Personal: 12 Years of Electrifying Progress for Cars and Clean Fleets

Personal: 12 Years of Electrifying Progress for Cars and Clean Fleets

Clean Fleet Report Founder Looks Back—And Forward

We have seen amazing progress in cars, electrified transportation and in the future of mobility, since I started Clean Fleet Report in 2006. Oil usage peaked in 2006 in the United States and other developed nations and I reported 10 reasons.

Chevrolet Bolt

What once was rare (the EV) is becoming more commonplace

Clean Fleet Report was started to showcase success in clean transportation. Fleets were five years ahead of the mass market. Although I could not find hundreds of electric vehicles in my neighborhood, at US Marine Corps Camp Pendleton I witnessed hundreds of electric vehicles being charged with solar power. They also had a large fleet of advanced diesel vehicles running on biofuel and even a hydrogen fuel cell pilot. In 2006, it took fleets to put in the charging or fueling infrastructure, stock the parts, secure the advanced diagnostics and training, and keep everything running.

Now my neighborhood streets include a steady stream of electric cars from Tesla, Chevrolet, BMW, Nissan, Ford and dozens of others. Since I live near Silicon Valley, where every automaker has an R&D center, I also see a number of autonomous vehicles clocking-up their millions of miles.

I still am in awe of the innovators and the fleet managers who devote years to working through all the issues so that we can all benefit from the technology breakthroughs.

The Circle of Life

I interviewed hundreds of people for my book, Save Gas, Save the Planet. One theme that emerged is many experience a “circle of life.” Their college was in a city with excellent transit and they lived car-free. Later, a job, a relationship or a dog necessitated their buying a car. Relationships blossomed and they had a car and a truck. Many raised children and worked longer hours to support three or four vehicles. Eventually, they retire, downsizing to two, then one, and finally zero cars.

Mobility Services

Shared electric bikes are another mobility option

With children long grown, my wife and I replaced our two cars with one Chevrolet Volt. My mom is down to zero. In my book and in Clean Fleet Report, I surveyed the progress of hybrids, electrics, advanced fuels and integrated urban transportation. When the book was released in 2009, much of the technology looked cutting edge.

Naysayers dismissed electric cars as expensive golf carts. Now we have millions of electric cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. We have 150 million electric bicycles. My wife and I only have one electric car, but two electric bikes, and frequently travel on electric buses and rail. Fleets continue to convert innovation into major success.

Another area of breakthrough success is in smart cities around the world. The future of urban mobility is ACES: Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared.


For decades, we have used shared mobility in cities as we ride on buses, rail and on-demand ride-sharing options, including Uber and Lyft. Most major cities have metro rail and bus systems that enable people to travel faster.

Toyota Concept-i EV

We don’t know what the transportation future will look like, but we hope it will be ACES 

Of our shared choices, rail moves the most; cars the least, with buses in between. Rail is laid down into fixed routes that last 40 to 100 years, yet cities grow and reshape organically. When people deboard transit one-quarter mile from their destination, most walk. But for the last one-to-three miles, on-demand services are needed. Smart cities have integrated these services of rail, bus, on demand, bicycling and walking.


Around 20 years ago, Toyota added an electric motor and advanced battery to a conventional car and introduced the hybrid Prius. Success in hybrid cars led to hybrid heavy-duty vehicles such as buses and trucks. With the success of hybrids, plug-in vehicles were introduced, so that batteries could be charged from garage outlets or public chargers.

By 2025, Navigant expects 37 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the global roads, fueled by lithium battery costs falling from $1,000 per kWh in 2010 to $145 (GM’s price from LG Chem reports Car and Driver).

From electric cars to electric buses and electric rail, we are ending our dependence on gasoline and diesel powering 15 percent efficient drive systems and transitioning to local renewable energy powering 90 percent efficient electric drive systems. Mobility is increasingly powered by wind and solar, not from the extreme emissions from shale drilling and pipelines from tar sands. Millions of lives will be saved annually, now lost to lung damage from air pollution. Trillions will be saved in health care.

In most developed nations of the world, transit systems in major cities are connected with high-speed rail, which is pure electric. The planned 800-mile high-speed rail system for California will connect all major cities, 25 transit systems and run on 100 percent renewable energy. Those transit systems are planning on thousands of electric buses. Ridesharing providers are already adding electric cars to their fleets.


Drivers kill over a million annually, making the roads unsafe for other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Self-driving cars see better, using multiple cameras, lasers and 360-degree lidar. Self-driving cars are totally focused on driving; don’t text, bounce to music, drive after drinking, smoke dope or get distracted.

ZIPcar Car sharing

Sharing is becoming a real, growing option to car ownership; soon that shared car may pick you up instead of you picking it

Machine learning and big data will make full use of autonomous fleets during peak hours, routing them to the right places at the right times. In some cities, wireless charging will be used for the fleets of self-driving cars and shuttles. In others, the vehicles will drive themselves during off-peak hours to car washes and parking structures where they will be fast-charged.

The benefits of self-driving are hotly debated. A transportation authority, San Francisco CTA, states that the on-demand services have made the streets of SF more congested. Other studies conclude that on-demand leads to fewer cars and more transit use. After analyzing the data from three million taxi rides, MIT calculated that 2,000 on-demand 10-person vans in New York CIty could replace 14,000 taxis. MIT researchers also estimate that successful use of ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by a whopping 75 percent without slowing down travel.

We will have autonomous cars, buses and trucks. Vancouver even has electric self-driving Skytrain monorail.

Put a price on carbon, congestion zones and vehicle miles traveled during peak hours, and most urban transportation will not be solo drivers. It will be in electric and autonomous shared rides like Lyft Lines, Waymo and Waze (Alphabet companies) shuttle vans, autonomous buses and rail. Autonomous vehicles will save lives, insurance rates will drop, hospital bills will drop, urban housing will be more affordable without requirements of one and two spaces per unit. ACES mobility improves urban density.

When I listen to debates about autonomous vehicles, I am reminded of similar debates 10 years ago about electric vehicles. EVs were predicted to add massive congestion, use nothing but coal power, eliminate jobs and cause recessions by reducing petroleum demand. None of these alarming forecasts happened.


We were making a long and painful drive back from Los Angeles to San Francisco in heavy traffic. On the freeway, in the middle an empty desert, my Android Auto navigation told me that I could save 37 minutes by taking the next exit. I almost dismissed the direction as an error, but I trusted Google Maps and took the exit. As we drove 12 miles on a windy sideroad, I looked at the I-5 freeway in complete gridlock, due to a major accident. After 12 miles, we were directed back on the freeway, indeed saving 37 minutes.

2017 Mazda CX-3

Your car is now connected to the world and can help you navigate through it

Google could see the speed of thousands of Google Map users at that GPS location. In my Google Map settings, I had given permission to reroute me based on traffic information. Google’s sophisticated algorithms saved me valuable time. Tomorrow, similar apps will guide us through our day of interconnected services making best use of rail, transit, car, and some healthy walking.

Leading cities are already using ACES – autonomous, connected, electric, and shared mobility. Look for high growth in smart cities. ACES brings us mobility that is safe, pollution-free, healthy and less expensive.

Congratulations to all who have made a difference these past 12 years. Engineers have dramatically improved drive systems. Software wizards have transformed cars into networks of supercomputers on wheels.

Congratulations to Michael Coates, who has been running Clean Fleet Report these last three years and to his team, which keeps you updated about today’s most efficient cars and tomorrow’s most intelligent transportation. Most important are all the readers from fleet managers and car owners who take the best information and ideas and put them into action.

Smarter Mobility for Fleets

Smarter Mobility for Fleets

Keep Calm and Truck on More Efficiently

smart fleet mobility

Managing idle time takes savings right to the bottom line.

We know that as vehicles get “smarter” and fleet management becomes more precise thanks to connected technologies, fuel consumption is expected to decrease significantly. A little over a year ago, this article quoted a National Renewable Energy Laboratory researcher as stating that “the impact can be dramatic” as we move toward a driverless future. The same researcher acknowledged the need for more understanding of how these vehicles will work before we can expect the benefits, but the potential is clear. Air pollution can be drastically reduced as we move toward the emergence and spread of autonomous vehicles.

While we do still need a greater understanding of the intricacies of driverless cars, it’s also important for those interested in these topics to understand how exactly technology will relate to lower fuel consumption. In particular, this tends to be discussed in rather vague terms when we talk about shipping fleets. We’re already seeing a lot of changes in this industry due to IoT (Internet of Things) technology and semi-autonomous features. Lower fuel consumption is one of the benefits that is frequently cited, but we often don’t consider how this is achieved.

The Answers Are Out There

2016 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X,power,payload

The key is knowing when to idle

Those looking for an answer can find a whole section of this site devoted to how these technologies are able to maximize fuel efficiency in shipping fleets. This includes more specifics on the potential benefits, like the ways in which businesses stand to save.

The first goal is to reduce idling time. Trucks out on the road tend to spend a lot of time with the engine running while not actually moving, and this idle time wastes incredible amounts of fuel. But it’s not as simple as telling drivers to turn the trucks off at all times when they’re not moving. Smart fleet management systems are working to compile data on when idling may or may not be necessary, so as to educate drivers on how to better handle these issues. Some companies already making use of this automatic data collection are seeing massive savings.

Big Savings Possible

A study by the U.S. Department of Energy also noted that driving in more calm and controlled manner can reduce fuel costs (and therefore consumption) by about a third! One of the chief benefits of fleet management technologies is that they can provide drivers with automatically compiled safety reports, as well as real-time updates about driving habits. Speeding and erratic behavior are recognized and pointed out, enabling drivers to implement better habits and save fuel as a result.

smart fleet mobility

Data can drive better drivers

Finally, we’ve already seen that fleet management involves the most efficient routing practices the industry has ever seen. Vehicle GPS connected to systems looking at everything from the weather to traffic flow are combining to provide drivers with up-to-date information about their routes. This means less time spent on poor directions or unnecessary road time, which in some cases can make for the most impressive fuel savings.

These are the specific benefits at the core of the idea of smart fleets or fleet driving technologies. They have potentially great positive impact on company costs and environmental pollution. As the technology continues to advance, we also expect the ecological benefits to increase as well. It begins with better fuel efficiency, which helps both businesses and the earth.

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New Autonomous Cars and Connected Mobility

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The Future of Driving Is Arriving

Those gifts that you ordered from Amazon are shuttled through a massive warehouse by a self-driving vehicle. In 2019, 100 Volvos that can self-drive with the touch of a button will be in use in Gothenburg, Sweden. A year later, more than 1,000 self-driving cars from several automakers will be on the roads of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Within 10 years, a major city will have thousands of two-seat electric vehicles that pick you up with a command from your smartphone app and take you to your destination. Think of a convergence of Car2Go, Uber and Google maps. Advanced planning is already occurring in Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Autopilot (self-driving) vehicles are not some future fantasy; they are on the roads today. In California, where I live, they are legal.  When I was at the 2014 LA Auto Show and Connected Car Expo, major automakers were showing their capabilities.

Google car,disruptive technology,autonomous driving

Disruptive driving has a face

Disruptive technology, whether it is cloud-based music delivered to mobile devices or self-driving cars, never happens without problems, drawbacks and false starts. It is the same for self-driving vehicles, which are first succeeding in specific fleet applications, then campuses, and then one city at a time.

Regulators will resist, people who like to drive will object, some transit advocates see will see improved cars as a threat, and there will be the inevitable accident. But resistance won’t stop progress. Self-driving cars will dramatically reduce the 2.5 million people transported to hospitals due to car collisions, serve many people don’t like to drive and benefit transit as last-mile solutions.

Threatened industries will fight the self-driving cars that will cost them billions: insurance premiums will be lowered, hospital revenues will drop, fuel efficiency will hurt oil companies, taxi drivers will get new jobs, highways won’t need to be widened, DUI lawyers will need work and fewer police will be needed. Lobbyist and ad campaigns will fight the change, but self-driving cars will win and people will be more productive, safer and less stressed. With cars being the number one killer of Americans aged 4 to 35, there has got to be a better way.

In the long term, 100 percent self-driving cars may transform mobility. In 2015, the bigger impact will be that millions will drive cars with advanced safety technology.

Safety and Advanced Driving

You may already be using technology that facilitates better driving, such as GPS navigation, backup cameras, onboard warnings, monitors and adaptive cruise control. In 2015, you may well be driving a car with advanced driver-assist and safety features. Cars have had adaptive cruise control for 10 years. Lately, more will warn you if you drift out of your lane and brake before you do to avoid accidents.

My car has blind spots. Before changing lanes, I turn my head to look at the new lane and hope I did not miss a car next to me. The best of the semi-autonomous and self-driving cars not only have

Toyota,Avalon,Hybrid,MPG,fuel economy

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

no blind spots, they have algorithms to estimate the blind spots of all nearby cars and stay out of them. They are the best of defensive driving.

When I drove the Toyota Avalon Hybrid with adaptive cruise control, the car automatically slowed when I too quickly approached the car in front of me. My test parallel park of Ford Escape was a breeze when the SUV parked itself.

A concept version of the Mercedes S500 with Intelligent Drive System is already self-driving people through long-distance roads and stressful city streets. In 2015, this luxury plug-in hybrid won’t be self-driving, but will offer safety features such as PRE-SAFE braking to avoid hitting pedestrians or rear-ending the car in front, lane keeping assist and cross-traffic assist.

GM CEO Mary Barra has announced that in 2017 GM will offer a new Cadillac with Super Cruise technology. With a touch of a button, the car will steer itself, accelerate and brake to stay at freeway speeds or avoid collisions in stop-and-go traffic. The 2017 Cadillac CTS will include V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication, in the hopes that self-navigation will be improved with wide adoption of V2V.

Mercedes, Ford, GM, BMW, Volvo and others are optimistic about soon offering traffic-jam-assist, where the driver selects a button to have the vehicle self-drive at up to 25 to 30 mph during stop-and-go traffic.

Volvo with Drive Me will have 100 self-driving-capable vehicles (enabled with the touch of a button) on the roads of its headquarters city of Gothenburg, Sweden, within five years. The new Volvo XC90 already has a number of semi-autonomous capabilities such as lane keep and maintaining a safe distance from the car in front. In five years, these cars will also be able to drop-off passengers and valet park themselves. By 2020, Volvo’s vision is that no one will die or be seriously injured in a new Volvo.

In a recent interview with CNN, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk stated, “The Tesla car next year will probably be 90 percent capable of autopilot.” When asked by the interviewer how this would happen, Musk replied, “With a combination of various sensors, cameras plus image recognition, radar, and long-range ultrasonics.”

Fleets Have Used Semi-Autonomous Vehicles for over 10 Years

If you have bought something through Amazon, it may have been routed through their warehouse by an autonomous Kiva robot, rather than a person in a forklift. Goods movement is probably the

Amazon,Kiva robots,autonomous vehicles

Amazon’s Kiva robots keep things moving

biggest area of success for autonomous vehicles (unless you count the Rumba that vacuums your home), with a fast return on investment (ROI) due to optimal routing and delivery.

Self-driving buses are a natural for university campuses and center city fixed-routes. Autonomous electric buses are being tested in Italy. Campus shuttles are being tested at a Swiss university. In campuses from Stanford University to Google HQ, people are shuttled without anyone driving the vehicle.

100% Autonomous Vehicles Have Been on California Roads Since 2009

Google, in partnership with Stanford University, has successfully had self-driving vehicles on the road since 2009. It is legal in California, but automakers must have at least $5 million in insurance or post a bond. So far, permits have been issued to Google, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Delphi and Audi. Other states have followed suit, as will other automakers and their partners. Google has clocked a half-million autonomous vehicle miles.

Test fleets in urban centers will be followed by wider adoption in cities such as Ann Arbor or Shanghai or Tokyo. Singapore is the most promising country aiming to resolve regulatory issues and make self-driving cars legal nationwide.

These new cars are networks of supercomputers on wheels, with hundreds of millions of lines of code, quickly analyzing input from lasers, sensors and high-resolution cameras to safely drive the autonomous vehicle. The best self-driving cars will not depend on V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) or V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure), because for decades most cars on the road will not have V2V, and most streets will not have V2I. Were automakers to wait for V2V and V2I, we would wait years for global standards, wait decades for infrastructure investment, and wait more decades for all drivers to adopt.

Yet, V2V and V2I will be extensively tested in Ann Arbor and a few other locations in a partnership including several automakers, U.S. DOT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the University of Michigan. By 2020, there will be a wealth of data about thousands of cars, trucks and buses using V2V, V2I, advanced safety and self-driving capability.

Vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) peaked in the U.S. 10 years ago, primarily because record number of Americans now live in cities where there are better options than driving, including transit,

2013 smart,low price, electric car

Car2Go features short-term Smart drives

walking, bicycling, car sharing and taxi alternatives. Transit activists and environmentalists worry that VMT will increase with self-driving cars. Most likely, the opposite will occur as future commuters and city dwellers use a next-generation Google Maps or other apps to guide them through what’s termed intermodal transit—mixed travel with two-seat electric self-driving shuttles, such as the 100 Google is building, that take them from home to a variety of transit modes and from transit to work. With no need to go over 25 mph, these vehicles can be low-cost electric cars.

People spending two and three hours daily in the car will not start spending four or five, even if the car does the driving. With the promise of more cars moving faster with less congestion, self-driving provides the option of less time on the roads.

The Car2Go car-sharing service has 800,000 members in 29 cities that currently use an app to find the nearest Smart Car, logon, drive a few miles, and then log-off. It’s one-way car sharing. A current problem with many car and bike sharing systems is that the vehicles may start at transit centers, but end-up in the wrong parts of the city. With self-driving vehicles, the cloud system can route them to places where they are needed. They can even be clustered at wireless inductive charging locations.

According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the proportion of vehicles sold worldwide with some degree of autonomous capability will be significant by 2025 and is expected to reach 75 percent by 2035. Some will be premium sedans and SUVs, some will be buses, shuttles and trucks, and many will be small electric urban cars that work seamlessly with transit, upgrading our current taxi and car sharing options.

We’re entering a whole new world of connected, autonomous vehicles.

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