Top 5 Electric Vehicle News Stories of Week 47 2017

Top 5 Electric Vehicle News Stories of Week 47 2017

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TOP EV NEWS #1 – AUTOMAKERS IN THE EAST IS SLOWING JOINING THE EV REVOLUTION

Aside from Chinese automakers most auto brands from the East have been slow or hostile towards the electric vehicle revolution, either succumbing to hydrogen-based cars prescribed by the dominant Toyota which holds a stake in some auto manufacturers in the East. This week we saw some of them revealing their EV strategies.

One of the last international brands to join the race to develop electric vehicles, Subaru, lifted the lid further on its electrification plans this week. The Japanese Times reported that Subaru would introduce a series of pure electric vehicles produced at its Guma Prefecture for the Japanese market from 2021 according to a source. According to the JT Subaru will also introduce PHEV versions in the USA from 2018 to comply with regulations in its largest market outside of Japan. It is expected that the company will bring PHEVs of the Legacy Outback, Forester SUV, and Impreza sedan to the USA as the carmaker now pins its hopes on EVs to boost its struggling brand image. Subaru which has won various awards for safety despite a recent scandal related to breaches in its final inspection department. To save development costs, the company is considering joining the recently created partnership between Toyota and Mazda to develop EV tech.

Renault Samsung Motors (RSM) unveiled the 2018 Renault Samsung SM3 Z.E. at the Daegu International Future Auto Expo this week. The 2018 Samsung SM3 ZE is based on the Renault Fluence Z.E. which has been discontinued in Europe in 2016. The locally assembled Samsung SM3 Z.E  received a battery upgrade from 22kWh to 36kWh delivering an extended range of 132 miles (213km). The 2018 model is available at a pre-release price 41.5 million SK Won, which is in the region of $38,000, on order. Sales for the Samsung SM3 Z.E. totaled around 3,500 units since its release in 2013 with reports saying that the Ministry of Health purchased 1,200 units earlier the year. According to the statement of the company, the Samsung SM3 has an autonomy of 5 days based on the average commute in South Korea of around 40km per day (25 miles).

Renault samsung sm3 ze week 47 blog

Indian automaker Tata and city-based Jayem Automotives joined forces to revitalize the loss-making Tata Nano with an electric powertrain. The Tata Nano EV will be branded under the NEO brand. Electra EV (Electrodrive Powertrain Solutions Private Limited) will provide the powertrainTata will supply the components, assembly and distribution will be done by Jayem Auto. The Tata Nano EV had some failed starts since 2010. The 4-seat 48-volt NEO Nano with its 17kW electric motor has a range of 200km (ARAI test cycle) or 150km with its aircon on. The NEO Nano is expected to be released soon but will at first only be available to Indian raid-hailing company, Ola Cabs.

tata-nano-ev neo nana ev

TOP EV NEWS #2 – VOLVO TO SUPPLY ROBO-TAXIS FROM 2019

Volvo and controversial raid-hailing company Uber entered into a $300 million partnership in August 2016 to develop robo-taxis built on Volvo’s fully modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). This week the two companies went further with the signing of a non-exclusive framework agreement whereby Volvo will supply 24,000 self-driving cars to Uber from 2019 to 2021. Volvo developed the XC90 SUV with the help of Uber to fulfill the requirements specified for the ride-hailing application. Uber will supply its own self-driving technology while Volvo would be free to add its own autonomous tech for its own use. Volvo is expected to release its first fully autonomous car only in 2021.

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

TOP EV NEWS #3 – SAFETY FEARS SPARK BMW i3 CALLBACK

BMW USA issued a stop-sell of new BMW i3 EVs and recall of all BMW i3 models sold in the country from 2014 to 2018. The call-back only affects BMW i3’s in the USA due to the iconic electric car not complying with the stringent National Highway Safety Administration’s safety specifications. The recall will affect over 30,000 BMW i3’s out of nearly 100,000 sold worldwide. The BMW i3 and i3 REx failed to meet the specifications in a frontal crash test for female’s with a height of 1.51 (5 feet) meters and weighing 50kg (110 pounds) not wearing safety belts. Such an eventuality might sound absurd especially in countries where the wearing of safety belts is required by law. However, in the USA state of New Hampshire, the wearing of safety belts is not enforced by law. Compliance tests by BMW came in below the threshold but are inconsistent with the transport agency’s test leaving the problem unresolved for the moment with no immediate solution.

TOP EV NEWS #4 – END OF THE CHARGE CABLE FOR THE FORD C-MAX ENERGI

A report by Green Car Reports claimed that Ford has stopped producing the Ford C-Max Energi PHEV. Sales for the underperforming Ford C-Max Energi, launched in 2012, have plateaued after 2015 with a total of 41,000 units sold in the USA up to October 2017, contributing nearly 6% of all EVs sold in the country. The Ford C-Max Energi PHEV is also sold in Canada and was for a brief period introduced to the Dutch market back in 2015. Ford has undergone two strategy changes in the last year and is under pressure to cut cost and catch-up with its competitors in the EV race.

TOP EV NEWS #5 – APPLE LIFTS VEIL ON PROJECT TITAN, SLIGHTLY

For long Apple has kept its self-driving program under wraps causing many to think that the company is losing the race against its competitor Google and the rest of the market. Apple’s secretive autonomous project named Project Titan received a permit to test its systems on three 2015 Lexus RX450h cars on California’s public roads in April 2017.

According to Reuters researchers at Apple developed a system only using Lidar to detect cyclists and pedestrians. The report by researchers Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel was published in the independent online journal arXiv. According to the paper, Apple developed a system called “VoxelNet” which uses fewer sensors and is more effective in detecting three-dimensional objects. To date, autonomous systems used a combination of camera’s and Lidar to view the world around the car.

Previous reports claimed that Apple set itself a deadline of 2017 to prove the feasibility to produce an autonomous driving system. The cover picture shows one of the prototypes associated with Apple’s Project Titan.

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A guide to investing in lithium, nickel, and cobalt used for electric vehicles

A guide to investing in lithium, nickel, and cobalt used for electric vehicles

A guide to investing in lithium, nickel, and cobalt used for electric vehicles as it spurs another gold rush as mining companies scramble for “modern” resources such as lithium (white petroleum as its now aptly called), nickel, and cobalt.

Lithium’s properties include being the lightest metal on the Periodic Table which has the highest electrochemical potential of all metals. Lithium is a soft silvery metal that reacts immediately with water and air. Some analyst predicts that current lithium demand would rise from 16,500 to between 120,000 to 250,000 tons by 2025 to feed the 14 battery mega factories that are developed, mainly in China. Rising lithium prices in the short term are not seen as a threat to the electric vehicle sector, as most large battery manufacturers indicated that they had fixed forward prices when we asked them to comment. Lithium prices are set through direct negotiations, as no terminal or spot market exists for the commodity. Investors should be careful not to get to fixated on sentiment and remind themselves that lithium batteries have been around for some time for use in cell phones and other handheld devices. Batteries for these devices, up till now, make up nearly 90% of demand supplied by the likes of Samsung and LG Chem. Lithium is not a scares commodity, and production capacity should increase over the longer term to keep up with the growth in demand due to electric vehicles. Lithium mining is also not an expensive venture. Lithium carbonate is extracted through an evaporation process from a brine found in salt flats. A risk with lithium is that the biggest deposits are concentrated in South America, especially Bolivia, where a handful of mining companies can control prices.

Commodities that shows a bigger opportunity on the upside include nickel, copper, and cobalt. Analyst comments remained bullish on these commodities at the recent African Mining Indaba, held in Cape Town, South Africa. Although Africa also has lithium deposits, its mostly found in rock and more expensive to extract. These deposits are also better suited for the technical applications such as ceramic and glass industries, than chemical applications such as batteries.  Reuters (February the 14th 2017reports that investors are scrambling for physical stocks in cobalt, a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries. By adding cobalt to the chemistry of lithium batteries, car manufacturers can gain range. Cobalt is a buy product of copper, where investors are exposed to larger risk and cost if they invest in mining companies, such as Anglo American, Glencore or BHP Billiton to gain exposure in cobalt. Therefore the only direct investment is to buy and stockpile physical cobalt, a process which has a high barrier of entry, excluding smaller investors. A further concern is that most of the world’s cobalt comes from the Eastern Congo, a war-torn region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to Rwanda and Burundi, whose rebels also use the region as a springboard for causing trouble. The political environment in the DRC has deteriorated and will not improve soon as the country prepares for elections by the end the decade.

Investors trying to make a mint out of the electric vehicle boom should also keep a constant eye on how technology and battery chemistry change in this new and fast-moving sector, creating new opportunities for certain metals or bubbles for those becoming outdated. Let the history of investing in solar cells not repeat itself for battery investors.

Please leave a comment on your best or worst performing electric vehicle related stock pick below.

Picture – Source NY Times