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This week, tens of thousands of people will attend the Washington Auto Show to see the latest that the industry has to offer. However, instead of moving toward a cleaner transportation future, Ford Motor Company and other automakers are working to take us backward: They are lobbying the Trump administration to weaken clean car standards, which curb pollution, save consumers money and protect health.
The Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Is a Bipartisan Success Story, Which House Republicans Want to Undo
By Ben Jervey
As the House and Senate develop their respective versions of a tax reform bill, the $7,500 federal electric vehicle (EV) tax credit is positioned to be a potential bargaining chip. The House's version of the bill, the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," includes a repeal of the EV tax credit. The Senate's newly introduced version, at the moment, doesn't kill the credit.
Current policy calls for an already-scheduled phase out of the credit over the two calendar quarters after each automaker surpasses 200,000 total plug-in vehicle sales. The new House proposal would eliminate the tax credit entirely at the end of this year—only EVs registered on or before Dec. 31 would qualify.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Gina Coplon-Newfield
If you're looking high and low for a new set of wheels, now is the perfect time to go electric. With "group buy" discounts, many people are eligible for incredible price incentives to help make the switch from dirty gasoline-fueled cars toward cleaner, electric vehicles (EVs) an easy one. Residents in states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Colorado, Virginia and Maryland have access to EV discount programs offering shockingly high savings.
How does it work? Organizations or agencies collaborate with automakers and car dealerships to provide a "group buy" discount, which offers the auto dealers greater assurance that people will look to them for their EV shopping. Most of these discounts are for thousands of dollars off the price of a car. And indeed, all of these group buy EV discount programs are on top of the federal tax credit people can receive of up to $7,500 on an EV purchase and a rebate or tax credit that many states offer too. In many places, the combined group buy discount, federal tax credit and state rebate can total upwards of $15,000 in savings.
Here are some examples:
Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Through February, Drive Green with Mass Energy is offering Massachusettes and Rhode Island residents massive discounts of thousands of dollars off the purchase or lease of several different models of electric vehicles, including the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Ford C-MAX Energi and Ford Fusion Energi through group buy prices. To see how much you can save on each model, click here. And remember that any savings in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will be coupled with up to $2,500 through a state government rebate. My own Cambridge, Massachusetts city councillor Jan Devereux just leased a Chevy Volt through this program and made a video about her experience, and several people who recently bought EVs through Drive Green with Mass Energy tell us about their real-life experiences on this helpful blog.
On top of the state tax credit of up to $5,160 for the purchase or lease of an EV, many Coloradans can participate in a special group buy price through Drive Electric Northern Colorado when they purchase or lease a Nissan LEAF. With an original price of $33,710, the price is reduced all the way down to $11,840 once both federal and state tax credits are applied, as well as the $5,210 group buy discount. This special group buy price ends on Dec. 31, so now might be time to start dreaming of a green Christmas.
Virginia, Maryland and DC
Residents of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC have access to a pre-negotiated price for the 2016 Model Year Nissan LEAF through the Virginia Clean Cities partnership. With this group buy offer and federal tax credits, area residents can take advantage of up to $12,000 off the sticker price. And the program offers people information about solar energy too.
While Utah's U Drive Electric group buy program has recently expired, it provides a creative model for others to follow, bringing together public and private groups to promote EVs and reduce local air pollution. The University of Utah, the city of Salt Lake City, and the organization Utah Clean Energy created the program for community members to purchase or lease fully electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles at discounted prices. In 2015 this program led to the purchase of 76 electric vehicles in the Salt Lake City area with discounts ranging between 3 and 25 percent off the retail price.
Even in areas where group buy discounts are not available, the price of EVs is often lower than you'd think. If you purchase an EV, the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 applies to everyone, and in states including California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, Rhode Island, Maryland, Utah, New Jersey and (coming soon) New York, states are offering rebates, sales tax waivers or tax credits off the price of EVs for those who lease and/or purchase an EV. Additionally, reduced fueling and maintenance costs make many EVs cheaper to own and operate over the lifetime of the vehicles, as reported by NerdWallet.
The Sierra Club's recently updated online EV guide provides information about just about every plug-in car on the market in the U.S. If you click on a car and type in your zip code, you can even see incentives available in your state and how much you'd reduce your fueling costs and emissions in your region of the country, based on the electricity sources where you live.
With more than 20 electric vehicle models available in different mileage ranges and price points, this holiday season may be the right time to go green and save green too.
On Jan. 29, 1886, Carl Benz—who had invented the first stationary gasoline engine seven years earlier—patented a "vehicle powered by a gas engine," which he had built in Mannheim, Germany. By 2030, the country may ban his invention.
The world's first automobile, invented in 1886.Mercedes-Benz
Germany's Bundesrat, its upper house of parliament, passed a bipartisan resolution calling for a ban on sales of new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, which includes both gasoline and diesel.
"If the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions is to be taken seriously, no new combustion engine cars should be allowed on roads after 2030," weekly news magazine Der Spiegel quoted Green Party lawmaker Oliver Krischer as saying.
The shockwaves from this action, reported over the weekend, haven't quite hit the global auto industry or German manufacturers just yet. Germany has one of the largest automotive industries in the world, and it is the biggest industrial sector in Germany. Automobile manufacturing and related businesses employ 774,900 German workers and account for one-fifth of German industry revenue.
The country is also Europe's top automobile market, and U.S.-based manufacturers do big business there as well. General Motors sold 244,000 vehicles in Germany in 2015, while Ford is on track to sell 280,000 vehicles this year. The Ford Mustang is the most popular sports car in Germany. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold 90,000 vehicles there last year, with its U.S.-built Jeep brand growing strongly.
The company that Carl Benz started, today's Mercedes-Benz, is investing $1.1 billion in battery production and plans to launch 10 new electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. The company says that every model series will be electrified. BMW is expanding its EV lineup, while Volkswagen—reeling from its diesel emissions scandal—announced that it plans to sell three million electric cars by 2025. At the current 2016 Paris Auto Show, virtually every major auto manufacturer is showcasing new electric or hybrid vehicles.
The Bundesrat resolution would require only electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2030, and Germany's action is likely to precipitate wider European Union policy.
"We're ready for the launch of an electric product offensive that will cover all vehicle segments, from the compact to the luxury class," said Daimler AG Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche at the opening of the Paris Auto Show in September. Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. The company that invented the automobile now needs to reinvent itself.
Could Uber and Lyft make the dream of futurists for personal rapid transit come true?
Since the 1950s, thinkers such as city transportation planner Donn Fichter began to envision an automated public transit system for low-density areas where rail and even buses were not practical. Even in denser urban environments, it has always been a challenge to get people to leave their cars at home when mass transit cannot offer point-to-point and schedule on demand service.
The 1960s through 1990s saw research studies and a handful of demonstration projects in the U.S., Europe and Japan. In 1999, I visited the Honda R&D facility in Tochigi, Japan, where I could summon a self-driven minicar to take me to specific spots around the campus. The vehicle would then return to its home base on its own. Other proposed systems used guideways, separating the vehicle from existing road or rail systems but offering less flexibility.
The automotive industry is investing heavily in autonomous vehicle technology, some aspects of which are already available in mass-market vehicles from major manufacturers. Two major industry suppliers, Delphi Automotive and Mobileye, are teaming up to produce off-the-shelf autonomous vehicle technology that will be shown at the International CES in Las Vegas in January. This will enable automakers to more quickly introduce self-driving cars and spend less on their own research and development.
Uber has just started a pilot program in Pittsburgh involving up to 100 self-driving vehicles in partnership with Volvo. The company has also acquired Otto, a start-up company headed by autonomous vehicle engineer Anthony Levandowski.
Uber's modified Volvo XC90 for its Pittsburgh self-driving fleet.Uber
Earlier this year, General Motors announced a $500 million in investment in rival Lyft. This month, Ford said it would have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road for ride sharing by 2021. Google's 25-mph prototype vehicle is also testing on public roads.
Uber and Lyft are looking beyond competition with traditional taxi services. They may be creating the first practical, affordable personal rapid transit (PRT) systems that will compete with buses. In 2014, Uber launched UberPool, enabling multiple parties to share a ride along similar routes. The following year, the company announced uberCOMMUTE in China, which they described as " carpooling at the press of a button." In the U.S., it's being tested in Chicago. Then, in December, Uber launched uberHOP in Seattle, which operates along pre-selected commuters routes.
Virtually all mass transit systems are publicly subsidized. Farebox revenues rarely cover more than 50 percent of expenses, which are labor and capital-intensive. In Pinellas Park, Florida—a Tampa suburb—has just replaced two bus lines with Uber service, subsidized to the tune of $3 per ride. It's cheaper than running the buses. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority budgeted $40,000 a year. Running the two bus lines cost four times as much.
In the Denver suburb of Centennial, Lyft launched a program this month providing free rides to the Dry Creek light rail station. In this case, the program is designed to encourage mass transit use by enabling commuters to get to the station without having to park a car there all day. A self-driving bus is already being tested in Washington, DC.
A key benefit of a self-driving vehicles is greater fuel efficiency. The computer can drive better than you can. It will drive at a steady speed, will avoid jackrabbit starts and won't exceed the speed limit. Ultimately, a preponderance of autonomous vehicles could reduce traffic congestion by communicating with each other and traveling together in a controlled caravan. Car-sharing and carpooling make for more efficient use of roadways, vehicles and infrastructure devoted to parking.
There are concerns, however, that self-driving cars will encourage more driving. That remains to be seen, but if the technology is accompanied by more car-sharing and greater use of electric vehicles, that may act as an offset.
A KPMG/Center for Automotive Research study stated, "The new technology could provide solutions to some of our most intractable social problems—the high cost of traffic crashes and transportation infrastructure, the millions of hours wasted in traffic jams and the wasted urban space given over to parking lots, just to name a few. But if self-driving vehicles become a reality, the implications would also be profoundly disruptive for almost every stakeholder in the automotive ecosystem."
Personal rapid transit is no longer a pipe dream; it's a business.