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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.]

Opinion: Crushing the US energy export dream

January 22, 2015

by Arthur E. Berman for Oilprice.com

Exporting crude oil and natural gas from the United States are among the dumbest energy ideas of all time. Exporting gas is dumb. Exporting oil is dumber.

The US imports almost half of the crude oil that we use. We import 7.5 million barrels per day. The chart below shows the EIA prediction that production will slowly fall and imports will rise (AEO 2014) after 2016. This means that the US will never be self-sufficient in oil. Not even close.

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Oil price collapse hurting some more than others

January 21, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

US oil and gas rig counts dropped to their lowest level in over four years, falling by an additional 74 units for the week ending on January 16. The lower count provides fresh evidence that low oil prices are forcing drillers to pare back operations and slash spending.

While that may soon begin to cut into actual production figures, a new Wood Mackenzie report finds a lot of nuance in the oil patch, painting a complex picture of what to expect in 2015. The report identifies several trends beyond the simple narrative that low prices will force a cutback in drilling.

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Thomson Reuters analysis finds automotive new propulsion technology patent activities surge 6-fold in 5 years

January 20, 2015

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Automotive patent filings reduced to one document per DWPI family charted by category and the publication year of the earliest family member. Source: Thomson Innovation & Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index. Click to enlarge.

An analysis of the global automobile industry’s recent patent activity by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters has found a massive commitment from carmakers and their suppliers to new propulsion technology. Patent data from 2009 through July 2014 show that activity in propulsion technology grew from fewer than 2,000 patents to nearly 12,000: more than any other technology area in the automotive industry. It was also the only area of patents to reflect a year-over-year growth in the five-year span.

For the report, “The State of Innovation in the Automotive Industry”, Thomson Reuters broke patent activity in the automotive industry into five broad categories: Propulsion; Navigation (which included telematics); Handling (which included autonomous driving); Safety & Security (which included driver assistance systems); and Entertainment.

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IBM automotive study sees consumer co-creation, greater personalized driving, but not widespread fully autonomous driving by 2025

January 15, 2015

During the Automotive News World Congress this week, IBM released results of its new Automotive 2025 Global Study, outlining an industry ripe for disruptive changes that are breaking down borders of the automotive ecosystem. The study forecasts that while the automotive industry will offer a greater personalized driving experience by 2025, fully autonomous vehicles or fully automated driving will not be as commonplace as some think.

The IBM Automotive 2025 Global Study is based on interviews with 175 executives from automotive OEMs, suppliers, and other thought leaders in 21 countries, detailing customer expectations, growth strategies, mobility requirements, ecosystem disruption and other topics shaping the direction of the industry. Entitled “Automotive 2025: Industry without borders,” the study was developed by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) as a follow up to “Automotive 2020: Clarity beyond the chaos.”

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Scotiabank forecasts 4% growth in global auto market in 2015 to 74M units, led by China

January 09, 2015

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2015 forecast share by region. Data: Scotiabank. Click to enlarge.

In its latest Global Auto Report, Scotiabank forecasts record global car sales in 2015, with the total market advancing 4% over 2014, reaching more than 74 million units. Global growth will mainly be driven by China, where Scotiabank expects auto demand to grow 7% in 2015 to 19.36 million units, up from an estimated 18.1 million units in 2014. Under the forecast, China will thus represent 26% of global auto sales in 2015.

Despite growing concerns about an economic slowdown in China, demand for new automobiles continues to be driven by rising vehicle ownership in tier 2 and 3 cities, especially for CUVs, which are advancing by 40% per annum, the report noted.

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Ford announces Smart Mobility plan; 25 initial projects

January 06, 2015

At CES, Ford CEO Mark Fields announced “Ford Smart Mobility”—a plan to use innovation to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. The initial step is the creation of 25 mobility experiments across the globe designed to help change the way the world moves.

Smart Mobility builds upon Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility (earlier post). As outlined by Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford in his keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Blueprint for Mobility defines the start of Ford’s thinking on what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there.

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Ford issues 2015 trends report; the emergent role of Generation Z

December 29, 2014

Ford has issued its third annual trends report, a compilation of consumer research and insights from thought leaders around the world, which is intended to provide a look at micro-trends expected to influence products and brands for 2015 and beyond. From the growing influence of young, socially conscious consumers, to a greater acceptance of modern-day rebels and a shifting perspective that de-stigmatizes failure, Ford Motor Company’s trend report suggests 2015 will be marked by a broad desire to enact change for the good.

The Looking Further with Ford 2015 report pays particular attention to the role of Generation Z—roughly defined as those born after 1993. Generation Z, which follows the Millennials, is the first truly global generation, born into an on-demand, technology-driven culture. Expected to account for more than 20% of the world’s population, these digitally savvy, socially conscious consumers, most of whom are still teenagers, are working to help define the trends of both today and tomorrow, Ford says.

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Study finds 2008 recession contributed to increase in age of US LDV fleet, slowing of emission reductions

The global economic recession of 2008—which severely depressed light-duty vehicle sales—resulted in an increase in the age of the light-duty vehicle fleet in the US that likely slowed the rate of decrease of fleet average emissions, according to a study by Gary Bishop and Donald Stedman at the University of Denver.

In general, on-road vehicle fleet emission factor increases are correlated with increasing age. Over the last two decades in the US, US owners have been keeping their vehicles longer as vehicle prices and reliability have increased, leading to a “slow and steady” increase in the average age of the registered US fleet from approximately 8.5 years old in 1995 to just over 11 years old in 2012, the authors note in their paper, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Audi boosting investment over next 5 years by 9% to €24B; 70% to new models and technology

December 27, 2014

From 2015 through 2019, Audi plans to invest €24 billion (US$29 billion)—€2 billion (US$2.4 billion), or 9% more, more than in the previous planning period. 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies. Audi aims to meet stringent CO2 limits worldwide with a new generation of extremely economical combustion engines and alternative efficiency technologies as well as new features in the areas of connectivity and driver assistance.

Audi also plans to create additional production capacities worldwide in the next five years through large-scale investment. More than half of the planned investment will take place at the German sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

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Ford CEO: Ford to focus on 5 key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance

December 19, 2014

In a pre-Christmas media event, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said while 2014 was a good year for the company, 2015 has the potential to be a “breakthrough year”. Fields said that Ford’s investments in products, people, plants and technology, combined with industry growth, are not only delivering a year of growth in terms of revenue, pricing power, operating margins and profitability in 2014, but are setting the stage for growth in and beyond 2015.

The global automotive industry is staged to experience $1 trillion of revenue growth over the next five years, Field said: from about $2 trillion today to about $3 trillion by the end of the decade. “That’s a tremendous amount of growth. We want to get our fair share of that growth.” In moving forward on that, Fields said, Ford will focus on five key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance.

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Oil price tumbles after OPEC releases 2015 forecast

December 11, 2014

by Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

The demand for oil in 2015 will drop to its lowest level since 2002 because of an oversupply of crude and stagnant economies in China and Europe, according to OPEC’s latest forecast. And that’s just one of several sour estimates. OPEC’s monthly report said demand for the cartel’s oil will fall to 28.9 million barrels per day next year, 280,000 barrels lower than its previous forecast and the lowest in 12 years. Add to that a new report from the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which also cut its 2015 forecast for growth in global oil demand by 240,000 barrels per day, down to 880,000 barrels per day.

For 2014, the EIA expects demand will be about 960,000 barrels per day. And yet on Nov. 27, OPEC refused to lower its production levels below 30 million barrels a day, adding to the oil glut that started with the US boom in high-quality shale oil. As a result, the price of Brent crude has plunged more than 40 percent since June. Futures for US crude also are down dramatically.

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ExxonMobil: global GDP up ~140% by 2040, but energy demand ~35% due to efficiency; LDV energy demand to rise only slightly despite doubling parc

December 10, 2014

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As the world population increases by the estimated 30% from 2010 to 2040, ExxonMobil sees global GDP rising by about 140%, but energy demand by only about 35% due to greater efficiency. Click to enlarge.

Significant growth in the global middle class, expansion of emerging economies and an additional 2 billion people in the world will contribute to a 35% increase in energy demand by 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s latest Outlook for Energy report.

Even as demand increases, the world will continue to become more efficient in its energy use, according to the 2015 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. Without efficiency gains across economies worldwide, energy demand from 2010 to 2040 would be headed toward a 140% increase instead of the 35% forecast in the report.

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Commentary: Could falling oil prices spark a financial crisis?

December 05, 2014

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The oil and gas boom in the United States was made possible by the extensive credit afforded to drillers. Not only has financing come from company shareholders and traditional banks, but hundreds of billions of dollars have also come from junk-bond investors looking for high returns. Junk-bond debt in energy has reached $210 billion, which is about 16 percent of the $1.3 trillion junk-bond market. That is a dramatic rise from just 4 percent that energy debt represented 10 years ago.

As is the nature of the junk-bond market, lots of money flowed to companies with much riskier drilling prospects than, say, the oil majors. Maybe drillers were venturing into an uncertain shale play; maybe they didn’t have a lot of cash on hand or were a small startup. Whatever the case may be, there is a reason that they couldn’t offer “investment grade” bonds. In order to tap the bond market, these companies had to pay a hefty interest rate.

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Major power and gas company E.ON splitting in two; focusing on renewables, spinning off conventional power generation

December 01, 2014

Düsseldorf, Germany-base E.ON, one of the world’s largest investor-owned power and gas companies, is adopting a new strategic direction under which is will split itself in two. E.ON itself will focus on renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions. The existing conventional generation, global energy trading, and exploration and production businesses will be combined in a new, independent company (“New Company”), a majority of which will be spun off to E.ON SE shareholders. In 2015, E.ON will take necessary preparatory steps for the New Company’s public listing.

E.ON SE will have three core businesses: renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions. About 40,000 employees will be assigned to the distinctly focused company. In its new setup, E.ON will take new approaches to further developing each of its three core businesses. For this purpose E.ON will increase its investments already for the next year by about €0.5 billion (US$0.62 billion) compared to the previously planned 2015 capex of €4.3 billion (US$5.4 billion).

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Toyota Motor to consolidate development and production of diesel engines under TICO; manual transmissions under Aisin Seiki; brake systems under Advics

November 29, 2014

Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO) and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will consolidate their joint diesel engine development and production under the control of TICO. The purpose of this decision is to strengthen the competitiveness of both companies by bringing the development and production of diesel engines under one roof and enabling more efficient allocation of resources.

Further, Toyota is consolidating development and Japanese production of manual transmissions under Aisin Seiki subsidiary Aisin AI Co., Ltd. and will accelerate the consolidation of brake system engineering, manufacturing and sales under Advics, which was founded in July 2001 by Aisin Seiki, Denso, Sumitomo Electric, and TMC. (TMC, TICO, Aisin Seiki and Denso are part of the Toyota Group.)

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Volkswagen Group to invest $106 billion over next 5 years in Automotive Division

November 21, 2014

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €85.6 billion (US$106 billion) in new models, innovative technologies and its global presence in its Automotive Division over the coming five years. Around two-thirds of the total investment amount will flow into increasingly efficient vehicles, drives and more environmentally friendly production.

Investments in property, plant and equipment, investment property and intangible assets, excluding capitalized development costs (capex) in the Automotive Division will amount to €64.3 billion (US$80 billion), on a level with the planning approved in the previous year for the period from 2014 to 2018. At €41.3 billion (US$51.3 billion)—roughly 64%—the Group will spend most of the total capex in the Automotive Division on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on expanding the SUV range—in particular in the A/A0 class—as well as on modernizing part of the light commercial vehicle portfolio.

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Iran negotiations, OPEC meeting loom for oil markets

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

As November draws to a close, there are two major events that could profoundly change the oil markets. With the clock ticking, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 plus 1) are negotiating down to the wire with Iran over its nuclear program. The two sides have made substantial progress, but some difficult issues remain unresolved ahead of the November 24 deadline.

“We’re very keen to try to get to a deal, but not a deal at any price,” UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on November 17. “There will have to be very significant further movement by the Iranians if we’re going to be able to get to a deal.”

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IEA says oil supplies may not keep up with demand

November 15, 2014

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Despite what appears to be a saturated oil market in 2014, oil producers around the world will struggle to meet rising demand over the next few decades. In its latest annual World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that the current period of oil abundance may be fleeting, and in fact, without heroic levels of production increases, oil markets will grow dangerously tight in the coming years.

Global oil demand is expected to increase by 37 percent by 2040, with a dominant proportion of that coming from developing countries—i.e. China and India. In fact, the IEA says that for every barrel of oil the industrialized world expects to eliminate from demand through efficiency or other ways of reducing demand, developing countries will burn through two additional barrels.

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With oil prices low, early signs of a pullback in drilling activity

November 14, 2014

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

With oil prices low and showing no sign of an immediate rebound, the industry is beginning to pull back on spending.

Oil prices have dropped around 30 percent since summer highs, raising fears among producers across the globe. Yet, many oil majors are relatively diversified, with large holdings downstream. For example, ExxonMobil and Chevron have been insulated in the third quarter because of their large holdings in refining. Steep declines in oil prices may hurt their production sectors, but with lower priced oil as an input, big oil’s refining assets become more profitable.

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DOE fuel cell market report shows continued growth, with sales surpassing $1.3B worldwide in 2013

November 12, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2013 edition of its annual Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, detailing trends in the fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. More than 35,000 fuel cell systems were shipped in 2013, an increase of more than 26% over 2012 and 400% more than 2008. In 2013, worldwide fuel cell industry sales surpassed $1 billion for the first time, reaching $1.3 billion.

Although early markets such as stationary power and material handling account for the bulk of sales, DOE noted that the fuel cell industry made “tremendous progress” in the light-duty transportation sector in 2013. Achievements include the launch of H2USA (earlier post), a public private partnership focusing on overcoming the barriers to hydrogen infrastructure. The UK launched a similar initiative called UK H2Mobility (earlier post). Hyundai began leasing its first series production fuel cell electric vehicle at select dealerships in Southern California. (Earlier post.)

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The driving force behind the US oil boom

November 07, 2014

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

The shale revolution’s sweet spot is oilfield services, the lower-risk backbone of the American oil and gas boom that pays off regardless of a play’s economics. Behind the stardom of the explorers and producers who have put themselves on the revolutionary shale map and absorb most of the risk are the service providers who make up a highly lucrative market segment.

The US land-based rig count rose 3% over the last quarter, reaching a two-year high of 1,870 active rigs. A major factor in this growth has been an uptick in horizontal drilling in the Permian Basin, Texas’ revived giant, where the rig count was up 21% year-on-year. And while oil prices slumped in October, drilling activity continues to rise, according to Baker Hughes, the third-largest oil services company. Baker Hughes’ rig count is up 3.8% in the fourth quarter of this year, compared to the third quarter.

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Opinion: The End Of An Era: Is The US Petrodollar Under Threat?

October 31, 2014

by Andrew Topf of Oilprice.com

Recent trade deals and high-level cooperation between Russia and China have set off alarm bells in the West as policymakers and oil and gas executives watch the balance of power in global energy markets shift to the East.

The reasons for the cozier relationship between the two giant powers are, of course, rooted in the Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia, combined with China’s need to secure long-term energy supplies. However, a consequence of closer economic ties between Russia and China could also mean the beginning of the end of dominance for the US dollar, and that could have a profound impact on energy markets.

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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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