High prices are a big reason for low electric vehicle sales volumes, which finally reached 1% of the U.S. market for the first time in June 2016. That hasn’t been the case on the used auto market, where plug-in vehicles have dominated this year. However, there are numerous other factors at work in the slow adoption of first-generation EVs.

According to a study released in May 2016, confusion reigns among consumers with regards to the segment. Most don’t know the basics about electric car range, hybrid or not, and a shockingly small percentage of those surveyed knew about available incentives. In other words, many consumers aren’t aware a car listed at $30,000 costs $22,500 or less after credits and may come with single-occupancy HOV lane access.

That sounds like more of a deal, and some of these cars are great buys. Here are the five cheapest electric vehicles on the market in 2016.

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Mired in a self imposed malaise composed of equal parts diesel exhaust and corporate malfeasance, Volkswagen is trying desperately to reposition itself as an electric car company and put the stink of its emissions cheating scandal behind it. During an interview near the company’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee recently, Hinrich Woebcken, the newest and latest head of Volkswagen’s US operations, confirmed the German auto maker plans to build electric vehicles in North America by 2020. “We believe that this country, especially in urban mobility, will have a very strong shift from petrol engines into hybridization and electric cars,” Mr. Woebcken said. “We are heavily investing in this one—including production in this North American region.”

Woebcken was short on details. He did not specify which models the company would build or where they would be built. In addition to the factory in Tennessee, Volkswagen also has a large production facility in Mexico. It would be good politics to build electric cars in the US to help mollify regulators who are threatening the company with billions in fines. The company has already agreed to pay nearly $15 billion to resolve legal claims brought by federal and state authorities.

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The White House on Thursday announced an array of new initiatives aimed at clinching one key goal in a transition away from burning fossil fuels — switching the nation’s millions of drivers from gas guzzlers to electric vehicles.

The key to this transition? Installing a widespread national network of electric vehicle charging stations that will allow potential drivers to get around a key psychological problem: “range anxiety.” At present, many people are justifiably afraid that they’ll run out of charge on their EV far from a station where they can repower its battery. We know it’s easy in most places to find a gas station, but we don’t know as much about charging stations. And without that assurance, EV sales will continue to be held back.

To change this, the White House announced a new designation of up to $4.5 billion in Energy Department loan guarantees to support new types of EV charging infrastructure, plans to designate and develop key electric vehicle “charging corridors” across the country, plans for the government itself to procure large numbers of electric vehicles and research initiatives at the Department of Energy and its laboratories to improve EV charging technologies.

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One of the more disheartening electric vehicle stories of the year was BMW pulling back on its plans to be an EV leader, rather than announcing a knockout, Tesla-Model-3-competing BMW i5 or other fully electric car. It was a bit of a shock since BMW made some exciting, gung-ho presentations about electric vehicles in the past few years as it rolled out its first i-brand cars, and it has been a leading seller of plug-in electrics. In fact, plug-in electric cars accounted for 15% of BMW’s passenger cars in North America last I checked.

So, where did BMW go wrong? Why is it shifting away from its plug-in leadership goals?

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Samsung Electronics is on the verge of making a substantial investment in BYD, a Chinese manufacturer of electric cars and batteries.

The Samsung investment comes as its chief rivals are investing in car tech and the market for car battery technology continues to grow.

The investment was first reported by the Korea Economic Daily, which said Samsung will pay 3 billion yuan ($450 million) for a 4 percent share of BYD. BYD later confirmed the two are in talks but did not confirm the investment size.

“Going forward, the parties will jointly seize opportunities in the rapid development of the global electric vehicles industry and promote sustainable development of the parties’ electric vehicles related businesses,” BYD said in a regulatory filing.

BYD is a well-known name in China and sold more than 60,000 electric cars last year. It’s hoping to double that this year.

Samsung is far from the only tech company looking to gain a foothold in the automobile market.

Apple recently spent $1 billion to buy a stake in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi and is widely rumored to be developing its own car.

Nearby in Silicon Valley, Google is developing self-driving car technology and its prototype vehicles are a common sight on the streets around its Mountain View headquarters.

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All driverless cars should be electric, greens tell DOT
By Ariel Wittenberg

Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to use self-driving cars as vehicles for greening U.S. transportation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Southern Environmental Law Center asked the Department of Transportation and U.S. EPA to “evaluate ways for autonomous vehicle fleets to accelerate the transition to zero emissions, electric-drive vehicles and allow for further integration of renewable electricity.”

“While some autonomous vehicle pilot projects involve electric-drive vehicles, automakers will also deploy technologies to vehicles that rely on fossil fuels,” the groups wrote. “Exploring zero emission options for autonomous vehicles will help ensure that the technology reduces pollution.”

The push for electrification of autonomous vehicles comes in a letter expressing concern that DOT has focused on the safety implications of driverless cars to the exclusion of considering other aspects of the technology.

Under Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, DOT has been bullish about getting out in front of emerging autonomous-vehicle technology and has begun taking steps to determine how best to regulate it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released an assessment in March of how current standards would consider autonomous vehicles, a move many consider a first step toward rulemaking (E&ENews PM, March 11).

While the environmental groups said they agree safety should be the top priority in regulating autonomous vehicles, they argue that DOT should not have tunnel vision when it comes to the technology.

By leaving regulations to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the groups write, DOT “may be missing some of the bigger policy concerns that must be taken into account before any deployment of these technologies.”

The letter asks DOT to work with EPA and the National Economic Council to “carefully consider the potential greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts — both benefits and detriments — that result from accelerating autonomous vehicles.”

Environmentalists have applauded companies like Google that are using electric cars in their pilot programs (Greenwire, Feb. 16).

The group’s letter describes the possibility that shared autonomous vehicles could help ease congestion, but it also warns that autonomous vehicles could have the opposite effect, attracting passengers to take longer trips more frequently, crowding roadways and increasing urban sprawl.

“Many potential impacts of autonomous vehicles are unclear, including impacts on vehicle miles traveled, vehicle emissions, public transit, and land use, which in turn can have significant positive or negative impacts upon our environment,” the groups wrote. “We urge USDOT to carefully consider the wide variety of potential impacts that can arise from this valuable new technology.”

The letter also asks DOT and EPA to study how different rates of autonomous vehicle deployment could affect traffic congestion and how using autonomous vehicles for freight delivery could help limit emissions nationwide.

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As more electrical components enter vehicles with hybrid and EV drivetrains, it’s hard to tell where the parts are coming from in your car. Are the battery cells manufactured in a U.S. plant or have they been imported from a foreign factory? When you see a badge from a Detroit automaker on a vehicle nowadays, you can’t take the origin of any components for granted.

Fortunately, we have the work of Frank DuBois, professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business, to help break down what elements of today’s vehicles come from where. DuBois and his team publish the Made in America Auto Index every year to let consumers know which cars can justify the label of “American-made.”

Each car gets a score based on the following categories: engine and transmission production (21%); body, interior, chassis, and electrical (50%); R&D (6%); profit margin, based on site of corporate headquarters (6%); labor (6%); and site of inventory and capital expenses (11%). Kogod then ranks all automobiles on the market based on their U.S.-sourced content.

Here are the five most American-made electric vehicles of 2016.

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But it’s not clear when these systems will be available.
BMW unveiled plans to turn new and used electric vehicle batteries into an system that can store energy for homes and businesses.

The product, which was introduced at an electric vehicle symposium in Montreal, marks the German automaker’s entry into the energy storage market. It follows similar moves by Daimler and Tesla, which have introduced their own energy storage systems for residential and commercial use.

BMW says its systems are different from its rivals because they use an electric vehicle battery as opposed to companies like Tesla that developed an entirely new battery pack, called Powerwall, that is specifically designed just for commercial and residential use.

Despite the differences, BMW’s product has the same goals as many other systems: store energy produced during the day from solar panels and act as a backup source of power if the power grid fails.

For now, the systems are equipped with new BMW i3 batteries. However, the systems can also use so-called second life batteries, which are electric vehicle batteries that are too old to use in a car, but still have enough life to be used in other ways. BMW says it will start using these second-life batteries as they become available.

 

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The world’s largest carmaker might change its battery-skeptic position in the near future, a leading Toyota engineer said today in Tokyo. “Currently, a lot of electricity is still generated from fossil fuels. But this is shifting, and more and more carbon neutral electricity will be generated,” Kouji Toyoshima, Chief Engineer for Toyota’s hybrid Prius range, told me in an exclusive interview today. “That’s why we would like to use more electricity to power our cars.”

Toyota was known as a battery doubter in the past, for betting on hybrid-electric cars for the midrange, and on fuel cell vehicles for the upper range. In the future, “us and our competitors will move to using much more carbon neutral energy,” Toyoshima predicted.

For the utmost in carbon neutral, zero emission energy, “Toyota might even produce bicycles,” Toyoshima said.

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Earlier this year, breathtaking numbers of pre-orders for the Tesla Model 3 not only shocked the auto industry but suggested that a transition of the U.S. and world auto fleet toward electric vehicles could happen faster than expected.

There are still only a little more than 400,000 electric vehicles on the road in the United States, or just 0.16 percent of all cars. But predicted growth rates could have them at more than one-third of new car sales globally by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And the growth won’t just be in personal vehicles — services such as Uber and Lyft, and makers of self-driving cars such as Google and Tesla, could also drive fast growth of the electric vehicle, or EV, fleet.

As the cars and their batteries get cheaper, meanwhile, they’ll become more and more accessible to buyers — even as a profusion of charging stations to service growing numbers of vehicles will help address the major psychological factor holding people back: “range anxiety.” These trends, combined with climate change concerns, all presage a bright future for the electric car.

All of which means that at some point — and maybe not that far from now, at least in certain neighborhoods or areas — this trend could start to have key implications for the entire electricity system, says a new report released Wednesday from the energy think tank the Rocky Mountain Institute.

An electric vehicle with a 30-kilowatt-hour battery, the report notes, “stores as much electricity as the average U.S. residence consumes in a day.” It adds that if all U.S. light duty cars suddenly became EVs, “they would require about 1,000 [terawatt hours] of additional electricity per year, or an increase of about one-quarter of our current electricity demand.”

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