TOP EV NEWS #1 – CONFUSION AND CONCERN AFTER GEELY BUYS DAIMLER SHARE
The Chinese auto sector is getting ever confusing after this weeks announcement that Geely‘s owner Li Shufu, one of China’s top 10 billionaires, amassed a 10% stake in Daimler, making him the single largest shareholder in one of Germany’s crown jewels. The transaction comes shortly after Daimler’s approval to acquire around 5% in Geely competitor BAIC BJEV, Daimlers partner to develop electric vehicles in China. Daimler is also a JV shareholder with BYD in the EV manufacturer Denza. Geely already owns Volvo which competes with Mercedes on passenger vehicles and trucks. The reasoning behind the acquisition in Daimler by Li Shufu is to force an alliance on the development of electric and self-driving vehicles and to gain access to Daimler’s technology. The acquisition by Geely in Daimler could very well put pressure on the German company’s partnership with BAIC. Volvo Trucks dropped the chief executive of Geely’s Volvo Cars from its board within a day from the announcement. The Swedish truckmaker cites competition concerns with rival Daimler as the reason behind the decision.
Germany tightened its rules on foreign takeovers after a series of deals by Chinese company’s gaining them access to German technology. The string of transactions is in an environment where Chinese companies are becoming increasingly confident and assertive while western companies are prohibited from acquiring controlling ownership of Chinese rivals. The stealth transaction by Li Shufu, the son of a farmer, is under investigation as he surprised the market due to not disclosing breaching the 3 and 5% thresholds as required by German law.
The transaction is highlighting concerns by the West that China is gaining access to proprietary technical know-how, which has up to now been one of the regions aces in international trade. The trend is not just limited to auto companies, Chinese tech giant Tencent acquired a 5% stake in Tesla in 2017 while at the same time investing in electric and autonomous technologies through investments in NIO and Weima. Although the Tencent shareholding does not allow the company direct access to Tesla’s IP, it still provides the company access to Tesla’s strategy and business decisions. Tencent also partnered with GAC recently on the development of self-driving technology. Another Chinese auto company that bought into western technology is SAIC which acquired British icon MG.
TOP EV NEWS #2 – NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLES
This week saw the following launches and announcements related to new electric vehicles:
- Hyundai – Hyundai digitally premiered the new Hyundai Kona EV first revealed in June 2017. Hyundai surprised the market with the release of two models in the series following on the trend set by Tesla to have a long and short range battery electric version. The long-range Hyundai Kona has a total range of 470km / 294mi according to the WLTP based target. For the full lowdown click here.
- Jaguar – The Tata-owned luxury car maker launched the long-anticipated the Jaguar I-PACE this week. The Jaguar i-PACE, which the company dubs the Tesla killer, is available from the second half of 2018 in a Launch Edition and three trims. For full specs, charging time and expected pricing for its major markets see our dedicated page here.
- Skoda – Specifications for the VW subsidiary first EV was revealed this week. The Skoda Superb PHEV is based on the VW Passat GTE drivetrain with an improved battery giving the Czech based model an improved driving range of 70km (44miles). The Skoda Superb PHEV is available form 2019, see the available specs here.
- Skoda’s strategy remains stubbornly committed to fossil fuels as the automaker believes combustion vehicles can be just as clean as electric vehicles. The company announced this week that it would unveil the ŠKODA VISION X at the Geneva Motor Show 2018 this week. The VISION X drivetrain comprises of petrol, gas and electric power ensuring CO2 emissions of only 89 g/km. The internal combustion engine is a 1.5-litre TSI G-TEC four-cylinder turbocharged engine specifically designed for use with CNG (compressed natural gas). The CNG drive produces a maximum output of 96 kW (130 hp) and a maximum torque of 250 Nm. One CNG tank is located under the rear seat; the second behind the rear axle. The CNG unit drives the front axle; an electric motor drives the rear axle. This is activated as needed – to engage additional power when starting (boost effect) or to improve the traction on smooth surfaces and off-road. The capacity of the compact energy storage unit for the electric motor is sufficient to drive the concept study over a distance of up to two kilometers on electric power alone.
TOP EV NEWS #3 – NEW BATTERY RECYCLING RULES IN CHINA
The Chinese Government published interim rules this week regulating the recycling of electric vehicle batteries. The new rules will make electric vehicle manufacturers responsible for the recycling of batteries powering their cars as waste is expected to rise to 170,000 tonnes in 2018. According to the rules manufacturers must:
- Set up recycling channels and service outlets where batteries can be delivered by drivers, stored and collected by specialist recyclers;
- Establish a maintenance service network where drivers can repair or exchange their old batteries;
- Tracking batteries and identifying owners of discarded batteries which is part of rules to encourage good recycling practices among drivers. Car makers must also provide subsidies or battery repurchase agreements with owners to support recycling efforts;
- Provide technical training for dealers and car makers to store and dismantle batteries;
- One of the most interesting points in the rules is that battery makers should be encouraged to adopt standardized designs, to help automate the recycling process which could lead to cheaper EVs in the future.
The Indian automaker Mahindra and Mahindra and Korean battery maker LG-Chem entered into a partnership agreement this week. According to the agreement, LG Chem will develop a unique cell exclusively for India application and will also supply Li-ion cells based on NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) chemistry with high energy density. These cells will be deployed in the Mahindra and SsangYong range of Electric Vehicles. LG Chem will also design the Li-ion battery modules for Mahindra Electric, which in turn will create battery packs for the Mahindra Group and other customers.
TOP EV NEWS #4 – UPS COMMISSION 50 EV TRUCKS FROM WORKHORSE
Recently UPS, the delivery company, changed its procurement rules so that it will acquire one in four vehicles based on alternative fuel or advanced vehicle technology from 2020. Currently, UPS deploys around 35,000 diesel or gasoline trucks. This week UPS commissioned Ohio based Workhorse to develop 50 zero-emission electric trucks which the company is to custom design, concluding a 4-year innovation project between the two companies. Each truck will have a range of approximately 100 miles between charges, ideal for delivery routes in and around cities. The class 5, zero-emission delivery trucks will rely on a cab-forward design, which optimizes the driver compartment and cargo area, increasing efficiency and reducing vehicle weight. Once the pilot of the Workhorse truck is successfully concluded it will be included in UPS’s Rolling Lab, a fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles which already include 300 electric vehicles in the US and Europe. In 2017 UPS was one of the first fleet owners to order 125 Tesla Semi‘s and will be the first company in the USA to use the Fuso eCanter with the delivery of three units later this year.
TOP EV NEWS #5 – STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
The Indian company Tata Technologies and Chinese EV start-up NIO entered into an agreement this week where Tata will be NIO’s preferred engineering partner for NIO’s complete EV range, starting with the 7-seater electric all-aluminum ES8. The agreement is one of the first significant collaborations between companies from the two countries in the EV sector.
Mr. Roger Malkusson, Vice President, Vehicle Engineering for NIO, recognized Tata Technologies’ contribution, and said, “We have an ambitious goal of delivering a new premium user experience with electric vehicles that will set benchmarks globally and Tata Technologies is our partner of choice to help achieve this. They were able to pool in experts and teams from China, India, UK and Romania to work together with the NIO engineering team to deliver the final product which adhered to the highest standards in safety and finesse. The first finished product, ES8, is an all-aluminum SUV that broke lightweight index benchmarks and was delivered in record time from a blank page to a validation vehicle in world class duration.”
Mini and Great Wall Motors of China signed a letter of intent for the production of the new Mini EV for the Chinese market. Production of the new electric Mini will commence at Mini’s main plant in Oxford in 2019. It is unclear why Mini did not partner with BMW Group’s existing partner, Brilliance Automotive, through its joint venture enterprise BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA). In the press release, BMW Group confirmed its commitment to the BBA JV which includes two automobile production locations, an engine plant, which includes a battery factory for electrified BMW brand vehicles produced locally in Shenyang.
TOP EV NEWS – AUTONOMOUS NEWS FROM PAST WEEK
Its all about funding this week.
Volvo launched a new investment fund, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund targeting investments in high potential technology start-ups around the globe. The aim of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund is to invest in strategic technology trends that are transforming the industry, such as artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous driving and digital mobility services. Volvo also announced its first investment by the fund, a seed round investment into a California-based technology firm developing advanced sensors. Start-ups funded by Volvo will have exposure to the Chinese car market through the Swedish automaker’s parent, Geely. The fund will be managed Zaki Fasihuddin, currently Vice President of Strategic Partnerships in the Volvo Cars Silicon Valley Technology Center.
May Mobility, the first autonomous vehicle company to replace existing transportation systems with its fleets of self-driving micro-shuttles, announced the successful conclusion of an $11.5M seed funding round to accelerate deployment of self-driving shuttle fleets across the USA. Co-leads in the funding round is BMW i Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures. Other investors include Maven Ventures, SV Angel, Tandem Ventures, Trucks Ventures, and YCombinato.
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