Report: Valero Leading Secret Campaign To Block Biofuel Blends

The nation’s largest oil refiner has taken on a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to rid refiners of costly federal biofuel blend rules, according to a Reuters investigative piece published today.

Valero Energy Corp. is making the case for transferring the “point of obligation” responsibility for biofuels blending that puts about 10 percent ethanol into gasoline sold in U.S. gas stations. The obligation should be moved over from oil refiners to gasoline retailers and shippers such as FedEx, according to two former Valero executives who spoke to Reuters.

Valero and other oil refiners have taken a costly hit in recent years as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) mandating the biofuel blend. The company was forced to spend about $750 million last year buying RFS credits, according to Valero’s securities filings.

RFS was passed as federal legislation and signed by former President George W. Bush in 2005 as a way to support U.S. energy independence, reduce air pollution, and support corn formers supplying the ethanol. The law mandates that oil refiners either blend biofuels into the gasoline they’re producing or to buy credits from companies that are doing the biofuels blending.

The Trump administration is considering making the point of obligation changes, but it has not yet made a formal decision on it.

Reuters reported that Valero has been assembling a coalition of supporters that includes billionaire Carl Icahn, who owns refiner CVR Energy and served as an advisor to the Trump administration on business regulation.

Icahn resigned from this special advisor position on Friday after taking heavy criticism that he had conflict of interests while playing this role.

“I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole,” Icahn wrote in a letter to Trump on Friday.

The former Valero executives said that the company worked with Icahn last August to write a letter to EPA pushing for policy change. The letter said the rules create a “rigged market” unfair to oil refiners.

Icahn became a special advisor soon after Trump was elected. The White House said it didn’t see any conflict of interest in the role Icahn was playing since he wasn’t a paid presidential advisor.

According to the report, Icahn has been joined in talks supporting Valero’s efforts by a new gas station owners’ trade group and a former Obama administration environmental advisor.

Renewable Fuels Association, a biofuels industry trade group, is said to have dropped its opposition to policy changes that the coalition is working toward. RFA and other biofuels groups had been engaged in heated battle with oil companies and oil refiners for several years over the federal rule.

The investigative piece sees Valero as forging a campaign to have one or more of the backers take a visible role pushing for changes in the federal policy. The idea would be to create the perception of broad support for making this change, while Valera and a small group of oil refiners would stay in the background.

“There was an effort to line up people who would support us who were more palatable to decision makers. It’s easier to support a small business than a big refining company,” said one of the former Valero executives.

SEE ALSO:  Lux Report Says Big Oil’s Dominance May Be Coming To An End

Valero and other companies haven’t confirmed the clandestine lobbying efforts have been taking place.

Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas did take a position on the federal regulations, calling the rules harmful to “workers, small business retailers, consumers, the refining base, energy security and even the drive for more biofuels blending.”

Opponents to RFS have included Valero, oil companies, and a few automaker and environmental groups. Their arguments have been that the biofuel blend does little to reduce foreign oil imports as domestic oil production has been booming; that it can hurt gasoline engines and fuel systems along with mileage; and it does little to help the environment.

Reuters

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Report: Valero Leading Secret Campaign To Block Biofuel Blends

The nation’s largest oil refiner has taken on a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to rid refiners of costly federal biofuel blend rules, according to a Reuters investigative piece published today.

Valero Energy Corp. is making the case for transferring the “point of obligation” responsibility for biofuels blending that puts about 10 percent ethanol into gasoline sold in U.S. gas stations. The obligation should be moved over from oil refiners to gasoline retailers and shippers such as FedEx, according to two former Valero executives who spoke to Reuters.

Valero and other oil refiners have taken a costly hit in recent years as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) mandating the biofuel blend. The company was forced to spend about $750 million last year buying RFS credits, according to Valero’s securities filings.

RFS was passed as federal legislation and signed by former President George W. Bush in 2005 as a way to support U.S. energy independence, reduce air pollution, and support corn formers supplying the ethanol. The law mandates that oil refiners either blend biofuels into the gasoline they’re producing or to buy credits from companies that are doing the biofuels blending.

The Trump administration is considering making the point of obligation changes, but it has not yet made a formal decision on it.

Reuters reported that Valero has been assembling a coalition of supporters that includes billionaire Carl Icahn, who owns refiner CVR Energy and served as an advisor to the Trump administration on business regulation.

Icahn resigned from this special advisor position on Friday after taking heavy criticism that he had conflict of interests while playing this role.

“I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole,” Icahn wrote in a letter to Trump on Friday.

The former Valero executives said that the company worked with Icahn last August to write a letter to EPA pushing for policy change. The letter said the rules create a “rigged market” unfair to oil refiners.

Icahn became a special advisor soon after Trump was elected. The White House said it didn’t see any conflict of interest in the role Icahn was playing since he wasn’t a paid presidential advisor.

According to the report, Icahn has been joined in talks supporting Valero’s efforts by a new gas station owners’ trade group and a former Obama administration environmental advisor.

Renewable Fuels Association, a biofuels industry trade group, is said to have dropped its opposition to policy changes that the coalition is working toward. RFA and other biofuels groups had been engaged in heated battle with oil companies and oil refiners for several years over the federal rule.

The investigative piece sees Valero as forging a campaign to have one or more of the backers take a visible role pushing for changes in the federal policy. The idea would be to create the perception of broad support for making this change, while Valera and a small group of oil refiners would stay in the background.

“There was an effort to line up people who would support us who were more palatable to decision makers. It’s easier to support a small business than a big refining company,” said one of the former Valero executives.

SEE ALSO:  Lux Report Says Big Oil’s Dominance May Be Coming To An End

Valero and other companies haven’t confirmed the clandestine lobbying efforts have been taking place.

Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas did take a position on the federal regulations, calling the rules harmful to “workers, small business retailers, consumers, the refining base, energy security and even the drive for more biofuels blending.”

Opponents to RFS have included Valero, oil companies, and a few automaker and environmental groups. Their arguments have been that the biofuel blend does little to reduce foreign oil imports as domestic oil production has been booming; that it can hurt gasoline engines and fuel systems along with mileage; and it does little to help the environment.

Reuters

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Daimler and BMW May Merge Their Car-Sharing Divisions

Daimler’s Car2Go and BMW’s DriveNow may be merging their car-sharing services, according to a hint by the chief executive of DriveNow’s partner, Sixt.

CEO Erich Sixt, who heads the Germany-based car rental company named after him, would not confirm that talks are under way, but suggested that it is in motion.

“At the last press conference I made clear that we are not involved. Today I can only say ‘no comment.’ This is of course a slightly different statement from the last one. Why things are dragging on is not down to us,” Sixt said Thursday.

The merger question had come up in May, when Sixt said his company wasn’t involved in talks between the two car-sharing firms. He did share that Sixt’s 50-percent stake in DriveNow had been valued at about 480 million euros ($560 million).

Prior to that, the question has been coming up for a while. In December, German monthly Manager Magazin reported that the two German automakers were in talks to consolidate their car-sharing units on an operations level, keeping the Car2Go and DriveNow brands active.

Both automakers declined to comment in December. This time around, Car2Go declined to comment and DriveNow was yet to respond.

BMW did comment to a question about Daimler and BMW being in talks about consolidation in car-sharing.

“We are in constant talks with our partners and are of course evaluating the strategic options for our activities and stakes,” a BMW spokeswoman said.

BMW and Daimler are seeing mobility services take off in global markets, but have taken a cautious approach about expanding their networks.

Car2Go recently reported seeing 40-percent growth in North America, with its one-way car-sharing model taking off. The company had shut down operations in a few cities in that region the year before.

DriveNow, was a joint venture between BMW and Sixt founded in 2011. Last year, BMW launched an Uber-competitive brand, ReachNow, in North America. On-demand ride services are being offered in a few markets, including the use of BMW i3 electric cars.

In Europe, demand for car-sharing is seeing quite a bit of growth in cities such as London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan, and Helsinki. Customers appreciate free parking in their car-sharing rentals, which cuts down a major cost in those cities.

BMW is seeing car-sharing having an impact with consumers on car ownership and mobility choices. More than a third of DriveNow customers in London have sold their cars, and only 20 percent of them had committed to keeping their own vehicles.

SEE ALSO:  Car2go Sees 40-Percent Trip Growth In First Half

Growth for their services has been taking off lately. Sixt reported that its DriveNow membership base had grown from 815,000 customers at the end of 2016 to 950,000 at the end of June.

Car2Go said that it has about 2.7 million members who have access to 13,900 vehicles in eight countries located in North America and Europe, and in China.

Both of the automakers, and most of their industry peers, see the game changing for vehicle manufacturers. Paid, autonomous mobility services are expected to make up much of their revenue over the next couple of decades.

Ride-hailing services offers by companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Didi, make up about a third of the global taxi market, according to Goldman Sachs.

The investment firm expects that to grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030. Autonomous robotaxis will make that happen, Goldman Sachs said.

Reuters

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Hyundai Confirms Longer-Range EVs Will Be Technology Of Choice

Hyundai Motor Corp. is raising the bar on its eco-car strategy and a promise that it could have one of the longest range electric vehicles out there.

The South Korean automaker will be marketing its next round of all-electric vehicles at luxury buyers and those interested in the utility of a small SUV.

An electric sedan under its Genesis luxury brand is scheduled to be launched in 2021. The company will also launch an electric version of its Hyundai Kona small SUV in the first half of next year.

Hyundai is taking a very competitive stance on range per charge for these two new models during a time when range has become a hot topic. The Genesis electric sedan will go 500 kilometers (310 miles) per charge, the automaker said. The electric Hyundai Kona is supposed to have a range of 390 km (242 miles).

Specifications haven’t been released on the electric vehicles’ battery sizes, and how the miles per charge are being measured. They’re likely to be shorter range in the U.S. under Environmental Protection Agency standards. An example would be the the Hyundai Ioniq Electric being listed on the Hyundai corporate website with a battery range of 280 kilometers (174 miles) using New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) measures. The EPA lists the electric car as having 124 miles of combined city/highway range.

Through the Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands, the company says it will be rolling out 31 eco-friendly models by 2020. That up from 22 models announced in 2014. It will cover battery electric models, plug-in hybrid, hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

Like Toyota and Honda, Hyundai will stay in the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market, but various market forces have gotten the automaker to prioritize EVs.

“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.

There will be eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles to hit the mark, the company said.

In July, the company announced that all-electric versions of the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro will be coming out in the first half of 2018.

Separately, Hyundai unveiled the second fuel cell vehicles, following the Tucson fuel cell SUV. A new mid-sized SUV will count out in Korea early next year, and it will then go over to the U.S. and Europe markets.

The company said that, like the new EVs in the pipeline, it will be longer range than the current offering. The Tucson fuel cell goes about 415 km (257 miles) on a tank full of hydrogen, and the new midsize fuel cell SUV is expected to go more than 580 km (360 miles) per fueling.

A fuel cell bus is scheduled to roll out later this year, and a fuel cell sedan is in the works. However, the company does see EVs as being the predominant technology for now. FCVs are still too costly.

SEE ALSO: Pending All-Electric Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro Will Double Hyundai-Kia’s EV Production

“Hyundai will achieve economies of scale for fuel cell cars by 2035 at the earliest,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

“Before that, Hyundai has no choice but to rely on battery cars,” he said.

The company clearly has a challenge ahead in making its eco-car strategy profitable. Sales have been soft of the Tucson fuel cell vehicle, which trails behind the market leading Toyota Mirai.

The Hyundai Ioniq has gained a great deal of attention and enthusiasm over the past year, but it still not doing very well. According to the July 2017 Dashboard from HybridCars.com and Baum & Associates, there was only 200 units sold of the Ioniq EV in the U.S. this year through the end of July.

Reuters

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Nissan Tapping Into National Drive Electric Week To Show Next-Gen Leaf

Right after the Sept. 5 launch of the next-generation Leaf all-electric car, Nissan will be hosting an up-close experience on both coasts.

The event will be part of the annual National Drive Electric Week, where the new Nissan Leaf will be on display and available for a spin in eight west coast and east coast cities.

That will take place from Sept. 9-16. On Sept. 9, the Leaf will be shown in Seattle, San Diego, and Alpharetta, Ga. On September 14, the event takes place in Bridgewater, NJ; and on September 16, visitors can check out the revamped electric car in Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, Cupertino, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass.

While NDEW is taking place across the U.S. and a few other countries, Nissan is focusing on markets where Leaf sales have done well since its launch nearly seven years ago.

The way ride and drives will work is that current Leaf owners get an exclusive offer to participate in “The All New Leaf Drive and Discover Experience” weeks after its being unveiled beginning in October. They just need to show their current Leaf key fob to register while visiting the display to participate in a test drive.

The Nissan Leaf has been the official sponsor for the event for the third straight year. The automaker sees it as an ideal setting to show off the new version.

“The timing couldn’t be better. Bringing Leaf to some of the most enthusiastic EV advocates just days after its global debut is the perfect way to kick things off for this technology-packed car,” said Brian Maragno, director, Nissan EV marketing and sales strategy. “We can’t wait to show off the all-new LEAF to electric vehicle owners and enthusiasts during National Drive Electric Week.”

The annual event has become well known for owners and those interested in buying their first EV to get together and talk about their experiences. EV owners are known for bragging about the distance they’ve been able to travel on their all-electric EV, how well its performed, and how much it saves them on transportation costs. A few of them will jump into the environmental argument about how clean the fuel is, especially if its coming from solar panels up on their roofs.

SEE ALSO:  EVgo Providing Free Charging During National Drive Electric Week

Of course, there’s always competition over which is the coolest and best electric car out there. Arguments can be demonstrated by taking visitors for a ride.

Organized by Plug In America, Sierra Club, and Electric Auto Association, NDEW continues to grow in popularity, with more city locations added each year to the roster since its inception on 2011. Nearly 200 of these enthusiast-driven events are expected to take place this year.

Attendees will want to know the latest on the next-gen Leaf, including realistic range. That’s been a hot topic lately with rumors floating around this summer that range extension will come from a 40-kWh battery through one of the trim levels.

Nissan staff are expected to be selling other benefits of the new Leaf. It will be equipped with new mobility features through ProPILOT Assist and e-Pedal technology.

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Elio Motors Facing Make-Or-Break $100M Bid Through IPO

Elio Motors is seeking $100 million on Wall Street to salvage its hopes to produce its frugally priced, three-wheel, 84 mpg car.

The startup filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 3 to have an initial public offering for its common stock. Elio stock will be traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Elio needs the cash to stabilize its deteriorating financial condition and bring its product to market. In the SEC filing, the company said that the three-wheeler will come out in 2019 at the earliest from its Shreveport, La., plant.

The base price, previously stated at $6,800, will now start at $7,450, according to the IPO filing.

“We intend to use the net proceeds of this offering for working capital and general corporate purposes, including sales and marketing activities, product development, and capital expenditures,” Elio wrote in the SEC filing.

Part of the $100 million will pay for changes in the car’s engineering and design.

Company founder Paul Elio showed off the prototype model last year.

Nearly 65,000 pre-orders have been placed. The first owners of the three-wheeler had already been notified of production delays.

“The Elio is still in development, and we do not expect to start delivering to customers until 2019,” the filing said.

SEE ALSO:  Elio Motors Facing Increasing Deficit With $123 Million Loss Reported To SEC

The SEC filing states that the company has $208,748 in cash on hand. As of March 31, Elio had $41.5 million in capital deficiency and a stakeholder deficit of $145.9 million.

The company acknowledged in the filing that it’s first vehicle may not succeed.

“The Elio vehicle requires significant investment prior to commercial introduction, and may never be successfully developed or commercially successful,” Elio Motors said in the IPO filing.

An independent accounting firm auditing the startup said that Elio probably won’t stay afloat without new capital.

Automotive News

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FCA Joins Autonomous Vehicle Collaboration With BMW, Intel And Mobileye

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced today it has signed a memorandum of understanding with BMW, Intel, and Mobileye to develop autonomous veghicles.

The automaker says its aim is to be the first automaker with these partners – which themselves joined in July 2016 – to bring their autonomous vehicle platform to market.

FCA said it will bring engineering and technical expertise to the table, along with its sizable market presence, global reach, and long-time presence in North America.

The collaboration intends to tap into each company’s strengths and resources, accelerate the process, and reduce costs of bringing autonomous technology to global markets. One efficient practice will be co-location of engineers in Germany, and a few other locations.

“In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers,” said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne.

“Joining this cooperation will enable FCA to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective,” he said.

BMW, Intel, and Mobileye had previously announced plans to bring self-driving vehicles into production by 2021. That will include Level 3 functions for automated driving possibly sooner, and Level 4 and 5 with fully autonomous driving features by 2021. They’ve been working together on scalable architecture and are preparing to deploy 40 autonomous test vehicles by the end of this year, which are expected to be BMW 7-Series cars.

Intel, which recently acquired autonomous tech supplier Mobileye, will also be testing 100 Level 4 self-driving vehicles through the Intel/Mobileye collaborative.

These three companies have always said they welcome additional automakers and technology suppliers to join their autonomous vehicle collaborative, which they’ve proven by bringing in FCA.

FCA has been testing self-driving Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrids with another one of its technology partners, Waymo. They’ve been tested in Arizona, California, and Michigan. In April, Waymo announced that it would be offering hundreds of rides to the public in Phoenix to capture consumer feedback on the experience.

Alliances with partner companies in a central part of FCA’s future. Marchionne has made it clear in the past couple of years that FCA is open to merging with another global automaker to further improve economies of scale and technology development.

SEE ALSO: Fiat-Chrysler Might be Purchased by Chinese Automaker

While past talks with executives at General Motors and Volkswagen failed to bring about that arrangement, FCA is said to be in talks with an unnamed Chinese automaker for acquisition.

Another issue hovering over FCA’s future is what may come of charges made on diesel emissions violations in the U.S. and Europe.

That situation improved for the automaker in late July. FCA was given approval approval by U.S. and California regulators to sell 2017 diesel vehicles after it had undergone scrutiny for alleged emissions violations in older Jeep and Dodge Ram diesel vehicles.

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Cheap Gas Prices and EV Adoption Beat Natural Gas Vehicles

Have natural gas vehicles failed completely as an alternative to gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles?

Analysis from Bloomberg seems to come to that conclusion, citing cheap pump prices and growth in electric vehicles behind it.

Going back to 2008 with spiking gasoline and diesel prices, T. Boone Pickens — a giant in the oil and gas industry and co-founder of Clean Energy Fuels Corp. — is cited for making a convincing case for natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Natural gas was much cheaper than petroleum and was a plentiful domestic fuel. Clean Energy Fuels got into the fueling infrastructure side enough to reach market valuation, at one time, of about $1.8 billion.

Two market developments won out, with new drilling tactics like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) pumping a lot of oil and gas out of U.S. reserves, leading the way to gasoline prices dropping. The second trend was seeing plug-in electrified vehicles take off, starting with the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. Lately, that’s been enhanced by 455,000 reservations being placed on the Tesla Model 3.

The analysis piece cites the 455,000 forecast representing 20 times the number of natural-gas vehicles on U.S. roads during 2015. Clean Energy Fuels seeing its share price drop 90 percent from a 2012 peak is also cited.

Andrew Littlefair, CEO at Clean Energy Fuels, conceded that NGVs aren’t heading for widespread adoption. A lot more fueling infrastructure needs to fall in place for that to happen.

“I’m not sure America is set up” for it to happen, Littlefair said.

Two failed business ventures are cited in ways NGVs haven’t made the mainstream. Chesapeake Energy Corp., a major U.S. gas producers, eliminated its business until working on NGVs in 2013. Another was seeing Honda Motor Co. take its compressed natural gas-powered Honda Civic off its production line in 2015.

NGVs won’t be going away anytime soon in the U.S. and other global markets, if you take a closer look at where it stands. Major fleets like Ryder System Inc., AT&T, and UPS, continue to purchase more NGVs and install refueling stations to keep the trucks and vans on roads.

Littlefair said Clean Energy Fuels continues to see growth in CNG and liquefied natural gas fueling stations. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which has 660 vehicles in its fleet powered by natural gas, has extended its operation and maintenance contract with Clean Energy Fuels. A few cities have also joined up with the company.

Companies and government fleets appreciate the stable fuel pries, along with significant reductions in tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions, as reasons for making the investment in converting trucks over to natural gas.

They’re also enticed with investments being made by Clean Energy Fuels and several other companies in a new alternative fuel, renewable natural gas. Energy is being extracted from landfills and other sustainable, renewable sources to supply existing CNG and LNG fueling stations with the clean fuel.

There are about 1,828 natural-gas fueling stations in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. It pales in comparison to gasoline stations, but the national network has spread out to cover major metro markets and highways across the country.

SEE ALSO:  Refreshed Volkswagen Polo Available With Natural Gas Engine

The biggest challenge for end users is the cost of having a natural gas fueling station. It’s averaging about $1.8 million to build a CNG fueling stations, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

That’s where EV charging stations has natural gas beat, even with the more expensive fast-charger units.

Fleet operators and other end users need to see more value coming from NGV fueling stations.

“The infrastructure would be costly” for widespread use, said Lee Klaskow, a senior analyst for transportation and logistics at Bloomberg Intelligence. “You would have to have some huge cost savings.”

Bloomberg

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Senate Opposes Trump On Clean Energy, Wants $4B Budget Increase

The U.S. Senate has taken a surprising move: a bipartisan stance supporting clean energy.

That was in direct opposition to the Trump administration’s campaign to gut the Department of Energy in the 2018 fiscal year budget. The Senate Committee on Appropriations reversed course and actually proposed a $4 billion increase over fiscal year 2017 for a total of $38.4 billion.

The Brookings Institute think tank last week issued a report, as covered in Green Car Reports, on how the committee voted 38-1 to support more funding for renewable energy and for energy-efficient technologies. Senators see the federal government playing a critical role in supporting research and development projects that will later be used by the private sector.

The Trump administration has taken the opposite view, supporting some R&D efforts in the early phase, but putting all the real development and implementation onto the private sector.

There’s also the part about President Donald Trump disregarding the climate change issue that’s a driving force behind clean energy being developed. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord in early June.

The senate panel took an opposing view — that it is the federal government’s duty to spur technology innovations that can face the risk from climate change.

The $4 billion budget increase would go to solar and wind power. Energy storage, bringing more stability to the power grid, was also prioritized by the senate committee.

Economic growth was another rationale offered, with hundreds of thousands of workers being employed in clean energy and energy efficiency. More job creation has been expected in these sectors.

Congress has been more mixed in its views on the Trump administration’s efforts on the vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions front.

SEE ALSO:  Consumers Union Study: Almost 90 Percent Of Americans Want Better Vehicle Fuel Economy

The Environmental Protection Agency last week opened up the public comment period on the midterm review of the corporate average fuel economy targets from 2021 through 2025. The Trump administration is expected to cut back on the fuel economy mandates, which automakers have been lobbying for since the November election.

Automakers are going in the other direction than the Trump administration on clean energy and energy efficiency efforts in vehicle manufacturing and product offerings. A few of them — such as Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and BWW — have followed Tesla’s lead into the energy storage market.

Voters seem to be taking an opposing view on fuel economy and emissions than what most major automakers have lobbied for.

A June survey conducted by Consumers Union found strong bi-partisan support for the fuel economy standards to be kept in place, with 87 percent of respondents backing improvements in fuel economy.

“Increasing vehicle efficiency is strongly supported by both Republicans and Democrats,” Consumers Union said in its commentary.

Green Car Reports

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Formula E Series Shows Crash Video From Season 3

High-speed car crashes always play a central role in a racing series like Formula E, and it helped determine who would be the winner of recently completed Season 3.

FIA Formula E Championship just put together a video highlighting crashes from the season ending in late July. It includes the “biggest and most controversial crashes” from Season 3 of the all-electric racer series.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver Lucas di Grassi took the trophy for top driver during an awards gala in Montreal. The final round had gone down to the wire in Montreal, with di Grassi taking the title away from the previous year’s champ, Sebastian Buemi of the Renault e.dams team. It was the third season in a row that the French automaker’s team had taken the title.

Buemi was 10 points ahead going into Montreal, but had a series of problems come up, including a crash in a practice session. Buemi crashed head on into the wall during the practice round, which can be viewed about four minutes into the compilation video.

Buemi had beaten di Grassi last season under controversial circumstances before being handed the award by the judges. This year, di Grassi was the top driver and Renault e.dams took the team award.

As you can see in the video, the season was full of crashes and made for a few exciting moments in this up-and-coming series. Unlike other racing events, no one was seriously injured from the Formula E crashes during the latest season.

Season 4 will be starting up later this year, and future seasons are already in the planning phases. That includes more automakers being accepted by the series to enter their teams.

BMW will join up in Season 5 with its own team. Last month, Audi confirmed it will be entering and taking over the ABT Sportsline team, which the company had been sponsoring for a few years.

SEE ALSO:  Lucas Di Grassi Takes Formula E Title While Renault Wins Its Third Team Award

Another announcement came last month from Mercedes-Benz, who will join the series in Season 6, taking place during 2018-2019.

Formula E has become a desirable event for several automakers to sponsor and put together skilled racing teams to win the series. Not only does it improve the company’s green image and commitment to high-performance innovation, it’s a valuable opportunity to test out its new electric drivetrains in development.

AutoGuide.com

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Formula E Series Shows Crash Video From Season 3

High-speed car crashes always play a central role in a racing series like Formula E, and it helped determine who would be the winner of recently completed Season 3.

FIA Formula E Championship just put together a video highlighting crashes from the season ending in late July. It includes the “biggest and most controversial crashes” from Season 3 of the all-electric racer series.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver Lucas di Grassi took the trophy for top driver during an awards gala in Montreal. The final round had gone down to the wire in Montreal, with di Grassi taking the title away from the previous year’s champ, Sebastian Buemi of the Renault e.dams team. It was the third season in a row that the French automaker’s team had taken the title.

Buemi was 10 points ahead going into Montreal, but had a series of problems come up, including a crash in a practice session. Buemi crashed head on into the wall during the practice round, which can be viewed about four minutes into the compilation video.

Buemi had beaten di Grassi last season under controversial circumstances before being handed the award by the judges. This year, di Grassi was the top driver and Renault e.dams took the team award.

As you can see in the video, the season was full of crashes and made for a few exciting moments in this up-and-coming series. Unlike other racing events, no one was seriously injured from the Formula E crashes during the latest season.

Season 4 will be starting up later this year, and future seasons are already in the planning phases. That includes more automakers being accepted by the series to enter their teams.

BMW will join up in Season 5 with its own team. Last month, Audi confirmed it will be entering and taking over the ABT Sportsline team, which the company had been sponsoring for a few years.

SEE ALSO:  Lucas Di Grassi Takes Formula E Title While Renault Wins Its Third Team Award

Another announcement came last month from Mercedes-Benz, who will join the series in Season 6, taking place during 2018-2019.

Formula E has become a desirable event for several automakers to sponsor and put together skilled racing teams to win the series. Not only does it improve the company’s green image and commitment to high-performance innovation, it’s a valuable opportunity to test out its new electric drivetrains in development.

AutoGuide.com

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Chinese Startup Says It Will Bring First Medium-Duty EVs To US

A Chinese startup wants to bring what it says will be the first mass-scale electric medium-duty vehicles to the U.S. market.

Chanje, a California-based startup company, will be delivering its first all-electric commercial vans to fleets in the U.S. Without providing sales figures, the company says that volume orders for the EV have been placed with delivery starting later this year.

Co-owned by Hong Kong-based FDG Electric Vehicles Limited, the new company will tap into FDG’s electric vehicle and lithium ion battery manufacturing resources.

Chanje says it will eventually offer a “microgrid depot solution” built on four components — renewable energy, charging infrastructure, energy storage, and grid services.

On the transportation side, large fleet operators will be offered renewable energy and charging capabilities as a “turnkey service.”

There will be a lot more EV offerings than just the electric work vans.

Affordability and durability of the first EV model is being emphasized. It will be sold to fleets for “at a previously unavailable scale and price.”

The large electric van will be “purpose-built to be a long-life truck.”

The company is visiting potential sites for its assembly facility, bringing clean transportation jobs to a U.S. location. It will be set up near port facilities west of the Mississippi River, the company said.

Fleets using these vehicles will be able to save up to 70 percent on maintenance costs due to the truck’s design being based on what’s described as “global quality and durability standards.”

The company predicts that the electric van will receive a rating greater than 50 MPGe in city and highway driving when tested by independent third parties.

“Medium duty electric trucks offer the biggest emissions saving potential of all vehicles because our products fit best where they are needed the most – in highly populated, dense urban centers where noise and air quality are a major concern,” CEO Bryan Hansel said.

The electric commercial panel van will be able to haul up to 6,000 pounds. It’s been designed to cover the typical urban delivery routes, covering about 70 miles per day.

The strategy is take the van’s single platform over to other EVs serving fleets. That will include larger trucks and shuttle buses with varying lengths and capacities. It’s all being designed for the urban vehicle environment, Chanje said.

The U.S. management team is made up of experienced executives from automakers and utilities. President Ian Gardener came form the Boston Consulting Group, Duke Energy, and Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. General counsel James Chen worked for Tesla and the Environmental Protection Agency. Jeff Robertson, VP of manufacturing, came from Tesla, Ford, Mazda, and General Motors.

There is a real market for electric trucks, the chief executive said.

“The future of transportation is zero-emission, we expect commercial electric vehicles to become the norm soon,” Hansel said.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for Chanje because no one else in the marketplace can meet a fleet customer’s demand for delivery of large numbers of high quality, commercial electric vehicles,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Investors Bet on Electric Vehicles Over the Long Term

The company said it will soon announce a major U.S. service, parts and distribution partnership.

FDG, the partner company, is known for backing other electric mobility startups. Commercial EV maker Smith Electric Vehicles had gone through a financial meltdown and stopped operations a few years ago.

FDG invested $20 million to revive Smith Electric Vehicles, and later another $15 million to a joint venture with Smith called Prevok. That JV is working on a medium-duty electric van that was slated to be built in Hangzhou, China.

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Denmark EV Owners Earning Over $1,500 A Year Selling Power To Grid

Electric vehicles owners are selling their excess capacity back to the power grid in Denmark — earning as much as $1,530 a year.

Nissan and Enel, the country’s largest utility, are carrying out a trial project to see the role that cars like the Nissan Leaf can play in helping balance out supply and demand during peak demand hours.

It’s also pointing EV owners to another income source through the sponsored program.

The trial project is tied into utilities transitioning over to more renewable energy to meet government mandates. The two companies are watching to see how EV owners tend to charge their cars, and how it can impact variable flows that make using energy like wind and solar more costly.

“If you blindingly deploy in the market a massive number of electric cars without any visibility or control over the way they impact the electricity grid, you might create new problems,” said Francisco Carranza, director of energy services at Nissan Europe.

Fleet operators in Denmark are participating in the trial, he said.

Nissan has more than 100 cars in trials around Europe.

SEE ALSO:  Nissan in UK Follows Tesla Powerwall By Letting EV Owners Sell Energy to Utility

In the UK, the automaker needs to raise the number to 150 EVs in operation before qualifying for payments received from utilities by sending power back to the grid. That may happen before the end of this year, Carranza said.

“It’s feasible,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the appropriate business model to deploy the business wide-scale.”

EVs are expected to draw a lot more energy in years to come, putting a lot more pressure on utilities to supply without jacking up monthly bills or seeing a wave of blackouts hit the grid.

Electricity consumption from vehicles will grow to 1,800 terawatt-hours in 2040 from just 6 terawatt-hours now, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Automakers are continuing to look for opportunities to find revenue models in side businesses such as energy storage – whether that means using a parked electric car or setting up lithium ion battery pack storage stations.

Automotive News

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Intel To Test Its Own Fleet of 100 Self-Driving Cars

Intel plans to roll out 100 almost fully automated “Level 4” self-driving cars for testing starting later this year.

They’ll be tested in the U.S., Israel, and Europe. The fleet will start small and scale up to 100 vehicles eventually.

That announcement follows the Tuesday closing of a $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye, which is expected to be providing some of the needed technology in the test fleet.

Intel won’t say what cars they’ll be using, but they’re likely to be BMW 7 series. The computer chip company has an alliance with BMW, Delphi, and Mobileye. The company previously said its first 40 autonomous vehicles used in public trial runs would be BMW 7 series.

Level 4 vehicles will have the capacity to be fully automated, with human drivers able to immediately take over as needed. Level 5 is fully autonomous.

Intel and Mobileye are developing a system that will have cameras, image-processing capabilities, microprocessors, and mapping technology. It will also have access to software capable of determining how to react to changing driving conditions, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

They’re open to selling the new kit to automakers beyond BMW once it rolls out in 2019. The goal is to have the system ready for automakers to start adding to their new vehicles by 2019.

SEE ALSO: BMW and Mobileye Sharing Sensor Data To Support Autonomous Driving

The companies say they hope to start contracting their self-driving kit to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) like Volvo and GM by 2019. The goal is to have a fully developed package available for automakers to start integrating into new vehicles by 2019.

Mobileye works with other automakers. The company provides cameras for several Audi vehicles, including the Q7, the A4 and A5 series, and the new Q5.

The Verge

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Consumers Want Uber And Lyft Rides Over Buying A Car

Some consumers are starting to prefer a shared, hailed ride over buying their own car, a study says.

University researchers surveyed more than 1,200 people in Austin, Texas, to find out how their transportation habits changed after ride-hailing firms Uber and Lyft pulled out of the market after a May 2016 local election failed to honor their intentions.

The study by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Columbia University, found that 41 percent went back to using their own vehicle to fill the void, and only nine percent went out and bought a car for their mobility needs.

About 3 percent chose public transit, and 42 percent switched to another smaller transportation networking company in the market.

In May 2016, voters blocked a ballot measure that would have allowed Uber and Lyft to keep using their own background-check systems. The companies pulled their drivers out of the market after the measure failed.

That led to 12 app-based startups trying to fill the void. Most are gone, but a few are still in business serving Austin.

Researchers in the study analyzed the findings and reported that Austin survey respondents who had transitioned to a personal vehicle were 23-times more likely to take more trips than those who had switched to a different ride-hailing firm. Trips went way down after Uber and Lyft left the city — the average frequency on trips went from 5.65 times per month to 2.01, a 68 percent drop.

One surprising element of the study was that consumers with household incomes over $100,000 were less likely to buy a new car than those under that income benchmark. The researchers speculated that wealthier Austin residents already had a vehicle to use and didn’t need to purchase a second vehicle right away.

The university researchers have been impressed with the explosive growth Uber, Lyft, and other mobility services have seen in recent years. Their potential is vast in reducing gasoline consumption and pollution, but the study found it’s too early to see those results. The change that is becoming clear from the study is choices consumers are making about transportation.

“On-demand, ride-sourcing services have grown tremendously in the last decade and they promise a host of potential public benefits — reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, easing of road congestion, as well as affordability, and accessibility,” said Robert Hampshire, a professor at UMTRI and lead author of the new study.

“However, we’ve yet to see empirical evidence of these benefits in the research literature. The suspension of services in Austin provided for a natural experiment to measure its impact on travel behavior,” Hampshire said.

SEE ALSO: Maven Says Uber and Lyft Drivers Love Chevy Bolt

More data will be available soon.

In late May, Uber and Lyft relaunched their services in Austin. This was in response to the state adopting Texas House Bill 100, which overrides local ordinances. It also creates statewide regulations governing transportation network companies.

The research team has pledged to continuing the research to measure the impact of the re-entry of the major ride-haling firms back to Austin.

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Tesla Wants To Test Autonomous Semi-Trucks Soon

Tesla is indicating it’s serious about introducing an electric semi by seeking permission to test self-driving versions in California and Nevada.

Spokespeople for the Department of Motor Vehicles in California and Nevada confirmed meetings were scheduled in California for yesterday and previously held in Nevada.

California doesn’t yet have rules in place governing the testing of autonomous heavy trucks over 10,000 pounds, while light-duty vehicles have been tested there for a few years. California DMV is working with California Highway Patrol on writing rules governing semi-trucks that need to be tested as autonomous vehicles before they’re legally allowed free access to roads.

Nevada has all vehicle types and weights covered, but Tesla hasn’t taken any formal action on it yet. The automaker will need to get a self-driving vehicle testing license in the state, but hasn’t done so yet according to a Nevada spokesperson.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk put out a few teasers in the spring, but had not mentioned the truck was going to be autonomous.

During a TED talk at 2017 TED Conference in Vancouver, Musk put out a teaser photo of the heavy-duty truck. Previously, he’d said it would be “seriously next level” and was slated to debut in September.

There will be more than one of these self-driving trucks, with Reuters reporting on a viewed email between Tesla and Nevada’s DMV. The automakers is developing a semi-truck that can drive itself and travel in “platoons” that follow a lead vehicle.

Since October, Tesla has been adding fully autonomous functions to all Model S and Model X units being built, and announced that the new technology would later be applied to the Model 3. The company will have to wait until government officials approve operation of fully autonomous vehicles before those automated functions can be activated.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Semi Truck Teased At TED Conference

More driver-assistance features are being added to the Autopilot option available on Tesla vehicles. Tesla seems to be passing through scrutiny over the safety of using Autopilot since last year’s fatal crash in Florida.

Tesla may be able to tap into and fill a void left by ride-hailing giant Uber. That company is still enmeshed in a complex lawsuit filed by Google’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit. Charges had been made in the suit against Uber, claiming that Waymo technology had been stolen and used in the Otto self-driving semi-truck that Uber had acquired.

Uber has since walked away from Otto and has been working on its own self-driving truck. However, it appears that the trial with Waymo will need to come to an end before Uber can turn its attention back to self-driving trucks.

Bloomberg

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IMF Report: Worldwide Fossil Fuel Subsidies Add To An Astonishing $5.3 Trillion

Fossil fuel subsidies made for an eyebrow-raising 6.5 percent of the global GDP in 2015, or about $5.3 trillion.

This revelation on behalf of the International Monetary Fund was reported by four economists, and published earlier this year in the World Development journal.

The study took a broad approach, factoring how subsidies arise when consumer prices are below supply costs, along with consumption taxes and the environmental costs.

Also examined in the study was estimated total cost of the subsidies and the economic and environmental benefits that would come from reforming them.

Subsidy costs for 2013 included 22 percent for global warming, 46 percent for air pollution, 13 percent for “broader vehicle externalities,” 11 percent for supply costs, and 8 percent for general consumer taxes.

China had provided the largest share of subsidies in 2013, at $1.8 trillion, followed by the U.S. ($0.6 trillion), and then by Russia, the European Union, and India — each at about $0.3 trillion.

Breaking out the subsidies by end use, the authors found coal made for about half of global subsidies. Petroleum is also a large recipient of the subsidies, followed by natural gas, and electricity.

The economists see the broader view being more accurate in gauging its real impact. It reflects “the gap between consumer prices and economically efficient prices.”

SEE ALSO: Energy Outlook Sees Fossil Fuels To Dominate But At Reduced Rate In 2035

They also see fossil fuel subsidies being costly by discouraging in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as they directly compete with subsidized fossil fuels. .

The study’s authors hoped to present a broad, inclusive approach to measuring the overall impact of fossil fuels and changes in corporate and government policies that should be considered.

“By estimating these costs on a global scale, we hope to stimulate an informed policy debate and provide renewed impetus for policy reforms to reap the large potential benefits from more efficient pricing of fossil fuels in terms of improved public finances, improved population health and lower carbon emissions,” Dr. Coady, one of the authors, told The Guardian.

The Guardian

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Sierra Club Fighting Hybrid and EV Fees in Oklahoma

The Sierra Club has sued the state of Oklahoma to block a proposed fee on electric vehicles, and spoke to judges about removing a recently adopted hybrid vehicle fee.

The environmental group filed suit yesterday to block the proposed $100 EV fee that the state legislature is considering as it looks for ways to fill a $878 million budget shortfall.

In a separate case, Sierra Club made arguments Tuesday to the state’s Supreme Court against a bill signed into law in May adding a $30 registration fee for hybrid vehicles.

The director of Sierra Club’s Oklahoma chapter is making the legal argument that the fee ends up being a new tax, which would be required by state law to reach a supermajority of state lawmakers to be enacted. That never happened, Johnson Bridgewater said.

Another part of the argument Sierra Club made is that the fee was set arbitrarily without considering its real purpose, such as protecting residents form pollution-related deaths.

“These are tangible benefits that they are completely ignoring,” Bridgewater said.

Fees, if enacted by the state, would apply to future purchases of hybrids and EVs, and to those already owned and registered in the state. That would apply to owners of about 26,600 hybrids, 800 plug-in vehicles, and 1,300 low- and medium-speed EVs, according to analysis by state lawmakers.

The bill would raise about $1 million per year, and would help fund highway construction and maintenance.

It would be similar to EV fees and taxes that, as of a year ago, had been put into effect by 10 others states across the country.

SEE ALSO: 10 States That Charge Extra Fees On Plug-in Cars

EV advocates usually make the argument that the reasons for the bill don’t fit into state policies, and that gasoline and diesel engine vehicles are being excluded from the fees.

The fees and taxes are typically seen by legislators as a revenue stream to partially offset budget deficits.

The hybrid and proposed EV fees don’t make much sense for Able Blakley, an Oklahoma resident. He and his wife drive a Nissan Leaf and a hybrid Lincoln.

“If they really want to create more revenue for building roads, they should charge a fee based on gross vehicle weight,” Blakley said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But this is Oklahoma, where everybody drives a big pickup truck.”

Bloomberg

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Elon Musk Able To Raise $600 Million For Model 3 In Just A Few Hours

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is coming through on his pledge to raise $1.5 billion for ramping up production of the Model 3.

He was able to raise $600 million in just a few hours meeting with bond buyers in Manhattan on Monday, according to investors briefed on the matter.

It was part of a four-day road trip Tesla is taking to bring in high-yield junk-rated bonds needed to build 500,000 new vehicles next year.

Sources said Tesla might end up paying no more than 5 percent on the bonds. It may not be the best investment that bond fund managers have seen, but it’s been more appealing due to the recent condition of financial markets.

“It’s a great deal for them, which by definition means it can’t be a great deal for the investors,” said Marty Fridson, chief investment officer of Lehmann, Livian, Fridson Advisors. “The reason they’re getting a good deal is because yields are near record lows and risk premiums are much less than they should be. Tesla is taking advantage of that.”

Tesla is spending a lot of cash on building out the Fremont, Calif., assembly plant, and its Gigafactory in Nevada. The company burned through a record $1.16 billion in cash during the second quarter.

Automotive News depicted the $600 million in deals made Monday as if the charismatic Musk were able to set up a situation where bond investors are “closing their eyes and buying it.”

It’s yet another successful road trip for Musk and colleagues – eight times tapping into equity market investors over the past seven years.

But are they really “cult-like followers” of Musk?

Lead underwriters on the junk bond rally include major financial institutions — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and RBC, according to the IFR financial publication.

Musk spoke to investors Monday at the New York Palace Hotel, where visitors got to check out a blue Model 3 parked in the courtyard. The Tesla chief also invited his guests to visit the Fremont plant later in the week.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Issuing Junk Bonds To Raise Needed Funds For Model 3 Launch

Kevin Mathews, global head of high yield at Aviva Investors Americas, compares Tesla’s move to what Netflix was able to do in October. The entertainment company raised $1 billion on bonds with a 4.375 percent coupon, and it’s been trading lately at about 4.2 percent. There are still enough buyers on the market to support Netflix’s growth story and ignore the losses – and Tesla has been able so far to do the same.

“The halo effect is real,” said Mathews. “We saw that with Netflix. As a brand name, people know it, they know the situation from a financial standpoint, so when it came to market, people bought it.”

Tesla investors are confident the company can scale up appropriately to meet the 500,000 vehicle production target for next year and one million in 2020. They’ve been impressed with the number of buyers backing the Model 3, and expect positive long-term outcomes from the SolarCity merger and the energy storage market served by Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries.

Automotive News

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Car2go Sees 40-Percent Trip Growth In First Half

Daimler’s car2go is starting to see some real payback for its one-way carsharing business model with 40-percent growth in the first half of this year.

More than 4.5 million trips were taken in the first half of 2017 at 11 North American locations. The company also reported that customers were spending 33 percent more time on their trips than the first half of 2016. Users appreciate the convenient, affordable way to get across the city, the company said.

Growth has been helped by adding Mercedes-Benz vehicles to the fleet in January. Since then, membership has grown by nearly 100,000 new customers, the company said. The fleet had started out with the Smart Fortwo car from Daimler’s subsidiary, and this year has added the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover and CLA sedan.

The company has taken a cautious gradual approach to doing global business. Its presence in North American started about five years ago, and has included leaving a few cities — including Miami, Minneapolis, and San Diego — that weren’t economically viable.

Competitors such as Zipcar had disagreed with the one-way carsharing model, where customers can pick up the car at a company location and drop it off near their destination. That’s opposed to returning the car to its original pickup site, similar to most airport car rental trips.

It’s taken off enough for car2go for Zipcar and Maven to offer one-way carshing services.

A university study found the car2go one-way model to be effective.

“In July 2016, we released results of our three-year study examining the impact of one-way carsharing across five North American cities. Across the cities, we found that one-way carsharing services, like car2go, were responsible for removing up to 11 other vehicles from urban streets, while also reducing carbon emissions on net,” said Dr. Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

“It’s encouraging to see that car2go’s membership not only continues to rise, but that car2go’s members are opting to choose carsharing more frequently when they travel,” Shaheen said.

SEE ALSO: Daimler’s car2go Sees Fast Growth in Chinese City of Chongqing

The company is in discussions to open shop in more cities across North America, the company said.

New York City, Toronto, and Vancouver have experienced the fastest year-over-year membership growth in the first half of this 2017. Vancouver is the largest of the 11 North American cities, with 135,000 local members. Seattle is the largest in the U.S. with more than 95,000 members, car2go reported.

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