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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.]

Volkswagen again reaffirms 20 new PEV models coming across the Group; MEB development

April 29, 2016

In his remarks at the Annual Media Conference, where the Group presented 2015 results, Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, said that 2016 will be a year of transition for Volkswagen, and will also see the accelerated transformation of the company.

The Group is currently working on the further development of its strategy, to be presented mid-year. This will focus on the major fields of future importance in the industry—such as digitalization, networking, e-mobility and new mobility services. Although Volkswagen is already addressing all of these fields, it will in the future do so “in a much more systematic and focused manner. Our Strategy 2025 will provide the framework for this," Müller said.

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SAE technical experts: fuel cell technology has advanced significantly, FC vehicle production has begun, further cost reductions & infrastructure development required

April 27, 2016

Wrapping up the track on the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure held at the 2016 SAE World Congress (earlier post), a panel of technical experts agreed that while significant progress has been made with the technology, and while the first generation of consumer-available fuel cell vehicles is now being sold in parts of the US, there are still challenges to overcome with respect to the cost of the technology and the build-out of a supporting hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

The panel, moderated by Jesse Schneider, BMW, included Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D; Dr. Will James, Manager, Safety, Codes, and Standards at the US Department of Energy (DOE); and Dr. Ralph Clague, Head of Motive Systems and Architecture, Intelligent Energy.

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Ricardo Software to partner with Modelon to expand IGNITE simulation package capabilities

April 26, 2016

Ricardo Software will partner with Modelon to expand Ricardo’s IGNITE product capabilities. IGNITE is a physics-based system simulation package operating in Modelica (earlier post) focused on complete vehicle system modeling and simulation. With comprehensive powertrain and thermofluid component libraries, users can quickly and accurately model conventional to highly complex vehicle system models, hybrid-electric, full electric and novel vehicles.

In the upcoming 2016 product release, planned for May, IGNITE users will have instant access to Modelon’s advanced OPTIMICA Compiler Toolkit, a Modelica and Functional Mock-up Interface (FMI) based computational platform for system design.

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Edmunds.com: EV and hybrid loyalty falls to all-time low

April 21, 2016

Only 27.5% of all hybrid and electric vehicle trade-ins in the US in 2016 have been applied to the purchase of another hybrid or EV, according to a new analysis from car shopping destination Edmunds.com. The rate is a sharp drop from the 38.5% of hybrid and EV trade-ins in 2015, and the findings reinforce a trend first identified last year by Edmunds that owners of alt-fuel vehicles are returning to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles in greater numbers than ever before.

Edmunds’ analysis found that a hybrid or electric trade-in is more likely to go toward the purchase of a SUV (33.8%) than another hybrid or EV. The trend is even more apparent when looking only at EV trade-ins—25.7% of EV trade-ins went toward the purchase of a SUV, compared to just 4.8% that went toward another EV.

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NASA awards Aerojet Rocketdyne $67M to develop advanced solar electric propulsion system for space

April 20, 2016

NASA has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $67-million contract to design and develop an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) for spaceflight. Work performed under the contract could potentially increase spaceflight transportation fuel efficiency by 10 times over current chemical propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to current electric propulsion systems.

Such a system could significantly advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities, and enable deep space exploration missions, including the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and its Journey to Mars, NASA said.

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Tesla And Other Tech Giants Scramble For Lithium As Prices Double

April 14, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

Demand for lithium—the hottest commodity on the planet and the only commodity to show positive price movement in 2015—is poised to continue on its upward trajectory, becoming the world’s new gasoline and earning the moniker of “White Petroleum”. And the battle for market share in and around this commodity has everyone from major tech players to trend-setting investor gurus vying for a foothold.

Driven by the rise of battery gigafactories and game-changing Powerwall and energy storage businesses, the world now finds itself at the beginning of a lithium super cycle that is all about securing new supply, much of which is poised to come from lithium superstar Argentina.

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US Lifted The Crude Oil Export Ban, And Exports Went Down

March 30, 2016

by Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

Just over three months after the authorities lifted the four-decade ban on crude oil exports, the US has actually exported less this year than it did over the same period the year before, when the ban was still in place.

According to Clipper Data market intelligence cited by the Financial Times, we’ve seen a 5 percent decline in U.S. crude oil export volumes since the beginning of this year. The data suggests that on average we are exporting (waterborne) 325,000 barrels per day now, compared to 342,000 barrels per day during the first months of 2015.

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ABI Research: 6 transformative paradigms driving toward smart, sustainable automotive transportation

March 25, 2016

ABI Research has defined six transformative paradigms for the automotive industry over the next 25 years: the software-defined car; sensors and big data; the connected car; cooperative mobility and the IoT; electrification; and car sharing/driverless cars. While the first three phases are already underway, the latter three will start to drive the market forward within the next 10 years, according to the market research firm.

Car manufacturers are currently revamping vehicles’ electronics and networking architecture to ensure every sub-system is connected and software-defined. Moving toward the next decade, the automotive industry will achieve cooperative mobility. Cars will communicate with not only each other but also infrastructures and environments. Electrification will then change the way consumers power their vehicles. And, lastly, car sharing and driverless cars will likely lead to market consolidation.

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GM 5-year growth strategy for China; 10 New Energy Vehicles in the coming mix

March 21, 2016

Between now and 2020, GM and its joint ventures plan to roll out more than 60 new and refreshed models in China, including 13 this year, with a strong focus on SUVs, MPVs and luxury vehicles.

During the period, GM and its joint ventures will roll out more than 10 new energy vehicles under the Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and Baojun brands. They will include the Shanghai-built Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (earlier post), which will go on sale later this year.

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CCM: slowdown in China Li-ion unit output growth signals shift in market structure toward new energy vehicle applications

In 2015, China’s total output of Li-ion batteries increased by 3.13% year-on-year (YoY)—a significant slowdown in the output growth rate from the prior 5 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of the People’s Republic of China.

CCM, a leading market intelligence provider for China’s agriculture, chemicals, food & ingredients and life science markets, suggests that the reduction in growth rate is a signal that the market structure of Li-ion batteries in China is changing, with Li-ion batteries for alternative energy vehicles moving to dominate China’s Li-ion battery market instead of consumer Li-ion batteries.

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Ford logs strongest-ever calendar year start for SUVs in US; sales bolstered by women and Millenials

March 17, 2016

Ford recorded 115,228 SUV US sales at retail through the first two months of 2016, making for the best-yet calendar year start for Ford SUVs (Escape, Edge, Flex, Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility, Expedition) ever, highlighted by a best-ever February. Sales of Ford’s utilities for January and February 2016 were up 16.1% compared to the same period in 2015. As a comparison, over the same periods, total Ford brand sales rose 8.6%, with sales of Ford cars rising 3.0% and Ford trucks up 7.6%

Explorer sales rose 18% last month over February 2015; Explorer is Ford’s best-selling SUV with millennial buyers ages 25 to 34, and the best-selling midsize SUV with women, according to Ford analysis of the most recent personal new vehicle registrations in the US from IHS Automotive. Escape, coming off a record sales year in 2015, was up 14% through the first two months of 2016, while Edge sales jumped 56%.

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BMW rolls out new strategy, focusing on further advances in e-mobility and automated driving; Project i 2.0

March 16, 2016

BMW has revealed initial details of its new strategy, “Strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT”. The BMW Group sees digitalization as an opportunity to make mobile life simpler, safer and more convenient, thereby capturing new customer groups. In the coming years, the Group will focus on broadening its technological expertise, expanding the scope of digital connectivity between people, vehicles and services and actively strengthening sustainable mobility.

BMW’s technology focus will therefore be on consistently achieving further advances in the fields of electric mobility and automated driving. Under the banner of BMW iNEXT, the BMW Group will bring new forms of automated driving and digital connectivity together with a new generation of electric mobility, lightweight construction and interior design. BMW said that it would usher in the next decade with a new BMW i model.

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Euro Parliament report analyzes Industry 4.0 potential

March 15, 2016

The European Parliament has release an analysis of the Industry 4.0 Initiative—the digitalization of production processes based on devices autonomously communicating with each other along the value chain. It considers the potential of the initiative and business paradigm changes and impacts of this transformation.

The study assesses the rationale for public intervention and outlines measures that could be adopted to increase the gains and limit the threats from Industry 4.0.

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$67 Oil Has All The Majors Converging in Argentina

March 13, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Argentina offers one of the few places on earth where oil companies are not suffering from the full force of the collapse in prices. Argentina regulates oil prices, a policy originally intended to insulate the public from the whims of the market, protecting people from triple-digit crude prices. But with the crash in prices since mid-2014, the effect of the regulation has reversed: motorists are now effectively subsidizing the oil industry.

Prices for light oil are set at $67 per barrel and natural gas prices fixed at $7.50 per million Btu (MMBtu). That means consumers are not reaping the benefits of cheap fuel. The higher prices they pay offer a huge lifeline for the oil industry.

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BMW looks ahead to its next century with VISION NEXT 100; Alive Geometry; 4D Printing; Companion

March 07, 2016

To mark its centenary year in 2016, the BMW Group is looking further ahead than usual with a series of Vision Vehicles designed to anticipate and respond to future mobility needs. In developing the BMW VISION NEXT 100, the company said that its main objective was to create not an anonymous vehicle but one that is highly personalized and fully geared to meet the driver’s every need in an effort to retain the emotional connection between a BMW and its driver.

For the BMW VISION NEXT 100, the design team specifically took into account many of the trends and technological developments that will be most relevant to BMW in differentiating its products over the coming decades, including autonomous driving. (Absent from the presentation was a discussion of powertrain technology.)

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Ford only automaker on Ethisphere Institute’s list of 2016 World’s Most Ethical Companies

Ford Motor Company is the only automaker named a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company by Ethisphere Institute today; this marks the seventh consecutive year Ethisphere Institute has named Ford a World’s Most Ethical Company. Engine manufacturer Cummins, Inc. and Tier 1 supplier Delphi Automotive also made the 2016 list.

The framework of Ethisphere’s proprietary rating system, the corporate Ethics Quotient (EQTM), consists of a series of multiple-choice questions that capture a company’s performance. Ethisphere says that the information collected is not intended to cover all aspects of corporate governance, risk, sustainability, social responsibility, compliance or ethics, but rather is a comprehensive sampling of definitive criteria of core competencies.

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Study suggests policymakers need to move beyond alt fuels hype to decarbonize transport successfully

March 02, 2016

Policymakers who want to decarbonize the transportation sector will need to move beyond the hype that has characterized alternative fuels over the past three decades and find better ways to assess and sustain promising technologies and fuels, according to a study from Simon Fraser University, Canadian consulting firm Navius Research, and the University of California, Davis.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Energy, Noel Melton, Jonn Axsen and Daniel Sperling conduct a media analysis to show how society’s attention has skipped among alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) technology between 1980 and 2013, including methanol, natural gas, plug-in electric, hybrid electric, hydrogen and biofuels. They then make recommendations that governments can follow to move past hype to support significant AFV adoption and displace fossil fuel use in the transportation sector.

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Toyota restructures; product-based instead of function-based

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is restructuring to streamline work processes on a company-wide basis. The changes will take effect starting this April.

The fundamental goal is to create a company built around product-based organizations, rather than function-based organizations. Doing so will enable the dissolution of barriers within the company and eliminate unnecessary coordination work, thus helping to ensure that all team members’ efforts will be leveraged toward the purpose of making ever-better cars and developing a talented workforce.

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J.D. Power study finds ACEN technology woes affecting vehicle reliability for consumers

February 26, 2016

Problems with technology continue to affect vehicle reliability for consumers, according to the J.D. Power 2016 US Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). The number of problems with infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems—collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation or ACEN—has increased and now accounts for 20% of all customer-reported problems in the study.

ACEN is now the most problematic area on most vehicles and is the cause of the industry’s 3% year-over-year decline in vehicle dependability. Key findings of the study included:

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President Obama proposes 50% increase in spending on clean transportation, funded by $10/barrel tax on oil

February 05, 2016

President Obama has laid out a plan for building a “21st Century Clean Transportation System”, the investment for which would be funded by a new $10 per barrel fee on oil paid by oil companies, which would be gradually phased in over five years. The President’s plan would increase US investments in clean transportation infrastructure by roughly 50%.

The President’s plan invests nearly $20 billion per year above current spending to reduce traffic and provide new ways for families to get to work and to school. The plan would expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors and invest in new rail technologies like maglev; modernize the freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program begun in the Recovery Act to support high-impact, innovative local projects.

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Daihatsu to become wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor; strengthening small car operations

January 29, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation and its subsidiary Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. (Daihatsu) have reached an agreement whereby Daihatsu will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota by way of a share exchange (expected to be completed in August 2016). Under the agreement, 0.26 shares of common stock of Toyota will be allotted and delivered for each share of common stock of Daihatsu. Toyota currently owns 51.2% of the small-car specialist.

Under a new joint strategy, Toyota and Daihatsu intend to combine their bases of operations in addition to sharing their respective areas of proficiency and technical expertise. This, the two companies said, will leverage the advantages of both brands, allowing the development of attractive products that are competitive on a global basis. The Daihatsu brand, said Toyota President Akio Toyoda, will have a position equal to that of Toyota and Lexus.

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Volkswagen brand restructures development organization; distinct BEV group

January 20, 2016

The Volkswagen brand has restructured its vehicle development organization. The new organization bundles competencies into four series groups containing several model series: small; compact; mid- and full-size; and BEV.

The brand’s management intends for cross-functional collaboration to be strengthened as a result—from the concept to the end of the life-cycle for any given model, the responsibility for technology, quality, cost and deadline compliance, and the responsibility for cost-effectiveness, now clearly lie in one hand for the first time. Until now, these responsibilities were distributed across different divisions and differentiated into individual models groups as well.

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IBM study finds consumers very interested in alternative ownership models for cars, self-enabling vehicles

January 12, 2016

Consumers expect to use cars differently—showing particular interest in self-enabling vehicles—though they don’t necessarily want to own one in the traditional sense, according to the results of IBM’s automotive consumer study, presented at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. This presents opportunities for automakers to apply analytics and cognitive capabilities to develop new vehicle options.

A New Relationship – People and Cars,” developed by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), reports that consumers also show a high level of interest in self-enabling vehicles, or cars that can learn, heal, drive and socialize. These capabilities include autonomous, self-driving cars, vehicles that can be fixed without human intervention and the implementation of cognitive computing to learn and assimilate to the driver’s behaviors, the vehicle itself and the surrounding environment.

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$10-Trillion Investment Needed To Avoid Massive Oil Price Spike Says OPEC

December 30, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

OPEC says that $10 trillion worth of investment will need to flow into oil and gas through 2040 in order to meet the world’s energy needs.

The OPEC published its World Oil Outlook 2015 (WOO) in late December, which struck a much more pessimistic note on the state of oil markets than in the past. On the one hand, OPEC does not see oil prices returning to triple-digit territory within the next 25 years, a strikingly bearish conclusion. The group expects oil prices to rise by an average of about $5 per year over the course of this decade, only reaching $80 per barrel in 2020. From there, it sees oil prices rising slowly, hitting $95 per barrel in 2040.

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Audi introducing Q2, new Q5 in 2016, confirms electric SUV for 2018; investing more than €3B in 2016

December 28, 2015

Audi management said that the company will continue with its high levels of investment in 2016, with planned capital expenditure to amount to more than €3 billion (US$3.3 billion). Half of the planned investment will take place at the Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm sites in Germany.

Audi plans to enter a new market segment with the Audi Q2 model next year, and will also present the the successor of the Audi Q5. In 2018, Audi will launch its first large‑series battery‑electric vehicle, based on the Audi e-tron Quattro concept. (Earlier post.) By 2020, Audi will expand its model range to include 60 different automobiles. “A significant proportion of our investment is naturally in the field of alternative drive systems,” said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

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EIA ups total shale oil resource estimate by 13% to 419B barrels, shale gas by 4% to 7576 Tcf

December 15, 2015

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) continues to expand its assessment of technically recoverable shale oil and shale natural gas resources around the world. The addition of four countries—Chad, Kazakhstan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—to a previous assessment covering 42 countries has resulted in a 13% increase in the global assessed total resource estimate for shale oil and a 4% increase for shale gas.

A total of 26 formations within 11 basins were analyzed in these 4 countries. Although these formations contain significant volumes of technically recoverable resources, there is currently no shale exploration underway in any of the four countries, meaning the new assessed resources are not yet economically recoverable.

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Hyundai and Kia license Paice’s hybrid vehicle technology, ending litigation

December 13, 2015

Paice has reached an agreement to license all of its hybrid vehicle technology to Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. Paice has now licensed all or part of its hybrid vehicle technology portfolio to Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, and Ford. These three companies currently account for 90% of all hybrid vehicle sales in the United States.

The confidential licensing agreement with Hyundai and Kia brings an end to all litigation between the companies. Paice and the Abell Foundation, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization that invested in Paice, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia in US District Court in 2012. After an eight-day jury trial earlier this year, the jury sided with Paice and Abell, awarding $28,915,600.

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Oil Well Strippers Suffering From Low Oil Prices

December 10, 2015

by Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com

With OPEC breaking down and any kind of coordination among its members on price cuts looking increasingly unlikely, it now appears that oil prices could remain below $50 a barrel for a year or more. As producers confront this unpleasant reality, some will finally start to significantly curtail or even shut down operations. And that is going to severely hurt an all but invisible group; strippers in the United States.

A stripper is a small operator of very old oil wells that frequently produce less than five barrels per day of oil. These wells may not seem consequential, but there are roughly 410,000 of them in the US. Since 2002, according to the industry association for strippers [National Stripper Well Association, NSWA], these marginal wells have generated more than 2.9 billion barrels of oil and 18.8 Mcf of natural gas.

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KPMG study finds autonomous vehicles & mobility services could add one trillion more vehicle miles traveled annually by 2050

November 26, 2015

Innovations in autonomous vehicles, connectivity, and mobility-on-demand will have a profound impact on consumers, particularly among younger and older people, according to a new study by KPMG. With these age groups set to embrace these technological and transformational changes, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the US will soar by approximately one trillion additional miles per year by 2050.

According to KPMG’s research, which consisted of consumer focus groups in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, two generations will largely drive consumer demand in the future, the millennials and the “baby boomers plus”—ranging from 45 to 75 years. However, in every age group, participants showed significant attraction to mobility on demand for specific conditions or circumstances, including safety, weather, premium experience, and leisure time.

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Oil Jobs Lost: 250,000 And Counting; Texas Likely To See Massive Layoffs Soon

by Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

Crude oil just capped off a third straight week of declines, as WTI nears the $40 per barrel threshold. Goldman Sachs is once again raising the possibility of oil dipping into the $20s per barrel.

That spells more pain for the energy sector. Many companies have already slashed spending and culled their payrolls, but the total number of job losses continues to climb. According to Graves & Co., an industry consultant, oil and gas companies have laid off more than 250,000 workers around the world, a tally that will rise if oil prices remain in the dumps.

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Volkswagen submits recall plan for 2-liter diesel cars to California Air Resources Board; ARB to respond

November 21, 2015

The Volkswagen Group of America (VW) submitted a recall plan to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on Friday, responding to the violations described in ARB’s 18 September 2015 letter to VW concerning illegal defeat devices in 2-liter diesel-powered vehicles, model years 2009-2015. (Earlier post.)

The submission of the plan triggers a review by ARB of up to 20 business days of all elements of the plan. Based on ARB’s review, VW may be required to revise and resubmit all, or specific elements of the recall plan. ARB will also consult with US EPA during this process to develop a national recall plan.

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Opinion: Saudis Planning For A War Of Attrition In Europe With Russia’s Oil Industry

November 18, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Russia’s central bank recently warned about the growing financial risks to the Russian economy from Saudi Arabia encroaching upon its traditional export market for crude oil. Russia sends 70 percent of its oil to Europe, but Saudi Arabia has been making inroads in the European market amid the oil price downturn.

The result is a heavier discount for Russia’s crude oil, the so-called Urals blend. Bloomberg reported that the Urals typically lands in Rotterdam, a major European destination, at a discount to Brent of around $2 or less. But the discount has widened to $3.50 lately due to increased competition from Saudi Arabia. “Oil supplies to Europe from Saudi Arabia are probably adversely affecting Urals prices,” the Russian central bank warned in a recent report.

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Opinion: Political Climate Shifting Against The Oil And Gas Industry

November 10, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Oil and gas companies have had a tough time over the past year trying to weather the storm of falling oil prices. But the political and financial winds are moving in the wrong direction for the industry, raising more “above ground” problems at a time that they can ill-afford it.

Drilling oil and gas wells requires a lot of money. For companies that have seen their revenues vanish because of collapsing oil prices, access to credit is obviously critically important. But US financial regulators are growing concerned about a pile of energy debt that is deteriorating in quality. A report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve singled out the oil and gas sector when it concluded that credit risk was rising across the United States.

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Fujitsu launches Singapore field trial of AI-enhanced event-congestion-mitigation system

November 09, 2015

Fujitsu Laboratories has begun a field trial that aims to reduce congestion around major events, stadiums, and shopping centers through behavioral guidance. This field trial uses a smartphone application that, based on the expected congestion when people return home from major events, proposes behavior or how to spend time best suited to the user, and then verifies the results.

These suggestions for behavior are generated by Human Centric AI Zinrai, Fujitsu Limited’s systematic approach to artificial-intelligence. This technology works to fine-tune the details of suggestions with the goal of mitigating congestion, by shifting times of peak traffic and modes of transportation.

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Opinion: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Takes A Step Forward

November 04, 2015

by Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com

For the first time in close to a century, mankind may be about to give serious attention to a technology that has the potential to be a true game-changer in transportation.

Elon Musk famously proposed the idea of the Hyperloop a few years ago [earlier post], and suggested it could be a revolutionary method for travel based on available technology today. The Hyperloop has already created extreme controversy with skeptics citing everything from the cost of land in California to the substantial g-forces that would impact passengers being accelerated from 0 to 700+ miles per hour in a short span of time. Yet while there are reasons to be cautious about the technology, the Hyperloop should also be cheered as the continuation of a long tradition of American innovation and pushing the boundaries of the human experience.

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Opinion: Stop Blaming OPEC For Low Prices

October 29, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

We are a little more than a month away from OPEC’s next meeting, which will be held in Vienna on December 4, 2015.

OPEC altered the course of the oil markets last year when it decided to cast aside its traditional role of maintaining balance through production cuts. Instead it pursued a strategy of fighting for market share, contributing to an immediate rout in oil prices. WTI and Brent then went on to dive below $50 in the weeks following OPEC’s decision. OPEC is widely expected to continue its current strategy at its next meeting, and as such, no rebound in oil prices is expected, at least not because of the results of the group’s meeting in Vienna.

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Day Of Reckoning For US Shale Will Have To Wait

October 25, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

October has been billed as a pivotal month in which indebted shale companies would see their credit lines cut, precipitating a faster consolidation in the industry that would sow the seeds of a rebound.

But banks appear to be taking a more lenient approach than expected. A new Jeffries report says that only $450 million in borrowing bases have been cut, across more than 20 companies. That amounts to just 2 percent of available credit lines, much lower than the 15 percent reduction expected by analysts. In other words, banks are allowing drillers to continue to borrow, which could delay the inevitable balancing needed in the market.

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New, faster cutting-plane optimization algorithm

October 23, 2015

The theory—and sometimes the implementation—of control systems relies heavily on optimization (e.g., earlier post)—as do many other aspects of engineering and design (e.g., earlier post). At the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science, a trio of present and past MIT graduate students won a best-student-paper award for a new general-purpose algorithm for solving optimization problems.

The new “cutting-plane” method algorithm improves on the running time of its most efficient predecessor, and the researchers offer some reason to think that they may have reached the theoretical limit. They also present a new method for applying their general algorithm to specific problems, which efficiency gains of several orders of magnitude.

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JRC report finds electric vehicles in Europe on the way to full-scale commercialization

The European Union appears to be undergoing a transition from the testing of and experimentation with electric vehicles to full-scale EV commercialization, according to a new report from the EU’s Joint Research Center (JRC). This report covers battery-electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), range extended electric vehicles (REV), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).

The number of sold electric vehicles of all types rose from 760 in 2010 to more than 70,000 in 2014, with the trend continuing in the first half of 2015, according to the report. The choice of models went from 3 to nearly 30 in the same period. The share of electric vehicles produced in the EU has also expanded, increasing from 30% (of EV registered in the EU) in 2011 to 65% in 2014.

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Opinion: Oil Market Showdown—Can Russia Outlast The Saudis?

October 20, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

Two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter...

November 27, oil consuming countries will celebrate the first anniversary of the Saudi decision to let market forces determine prices. This decision set crude prices on a downward path. Subsequently, to defend market share, the Saudis increased production, which exacerbated market oversupply and further pressured prices.

While the sharp decline in crude prices has saved crude consuming nations hundreds of billions of dollars, the loss in revenues has caused crude exporting countries intense economic and financial pain. Their suffering has led some to call for a change in strategy to “balance” the market and boost prices. Venezuela, an OPEC member, has even proposed an emergency summit meeting.

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Navigant: Daimler, Audi, BMW, and General Motors currently leading development of autonomous vehicle market

October 15, 2015

In a new Leaderboard Report, Navigant Research ranks Daimler, Audi, BMW, and General Motors (GM) as leading the autonomous vehicle OEM market in terms of strategy and execution. The report examines the strategy and execution of 18 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including company profiles and rankings, to provide an objective assessment of these companies’ relative strengths and weaknesses in the developing autonomous vehicle market.

Although fully automated vehicles are expected to be about a decade away from production—depending upon the enactment of the enabling legislation—the incremental systems necessary as foundations for the technology are emerging today. Systems that can drive autonomously in simple situations such as on freeways and in traffic jams are now being offered in some 2016 model year vehicles. These vehicles have the capability to follow the vehicle in front and maintain a safe gap while staying in lane.

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Opinon: Lithium Market Set To Explode; All Eyes Are On Nevada

October 09, 2015

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

While other commodities are floundering or completely collapsing in this market, lithium—the critical mineral in the emerging battery gigafactory war—is poised to explode, and going forward Nevada is emerging as the front line in this pending American lithium boom.

Most of the world’s lithium comes from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Australia and China, but American resources being developed by new entrants into this market have set up the state of Nevada to become the key venue and proving ground for game-changing trade in this everyday mineral. Nevada is about to get a boost first from Tesla’s upcoming battery gigafactory, and then from all of its rivals.

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New VW Group CEO: “swift and relentless clarification” of emissions scandal; technical solution to be presented to authorities

October 06, 2015

Speaking at a plant meeting in Wolfsburg, Matthias Müller, the new CEO of Volkswagen AG, promised employees “swift and relentless clarification” of the emissions scandal. He said that what had happened went against everything the Group and its people stand for and that there was no excuse.

Müller said that the company will shortly be presenting the technical solutions to the responsible authorities—in particular the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA)—for approval. Müller said that while in many instances a software update will be sufficient, some vehicles will also require hardware modifications. “We will keep our customers constantly informed about the measures and arrange workshop appointments.

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Opinion: Is Russia Plotting To Bring Down OPEC?

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

President Putin’s recent moves in the Middle East—to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria through deployment of combat aircraft, equipment, and manpower and build-out of air-, naval-, and ground-force bases, and the agreement in the last week with Iran, Iraq, and Syria on intelligence and security cooperation—could contribute to Russian efforts to combat the myriad negative pressures on Russia’s vital energy industry.

Live by Energy…

Energy is the foundation of Russia, its economy, its government, and its political system. Putin has highlighted on various occasions the contribution Russia’s mineral wealth, in particular oil and natural gas, must make for Russia to be able to sustain economic growth, promote industrial development, catch up with the developed economies, and modernize Russia’s military and military industry.

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International Alliance on ZEVs seeks to accelerate ZEV adoption; 11 founding government members from N America and Europe

September 29, 2015

Eleven European and North American governments are the founding partners of the International ZEV Alliance, which has the mission of accelerating global adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in the United States; Québec in Canada; and The Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom in Europe are the founding members.

The members will cooperate to set targets to drive ZEV deployment, share data and best practice policies, and encourage other governments to join them. (The 11 members account for 7% of global car sales, but represent 38% of the global market for electric vehicles.) A new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) outlines an agenda for expanding collaboration. The ICCT serves as Secretariat to the International ZEV Alliance.

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Alcoa splitting into two companies; expecting 2.4x increase in automotive revenues to $1.8B in 2018

September 28, 2015

The Board of Directors of Alcoa has unanimously approved a plan to split the lightweight metals leader into two independent, publicly-traded companies. The globally competitive Upstream Company will comprise five business units that today make up Global Primary Products: Bauxite, Alumina, Aluminum, Casting and Energy.

The Value-Add Company will include Global Rolled Products, Engineered Products and Solutions, and Transportation and Construction Solutions. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016. At that point Alcoa shareholders will own all of the outstanding shares of both the Upstream and Value-Add Companies. The separation is intended to qualify as a tax-free transaction to Alcoa shareholders for US federal income tax purposes.

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Study comparing crash risk of EU and US vehicles indicates differences in performance

An international research study examining the safety performance of US and EU motor vehicles has found differences in performance between the two. The study is the first side-by-side comparison of predicted risk for EU-regulated and US-regulated vehicles and was conducted collaboratively by The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI); and Safer Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), in association with Centre Européen d’Etudes de Sécurité et d’Analyse des Risques (CEESAR), France, and Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), UK.

The investigation of safety performance was motivated by the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the US concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

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Opinion: This Is What Needs To Happen For Oil Prices To Stabilize

September 21, 2015

by Dan Doyle for Oilprice.com

Dan Doyle is president of Reliance Well Services, a hydraulic fracturing company based in Pennsylvania.

On September 10th, the EIA reported a production decline in the Lower 48—essentially shale production—of 208,000 BOPD (barrels of oil per day). That is a staggeringly enormous number, approximately 10 percent of the estimated global over-supply. Additionally, it was a week-over-week number which makes it all the more impressive. Yet it received little attention through the week. Rather, Goldman Sachs was grabbing all the headlines with its $20 call on oil.

This week, I was looking for a possible correction in that number with a zero decline or possibly even a gain (remember, the EIA numbers are estimates). But instead we got another decline of 35,000 BOPD.

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Cooperation of Daimler and Renault-Nissan Alliance accelerates, strengthens in 2015

September 16, 2015

The partnership between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG accelerated and strengthened as it entered its sixth year in 2015, the companies’ leaders said today in a media update given during the Frankfurt International Motor Show.

When the Daimler-Alliance partnership was launched in April 2010, the scope of the original collaboration was limited to three projects, primarily in Europe. Since then, the combined portfolio shared between the partners has more than quadrupled to 13 projects in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Alliance, described the partnership as “one of the most productive in the auto industry.

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Ford survey in Europe finds SUVs highly desired by Millenials; projected acceleration of SUV boom

September 08, 2015

A new survey sponsored by Ford Motor Company in Europe found that SUVs are highly desired by Millennials (ages 17-34), suggesting that Europe’s SUV boom is poised to accelerate as the generation reaches prime new-car-buying age.

Ford is showing the European-specification Ford Edge large SUV for the first time at Frankfurt Motor Show next week. Starting with the launch of the Edge early next year, Ford plans to introduce five new vehicles in the next three years that will compete in the SUV and crossover space. In addition Ford will introduce updated versions of the EcoSport small SUV and Kuga mid-sized SUV this year. As a result, Ford is targeting sales of 200,000 SUVs in Europe by 2016—a 200% increase compared with 2013.

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Opinion: OPEC Divorce And Self-Destruction Thanks To Saudi Oil Strategy?

September 02, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

“If you are the world’s leading energy economy, you produce energy, that’s what you do.”

“A government can stay irrational longer than it can stay solvent.”

“Even in the short term, you’re dead, if you commit suicide.”

The first quote modifies a GEICO commercial describing a free-range chicken (If you’re a free range chicken, you roam free, that’s what you do), the second, the famous John Maynard Keynes quote about markets (The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent), the third, another famous Keynes quote (In the long run, we’re all dead).

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Westport and Fuel Systems Solutions to merge; alternative fuel vehicle and engine company with expanded reach

September 01, 2015

Westport Innovations Inc. and Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc. have entered into a merger agreement to create a premier alternative fuel vehicle and engine company. The transaction will result in a combined equity value of $351 million based on the closing trading prices for the shares of both companies on 31 August 2015 and combined annual revenues ranging from $380 to $405 million projected for 2015.

Traditionally, Westport Innovations has focused the majority of its technological development and commercialization efforts in the heavy-duty and high horsepower natural gas arena, while Fuel Systems has significant experience and focus with gaseous fuel systems and components for light- and medium-duty automotive and industrial applications. The complementary industry expertise provides a rationale for the merger, as the combined company’s product development efforts will span passenger car to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and marine applications to stationary power.

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TTI/INRIX study shows US traffic congestion back at pre-recession levels; average travel delay/commuter 2x that in 1982

August 27, 2015

A new report produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion in the US has returned to pre-recession levels. Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours—42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter. Other top-level findings include:

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Ford Car Buying Trends 2015 shows increasing demand for semi-autonomous driving technologies in Europe

August 26, 2015

European drivers are showing an increasing appetite for semi-autonomous driving technologies, according to a new Ford Motor Company study on buying trends in Europe. Ford Car Buying Trends 2015, a study of new car buying habits in 22 countries across Europe, highlights regional trends and national differences.

The study shows significant increases in the number of cars with technologies that help drivers to park, avoid collisions, and maintain set speeds and distances from vehicles ahead. Among the results:

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US total VMT hits historic high in first half of year; VMT per capita trending upward, but below 2005 peak

August 23, 2015

US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates show that US driving topped 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of 2015, beating the previous record of 1.5 trillion miles, set in June 2007. This is more than double the amount driven during the same period in 1981, continuing a trend of America’s driving mileage doubling nearly every generation.

However, on a per capita basis (non-institutional population), VMT, although it has been trending upward for the last year on a 12-month moving average, is still below its peak in June 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

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2015 Harris Poll finds 48% of US car owners would consider hybrid for new car, same as in 2013; plug-in consideration up 2 points

August 20, 2015

A new Harris Poll of 2,225 US adults (aged 18 and older) has found that 48% of American car owners (or anticipated owners) say they’d consider a traditional hybrid the next time they’re in the market for a new vehicle—a result identical to 2013 findings. Harris recorded lower consideration levels for plug-in vehicles, whether they be plug-in hybrids (29%, up 2 percentage points) or pure electrics (21%, also up 2 points).

An additional two in ten would consider a diesel (19%, up 3 points), while 35% would consider a smaller or gas powered vehicle to save on operating costs (down 3 points).

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Lux suggests how LG Chem might overtake EV battery leader Panasonic

August 18, 2015

Panasonic is currently the runaway leader in the nascent battery market for electric vehicles, but LG Chem has the potential to overtake it in what will be a $30 billion market in 2020, according to a new report—“Watch the Throne: How LG Chem and Others Can Take Panasonic’s EV Battery Crown by 2020”—by Lux Research.

Panasonic’s 39% share of the battery market for plug-in vehicles makes it the leading supplier, but its reliance on a single deal with EV leader Tesla leaves it vulnerable, according to the consultancy. Panasonic lead rival LG Chem has already signed up large automakers including General Motors, Volkswagen, Daimler, and Ford. In the event of a surge in sales of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) by the German manufacturers, LG Chem would only need to win over Japan’s Nissan to topple Panasonic.

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Opinion: Saudi Oil Strategy: Brilliant Or Suicide?

August 13, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

In the last quarter of 2014, in the face of possible oversupply, Saudi Arabia abandoned its traditional role as the global oil market’s swing producer and therefore it role as unofficial guarantor of existing ($100+ per barrel) prices.

In October, Saudi sources first prepared the market with statements that the country would be comfortable with oil prices as low as $80 per barrel for “a year or two.” At the November OPEC meeting, the Saudi oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, publicly announced Saudi Arabia would allow market forces to set prices. He argued that rapidly growing production outside OPEC made the existing status quo unviable, and that lower prices in the short term would increase prices in the longer term through reduced investment and ultimately benefit all OPEC members.

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Opinion: The Saudi Oil Price War Is Backfiring

August 12, 2015

by Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com

Saudi Arabia has long enjoyed the status of being the top crude oil exporter in the world. With record production of 10.564 million barrels per day in June 2015, Saudi Arabia has been one of the major driving forces behind the current oil price slump.

The Saudis have kept their production levels high since last year in order to drive other players (especially US shale drillers) out of business. Equally clear is the fact that this strategy of maintaining the glut and driving out rivals hasn’t worked so far.

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Opinion: Global Oil Supply More Fragile Than You Think

August 07, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Many oil companies had trimmed their budgets heading into 2015 to deal with lower oil prices. But the rebound in April and May to $60 per barrel from the mid-$40s suggested that the severe drop was merely temporary. But the collapse of prices in July—owing to the Iran nuclear deal, an ongoing production surplus, and economic and financial concerns in Greece and China—have darkened the mood. Now a prevailing sense that oil prices may stay lower for longer has hit the markets.

Oil futures for delivery in December 2020 are currently trading $8 lower than they were at the beginning of this year even while immediate spot prices are $4 higher today. In other words, oil traders are now feeling much gloomier about oil prices several years out than they were at the beginning of 2015.

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Opinion: Could WTI Trade At A Premium To Brent By Next Year?

August 06, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

A flood of bearish news has pushed down oil prices to their lowest levels in months, with WTI nearing $45 per barrel and Brent flirting with sub-$50 territory. With a bear market back, there is pessimism throughout the oil markets. Goldman Sachs is even predicting oil stays at $50 through 2020, a profoundly grim view of the state of oil supplies.

On the other hand, the contraction in US shale is underway, so it is just a matter of time before the mismatch between supply and demand balances out.

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Volkswagen Group selects LG as FAST partner for high-voltage batteries

August 01, 2015

The Volkswagen Group nominated the first 44 suppliers who will be collaborating with the Group on a new common strategic level under the joint FAST initiative. Among the 44 is LG Electronics for the supply of high-voltage batteries. (Earlier post.)

Volkswagen Group Procurement is responding to the challenges currently facing the automotive industry by working together with its suppliers under the “Future Automotive Supply Tracks” initiative (or FAST for short) and will implement technical innovations even faster. Volkswagen AG said it chose the first tranche of suppliers for “their outstanding performance in their respective field of competence based on a systematic selection process.

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Daimler wraps up eMERGE EV 2-year fleet trial, launches larger eMERGE2 with EVs and PHEVs

July 31, 2015

Daimler reports that the two-year eMERGE real-world trial of 146 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles has been completed. Those taking part in the project were private and business customers in Berlin, Potsdam and North Rhine-Westphalia. The lowest average energy consumption per vehicle over one year was 10.4 kWh/100 km, while the longest single-charge range was 161 kilometers (100 miles). The smart fortwo electric drive is certified with a consumption of 16.3 kWh/100 km and a range of 145 kilometers (90 miles).

eMERGE is being followed directly by eMERGE2, which will see up to 200 cars being used in the model regions of Berlin/Potsdam, Stuttgart, Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main. The vehicle fleet will include the battery electric B 250 e and plug-in hybrids from Mercedes-Benz. The different technology and vehicle segments suggest different use cases than the smart fortwo electric drive.

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Saudis Expand Price War Downstream

July 28, 2015

by Gaurav Agnihotri for Oilprice.com

The undisputed king of oil and gas is making some moves that could change the face of the global refining sector. In June 2015, Saudi Arabia pumped a record 10.564 million barrels a day, a record level. As if being the world’s biggest exporter of oil was not enough, the desert kingdom is now looking to conquer the refining sector as it has quickly become the fourth largest refiner in the world.

“Saudis have moved into the product business in a big way,” said Fereidun Fesharaki of FGE Energy. With Saudi Arabia's refined fuel contributing to the global supply glut, what will be its impact on the refining markets especially those in Asia?

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Mitsubishi Motors officially announces end of production in US; seeking buyer for plant

July 27, 2015

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) officially announced, after several days of press reports, that Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) a wholly owned subsidiary of MMC in the United States, is preparing to end production of its sole production model—Outlander Sport—at its Bloomington-Normal, Illinois plant at the end of November 2015. Production of the model will be consolidated in Okazaki plant in Japan, pending a final decision by the MMC Board of Directors on 30 July.

MMNA said it will be making efforts to identify a buyer with the help from United Auto Workers (UAW).

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J.D. Power: growing usage of safety technologies in new vehicles contributes to increasing vehicle appeal

July 24, 2015

The safety-related technologies with which manufacturers are increasingly equipping their new vehicles are making those vehicles more appealing to their owners, according to the J.D. Power 2015 US Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

The APEAL Study, now in its 20th year, examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive. Owners evaluate their vehicle across 77 attributes, which combine into an overall APEAL Index score that is measured on a 1,000-point scale. The overall APEAL score has increased by 4 points year over year to 798 in 2015. The study finds that some safety features can contribute to a significant boost in APEAL scores. For example, the overall score among owners of vehicles with blind-spot monitoring and warning systems is 38 points higher than among those without them.

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ICCT: ongoing cost reductions in full- and mild-hybrid systems could bring them into consumer mainstream by 2025

According to a new technology briefing paper on hybrid system technologies by John German at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the costs of full-function hybrid systems are likely to drop to half the cost of their 2010 counterparts before 2025.

Combined with the development of mild-hybrid systems (belt-alternator or 48-volt system)s—which will likely provide one-half to two-thirds the fuel-efficiency benefits of full-function hybrids at less than half the cost—these levels of cost reductions could put both those technologies into the consumer mainstream by 2025, at least from a cost of technology point of view, German suggests.

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More Job Losses Coming To US Shale

July 22, 2015

By Gaurav Agnihotri for Oilprice.com

With the recently concluded nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries, oil prices have already started heading downward on sentiments that Iran’s crude oil supply would further contribute to the already rising global supply glut. The economic crisis in Greece, OPEC’s high production levels and China’s market turmoil have created more pressure on oil prices, making a price rebound look highly unlikely in the near future.

So, with the prices of both Brent and WTI moving towards $50 per barrel, the short to medium-term outlook for oil remains mostly bearish. This is bad news for the U.S. shale sector which is already dealing with rising debt and the ever-increasing risk of default.

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Magna to acquire Getrag for approximately €1.75B

July 16, 2015

Magna International Inc. signed an agreement to acquire the Getrag Group of Companies for approximately €1.75 billion (US$1.9 billion). This represents an enterprise value of approximately €2.45 billion (US$2.7 billion) less proportionate net debt and proportionate pension liabilities, which together are estimated to be approximately €700 million (US$762 million) at closing.

Getrag is the world’s largest (by volume) OEM-independent supplier of automotive transmissions, offering a range of transmission systems which include manual, automated-manual, dual-clutch, hybrid and other advanced systems.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €3.8 billion in synergies in 2014, up 32.4% from 2013; role of CMF

July 10, 2015

The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €3.80 billion ($4.25 billion) in 2014, up 32.4% from €2.87 billion the previous year. Purchasing, engineering and manufacturing were the biggest contributors. The launch of the Alliance’s first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles (earlier post), as well as the recent convergence of four key functions—Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering & Supply Chain Management; Purchasing; and Human Resources—helped drive synergies in all three areas, said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Synergies are generated from cost reductions, cost avoidance and revenue increases. Only new synergies (not cumulative) are taken into account each year. Accounting for synergies helps Renault and Nissan determine if they are meeting their performance objectives.

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Navigant forecasts global annual sales of LDVs of 122.6M by 2035, up 38% from 2015

July 06, 2015

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts global annual sales of light duty vehicles will reach 122.6 million by 2035, up 38% from a projected 88.8 million this year, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6%. Navigant Research expects the number of LDVs in use on roads worldwide to grow by 57.1% from 2015 to 2035 to almost 1.9 billion units.

Navigant expects sales of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will fall significantly over the forecast period, experiencing a CAGR of -6.6%. As a result, the share of vehicles in use that are conventional ICE vehicles will fall from more than 91% in 2015 to under 40% by 2035. Navigant expects ICE vehicles will be replaced by start-stop vehicles (SSVs), which will grow from representing more than 4% of vehicles in use in 2015 to nearly 49% in 2035. Hybrids (HEVs) are expected to account for nearly 3%, while PHEVs (plug-in hybrids), BEVs (battery-electric vehicles), NGVs (natural gas vehicles), PAGVs (propane autogas vehicles), and FCV (fuel cell vehicles) s together are projected to add up to more than 9% of the LDVs in use in 2035.

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Lux: graphene severely underperforming commercially against “massive hype”

Market analyst firm Lux Research has maintained a skeptical stance about the commercial prospects of graphene even in the light of the material’s compelling properties. In a 2012 report “Is Graphene the Next Silicon...Or Just the Next Carbon Nanotube?”, Lux examined the interplay between graphene’s compelling performance properties as an advanced material, and the significant hurdles it would inevitably face transitioning from the lab to the marketplace. A research and patent boom along with impressive technical performance is far from a guarantee of commercial success.

Lux is now answering its own question with the assertion that graphene looks much closer to the next carbon nanotube than the next silicon. Reasons the firm gives for this assessment include:

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Ford Smart Mobility shifts from research to implementation; company announces new programs, next areas of focus

June 24, 2015

In the opening keynote at Ford’s annual trends conference, 2015 Further With Ford, CEO Mark Fields announced the next phase of the company’s Smart Mobility plan, originally announced in January this year at CES (earlier post). Ford Smart Mobility is the company’s plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data; the initial stage was the creation of 25 mobility experiments across the globe.

Fields said that Ford, which has “learned tons in the past several months” from those initial experiments, is now moving from research to the start of implementation, including new strategic areas of focus, new pilot programs and new mobility product experiments.

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Opinion: Expect A Wave Of Consolidation In The Oil Industry

by Leonard Brecken of Oilprice.com

As stated previously, asset monetization by small E&P operators will start in earnest in the second half of this year out of cash flow necessity. Most, if not all, smaller market capitalization companies, public or private, are still free cash flow negative (operating cash flow less capital expenditure) and only a few of the larger ones are now, or will be, based on guidance. The point is, with volumes languishing (and probably poised to decline) tied to a flat oil futures price curve and with economics marginal at $60 per barrel, many E&P operators find themselves running through hedges in 2015 and still in need to finance their already reduced capital spending.

With Wall Street unwilling to lend anymore and prospects of fall credit line redeterminations looming, further reducing liquidity, it is likely small E&P operators will turn to either mature producing asset sales or, more likely, to undeveloped assets which require more capital spending. We are seeing this being factored into stock prices as we speak, as small cap E&P valuations have collapsed to 4-6 times the Enterprise Value/Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EV/EBITDA) from 6-8X EV/EBITDA. This not only reflects solvency risk but also the natural course of bringing assets to a price more in line with their underlying sale value.

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DOE CEMAC report examines US opportunities in automotive Li-ion batteries

June 23, 2015

With increasing demand for electric and hybrid electric vehicles and with lithium-ion battery (LIB) producers locating in close proximity to automotive manufacturers, the United States has an opportunity in automotive LIBs under certain conditions, according to a new report released by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC). The current $9-billion global automotive LIB market is expected to reach $14.3 billion by 2020.

As part of its analysis, CEMAC developed a detailed bottom-up cost modeling of regional cell production scenarios based upon total costs that a manufacturer incurs in the high-volume production of LIB cells. Costs captured in the model include all capital, fixed, and variable costs in each country scenario explored. CEMAC then determined a minimum sustainable price (MSP) by analyzing capital expense, COGS, operating expenses, taxes, free cash flows, and required rates of return.

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Opinion: Are US Drillers Actually Making A Comeback?

May 20, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com>

Is US shale about to make a comeback? Oil prices have rebounded strongly since March. The benchmark WTI prices soared by more than 36 percent in two months, and Brent has jumped by more than 25 percent. There is a newfound bullishness in the oil markets—net long positions on Brent crude have hit multi-year highs in recent weeks on a belief that US supply is on its way down.

That was backed up by recent EIA data that predicts an 86,000 barrel-per-day contraction for June. The Eagle Ford (a loss of 47,000 barrels per day) and the Bakken (a loss of 31,000 barrels per day) are expected to lead the way in a downward adjustment.

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Smith Electric Vehicles and FDG form JV for commercial EVs in US; new joint EV platform

May 13, 2015

Smith Electric Vehicles executed an agreement to form a joint venture with China-based strategic partner and investor FDG Electric Vehicles, a vertically integrated electric vehicle and lithium-ion battery manufacturer engaged in the R&D, production and distribution of all-electric vehicles. Both parties have also entered into Intellectual Property (IP) and technology licensing agreements with the JV, taking full advantage of the combination of FDG’s electric vehicles designs and Smith’s technologies and distribution network, so as to accelerate the development of the FDG brand name and products in the US market.

FDG will contribute the US-exclusive right to use its self-designed passenger van, minibus, panel van and cab/chassis (a US$30-million consideration) into the JV and also subscribe to the JV’s shares with US$15 million in cash; Smith will inject all of its US-exclusive IP pertaining to electric vehicles and its current client base (a US$40-million consideration). In addition, the JV will enter into an exclusive sourcing agreement for electric vehicles’ SKD (semi-knocked down) kits and electric vehicle battery with FDG, and the exclusive agreement of assembly and production with Smith respectively to entrust Smith to manufacture electric vehicles using FDG SKD kits and batteries.

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Toyota and Mazda agree to build long-term partnership; environmental and advanced safety technologies

Toyota Motor Corporation and Mazda Motor Corporation entered an agreement to build a long-term partnership, leveraging the resources of each to complement and to enhance the other’s products and technologies. The two companies are now setting up a joint committee to evaluate how best to utilize each company’s respective strengths.

The committee will encourage “broad and meaningful collaboration” across a range of fields, including environmental and advanced safety technologies. Speculation on a potential agreement prior to the actual announcement had focused on the exchange of Toyota fuel cell and Mazda Skyactiv technologies.

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Volkswagen moving MAN and Scania into an integrated commercial vehicles group

May 06, 2015

Volkswagen is moving MAN and Scania into an integrated commercial vehicles group and thus putting in place a structured framework for business with mid-sized and heavy trucks and buses. Truck & Bus GmbH is the new Volkswagen Group holding for the MAN und Scania commercial vehicle brands. Shares in Scania AB held by Volkswagen AG will be transferred to Truck & Bus GmbH. The wholly-owned Volkswagen subsidiary already holds 75.28% of the voting rights in MAN SE.

Truck & Bus GmbH will establish processes specific to the commercial vehicles business, thus leveraging the full synergy potential between the brands. The company will be led by Andreas Renschler, member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG. The Supervisory Board, composed on a parity basis, will be chaired by Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG.

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