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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: What A Westinghouse Bankruptcy Could Mean For U.S. Utilities

March 29, 2017

by Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles for Oilprice.com

International news services now report that Japan’s Toshiba Corporation (9502.T) is preparing to make a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the US for its Westinghouse Electric subsidiary. For most of our readers this news evokes little surprise. This is merely another chapter of a slow moving financial and accounting train wreck involving nuclear design and construction firm Westinghouse and its troubled Japanese parent, Toshiba. But like an old, leaky garbage scow, there is much to clean up in its wake.

The two U.S. utilities with the most at risk are Southern Company and SCANA Corp. Westinghouse is presently constructing two unit, AP 1000 nuclear power stations for each utility. These projects are over-budget and behind schedule. It appears that Westinghouse offered both utilities a fixed price contract for these new nuclear plants. Our best guess is that this fixed price construction guarantee has doomed Westinghouse and prevented other potentially willing buyers from stepping in. No one it seems is willing to take on this seemingly open-ended nuclear construction liability.

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Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants; focus on trucks, SUVs, big data & mobility services

March 28, 2017

Ford Motor Company is investing $1.2 billion in three Michigan manufacturing facilities to strengthen its leadership in trucks and SUVs and support the company’s expansion to an auto and mobility company.

Ford is investing $850 million in Michigan Assembly Plant to retool the plant to build the all-new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco. Employees at Michigan Assembly Plant will begin building Ranger at the end of 2018 and Bronco in 2020.

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Tencent buys 5% stake in Tesla for $1.8 billion

China-based Tencent Holdings Ltd. has acquired a 5% stake (8,167,544 shares) in Tesla for an aggregate price of $1,777,842,836 (including commission), according to a Schedule 13G form filed by Tesla with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Tencent acquired the shares through Tesla’s latest registered offering of common stock (17 March 2017, earlier post) and through open market purchases.

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SAIC-GM Connectivity Strategy 2025 lays out roadmap to cloud-based connectivity, autonomy

SAIC-GM, GM’s Chinese joint venture with SAIC, announced its Connectivity Strategy 2025, which lays out a roadmap for its connectivity development from 2017 through 2025. The strategy will take advantage of its extensive customer base and global resources with a focus on vehicle information, infotainment and intelligent driving.

SAIC-GM will speed up the creation of a cloud-based platform and services, improve its vehicles’ connectivity to build a “people-vehicle-life” ecosystem, and aim to lead the development of a future intelligent vehicle society and lifestyle. In this effort, SAIC-GM is leveraging OnStar’s more than 20 years of experience. The high-level timeline is:

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EIA: US energy-related CO2 dropped 2.7% in 2015; of end-use sectors, only transportation increased

March 27, 2017

According to a report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), US energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 146 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2015 to 5,259 MMmt, down 2.7% from 5,405 MMmt in 2014. This decline occurred despite growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.6% as other factors more than offset the growth in GDP. Energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015 were about 12% below 2005 levels.

These factors included a decline in the carbon intensity of the energy supply (CO2/British thermal units [Btu]) of 1.8%; and a 3.4% decline in energy intensity (Btu/GDP). Of the four end-use sectors, only transportation emissions increased in 2015 (+2.1%).

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An OPEC Deal Extension Isn’t As Simple As It Sounds

March 23, 2017

by Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

It’s been six months now that oil prices have been reacting to OPEC, first to the possibility of an agreement, and then to the production cut deal itself, forged by OPEC to rebalance the market. The deal—initially aired as “an agreement to agree on a deal” in September and signed at the end of November—will likely impact the market for at least the next six months.

The agreement clearly states that it is production that OPEC producers are vowing to cut, but Iraqi oil minister Jabbar al-Luaibi has recently claimed—rather emphatically—that it is exports, not production, that serve as the baseline for the cuts. And according to Iraq, the agreed-upon cuts have been all about exports all along.

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ICCT: incremental technology can cut vehicle CO2 by half and increase fuel economy >60% through 2030 with ~5% increase in price

March 22, 2017

With the EPA re-opening its Mid-Term Review of GHG standards for 2022-2025 for light-duty vehicles (earlier post), and with NHTSA yet to weigh in on its Mid-Term evaluation of fuel economy standards for the same period, a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has published a report analyzing emerging vehicle efficiency technologies; their ability to achieve lower emission levels; and their costs in the 2025–2030 timeframe.

Starting from a baseline 26 mpg (9.04 l/100 km) in 2016, the The ICCT team assessed increased consumer label fuel economy (as opposed to the regulatory test fuel economy) to 35 mpg (6.71 l/100 km) in 2025 and to 42–46 mpg (5.6-5.11 l/100 km) (under three scenarios) by 2030. These fuel economy levels are achieved based on a sustained 4%–6% annual reduction of fuel use per mile with incremental technology additions that do not compromise vehicle size or utility at an incremental cost of $800–$1,300 from 2025 to 2030. The resulting trajectory would reduce CO2 emissions by half and increase fuel economy by more than 60% from 2016 through 2030. Based on a detailed analysis of the efficiency technologies used to achieve these lower CO2 emission levels, the ICCT study concludes that vehicle prices would increase by about 5% by 2030.

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IEA finds CO2 emissions flat for third straight year even as global economy grew in 2016

March 18, 2017

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency. The data signal a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world’s two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

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Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget cuts overall DOE budget 5.6%; eliminates ARPA-E, ITLGP, ATVMP

March 16, 2017

The Trump Administration has released its “America First” budget blueprint for the FY 2018 budget. The core of the blueprint is a $54-billion increase in defense spending in 2018 that is offset by targeted reductions in other areas.

For the Department of Energy (DOE), the blueprint requests $28.0 billion—a $1.7-billion (5.6%) decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. Within that, the proposed budget would provide a $1.4-billion increase above the 2017 annualized CR level for the National Nuclear Security Administration—an 11% increase. The new budget proposal focuses resources toward early-stage research and development of energy technologies and reflects increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization.

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Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors Ltd. to explore strategic alliance for joint development projects; ŠKODA to lead

March 10, 2017

Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen AG, Bernhard Maier, CEO of ŠKODA Auto and Günter Butschek, CEO and Managing Director of Tata Motors Ltd., signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which forms the basis for exploring long-term strategic cooperation in clearly-defined fields. The goal of the strategic alliance is to bundle the expertise of both car manufacturers with a view to jointly developing vehicle components and possibly also vehicle concepts.

Under the terms of the memorandum, the Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors will explore possibilities for a strategic partnership in India. In order to share responsibility among the Volkswagen Group brands, ŠKODA Auto is to lead the project.

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PSA to acquire Opel/Vauxhall & GM Financial Euro operations for €2.2B; partnering on electrification and maybe fuel cells

March 06, 2017

General Motors and PSA Group announced an agreement under which PSA Group will acquire GM’s Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and GM Financial’s European operations in a transaction valuing these activities at €1.3 billion (US$1.38 billion) and €0.9 billion (US$0.95 billion, respectively. With the addition of Opel/Vauxhall, which generated revenue of €17.7 billion (US$18.75 billion) in 2016, PSA will become the second-largest automotive company in Europe, with a 17% market share.

GM will also own warrants to purchase shares of PSA. GM and PSA also expect to collaborate in the further deployment of electrification technologies. Existing supply agreements for Holden and certain Buick models will continue, and PSA may potentially source long-term supply of fuel cell systems from the GM/Honda joint venture.

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Oil Majors’ Costs Have Risen 66% Since 2011

March 03, 2017

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The oil majors reported poor earnings for the fourth quarter of last year, but many oil executives struck an optimistic tone about the road ahead. Oil prices have stabilized and the cost cutting measures implemented over the past three years should allow companies to turn a profit even though crude trades for about half of what it did back in 2014.

The collapse of oil prices forced the majors to slash spending on exploration, cut employees, defer projects, and look for efficiencies. That allowed them to successfully lower their breakeven price for oil projects. However, some of that could be temporary, with oilfield services companies now demanding higher prices for equipment and drilling jobs, in some cases upping prices by as much as 20 percent. The result could be an uptick in the cost of producing oil for the first time in a few years. Rystad Energy estimated the average shale project could see costs rise by $1.60 per barrel, rising to $36.50.

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Volkswagen Group returns to profitability with new record for sales revenue and operating result in 2016

February 27, 2017

The Volkswagen Group made progress in 2016 in overcoming its self-inflicted diesel crisis. Sales revenue in fiscal year 2016 rose by €4.0 billion (US$4.22 billion) to €217.3 billion (US$229.4 billion). At €7.1 billion (US$7.5 billion), the Group’s operating result, which dropped into the red in the previous year due to the diesel issue, was back in strongly positive territory. Before special items, the Group’s operating result reached a new record and at €14.6 billion (US$15.4 billion) was substantially higher than the prior-year figure (up 14%); the operating return on sales rose to 6.7% (6.0%).

In spite of further challenges resulting from the diesel issue and the persistently difficult conditions in vehicle markets such as Brazil and Russia, the Group delivered 10.3 million vehicles to customers worldwide in the past fiscal year—up 3.7% from 9.931 million in 2015. The Group therefore reached not only its targets for 2016 but also a new record, helped in particular by increases in Western and Central European markets and in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Alfa’s first SUV: the Stelvio

February 23, 2017

Alfa Romeo is introducing its first SUV, the Stelvio. The Stelvio is Italy’s highest mountain pass and Highway 38, which crosses it, more than 20 kilometers in length and with more than 75 hairpin bends, has iconic status. The new SUV delivers sports-car-handling, with balanced weight distribution, the most direct steering ratio in the segment and state-of-the-art suspension with the exclusive Alfalink technology.

Stelvio features extensive use of ultra-lightweight, hi-tech materials including carbon fiber for the drive shaft and aluminium for the engines, suspension systems, hood, wings, doors and the tailgate. The Stelvio SUV also features the Alfa Romeo Q4 all-wheel drive system, and can be equipped with mechanical self-locking rear differential on request.

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7-state Midwest EVOLVE project to promote electric vehicles; Ford, GM, Nissan initial automotive partners

February 10, 2017

The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest announced the launch of Midwest EVOLVE, a three-year project to promote electric vehicles in seven Midwestern states: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

In partnership with eight Clean Cities coalitions, Midwest EVOLVE (Electric Vehicle Opportunities: Learning, eVents, Experience) will demonstrate the performance and environmental benefits of plug-in electric vehicles through showcases, ride and drives, and events in communities throughout the seven-state region.

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Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda to establish a joint venture for electric vehicle motors

February 07, 2017

Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda Motor have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aiming to establish a joint venture company for the development, manufacture and sales of motors for electric vehicles. Initially, Hitachi will hold 51%, Honda 49% of the new JV, the name of which is still to be determined.

Subsidiary operations of the new Japan-based joint venture are planned for the US and China, each with manufacturing and sales functions. Together with the establishment of these operations, the new company will expand the global supply of motors by creating a robust response to demand from Honda and other vehicle manufacturers.

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Valeo to form transmission JV with S. Korean partner Pyeong Hwa Group; torque converters and CVTs; boosting sales to Hyundai-Kia

France-based Valeo has signed an agreement with its long-standing South Korean partner Pyeong Hwa Group to create a 50/50 joint venture for transmissions; the new company will be called Valeo-Kapec. The partners intend for Valeo-Kapec to become the world leader in torque converters and CVTs.

Each partner will contribute to this Joint-Venture its respective torque Ccnverter business, located for Valeo at Nanjing (China), Atsugi (Japan), San Luis Potosi (Mexico) and Troy (USA) and located for Kapec in Daegu, Waegwan and Seongju (South Korea).

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The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

February 03, 2017

The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

by Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

It’s been a month now that investors and analysts have been closely watching two main drivers for oil prices: how OPEC is doing with the supply-cut deal, and how US shale is responding to fifty-plus-dollar oil with rebounding drilling activity. Those two main factors are largely neutralizing each other, and are putting a floor and a cap to a price range of between $50 and $60.

The US rig count has been rising, while OPEC seems unfazed by the resurgence in North American shale activity and is trying to convince the market (and itself) and prove that it would be mostly adhering to the promise to curtail supply in an effort to boost prices and bring markets back to balance. In the next couple of months, official production figures will point to who's winning this round of the oil wars.

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Takata to plead guilty, pay $1B in criminal penalties for airbag scheme; 3 Takata execs indicted

January 14, 2017

Tokyo-based Takata Corporation, one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive safety-related equipment, agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators. An indictment was also unsealed charging three Takata executives with wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to the same conduct.

According to the company’s admissions, in the late 1990s, Takata began developing airbag inflators that relied upon ammonium nitrate as their primary propellant. From at least in or around 2000, Takata knew that certain ammonium nitrate-based inflators were not performing to the specifications required by the auto manufacturers. Takata also knew that certain inflators had sustained failures, including ruptures, during testing.

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Volkswagen AG agrees to plead guilty and pay $4.3B in criminal and civil penalties; 6 execs and employees indicted

January 11, 2017

Volkswagen AG has agreed with the US government to resolve criminal and federal environmental and other civil claims against the company relating to the diesel emissions cheating débâcle. As part of the resolution, Volkswagen has agreed to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts, to pay penalties and fines totaling $4.3 billion, and to a series of measures to further strengthen its compliance and control systems, including the appointment of an independent monitor for a period of three years.

In addition, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan returned an indictment charging six VW executives and employees for their roles in the nearly 10-year conspiracy.

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New Opel Insignia to offer torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with Twinster system

The all-new Opel Insignia Grand Sport, arriving in the market early this year, will be available with a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. The new Opel Insignia uses a GKN Twinster all-wheel drive system with a rear drive module that uses a twin clutch system without differential. The two clutches distribute torque between the front and rear axle and between the two rear wheels.

Torque vectoring provides intelligent control of the vehicle dynamics by sending precise amounts of torque to individual wheels; by over-speeding the outside wheel in a corner, torque vectoring can induce a yaw-moment, helping steer the vehicle. Conventional torque vectoring systems use a set of planetary gears either side of the differential to achieve only very low levels of over-speeding. Other systems use braking to achieve a similar effect—but waste energy and slow the vehicle in the process.

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GM posts 2016 delivery record in China; 3.87M vehicles, more than 1/3 of global sales

January 06, 2017

General Motors and its joint ventures delivered a record 3,870,587 vehicles in China in 2016, which was an increase of 7.1% from the previous high in 2015. China remained GM’s largest market in terms of retail sales for the fifth consecutive year, accounting for more than one-third of the company’s global sales. For comparison, GM brands reported retail sales in the US of 2,446,582 vehicles for CY 2016.

Last year, GM launched 13 new and refreshed models in China, putting it on track to fulfill its plan to introduce 60 models through 2020. It is focused on the luxury, SUV and MPV segments. About 40% of GM’s product launches in China through 2020 will be SUVs and MPVs.

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ECS requesting proposals for third ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in automotive green energy technology

January 05, 2017

ECS (The Electrochemical Society), in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals for the third ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

The automotive industry currently faces three challenges regarding environmental and energy issues: (1) finding a viable alternative energy source as a replacement for oil; (2) reducing CO2 emissions; and (3) preventing air pollution. Although the demand for oil alternatives—such as natural gas, electricity and hydrogen—may grow, each alternative energy source has its disadvantages. Currently, oil remains the main source of automotive fuel; however, further research and development of alternative energies may bring change.

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Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Solaria Labs unveils new developer portal for future products and apps; from safest routing to damage assessment

January 04, 2017

Solaria Labs, an innovation incubator established in 2015 by Liberty Mutual Insurance, is introducing an open API developer portal that combines public data with proprietary insurance knowledge, helping to inform future products and apps for customers. This technology will be able to help consumers do everything from finding the safest driving route—e.g., one on which you are less likely to have an accident—to assessing auto damage from a fender bender with a smartphone camera.

The Solaria Labs developer portal will aggregate public data on auto theft, parking citations as well as crashes using proprietary insurance knowledge. After signing up, developers and data scientists can analyze the aggregated data to identify, for example, the safest driving routes and places to park in major US cities. Providing this comprehensive collection of data will help fuel the development of future apps to improve safety for both drivers and passengers.

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MIT CSAIL, Cornell study finds rides-sharing theoretically could cut taxi traffic in NYC by 75%

January 03, 2017

A new modeling study by a team from MIT CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) and Cornell suggests that using ride-sharing from companies like Uber and Lyft theoretically could reduce the number of taxis on the road in New York City by 75% without significantly impacting travel time. A paper on their work will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Led by Professor Daniela Rus of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the researchers developed a dynamic ride-sharing algorithm that found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98% of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. The team also found that 95 percent of demand would be covered by just 2,000 ten-person vehicles, compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City.

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Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership forms; applying for national designation

January 02, 2017

Cities and regions across Texas are partnering with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to form the Texas Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground Partnership.

The partnership builds upon the momentum of the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge, in which Austin was a finalist, and is a direct outcome of the Texas Mobility Summit held 1–2 December 2016. The summit, hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Texas Technology Task Force, brought together nine teams representing 10 cities and three research institutions to galvanize key leadership in developing innovative solutions to the state’s mobility challenges. The teams are committed to continuing the collaboration, beginning with leveraging their collective resources, expertise and opportunities to advance AV technology.

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Ford 2017 trends report: disruption the status quo, “never more difficult” to find objective information

December 25, 2016

For the past five years, Ford has issued an annual trend report exploring societal shifts expected to influence consumers and brands (e.g., earlier post). The reports have focused on microtrends in consumer behavior; the fifth anniversary edition report—Looking Further with Ford: 2017 Trends—revisits three that surfaced in earlier reports, and highlights seven that are emerging.

Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, says there is no escaping the fact that disruption is now the status quo. At a time in which truthfulness tends to be subjective, two-thirds of adults say it never has been harder to find objective, fact-based information, while just 55% say what they put on social media is what they really think. An abundance of choice matched with uncertainty in the marketplace is bringing about a reluctance to commit—giving rise to a “sampling society” that prioritizes trying over buying .

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Volkswagen plans integrated mobility concept in Rwanda; vehicle production in Kenya

December 23, 2016

Volkswagen is taking a further step to develop market potentials in Africa. The Hon. Francis Gatare, Director of the Rwanda Development Board, and Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa, this week signed a memorandum of understanding for a new integrated mobility concept in Kigali in the presence of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand.

Volkswagen also this week inaugurated a vehicle production facility in Kenya. At the inauguration, Diess underlined Kenya’s key role within the Volkswagen brand’s Africa strategy: “After over 60 years of Volkswagen vehicle production in South and North Africa, I am delighted to now have a further site in Kenya. We will systematically continue to develop our position in the fast-growing African car market.

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US Shale Is Now Cash Flow Neutral

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Oil prices are probably already high enough to spark a rebound in shale production.

The IEA says that in the third quarter of 2016, the US shale industry became cash flow neutral for the first time ever. That isn’t a typo. For years, the drilling boom was done with a lot of debt, and the revenus earned from steadily higher levels of output were not enough to cover the cost of drilling, even when oil prices traded above $100 per barrel in the go-go drilling days between 2011 and 2014. Even when US oil production hit a peak at 9.7 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2015, the industry did not break even. Indeed, shale companies were coming off of one of their worst quarters in terms of cash flow in recent history.

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Not So Prolific: US Shale Faces A Reality Check

December 14, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

The collapse of oil prices has forced the US shale industry to slash production costs. In order to improve the breakeven costs for the average shale well, the industry has deployed three general strategies: improving techniques and technology, such as drilling longer laterals or using more frac sand; focusing drilling on the sweet spots; and demanding lower prices from oilfield service companies. All three of those strategies led to a decline in the breakeven price for a shale wells.

But while the industry plays up the efficiency gains, highlighting enhanced technology and better management, merely focusing on the sweet spots has been “nearly twice as important as better technology in reducing well costs,” as The Post Carbon Institute (PCI) notes in a report published on Monday, 2016 Tight Oil Reality Check. This is a process known as “high-grading.” In fact, the so-called efficiency gains over the past two years are a lot less impressive once you dig into the causes.

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US vehicle miles travelled up 3% in first 9 months of 2016 to 2.4 trillion miles

December 05, 2016

US driving topped 2.4 trillion miles in the first nine months of 2016, an increase of 3.0% compared to the same period last year, lengthening a series of consecutive monthly increases that started in April 2014, according to preliminary new data released by the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The new data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report—a monthly estimate of US road travel—show that more than 265.5 billion miles were driven in September 2016 alone—a 2.4% increase over the previous September and a 0.4% increase compared with August 2016.

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BMW Group expands BMW i Ventures role with new €500M fund; widened scope of investment, greater independence

December 01, 2016

The BMW Group is expanding the remit of its BMW i Ventures venture capital unit and creating a new fund of up to €500 million (US$531 million) over ten years to support it. The new fund will allow BMW i Ventures to make investments in a wider range of areas, such as autonomous driving and digitalization, and to secure continued access to the technologies of the future.

BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.

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Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US

Geographers from Dartmouth College and the University of Sheffield have provided new insight into the economic geography of commuter megaregions in the US by using an empirical approach that combines visual interpretation with statistical analysis. The findings appear in an open-access paper in PLOS One and shed light on an old geographic problem: how to divide space into coherent unit areas.

These emerging megaregions reflect the economic links woven by millions of commuters traveling to and from work each day. They map out complex networks in which economic systems, natural resources and infrastructure are linked. Understanding the way functional geographic connections cross over the existing borderlines of states and regions is key for developing institutional forms that match the patterns of the contemporary world.

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Nissan announces new strategy for customer ownership experience; leveraging connected car, big data, and personalization

November 29, 2016

In Japan, Nissan announced a new, comprehensive strategy to transform its customer aftersales experience through innovative technology and enhanced services. The company anticipates that, as a result, connected car services and greater choice in accessories and personalization will increasingly drive growth in its aftersales business, anticipated to contribute 25% of aftersales revenue by 2022.

Connected car technology and expanding use of big data will enable Nissan to offer new services, improve the dealership experience and increase customer retention. In the future, Nissan cars will provide customers advance notice when servicing is needed, as well as automatically order parts to ensure dealership availability on customer visits. Connected car technology will also dramatically streamline Nissan’s global supply chain, bringing just-in-time logistics to increase manufacturing efficiency, from plants to the dealer.

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IMI calls on UK Government to invest £30M in hybrid and electric vehicle training; affordability issue

November 21, 2016

In the UK, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is calling on the UK Government to make a £30-million (US$37-million) investment in specialist electric and hybrid vehicle training for thousands of maintenance and repair technicians in the independent retail sector. IMI asserts that the investment is crucial to support the public switch to ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV).

The IMI says the Government will need to spend a proportion of the £600 million (US$815 million) it has set aside to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles, on the technical skills infrastructure across the whole UK. It says the £40 million (US$49 million) already allocated to cities to meet air quality and emission targets, and the Chancellor’s goal of every new car and van being ULEV by 2040 will not work in isolation.

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Global Carbon Project: Low growth in global carbon emissions continues for third successive year

November 14, 2016

Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project. Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.

The projected rise of only 0.2% for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3% per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7% growth seen in 2014. The new data shows emissions growth remained below 1% despite GDP growth exceeding 3%. Detailed data were made available in the open-access data journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD). This is the fifth update of the global carbon budget published by ESSD in the living data format.

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T&E report: electric cars sales in Europe doubled in 2015; now at 1% market share

Roughly 145,000 new electric vehicles (EV) were sold in Europe in 2015—double the 2014 tally, according to a recent T&E report. EV sales have now reached the milestone of a 1% market share; figures for 2016 to date suggest significantly more than 200,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold in Europe this year. That would take the total number of EVs on the road to more than half a million cars.

Currently, there are 34 EV models on the European market available, including battery-, plug-in-hybrid- and range-extended-electric vehicles. Established manufacturers have announced new plans to expand their portfolio of EVs within the next five years. Although EVs still constitute only a fraction of all car models available, Europe (including Switzerland and Norway) is the second biggest EV market in the world behind China.

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Navigant Research ranks EV charging network companies

In a new Leaderboard Report, Navigant Research assesses the business strategy and execution of 12 companies offering public charging networks and EV charging services.

Navigant Research estimates the global commercial charging market for plug-ins will be worth $2.7 billion annually by 2025, compared to $168.5 million in 2016—reflecting a 36.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). To date, the market has been driven by a combination of market pull from the growing number of PEVs on the roads in major automotive markets such as North America and Europe and market push from stakeholders such as governments, automakers, and utilities.

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Dürr introduces new generation of painting robots with greater kinematic freedom; Industry 4.0

November 11, 2016

Dürr has introduced its next-generation of painting robot: the new Ecopaint Robot. With its greater kinematic freedom, the EcoRP E043i model with its seven-axis kinematic system enlarges the work zone and can eliminate the need for a linear displacement rail. This can significantly reduce investment and maintenance costs in the paint booth. Another newly developed product, the EcoRCMP2 robot control, is a key module of the Smart Factory.

Conventionally, paint robots are usually equipped with six axes. A displacement rail in the booth wall ensures that the robot can move parallel with the car body in the paint booth and thereby reach all car body areas. The new Dürr robot has now been equipped with a seventh rotatory axis. This significantly increases flexibility and versatility,said Dr. Hans Schumacher, President and CEO of Dürr Systems AG.

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Infineon introduces new switch family supporting trend towards decentralized intelligent vehicle power net

November 04, 2016

Infineon Technologies AG is supporting the trend towards decentralized, intelligent and cost-effective vehicle power net architectures. Infineon now launched Power PROFET, a new ultra-low ohmic smart high-side switch family. These protected switches offer the lowest on-resistance and the highest energy capability on the market. They enable the replacement of electromechanical relays and fuses in power distribution and junction boxes up to 40A DC.

At the system level, Power PROFET switches enable a more accurate system sizing. Also, they simplify significantly the wire harness architecture by reducing the lengths of many wires or removing them completely.

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Volkswagen unveils Atlas; new MQB-based 7-seat SUV; first VW Digital Cockpit in US

October 28, 2016

Volkswagen unveiled the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SUV at an event on the Santa Monica Pier. Built in Chattanooga alongside the Passat, the seven-passenger Atlas offers a full slate of available driver assistance and technology features—including Volkswagen’s first Digital Cockpit in a vehicle for the US—a spacious interior and a choice of two gasoline powertrains.

Atlas, said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of the North America Region, Volkswagen and President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, is the brand’s first entry into the mid-size SUV segment, “the heart of the American market.” The largest Volkswagen the company has built in the US, Atlas features Volkswagen-style driving dynamics and attention to detail, and will be priced to be attractive in the volume family SUV segment.

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Qualcomm to acquire NXP for ~$38B; semiconductor engine for connected world

October 27, 2016

Qualcomm Incorporated will acquire NXP Semiconductors with an equity offer worth some $38 billion; including debt, the deal is worth roughly $47 billion. The boards of directors of both companies unanimously approved the definitive agreement.

NXP is a leader in high-performance, mixed-signal semiconductor electronics, with innovative products and solutions and leadership positions in automotive, broad-based microcontrollers, secure identification, network processing and RF power. As a leading semiconductor solutions supplier to the automotive industry, NXP also has leading positions in automotive infotainment, networking and safety systems, with solutions designed into 14 of the top 15 infotainment customers in 2016. NXP has a broad customer base, serving more than 25,000 customers through its direct sales channel and global network of distribution channel partners.

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Mercedes-Benz Vans shows pickup truck concepts; market launch in late 2017; diesel V6

October 25, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled two design variants of the Concept X-CLASS, previewing the coming X-Class pickup, in Stockholm. The introduction of the one-ton pickup with seating for up to 5 people will make Mercedes-Benz the first premium manufacturer to account for the changing customer requirements in the global segment of mid-size pickups.

With the pickup, Mercedes-Benz Vans will also expand its product range with a fourth model series. Daimler AG will make investments in the high nine figures (euro) in the new model series by the time of the market launch. The pickup will be launched in late 2017 in Europe under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe.

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US total petroleum demand up in September year-on-year; highest September gasoline deliveries on record

October 22, 2016

Total petroleum deliveries in September increased 1.0% from September 2015, but were down 2.6% from August to average 19.6 million barrels per day, according to figures from the American Petroleum Institute (API). These September deliveries were the highest deliveries for the month in nine years, since 2007.

For the third quarter of 2016, total petroleum deliveries, a measure of US petroleum demand, decreased by 0.1% from the same period last year. For year to date, total domestic petroleum deliveries remained flat compared to the same period last year.

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Nissan completes 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors; Mitsubishi joins Renault-Nissan Alliance

October 20, 2016

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has completed an acquisition of a 34% equity stake in Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) (earlier post) and has become its largest shareholder. As indicated in May, when Nissan outlined the deal, MMC is also becoming part of the global Alliance with Nissan and Renault. With the addition of MMC, the Alliance will be in the world’s top three automotive groups by global volumes, with sales of 10 million units in fiscal year 2016.

The investment and alliance comes in the aftermath of revelations of MMC cheating on fuel consumption testing in Japan with mini-cars and other models. Nissan was the one which first brought the discrepancies in minicar testing to light; MMC produces minicar models for Nissan in Japan.

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Volkswagen Group outselling GM in China

October 18, 2016

The Volkswagen Group is having a very strong sales year so far in China. For September, deliveries were up 20.1% to 382,300 units compared to September 2015. For the nine-month period from January to September, VW Group deliveries were up 10.7% to 2,853,900 from the year before.

As a result, the Group is outselling GM, which itself has been posting record results. General Motors and its joint ventures in China delivered a September record 343,773 vehicles, up 16% year over year. For the first nine months of 2016, retail sales by GM and its joint ventures in China increased 9% on an annual basis to a record 2,718,315 units.

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Cumulative plug-in vehicle sales topped 500K units in US in September

October 17, 2016

Cumulative sales of plug-in vehicles in the US topped 500,000 units in September, according to figures gathered by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The introduction of the first mass market plug-in vehicles occurred in December of 2010 with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. By the end of 2012 there were 11 different plug-in models available, and by September of 2016 there were 27 different models.

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Suzuki and Toyota to explore business partnership; environment, safety, and information technology

October 12, 2016

Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have agreed to start exploring ideas that are directed towards a business partnership.

In a joint statement, the two companies said that, given the rapid change in the auto industry, the industry is required to work not only on conventional automobile R&D, but also on R&D for advanced and future technologies in the fields including environment, safety, and IT. In addition to the R&D that is conducted by individual companies, it is increasingly important to work together with other companies on areas such as infrastructure development, as well as the establishment of new industrial standards.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus launches RIO: open cloud-based platform for transportation industry digitization

September 21, 2016

At the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2016 show in Hanover, Volkswagen Truck & Bus is presenting itself to the public for the first time as a group of strong brands: MAN, Scania, Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

In addition to numerous new products, Volkswagen Truck & Bus is emphasizing alternative drives and connected commercial vehicles. In addition to electromobility for commercial vehicles—from the Volkswagen e-load up! to MAN’s heavy-duty distribution eTruck—Volkswagen Truck & Bus is launching RIO—a new brand bundling digital solutions for transportation & logistics into a cloud-based open platform that can serve as the “operating system” for the entire transportation industry.

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Exascale Computing Project (ECP) announces $39.8M in first-round application development awards

September 08, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) announced its first round of funding with the selection of 15 application development proposals for full funding and seven proposals for seed funding, representing teams from 45 research and academic organizations.

The awards, totaling $39.8 million, target advanced modeling and simulation solutions to specific challenges supporting key DOE missions in science, clean energy and national security, as well as collaborations such as the Precision Medicine Initiative with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. Exascale refers to high-performance computing systems capable of at least a billion billion calculations per second, or a factor of 50 to 100 times faster than the nation’s most powerful supercomputers in use today.

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Fujitsu develops low power consumption technology for 5G

September 07, 2016

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has built a prototype wireless unit incorporating inter-subarray coding technology, which makes it possible to achieve high-speed transmissions, in excess of 10 Gbps, for 5G mobile wireless base stations and access points. It has achieved these high speeds while maintaining low power consumption levels on par with Wi-Fi.

In verification tests, the prototype successfully transmitted signals simultaneously to multiple devices. In order to achieve 5G ultra high-speed communications, for which development is ongoing with the aim of practical implementation by about 2020, attention is centered on technology that uses the millimeter waveband and multiple antenna elements to simultaneously transmit signals as beams to each individual device.

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Volvo Cars and Autoliv to create joint venture for next-gen autonomous driving software

September 06, 2016

Volvo Cars and Autoliv have signed a letter of intent to set up a new jointly-owned company to develop next-generation autonomous driving software. The planned new company will have its headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and an initial workforce taken from both companies of around 200, increasing to over 600 in the medium term. The company is expected to start operations in the beginning of 2017.

The new company, which has yet to be named, will develop advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous drive (AD) systems for use in Volvo cars and for sale exclusively by Autoliv to all car makers globally, with revenues shared by both companies.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus enters into strategic alliance with Navistar, takes 16.6% stake; entry into N. America

Volkswagen Truck & Bus has formed a wide-ranging strategic alliance with Navistar International Corporation, which includes an equity investment in Navistar by Volkswagen Truck & Bus and framework agreements for strategic technology and supply collaboration and a procurement joint venture.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus will purchase from Navistar newly issued common shares representing, pro forma for such issuance, a 16.6% stake (19.9% of pre-transaction outstanding common stock) in Navistar for a price per share of $15.76 and an aggregate purchase price of approximately $256 million (or approximately €229 million at current exchange rates). To underscore the long-term nature of the alliance, Volkswagen Truck & Bus has agreed to hold these shares for a minimum of three years.

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Why Wall Street is throwing billions at the Permian

August 31, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The collapse of oil prices has ground shale drilling to a halt, but the one region where drilling is still active, and even increasing, is in West Texas.

The Permian Basin is one of the last profitable areas to still drill with sub-$50 oil, and as other regions fall by the wayside, an increasing portion of drilling activity and spare investment dollars are flowing into the Permian. The rebound in the rig count in the U.S. is largely concentrated in the Permian. The West Texas shale basin has captured two-thirds of the 90 oil rigs that have been added since hitting a nadir in May.

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Opinion: Could A Lithium Shortage De-Rail The Electric Car Boom?

August 26, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

We’ve gone electric, and there’s no going back at this point. Lithium is our new fuel, but like fossil fuels, the reserves we’re currently tapping into are finite—and that’s what investors can take to the bank.

You may think lithium got too popular too fast. You may suspect electric vehicles are too much buzz and not enough real future. You may, in short, be a lithium skeptic, one of many. And yet, despite this skepticism, lithium demand is rising steadily and sharply, and indications that a shortage may be looming are very real.

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OPEC’s Output Freeze: What Has Changed Since Doha?

August 25, 2016

by Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

It’s possible that OPEC is crying wolf with hints of an output freeze next month in Algiers; but it’s also possible that they are ramping up production to take the sting out of a freeze. This is a delicate balancing act that the Saudis need to play very carefully.

The official chatter is that the OPEC meeting in Algeria from September 26 to 28 could conclude with an agreement to freeze production by the member nations, with even Russia joining forces in a freeze that may prevent further oil price erosion. But everyone’s a bit gun-shy after the false hopes of the last round in Doha—even if a freeze at levels that existed then wouldn’t have meant much either—and it’s hard to blame them. The question is, how many times can the Saudis cry wolf without forever losing the ability to leverage this chatter to affect a rise in oil prices?

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Ford targeting highly autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing in 2021; new tech company investments, staffing up in Silicon Valley

August 17, 2016

Ford intends to have a high-volume, highly autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To achieve this, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.

Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

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Lux: Total is leading example of oil supermajor expanding into solar plus storage and distributed generation

August 09, 2016

France-based Total is the first oil supermajor aggressively to enter new areas of business including solar plus storage and distributed generation, notes Lux Research in a new report: “Superpower Darwinism: What Big Oil Can and Cannot Do About Total’s Billion-Dollar Battery Move.”

Even though viable battery companies have become harder and more expensive to buy since Total’s $1-billion acquisition of Saft (earlier post), the oil supermajors—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total—have cash piles ranging from $5 billion to $30 billion each, despite shrinking profits since 2012 and uncertainty about timing of the eventual recovery of oil prices.

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Fujitsu develops technology to enable high-speed deep learning

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has developed software technology that uses multiple GPUs to enable high-speed deep learning powered by the application of supercomputer software parallelization technology. This newly developed technology was implemented in the Caffe deep learning framework, where, in a test measuring learning time using AlexNet on 64 GPU-equipped computers, it achieved a learning speed that is 27 times faster than a single GPU.

Compared with before this technology was applied, it achieved learning speed improvements of 46% for 16 GPUs and 71% for 64 GPUs (according to internal comparisons). Using this technology, the time required for deep learning R&D can be shortened, such as in the development of unique neural network models for the autonomous control of robots, automobiles, and so forth, or for healthcare and finance, such as with pathology classification or stock price forecasting, enabling the development of higher-quality models.

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Survey: Fuel efficiency top criterion for US buyers regardless of size of vehicle; good news for start-stop

August 03, 2016

American consumers are strongly influenced by fuel efficiency and the price of gas when purchasing a vehicle, according to a new survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Johnson Controls. Of the 1,006 people surveyed, fuel efficiency (57%) is top of mind for consumers when they go to buy any size automobile, followed closely by cost (55%) and safety (54%).

That preference is consistent with a similar survey conducted five years ago, despite falling gas prices, which are down more than 37% from the national average in 2011. The new survey also found consumers are sensitive to the price of fuel when considering a new vehicle, with 64% saying it directly impacts their purchase. This is up 14% from 2011.

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TÜM study finds reduction in fuel consumption from eco-driving training, even with incentives, to be fleeting

August 01, 2016

A study of the persistence of effects of eco-driving training by a team from Technische Universität München has found that, while there is an immediate reduction of the average fuel consumption following eco-driving training along with the provision of an incentive, there is an attenuation of this effect after six months.

Further, they also found no impact on fuel consumption from purely theoretical eco-driving training—i.e., without incentives—either short-term or long-term. A paper describing their study is published in the journal Energy Policy.

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Report: Uber to invest $500M in global mapping project

July 31, 2016

The Financial Times reports that Uber will invest $500 million into a global mapping project in an effort to decrease its dependence on Google Maps and to prepare for autonomous driving. The FT cited “a person familiar with Uber’s plans” as the source.

Uber has already hired Brian McClendon, formerly the head of Google Maps for more than a decade. In a post on the Uber site last week, McClendon noted that “Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.

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California releases Sustainable Freight Action Plan to transform freight system; 25% more efficient by 2030

July 30, 2016

In response to an Executive Order issued last year by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., state agency leaders on Friday released the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, a comprehensive document that serves as a blueprint for transforming the state’s multi-billion dollar freight transport system into one that is environmentally cleaner, more efficient, and more economically competitive than it is today.

The revised document is similar to the draft version issued in May 2016, but reflects new input provided by industry, labor, regional and local government, and community and environmental group stakeholders, who submitted more than 85 comments on the draft plan.

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Opinion: Why Lithium Will See Another Price Spike This Fall

July 20, 2016

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

So far, lithium has been the hottest metal of 2016, beating out gold, with exponential demand expected over the coming years. Although the price trajectory of the metal has been subdued in recent months, the fundamentals behind the long-term trajectory suggest strong potential for long-term growth. Price doubling from 2014/2015 was first seen in China and is now being felt worldwide, with lithium hydroxide prices from $16-20 and carbonate prices from $12-14 thousand USD per ton.

Automotive Thrust. There is no doubt as to the push that Tesla has given the current automotive transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Since 2014, when Tesla first announced the Gigafactory with Panasonic, other manufacturers have begun to take notice and take action. Volkswagen AG announced last week that it was considering LG Chem Ltd. or Panasonic Corp. as partners for several US$2-billion factories, according to Bloomberg, with confirmation expected later in the year. Previous announcements of billion-dollar investments in battery factories by Volkswagen were largely brushed off by investors as deflections from their “Dieselgate” scandal. But with LG and Panasonic in the picture, concrete plans appear to be crystalizing.

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Mazda introduces SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS control technologies; G-Vectoring Control uses engine to enhance chassis performance

July 14, 2016

Mazda Motor Corporation is introducing SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS, a series of new-generation vehicle motion control technologies. The first in the series, G-Vectoring Control, will be introduced to all new-generation models starting with the updated Mazda Axela (known as Mazda3 outside Japan), which has just gone on sale in Japan. By adopting GVC, Mazda vehicles will exhibit even smoother transitions between G-forces in all driving scenarios.

Until now, lateral and longitudinal acceleration (G) forces have been controlled separately. GVC is the first technology to adjust engine torque in response to steering inputs in order to control these forces in a unified way and optimize the vertical loading of each tire to realize smooth and efficient vehicle behavior.

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BMW Group expands use of additive manufacturing processes in series production; planar technologies

July 13, 2016

The BMW Group has been using components from 3D printers in series production since 2012; more than 10,000 additively-manufactured parts are built into the Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Additive Manufacturing Center at the company’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) has also been using these forming processes to produce parts for the new Rolls-Royce Dawn since the beginning of the year.

The BMW Group is steadily pursuing the evolution and use of advanced additive-manufacturing methods, and says it will continue to expand the application of 3D printing in the future. Planar 3D printing technologies will enable much faster production times and more economical production.

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Oil Industry Faces Huge Worker Shortage

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The rig count has rebounded from the lows seen in late May, a small indication that oil companies in the US could begin drilling anew. Shale drilling is a short-cycle prospect, requiring only a few weeks to drill and bring a well online. Because of this, the collective US shale industry has been likened to the new “swing producer”: low oil prices force quick cutbacks but higher prices trigger new supplies. In essence, shale could balance the market in the way OPEC used to.

While that notion was always a bit simplistic, one reason that US shale production won’t necessarily spring into action in short order is because the people and equipment that were sidelined over the past two years can’t come back at a moment’s notice.

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Volkswagen brand says it has met 2018 Think Blue. Factory. environmental targets; environmental compatibility of car production improved by 25%

July 09, 2016

The Volkswagen brand announced that it has reached the self-defined sustainability target for production set out in Think Blue. Factory. for 2018. (Earlier post.) At the brand’s production facilities throughout the world, vehicles and components are now manufactured in a way which is 25% more environmentally compatible than five years ago.

Taking the average of the five agreed environmental indicators for the Volkswagen brand, environmental impact has been reduced by 25.3%, with energy consumption down by 24.7%; CO2 emissions by 29.1%, waste production by as much as 46.5%; water consumption by 18.2%; and solvent emissions by 8.2% between 2010 and the end of 2015. These figures are determined per vehicle or component produced.

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Morgan Stanley Warns That Rising Rig Count Could Undo The Oil Rally

by Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

In an industry where anything could happen, surprises—often unwelcome—are hard to come by. Oil is exactly such an industry at the moment. No one is sure where oil is heading, near-tem forecasts range from $20 to $80 per barrel by the end of the year, and there are just too many wild cards on the scene.

So, in a sense, the news that shale producers are launching more drilling rigs is not really news at all. It was expected, the companies themselves said they are ready to start ramping-up production as soon as prices reach some more reasonable level. What’s new, perhaps, is Morgan Stanley’s warning that production from the new wells being drilled could prompt a reversal of forecasts that U.S. crude production is falling and will continue to fall.

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CDC: US has highest motor vehicle crash death rate among high-income countries; could be cut in half with proven strategies

July 07, 2016

About 90 people die each day from motor vehicle crashes in the United States, resulting in the highest death rate among 19 high-income comparison countries, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were more than 32,000 crash deaths in the US in 2013, with more than $380 million in direct medical costs.

Athough the US has made progress in road safety—reducing crash deaths by 31% from 2000 to 2013—other high-income countries reduced crash deaths by an average of 56% during the same period. Lower death rates in comparison countries, as well as the high prevalence of risk factors in the US, suggest that more progress can be made in saving lives, according to the CDC. Compared with other high-income countries, the US had the:

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NHTSA projects 7.7% increase in US traffic fatalities for 2015 year-on-year; significant increase in motorcyclist and non-occupant deaths

July 02, 2016

A just-released National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2015 estimates that 35,200 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—an increase of about 7.7% as compared to the 32,675 fatalities reported in 2014. If the 35,200 figure turns out to be accurate, this will mark the highest level of fatalities since 2008, which saw 37,423 fatalities.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) preliminary data shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2015 increased by about 107.2 billion miles—about a 3.5% increase. The fatality rate for 2015 increased to 1.12 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.08 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2014—about a 3.7% increase. Fourth quarter of 2015 represents the fifth consecutive quarter with year-to-year increases in fatalities as well as the fatality rate.

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3 Years Of Painful Cuts Sets Oil Markets Up For Serious Supply Crunch

June 01, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Total global oil production could decline for the next several years in a row as scarce new sources of supply come online.

According to data from Rystad Energy, overall global oil output will fall this year as natural depletion overwhelms all new sources of supply. But the deficit will only widen in the years ahead due to the dramatic scaling back in spending on new exploration and development.

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CCM: China Li-ion industry booming; domestic outputs triples in 2015 to 15.7 GWh

May 23, 2016

In China, the development of alternative energy vehicles and the Li-ion battery sector are booming with the support of promotional policies from the Chinese government, according to new report from CCM, a leading market intelligence provider for China’s agriculture, chemicals, food & ingredients and life science markets. In May 2016 alone, nearly RMB2.6 billion (US$400 million) flowed into the Li-ion battery market, with Tianqi Lithium, Ganfeng Lithium and GEM CO., Ltd. putting in the most capital.

Over the past five years, the growth of electrochemical energy storage market in China has outpaced that of the global market, with a CAGR (2010-2015) of 110%—six times as high as that of the global. Among it, the installed capacity of Li-ion battery captured 66% of the market share in the electrochemical energy storage market.

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What Does The Next OPEC Meeting Have In Store?

by Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

The next OPEC meeting on the 2nd of June will act as little more than a forum for continued altercations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The 2 June 2016 OPEC meeting will be held amid a backdrop of oil prices near $50 per barrel, a sharp drop in Nigerian production due to sabotage, turmoil in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia operating with a new oil minister, and Iran aggressively pumping close to pre-sanction levels.

OPEC interactions have become a direct altercation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the remaining members reduced to mere observers.

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Euro Big 5 auto markets up 8.6% in April, SUVs continue to dominate; shift in segment shares

May 13, 2016

Led by strong growth in Spain and Italy, new car registrations in Europe’s Big 5 markets grew by 8.6% to 958,400 units in April 2016, according to the latest figures from JATO Dyanmics. After the UK’s traditional volume peak in March, which saw registrations rise to 1.36 million, April produced further gains across the top five European markets with SUVs driving higher volume and counting for 24.4% and 24.9% of April’s and YTD’s totals respectively. The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) came in at 11.35 million, up from March registrations of 11.04 million and significantly higher than the 10.48 million in April 2015.

Germany continued to lead the market, with volume up by 8.4% at 315,900 units, accounting for a third of the Big 5’s total. After a relatively flat March, April saw registrations grow healthily, bringing the YTD total to 1.11 million units, up by 5.6% over January-April 2015. April’s volume for Germany was the highest since 2009. The UK also saw positive growth—despite only seeing a 2.0% rise on April 2015, last month was the best April for UK car registrations for a decade.

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Nissan taking 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors for $2.17 billion; expanding the Alliance model at a good discount

May 12, 2016

Following an MMC share issue, Nissan Motor will take a 34% equity stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) for ¥237 billion (US$2.17 billion). The two companies have signed a Basic Agreement to form a strategic alliance, extending an existing partnership under which the two companies have jointly collaborated for the past five years.

The investment and alliance comes as MMC struggles to deal with the aftermath of its recently revealed fuel consumption testing cheating in Japan with mini-cars and other models. Nissan was the one which first brought the discrepancies in minicar testing to light; MMC produces minicar models for Nissan in Japan. (Earlier post.)

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Ghosn: Renault-Nissan needs both high- and low-spec EVs to be player in China market; ongoing importance of gov’t support

May 05, 2016

At a press roundtable held at the Auto China 2016, Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn observed that both Nissan and Renault had what he called “high-spec” electric vehicle offers in China: the Venucia for Nissan, and the coming Freelance Electric by Renault. He defined high-spec as models with a high-price and very good performance.

Unfortunately, he noted, these models are not selling very well in China. The China market is currently oriented toward “lower-spec” models—i.e., more affordable. Accordingly, both Renault and Nissan are working to develop high spec models that are lower cost and with more range. The two are also working very hard, in conjunction with partner Dongfeng, to introduce a low-spec affordable EV, Ghosn said.

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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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