China is putting a gun to the heads of its automakers. “By 2018,” the Wall Street Journal reported today, electric vehicles “must account for 8% of the maker’s production, and the percentage will rise from there.” Before the news are tweeted around the world, please note that the Journal is a bit ahead of its times. Currently, the rules are still in draft form, and a lot can change before the final regs are handed down. One thing is clear however: China’s government is forcing the electrification of its own auto industry, and quite literally so, as the bulk of China’s auto manufacturers are state-owned, in one way or the other. Message from Beijing: Make electric cars, or die. “Chinese state media has trumpeted the regulations as essentially barring car makers that don’t have new-energy capabilities,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced plans to produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2018 and a million units per year by 2020, he set his young company on the most ambitious course of expansion the auto industry has ever seen. Without a clear historical precedent for Tesla’s meteoric trajectory and unconventional methods, it can be quite difficult to predict all the challenges this unique automaker might face or how it might approach them. Only one such challenge stands out as being as foreseeable as it is implacable: the environmental regulations that Tesla must navigate as it seeks to expand its Fremont, CA plant.
Because Tesla’s only factory is located in California’s densely-populated San Francisco Bay Area, the electric automaker’s manufacturing operations are subject to some of the toughest environmental regulations found anywhere in the US auto industry. The Daily Kanban has already reported on one instance of environmental permit non-compliance at Tesla’s Fremont plant, and our ongoing investigation in consultation with air quality permitting professionals reveals that Tesla’s unprecedented expansion plans will create equally unprecedented regulatory challenges. [Continue Reading]
There is one thing Tesla can be proud of: Automakers around the world are getting off their duffs. Today, French carmaker Renault announced at the Paris auto show that its fully electric “ZOE will be available for immediate sale with the Z.E. 40 battery enabling it to travel 400km NEDC.” The car is just one in a wave of longer range EVs, launched by major automakers to compete with Tesla’s Model 3, which is not expected to appear in serious quantities before 2018.
EU carmakers race to replace discredited diesel engines with something more palatable, and today’s flurry of electric car announcements at the Paris auto show are testament. Japan’s Nissan embarks on a pincer attack against diesel. Nissan leads world markets with its all-electric LEAF. Today however, the company showed something more conventional, and yet revolutionary, that might hasten diesel’s demise: An engine with all the power, but none of the NOx.
This morning, Germany’s usually well-informed Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had a gem of a headline: “CO2 manipulation at VW vanishes into thin air.” According to the report, it was largely a false alarm. A few hours later, Volkswagen issued a statement, saying that the CO2 issue is “largely concluded.” [Continue Reading]
Germany’s environmental organization Deutsche Umwelt Hilfe (DUH) is expected to expose another diesel cheater. Says DUH: [Continue Reading]
Last week, Toyota trucked a group of journalists to the Fuji racetrack for a heavily embargoed test drive of the new Prius. On the design of the 4th generation model, the consensus of the media was that it is an acquired taste. All present were in agreement that in terms of drivability, the difference between current and new Prius is like night and day. I understand that U.S. journalists were invited to a likewise embargoed drive event in Southern California. When this story goes on-line, and possibly a bit earlier, there will be loads of articles about design and drivability, so let’s focus on the big mysteries of the 4th gen Prius: its 4 wheel drive, and its batteries.