vehicle trainer to help “test and improve the performance of our driverless cars”. Autonomous driving test on Chevy Bolt is ongoing in San Francisco as well.

2017 Chevy Bolt does not have self-driving feature. However, GM and Lyft plan to test self-driving Bolt taxis on road in a year.

Weekly Electromobility News

VW Unveiled New Group Strategy “TOGERTHER – Strategy 2025”; Plug-in Electric Car Sales Hot in China; Nissan Targets 2020 for Would-be First Ethanol Fuel Cell Vehicle


VW Unveiled New Group Strategy “TOGERTHER – Strategy 2025”

According to VW website, VW CEO Matthias Müller presented the strategy in Wolfsburg in May 16. The 2025 strategy has an emphasis on electrification. There will be over 30 “new e-vehicles” by then, with unit sales targeted at 2-3 million per year.

“TOGERTHER – Strategy 2025” is considered the company’s “biggest change process” in its history.

Plug-in Electric Car Sales Hot in China

Automotive News China Reported that 35,000 units of plug-in electric cars were sold in May in China, a 128% increase as compared with the same period last year.

In the first 5 months this year, electric car sales in China have reached 126,000 vehicles, or a 134% increase. As compared, electric car sales in the US are 52,404 for the same period.

Nissan Targets 2020 for Would-be First Ethanol Fuel Cell Vehicle

According to Reuters, Nissan is working on fuel cell technology that uses ethanol as the fuel. The company plans to launch the system in 2020.

Ethanol fuel cell can be cheaper than hydrogen fuel cell, since “ethanol is very easy to procure, it is safer to store and lower cost”.

The technology would enable a range of about 800 kilometers, which is more than the range of a regular gasoline car.

Weekly Electromobility News

Total Electric Car Sales Exceed 200,000 in California

California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative (PEVC) data revealed that in April, cumulative sales (since 2011) of cars with a plug have reached 202,744, of which 6,296 units were added in the month. Nation-wide, April sales are 12,109 units and total sales since 2011 have become 440,924 units.

Based on data from EV Obsession, Models exceeding 1,000 sales in April in the US include: Tesla Model S all-electric (2,000 units); Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (1,865 units), Nissan LEAF all-electric (1,246 units), Ford Fusion Energy plug-in hybrid (1,238 units) and Tesla Model X all-electric (1,200 units).

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Joins 100,000-sales Club for Electric Cars

According to Hybrid Cars, Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid has sold 101,900 units through March this year. Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Volt (including Opel/Vauxhall Ampera and Holden Volt) have achieved the same milestone already – 218,000, 120,000 and 110,000 respectively.

The car has a 12-kWh battery pack and can run 32.5 miles on electric. US sales will start later this year.

Tesla Motors Releases Q1/2016 Shareholder Letter

The update released on May 4th indicated that the company plans to expand to 500,000 units per year in 2018, two years ahead of the previous schedule. Q1 non-GAAP net loss was $0.57 per share and Q1 GAAP net loss was $2.13 per share.

The new production expansion goal is doubted by Wall Street. AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson calls it “mission impossible”.

Moreover, Reuters reported that Greg Reichow – Tesla’s vice president of production, and Josh Ensign – Tesla’s vice president of manufacturing, have left Tesla.

Fuel Cell Vehicles Forecast to See Annual Production of over 70,000 Units by 2027

IHS Automotive released the report forecasting over 70,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produced annually by 2027. Between now and then, 17 models powered by a fuel cell will be made available. OEMs in Japan and Korea are the major players in the market for now. European carmakers will take the lead by 2021. 70,000 will represent lower than 0.1% of total car sales by then.

Earlier, The Asahi Shimbun reported that Toyota is working on a mass-production version of its Mirai fuel cell car with less cost, around $50,000-$55,000 before government incentives. The company targets 2019 to start delivery.

Adoption of Electric Cars Decreases the Demand for Platinum

Bloomberg analyzed that as the car industry is switching to the electric, world demand for platinum will decline significantly. In 2015, about 42% of the metal went into cars, mainly as a catalyst to control emissions. Electric cars are eliminating tailpipes, thus the need for platinum.

Interestingly, platinum may see a new opportunity with fuel cell vehicles. In current fuel cell technologies, platinum is a key component to use hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity.

Newer Technology Fuel Cell Cars Enter Market

You may have heard of electric cars and how great they can save on monthly driving expenses. There are not a lot of them on the road yet (last year, 0.6% of new car sales in the US went to electric cars), but many people see electric cars as the future. Talking about future, it makes sense that carmakers do not put all in on electric cars. So, while electric cars are still making their case as your next car, fuel cell cars start to join the competition, like Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell.

A little background – a fuel cell uses fuel and oxygen to electrochemically generate electricity. Then the electricity can be used to power a car. Regarding the fuel, hydrogen is a common one and as you can see, the product of hydrogen and oxygen is pure water. To some degree, a fuel cell car is also an electric car, but is very different from the more popular lithium-ion battery powered electric car.

Fuel cell cars (FCV) have distinct advantages and limitations over battery electric cars (EV).

In terms of advantages, 1) FCVs take comparable time to fill up hydrogen as regular cars do with gas; 2) the range on a single tank of hydrogen can easily reach 300 miles.

In terms of limitations, 1) the cost and the dependence on platinum catalysts need to be significant reduced; 2) the availability of hydrogen stations is very limited right now and it is not something you can do at home.

There are a few noticeable models around or planned to launch in the near future.

Toyota seems to be the most devoted carmaker when it comes to FCV. In fact, it considers FCVs to be the prevailing car technology in the future rather than battery electric cars. Toyota Mirai was launched in Japan in late 2014 and was introduced into the US one year later. The MSRP is $57,500. The leasing is $499/month with $3,649 down payment. The EPA range is 312 miles or 512 km. The hydrogen tank can accommodate 5kg. The total power is 113 kW or 151 hp. 0-60 mph acceleration takes 9 seconds. 2016 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is available through leasing. The 36-month lease is with $499 monthly and $2,999 down payment. The max range is 265 miles. The hydrogen tank can store 5.63 kg. The fuel cell outputs 100 kW and the car has 134 hp. 0-60 mph acceleration takes 12.5 seconds.

Moreover, Honda Clarity plans to come to the US later this year. Mercedes-Benz GLC EV will arrive in 2017. Audi showed Q8 h-tron concept during 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Lexus LF-LC concept was exhibited during the same event.

FCVs enjoy similar government incentives in the US as EVs. For example, $4,000 federal tax credit is available through Dec 31 2016 for vehicles no more than 8,500 pounds. In California, owners can get $5,000 rebate from the state.

Summary on Electric Vehicles at 2016 Detroit Auto Show

The official name for the Detroit Auto Show is North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), one of the largest auto shows in the world. The auto show is more than 100 years old. This year, it took place from Jan 11 to Jan 24. President Obama paid a visit to the event and took the driver’s seat in a Chevrolet Bolt electric car.

(President Obama in Chevy Bolt at 2016 Detroit Auto Show. © General Motors.)
(President Obama in Chevy Bolt at 2016 Detroit Auto Show. © General Motors.)

Let us take a look at the electric vehicles at the auto show.

The Chevy Bolt for sure is one of them. It is an exciting 200-mile mass-produced all-electric car ($37,500 before incentives). The production will start around October this year and it will start delivery towards the end of the year.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid version, was also on display. The electro-range will remain at 19 miles and the MSRP starts at $33,995. The software will be upgraded to give drivers a better experience.


(2016 Ford Fusion Energi. Credit: Ford)
(2016 Ford Fusion Energi. Credit: Ford)

The above 2 cars were previously presented at CES 2016. Please see more details on our article Summary on Electric Vehicles at CES 2016.

Another exciting car is 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan. This car should be the first of the kind. A battery pack of 16.4 kWh is on board, which means the buyers will be eligible for the full amount of $7,500 Federal Tax Credit for electric cars. The electro-range is 30 miles. Connected to a Level 2 (240V) charger, the minivan can be charged to 100% in 2 hours. A selling point is that the electric mode can enable almost all driving conditions and go up all the way to 120 mph.

It was reported that Fiat Chrysler has invested Canadian $3.7 billion (or US $2.7 billion) on this project. The model will be manufactured in Ontario, Canada and enter the market in Oct 2016. A nice move for a company that was a bit quieter on making electric cars.

VW showed a concept Tiguan GTE plug-in hybrid SUV with an EPA electro-range of 20 miles. The battery size is 12.4 kWh.

Mercedes-Benz also revealed at the auto show that 4 all-electric models will roll out around 2018. They will be built on the company’s electric vehicle architecture (EVA) and run 400-500 kilometers.

(Mercedes-Benz IAA concept. Credit: Daimler)
(Mercedes-Benz IAA concept. Credit: Daimler)

At the event, 2 hydrogen fuel cell cars made their debut as well.

One is Audi Q8 h-tron concept SUV. The car can run for more than 350 miles (NEDC cycle) on 6 kg of hydrogen. There is a 1.8 kWh battery pack onboard for a hybrid mode. A total of 282 horsepower makes 0-60 mph acceleration less than 7 seconds.

The second one is Lexus LF-LC concept. Toyota plans to produce a fuel cell vehicle in the Lexus lineup around 2020. Its first fuel cell car Mirai started to sell in Japan in 2014 and entered the US in 2015.

Regarding the progress on EV batteries, Samsung SDI exhibited a “low height pack” that can support a range of 600 km form the current 500 km. (Please see our article Looking forward to the Samsung Lithium-ion Battery Enabling 600 km Range)

This year, Truck/Utility of the Year Award went to Volvo XC90. There is a plug-in hybrid version on sale already – 2016 XC90 T8. The EPA electro-range is 40 miles with a 9.2 kWh battery pack. The MSRP is $68,100. 0-60 mph acceleration takes only 5.3 seconds. Volvo expects to build a EV based on the 40 series by 2019.

Recently, other auto shows like Auto Expo, Washington Auto Show, Chicago Auto Show, Canadian International Auto Show took place as well. Our next coverage will be on Geneva Auto Show.