AutoMobility LA 2017: Vehicle Upstarts (Day 4)

Part Four of our four-part series recapping the summit’s four days of exhibits, announcements and interactivity

vehicle upstarts are center stage in Day 4

Day 4 of AutoMobility features alternatives to the car

As AutoMobility LA ended, the Los Angeles Auto Show prepared to begin. With that transition came some interesting vehicle upstarts — smaller car maker reveals and first time exhibitors, most of whom offered alternative fuels, specialty automobiles and various takes on the electric bicycle. It also brought about the last of the big car company announcements and a chance for summit attendees to browse the various exhibits at their leisure.

One of the iconic vehicle upstarts kicks off the green revolution

one of the iconic vehicle upstarts shows off alt fuel

Toyota’s Tri-Gen facility overview and hydrogen burning semi

The first of the vehicle upstarts was one of the largest automakers — Toyota. The Japanese car company was the featured vehicle maker of the last morning of AutoMobility LA and presented its innovative future vision in a big way. Toyota has made no secret about its belief that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the wave of the future. They recently deployed a fully functional Class A semi-truck that towed 80,000 pounds of freight only powered by hydrogen, which has just started being used throughout the Los Angeles area. The legendary company proved it maintains its position as one of the most storied vehicle upstarts with the announcement. It also enhanced to its role as an innovator with alternative fuels by revealing it is also opening a new facility in Long Beach, California, called Tri-Gen, which will be the first megawatt sized carbon fuel-cell power generation plant with hydrogen fuel in the world. It will use California agricultural waste, hydrogen and water to generate electricity. It will be able to generate enough power to light up 350 average sized homes and renew the fuel cells of 1500 vehicles.

This announcement was soon followed by the awarding of the 2018 Green Car of the Year sponsored by Green Car Journal. The finalists were:

  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Clarity
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota Camry

The Honda Clarity — arriving at dealerships nationwide on December 1st — earned the top spot. Other awards for 2018 Green SUV of the Year, 2018 Green Connected Car of the Year and 2018 Green Luxury Car of the Year will be announced at the Washington Auto Show in January.

Nissan channels the Force

vehicle upstarts like Nissan create experiences

Imperial Storm Troopers guard Nissan’s reveal

Another of the iconic vehicle upstarts, Nissan, expanded on its relationship with the galaxy far, far away. Although the auto giant announced its partnership with the Star Wars franchise the day before, this was a day when the carmaker was able to share more about the collaboration. With the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi releasing in theaters on December 15th, Nissan has committed to creating immersive experiences of VR and AR in various dealerships around the country that take customers into the Star Wars universe while in the showroom. To heighten this, the company brought out stormtroopers and a souped up Nissan Titan that incorporated the features of the Imperial Walkers.

vehicle upstarts go all in for effect

Nissan Titan gets an Imperial walker makeover

The new guard, customization and retro cool

the vehicle upstarts show off their wares

The final day of the summit included smaller vehicle companies presenting unique options in the automotive and transportation space. These intriguing vehicle upstarts included:

  • Reds from Redspace, a fully electric prototype built to deal with the issues of the Megacities of China like
  • Polaris Slingshot, which introduced a new class of vehicle called the autocycle that offers all the benefits of a motorcycle without requiring a motorcycle license and was demo’d by NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace
  • Saleen, a boutique carmaker with 30 years under his belt introducing two new high-powered, luxury class sports cars
  • Sondors, an electric 3-seater inspired by a walk along the beach to be offered at a cost of only $10,000 and in the midst of seeking funding through crowdsourcing
  • Ampere, the 2-seater electric vehicle going for $9,900
  • Electric bicycles/scooters ranging from foldable (URB-E) to sleek (Propella) to retro-styling (Phantom Bikes)

It was also a time to indulge in a walk through The Garage, a place to show off all things customized and aftermarket, and the Galpin Auto Sports’ exhibit promoting its customization prowess. These two areas were a reminder of the power of the car and how much it still energizes, inspires and draws us.

vehicle upstarts keep customization alive

Galpin Auto Works and The Garage show off customization

vehicle upstarts pump up nostalgia

A tricked-out Mach IV from Galpin Auto Works

The last day was a seamless melding of the old and the new, proof that being one of the vehicle upstarts is more the rule than the exception as all were reminded of the auto revolution that’s no longer coming, but here. Even as things move forward, those things that are held dear by the old guard are influencing the new, and are finding ways to utilize the world of autonomy and alternative fuels to their benefit rather than let it throw them off their games.

A bridge from the past to the future

the old and the new of vehicle upstarts

Clockwise from top left: Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Exhibit; Subaru 50th Anniversary timeline; Honda NeuV concept – utilizes AI and the “emotion engine” to detect and learn from drivers’ emotions and past decisions to suggest reactions to road conditions; Toyota 2018 FV2 concept — like the Honda NeuV, uses AI to detect driver’s emotions and assist in reactions based on past operator performance

AutoMobility made it clear that the goal in automotive revolution is not just to prepare us all for the inevitability of pure autonomous driving, hydrogen/electric cars, and fleets of rideshares that make our own vehicles obsolete. It also acknowledges that the love of the automobile as we know it is not only not going away anytime soon, but could very well keep growing.

the old guard proving they're still vehicle upstarts

The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivan — America’s first; Volkswagen Buzz concept

Such stalwarts as the Chrysler Pacifica mini-van entering the 21st century by offering the first hybrid in its class for 2018, and the Volkswagen Buzz, an electric microbus version of the beloved VW Minibus slated for a 2022 release, prove that this bridging of yesterday and today are taking place to exciting results. The car appears to be here to stay, and AutoMobility LA shows that by embracing the revolution at hand and the unique players who are entering it as never before, the auto industry has an opportunity to become much stronger in the long run.

 

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Zero-Emission Vehicles: Golden State Goes All In

an zero-emission vehicle getting charged up

Per a recent study of data collected between 2013-2015 by the American Lung Association, the Golden State is the dirtiest state in the union with six of the top ten worst cities on the list located on the west coast. With more cars per capita than some countries — approximately 749 automobiles per thousand residents — it’s no wonder that California consistently pushes to lower its carbon footprint. It was the impetus for former Governor Ronald Reagan and his administration to create the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 1967. The legacy to further support the goal of clean air and healthy living in the region lives on as shown by Governor Jerry Brown recently signing 12 bills to further strengthen California’s near-zero and zero-emission vehicle or ZEV markets.

Strengthening the rules of the zero-emission on the road

These bills cover a broad, yet clean energy focused spectrum — dedicated, on-street public parking spaces for charging a parked electric car, extending access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for certain clean alternative fuel vehicles, a clean-car program to help low-income residents replace their high-polluting cars with zero-emission vehicles, and more. A sweeping bill — SB 498 sponsored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) —  raises the requirement for the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet to become zero-emission from the current 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent or more by 2025. Each one of the new bills pushes for more effective and active ZEV support to get the state to a cleaner, healthier place, and move it off of that list of being the dirtiest.

Assisting the greening of commercial fleets

heavy-duty trucks go zero-emission

Heavy-duty vehicles were also addressed in the bills. Commercial automobiles in general and the greenhouse gas they generate have been a subject of much discussion across the country for years. FedEx’s commitment to clean energy and utilizing alternative fuel cells in its heavy-duty trucks have been breakthroughs in support of battling climate change. This “new normal” the delivery giant has successfully established for itself is one that other commercial companies are starting to see as one they can embrace. Bills AB 739 and AB 1073 both support that transformation by specifically dealing with ways to reduce carbon emissions associated with heavy-duty trucks and vehicles. AB 739, drafted by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), will require that at least 15 percent of specific newly purchased state heavy-duty vehicles be ZEV starting in 2025 and 30 percent or more beginning in 2030. AB 1073, drafted by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), extends a current requirement to fund the early deployment of clean heavy-duty trucks. This last is part of California’s existing Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle program.

The bills intentionally do not call out any specific type of clean energy automobile, such as the plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. By targeting the near-zero or full ZEV market, legislation is able to cover a broad range of alternative fuel cell cars that will help stem greenhouse gas issues on a variety of levels. These zero-emission options include the plug-in electric vehicle, the plug-in hybrid electric car, hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas — basically, anything that burns clean energy and won’t add to the greenhouse gas problem.

Governor Brown’s response to concerns about the effects on the state’s residents and environment from climate change came on the heels of the head of the EPA announcing the scrapping of the Clean Power Plan. California has long considered getting rid of its petroleum cars, with the local government putting together plans for all new cars to be zero-emission only by 2050. This total ban on gasoline engines joins remaining part of the Paris Agreement even as the current administration considers pulling out as clear signs of the state’s commitment to its near-zero and zero-emission future. These green vehicle initiatives are nothing new in California, as mentioned, but strengthening them joins support of autonomous car R&D as a way to make ground transport safer, cleaner and more efficient.

Self-driving not to be outdone

autonomous vehicles get comeuppance via DMV

Following the governor’s signing of new zero-emission initiatives, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released revisions to its autonomous vehicle regulations. The move supports the recent Department of Transportation (DOT) announcement of the loosening of restrictions and requirements for driverless auto testing on public roads and development. There have been rules in place for autonomous vehicles since 2014 in the state with 42 companies currently allowed to test their cars on West Coast roads. This welcoming atmosphere is making California a haven for automakers seeking to test and expand their self-driving capabilities, and grow the technology into a viable business that can finally be put to practical use on the road.

A focus on saving lives

Sacramento makes ZEV easier

Creating innovative legislation to further support stemming greenhouse gas emission, addressing climate change to establish a cleaner, healthier future in the state, and setting forth clearer laws to support the development and testing of autonomous vehicles on the roads are all part of California’s desire to make its state that much safer for its residents. The electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid, plug-in electric vehicle and other alternative fuel cell technologies are sought to be the norm, not the exception on West Coast roads sooner rather than later. This also includes incorporating a more equitable and accessible ground for testing and growing the autonomous vehicle market in the Golden State. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how fast the rest of the nation follows suit. California consistently sets a certain drumbeat for environmental and technological innovation, and these recent changes certainly continue that trend.

But no matter how the rest of the nation — or the world — reacts, California remains steadfast in its mission to clean up and innovate ground travel at home. Both the new zero-emission legislation and the DMV’s autonomous vehicle changes combine to move it out of the position of being the dirtiest state and among the most congested to one where California residents can breathe and move around easier, and are assured of a comfortable, efficient and safe journey in whatever form of transportation they choose.

 

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