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).
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 powertrain, Tata 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.
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.
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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