Friday, 31 October 2014

European quandary: Subsidize electric cars or pay fines As falling fuel prices make electric cars even less attractive to buyers, spare a thought for the manufacturers caught between the rock of governments forcing ever tighter fuel rules, and the hard place of needing to sell more of a product nobody wants, yet.

In Europe, manufacturers will have to grit their collective teeth and subsidize the sale of electric cars and plug-in hybrids, knowing that if they fail to back the sale of these loss-makers, the penalties from the European Union (E.U.) for not meeting their average fleet fuel economy rules will be even more expensive.

The French-Japanese alliance of Renault and Nissan is arguably the worst affected car manufacturer, after pledging $5 billion to produce electric cars and batteries to meet its prediction that 10 percent of global car sales will be electric only by 2020. That estimate has proved to be wildly and embarrassingly off the mark.

According to IHS Automotive, regular hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) will prove relatively more attractive than battery only vehicles, in the medium term, although neither will be setting the sales charts alight. By 2020 regular hybrids and PHEVs will account for almost five percent of global sales compared with less than one percent for electric only vehicles.

By 2025, battery-only will have slowly expanded to 1.5 percent, while PHEVs and hybrids will stagger just past six percent, IHS Automotive says. Fuel cell vehicles, now being pushed by Toyota, will barely register at all by 2025. In 2013, both battery-only and PHEVs barely registered on global sales radar. It's clear that internal combustion engine power will dominate for years to come.

Barely perceptible

In the U.S., the market penetration of electric only vehicles in the first nine months of 2014 was a barely perceptible 0.35 percent, according to Automotive Industry Data (AID).

Latest data on electric only vehicle sales in Western Europe showed that in August sales slowed for the third month in a row to 4,045 from 4,381 the previous month and 5,350 in June, AID said. In the first eight months of 2014 sales jumped to 35,228 from 20,052 in the same period of 2013, but the growth pace was fading, according to AID, in a report entitled "Electric car sales pace, far from growing, is slowing." Electric vehicle market share in Western Europe in the first eight months was 0.44 percent compared with 0.26 percent in the same period of 2013. But these numbers are distorted by oil-rich and socialist Norway's simulated love of electric cars. Electric car sales there are boosted by government subsidies, and parking and charging concessions. Without Norway's input, the market share figures for Western Europe are a derisory 0.28 percent versus 0.22 percent. The numbers include sales of the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Tesla Model S, VW e-Up, e-Golf, and BMWi3. They also include the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera, which are extended range electric vehicles.

This reversal of a trend that was never very strong anyhow is down to the unexpected fall in fuel prices, AID editor Peter Schmidt says, and it presents car manufacturers with a problem; lose money by subsidizing the sale of electric vehicles, or lose more by failing to meet the targets set by the E.U.

Tougher in 2021

The E.U. rules require an average fuel consumption equivalent to 57.4 miles per U.S. gallon by 2021. The regulations are even more stringent than the U.S. ones, which demand average fuel consumption of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Current E.U rules require 43 mpg by 2015, and most manufacturers are on course to meet that. The tougher 2021 E.U. targets though will require massive sales of electric only and PHEVs. There is talk that a little known clause in U.S. regulation calls for a review in 2017, when the standards could be diluted. U.S. manufacturers must be crossing their fingers.

AID's Schmidt said the current fall in the oil price is persuading U.S., and to a lesser extent European car buyers, to return to large pickups and SUVs, while giving small, fuel efficient cars a miss.

"The question on the minds of some skeptics now is, as various commentators have put it most topically "will $80 oil kill the electric car?" Highly unlikely. But given that these cheaper oil conditions will stay with us for a few years rather than just months (new reserves because of U.S. fracking) chances are that between now and 2020 for instance, electric car inroads — which are already progressing at snail's pace — are now unlikely to pick up added notable momentum," Schmidt said.

"What was going to happen by 2025 will now happen by 2030," he said.

The market penetration of electric vehicles maybe be receding, but the fuel economy rules remain cast in concrete.

"The car manufacturers have very little choice but to move towards a technology that will enable them to meet these rules. If they fail they will have to pay astronomical fines. Manufacturers may be forced to sell every one of their electric and plug-in cars at a loss. It's probably cheaper to subsidize these sales than pay the fines," Schmidt said.

Electric car positives

Not everybody has such a dim view of the immediate prospects for electric cars.

Ratings agency Standard & Poors, in a report on electric cars, said because of recent improvements in battery technology, these vehicles could begin to cut into gas-powered vehicle sales in the U.S. over the next five years.

"We believe technological advances are shortening the time to when EVs could become truly competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles and begin to shake up business models in the auto industry," the report said.

The report came to these conclusions:

• Given recent advances in lithium-ion battery technology, electric vehicles are showing increasing potential to challenge the auto industry's long-standing gas powered business model.

• Zero-emission policies are also promoting demand for EVs.

• EV technology still faces hurdles such as high unit costs, limited driving range and lack of recharging stations. However we see significant advances in these areas.

• As with any new breakthrough technology, the exact timing of a broader changeover to EVs is difficult to predict.

The report didn't say if it agreed with the IHS Auto predictions, offer any firm ones of its own, or explain how auto manufacturers' balance sheets would be affected by being forced to sell an increasing number of very-expensive-to-develop vehicles at a huge loss.

Professor David Bailey of the Aston Business School agrees that electric vehicle sales continue to disappoint, partly, he says, from initial over-hyping, and Renault-Nissan is the leading mourner.

"Renault-Nissan placed more bets on EVs than any mainstream auto maker and has shifted just 4,200 Zoe's so far this year, massively below management's initial hopes. CEO Carlos Ghosn said last year that electric vehicle sales were at least four years behind targets, and he blamed this on the slow rollout of support infrastructure (charging points)," Bailey said.

Nissan-Renault mess

"This all leaves Renault in a bit of a mess on the EV front given its big investment in this area," he said.

And it's not just Renault that will be gritting its collective teeth, says AID's Schmidt.

"It's probably cheaper to underwrite the losses on every electric car because the (E.U.) fines would be significantly higher (for failing to meet targets). The manufacturers are being squeezed on two sides. On the one hand the European Union is saying do this or pay up, while on the other hand you've got electric cars that nobody wants to buy, unless you make them affordable which means losing money on very one. On balance, the latter may be the preferred route," Schmidt said.

Report: The future of the smart grid

The Future of the Smart Grid 2014 market research report of 79 pages to the energy and power segment of its online industry intelligence and data library. This research provides analysis of smart grid technology costs, concepts, drivers and components. It provides insights relating to the most innovative technologies and potential areas of opportunity for manufacturers. Examination of the key smart grid technologies costs is done along with identifying key trends shaping the market, as well as an evaluation of emerging trends that will drive innovation moving forward. Complete report is available at .
A smart grid overview 
The Smart grid or Intelligent grid encompasses a range of technologies that are being used to add intelligence to the electricity grid at transmission and distribution levels as well as behind the meter in business and domestic environments. Within smart grid, a set of key technologies have evolved to form the basis for smart grid deployment. The most important of these is a communications network that runs alongside the electricity delivery network and allows intelligent devices that are connected to the system to communicate with one another and exchange data. These networks can include a range of different wireless and wired technologies. Software agents that carry out intelligent tasks across the network are another important development. Meanwhile three areas of the smart grid are emerging as the most dynamic today, smart meter integration into home and business networks, distribution system management and renewable integration.
Smart meters and the end-user environment 
Smart meters are digital replacements for traditional electromechanical meters which can provide a much more sophisticated level of service including recording consumption at time stamped intervals as short as 15 minutes. In order for smart meters to be effective they must be hooked up to a communications network that allows them to pass data to a control centre. With this facility, meter reading can take place remotely, reducing utility costs significantly. Other facilities such as power quality monitoring, theft identification and outage notification can all take place remotely too. Smart meters are intelligent devices and their intelligence can be utilised as controllers for the network of electricity consuming devices beyond the meter. Simple demand management can be implemented as well as more sophisticated strategies based on the use of software agents operating within the smart meter. Agents can be used to manage and integrate local generation such as rooftop solar photovoltaic units and energy storage such as batteries. The rollout of smart grid is advancing rapidly in Europe and the USA. Elsewhere progress is slower but programmes are starting in many regions of the world.
Smart grid and the distribution network 
The introduction of distributed generation, particularly renewable and beyond the meter generation, is changing electricity distribution systems from passive deliverers of power from the transmission system to the consumer into systems that must be actively balanced. This is making the job of distribution system operators much more complex. Smart grid technologies can assist in distribution system management with a range of tools and technologies. At the same time is will provide new opportunities for distribution system operators to provide additional services. Tools for network balancing and congestion management will be critical to the operation of active distribution networks. In coming years this will extend to the management of electric vehicle charging networks and charging strategies. Meanwhile technologies such as integrated Voltage/VAR (volt-amperes reactive) control will help improve stability of distribution feeder lines and allow them to operate at the lowest voltage, increasing efficiency. Sensors and disconnectors can be used together to locate and isolate faults and new automation technologies will be able to assist in the integration of distributed and renewable generation into the distribution grid.
Smart grid and renewable integration 
The integration of renewable generation sources into all levels of the grid is becoming one of the most pressing tasks facing all system operators with renewable penetration levels set to rise to 20% or 30% in many parts of the world before the end of the decade. Smart grid technologies will play a key role. At the transmission system level, integration of weather forecasting is important and the development of near real-time markets will enable better use of renewable resources when they are available. As renewable penetration levels increase, the inertia of the grid decreases so the grid becomes more dynamic and requires faster sensor and monitoring equipment and faster means of intervention provided by smart technologies. Energy storage is vital at all levels of the system to make management of variable renewable output more effective. Meanwhile the development of the distribution grid to allow the dispatching of all forms of generation at this level, and their participation in the market, will assist with integration. Other tools such as virtual power plants and micro grids will form important building blocks too.
Smart grid costs 
The smart grid comprises a massive variety of technologies and service which, when welded together, create the entity that is now called a smart grid. The diversity of these technologies and the range of choices available means that no two smart grids will be unique, making it difficult to generalize on costs. The best that can be achieved is to cost individual projects or provide some very general average costs. In order to evaluate any smart grid project these must then be compared to the benefits that will accrue from the introduction of the smart grid and in order to quantify this, the benefits must be costed too and a benefit to cost ratio derived. This usually forms the basis for a business case. In general these analyses have shown that the smart grid benefits outweigh the costs by a significant margin. However conditions vary from region to region and in the EU some nations found the cost-benefit ratio negative for smart meters. Meanwhile the absolute costs suggest that the cost of building a smart grid will be in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars - depending on size -- for most advanced nations.
Smart grid future outlook and opportunities 
The smart grid has evolved to meet a series of demands that are being placed on the electricity sector by such factors as renewable integration, electric vehicles, the necessary management of future distribution systems to accommodate generators as well as consumers and the need to improve service and power quality while reducing costs. These drivers will necessitate the implementation of many aspects of the smart grid over the next one to two decades. Many early deployments will revolve around smart meters because the benefits to be gained from these are usually easy to quantify. However once such deployment starts, the systems established can be exploited to introduce other smart grid services such as distribution and substation automation. Development of the widest range of smart grid services will evolve in advanced economies first. Elsewhere deployment will generally be slower, hampered partly by finance and partly by poor infrastructure. Meanwhile opportunities will be spread across a whole range of sectors including network and infrastructure, computer hardware and software, specialist sensor and smart grid hardware makers and installation and service companies.

W Europe - September BEV sales leap.

September W European electric car market - Mere blip or lasting change in underlying trends? Renault and Nissan put fizz into September’s sales

According to provisional figures compiled and published exclusively by AID every month, West Europe’s September’s electric car (BEV) registrations - energised chiefly by a combined Renault and Nissan registration spree in both France and the UK - hit the second-highest monthly level on record.

West Europe’s registrations of electric cars in September rose to 6,164 units, AID compiled figures reveal. That’s not only the second-highest monthly electric car registration total on record, but also beats last year’s same month levels by almost two-thirds.

6,164 = Western Europe's September battery electric car sales total

Unlike the familiar underlying developments seen so far this year and all of last year, when run-away electric car demand in stand-alone Norway provided a lone bright spot in the region, September’s jump in electric car registrations was due principally to striking gains in both France and the UK.

80% of new car purchases influenced by women An attitude shift is long overdue in the car industry -
Making the buying experience more women-friendly will benefit everyone

Why isn't the message getting through that women are heavily involved in the buying process?

"Hiring and promoting women is the right thing to do for society – and for our business, because women decide or influence the overwhelming majority of car purchases globally." So said Carlos Ghosn, CEO and chairman of the Renault/Nissan Alliance, last week. When Mr Ghosn says something, people normally sit up and listen. Only, that being the case, why is it taking eons for the message to trickle down to designers, dealers, engineers, brand managers and agencies?

This month's Paris motor show was yet another embarrassment of skimpily clad Eurobabes, rictus grin plastered on top of powder and lipstick as they bent over car bonnets, eyes empty, while an endless stream of over-excited foreign male journalists pawed at their iPhones to get photos (I have to say, credit where it's due; the majority of British male motoring journalists view the manufacturers' adherence to this Eighties sales technique as faintly ridiculous and mildly amusing).

"The car industry is like the technology industry was 10 years ago when it comes to engaging women – like nervous teenagers at a school dance", observed Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek and author of The Empathy Era, when I met her in Paris. "One luxury car company told me that 10 per cent of their website traffic was women, and they had no desire to increase this for fear of diluting 'the masculinity of their brand'. The reality is that women globally are responsible for purchasing 65 per cent of all new cars and the car industry has an 'empathy deficit' which makes it less appealing to women as both customers and employees."

Actually, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, women are considered "influencers" on a not-insignificant 80 per cent of all new-car purchases, meaning that they either buy the vehicle outright or have veto power on a man's purchase. Such an intractable fact makes manufacturers' use of showgirls just plain weird. Earlier this year, Nissan debuted its "Ladies First" dealership, mostly managed and staffed by women. The dealership, in a Tokyo suburb, features stylish interiors, a nursing room and a spacious area where children can play and is aimed at making the shopping experience more welcoming to women and first-time buyers.

Nissan will roll out 300 "Ladies First" dealerships across Japan by next year. It is also considering expanding the programme to overseas markets and has said it will introduce it "wherever applicable". Let's ignore for a moment the wince-inducing use of "ladies" where "women" will do well, and applaud the sentiment.

Nissan's sister marque, Renault, created a product team for the Renault Captur that was consciously evenly split between men and women. Half of the team members dedicated to the crossover's engineering, design, marketing and sales were women, the highest for any Renault car. Captur went on sale last year and is now the most popular compact crossover in Europe.

There has got to be a marketing and corporate space for manufacturers to occupy, somewhere between patronising and ignoring women, who undeniably form the majority market voice. Where is that space though? The Renault-Nissan Alliance seems to think it's partly about employing more women. "I'm encouraged that Nissan and Renault are not just focusing on female customers but also the culture of the company and thinking about making an environment where women can flourish. Many companies focus on attracting female talent without changing the culture within. The result is often that female employees drop out at a higher rate than men," says Belinda Parmar.

"The Ladies First Dealership is a smart commercial move for Nissan; it's similar to the Vodafone Angel stores in India which are completely run and managed by women. This model can work but it depends on the culture and the way the stores are designed and staffed. Tone is everything. Companies should avoid the "pink it & shrink it" approach where they patronise women by making everything dumb and girly. The stereotypical approach of 'Ladies Driving Days' with spas and manicures is patronising and lazy.

"Female-friendly retail is about making experiences that everyone enjoys. When you make business more appealing to women, evidence shows that you make it more appealing to men as well. Marketing to women is not a feminist agenda, it's a commercial one."

Which leaves one question: when on earth is the industry going to change its approach, wholesale, to suit its customers?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Tesla Model S 'Happiness Guarantee' for lease customers in US In an effort to make the Model S more affordable, Tesla announced a new deal with US bank to offer more favorable lease terms. This has lowered the lease cost of the electric sedan by as much as 25%, and this new lease now comes with a “happiness guarantee” that lets leases return the car after three months if they’re not totally satisfied.

Once again Tesla sets the bar for trying to make its customers happy, and the deal with US Bank probably means less money in Tesla’s pockets, but the lower price may have just put the Model S in some people’s price range. Now you can get into a 60 kWh Model S for just $832 ($895 is you opt for the new Dual Motor Drive all-wheel drive system) and about $6,500 down. If you end up saving $209 a month in gasoline costs (per the Tesla estimate) that brings your “effective” lease price down to just $686 a month. For an 85 kWh Model S the price is $980 a month for rear-wheel drive, and $1,044 a month for the Dual Motor Drive system, before gas savings. A new lease deal in the U.K. was also just announced by Tesla in a bid to remain competitive with traditional luxury automakers.

The initial cost of a Model S lease was about $1,021 with $5,000, so the 25% cost savings claim is all in how you define it I guess. Elon Musk loves him some funky math, and depending on how much and where you do most of your driving, it COULD all work out. But I’m not going to try and be a too much of a mathematician about it.

Additionally, customers now have a three-month window to decide just how satisfied they are with their Model S purchase, and before that 90 days is over they can return their vehicle and walk away from the rest of their lease obligation. The only catch is that customers can’t sign a new lease deal right away, unless they decide to upgrade, which customers have to then pay a “pass through fee” based on difference between the new and used vehicles. Add to that an available “infinite mile warranty” on the drive unit of the 85 kWh Model S (the 60 kWh gets a 125,000 mile/8-year battery and drive unit warranty) and you can see how Tesla is going to great lengths to make sure they have happy customers.

Once the first wave of used Model S sedans make it to market, the cost of getting into this cutting-edge electric sedan should come down even further. With the newer, lower-cost lease price, is anybody ready to add a Model S to their garage?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Electric Porsche Pajun Could Be Tesla Model S Rival Porsche has been at the forefront of hybrid performance cars, and now it’s readying an all-electric rival to the Tesla Model S called the Pajun. AutoCar reports that this new electric sedan will seek to be just as fast and go just as far as the Model S while wearing that enviable Porsche badge.

The Pajun adds a fifth model to the Porsche lineup, and while it will come with conventional drivetrains designed to compete with conventional automakers, engineers are putting extra effort into an all-electric model. The Pajun will use a shortened version of the Panamera’s MSB platform, and it will also aim to be substantially lighter than the Model S, which with its new Dual Motor Drive system can weight nearly 5,000-lbs. While Porsche has thus far invested heavily into hybrid technology, including the 919 Hybrid race car, the company may finally be ready to jump into fully-electric vehicles.

Powering the Pajun will be a cutting-edge synchronous electric motor every bit as powerful as the motor(s) in the Model S, and a new battery developed in conjunction with corporate partner Audi could give it a driving range of 250 miles per charge or more. The battery could even be shared with the upcoming Audi R8 e-tron, which was almost cancelled due to a lack of range though a battery deal between Audi and LG Chem seems to have saved it. Meanwhile Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid sales have been raking in the big bucks, helping Porsche reach new sales heights.

While Porsche focuses on combating the Model S, the Audi Q8 e-tron will be an electric SUV aimed at competing with the upcoming Tesla Model X. Porsche is also planning hybrid versions of all its models, including the 911 (eventually), but it looks like Elon Musk has really riled some feathers over in Germany with his electric sedan. Rumor has it that the 2012 Panamera Sport Turismo concept (pictured above) will influence the design of the Pajun.

The electric Porsche Pajun should arrive some time in the next couple of years, possibly giving the Model S its first legitimate rival.

Using Big Data to Fight Range Anxiety in Electric Vehicles One of the biggest obstacles preventing more widespread adoption of electric vehicles is “range anxiety,” the fear of losing power and seeing your car shut down in the middle of a long-distance drive. Current technologies that estimate how much longer a battery will last still provide inaccurate measurements, because they use computer models that rely heavily on the driver’s recent behavior and don’t account for other factors.

Mo-Yuen Chow and Habiballah Rahimi-Eichi from North Carolina State University’s Advanced Diagnosis, Automation, and Control Lab think they have developed a better model. In a new paper that will be presented at the 40th Annual Conference of the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society, the researchers describe new software that uses a “big data” approach to gather information from multiple sources in order to estimate electric vehicle range. The driver needs only to provide a destination address or GPS coordinates, and the software combines historical data along with “predictive” data—variables such as traffic data, highway and surface-road characteristics, and even weather—to determine how much longer a driver can go before the batteries are tapped out.

“We’re not simply feeding data acquired from the last 5 or 10 minutes of driving, the way most estimation software has,” says Rahimi-Eichi. “We’re looking at what the next 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and more, look like for the car, and predicting what the car will do.”

The software acquires data from five sources: Google Maps (for route, terrain, and traffic data), (for weather), driver history (through driving behavior measurements), vehicle manufacturers (for vehicle modeling data), and battery manufacturers (for battery modeling data).

Rahimi-Eichi points out that the software makes heavy use of data already available online. But its algorithms gather and analyze the information more effectively to improve range estimations. The system still needs to be tested in actual electric vehicles, but the researchers say that in simulations their code predicted a car’s range with 95 percent accuracy.

Past research has been aimed at alleviating range anxiety through other means, like speed management and optimized braking systems. Rahimi-Eichi says his team is now working on more extensive simulations and tests, and hopes the system could be commercialised within two years.

China: VW to launch 20 electric cars SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG said on Tuesday it would launch more than 20 models of battery-driven cars in China over the next few years.

"In the near future, Volkswagen will be offering Chinese drivers over 20 NEVs, from small cars to large-sized SUVs, from plug-in hybrids to pure electric cars," Jochem Heizmann, head of Volkswagen Group China, said.

Heizmann was speaking to reporters in Shanghai, where the German carmaker is launching a week-long campaign to promote e-mobility in China's financial hub.

Volkswagen lags global rivals including BMW, Tesla Motors Inc and Nissan Motor Co in selling pure electric cars in China.

Volkswagen has previously said it plans to introduce into China more than 15 electric or plug-in hybrid cars for Volkswagen and other brands it owns by 2018, many of which will be locally produced.

Volkswagen has previously said it plans to introduce into China more than 15 electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2018, many of which will be locally produced.

China, suffering from worsening pollution, has stepped up efforts to promote use of electric cars, having rolled out incentive policies and tougher fuel-efficiency and emission rules. Beijing has set an aggressive target of putting 5 million green vehicles on Chinese roads by 2020.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Detroit Electric SP:01 The world's fastest electric car? That's the claim of Detroit Electric about its newly fastback SP:01. 282bhp, 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.

[ConnEVted note: The Tesla Model S P85D is faster, so it's a silly false claim]

Remember the Detroit Electric SP:01? Announced in 2013, it followed a well-thumbed recipe - electrifying a Lotus Elise - and promised to be an esoteric entrant in the eco-friendly sports car class.

Well, it's back and in production form ahead of official sales in 2015. And it's a bit different to before, adopting a new fastback body which lends it bold new rear styling as well as better handling, thanks to its new rear wing and diffuser combination.

As a result, it looks helpfully different to an Elise or a Tesla Roadster, with a hint of the wonderfully hardcore original Exige about it now. Good job, given it's set to cost around £80,000, a figure quickly approaching BMW i8 money.

Under the skin, a 282bhp electric motor drives the rear wheels. With a hot hatch-like weight of 1175kg, it's enough to hustle the SP:01 to 155mph via a 3.7sec 0-60mph time.

That, in Detroit Electric's words, makes this the "world's fastest production electric sports car". It also uses a manual gear selector, which intrigues us greatly given electric cars are typically single-speed.

There is a single-speed version too, with a less powerful 201bhp version serving up a 106mph top speed and 5.3sec sprint to 60mph.

A 180-mile range from full charged is touted for both, though expect this to drop notably if you intend on exercising Detroit Electric's claims of superlative performance.

While Detroit Electric is, somewhat predictably, based in the US, the SP:01 will be built in the UK. Sales will be limited to 999 units. put it this way: The car will be somewhat similar to the Tesla Roadster no longer in production. Both are pure battery-power two-seaters based on Lotus designs. Detroit Electric's founder is former Lotus executive Albert Lam, former Group CEO of the Lotus Engineering Group and Executive Director of Lotus Cars of England.

Detroit Electric says its car will not be a roadster -- open car -- but rather a hatchback for better aerodynamics, longer range, higher speed.

Production is to begin late this year, and sales are to begin early next year in Asia, Europe and North America. No price has been announced.

The company was founded in 2008 and named after an electric car company that was successful in the early 1900s. It said in March 2013 that it would build as many as 2,500 sports cars a year in Michigan, but it didn't say exactly where.

Now the plan is to build all the cars in a new, dedicated Detroit Electric production facility in Leamington Spa, England, beginning late this year.

It also plans a European headquarters in Houten, Netherlands, where the company has recruited a new team to manage the brand's sales and marketing, as well as customer service in the region.

The company's h.q. remains on the 18th floor of the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit, and that site also becomes the financial center and will oversee North American activities.

The company claims that its lightweight, limited-edition SP:01 will be the world's fastest production electric sports car: top speed, 155 mph; 0-60 mph, 3.7 seconds. It hasn't given a driving range between battery recharges.

The changes since the 2013 Shanghai showing include a fastback design with smoother rooofline, a rear spoiler and heating-cooling system improvements.

The vehicle's battery packs have been clad in a protective composite casing which forms an integral part of the vehicle's structure and makes the car stiffer. It also helps protect the batteries in a crash.

Jerry Chung, design chief at Detroit Electric, said: "The final design of SP:01 incorporates signature Detroit Electric design DNA, carried over from the prototype model we revealed last year. Coupled with many motorsport visual cues, the new fastback design, bold face and sharp contours evoke the company's vision of pure electric performance."

Monday, 27 October 2014

UK: London Mayor and TfL consult on Ultra Low Emission Zone The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) would significantly reduce the number of people living in areas of poor air quality in London

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) today launched a public consultation on proposals to introduce the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the capital on 7 September 2020, to significantly improve air quality and in turn the health of Londoners.

The ULEZ consultation, which runs from today until Friday 9 January 2015, is available here.

The groundbreaking proposals would require all vehicles travelling within the Congestion Charge zone to meet new emission standards and would be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many vehicles would already meet these standards in 2020, however by introducing this requirement next year the Mayor and TfL aim to accelerate the take up of low emission vehicles and stimulate the low emission vehicle market. The ULEZ will also ensure London’s air quality improves more quickly, making the capital a more pleasant place to live and work, and encourage the use of more sustainable forms of transport. The ULEZ is projected to halve emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) from vehicle exhausts.

This means more than 80% of central London is expected to meet the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) annual legal limits in 2020. The ULEZ would also lead to a significant reduction in the number of people living in areas of poor air quality (where levels of NO2 exceed legal limits) – by 74% in central London, 51% in inner London and 43% in outer London. NO2 is a gas which in high concentrations can cause breathing problems and increase asthma symptoms, with research suggesting that children and young people are most adversely affected as high concentrations of the gas restrict lung growth.

The number of care homes, hospitals and schools exposed to high levels of NO2 would be halved across London. These positive effects will be especially beneficial to the young, older people and those who have respiratory problems as well as residents of high pollution areas.

The introduction of a ULEZ will not, as some critics suggest, lead to a reduction in air quality or increased congestion outside of the zone. The majority of traffic entering the ULEZ will be from outside the zone – so the benefits of cleaner, greener vehicles in the form of reduced emissions will be delivered right across London so benefitting Londoners’ health.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: `Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone is an essential measure to improve London’s air quality and reduce NO2. Safeguarding Londoners’ health and well-being is a top priority for my administration. I understand that people need adequate time to switch to greener vehicles and help is at hand for those who will be hardest hit, but let’s be clear, we need to make these important changes ASAP to continue to improve Londoners’ quality of life and give everyone who lives in or visits the city the cleanest possible air to breathe.`

The ULEZ proposals would require vehicles travelling in central London to meet the following emissions standards, or pay a daily charge: ·
Cars and small vans – Euro 6 for diesel engines (registered from 1 September 2015 so 5 years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol engines (registered from 1 January 2006 so 14 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles could still drive in the zone but they would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50

Large vans and minibuses – Euro 6 for diesel engines (registered from 1 September 2016 so 4 years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol engines (registered from 1 January 2007 so 13 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50

Heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches – Euro VI (registered from 1 January 2014 so 6 years old or less in 2020). Non- compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £100; 

Motorcycles and similar vehicles – Euro 3 (registered from 1 July 2007 so 13 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50.

Route H98 Electric Bus

The Mayor and TfL consult on Ultra Low Emission Zone

As part of the ULEZ proposal, TfL is working to reduce emissions from its buses alongside taxis and private hire vehicles and to increase the number of zero emission capable vehicles.

This will create demonstrator fleets in London, boost industry sales and lead the transition towards this technology. By 2020, all double deck TfL buses operating in central London will be hybrid and all single deck buses will be zero emission (at point of use). This will require substantial investment by TfL and will mean nearly all double deck buses operating in inner London will be hybrid and many in outer London too.

From 2018, it is proposed there will be a new requirement for all taxis and new private hire vehicles presented for licensing in the capital for the first time to be zero emission capable. Private hire vehicles would also be subject to the ULEZ standards in central London just like other cars and vans (and therefore liable for the charge if they don’t meet the emissions standards).

Taxis will be the second largest contributor to NOx and the largest contributor to PM10 emissions from road transport in central London in 2020. The ULEZ proposes to reduce the London-wide age limit for non zero emission capable taxis from 15 years to 10 years.

This would substantially reduce emissions from these vehicles across London (by 45% for NOx and 71% for PM10) and help accelerate the take up of new zero emission capable taxis. In considering the impact of the reduced taxi age limit, the Mayor and TfL are proposing a specific fund to assist taxi drivers to replace their vehicles. In addition, TfL has been in regular dialogue with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to ensure their new £500m funding allocation specifically supports taxi and PHV drivers to purchase zero emission capable vehicles, as well as supporting a fund for on-street rapid charging infrastructure. In developing the ULEZ proposal, and in line with the Mayor’s aspirations, TfL also considered a ‘zero emission capable’ ULEZ standard for all other vehicles. However it was concluded that it would not be feasible or affordable to set this requirement for all vehicles for 2020. Nevertheless it is expected that such a standard would be appropriate at a later date (eg 2025) and we are seeking views on this in principle.

Michèle Dix, Managing Director of Planning at TfL, said: “Improving London’s air quality is of paramount importance as it affects the health and well-being of every Londoner. That’s why we are doing everything in our power to address emissions from road transport, with the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone at the core of our work to improve the capital’s air. We would urge everyone who lives, works or travels in London to give us their views on the ULEZ proposal.” After the consultation closes, TfL will analyse the results of the consultation and make a recommendation to the Mayor. The Mayor will then make a decision on whether to confirm the scheme order, with or without modifications. As the licensing authority for London’s taxi and private hire vehicles, TfL will decide whether to make changes to the licensing requirement for these vehicles. Subject to confirmation of the ULEZ Scheme Order by the Mayor in spring 2015, this would effectively provide a five year notice period prior to the ULEZ coming into operation in 2020 and eight years notice for residents of the zone.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified a number of pollutants as a major public health concern. The two pollutants of principal concern in London are particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). London is now compliant with PM limit values owing to the Low Emission Zone, taxi and private hire vehicle age limits, bus retrofit schemes and the natural turnover of vehicles. However, London is not forecast to meet the legal limits for NO2 until after 2030 – alongside Birmingham and Leeds – unless targeted action is taken.
Since the Mayor was elected, the number of people living in areas exceeding NO2 limits has halved but there is a clear need to take further action. The Greater London Authority (GLA) and TfL estimate that a reduction in road transport emissions of around 70 per cent is needed for central London to meet EU legal limits for NO2 in 2020, with the ULEZ delivering around two-thirds of this. In addition to road transport, buildings and construction activity contribute significantly to London’s air pollution. Further reductions from these sources would also help bring compliance forward. 

The ULEZ proposals are projected to achieve a reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from road transport in central London of up to 51% broken down as: TfL buses (74%), taxis (45%), HGVs (48%), non-TfL buses and coaches (50%), cars (42%), vans (38%) and motorcycles (15%). It would also achieve a 64% reduction in PM10 and a 15%t reduction in CO2 from road transport in central London.

NO2 is a gas, which at high enough concentrations can cause inflammation of the airways and long-term exposure can affect lung function and respiratory systems. It can also increase asthma symptoms. NOx is primarily made up of two pollutants, nitric oxide (NO) and NO2 and refers to total vehicle emissions (both those directly emitted and those formed by chemical reactions). Vehicle emissions standards refer to total NOx emissions but EU air quality limit values refer to ambient concentrations and are set for NO2 as this is the harmful component of the emissions.

The ULEZ standards would be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which are already used for the Congestion Charge. If the daily charge has not been paid then a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) would be issued. It is proposed that for cars, vans and motorcycles this would be set at £130 (reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days) and for HGVs, coaches and buses it would be set at £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days) – so in line with the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone respectively.

It is proposed that residents of the ULEZ will be granted a three year sunset period (until 6 September 2023) before any daily charge applies. This is to acknowledge that they are unable to avoid the zone and so may require more time (up to eight years) to change their vehicle to meet the ULEZ standards.

The proposals for a ULEZ are one of a raft of measures introduced by the Mayor and TfL to improve air quality in the capital, including:
TfL published its Transport Emissions Road Map on 10 September 2014. It looks at how to reduce emissions from transport in London and reports on what TfL has already done and what it may do in the future. It provides a range of possible new measures that the Mayor, TfL, London boroughs, the Government, EU and other parties should consider to help meet the challenge of reducing air pollutants and CO2 emissions in London;

Tightening the Low Emission Zone standards for HGVs, buses and coaches and introducing new standards for large vans and minibuses – around 150,000 vehicles needed to take action to meet these standards when they came into effect in January 2012;

Reducing emissions by retrofitting more than 1,000 of the oldest buses with special equipment to reduce their NOx emissions by up to 88% – with plans to increase this number to 1,800;

Retiring the remaining 900 oldest Euro III buses in TfL’s fleet and replacing them with super-clean Euro VI buses at a cost of £18m;

Accelerating the roll out of hybrid buses, with 1,700 to be on the road by 2016, including 600 of the iconic New Routemaster buses – equivalent to around 20% of TfL’s bus fleet;

Retiring around 6,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis by introducing London’s first taxi age limits:

Introducing new measures to reduce emissions and clean up construction sites, including plans for tough new emissions standards for construction equipment in 2015 and 2020;

Investing almost £1 billion to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage less polluting forms of transport.

In February, research by the Medical Research Council suggested the health benefits gained from using the city’s Cycle Hire scheme outweigh the potential negative impacts from injuries and exposure to air pollution;

Using the planning system to require all new development to be “air quality neutral”;

Retrofitting hundreds of thousands of homes and public buildings with energy efficiency measures which reduce their emissions, with 400,000 already complete.

Why Tesla will lead the EV market Tesla is positioned to be a leader in the electric vehicle market for years to come.

The gigafactory will give Tesla the ability to sustain superior profit margins.

Elon Musk is a true innovator who can lead the company to greatness.

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is a very polarizing stock. Some would say that a $28 billion valuation is much too high for a company that recorded revenue of $2 billion in 2013 and $1.4 billion through the first two quarters of 2014. Assuming the trend continues, TSLA will have a price sales ratio of 11.8, which is compared to the industry average of 0.5. TSLA's forward price to earnings ratio is nearly 300. It would seem these people have a point, no?

But they are ignoring a few very important things: 1) TSLA has great position in the fledgling electric vehicle market 2) TSLA is building a lithium-ion battery factory to power its vehicles and 3) TSLA has Elon Musk. These three facts give TSLA a valuation that is well over the $28 billion it has now.
1) The Fledgling EV Market

The global automotive market is estimated to reach $784 billion in 2015, and it is also estimated that by 2020, 7% of all vehicles sold will be hybrid or electric vehicles EV.

Find more statistics at Statista

Assuming the automobile market is worth $1 trillion in 2020, which is conservative considering recent growth rates in the automotive market, electric and hybrid vehicles will represent $70 billion of the market. That is a relatively tiny piece of the pie. But make no mistake: all-electric cars are the vehicles of the future. It won't happen overnight, but that $1 trillion automotive market will slowly shift away from combustion engine vehicles and become electric vehicles. That leaves TSLA and other EV manufacturers with a massive amount of market share to gain, and TSLA's brand name, sleek vehicle design, prestige and future more affordable vehicle options will ensure the company is a leader in the industry during the EV growth cycle.

It is impossible to estimate what kind of market share TSLA will see from the transition from combustion engines to battery power, but based on TSLA's current success in a market still dominated by gasoline powered vehicles, it can be safely assumed that TSLA will capture a big portion of the EV market.

You still might be skeptical about the $28 billion market cap or about how TSLA will fare in an increasingly competitive industry. The gigafactory and Elon Musk solve both of those problems.
2) Gigafactory and 3) Musk

The gigafactory is perhaps the most exciting thing to look forward to if you believe in TSLA's future prospects. This factory will give TSLA near complete vertical integration and will therefore drastically lower TSLA's cost of revenue, raising profit margins. The company expects the gigafactory to reduce the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries by a minimum of 30%.

With the factory producing lithium-ion batteries, electric motors and powertrains for TSLA's vehicles, and with the direct selling model that the company uses to sell its vehicles, the company will be almost completely independent. But not only will the factory produce EV components for TSLA's vehicles, this factory is intended to manufacture parts for other EV makers as well. This will position TSLA to be both a leader in producing vehicles for the EV market and a leader in supplying components for the market. The gigafactory was an aggressive and innovative idea that will certainly help to establish the company in the EV market in the future. Now even if you still believe the company is overvalued, having Elon Musk at the helm almost guarantees the company's success.

Musk is often compared to Henry Ford because both are associated with revolutionizing the auto industry. However, Musk is not only a businessman; he is also a scientist. Personally, I don't think Musk can be compared to anybody. He is truly unique in his approach to business. He announced that TSLA would allows other companies to use its patents so that EV cars can be integrated more quickly into the automotive industry. Musk has also said that the idea for TSLA and SCTY came about because of Musk's concern for global warming.

This is a man who cares about humanity and sees his companies as a way of helping people to improve the Earth and the human race. Musk risked his company's competitive advantage by opening up its patents, in the name of stopping global warming. I am not so naive to think that global warming is the only reason for him to do this, but I do think that it was a big factor in his decision. With a man like this in charge of a revolutionary company, the possibilities are endless. Musk is the visionary leader of a visionary company. I don't think that's a coincidence. Elon Musk has set his sights on changing the world and if his companies are the tools he'll use, those are companies I'd invest in.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Always fascinating to see which countries are interested in ConnEVted - not necessarily the ones you might expect and the long list is more than 90 countries, amazing how the interest in EVs is growing. Hello to everyone wherever you are!

Mercedes / smart: new app usable at all Germany's public charging networks As car giant, Daimler focuses on expanding its electrified car range with the imminent launch of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class E-Cell, the car giant is about to make it easier for electric car owners to recharge their battery-powered steeds.

The German firm is to introduce a new app called ‘Charge&Pay for Mercedes-Benz’ which will allow drivers of electric Mercedes and smart cars to find and pay for charging amenities regardless of which charging station operator runs the facility point.

It could mean the end to multiple charge cards for smart fortwo ED drivers and new Mercedes-Benz EV drivers; making the whole process of electric car ownership much easier.

Instead of relying on RFID cards, Mercedes’ new app will work with Paypal to make the whole process of paying for charging, quick and simple.

It will be available to download free of charge for iOS and Android operating systems from this December, starting in Germany, and then expanded to other markets.

Electrifying the range

That means it will arrive shortly after the launch of the new B-Class E-Cell cars, with the first examples of this fully electric set to arrive in the UK next month.

Also in the Mercedes electrified stable is the new S-Class plug-in hybrid which has just launched in Germany last month, and is also planned for UK launch in November.

The new S 500 plug-in hybrid is fitted with a 333hp bi-turbo petrol engine, an 8.7kWh lithium ion battery pack and a 116hp electric motor, and is expected to achieve 100.9mpg.

While capable of an electric-only range 20 miles per charge, no doubt new owners will be keen to maximise their use of electric range through recharging, rather than pay for petrol.

Likewise, B-Class E-Cell owners will need to recharge once they have depleted the 124 mile estimated range of their fully electric model.

The new charging app will allow owners of these models to avoid the costly and time-consuming exercise of signing up for multiple charging networks, using their phone to pay only for the charging they require, anytime, anywhere.

While initially only available in Germany, Mercedes promises the app’s availability will be expanded one market at a time.

The company is also planning to make it possible to reserve charging stations as part of the next phase of development.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Plug-In Electric Vehicles to Make Up 2.4% of Global Light-Duty Vehicle Sales by 2023

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Are Expected to Make Up 2.4 Percent of Global Light-Duty Vehicle Sales by 2023

October 23, 2014
New entries from luxury automakers are expected to expand the market dramatically, report finds
A new report from Navigant Research provides a comprehensive overview of the overall light duty vehicle (LDV) market, including global forecasts for annual LDV sales and vehicles in use through 2023.
The rapidly changing market for electric vehicles (EVs), which includes hybrids (HEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), is a small but growing part of the global automotive industry.  Keen to see increasing penetrations of EVs due to the environmental, economic, and energy security benefits they provide, governments are pushing automakers to develop EVs and incentivizing citizens to buy them.  Click to tweet: According to a new report from Navigant Research, plug-in EVs (which include plug-in hybrids and battery EVs), are expected to make up 2.4 percent of total worldwide light-duty vehicle sales by 2023.
“The EV market is in a state of flux,” says Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research.  “Plug-in EV markets are expanding rapidly, and are set to grow much more quickly as several major automakers are slated to introduce vehicles in the high-volume SUV segment.”
At the same time, according to the report, luxury brands, which have benefited in recent years from increased interest from the developing markets of Asia Pacific, have committed more strongly to plug-in EV platforms.  This is expected to increase global sales of plug-in EVs dramatically in the near term.  Sales of plug-in EVs from luxury manufacturers, such as Tesla, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW, are expected to grow significantly through 2018 before leveling off at around 50 percent of the plug-in EV market, the report concludes.
The report, “Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts,” provides forecasts, market sizing, and market share analysis for the overall LDV market and light duty HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs.  Global forecasts for annual LDV sales and vehicles in use, segmented by scenario (conservative, base, and aggressive), world region, key country, drivetrain, class, and automaker, extend through 2023.  Also provided are forecasts by automaker and vehicle class (luxury vs. economy), along with discussion of the underlying forecast assumptions such as lithium ion (Li-ion) energy density, Li-ion battery prices, and retail fuel prices.  An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website. The rapidly changing market for plug-in electric vehicles, which includes plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles, is a small but growing part of the global automotive industry.

Keen to see increasing penetrations of electric vehicles due to the environmental, economic, and energy security benefits they provide, governments are pushing automakers to develop EVs and incentivizing citizens to buy them.

According to a new report from Navigant Research, plug-in electric vehicles are expected to make up 2.4 percent of total worldwide light-duty vehicle sales by 2023.

“The EV market is in a state of flux,” says Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research. “Plug-in EV markets are expanding rapidly, and are set to grow much more quickly as several major automakers are slated to introduce vehicles in the high-volume SUV segment.”

At the same time, according to the report, luxury brands, which have benefited in recent years from increased interest from the developing markets of Asia Pacific, have committed more strongly to plug-in EV platforms.

This is expected to increase global sales of plug-in EVs dramatically in the near term. Sales of plug-in EVs from luxury manufacturers, such as Tesla, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW, are expected to grow significantly through 2018 before leveling off at around 50 percent of the plug-in EV market, the report concludes.

Ending The Oil Age Big Oil’s days are numbered – but the industry could still take us all down with it. From divestment to disruption, Jess Worth explores how the transition to an oil-free future is being hastened.

In September 2014, the $860 million Rockefeller Foundation made an historic announcement. Timed to coincide with massive marches for climate action all over the world, the fund revealed it was going to divest from fossil fuels. Following in the footsteps of the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and Stanford University, the latest major institution to make such an announcement is also the most symbolic. Because the Rockefeller fortune owes its very existence to oil.

The Rockefeller story is also the story of the rise and fall of the first ‘oil major’. Standard Oil, founded by John D Rockefeller in 1870, soon came to control the burgeoning US oil industry, from extraction to refining to transportation to retail.

It built an unprecedented monopoly that ultimately became so publicly despised that the US government stepped in and broke it up – birthing Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, among others. But by then, Standard had already set the Western world on a path to oil dependence that we are still shackled to, chain-gang-style, today.

The forced break-up created the Rockefeller millions. A century later, those millions are being used to make a dramatic point: we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the oil age.
Oil rules

The age of oil has been an age of inequality, of staggering wealth and abject poverty. The discovery of hydrocarbons has often brought fortune to the few and misery to the masses. The phenomenon of the ‘oil curse’ is well-documented: many oil-rich countries suffer distorted economic development, financial instability, repressive authoritarian rule, stifled human rights, soaring poverty and pervasive corruption.

In the oil-addicted West, its toxic political influence echoes through domestic and foreign policy. Today’s oil majors deploy their power deftly, and devastatingly, their probing tentacles lubricated by de facto impunity and state collusion. The CEO of Exxon clicks his fingers: national armies are mobilized. Shell’s chair has a quiet word: democratically agreed policies are shelved.

The costs to society of enforcing Big Oil’s geopolitical interests have been immense. US and UK taxpayers spent, respectively, $806 billion and $15 billion to fight the 2003-11 Iraq war and access its massive oil reserves for Exxon-Mobil, BP and Shell.1 Now that access is threatened by Islamic State, the West is embroiled all over again.
Collision course

Yet change is coming. The dominance of the Big Oil companies is being assailed from all sides. Oil’s future is looking increasingly – exhilaratingly – shaky.

Decades of accelerating carbon emissions have set Big Oil on a collision course with the interests of humanity. Oil extraction has always externalized its environmental costs, shifting them onto nearby (usually economically disadvantaged or Indigenous) communities: polluted drinking water, cancer and respiratory disease, poisoned fish stocks, deforestation. Now the damage it is doing to the climate on a global level has started to bite.

Oil companies’ current extraction plans for the next two decades set us on course for a six-degree global temperature rise and an unliveable planet. To have a chance of keeping the rise to a disruptive but not catastrophic two degrees, we need to leave 80 per cent of known fossil-fuel reserves in the ground.2 Financial markets and economies have got used to treating oil as infinite. But all the easy-to-extract crude has already been found, and largely consumed.

Oil is becoming less profitable. The strain is starting to show

Now, most available oil is either in politically dysfunctional regions such as the Middle East and Nigeria, or in locations and forms that are much more expensive and risky to extract – tar sands, oil shale, ultra-deepwater, the Arctic. The oil majors are pinning their future drilling hopes on these ‘unconventional’ or ‘marginal’ sources of oil.

The technical risks of new oil projects have risen ‘to never before seen levels’, investors are warned by financial overlords Goldman Sachs.3 So capital expenditure – the amount companies have to invest to get new sources of oil flowing – has gone through the roof, while their all-important ‘Reserve-Replacement Ratio’ (by which markets judge their value) has plateaued. In a nutshell, oil is becoming less profitable.

The strain is starting to show. Companies are shelving major tar sands projects, denting their project portfolios considerably. This year has seen Statoil’s multi-billion dollar ‘Corner’ development put on ice, Total and Suncor’s $11-billion Joslyn project suspended, and Shell’s massive Pierre River mine plans mothballed.4

The extent to which oil company staff are being stretched beyond their limits on frontier projects has been laid bare in the court proceedings around BP’s culpability for the world’s worst oil spill, after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The workers on the mobile offshore rig that had, a few months earlier, drilled the deepest underwater well ever were operating – in their own words – in ‘chaos, paranoia and insanity’ just before fatal explosion.5 The consequences almost bankrupted BP and lost its shareholders a fortune.

Shell has spent $5 billion so far trying – and failing – to drill in the inhospitable Arctic. Total has said it won’t even try, such are the challenges. Even the US boom in ‘tight oil’ from shale fracking, which has sent US oil production surging to its highest level in 25 years and is hailed as the key to US ‘energy independence’, rests on extremely shaky foundations. Shale oil wells deplete in a matter of months, and the costs of constantly drilling new ones keep profit margins low. Predictions for how much recoverable shale oil is in the ground have been downgraded dramatically.6

All this new oil is only really viable if the price is above $100 a barrel. At the time of writing, it isn’t – and there’s no guarantee prices will rise and stay high enough over the next decades as the renewables boom starts to give oil a serious run for its money.
Hastening oil’s demise

Nevertheless, we cannot just sit back and assume the oil age is ending anytime soon. Big Oil may be on its way out, but left to its own devices it will take us all with it. There is still more than enough recoverable oil in the world to fry us.

Global oil demand, if there are no interventions for climate or other reasons, is projected to continue to rise until at least 20207 and, despite supply constraints, oil companies are planning to more than meet that demand. Investment decisions that are being made now, on pipelines, tar-sands mines and offshore fields, will spawn infrastructure that will lock us into a high-carbon world for decades to come. These plans are fundamentally incompatible with keeping global temperatures below two degrees. The industry’s projected tar sands extraction alone would push us over the edge.8 Big Oil has a business plan for the end of the world, and capital markets are financing it blindly.

Industry plans will lock us into climate disaster (source:

We need to hasten oil’s demise – for the sake of our warming climate and collapsing ecosystems, and in the service of democracy, poverty alleviation and justice.

It will be technically possible to meet the world’s energy needs, and give the Majority World’s growing populations equitable access to the energy the rich world currently hogs, using a combination of existing renewable technology and energy efficiency. Renewable generation is now breaking records almost daily, and reaching price parity with fossil fuels in many parts of the world.9

With recent breakthroughs in battery technology, the dream of wholly electrified transport systems is now within reach. China has committed to five million electric cars on the road by 2020 and Norway has undergone such an e-car boom that they are now clogging its bus lanes.10 Wind- and solar-powered shipping, large-scale organic farming, airships allowing us to still travel the world, albeit at a less breakneck pace – all would allow us to constrain our oil use to a much more sensible level.

Hydrocarbons don’t just provide fuel; they are an incredibly versatile source of essential plastics and chemicals. If we stop mindlessly burning them and halve our wasteful use of plastics, we can reduce global oil use by 90 per cent, according to research by Danny Chivers,11 who will be exploring how we can power the world without fossil fuels in depth in the April 2015 issue of New Internationalist.

What is missing is the political will to kick oil to the kerb.
Carbon bubble

The hope that Big Oil can be stopped comes in many forms, but perhaps the most surprising is the investment community. Carbon Tracker, a think-tank of shareholder activists and financial specialists, has been sending shockwaves through the investment world since 2012 when it first revealed the scale of the ‘carbon bubble’ that is building.

The solar roll-out: these photovoltaic panels in Barcelona don’t just provide power. They have become an integral part of the urban landscape. Bjanka Kadic /

Investors, they argue, are sinking funds into future unconventional oil projects, and other fossil fuels, that are ‘unburnable carbon’ if the world is to stay under two degrees Celsius warming. Looking at the oil industry trends of skyrocketing capital expenditure, shrinking profit margins, intensifying risk and dwindling reserves, its concludes that $1.1 trillion of oil investment over the next decade needs to be challenged by investors as potential ‘stranded assets’ – projects that will never come to fruition in the face of more decisive government climate action and competition from renewables.

When I met Carbon Tracker’s founder and CEO Mark Campanale, he was buzzing with the possibilities their work unlocks: ‘The International Energy Agency says that, to 2035, $21 trillion will be spent on developing the oil and gas sector, which is extraordinary at a time when we know we’ve already financed the development of enough fossil fuels to take us beyond two degrees. It’s complete madness.’ Then his eyes light up: ‘This is where the money is going to come from for the low-carbon transition.’

Carbon Tracker is certainly being listened to by the financial sector – as their Chair Jeremy Leggett outlines in more depth in ‘Big Oil’s looming bubble’. But financial arguments will not be enough on their own. Mark argues that what oil companies should be doing is giving capital back to their shareholders – rather than investing it in ever more risky and expensive extraction projects. This is starting to happen in a small way. Conoco has contracted in size, preferring to focus on ‘high-value’ projects. BP and Shell, both struggling in different ways, have been selling off projects to provide their shareholders with healthy dividends this year.

Mark wants to see this trend accelerate until the oil companies are mere shadows of their current bulks. But the question of whether that money is reinvested in the building blocks of a low-carbon economy – and not, say, Monsanto or BAe Systems – remains up to the whims of largely unaccountable investors.

Organizations, such as London-based ShareAction, are working with pension funds and their members to encourage them to reinvest in the service of a climate-friendly future.12 But the investor approach has limitations. We can’t expect a notoriously out-of-control financial sector driven by profit to reallocate capital in a way that takes into account justice or allows power and influence to become more decentralized and diluted. Indeed, our current system of turbo-charged capitalism developed arm in arm with Big Oil. They will not break ties easily, or smoothly.

As Naomi Klein argues in her new book This Changes Everything, ‘we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis.’13 The push for non-market-based solutions that curtail the oil industry, redistribute power and wealth, and have justice at their core must come from outside the financial system.
Leave the oil in the soil

People have been resisting oil companies since the dawn of the oil age. Stalin cut his political teeth fighting the oil magnates of Azerbaijan. The Ogoni people kicked Shell out of Ogoniland in Nigeria permanently in 1995, though Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others paid the ultimate price, and the struggle for justice continues today (see ‘The spirit of Saro-Wiwa rises’). But in recent years we have seen a new wave of anti-oil activism, with multiple groups strategically identifying where Big Oil is vulnerable, and targeting those chinks in its armour.

One of these is the divestment movement, which has taken the world by storm in the last 18 months. Deftly combining the carbon bubble financial argument with the moral imperative to act urgently on climate change, groups of students, churchgoers and local residents have approached public institutions such as universities, churches, city councils and states with the argument that the time has come to sever their financial ties with the fossil fuel industry.

It’s working. Just this year, 181 institutions around the world have pledged to divest more than $50 billion. The campaign continues to gather momentum, with big-hitting champions such as Desmond Tutu, UN climate chief Christina Figueres and, of course, the Rockefellers. is a driving force behind the ‘Fossil Free’ movement, and one of its campaigners, Louise Hazan, explained to me the thinking behind it: ‘The primary aim is to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry to a point where it weakens its grasp over the political system, and the ways it influences the process and blocks progress on climate change.’

‘We will see the end of the oil companies in the rear-view mirror. The last thing to disappear – like the smile on the Cheshire cat – will be the logos’

The divestment campaign is one of several that are directly challenging Big Oil’s ‘social licence to operate’ – the public support, or at least acquiescence, that allows oil companies to continue. This social licence is carefully cultivated and maintained through partnerships with a range of cultural, scientific and educational institutions – and these are increasingly being targeted by groups seeking to make association with oil companies a social no-no.

In Britain, the Art Not Oil Coalition regularly protests BP and Shell’s heavy sponsorship of national art and culture through unsanctioned performance-based interventions in sponsored spaces. The recent opening of the David A Koch Plaza (named after the notorious oil billionaire) outside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was met with creative protests and arrests. Greenpeace’s campaign telling Lego to end its partnership with Shell successfully shamed the toy-makers into dumping their oily benefactor.

The climate cost of 'unconventional' oil (

Meanwhile, movements on the ground are seeking to physically block the expansion of Big Oil’s most destructive projects – and are starting to win big. The most visible has been the campaign to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Northern Alberta in Canada all the way down to Texas to be exported to new markets. Approval for the pipeline has so far been delayed for six years, thanks to a powerful coalition of Indigenous communities, landowners, grassroots activists and environmental NGOs that spans the entire route. The KXL campaign has reignited the US climate movement, provoking waves of direct action, huge demonstrations, mass arrests and celebrity support, and even turning it into an election issue.

A similarly epic battle is being fought against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, slated to take tar sands across British Columbia. After years of opposition-induced delays it’s now been approved in theory, but a massive coalition of First Nations and residents have sworn it will never be built. The lack of available export routes is a major reason cited by Statoil, Total and Shell for their shelving of tar sands projects, and it is also causing jitters amongst investors. The ‘blockadia’ movement is genuinely stopping the industry in its tracks and shattering Big Oil’s pipe dreams.

Meanwhile, the actions of communities of just a few hundred people living in the heart of Alberta’s tar sands sacrifice zone could also stymie the world’s largest industrial project. Both the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree have initiated legal challenges that, if they win, could call into question the approval of all tar-sands projects.14

This push to ‘leave the oil in the soil’ didn’t start in North America. Its origins can be traced to Latin America, where for years Indigenous communities have been locked in conflict with governments over oil extraction in the Amazon. This spawned the bold grassroots proposal to leave oil under Ecuador’s Yasuní national park unexploited, with international financial support.

The Yasuní proposal was turned into a carbon trading scheme when the government decided to take it forward, and then unceremoniously abandoned last year by oil-hungry President Correa. But the grassroots movement of ‘Yasunidos’ lives on, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians to demand the oil remains untapped, and working with other frontline communities all over the Amazon to halt the assault on the world’s largest intact rainforest. The struggle over Yasuní isn’t over. There are examples of other local success stories in ‘A year of oil resistance’.

At the top of the world another frontier battle rages – to stop oil drilling in the Arctic. Greenpeace has been the most visible player, with its daring direct actions to block rigs drilling in icy seas, the imprisonment in Russia of 30 of its activists, and the mobilizing of hundreds of thousands of online activists. But years of dogged legal challenges to every phase of the approval process by Alaskan Native groups and NGOs have also been crucial in preventing Arctic pioneers Shell from yet squeezing their first drops of oil out of the fragile frozen seabed.
Transform or die

There is no doubt that we will witness the end of oil’s dominance over the coming decades. What speed and form that takes will depend on a host of actors. As the industry overshoots its limits in every direction and turmoil in the Middle East snowballs, the arguments for an immediate co-ordinated move away from oil dependence are overwhelming.

We need a managed and fair transition, not a massive oil shock which could plunge the already fuel-poor into further hardship and breed economic and social pandemonium. If today’s anti-oil social movements continue to strengthen, this could happen: through pressure from shareholders, the erosion of oil companies’ social licence, the physical disruption of operations by local resistance, the boom in renewable energy, and public pressure on governments to take more decisive climate action.

The oil majors will be forced to retreat, to shrink. Some will disappear completely. Perhaps there will be enough political will for states to step in and physically break them up, like Standard Oil. More likely in the short-term they will suffer painful economic shocks as their favourable terms of trade evaporate, dwindle rapidly as investors remove their capital to invest elsewhere, be asset-stripped by corporate raiders, and find themselves forced to transform or die, like so many obsolete industries before them.

However it happens, the oil majors will ultimately become oil minors, relinquishing their vice-like grip on the political process and making a much more diverse, decentralized and democratic energy future possible.

‘We will see the end of the oil companies in the rear-view mirror,’ predicts Big Oil’s long-term adversary James Marriott, who co-founded Platform over 30 years ago to monitor, expose, communicate and inspire creative resistance to the industry. ‘The last thing to disappear – like the smile on the Cheshire cat – will be the logos.’

James, who follows trends in the world of oil more than most, is feeling ‘immensely optimistic’ these days. ‘It’s obvious the oil industry is coming to an end. So what is the society we want to build in its wake?’

These seismic shifts bearing down on our civilization could spawn chaos. But if progressive social movements can seize the moment, then the end of the oil age could also be the end of a multitude of wrongs.

Action to end the oil age
Fossil free divestment

The Fossil Free campaign – to persuade institutions to end their investments in fossil fuel companies – is taking the world by storm. Wherever you are, whatever your community, you can get involved. Already hundreds of universities, churches, pension funds, states and city councils have responded to campaigns – and many have made the commitment to go fossil free. The driving force behind the international divestment movement is

Get involved:
The Fossil Free website allows you to find out if there’s a campaign already happening near you and to join it. If there isn’t, it gives you everything you need to start one, including the ability to create an online petition. It also links to the global divestment community and shares latest news and successes from around the world. There will be a Global Day of Divestment Action in February 2015 – keep an eye on the Fossil Free website for details.

People & Planet
The student network is running Fossil Free campaigns at 46 British universities. Collectively the campaign has gained over 15,000 signatures of support. Fossil Free motions have so far been passed at 15 different Student Unions, and the National Union of Students is backing the campaign. Several universities, including Edinburgh and Oxford, are now considering proposals to divest and University of London SOAS has frozen all new fossil fuel investments while it makes a final decision on

Bright Now
Churches across Britain are being encouraged to go Fossil Free by the Bright Now campaign, run by ecumenical Christian charity Operation Noah. The British Quakers and several individual churches have already committed to divest. They are joined internationally by the World Council of Churches, the Church of Sweden and the Uniting Church of Australia.

End oil sponsorship

In order to maintain their ‘social licence to operate’, oil companies sponsor major cultural institutions and sporting and educational events the world over. Removing that social licence will damage Big Oil’s easy access to power and render ineffective their greenwash. In Britain, BP and Shell-sponsored institutions are being targeted by members of the Art Not Oil Coalition, whose headline-grabbing artistic, theatrical and musical direct actions bring anti-oil messages into sponsored spaces and pressure the institutions to drop their oily benefactors.

Shut down the tar sands

Across North America, First Nations, Native Americans, landowners, grassroots activists and NGOs are joining forces to prevent new tar sands pipelines being built and new extraction projects being approved. Using a whole range of tactics from blockades and occupations to legal challenges and mass protests, this movement is stopping the tar sands industry in its tracks. 

Tar Sands Blockade:
Beaver Lake Cree First Nation:
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Tar Sands:
Tar Sands Solutions Network:
Protect the Arctic

Greenpeace is campaigning to stop offshore oil drilling in the Arctic. As well as high-profile stunts like blocking exploration ships and occupying drilling rigs, it is co-ordinating massive public pressure campaigns aimed at the major companies and countries involved in Arctic drilling. So far, little oil is being extracted offshore in the Arctic so there is everything to play for.

Action Saro-Wiwa

2015 will be the 20th anniversary of the killing of Nigerian writer and anti-Shell campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni 8. The British-based organization Platform is planning to mark this with a year of groundbreaking art and activism. Working with allies from the Niger Delta and internationally they plan to use this moment to force Shell finally to clean up the mess it has made in Nigeria. Everyone is invited to get involved.

US: 3.3m EVs by 2025 Officials from eight US states say the United States is on track to have 3.3 millions zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025. That will include 1.5 million in California alone.

UK: Charge Your Car network: 3222 charges in just one week

5,000 electric cars were purchased in the UK between July and September and this is now being reflected in the surge in use of public charging networks such as Charge Your Car, above.

By my reckoning the UK will have approximately 17,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2014. 

US: New York state passes 10,000 EVs In a recent news release on charging station installation in the state of New York, the New York Power Authority revealed the following information related to plug-in electric vehicles (and total number of charging stations) statewide:

“Since Charge NY was launched, nearly 500 EV charging stations have been added in New York, bringing the current total number in the state to approximately 1,000. This puts the state well within reach of the Charge NY goal of adding up to 3,000 EV charging stations by 2018. Under Charge NY, the number of electric vehicles in New York has risen from 1,000 in early 2012, to more than 10,000 plug-in vehicles on the road today.”