by Julia Pyper
November 02, 2018

Things never stand still in the world of electrified transportation. 

From testing electric mining vehicles to locating chargers on Google Maps, funding for electric car-sharing services to zero-emissions vehicle policies, there's always something new in this sector. This week's Electric Avenue highlights the latest EV-related developments.

EV policy

GM’s 50-state zero emission vehicle plan

General Motors appeared to have pulled U-ey this week in calling for the establishment of a national zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) program, as part of the company’s public comments on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But environmentalists say the proposal isn’t as good-intentioned as it seems.

When President Trump took office, automakers, including GM, sought relief from Obama-era Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that required manufacturers to double new vehicle fuel economy from 2012 levels to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. In August, the Trump administration released the SAFE rule, which proposed freezing fuel economy standards at 2020 levels of around 37 miles per gallon. Comments on the new standards were due last Friday.

A coalition of 20 states, led by California, railed on the Trump proposal in their filings. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, told GTM’s Political Climate podcast last week that “every bit” of the proposed rule is “faulty.” And indeed, some of the administration’s math looks plain wrong. The Golden State submitted a 400-page public filing on the clean car rule replacement. California has already launched a lawsuit against the EPA over its plan to weaken the vehicle emissions standards. 

Given that automakers instigated this policy clash, GM’s national ZEV plan came as somewhat of a surprise. The OEM claims that the program could place more than 7 million long-range EVs on the road by 2030, yielding a cumulative incremental reduction of 375 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2021 and 2030 over the existing ZEV program followed by California and partnering states.

GM’s proposal specifically calls to:

  • Establish ZEV requirements (by credits) each year, starting at 7 percent in 2021 and increasing 2 percent each year to 15 percent by 2025 and then 25 percent by 2030.
  • Use a crediting system modeled on the current ZEV program: credits per vehicle, based on EV range, as well as averaging, banking and trading.
  • Requirements after 2025 linked to a path toward commercially viable EV battery cell availability at a cost of $70 per kilowatt-hour and adequate EV infrastructure development.
  • Establish a task force to promote complementary policies.
  • Terminate the program when the 25 percent target is met or when it is determined that battery cost or infrastructure targets are not practicable within the time frame.
  • Additionally consider EVs deployed as autonomous vehicles and in rideshare programs.

But while this plan sounds great for vehicle electrification, environmental groups have called it a last-minute “distraction” that hides the automaker’s attempt to weaken emissions standards for gasoline-powered vehicles. 

“General Motors is a leader in EVs, and yet they are also calling for reduced efficiency standards for conventional vehicles,” David Reichmuth, senior engineer for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told InsideEVs. “They can do good things and bad things at the same time.”

Reichmuth debunked GM’s 50-state ZEV program in a blog post this week, noting it amounts to “a wash” on EV sales numbers. 

EV charging 

Google launches EV charging maps

The latest Google Maps update can not only tell you how to get from point A to point B, but also how to do it all running on electricity. Google announced last month that it’s now offering EV charging station information, including where the station is located, the types of ports available, charging speeds and how many ports there are. Maps users will also see information shared by other drivers, including photos and reviews.

Stations will appear with a search for related terms like “EV charging,” or “charging stations.” Google Maps now shows Tesla and ChargePoint stations worldwide, as well as the following station brands in other markets:

  • U.S.: SemaConnect, EVgo, Blink
  • U.K.: Chargemaster, Pod Point
  • Australia and New Zealand: Chargefox

There are a couple of limitations to the Google offering. For one thing, Google doesn’t yet show charging station information from Electrify America, the company set up to promote EVs and build a nationwide charging network with $2 billion from the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal. Also, the initial Google Maps rollout doesn’t show whether a charging stall is currently occupied. So there’s a chance a driver will get there and won’t be able to plug in.

Apps such as PlugShare and Tesla’s Supercharger interface make availability information front and center. Also, while Google Maps allows users to share reviews and other information, it doesn’t have the same social component as some other apps do, which can be critical in making sure that a station is operational and available when a driver needs it.

Blink and Hubject join forces

Blink Charging Co., a provider and operator of EV charging station products and services, has formed a strategic partnership with Hubject, a joint venture formed by BMW Group, Daimler, Siemens, VW and others, to provide EV drivers in the U.S. with expanded charging coverage and communication capabilities.

The upshot: Blink’s nationwide charging network will become accessible to all EV drivers participating in Hubject’s charging platform. At the same time, Blink’s approximately 135,000 members will now be able to quickly and easily access charging stations in Hubject's participating networks. Drivers can use these systems seamlessly without having to register and create new accounts with all participating companies.

The partnership, which will take effect in early 2019, should improve charging infrastructure access while helping to accelerate EV adoption.

ORNL demos super-fast wireless charging

In other charging related news, Oak Ridge National Lab has successfully demonstrated a 120-kilowatt wireless EV charging system that’s six times more powerful than the lab's previous version. The new system can transfer power at the same rate as a wired Tesla Supercharger — without the wired part. GTM contributing writer Justin Gerdes has the full story.

EV sharing

Electrify America funds electric car-sharing

Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America and electric car-sharing company Envoy Technologies unveiled the first wave of on-demand, community-based electric vehicles and charging stations this week under Sacramento’s green city initiative, Sac-to-Zero.

More than 20 Volkswagen e-Golf vehicles are now available across California’s state capital at over 10 multi-family properties, each with an accompanying Level 2 charging station. The majority of these sites are in disadvantaged communities.

Drivers are able to rent the cars on a per-minute, per-hour or daily basis for personal use or to drive in the gig economy through the “Envoy There” mobile application. Envoy plans to deploy 142 vehicles in the region at 71 locations with Level 2 charging stations by 2019.

The car-sharing program is part of Electrify America’s $44 million investment in Sac-to-Zero, which is designed to accelerate the use of low-carbon shared transportation. Envoy is the first of two electric car-share initiatives Electrify America is supporting in Sacramento. The second company, Gig, plans to launch in 2019 with 260 EVs that can be picked up and dropped off anywhere within a 13-mile zone.

EV products and markets

Daimler and Proterra partner on a new school bus

American electric mass transit manufacturer Proterra unveiled its first EV school bus this week in partnership with Thomas Built Buses, a division of Daimler Truck & Bus.

Daimler co-led a $155 million investment in Proterra with Tao Capital Partners, which closed in September. As part of the deal, Daimler and Proterra entered into an agreement to explore the electrification of select Daimler heavy-duty vehicles. The new bus design is based on one of Thomas Built's existing models, while the electric powertrain was supplied by Proterra.

The Saf-T-Liner eC2 school bus can travel up to 150 miles on a single charge, and is equipped for DC fast charging that can complete a full recharge in about three hours, according to the manufacturers. The eC2 bus is being co-developed with Thomas Built Buses at Proterra’s Greenville, South Carolina manufacturing facility.

“Coming to schools near you!” Proterra CEO Ryan Popple tweeted this week. Thomas Built had stated previously that it planned to start production on an electric school bus in 2019.

In other Proterra news, Duke University ordered two new Proterra Catalyst E2 buses to add to its fleet this week, as part of the school’s initiative to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Each Catalyst E2 bus can carry 40 people and run for around 200 miles on a single charge. Duke expects to save about $924,000 in maintenance, fuel and vehicle costs over the lifespan of the two new buses, which are expected to arrive on campus in 2020.

EVs for the mining sector

Transportation electrification is about much more than just putting more plug-in passenger cars on roadways. There are electric forklifts, electric airplanes and electric barges. And now there are electric vehicles for underground mines.

Bloomberg reports that the world’s biggest mining companies are switching to battery-powered equipment to help lower greenhouse gas emissions, trim operating costs and reduce employee exposure to harmful diesel particulate matter. 

BHP Billiton is currently testing EVs for underground use. Canada’s Goldcorp Inc. will use all-electric equipment starting next year.

Battery-powered mining equipment used by Kirkland Lake Gold at its Macassa Mine in Ontario, Canada. Source: Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd.

Uber goes electric in London

Uber announced last month it plans to go all-electric in London, England by 2025. To do that, the company plans to raise $260 million through a new user fee, which will convert to a credit for London drivers to switch to an EV (here's the full story).

AutoMobility LA teaser

AutoMobility LA takes place later this month, and is scheduled to include a slew of unveilings and announcements, including a new vehicle reveal from Byton, the worldwide brand of China-based EV startup Future Mobility Corp. Can this new market entrant offer more than a snazzy press conference? Stay tuned to find out!