Top 5 Electric Vehicle News Stories of Week 26 2017

Top 5 Electric Vehicle News Stories of Week 26 2017

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TOP EV NEWS #1 – VW ANNOUNCE TWO MORE I.D. EVs

Up to now, news about VWs plans with its I.D. electric series have been sparse. The latest news on the VW I.D. strategy was about VW’s Chairman, Dr. Herbert Diess confirming the production of the I.D. Buzz. Dutch publication, Groen 7, this week provided a further glimpse of the VW strategy with the I.D EV model range which included two more models to join the three models already announced. VW will develop the I.D Lounge, an SUV and I.D AEROe, a sporty sedan exclusively for the US and Chinese markets. The I.D Lounge and I.D. AEROe will follow the I.D., I.D. Cross and I.D.Buzz models to hit the roads from 2019 to 2022. VW will produce the I.D. for the European market and the I.D. Cross for Europe and China. The market for the I.D.Buzz is yet to be defined.

All the I.D. models will be developed on VWs M.E.B platform. Golf replacement, the I.D. is expected in 2019 and promises a range of up to 600km from a 125kW electric motor. The last model in the range, the I.D. Buzz will have two electric motors with a combined output of 291kW and an acceleration of 0-100km/h in 5 seconds.

In related news the CEO of VW Group company Porsche, Mr. Oliver Blume said that half of all Porsche models would be electric by 2023. The Porsche Mission-E is expected in 2019/2020, followed by a BEV SUV Coupé. Porsche is preparing for the production of 60,000 electric vehicles per annum at its Zuffenhausen assembly plant.

SEAT, the Spanish-based VW Group brand, announced that it would develop an electric version of the high-performance Cupra model range.

Audi and German auto parts company, Schaeffler, partnered to develop a new powertrain for the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport Formula E Race Team. The partnership will be around the development for the next three generations of the race car’s powertrain. The team has finished on the podium for the past two seasons and is again lying second in the third iteration of the ever popular event.

TOP EV NEWS #2 – VW JAC JV WILL LAUNCH EV SUV JAN 2018

The VW JAC electric vehicles joint venture signed in Berlin at the start of June 2017 officially kicked off in Hefei, Anhui Province on the 29th of June 2017. The Chinese JV company, JAC Volkswagen Automobile Co., Ltd. with an initial investment of 5.6 billion Yuan ($740 million) will deliver its first electric car in January 2018. According to reports the first EV from the JV will be a fully electric SUV.

TOP EV NEWS #3 – LeAUTO TO GET NEW LEASE ON LIFE

We have followed the Chinese “Netflix,” LeTVs, misadventures in the electric vehicle sector for the past year. LeTVs auto companies, Faraday Future in the USA and the LeEco in China, is well known for overpromising and underdelivering on its goals. The reason for the failure of the enterprises to make good on the hype created around it stems mostly from a cash crunch at the parent company, LeTV, due to it overextending itself in a wide range of projects. The founder of LeTV, Jia Yueting, had to personally jump in and save the two electric vehicles from faltering as groundbreaking of the Faraday Future ground to a halt while the launch of the FF91 at the CES 2017 flopped and the JV with Aston Martin was suspended. At the start of June, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange suspended the launch of the company’s RMB 2 billion bond which was supposed to provide cash flow to LeTV and its subsidiaries. This week Jia Yueting announced that LeTV would complete A-round financing by the end of the year to fund its vehicle projects housed under LeAuto. The funding will be used for mass production of electric vehicles. Jia Yeating stepped down recently as General Manager at LeTV and took a board position at LeAuto and FF Global. Faraday Future also clawed back some reputation this week as the FF91 prototype set a new production vehicle record at Pikes Peak.The FF91s time of 11 minutes 25.083 seconds record was 20 seconds faster than the previous record set by a modified Tesla Model S. Should the funding fails it will most probably be the end of the projects as LeTV has racked up large debts already resulting in large-scale layoffs and halting of projects.

TOP EV NEWS #4 – MAHINDRA & MAHINDRA SSANGYONG TO DEVELOP AN EV SUV

The Korean auto manufacturer, Ssangyong, 72.85% owned by Indian conglomerate Mahindra and Mahindra announced that it will produce of an electric SUV by 2020. The SUV is to be assembled at the 250,000 unit plant in Pyeongtaek South Korea. and promises a range of 300km with a top speed of 150km/h. Ssangyong earmarked 1 trillion won ($1 billion) for the development of SUVs and EVs over the next four years. The parent Mahindra & Mahindra will support the development with funds and technical assistance.

TOP EV NEWS #5 – MORE REGULATORY SUPPORT FOR EVs

The international promotion of electric vehicles got another leg up this week with the Governments of Thailand and New Zealand announcing incentives to promote the adoption of electric vehicles.

The Thai government set preferential excise duties for electric vehicles as depicted in the slide by the Tax Authority below. Electric Vehicles is one of 10 target industries in Thailand, which is an international auto manufacturing hub. The preferential rates will apply through 2025 and will extend to include EVs and ten EV parts. The ten EV components to benefit from the incentive are batteries, traction motors, battery management services, DC/DC converters, inverters, portable electric vehicle chargers, electrical circuit breakers and EV smart charging systems according to the Bangkok Post.
Thai-ev-incentives

The New Zealand legislature passed the Energy Innovation Amendment Bill to implement sections of the New Zealand Governments Electric Vehicles Program amongst other changes. The amendment comes at a time when New Zealand EV sales for May 2017 smashed records. The amendments make provision for the exemption of EVs from road charges and enabling bylaws allowing special lanes for EVs.

In related news, the US state of Nevada passed Assembly Bill 69 which authorizes the testing of autonomous vehicles on its public roads. Nevada joins an ever increasing list of States allowing for the testing of self-driving cars on public roads. States that already allows for the testing on public roads include Texas, California, Michigan and New York.

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BLOGS OF THE WEEK YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

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Faraday Future’s wheels are coming off

Faraday Future’s wheels are coming off

Faraday Future‘s wheels are coming off due to what its founder, Jia Yeutling, is calling a “big company disease,” being a cash crunch. LeEco, the Chinese equivalent of Netflix and parent company of two EV start-ups, Faraday Future in the USA and LeSee in China, is forced to sell its Silicon Valley property, earmarked for its US headquarters. The sale, reported by Reuters, to Chinese property developer, Genzon Group, will provide the company with $260 million much-needed cash.

LeEco, now known for overpromising and massively under delivering, claimed that its premium car, the Faraday Future FF91, is a “Tesla Killer.” LeEco unveiled the FF91 “Tesla Killer” at the 2017 CES in Las Vegas along with the LeSee concept electric vehicle. While the LeSee received acclaim the launch of the FF91, on the other hand, was a real doozie. Faraday Future quickly published a highly edited version of the launch on its website, but it was too late as real events quickly went viral. See the video at this link. LeEco has also partnered with Aston Martin on the RapidE, where it will help with the development of the zero emission technology.

Faraday Future, a contradiction in terms, is scaling back all its operations in the USA, with the headcount rumored to have halved over the last couple of months. The production facility in North Las Vegas has been scaled back significantly, and although ground-breaking started late 2016, it has just remained that, as no production facilities have been erected. The company could not even pay the $21 million deposit to Aecon despite being offered $300 million by the local authorities for building the assembly plant there. The new phased construction is in line with the company’s reduced model lineup down from 7 models to 2.

The 13-year-old LeEco is financially pressed on all fronts. Rumors have also been flying that it was exciting its India operations and shares in its flagship unit, Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing lost 25% of its value in five months. LeEco, which products include consumer electronics and cellphones, such as the LePro phone were able to raise $2.2 billion from Sunac China Holdings, a property developer. The funds are however not earmarked for LeEco‘s electric car division.

Disruption draws world’s richest to the auto sector

Disruption draws world’s richest to the auto sector

The barriers to entry into auto manufacturing became ever higher over the last 100 years before the disruption caused by technological advances in electric vehicles and self-driving technology. Most of the auto brands that were around at the turn of the century have been around for 50 years or longer; the only newcomers was a spate of Chinese brands backed by the government. For an individual to reach the top 50 position on the Forbes list from vehicle manufacturing was only possible if your parents left you a trust fund with a bunch of 100-year-old stock in a big brand. In fact, the only Forbes Top 50 billionaire from the auto sector was the German’s, Herbert and Johanna Quandt who owned nearly 50% of BMW and Georg Schaeffler (Number 39 on Forbes 2016 list) who inherited the automotive parts company, Schaeffler Group. After their passing of Johanna Quandt, the children, Susanne Klatten (Number 38) and her brother Stefan Quandt (Number 48), became the beneficiaries. Mrs. Klatten invested her fortune in pharmaceuticals, helping her to gain over her brother.

Come to the turn of the century and along came Elon Musk, risking it all on a technology that has been shunned for 100 years by big auto. Being a start-up in a market controlled by a couple of dinosaurs was not easy at first, Mr. Musk had to back himself in the first couple of rounds of fundraising for the electric vehicle company, Tesla. The table below shows that Elon Musk pretty much up until late 2008 lead fundraising and loan rounds. The risk paid off as Elon Musk became by far the richest person in the US auto sector and at the time of going to press Elon Musk jumped to the 83rd position, up from 94 in the official 2016 Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

[supsystic-tables id=105]

Other early billionaires in the technology include the savvy investor Warren Buffet and Vincent Bollore. Warren Buffet, the world’s 3rd richest individual through his Berkshire Hathaway, controlled company, Mid-American Energy Holdings in 2008 bought 10% in BYD, a Chinese battery company, now the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer. The Investment at the time was $230m. Berkshire Hathaway is also a significant minority shareholder in GM.

Vincent Bollore, France’s 10th-richest person with an estimated personal fortune of $6 billion dollars, started manufacturing batteries in his company Bollore Blue Solutions. The firm, situated in Brittany province, who’s batteries are cheaper than lithium-ion cells used in other electric cars, allows it to hold down the cost of his small vehicles.

Suddenly investing in electric vehicles became sexy. Chinese billionaires, mostly from the technology sector, were the first to climb into the auto sector, some more successful than others. The Chinese electric vehicle boom is fuelled by government incentives targeting that 8% of all new vehicles should be EV’s by 2018.

The tech billionaire and founder of BitAuto, an online vehicle sales platform, William Li started the Shanghai-based NextEV.  The company raised $500M of an expected $1Bln already, sporting shareholders such as Tencent, who is also invested in Future Mobility, Hillhouse Capital, who also invested in UBER,  Sequoia Capital and Joy Capital. The company invested C¥3Bln in Nanjing High-Performance Motor Plant to produce 280,000 electric vehicles per year. NextEv also signed a partnership with one of the largest Chinese auto companies, JAC Auto which will see them share technology, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, and capital.

Tencent mentioned above is owned by the world’s 46th richest person, Ma Huateng of China, also know as Pony Ma. Tencent, which applications include the popular WeChat app, aims to leverage its tech experience in a world where connectivity and the Internet of Vehicles will drive the auto industry. The development of electric vehicle technology provides a perfect platform for tech and vehicles to meet. To this end, Tencent created a company Future Mobility and targeted an autonomous vehicle by 2020.

The Chinese billionaire, Jia Yueting, founder of LeEco which owns LeTV, the Netflix of China invested in two electric vehicle companies, LeEco, which developed the acclaimed LeSee concept vehicle and Faraday Future, developer of the disastrous FF91, unveiled at the 2017 CES. Both businesses are known for making bold statements and big ticket announcements just to be followed by press reports of cash flow and funding problems.

The Chinese internet giant, Alibaba, owned and founded by Jack Ma who is 33rd on the 2016 Forbes list, invested $160M in a fund where it partnered with SAIC, one of the largest Auto manufacturers in the China to develop internet connected cars. The first car to come from the partnership is the Roewe OS RX5, where OS stand for Operating System and using SAIC’s luxury brand Roewe as a platform. The software runs on Alibaba’s YunOS operating system. Jack Ma unveiled the car in July 2016. The Alibaba Connected Car will have its own Internet ID, not needing WiFi or GPS services, enabling it to connect and identify drivers wattev2buy alibaba os rx5 internet carthrough their smartphones and wearables. The RX5 has four cameras providing it 360° vision and is voice controlled. The vehicle’s starting price is around $15,000 or C¥100,000.

Alibaba beat other carmakers and tech companies to the finish line with the 2016 release of the RX5. In 2015 Toyota invested $1 billion in artificial intelligence research, while Apple invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-hailing app, Didi Chixing. BMW went into partnership with technology firms Mobileye and Intel, providing the automaker with operating systems and driving assistance software while Kia and Google partnered around the search engine’s Android Auto operating system.

Robin Li, number 90 on Forbes List and owner of Chinese search engine Baidu, partnered with chipmaker Nvidia in September 2016 to develop a computing platform for self-driving cars. Baidu recently received approval from the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles, in Googles back yard. Baidu also partnered with BMW on creating an autonomous car.

Now that the floodgates are open, billionaires from around the world are looking to enter the electric vehicle and self-driving sectors. The world’s fourth richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, announced this early this year that he would back the development of a Mexican-produced electric vehicle through his company, Giant Motors in a joint venture with Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest bread maker. The strategy plays off in an environment where many US based automakers are contemplating bringing production back to the USA amidst President Trumps America First policy environment. Mr. Slim said the electric vehicle would be designed specifically for Mexican conditions.

Bloomberg reported that the JSW Group’s owner and Chairman and India’s 19th richest man, Sajjan Jindal, announced in Davos, Switzerland his intention to enter the Indian Electric Vehicle market by 2020. The metals tycoon expects the Indian government, like many other governments, will promote EVs once it’s more affordable. 

It is clear that some of these businessmen are purely opportunistic, targeting to profit from regulation and subsidies for the promotion of electric vehicles.The majority, however, leverages their passions to bring better and more advanced options to the consumer at a much faster pace than what big auto ever moved in the last 50 years.

Although not mutually inclusive to electric vehicles, self-driving cars, deployable on combustion vehicles also, will drive the second phase of disruption in the auto sector over the next ten years. Self-driving car’s poster child is Google, owned by the 12th and 13th richest individuals in the world, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. The company started testing it’s quirky autonomous vehicle as far back as 2009. Google recently spun the project into a standalone brand, named Waymo, meaning “a new way forward.” The company aims to partner with vehicle manufacturers instead of developing its own car. The first of such efforts was the conversion of 100 Chrysler Pacifica’s Plug-in Hybrid vehicles. Google, in many’s eyes, has lost the lead to Tesla, who’s progression was much faster and already has active Level 2 autonomy available in its production vehicles.

It will be interesting to compare the Forbes list of wealthy individuals ten years from now to one at the start of the century; we expect much more fresh faces who made their money from disrupting the auto sector. As a footnote, the lesson learned time and time again by dinosaurs in an industry are that they become too big, arrogant and slow, creating opportunities for new hungry entrants.

Picture: Source www.technewstoday.com

LeEco announced groundbreaking of plant in Hangzhou China

LeEco announced groundbreaking of plant in Hangzhou China

The controversial LeEco announced the groundbreaking of its plant in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province China. LeEco, owned by the Chinese Internet entertainment company LeTV founded by Chinese businessman Jia Yueting, is entwined between Faraday Future and the LeSee electric vehicle manufactured by LeEco. Both businesses are known for making bold statements and big ticket announcements just to be followed by press reports of cash flow and funding problems. The announcement comes at a time when Faraday Future is battling to break ground on its plant in Northern Los Angeles. The company could not even pay the $21 million deposit to Aecon despite being offered $300 million by the local authorities for building the assembly plant there. 

Mr. Jia Yueting, struggling to keep all the balls in the air, missed the groundbreaking as he had to take over the day-to-day activities of Faraday Future in the US, just weeks prior to the unveiling of its first production vehicle. LeEco has also partnered with Aston Martin on the RapidE, where it will help with the development of the zero emission technology. Faraday Future is said to hold the patents to the electric vehicle technology, but recent reports state that the technology is in fact held by a separate company in the Cayman Islands, creating insecurity for investors and borrowers.

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