Saturday, 26 September 2020

,Tesla's new battery technology could drive down cost of electric cars

Tesla has announced new, internally-produced batteries for its electric cars, signaling a major shift from the automaker that, if successful, could significantly reduce the cost of electric vehicles.

Tesla's new battery cell features a "tabless" design, which the company claims will provide five times the energy, six times the power, and 16% more range compared to its old battery cell.

The company's current vehicles use batteries sourced from suppliers like Panasonic, where the energy stored in the battery pack is transferred to the car's drivetrain via a conductive metal tab.

The new battery pack accomplishes the same thing by using a design that integrates a series of small bumps and spikes, which the company hopes will eliminate the need for a tab, and consequently drive down costs and production time. Musk tweeted the tech is "way more important than it sounds," after the patent was approved back in May.

"This is not just a concept or a rendering; we are starting to ramp up manufacturing of these cells at our pilot ten gigawatt-hour production facility," said Drew Baglino, Tesla's Senior Vice President, Powertrain and Energy Engineering.

Tesla also said the new batteries would be 56% less expensive to manufacture and are being developed entirely in-house.

"They own the whole widget," said Car and Driver Senior Editor of Technology Roberto Baldwin, "which is what gives them the ability to control every aspect, and to tweak as much efficiency as they can out of everything -- out of their batteries, out of their motors, out of their inverters."

Tesla's investment in its own battery technology doesn't mean it's ramping down partnerships with other battery producers, Musk said. In a tweet prior to Tuesday's event, the CEO said the company plans to "increase, not reduce battery cell purchases from Panasonic, LG & CATL (possibly other partners too.)" He also said the company is predicting shortages in battery cells from those suppliers and is ramping up in-house efforts to mitigate those shortfalls.

Musk said during the event that Tesla is planning to produce 100 gigawatt-hours of battery cells per year by 2022, and three terawatt-hours of cells per year by 2030.

"It allows us to make a lot more cars and a lot more stationary storage," he said.

Bringing down the cost of battery production is part of Tesla's plan to eventually sell 20 million vehicles annually -- about fifty times more than they sell now, the company said.

"I think twenty million is doable," said Car and Driver's Baldwin. "As long as they can continue to grow, and continue to invest and sort of stay ahead of everyone."

Part of that 20 million vehicle goal will come from a Tesla model the company is planning to sell for $25,000, expected to be available in about three years. The car, which would undercut Tesla's current Model 3 sedan as the brand's cheapest vehicle, would be fully autonomous, Musk said.

"It was always our goal to try to make an affordable electric car," said Musk.

Musk said that while production on the new batteries is underway, it will take between a year and 18 months to fully ramp up production, and even longer for the technology to show up in actual vehicles.

However, "Tesla has repeatedly set timetables and timelines, and then they've missed them," said Baldwin.

The Model 3 faced significant delays as the company ramped up production in 2017. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, Tesla has also pushed back planned releases for its "Semi" truck and "Roadster" sports car. But Baldwin says the company is making improvements, noting that the Model Y crossover was released ahead of schedule.

"On the one hand, they're taking all the learnings they've gotten over the past ten, twelve years, and they're using that to make their batteries better," Baldwin said. "But there's still the potential this could be delayed another year, another four years."

Tesla's battery announcement comes at a time of increased competition in the electric vehicle market. Earlier this month, Lucid, an EV startup founded by the former head of engineering for Tesla's own Model S sedan, unveiled an electric sedan called the Air, with a claimed 503 miles of range. General Motors' "Ultium" battery pack, which the company unveiled earlier this year, is set to underpin 13 new electric vehicle models across four brands, starting with a new "HUMMER" pickup truck.

Volkswagen also says it plans to produce 1.5 million EVs annually by 2025, and unveiled the ID4, an electric crossover SUV that's expected to have 310 miles of range, on Wednesday.

California require electric vehicles comes amid massive shift in auto industry


California could join France, Norway and the United Kingdom in banning cars with traditional combustion engines, after Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles in the Golden State by 2035.

But there are plenty of obstacles, including the technical challenges of sourcing raw materials and producing enough batteries and fuel-cells, as well as the need to deliver vehicles consumers will want to buy.

“If the government tells you that you can’t build anything other than electric vehicles, consumers will have no other products to choose from,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal automotive analyst with Guidehouse Insights. “New vehicle sales could drop precipitously, with many people choosing to just drive the the gas- and diesel-powered vehicles they have a lot longer,” he added.

So far, battery cars have generated modest sales, barely hitting 2 percent of U.S. demand, according to industry data. Even in California, the epicenter of the American EV market, the figure is just 10 percent.

However, there is growing optimism that even without new mandates, sales will surge. At the launch on Wednesday of Volkswagen's ID.4, its first long-range electric car for the U.S., VW Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said he expects U.S. demand will reach “15 to 20 percent” by 2025, and then "spike up from there."

Guidehouse forecasts sales of hybrids, plug-ins and BEVs will reach 1.13 million this year, 5 million by 2025, and 12.5 million in 2030.

The U.S. is far from the leader. China — which is also studying a ban on gas-powered vehicles — is now the world’s largest market for BEVs. From a percentage standpoint, however, demand in Norway has hit as high as 70 percent at times over the last several years.

The auto industry has long dragged its feet on the matter of electric vehicles, but now there’s a massive shift under way — and not just from new entrants such as Tesla, Lucid and Rivian. GM CEO Mary Barra said General Motors is on “a path to an all-electric future,” with “20 or more” BEVs planned by 2023. VW, meanwhile, targets 50 by 2025 through its various brands. Even niche players like Rolls-Royce are plugging in.

Rolls will show off its first fully electric model before the end of the year, it confirmed this week, an inevitability “if legislation forbids (owners) from driving a combustion-engined car into the center of a city” like Paris, Los Angeles or London, some of the brand’s most important markets, a spokesman for the British marque told Automotive News.

The U.S. trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation said on Thursday that “neither mandates nor bans build successful markets,” stressing It will take broad steps bringing together regulators, manufacturers, dealers, electric utilities “and others” to make a ban succeed.

But “the good news is that things are moving in the right direction,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal auto analyst with IHS Markit.

In the U.S. alone there will be over 100 BEVs by 2025. IHS, among others, say they expect costs to plunge as battery prices fall by as much as half from what automakers pay today. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week this will allow launching a new $25,000 model within three years, barely half the cost of today’s Tesla Model Y.

In terms of charging up 10s or even 100s of millions of EVs, the U.S. — like many other countries — would fall short if everyone plugged in at public stations. But, today, 80 percent of EV owners use home chargers, mostly overnight, when utilities have plenty of excess capacity and many offer discount rates. That is likely to remain the norm going forward, said Pat Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, a major EV charging system provider, even as companies plan to add thousands of new charging stations.

Eventually, new capacity will be needed as more and more battery-cars take to the roads, said analyst Abuelsamid, but with 290 million vehicles in the U.S. fleet alone, the conversion process likely will take more than a decade.

The challenge will be to migrate to renewable sources, such as wind or solar, so that tailpipe emissions aren’t simply shifted to more smokestacks.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Porsche Project 411 Concept is a futuristic tribute to the 911


It's autonomous, electric, and fast.

The future of car design is anyone's guess. Autonomous driving technologies, all-electric powertrains, and changing consumer tastes all have the potential to define – and redefine – what a car looks like and is. That's what Hussain Almossawi and Marin Myftiu did with the Porsche Project 411 Concept, a futuristic tribute to the automaker's 911 Spyder designed for NCS Company.

It's a far departure from the 911 we know today or Porsche's current design language, but it sticks to the idea of efficient styling over flair. There are no body cuts, for example, along the front. The 411 is a sleek supercar, designed for an ambitious future where speeds exceeding XXX miles per hour (400 kilometres per hour) would be typical. Think of it as a luxury motorway cruiser.

It's been one year since Porsche revealed the Taycan, its first fully electric car, and it won't be the company's last. Porsche has plans to electrify many more models in the future, and it'd seem EVs are the future. Pair that with autonomous technology and built-in inductive charging, and you have a recipe for an entirely new "driving" experience.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Kia to Launch New Car in 2021 as Opening Salvo in Electric Vehicle Onslaught


Kia has dabbled in hybrid and electric vehicles with the Niro plug-in hybrid and EV, as well as the Soul EV, but now the automaker is going all in with its first dedicated all-electric vehicle for the U.S. market, codenamed CV. It’s planned as part of a larger vehicle-electrification strategy Kia announced today.

The first model will be the CV in 2021. Kia said the new vehicle will also showcase the brand’s future design direction. The automaker says it plans to launch seven new dedicated electric vehicles by 2027, and they’ll hit varied automotive segments — though judging by the teaser sketch the automaker revealed, many will be SUVs.

“Kia has sold more than 100,000 [battery-electric vehicles] worldwide since the introduction of our first mass-produced BEV in 2011, the Kia Ray EV, ” Kia President and CEO Ho Sung Song said in a statement, referencing the boxy little South Korean-market-only vehicle. “Since then, we have started to introduce a range of new BEVs for global markets and announced plans to accelerate this process in the years ahead. By refocusing our business on electrification, we are aiming for BEVs to account for 25% of our total worldwide sales by 2029.”

To support this initiative, Kia also said it plans a multipronged approach and will explore new initiatives, such as EV battery leasing programs and “second life” battery-related businesses, as well as develop its programs to train EV-maintenance professionals. It also plans to beef up charging networks both in its home country of South Korea and globally, with plans to establish 2,400 EV chargers in Europe and around 500 in North America.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

3 Stocks for an Electric Vehicle Future Not Named Tesla or Nikola


It has been a momentous year for electric vehicles (EVs). Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) began delivery of its Model Y, Ford's (NYSE:F) Mustang Mach-E will start showing up late in 2020, and a slew of other electric and hybrid models have started popping up at other automakers. And let's not forget booming EV stocks. As of this writing, Tesla shares are up 360% 2020 to-date alone, and Nikola Motors (NASDAQ:NKLA) made its debut as well (by way of merger with SPAC VectoIQ) and is up over 260% on the year -- not to mention myriad other small stocks all vying for a slice of the EV future.

But for investors who want to bet on the migration to a greener mode of transportation, chasing sky-high EV manufacturer stocks (some with a more than uncertain outlook) need not be the game. Three alternatives worth putting on your watch list are Ferrari (NYSE:RACE)Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).

Super luxury gets green racing stripes

Okay, I'm cheating a little with this first pick, but hear me out. Ferrari is not an EV automaker at this juncture in time. Besides the obvious financial prerequisites, Ferrari supercars are purchased for the exclusivity and performance, not for environmental reasons. And CEO Louis Camilleri has alluded to an all-electric car likely not coming to market until after 2025, citing needed battery technology advances as holding back a more aggressive timeline.  

Instead, Ferrari is focusing on hybridization, with engineering innovation coming from its work on its Formula 1 hybrid system. The latest iteration: The SF90 Stradale, the first-ever plug-in hybrid from the Italian automaker and the most powerful street-legal Ferrari to date, with 986 horsepower. The SF90 is the next step in Ferrari's plans to have roughly 60% of its supercar line-up hybrid by 2022.

Out of all the automakers out there, why pick Ferrari for an EV stock? For one, race track innovation has a history of eventually trickling down to everyday drivers, and Ferrari's work on hybrid vehicle engineering (and eventually an all-electric vehicle) could do the same. As for the case for owning a slice of the company itself, Ferrari -- much like Tesla -- is not your typical automaker. Typical operating profit margins for an auto manufacturer dwell in the low single-digit range. Not Ferrari. Brand power and its ultra-wealthy customers make this a durable company that boasts a 21% operating profit margin over the last 12 months. 

And even uncertain times like now have done little to dent Ferrari's financial strength. Cash and equivalents on the books at the end of June 2020 was 1.11 billion Euros ($1.32 billion using exchange rates on Sept. 10, 2020), and debt was 2.76 billion Euros ($3.27 billion). For a legacy automaker, this qualifies as quite nimble, a fitting balance sheet for the Ferrari badge -- and giving the company the ability to continuously innovate on the technological front and keep its customers coming back for more.

Forget the end product -- buy the components

Technology has done a great deal to improve the driving experience, from increased safety to reliability and fuel economy. And at the heart of auto technology lies the semiconductor. Many chip types have become highly commoditized staples of the auto manufacturing industry, but that hasn't stopped it from gobbling up a huge slice of a car's cost. According to researcher Deloitte, some 40% of a car's production cost is electronic components (up from 27% a decade ago). And thanks to vehicle electrification and other technology, that percentage of production cost could rise to 45% or higher in the next 10 years.

That makes tech hardware a great place to invest if you see EVs as the future of transportation. And Texas Instruments is a good place to start. TI supplies all sorts of electrical components and chips to the auto industry -- including hybrid and electric powertrain systems. 21% of the chipmaker's 2019 revenue came from the industry.

Granted, that hasn't been a great end market this year. Because of COVID-19 and the ensuing recession, auto sales have taken a hit. TI, for its part, has reported a 10% decline in total sales over the last trailing 12 months, which includes a 12% year-over-year revenue decline during the second quarter of 2020 to $3.24 billion. However, this remains a highly profitable semiconductor stock. Free cash flow (revenue less cash operating and capital expenses) is down only 4% in the last 12 months to $5.71 billion -- good for a free cash flow margin of 42%.  

TI uses its highly lucrative margins to improve its chip designs and manufacturing process, as well as pay a dividend (currently yielding 2.6%) and share repurchases. The stock trades for 22.5 times trailing 12-month free cash flow, but the premium is well-earned. As the economy (and auto industry) recovers and technology like electrification becomes a larger slice of the auto industry pie, Texas Instruments stands to benefit.

Even "chipzilla" is in on the action

Texas Instruments isn't the only semiconductor stock that could benefit from EVs. Intel, the world's largest semiconductor pure-play by revenue, has a hand in an electrified future. It supplies everything from processors for use in charging stations to field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that can be used in multiple powertrain applications. It also has a hand in the adjacent advanced driver assist and autonomous vehicle systems via its Mobileye subsidiary.

However, unlike Texas Instruments -- which is close to trading at all-time highs -- Intel's stock has fallen on hard times as of late. Due to delays in its next-gen chip manufacturing architecture and constant worry that small incumbents are taking market share, Intel shares are down 18% so far in 2020 as of this writing. That's in spite of reporting a year-over-year 20% increase in Q2 revenue to $19.7 billion.  

The rub is with the full-year outlook, which calls for revenue to be up "only" 4% to $75 billion, and free cash flow to come in at $17.5 billion (up from $16.9 billion in 2019). The drop in Intel's stock looks overdone to me, leaving shares trading for a lowly 9.7 times trailing 12-month free cash flow and a dividend that yields 2.7% a year.

Short-term worry aside, Intel looks like one cheap stock right now. It's just one growth lever at its disposal, but automotive technology plays in the chip giant's favor. For investors looking to play the coming EV boom, Intel most certainly belongs in the conversation.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

GM Shares Hit Six-Month High on Nikola Electric-Truck Deal


(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. shares rose to a more than six-month high after it took a $2 billion equity stake in startup Nikola Corp. and agreed to manufacture a new electric-pickup model.

In a bid to diversify the Detroit-based automaker’s alternate-fuel vehicle strategy, GM will contribute technology and manufacturing in exchange for an 11% stake in Nikola and board seat, according to a statement Tuesday. GM is not committing any cash to the deal.

The partnership gives Nikola -- which has yet to generate any meaningful revenue -- an immediate boost of legitimacy and the industrial might of an established player while also benefiting GM. The largest U.S. automaker expects to receive more than $4 billion in perks from the deal. In addition to the equity value of the shares, it will be paid to manufacture Nikola’s pickup, supply batteries and begin commercializing fuel-cell technology for the semi-truck industry.

Shares of both companies jumped on the surprise announcement, with GM rising to the highest level since before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. GM rose 8% to close at $32.38 -- the highest close since February 24. Nikola surged 41%, while electric-car market leader Tesla Inc. fell 21% for its steepest one-day drop ever.

Read more: Tesla Falls Most Ever After GM’s Nikola Stake, S&P Snub

”We’ve seen these pops before” in GM’s stock, said David Whiston, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. “Hopefully it will last. GM clearly isn’t getting enough credit for its EV program.”

By increasing its exposure to alternate-fuel vehicles, GM deepens its presence in an area that has captured the imagination of investors who have piled into stocks of EV startups like Nikola. The two companies expect production of the truck, called the Badger, to begin by late 2022. Nikola plans to debut the vehicle, which it only has shown images of so far, in early December.

Test Case

The new truck could compete against GM’s own electrification plans for future models such as a promised Hummer pickup that goes on sales late next year. But GM may view the Badger as a test case of demand for battery-powered vehicles in the commercial-truck market. And the decision to collaborate with Nikola illustrates GM’s efforts to spread its bets -- and not get left behind.

The deal follows Ford Motor Co.’s investment last year in Rivian Automotive Inc., an EV startup backed by Inc. GM had a tentative agreement with Rivian that collapsed, allowing its crosstown rival to swoop in. Since then, GM has been pressured by investors to consider spinning out its EV operations into a new entity.

“GM lost out on Rivian” to Ford, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with car-shopping researcher Autotrader. “Nikola is kind of a substitute. Maybe this sets up GM to spin off its electric-vehicle business as some on Wall Street have been suggesting they do to unlock value.”

In addition, GM gets to keep 80% of the electric-vehicle regulatory credits from sales of the Badger pickup and has right of first refusal on the other 20%. That will help the automaker meet emissions regulations as it focuses on profitable gas-powered sport utility vehicles and trucks. GM also will be Nikola’s exclusive battery provider in every market except Europe, said a company spokesman.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:

“General Motors’ $2 billion stake in EV and hydrogen semi-truck maker Nikola -- a $13 billion market-cap company with no revenue or sellable vehicles thus far -- is a hedge against the headline risk of not volume-selling competitive alternative-drivetrain vehicles. Nikola isn’t more advanced than GM but the partnership will boost brand perception for the legacy automaker.”

-- Kevin Tynan, senior autos analystClick here for the research

GM does risk fostering a new rival in the way that early investments in Tesla by Daimler AG and Toyota Motor Corp. helped that electric-car company grow into a fierce competitor. But GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra sees lots of room for growth in the budding market for EVs and noted GM gets access through Nikola to the Class 7 and 8 freight-truck business.

“We see huge growth opportunities for both of us,” Barra said on a call with reporters. “We view that there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for different customers and products. When you look at opportunity to partner with Nikola on Class 7 and 8, that’s a wide-open opportunity for us.”

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Electric cars: County car parks first for fast-charge points

 Council staff at one of the new charge points

Public car parks in two towns are the first in Powys to be fitted with electric car charging ports.

The fast-charge points in Machynlleth and Llanidloes can fully charge a vehicle in three to four hours.

Councillor Heulwen Hulme, cabinet member for the environment, said it was a "vitally important" step in the move toward a low-carbon future.

Powys said a further six locations would be fitted with ports in the future.

"Our future vision is to install some more electronic chargers in Powys, with Powys being the largest county in Wales," said Ms Hulme.

"There is now a viable charging option of electric vehicles and it is hoped that this will encourage usage and ownership of electric vehicles. We also hope that electric vehicle users will visit our beautiful county."

Charging points will next be installed in Welshpool, Newtown, Presteigne, Llandrindod Wells, Builth Wells and Brecon.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

More than 500 new chargers a day needed for UK

The UK will need to install 507 electric car charging points a day to be ready for the phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, according to new research by the motoring industry.

The country will require 2.8 million charging points to be EV-ready by 2035, when the Government has said it will end sales of all new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid cars, according to research by the Society of Motoring Manufacturers.

There are currently only around 19,300 public car charging points across the country, and reaching that goal would require installation at the rate of 507 new charging points a day, at a cost of £16.7bn according to the research conducted by consultancy Frost and Sullivan. 

“To a certain extent, it's oversupply, because we need to overcome that reticence about uncertainty that fear of being caught short,” said Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT.

The Government is consulting on bringing forward the ban on sales of new ICE cars to as early as 2030, but the SMMT said even the current deadline would not be possible without further support. 

It is calling for the extension of Plug-in Grant subsidies for new purchases of EVs, and its extension to plug-in hybrids, which it says is a “critical” transition technology. 

It also wants VAT exemptions for all zero emission capable cars, which it calculates would save families an average of £5,500 on a battery electric and up to £9,750 on an SUV. It estimates this could drive 2.4 million sales in the next five years.

Demand for electric and plug-in hybrid cars has more than doubled over the past year, but they still represent only 8 per cent of new car sales. 

The upfront costs for a new electric car are falling, but are still significantly more than average cost for a similar petrol vehicle, although studies show EVs are cheaper for consumers over their lifetime. 

The research came as a new poll for AA and ITV suggested that 47 per cent of drivers say they will consider buying an electric vehicle, but 7 in 10 say lack of charging points put them off.

The SMMT’s call was echoed by Paul Morozzo, transport campaigner at Greenpeace UK, who said: “It’s hardly surprising that people are still wary of buying an electric car while there aren’t enough charging points to service a mass market.”

But, Mr Morozzo added: “The best way to drive down the price of electric vehicles is to bring the ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans forward to 2030 – and make sure that hybrids, which are still mostly powered by fossil fuel, are included in this ban.

The Government has committed £500 million to a rapid charging network on the motorways andand a £200 million investment fund for public charging network expansion.

Mr Hawes criticised the plan to include plug-in hybrids, which can operate on shorter distances using electricity, in the 2035 ban. 

"Absolutely, in the short to medium term it is going to be plug-in hybrids which play a crucial role in familiarising consumers with this new type of technology," he said. "We think plug-in hybrids should be exempt from any ban.”

Electric car sales double in August despite market doldrums

Electric car sales double in August despite market doldrums

 Electric car sales doubled in August despite the overall car market declining by more than 5pc. 

The number of battery electric cars jumped by more than three-quarters to 5,589 compared to 3,147 for the same period last year.

Sales of plug-in hybrids also soared by more than 220pc to 2,922, according to official data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This meant that electric powered vehicles accounted for one in 10 new cars sold in the UK in August. 

After a jump in year-on-year registrations in July, the industry had hoped that its virus-induced sales decline was over. 

However, overall demand for new cars fell by a “disappointing” 5.8pc last month. Some 87,226 new cars were registered in the UK in August compared with 92,573 in 2019.

As a result, overall registrations for the year to the end of August are down 39.7pc compared with last year. 

The automotive industry was hammered when it was forced to shut up shop at the height of the pandemic, and customers have been slow to return as fears over job security mount.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The decline is disappointing, following some brief optimism in July.

“However, given August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months, it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone.

“With the all-important plate change month just around the corner, September is likely to provide a better barometer. As the nation takes steps to return to normality, protecting consumer confidence will be critical to driving a recovery."

Lots to be happy about?
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Car sales finally rose year-on-year in July after months in the doldrums
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Source: SMMT