SF Motors Inc. is a Chinese automotive manufacturer, and they’re coming to Michigan. Recognizing the state as the global epicenter of electric vehicle research, the company chose to open a research and development facility in Pittsfield Township in Washtenaw County. With it comes 150 jobs, $10.7 million in investments to in the area, and a new player in Michigan’s EV development community.
The Michigan Agency for Energy is trying to find out more about ways we can use funds for zero emission vehicle infrastructure provided by Volkswagen’s settlement with the US government.
While Tesla’s Model 3 has generated a lot of pre-order hype, the Chevrolet Bolt will be the first “affordable” long-range EV to market and will be Built by Michigan. Beginning production at Michigan’s Orion Assembly Plant by the end of this year, the Bolt will be built alongside its European twin, the Opel Ampera-e. Expect to see them on the road in the coming months.
In spite of low gas prices, electric vehicles are selling much better this year than they did over a similar period in 2015. According to Greentech Media, January to September sales are up 34%. An important part of this uptick is the second generation Chevrolet Volt, which went on sale last October. Consumers seem to have held out for the updated model, which improves on its predecessor in many ways.
Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have disrupted the transportation market and fundamentally changed the way we think about getting around. They aren’t stopping. Uber is piloting self-driving Ford Fusion hybrids in Pittsburg, signaling a market trend for ride share services: a private fleet of autonomous vehicles replacing human drivers for safer and more cost-efficient rides. The kicker? These companies will save even more money by going fully electric.
One of the biggest hurdles in advancing the EV market is the availability of electric charging infrastructure. While most homeowners will have access to charging their vehicle at home, some potential buyers may be concerned about EV charging opportunities when traveling away from home. And some may not have access at their residence, either, e.g. if they live in an apartment, condo, or other multi-family dwelling.
As reported by the Detroit Free Press, Ford is planning to invest $4.5 billion in the development of over a dozen new electric vehicles by 2020 and a fully autonomous car by 2021. CEO Mark Fields warned investors in September that the new investments would contribute to a dip in profits for 2017, but the company is reorienting itself for a changing auto industry and transportation future.
Despite positive steps in the EV market, automakers and regulators may not be seeing eye-to-eye on future fuel economy requirement.
With gas prices currently so low, and with pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles making up 58% of passenger vehicle sales, automakers are urging that regulators consider relaxing standards on fuel economy. But regulators know that gas prices fluctuate over time, and setting mileage goals is important for the long term.