Ford Motor Company announced its focus is on next-generation automotive technology and especially electric vehicles and self-driving technology. By 2020, the firm plans to spend at least $4.5 billion on EV technologies and introduce 13 new electric vehicles with a focus on commercial transport, trucks, and performance vehicles. By that time EVs will make up 40% of Ford’s overall product lineup. In addition Fords wants to produce an autonomous vehicle which is able to operate independently in ride-sharing schemes by 2021.
The US city of Seattle has set a goal of having 30% of all light-duty vehicles in the city operate under electric power by 2030. To accomplish this, the city says it will expand electric vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations, to encourage and serve the electric vehicle demand. City staff currently uses 80 fully electric vehicles, 17 plug-in hybrids, and over 500 conventional hybrid vehicles.
Denmark is an example of how changes in government policy affect people’s buying habits. Since the government changed its tax policy for electric cars on January 1st of this year, EV sales have plummeted. Until the end of 2015, electric cars were exempt from Denmark’s whopping taxes on new cars, which can reach as much as 180% of the sales price. Not surprisingly, sales of electric cars were strong. Now, EV sales are down 80% from last year since electric car buyers were are now assessed a tax equal to 20% of the purchase price. And too make things worse, taxes on petrol cars have been reduced, making them less expensive than EVs. And more trouble is in store next year when the EV tax will be doubled to 40%.
Similarly, EV sales declined in the UK when the halved the subsidy to purchase one of these vehicles to £2,500. 17,500 electric cars were registered in the UK in the first three months of the year as motorists took advantage of the grants before they were cut. However, between April and June, when the subsidy was cut, only 4,500 were purchased, or a drop of 75%.
Vehicles equipped with hydrogen fuel cells are on track to catch up with battery electric vehicles in the coming years, according to the Global Market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles report. The report projects that globally, over 20 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be sold cumulatively by 2032. These vehicles will be the fastest growing segment of the auto market by 2050. Early users of these vehicle will be fleets and high-end consumers. As fueling infrastructure expands in the 2020’s, hydrogen vehicles will begin to garner grater market acceptance with 5 million sold in the year 2032. Currently the Asian automakers Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are embracing fuel cell technology but more automakers are expected to enter this market in the next decade. Japan will have a hydrogen refueling network in place for the 2020 Summer Olympic games while Denmark, Germany and the UK are aggressively building hydrogen stations in Europe.
Europe’s first megawatt industrial hydrogen fuel cell power plant is now in operation. The 1.4 megawatt plant in Mannheim, Germany will produce heat and electricity for FRIATEC, a supplier of non-corroding and wear-resistant materials.
Bireli Lagrene Gypsy Jazz Trio playing “All of Me”
The Secretary-General of OPEC said that the upcoming meeting in Algiers on September 26-27 to discuss world crude oil prices will be an informal one and that no decisions will be made. OPEC, which lives on oil revenues, would like to see prices much higher, but it is becoming apparent to the markets that oil exporters are not prepared to restrict production at this time. Many oil traders believe that a crude price rebound to above $60 a barrel would simply trigger an increase in US shale oil production, wiping out any cuts that OPEC might make.
The International Energy Agency reports that we are now seeing the longest period of decline in investment in the global energy industry in nearly 50 years. The Agency notes that there is a broad shift towards spending on renewable energy, some of which is being pushed by government policies and the rest by economics. Investment banker Goldman Sachs says the decline in investment will not affect crude oil production capacity until about 2020 and that we should not expect a major rebound in prices due to oil shortages until then.
Saudi Arabia has retaken the position of the world’s top crude oil producer from the US, according to the International Energy Agency. The Saudis have added an extra 400,000 barrels a day of output from low-cost fields since May while 460,000 barrels a day of higher cost production has been shut down in the US.
The large Kashagan oil field in Central Asia has taken 16 years and more than $50 billion to bring to the verge of production. Yet it could take another decade to reach its potential, with initial output at half the forecast level. The Caspian Sea project was designed for a world of $100 a barrel oil prices. It is expected to re-start this fall, just at the time when world oil prices have fallen almost by half. The project has suffered from its remote location, its immense depth, and high levels of corrosive toxic gas causing numerous pipeline leaks.
India’s gasoline consumption is growing rapidly as millions of additional households purchase automobiles and motorcycles amid growing prosperity. Gasoline consumption this summer increased nearly 15% from a year earlier.
The International Energy Agency said solar installation costs have declined 60% since 2010.
In China, a new high-speed railway line between Zhengzhou (in central Henan Province) and Xuzhou (in eastern Jiangsu Province) has begun to operate. This brings the total length of high-speed rail track in the Asian country to over 20,000 kilometers. Trains running on the new 360-kilometer-long track travel at a speed of 300 km per hour.
US manufacturer Proterra introduced a new electric bus, the Catalyst E2 series, named for its Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity of 440 – 660 kilowatt-hours. Its range of 194 – 350 miles means the Catalyst E2 series is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every US mass transit route on a single charge.
The US government is publishing autonomous vehicle guidelines this week. This is the federal government’s first attempt to regulate the emerging technology, which is already on the road in some parts of the country. The US is asserting its right to approve the computer software that operates self-driving vehicles. The Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles have the goal of bringing symmetry among the states for the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. They also introduce a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies that range from data recording and sharing of information, to vehicle cybersecurity protocols.
with h/t Tom Whipple