GM’s Factory Zero Plant, Chevy’s First Electric Truck, What’s New in Fleet This Month?
This week’s episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast is another incoming edition of the Monthly Hotlist.
We’re breaking down what’s making waves and revving engines this month in the fleet industry, as well as adding a bit of perspective from our analysts. The Monthly Hotlist will air during the last week of every month, making sure you’re caught up on top stories, new technology launches and new initiatives that’ll surely have people talking.
Here’s a quick summary of this week’s show:
“The new electric buses will not only improve local air quality, but they will also save Bermuda money relative to the legacy that diesel buses have left because they are much less expensive not only to purchase, but also to charge and maintain.”GM’s Factory Zero Plant, Chevy’s First Electric Truck, What’s New in Fleet This Month? | Utilimarc Fleet FYIs Podcast
“The EnergIIZE Commercial Vehicles Project will provide fleet managers with technical and financial assistance, as well as operational assurance that they are planning accurately for charging and refueling needs. And the project itself is designed as a multi-year effort to provide market certainty as more companies are investing in the state’s clean transportation future.”
GM’s Factory Zero Plant, Chevy’s First Electric Truck, What’s New in Fleet This Month?: Season 2 Episode 10
Gretchen Reese (00:06):
Hey, there. Welcome to Fleet FYIs, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen, and every week you’ll hear from me and some of the industry’s finest in candid conversations that will shed some light on not only two decades worth of data insights, but some of the industry’s hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle. But before we begin, if this is the first time you’ve heard our show, thanks for stopping by.
Gretchen Reese (00:38):
I’m so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us, but I’ve got a quick favor to ask you, once you’ve finished today’s episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars I hope, or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you’ve heard in today’s episode. But if we haven’t yet covered a topic that you’re interested in hearing more about, let us know. We would be happy to go over it in detail in a later episode. If that sounds good to you, let’s get back to the show.
Gretchen Reese (01:09):
Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Fleet FYIs podcast. It’s the last week of the month and you know what that means, it’s time for another monthly hotlist from Utilimarc. And in a way, these episodes are some of my favorites to record. It gives me an opportunity to sort through the exciting press releases and trending topics that people are excited about. And in truth, it gets me kind of fired up too. So this month, it’s been a full one and there’s been a lot of new initiatives that have been announced or perhaps revived, new technologies being integrated and released, and there’s also a bunch of new programs that are starting to become rolled out, or at least, they’re being announced. And I’ve actually got some personal ties to a few of these stories as well, which makes it even more exciting. So I don’t want to keep you waiting and I’ll keep this short and sweet. Let’s get into the show.
Gretchen Reese (02:20):
Alrighty. If you listened to last week’s show, you’ll know that eFuel was the primary focus. Now, it’s certainly not a new initiative. Audi was making waves when they first announced their break into the eFuel market by investing in the production of a synthetic diesel fuel option. Now, this was way back in 2015. I say way back as though this was decades ago, but in reality, it’s been less than one, even truer to it, it’s been about six, even though it seems like so much has happened since then. And this initiative has actually been somewhat revived or perhaps given a new life after Porsche recently announced earlier this year that they were planning on launching new 911 GT3, which is a vehicle in their racing lineup offering that relies solely on this new synthetic fuel that they were starting to produce.
Gretchen Reese (03:09):
Now, the racing vehicle isn’t what my primary focus is on, even though it’s a pretty cool car, but rather, it’s the fact that eFuel remains a potential option to save, quote unquote, the internal combustion engine from being left in the dust in the future. If you’re familiar with global EV policy, and I’ve mentioned here a few times on this show before, there are quite a few countries that are currently planning on reducing or removing the production of internal combustion engines to be replaced with either hybrid engines at first, and then going into a purely electrified vehicle offering probably by about that 2030, 2035 mark. And whether that’s stopping the production of, or just stopping the purchase of in terms of new vehicle offerings, that’s kind of up for debate and that’s very dependent on the country, but these are starting to pop up all over the world.
Gretchen Reese (03:58):
Now, this primarily is taking place at least in these two year marks that I had just mentioned, the 2030 and 2035 in the UK and in the European Union, at least that’s where most of my attention has been on, and that’s where I’ve been noticing it pop up the most. And as a lot of these EV policies are being rolled out, I’m noticing that it appears to be easier to implement in countries that are by size, smaller, or by population, more dense. Which it makes sense if you think about it as you’ll notice similar trends here in the US not necessarily the small geographic area piece, but the more dense piece in cities like New York city, Chicago, Los Angeles. Each of these locations tend to have a denser population with a need to reduce pollution and congestion and EVs seemed to be the way to do it.
Gretchen Reese (04:46):
But for those of us that like internal combustion engine vehicles, or perhaps we really need them, whether it’s your personal vehicle or perhaps you operate or run a fleet that simply cannot electrify due to lack of vehicle option availability, it doesn’t suit your region or type of work, et cetera, how can we make them to be more sustainable? That’s the key question because surely there’s another option that simply doesn’t revolve around reducing fuel usage or idle time, right? Enter stage right, eFuel. This is the part where I get very, very excited about this. Currently, there’s a lot of discussion surrounding this topic. And if you’d like a more in-depth overview of the main talking points, I’d really suggest that you take a look at last week’s podcast episode titled, “Could eFuel be the internal combustion engine’s answer to electrification?” It’s one where I’m delving in a high-level overview into some of the questions and concerns that a lot of people have as well as how it’s produced, and when it’s expected to enter the market on a higher scale.
Gretchen Reese (05:48):
But as a general idea for the purpose of a monthly hotlist, shorter roundup, eFuel isn’t yet a truly green fuel. This is primarily because the refineries that are producing this synthetic fuel aren’t run on fully renewable energy, so we’re talking solar, wind, or hydra power. However, in spite of that, because of the way the fuel is produced by fusing hydrogen with the CO2 that’s being pulled out of the atmosphere via specially designed filtration fan systems, it has the potential to reduce internal combustion engine emissions by 85% or up to 85%. But one of the biggest hangups is most certainly the cost. For the most part, the calculations for price are still being done by the liter and this is because most of the production is currently outside of the US and is on the metric system.
Gretchen Reese (06:35):
But if you take the per liter cost and convert it to a per gallon model, right now, it’s looking like the cost per gallon is sitting at about $13 to $14 per. A little bit spendy, of course, but it sounds like it may be reduced by utilizing the same admixture strategy that we’re currently seeing with ethanol and unleaded fuel. So I guess you never know, the pricing could come way down, but another piece about this eFuel argument is that we just don’t know how much of it is going to be actually introduced into the market. Based on another high-level analysis, if they’re looking at how many gallons are actually going to be produced, and now I’m taking the Porsche example here, first and foremost, they were saying that their initial trial run that’s going to be released in 2022 is about 100,000 gallons.
Gretchen Reese (07:24):
Now, just for a little bit of comparison, over the last year in 2020, the US probably burned through about 124 billion gallons of fuel for our vehicles. So that’s sitting at about the one-tenth of 1%. So it’s nowhere near the amount that we would actually need to be able to even fuel the US alone, let alone other countries, but as I said, it’s part of a trial pilot run. We’re going to see how it goes. And this is, I think if I’m not mistaken, meant to fuel their 911 GT3 range. However, with this admixture technology, hopefully, in a sense to try and create that adoption strategy, but then also trying to bring down the price, the admixture may be around the 4% by 2030, and then it jumps up to about 12% by 2045 and, hopefully, 100% by about the 2050 or later range. So we’ll see where the synthetic fuel option goes. It could be interesting.
Gretchen Reese (08:20):
I’m going to be monitoring it carefully because if there’s a way to make sustainability a thing for internal combustion engines, I’m here for it, especially if it means that it’s not simply tied up around idle time or reducing fuel wastage. Because sometimes for a consumer, even for fleets, that’s just a bit challenging to try and tackle. But I’m curious to know, how are you feeling about eFuel? Is it something that you’re interested in seeing more about or hearing more about? Are you curious to see what it could mean for internal combustion vehicles and fleets in the future? I’d love if you tag me on LinkedIn using the Utilimarc Fleet FIYs hashtag. And I know that I’m bringing this in early in the show, but I’m just so curious to know what you think. Like I said, in my last episode last week on eFuel, I have been in a total rabbit hole researching this one. I’m fascinated, I’m hooked, and I just want to know more about it. So please tell me what you think, share it with your friends, have them tell me what they think, but anyways, I digress onto the next.
Gretchen Reese (09:32):
Next up on the list, we’ve got another international spot making news. And this one is actually a little bit closer to home just off of the eastern coast on a small island in the Atlantic. One which I’ve actually got personal family ties to. We’re headed to Bermuda. And this story was one that I was really excited to see, and not just from a sustainability front, but also that it’s happening in a space that isn’t a massive metropolitan city. For those of you that have never been to Bermuda before, there’s a certain part in the island where it can take less than a day to walk across, it’s about a 10-mile stretch. And it’s a smaller island by scale of comparing it to the UK where it’s part of the Commonwealth or part Chile to the US or really wherever. And it’s just fascinating to see that it’s happening in smaller areas and not just these massive bustling cities, like I said.
Gretchen Reese (10:23):
So the government in Bermuda recently approved the purchase of 30 electric buses to replace their older diesel bus fleet, which can be thought to be the first step in a huge multi-year strategy to fully electrify the public transit fleet, which is exciting for a variety of reasons. But this main one, for me, that at least is the biggest, is that this latest purchase covers one-third of Bermuda’s total public bus fleet. I’m happy to see such a large move and it’s thought that based on their initial research, that these new electric buses, or E-buses as they can also be called, they’re lower operating costs, and they’ll be better suited to local roads’ driving conditions, which if you’ve ever been to Bermuda, again, like I said, their roads are very windy and they can be hard to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with driving on the island. Now, these buses will charge primarily at night, which is when most of us, if we have electric vehicles now, or even massive garages for fleets that have EVs, they charge at night.
Gretchen Reese (11:19):
And that’s primarily when the electricity demand is low for the rest of the people in the area. And that’ll be handy for the island residents too. Bermuda’s electrification work is a component of the country’s plan to achieve an 85% renewables on its electrical grid by 2035. And in my opinion, that’s pretty fantastic. They were aided in part by RMI, which is the Rocky Mountain Institute headquartered in Colorado. And it’s an independent nonprofit that advocates for clean energy, and it served as a technical advisor to the Bermudian government by providing detailed analysis to support the purchase of these E-buses. And in order to get financial support for this project and the rollout of these new E-buses, the Bermuda-based, Sea Change Foundation, provided their financial support. When it comes to the opinions of local officials, the director of Bermuda’s Department of Public Transportation, Roger Todd, had quite a bit to say. He said that the new electric buses will not only improve local air quality, but they will also save Bermuda money relative to the legacy that diesel buses have left because they are much less expensive not only to purchase, but also to charge and maintain.
Gretchen Reese (12:30):
And I don’t know about you, but I love to see these smaller countries running massive electrification initiatives, or sustainability really for that matter. And it’s so exciting, especially as we see these looming climate targets take over the news and see the work that needs to be done. But the good news is, is that we’re getting there piece by piece and it’ll take time, but I think we’re going to get there soon.
Gretchen Reese (13:04):
In early April, General Motors announced that Chevrolet will introduce a new electric Silverado pickup truck that will be built at the company’s Factory ZERO assembly plant in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan. I really hope I didn’t butcher the pronunciation of that. I’m sorry, for any Michigan folks that are listening to this podcast, my pronunciation is not always the greatest. But the Chevrolet Silverado electric full-size pickup truck is designed to be a full EV. And it’s said to be harnessing the best of the Ultium platform and Silverado’s proven capabilities that have been shown over their 100 years of experience as a brand. And the electric Silverado, it offers customers an estimated range of about 400 miles on a full charge. Now, this estimate is based on anecdotal data from the GM testing capabilities, so it’s yet to be seen as though that is hardcore fact. But off of a given estimation note, that’s what they’re saying the range is going to be for a full battery.
Gretchen Reese (13:59):
There’s going to be a couple of different versions, so retail and fleet versions, and they’ll offer customers a variety of options and they’re expected to be in pretty high demand. And this announcement, I think, is a great venture into the EV space as they’re already showcasing, like I said, the 100 years of experience in excellence from the brand itself and being a household name. And they’re also transitioning to an all electric future in the light vehicle space. Now, this announcement comes as earlier this year. If you remember from a previous blog feature on Utilimarc’s site, that General Motors is dedicated to offer a fully electric suite of light duty vehicle offerings by 2035. Now, if you’re not sure what I’m chatting about, if it seems like I’m just speaking in circles, then head over to our site and check it out. It’s interesting and it’s a cool move to monitor as more and more consumers and fleets are beginning to not only embrace electrified options, but they’re beginning to demand them.
Gretchen Reese (15:07):
The California Energy Commission, or otherwise known as the CEC, as of this month, has approved a project that is aiming to accelerate the deployment of fueling infrastructure for electric and/or hydrogen trucks, buses, and equipment. It’s a $50 million project, and it has a multi-year rollout incentive program called EnergIIZE, and that stands for Energy Infrastructure Incentives for Zero-Emission Commercial Vehicles. Wow, that’s a mouthful. And it’s planning to use a concierge-like model working directly with eligible applicants to help plan and fund the purchase of charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Now, people are saying that this project will be administered by Calstar, which will receive an initial $17 million to design and launch the program itself with then additional funding subject to annual approval of the state budget and allocations from the CEC. And this project team consists of Calstar’s long-term voucher program administer, which is Tetra Tech and its equity partner, GRID Alternatives, which is a nonprofit organization that manages clean energy programs in low-income communities, which is great to see. Because sometimes what we’re seeing is that electrification isn’t always super far-spread.
Gretchen Reese (16:18):
So it’s nice to be able to integrate into every single community that they can. And as stated by CEC commissioner, Patty Monahan, the EnergIIZE Commercial Vehicles Project will provide fleet managers with technical and financial assistance, as well as operational assurance that they are planning accurately for charging and refueling needs. And the project itself is designed as a multi-year effort to provide market certainty as more companies are investing in the state’s clean transportation future. Now, she’s not the only one that had something to say, State Senator Lena Gonzalez said that air pollution has already taken a heavy toll on the health of our communities and that our communities can not wait. And that’s why I’m fully supportive and excited that we are taking bold steps toward cleaner technologies for trucks and bus fleets in our state. And as chair of the Transportation Committee, she is always going to do everything in her power to advance and promote the use of cleaner vehicle technologies at California ports, roads, and major freeways.
Gretchen Reese (17:17):
And personally, I think it’ll be interesting to see if this project gets a solid jump on fueling infrastructure. And it’s kind of fitting into my fascination with eFuel and a lot kind of like I was speaking about earlier. Because one thing that’s actually quite interesting about eFuel is that, overall in terms of trying to figure out fueling infrastructure or charging infrastructure, eFuel is one that we wouldn’t need to change too much because it’s a type of fuel that can actually be used in the current gas station or filling station or petrol station, whatever you call it, the current fueling infrastructure we already have installed across the country. So we’ll see if it kicks off as planned, but I, for one, am optimistic. Let me know your thoughts. I’m curious to hear what you think.
Gretchen Reese (18:10):
Now to end on a Utilimarc note because you know that I have to do that on the Utilimarc Fleet FYIs monthly hotlist. This past month, we surveyed the most influential utility companies in the country to get a better understanding of how these large fleet organizations plan on transitioning their fleets from petrol to electric vehicles. The transition to electric vehicles, otherwise called EVs, as you’ve heard me called them before, in commercial fleets is promising, it’s inevitable, and yet it’s full of so many unknowns, so many questions, and a lot of pushback. And though we can confidently say that EVs are the future of fleets, or at least they will be in the coming years, there are several questions to be answered before the entire industry can get on board. Some of these may be, how can we keep the vehicles charged? How will fleets measure return on investment for their EVs? How do electric vehicles compare to their fuel counterparts when it comes to the distance they can travel for jobs or tow capacity? The list just goes on and on and on.
Gretchen Reese (19:08):
And these are just a few of the initial questions, like I said. And companies are working to try and figure out the answers to these in order to financially justify such a big change and investment within their fleets. In addition to questions regarding EV performance overall, fleets are also asking which trucks should they electrify first and which OEM should they be working with? Like I said, fleet managers have so many questions that we’re working hard to try and answer. So we ended up working with one of our customers, Consumers Energy, and we ran together a survey throughout March targeting top utility companies in the country to find some of the answers to these questions to try and bring some insight.
Gretchen Reese (19:46):
And the article itself is on our site. So if you want to get the full survey results and see exactly what I’m talking about, I would go over to utilimark.com and you will find it in our electric vehicle analysis. It’s something that you don’t want to miss. But just as a general overview, what we found is that electric vehicle implementation is a strategic move that could mean different things for each company. And as we’ve seen each fleet has a very different plan and reason for implementing their EV strategy. So one survey respondent actually anticipated their company having about 50% of their fleet being electric in the next three years. But then on the flip side, another respondent says only two to 3% total EV. Likewise, while some fleets may be focused on cutting CO2 emissions, it’s not uncommon for others to see a greater opportunity in cutting maintenance costs and spending less on fuel.
Gretchen Reese (20:38):
And as an authority in data analysis for enterprise level fleets, EV implementation effectiveness, ROI, carbon emissions reduction, and performance measurement, it’s an incredible opportunity for our organization to work with our clients and also other prospective clients to try and learn about this EV initiative and how people are implementing it. So as an organization, Utilimarc is looking forward to exploring the subject of electric vehicle performance even further, and not just through research and hearing our client’s thoughts, but soon, with firsthand experience and data actually going through to being fully launched, like for example, the fully hybrid option F-150 or now, hopefully, the soon-to-be-released fully electric Chevy Silverado. So we’ll see what that means for fleets. And we’re thinking it’s going to be a positive effect, but again, stay tuned and make sure you head over to our site, which is utilimarc.com to check out those EV survey results. I have a feeling you’re really going to like that one.
Gretchen Reese (21:46):
Overall, this last month, and I know, I feel like I focus a lot on sustainability during these episodes, but I just can’t help that this just makes me so insanely excited. I feel like this last month has been a really interesting one in terms of new things happening in the fleet industry. So if you have a story to share or big news that you just can’t hold in, please, please, please, please, please send me an email. I will put all of my contact information as well as the contact information for our marketing department in the show notes and the description of this episode just to make sure that you know where to find it. And who knows, you might just find yourself or your fleet in next month’s monthly hotlist, which I think is going to be really exciting. Now, if today’s episode was one that got you thinking, let us know by using the hashtag Utilimarc Fleet FYIs on LinkedIn so that we can see what you thought. That’s all for me this week. We’ll be back in your headphones next Thursday, and I will see you there. Bye.
Gretchen Reese (22:42):
Hey, there, I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you’ve just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. If you’re already wanting more content, head over to utilimarc.com, which is Utilimarc with a C. U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C.com for the show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analysts to you. That’s all for me this week. So until next time, I’ll catch you later.
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