GM is about to create the largest fleet of self-driving cars in the world. According to documents filed with the US Federal Communications Commission, the automaker will deploy 300 self-driving Chevy Bolts, perhaps beginning as soon as next month. The electric cars will include both new short- and medium-range radars. Each vehicle will have 10 radars to help it gather data to avoid collisions, test during rare traffic events, and demonstrate the technology. GM says it currently is operating more than 50 Bolts with autonomous technology in the US cities of San Francisco, Detroit and Scottsdale, Arizona. GM’s goal is to introduce commercial versions of these cars in ride-sharing programs.

study by the Boston Consulting Group projects that by 2030, a quarter of all miles driven in the US will be in self-driving electric cars. The reason given is that residents in large cities will shift their driving habits thanks to a convergence of three emerging trends: ride-sharing, autonomous cars, and vehicle electrification. Driving in a vehicle that captures all three-in-one makes for a “far more compelling economic case than any of these forces alone.” Due to their ability to cut travel costs by 60%, shared autonomous EVs could shift about 25% of miles traveled from private automobiles-—creating enormous benefits for consumers as well as causing major disruption to the automotive industry. By 2030 more than 5 million conventional cars per year could be replaced by a combination of fully autonomous electric vehicles for urban fleets and partially autonomous cars for personal use. The authors of the study think this shift will begin gradually by the beginning of next decade, and “likely” occur in cities with more than 1 million people. “Such an evolution in mobility is no longer a fantasy. The technology exists and our research shows that many consumers will embrace it.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen has agreed to build a nationwide network of 150 kilowatt+ fast-charging stations along US highways.  The agreement is part of the German auto companies agreement to invest $2 billion in electric vehicle infrastructure in that country as part of its diesel emissions fiasco. The network will include ultra fast 320 kw chargers in the state of California. The chargers will be open to other vehicles as well.  Volkswagen has set up a new subsidiary called Electrify America to build the network. The plan is to have 240 chargers in place in 39 states by 2020.

Bloomberg has a video on how electric vehicle charging will impact electric power systems.

While Germany is moving fast forward to replace coal and nuclear with wind and solar, its population is not that much interested in electric vehicles. Out of 3.4 million new cars registered in Germany in 2016, only 11,000 were fully electric and 47,996 were hybrids. Meanwhile, the petrol SUV and offroad segment saw a 19% surge in new registrations from the year. According to according to Gregor Kolbe, a transport and consumer politics expert at the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, EV range, infrastructure, and price are creating a barrier to the take up of these vehicles. “While electric cars may suffice for whizzing around town, many Germans like to use their cars to go on weekend trips and vacations, something which heavily influences their purchase decision. Germans are used to jumping in their cars and driving 600 or 700, even 1000 kilometers without the need to fill up the tank, and there’s always a gas station nearby. ” Moreover, the public charging stations in Germany are a mix of different ways to pay, from cash, to cards to pre-pay options — adding to drivers’ anxiety about being stranded mid-journey.  In addition, the government incentive of a €4,000 rebate when you buy an electric car has been a failure as it does not bring down the price of an EV significantly. For example, an electric VW Golf costs upwards of €35,000 (US$37,000) while a standard petrol Golf costs between €17,000 and €27,000.

In response to Germany’s low take up of electric vehicles, Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, Maria Krautzenberger, wants auto manufacturers to be held to a minimum electric vehicle sales quota. She argues that without such a quota, her country won’t achieve its climate agreement targets. She is also highly critical of her government’s subsidies for diesel cars. She would like to see 12 million EVs on the road by 2030. That figure currently rests at around 25,000. “A target of 12 million electric vehicles is an ambitious goal, which we won’t reach if we rely solely on the car industry. That’s why government needs to give car makers a quota.”

The Canadian province of Quebec, hoping to be the country’s leader in electric cars, announced a $4.4 million investment into the industry. The funds will be spent over the next five years to promote research and development as well as the design and manufacturing of electric cars in the province. Of the 100,000 electric vehicles sold in Canada, half of those have been in Quebec. The province wants 100,000 EVs on its roads by 2020. Quebec provides incentives for companies and individuals to purchase electric vehicles: up to $8,000 for electric cars, and up to $4,000 for hybrids. In addition, next year the province intends to force car companies in the province to make, produce and sell more EVs.

Researchers at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology say that electric vehicles can’t be considered truly green vehicles because electricity being fed into these vehicles is still coming from power plants that use fossil fuels. For electric vehicles to be truly green, electricity needs to be produced solely from renewable energy sources. The researches say that when considering greenhouse gas emissions it was important to acknowledge the difference between on-road emissions only taking into account the fuel used, and well-to-wheel emissions including all emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution and use. Their study found that an EV using electricity generated from coal produces 139 grams CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions, compared with only 9 grams CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions with electricity from renewable energy sources.

 

 

 

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