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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Ford projects utility vehicles to account for 29% of its global sales by end of decade

October 30, 2014

Ford projects utility vehicles will account for 29% of its global sales by the end of the decade. Ford utility vehicles—ranging from the compact EcoSport to the eight-seat Expedition—accounted for 23% of brand sales globally in 2013, up from 17% a year earlier.

Utility vehicle sales are expanding rapidly in many of the world’s fastest-growing markets according to a Ford analysis of data from IHS Automotive, which forecasts market information and competitive data on the automotive industry. Worldwide demand for utility vehicles is up 88% since 2008, making SUVs the fastest-growing segment. Utilities now account for 19% of the global automotive market, with the segment expanding at more than three times the rate of the vehicle industry overall.

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UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled

July 17, 2014

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Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.

A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.

Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.

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Nissan CEO outlines launch timetable for autonomous drive technologies

In a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., broadly outlined the Japanese carmaker’s launch timetable for the latest vehicle automation technologies aimed at accelerating consumer adoption of Autonomous Drive systems. (Earlier post.)

The Nissan CEO said new technologies including automated lane controls and highway traffic management systems, to be introduced over the next four years, would demonstrate to consumers the viability and value of Autonomous Drive systems, which Nissan intends to make commercially viable by 2020.

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Volkswagen to produce new CrossBlue-based midsize SUV in Chattanooga; $900M investment

July 14, 2014

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The new mid-size SUV is based on the CrossBlue concept. Click to enlarge.

The Board of Directors of Volkswagen Group of America has decided to award the production of its new midsize SUV to the Chattanooga plant in Tennessee. The Group will be investing a total of approximately US$900 million (€643 million) in the production of the newly developed, seven-passenger SUV, creating 2,000 additional jobs in the US. About US$600 million (€432 million) will be invested in Tennessee.

The midsize SUV, which is based on the MQB-based CrossBlue plug-in hybrid concept vehicle, was developed especially for the North American market. The CrossBlue made its global debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Earlier post.)

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IBM launches $3B, 5y research initiative on chip grand challenges; 7nm and beyond and post-silicon

July 11, 2014

IBM is investing $3 billion over the next 5 years in two broad research and early stage development programs to push the limits of chip technology needed to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing and “Big Data” systems. Bandwidth to memory, high speed communication and device power consumption are becoming increasingly challenging and critical in these areas, just as the underlying chip technology is facing numerous significant physical scaling limits.

The first research program is aimed at so-called “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon technology that will address serious physical challenges that are threatening current semiconductor scaling techniques and will impede the ability to manufacture such chips. The second is focused on developing alternative technologies for post-silicon era chips using entirely different approaches, which IBM scientists and other experts say are required because of the physical limitations of silicon based semiconductors.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €2.9B in synergies in 2013 ahead of launch of first common module family vehicles; targeting €4.3B in 2016

July 02, 2014

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The Common Module Family represents a new approach to engineering for the Renault/Nissan Alliance. Click to enlarge.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €2.87 billion (US$3.9B) in 2013, up from €2.69 billion (US$3.7 billion) in the previous year. Purchasing, powertrain and vehicle engineering remained the biggest contributors as the Alliance geared up for the launch of its first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles. (Earlier post.)

Purchasing, which is jointly managed by Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organization (RNPO), generated €1.036 billion (US$1.4 billion) in synergies. Vehicle engineering, which relates to common platforms and components, accounted for €714 million (US$975 million) . The co-development and exchange of powertrains accounted for €525 million (US$717 million.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler expand cooperation with new $1.4B plant in Mexico; next-gen compacts for Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti

June 27, 2014

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG are significantly expanding their cooperation with joint development of premium compact vehicles and joint production in Mexico. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche announced today that their companies have agreed to establish a 50:50 joint venture, the business entity that will oversee construction and operation of the new plant in Aguascalientes in north-central Mexico.

The new plant will be built in the immediate vicinity of an already existing Nissan plant and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles when fully ramped up. Start of production is planned for 2017 with Infiniti models. The production of Mercedes-Benz brand vehicles will follow in 2018.

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Ford tops 50 Best Global Green Brands list for 2014; Toyota, Honda and Nissan 2nd, 3rd and 4th

June 25, 2014

Automakers took the top four slots in the 50 Best Global Green Brands list for 2014, published by Fortune magazine in conjunction with the consulting firm Deloitte and Interbrand. Ford bumped last year’s leader, Toyota, to take the top spot. Toyota came in second, followed by Honda and Nissan. Panasonic was in fifth place.

The list was first created in 2011. This year’s nominees were drawn from Interbrand’s annual Best Global Brands report, which ranks the world’s 100 most valuable brands. The 50 companies on Best Global Green Brands list were ranked in two ways: on the strength of their sustainability initiatives and on how the public perceives those efforts.

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DOE to award up to $2M to develop supply chain, manufacturing competitiveness analysis for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

May 22, 2014

The Energy Department announced up to $2 million to develop the domestic supply chain for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and to study the competitiveness of US hydrogen and fuel cell system and component manufacturing. (DE-FOA-0000854) (Earlier post.)

This funding will support projects that focus on scaling-up the production of today’s hydrogen and fuel cell components and systems to commercial scale. Currently, these components and systems are being built using laboratory-scale fabrication technologies, but developing a robust supply chain to support mass production of these systems can enable the market for these technologies to grow. There are two topics of interest: (1) Facilitate the Development and Expansion of a Robust Supply Chain for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Systems and Components; and (2) Analysis of US Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Manufacturing Global Competitiveness.

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GM reduced energy intensity and carbon intensity per vehicle in 2013

May 20, 2014

In 2013, GM reduced the energy-intensity per vehicle manufactured 3.5% from 2012, down to an average 2.22 MW/vehicle from 2.30 MW, according to the company’s just released 2013 sustainability report. GM has set a target of 1.97 MW/vehicle for 2020, a reduction of 20% from the 2010 baseline of 2.47 MW.

The carbon intensity (CI) per vehicle dropped to 0.87 tonnes CO2e/vehicle in 2013, down 1.1% from 0.88 tonnes in 2012. The 2020 target is 0.74 tonnes CO2e, down 20% from the 2010 baseline of 0.93 tonnes. (CI includes all manufacturing and non-manufacturing CO2e emissions reported in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Scope 1 & 2 categories (earlier post), normalized by vehicle production. These data include data from some GM JVs.)

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Johnson Controls and SAIC’s Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems form $7.5B global joint venture for automotive interiors; largest in the world

May 19, 2014

Johnson Controls and Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Co., Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Huayu Automotive Systems Co., Ltd., the component group of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), have signed a definitive agreement to form a global automotive interiors joint venture.

The agreement is a non-cash transaction comprised of asset contributions by the two parties that will create the largest automotive interiors company in the world with revenues of approximately $7.5 billion. Yanfeng will hold the majority 70% share in the joint venture, and Johnson Controls will have a 30% share.

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CFA analysis shows more than 50% of current year LD models in US get more than 23 mpg

April 29, 2014

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Change in market share for different vehicle categories. Source: CFA. Click to enlarge.

For the first time, more than 50% of the current year’s light-duty (LD) vehicles in the US get more than 23 mpg (10.2 l/100 km), according to an analysis by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). CFA selected 23 mpg as a benchmark for this analysis because it is the EPA fuel economy label equivalent to the 30.6 mpg (7.7 l/100 km) overall corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirement for 2014. Five years ago, only 19% of models got 23 mpg.

CFA categorized 1,099 2014 passenger vehicle models into 10 different fuel economy rating categories. 11.6% of the models deliver more than 30 mpg (7.8 l/100 km), up from 1.6% five years ago. For the first time, there are no 2014 models getting below 13 mpg (18.1 mpg US).

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Toyota to establish new North American headquarters in Texas; consolidating from California, Kentucky and New York

Toyota is establishing a new headquarters in North Dallas (Plano), Texas for its North American operations. Within the next three years, Toyota’s three separate North American headquarters for manufacturing (Erlanger, KY); sales and marketing (Torrance, CA); and corporate operations (New York, NY) will relocate to a single campus in Plano. Toyota’s North American finance arm also plans to move its headquarters to this new shared campus. Altogether, these moves will affect approximately 4,000 employees.

At the same time, Toyota will expand the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Michigan to accommodate the relocation of direct procurement from Erlanger, Ky., to its campus in York Township near Ann Arbor. This expansion is part of an increased investment in engineering capabilities and will accommodate future growth in product development.

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IHS: Renesas maintains dominance in $26.7B automotive semiconductor market

April 18, 2014

Renesas remained the leader in the automotive semiconductor market in 2013, with the company’s dominance in microcomponents and logic integrated circuits (IC) helping it to hold a half-billion-dollar gap over the second-place competitor, according to analysis by IHS Technology. Japan-based Renesas posted automotive semiconductor revenue of $2.9 billion last year, giving the company a market share of 11%. This compares to $2.4 billion in revenue and 9% share for the Nº 2 contender, Infineon of Germany, allowing Renesas to maintain the leading position it held in 2012.

Although the IHS ranking shows Renesas experienced a 14% decline in revenue for the year, the drop was entirely driven by a fluctuation in the exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the US dollar. When measured in terms of its native yen, Renesas’ automotive semiconductor revenue actually rose by about 5% in 2013 compared to 2012, according to IHS. The overall automotive semiconductor market expanded by 5% in 2013, according to IHS. Market revenue last year rose to $26.7 billion in 2013, up from $25.4 billion in 2012.

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EIA Annual Energy Outlook explores implications of behavior and demographics on light-duty vehicle energy demand

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Light-duty VMT is beginning to decouple from traditional drivers. Source: EIA. economic Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is in the process of staging the release of the full Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014), its annual report on projected energy use and analysis of select energy topics. The roll-out began on 7 April and will conclude on 30 April. Included in AEO2014 is a set of eight “Issues in Focus” articles, exploring topics of special significance, including changes in assumptions and recent developments in technologies for energy production and consumption.

The most recent of these In Focus articles explores the impact of demographics and behavior on light-duty vehicle (LDV) energy demand. LDVs accounted for 61% of all transportation energy consumption in the United States in 2012—8.4 million barrels of of oil equivalent per day—and represented nearly 10% of world petroleum liquids consumption. LDV energy use is driven by both LDV fuel economy and travel behavior, as measured by vehicle miles traveled (VMT). LDV VMT per licensed driver peaked in 2007 at 12,900 miles per year and has since decreased to 12,500 miles in 2012.

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Scientists discover potential way to make graphene superconducting

March 20, 2014

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Adding calcium atoms (orange spheres) between graphene planes (blue honeycomb) creates a superconducting material called CaC6. A study at SLAC has shown for the first time that graphene is a key player in this superconductivity: Electrons scatter back and forth between the graphene and calcium layers, interact with natural vibrations in the material’s atomic structure and pair up to conduct electricity without resistance. (Greg Stewart/SLAC). Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University and University College London have discovered a potential way to make a monolayer of graphene superconducting, a state in which it would carry electricity with 100% efficiency. Their open access paper is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers used a beam of intense ultraviolet light to look deep into the electronic structure of calcium intercalated graphite (CaC6)—a material made of alternating layers of graphene and calcium. While it’s been known for nearly a decade that this combined material is superconducting, the new study offers the first compelling evidence that the graphene layers are instrumental in this process, a discovery that could transform the engineering of materials for nanoscale electronic devices.

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APTA reports record public transportation usage in US in 2013; growth outpacing population and VMT growth

March 10, 2014

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Growth in public transit ridership since 1995 has outpaced population and VMT growth. Data: APTA. Click to enlarge.

In 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation—the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years—according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3%, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1%.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2%, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3%, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7%.

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Study finds that EV-specific factors rather than socio-demographic variables better predictors of EV uptake

February 19, 2014

A study by researchers at the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) examining the impact of financial incentives and other socio-economic factors on electric vehicle (both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics) adoption in 30 countries found that financial incentives; the number of charging stations (corrected for population); and the presence of a local manufacturing facility were positive and significant in predicting EV adoption rates for the countries studied.

Of those, charging infrastructure was the best predictor of a country’s EV market share. However, the team cautions in their paper in Energy Policy, descriptive analyses indicated how country-specific factors such as government procurement plans or the target recipient of subsidies can significantly affect the adoption rate. In other words, neither financial incentives nor charging infrastructure ensure high electric vehicle adoption rates. However, on the whole, they conclude, the analysis tentatively endorses financial incentives and charging infrastructure as a way to encourage EV adoption.

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Making driving less energy-intensive than flying

January 09, 2014

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Energy intensities of flying (blue) and driving (green), 1970-2010. Data: Sivak, UMTRI-2014-2. Click to enlarge.

Currently, the energy intensity (BTU per person mile) of driving is 57% greater than that of flying, according to a new analysis by Dr. Michael Sivak, Director, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). To make driving less energy intensive than flying, the fuel economy of the entire US fleet of light-duty vehicles would have to improve from the current 21.5 mpg (10.9 l/100 km) to at least 33.8 mpg (7.0 l/100 km) at the current vehicle load, or vehicle load would have to increase from the current 1.38 persons to at least 2.3 persons.

In the report, Sivak considered domestic operations of all certified air carriers were considered and all light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans) over the past 40 years. During that period, the energy intensities of both driving and flying decreased. However, the improvement for driving (17%) was substantially less than for flying (74%).

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CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry

January 08, 2014

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Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.

A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.

The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics:

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DOE releases three reports showing strong growth in US fuel cell and hydrogen market

December 20, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released three new reports showcasing strong growth across the US fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. According to these reports, the US continues to be one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. In 2012, nearly 80% of total investment in the global fuel cell industry was made in US companies.

The three reports are (1) the 2012 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, which describes data compiled in 2013 on trends in the fuel cell industry for 2012 with some comparison to previous years; (2) States of the States, Fuel Cells in America 2013, which provides an updated snapshot of fuel cell and hydrogen activity in the 50 states and District of Columbia; and (3) 2013 Pathways to Commercial Success: Technologies and Products Supported by the Fuel Cell Technologies Office, which updates the results of an effort to identify and characterize commercial and near-commercial (emerging) technologies and products that benefited from the support of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) and its predecessor programs within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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Canada files to define outer limits of expanded Atlantic continental shelf; preliminary filing on Arctic, targeting North Pole

December 10, 2013

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Overview of the outer limits of the expanded Canadian continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Click to enlarge.

On 6 December, Canada filed a submission to define the outer limits of its expanded continental shelf area in the Atlantic Ocean with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. At the same time, Canada also filed preliminary information concerning the expanded outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, which could include the North Pole.

In a news conference on the submission, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada will indeed try to extend its territorial claims to the North Pole. “What we want to do is claim the biggest geographic area possible for Canada.”

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Volkswagen Group to invest €84.2B (US$114B) in automotive division over next 5 years; China JVs to invest separate €18.2B (US$24.7B)

November 22, 2013

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €84.2 billion (US$114 billion) in its automotive division over the coming five years. Investments in property, plant and equipment in the automotive division will amount to €63.4 billion (US$85.9 billion).

The Group will spend €41.2 billion (US$55.8 billion)—about 65%—of the total amount to be invested in property, plant and equipment on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on new vehicles and successor models in almost all vehicle classes, which will be based on the modular toolkit technology and related components. This will allow the Volkswagen Group systematically to continue its model rollout with a view to tapping new markets and segments.

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Daimler takes 12% stake in Chinese parter BAIC Motor; first non-Chinese automotive company to acquire an interest in a Chinese OEM

November 19, 2013

Daimler AG is taking a major step forward in its China strategy with the closing of the company’s 12% investment in long-standing partner BAIC Motor, the passenger car unit of Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC Group), one of the top automotive companies in China. This marks the first investment by a non-Chinese automotive company in a Chinese OEM.

The official closing of the transaction followed a short time after the signing of the investment agreement between the two companies in Stuttgart earlier this year and a smooth approval by the relevant Chinese authorities. Daimler’s investment will take place through the issuance of new shares corresponding to a 12% stake in BAIC Motor. With this investment, Daimler is proving its strong support for BAIC Motor’s intention to launch an initial public offering (IPO) in the future.

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Study finds rates of LDV fuel consumption in US peaked in 2004; indications of peak motorization

November 16, 2013

In a follow-up study to his earlier analysis of trends of light-duty vehicle registration and distance driven in the US (earlier post), Dr. Michael Sivak of The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) finds that fuel consumption rates—per person, per driver, and per household—are declining, as are ownership and driving. The bottom line, he concludes in this third report, is that “We drive fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less, and we consume less fuel.”

Sivak examined the period from 1984 through 2011. Based on the present data, his best estimates of the current annual fuel-consumption rates are: 398 gallons (1,507 liters) per person, 585 gallons (2,214 liters) per licensed driver, 1,033 gallons (3,910 liters) per household, and 530 gallons (2,006 liters) per registered vehicle. These rates are down 16% to 17% from their peaks in 2004, except that the rate per vehicle is down 13% (from its peak in 2003).

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