Nornickel to boost nickel production in Finland for EV battery market

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian metals producer Nornickel said on Tuesday it will boost output of nickel products at its Harjavalta plant in Finland as it bets on the expanding market for battery materials needed for electric vehicles (EV).

Finland’s state mining investment firm Finnish Minerals Group, German chemicals giant BASF and Finnish utility Fortum are among companies currently forming an EV battery cluster in Finland.

Nornickel, one of the world’s largest producers of nickel, wants to meet rising demand from those companies in coming years, its head of sales, Anton Berlin told reporters.

Its Harjavalta refinery will expand production of nickel sulphate solution, which is used for the manufacture of intermediate products for lithium-ion batteries.

Being close to customers is vital for this product as long-distance transport eats up the bulk of its profitability, Berlin said.

“We are confident that this market will be rising,” Berlin said. Estimates of nickel consumption by the global electric and hybrid vehicles sector vary from 400,000 tonnes to 700,000 tonnes a year by 2025, he added.

Harjavalta currently produces 65,000 tonnes of nickel products a year, of which 10,000 tonnes comes in nickel sulphate solution.

It plans to raise production of nickel products to 75,000 tonnes by 2023 and to more than 100,000 tonnes by 2026, including at least 40,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate solution.

This solution would be enough to produce 1 million of electric vehicles, based on the current nickel per car usage.

Despite its expansion of raw materials production for the EV sector, Nornickel does not plan to move into actual EV battery production as it believes that “is a completely different business” to its own, Berlin added.

The Harjavalta project will cost the company several tens of million dollars, he added.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; editing by Susan Fenton

Biden faces key test on EV battery trade dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden faces a Sunday deadline to decide whether to intervene in a trade dispute between two South Korean electric vehicle battery makers that could impact a Georgia factory and his push for more electric vehicles.

The companies, LG Chem and rival SK Innovation Co, have spent months trying to take advantage of past and promised U.S. investments, and ties to politicians.

The Biden Administration, through the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, is set to decide as early as Friday whether to take the rare step of reversing the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), unless the Korean battery companies reach a last-minute settlement.

The White House declined to comment on Thursday.

The ITC in February sided with LG Chem in its trade secrets claims, but permitted SK to import components for batteries for Ford EV F-150 program for four years, and Volkswagen’s North American EVs for two years.

Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh said Wednesday Biden’s intervention was critical: “The White House could accelerate the future of zero-emission vehicles and green jobs, or threaten to reduce U.S. battery capacity and delay the transition to electric vehicles.”

The global auto industry is racing to develop EVs. Biden has proposed $174 billion to boost EV sales and charging.

Unless the White House intervenes, SK says the ITC ruling would force it to halt construction on a $2.6-billion factory in Georgia, where two newly-elected Democratic Senators are the linchpin of Biden’s slim Democratic Congressional majority.

Last month, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp urged Biden to intervene, noting SK’s plant will employ nearly 2,600: “Simply put: the livelihoods of thousands of Georgians are now in your hands.”

Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff has held numerous meetings with the Korean battery makers and Biden Administration, his office confirmed, and stressed “the urgent need for both companies to come to the negotiating table and agree to a settlement to save the Georgia plant,” a spokeswoman said.

LG’s battery unit LG Energy Solution is nearing completion of an Ohio cell manufacturing plant with General Motors and is close to announcing plans build a $2.3 billion second facility in Tennessee, sources told Reuters.

LG plans to invest at least $4.5 billion in U.S. battery production over the next four years. LG insists it can handle automakers battery needs if SK abandons its Georgia plant.

SK argues LG could not handle VW and Ford contracts and warns Chinese manufacturers may replace lost battery capacity.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Michael Perry

Tesla: Cameras in cars not activated outside North America – Weibo post

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc said on Wednesday that cameras inside its cars are not activated outside of North America, in a statement published on its Chinese social media page.

Tesla faces scrutiny in China where the military in March banned Tesla cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras in its vehicles, sources told Reuters.

“Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on its use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection,” the company wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site.

Joint venture: Aurora & Volvo invest in self-driving heavy trucks

(Reuters) – Global heavy truck manufacturers are lining up technology partners to help build out self-driving systems for long-haul freight that could see widespread commercial service well before self-driving robotaxis.

The latest alliance was announced Tuesday between Sweden’s Volvo Group and California-based Aurora Innovation, building on a working relationship that dates back several years, the partners said.

Analysts expect more such partnerships, as relatively young technology firms such as Aurora connect their autonomous vehicle systems knowledge with the deep manufacturing experience of legacy companies such as Volvo Trucks.

“You can’t go at it alone in autonomy,” said Grayson Brulte, president consultancy Brulte & Company. “The trucking industry is a completely different personality” than the passenger vehicle business, with different requirements.

Most of the larger truck manufacturers have turned to self-driving tech partners, driven in part by a chronic shortage of drivers and a boom in e-commerce, fueled by the global pandemic.

In January, Aurora announced a strategic partnership with U.S. truckmaker PACCAR, whose brands include Peterbilt and Kenworth.

Aurora’s founders include self-driving veterans from Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo. Aurora last year said its first commercial product would be in trucking “where the market is largest (and) the unit economics are best.”

In 2020, Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik told Reuters that “goods delivery is a bigger market than moving people” as Waymo expanded its focus to include heavy trucks.

Germany’s Daimler has formed a self-driving truck alliance with Waymo, while China’s largest heavy truck maker, FAW Jiefang, has partnered with Plus AI.

Volkswagen’s Traton truck group is an investor in TuSimple, as is U.S. truckmaker Navistar.

In a January earnings call, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the long-delayed Semi electric truck is highly likely to be the first of the company’s vehicles to achieve full self-driving capability.

Xiaomi invests $10 billion in smart EV business over ten years

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp has formally entered the automotive industry with a new smart electric vehicle (EV) business, the company announced on Tuesday in a filing.

The firm will initially invest 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) in the wholly-owned subsidiary, with a total investment goal of $10 billion over the next ten years.

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun will also serve as CEO of the smart electric vehicle unit, the company added.

($1 = 6.5647 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Volkswagen recalls Audi A3s in the U.S. over air bag concerns

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen has issued a recall for more than 150,000 Audi vehicles in the United States on concerns that their passenger air bags might not activate, according to a filing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The recall is expected to affect 153,152 Audi A3 cars built between 2015 and 2020, including the Sedan, Etron and Cabriolet models, as well as certain S3 Sedans.

The system which detects whether the passenger seat is occupied might malfunction and switch off the air bag even if a person is sitting there, the filing said.

Volkswagen will write to owners of the affected vehicles by May 21 and will contact them again once a solution to the problem has been found.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to make EVs – Sources

China’s Xiaomi Corp plans to make electric vehicles (EVs) using Great Wall Motor Co Ltd’s factory, said three people with direct knowledge of the matter, making it the latest tech firm to join the smart mobility race.

The tech firm’s stock price was up more than 9% in afternoon Friday trade after Reuters reported the plan. Great Wall’s Hong Kong stock rose more than 15% and its Shanghai shares gained by their maximum 10% daily limit.

Xiaomi, one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers, is in talks to use one of Great Wall’s plants in China to make EVs under its own brand, said two of the people, who declined to be identified as the information is not public.

Xiaomi will aim its EVs at the mass market, in line with the broader positioning of its electronics products, the two people said.

Great Wall, which has not before offered manufacturing services to other companies, will provide engineering consultancy to speed up the project, said one of the people.

Both companies plan to announce the partnership as soon as early next week, said another person.

Xiaomi and Great Wall declined to comment.

SMARTER VEHICLES

The plan comes as Xiaomi seeks to diversify its revenue streams from the smartphone business which accounts for the bulk of its income but carries razor-thin profit margins. It flagged on Wednesday rising costs from a global chip shortage and reported quarterly revenue below market estimates.

The move also comes against the backdrop of automakers and tech firms working closer together to develop smarter vehicles with technology such as smart cabins and autonomous driving.

Chinese search engine provider Baidu Inc said in January it plans to make EVs using an auto plant owned by Geely – an automaker with aspirations to offer engineering consultancy and contract manufacturing.

Reuters has also reported Apple Inc and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s respective auto ambitions.

Xiaomi’s founder and chief executive, Lei Jun, believes the firm’s expertise in hardware manufacturing will help accelerate the design and production of its EVs, one of the people said.

“Xiaomi wants to find a mature automobile manufacturer to provide model infrastructure, enabling its own advantages in mobile internet technology,” said Alan Kang, senior analyst at LMC Automotive.

“Xiaomi’s advantages in operating systems and home furnishing also bring a lot of imagination for such cooperation in the future.”

Alongside smartphones, Xiaomi makes dozens of internet-connected devices including scooters, air purifiers and rice cookers.

The firm plans to launch its first EV around 2023, one of the people said. It will enable its cars to connect with other devices in its product eco-system, the people said.

Baoding-based Great Wall, China’s biggest pickup truck maker, this year launched a standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles. It is also building an EV factory in China with Germany’s BMW AG.

The automaker sold 1.11 million vehicles last year helped by the popularity of models such as the P-series pickup truck and Ora EVs. It is currently building its first factory in Thailand.

Nio, Tesla’s rival suspends production due to chip shortage

Nio said it planned to suspend production from Monday. It also cut its first quarter delivery forecast to around 19,500 vehicles, compared to the 20,000 to 20,500 vehicles it had previously expected.

Stellantis NV and Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio became the latest carmakers to announce new production cuts as a result of a global semiconductor chip shortage.

Stellantis said on Friday it will temporarily halt production at five North American plants next week because of the global microchip shortage: two assembly plants in Canada, one in Mexico and two in the United States. The production halts will start next week through early to mid-April.

The plants affected are the company’s Toluca, Mexico facility, where it produces the Jeep Compass; Windsor Assembly in Ontario where it builds Chrysler Pacifica minivans; a plant in Illinois that builds the Jeep Cherokee SUV; a Michigan plant that builds the Ram 1500 Classic pickup and another Ontario plant that builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger.

Stellantis did not specify how long the shutdowns would last, but a union local in Windsor said the minivan plant would halt production for four weeks starting on Monday.

Nio, one the main challengers to Tesla, which dominates the electric vehicle (EV) market in China, said it would halt production for five working days at its Hefei plant and cut its first-quarter delivery forecast by as much as 1,000 vehicles.

Shares of Nio, which makes the ES8 and ES6 electric sport-utility vehicles, ended the day down 4.8% on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ford Motor, Honda Motor, General Motors and Volkswagen were among the automakers caught off guard by the shortage, forcing many to hold back production even as car demand picked up during the pandemic.

Chip shortages have cost the global auto industry 130,000 vehicles in lost production, research firm AutoForecast Solutions estimates, with the heaviest impact in North America, with 74,000 units lost, and Western Europe, with 35,000 lost.

The chip scarcity is also a result of an increased demand from the consumer electronics industry as people worked from home and played more video games during the crisis. Sanctions against Chinese technology companies have also played a role.

Nio, which also faces competition from homegrown rivals such as Xpeng Inc, now expects to deliver 19,500 vehicles in the first quarter, down from a 20,000 to 20,500 range previously.

Ford had warned the shortage could hit its 2021 profit by up to $2.5 billion, while larger U.S. automaker GM expects the crisis to shave up to $2 billion off its full-year profit.

Ford, which was until now assembled its highly profitable F-150 without certain parts, said on Thursday it would idle production of the trucks at a plant in Michigan through Sunday.

GM and Japan’s Honda both said this week they would continue production suspension at plants in North America for the coming weeks.

Swedish truck maker Volvo AB, meanwhile, said on Tuesday the chip shortage would have a “substantial” impact on its second-quarter earnings, and it would implement stop days across its sites globally beginning in April.

Elon Musk: you can now buy Tesla cars with bitcoin

Tesla Inc chief Elon Musk said on Wednesday the company’s electric vehicles can now be bought using bitcoin and the option will be available outside the United States later this year.bitcoin.

“You can now buy a Tesla with bitcoin,” he tweeted here on Wednesday, adding that bitcoin paid to Tesla will not be converted into conventional currency.

VIEW FULL TWEETS ON TWITTER

The electric-car maker had last month said it bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for cars, sending the price of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency soaring.

Musk, who has been promoting cryptocurrencies through his Twitter account, had last month criticized conventional cash, saying when it “has negative real interest, only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere.”

He had said that the difference with cash made it “adventurous enough” for the S&P 500 company to hold the cryptocurrency.

Following Tesla’s investment in bitcoin, several companies, including Uber Technologies Inc and Twitter Inc had shared their views on the cryptocurrency. reut.rs/3cg9gMP

Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the ride-hailing company discussed and “quickly dismissed” the idea of investing in bitcoin. However, he added that Uber could potentially accept the cryptocurrency as payment.

Twitter had said earlier it was still undecided in holding bitcoin, while General Motors Co said it will evaluate whether bitcoin can be accepted as payment for its vehicles.

Tesla recently added “Technoking of Tesla” to Musk’s list of official titles.

Tesla rallies after Ark Invest predicts $3,000 stock price

Shares of Tesla jumped over 6% on Monday, getting a lift from a bullish report from Ark Invest, an influential shareholder in the electric car maker.

Ark Invest said in a report on Friday it expects Tesla’s stock price to more than quadruple to $3,000 by 2025. Tesla was last trading at $698 a share.

The asset management company run by Cathie Wood also predicted Tesla’s electric vehicle revenue would reach between $234 billion and $367 billion by 2025.

Tesla’s total revenue in 2020 grew 28% to $31.5 billion.

Popular with retail investors, the Ark Innovation exchange traded fund owns Tesla shares worth close to $2.5 billion. Tesla accounts for about 10% of the $24 billion Ark Innovation fund, making it the fund’s largest investment.

Ark Innovation rose 2.5% on Monday and is up over 200% in the past 12 months.

Tesla is down over 20% from its January record high and is up around 700% over the past 12 months.