Wildcat ramps up its focus on EV Supercell breakthroughs

The lithium-ion battery has proven to be an excellent fuel tank for EVs, but there remains much room for improvement. We’re still far from what’s theoretically achievable in terms of Li-ion capacity, safety, cost and charge times. As battery manufacturers continue their quest for improved chemistry and material combinations, they rely on applied researchers like Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a developer of advanced battery materials, to bridge the gap between scientific research and product engineering. The company’s high-throughput screening process allows Wildcat researchers and collaborators to simultaneously experiment on hundreds of chemical compounds under identical conditions in a highly-automated facility. An AI database analyzes the results, providing feedback to drive the next round of experiments. This constant refinement generates predictive models that accelerate the development of new materials. 

Armed with dozens of patents and sophisticated tools, Wildcat’s team of scientists has spent the past decade partnering with other companies to use its advanced techniques to help them accelerate battery development. At the same time, Wildcat has also been working on some internal projects having to do with next-generation battery materials. 

Now the company says those research projects have demonstrated enough promising results that it plans to accelerate development and commit considerably more resources to the internal areas of next-generation breakthroughs.

Charged spoke with Wildcat’s CEO, Mark Gresser, and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Dee Strand, about their latest multifaceted efforts to address all three components of a battery: cathode, anode and electrolyte. Wildcat believes its applied research in these areas could unlock an EV Supercell—the “Holy Grail” of batteries. 

Charged: How exactly is Wildcat changing its approach to internal battery material research projects?

Mark Gresser: For the past few years, we’ve had dedicated teams using our high-throughput tool for internal research, going after some big, meaningful breakthroughs, but we’ve kept that fairly quiet. Now that we’ve made enough progress in the past year or so, we’re going back to the market to raise funding and drive those internal research targets to produce commercially-ready materials. That’s a big change for Wildcat—it means we’re adding quite a few people and new capabilities. We’re ramping up our focus on these big R&D targets that we’ve been pushing along for many years, in order to produce something we affectionately call our EV Supercell.

Charged: So the EV Supercell is a combination of research targets?

Mark Gresser: Supercell is our internal name for a battery that the EV industry would love. To that end, we’re focused on three targets: cobalt- and nickel-free cathodes, solid electrolytes, and lithium-metal anodes. The cathode target, in particular, is foundational for this plan, but all three will be significantly well-funded, and we’re adding intellectual expertise in all three of these areas. 

Knowles develops next-generation safety capacitors to meet the growing demand for 800-volt EV systems

As EV-makers continue to upgrade from 400 V to 800 V systems, parts suppliers have been hustling to keep up with the new specs.

Knowles Precision Devices, for example, specializes in high-voltage capacitors—it’s a market leader in multi-layer ceramic capacitors rated from about 200 V up to 12,000 V. Looking back just 10 or 15 years, there wasn’t much of a need for these products in the automotive market. Most vehicle electrical systems were all based on 12 volts, and used capacitors rated for 30 V or 50 V test requirements. But EVs are changing things quickly, and automotive needs have started moving to higher and higher voltages.

Let’s take safety caps for an example. The testing requirements for 800 V systems specify that the ceramic capacitors in the circuits are expected to survive up to 4,000 V. This is having a big impact on the parts supplier market, because many traditional automotive players—who were used to 50 V test requirements—do not have historical expertise in high voltage. So, business has begun to swing over to new entrants in the auto industry.

800 V systems specify that the ceramic capacitors in the circuits are expected to survive up to 4,000 V.

Knowles recently launched a new line of automotive-grade certified safety capacitors. Charged chatted with Applications Engineers James Brewster and Steve Hopwood to learn more about the company’s new EV product line.

Charged: What exactly is a safety cap? 

Hopwood: The term safety caps is a relatively standard term for capacitors that meet a set of international safety certification standards. They’re actually rated around 250 V AC, and originally intended for applications where you’re going to see mains voltage. They’re mandatory when you’ve got applications that are connected directly to the mains, where a person could be at risk in the case of a failure. That means there are very strict requirements. When you’re dealing with a charging unit, an on-board charger, you are inevitably connecting to the mains to charge the battery.

And because of safety caps’ characteristics and ratings, they’re of interest to the battery management sector. If you’re directly on a battery rail, or if you’re in some way associated with a battery, you need to make sure that you don’t end up with failures on the battery lines.

There are various international standards that are applicable to safety caps, and automotive engineers are generally looking to the ordinary electrical international standards. For these types of safety-rated capacitors, they’re looking at IEC/EN 60384-14+A1 and UL 60384-14.

Charged: What makes high-voltage capacitors fundamentally different than the lower-voltage products?

Hopwood: There are a few things. The materials you use at a low voltage may not always be the same materials you need to use at higher voltages. They’ll need to have specific requirements in terms of things like voltage withstand, breakdown voltages, and so on. That’s expressed in terms of volts per micron. So, we’re talking about very thin dielectric layers between the electrodes. But you’ve also got the mechanical design of the part, where you have to understand a different methodology for how you create the electrode layers, how you design them, how you drop voltage across multiple layers, mounting capacities in series within a single unit.

Then there are specific designs relating to the interaction between the electrode and the outside layers of the capacitor to prevent flashover and arcing from occurring. It’s just a different way of thinking. If you’re dealing with a 50 V part, typically it will be a very small capacitor. If you’re dealing with something that’s 3,000 or 4,000 V, physically you’ve got to make the part a lot bigger, and you need to start thinking much more about your creepage and clearance distances. Your mechanical design comes into it a lot more.

We’re used to dealing with high-rail, high-voltage parts. Traditionally, our markets were aerospace, military, those sorts of applications, where failure isn’t an option.

In terms of the R&D we’re doing, we’re constantly looking at new materials, new designs. We’ve got a couple of patents that we apply to our products, which relate to internal structures, construction and the way we actually put the ceramic in there. I can’t go into detail on those, but they’re all aimed at getting higher voltages, better withstand, more reliability and more capacitance per unit volume. So, one of the things we’re doing a lot of work on is the range­—how much capacitance we can get into a part for a given size and voltage rating.

All R&D for the automotive line is done out of Norwich in the UK. We’re actually next door to the Lotus factory. The manufacturing is all in Suzhou, China. We’re IATF 12649 certified, and everything we do for automotive is AEC-Q200 certified.

Our automotive customers are very interested in reliability…like voltage-withstand tests—can you hit the electronic circuit with two and a half times the voltage rate?

Charged: Are you seeing a lot of special requirements and requests from the automotive industry?

Hopwood: Yes. Our automotive customers are very interested in reliability, for example. Like voltage-withstand tests—can you hit the electronic circuit with two and a half times the voltage rate?

So, 400 V battery systems, which most of the world is using now, are looking for 2 kV dielectric withstanding voltage (DWV). The move to 800 V battery systems is doubling that. Some manufacturers are going to a 3 kV withstand rating, some manufacturers are going to a 4 kV DWV rating. The idea is, if it can safely take 4,000 V for a short duration, it will work at 800 V reliably without any risk of a short circuit.

That test puts a huge stress on the components. For instance, if you take a normal 800 V ceramic capacitor, its breakdown is probably going to be somewhere around 1,500 V. So, this is much more stringent. It’s a much higher specification that’s needed.

We’re seeing more and more manufacturers that say they’re not going to do any more 400 V battery systems, so it’s big news to us, this move to 800 V. It makes life very demanding on parts.

Brewster:To cover that, we’ve got a hundred-percent test— the components are fully tested to 4,000 V just to ensure that they’re definitely going to withstand that level.

Our new product line SYX is our biggest in what we call our Enhanced Safety Range. There are one to five case sizes, and each case size has two types of dielectric: one for low-loss applications, and one for high-capacitance applications. These are both being externally approved by TÜV and UL, the external certification bodies who independently certify these parts for safety.

In addition, this range has got the 4 kV DWV testing that Steve is talking about. It also has humidity robustness grade three, which means it’s suitable to be used in high-humidity environments. And it’s got a supplementary 1 kV DC rating on it. These are ratings which kind of put us ahead. We’re, as far as we know, the only company who offers all of these ratings on a single range of parts. It’s also, obviously, AEC-Q200 certified. I would say this is our most automotive-focused range here. It will come out of our IATF-certified factory, so we’ll cover everything that the auto industry needs.

In addition to that, we’ve got the SYS, which is the same as the SYX, however it’s a shorter part, which means it doesn’t meet the creepage requirements for full 60384 qualification, so this range of parts is only approved for machinery within the scope of IEC 62368, which is mostly telecommunications equipment.

We also have the S3X range, which is our highest-capacitance ceramic capacitor family. That has a lower rating, X2, which means it only needs to withstand 2,500 V impulse, as opposed to 5,000 V. And it has a lower DWV rating of 3,000 V. This means that we can get to a higher capacitance of up to 56 nanofarads, which again, for this high-voltage sort of application is top of the range for us and all other competitors.

Hopwood: The 56 nanofarad is a class X, so that’s using line-to-line. They’re not usually looking for such a high test voltage there, which is why it’s got a slightly lower rating, and therefore a slightly higher capacitance. 305 Vac is looking at three-phase systems. Again, that’s something that we’re going to be market-leading on. There is no one else at the moment with a ceramic multilayer capacitor doing a 305 V AC rating with safety approval.

Charged: When you’re working in automotive, are there other major considerations, like assembly time, manufacturability, etc.?

Hopwood:Yes. A lot of safety-rated capacitors are through-hole, radial-mount. Those are for circuit boards where leads go through holes and are soldered on the backside of the board. Through-hole is still widely used for high-voltage systems because the boards’ epoxy coating insulates the components. But they’re relatively expensive to put through boards. You need to have different soldering techniques, and you have to align the leads to go through the hole, which isn’t always as easy. Our parts are surface-mount, so they’re very quickly, easily and inexpensively placed on boards.

When capacitors went from being through-hole to surface-mount, safety-rated ones lagged behind, because you had to have the coating material on there to make them pass the high-voltage tests. It was only when the world developed the ability to manage the high-voltage requirements in surface-mount packages that they were able to go over to surface-mount, and that was something we were at the forefront of.

And that’s the same thing with the board height—a leaded part will traditionally sit up off the board, whereas the surface-mount is much lower down, which adds more challenges.

Charged: Do you see a lot of companies in the auto industry struggling with high-voltage designs and parts selection, because it’s so new to them? Are there common mistakes you find engineers making? 

Hopwood: Most people we see who are choosing high-voltage safety caps generally know what they’re doing. What they sometimes get wrong are things like creepage clearance distances, where they don’t allow for the voltage. We have application notes that assist with board designs. 

What they sometimes get wrong are things like creepage clearance distances…some struggle to work with high voltages on circuit boards for the first time.

Some struggle to work with high voltages on circuit boards for the first time. There are things you’ve got to do—for instance, making sure you don’t get solder balls trapped underneath the chip when you put it on the board, which can suddenly cause arc-over situations.

When you’re not used to high-voltage systems, now you don’t know what to think about. Some seem to struggle to get their head around the voltages they’re talking about. And even though they’re asking us for a part that must withstand 4,000 V, we see designs where the conductors aren’t physically far enough apart. So, we help with that. We’re used to discussing the application as well—the layouts, mounting methods, etc.—things beyond what’s on the data sheet.  

Extreme E tackles tough terrain, promotes sustainable racing

Formula E, the FIA-sanctioned electric racing series, has been a powerful ambassador for the EV revolution—and a damn fine sporting event—since its opening season in 2014. Now some of the same team behind Formula E, including Alejandro Agag, Chairman of Formula E and now CEO of Extreme E, have gone off-road and off the chain to bring us a much earthier, more rough-and-tumble racing series. Extreme E features custom electric off-road SUVs tearing through some of the harshest and most vehicle-punishing terrain on the globe. Formula E showed that EVs can be fast. Extreme E aims to show that EVs can be tough.

Sustainability is at the heart of Extreme E’s mission. The race sites have been chosen not only for their challenging physical features, but in order to highlight the environmental threats to each of the five unique ecosystems: desert, Arctic, ocean, rain forest and mountain glaciers. The carbon footprint is as small as practical: there are no spectators, and the cars and teams travel on a specially greened-up ship. Extreme E invests in local environmental projects at each site, and buys carbon offsets to compensate for what emissions it cannot avoid.

BoostEV is an on-demand mobile EV charging network, like UberEats for hungry EVs

The EV ecosystem is a work in progress, and when it comes to charging infrastructure, there are some key pieces missing from the puzzle. There will surely be a need for some form of portable charging on demand, and this is the niche that SparkCharge is looking to fill with its new app platform, BoostEV. The company’s modular, portable system—called the Roadie—is designed to make DC fast charging mobile. Now, EV drivers can order a charge at the push of a button on a smartphone app the way you might order a rideshare vehicle—anytime, anywhere.

SparkCharge co-founder and CEO Joshua Aviv spoke with Charged back in 2019, when the Roadie was in pre-production, and the company was working with prototypes. Now SparkCharge has deployed its system with the first wave of customers. A recent appearance on Shark Tank that ended in a deal with celeb investors Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner brought the company an avalanche of publicity. 

In February, the company officially launched its new BoostEV platform in select cities—it’s now available in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Raleigh, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Launch partners include Allstate Roadside, Spiffy and others who teamed up with SparkCharge to create a quick and convenient charging service that can deliver a portable Roadie charging system to any location the driver desires.  

“When SparkCharge appeared on Shark Tank, I knew they were on the cusp of something game-changing, and this is it,” said Mark Cuban. “They have created a new, innovative EV charging infrastructure that eliminates the stress of range anxiety for all EV owners.”

Charged recently sat down with Joshua for an update on BoostEV, which he describes as “the app that lets electric vehicle owners charge their EVs anywhere with the click of a button—like UberEats or GrubHub for hungry EVs.”

Former EPA exec surveys the road ahead for US emissions standards

Q&A with former EPA exec Margo Oge

Federal emissions and fuel economy regulations have been instrumental in encouraging (or coercing) automakers to produce EVs, and to make their legacy vehicles cleaner. Since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1963, federal regulations aimed at reducing air pollution have gradually grown stronger. Under President Obama, the EPA set the first federal greenhouse gas standard for cars.

The Trump administration attempted to throw this process into reverse by watering down the federal standards. President Biden has made it clear that he intends to strengthen environmental regulations across the board, and his administration is expected to reinstate the Obama-era emissions standards, and possibly go beyond them. However, this can’t be done with the stroke of a pen. Government rule-making is a long and complex procedure, and even the experts aren’t always able to explain how it works.

To get an idea of how the process of reinvigorating US emissions and fuel economy standards is likely to proceed, Charged spoke with Margo Oge, who served as the Director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. Ms. Oge led the team that authored the 2010-2025 Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards, and described the process in her 2016 book, Driving the Future.

Charged: The body of federal and state air pollution regulations encompasses both emissions and fuel economy standards, and generates an astounding number of acronyms. Can you parse the alphabet soup for us?

Margo Oge: Let’s see if we can simplify it, because you are absolutely right—it’s pretty complicated. [I’ll give you] a little bit of the history. The Clean Air Act allows the EPA to address pollutants coming out of the tailpipe of a car. The traditional pollutants [are] nitrogen oxides, volatile organics, and particulates. So, the EPA traditionally has used the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.

A petition came to EPA in the early 2000s, asking the agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars. California, at the same time, was moving to establish their own greenhouse gas standards. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 2007, the Supreme Court basically said that greenhouse gases are pollutants, and if they endanger public health and the environment, [the EPA can] regulate them.

So that was the basis for the EPA, under President Obama in 2009, setting the first federal greenhouse gas standard for cars. EPA then worked with the state of California and NHTSA, which sets fuel economy standards—in the mid-1970s, President Ford established the law that NHTSA is using to improve fuel economy, and the basis was not climate change, but energy security.

So, the three agencies came together: NHTSA for fuel economy, EPA for greenhouse gases and [CARB in California], and tried to put together a national program. One of the greenhouse gas pollutants is CO2, and when you improve fuel economy, you also reduce CO2. So that’s the loose relationship between the two, but regulating CO2 doesn’t do anything for the other greenhouse gases that EPA regulates [fluorinated gases, methane and nitrous oxide].

Charged: So, the EPA regulates emissions of pollutants. What about the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards?

Margo Oge: NHTSA [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] sets those under EPCA [the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, enacted in 1975 in response to the 1973 oil crisis]. That’s where the CAFE standards originate.

We used our existing laws to set standards that were complementary. So, for a car company, if you follow EPA standards, you would be meeting NHTSA standards as well.

Under President Obama, we set the first set of standards [for model years] 2012 to 2016, and the second set for 2017 to 2025. EPA said, we’re going to do a midterm review that will potentially affect 2021 forward, and when Obama left office, the agency did the midterm review, and concluded that the standards can be met by the car companies, no changes needed to be made for 2021 to 2025.

President Trump came to office and decided, because the car companies asked him to, that the standards cannot be met. “It will cost millions of jobs.” So instead of [mandating] 5% annual improvement from 2021, they decided to roll back the standards to 1.5% annual improvement, which is what the industry meets, regardless of if there is a standard or not. So in reality, President Trump killed the standards for 2021 to 2025. And the other thing he did was to take regulatory steps to take away the authority from the state of California to set their own more stringent standards.

Now President Biden has done two things: He said to the agencies, EPA and NHTSA, “By April, you need to restore the California authority.” California legally should be able to do their own standards under the Clean Air Act. They have done it for 50 years.

The second action President Biden took is that, by July, EPA and NHTSA should propose a program to restore, fully or partially, [the standards as they were] under Obama. So, the agencies have a number of options. They can adopt the [previously agreed] Obama standards, or they can look at the [2019] deal that California cut with the five car companies [Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo], which was a little bit less stringent than the Obama standards. So, the agencies can adopt the California standards, they can adopt the Obama standards, or they can do something in between—the White House is not dictating to the agencies what to do.

So, that’s the work that is going on. But, in my view, the most important work will be what happens after 2025, after you fix the impact of the wrong decisions under the Trump administration that have put the country behind Europe. Europe is ahead of even the Obama standards.

And look at what’s happening with all the car companies, all the investments that they’re making. You have companies like Volvo and GM saying, “We have an aspirational target—all new sales for vehicles are going to be a hundred percent electric in 2035.” You have the state of California [saying that] all new sales should be electric in 2035. You have 13 states that follow California that will adopt the same program. So, in my view, the work that is going on right now is very important, but the more important work will be beyond 2025. How does President Biden set the future standards that could impact 2030, and maybe beyond that?

Charged: Once the agencies announce their decision about what standards we’re going to have now, will there be legal challenges?

Margo Oge: Yeah. The agencies will make proposals, but legally, they cannot have final action. So, they’re going to allow some time for public comments, maybe 60 days, and then the agencies will finalize their action, maybe by the end of the year or the beginning of the following year. And yes, there could be legal actions. The Department of Justice under Biden has put a hold on all the legal challenges that came from 22 states, the NGO community and others challenging Trump’s standards, and the Biden administration has decided that they’re going to defend their own standards.

In my view, if President Trump had made it for a second term, they would have lost the legal challenge under both the Clean Air Act and EPCA, because the standards were not set on a legal economic basis. President Trump’s agencies came up with a lot of fictitious and fictional science. If you’re adopting a standard that [calls for] 1.5% annual improvement, when the industry historically has improved fuel economy about 2% annually, well you’re not pushing the envelope, you’re not doing anything.

I’m very confident that whatever Biden is going to come up with will be on much stronger legal footing. There could be challenges—a car company can say they’re too strong, but even if President Biden adopts the Obama standards, legally, [automakers] are going to have a very difficult time to challenge those standards.

The Clean Air Act is a technology-forcing standard, so basically the technologies are there, and it’s cost-effective, we know that from our analysis under the Obama administration. And I think the data is even stronger now, given all the new technology. I think it will be impossible for the car companies to succeed [in challenging the new standards]. I think the biggest problem that they may have is that the environmental community will say it’s not stringent enough, given what we know today.

Charged: When the EPA is setting these standards, I imagine they consult with the automakers and their engineers, in terms of what kind of technologies they need to have to meet the standards.

Margo Oge: Absolutely. But also, don’t forget that EPA has hundreds of engineers in our lab. When we did the greenhouse gas standards for 2025, EPA was working with a number of consulting companies, and we took apart hybrid vehicles. We took apart thousands of pieces and we costed them out.

So, EPA has significant engineering expertise in their lab to understand technology. When I was there, we hired engineers from GM, from Ford, from Chrysler, from all kinds of companies. So, they understand the design of cars, but they do have discussions, technical person to technical person, with the car companies. And the same thing with California. [CARB] has hundreds of engineers and they now have a new laboratory, so there is expertise—they don’t develop standards in a vacuum.

Charged: Let’s look beyond 2025 or so, to when the real action may get started. What might we see the federal government doing in that timeframe? And when will we find out about that?

Margo Oge: I have [had] some discussions—they’re confidential so I’m not going to disclose anything, but I’m very hopeful that the administration is going to be ambitious, because of what President Biden has already indicated. He cares a lot about climate change, but also cares a lot about jobs. He has announced that he’s going to create a million new jobs for the automotive industry. He talks a lot about domestic manufacturing. He talks about 500,000 charging stations. I cannot say [exactly] what they’re going to do, but I’m very optimistic that we’re going to see a transition to electrification because of climate change.

We’re seeing it in China, we’re seeing it in Europe. Given the fact that the cost of an electric vehicle and the similar model of a gasoline or diesel will be the same even earlier than 2024, I think we’re going to see the Biden administration be ambitious. But let’s not forget, that’s going to take a big transition, so it has to be done very carefully, very thoughtfully. I think that the laws are in place to do standards, but President Biden needs to do new legislation for infrastructure, negotiate budgets to create support for the car companies…there’s a lot of things that need to happen. It’s beyond setting standards—standards have to be set along with economic policies.

Charged: Would you agree that the influence of Tesla has been even greater than the government standards?

Margo Oge: Yes, yes. And you could quote me on that. I strongly believe that. I drive a Tesla. It is just an amazing car. What this man has done, single-handed…he’s going to go down in the history books. Forget about standards policies, he has forced every major manufacturer to rethink their products.

California environmental lawyer forecasts the future of state and federal emissions regulations

Q&A with environmental lawyer Maureen Gorsen

California has led the nation in the fight against air pollution. The state has consistently implemented clean-air rules that are stricter than those imposed at the federal level, including the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which requires automakers to produce a certain number of electric vehicles.

The Trump administration attempted to revoke California’s right to set its own more stringent standards. The election of President Joe Biden ended that threat for the moment, but a long and complex rule-making process lies ahead. The reinvigoration of the body of interrelated federal and state fuel economy and emissions regulations will have major implications for the auto industry and the environment. To get an idea of how these are likely to take shape, we spoke with environmental lawyer Maureen Gorsen, who has served in executive positions at several California regulatory agencies.

Charged: We’re all waiting to see what President Biden’s EPA is going to do in terms of updating the federal emissions standards. How do you think they’re likely to roll?

Maureen Gorsen: I think they’re going to do more than just roll back the Trump rollback [but] I think the money is on them not trying to upset the applecart until 2026, but to do all of their more aggressive stuff in the post-2026 environment.

Charged: So, you think they’re probably just going to restore the Obama-era targets for now?

Maureen Gorsen: The engineers of the car companies, it takes them several years to design their cars—I think they like three years lead time. There’s only five years [until 2026], so I don’t know if they’re going to try to push, but they could push and make it till 2024—I guess it just depends if they want to go beyond.

Probably, they’re having meetings with the engineers for the car companies—I’m sure there’s a lot of backroom stuff going on right now, because it’s not a public proposal yet. I’m not in the room where it’s happening, and I don’t know if anyone who’s in the room is at liberty to tell a reporter. But just knowing how these things have happened before, and certainly having witnessed exactly how the deal in California happened, it’s backroom discussions.

Charged: Do you think some automakers could gain a competitive advantage if the EPA imposes more stringent standards?

Maureen Gorsen: I’m sure that some of them are ready to break away from the pack, and could do more, so there’s an economic advantage to them if [the EPA] pushes to 51 miles per gallon by 2025 instead of 46 by 2026 [for example]. And then, each carmaker has a different portfolio, so Ford, which still has tons of room on its EV tax credits, is in a different position than GM, which is why GM did not sign on to [the 2019 California deal] but then later did.

Automakers know what they can engineeringly achieve, whether they can meet 51 miles per gallon or 60 miles per gallon or whatever, so they can direct their government relations people to take different positions. And some of them are at a disadvantage, whatever their portfolio is, what their best-selling cars are versus their least-selling cars are, but it’s math and engineering that they are doing internally to determine what their position is.

Then, for the Biden administration, so much of it is about signaling. If they know that the big companies, the ones in Michigan, are not going to object, or we’re splitting them, it will change how they come out with their rules.

Charged: Part of what the Trump administration was trying to do was to take away California’s ability to set its own stricter standards. Is that battle over now? California’s stricter standards are no longer in danger?

Maureen Gorsen: Absolutely. And they were never really that much in danger. They were stalled a little bit. But that was the only time ever that a waiver had been repealed.

Charged: There are other emissions regulations in California, like nitrogen oxides and particulates, correct?

Maureen Gorsen: Oh, yeah. And there’s fleet rules, too. California has all these fleet rules, and they’re going to just continue to ratchet on that big time. The whole mix of what’s sold in California will continue to ratchet down. There’s nothing the feds can do about California’s fleet rules.

Charged: Will there be stricter federal rules?

Maureen Gorsen: Oh, there will be, because they just nominated Steve Cliff [to lead NHTSA]. He was the intellectual guru at CARB. He’s been there for over a decade. He was Mary Nichols’s right-hand man, he was the intellectual heft that supported everything. Biden just appointed him to head NHTSA.

Then you have [Secretary of Transportation] Pete Buttigieg. What the hell is Pete Buttigieg doing as the head of the Department of Transportation and Steve Cliff from the Air Board as head of NHTSA? It’s because the biggest obstacle to really reducing the carbon footprint of cars is safety. It’s always been the biggest obstacle. The number-one way the car companies have slowed down emissions standards in California is by raising federal preemption of safety requirements.

If they make cars out of tinfoil, they will absolutely get 100 miles per gallon right now, but you can’t make cars out of tinfoil. You better have some steel. You better have some reinforcements to meet those crash [tests]. That has been probably the biggest hurdle—not the biggest engineering hurdle, but the biggest legal hurdle. That’s huge. The Pete Buttigieg/Steve Cliff combination will really unleash California.

Charged: When this struggle about California was going on, we heard this refrain that automakers “don’t want to have to design cars for two different markets.” But as I understand it, that’s never been the case anyway. Automakers don’t produce different models for different states, do they?

Maureen Gorsen: No. Bottom line is, once California does a stricter standard, that becomes the de facto federal standard. [However], there are vehicles, I think, sold outside of California, that don’t meet California standards—some of the lawnmowers and motorcycles, you cannot get those in California.

Charged: The Trump crusade to water down those regulations turned out to be a lot harder than they thought it would be.

Maureen Gorsen: Well, it’s because we live in a democracy. Governors and presidents try to do as much by executive order as they can, but they cannot change laws and regulations. We have a constitution and separation of powers, and laws and regulations have to be adopted by elected people. This is administrative law 101. The legislative body has to pass a law, and then they have to give the authority to develop rules and regulations to an agency, which then has to follow the rules that the legislature set out for them.

Governor Newsom said, “We’re banning fossil fuel cars by 2035,” [but] they’re not banned right then and there. He said that as an executive order, but now the laws and the regulations have to go into effect to make that ban stick. He sets out the goal, and now the legislature and the agencies will set out the rules to enforce that goal.

That’s the administrative rule-making process, which gives everybody an opportunity to notice what they’re doing, to comment on it, to have their say. Then the rules have to be in compliance with the laws, so they have to be clear. There are all sorts of reasons why rules can be tossed out by judges: [for example] they’re vague, they’re over-broad, they’re ultra vires [beyond an agency’s legal power or authority]. Then if anyone thinks an agency has exceeded their authority, they go to the judicial branch and say, you didn’t follow the rules.

Charged: So, whatever the Biden EPA wants to do with fuel economy standards, this is going to have to go through a long process, and there’ll be judicial challenges.

Maureen Gorsen: Could be. If the industry doesn’t challenge it, the NGOs may challenge it—it’s never good enough for both sides. It’s very rare that EPA ever does a rule that somebody doesn’t challenge. This is another reason why [EPA] might just roll back and do what existed before, because the less substantive discretion they exercise, the less risk of challenge there is. That’s one reason a lot of people think they’re going to go back to the way it was four years ago, and then worry about how they want it to look post-2026.

Charged: It sounds like implementing California’s ICE ban is going to be a long process that unfolds over a few years.

Maureen Gorsen: Right. But 2035 is far enough in the future, there’s plenty of time to get all those rules into place. Your typical rule making would be a year or two to get through all the process and also to make a record that will withstand judicial challenge. That’s what the agency’s doing—creating an administrative record, so that when somebody says, “You didn’t go far enough,” or, “You went too far,” the judge is going to review it and say, “No. They looked at all the comments. Their decision’s supported by the evidence.” That’s part of what the agency works on—not just getting it right, but that whatever decision they make is supported with evidence in the record.

Charged: Is that what the Trump administration failed to do?

Maureen Gorsen: Well, we’ll never know, because Biden halted the litigation.

These things don’t ever end at the superior court level. We have three levels—the superior court, the appellate court, and the Supreme Court—both in state and federal law. So when people are this divided on topics, it never ends at one court level. It would go to appellate court and then to the Supreme Court. That’s why I think [the EPA will] just go back to [the previously existing fuel economy standards]. Then they focus on the post-2026 world.

Charged: Broadening the picture beyond emissions regulations, what’s the best thing the federal government could do to accelerate EV adoption?

Maureen Gorsen: The traditional tools—the fuel economy and emissions standards—put pressure on the suppliers of the cars, but then you also have to create the demand.

For me, I would like to buy an electric car. I would pay more [but] I have no place to charge, and I don’t have time to go find a charging station and spend an hour there in line. I can barely get my car’s oil changed, and I only do that every three to four months. For me, the most important thing is going to be charging stations.

Also, here in California, we have this weird utility system where we have three major private utilities [PG&E, SoCal Edison, and SDG&E] but then there’s also a lot of municipal utilities, which are much more affordable. The investor-owned utilities, the rates are so high—if you’re living in PG&E territory, you’re paying some outrageous electricity rates.

There’s a serious dichotomy between a municipal utility versus an investor-owned utility. Investor-owned utilities get sued. You’re paying for the wildfires, you’re paying for spills, you’re paying for the Erin Brockovich lawsuit. You’re paying for every mandate that’s imposed on investor-owned utilities that’s not on municipal utilities. The disparity between those two [types of] utilities is huge in California.

Charged: So, finding a way to make electricity rates lower and more uniform would help to encourage EV adoption. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about the road ahead?

Maureen Gorsen: Basically, we are decarbonizing. It’s not just cars. It’s also buildings. It’s everything. Everything’s being decarbonized. It’s full electrification going forward.

2022 Kia EV6 electric crossover confirmed for all 50 US states, reservations open June 3

2022 Kia EV6The Kia EV6 electric crossover will arrive in 2022 to dealerships across the U.S. That in itself reflects an important pivot for the brand, indicating it’s taking fully electric models a lot more seriously. Kia has been selling fully electric models in the U.S.—good ones—since 2014, starting with the arrival of the 2015 Soul EV…
Source: Hybrid and Electric Car News and Reviews

Kia’s first dedicated EV, the 2022 EV6, launches in Times Square

I guess “EV1” was taken?

Seriously, though, folks, today a big day for Kia, with the unveiling of the new Kia EV6 crossover, the brand’s first-ever dedicated battery electric vehicle. Unlike Kia’s previous EVs that shared fossil-fuel-powered versions, the new EV6 was designed from day one as a purely battery-electric vehicle, allowing the company to shift its innovation into high gear…


The post Kia’s first dedicated EV, the 2022 EV6, launches in Times Square appeared first on Electrek.

Source: Charge Forward

Quick Charge Podcast: May 18, 2021

Listen to a recap of the top stories of the day from Electrek. Quick Charge is available now on Apple PodcastsSpotifyTuneIn and our RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players.


The post Quick Charge Podcast: May 18, 2021 appeared first on Electrek.

Source: Charge Forward