Why and how to joyfully move our butts around town, without mucking the place up.

Clean Energy and Transportation News for August 2017

Domino's and Ford begin consumer research of Pizza Delivery using self-driving vehicles

(August 29, 2017)

One of the long-predicted primary uses for autonomous self-driving cars is all kinds of delivery services. You could order a pile of lumber from Home Depot, and rather than rent a truck by the hour to drive it to your house on your own, Home Depot could send it in a self-driving truck. In this case instead of a human pizza delivery agent (a job I had myself over 30 years ago), Dominos would instead send the Pizza in a self-driving car. How does Domino's expect to get the Pizza upstairs to, for example, the second floor of a college dormitory? Or inside a hospital to a surgery team that's about to start an operation? Or elsewhere in that same hospital to a mother that just gave birth? Or upstairs in an apartment complex? Or to a hard-to-find apartment in a house that's been divided into aprtment units? There's all kinds of special situations I recall as a Pizza delivery driver that aren't satisfied by driving a car up to the front door and tooting a horn and expecting someone to come outside to retrieve the pizza.

Domino's has long been exploring alternate vehicles. Back in the 1990's they hired Corbin Motors to build a special version of the Corbin Sparrow where the rear end was designed for pizza's. Those cars are affectionately known as the Pizza-Butt Sparrows. Amongst the select few of us who know Corbin's history that is. You can imagine that a large cost center in Domino's financials is the salary and fuel costs for their current pizza delivery system -- humans driving gasoline powered cars. And, no, I did not work for Domino's. Instead I worked for Archies Pizza, a Pizzeria in Lexington KY that went out of business years ago but made really nice high quality pizza's from all kinds of fresh ingredients. There was a Domino's a half-block away from our store, of course.

I foresee this being a difficult service to develop because of all the special delivery situations that exist. One way it might work is to have a van with a mobile pizza kitchen. The raw pizza would be assembled at the store, then the delivery agent loads those pizza's into ovens in the van, and manages the cooking process while the van is driving the delivery route. That would be tricky to implement, but would give a human delivery driver tasks to do while the van is driving from place to place. And the pizza could plausibly be deliveried more freshly cooked...? Which would address one of the key issues of pizza delivery -- keeping the pizza hot while driving to the customer's residence.

Ford furthers global electrification expansion; signs MOU in China with Zotye Auto to explore all-electric vehicle JV

(August 22, 2017)

For Ford, "electrification" means any kind of electric assist including mild-hybrid, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric. In this case Ford is exploring a partnership with Chines automaker, Zotye Auto, to maybe sometime in the future possibly build some electric cars.

Volkswagen takes bold decision to put I.D. Buzz Electric Concept to Production

(August 19, 2017)

A few years ago the Volkswagen Group showed the I.D. Buzz concept car. Think the iconic VW Microbus modernized with various things including an electric drive-train. Now that Volkswagen was found guilty of defrauding emissions regulation systems around the world by faking emissions results in Diesel cars, they're looking to launch more electric vehicles. In this case they're bringing the I.D. to production, with it going on sale in 2022.

Study of an Ultra-Stylish Luxury-Class Cabriolet - Mercedes-Maybach electric car concept

(August 19, 2017)

Mercedes-Benz has decades of experience building luxury cars. Give them the opportunity to design a luxury electric car, and sure of course they'll do a good job with the luxury car side of the thing. For a few years they owned a chunk of Tesla Motors, and worked with Tesla on at least two electric cars including the Mercedes B-Class Electric.

Nissan sells its Battery manufacturing business to GSR Capital -- Preparing switch to LG Chem batteries?

(August 8, 2017)

Since launching the LEAF, Nissan's battery packs came from its subsidiary Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC). That subsidiary is now being sold to GSR Capital. The deal is being spun as a win-win as GSR Capital has deep pockets necessary to develop this battery business faster than Nissan could. Supposedly.

That might be accurate, ...or... It's long been rumored that Nissan wants to switch to LG Chem battery packs. If Nissan had switched to LG Chem batteries by now, the 2018 Leaf (due to be released soon) might have had a 200+ mile range with a 60 kWh pack. Instead the 2018 Leaf is rumored to have a 40 kWh pack which would give a respectable-but-not-competitive 150-180 mile range.

According to CleanTechnica, NEC also sold its portion of this business to GSR Capital. According to Nikkei, where Panasonic had a growing EV battery marketshare due to its partnerships with Tesla and Toyota and others, NEC relied on Nissan and Nissan is looking to broaden its battery supply chain.

Nissan originally built batteries in Japan. With the shift to localized Leaf production in 2013, Nissan launched battery factories in both England and Tennessee. The original vision was that owning the battery factory would give Nissan an economic/price advantage. One supposes that would have only held true if Leaf sales had risen enough, but instead Leaf sales have held steady for several years.

In any case, the Renault side of the Nissan-Renault alliance already uses LG Chem batteries. That partnership has been very good for adoption of the Renault Zoe in Europe. A Leaf with better batteries should sell very well.

Volvo and Chinese automaker Geely partner on electric vehicle technology companies

(August 4, 2017)

Volvo Cars and Geely Holding are announcing two joint ventures to rapidly develop next generation electrified vehicle technology. GV Automobile Technology will be 50/50 owned, with operations in China and Gothenburg Sweden. The LYNK car line will be manufactured by LYNK & CO, a newly formed JV between Volvo and Geely.

According to Reuters, they'll be sharing engine technology as well, and that Geely purchased Volvo from Ford seven years ago.

This is not about Volvo switching to an electric-only strategy. In July, the company said it would fully electrify its model line by 2019. This announcement with Geely obviously sets Volvo on that path. However the key word is ELECTRIFY, not ELECTRIC. That word lets an automaker weasel around, making it sound like they're moving to an electric drive train, when in reality an ELECTRIFIED drivetrain could be a gasoline engine with mild electric assist.

It is a big deal that Volvo's total model lineup will have some kind of electrification. It would have been far more significant if Volvo had announced an all-electric-only plan. Instead, they'll stick with plug-in hybrid or even more mild electrification for now. The company is pledging to launch five all-electric vehicles over the next few years.

Proterra electric bus service in downtown Chicago

(August 3, 2017)

The Aon Center and Prudential Plaza in downtown Chicago are being served by the first all-electric commercial transit bus fleet. The fleet shuttles employees at those locations to transit centers in downtown Chicago including the Amtrak station. That enables employees to commute to work by train, and cover the last mile in an electric bus.

CarCharging announces a new and integrated design for its CarCharging.com and BlinkNetwork.com websites

(August 3, 2017)

A few years ago the CarCharging Group bought out the Blink Network assets from ECOtality, which was rapidly going out of business. Until that time CarCharging's charging stations were on the ChargePoint network, which one would notice only if one paid attention to host site ownership details. By buying Blink, they got themselves an independent identity and a large charging network with its own identity.

What they also bought was a piss-poor reputation grounded in the reality that their charging stations are often broken and not maintained properly. The name, Blink, lends itself to jokes about Blink Being On The Blink.

While I'm sure updating the website is important for establishing corporate branding and whatnot, that shouldn't be their highest priority. Electric car owners unanimously want CarCharging to focus on reliability and good quality service.

2017 Honda Clarity EV begins arriving at California and Oregon Honda dealerships

(August 1, 2017)

Honda, nice try, if you'd delivered this in 2011 or 2012 or even 2013 there'd be a market for this car. Today, you're competing against the Chevy Bolt EV, the Tesla Model 3, the 2018 Nissan Leaf, etc, all of which have more range than what you're offering. As we point out elsewhere total driving range autonomy makes one car more valuable than another. By offering an 80ish mile range Honda is not making a competitive offering versus the other automakers.

Tesla Energy providing Energy Storage for Deepwater Wind's proposed Offshore Wind, Energy Storage Combination

(August 1, 2017)

Tesla Energy, the Energy/Solar side of Tesla, is partnering with a large off-shore wind farm on an energy storage system that will be the largest that industry. The project, called Revolution Wind, will be off the coast of New Bedford, Mass, and include a 144 megaWatt wind farm paired with a 40 megaWatt-hour energy storage system provided by Tesla.

Discover the federal capital or the beauty of Northern Germany with the electric Maxi Scooter BMW C evolution.

(August 1, 2017)

BMW's electric maxi-scooter, the BMW C Evolution, is being deployed in Berlin for a guided tour service. For just 49 euros, you get to experience riding an electric maxi-scooter while being guided through the sights of Berlin and potentially surrounding areas like the Harz mountains.