TOP EV NEWS #1 – DAIMLER UNVEILS SELF-DRIVING EQ FORTWO
Mercedes-Benz announced the creation of its new EV specific brand, EQ, at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2016. This week the luxury carmaker showed us more of its Vision EQ by unveiling the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo in the week running up to the Frankfurt Auto Show. According to the company, the Smart EQ provides a new vision of urban mobility where individualization options make the shared vehicle feel like “your” vehicle. The Smart EQ is the first vehicle from the Daimler Group to take the logical step of dispensing with a steering wheel and pedals. The Smart EQ is developed according to the German automaker’s CASE strategy which stands for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric). EQ plans to introduce more than ten new electric cars by 2022, from the Smart up to a large SUV.
The Smart EQ has a battery capacity of 30kWh, nearly double that of the 2017 Smart ForTwo ED. The vehicle functions are controlled via personal mobile device or voice input, an arrangement that is intuitive, convenient and hygienic. Dispensing with conventional control elements makes the white interior appear even more spacious. The dashboard is replaced by a 24-inch (58.5 x 15.6 cm) screen which is surrounded by a rose gold-colored frame.
Daimler will also unveil the Mercedes Concept EQA teased above at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
TOP EV NEWS #2 – RENAULT NISSAN ALLIANCE AND DONGFENG EV JV
The Renault Nissan Alliance and Dongfeng Motor Group forged a partnership to co-develop electric vehicles in China according to a press release by Nissan. The new JV company is called eGT New Energy Automotive Co and will focus on the core competencies of each to produce EVs for the Chinese market. The first vehicle by eGT will be an A-segment SUV based on the Renault Nissan platform. The vehicle will be an intelligent and interconnected EV, which is the new rage in China. Alibaba and SAIC released the first successful mass-market interconnected car last year, the Roewe eRX5 SUV.
“This project is the result of a joint effort to develop electric vehicles for the Chinese market, by the ‘Golden Triangle’ formed by Dongfeng, Renault, and Nissan, with an innovative business model,” said Zhu Yanfeng, Chairman of Dongfeng. “We expect to meet the transformation trend of the market in China; where cars are becoming light, electric, intelligent, interconnected and shared. This is also a testimony of a deepened and strengthened strategic cooperation between the three parties.”
The new venture is owned 25% each by Renault and Nissan while Dongfeng will hold the remaining 50% and headquartered in the City of Shiyan, Hubei Province. Assembly of the EV will be done at the 120,000 capacity Dongfeng plant in Shiyan and will commence in 2019.
TOP EV NEWS #3 – NEW EV MODELS AND BRANDS ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK
The Chinese automaker, Chery Auto, announced that it would launch a new Euro specific brand at the Frankfort Auto Show in mid-September. The new brand will only develop mild-hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs and will start off production with a new SUV pictured below. The new brand will be supported by a European design and engineering facility. The new Chery brand will be built on an “all new, high-quality platform” with special emphasis on European safety standards. More detail of the specific markets and vehicle segment for the SUV will be forthcoming at the Frankfort Auto Show.
Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) unveiled the 2018 Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivan. The 2018 model will offer a 10% improvement in range, delivering a 33-mile pure electric range, up from 30 miles in the 2017 model. The battery capacity will remain the same at 16kWh.
Kia‘s Chinese partnership with Dongfeng, Dongfeng Yueda, announced this week that it would produce three pure electric and two plug-in hybrid models by 2020. The Korean due, Kia and its sister company Hyundai has experienced a drastic decline in sales and profits over the last year and have been behind most of their peers in bringing EVs to the fast growing Chinese electric vehicle market.
Detroit Electric announced that it would provide greater clarity on its EV development plans at an upcoming industry event in the UK, the Cenex’s Low Carbon Vehicles (LCV) 2017. The UK based startup is in the midst of a recruitment drive where it will add up to 200 people to its payroll by the 2nd quarter of 2018.
TOP EV NEWS #4 – BYD PROFITS DIVE ON SUBSIDY CUTS
One of the world’s Top 3 EV producers, BYD Co., this week released disappointing first-half earnings. Twin contributing factors of a growing EV sector which in turn allowed the Chinese authorities to scale back its subsidy support are blamed for the drop in profits. BYD, who has been the undisputed leader in the worlds largest EV market has seen its position challenged over the last year with competitors eroding sales of BYD, illustrated in the table below. BYD, who is 10% owned by Warren Buffet, saw its profits slide from ~$320 million a year ago to $260 million in the first-half of 2018, or around 20%, a stark reversal from the 79% jump experienced in 2016.
In January 2017 the Government cracked down on the sector by capping the total subsidies available at the Local Government level at 50% of that of the Central Government, dropping the NEV subsidy by 20% effective 1 January 2017, and raising the technology threshold of distance per charge and energy consumption. The new subsidy at Central Government level is now 44,000 yuan ($6,333) for EVs with a range greater than 250km (156 miles), down from 60,000 yuan ($8,600). The subsidy for buses was capped at 300,000 yuan (43,000) down from 500,000 yuan ($72,000).
TOP EV NEWS #5 – SELF-DRIVING NEWS OF THE PAST WEEK
Chinese automaker, JAC, and China’s Google, BAIDU, this week announced a partnership to develop a Level 3 mass market self-driving car for production in 2019, year after Audi will produce a level 3 capable Audi A8. Baidu launched its autonomous strategy, called Apollo, two months back. The Apollo strategy mimics that of Google, aiming to develop software for autonomous vehicles. Hardware partners to the Apollo program include Bosch. It’s still unclear how the strategic partners will develop the vehicle as testing of autonomous cars is not yet legal on Chinese roads. Baidu, however, has a permit to test autonomous cars on Californian roads. Other automakers, such as Volvo and Ford are targeting Level 4 autonomous vehicles by 2021.
Samsung Electronics this week acquired a permit to test self-driving cars on California’s public road system, making it the 38th company to be allowed to do so. Samsung started testing autonomous vehicles in South Korea in May 2017. See the full list of all 38 permit holders here and the result of the 2016 autonomous testing here.
The German auto supplier ZF, a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology, this week entered into a partnership with the University of Califonia to develop autonomous driving solutions. In a press release by the company its CEO, Dr. Stefan Sommer defined the partnership as follows – “Our latest research collaboration will significantly boost our Vision Zero Ecosystem in two areas that are key to fully autonomous driving – computer vision and deep learning.”
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