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This week saw the launch of five new entrants to the electric vehicle market, three of which go on sale in the coming month and two available on pre-order.
The most anticipated release is, of course, that of the Tesla Model 3, which was held on Friday the 28th of July when the first 30 cars were handed over to their owners. The Tesla Model 3 is already sold out for the next year as over 400,000 people have placed the $1000 deposit for the pre-order. Tesla announced the specification and price of the Tesla Model 3 at Friday’s event. The mass-market EV is available in a standard and long range version, the standard with a range of 220 miles priced at $35,000 (before incentives) and a long range version for $9,000 more extending the range to 310 miles. A fully loaded Model 3 with all the bells and whistles will set you back around $60,000 before incentives. See the full spec-sheet here.
This week also saw the release of the first fully electric Sports Utility Truck, the Bollinger B1. The B1 is available on pre-order, but no price has been set for the no-nonsense all-electric SUT.
A German start-up Sono Motors unveiled its Solar EV, the Sion. The Sion has a range of 250km plus integrated solar that will provide a further 30km per day. The Sion is available for pre-order starting at €500 but only expected for release in 2019. The price for the Sion is set at €16,000 and excludes the battery which could either be leased or purchased at present value price of around €4,000. Production of the Sion is funded through a crowd funding campaign commencing on the 18th of August 2017 with test-drive events around Europe through to October 2017 to be held in 11 cities in 7 countries.
In China, the SAIC / GM / Wuling joint venture, Baojun launched its first electric vehicle, the Smart look-alike Baojun E100 city car. GAC also released its much anticipated GAC GE3 SUV BEV. Both vehicles will go on sale in August. The Baojun will sell for CNY35,800 ($5,300) and the GAC GE3 starting at CNY 150,000 ($22,200).
In related news, FIAT Chrysler and (former) EV naysayer, Sergio Marchionne, this week announced during an Investor event that all cars of its luxury marque Maserati would be electrified post-2019. Mr. Marchionne went further stating that half of Fiat Chrysler’s lineup, including Alfa Romeo, will be electric from 2022. The strategy will be formulated over the next year as the company enters its 3rd five-year plan in 2019.
A Reuters report lifted the veil on Toyota’s electric vehicle plans further this week. The Reuters report claims the Japanese automaker is developing a new electric vehicle platform, based on solid state battery technology to enter the market in 2022. The advantage of solid state battery technology is that it addresses range and charging shortcomings of current lithium technology. A solid state battery can be charged in only a couple of minutes and has more storage capacity for longer range. Toyota, which has been lagging in the EV race is set to enter the EV market in China from 2019 with a mass market SUV based on the C-HR SUV. The C-HR EV will be developed using current lithium technology. Other automakers pursuing solid state batteries includes BMW who has set a 10-year plan to bring solid state EVs to market.
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee this week advanced legislation designed to keep autonomous vehicles safe and promote the advancement of the technology. The self-driving act is billed as the PAVE Act, which expands the existing authorization of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to evaluate exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards only if there is no reduction in safety and increases the number of vehicles for which exemption may be granted. The exemption will help the advancement of the autonomous driving development by allowing the industry to collect data and help Government to recall self-driving cars for safety reasons. The act is becoming increasingly important as more and more companies and states get involved in the testing of self-driving technology. Ride hailing company, Lyft, this week announced that it formed a self-driving division and will establish a self-driving research facility, named Level 5 in Palo Alto, California.
While the 3rd season of the Formula E is ending this weekend in Montreal, Canada with Renault e.dams set to win it for the third season in a row, two racing car heavy weights this week announced that they would join the series in the 6th season from 2019. Porsche announced this week that it would quit the Le Mans race and join Formula E, following sister company Audi who left the well known 24-hour race in October 2016. The other automaker to join the Formula E circuit was Porsches’ German compatriot and recent Formula 1 champion, Mercedes, who also announced this week that it will join the 2019 series, leaving the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters to help with funding its participation in the emerging EV racing franchise.
CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Ben Van Beurden, told Bloomberg in a televised interview that he is ditching ICE vehicles and buying an electric vehicle, all be it a plug-in hybrid Mercedes Benz S500e. The companies CFO already owns a BMW i3. Mr. Van Beurden said “The whole move to electrify the economy, electrify mobility in places like northwest Europe, in the U.S., even in China, is a good thing. We need to be at a much higher degree of electric vehicle penetration — or hydrogen vehicles or gas vehicles — if we want to stay within the 2-degrees Celsius outcome.” He went on saying “If policies and innovation really work well, I can see liquids peaking in demand in the early 2030s and maybe oil will peak a little bit earlier if there’s a lot of biofuels coming into the mix as well.”
Shell is preparing itself for the shift away from fossil fuels by spending $1 Billion a year in its New Energies business unit.
The highlights for USA electric car sales in H1 2017 was:
There are no surprises in the Top 3 EV brands with Tesla holding on to its lead over GM due to a 24% rise in Tesla Model X sales. GM could not dethrone Tesla even with a new model, the mass-market Chevrolet Bolt EV up its sleeve. Improved sales in the 2nd Quarter from the Ford Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi helped the brand retain its third position fighting off the strong performance of Toyota with the new Toyota Prius which was placed third at the end of the first quarter.
Most brands showed improved sales growth over the first half of the year with only Ford, Volvo, and Mitsubishi showing declining sales. The Volkswagen Group showed a declining trend as the year progressed and mustered the lowest growth. The declining fortunes of the German automaker can be attributed to the Volkswagen e-Golf not being able to compete on range with the new mass-market Chevrolet Bolt being sold in the same price bracket. Chrysler showed the highest growth after Toyota buoyed by the new Chrysler Pacifica and great specials on its compliance car, the Fiat 500e. The results might have been better for the US automaker, but the Chrysler Pacifica launch was delayed and then impacted by recalls and plant closure due to battery problems.
Most of the existing models showed growth lower than the overall growth due to the big number of new models to the market. Surprisingly the Ford Focus and Fiat pure electric models outperformed the market showing that the public is becoming more comfortable with range issues and the continuously improving charging infrastructure is starting to have and effect on top of the financial incentives making EVs appealing.
European plug-in vehicles were the biggest losers in this half of 2017 with a number of the luxury PHEV models losing big. Volvo and BMW saw some of their relatively new models losing steam. Both the BMW x5 xDrive and Volvo XC90 T8, released in 2016, lost market share in favor of the Tesla Model X. The Tesla Model S sales have flatlined although it remained the top selling BEV model. It will be interesting to see how the new Daimler Smart ForTwo ED fares in the second half of 2017. The German automaker is relaunching the brand as electric only in the USA and Canada from this summer and will offer a slightly improved model at a marginally reduced $23,800 starting price before incentives.
Battery electric vehicles are still maintaining its lead over plug-in hybrids albeit at a lower margin. BEVs took six positions in the Top 10 EV sales for the USA in the first half of 2017. The ever increasing number of plug-in models benefits the technology in the short term as it competes with only a handful of pure electric models. The Plug-in hybrid category benefited mostly from the release of the new Toyota Prius and to a lesser extend the Chrysler Pacifica. The Tesla Models X and S constitute nearly 44% of all BEV models showing the company’s dominance in the sector. The commanding position will improve even more with the release of the Model 3 in the second half of 2017 which might add about 40,000 units depending on the production ramp-up. The release of the Tesla Model 3 and new Nissan Leaf, expected by the end of the year, should help pure electric vehicles outperform the more dirty plug-in hybrids in the second half.
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News from the past week shows the that the pendulum is swinging quicker than expected for electric vehicles. The results of two surveys in the UK this week was a clear indication that demand for electric vehicles is much more than most automakers anticipated. Google searches for the electric vehicles has also surged by 127%.
A survey by Venson Automotive Solutions shows that 85% of respondents from a survey in the UK are now seriously considering buying an EV. Reading between the lines, wattEV2Buy finds it significant that range is no longer the deterring factor when prospective buyers are considering buying an EV. For long, most respondents to such surveys cited range as overarching reason for not buying an EV. In the Venson Survey, a lack of charging stations was the biggest reason for prospective buyers to put off the buying decision. In a separate survey by Carbuyer, 61% of respondents said they would not buy diesel vehicles again because of “diesel gate,” the spectacular “own goal” by big auto. Diesel sales were down 9% in the UK for the month of February while plug-in vehicles rose by 49%.
Most automakers have caught on to the shift, but not aggressive enough, while others are being forced to produce plug-in electric vehicles. Labor organizations within Audi have asked management to build more electric vehicles, as some of the factory units fear missing out on the technology will lead to job losses. Hyundai was forced by shareholders to shift focus on Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles to plug-in electric vehicles, while Daimler has accelerated its massive $10 billion planned investment in EV’s. All these turnarounds in strategy pale in comparison to that of Sergio Marchionne, FIAT Chrysler‘s CEO, but more Hyundai, FIAT, and Daimler later in the post.
Hyundai admits electric vehicles are an imperative. During the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2016, the company said that it planned to have 14 new alternative vehicles in the US by 2020. The planned product mix include’s four plug-in hybrids, four electric and one hydrogen fuel cell model. Thursday Mr. Lee shed some more light on the company’s plans, indicating that the first fully electric vehicle planned for next year would be a small SUV. According to Mr. Lee, the SUV would have a range of 185 miles (300km). Although the company is developing its own dedicated platform, it can’t say when it would be ready. The platform is modeled after that of Tesla, with the batteries in the floor, allowing for more battery capacity and cabin space. It is clear from the announcement that the company is aggressively trying to catch up on lost ground.
Hyundai now expects the EV market to be around 10% of the global fleet by 2025, at which point Fuel Cell EV’s will take off. Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis also announced today that it would introduce a PHEV by 2019 and BEV by 2021.
With the run-up to the Formula E to be held in Mexico City today, Ferrari came out in support of the event. FIA’s Auto magazine quoted the CEO of FIAT Chrysler, one of the auto industries biggest naysayers of EV’s, Sergio Marchionne as follows in an interview:
“The first is that we need to be involved in Formula E because electrification via hybridization is going to be part of our future.”
“We have already developed a hybrid supercar, La Ferrari,” he said, “and on future Ferrari models we will leverage new technologies as well as electrification.”
And this from a man that came out vehemently against the technology, saying it will never catch on.
Daimler this week, after a board meeting in Berlin, announced that it would accelerate its $11 billion investment in electric vehicles by bringing it forward with three years from 2025, as announced last year 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.
OSVehicle provides an open-source platform to hobbyists and other start-ups. Customers can have a full EV platform, the Tabby EVO, shipped between $12,500 and $19,500. OSVehicle claim start-ups can save $2 million and 3-years in Research and Development by going the open-source route. The open-source platform enables for larger disruption in mobility options using electric vehicles. Imagine adding George Hotz’s self-driving car kit which he plans to market through his company comma.ai at a price of $1,000, and you can build your own “ai-chauffeur” driven zero emission vehicle.
GM aims to use OSVehicle to develop its EDIT modular self-driving car based on the Chevy Bolt M1 platform. The decision was influenced by the ability of modular platforms to extend the lifespan of heavy use vehicles, such as ride sharing and hailing applications. OSVehicle‘s Yuki and Tin Hang Liu claim that through the use of modular architecture, car fleets can last ten times longer by enabling seamless hardware upgrades of self-driving and connected car technologies.
Picture: Genesis Concept introduced at New York Auto Show
The respected Economist Magazine this week commented on forecast adjustments by various investment houses for the penetration of electric vehicles. Up till last year, the consensus was that only 4% of new vehicles would be electric by 2025. BNP Paribas now forecast 11% penetration by 2025, while Morgan Stanley see’s a 7% penetration. In 2016 international EV sales increased with nearly 750,000 units (42%) in spite of a low fuel price environment. One factor driving the change of heart are aggressive regulations to support environmental targets. In Norway electric vehicles now makes up 37% of new vehicle fleet amid government support while in China the Government aims to have EV’s make up 8% of new vehicles by 2018. Technology has also moved much faster than anticipated and battery cost, a long time stumbling block is coming down faster than anticipated, with some mega factories coming online within the next two years. Our hearts go out to the automakers that failed to notice the trend, RIP Fiat, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and the list goes on, not to mention Big Oil.
This week Tesla CEO Elon Musk commented on the disruption of self-driving cars to the sector during the World Government Summit in Dubai. Mr. Musk was in Dubai for the launch of Tesla in the Emirates. His comments indicated that Tesla would have its first Level 4 Autonomous system available by the end of 2017. The disruption is significant to the auto sector since once a self-driving car is available, it will devalue new cars without the technology. According to Mr. Musk, the disruption will be slow initially but that in ten years from now all new cars will have the capability to be autonomous. It’s significant that Mr. Musk made the comments at a Government Summit as regulations, not technology seems to be the biggest hurdle at the moment. Will technology force the pace of Governments? We sincerely hope so.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the Chinese Electric Vehicle market hitting a road block, with new electric vehicles sales down over 60% for January. China up till now has been the mainstay of the sector with sales increases in 2015 of 300% and 50% on top of that in 2016. The recent clampdown on corruption in the sector which led to a range of new regulations being forced on the Chinese market since December 30, 2016, is seen to be the reason for the sharp slowdown. The Wall Street Journal reported on fines of $150 million imposed on some companies in September 2016. The fines were as a result of subsidy fraud. The Chinese Government also indicated earlier the year that they want to increase barriers to entry and limit the market to around ten manufacturers, down from over 200 currently, in a bid to improve quality and safety of the end product.
The 3rd event in the current series of the Formula-E electric vehicle street racing calendar held Buenos Aires Argentina ended yet again with a victorious Renault.eDams team. The e.Dams driver, Swiss-born Sebastian Buemi clinched his 3rd win of the series. The Brasilian Lucas Di Grassi’s 2nd position kept Audi’s ABT Schaeffler standings in the overall second position. The Chinese teams of Next EV and Techeeta were the only teams climbing the rankings, now lying 4th and 5th respectively. Newcomer Panasonic Jaguar has yet to score a single point in the 3rd season, with its drivers Evans and Carrol ending 18th and 19th.
Tesla voted the consumers darling in the Consumer Reports Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey with 91% Tesla owners responded with a “Definitely yes” when asked if they will buy the brand again. Second with only 84% was Porsche. The bottom quartile included brands such as Jeep, Nissan, Fiat, and Volkswagen, which dropped eight places. The survey included over 300,000 vehicles. Can the States who is refusing Tesla’s direct selling model, naysayers, and auto dealers refusing to get behind electric vehicles please respond to this? For the complete list follow the link.
#1 – DIY EVs gets a boost
Looking to develop your own electric vehicle? Yes, you can, with Italian OSVehicle’s modular platform providing an open source hardware platform from as little as $12,000. Add to that George Hotz’s self-driving car kit which he plans to market through his company comma.ai at a price of $1,000, and you can build your own “ai-chauffeur” driven zero emission vehicle. The ability to use open source technology will lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and hobbyists alike, providing further disruption to the auto industry.
#2 – Tesla poaches from Apple
Tesla bags two senior executives from Apple. The world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer this month acquired Chris Lattner, responsible for Apple’s Swift application software head, and Matt Casebolt, senior director of Design for Apple’s Mac range and listed on over 50 Apple patents. Matt is filling the position of Senior Director Engineering, Closures and Mechanisms at Tesla, while Chris’s experience in leading an over 200 strong engineering team would stand him in good stead as Vice President of Autopilot Software.
#3 – USA DOT creates Automation Committee
The USA Department of Transportation this week announced the formation of an Automation Committee to oversee its self-driving policy, with Tesla, a clear leader in the sector not on it. Self-driving vehicles and electric vehicles are not necessarily mutually inclusive as the technology could be applied to all drive trains. However, the appointment of GM CEO Mary Barra as Co-Chair of the committee could be a clear indication of which tail is wagging the dog. GM recently opposed the new EPA emission requirements of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Follow the link for the complete list.
#4 – FIAT on notice for cheating on emission tests
Another one bites the dust as the Environmental Protection Agency this week put FiatChrysler on notice for cheating on its emission tests. Diesel Gate might be the best own inflicted wound by big auto fighting electric vehicles, forcing big brands such as Volkswagen and Mitsubishi to change strategy from pushing back to embracing the technology. Now Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, who has been a fervent EV hater might be forced out or to change his stance.
#5 – Renault adds to its EV model range
Renault this week announced two more additions to its electric vehicle model range, both light commercial vehicles. Renault is one of the few automakers in Europe to commit early on to electric vehicles with models such as the Renault ZOE and Twizy. The two new models will be an improved version of the Kangoo ZE delivery van and a full-size commercial van, the Master ZE. Both vehicles will have an improved 33kWh battery pack and 7kW AC Charger.