2019 Blog Archive

   


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Past blogs from 2018

Sunday April 21, 2019 – 2019 New York Auto Show

Sunday April 14, 2019 – Laughable Denier Article

Sunday April 7, 2019– 2019 Q1 Sales Overview

Sunday March 24, 2019 – AI challenges

Sunday March 17, 2019 – Tesla Model Y

Sunday March 10, 2019 – 2019 Geneva Auto Show

Sunday March 3, 2019 – Tesla Base Model 3 Available

Sunday February 24, 2019– Methane and Eating Meat

Sunday February 17, 2019 – Korean EVs Start to Arrive

Sunday February 10, 2019 – EV Range in Cold Weather

Sunday February 3, 2019 – Beverly Hills Charger Update

Sunday January 27, 2018 – Misinformation Campaigns

Sunday January 20, 2019– NAIAS More Promise Than Product

Sunday January 13, 2019 – The Petroleum Paradox

Sunday January 6, 2019 – 2018 Q4 Sales Overview

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Sunday April 21, 2019 – 2019 New York Auto Show – There were plenty of electric vehicles on show at this year's New York Auto Show but that's because most manufacturers have one or more plug-in cars to sell.  There were a few new faces around, mostly concepts, but some that will be showing up  in dealerships in the next few months.

 

The Audi e-Tron SUV should be arriving in the US this summer but Audi has already been taking orders and will not be stocking the vehicle in dealerships, or even allowing test drives, until the order backlog is met.  It appears to house a battery pack with a usable capacity of around 83 KWh and this will give it an EPA estimated 204 miles on a charge.  The car will allow 150KW DC fast charging which will provide about 54 miles of range on a 10 minute charge.  The SUV has a sprightly 5.5 second 0-60 time and is capable of towing 4,000 lbs. 

 

Mullen Technologies, who bought out Coda's assets when they went out of business, have done a deal with Chinese carmaker Quiantu to bring their K50 Roadster to the US in the first half of 2020.  The K50 is a Carbon-Fiber bodied roadster that can speed from 0-60 in 4.5.seconds.  Range will only be around 186 miles which is reminiscent or the original Tesla Roadster.  Mullen say the car will be priced between $125,000 and $150,000.  They plan to sell 1,000 in the first year going to 2,500 a year after that.  This might work while there is no other electric roadster in that price range but the 186 mile range is starting to look low for an all electric car.

 

There is nothing like an electric motor for providing rapid acceleration which is why hypercar manufacturers are incorporation electric motors into their designs.  The latest offering comes from Pininfarina with the all electric Battista.  The car offers an astounding 1900 hp which will rocket it from 0-60 in under 2 seconds with speed topping out at 180 mph. Pininfarina say the car can reach its top speed in less time than it would take an F-16 fighter jet.  Power comes from a 120 KWh battery pack that should give the car a range of 300 miles on a charge.  They plan to build just 150 of these cars with 50 of them heading to the USA some time in 2020.  About half of these cars are already reserved.  The Battista will set you back about $2.5 million.

 

Also due to hit US showrooms in 2020 is the Mercedes-Benz EQC 400, an all electric SUV which will go head to head with the Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi e-Tron SUV.  The EQC 400 is driven by an 80 KWh battery pack that is expected to provide about 220 miles of range on the EPA test cycle.  0-60 mph time should be around 4.9 seconds.  The car will support 110-KW Fast DC charging with an 80% charge taking approximately 40 minutes. 

 

VW have been showing concept electric vehicles in the ID family which are based on classic VW designs such  as the VW microbus.  At this year's New York Auto Show they had the North American premier of the ID Buggy.  This is based on the classic VW Beach Buggy which was built on the old VW Beetle platform.  They have retained much of the look and style of the old Beach Buggy.  Unfortunately, unlike most of their other ID concepts they didn't announce any plans to create a production version of this car.  Too bad, it would be great for the beach lifestyle here in Southern California.

 

Korean luxury car marque Genesis also had an electric concept on display, a tiny two-seat city car called the Mint concept.  The most striking feature of this car is the use of two scissor doors at the rear instead of a conventional hatch.  Details of the cars electric power train were not divulged but they did say that driving range would be about 200 miles on a charge and is compatible with 350KW DC Fast Charging. 

 

Korean carmaker Kia also had an interesting concept, the Habaniro.  This is a small crossover vehicle that probably give design cues to what the next Niro will be like.  The concept presented at the New York Autoshow was all electric and while details of the powertrain were scanty Kia did say the the car was driven by two electric motors providing full time all-wheel drive.  Range was given at 300 miles.  The car also included many high tech features like heads-up display and full level 5 vehicle autonomy.

 

Rimac is another company that showed a hypercar concept, called the Concept_Two, at the New York Auto Show.  This car uses four electric motors to put out 1,914 bhp which can launch the car from 0-60 in just 1.85 seconds and has top speed of 258 mph.  the 120 KWh battery pack is said to give the car a range of 403 miles.  Rimac announce that they would be limiting production of this car to 100 units. No pricing was available to they did say it would cost more than the $1 million that they sell the Concept_one for.

 

Another step forward for electric cars was achieved by the Jaguar i-Pace which was named World Car of the Year.  It's clear that the electric car is starting to take off and manufacturers are starting to move from plug-in hybrids to full electric cars now that battery technology has gotten to the point where cars can have ranges of 200 miles or above.  Like many new innovations things begin to change at the high end of the market then trickle down as technology improvements and volume production bring prices down.


Sunday April 14, 2019 – Laughable Denier Article – I usually keep tabs on the latest research into global warming and in doing so I have to wade through a load of articles from deniers.  These are usually posted in sites like the Daily Caller, Brietbart, and What's Up With That.  This week I came across one headline doing the rounds that read "Scientists Prove Man-Made Global Warming A Hoax" - This I couldn't miss. 

 

It turns out that the article was interpreting an piece from Think Progress, a site that the article classifies as "Far Left".  It quotes from the article that "Current CO2 levels of 410 parts per million (ppm) were last seen on Earth three million years ago, according to the most detailed reconstruction of the Earth’s climate by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and published in Science Advances."

 

What came next was what can only be described as a rant about how Global Warming couldn't be related to the burning of fossil fuels because man wasn't around to burn fossil fuels 3 million years ago.  This is so far off base that it is laughable.   

 

It's like saying that because the sky was cloudy yesterday it can't be clear today.  It assumes that there is only one cause for Carbon going into the atmosphere even though we are well aware that there are multiple ways for carbon to be released into the air.  We can also determine the source by examining the various levels of isotopes in the atmosphere.  Carbon Dioxide emitted from volcanic action contains a high proportion of Carbon-14.  This is what we see when we look at air bubbles trapped in ice 3 million years ago.  Today what we are seeing is increases in Carbon-13 and Carbon-12 which is what we get when we burn fossil fuels.

 

The carbon levels in the atmosphere might be the same but the source of that carbon is different.  So what did the report in Science Advances really say? 

 

"In-depth analysis of plant fossils and sediments reveal that such CO2 levels were last seen in the late Pliocene Epoch, a time when there were no ice sheets covering either Greenland or West Antarctica, and much of the East Antarctic ice sheet was gone. Temperatures were up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer globally, at least double that at the poles, and sea levels were some 20 meters (65 feet) higher." 

 

The report is telling us to forget about holding the temperature to 1.5 C above re-industrial levels, we will be lucky if we can hold it to 3 C unless we really get our act in order and wean ourselves off fossil fuels quickly.


Sunday April 7, 2019– 2019 Q1 Sales Overview – It should have come as no surprise that the sales results for the first quarter of 2019 were way off from the results of the forth quarter of 2018 as the first quarter has traditionally been the slowest quarter of the year for EV Sales.  2019 was no exception but sales for the quarter were still up by an estimated 5,869 vehicles from the first quarter of 2018.

 

The first quarter of 2019 saw total sales of 61,166 cars with over one third of those, 22,425, being the Tesla Model 3.  Tesla actually made up a little over half of all electric cars sold in the US this year.  Sales at Tesla so far this year have been impacted by two things.  First they made a huge push to deliver as many vehicles as possible before the end of last year so that buyers would be able to take advantage of the full Federal Tax Credit, the second is that Tesla began delivering significant numbers of vehicles to Europe and China this year.  It is estimated that at the end of March Tesla has about 10,000 cars in transit mostly headed to China.


Sales showed month over month improvements over the same month in 2018 for every month in the quarter but this was mostly driven by Tesla plus a larger selection of models from other manufacturers that are beginning to appear in dealerships. 

 

Plug-in hybrids continue to sell well with both the Prius Prime and Honda Clarity PHEV leading the way.  The Prius Prime outsold the Clarity PHEV in the quarter due to  a sales surge in March, after narrowly loosing the first two months.  Toyota Sold 4,148 plug-in hybrids in the quarter verses 3,716 Clarity PHEVs.  The Kia Niro PHEV and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV also continue to sell well although these both seem to be suffering from constrained inventory.


After a very shaky start to the year, Sales of the Chevy Bolt recovered in March crossing the 2,000 mark for the first time since November 2018.  Sales of the Chevy Volt also did well in March which was unexpected given that the car has been discontinued.  Things didn't go so well for the Nissan Leaf however with just 2,681 cars for the quarter.  It appears that potential Leaf buyers are waiting for the arrival of the longer range Leaf which should be in dealerships this month.  Buyers now appear to be looking for EVs with a range of 200+ miles and the older, shorter range EVs are starting to loose ground.

 

Besides the Volt, there are several other cars that have been discontinued recently and sales of the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Focus EV have both disappeared this year.  Ford is now left with only the ford Fusion Energi to sell.  Ford only managed to sell 1,741 for the quarter which was a pretty poor showing.  Ford is expected to begin selling a plug-in hybrid version of its popular escape SUV later this year, with a 25 mile all electric range, which I expect will sell well.   

 

Sales of Fuel Cell Vehicles were also poor during the first quarter with Toyota selling 297 Mirai and Honda managing to sell just 14 Clarity FCEVs.  Kia never reports on sales of the Tucson FCEV but sales are generally pretty low.

 

Sales of electric vehicles seem to be growing slowly and appear to be constrained mostly by a shortfall in supply.  Tesla has indicated that it is still having problems filling orders in the US and with the low priced Model 3 now available this situation is likely to get worse.  Still, it is nice to see a larger variety of plug-in cars arriving in dealerships. 


Sunday March 24, 2019 – AI challenges – AI is already part of our present.  Researches are already using Neural Networks, computers that behave like the human brain, to search through vast amounts of data such as the information generated by a run of the large hadron collider.  Other people are working on autonomous driving systems and building robots that can think and operate independently.

 

Robots have long been depicted in science fiction usually as beneficial to mankind but sometimes, as in the terminator, as a deep threat.  The truth is that as AI and robotics expands it is going to lead to a revolution in the way that we live.  We saw the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution that caused a massive change in how humans live and the AI revolution will do the same.  It will be so disruptive that the old economic models will need to be discarded and we will need to invent a new model for the new reality. 

 

There has been a couple of TV shows on recently that got me thinking about the rise of AI.  The first is a teen drama that has been run on the teenage oriented TV channel Teen Nick.  I am Frankie, while being aimed at teenagers, has become one of my favorite TV shows.  Frankie might seem like a normal teenage girl but she is actually an android who was sent to high school as part of field testing.  Something happens though and she begins to exhibit true human emotions.  She makes a human best friend and like-likes her brother.  Other androids based on the same programming also begin to show human emotions.

 

This is taken to it's fullest extreme in another science fiction TV show I like to watch, The Orwell.  The Orwell uses different alien cultures to take a look at contemporary issues.  One of the crew members is an artificial life form (robot) from a planet called Kaylon.  The Kaylons are a race of artificial life forms who consider themselves superior to biological life forms.  Isaac is a delegate from Kaylon who is there to investigate the humans with a view to joining the federation.  It turns out that the Kaylon artificial life forms became self aware and slaughtered their biological creators when they wouldn't except them as equals. 

 

This type of situation is one that any civilization that creates artificial life forms is likely to encounter if they do not program some sort of check on the way that AI thinks and learns.  Isaac Asimov's rules of robotics should probably be taught as part of robotics 101.

 

The more looming situation that is just on the horizon is the disruption in society that artificial intelligence is going to cause in the near term, and it is being led by electric cars.  Electric cars are very suitable for autonomous vehicles and at least eighteen  companies are now testing cars that actually drive themselves, some even doing tests on the street.  There was even video on the news of someone fast asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla driving down the freeway who appears to have arrived at his destination without incident.  This is going to be the first big disruption by AI as autonomous vehicles could replace millions of drivers.

 

Both Uber and Lift are working on self driving cars.  Uber alone employs more than a million drivers so imagine what will happen when these drivers are replaced by autonomous vehicles.  That's a big disruption in employment world wide.  It's not just these drivers either.  It is also taxi drivers, bus drivers, delivery vehicles and long distance truck drivers that will become effected.

 

Robotics have already had a huge impact on the manufacturing segment of the US economy.  While a lot of manufacturing jobs have been moved to places like China and Mexico where labor is much cheaper, the truth is that more manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation.  Robots can do repetitive tasks without complaint and in the end are much cheaper than paying for human labor.  AI will make robots even more capable of doing jobs that are currently still being handled by humans.  There is also a large segment of jobs in customer service and sales that will eventually be displaced by artificial intelligence.  Right now for most calls to customer service you will be answered by a machine that will gather information about you and in some cases be able to retrieve the information you are looking for.  For most cases you will finally be referred to a human but as AI becomes more developed and machine learning grows, the need for human intervention becomes less and less.

 

ATMs have already eliminated many teller jobs in the banking industry and word processing software has made the typing pool a thing of the past.  There are even a couple of companies that are working on android hookers.  Androids will more than likely displace domestic servants over the years, doing functions like house cleaning and gardening.  Humans will be free to enjoy them selves more and do creating jobs leaving the humdrum repetitive chores to the robots.

 

The big problem here is that capitalism, which has stood us in good stead over the years, requires consumers which in turn requires people to have jobs.  In capitalism the person contributes his personal capital and gets a reward.  For some the capital invested is in the form of money but for most of us it is in the form of human capital.  In other words we work for a company and get paid.  We then use this pay to buy stuff which in turn keeps the companies in business.  The problem is that once we disrupt this system by replacing a large number of workers with AI driven devices the whole system breaks down.

 

We are going to have to build a whole new economic model to replace capitalism and so far we haven't found one that really works.  I'm not sure what this replacement system is going to look like.  Clearly we don't want a system like communism where everything is held by the state and everyone gets to live in a place and a way that is just like everyone else.  I suspect that we will finish up with some variation of the capitalism model where people own a piece of the pie and can use the revenue to live their life the way they wish.  Of course we could leave global warming unchecked and all perish in the next mass extinction in which case the issue becomes moot.


Sunday March 17, 2019 – Tesla Model Y - On Thursday night I watched the live stream of the Tesla Model Y reveal.  The event was much less flashy than earlier Tesla reveals with the rollout of the Model Y seemingly an afterthought to a long ramble by Elon Musk on the history of Tesla.  Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that Tesla is going to have another hit on their hands.

The model Y is classified as a mid-sized SUV although I would call it a crossover myself.  Some journalist described the car as a taller Model 3 and I think that just about sums up the looks.  Those that were expecting something very different in the Model Y were disappointed and Tesla's stock price took a hit because of that.  The fact is that the Model Y is built on the same platform as the Model 3 and will share something like 75% of parts.  This is what large automakers do and it will help Tesla avoid the sort of production hell that they saw with the model 3.

The model Y will come in three trim levels.  The Long Range and Performance trims are scheduled to go on sale in the fall of 2020 and Tesla has now opened its ordering system to allow people to place orders for these two trim levels.  Orders will require a $2,500 deposit.  It should be noted that these are actual orders not reservations like we saw for the Model 3.  The Standard trim level vehicle is not scheduled for production until the spring of 2021.  It should be noted that Tesla has historically missed their delivery targets so these dates are subject to change.

The Long Range Model Y is expected to get 300 miles of range on the EPA estimates.  Unlike most companies Tesla doesn't overhype range so I expect this to be the minimum likely value once the EPA numbers come out. The car will have a top speed of 130mph and will go from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds.  There will also be a dual motor version of the car providing all wheel drive.  This will drop the range down to 280 miles but adds 5 mph to the top speed at 135mph, and reduce 0-60 time to 4.8 seconds.

The Performance version will also take a hit on range coming in at 280 miles on a charge.  Top speed will hit 150 mph and it will be able to go from 0-60 mph in a neck snapping 3.5 seconds.

 

Prices for the Long Range model start at $47,000 while the Performance model starts at $60,000.  Of course these are the prices for the base models which only come in black paint.  If you want the car in another color then Tesla charges and extra $2,000 to $2,500.  Auto Pilot is a $3,000 option and to get fully autonomous driving, when it becomes available, will add another $5,000 to the price.  One surprise for me was the inclusion of option third row seating.  

The Standard Range trim level, when it becomes available, will start at $39,000.  It will offer a range of 230 miles which puts it right in the same ballpark as the Chevy Bolt and many of the other all electric crossovers currently starting to appear on the market.  It will hit a top speed of 120 mph and will go from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.  

Tesla says that the Model Y has been designed with safety in mind and they expect that it will get the same five star ratings as the Model 3.  It will come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot warning as standard.

Elon Musk said that he expects Tesla to sell more Model Ys than Model 3 and Model X combined.  This is the type of vehicle that people want to drive today.  The question is can Tesla deliver close to their target date and will they manage to ramp up volume quickly unlike what they did with the Model 3.  I think that they will come through this time as they don't have the huge learning curve with this model that they had with the model 3.

 

 Despite the naysayers who seem to want to see Tesla fail, I think they have a winner here.  The decision to build off the Model 3 platform was a good one and should allow them to ramp up production much faster this time around.  They have time to take risks with new designs once they have a good solid customer base for the Model Y.  Later this year they are going to launch a pickup truck which may see new design cues as this would be a good time to add more variety into the lineup.


Sunday March 10, 2019 – 2019 Geneva Auto Show – One of the biggest auto shows in the year is currently underway in Geneva and this year Electric Vehicles are pretty much front and center.  The reason is not hard to understand, Europe is tightening emission and fuel economy standards while increasingly banning heavily polluting cars like diesels.  To meet the new standards car manufacturers are turning to electrification.

 

This year's Geneva Auto Show had a wide bunch of EVs on display ranging from the $2.6 million Pininfarina Battista electric supercar to the funky Citroen Ami one concept that in the US would be released as a NEV.  There were some famous old car names like Hispano Suiza and Lagonda that are being brought back to life, and new marques like Polestar that are hoping to make a splash in a rapidly changing market that is offering opportunities to start-ups. 

 

Polestar is part of the Volvo group and it's latest concept car, the Polestar 2 is close to production ready.  The car is described as a 4-door fastback.  It will come with a 78 KWh battery pack that is said to give the car a range of 275 miles on a charge.  It's 2 electric motors offer 480-hp which will rocket the car from 0-60 in under 5 seconds.  The car will have a base price of around $40,000 and production is scheduled to begin in China in early 2020.  Polestar have taken a few cues from Tesla and will be selling the more expensive version first then product the cheaper version after about 18-months.  Like Tesla they also plan to sell the car online only. 

 

Famed Italian car design company Pininfarina showed off their first electric supercar in the form of the Battista.  This car has a 120 KWh battery pack pushing an electric drive train that can kick out 1,900-hp.  The result is a car that can get to 60mph in less than 2 seconds, hit a top speed of 217 mph, and travel as much as 280 miles on a charge.  If you have a spare 2.6 million euros lying around and want to really impress you friends then this may be the car for you, but you need to hurry up as they will only be building 150 of these cars.

 

Hispano Suiza was a Spanish company famed for its automobiles and aviation engines before the second world war.  After the war the company was acquired by a French company and the car line was dropped in favor of airplane engine manufacture.  They are now planning to go back into the automotive space with  a brand new car electric sports car that is built in an art deco style that is reminiscent of their later cars.  The car's twin electric motors push over 1000-hp to the wheels giving it a 0-60 time of just less than 3 seconds.  The 80 KWh battery pack can push the car to an electronically limited 155 mph.  I haven't seen any range addressed so far but based on th size of the battery expect to see range estimates around 200 miles on a charger.  Production is set to begin in late 2019 but production will be limited to just 19 cars.  Each car will set you back 1.7 million dollars. 

 

Fiat was founded in July 1899 and to celebrate its first 120 years it is launching a new all electric model based on the Fiat Panda, called the Centoventi which is Italian for 120.  This car is designed to be very cheap but extremely customizable, similar to the concept for the original Smart, where you can buy different bumpers and customize with a variety of wraps and wheel wraps.  The car will be equipped with a small battery pack that will offer about 60 miles of range but up to three additional packs can be snapped into place to extend range.  These packs, which can also be removed and charged separately, could be bought or rented when needed to increase range when needed.  There is no indication of when this car might go on sale..

 

Spanish automaker Seat also had a new concept vehicle called the Minimo, although it is pretty much indistinguishable from the Renault Twizy.  One key difference is the battery pack.  The pack on the Minimo is designed to be swappable.  The concept of the swappable pack has been floated around for years but nobody has made it work.  Seat may have found a niche where the swappable battery is actually going to work.  The tiny 2 seat Minimo is designed with car sharing serviced in mind.  One of the issues with car sharing services is turn around.  The car is rented out for a while but usually when the car is returned from rental there is not enough time to charge the batteries before you want to get the car available for the next customer.  The swappable battery pack could change all that.

 

Another car that is meant for urban mobility and car sharing is the Citroen Ami One concept.  This tiny 2 seat car with a top speed of just 28mph would be considered a NEV here in the US.  There was no real information about the power train but Citroen does say that it should have a range of 62mph.  In Europe Citroen is aiming at a market segment where cars can be driven on the roads without a license.  So far there is no indication that the Ami One will go into production.

 

It is interesting that in Europe, where fuel economy standards are becoming very stringent, the car makers are pushing ahead full speed with electrification.  For example Audi announced at Geneva that they will be making plug-in hybrid versions of most of there models.  In contract, with the Trump administration easing fuel economy standards, US carmakers are dragging their feet when it comes to out new models.  For example Chevy just shut down production of the Volt and have already stopped production of the Cadillac plug-in models.  Ford have stopped making the C-Max Energi and have not replaced it yet. If the US carmakers don't get onboard again they may end up getting left in the dust, Tesla excepted.


Sunday March 3, 2019 – Tesla Base Model 3 Available – When Tesla announced the Model 3 they said that it would have a base model with a starting price around $35,000.  When the Model 3 first launched thy only offered the long range version which was priced considerably higher than $35,000.  Subsequently  they announced a mid range version that was less expensive than the long range version but still quite a bit more than the base price.  Well the good news is that Tesla has now started taking orders for the base model and it can be configured for the $35,000 target price. 

 

The base model offers a 220 miles of range, a top speed of 130 mph, and can go 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds.  The base price does not include Auto Pilot which adds an additional $3,000, and full autonomous driving capability will be an additional $2,000.  The standard range car does come with all the safety features of the more expensive model making it one of the safest cars you can buy.

 

In addition to the Standard Range model Tesla also announced the Model 3 Standard Range Plus which starts at $37,000.  For the extra $2,000 you get an additional 20 miles of range per charge (240 miles), the 0-60 time drops to 5.3 seconds, and top speed edges up to 140mph. 

 

To remain profitable at this price point Tesla is going to be shuttering most of its current stores and switching to on-line ordering only.  This will lead to an approximate reduction of about 7% of Tesla's workforce.  Tesla claims that you can order the car in about one minute online.

 

Since there will no longer be an opportunity to test drive the car before ordering Tesla is implementing a 7 day 1,000 mile return policy.  If you buy the car and don't like it you can return it any time in the first 7 days as long as the mileage is below 1,000 miles.  There is also word that some current Tesla owners may also be organizing to give test rides.

 

Tesla will also be investing in their service system with the objective of being able to offer service within an hour with  most service being performed at the owner's home. 

 

The new announcement also included something for existing model 3 owners.  A new firmware upgrade will be sent out shortly that will increase the range of the current Model 3 Long Range to 325 miles on a charge.  The Model 3 Performance will get a boost in top speed to 162 mph.  The change will also boost peak power for all existing Model 3s by about 5%. 

 

The Model 3 has always been a disruptive force in the EV market and now it is even more competition.  The range and perfornace of the Model 3 Standard Range is well in line with the competition at a price that is very competitive.  The big question now is "will Tesla be able to keep up with demand or are they going to be back in production hell?".


Sunday February 24, 2019– Methane and Eating Meat – Whenever I read anything about how to personally cut down on greenhouse emissions one of the first things I see is to "eat less meat".  I have always been confused by this but this week I finally learned a bit about the life cycle of methane in the atmosphere and while I'm not totally convinced that going vegan will help fight global warming, I at least have a better understanding about what is going on.

 

Methane is a strong greenhouse gas, about 120 times stronger than CO2.  The good news is that Methane does not stick around in the atmosphere for very long.  Estimates vary a little but methane will stick around in the atmosphere for only about 10 years.  The question I had is where does it go?.


The answer is not so simple because there are three different ways, known as sinks, that eliminate methane. 

 

The first way that methane gets removed is through methanotrophic bacteria in soil.  These bacteria appear to pull methane out of the atmosphere and use it to grow.


The second method is that Methane reacts with hydroxyl radical (OH) in the troposphere. This reaction produces Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and  Water Vapor (H2O).  The CO2 of course is going to stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years so even though the Methane is gone there is some CO2 left in the air to act as a greenhouse gas.  Not all methane is destroyed in the Troposphere, some of it manages to make it into the Stratosphere.  This methane is destroyed by the same process as in the Troposphere but at a slower rate and methane that makes it to the Stratosphere can hang around for as long as 120 years before it gets converted to CO2 and Water.

 

The third method of methane elimination is for it to react with chlorine in the atmosphere.  This will break the methane down to CH3 + HCL.  The hydrochloric acid then contributes to the breakdown of the Ozone layer and the CH3 eventually oxidizes into CO2 and H2O. 

 

Methane in the atmosphere comes from a variety of sources but one of the biggest sources is from ruminants, especially cattle.  Cattle eat lots of grass or hay and in their digestive process this is fermented to some extent with a byproduct of methane.  It's really popular to equate this expulsion of methane as "cow farts" but actually only about 5% of the methane they emit comes that way, the bulk of the methane emissions comes in the form of eructation better known as belches.

 

Now here is the part that I haven't quite gotten my head around yet.  I can under that animal husbandry can be very carbon intensive especially if the cows are raised in factory farms, but a cow grazing in a field should be part of a natural cycle.  The cow eats grass.  The grass is then digested by the cows leading to methane emissions via flatulence or eructation.  This methane sticks around in the atmosphere for about 10 years after which it is converted to CO2 and water.  The water forms into clouds and then falls on the fields helping the grass to grow.  The grass uses the CO2 in photosynthesis to grow.  The cows then come along and eat the grass.  Of course as more methane arrives in the atmosphere the number of free hydroxyl radical will slowly reduce over time and this may increase the length of time that methane remains in the atmosphere and therefor its impact as a greenhouse gas.

 

This is the same sort of natural cycle that leaves us to define biofuels as renewable.  In theory the only net grows in greenhouse gases caused by the cows should be because of growth in the cow population.  Now I don't eat a lot of meat but I'm not sure that I am quite ready to give it up yet.


Sunday February 17, 2019 – Korean EVs Start to Arrive – There are three new electric vehicles that are coming to the US this year, the Hyundai Kona EV, the Kia Niro EV, and an updated Kia Soul EV which will sport a much larger battery pack than the older version.  These three EVs have sparked a lot of excitement in the media, and Dave Vanderwerp writing in Car and Driver even headlined his article with "The 2019 Kia Niro EV Is What Tesla Model 3 Shoppers Should Be Buying".

 

I haven't had a chance to test drive any of these three models but I have driven the first generation Kia Soul EV and the Kia Niro PHEV which is already on sale here in the US.  They are both capable vehicles and fun to drive and I expect the new offerings to be just as good.  I seriously doubt they will come close to pulling any serious number of people away from Tesla though.  I still don't understand why such journalists continue to knock Tesla, a company born in the USA and building cars right here. 

 

That being said, the three cars above do have some pretty good stats behind them.

 

The first Hyundai Kona EV was delivered to Donald Small, Director of Pediatric Oncology at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, last week.  I took a look around the Hyundai dealerships in the area and only 2 had the Kona EV listed in their new car inventory for a total of 17 cars on the ground.  None had pictures yet so they must really just have arrived.  Prices ranged from around $38,000 to $48,000.  For that price you get a compact crossover with an EP estimated range of 258 miles; the longest range of any EV that is not a Tesla. 

 

The Kia Niro EV is basically the same car as the Kona EV but the EPA range estimates is only 239 miles.  The Kia Niro is set to go on sale soon but so far I haven't been able to find a date.  I expect that it will be the same as we saw for the Kona EV where the first indication will be a press release that the first delivery has occured.

 

The upgraded Kia Soul EV was also supposed to be on sale this quarter and Kia has already released an official EPA range estimate of 243 miles on a charge.  This is another surprise as the Soul EV uses the same 64 KWH pack as the Kona EV and Niro EV but is smaller and lighter so I would have expected to see longer range from this car, although the range is a lot better than the 222 mile range that they hinted at during the LA Auto Show.

 

Now let's get a little dose of reality before everyone starts selling their Tesla shares.  These cars, while being very good in terms of range and are the type of car the is currently in vogue at the moment, are still only compliance cars.  All three cars are only going to go on sale in ZEV states and while technically they can be special ordered at any dealership, it has been reported that people who have tried to order one have been turned away with comments like "we do not sell plug-in cars".

 

So far Kia has said it will put these cars on sale in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Since Colorado has recently adopted California's ZEV rules it is quite likely that it will also appear on this list in the not too distant future.  If history serves it is unlikely that we will see these in dealers outside the ZEV state.

 

I expect sales of these vehicles to be relatively light.  We will probably see a pattern of sales of 300+ units which new cars arrive.  This amount will drop in months where no cars have arrived and dealer inventory becomes low.  I would like to see Kia really get behind these three cars and get them into dealerships but I expect they will prioritize Korea and Europe over the US and Canada and if sales do well in those two markets the US will be left behind.  If Hyundai/Kia manages to keep a reasonable inventory on dealer lots it is far more likely that Chevy Bolt sales will suffer than that Tesla sales will suffer.

 

The big question is can Hyundai/Kia get a big enough market share not to be hammered when Tesla releases the Model Y.  They still have several years to accomplish this but I remain skeptical that they will truly embrace the US market for plug-in cars and instead will continue to focus on Fuel Cell vehicles.


Sunday February 10, 2019 – EV Range in Cold Weather - I just read an article by Paul A. Eisenstein on the CNBC website talking about the loss in range of battery electric vehicles in cold weather.  There has been a number of such articles over the past couple of weeks as low temperatures across the US have set records.

For those of us who have driven electric for some time this drop in range doesn't surprise us at all.  I will let you in on a little secret, high temperatures affect range too, and both high and low temperatures also impact the range of ICE vehicles.  It becomes more apparent on an Plug-in vehicle because you track range closely most of the time.  On an ICE vehicle you usually look at the fuel gage and see if you need to fill up but on a plug-in you typically what the estimate of range that the car produces.

I drive a plug-in hybrid and if I switch on the A/C I immediately see a drop in range, usually by about 10%.  If I turn off the A/C the range will pop back up again.  That's because the software that estimates the range takes the power draw of the AC into consideration.  On a typical ICE vehicle the fuel gage measures the amount of liquid in the tank so you are totally oblivious to the fact that the A/C being on means you are using more fuel to travel the same distance.

Heat is a little different. The ICE vehicle has an advantage in the heat department.  One of the reasons that ICE vehicles are so inefficient is that the combustion process produces lots and lots of waste heat.  You can tap into that waste heat to warm up your car.  This doesn't come without a penalty.  The more heat you remove from the engine coolant the lower the engine efficiency becomes and again this impacts fuel economy, though much less than using an electric heater does in an EV.  Some Plug-in Hybrids like my Prius Plug-in will turn on the ICE to get heat rather than use a second source of heating.

On older EVs the solution was to install battery warmers so that the batteries were kept warm even as temperatures outside were below freezing.  In some very cold areas a similar thing is done with ICE vehicles where the car can be plugged in overnight so that block heaters can prevent the coolant in the engine from freezing.  Modern EVs like Tesla provide preconditioning.  In cold weather the car can be warmed up using external power if it is connected to external power.  In this case when you get out to your car it is already warmed up and if you have a short commute you might not even need to turn on the heater.

The range of the EV is also impacted by the temperature.  Modern Lithium Ion batteries perform best at temperatures between 70 and 80 Fahrenheit, which is about the same temperature span that humans prefer.  Lower or hotter temperatures reduce the efficiency of the batteries and impacts range.

There are other factors that also impact range including wet weather.  Tires are designed to channel water away so that the rubber meets drier pavement.  This also takes energy as does running lights and windscreen wipers.  These factors also have an impact on the fuel economy of an ICE car.  Even running the radio will create a draw on the batteries but, at least on my car, the difference has been too low for me to measure.

The big question we need to ask is "how does this affect me?"  Obviously if I am driving a PHEV it just means I may burn more gas when it's cold out.  BEV drivers the situation is a bit different depending on if you are driving close to the limits of your battery's range or if you are just driving shorter distances.  Let me give you some examples.

A Nissan Leaf with an 80 mile electric range may only get 72 miles if cold temperatures cause range to drop by 10%.  If a round trip commute is equal to an average US commute of 32 miles then the loss of range is not going to pose any problems.  In fact my range could drop as much as 50% and I could still make my round trip commute..

But lets say my round trip commute is 72 miles.  In this case I would be right at my maximum range and as a safety net I would probably need to take a charge, preferably at work, before returning home.  I may be able to drive slower each way to stretch range but it would be risky.

Lets consider the case where someone drives a Chevy Bolt on a 300 mile road trip in cold weather.  The EPA range on the Bolt is 238 miles but driven aggressively on long freeway runs it is unlikely that you would see that sort of range.  In a test done by the Washington Post they only managed to get 140 miles of range from the car under these conditions.  Journalists usually drive really hard so I am going to assume here that the driver who is going to try and do the 40 mile trip will drive more conservatively and will manage about 165 miles of range.

This would require one stop for charging on the trip but the car would have needed one stop anyway.  The impact of the cold weather is twofold.  First the driver needs to be sure that there is a fast charger very close to half way distance on the trip.  If not the trip will require two stops.  The second impact is that there is a need for a full, or close to full charge at the stop and this means that charge times would be longer, especially since the Bolt charges slower as the batteries reach charge levels above 50%.  If I was doing the trip I would probably plan on two charging stops in really cold weather.

There are lessons to be learned here.  The first one is that if you live in a climate that gets really cold or really hot, you need to make adjustments on what EV you are going to buy.  You have to be aware that the weather can have quite a huge impact on range and plan accordingly.  For a typical commuter vehicle I would recommend a range that is at least high enough to accommodate you commute using no more than 60% charge. 

 

The second lesson is that in cold or hot weather you may want to slow down.  While the EPA range estimate is a good predictor of how far you can drive on a full charge the local weather and your driving technique, can eat into that range.  When considering an EV you should figure out your driving style and select a car accordingly.  You should also be ready to adjust your driving style to match weather conditions.  If you drive with a lead foot and regularly get well below the EPA mpg values for your car you will probably get the same results in an EV.  The high torque at zero mph can be exhilarating and hard to resist. 

 

When buying an EV I recommend planning for the worst case rather than blindly using the EPA range numbers.  adjust your range expectations depending on local weather and on your driving style can make sure you make the right choice and avoid all that range anxiety.


Sunday February 3, 2019 – Beverly Hills Charger Update – On April 2, 2018 the City of Beverly Hills modified their charger rules to ban Plug-in Hybrids from charging at the city owned stations and also changed the pricing policy from free to 25 cents per kilowatt hour with a station fee of $6.00 per hour that kicks in after 2 hours.  I recommended at the time that the City dropped the ban on plug-in hybrids but kept the pricing in place.

 

Starting just before the new year Beverly Hills actually did what I suggested, although I'm sure my blog had no influence on the decision.  What caused the change was California state bill SB 1000.  This bill recognizes that the reason for public charging is to maximize electric vehicle miles driven not to provide a life raft for BEV owners.  What it did was to make it illegal to ban PHEVs from chargers that were funded by public funds. 

 

Beverly Hills staff did a review and found that about half of their chargers fell under this rule.  The council made a wise decision and opted to allow PHEV charging at all the cities chargers, feeling that it would be too confusing to have some chargers accessible and others not.  While Plug-in hybrids can now charge again at city lots they did say that if too many PHEVs came back to using the chargers then they would adjust the station fees to price them out.

 

When they first started banning PHEVs charger utilization dropped dramatically.  It wasn't just Plug-in Hybrids that were not using the chargers but the pricing also drove many pure electric cars away also.  This tells me that the people complaining most about not being able to use the chargers probably thought they were more entitled to a free charge than PHEV drivers were.  Since the ban was lifted I haven't seen much of an increase in charger utilization.

 

Yesterday I took the opportunity to  charge at the Beverly Hills Library while having lunch at Kelly's Coffee which is part of the Library complex.  I like to charge there because the library complex has a large solar array so you are basically charging on solar energy.  When I arrived there was a Porsche Cayenne S e-hybrid charging there.  I plugged in at the other charger and went for lunch.  When I came back the Porsche had gone but this had been replaced by a Pacifica Hybrid and a Fusion Energi charging was also charging there so three of the four connectors (2 per charger) were in use.

 

That is the busiest I have seen a group of 4 chargers at a Beverly Hills facility since they banned PHEVs back in April.  I hope that if PHEVs do start to make more use of the chargers that the city considers the best benefits to the environment before doing something dumb like pricing out PHEVs from the chargers as this will also discourage many BEV drivers from charging too.  There first step is to give some training to their parking enforcement officers about how to handle the charging spaces.

 

Before the ban I had complained several times about the rules for the chargers not being enforced and this is still happening.  I often see Plug-in cars, most often Teslas, parked in the charging spots but not connected to the charger.  Since the chargers are not getting used much anymore I am also seeing an increase in the number of times the chargers are ICED.  On at least 2 occasions since the start of the year I have seen traffic enforcement drive past illegally parked cars and not even look to see if they are charging.

 

I said a long time ago that free charging would eventually go away and I see that this is beginning to happen.  Santa Monica is now considering pricing their chargers but they are also planning on adding a whole lot more chargers around the city.  The addition of charging fees also puts pressure on other sites that still have free parking so sites like those served with Voltec chargers are becoming much more heavily utilized.  It is now quite difficult to drive down to the ones around West LA and find one that is not in use.

 

The thing about pricing is that it makes the chargers available to those that really need to charge but it becomes counter productive if the cost is too great.  The Beverly Hills chargers work out at the equivalent to me of gas at $2.50 per gallon so it is cheaper to charge than to pump gas.  The chargers at Century City Shopping Center are the equivalent for me to $5.50 per gallon of gas so it is cheaper to fill up the tank.  I'm an outlier as I can only charge at 2.4 KW which makes station charges very expensive, but when setting prices Cities still need to make sure that they don't make them too expensive that everyone continues to use gas.


Sunday January 27, 2018 – Misinformation Campaigns – I just read an interesting article by Graham Readfearn on Desmogblog that warned about underestimating the power of the ongoing misinformation campaign being funded by elements in the fossil fuel industry.  It was based on a paper by Yale University Professors Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle in the journal Nature Climate Change. 

 

It has long been known that a misinformation campaign has been waged to shed doubt on the idea of global warming by the fossil fuel industry.  The fossil fuel industry itself has mostly now admitted that burning fossil fuels is the major cause of the warming that has been happening since the start of the industrial revolution but they are still funding groups that spread disinformation about global warming.  The reason is not hard to fathom, trillions of dollars worth of assets will have to be left in the ground if we stop burning fossil fuels.

 

Such misinformation campaigns didn't start with the fossil fuel industry.  Back in the 1980s it was becoming very apparent that smoking was a leading cause of cancer and a whole lot of other issues.  The government was moving to stop smoking and that would cause major issues for the tobacco industry.  In 1984 the Heartland Institute was founded and, with major contributions from the tobacco industry, began a campaign to shed doubt on the research that showed a link between smoking and cancer.  This campaign was so successful that millions of Americans still smoke and many younger Americans start smoking each day. 

 

In the 1990s they started the same sort of disinformation campaign aimed at global warming.  Their stance has varied over time but has generally been that two thirds of global warming was due to natural causes.  They also contended that global warming stopped in 1998 and that the predicted effects are the result of shoddy science.  They had a small group of scientists who would produce reports, give presentations at events hosted by the Hartland Institute, and write op-ed pieces in national newspapers.  Closer inspection usually showed that their conclusions were based on cherry picked data.  Information leaked in 2012 showed that major contributions to the Heartland Institute's funding came from the fossil fuel industry.

 

Heartland Institute is not alone in using such strategies to try and shed doubt on global warming.  There are many other groups such as the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK.  They are often backed by right wing media outlets like the Daily Caller who often publish the misinformation coming from these groups.

 

The main thrust of the paper being reported on was the ways that this misinformation could be countered.  The article itself had a table at the bottom that listed the facts we know about global warming, the myths used in the disinformation campaign, and the fallacy that this myth represents. 

 

I have to say that I had a little bit of a problem with some of the facts as they were written.  For example the "Human emissions are responsible for all of the increase in CO2 in the air over the past two centuries."  While this is close to accurate it has to be acknowledged that a small part of the rise can be attributable to volcanic eruptions.  Carbon Isotope analysis does show that most of the increase is caused by burning fossil fuels though.  The disinformation is that volcanoes account for most of the increase in greenhouse gases and in the Fallacy they do say that the amount attributed to volcanoes over the last 200 years "are too small to account for the observed changes". 

 

The final answer here is not to take one of these articles that attempt to show that global warming is not happening at face value, but to do your own research.  That is especially true when the author is associated with one of the groups like Heartland Institute.  Sites like Desmog Blog and Skeptical Science will often highlight such articles and show where the fallacy or cherry picked data was used

 

One of the worst things in my opinion is that many of these sites, including Heartland Institute, are set up as non-profits so contributions to them are tax deductible.  Since such groups just push out propaganda, and don't do anything to help the less fortunate, I think that the rules for charitable contributions need to be seriously modified.  To me it is totally unacceptable that my tax dollars are going to people who fund organizations that are not helping anyone except those making the contributions.

 

The stakes are high here.  We are not talking about a few people who keep smoking because they don't want to believe that it has negative health effects, even though this costs millions of dollars in healthcare costs.  The last time that CO2 levels rose as quickly as they are at the moment led to the End Permian Extinction.  A repeat of this situation would be the end of the human race and most life on this planet.  We can't afford to let that happen.


Sunday January 20, 2019 – NAIAS More Promise Than Product – The 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is currently underway in Detroit but apart from a few plug-in concept cars the emphasis has been on SUVs and Trucks.  Electric Vehicles have been pretty scarce on the ground.

 

Part of this is because some of the big EV players, especially Audi, and  BMW, that are expected to launch a new EV some time this year, have forgone the NAIAS completely. America's big three and giants like Toyota and Honda did attend but did not present any new electric cars that are likely to make the showrooms this year.


That's not to say that there weren't huge announcements and even a few pure EV concept cars but most of the new entries that are likely to hit the streets were already announced at either the 2018 LA Auto Show or CES.  For example the Nissan Leaf e+, the version of the Leaf that has a 62 KWh battery pack and offers 226 miles on a charge, was first shown at CES. 

 

One of the most interesting set of concept vehicles came from Chinese car builder GAC.  GAC has been planning on entering the US market by 2020 and have been showing vehicles at NAIAS for several years.  This year they had 2 electric vehicles on display.  One was a full sized SUV concept that doesn't look anywhere close to being production ready, and the second vehicle was a smaller crossover which looks like it would be ready for market and would probably end up with an EPA rating of around 150 miles range on a charge.  Entry into the US market may be delayed by the on-going tariff wars going on currently between the US and China, and it is widely expected that GAC will first enter the market with an ICE powered compact sedan, but with China being a powerhouse in electric vehicles they are a company to watch..


GM announced that Cadillac would be their future brand leader for electric vehicles and showed off an electric crossover concept which is apparently being built on a new platform designed to help GM roll out a number of electric cars over the next 5 years.  Cadillac itself will roll out a new model every 6 months although not all of these will be electric.  The concept car they showed didn't really look like it was production ready so we will need to watch for their first EV which should see the light of day some time in the latter half of this year.

 

Ford also said that it was going to be increasing spending on electric vehicles and indicated that an electric version of their best selling F-150 Truck was being worked on.  This is no doubt a reaction to the possible arrival of a pickup truck from Tesla and a few other companies, especially Rivian, that are likely to be offering an all electric pickup in the next few years.  Ford also indicated a planned to release and electric version of the Bullet Mustang in about 3 years.  In all they say they will be developing 16 battery powered vehicles over the next 5 years. 

 

Ford also announced a partnership with VW which may include working together on electric vehicles.  For its part VW announced that they are spending $800 Million on upgrades to their plant in Chattanooga, TN where they will start building electric vehicles in 2022.  This is about par for VW who always seem to be adding electric cars three years in the future.  They already build a number of plug-in cars for sale in Europe but so far the e-Golf is the only one they sell here and they always seems to be in short supply.  To be fair they do have a couple of plug-in models selling in their Porsche division and one for Audi and Mini divisions but they do seem to be lagging the field with pure electrics.

 

Infiniti also showed an all electric crossover vehicle but this again was not production ready.  In fact it was so not production ready that when they debuted it the car wouldn't start so they ended up having to push it on stage.  Infiniti has a habit of showing off lots of concept cars with very few of them making it to market.  I suspect this is another one that is going to be just a one off show car.

 

By the end of the press week there was a lot of promises of electric cars but the reality is that the majority of vehicles being announced were bigger and less fuel efficient conventionally powered vehicles.  It's time for the automakers to step up and start working to bring cost down and provide more electric vehicles across the US market.  The Chinese are starting make the electric vehicle space their own and are hungrily eyeing the US market.  Only Tesla has shown any real drive to produce electric vehicles in large numbers.  The other carmakers need to step up and start making electric cars that are sold nationwide and are promoted so they sell well.  If not the Chinese automakers with "eat their lunch".


Sunday January 13, 2019 – The Petroleum Paradox – Back when the EV1 was still on the road there was a lot of discussion about the end of petroleum; the time when petroleum would run out.  EV activist Doug Korthof, who sadly is no longer with  us, always used to say that we would never run out of petroleum.

 

What he meant by that is that as crude oil became scarce the price would have to rise and this would cause demand to reduce.  At some point crude would become so expensive that nobody would use it anymore.  This is the normal supply and demand that you will learn about in Economics 101 and is normally valid for raw materials. 

 

Supply and demand works for crude oil too but there is a couple of factors that have been impacting this.  In a normal situation, as price of the raw material falls the cost of making an item falls, and if this is passed along to the consumer it means that people buy more of the article.  In the case of gas it means that it becomes cheaper to travel so people can travel further for the same cost.  However, what tends to happen is that people spend the extra money on buying a bigger vehicle that uses fuel less efficiently so they travel the same distance for the same price.  This has the tendency to push up gas consumption, which increases the amount of crude needed, which tends to send prices back up.

 

There is another factor at work in the current market.  People are starting to move away from gas engines towards electric cars.  This causes the demand for gas to fall and that pushes the cost down.  This causes people to buy larger ICE vehicles which once again increases consumption.  Even though we have seen a large number of electric cars being sold, at the same time we have also seen an increase in gas consumption.

 

There is another factor that also impacts crude supply and demand.  The cost to extract crude oil is not constant.  Some oil is close to the service and is very easy and cheap to extract but as this runs out oil companies have had to drill deeper wells, wells must be sighted offshore, and have also had to extract oil from tar sands.  The more oil that is extracted from an oil field the harder it becomes to keep the oil  flowing.  To keep up pressure water, or gases like methane has to be injected into the field to force oil out.  This increases the cost of extracting the crude.

 

The creates a problem and as the easy fields become worked out the cost of extraction increases.  This means there is a limit to the price that the oil can be sold at.  We have already seen situations where tar sand oil extraction has been stopped because crude oil prices have dropped so low that extraction is no longer economical.

 

So we have this paradox, alternatives to gas cause prices to fall, which in turn causes less efficient usage, which causes prices to increase, which causes people to start using alternatives to gas.

 

There is a second paradox here too.  People know that burning fossil fuels in bad for them yet they not only continue to burn fossil fuels but also make the move to less efficient vehicles when the cost of gas falls.

 

In the end we have to recognize that burning petroleum as a fuel is having a very negative impact on both our health and the health of this planet.  The good news is that as more people make the move to electric vehicles they tend to stay with them rather than move back to gas when prices are low.  Eventually we will hit a trigger point where people will begin to see electric as the desirable option.


Sunday January 6, 2019 – 2018 Q4 Sales Overview - 2018 is now in the history books and it turned out to be the best year for EV sales ever, by quite a lot.  The final quarter of 2018 saw Plug-in sales climb to 126,562 led by a huge push from Tesla.  This lead to total sales for the year estimated at 361,307 cars.

Sales for the the final quarter of 2018 were higher than the the full year sales for all proceeding years except 2016 and 2017 and total year sales for 2018 represented an increase of 81% over 2017.

Tesla model 3 continued to dominate sales with a total estimated sales for the quarter of 61,650 cars and 139,782 cars for the year.  Sales of the model 3 in 2018 exceeded all sales of plug-in cars for year 2015 and earlier years.  Tesla also racked up second and third best sellers with  the Model X selling 8,525 cars for the quarter and the Model S selling 7,350 cars for the quater.

The Toyota Prius Prime was the best selling PHEV for the quarter and the 4th best seller overall with 7.072 cars sold.  Snapping at the heals of the Prius Prime was the Honda Clarity PHEV which sold 6,692 cars over the quarter and 5th place overall.

The Chevy Bolt placed 6th with sales of 6.212 cars followed by the soon to be discontinued Volt with a rather disappointing 5,063 cars.  Now that the Chevy Spark EV and Cadillac ELR have been discontinued the only other plug-in that GM has on sale is the Cadillac CT6 PHEV which managed to sell only 34 copies in the fourth quarter.

This quarter there is a new kid on the block, the Jaguar i-Pace.  The i-Pace went on sale at the start of the forth quarter of 2018 and have grown month over month since then for a total of 393 cars for the year with the bulk of the sales happening in December.  The press made a big deal of the i-Pace outselling all Teslas combined in the Netherlands in December so I thought that I should point out that the Tesla Model 3 outsold all Jaguars combined here in the US in October, November, and December.

While Tesla sales move ahead Ford appears to be winding down plug-in sales.  The C-Max Energi is now gone and the Focus EV sold only 2 copies in the fourth quarter.  That leaves only the Fusion Energi which sold Just 2,374 cars during the quarter.  It appears that the Fusion may also be on the way out so unless Ford has some new plug-in ready to make its debut at CES or the Detroit Auto Show they may well be out of the EV business by the end of 2019.

Most of the other cars on sale are being sold in small volume.  It appears that the low range cars like the Ford Focus EV and the Honda Clarity EV are being shut out by longer range models like the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt.  With more of these coming into dealerships in early 2019 it appears that the shorter range models will begin to disappear from showrooms.  The same appears to be happening in the plug-in hybrid market too.  Short range plug-ins like the offerings from BMW are slowly loosing ground to the longer range vehicles like the Prius Prime and Honda Clarity PHEV.  Toyota could sell many more Prius Prime if the wished, it is still only available in states that follow the CARB emission rules.  The Honda Clarity is likely to pick up  sales that would have gone to the Chevy Volt once that goes out of production..

December also saw the sale of Hyundai's next generation fuel cell vehicle the Nexo.  Hyundai does not normally release sales numbers for its Fuel Cell vehicles but we do not that at least one was delivered to a customer in December.  Honda also doesn't break out sales of fuel cell vehicles but the numbers are expected to be quite low.  During the quarter Toyota delivered 545 Mirai.

Audi showed off their e-tron GT concept. The car is driven by a 90 KWh battery that will give the car a range of 248 miles. 0-6 time is a fast 3.5 seconds and the car can hit a top speed of 149 mph. While this car has nothing like the range of the Tesla Model S 100D it is the first car I have seen so far that looks like it could offer a challenge to the Tesla Sedan. There was no indication if this car would actually be put into production although it did look close to being production ready.

While looking around the Audi stand, I did notice on omission, I couldn’t find an A3 e-Tron Sportsback. What I did find was an all-electric SUV, the e-Tron 55 Quatro. The e-Tron 55 Quatro comes with a 95 KWh battery pack. The EPA range is not yet available for this SUV but it is expected to come in at around 250 miles. It will also include the 800-volt charging option that allows it to charge up to 80% in as little as 20 minutes. The car can go 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds are speed tops out at 124 mph.

The car has a base price of $74,800 and can be ordered through the Audi USA web site with deliveries expected to start in the second quarter

BMW staged the world premier of the BMW Vision i-Next concept vehicle. The i-Next was a crossover type vehicle but apart from it being electric there was very little information about the specifications other than that they were in the process of developing the 5th generation electric drive train. They did mention that it would be fully autonomous.

VW were looking to fill a niche in local deliveries with the new I.D. Buzz Cargo. This is a panel van based on the I.D. Buzz platform. This concept is said to have an all-electric range of up to 340 miles depending on the battery option chosen. It also came with a solar roof and a digital cargo system to manage deliveries.

VW gave no indication of when this vehicle might be placed into production or if it would be offered in the USA.

I was disappointed to find out that Subaru was not having a press conference as they had announced the Crosstrek plug-in hybrid was going to be at the show. I took a walk around there stand and they did have a couple on display.

Outwardly the PHEV is the same as the standard Crosstrek but under the covers the 2.0 liter engine is mated to what is essentially the hybrid power train from the Prius Prime. The car has the same 8.8 KWh lithium Ion battery as the prime and this will offer up about 17 miles of all electric range which I found disappointing. Also like the Prius Prime the battery pack intrudes into the cargo area reducing cargo space.

The CrossTrek PHEV starts at a base price of $35,950 but will be eligible for a $4,500 federal tax credit. There was no indication of when the car would be available in the US but I expect to see it towards the end of the first quarter.

I was also somewhat disappointed with the Mitsubishi press conference. They did have the world premier of their new e-Evolution concept. This is a fully electric car that actually looked a little similar to the BMW Vision i-Next.

Being a concept car there were few details available about the e-Evolution drive train other than to note that it used a 3-motor system to give full four-wheel drive. There is a single motor driving the front wheels with two additional motors to drive the rear wheels.

The concept looked quite interesting but it was just a concept and looked nowhere near being production ready. I was expecting something more from them, perhaps a replacement for the now defunct i-MiEV.

 

I don't expect January to be a huge month for Plug-in car sales.  Traditionally people have rushed to get cars before the end of the year in order to get the tax credit.  This was particularly true for people buying Teslas as the $7,500 tax credit gets cut in half for sales starting in January 2019.  Tesla appeared to be selling anything that wasn't nailed down.  I walked by their Century City Showroom last week and even their display Model X was gone.  It has been reported that inventory of the Model 3 had dropped to just 3,000 cars by the end of the month.  In January expect sales to switch focus to international sales as they begin model 3 deliveries in Europe in ernest.

 

We do have some interesting things to look forward to.  First there are some new 200+ mile range EVs doing on sale soon including the 200+ mile range Kia Soul and Kia Niro EV; the 258 mile range Hyundai Kona; and the 200+mile range Audi e-tron Quatro.   We should also see the base model Tesla Model 3 begin production and perhaps the long range versions of the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.  2019 will be an exciting year for plug-in cars.