With Holistic Approach, Mazda To Introduce Electric Vehicles

Photo of Mazda Concept RX-Vision.Every automaker takes pride in their engines, but few match the passion and conviction shown by Mazda. Mazda has reason to believe it’s on the right track; in 2016, for the fourth year in a row, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the company, whose fleet-wide adjusted fuel economy performance is 29.6 miles per gallon, the most fuel-efficient auto manufacturer in America. Mazda achieved this distinction despite offering not a single all-electric or plug-in, and only one hybrid electric model. No surprise, then, that Mazda’s approach to electric vehicles has been relatively tepid.

Nonetheless, Mazda has announced that, starting in 2019, it will introduce electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies. And, by 2030, according to a recent report in the Japanese outlet Kyodo News, Mazda anticipates that all of its models will use electric motors; this does not mean that every vehicle will be fully electric, but each will have an element of electrification. This follows on the heels of similar news from other major automakers, most notably Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, who are also transitioning to electrified powertrains.

What’s particularly interesting about Mazda’s news is that the company says it will be releasing electric powertrains “in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.” This principle is set forth in Mazda’s recently updated long-term vision dubbed “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.”

Mazda's Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 graphicBy limiting deployment of electrified vehicles to regions meeting these specific characteristics, is Mazda adopting the “compliance car” mentality under which EVs are sold only to avoid penalties, or is Mazda looking to examine various regulatory and environmental market attributes and determine which of its vehicles will create the smallest environmental footprint by balancing tailpipe emissions against power plant emissions?

Mazda’s strategy includes:

  • “continu[ing] efforts to perfect the internal combustion engine” with innovations such as SKYACTIV-X, the company’s new engine technology that combines compression ignition and a supercharger to improve fuel economy; and
  • introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies starting in 2019.

The goal appears to be to deploy gasoline and diesel vehicles where emissions from tailpipes are lower than from power plants, and electrified vehicles where electricity generation is cleaner than tailpipe emissions.

Electricity Production

It is well known that the fuel used to generate electricity makes a big difference in the type and quantity of greenhouse gases produced per mile driven by an electric vehicle. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, electricity from American power plants fueled by natural gas instead of coal results in a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The following table (reproduced from the UCS’s 2015 study titled “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave; How Electric Cars Beat Gasoline Cars on Lifetime Global Warming Emissions) shows the benefits of each fuel type:

Table showing GHG reduction by electricity fuel type.Fuel mixes vary regionally, within regions, by time of day, and based on prevailing market conditions. In general, though, the overall fuel mix by region in the U.S. is as follows:

Map showing generating capacity by fuel type (2017).The good news is that, overall, electricity generation in the U.S. is increasingly powered by natural gas and other technologies that are cleaner than coal, with the trend toward clean energy clearly continuing. Because natural gas is largely displacing coal, the result will be reduced air emissions.

Graph showing U.S. electricity production by fuel type, 2011-2016.Regardless of the overall fuel mix, individual customers’ electricity is generally derived from a variety of fuel sources at any given time based on economic dispatch directed by regional grid operators.

Renewables

Drivers can ensure, in a sense, that their vehicle is charged with renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy credits, but this is a financial and not physical transaction.

Even without renewable energy credits, though, drivers who plug into the grid at night are likely to be fueling their vehicles with at least some wind power. This is because onshore wind is typically strongest at night. The following chart illustrates wind generation in PJM over three days earlier this month, with each of the peaks occurring during overnight hours:

Graph showing hourly wind generation in PJM.
Hourly Wind Generation in PJM (Sept. 15-17, 2017).

Solar power is having a comparable (though inverse) effect during daylight hours, as shown in the following “Duck Curve” graph from the California ISO (the state’s electrical grid operator), which illustrates demand for traditional electricity falling during the day and then quickly increasing at dusk; this energy supply coincides with EV drivers charging while at work:

Graph showing California ISO Duck Curve.

The amount of energy produced from wind and solar is growing as the price of installing these technologies continues to fall due to reduced costs and increased productivity.

Global Market

Compared to countries with less-stringent air quality regulations, both power plant and tailpipe emissions in the U.S. are relatively clean. For this reason, the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded:

On average, [battery electric vehicles] representative of those sold today produce less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, even when the higher emissions associated with [battery electric vehicle] manufacturing are taken into consideration.

Globally, as the cost of batteries falls and vehicles’ electric ranges increase, driving electric will become more and more feasible. In countries with weak electrical grids, proliferating distributed energy resources such as solar, wind, and battery storage can serve to strengthen the grid, improve reliability, and bring cleaner air.

Conclusion

Whether fueled by electricity or gasoline/diesel, the transportation sector is a key factor in reducing greenhouse gasses. Because electric vehicles, when paired with the decarbonizing electricity sector, will bring so many benefits, every auto manufacturer offering EVs is to be applauded. Mazda’s plan is not only commendable, it is also highly thought-provoking because the company is taking a rational approach to its sales strategy with the purpose of not only doing well financially by responding to the clear market demand for electrified vehicles, but also doing good by strategically deploying vehicles where they will be most effective in helping the planet.

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Are Smart Dealers Making a Wise Decision? Dealers Drop Out As Ohio Proves EVs Sell and Daimler Launches Radical Concept

Photo of Autonomous concept car smart vision EQ fortwoJust weeks after more than two-thirds of Smart’s U.S. dealerships elected to stop selling the small vehicle following news that the brand would be shifting to all-electric, the next-generation “Smart vision EQ fortwo” concept vehicle has been introduced. The most prominent feature of the Smart concept is what isn’t there: no steering wheel or pedals.

Photo of interior of Smart concept vision EQ fortwo.Smart Vision

Designed to showcase a new vision of urban mobility, the concept vehicle expands on parent company Daimler’s long range “EQ” plan and offers a glimpse into what Daimler has in mind for the future, which includes ten electric vehicles scheduled to launch by 2022. (Smart is a division of Daimler AG and is distributed in the U.S. by Mercedes-Benz USA.)

Smart’s concept is a shared autonomous electric vehicle that will pick up passengers directly from their designated location. And don’t worry about getting into the wrong car, as so many of us have with Uber and Lyft (even with real drivers at the wheel!). Daimler’s future autonomous vehicles will solve that problem with a message board displaying the name and photo of the next passenger on the front of the vehicle:

Photo of message board on front of Smart concept vision EQ fortwo.“The Smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalizable and, of course, electric,” says Smart CEO Annette Winkler. “With the Smart vision EQ fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE strategy.”

CASE stands for Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric, and this strategy is a significant undertaking at Daimler. As described by Chairman of the Board Dieter Zetsche, “each of [the CASE features] has the power to turn our entire industry upside down. But the true revolution is in combining them in a comprehensive, seamless package.”

Smart Strategy

Most of the 27 remaining Smart dealerships are in states with zero-emission vehicle requirements, and a cynic would conclude that EVs can’t make it without a regulatory requirement or heavy subsidies. But that’s not true, as evidenced by Germain Motor Group’s decision to continue selling electric Smarts in Columbus, Ohio, a state with no zero emission vehicle (ZEV) requirement. Unusually high demand for electric vehicles in Columbus appears to be driven by a coordinated emphasis of the benefits of decarbonizing transportation and an effort to mitigate obstacles to charging and driving electric vehicles.

This is all happening because Columbus, the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, is launching the Smart Columbus Electrification Plan. “Columbus has established itself as a leader in electrification with its ‘Smart Columbus’ initiative,” Germain COO John Malishenko wrote in an email reported by Automotive News. “It’s well funded and focused on making Columbus a leader in alternative transportation solutions, so for that reason, we’ve decided to stay put.”

The fact that sales in Columbus remain at a level high enough to warrant keeping the dealership open in the absence of a regulatory mandate demonstrates that a concerted effort to shift behavior can cause meaningful change for the better. Only time will tell whether the 58 departing dealers should have stayed Smart.

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U.K.’s Royal Mail Goes Electric, Reducing Tailpipe Emissions and Lowering Operating Costs

Photo of Arrival's Royal Mail electric delivery vehicle.Growing up, I remember finding out the mail was delivered because my dog barked on hearing the mail truck. Starting later this year, lucky customers on certain routes in the United Kingdom will no longer have that convenience because the U.K.’s Royal Mail Fleet has begun deploying more than 100 electric delivery vehicles. Not only will neighborhood and city streets be quieter, electric vehicles will also put an end to belching tailpipe emissions exacerbated by frequent starts and stops. (The vehicle pictured above, manufactured by U.K.-based Arrival, offer an additional innovation, namely compliance with London’s vehicle design standards intended to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety by greatly improving visibility from behind the steering wheel.)

Last-mile services and urban or stop-and-go driving such as mail delivery are perfect applications for electric vehicles because these conditions provide the optimal mileage per kilowatt-hour. With today’s falling battery prices, along with unpredictable oil prices and the health hazards presented by tailpipe emissions, there is little excuse for light-duty vehicles such as mail trucks not to convert to electricity.Photo of Royal Mail's electric delivery vehicle manufactured by Arrival.By traveling on fixed routes with highly predictable conditions and returning to the same facility each night for charging, little is left to chance. Unlike high speed driving or conditions requiring rapid acceleration, demands which require a lot of energy, gradual acceleration and slow speeds such as on mail routes draw paltry amounts of stored electric energy while regenerative braking constantly charges the battery.

In addition, lacking most of the complex systems and parts found in vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine (e.g., engine, transmission, fuel pump, catalytic converter), the Royal Mail’s electric vehicles will enjoy sharply-reduced operating expenses even before fuel is taken into consideration.

Silent, clean, and inexpensive to operate, the Royal Mail’s zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles will be supplied by Arrival (nine vehicles now beginning a one-year trial period, pictured above) and Peugeot (100 Partner L2 Electric vans, expected by year-end, pictured below).

Photo of Peugeot Partner Electric.Each electric Peugeot Partner will carry a 22.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and offer a payload capacity of more than 1,000 pounds with a range of up to 106 miles. The Arrival vehicle’s specifications reportedly are similar, with the possible addition of a range extender.

The ~100 mile all-electric range being tested will be sufficient for a typical mail route, especially because regenerative braking recharges the battery throughout a day’s journey. When driven at slow speeds or with frequent stops, such as in urban environments or on mail delivery routes, electric vehicles are exceptionally efficient. And when the vehicles return to the depot, they can be easily charged using electricity priced at a less-expensive off-peak rate.

The Peugeot is charged with a Level 2 charger (for overnight) or a CHAdeMO direct current fast charger (providing an 80 percent fill-up in 30 minutes if starting from empty). As an alternative to grid power, the large roofs at mail facilities may offer the prospect of these vehicles being truly 100% emission free by utilizing rooftop solar panels, storing the energy in batteries during the day, and then using that energy to charge the delivery vehicles overnight.

Paul Gatti, Royal Mail Fleet Director, said: “Our research has shown that electric vans are a good operational fit with our business and we are delighted to be ordering such a large volume to use in our daily operations. This is good news for our customers and the towns and cities which we serve. It also means we are on the front foot for future changes in emissions legislation. Emissions are an important issue for us at Royal Mail and we are continuously looking at new and innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint and our impact on air quality. Improving the efficiency of our fleet by introducing electric vans is just one example of this.”

The delivery vehicle specs are modest compared to a passenger vehicle such as the BMW i3, which generates 170 horsepower from a 125 kW motor producing 184 pound-feet of torque. The electric Partner, by comparison, produces 67 horsepower from a 49 kW motor with maximum torque of 148 pound-feet. But the Royal Mail’s vehicles’ moderated performance will provide reliable operation that is environmentally friendly, safe, and highly energy-efficient.

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Audi to Introduce Solar Roofs, Improve Fuel Efficiency and EV Range

Thin-film solar cells in panoramic glass roofs of Audi models: Audi and Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, are working together on this development project. With this cooperation, the partners aim to generate solar energy to increase the range of electric vehicles.
Photo courtesy Audi AG.

Audi today announced a plan to increase the range of the company’s electric vehicles by generating onboard solar energy using thin-film solar cells. Audi and its partner, California-based Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist Hanergy, are taking an incremental approach and will first integrate Alta’s efficient, thin, and flexible mobile power technology into panoramic glass roofs. A prototype is expected by the end of this year.

Recognizing that drivers demand maximum range from their electric vehicles, and also responding to ever more stringent fuel economy requirements around the globe, Audi and other vehicle manufacturers are going to great lengths to maximize every opportunity to increase overall efficiency as well as replace liquid fuels with electricity. Consistent with this effort, Audi’s next step after integrating solar into glass panels will be to cover almost the entire roof with solar cells.

By generating onboard and clean renewable power for systems such as air-conditioning and seat heaters, the solar cells will reduce the demand on an all-electric vehicle’s main battery, thereby providing a longer range for driving. But solar cells also can improve fuel efficiency in mild-hybrid vehicles by making the gasoline or diesel engine’s output more fully available for moving the vehicle instead of producing electricity for in-cabin use. Eventually, Audi and Alta envision solar energy directly charging a fully-electric vehicle’s main battery. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” said Bernd Martens, Audi’s Board of Management Member for Procurement.

The partnership with premier automaker Audi is a high-profile opportunity for Alta, holder of multiple world records for energy conversion efficiency. “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi’s drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future,” said Alta CEO Ding Jian.

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Advanced Transportation Projects Receive Federal Investment

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office this week announced $13.4 million in investments to support five new cost-shared, community-based projects focused on energy efficient mobility systems. Funding will go to support research and development related to connected and autonomous vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and infrastructure including natural gas, propane, biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

The specific winners are:

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York), which will receive $2 million to evaluate changes in freight demand patterns that reduce energy use, incorporate energy efficient technologies and practices into freight logistics, and publish lessons learned.
  • Pecan Street Inc. (Austin, Texas), which will receive $1 million to pilot “last mile” electric bus services. The project includes a feasibility assessment of new technologies such as autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and dynamic app-driven re-routing.
  • City of Seattle Department of Transportation (Seattle, Washington), which will receive $1.9 million to accelerate the use of EVs in shared mobility applications in four major U.S. markets and establish best practices for all U.S. metro regions.

In addition, two community partner projects focusing on alternative fuels will also receive funding:

  • Center for Transportation and the Environment (Atlanta, Georgia) and its partners will receive $4.6 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure throughout the southeastern United States.
  • Metropolitan Energy Center, Inc. (Kansas City, Missouri) and its partners will receive $3.8 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, as well as supporting infrastructure, through community-based partnerships throughout Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado.

One of the Vehicle Technologies Office’s areas of focus is energy efficient mobility systems. Energy efficient mobility systems includes efforts to identify and support technologies and innovations that “encourage a maximum-mobility, minimum-energy future in which transportation systems may be automated, connected, electric, and/or shared (ACES).”

According to independent third-party evaluations of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s R&D portfolio that has been evaluated to date, taxpayer investment of $12 billion has yielded an estimated net economic benefit of more than $230 billion, with an overall annual return on investment of more than 20 percent.

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Will Mahindra, Owner of Legendary Pininfarina, Take On Tesla?

Photo of Mahindra Electric VehicleWith India’s power minister having recently announced that by 2030 “not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country,” Anand Mahindra, Chairman of industrial giant Mahindra Group, discussed on CNBC this week his company’s commitment to electric vehicles. Given the huge market opportunity even if the minister’s extraordinarily aggressive goal is not fully achieved, Mahindra and Tesla’s Elon Musk exchanged tweets on prospects for electric vehicles in the potentially huge market:

Mahindra says he is not worried about Tesla, and that “[Tesla] coming into India would actually increase the awareness of electric vehicles [and] increase the size of the pie.” On the question of whether the company will expand its fully-electric portfolio beyond the e2oPlus subcompact, eVerito compact, and eSupro van, Mahindra said that he plans to build fully-electric vehicles and is “not going to take the halfway measure” with hybrids.

Mahindra is already producing vehicles at the entry-level of the market, and it has the resources to cover all segments, but whether it will go head-to-head with Tesla remains undecided for now. If Mahindra does take on the luxury EV market, the company is expected to turn to Pininfarina, the legendary Italian designer of iconic vehicles such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati, which Mahindra acquired in late 2015.

Photo of Pininfarina FerrariTransitioning to clean transportation is a high priority for India. According to a report by NITI Aayog, India’s most influential government think tank, switching from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles would save the country $60 billion in energy and decrease carbon emissions by 37%. Reducing emissions is a particularly important issue because, according to a 2014 World Health Organization study, 13 out of 20 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, and tailpipe emissions are dirtier per unit of energy produced than power plant emissions. That said, there is an emphasis in India to avoid the already-strained electrical grid altogether and charge EVs with solar panels. Each EV produced by Mahindra gets its first charge at the factory from solar panels, and customers can purchase their own solar panels for off-grid charging at home.

Photo of Mahindra EV Solar ChargerIn light of the country’s efforts to move away from traditional vehicles, Mahindra Electric recently announced its roadmap for the next generation of electric vehicles, an initiative dubbed “EV 2.0.” Speaking on the subject of the roadmap, Dr. Pawan Goenka, Chairman of Mahindra Electric, said, “The time has now arrived for EVs to become mainstream and Mahindra has the right technology and products for India. We will actively engage with the government . . . and other private players for setting up a robust EV ecosystem. We are also ramping up our investments towards developing the next generation of EV technologies and products that will cater to the smart cities of tomorrow.”

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Volvo Goes All-In With Electric Drivetrains

Buying an electric Volvo will soon become a lot easier. Volvo Cars announced today that, starting in 2019, every model the company launches will have an electric motor. This is, without a doubt, a big step for a large and influential automaker with a global footprint, though today’s announcement does not mean that every vehicle in the lineup will be fully electric, or that internal combustion engines are going away immediately. Rather, all new models will be equipped with some form of electrified drivetrain, whether it be 48-volt mild hybrid, plug-in, or fully-electric. Then, as the company’s gasoline-only portion of the lineup is redesigned or retired, there will be no more purely gasoline-powered vehicles.

“This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

While many customers do, indeed, seek out various types of electric drivetrains, Volvo’s decision to include electric technology as a default recognizes that selling electric as an option is challenging because most customers will not step out of their comfort zone or pay extra for the new technology. Taking away the option eliminates the need for customers to make a proactive decision and simplifies sales staff training while improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions.

Volvo’s portfolio will include a variety of electric technologies, each of which will improve fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions while at the same time supporting the power-hungry infotainment systems customers crave. Some models will be equipped with 48-volt mild hybrid systems, while others will be plug-in hybrids. Five vehicles, to be launched between 2019 and 2021, will be fully electric with no gasoline engine at all. Of these five, two will be high performance vehicles from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm.

The announcement by Volvo represents one of the most significant moves by any car maker to embrace electrification and highlights how, more than a century after the invention of the internal combustion engine, electrification is paving the way for a new chapter in automotive history. That this momentous announcement comes from Volvo is not entirely surprising considering (1) Volvo’s strength in Europe, where emissions standards are becoming increasingly stringent, and (2) that Volvo is owned by Geely, the Chinese automotive giant which needs to keep up with rapidly increasing demand for electric drivetrains in China as shown in the following graph:

Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) • CC BY-SA 4.0

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Mr. Samuelsson. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of one million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”

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Hyundai’s Ioniq EV Delivers Ultra-Low Total Cost of Ownership With Novel Recharging Credit

Photo of Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric; photos courtesy Hyundai America

Recognizing that electric vehicle customers expect a charging plan with their new cars, Hyundai is now offering the “Ioniq Unlimited+” subscription program for the company’s Ioniq Electric (currently available in California only). The subscription program is unique in the industry because it wraps into the lease payment a reimbursement for electricity, based on the number of miles driven, up to the first 50,000 miles. This “recharging credit” will be applied directly to the owners’ subsequent monthly payment. Unlike other automaker charging plans, which generally are limited to one charging service provider and do not include home charging, Hyundai’s plan is completely agnostic as to where the driver plugs in.

The monthly recharging credit, which is included in the $275/month lease price for the base model (having an MSRP of $30,335), essentially offers drivers a charging allowance for use at home, at work, or on the go. The formula Hyundai uses to determine the credit is: Monthly mileage * kWh/mile * Cost per kWh.

These factors are derived as follows:

  • Monthly mileage: Transmitted from the vehicle to Hyundai via Hyundai’s Blue Link service (i.e., the vehicle’s telematics service)
  • kWh/mile: 28 kWh per 124 miles = 0.2258 kWh/mile
  • Cost per kWh: The then in effect California Residential “Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, by State” as published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in its Electric Power Monthly publication (or $0.186 if the EIA source is no longer available).

An important point to remember is that if the driver uses a charger that requires payment in excess of the reimbursement credit on a per-kWh basis the driver will not be made whole. On the other hand, if the driver plugs in at a free charger, the reimbursement credit will be 100 percent profit because it’s based on miles driven and not the cost of a particular charging session.

Although the Unlimited+ plan is available only for vehicles leased in California, the recharging credit will apply even if the vehicle is no longer in the state (though the reimbursement credit will remain pegged to the price of electricity in California, which should generally be beneficial to the driver because California has some of the highest retail electricity prices in the country).

Photo of plugging in a Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

To maximize the recharging credit, the vehicle would have to cover an average of about 45 miles per day over three years. That would result in a monthly credit of about $60 in addition to avoided gasoline costs of approximately $150 per month (assuming the Ioniq replaces a traditional vehicle getting 29 MPG with gasoline at a California average price of $3.055/gallon).

If an Ioniq Electric driver is so fortunate as to get free charging at work and have solar panels at home, the savings of more than $200/month enjoyed from the recharging credit combined with avoided gasoline and maintenance means that the total cost of driving an Ioniq Electric is about half that a traditional vehicle.

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GM Completes First Step Toward Mass Production of Autonomous Bolt EV

Photo of Chevy Autonomous Bolt EV Assembly Line.(Photos by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)

General Motors today announced that it completed production of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles equipped with its next generation of self-driving technology at its Orion Assembly Plant located in Orion Township, Michigan. This is unique in the automotive world because GM is the first company to assemble self-driving test vehicles in a mass-production facility, an undertaking the company began in January.

“This production milestone brings us one step closer to making our vision of personal mobility a reality,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Expansion of our real-world test fleet will help ensure that our self-driving vehicles meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we build into all of our vehicles.”

The self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV features GM’s latest array of equipment, including LIDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware designed to accelerate development of a safe and reliable fully autonomous vehicle. The vehicles being produced in Orion Township will join the more than 50 current-generation self-driving Bolt EVs already deployed in testing fleets in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; and metro Detroit.

“To achieve what we want from self-driving cars, we must deploy them at scale,” said Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt. “By developing the next-generation self-driving platform in San Francisco and manufacturing these cars in Michigan, we are creating the safest and most consistent conditions to bring our cars to the most challenging urban roads that we can find.” GM and Cruise Automation engineers have been testing Chevrolet Bolt EVs equipped with self-driving technology on public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, since June 2016 and on public roads in Warren, Michigan, since January 2017.

Referring to the synergetic relationship between electric and autonomous technology at a ceremony commemorating today’s milestone at Orion, GM’s Barra observed that the Bolt “has the onboard power capacity to operate the complex computing systems necessary for self-driving vehicles [and] it provides clear benefits for the urban environments where autonomous vehicles are most likely to be introduced – including zero emissions and quiet operation.”

The Bolt EV provides an EPA-estimated 238 miles per charge at a price below $30,000 after government incentives. GM characterizes the Bolt as “a zero-emissions car that is a technology platform, is fun to drive and puts our commitment to sustainability in our customers’ hands.” The Bolt builds on GM’s electrification experience that began with the Chevrolet Volt in 2010, and whose owners have now logged more than 2.5 billion electric miles.

The National Safety Council estimates as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes in the U.S. last year, a 6-percent increase over 2015, and more than 90 percent of crashes are attributable to human error. “That is something that autonomous vehicles have the potential to eliminate,” said Vogt.

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Buick Boosts Mileage, Performance of 2018 LaCrosse With “Light Electrification”

Photo of 2018 Buick LaCrosse.

General Motors’ Chevrolet division has long been the company’s focal point for electrified vehicles such as the plug-in hybrid Volt and the all-electric Bolt. Now, though, Buick is getting into the game. Although not yet jumping into the deep end with an all-electric, the brand is taking a meaningful step with an improved “eAssist” system, which is an 86-volt mild-hybrid system that Buick refers to as “light electrification” and will be in five models within a year.

The new eAssist, when coupled with the LaCrosse’s four-cylinder engine, delivers a 19 percent increase in city fuel economy compared to the LaCrosse’s V-6 without eAssist. The system also leverages a compact lithium-ion battery pack to provide certain benefits found in fully electric vehicles, such as torque-assisted launch (with the latest eAssist producing nine percent more torque than the prior eAssist), energy-saving regenerative braking and smooth stop/start. eAssist will be included as the standard powertrain for the 2018 LaCrosse, which goes on sale this fall.

“Executing innovative technologies in an approachable and meaningful way is core to Buick,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president, Global Buick and GMC. “By adding the eAssist system to the LaCrosse, our technology flagship, we are making electrification accessible to our customers as we chart our course to the future of mobility.”

Buick’s eAssist propulsion system combines a compact electric motor and an advanced 24-cell air-cooled 0.45kWh lithium-ion battery pack with the 2.5L four-cylinder gas engine to enhance efficiency and maintain refined performance through:

1. Motor Generator Unit (MGU): Replaces the traditional alternator and acts as an electric motor to assist the engine when needed. It also acts as an electric generator providing the energy stored in the lithium-ion battery pack.

2. Electric Assist: The MGU’s electric motor function provides a power boost for an extremely smooth launch from the Auto-Stop mode. It funnels additional torque to the engine when needed to optimize overall driving performance and efficiency.

3. Regenerative Braking: When braking or coasting, some of the energy normally lost is converted to electricity through the MGU and stored in the lithium-ion battery pack.

4. Lithium-Ion Battery Pack: The 86V lithium-ion battery pack, which has been repackaged to be more compact, stores energy captured during regenerative braking. This energy powers the electrical system when the vehicle is in Auto-Stop mode. It also powers the MGU to provide a smooth launch from Auto-Stop mode or additional torque to the engine as needed.

5. Seamless Stop/Start Technology: Contributes to added fuel savings3 by seamlessly turning off the engine when in Auto-Stop mode (e.g., at a stoplight or in heavy traffic) and restarting when the foot lifts off the brake pedal or presses the accelerator.

6. Aero Improvement: Upper and lower active aero shutters in the front fascia close under certain driving conditions to help maximize aerodynamics and contribute to improved fuel economy.

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