Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Harley-Davidson rebels with an electric motorcycle

MILWAUKEE – Smaller bikes, electric engines and urban storefronts: Harley-Davidson, we hardly knew you.
The Milwaukee-based company, facing dwindling sales in its home market, said Monday it hopes to broaden its appeal and invigorate sales with new products, which next year will include LiveWire, its first electronic motorcycle.
Harley-Davidson, known for its car-alarm triggering engine rumble, said LiveWire will have no clutch and no gears with the goal of making motorcycle riding accessible to more people.
The new products and strategic initiatives come as Harley-Davidson finds itself in the spotlight. It’s dealing with declining sales and an aging riding population amid criticism from President Donald Trump for the company’s decision to move production of motorcycles sold in Europe overseas to avoid retaliatory tariffs the EU is imposing on American exports.
“Alongside our existing loyal riders, we will lead the next revolution of two-wheeled freedom to inspire future riders who have yet to even think about the thrill of riding,” Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said in a statement.
Harley-Davidson will also open smaller storefronts in urban areas to broaden its appeal. And with sales rising in Asia and India, it said it’s developing smaller bikes with 250- to 500-cubic-centimeter engines to make them more accessible in those regions.
The company said LiveWire will be followed by more “twist and go” electric two-wheelers over the next few years that will be lighter and smaller. But the company has no plans to pull back on manufacturing its big bikes, and its new products will include more technology-advanced Touring and Cruiser motorcycle as well.
In all, Harley-Davidson said it plans to release 100 new motorcycles over the next 10 years. During that time, the company also wants to gain 2 million new riders to reverse declining sales.
U.S. sales slid 6.4 percent in the most recent quarter, and they’re down 8.7 percent at the halfway point of the year. Sales in Canada fell 0.5 percent over the past three months and are down 4.9 percent over the past six months.
At the same time, riders are getting older. The Motorcycle Industry Council says the median age of U.S. motorcycle owners increased from 32 to 47 since 1990. About 46 percent of riders are over 50; only about 10 percent are 30-34.
Samantha Kay, a Milwaukee resident who recently learned to ride motorcycles, said she doesn’t picture electric motorcycles when she thinks of Harley-Davidson, but she welcomed news of the LiveWire.
“I would be more inclined to buy it than I would a traditional motorcycle,” said Kay, 25, adding she rode a moped in high school and college and thinks the smaller, electric models would be easier to navigate in the city.
Those models being released in the coming years “will be incredibly approachable to many, many people,” said Robert Pandya, who managed public relations for Indian Motorcycles and Victory Motorcycles. Last year, he launched “Give A Shift,” a volunteer group discussing ideas to promote motorcycling.
“It can fit into your life a lot easier,” he said of the smaller, electric models. “It might bypass licensing requirements in certain states, which is a real game-changer.”

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Volvo’s Polestar performance brand is working on a Tesla Model 3 competitor

Volvo’s dedicated performance and luxury division, Polestar, is apparently gearing up to take on the Tesla Model 3. According to a new report from AutoCar in the U.K., Polestar’s next car, the Polestar 2, will compete directly with the Model 3 and sport an all-electric powertrain with a range up to 350 miles and an output of up to 400 horsepower. It will cost 30,000 to 50,000 British pounds ($40,000 to $66,000 U.S. dollars).

The outlet spoke with Jonathan Goodman, Polestar’s chief operating officer, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently. Polestar was using the spotlight of the festival to showcase its latest Polestar 1 performance hybrid flagship in the U.K. for the first time.
So far, Polestar reports strong initial interest, with more than 600 deposits taken already that total 135,000 pounds ($177,000 U.S). It features a hybrid gas-electric powertrain serving up 592 horsepower and is due for launch in the U.K. sometime in early 2019. Specific details were not shared.
As the company continues developing, researching, and marketing its latest Polestar 2, it has been learning that the entry-level model promises to be the most successful of the incoming lineup.
“That will represent the lower ‘bookend’ of our showroom range and, for now, it should give us as much access to the volume end of the EV market as we need,” Goodman told AutoCar. “The global electric car market was worth 4 million units in 2017. But it’s quite widely expected to be worth 29 million units by 2025. EV owners will come from all walks of life. So it’s a mistake to assume that, because the cars are electric, you have to make them quirky or futuristic.”
Goodman also stressed Volvo’s rather conservative approach toward building and expanding its electric vehicle lineups. His outlook on the matter sees the potential for the global electric car market. But in the same breath, he cautioned about the ambitiousness of other “established automakers,” saying that launching a subbrand for EVs is OK. But if the expansion includes alternative design, that could be detrimental to the success of a new EV brand for any automaker. That’s because in Goodman’s view, too radical of a design could hurt potential brand interest.
And because current market projections predict that the EV market could be approaching nearly 30 million cars worldwide, electric vehicles might not be as niche as some predict. This in turn pressures automakers to make sure that new electric vehicles of the future are just as easy to use as current vehicles.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Sacramento wants you to dump your car and rent one of these 400 electric share vehicles

Sacramento is poised to become the country’s electric car capital under an ambitious program that will bring more than 400 sharable cars to city streets by spring - allowing residents to grab one at the spur of the moment and get around without owning a personal vehicle.
Two car-share companies, GIG Car Share and Envoy Technologies, are working with city officials to launch their services here, starting as early as this summer, funded by a unique Electrify America grant.
The grant funds, $44 million in total, are being paid by automaker Volkswagen as part of its punishment for installing software in its diesel cars that allowed them to cheat on smog tests.
Sacramento was chosen last year as the first recipient of an Electrify America grant and has been working since then to create programs that make it easier for residents to use zero-emission technology. The Electrify America program also includes funds to install electric-car charging stations around the city as well as to run all-electric buses between UC Davis and downtown Sacramento.
“We’re looking for new ... creative solutions in mobility,” city of Sacramento Sustainability Program Manager Jennifer Venema said. “We have studies showing us that each car-share vehicle on the road removes anywhere from eight to 13 personally owned vehicles.”
The upcoming car-share vehicle program represents the most ambitious use so far for Sacramento’s Electrify America grant funds.
One company, GIG Car Share, plans to bring 260 cars, possibly Chevy Bolts, to town by early 2019, allowing residents to pick them up and drop them off anywhere within a geo-coded zone in the central city, expected to be roughly the same as the current JUMP Bike rental zone.
Another firm, a small start-up called Envoy, plans to bring 142 vehicles to town, and could have the first ones in use, in testing mode, as early as next month.
That duo will join Zipcar, an existing car share program that has 20 vehicles and has been in operation in Sacramento since 2013.
“This is where the city of Sacramento is truly a test bed,” the city’s Venema said. “We’ll see what sticks and what works. This is really an experimentation phase.”
Jennifer Gress, policy director for Mayor Darrell Steinberg, said the project is part of the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offering alternatives to daily use of personal cars. “We’re trying to create a complete mobility system where people can get around the whole city without needing a personal vehicle.”
GIG officials said their planned Sacramento fleet would be the largest fully electric car share fleet in the United States. The company, which is an AAA subsidiary, also operates a car sharing fleet of 500 Toyota Prius hybrids in Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley and Albany.
The initial plan is to set up a wide zone in the central city and possible nearby neighborhoods where drivers can find a car, via a mapping app, and then drop it off when done. Company spokesman Michael Blasky said GIG ultimately hopes to widen the pick-up and drop-off zone ”to eventually bring the service to everybody.”
Car users can drive anywhere they want, but must leave the car parked on the street somewhere inside the zone. When using the cars or dropping them off, drivers do not have to pay for parking meters and do not have to pay to recharge the cars.
Blasky said the company is able to track when cars need a charge or need to be moved. He said users won’t get stuck in cars with no juice. “We don’t want people getting into cars that can only go a short distance,” he said.
The fees for the cars are still being worked out. For its hybrid fleet in the East Bay, users are charged $2.50 a mile, $15 per hour or $85 a day. “The service has to be affordable to be competitive,” Blasky said.
The city plans to charge GIG and other car-share companies a fee to reimburse the city for lost parking revenues, and for administrative costs. The City Council is expected to approve negotiated fee rates at its meeting next week.
Envoy, the other company working with the city and Electrify America, will use a different business approach, placing the vehicles on residential private property, notably at lower-rent apartment complexes, allowing residents there easier access to a vehicle.
“We are thrilled to advance equitable, environmentally-friendly transportation alongside Electrify America and the City of Sacramento,” Aric Ohana and Ori Sagie of Envoy Technologies said in an earlier press release. “By bringing our electric vehicles to underserved communities, we’re ensuring the next step in mobility is inclusive and affordable.”

Thursday, 26 July 2018

European Consumers' Attitudes towards Diesel, Hybrid and Electric Cars: 2016-2018 Key Findings

This is an end-consumer survey on the attitude and perception towards diesel, hybrid and electric cars. The aim of this study is to understand consumers' perceptions and attitude towards gasoline, diesel engines, hybrid and electric cars and further analyse their switching behaviour from diesel to hybrid/electric vehicles.
About 2,525 end-consumers were surveyed online in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, all of which count as the largest car markets in Europe. The survey included both male and female respondents from urban, suburban and rural areas who currently own either a gasoline, diesel, hybrid or an electric car. The average annual mileage for a male driver was 19,000 km, and for females 17,500 km.
Research Scope
  • To understand consumers' sustainability and environmental priorities in their life and in their choice of vehicle.
  • To determine consumers' perceptions and attitudes towards different environment and sustainability factors, and to evaluate the importance of each in determining the characteristics of the future powertrain.
  • To determine consumers' perception, concerns and attractiveness of alternative powertrains (hybrid and electric vehicles) in comparison to conventional gasoline and diesel engines.
  • To perform a tracking analysis of changes in consumers' attitudes, perceptions and preferences in comparison to the findings from 2012 and 2014 Powertrain voice of the consumer studies.
  • To determine the impact on consumer perception and attitude towards diesel engines post the Volkswagen (VW) emission scandal.
Key Issues Addressed
  • What are the general purchasing criteria and powertrain attributes that a customer considers while buying a car of his choice?
  • What is the customers' interest in considering a diesel-driven car as their next vehicle of purchase? How is the customer perception about diesel cars changing? What is the impact of the VW emission scandal on this perception?
  • What is consumer perception of xEVs? How does it change by EV type - mild, full, plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars? What are key reasons for consideration of xEVs?
  • How has the awareness level about xEVs improved over the last few years? How has the switching behaviour changed over a period of years?
Key Topics Covered
1. Executive Summary
2. Research Objectives and Methodology
3. Respondent Profiles
4. General Criteria for Purchasing a New Vehicle
5. Consumer Attitude Towards Diesel Cars
6. Consumer Attitude Towards Hybrid and Electric Cars
7. Switching Analysis
8. Growth Opportunities and Companies to Action
9. Conclusions
10. Appendix

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Germany installs more electric car chargers, but still unprofitable

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany has increased the number of public charging points for electric cars by a quarter in the past year, utility lobby BDEW said on Wednesday, although it said it was still not a profitable business.
Since the end of June 2017, 2,800 new public charging points have been added, bringing the total to 13,500, BDEW said.
Charging networks for battery-powered cars are expanding and carmakers are developing electric car models as part of a shift to low-carbon mobility.
BDEW said power companies were building and operating most of the charging facilities but the industry was being let down by carmakers, which were not yet offering enough electric car models at competitive prices for consumers.
“Over three quarters of charging points are operated by electricity companies, although in view of the small number of e-cars, this is not profitable,” said Stefan Kapferer, managing director of BDEW.
“If electric mobility is to achieve a breakthrough in Germany in the next few years, then the car industry has to offer models to the market that can compete on price and performance with the combustion engine,” said BDEW managing director Stefan Kapferer.
Others offering chargers include car park operators, supermarkets and hotels that subsidize charging facilities as add-on services that they hope will bring more revenue streams from cross-selling or pooling battery storage.
Germany had wanted 1 million battery-powered cars by 2020 but currently has less than 100,000.
Take-up by customers of government funds aimed at promoting the technology has been hampered by the cost of the cars and limits on their driving ranges. This in turn delays the roll out of infrastructure to encourage usage, analysts say.
BDEW said the government should change residential property laws to enable more investment in private charging points, because 80 percent of future charging processes needed to take place at home rather than in public.
Car owners that do not want to charge at snail’s pace at home must now buy loading boxes, a cost of several thousand euros each, to speed charging beyond the level offered by a conventional domestic socket.

Home users also need permission from their local power provider to install the boxes, as too many cars loading simultaneously during peak evening hours would overload neighborhood power networks.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

BMW Wanting Bigger Say in China Leaves Partner Under Pressure

Downward pressure on the shares of BMW AG’s Chinese partner may not be over as investors gauge the impact of the German luxury-car maker potentially gaining a bigger stake in the companies’ joint venture.
Brilliance China Automotive Holding Ltd. has slid 20 percent since news emerged on July 12 about BMW’s plan, which would leave the Chinese company entitled to a smaller share of the venture’s future earnings. The stock is the worst performer this month among Chinese car stocks traded in Hong Kong. Haitong Securities on July 19 cutBrilliance China to sell from buy.
BMW is poised to become the first foreign car company to take majority control of its Chinese venture, a person familiar with the matter said this month. That raises questions about the profitability of Brilliance, which got most of its earnings from the partnership last year. Both Brilliance and BMW, which currently owns 50 percent of the venture, have yet to confirm the plan.
“The pressure on Brilliance’s share price is caused by the uncertainty on this recent news," said Steve Man, a senior car analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong. “Obviously, a change in ownership structure will cut into Brilliance’s earnings.”
It isn’t clear how a stake increase by BMW would comply with the current Chinese rules. While China is opening up its car market -- the world’s biggest -- for global competition, for now foreign carmakers’ ownership in Chinese joint ventures is capped at 50 percent. China said in April it is scrapping the limit for electric-car ventures as soon as this year. For commercial vehicles, the cap will be eliminated in 2020 and the one for passenger vehicles will end in 2022.
Yet as trade relations with the U.S. worsen, China and Germany are forging closer ties with each other. BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger was in Berlin this month during a summit between Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among discussions were opportunities to open up China more to foreign investment.
“Given the current trade tension between China and U.S., it makes sense for China to express goodwill toward European countries," said Patrick Yuan, an analyst at Jefferies Hong Kong Ltd. who reiterated his underperform rating on Brilliance on July 12. “The government is likely to further accelerate the pace of auto industry reform and it is highly likely that Brilliance will be the very first one.”
To be sure, analysts as a whole are still mostly in favor of investing in the stock, with 31 buy ratings, 2 sells and 5 holds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average target price is 71 percent higher above where the stock now trades, and analysts on average project annual sales growth of about 9 percent over the next three years as the Chinese car market expands.
“We have seen previous periods when Brilliance’s share price corrected sharply and then rebounded,” said Janet Lewis, an analyst at Macquarie in Tokyo with an outperform rating on the stock. “Overall, I find volatility in the China auto sector much more extreme than in developed markets."

Sunday, 22 July 2018

These 6 companies are making the self-driving truck a reality

t is easy to be distracted by the autonomous car industry, as shiny, self-driving vehicles from Waymo, Tesla, GM and others navigate without (much) human guidance.
However as glitzy as this may be, autonomy is also shaking up the trucking industry in an equally profound way. They might not capture as many headlines, or find themselves the stars of the world's most glamorous motor shows. But they are being worked on by at least half a dozen companies right now — some are decades-old automakers, others are brand new startups.
Here, GearBrain looks at six autonomous truck companies we think you should know.
The aim of San Francisco-based Embark is to automate the freeway part of a truck's journey. Founded in 2016, Embark lets the system take over, with the driver taking over when the truck exits the freeway, to navigate the more complex roads of towns and cities themselves.
The approach is designed so truck drivers can complete more journeys per day, as they're spending less time doing the actual driving. The company is currently operating test vehicles (with humans monitoring from behind the wheel) on the I-10 freeway between El Paso, Texas and Palm Springs, California.
Embark has already used its technology to drive a truck across the U.S., through adverse weather conditions like rain and fog, navigating highway transfers without human assistance. Embark's employees previously worked at companies like Audi and Apple, and the startup has raised an estimated $17.2 million, according to data by Crunchbase, valuing it at $75 million.
Daimler / Mercedes
An automotive veteran and parent of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler has been in the autonomous truck race for longer than most others, first demonstrating a self-driving vehicle back in 2014. Called the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the vehicle uses a system called Highway Pilot to navigate highways without human assistance.
So far, Mercedes has concentrated on platooning, where trucks drive themselves closely behind one another, reducing air resistance and lowering their fuel usage by a claimed 10 percent. Each vehicle still has a driver for safety and for taking over when exiting the freeway.
Uber / Otto
Uber acquired autonomous truck startup Otto in the summer of 2016 for $650 million, seven months after it was founded. Now a part of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group, the trucks can drive themselves on the highway — but hands itself over to a human driver to navigate the smaller and more complex roads until they reach their destination.
In October 2016, an Otto truck hauled almost 52,000 can of Budweiser 120 miles along the Interstate 25 through Colorado. The driver sat in the back of the cab, while the truck navigated the highway itself — albeit with a police escort.
As of March 2018, Uber said its autonomous trucks had driven a collective two million miles, and that they had begun regularly transporting freight in Arizona. However, all of Uber's autonomous trials in the U.S. and Canada were put on hold after one of the company's autonomous test cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It is not known when testing on public roads — of its cars or trucks — will restart.
Better known as Google's self-driving car division, Waymo announced in March 2018 it has plans to automate trucks too. That month, the company launched a pilot in Atlanta where Waymo-branded trucks carried freight bound for Google's data centers.
Although Waymo tested its truck-driving system for a year in California and Arizona ahead of the pilot, it still has "highly trained" safety drivers behind the wheel to monitor the technology and take over control if required.
Waymo said in March: "Our software is leaning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer."
Despite fears that autonomous trucks will cause widespread unemployment in the driving community, Waymo says: "Trucking is a vital part of the American economy, and we believe self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and even stronger."
In 2016, Volvo demonstrated how its autonomous trucks platoon to improve both safety and efficiency.
It may not have been the most exciting demo, but when it comes to 70,000-pound trucks barreling down the highway under computer control, boring is exactly what you want.
The demonstration showed how the lead truck controls the accelerator and brakes of the two following trucks, meaning they all speed up and slow down together, thus removing the delays caused by driver reaction time.
Platooning like this also helps remove unnecessary braking and accelerating, and following each other closely lowers wind resistance, which in turn lowers fuel use. Drivers still all look after their own steering, but Volvo says this could also be automated in the future.
Volvo, which has partnered with FedEx, claims that if the computer-controlled trucks follow each other just one second apart, fuel economy can be improved by 10 percent, leading to significant savings for haulage companies who employ such a system.
Tesla unveiled its first truck in November 2017 and plans to start delivering the electric vehicles in 2019. Company boss Elon Musk said at the launch that the semis would get Tesla's Autopilot self-driving software as standard.
Like on Tesla cars, Autopilot for trucks will provide a semi-autonomous system where the vehicle's accelerator, brakes and steering are managed by the computer on highways with clear lane markings, but the driver must remain fully alert and with a hand on the wheel at all times.
On top of this, Musk said this version of Autopilot will have truck-specific features like an anti-jackknifing system. The eventual goal is to employ a platooning feature for Tesla trucks to autonomously follow each other and have only the lead truck controlled fully by a human driver.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

How Porsche Will -- and Won't -- Beat Tesla's Superchargers

Blume is standing on an auto-show stage with the Taycan, a sleek white sports sedan, and a vintage Porsche sports car.

Investors in Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) often point to the company's network of high-speed recharging stations as a key advantage. Most Tesla owners can use the stations and their "Superchargers" for free -- an important selling point that has helped Tesla win over wary first-time electric-car owners.
While other providers are stepping up to build high-speed recharging stations in the U.S. and Europe, as of right now, Tesla is the only electric-vehicle maker with a robust high-speed recharging network. It's a powerful selling point that any major automaker looking to compete with Tesla has to be able to counter.
So far, no rival automaker has proposed to build a recharging network that's anything like Tesla's. But one company that's looking to directly challenge Tesla in the market for upscale, fast electric vehicles has come up with a counter for the Supercharger argument that doesn't involve building thousands of stations.
That company, German sports-car maker Porsche, plans to beat Tesla in a different way: by beating its recharging technology.

Porsche's proprietary chargers will be Porsche-fast

Porsche is a small company by auto-industry standards. But because it's a subsidiary of global giant Volkswagen AG (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY), Porsche's elite engineering team can develop expensive advanced technology that it might not otherwise be able to afford to put into production.
That team has developed a key piece of new technology for Porsche's upcoming electric vehicles. While the electric Porsches will be able to recharge using the common CCS DC Fast recharging standard, they'll also accept proprietary Porsche "Turbo Chargers" that operate at 800 volts, twice the industry standard.
Here's what makes them special: Those 800-volt, 350-kilowatt chargers will allow the Porsches to recharge to 80% of capacity in just 15 minutes. That's half the time required by Tesla's current Superchargers, and it gives Porsche's dealers a powerful way to counter that key Tesla selling point.

Porsche has already begun installing Turbo Chargers at its dealers

Of course, Tesla will still be able to point out that Porsche won't be building a network of thousands of proprietary recharging stations. But Porsche's dealers will have Turbo Chargers available, some other sites may install them -- and Porsche may offer them to owners for home installation.
In fact, the first two Porsche Turbo Chargers are already installed and working, at a Porsche dealership near Berlin. While there are no Porsches that can take advantage of the 800-volt chargers (aside from factory prototypes) yet, the station also includes two conventional CCS fast-chargers that can be used by many electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, including Porsche's own plug-in hybrid models.
Expect Porsche to open more stations over the next several months, as it prepares for the launch of its first battery-electric vehicle next year. The company is known to have two BEVs in development: The first, a four-door sports sedan called the Taycan, is expected sometime in 2019. It'll be followed by an SUV-like variant currently known by its show-car name, the Mission E Cross Turismo, that will enter production in about 2021.
Four electric-vehicle chargers in the parking lot of a Porsche dealership. A black Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid is plugged into one of the conventional chargers.

Will it be enough to offset Tesla's huge Supercharger network?

I think that if Porsche installs Turbo Chargers at all of its dealerships, that -- plus the increasing availability of CCS DC Fast chargers in Europe and the United States over the next couple of years -- will probably be enough to counter the Supercharger argument in the minds of most buyers.
Remember, Porsche is a small, luxury automaker. It's unlikely to sell electric vehicles in the mass-market numbers to which Tesla aspires. It doesn't need to have Turbo Chargers on every corner: It just needs to have enough -- alongside the growing network of CCS fast chargers -- to give potential owners confidence they can travel with their cars.
Will Porsche's plan exceed that "enough" threshold? We'll start to find out when the Taycan begins arriving at dealers next year.
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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Rolls-Royce announces it will launch electric flying taxi

Rolls-Royce Introduces a Hybrid VTOL Concept at Farnborough 
Rolls-Royce unveiled a concept electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle at the Farnborough International Airshow in Britain. The vehicle could carry as many as five passengers at speeds up to 250 miles per hour for approximately 500 miles, according to Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce said the vehicle could be airborne as soon as the early 2020s, but the company said it plans to create a vehicle prototype within the next 18 months.
"Building on our existing expertise in electric technologies and aviation, Rolls-Royce is actively exploring a range of possible markets and applications for electric and hybrid electric flight," said Rob Watson, who heads Rolls-Royce's Electrical team, in a news release. "We are well placed to play a leading role in the emerging world of personal air mobility and will also look to work in collaboration with a range of partners."
The British-based company makes commerical jet engines. Referring to Rolls-Royce as "pioneers," Watson added that the company was among the first to develop turbo-prop and jet engines.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars — a company owned by German car manufacturer BMW — is not associated with the effort to create flying taxis.
The company said its concept vehicle would be powered by six electric propulsors "specially designed to have a low noise profile." To take off or land vertically, the company said, the vehicle's wings would rotate 90 degrees. Once the craft reaches its cruising height, its vehicle's propellers would fold away and the craft would rely on several rear propellers for thrust.
Rolls-Royce said the vehicle would fill a niche created by overtaxed transportation systems in increasingly crowded cities. Watson told Agence France-Presse that he envisions an electric version of the vehicle moving passengers around a city but a hybrid propulsion system carrying passengers longer distances, such as between London and Paris. The company noted that the vehicle could be adapted for military purposes as well, though no detail was provided.
"Electrification is an exciting and inescapable trend across industrial technology markets and while the move to more electric propulsion will be gradual for us, it will ultimately be a revolution.

Nissan Leaf 2.0 is best selling electric car in Europe

It's interesting. As the very happy owner of a used Nissan Leaf, I expected to see many more of them on the road once the longer range 2.0 model was revealed. After all, 150 miles of range (compared to 83 miles for my 2013 model) is a considerable improvement on what is already—for me—an extremely practical second car.
Yet since the reveal, I've seen precisely one of these cars out on the roads of North Carolina. And that's compared to the several Tesla Model 3s and Chevy Bolts I see jetting around town.
My impressions would seem to be backed up by US sales data. Yet it's important to note that the Leaf is very far from being a flop—it just might not be the right car for the American market, where longer distance travel is more commonplace. Indeed, we reported before that the Leaf 2.0 was selling like crazy in Europe, yet only modestly here in the US, and Electrek tells us that this trend continues, with Nissan reporting 18,000 deliveries and 37,000 orders between January and June.
That would, as Electrek notes, make it the best selling electric car in Europe. And puts it firmly in the category of "supply constrained" rather than "demand constrained"—meaning there are plenty of consumers wanting to purchase a model, if only they can get their hands on one.
I continue to believe that shorter range, lower priced electric cars make an awful lot of sense for many drivers, and European drivers would seem to agree. Even in America, I suspect that many of us would be surprised at just how practical 150 miles of range turns out to be. But given the dominance of the road trip as a cultural phenomenon, it might take a little more persuasion.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

EU Electric-Car Sale Growth Sputters on Battery, Charging Limits

Sales growth of electric and plug-in hybrid cars has dimmed across the European Union’s major markets during the first half of this year because of limited driving ranges and a patchy charging network.
Registrations of electric cars rose 33 percent in the six months through June, compared to a 54 percent surge a year earlier, consultancy EY said Tuesday. Strong demand in Germany, the EU’s biggest auto market, wasn’t enough to offset meeker growth in the U.K., the second largest.
“Electric cars remain a niche product for now,” EY partner Peter Fuss said in a statement. “Charging infrastructure remains inadequate and the models currently available mostly don’t offer a good enough range.”
Carmakers in Europe are under pressure to meet tough new EU rules on lowering fleet carbon dioxide emissions that will be phased in during 2020. Consumers staying on the fence on electric cars, and favoring gasoline cars over diesel engines, raises the stakes for manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV who risk steep fines if they exceed the new ceiling. Diesel cars emitting about a fifth less CO2 than equivalent gasoline vehicles.
Demand for diesel has slumped in the EU’s biggest automotive markets during the first half of the year as buyers worry about driving bans in cities, three years on from Volkswagen AG’s emissions cheating. At the same time, sales of gasoline cars have jumped 16 percent.
Carmakers including BMW AG, Daimler and Volkswagen will unveil a range of new electric products in the coming years, such as the BMW iX3 sport utility vehicle and VW’s I.D. mass-market range, a standalone battery lineup.
“The situation will only change in the medium-term,” said Fuss. “Starting in the luxury segment, electric powertrains will establish themselves as serious alternatives.”

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Tesla Hits 200K Cars, Loses Half of Buyer Tax Credits

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has hit a major milestone, by delivering 200,000 electric cars to U.S. customers. That’s obviously good news for the company and TSLA stock investors. However, that success comes with a downside.

News that Tesla will be losing that big carrot pushed Tesla stock down 1.7% on Thursday before it recovered to close down less than 1% on the day.

Purchase Tax Credit to Begin Winding Down for Tesla Cars

Currently, customers who buy one of Tesla’s electric vehicles — the Model S, Model X or Model 3 — are eligible for a $7,500 federal income tax credit. However, Tesla confirmed yesterday that it has hit a key threshold: the delivery of 200,000 vehicles to U.S. customers.
That’s the sort of news that the company would normally celebrate and that would help to put some bounce in TSLA stock. It’s certainly better than many of the headlines about the company this year. But in this case, the big numbers come with a significant cost.
The clock is now ticking on that $7,500 tax credit, which will be phased out starting next year. Tesla updated its Electric Vehicles Incentives information page overnight to reflect the situation. For vehicles delivered before Dec. 31, nothing changes. Those buyers still get the full incentive. But on Jan. 1, the tax credit gets cut in half to $3,750. And on July 1 of next year, it gets cut again to $1,875.

The Impact on TSLA of Phasing Out the Tax Credit

In the grand scheme of things, losing the $7,500 tax credit probably isn’t a big deal from someone who is willing to shell out $80,000 or more on a Tesla Model X. But on a $35,000 base Tesla Model 3 (assuming the company will actually sell you one), that $7,500 makes a huge difference. Part of the selling proposition of the Model 3 has been that you could pick one up by effectively paying just $27,500 –performance, luxury, technology, prestige and no more gas pump, at a cost that’s lower than the average new car price.
The phasing out of the incentive hits Tesla in two ways, however, both of which could impact sales –and TSLA stock.
Tesla is the first electric car manufacturer to hit the 200,000 threshold. This means rival electric cars like General Motors (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Bolt will have a price advantage over Tesla because they continue to receive the full credit (at least until they also hit 200,000 deliveries). Companies like BMW that make higher end EVs that compete with Tesla in the premium market will also continue to enjoy that tax credit advantage.
The second issue is that with the phasing out of the tax credit, the base Tesla Model 3 becomes more expensive than the average gasoline-powered car. That will make it harder for the company to convince average consumers to make the leap from their current ride to a Tesla.
The company has said the mass-market Model 3 “that an average Joe can afford” is the key to its long-term success. The phasing out of the $7,500 tax credit is likely to hit hardest at the lower end of its product range, making the Model 3 less affordable to those average consumers it needs to attract.
And if the Model 3 stumbles, that means trouble for Tesla. That’s why TSLA stock dipped on the news of hitting 200,000 cars delivered, rather than the milestone being a celebration.