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The Chinese automaker GAC has been a regular at the Detroit Auto Show since 2013 and signaled in October 2017 that it intends to venture into the US auto market. This week during the 2018 Detroit Auto Show GAC clarified its strategy around the entry into the US market. GAC is partnering with FCA to use its dealer network as a springboard into the USA from 2019. Unfortunately, the first model to land in the USA will not be an EV but a mid-sized SUV, the GAC Trumpchi GS8. GAC, however, unveiled a vision of the first EV it intends to launch in the country targeted at the young buyers. The GAC Enverge Concept is a compact crossover packed with technology and equipped with a 71 kWh battery providing it a range of 600km (375miles). The 350kW GAC Enverge has a fast charging system allowing it to charge 400km (250miles) in 10 minutes, just as long as it takes to stop and fill-up at a gas-station. At first impression, the GAC Enverge Concept leaves you confused as it seems from the outside not to have side windows in its giant clamshell doors. The mysterious pod on the roof houses a Segway scooter for the “last 100-meter” commute from your car to your final destination making legs a thing of the past in the Enverge future.
Chinese automakers are generally risk-averse making GAC’s foray into to the tough US market significant. GAC already exports to 14 countries but cracking it in the US with its strict technical requirements and high standards will boost the image of the Chinese automaker. GAC is not among China‘s top EV producers, it only sold 5,259 units of its 3 plug-in and 1 pure electric models in 2017. There is already talk that GAC might face obstacles from Washington as both sides of the aisle have a problem with allowing Chinese carmakers access as auto imports to the US only carries a 2.5% tax compared to US models which attract a 25% tariff in China. GAC is yet to announce a name for its US brand as its Trumpchi brand will obviously create issues due to the similarity with the controversial US President. GAC made its intention clear to target the European market after the US excursion.
INFINITI, Nissan’s luxury brand sees that EVs will contribute more than half of its global sales by 2025. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa announced at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit today this week that the Japanese automaker will launch its first EV in 2021. It is strange that Infiniti sees EVs to be such an important contributor to its sales yet its entry into the market only in 2021 makes it one of the latecomers to the sector signaling that it was not geared for the market change in the first place.
According to a press release by the company, INFINITI will offer a mix of pure electric vehicles (EV) and e-POWER vehicles, demonstrating the full range of low-emission vehicle technology. Infiniti unveiled the Q Inspiration Concept at the Detroit Auto Show as a future vision of what customers can expect from its new level of electrified driving performance. Other than announcing that the Infiniti Q Inspiration will have Nissan’s ProPILOT autonomous drive technology no specifications were released around the electrified drivetrain.
In related news, French PSA Group which include Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall also explained its electrification plans at the Detroit Auto Show during the Automotive News World Congress. According to PSA CEO, Carlos Tavares, the company aims to electrify its full line of cars and light-truck by 2025 and nearly all its models will have self-driving capabilities by 2030. The result is that PSA will launch 40 electrified models across its brands by 2025.
A year ago I reported on a stealthy EV-startup, Rivian Automotive acquiring a mothballed Mitsibushi assembly plant in Illinois. The past week Rivian Automotive lifted the veil slightly on its plans through a launch of a marketing campaign. Rivian announced that it will come to market by 2020 with two EV models, a seven-seater SUV, and a five-seater pick-up. Appart from looking more than an extreme sports site the automaker’s website does not provide more information other than that the AWD vehicles will be connected and equipped with advanced self-driving, accelerating to 60mph in under 4 seconds and have a wading depth of 3 feet. The site also mentions that the vehicles will have a massive lockable storage capacity and innovative cargo management solutions. Judging from the team of experts available to the company which includes Dodge Viper designer Tom Gale and former McLaren engineer Mark Vinnels the start-up has a fighting chance.
Toyota announced on the 18th of January at the start of the Montréal International Auto Show that it will expand sales for its Mirai FCEV to Québec Canada this year. Isabelle Melançon, Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change said at the announcement “The arrival of the Mirai in Quebec is perfectly in line with the adoption of the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard last December, which aims to substantially increase the number of electric cars on Quebec roads. This standard will give Quebecers access to a wider range of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.”
Last year Isuzu unveiled its N Series electric truck, late December the Japanese automaker announced that it intends to launch the light delivery truck based on its Elf range by the end of the year in answer to the Fuso eCanter. The Isuzu electric LDV will have a range of 100km and two 40kWh lithium batteries. The batteries are located between the right front and rear wheels and between the left front and rear wheels, respectively. and is for powering the vehicle and cold-storage. The small truck has a maximum loading capacity is 3,000kg.
To diversify its economy and develop its automotive sector the Saudi Government entered into its first EV pilot project according to Reuters. The State-controlled Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) partnered with Japanese Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), Nissan Motor Co and Takaoka Toko supply fast chargers and three Nissan EVs. Although the EV pilot is an acknowledgment that EVs is a reality the country still sees that it will take decades before it has a significant impact on their main export. Suppliers of electric vehicles are spreading their wings to new untapped markets and we are seeing more and more of these initiatives to partner with governments to secure a front row seat to benefit from subsidies to promote the adoption of EVs. This week Mitsubishi and the Vietnamese government also entered into a partnership to increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Mitsubishi presented one Outlander PHEV and quick charger to the Vietnamese Government. Mr. Tran Tuan Anh, the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam said “We are delighted to conclude the MOU with Mitsubishi Motors as our important partner. This joint study is very important milestone to promote the transition of a low carbon economy.”
In related news Toyota, which also don’t see a significant change to EVs in the next decade acquired a 15% stake in Australian lithium miner Orocobre for an approximate AUD292 million (USD232 million) through its subsidiary Toyota Tsusho. Toyota is not the first automaker to buy into lithium mining to secure supply. In 2017 the Chinese Great Wall Motors acquired a stake in another Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals.
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The European Union is fast becoming the second key battleground for electric vehicles. A regulatory push to reach its climate goals is forcing the adoption of electric vehicle strategies for carmakers operating in the EU. This week Nissan and the PSA Group announced renewed efforts specifically targeting Europe as a key market for their electric vehicle strategies.
Nissan announced a plan for an “EV Ecosystem” in Europe at the ‘Nissan Futures 3.0 – The Car and Beyond’ event in Oslo. The plan is centered around four key pillars which are the launch of new electric vehicles, additional infrastructure investment, battery charging and home storage advances, and a revolutionary new vision to give Nissan customers free power for their EV using its unique bi-directional charging technology.
Nissan launched a Europe specific LEAF version, the ’2.ZERO’ during the event and announced the new Nissan e-NV200 offering a 60% improvement in the range allowing for 100% electric last mile delivery.
The Japanese automaker will expand its CHAdeMO charging network from 4,600 chargers to 5,600 over the next 18 months. Improvements were also announced in charging technology which includes:
Group Renault unveiled its Drive the Future plan for the period 2017 – 2022 in which it targets EV leadership. It is significant that the Group plans to bring 21 new vehicles to the market in the period of which eight are pure electric models and twelve electrified. The plan follows its “Drive the Change” plan and is built around the Group’s vision of sustainable mobility for all, today and tomorrow. Key aspects of the plan relative to EVs include:
In related news, PSA Group’s recently acquired, Opel’s head of development Giles Le Borgne in an interview with Automobilwoche stated – “We will gradually start using PSA platforms and engines for the Opel model lineup.” Appart from the obvious job losses it is safe to assume that we will see more EVs from the brand now that its free from GM‘s limited pursuit of the technology to now.
Some Chinese carmakers have also identified Europe as a key market and are grabbing the opportunity formulating strategies to take advantage of the lead they have due to their own countries aggressive EV regulations. Recently we reported that Chery would create an EV brand for Europe and this week SAIC announced the launch of its Maxus brand in Europe by 2019. SAIC made its intent clear with the launch of the Maxus EV80 electric LDV for Europe.
In support of its regulatory push, the European Union will host a meeting of industry heads from the auto and battery sectors in the coming week to discuss developing battery manufacturing hub to compete Asian and the U.S. markets.
Following on the recent announcement that the Tata-owned company will introduce EV versions of all Jaguar and Land Rover models from 2020 the British automaker this week unveiled the Range Rover Sports P400e PHEV, the company’s first electrified model. The Range Rover Sports P400e PHEV, available in 2018, has a range of 31 miles (50km) and will be priced at £70,800.
How different is the news we report today than that of a year ago? In 2016 the general topic when reporting on large US automakers EV strategies was them downplaying electric vehicles as a small niche. This week the USA’s two largest automakers (historically, before Tesla unseated them on market cap) announced strategy shifts towards more aggressive EV development.
In a press release Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain said “General Motors believes in an all-electric future. Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”
The plan towards an All Electric Path to Zero Emissions recently announced by CEO Mary Barra includes two new pure electric cars in the next 18 months based on learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt, ultimately reaching 20 new all-electric models by 2023. The plan also includes Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles starting with SURUS — the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure — a fuel cell powered, four-wheel steer concept vehicle on a heavy-duty truck frame that’s driven by two electric motors. With its capability and flexible architecture, SURUS could be used as a delivery vehicle, truck or even an ambulance — all emissions free. The company also announced that it more than doubled its autonomous vehicle test fleet in California.
Ford‘s new CEO, Jim Hackett this week came out with a complete strategy shift, rethinking its predecessors One Ford strategy in a bid to play catchup on its competitors in the electric vehicle market. The shift aims to reduce cost by $14 billion, leverage partnerships and invest in EVs and trucks. The highlights from the announcement as presented in the company’s press release are:
Accelerating the introduction of connected, smart vehicles and services customers want and value. By 2019, 100 percent of Ford’s new U.S. vehicles will be built with connectivity. The company has similarly aggressive plans for China and other markets, as 90 percent of Ford’s new global vehicles will feature connectivity by 2020.
Rapidly improving fitness to lower costs, release capital and finance growth. Ford is attacking costs, reducing automotive cost growth by 50 percent through 2022. As part of this, the company is targeting $10 billion in incremental material cost reductions. The team also is reducing engineering costs by $4 billion from planned levels over the next five years by increasing use of common parts across its full line of vehicles, reducing order complexity and building fewer prototypes.
Allocating capital where Ford can win the future. This starts with the company reallocating $7 billion of capital from cars to SUVs and trucks, including the Ranger and EcoSport in North America and the all-new Bronco globally. Ford also has plans to build the next-generation Focus for North America in China, saving capital investment and ongoing costs. Further, Ford is reducing internal combustion engine capital expenditures by one-third and redeploying that capital into electrification – on top of the previously announced $4.5 billion investment.
Embracing partnerships. Ford will continue to leverage partnerships, remain active in M&A and collaborate to accelerate R&D. The company recently announced it was exploring a strategic alliance with Mahindra Group as it transforms its business in India, and Zoyte with the intention of developing a new line of low-cost all-electric passenger vehicles in China. When it comes to autonomous vehicle development, the company recently announced a relationship with Lyft to work toward commercialization and a collaboration with Domino’s Pizza to research the customer experience of delivery services.
Expanding electric vehicle revenue opportunities. The company recently announced a dedicated electrification team within Ford, focused exclusively on creating an ecosystem of products and services for electric vehicles and the unique opportunities they provide. This builds on Ford’s earlier commitment to deliver 13 new electric vehicles in the next five years, including F-150 Hybrid, Mustang Hybrid, Transit Custom plug-in hybrid, an autonomous vehicle hybrid, Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan, and a fully electric small SUV.
The Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors (GWM) acquired a 3.5% stake in Australian Lithium miner, Pilbara Minerals for $22 million in a bid to secure lithium supply for its EV strategy. To date, GWM has been one of the slower movers in the Chinese EV sector, but the purchase signals a more aggressive stance.
After losing a tender to supply the Indian government with electric vehicles to Tata, Mahindra and Mahindra amped up its investment in the sector by earmarking $600 million (Rs 4,000 crore) over the next three to five years. The investment will be in four parts, namely:
Light Delivery Vehicles is hotting up as the next growth market in the EV sector. Recently we have seen some new and improved models announced in this vehicle class. The drive to make the last mile 100% electric is a low hanging fruit and an obvious target for regulators enforcing emission control in cities. Already Chinese manufacturers have electrified a host of existing combustion LDVs. This week wattEV2buy published a list of over 1,400 special vehicles in China which consists mostly of cargo vans, panel vans, and multi-purpose vehicles.
This week big manufacturers SAIC and Nissan announced the launch of two new electric LDVs. Nissan unveiled the new e-NV200 with a range of 280km (175mi). SAIC unveiled the Maxus EV80, available as a panel van and a chassis cab. The Maxus EV80 has a cargo area length of 3300 mm, width of 1770 mm and height of 1710 mm, resulting in a total volume of 10.2 m3 accessible through wide-opening rear and side doors and capable of a maximum payload of 950 kg (2,100 lbs) and a maximum towing mass of 750 kg (1,650 lbs). The EV80 has a range of 200 km (124 miles) and charges in two hours. The Maxus EV80 LDV comes with a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty and a battery warranty of five years or 100,000 km.
Flowing from Ford‘s strategy shift announced above it transpired that the US automaker would focus on developing EV vans for the Chinese market in an attempt to play catch-up.
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Daimler and Chinese BAIC Motors this week agreed to increase the investment in the Sino-German Joint Venture, Beijing Benz Automotive Co (BBAC), to manufacture electric vehicles. The partners agreed to a further investment of 5 billion yuan (655 million euros / $735 million) at a signing of the heads of agreement in Berlin in the presence of German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The investment by the German automaker is a further commitment to electric vehicles as it implements the aggressive electric vehicle strategy. BBAC is the localization of the Mercedes-Benz brand and will see its first electric vehicle rolling off the production line in 2020.
In June 2017 both partners agreed to strengthen their strategic collaboration through investments for New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) in China. As part of the investment agreement, Daimler announced its intention to acquire a minority share in Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. (BJEV), a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, with the purpose of strengthening strategic collaboration with BAIC in the NEV sector.
The investment will be used to extend the BBAC plant in Beijing, established in 2005 and already Daimler’s largest Mercedes-Benz passenger car production hub, to become a BEV production hub in China. The establishment of a BEV production hub will commence with the building of an eBattery factory, which would be Daimler’s first foreign location of its global battery production network. Daimler plans to invest one of the ten billion euro earmarked for its electric vehicle strategy in the global battery production network for Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The network already includes the site in Kamenz, Saxony, built in 2010, where a second state of the art battery factory is being built with an investment of around 500 million euros. Mercedes-Benz will source the cell for its battery plant in Beijing from Chinese suppliers.
Tesla‘s Elon Musk announced last Sunday that production of the Tesla Model 3 would commence on Friday the 7th of July, two weeks ahead of schedule. Late Saturday evening Elon posted a tweet showing two pictures of the historic vehicle with serial number one that came off the production line. According to Elon Musk, the rule at Tesla is that the first person to pay the full price will get the first Tesla Model 3 SN1. He responded to a tweet that he has the first Roadster and Model X but not the first Model S. The average sales price for a Tesla Model 3 is estimated to be around $50,000 before incentives.
Electric car sales in the USA and Norway showed healthy gains over the same period in 2016. US EV sales increased 16% over that of June 2016 while in Norway sales jumped 62% for the same period. Electric vehicle sales in Norway now stands at a record 42% of new vehicle sales. Total US EV sales for the year so far stands at around 90,000 units, 39% more than in the first half of 2016. Read our detailed breakdown of EV sales for H1 2017 in Norway and the USA by clicking on the following links.
The state-owned Chinese automaker Dongfeng, a top four vehicle producer in China, which primary strategy has historically been the production of localized cars of various international auto companies such as the PSA Group, Hyundai, Honda, Nissan, and Kia. The company’s in-house developed vehicles are sold under the Dongfeng Fengshen brand which up to now had little EV models. On the 3rd of July, the GM of Dongfeng Fengshen announced during the unveiling of its AX4 SUV that the company will focus on SUVs and EVs from now going forward. The GM, Mr. Lui Hong, did not specify if the vehicles will be based on the new AX4 SUV, AX7 or the E70.
VW and robotics firm Kuka this week signed a new co-operation agreement to develop robot-based innovations for all-electric and autonomous automobiles. The new agreement will expand the existing e-smart Connect project which includes a practical and user-friendly solution for charging high-voltage batteries of electric vehicles pictured here charging the VW GenE research vehicle. The Kuka developed charger is a charging solution developed for parking garages.
The Volkswagen Group is planning a strategic e-mobility offensive in the course of realigning its drive strategy. By the end of 2018, more than ten new electrified models will be launched on the market. A further 30 models will follow by 2025. These will be all-electric battery-powered vehicles. In parallel, Porsche will manage the ongoing expansion of infrastructure for quick-charging stations. The Volkswagen Group is providing a vision for autonomous driving of the future with the “Sedric” concept car. Audi recently established Autonomous Intelligent Driving GmbH for self-drive systems. This company is carrying out work for the entire Volkswagen Group.
KUKA AG is one of the biggest providers of intelligent automation solutions and is the world’s leading manufacturer of production plants in the automobile industry. The Group’s own Research Department headquartered in Augsburg lays the technological fundamentals for innovations in industrial production and service robotics.
By unpacking press statements from the world’s top luxury carmakers, BMW and Daimler, over the last eight months it is clear that the Daimler EV strategy will trump that of BMW over the next decade. Up to now, BMW has led the race between the two companies in the EV sector, but the German automaker is failing to capitalize on its position. BMW was first to market with a pure electric vehicle, the BMW i3, which success even surprised itself. This week BMW released its sales data for the first quarter 2017, showing that EVs now constitute 3% of its total sales as EV sales jumped 50%. The Chairman of the Board, Mr. Harald Kruger was quoted saying “We are therefore well on course to delivering more than 100,000 electrified vehicles for the first time in 2017”. The news from the top seems very bullish on face-value but therein lies the problem. BMWs management has been flip-flopping on finding a consensus view on where they see electric vehicles in the future. This week’s news from BMW is in stark contrast from news only six months earlier when the Board grappled with if it should pursue EVs at all.
In September 2016 Reuters reported that the executive of BMW would not attend the 2016 Paris Auto Show as it grappled with its electric car strategy. At the time the company lost momentum against Mercedes and VW who is chasing Tesla. The lack of momentum caused the head of the BMW i8 project to jump ship to Future Mobility, taking most of the core team with him. The executive team remained split on the future of electric vehicles and investing in what is initially a loss making exercise. The top executive team traditionally attend the Paris Auto Show, which is one of the most prestigious events in the industry, highlighting the significance of the board’s action.
The pro-EV block prevailed but despite BMW reaffirming its strategy to pursue the development of electric vehicles the company remained downbeat on the sector. BMW’s Chief Financial Officer, Frederick Eichner, was quoted by Bloomberg saying “We’ve learned that people aren’t prepared to pay a higher price for an electric vehicle. I don’t see some kind of disruptive element coming from electric cars that would prompt sales to go up quickly in the next five to six years.” So its seems that BMW changed its wait-and-see approach to a go-it-slow approach and remained cautious when it came to investing aggressively in the new technology. Where at first the company was a leader in developing the new proprietary technology it now joined most of the other laggards in producing PHEV variants of existing models, with no clarity on when BEV models will be available and how many.
In early March 2017, Mr. Harald Krüger was quoted by Reuters as saying “The fully electric drivetrain will be integrated into our core brands. To achieve this, we are now gearing our architectures toward combustion engines and pure battery electric drivetrains,” as the company plans to include EV manufacturing in its mass production line. Currently, the company’s electric vehicles are assembled at its low-volume plant in Leipzig. BMW will also expand the capacity of its PHEV drivetrain plant in Thailand and fund the cost of the investment in its electric vehicle infrastructure through a production increase in its profitable SUV segment. To ramp up production to meet expected demand for the new Mini Countryman PHEV the company is considering manufacturing facilities for the Mini in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. The company also announced that it would start producing its iNext autonomous brand at its Dingolfing plant form 2021. Other models expected from the German automaker is the i8 Roadster PHEV (2018), a BEV Mini (2019), and a BEV X3 (2020). BMW‘s long-term electric vehicle strategy is to have EV’s contribute to between 15% and 25% of its sales by 2025.
Daimler, on the other hand, had the foresight at the start of the cycle to be an early investor in Tesla. The company invested $50 million in the Series E round in May 2009, and have been hailed by Elon Musk for saving the company from bankruptcy in the early years. Unfortunately, Daimler failed to follow the same daring approach it invested in in its own business model and fell behind BMW and Tesla.
Daimler’s passive stance changed in July 2016 when its CEO, Dieter Zetsche acknowledged the technology’s importance and expected an increase in EVs market share of the total vehicle market. The German automaker shifted its strategy to accelerate its efforts to stay abreast of its competitors, Tesla and BMW‘s push to ramp up production in the luxury electric vehicle segment. Within a short space of time, the company announced a massive $11Bln investment to support its electric vehicle strategy up to 2025, unveiled its new all-electric car brand, the EQ (Electric Intelligence) and unveiled a fully electric semi-truck. The EQ brand will develop a host of EV related services and products, not just cars, such as charging stations and battery packs. The first vehicle to come from the brand is targeted at the highly popular SUV segment, a clever move to differentiate the brand in this hotly contested sector. The EQ SUV is said to have a battery capacity of 70kWh providing a range of over 250miles powering two electric motors providing 300kW of power. The production version is expected to be launched in 2018.
In early April 2017 Daimler announced that it would accelerate its $11 billion investment in electric vehicles by bringing it forward with three years from 2025, to 2022. Reuters reported that the automaker’s aggressive stance are the result of it not being able to cut fleet emissions of 123gm CO2/km from 2015 to 2016 in Europe. Europe has set a very stringent target of 95gm CO2/km by 2020. Daimler’s own target for 2020 is 100gm CO2. The German automaker cites the popularity of SUV’s as the reason for it not cutting its emissions for the first time since 2007. Daimler’s success in the SUV segment helped it to regain its dominance over archrival BMW for the first time since 2005.
In May 2017 Automotive News interviewed Mercedes-Benz head of production and supply chain management, Markus Schaefer. When asked how the company is preparing to assemble the EQ brand Mr. Schaefer responded – “We believe the EQ family will represent 15 to 25 percent of our sales in 2025, but at the end of the day, no one can say with certainty how high the share will be. Therefore, we need maximum flexibility, meaning we will integrate the EQ models into the same assembly line as the combustion engine models they will potentially replace. Preparations are on schedule, so our plants should be capable of operating at stable output levels whatever the EV take rates may be. But in order to facilitate this greater flexibility, we also had to adapt our manufacturing.” The capacity to mass produce EVs efficiently through the full-flex plant manufacturing strategy is set to help the company recover the massive investment it will make to get ahead in the EV sector.
Daimler is also investing heavily in charging infrastructure in Europe to facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles. The final proof of Daimler’s strategy will be the early release of a full electric SUV. 2018 is certainly going to be an exciting year for the electric vehicle market.
Note to data: The BMW i3 is listed as a BEV but includes sales for the BMW i3REx, a range-extended vehicle, a PHEV.
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