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March 30, 2020
Automakers Shutter Production Facilities as Coronavirus Spreads
Automakers around the world face extended production shutdowns as countries fight to stem the outbreak of COVID-19. Accelerating outbreaks in the United States have already extended the freeze on manufacturing by at least two weeks. Automakers in the United States including Ford, GM, and Fiat-Chrysler, which originally planned to reopen facilities by the end of March, will keep their doors shut through mid-April at least. Determined to play their part in crisis response efforts, automakers have begun to turn toward ventilator production as the vehicle market decelerates. Last Friday, the Trump Administration singled out General Motors in invoking the Defense Production Act, which “gives the government broad authority to direct companies to meet national defense needs.”

As of March 27, at least 26 passenger vehicle brands had halted production including almost all major European and Japanese automakers. Chinese automakers have begun to reopen facilities as the COVID-19 outbreak has slowed in China in recent weeks. Stock gains that automakers like Tesla experienced before the crisis reached the United States have been tempered as the company’s share price fell more than 34 percent from the peak reached in February. After closing production at their Freemont facility on March 23, Elon Musk announced that Tesla will donate ventilators to hospitals in New York City to address critical shortages in the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter.  

While stock prices have taken a hit across the industry, it is unclear what impact plant closures will have on U.S. passenger vehicle sales in 2020 and how EVs will fare. Gas prices have tanked as Russia rejected OPEC production limits and transportation demand has plummeted as travel restrictions and social distancing orders have taken effect around the world. Some coverage has predicted that falling gas prices will disproportionately impact the EV sector compared to conventional vehicles. Analysts from Bloomberg New Energy Finance have disputed this, arguing that factors like tax credits and emissions regulations have a larger impact on the industry than fuel cost. When gas prices fell precipitously in 2014, similar claims were made that EV sales would falter; the opposite happened with consumer demand strengthening even as gas prices remained low.

We will have to wait for sales data to evaluate the effects of COVID-19 on the EV market, although it seems clear that the pandemic will impact auto sales industry-wide. Monthly auto sales in China dropped by 80 percent in February when the country was still the epicenter of the pandemic and automakers, including Tesla, were forced to halt production at facilities throughout the country. Other reports indicate that blockages in the battery supply chain could further hamper production when facilities reopen.

Coronavirus aside, Ford and GM continue to chart a conservative course on EV production despite significant commitments to ramp up production. Reports released last week revealed that the two companies plan to produce a combined total of 320,000 EVs in 2026, 14 percent lower than Tesla’s output in 2019. The first EV sales numbers for 2020 are expected to be reported in the coming days and we will cover this as the data becomes available.
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EV Hub News

NYSERDA Adds $5 million to the Charge Ready NY Program

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has added $5 million to the Charge Ready NY program which offers $4,000 rebates to public and private organizations that install Level 2 EV charging stations at public parking facilities, workplaces, and multifamily apartment buildings. This announcement brings the program’s total budget to $12 million. Since launching in September 2018, the program has supported more than 1,800 charging ports, of which over 1,000 have already been installed. Read More Here

National Grid and Oregon DOT Seeking Vendors for EV Charging Programs

In Massachusetts, the electric utility National Grid in Massachusetts has issued an RFI in order to execute residential off-peak charging rebate program. The survey seeks vendors that could provide charging data from varying technologies. The Off-Peak Rebate will pay customers a fixed per-kWh rate for charging their EV during the hours of 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The survey will be open until February 28th and an RFP will be issued afterwards. 

In Oregon, the Department of Transportation is hosting a pre-proposal webinar to provide an overview of a new funding opportunity. Public agencies in the state are providing funding to upgrade and enhance Oregon’s network of 44 charging stations available as a part of the West Coast Electric Highway Initiative with new, dual-protocol, DC fast charging capability. The upgrades will allow fast charging using CHAdeMO or CCS connectors at each of the 44 sites. The pre-proposal webinar will be held on April 20th at 10:30 a.m. PST. Read More Here

2020 Federal Low or No Emission Program Funding Available

On January 17, 2020, the Federal Transit Adminsitration (FTA) announced the opening of the 2020 Low or No Emission (Low-No) Program. Under this cycle. approximately $130 million will be available for transit agencies in all states to go towards the purchase or lease of low or no emission vehicles as well as related equipment or facilities.

The main purpose of the Low-No Program is to support the transition of the nation’s transit fleet to the lowest polluting and most energy efficient transit vehicles. The Low-No Program provides funding to State and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. Since 2015, the Low-No Program has awarded almost $350 million for ZEV transit buses and supporting equipment. This year’s allocation will be the largest amount of yearly funding to date. Proposals are due by March 17, 2020. Read More Here

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At this webinar, our speakers will explore promising models and strategies to make charging a car as easy as parking it. Join Forth Program Manager, Erin Galiger, Michael Samulon, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainability, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sarah Moore, Sustainability Program Manager, City of Berkeley and Jennifer Venema, Sustainability Manager, City of Sacramento, for a highlight on current public charging pilots and programs, the challenges of public charging infrastructure and a vision of the future of public charging and EV adoption. Read More Here.

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