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Tesla driver says Autopilot didn’t cause crash

The driver of a Tesla vehicle involved in a crash in the US over the weekend said it was not due to the Autopilot system, according to an email released by Tesla on Monday.

A local Minnesota Sheriff’s Department said on Sunday that the driver of the 2016 Tesla told authorities when he engaged the Autopilot system, it caused the vehicle to suddenly accelerate and roll over, which resulted in minor injuries for himself and four passengers.

Shares in the car maker fell on Monday at the news, but the driver wrote in an email he believed he had disengaged the Autopilot system at the time of the crash.

“I did not intend to put the blame Tesla or the auto pilot system as I am aware that I need to be in control of the vehicle regardless if the auto pilot system is engaged or not,” Clark wrote.

In a statement, Tesla said the company had no reason to suspect the system was at fault.

“Every time a driver engages Autopilot, they are reminded of their responsibility to remain engaged and to be prepared to take immediate action at all times, and drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to do so before Autopilot is enabled,” the car maker added.

It’s not the first time Tesla’s Autopilot function has been involved in an on-road incident. Last year, Joshua Brown was killed in Florida when his Model S collided with a truck while engaged in Autopilot mode.

In January, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found no evidence of defects with the Autopilot system.

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Europe to go electric by 2035

ING Bank has predicted that all new vehicle sales in Europe will be electric as soon as 2035.

The Dutch bank said that pure electric cars would “become the rational choice for motorists in Europe” between 2017 and 2024, due to falling prices, an increase in vehicles on offer, and growing charging infrastructure.

The report follows a pledge made earlier this month from France’s ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, that the sale of petrol and diesel cars would be banned in France by 2040. It also follows Volvo’s announcement that all cars manufactured from 2019 onwards would contain an electric motor.

Analysts forecasted that in Germany, the cost of owning an EV would be on par with a conventional petrol vehicle by 2024, and ‘range anxiety’ will dissipate as more EVs are able to travel beyond 500km on a single charge.

However, ING warned that European car makers could lose their market share to manufacturers in the US and Asia who are aggressively developing and releasing EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“Europe’s competitive advantage in internal combustion engine powertrains disappears with the shift to battery electric vehicles,” the report said.

The report matches research undertaken by Tony Seba at Stanford University and reported by The Guardia. Seba claimed that, worldwide, “essentially all vehicle miles travelled will be electric by 2040.”  

“The car industry faces an imminent technology disruption by AEVs in the early 2020s. Even without autonomous technology, the internal combustion engine car industry will have been long decimated by 2040,” Seba added.

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Holden launches Aussie ride-sharing trial

General Motors has announced over the weekend that it will test its car-sharing operation, Maven, in Australia in conjunction with Uber.

“We are testing the adoption of one Maven product – Maven Gig – in Australia through a pilot program in Sydney renting Holden cars to Uber drivers,” communications director at GM Holden, Sean Poppitt, said in a statement.

In March, GM began an in-house car-sharing scheme in Melbourne for employees who needed to use a vehicle for a short period of time, or who wanted to test different models in the Holden line-up.

Maven Gig is a GM programme which allows drivers to rent vehicles on demand for one-off jobs such as deliveries and ride-sharing.

In the US, drivers can borrow a Chevy Bolt for $311 per week. It’s not known which Holden model is being used in the Sydney pilot.

Currently, the firm operates in San Diego, and in May, GM said it would launch Maven in San Francisco and Los Angeles later this year.

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EECA releases 2017-2022 Strategy

The government will look at reviewing the way energy consumption is displayed at the point of sale.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has unveiled its 2012-2022 strategy.

Electric vehicles and vehicle uptake feature in the 28-page report, released in June, which aims to unlock “our energy productivity and renewable potential.”

One key target of the Strategy is that EVs make up two per cent of the vehicle fleet by the end of 2021.

According to Ministry of Transport statistics, electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids) made up one per cent of new registrations in 2017 so far.

As there are currently 3,834 EVs on Kiwi roads, a tiny fraction of the total 3,018,118 vehicles in the fleet, according to the most recent data, and leaving plenty of room for growth.

The ultimate aim for some time has been to double the number of EV registrations each year to 64,000 in 2021, a target which has been reached every year since 2014, and 2017 also looks set to hit 5,334 total registrations according to the current growth of EV sales.

The EECA says this target can be achieved by implementing the Electric Vehicles Programme and “refocusing EECA’s business programme towards emissions and productivity opportunities in transport.”

To increase EV uptake among individuals and households, the EECA’s Strategy says the government will “introduce new, and periodically review, minimum energy performance standards and labels for appliances, equipment and vehicles to ensure that potential consumers are provided with clear and accurate energy information at the point of sale.”

Vehicles sold in trade are currently required to have a sign clearly showing a vehicle’s fuel consumption that is prominently displayed.

The EECA said it would explore options in partnership with the Ministry of Transport for how the government can increase efficient driving practices and “the pace of adoption of more fuel efficient vehicles (invluding EVs) by households.”

The Strategy also suggests lowering energy costs by charging EVs on cheaper rates at off-peak times, which could also increase EV uptake.

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First whisky-powered car hits the road

The first whisky-powered car has had its successful test drive in Scotland.

The biofuel, developed by Celtic Renewables Ltd, is produced from draff and pot ale, by-products of whiskey fermentation. Biobutanol, as it’s called, is a direct replacement for petrol and diesel, and its makers say it can be used in a regular combustion vehicle with no engine modification.

Over 2 billion litres of pot ale and 750,000 tonnes of draff are produced by the whisky industry in Scotland each year, which Celtic Renewables said could be converted into millions of litres of biobutanol.

 “This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues,” said Celtic Renewables president and founder, Professor Martin Tangey in a statement.

“Celtic Renewables is playing its part in sustainability by taking this initiative from a research project at Edinburgh Napier University to, what we believe will be, a multi-billion-pound global business with the opportunity to turn transport green.”

The alternative energy start-up worked closely with Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, an offshoot of Edinburgh Napier University.

“Right from the outset when Celtic Renewables approached us, we could see the game-changing potential of a new fuel created from our by-products,” said Tullibardine distillery manager John Torrance.

“We’re happy to support what promises to be a groundbreaking first for renewable energy, for transport and for the Scottish whisky industry alike.”

Celtic Renewables received $15.9 million in funding from the Scottish Government to produce a commercial plant, with commissioning due in 2018.

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MoT and BusinessNZ in transport study

The Ministry of Transport and BusinessNZ are partnering to produce a study into how transport innovation can benefit the New Zealand economy, said transport minister Simon Bridges.

“The potential of self-driving cars and their associated economic opportunities are often the focus of research and investment, but there are many other aspects of the transport system which present economic opportunities,” he said.

“I want to see businesses positioned to flourish in New Zealand as intelligent transport systems (ITS) are commercialised.”

An advisory group, chaired by Opus chief executive Dr David Prentice, will oversee the study. The group includes representatives from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and other private and public sectors.

Bridges said the study is expected to be finished at the end of the year, and will “make recommendations for how we can develop and grow ITS market opportunities where we have a competitive advantage, and identify areas to be strengthened.”

“There are companies in New Zealand already working in the growing ITS market, as well as companies who could do so,” Bridges said. “A number of international companies have also expressed interest in developing their ITS technologies in New Zealand.”

The Ministry of Transports first Government ITS Plan was launched in June 2014, which facilitated the roll-out of ITS over four years, with most targets intended to be achieved by 2018 .

Government actions announced in 2014 covered a wide range of transport-related issues, including mandating Electronic Stability Control, a centrally-managed road speed limit map, introducing card-based ticketing schemes on public transport, and developing next generation SmartGate technology at Customs.

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France to ban petrol, diesel cars by 2040

Air pollution has become a major problem in Paris

France’s new ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, has pledged to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars in the country by 2040.

Hulot made the announcement at a presentation on Thursday night, outlining how the European nation intents to fulfil its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and become carbon neutral by 2050.

Hulot said that he recognised the target would be a tall order for French car makers, but that they were developing technologies which “can fulfil that promise.”

As part of the plan, poorer households will receive a premium to assist in the purchase of clean alternative vehicles, The Independent reports.

Air pollution is a massive problem in French urban centres, particularly Paris. Within the EU, it experiences the fourth-highest rate of early deaths from nitrous oxide (NO2) pollution behind Italy, the UK and Germany.

The minister also said France will stop using coal to produce electricity by 2022, and the government will invest up to $6.3 billion to help boost energy efficiency.

“We want to demonstrate that fighting against climate change can lead to an improvement of French people’s daily lives,” he said. 

Several other countries have already announced their intention to ban combustion-powered cars – The Netherlands and Norway previously said they wanted to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025, and Germany and India want to cease the sales by 2030.

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Volvo to go all-electric

The clock is ticking for the traditional combustion engine in Sweden, as Volvo has announced that all cars manufactured from 2019 onwards would contain an electric motor. The 90-year-old car maker will launch a range of fully electric cars as well as plug-in and conventional hybrids.

“This is about the customer,” said Volvo president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

Five fully electric cars will be launched between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be produced under Volvo’s high-performance Polestar marque. Further hybrid models will also be launched to supplement the all-electric range. Volvo will release further details later.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Samuelsson. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of 1 million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it, we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”

Volvo also aims to have climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025, as it seeks to minimise its environmental impact.

The move to an all-electric fleet follows Volvo’s announcement earlier this month that Polestar will be rebranded as a separate, electrified global high-performance car company. The current senior vice president of design at Volvo, Thomas Ingenlath, will lead Polestar as its new chief executive officer.

So far this year, 432 Volvo passenger and commercial vehicles have been sold in New Zealand, with commercial sales in particular increasing in 2017.

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One per cent of car sales this year electric

The Nissan Leaf was NZ’s most popular EV in June

New Zealand’s electric fleet grew 8.5 per cent, or 303 units, to 3,834 vehicles in June, according to the Ministry of Transport figures released this week.

This follows an 8.4 per cent increase in May and 5.4 per cent increase in April, meaning the rate of growth is continuing to climb.

The number of EVs on New Zealand roads grew 143 per cent compared to June 2016.

Pure EVs continue to be more popular than plug-in hybrids, accounting for 80.3 per cent of new electric registrations in Q2 of 2017.

Used pure electric vehicles continue to dominate the EV market with 184 units, accounting for 60.7 per cent of new registrations. New pure electric vehicle sales fell 28 per cent to 49 units, or 16 per cent of sales.

When it comes to plug-in hybrids, however, drivers preferred to buy new. New plug-in hybrid registrations almost doubled to 64 units, or 21 per cent of sales, while used plug-in hybrids accounted for just three per cent.

The most popular EV make was once again the Nissan Leaf (used), with 418 sales in Q2 of 2017 for a 55.6 per cent market share. This was followed by the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with 99 sales for a 13 per cent share, and Tesla, with 67 sales.

‘Other’ sales accounted for 14 per cent of the market.

In the regions, Auckland accounted for 51 per cent of new EV sales, followed by Canterbury, on 13 per cent, and Wellington, on 10 per cent. Month-on-month sales in the Bay of Plenty tripled in June to seven per cent of total registrations.

Electric vehicles accounted for one per cent of new registrations in June for the first time. New EVs accounted for 0.7 per cent of new registrations, while used EVs accounted for 1.3 per cent. For used EVs, this is almost four times the proportion of new registrations in June 2016, which sat at 0.46 per cent.

While electric vehicles are increasingly popular amongst private companies up seven per cent to 35.82 per cent, individuals made up the lion’s share of EV sales in Q2, at 59.6 per cent. Sales to ‘other’ owners, typically central, regional and local government, fell 15.4 per cent in Q1 to 4.5 per cent in the current quarter.

Conventional hybrid registrations declined 16.8 per cent to 452 units, with used hybrids accounting for 91 per cent of sales.

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Report predicts EV boom

The cost of owning an electric car will fall to the same level as petrol-powered vehicles as early as next year, according to research from UBS.

Experts from the investment bank’s ‘evidence lab’ analysed the current generation of electric cars and the economics of owning an EV.

A 2017 Chevy Bolt, which cost $37,000, was taken apart and analysed by UBS. The firm said the Bolt’s electric drive was $4,600 cheaper than initially thought to produce, and they estimate manufacturers GM would lose $7,400 in earnings before interest and tax.

The report found the costs of producing EVs was far lower than previously thought, and there is still potential to make further drive down the price of electric cars with additional savings.

As a result, the UBS forecasts the “total cost of consumer ownership can reach parity with combustion engines from 2018,” and that this is more likely to happen in Europe first.

“This will create an inflexion point for demand,” the analysts reported. “We raise our 2025 forecast for EV sales by 50 per cent to 14.2 million – 14 per cent of global car sales.”

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Gisborne to get its first EV charger

Gisborne is about to get its very first EV charging station. The station, supplied by Eastland Group, will be located on Gladstone Road, the city’s main street.

The charger is expected to be installed by the end of July.

“We’re excited about this next step in opening up the region to electric vehicles,” said Eastland Group business development general manager Gavin Murphy.

Murphy also said charging will be free until the end of 2017.

“People may wonder why we’re doing this now, when there are still only a few EVs and hybrids in the region,” he said.

“EVs are cheap for owners to run and, because they operate on 80% renewable energy in this country, they help reduce carbon emissions.”

“The positive economic, environmental and tourism benefits are potentially huge.”

EV registrations have hit a total of 3,576 as of May, up 156 per cent compared to May 2016. At its current rate, however, growth is below the target of 64,000 EVs on New Zealand roads by 2021.

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