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Green Vehicle Technology

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Congress is poised to pass a transformative climate change fighting bill. Friday's vote would be the first major climate package in the U.S. and would include close to $375 billion in spending. Most of the bill is aimed at infusions of cash, subsidies and tax breaks to make green energy eventually so cheap it's nearly irresistible. It would slice U.S. carbon emissions by about 40%. This compromise bill comes 34 years after Congress was warned that climate change was a serious threat. Since then there have been 308 weather disasters that each cost $1 billion.

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The European Union says a new U.S. tax credit plan aimed at encouraging Americans to buy electric vehicles could discriminate against European producers and break world trade rules. The Inflation Reduction Act is nearing approval in Congress. It would grant a tax credit of up to $7,500 to lower the cost of an electric vehicle. To qualify, electric vehicles should contain a battery built in North America with minerals mined or recycled on the continent. But European Commission spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer said Thursday that the bill is “discriminatory, that it’s discriminating against foreign producers in relation to U.S. producers.” The U.S. plan aims to encourage domestic manufacturing and mining.

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The U.S. has renewed credibility on global climate issues and will be able to inspire other nations in their own efforts, experts say, after the Democrats pushed their big economic bill through the Senate on Sunday. The legislation is the single biggest investment in climate change in U.S. history, putting about $375 billion towards climate change-fighting strategies such as investments in renewable energy production and tax rebates for consumers to buy new or used electric vehicles. The impending passage of the first ever significant climate legislation in the U.S. changes the outlook internationally, including in China, India and other high-emitting nations, several experts said.

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A tax credit of up to $7,500 could be used to defray the cost of an electric vehicle under the Inflation Reduction Act now moving toward final approval in Congress. But the auto industry warns that the vast majority of EV purchases won’t qualify for a tax credit that large. That’s mainly because of the bill’s requirement that, to qualify for the credit, an electric vehicle must contain a battery built in North America with minerals mined or recycled on the continent. And those rules become more stringent over time — to the point where, in a few years, it’s possible that no EVs would qualify for the tax credit.

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Toyota’s profit fell nearly 18% from a year earlier in the April-June quarter as a semiconductor shortage that has slammed the industry dented production at Japan’s top automaker. Toyota officials apologized Thursday to customers who have been waiting for their cars after putting in orders. Some have waited so long there was a model change in the interim. Toyota said various problems apart from the chips shortage have hurt production, such as flooding in South Africa and pandemic lockdowns in Shanghai. Electric vehicles, which need many computer chips, have been especially affected by the chips crunch. Rising material costs also hurt Toyota’s bottom line.

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Saudi Aramco has announced a $2.65 billion agreement to acquire Valvoline’s global products business, which includes motor oils, transmission fluids, coolants and other automotive maintenance products. Valvoline said Monday the transaction will separate its global products from its retail services businesses, transforming it into a purely automotive service provider. The company operates and franchises around 1,700 service centers, with stores across the United States offering oil changes and other quick services. Valvoline says the deal will also help it to accelerate focus on servicing electric vehicle cars. Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, has been expanding its downstream business in past years.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has announced the award of $5.2 million in grants to install direct current fast chargers for electric vehicles along interstates and major highways around the state. The grants will fund 32 chargers at 13 different sites as part of a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority to develop a statewide fast-charging network along major travel corridors. The TDEC grants are funded from a settlement with Volkswagen over software that allowed it to cheat on vehicle emissions tests. TVA is contributing $15 million toward the network.

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The surprise deal by Senate Democrats on a pared-down bill to support families, boost infrastructure and fight climate change is likely to jump-start sales of electric vehicles. The measure agreed to by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and holdout Sen. Joe Manchin would give EV buyers a $7,500 tax credit starting next year, through the end of 2032. There’s also a new $4,000 credit for those buying used EVs. The vehicles have to be assembled in North America, and there are limits on annual income for buyers. There also are caps on the sticker prices of new EVs and a $25,000 cap on the price that can be paid for used electric vehicles.

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An unexpected deal reached by Senate Democrats would be the most ambitious action ever taken by the United States to address global warming and could help President Joe Biden come close to meeting his pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The deal would spend nearly $370 billion over 10 years to boost electric vehicles, jump-start renewable energy such as solar and wind power and develop alternative energy sources such as hydrogen. The deal stunned lawmakers and activists who had given up hope that legislation could be enacted after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he could not support the measure because of inflation concerns.

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The German government plans to reduce incentive payments for buyers of electric cars and end subsidies for buying plug-in hybrids at the end of this year. The government had announced shortly after taking office in December that, starting in 2023, it would only provide payments for electric vehicles that “demonstrably have a positive climate-protection effect.” At present, buyers of electric-only cars are eligible for incentives of up to 6,000 euros ($6,100) and people who buy plug-in hybrids can get up to 4,500 euros ($4,570). Starting in January, German government incentives for electric and fuel-cell cars will be cut to $4,570 for vehicles that cost up to $40,500 and to $3,045 for cars costing up to $66,000.

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U.S. safety regulators have opened three investigations into safety issues with about 1.65 million vehicles made by Stellantis. The largest probe covers 1.34 million Jeep Cherokee small SUVs from the 2014 through 2020 model years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has 80 complaints that the electronic parking brakes can turn on while the SUVs are moving. Another probe covers 289,000 Jeep Compass and Patriot small SUVs from 2016 due to 127 complaints about engine stalling. The agency also says it has 40 complaints of a transmission problem causing Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans to lose power. The probe cover 21,000 vans from the 2019 through 2021 model years. The investigations could lead to recalls, but so far the agency hasn’t sought any.

The state of Georgia and local governments are giving Hyundai Motor Group incentives worth $1.8 billion to build electric vehicles in the state. That's according to the signed agreement disclosed by state officials Friday. The company announced in May that it will invest $5.5 billion in its first U.S. plant dedicated to electric vehicles near Savannah. It's the largest economic development deal in Georgia's history, with a promise of creating 8,100 direct jobs. State officials for the first time Friday disclosed tax breaks and other incentives being given to close the deal with Hyundai. The package comes to nearly $228,000 per job.

Baidu, a Chinese search engine and artificial intelligence firm, has unveiled its latest electric autonomous driving vehicle. The company says the Apollo RT6 will be soon be part of its robotaxi fleet, as China pushes forward with its autonomous driving ambitions. It is a fully electric vehicle with a steering wheel that can be removed or installed when required, and will cost 250,000 yuan ($37,000) per unit. Baidu already runs Apollo Go, an autonomous ride-hailing service using self-driving robotaxis with safety staff seated in the driver or passenger seat. China aspires to lead autonomous driving technology globally but lags the U.S. in introducing such services. Alphabet’s Waymo began offering driverless taxi services in Phoenix, Arizona in 2020.

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The U.S. Postal Service plans to further increase the number of electric-powered vehicles it is buying to replace its aging fleet of delivery trucks. The Postal Service anticipates boosting electric vehicles from 20% to 50% of its initial purchase of 50,000 vehicles in a new environmental filing. It also proposes buying more than 34,000 commercially available vehicles over two years. The proposed changes are to be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday. They follow lawsuits by 16 states seeking to halt purchases under the initial proposal that called for a greater number of gas-powered trucks.

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Georgia officials are close to finalizing a deal with automaker Hyundai to build a $5.5 billion electric car plant near Savannah. An economic development agency representing four Savannah-area counties approved its portions of the agreement Tuesday, including an economic incentives package. Details won't be released until state officials and Hyundai also sign the deal. Hyundai plans to hire at least 8,100 to work at the Georgia plant, which is scheduled to open in 2025. State and local governments spent $61 million to purchase the plant site and $66 million to prepare it. Incentives include an income tax credit worth an estimated $213 million.

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In their first rollouts of electric vehicles, America’s automakers targeted people who value short-range economy cars. Then came EVs for luxury buyers and drivers of pickups and delivery vans. Now, the companies are zeroing in at the heart of the market: The compact SUV. In their drive to have EVs dominate vehicle sales in coming years, the automakers are promoting their new models as having the range, price and features to rival their gas-powered competitors. Some are so far proving quite popular. Ford’s $45,000-plus Mustang Mach E is sold out for the model year. General Motors’ Chevrolet brand just introduced an electric version of its Blazer, also starting around $45,000, when it goes on sale next summer.

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The economy is a bit wobbly, but General Motors CEO Mary Barra isn’t backing off of an audacious prediction: She pledges that by the middle of this decade, her company will sell more electric vehicles in the U.S. than Tesla, the global sales leader. She faces some long odds against immense economic forces that are working against auto sales. But in an interview with The Associated Press, Barra says GM can win by rolling out more affordable EVs, as well as pickup trucks and luxury vehicles. Her challenge is huge. Last year GM sold just 25,000 electric vehicles in the U.S., compared with an estimated 352,000 sold by Tesla.

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