Zero Emission

No more gas or diesel cars in California? State considers ban

Get ready to scrap your gas guzzler. And your gas sipper, too.

California’s chief air-pollution regulator said this week the state is considering a ban on cars fueled by internal-combustion engines.

While the ban would be at least a decade away, Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said putting California motorists in an all-electric fleet would help the state meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tailpipes generate more than one-third of all greenhouse gases, according to state data, and so far only a small fraction of California’s motorists drive electric vehicles.

Nichols made the comment in an interview with Bloomberg news, saying Gov. Jerry Brown has been asking her about a ban on gas- and diesel-powered cars announced recently by China.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” Nichols told Bloomberg.

Chinese leaders said earlier this month they plan to phase out internal-combustion cars at some point, although they haven’t set a date. The United Kingdom and France said in July they would ban such vehicles by 2040.

Predictably, Nichols’ comments sent the auto world buzzing, given California’s status as an automotive trendsetter and its aggressive push to crack down on air pollution and eliminate fossil fuels from everyday life. Regulations imposed by the Air Resources Board in California often become industry standard.

“That’s a pretty powerful statement,” said Rick Niello, who runs a chain of high-end car dealerships in the Sacramento area. “The devil would be in the details.”

Niello questioned how a ban would play out: Would California limit the ban to new models and let people drive their old cars? Could the state’s electrical grid handle everyone’s electric vehicles plugged in every night? How would the state deal with issues of affordability for the poor?

“How do you take care of the people that need transportation when you want to yank their car away from them?” Niello said. “I hope they’ve thought about that. Because if they haven’t, the backlash would be rather significant.”

Karl Brauer, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book in Southern California, dismissed Nichols’ prediction as simply unrealistic.

Electric cars “have come a long way” but still face enormous limitations, Brauer said. In particular, most vehicles can’t go much beyond 200 miles without having to be recharged, and having millions of cars on the road in California would simply overwhelm the available charging stations, he said. Brauer said he doesn’t expect that problem to be resolved for many years.

Automakers took a dim if somewhat measured view.

“We have been working with California on intelligent, market-based approaches to emissions reductions beyond 2025, and we hope that this doesn’t signal an abandonment of that position,” said John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, in a prepared statement. “To reach our goals, we will need continued investment in new technologies, the infrastructure to support them, and, perhaps most importantly, consumers who will want to buy them.” The association represents foreign automakers’ U.S. divisions.

Dan Sperling, a UC Davis transportation professor who serves on the Air Resources Board with Nichols, said the chairwoman’s comments are roughly in line with other ambitious air-pollution goals and mandates established by California lawmakers and policymakers in recent years.

For instance, a law signed by Brown last year requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The Air Resources Board has established an informal goal of having electric vehicles make up 40 percent of California’s cars by 2030.

Nichols’ statement “is not far from the kinds of things California is proceeding with … albeit at the upper limit,” Sperling said.

He said a ban in 10 years probably isn’t realistic. But it could happen in, say, a quarter century.

“It’s not unreasonable to think about essentially having all light-duty (car) sales by electric vehicles by 2040,” Sperling said.

How California would impose such a ban wasn’t clear. Although the state has the power to set its own air pollution standards, it needs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval to do so. Nichols acknowledged that the Trump administration, which is already feuding with the Air Resources Board over greenhouse gases, almost certainly wouldn’t allow California to impose a ban on internal-combustion engine vehicles.

“I think we would be looking at using some of our other authorities to get to that result,” Nichols said.

A ban on gas and diesel vehicles could have dire implications for California’s oil industry, which is one of the largest in the country. California oil production is centered mainly around Kern County and parts of Southern California.

California has labored to increase the use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, providing rebates of at least $1,500 for purchases or long-term leases of “clean” cars. Californians drive about 250,000 clean cars, or about half of all the clean cars on the road in America.

Nonetheless, the vehicles have struggled to gain acceptance, even in California. Electrics and plug-ins accounted for only 46,000 sales in the first half of 2017, less than 5 percent of the total, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. The increasing popularity of bigger cars and “light trucks” in recent years, including pickups, vans and SUVs, has frustrated California’s efforts to ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation generates 37 percent of all greenhouse gases in California, more than any other source of emissions.

Nichols’ statement came at a pivotal moment in the war on carbon. California is fighting with automakers and the Trump administration over federal rules, put in place by former President Barack Obama, that will require automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new vehicles by about one-third by 2025.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is thinking of relaxing those rules. California has signaled that it will defy the EPA and stick with the mandates developed during the Obama administration. Because California represents such a large share of the U.S. market, automakers are trying to forge a compromise between Sacramento and Washington.

As much as California officials have pushed to phase out fossil fuels, the state has blinked at times. Notably, the Legislature this year failed to pass SB 100, which would have required the state’s electric utilities to use solar, wind and other renewable energy sources for 100 percent of their power by 2045.


September 27, 2017 / by / in ,
Cummins unveils an electric big rig weeks before Tesla

Sorry, Tesla, but someone just stole the thunder from the electric big rig you were planning to unveil this fall. The engine giant Cummins has unveiled a concept semi truck, the AEOS, that runs entirely on the power of an electric motor and a 140kWh battery pack. It’s roughly as powerful as a 12-liter fossil fuel engine and could haul 44,000 pounds of cargo, just without the emissions or rampant fuel costs of a conventional truck. There’s speedy 1-hour charging, and Cummins is even looking at solar panels on the trailer to extend range. It’s a promising offering, although Elon Musk and crew might not lose too much sleep knowing the limitations.

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For one thing, range is a sore point. You’re looking at a modest 100-mile range with that 140kWh pack. That’s fine for inter-city deliveries, but it won’t cut the mustard for longer trips. And while there’s talk of extending that distance to 300 miles with extra packs, that would only make it competitive with Tesla’s anticipated 200- to 300-mile range.

And more importantly, this is a concept, not a production vehicle ready to roll off the manufacturing line. There should be a production model in a couple of years, according to CNET, but that gives Tesla plenty of time to get its own EV semi on the road. Not that we’re going to complain about both companies having a fighting chance — more electric big rigs means more competition and fewer polluting trucks.


August 31, 2017 / by / in ,
Virtually all automakers (except for Tesla) are asking China to slow down electric car mandate

The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles.

Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate.

As we previously reported, China, the world’s biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force Automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020.

Now Germany’s WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

“Because we have common concerns with the proposed NEV rules, we have joined together to offer, with utmost respect, six recommended modifications that address those concerns while still meeting the goals of those rules and other related policies,” the letter said.

The “six recommended modifications” include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don’t meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don’t have to produce as many electric cars.

It’s not the first time that the auto industry banded together to weaken the rollout of electric cars. Virtually the exact same situation happened in an attempt to block EPA’s new fuel consumption standard in the US.

What is often left out of this conversation is that the auto industry is not the only thing that is at stake here. Basically, those automakers are asking the Chinese government to let them sell their polluting vehicles in their country for a longer period of time without penalties.

China has an important problem of air pollution that is believed to be the cause of over 4,000 deaths every day. This initiative is part of their campaign to reduce the air pollution in cities and its impact on the health of its population.

The country is also addressing the issue on the energy front by adding renewable energy on its grid faster than any country, which in turn, is making electric vehicles even greener by being powered by this increasingly greener electric grid.

Apparently, this is happening too fast for those automakers. While almost all of them have admitted at some point that electric cars are the future of the industry, those actions they are taking through their special interest groups are sending a different message.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.



July 13, 2017 / by / in
France considering a ban on all fossil fuel vehicles by 2040

France is considering banning the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, the country’s environmental minister said Thursday, according to multiple reports. It’s unclear, however, whether this proposal is an official position of French President Emmanuel Macron’s new government, and if so, how it will be implemented. But it’s a sign of France’s desire to be a leader in sustainable energy after the departure of the US from the Paris climate accord.

Nicolas Hulot, who is France’s minister of ecological and solidarity transition, said, “We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.” Hulot added that the move was a “veritable revolution,” while acknowledging the move would be tough for France’s automakers. “Our [car]makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise … which is also a public health issue,” he said, according to The Guardian.

The announcement was praised by environmentalist for going further than previous administrations in France. And automotive experts noted that by giving itself over 20 years to accomplish the goal, France’s government was sending a clear signal to auto manufacturers to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

The announcement comes a day after Volvo committed to phase out gas-only car production by 2019. It also puts France in line with some other European countries that have already committed to ending production of fossil fuel-burning vehicles. Norway has set a target for only allowing the sale of electric and plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. The Netherlands and Germany are also considering similar bans.

Electric vehicles will make up 54 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2040, up from the 35 percent share Bloomberg was forecasting just last year, according to a new report by the research group. Some have even argued that France’s proposal will be moot if electric vehicles end up taking over conventional cars more rapidly than most analysts predict.


PHOTO: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

July 6, 2017 / by / in
Fuel Technology Competing To Clean The Air

The San Pedro Bay Ports comprise the largest port complex in the United States, the third largest port complex, and continue to be the number one single source of air pollution in the South Coast Basin. This is mainly due to the number of diesel powered trucks and cargo equipment that move in and out of the complex daily.

What if we could change that? Can you imagine all those trucks moving all that cargo without emissions?

“There’s 42,000 cargo containers that move through the port of Los Angles every day. They’re moved around by 16,000 largely diesel trucks,” according to Toyota Motor North America Executive V.P. Bob Carter.

Last November Toyota announced they would be exploring the potential of a Heavy Duty truck with zero emissions. Though companies like TransPower have been making electric trucks for years, this was the first time a company with the breadth and reach of Toyota decided to enter the market. The announcement was further boosted by Tesla’s announcement last week that it too would produce a zero-emission heavy duty truck.

The Port of Los Angeles “Project Portal” was unveiled as the next step in Toyota’s effort to broaden the application of zero-emission fuel cell technology that can serve a range of industries. It is a fully functioning heavy duty truck with the power and torque capacity to conduct port drayage operations while emitting nothing but water vapor. Heavy duty vehicles make up a significant percentage of the annual emissions output at the Port of Los Angeles, and the Portal feasibility study may provide another path to further reduce emissions. The feasibility study will examine potential usage of fuel cell technology in heavy-duty applications and will begin this summer.

Portal is powered by the same fuel cell stacks used in the Mirai. Has ability of 670 horse power and 1325 pounds feet of torque, gross combined weight capacity of 80,000 pounds and more than an estimated driven range of 200 miles per hydrogen fill which would work for short haul drayage.

Also significant is that the third iteration of the San Pedro Bay CAAP demands more true zero emissions. This demonstration of hydrogen for now is a short haul feasibility study. The societal benefits that this can have on the quality of life of people and the environment considering the heavy amount of truck traffic that exist could be monumental.

Hydrogen fuel cells are not a new technology. Using compressed hydrogen as their fuel and releasing only water vapor as an emission have been in development for decades. It is only until recently that they have attained performance and range numbers good enough to replace an average driver’s gasoline-powered car.

I’ve heard the term “game changer” recently as examples of what fuels are driving the trucking industry to consider alternatives. What will truly be a game changer is what will be a commercially viable reality. We desperately need this otherwise Port communities will continue to suffer the disproportionate burden.

We need this technology and others like it to be a success. When they do this will change everything.


April 21, 2017 / by / in ,