Saturday, 22 May 2021

Lamborghini Going All-Electric


Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann made waves on Tuesday as he presented a radical plan to wean the Italian-German brand known for its brash V12 engines completely off gasoline by the end of the decade. That’s not a typo: Lamborghini plans to go all-electric in just 9 years’ time. If you believe that, I have a few vehicles and some “valuable” real estate to sell you, but you must act quickly

This push, as you probably already guessed, is to “decarbonize” Lamborghini. After all, carbon is so horrible we all aspirate it constantly, not just the cars, plus plants need it to breathe. But it’s very fashionable to talk about eliminating carbon from the atmosphere, like how it’s fashionable to talk about the latest fad diet and how you’re totally going to start a new workout program next week.

photo credit: Lamborghini
photo credit: Lamborghini

Called “Direzione Car Tauri” (Towards Car Tauri – which is a star) this new program is apparently focused on finding a brighter tomorrow for Lamborghini. It’s made up of three phases and we’re already in the first one, which ends next year. Lambo brass will be focusing on celebrating the combustion engine which just has to go. However, two new V12 cars will be added to the lineup as the last hurrah before all the fun is ruined.

photo credit: Lamborghini
photo credit: Lamborghini

Phase two begins by the end of 2024 and will be all about a transition into hybrid powertrains. The year before, the very first hybrid series production car from Lamborghini will launch, paving the way for the rest of the brand to follow by December of 2024. We’ve seen the awesome performance of hybrid supercars, so this might not be all bad, although we question what the transition will do to the prices of new Lambos, not to mention the raucous sounds one makes at WOT.

photo credit: Lamborghini
photo credit: Lamborghini

Funding phase two isn’t going to be cheap. Winkelmann says Lamborghini will need over 1.5 billion euros over a 4-year period to make the transition work. That’s a lot of cash, so hopefully Volkswagen Group is willing to pony up. Speaking of VW, it’s pretty clear this push is coming at the parent company’s behest. After all, Audi is also moving away from internal combustion engines and we expect the rest of the Group will do the same soon.

Then there’s phase three, where things started getting ill-defined. In the second half of this decade it will take place, Lamborghini says, and that’s when the brand will go all-electric. A fourth model will be added to the lineup, presumably it will be the first Lamborghini EV production car.

photo credit: Lamborghini
photo credit: Lamborghini

Since Lamborghini isn’t putting hard numbers to the EV transition, it’s okay to be skeptical about this plan actually coming to fruition. Right now, a growing number of automakers are saying they’re going all-electric, but it almost seems like this is being with a wink and a nod. After all, EVs make up just a sliver of the market at the moment. We don’t doubt that sliver will grow dramatically over the next 9 years, but for it to become the entire market seems wildly optimistic.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamborghini has planned for what to do if going all-electric isn’t tenable in the time period it’s named. While it’s great to push forward and develop new technology, the microchip shortages we’re experiencing now and other past events in the auto industry should teach us to approach electrification with more realistic caution. However, that doesn’t generate nearly as glowing press and happy investors.

More electric car charging stations needed to juice EV sales: Is Biden's 500,000 proposal on target?


The popularity of electric vehicles – which have been welcomed as a way to help mitigate climate change but represent only about 1 in 50 vehicles sold in 2020 – may remain limited.

While automakers like General Motors, Honda and Volvo say they’re aiming to phase out gas engines in the next 10 to 20 years, a lack of public electric car charging stations is widely viewed as a threat to those plans.

Adding local charging stations is the No. 1 factor that would drive more Americans to buy EVs, according to a February survey of car owners by car-buying site CarGurus. Some 65% of respondents said additional stations would help convince them to take the plunge.

Biden's proposal calls for 500,000 new charging stations, a more than 10-fold increase of the current number that would go a long way toward easing the concerns of Americans who aren’t ready to embrace electric cars. Each station typically offers several to a dozen or more plugs.

Atlanta resident Brittany Idleburg charges her Tesla Model S electric car.
Atlanta resident Brittany Idleburg charges her Tesla Model S electric car.

Drivers like Brittany Idleburg say that more stations will speed up America’s transition from gas cars to electric vehicles.

The Atlanta-based blogger bought a Tesla Model S electric sedan in 2017 and enjoys using the automaker’s more than 25,000 global Tesla-only Supercharger ports, but she acknowledged that more stations open to the public will go a long way.

“I was really excited when I heard what Biden’s plan was,” Idleburg said. “Tesla is nice, but it is necessary to have others. You’ve got to have the cars coming out and you’ve got to have the stations being built almost simultaneously.”

Still, even EV proponents caution that the proposed investment – part of Biden’s broader infrastructure proposal – is currently lacking in details and could go awry if it’s not strategically designed to ensure ease of use and well-placed locations.

“The EV market is growing – it’s growing very rapidly,” said Aaron Fisher, CEO of EVPassport, a hardware-software maker that allows drivers to charge their vehicles without signing up for an account. “But if you solve these problems, it could be growing even faster.”

To be sure, about 80% of electric vehicle charging currently takes place at home, at work or a combination of the two, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

But only about 4 in 10 Americans have garages, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at car-buying site Autotrader. And even for them, having a garage isn’t necessarily enough.

“Some of those so-called garages are sheds,” Krebs said. “I have a 1946 garage – I’d have to upgrade wiring to get a charger into mine. So yes, a lot of people will charge at home – but not everybody.”

When Idleburg and her husband moved to Atlanta, they specifically sought out an apartment complex where they could have an electric vehicle.

“I moved here because they had charging stations,” she said. “We bought our spot so we can always charge.”

Atlanta resident Brittany Idleburg charges her Tesla Model S electric car.
Atlanta resident Brittany Idleburg charges her Tesla Model S electric car.

Motorists know that “98% of the time, I'll be charging at home, but that one time that I get stranded and there's not a charging station is a big, big deal,” said Madison Gross, director of consumer insights for CarGurus. “It might be unlikely to happen, but the pain, if it does happen, is quite substantial.”

Automakers say that more stations will bring more EVs.

Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola K√§llenius endorsed Biden’s proposal, saying that his company could accelerate plans to eliminate carbon emissions from its vehicles by 2040 if infrastructure makes EVs more doable for the average consumer.

“We need a wide network of public charging infrastructure so that you have the same convenience factor ultimately that we have been used to for a hundred-years-plus on the combustion side,” K√§llenius told reporters on a recent conference call.

Here's what you need to know about electric car charging.

How many electric car charging stations do we need?

No one knows for sure, but probably a lot more charging stations than gas stations, since it takes a lot longer to fill up on electricity than it does on gas, at least for now.

The U.S. has more than 150,000 fuel stations, most of them with several, a dozen or more pumps, according to the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

That compares with more than 48,000 charging stations equipped with over 115,000 outlets, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.

But it's not an apples-to-apples type of comparison.

It only takes a few minutes to fill up on gas. It takes much longer to fill up on electricity.

For now, charging times vary widely depending on the vehicle and voltage rates. The average EV can get a complete fill-up in anywhere from 30 minutes on the speediest available "fast" charger to a couple of days on a standard plug, according to Kelley Blue Book.

But the U.S. has only about 4,300 are fast-chargers, according to a recent report by consultancy KMPG.

On the most common type of publicly available charging station, known as Level 2, it takes up to 12 hours for a Tesla Model 3 to recharge, 11 hours for a Nissan Leaf to "refill" and 10 hours for an Audi E-Tron to replenish its battery, according to Kelley Blue Book.

The longest-range vehicles currently get about 300 miles of range, though longer-range cars are in the works, such as a version of the Lucid Air electric sedan that will offer more than 500 miles on a single charge.

How much will it cost to build 500,000 stations?

The Biden administration hasn’t provided an estimate for how much 500,000 chargers would cost.

But it would take about $2 billion “just to equip homes and workplaces with enough chargers to meet anticipated 2025 needs in 100 top metro areas – and many times that to replicate the current U.S. gasoline distribution network,” according to the KPMG report.

And there’s a significant risk that those dollars could be spent in the wrong places.

“It is as complex as hell,” said Gary Silberg, a KPMG partner who consults with auto companies. “When you really get down to the nitty-gritty of placing bets, you better be thoughtful, you better be strategic.”

Sales data shows that EV sales are particularly popular in coastal cities like San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C., where home charging is often impractical or unavailable due to a lack of garages.

“People have to park on the street,” Krebs said. “We have to be really creative about where (charging stations) go."

But some say the best place to put charging stations is in places where EVs are not currently popular to provide people an incentive to make the switch from gas.

It’s a classic chicken-or-egg dichotomy, but in this case, it’s increasingly clear that many Americans simply won’t buy EVs unless charging stations are widely available.

“If we’re looking to hockey-stick the market to grow vehicle adoption, infrastructure needs to grow along with it in a complementary way,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

Can our gas-powered culture change?

America’s car culture is viewed by many automotive analysts as a hindrance to the spread of electric vehicles. Americans like the idea that they can hop in a car, hit the road and drive anywhere for any reason with no planning.

While few people ever do that sort of trip, the freedom to do so remains alluring.

“We expect things instantaneously,” Silberg said. “People are not going to want to sit there and wait much longer at all than they would for gasoline. Until we get close to that, you’re going to have reluctance.”

To be sure, most people can get away with charging exclusively at home. And many states and utilities have incentives in place for Americans to install chargers in their garage, offsetting a cost that can run into the thousands.

But even for people who can charge at home, they’ll often want to top off their tank, so to speak, when out and about.

“How many times do you go plug your phone in even when it’s not empty?” Cullen said. “People like to do that.”

Will automakers deliver the goods?

Automakers have gotten EV religion – and the devotion seems to have picked up since Biden was elected, a period during which GM, Volvo, Jaguar and Honda have all announced plans to kill gas vehicles.

But Biden’s proposal reflects “a realization that there’s a certain level of infrastructure investment that needs to happen before electric vehicles are broadly adopted by the public,” said Garrett Nelson, a CFRA Research stock analyst who tracks automakers.

At the moment, there are about 50 models available for sale with a plug of some sort, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. But that figure is expected to double in about two years, as pickups like the Tesla Cybertruck, vans like the Volkswagen ID.Buzz and cars like Mercedes-Benz EQS come onto the market.

“Maximizing the convenience for consumers is absolutely at the top of everybody’s mind,” Cullen said.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Chinese electric car company Xpeng predicts chip shortage will last another quarter

calendar: Xpeng Motors launches the P5 sedan at an event in Guangzhou, China on April 14, 2021. The P5 is Xpeng's third production model and features so-called Lidar technology.

BEIJING — Chinese electric car start-up Xpeng expects the global chip shortage will persist for at least another three months.

Automakers around the world have had to cut production due to a shortfall in semiconductors, or chips. High demand for electronics, U.S.-China trade tensions and a major factory fire have affected the highly specialized industry's ability to manufacture enough chips.

Xpeng's U.S.-listed shares fell nearly 4.9% in Thursday's trading session despite the start-up reporting greater-than-expected revenue of 2.95 billion yuan ($456.7 million) for the first quarter.

The stock is now down nearly 45% for the year so far, but still holds gains of more than 50% from its IPO in August.

Xpeng expects to deliver between 15,500 and 16,000 vehicles in the second quarter. The company said it delivered 13,340 cars in the first three months of the year, topping its forecast for 12,500 cars.

Growing revenue from software

While car sales account for the majority of Xpeng's revenue, the company noted first-quarter results were helped by customer demand for its assisted driving software. The start-up said it recorded revenue from the software for the first time after a rollout of an upgrade to paying customers in the first quarter.

Gu said on CNBC that more than 25% of customers have paid for the assisted driving software in the last month, up from 20% last quarter. He expects greater use of Xpeng's software and lower vehicle production costs will increase the company's margin in the near future.

Later this year, Xpeng plans to launch a second electric sedan, the P5, which includes support for the latest version of the start-up's assisted driving software.

Vehicle margin, a measure of profitability, rose to 10.1% in the first quarter, up from 6.8% in the prior quarter. The company did report a year-on-year increase in net losses, of 786.6 million yuan in the first quarter, versus 649.8 million yuan during the same period last year. Research and development expenses rose 72.2% from a year ago to 535.1 million yuan.

Moving ahead into Europe

Xpeng pressed ahead with its European expansion plans in the first quarter by delivering more than 300 units of its G3 SUV to Norway, according to the company. The start-up had sent 100 of the cars to the market in December. Xpeng expects to begin delivering its P7 sedan to Norway in the second half of the year.

Competition in that overseas market is set to pick up with rival Chinese electric car maker Nio's plans to open a showroom and begin deliveries in Norway later this year. Nio's shares fell 7.3% Thursday and are down nearly 36% for the year so far.

"What we've seen is that this tight situation will continue for the next quarter or so," Brian Gu, vice chairman and president of Xpeng, said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia."

The challenge is "the visibility of chip supplies is by the minute," Gu said. "We are paying very, very close attention to the situation. Right now, the impact is limited and it's reflected in our guidance

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Bentley’s First All-Electric Car Will Likely Be a 2025

Bentley first electrified model was an SUV, and it looks like its first fully electric model will be as well.

The British marque’s first battery-powered vehicle will almost certainly be an SUV, according to a recent interview CEO Adrian Hallmark gave to the UK’s Car magazine. That model, which will be built on the VW Group’s new Artemis electric platform, is expected to arrive in 2025.

The luxury automaker may not be ready to kill off its beloved W12 internal combustion engine just yet, but, as it revealed last fall, that will change by the end of the decade. By then, the brand says every car it sells will be battery-electric. And leading this push will be the new SUV, because, as Hallmark told the publication, “If you’re not in SUVs, you’re nowhere.”

It’s unclear if the debut EV will be a completely new model or just a fully electric version of the well-regarded Bentayga. A hybrid variant of the SUV (pictured up top) was introduced in 2019, and refreshed this year, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see a battery-powered version. What we do know, though, is that the EV will be built on parent company VW Group’s new proprietary platform, the development of which is being spearheaded by Audi. The Artemis platform features 800-volt electric architecture and is rumored to provide the basis for the upcoming all-electric Porsche Macan.

While Hallmark admitted there is still progress to be made before the company can produce an EV that lives up to its storied reputation, he’s confident that time is near. “2025 is the right time for us,” he told Car. “Weight is a concern. But we’re seeing rapid evolution in battery power density, and we’re dedicated to making things lighter and more aerodynamic. And battery-electric vehicles are right for Bentley; quiet, effortless, high torque, refined performance.”

Robb Report reached out to Bentley for further comment, but a representative for the automaker did not immediately respond.

Don’t expect the brand to sit around until its EV is finally ready though. A hybrid Flying Spur is expected to join the plug-in Bentayga later this year, and a hybrid variant of the elegant-but-sporty Continental GT could also be in the works. Bentley has talked a big game in regards to electrification, and it seems the brand is now ready to deliver on those promises.