BMW is finally producing its retro-futuristic CE 04 electric scooter, but at $12K will anyone buy it?

We’ve been hearing about BMW’s electric city scooters, not to be confused with electric kick scooters, for years. The German automaker came out with the BMW Motorrad Concept Link in 2017, a concept vehicle that imagines the future of expensive micromobility. After revealing the latest concept scooter, the CE 04, in November 2020, BMW is now actually going through with production.

On Wednesday, the company announced the new CE 04 will officially be a part of its 2022 lineup, with an expected global market launch of Q1. It’s a sweet-looking ride, with a decidedly retro-futuristic vibe, harkening back to what people in the 70s or 80s might have thought a “futuristic” vehicle would look like.

This is not the first electric scooter BMW has sold. Back in 2014, it came out with the C Evolution, which never really took off in the States. Maybe it was because it was ahead of its time. Maybe it’s because it cost $13,000.

The CE 04 starts at just around $12,000. Now, the whole point of the BMW Motorrad Concept Link is to provide “a vision of what will be important in the urban environment in the future,” so maybe BMW doesn’t care if it doesn’t crush it with sales. But until BMW produces something much cheaper than its gas equivalents (you can buy a new Vespa for under $5,000), the automaker’s new scooter is not guaranteed to take cities by storm.

With a 8.9 kWh battery pack, compared to the Evolution’s 12.7 kWh pack, BMW should be able to produce this vehicle and turn a profit for a lot less than it’s selling it for. Especially given the automaker’s access to higher quality technology and the cheaper price of batteries today when compared to five years ago.

A spokesperson for BMW Motorrad told TechCrunch the CE 04 is priced in the mid-range of the motorcycle market, and is still much less expensive than an electric car.

“This could be an entryway to electric mobility at a fraction of the cost for some people,” he said.

Of course, the fanboys will go for it, like the one BMW fictionalized in a strange press release we’re trying really hard not to make fun of. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s early in the morning. The city is awakening. On the way to my garage I breathe in the still cool air. I’m wear [sic] a casually cut parka that’s both fashionable and functional at the same time. The protectors are inconspicuous but give me a sense of security. I’m ready for the day to start.”

Wait, there’s more:

“The first birds are chirping, the urban jungle is awakening. The sounds of the city begin to swell. Everything is set in motion. People move – with each other and in parallel. Paths cross.

What will the new day bring? Tapas with friends at the little bar by the river? Or the exhibition at the modern art museum? First of all there are appointments at the office. Workshops, meetings, customer visits. This is what life feels like.

I pair my smartphone with the scooter, and with a flick of my wrist I activate the parka. Its LEDs light up. I’m quiet, but I want to be seen. It’s all so simple and smooth.

We’re off again at last. Even when I was having my breakfast, I couldn’t wait. Not even the birds notice me. I glide almost silently through my neighbourhood. I’m a part of the city again.”

One with the city

 

“The new BMW CE 04 is the logical and at the same time rethought continuation of BMW Motorrad’s electromobility strategy,” said Florian Römhild, project manager of the BMW CE 04, in a statement. “Urban areas are its element. This is where it sets a new benchmark – in terms of both technology and visual style.”

For the European and Asian markets, the CE 04 will be marketed as an urban vehicle, but in the U.S., where that category barely exists, the scooter will try to reach the urban commuter.

The CE 04 has a maximum output of 42 horsepower and a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour, meaning it can go on highways, the clogged arteries of America. It can ride for an estimated range of 80 miles and can be charged in under two hours using an at-home level 2 charger or any public charging station. Riders can choose ECO mode, Rain mode or Road mode to make driving efficient, and for those who want to kick it up a notch, there’s the Dynamic mode, part of the Premium package which costs an extra $1,650.

The avant-garde form follows function with the flat battery, which is placed in the middle of the vehicle, for smooth, low rides, as well as design freedom to include a storage compartment for the helmet and charging cable, which can be reached while sitting. The regenerative braking system helps feed energy back into the battery, which is likely to happen a lot if the rider is driving in the city.

As all modern vehicles should have, there’s a 10.25-inch color screen on the handlebars with integrated navigation and connectivity to the rider’s device, and there’s even a USB-C charging port.

The vehicle comes standard in “light white,” but to have the way more badass “Magellan grey metallic avant-garde” coloring, it’ll cost you an upgraded $225. Either way, both come with bright orange accents.

More to come?

“Our CEO said that because it’s an 04, there’s space under and over the 4, so I’d say there’s space for more electrified scooters in our future,” said the spokesperson.

BMW has no other specific models in the works, or timing on when they will be produced, but the CE 04 is part of BMW’s overall plan to have delivered about 2 million full-electric vehicles to customers by 2025 and 10 million by 2030.

“Things are moving so quickly we may see new additions to the CE range within a year or two,” said the spokesperson.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-ce-04-electric-scooter, #ceo, #energy, #scooter, #smartphone, #tc, #transportation

Solar roof-tile and energy startup SunRoof closes €4.5M led by Inovo Venture Partners

SunRoof is a European startup that has come up with a clever idea. It has its own roof-tile technology which generates solar power. It then links up those houses, creating a sort of virtual power plant, allowing homeowners to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

It’s now closed a €4.5 million round (Seed extension) led by Inovo Venture Partners, with participation from SMOK Ventures (€2m of which came in the form of convertible notes). Other investors include LT Capital, EIT InnoEnergy, FD Growth Capital and KnowledgeHub. 

Sweden-based SunRoof’s approach is reminiscent of Tesla Energy, with its solar roof tiles, but whereas Tesla runs a closed energy ecosystem, SunRoof plans to work with multiple energy partners.

To achieve this virtual power company, SunRoof CEO and serial entrepreneur Lech Kaniuk (formerly of Delivery Hero, PizzaPortal, and iTaxi), acquired the renewable energy system, Redlogger, in 2020.

SunRoof’s platform consists of 2-in-1 solar roofs and façades that generate electricity without needing traditional photovoltaic modules. Instead, they use monocrystalline solar cells sandwiched between two large sheets of glass which measure 1.7 sq meters. Because the surface area is large and the connections fewer, the roofs are cheaper and faster to build. 

SunRoof give homeowners an energy app to manage the solar, based on Redlogger’s infrastructure

Tesla’s Autobidder is a trading platform that manages the energy from roofs but is a closed ecosystem. SunRoof, by contrast, works with multiple partners.

Kaniuk said: “SunRoof was founded to make the move to renewable energy not only easy, but highly cost-effective without ever having to sacrifice on features or design. We’ve already grown more than 500% year-on-year and will use the latest funding to double down on growth.” 

Michal Rokosz, Partner at Inovo Venture Partners, commented: “The market of solar energy is booming, estimated to reach $334 billion by 2026. Technology of integrated solar roofs is past the inflection point. It is an economical no-brainer for consumers to build new homes using solar solutions. With a more elegant and efficient substitute to a traditional hybrid of rooftops and solar panels, SunRoof clearly stands out and has a chance to be the brand for solar roofs, making clean-tech more appealing to a wider customer-base.”

The team includes co-founder Marek Zmysłowski (ex-(Jumia Travel and HotelOnline.co), former Google executive, Rafal Plutecki, and former Tesla Channel Sales Manager, Robert Bruchner.

There are rollout plans for Sweden, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the US.

#automotive-industry, #co-founder, #delivery-hero, #electricity, #energy, #europe, #executive, #germany, #google, #italy, #partner, #poland, #renewable-energy, #smok-ventures, #solar-cell, #solar-energy, #spain, #sweden, #switzerland, #tc, #united-states

Eying sustainability gains for its supply chain, BMW backs Boston Metal’s CO2-free iron production tech

BMW has joined the cohort of investors that are backing Boston Metal’s carbon dioxide-free production technology for steel.

The Boston-based startup had targeted a $50 million raise earlier in the year, as TechCrunch reported, and BMW’s addition closes out that round, according to a person familiar with the company.

Through a commitment from BMW iVentures, the automaker’s investment arm, Boston Metal will have an in to a company with massive demands for more sustainably manufactured metal. For instance, BMW Group press plants in Europe process more than half a million tonnes of steel per year, the company said.

“We systematically identify the raw materials and components in our supplier network with the highest CO2 emissions from production,” said Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network, in a statement. “Steel is one of them, but it is vital to car production. For this reason, we have set ourselves the goal of continuously reducing CO2 emissions in the steel supply chain. By 2030, CO2 emissions should be about two million tonnes lower than today’s figure.”

Conventional steel production requires blast furnaces that generate carbon dioxide emissions, but using Boston Metal’s process, an electrolysis cell produces the pig iron that gets processed into steel, the company said.

The addition of BMW to its investor group, which already includes Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and other strategic and financial investors, caps the fundraising process with another corporate partner wielding incredible industry influence.

“Our investors span across the steel value chain, from the upstream mining and iron ore companies to the downstream end customer, and validate Boston Metal’s innovative process to produce high-quality steel, cost-competitively, and at scale,” said chief executive officer and founder, Tadeu Carneiro.

#automotive-industry, #bmw, #boston, #carbon-dioxide, #cars, #chief-executive-officer, #europe, #investor, #metal, #steel, #tc

Battery companies are the latest SPAC target as EVs get a huge regulatory boost

Batteries are the latest landing pad for investors.

In the past week alone, two companies have announced plans to become publicly traded companies by merging with special purpose acquisition companies. European battery manufacturer FREYR said Friday it would become a publicly traded company through a special purpose acquisition vehicle with a valuation at $1.4 billion. Houston area startup Microvast announced Monday its own SPAC, at a $3 billion valuation.

A $4.4 billion combined valuation for two companies with a little over $100 million in revenue (FREYR has yet to manufacture a battery) would seem absurd were it not for the incredible demand for batteries that’s coming.

Legacy automakers like GM and Ford have committed billions of dollars to shifting their portfolios to electric models. GM said last year it will spend $27 billion over the next five years on the development of electric vehicles and automated technology. Meanwhile, a number of newer entrants are either preparing to begin production of their electric vehicles or scaling up. Rivian, for instance, will begin delivering its electric pickup truck this summer. The company has also been tapped by Amazon to build thousands of electric vans.

The U.S. government could end up driving some of that demand.  President Biden announced last week that the U.S. government would replace the entire federal fleet of cars, trucks and SUVs with electric vehicles manufactured in the U.S. That’s 645,047 vehicles. That’s going to mean a lot of new batteries need to be made to supply GM and Ford, but also U.S.-based upstarts like Fisker, Canoo, Rivian, Proterra, Lion Electric and Tesla.

Meanwhile, some of the largest cities in the world are planning their own electrification initiatives. Shanghai is hoping to have electric vehicles represent roughly half of all new vehicle purchases by 2025 and all public buses, taxis, delivery trucks, and government vehicles will be zero-emission by the same period, according to research from the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Chinese market for electric vehicles is one of the world’s largest and one where policy is significantly ahead of the rest of the world.

A potential windfall from China’s EV market is likely one reason for the significant investment into Microvast by investors including the Oshkosh Corp., a 100 year-old industrial vehicles manufacturer; the $8.67 trillion money management firm, BlackRock; Koch Strategic Platforms; and InterPrivate, a private equity fund manager. That’s because Microvast’s previous backers include CDH Investments and CITIC Securities, two of the most well-connected private equity and financial services firms in China.

So is the company’s focus on commercial and industrial vehicles. Microvast believes that the market for commercial electric vehicles could be $30 billion in the near term. Currently, commercial EV sales represent just 1.5% of the market, but that penetration is supposed to climb to 9% by 2025, according to the company.

“In 2008, we set out to power a mobility revolution by building disruptive battery technologies that would allow electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engine vehicles,” said Microvast chief executive Yang Wu, in a statement. “Since that time we have launched three generations of battery technologies that have provided our customers with battery performance far superior to our competitors and that successfully satisfy, over many years of operation, the stringent requirements of commercial vehicle operators.”

Roughly 30,000 vehicles are using Microvast’s batteries and the investment in Microvast includes about $822 million in cash that will finance the expansion of its manufacturing capacity to hit 9 gigawatt hours by 2022. The money should help Microvast meet its contractual obligations which account for about $1.5 billion in total value, according to the company.

If Chinese investors stand to win big in the upcoming Microvast public offering, a clutch of American investors and one giant Japanese corporation are waiting expectantly for FREYR’s public offering. Northbridge Venture Partners, CRV, and Itochu Corp. are all going to see gains from FREYR’s exit — even if they’re not backers of the European company.

Those three firms, along with the International Finance Corp. are investors in 24m, the Boston-based startup licensing its technology to FREYR to make its batteries.

FREYR’s public offering will also be another win for Yet-Ming Chiang, a serial entrepreneur and professor who has a long and storied history of developing innovations in the battery and materials science industry.

The MIT professor has been working on sustainable technologies for the last two decades, first at the now-defunct battery startup A123 Systems and then with a slew of startups like the 3D printing company Desktop Metal; lithium-ion battery technology developer, 24m; the energy storage system designer, Form Energy; and Baseload Renewables, another early-stage energy storage startup.

Desktop Metal went public last year after it was acquired by a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, and now 24m is getting a potential boost from a big cash infusion into one of its European manufacturing partners, FREYR.

The Norwegian company, which has plans to build five modular battery manufacturing facilities around a site in its home country intends to develop up to 43 gigawatt hours of clean batteries over the next four years.

For FREYR chief executive Tom Jensen there were two main draws for the 24m technology. “It’s the production process itself,” said Jensen. “What they basically do is they mix the electrolyte with the active material, which allows them to make thicker electrodes and reduce the inactive materials in the battery. Beyond that, when you actually do that you remove the need fo a number of traditional production steps… Compared to conventional lithium battery production it reduces production from 15 steps to 5 steps.”

Those process efficiencies combined with the higher volumes of energy bearing material in the cell leads to a fundamental disruption in the battery production process.

Jensen said the company would need $2.5 billion to fully realize its plans, but that the float should get FREYR there. The company is merging with Alussa Energy Acquisition Corp. in a SPAC backed by investors including Koch Strategic Platforms, Glencore, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Franklin Templeton, Sylebra Capital and Van Eck Associates.

All of these investments are necessary if the world is to meet targets for vehicle electrification on the timelines that have been established.

As the Royal Bank of Canada noted in a December report on the electric vehicle industry. “We estimate that globally, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will represent ~3% of 2020 global demand, while plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) will represent another ~1.3%,” according to RBC’s figures. “But we see robust growth off these low figures. By 2025, when growth is still primarily regulatory driven, we see ~11% BEV global penetration of new demand representing a ~40% CAGR from 2020’s levels and ~5% PHEV penetration representing a ~35% CAGR. By 2025, we see BEV penetration in Western Europe at ~20%, China at ~17.5%, and the US at 7%. Comparatively, we expect internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to grow (cyclically) at a 2% CAGR through 2025. On a pure unit basis, we see “peak ICE” in 2024.”

#3d-printing, #amazon, #automotive-industry, #biden, #blackrock, #boston, #cdh-investments, #china, #crv, #desktop-metal, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-storage, #ford, #franklin-templeton, #gm, #houston, #itochu-corp, #lithium-ion-battery, #mit, #northbridge-venture-partners, #plug-in-hybrid, #president, #proterra, #rivian, #royal-bank-of-canada, #shanghai, #sylebra-capital, #tc, #tesla, #u-s-government, #united-states

Porsche and Axel Springer increase investment into their APX accelerator to €55M

Berlin-based early-stage fund APX today announced that its two investors, European publisher Axel Springer and sports car maker Porsche, have increased their investment in the fund to a total of €55 million.

With this, APX, which launched in 2018, is now able to deploy up to €500,000 in pre-Series A seed funding per company. That’s up from up to €100,000 when the fund launched. So far, the group has invested in more than 70 companies and plans to increase this number to close to 200 by 2022.

When APX launched, the fund didn’t disclose the total investment from Porsche and Axel Springer. Today, the team said that the new investment “more than doubles APX’s total amount for investing in new and current companies.” APX also stressed that the total volume of the fund is now “at least” €55 million, in part because the investors can always allocate additional funding for outliers.

In addition to the new funding, APX also today announced that it is doing away with its 100-day accelerator program and instead opting for a long-term commitment to its companies, including participation in future rounds.

“We will try and invest into 50 or more companies this year — and we were at 35 last year. So this is quite some growth,” APX founding managing director (and folk music aficionado) Henric Hungerhoff told me. “We think that our deal flow systems and our entire operations are settled in well enough that we can have quality founders in our portfolio. That’s our goal — and that might even increase to 70 the year after. […] We see really nice synergies or network effects within our portfolio, with founders helping other founders and learning from each other.”

Image Credits: APX

Hungerhoff tells me that the team is quite confident in its ability now to identify quality deal flows. The team is using a data-driven approach. And while it leverages its own network and that of its founders, it has also set up a scout program at leading European universities to identify potential founders, for example.

As APX founding managing director, and the former CEO of Axel Springer’s Plug and Play accelerator, Jörg Rheinboldt noted, APX never asks its founders to pitch. Instead, the team has multiple conversations with them about the product they want to build, how they came up with the idea — and how it changed over time.

“And then, we do multiple things simultaneously,” Rheinboldt said. “One is, we look at team dynamics. How do the founders interact? We also stress them a little bit — in a friendly way — where someone asks very fast questions, or we focus a little bit on one person and see how the others rescue them. We want to know about the team dynamics and then we want to understand the strategy, how we can help them best?”

The idea here is to be able to invest quickly. In addition, though, with the new funding, the team isn’t just able to invest into more companies but also invest more into the individual companies.

Image Credits: APX

“We want to invest deeper per startup at a very early stage,” Hungerhoff said. “So far, […] our typical approach was a non-dilution, pro-rata follow-on strategy with most of our portfolio companies. And this is something we want to pledge in the future. Looking at the past, 100% of the times in equity rounds, we do the pro-rata follow-on or more, but now, we have developed a strategy that we will, for the fastest-moving of fastest-growing companies, we want to deploy significantly more cash in a very early phase, which means an amount of up to €500,000.”

What the team saw was that the companies in its portfolio would raise a small pre-seed round from APX and other investors, with APX typically taking a 5% stake in the startup. Most founders would then go on and raise extended pre-seed or seed rounds soon thereafter.

“We more felt like we missed out when we saw these companies raising really nice financing rounds and we did our investment,” Rheinbolt said. “We felt very good that we can do a pro-rata investment. but we looked at each other and said: we knew this, we knew that they would do this 12 weeks ago. We could have given them a check and maybe the round would have been done in eight weeks and maybe [our stake] wouldn’t be 5% but 7%.”

Given this new focus on supporting startups throughout their lifecycle, it’s no surprise that APX did away with the 100-day program as well. But the team still expects to be quite hands-on. With a growing network, though, the partners also expect that founders will be able to learn from each other, too. “We now see the value that is coming from this,” Hungerhoff said. For example, a team that we’ve invested in two months ago, they’re now thinking about the angel round. They can actually get the best advice on this — or just experienced sharing — from another team, rather than talking to Jörg who did this maybe 30 years ago — no offense.”

The team also spends a lot of time thinking about its community, which now includes founders from 20 countries. The COVID pandemic has obviously moved most of the interactions online. Before COVID, APX often hosted events in its offices, which helped create the kind of serendipity that often leads to new ideas and connections. Looking ahead, the team still believes that there is a lot of value in having face-to-face meetings, but at the same time, maybe not every company needs to move to Berlin and instead visit for a few days every now and then.

Bonus: Here is Hungerhoff’s latest album with St. Beaufort.

#automotive-industry, #axel-springer, #cars, #europe, #funding, #fundings-exits, #porsche, #startups, #tc

Tesla lowers the starting price of its Model Y electric SUV

Tesla has lowered the price of another vehicle. This time it’s the Model Y, an electric SUV the company started shipping in March. The long-range all-wheel drive version of the car is now listed with a purchase price of $49,990, or $3,000 less than what it was before. The car’s new pricing was first reported by Electrek over the weekend.

In May, Tesla cut prices for several of its electric cars, including high-end vehicles like the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV. The new pricing comes as U.S. automakers try to attract buyers despite the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The traditional big three U.S. automakers, Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, are offering 0% financing rates, in addition to deferred or longer-term payment options, while other automakers have also announced incentives and payment plans to appeal to new buyers and keep existing owners from defaulting on loans.

At the beginning of this month, Tesla said it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline due to the pandemic and suspension of production at its main U.S. factory for several weeks, but still better than analysts’ expectations. Most of the deliveries, or 80,050, were Model 3 and Model Y, while the remaining 10,600 were its higher-end Model S and Model X.

#automotive-industry, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #mobility, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-y

BMW, Mercedes Benz end ‘long term’ automated driving alliance, for now

BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG have punted on what was meant to be a long term collaboration to develop next-generation automated driving technology together, less than a year after announcing the agreement.

The German automakers called the break up “mutual and amicable” and have each agreed to concentrate on their existing development paths. Those new paths may include working with new or current partners. The two companies also emphasized that cooperation may be resumed at a later date.

The partnership, which was announced in July 2019, was never meant to be exclusive.  Instead, it reflected the increasingly common approach among legacy manufacturers to form loose development agreements in an aim to share the capitally intensive work of developing, testing and validating automated driving technology.

The two companies did have some lofty goals. The partnership aimed to develop  driver assistance systems, highly automated driving on highways, and automated parking and launch those technology in series vehicles scheduled for 2024.

It seems that the perceived benefits of working together were overshadowed by reality: creating a shared technology platform was a more complex and expensive task than expected, according to comments from the companies. BMW and Mercedes-Benz AG said they were unable to hold detailed expert discussions and talk to suppliers about technology roadmaps until the contract was signed last year.

“In these talks — and after extensive review — both sides concluded that, in view of the expense involved in creating a shared technology platform, as well as current business and economic conditions, the timing is not right for successful implementation of the cooperation,” the companies said.

BMW and Mercedes have other projects and partners. BMW, for instance, is part of a collaboration with Intel, Mobileye, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ansys. Daimler and Bosch launched a robotaxi pilot project in San Jose last year.

Meanwhile, both companies are still working together in other areas. Five years, BMW and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, joined Audi AG to acquire location and technology platform HERE. That ownership consortium has since grown to include more companies.

And last year, BMW Group and Daimler AG also pooled their mobility services in a joint venture under the umbrella of the NOW family.

Separately, BMW said Friday it will cut 6,000 jobs in an agreement reached with the German Works Council. The cuts, prompted by sluggish sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reportedly accomplished through early retirement, non-renewal of temporary contracts, ending redundant positions and not filling vacant positions, Marketwatch reported.

#ansys, #audi-ag, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-group, #bosch, #companies, #daimler, #daimler-ag, #driver, #here, #intel, #mercedes-benz, #mobileye, #mobility-services, #san-jose

The 2021 Ford Bronco gets an official debut date

More than three years ago, Ford announced it was bringing back the Bronco after years of customer requests and speculation.

The mid-size SUV that ended its 30-year production run in 1996 was supposed to debut in March. Then COVID-19 happened and well everything got cancelled, including numerous vehicle reveals.

The reborn Ford Bronco will finally emerge to the media and public — beyond what we’ve already seen thanks to lots of leaked photos — on July 9. Ford announced the date in a post Saturday on Instagram.

Why has TechCrunch dared write about the Ford Bronco? Let’s ignore that it’s a Saturday and I’m trying to bring a little light into everyone’s lives for a fleeting moment or that the Ford Bronco was my childhood companion on numerous camping trips in Baja and the first vehicle I ever drove off road.

The Ford Bronco might be a classic. But it will certainly embody some new fangled tech, hence our interest. The Bronco is also part of Ford’s previously announced plans to invest $750 million and add 2,700 new direct jobs at its Wayne, Mich. factory. The Ford Bronco and an all-new Ford Ranger will be assembled at the Wayne factory, which will also house and a new modification center to support autonomous vehicles.

Expect Ford to produce a family of Bronco vehicles, including a smaller Bronco Sport and plug-in hybrid. Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed during the company’s 2019 shareholder meeting that a hybrid would be part of the mix.

The Bronco is going to be available in two- and four-door configurations. There should be lots of opportunity for buyers to customize their Bronco. For instance, opting for removable doors and roof. The expectation is that the Bronco will have a body-on-frame chassis and be offered with 2.3-liter turbo four and maybe even a V6. Although it’s unclear if the smaller Sport will have a different architecture.

Stay tuned.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #ceo, #ford, #henry-ford, #instagram, #jim-hackett, #michigan, #techcrunch

Volkswagen launches home EV charging system sales ahead of ID.3 vehicle deliveries

Volkswagen has started to sell a home-charging device as the automaker prepares to bring its new ID family of electric vehicles to market.

The ID.3 is the first electric vehicle under the ID label and will only be sold in Europe. Customers who made reservations for the launch edition, known as ID.3 1st, will be able to order their vehicle starting June 17. Volkswagen said this week that the deliveries for the ID.3 1st will begin in September.

And that means that, at least for now, the home-charging device known as Wallbox will only be available for sale in eight countries in Europe. Volkswagen is making three versions of the Wallbox that will range in price between €399 and €849 ($448 to $953). Those prices don’t include the cost of installation.

All of the versions will have a charging capacity of up to 11 kilowatts, permanently mounted Type 2 charging cable and integrated DC residual current protection. For now, just the base model is available, according to VW.

The two premium models, the ID. Charger Connect and ID. Charger Pro, will be available later this year. These models come with additional software that allows for the kind of interaction and analytics that Tesla owners are more familiar with. The ID. Charger Connect will allow customers to link their smartphone to control charging processes. The ID. Charger Pro has that connectivity feature plus an integrated electricity meter designed for commercial uses. The integrated meter can be used to bill electricity costs for company car drivers, according to VW.

Wallbox Volkswagen ID. Charger

Image Credits: Volkswagen

The ID.3 is the first model in the company’s new all-electric ID brand and the beginning of its ambitious plan to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025. The ID.3 will only be sold in Europe. Other models under the ID brand will be sold in North America.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #charging-stations, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #greentech, #inductive-charging, #north-america, #smartphone, #tesla, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-group, #vw-group

Tesla cuts prices across EV line up, ends free supercharging for Model S, Model X

Tesla slashed prices across its electric vehicle portfolio overnight as the automaker aims to boost sales in an economy beaten down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters and Electrek were the first to report the changes. The base price of Model 3 standard range plus is now $37,990, a $2,000 reduction. But the biggest cuts were made to Tesla’s more expensive, luxury vehicles, the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV.

The Model S long range plus now starts at $74,990, a decrease of $5,000. The more expensive Model S performance as well as the two Model X configurations also saw prices slashed by $5,000.

The price cuts come as automakers seek ways to attract buyers after months of a lockdown prompted by the COVID-19, which has dampened demand and upended the economy. The traditional big three U.S. automakers Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have turned to 0% financing rates as well as deferred or longer term payment options. Other automakers including Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motors America, Nissan North America, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, and Volkswagen of America have also announced incentives and payment plans aimed at preventing existing owners from defaulting on loans as well as incentivizing new buyers.

Tesla has also removed mention of free unlimited supercharging for new Model S and Model X sales along with the price cuts.

The company has waffled on the free supercharging incentive before, removing it and bringing it back over the past several years.

In the early days, free unlimited supercharging was part of the package of buying a Tesla vehicle. The automaker began phasing out free unlimited access to its supercharger network when it announced that customers who buy cars after January 1, 2017 will have 400 kilowatt-hours, or about 1,000 miles, of free charging every year. Once owners surpassed that amount, they would be charged a small fee.

Tesla then narrowed the free unlimited access to superchargers through a referral program and only to buyers of performance versions of the Model S, Model X and Model 3. The free unlimited supercharger referral program is now set to end September 18.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has called the perk “unsustainable” has brought back the perk several times since to drive sales. In August 2019, the company resurrected the benefit in an effort to boost sales of its more expensive electric vehicles.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #cars, #elon-musk, #ford, #tesla, #tesla-model-s, #toyota, #united-states

Mercedes-Benz launches sales of its premium all-electric EQV van

Mercedes-Benz is now selling its EQV 300 all-electric premium van in Europe, the second EV to come out of the automaker’s initiative to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand.

A concept version of the EQV was first shown in March 2019. But unlike so many concepts destined for nonexistence, this one was marked for series production. The EQV, which can seat up to eight people, is designed to appeal to customers seeking a more luxurious ride. The base price of €71,388 (about $78,359) provides a hint at who Mercedes is targeting.

Mercedes is marketing this toward families, upscaled adventurers and corporate clients who might be looking for a shuttle vehicle. The vehicle’s seating can be configured in numerous ways to meet various customers’ needs. It also can be customized for packages, not people.

The EQV comes with a compact electric drivetrain on the front axle that produces 150 kW, or 201 horsepower, as well as a 100 kWh battery pack, and can travel an estimated 418 km (260 miles) under Europe’s WLTP standards. The company is also showcasing its MBUX infotainment system in the EV, which has a number of tech-forward features, such as a self-learning voice control system with connectivity features.

Mercedes is selling the EQV 300 and a longer wheelbase version called AVANTGARDE. Both will be produced at the company’s plant in Vitoria in northern Spain, alongside the V-Class and the Mercedes-Benz Vito.

The van comes with a four-year maintenance plan that covers the battery up to 160,000 km, or eight years. Buyers also get the company’s navigation services for free for 36 months, as well as a membership to EV charger Ionity each for one year. Owners will also have one-year free access to Mercedes me Charge. The feature shows the charging infrastructure network in Europe and lets users start, stop and pay for charging via the Mercedes me app, a credit card or through the media display in the vehicle.

Mercedes announced its “EQ” technology brand in 2016. Since then the company has unveiled several EQ- related concepts as well as its first series-production vehicle, the EQC electric drive SUV. The company has previously said it plans to invest more than $12 billion to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand and spend another $1.2 billion in global battery production.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #electric-vehicles, #europe, #mercedes-benz

Ford to offer COVID-19 testing for symptomatic workers as part of reopening plan

Ford said Saturday it will test hourly and salaried employees with suspected COVID-19 symptoms in four metro areas where it has major operations as it prepares to reopen facilities this month.

The automaker is expected to resume production and some operations at its North America facilities May 18. Aside from factory workers, Ford is also bringing back about 12,000 employees whose jobs cannot be done remotely such as vehicle testing and design. The company’s parts distribution centers reopened in North America on May 11.

Ford said it will initially use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which identifies if someone is actively infected. PCR tests are used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of the antibodies, which are the body’s immune response.

The automaker said it has signed contracts with health systems to conduct the testing. Ford will work with Beaumont Health for testing in Southeast Michigan, the University of Louisville Health in Louisville, Liberty Hospital in the Kansas City area and the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area.

Collectively, Ford employs more than 72,000 people in Southeast Michigan, Louisville, Kansas City and Chicago.

The contracts will enable Ford to test employees with suspected symptoms with a goal of getting results back within 24 hours, according to the automaker’s medical director Dr. Walter Talamonti.

Testing results will be simultaneously shared with Ford doctors to help identify other employees who might have been in close contact with an infected worker. Those employees will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The company is working on expanding testing, Ford CTO Ken Washington said in a statement. Washington added that Ford is looking into voluntary antibody testing in the future for its employees.

Ford released May 1 a back-to-work playbook that describes the protocols that it will put in place once production at its factories resume. Employees will have to complete a self-certification health check daily and have their temperature scanned upon arrival to any Ford facility. Face masks will also be required. Safety glasses with side shields or face shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #chicago, #cto, #ford, #health-systems, #henry-ford, #kansas-city, #louisville, #north-america, #tc, #transport

Fiat Chrysler and AV startup Voyage partner on self-driving minivans

Self-driving vehicle startup Voyage said Monday that it has inked a deal with Fiat Chrysler to supply purpose-built vehicles, a partnership that will help accelerate its plan to launch a fully driverless ride-hailing service.

Voyage, a three-year-old startup that tests and operates a self-driving vehicle service (with human safety operators) in retirement communities in California and Florida, started by modifying Ford Fusion vehicles. The company then began modifying FCA’s Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans with its autonomous vehicle technology.

This new deal, which was nearly two years in the making, marks a critical step in Voyage’s plan to deploy fully driverless vehicles as a ride-hailing service. It also illustrates FCA’s increasingly large role as a supplier to AV developers. The automaker already has a deal with autonomous vehicle company Waymo to provide thousands of purpose-built Chrysler Pacifica minivans. FCA also has a partnership with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vehicles.

FCA’s approach to rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology is to focus on vehicle-side needs while establishing smart and strategic collaborations that promote a culture of innovation, safety and know-how, a company spokesperson said in an email to TechCrunch .

Under this deal with Voyage, Fiat Chrysler is supplying Voyage with purpose-built Pacific Hybrids that have been developed for integration of automated technology. These vehicles come with customizations such as redundant braking and steering that are necessary to safely deploy driverless vehicles, Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron told TechCrunch.

FCA characterized the deal as more than just a supply contract, noting that it will provide support to Voyage to understand the features, operation and technology of the vehicle.

“This opportunity gives engineering and product development teams at Voyage and FCA a greater understanding of the impact of AV technology use on the underlying vehicle, reducing the learning curve for all and guiding future vehicle development,” an FCA spokesperson said in an email to TechCrunch.

Last year, TechCrunch first reported that Voyage had partnered with an automaker to provide this next-generation vehicle designed specifically for autonomous driving. FCA ended up being that unknown partner. FCA and Voyage signed the deal in August 2019.

“As part of this collaboration, Voyage and FCA will jointly adapt and validate the connections between the self-driving software, sensors, and embedded systems,” according to the announcement posted on Medium.

Cameron wouldn’t say how many vehicles FCA will supply. It’s likely dozens not thousands of vehicles. Voyage, which has raised a total of $52 million, is still a small operation compared to AV giants like Waymo and Cruise.

Voyage is still ways off from reaching its driverless ride-hailing service goal. Although, its deal with FCA along with clearing an important regulatory hurdle with California officials are two moments of progress on its long road to a profitable, commercial-scale robotaxi service.

Cameron has previously described the company’s progress as “inching” towards driverless. The company’s self-driving software has reached maturation in the communities it is testing in, and Voyage is now focusing on validation, Cameron told TechCrunch last year.

#automation, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #california, #chrysler, #crv, #emerging-technologies, #fca, #fiat, #fiat-chrysler, #florida, #ford, #ford-fusion, #franklin-templeton, #initialized-capital, #jaguar-land-rover, #khosla-ventures, #oliver-cameron, #robotics, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #techcrunch

Volvo to use Luminar’s lidar in production vehicles to unlock automated driving on highways

Volvo Cars will start producing vehicles in 2020 that are equipped with lidar and a perception stack — technology developed by Silicon Valley startup Luminar that the automaker will use to deploy an automated driving system for highways.

For now, the lidar will be part of a hardware package that consumers can add as an option to their Volvo vehicle, starting with the second-generation XC90. Volvo will combine Luminar’s lidar with cameras, radar, software and back-up systems for functions such as steering, braking and battery power to enable its highway pilot feature.

Volvo, which is known for making its advanced safety features standard, sees a bigger opportunity in its partnership with Luminar. The Swedish automaker said Luminar will help it improve advanced driver assistance systems and may lead to all of its second-generation Scalable Product Architecture (SPA2) vehicles to come with lidar as a standard feature.

Luminar and Volvo didn’t reveal how much this highway pilot package might cost. Luminar has previously said its Iris lidar unit will cost less than $1,000 per unit for production vehicles seeking full autonomy and about $500 for version used for more limited purposes like driver assistance.

The announcement is a milestone for Luminar and its whiz founder Austin Russell, who burst onto the autonomous vehicle startup scene in April 2017 after operating for years in secrecy. It also makes Volvo the first automaker to equip production vehicles with lidar — the light detection and ranging radar that measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car.

Luminar’s Iris lidar sensors — which TechCrunch has described as about the size of really thick sandwich and one-third smaller than its previous iterations — will be integrated in the roof. The sensor’s tucked away placement is a departure from the bucket style spinning lidars that have become synonymous with autonomous vehicle development.

Image Credits: Volvo

Shipping a vehicle with the proper hardware and perception stack doesn’t mean customers will be able to let their Volvo take over driving on highways from the get go. The software, which is being developed by Zenuity, is still underway, Volvo CTO Henrik Green said.

The software will be activated wirelessly once it is verified to be safe in individual geographic locations. Volvo will continue to expand the capability of the software such as pushing up the maximum speed a vehicle can travel while driving autonomously. This hardware first-continual software update strategy is similar to Tesla, which has sold an automated driving package to consumers for years that has improved over time, but still does not allow for so-called “full self-driving.”

“Soon, your Volvo will be able to drive autonomously on highways when the car determines it is safe to do so,” Green said. “At that point, your Volvo takes responsibility for the driving and you can relax, take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel. Over time, updates over the air will expand the areas in which the car can drive itself. For us, a safe introduction of autonomy is a gradual introduction.”

A turning point for lidar

Lidar sensors are considered by many automakers and tech companies an essential piece of technology to safely roll out autonomous vehicles. In the past 18 months, as the timeline to deploy commercial robotaxi fleets has expanded, automakers have turned back to developing nearer term tech for production vehicles.

“It’s a very isolated problem to solve and becomes a lot more solvable in a safe way than trying to solve autonomous driving through the inner city of Los Angeles or San Francisco,” Green said. “By narrowing the use case to those particular highways, we can bring safe autonomy into vehicles for personal use in the timeframe we’re talking about.”

Advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, that was pushed aside in pursuit of fully autonomous vehicles has become a darling once again. It’s prompted a pivot within the industry, particularly with lidar companies. Dozens of lidar startups once grappling to become the supplier of choice for fully driverless vehicles are now hawking their wares for use in regular old passenger cars, trucks and SUVs. Some lidar startups such as Luminar have developed the perception software as well in an effort to diversify their business and offer a more appealing package to automakers.

The companies will deepen their collaboration to ensure Luminar’s lidar technology is validated for series production. Volvo Cars said it has signed an agreement to possibly increase its minority stake in Luminar.

Luminar built its lidar from scratch, a lengthy process that it says has resulted in a simpler design and better performance. The company made a leap forward in April 2018 with the introduction of a new lidar unit that performs better, is cheaper and is able to be assembled in minutes rather than hours. Luminar also acquired Black Forest Engineering as part of its strategy to improve the quality along with efficiency. And it opened a 136,000-square-foot manufacturing center in Orlando, Florida, where it does all of its engineering and development as well as the mass manufacturing.

The startup has continued to improve its lidar as well as attract investors. Luminar announced last year it had raised $100 million, bringing its total to more than $250 million. The company unveiled a perception platform and its compact Iris lidar unit, which will now go into the Volvo.

“This is really kind of the holy grail that we’ve been working towards for the entire course of the business,” Russell said.

#austin-russell, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #cto, #driver, #iris, #laser, #lidar, #luminar, #tc, #techcrunch, #technology, #tesla, #volvo, #volvo-cars, #zenuity

Tesla turns Q1 profit on cost reductions, rising car margins, credits

Tesla reported Wednesday that it earned $16 million and generated $5.985 billion in revenue in the first quarter, results buoyed by improved automotive margins and reductions in operating expenses.

Tesla’s first quarter earnings were lower than the fourth period as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations and dampened sales. But the company still managed to squeeze in a profit, its third consecutive quarter of profitability, despite the COVID-19 related disruption.

Tesla’s earnings report paints a complex financial picture. While it managed to eke out a GAAP profit, it also reported had a negative free cash flow of $895 million in the first quarter. Tesla has previously targeted being free cash-flow positive for 2020.

Tesla’s profitability target was aided by a 13% reduction in operating expenses compared to first quarter 2019 and improved automotive margins. Tesla also cashed in more regulatory credits in the first quarter than it had in more than a year. Tesla includes revenue from credits in its automotive revenue.

Its automotive gross margins grew to 25.5% in the first quarter up from 20.2% in the same period last year. Tesla includes regulatory credits in its automotive revenues, which figure into its gross margins. Regulatory credits in the first quarter were $354 million, a 64% increase from the first quarter of 2019.  Revenue from credits dropped after the first quarter of last year, hovering between $111 million and $134 million, before popping again this latest quarter.

Tesla’s $5.985 billion in revenue was 19% lower than the fourth quarter when it generated $7.38 billion. However, its first quarter revenue is 32% higher than the $4.5 billion it generated in the same period last year.

Tesla earned $16 million, or 9 cents a share in the first quarter, 85% lower than the fourth period when it earned $105 million in net income, or 56 cents a diluted share. Tesla’s first quarter earnings were wildly ahead of the same period last year when it posted a $702 million loss.

When adjusted for one-time items, Tesla earned $227 million, or $1.24 a share in the first quarter of 2020.

The company reported that quarter-end cash and cash equivalents increased by $1.8 billion compared to the previous quarter to $8.1 billion. That increase was driven mainly by Tesla’s $2.3 billion capital raise in February.

The first quarter was full of milestones for Tesla. It was the first full quarter that its Shanghai factory was at volume production. It’s also the first quarter that the automaker began producing and delivering the Model Y.

Tesla remained committed to its earlier sales outlook for 2020 of hitting 500,000 vehicle deliveries, but stopped short of saying it could hit that goal. The company said it had the capacity installed to exceed 500,000 vehicle deliveries this year, despite announced production interruptions.

“For our US factories, it remains uncertain how quickly we and our suppliers will be able to ramp production after resuming operations. We are coordinating closely with each supplier and associated government,” the company said in its shareholder letter.

Tesla reported its first quarter earnings a day after CEO Elon Musk sent out a FREE AMERICA NOW tweet to his 33.4 million followers in response to the seven Bay Area counties extending a stay-at-home order through the end of May. Tesla is headquartered in Palo Alto and its main factory as well as several other related facilities are located in Fremont, Calif. and are subject to the order.

The company suspended production at the factory March 24. It had planned to bring it back online May 4. The company’s other U.S. operations have also been temporarily shut down, including its factory in Sparks, Nevada and its solar facility in Buffalo, New York.

Earlier this month, Tesla reported that it delivered 88,400 vehicles in the first quarter, beating most analysts expectations despite a 21% decrease from the previous quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic put downward pressure on demand and created logistical challenges.

Tesla produced 103,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter, about 2% lower than the previous period.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #electric-vehicle, #elon-musk, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-3

EV startup Nio secures $1 billion investment from China entities

Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio has secured a $1 billion investment from several state-owned companies in Hefei in return for agreeing to establish headquarters in the city’s economic development hotspot and giving up a stake in one of its business units.

The injection of capital comes from several investors, including Hefei City Construction and Investment Holding Group, CMG-SDIC Capital and Anhui Provincial Emerging Industry Investment Co.

Nio’s factory is already in Hefei, which it operates with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group. However, the company’s headquarters and other operations are in Shanghai about 300 miles from the Anhui provincial city. Under this agreement, Nio will locate all of its Chinese operations, including R&D, sales, service and supply chain, in the Hefei Economic and Technological Development Area.

The investment is another important milestone of NIO for its long-term growth, Nio said in a statement Wednesday.

“After receiving the investments from the strategic investors, Nio will have more sufficient funds to support its business development, to enhance its leadership in the products and technologies of smart electric vehicles and to offer services exceeding users’ expectation,” the company said, adding that the launch of Nio China headquarters in Hefei enables NIO to improve its operational efficiency and to sustain its growth and competitiveness in the long run.

Despite the new capital, Nio faces a series of challenges, including a downturn in the Chinese automotive market. Electric vehicle sales in China declined 4% to 1.21 million vehicles in 2019 from the previous year. The company’s ES8 and ES6 vehicles haven’t generated the same demand as Tesla’s Model 3. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is dampening demand further as customers stayed home.

Structuring the deal requires some asset shuffling. The investment is targeted towards Nio China, a recently established business unit under Nio Inc.

Investors will put 7 billion yuan, or $1 billion, into Nio’s holding company. Nio will put its core China businesses and assets — which include vehicle research and development, supply chain and its power division — into Nio China, a subsidiary of the holding company. Nio’s parent company will also invest into Nio China.

At the end, investors will hold a 24.1% stake in Nio China while Nio will have a 75.9% controlling equity interesting into the unit.

The company expects the closing of the investments to take place in the second quarter of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #china, #nio, #shanghai, #supply-chain, #tc

Polestar’s first all-electric vehicle will start at $59,900 in the US

Polestar, the electric performance brand spun out of Volvo, said the base price of its first all-electric vehicle will be $59,900 in the United States, lower than originally targeted.

The 2021 Polestar 2, an electric performance fastback, is the first EV to come out of a brand that was relaunched three years ago. Polestar, once a high-performance brand under Volvo Cars, was recast as an electric performance brand in 2017. The aim was to produce exciting and fun-to-drive electric vehicles — a niche that Tesla was the first to fill and has dominated ever since.

The company believes the vehicle is well-positioned for a successful entry into the U.S. market thanks to its lower pricing, tax incentives and the ability for customers to buy it online, said Gregor Hembrough, who heads up Polestar USA. The U.S. prices are also below incentive thresholds in a few critical markets such as California and New York.

Polestar has been trickling out announcements around the upcoming Polestar 2 for months now, including pricing for Europe, which starts at €58,800. On Thursday, the company revealed a few more pricing details for the various options customers can buy, including a $5,000 performance pack, a $4,000 upgrade of Nappa leather interior and $1,200 for 20-inch alloy wheels.

The Polestar 2 will likely be held up as a possible competitor to the Tesla Model 3. The pricing on the two vehicles don’t quite match up unless the $7,500 federal tax incentive, for which Polestar still qualifies, is considered. Tesla no longer qualifies for the federal tax credit because it has sold more than 200,000 electric vehicles.

Stripping out the incentives, the base price of the Polestar 2 is slightly more expensive than the performance version of the Model 3, which starts at $56,990.

Until the automaker begins delivery to the U.S., which is expected this summer, it won’t be clear how it stacks up against the Model 3.

Polestar is aiming to attract customers with tech and the performance specs of the fastback, which produces 408 horsepower, 487 pound feet of torque and has a 78 kWh battery pack that delivers an estimated range of 292 miles under Europe’s WLTP. Polestar hasn’t released the EPA estimates for the Polestar 2.

The interior of the Polestar 2, which features Google’s Android Automotive operating system.

The Polestar 2’s infotainment system will be powered by Android OS and, as a result, bring into the car embedded Google services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. This shouldn’t be confused with Android Auto, which is a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system. Android OS is modeled after its open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so it could be used in cars.

Polestar, which is jointly owned by Volvo Car Group and Zhejiang Geely Holding of China, plans to open physical retail showrooms called Polestar Spaces once stay-at-home orders prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. The first of these locations will open on the West Coast of the United States and New
York in late summer 2020, the company said. The Polestar 2 will be available in all 50 states to buy or lease.

#android, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #california, #cars, #china, #electric-vehicles, #europe, #geely, #google-assistant, #google-play-store, #google-maps, #linux, #new-york, #operating-system, #polestar, #smartphones, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-model-3, #united-states, #volvo-cars, #west-coast

Lucid Motors’ EV factory starts to take shape

Four months after breaking ground, the Lucid Motors factory in Arizona sits  — its new roof and sign emblazoned on its side— waiting for construction to resume.

The electric vehicle company released Tuesday new photos of the factory located off Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Construction was “well ahead of schedule” when Gov. Doug Ducey imposed a stay-at-home order due to COVID 19, according to Peter Hochholdinger, the vice president of manufacturing who was hired away last year from a similar post at Tesla. The factory will produce the Air, the company’s first electric vehicle.

Despite the pause in construction, Lucid Motors doesn’t expect a significant delay in its completion even with current events, Hochholdinger said. Construction crews were able to finish the roof as well as most of the siding on the building. Tooling and machinery for the factory was “well underway” before the current crisis, according to the company.

Lucid Motors’ latest timeline was to start production of the Air, beginning in late 2020. The company did not adjust its production timeline, despite the COVID-19 related closure.

Lucid Motors factory AZ

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

Shipments from suppliers have already started, according to Lucid Motors. The company said some of these shipments are expected to be received later this month.  Lucid Motors indicated that move-in activities are expected to start in May.

The Arizona factory, once it opens, will be the culmination of more than decades-long pursuit. Lucid Motors was founded 11 years ago with a different name and mission. The company, called  Atieva at the time, was focused on developing electric car battery technology. It then shifted to producing electric cars and changed its name in 2016.

The company seemed to have momentum at the time. Lucid Motors had successfully raised money, unveiled the Air, announced plans to build a $700 million factory in Arizona, signed a deal with Samsung SDI to supply it with lithium-ion batteries and moved into spacious new digs. However, building a factory is expensive, and the company fell silent for nearly a year as it sought funding to produce the Air.

In 2018, Lucid Motors secured $1 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Lucid said at the time that the $1 billion in funding would be used to complete engineering development and testing of the Lucid Air, construct its factory in Arizona, begin the global rollout of its retail strategy starting in North America and enter production.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #california, #doug-ducey, #governor, #lucid, #lucid-air, #lucid-motors, #manufacturing, #north-america, #peter-hochholdinger, #saudi-arabia, #transportation

TuSimple partners with supplier ZF to mass produce self-driving truck tech

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple is partnering with automotive supplier ZF to develop and produce autonomous vehicle technology, such as sensors, on a commercial scale.

The partnership, slated to begin in April, will cover China, Europe and North America. The two companies will co-develop sensors needed in autonomous vehicle technology such as cameras, lidar, radar and a central computer. As part of the partnership, ZF will contribute engineering support to validate and integrate TuSimple’s autonomous system into the vehicle.

TuSimple launched in 2015 and has operations in China, San Diego and Tucson, Ariz. The company has been working on a “full-stack solution,” an industry term that means developing and bringing together all of the technological pieces required for autonomous driving. TuSimple is developing a Level 4 system, a designation by the SAE that means the vehicle takes over all of the driving in certain conditions.

TuSimple has managed to scale up its operations and attract investors even as other companies in the nascent autonomous vehicle technology industry have faltered. The company has raised nearly $300 million to date from investors such as Sina, UPS and Tier 1 supplier Mando Corporation. It’s now making about 20 autonomous trips between Arizona and Texas each week with a fleet of more than 40 autonomous trucks. All of the trucks have a human safety operator behind the wheel.

The partnership is an important milestone for TuSimple as the startup prepares to bring autonomous-ready trucks to market, TuSimple chief product officer Chuck Price said in a statement. The plan is for TuSimple to combine its self-driving software with ZF’s ability to build automotive grade products.

The partnership doesn’t remove every barrier for TuSimple. Moving from development to deployment takes millions of dollars of investment. If a company can move from testing to commercial deployment, it must still navigate daily operations efficiently in the aim of becoming profitable.

#arizona, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #china, #electric-vehicles, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #north-america, #self-driving-cars, #texas, #transportation, #trucking, #tusimple, #united-states, #ups, #zf

Ford temporarily suspends production in North American factories

Ford said Wednesday it will temporarily suspend production at its North American factories through March 30 in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe — even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,”  Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

The move will have a widespread effect on the automotive industry and the region, causing suppliers that make parts for Ford to close down, or, at the minimum, suffer a slowdown.

Ford said it will work with UAW on “restart” plans as well as putting in place additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus. One of the top priorities is to find ways to maximize social distancing among plant workers – both during work hours and at shift change, when large numbers of people typically gather at entry and exit points and maximizing cleaning times between shift changes, Ford said.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

Ford also temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant building Wednesday morning after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19. The company said it is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building. The plant, like the others, will halt production through March 30.

Ford’s closures in North America follows a decision to shutter factories in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany as well as its Craiova facility in Romania. Earlier this week, Ford asked all salaried employees — except those performing business critical roles that can’t be done off site —to work remotely until further notice.

On Sunday, the UAW along with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles formed a coronavirus task force to work on ways to protect worker and lessen the spread of the disease.

#afl-cio, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #cologne, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ford, #germany, #henry-ford, #industries, #north-america, #president, #romania

BMW axes plans to bring electric iX3 SUV to US

BMW will not bring the iX3, the automaker’s first electric crossover, to the U.S., the latest automaker to shift its EV strategy to Europe and China.

BMW told Automotive News, the first media outlet to report the change, that at this time, it doesn’t have plans to bring iX3 to the U.S. market. The change is notable because the iX3 is based off of the X3, the most popular BMW model in the U.S.

The BMW iX3, which will be manufactured in China, is scheduled to come to market in the first half of 2021.

BMW unveiled the iX3 concept at the Auto China 2018 show in Beijing. The automaker is targeting the U.S., Europe and China for its broader EV strategy. However, the realities of the U.S. market, where automakers with the exception of Tesla have faced a tepid response to EVs, mixed with stricter emissions regulations in Europe, are now hitting home for BMW.

BMW isn’t the only automaker to pull back plans to bring upcoming electric vehicles to the U.S. Mercedes-Benz has delayed the U.S. launch of the electric EQC SUV by a year. The EQC is now scheduled to come to the U.S. in 2021.

Volkswagen has also tweaked its sales strategy for its upcoming ID electric lineup. The company will keep its compact hatchback, the ID.3, out of the U.S. Instead, VW plans to bring the ID.4, (otherwise known as the ID. Crozz) to the U.S., although even this vehicle will first launch in Europe.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #beijing, #bmw, #bmw-i, #cars, #china, #electric-vehicles, #europe, #united-states

Cadillac cancels debut of all-electric Lyriq over COVID-19 concerns

Cadillac has cancelled the upcoming debut of the Lyriq, an all-electric mid-sized SUV designed to be an entry point into luxury brand’s new EV lineup, over concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.

GM’s luxury brand had planned to reveal the Lyriq on April 2 at an event in Los Angeles.

COVID-19, a disease caused by a new virus that is a member of the coronavirus family and a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past, has caused governments and companies to cancel tech, business and automotive events around the world. The Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled, as well as MWC in Barcelona and the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

The GM brand said in a statement that the event was being cancelled “out of an abundance of caution.”

Here’s the statement from Cadillac:

As you are aware, the situation in relation to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak in the U.S. continues to develop. Now, several states have declared a State of Emergency and the number of cases continues to climb.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the Cadillac LYRIQ reveal in Los Angeles, California on April 2nd.  We are currently evaluating future plans and will be touch soon with an update.  Our top priority is the safety of our media guests and employees. We have been working with GM Medical and Security to monitor the situation closely and have been following recommendations for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

The Lyriq is just one in a roster of electric vehicles that GM plans to bring to market in the next two years. The automaker revealed March 4 a sweeping plan to produce and sell EVs that hinges on a new electric architecture that will support a wide range of products across all of its brands, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. The EV portfolio will include everything from compact cars and work trucks to large premium SUVs and performance vehicles.

This modular architecture, called “Ultium,” will be capable of 19 different battery and drive unit configurations, 400-volt and 800-volt packs with storage ranging from 50 kWh to 200 kWh, and front-, rear- and all-wheel drive configurations.

The Cruise Origin, a self-driving, electric shared vehicle that was shown in January, was the first product under this new EV strategy to be revealed to the public. The reveal of Cadillac Lyriq SUV was supposed to come next, followed by the GMC Hummer EV on May 20. The Hummer event has not been cancelled.

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GM reveals an EV for (almost) every purse and purpose

General Motors’ EV day didn’t just mark the launch of a new flexible battery architecture and an ambitious plan to deploy this underlying foundation across all of the automaker’s brands, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.

It was a resurrection, albeit with a modern twist.

The company’s announcement this week gave new life to its brand ladder — a portfolio that ranges from the heights of luxury to the most basic utility — and tipped its hand about how it will bring EVs “across the chasm.

This game plan isn’t new. GM is bringing back a strategy that once defined its success and reshaped America’s automotive landscape. This strategy worked for GM until complacency crept in and the brand ladder collapsed. This time, GM is aiming to avoid these snares.

History lesson

Henry Ford’s moving assembly line birthed the early auto industry, but as American prosperity grew in the 1910s-20s, it was General Motors that laid the foundations of the modern car market. Under then-chairman Alfred Sloan, the amalgamation of once-independent automakers united under a strategy that would, in his words, create “a car for every purse and purpose.” From a value Chevrolet to a sporty Pontiac, from a discreetly plush Buick to a majestic Cadillac, and with countless brands in between, what became known as Sloanism birthed the idea that there should be a car to reflect every American’s self-image and social status.

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