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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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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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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Debate Flares Over Electric Grid Fuel Supplies

Graph showing PJM Cleared ICAP by Delivery Year
Data source: PJM Interconnection

In a thinly-veiled swipe at renewable energy resources, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is reportedly ordering a study to determine whether the proliferation of renewables is threatening grid reliability by causing baseload (i.e., coal) resources to retire prematurely. The target of the report is not renewables, per se, but rather the compensation scheme for wholesale power in restructured markets around the country, and whether these markets are over or under-compensating various resources and therefore resulting in a sub-optimal fuel mix.

The subjects of generator compensation and fuel diversity are hotly contested in the energy world, as new (and renewable) resources such as wind, solar, and storage seek to compete with traditional resources such as gas, coal, and even nuclear. These new resources, which are favored by regulators in many states (including Perry’s home state of Texas), to date have generally complemented the existing resource mix and grid operators have been able to balance increasing quantities of intermittent resources; while industry insiders have debated the merits and value of various resource types, for the most part these arguments have taken place outside of the spotlight.

Now, though, with the new administration’s efforts to support coal power, along with nuclear operators loudly arguing their plants are being under-compensated and threatening shutdowns in New York, Illinois, and Ohio, and also as wind and solar generation reach ever higher levels of penetration and threaten to upend the historical pricing and production models in states such as California and Hawaii, the fight for the future of the grid is bursting into the headlines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month will be holding a technical conference, during which Commission staff seeks to discuss long-term expectations regarding the relative roles of wholesale markets and state policies in the Eastern RTOs/ISOs in shaping the quantity and composition of resources needed to cost-effectively meet future reliability and operational needs.

Testimony for the technical conference will be forthcoming, but in the meantime the nation’s largest electrical grid, PJM Interconnection, has issued a report concluding that today’s resource profile “is both reliable and diverse,” and that not only does a more diverse grid not threaten reliability, “[t]he expected near-term resource portfolio is among the highest-performing portfolios and is well equipped to provide the generator reliability attributes.”

As the resource mix moves in the direction of less coal and nuclear generation, according to PJM, generator reliability attributes of frequency response, reactive capability, and fuel assurance decrease, but flexibility and ramping attributes increase. With regard to solar capacity, PJM concludes that this resource cannot feasibly exceed 20 percent of the mix due to unavailability at night. That said, assuming other nighttime resources, PJM “could maintain reliability with unprecedented levels of wind and solar.”

As for the grid’s reliance on individual fuels, PJM advises that heavy reliance on any one fuel type may negatively impact resilience. For example, gas plants can generally be relied upon to serve up to 86 percent of demand, but risks include interruptions in fuel deliverability in extreme conditions such as a polar vortex; for coal plants, operational risks include coal piles freezing or an inability to replenish coal supplies in extreme conditions.

The resource mix within PJM has become more evenly balanced in recent years. In 2005, coal and nuclear resources generated 91 percent of the electricity on the PJM system. Over time, policy initiatives, technology improvements, and economics spurred a shift from coal to natural gas and renewable generation. From 2010 to 2016 in PJM, coal-fired units made up 79 percent of the megawatts retired, and natural gas and renewables made up 87 percent of new megawatts placed in service. PJM’s installed capacity in 2016 consisted of 33 percent coal, 33 percent natural gas, 18 percent nuclear, and 6 percent renewables (including hydro).

Without identifying the optimal resource mix, PJM concludes that “there are resource blends between the most diverse and the least diverse portfolios which provide the most generator reliability attributes.”

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California Energy Regulator to Federal Climate Experts: “You’re Hired!”

Photo of CPUC President Michael Picker in front of United States EPA.
CPUC President Michael Picker inviting federal energy and climate employees to work in California.

In response to the White House budget that would decimate the ranks of federal employees working to mitigate climate change, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, this week greeted workers arriving at the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy announcing that California welcomes their talents.

“On climate action, there’s a dark cloud hanging over Washington right now,” said CPUC President Picker. “If climate scientists and experts want the opportunity to continue doing important work for the good of our planet, my message is simple: Come West, California is hiring.”

The CPUC, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission are currently hiring dozens of new staff for positions working on climate change, renewable energy, air quality, and clean energy research and development – among many other opportunities.

The budget released this week by the White House proposes to eliminate 50 programs and $2.6 billion from the EPA’s budget, a 31 percent reduction. The cuts would be achieved in large part by eliminating efforts related to climate change, such as the Clean Power Plan, and trimming initiatives to related to air and water quality. If enacted, 19 percent of the EPA’s workforce would be eliminated. The total loss at the EPA alone would be approximately 3,200 jobs.

“Literally and figuratively, this is a scorched earth budget that represents an all out assault on clean air, water, and land,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator during the final years of the Obama administration. “You can’t put ‘America First’ when you put the health of its people and its country last.”

The Department of Energy’s cuts, which under any other administration would be considered draconian, are relatively tame at $1.7 billion, or 5.6 percent. DOE programs on the chopping block include:

  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
  • Office of Nuclear Energy
  • Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
  • Fossil Energy Research and Development Program
  • Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) plus guarantee programs, greenhouse gas reducing technologies, and advanced vehicle programs

Meanwhile, California continues to advance aggressive efforts to decarbonize. For example, the state is on track for its regulated electric utilities to obtain 50 percent of their energy sales from renewable resources by 2030. Legislation signed into law just a few months ago requires statewide greenhouse gas emissions to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Other state initiatives include aggressive requirements and goals related to distributed energy resources (including renewable energy), electric vehicles, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Picker’s visit to the federal agencies in Washington this week is a reminder of California Governor Jerry Brown’s comment on the occasion of signing the “50 by ’30” legislation into law: “Climate skeptics don’t quite get it. They are in political Pluto, and we have to bring them back to Earth, where the rest of us live.”

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More Customers to Benefit from Florida Power & Light’s Commitment to Solar

Florida Power & Light Company, the third-largest electric utility in America and the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, this week announced an accelerated timetable to build nearly 600 megawatts of solar capacity across eight locations. The energy these projects will produce, which will be enough to fully support approximately 120,000 homes, will diversify the source of electricity for all customers on the grid and efficiently provide a little more green energy to the entire customer base.

Utility-scale solar is a cost-effective way of delivering renewable energy to everyone, and for customers who rent their homes or whose roofs are not suitable for solar panels, the type of projects FPL is undertaking may represent the only way of obtaining renewable energy. “We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers. As the first company to build solar power generation cost effectively in Florida, we are proud to continue leading the advancement of affordable clean energy infrastructure. We have proven that it’s possible to cut emissions and deliver reliable service while keeping electric bills low for our customers,” said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. Construction is expected to commence this spring. During peak construction, an estimated 200 to 250 people will be working at each site.

The company expects the new installations will be cost-effective over their operational lifetimes, which is consistent with other reported metrics. For example, FPL reports that its carbon emissions today are lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan’s goals for 2030, while the company’s typical residential customer’s 1,000-kWh bill is approximately 25 percent lower than the latest national average. Last year, according to the company, FPL’s residential bills were the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the seventh year in a row. In addition to the grid-scale projects announced this week, FPL has installed small-scale solar arrays for more than 100 Florida schools and other educational facilities.

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General Motors Vehicles Lose Weight, Gain Efficiency

General Motors is reducing its environmental footprint by shaving an average of 350 pounds from each of ten recently launched Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles. The annual carbon emissions avoided from this weight loss is about equal to saving 28 million gallons of fuel, according to a statement issued by the company.

“We start with an understanding of the most important attributes to the customer, be it performance, EV range, interior space, towing capacity or fuel economy,” said Charlie Klein, GM executive director, global CO2 strategy, energy, mass and aerodynamics. “Then, we work to find the right mix of materials to deliver on that promise and exceed their expectations.”

General Motors explains that the company’s “Efficient Fundamentals” strategy includes advancing powertrain technologies, optimizing components and vehicle systems, improving aerodynamics, and lightweighting – reducing vehicle mass to achieve better performance overall without compromising safety or quality.

Photo of 2017 Chevy Volt
2017 Chevy Volt

For example, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt is 250 pounds lighter than the first generation model, which contributed to its 30 percent increase in range. The Chevrolet Cruze also lost 250 pounds, giving customers even better fuel economy and increased interior space. Improvements in size, content, structure and chassis delivered a loss of 700 pounds in the GMC Acadia. And the Buick LaCrosse, which is longer and wider than its predecessor, is now 300 pounds lighter thanks to advanced materials such as press-hardened, high-strength steels that also provide customers with efficiency and more responsive handling.

When it comes to lightweighting, General Motors points out that there is no single solution. The company may use composites for sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette where power-to-weight ratio is paramount. When a blend of strength and low mass is required, for example on chassis components, corrosion-resistant aluminum is the solution. Meanwhile, ultra high-strength steel allows for some parts to be made of thinner gauges without sacrificing strength. GM also employs a mix of new manufacturing joining techniques, such as the world’s first aluminum-to-steel resistance spot welding.

Another way in which General Motors reduces emissions is by engaging its supply chain. According to a statement issued by GM, last year the company asked about 200 of its suppliers to disclose their energy use and carbon emission data to CDP, a global nonprofit that drives sustainable economies, in return for which GM offered resources to help. The 70 percent of invited companies that responded saved a cumulative $23 billion and reduced carbon emissions in total by 90 million metric tons, which is equivalent to:

Graphic showing greenhouse gas equivalencies.
Data calculated with United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

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Seeking to Reduce Urban Tailpipe Emissions, Ford to Launch Plug-In Hybrid Van Pilot in London

Photo of Ford Transit PHEV.To help improve air quality in London, Ford Motor Company will be deploying 20 plug-in hybrid electric Ford Transit Custom vans for downtown duties such as deliveries and maintenance work. By running solely on electric power for approximately 30 miles of city driving, these vehicles will contribute to reducing local emissions. This effort complements Ford’s plans to introduce 13 new global electrified vehicles in the next five years.

The Transit Custom plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the London trial are an advanced design that allows the vehicles to be charged with electricity for zero-emission trips, while featuring an on-board combustion engine for extended range when longer trips are required. A Ford telematics system will collect data on vehicle financial, operational and environmental performance to help understand how the benefits of electrified vehicles can be optimized.

“Ford is the No. 1 commercial vehicle brand in Europe and it’s now going electric. Teaming up with our London partners, we will also be able to trial software and telematics with enormous potential to reduce emissions and costs in the city,” said Jim Farley, chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe. “This new type of partnership demonstrates our evolution to both an auto and mobility company. We have lots of work to do, but everyone is so energized by this breakthrough opportunity.”

Commercial vehicles in London make 280,000 trips on a typical weekday, traveling a total of 8 million miles. Vans represent 75 percent of peak commercial traffic, with more than 7,000 vehicles an hour on the road in central London alone.

“The freight sector’s transition to ultra-low emission vehicles is central to cleaning up London’s toxic air,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. “Transport for London continues to lead by example by increasing the number of its own vehicles that are electric and will find the data from these trials an invaluable resource for the LoCITY program, which encourages the uptake of low-emission commercial transport.”

The Ford Transit plug-in hybrid program is expected to launch in the fall of 2017.

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