Porsche to participate in fundraising of electric supercar maker Rimac: Automobilwoche

Volkswagen unit Porsche is participating in a financing round of Rimac Automobili that will see the electric supercar maker raise 130 million-150 million euros ($157 million-$181 million), its owner Mate Rimac told weekly Automobilwoche.

The fundraising should be completed in two to three months and another round is planned at the end of the year, Rimac told the trade journal.

Porsche owns a 15.5% stake in Rimac Automobili and could raise its stake to just below 50% in a deal that would also include the transfer of Volkswagen’s supercar brand Bugatti to Rimac, Automobilwoche said.

Volkswagen and Rimac were not immediately available for comment on Sunday.

Porsche Chief Executive Oliver Blume said earlier this month that intense discussions on Bugatti’s future were ongoing and that Rimac could play a role as the brands were a good technological fit, adding that a decision was expected in the first half of 2021.

Rimac has developed an electric supercar platform, which it supplies to other carmakers, including Automobili Pininfarina.

“Supercars have a limited market, the market for components is much bigger. That is why we are planning to expand our company,” Rimac told Automobilwoche.

That includes plans to more than double Rimac Automobili’s workforce by early 2023 to 2,500 from 1,000 currently, he said.

($1 = 0.8282 euros)

Ford CEO calls on U.S. government to support EV batteries – Charging

(Reuters) – Ford Motor Co’s Chief Executive on Wednesday called on the U.S. government to support battery production and charging infrastructure development, as he outlined the automaker’s plan to develop electric platforms for its top-selling trucks, vans and SUVs.

“We need to bring large-scale battery production to the U.S.,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said at a financial conference, adding that he planned to highlight the issue in talks with government leaders.

President Joe Biden is meeting with lawmakers Wednesday to discuss how to secure supplies of electric vehicle batteries, semiconductors used in vehicles, rare earths and pharmaceuticals.

Policy support for increased U.S. production of EV batteries and better charging infrastructure for electric commercial vehicles will help drive demand for those vehicles, Farley said.

“We can’t go through what we’re doing now with chips,” he said, referring to the shortage of imported semiconductors that has caused the temporary shutdown of several U.S. auto plants.

General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra is scheduled to speak to investors at the same conference later Wednesday.

Most of Ford’s profit comes from the sale of big pickups in the United States. The company plans to launch an all-electric version of its best-selling F-series pickup later this year, followed by an electric version of its large Transit van. Ford has not detailed electrification plans for its SUV lineup.

Ford will work with partners to develop electric vehicle architectures for less profitable vehicles in Europe and China, Farley said.

He said Ford expects to launch a commercial automated vehicle business by 2025 and is working now on a strategy that could include automated delivery of goods.

He also said Ford wants to build recurring revenues from both digital services and physical services, such as vehicle charging and repairs, especially for its growing base of commercial customers.

Biden orders 100-day review amid supply chain strains

US President Joe Biden has ordered officials to find ways to bolster supply chains as a shortage of computer chips hits carmakers around the world.

Joe Biden

It comes after the pandemic has strained many producers and forced the US to scramble for medical gear.

The initial review is focused on computer chips, pharmaceuticals, rare earth minerals and large batteries, such as those used in electric cars.

China is a key supplier for many of those items.

US officials said the review was not targeted at China, which like the US imports most of its computer chips and has been trying to boost domestic production.

They said the administration was interested in increasing some production in the US and expected to work with other countries for items that could not be made domestically.

Reliance on “strategic competitor nations” is expected to be part of the analysis, they added. 

Computer chip

“While we cannot predict what crisis will hit us, we should have the capacity to respond quickly in the face of challenges,” the White House said in a statement announcing the study, which will start with a 100-day focused review, before widening its scope.

“The United States must ensure that production shortages, trade disruptions, natural disasters and potential actions by foreign competitors and adversaries never leave the United States vulnerable again.”

Under pressure

The president, who will formally sign the executive order on Wednesday, has come under pressure as firms such as General Motors and Ford have cut production and announced lay-offs due to the shortage of chips – key components for many electronic products, which have been in high demand due to the pandemic.

Republicans have also pushed Mr Biden to do more to address reliance on China, while business and technology lobby groups have also called on the administration to introduce investment tax credits to encourage the building of more US semiconductor manufacturing plants, where the chips are produced.

“While the governments of our global competitors have invested heavily to attract new semiconductor manufacturing and research facilities, the absence of US incentives has made our country uncompetitive and America’s share of global semiconductor manufacturing has steadily declined,” the groups wrote in a recent letter, signed by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Semiconductor Industry Association and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, among others.

“To be competitive and strengthen the resilience of critical supply chains, we believe the US needs to incentivize the construction of new and modernized semiconductor manufacturing facilities and invest in research capabilities.”

US semiconductor firms currently account for 47% of global chip sales, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. However, just 12% of chips are made in the US, down from 37% in 1990.

Under former President Donald Trump, the US adopted a protectionist approach, increasing border taxes and in some cases forbidding US firms from doing business with Chinese competitors in an effort to boost US producers.

Amid the changes, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, last May announced plans to build a $12bn (£8.5bn) factory in the US.

Hyundai Motor to replace battery systems in costly electric car recall

(Reuters) – Hyundai Motor Co will replace battery systems in some 82,000 electric vehicles globally due to fire risks, a problem which combined with an earlier recall is likely to cost the automaker an estimated $900 million.

Most of the latest recall applies to its best-selling electric car, the Kona EV, which was first recalled in October for a software upgrade after a series of fires.

But in January, one of the recalled vehicles caught fire and South Korean authorities launched a probe into whether the first recall had been adequate.

LG Energy Solution, a division of LG Chem Ltd which manufactures the batteries, said in a statement that Hyundai Motor has misapplied LG’s suggestion for fast-charging logic in Hyundai’s battery management system and that the battery cell should not be seen as the direct cause of the fire risks.

The new recall applies to roughly 76,000 Kona EVs as well as some Ioniq EV and Elec City models.

There have been some 15 cases of fires involving the Kona EV – 11 in South Korea, two in Canada and one each in Finland and Austria, according to the transport ministry.

Hyundai said in a statement that of the total 1 trillion won in estimated recall costs, some 38.9 billion won was due to the first recall.

Shares of Hyundai Motor and LG Chem were trading down 3.7% and 1.9% respectively in afternoon trade compared to a 2% fall for the broader market.

($1 = 1,111.7900 won)

Hyundai Motor launches Ioniq 5 electric crossover, expects EV demand jump

(Reuters) – South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co launched its Ioniq 5 midsize crossover on Tuesday, the first in a planned family of electric vehicles (EV) that it hopes will propel it into the third rank of global EV makers by 2025.Slideshow ( 5 images )

The company says the model is based on a new electric vehicle-only platform that uses its own battery module technology and requires fewer components than Hyundai’s existing electric cars, enabling faster production at lower cost.

The launch of Ioniq 5 is the linchpin of Hyundai’s long-term goal to capture 10% of global EV sales by 2025, up from a combined market share of 7.2% for Hyundai and Kia together during the January-September period in 2020, according to industry tracker SNE Research. Hyundai Motor and its sister company Kia Corp together aim to sell 1 million EVs in 2025.

“We expect this year’s (global) EV demand will increase more than 30% versus last year,” Hyundai Motor President Chang Jae-hoon told a news conference.

The Ioniq 5 will have a maximum driving range of about 480 kms (298 miles), up nearly 20% from the Kona EV, which previously had the longest range among Hyundai’s EV lineup.

It will offer two battery pack options – 58-kilowatt-hour (kWh) or 72.6 kWh – and will be available in selected regions starting in the first half of 2021, Hyundai said in a statement.

The South Korean automaker did not disclose the price of the Ioniq 5, but Hyundai Motor Europe President Michael Cole said in Europe it would start at about 42,000 euros ($51,100) before government incentives.

Hyundai is targeting sales of 100,000 units globally next year, with about 30%-40% in Europe, 30% in North America and 20% in South Korea.

“Hyundai will be able to increase its presence in the global EV market as it adds a new EV, considering that the company showed solid performance with its major EV Kona Electric,” said Kevin Yoo, an analyst at eBEST Investment & Securities.

($1 = 0.8219 euros)

Ford to go all-electric in Europe by 2030

Carmaker Ford said its passenger vehicle line-up in Europe will be all-electric by 2030.

By the middle of 2026, all its cars will be available as electric or hybrid models, it added.

It joins a growing group of carmakers aiming to cut petrol and diesel production.

European regulators are clamping down on emissions, with countries including UK planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel motors.

Ford said it would spend $1bn (£720m) updating its factory in Cologne, with the aim of producing a mass-market electric vehicle by 2023.

“Our announcement today to transform our Cologne facility, the home of our operations in Germany for 90 years, is one of the most significant Ford has made in over a generation,” said Stuart Rowley, president of Ford in Europe.

“It underlines our commitment to Europe and a modern future with electric vehicles at the heart of our strategy for growth.”

On Monday, Jaguar Land Rover said its Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025. The company will also launch electric models of its entire Land Rover line-up by 2030.

Tighter regulations 

The UK plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Luxury car brand Bentley Motors, owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, said in November its range will be fully electric by 2030, and last month General Motors said it aimed to have a zero tailpipe emission line-up by 2035.

On Tuesday it emerged that Coventry Airport could be the site for a gigafactory – a plant to manufacture electric car batteries.

The UK government previously announced £500m funding as part of a ten point plan to support the electrification of vehicles, including developing gigafactories across the UK.

Electric car battery plant plan for Coventry Airport

Coventry Airport could be the site for a ‘gigafactory’ – a plant to manufacture electric car batteries.

Securing the factory could create thousands of jobs and attract up to £2bn of investment to the region, the city council said.

The site has been endorsed by West Midlands Combined Authority and, if plans are successful, could be operational by 2025.

JLR has announced its Jaguar and Land Rover brands will become all-electric.

The car manufacturer has sites at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, Solihull, Gaydon, and Whitley in Coventry as well as Halewood in Merseyside.

What is a gigafactory?

  • Gigafactories are built to create electric car batteries.
  • They have already been developed in other parts of the world, including by Tesla in the USA, but the UK does not currently have one.
  • A 3,000 job factory is planned for Northumberland.

The city council said it is to enter a joint venture partnership with Coventry Airport Ltd to develop the proposals, and it is set to submit an outline planning application later this year.

The government previously announced £500m funding as part of a ten point plan to support the electrification of vehicles, including developing gigafactories across the UK.

(from left to right) Cllr Andrew Day (Leader, Warwick District Council), Cllr George Duggins (Leader, Coventry City Council), Margot James (Executive Chair, WMG), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands), Nick Abell (Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP)
image captionThe joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd is set to be approved at a cabinet meeting on 23 February

George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Coventry has emerged as a world leader in battery technology. 

“The city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, world-leading research institutions, and the UK’s largest car maker Jaguar Land Rover and it’s clear to me that Coventry is the right location.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street added: “By announcing the site now and driving forward with a planning application and a joint venture, we are showing how united and serious the region is about making this happen.”

Source: BBC

Hyundai Motor’s electric bus catches fire in South Korea

(Reuters) – An electric bus manufactured by Hyundai Motor Co caught fire on Monday while in use in South Korea, a fire official said on Tuesday, months after similar fires in electric cars led to a recall to inspect batteries.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred as the empty bus was returning to the garage after an inspection, an official at the Fire Service Headquarters in the southeastern city of Changwon said.

The maker of the batteries in the bus has not been identified, the fire official said, but local media reports said the Elec City bus was powered by LG Chem’s wholly owned battery division LG Energy Solution’s batteries.

“Officials from Hyundai Motor, the transport ministry, Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute, National Fire Research Institute and Changwon Fire Service Headquarters are expected to have a meeting on Tuesday to discuss inspection,” the fire official told Reuters.

Neither Hyundai Motor nor LG Energy Solution had an immediate comment.

In October, Hyundai recalled 25,564 Kona electric vehicles (EV) in South Korea over the risk of a short circuit possibly caused by faulty manufacturing of its high-voltage battery cells.

After a fire in a Kona EV that had been recalled and received a software update, South Korean authorities have launched a probe into the adequacy of the voluntary recall, under which only some vehicles get batteries replaced.

Shares of Hyundai Motor was trading down 0.2%, while the broader KOSPI market’s was up 0.3% as of 0447 GMT.

EU: 1 million public EV charging stations needed by 2024

(Reuters) – The European Union should set binding targets for one million public charging points for electric vehicles by 2024, and three million by 2029, to give consumers the confidence to switch to the new technology, the region’s car lobby said on Thursday.

In a joint letter with consumer and sustainable transport groups, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) told Brussels that firm targets would also help carmakers and power grid operators plan ahead.

“The EU Commission quickly needs to take action and set binding targets for the ramp-up of charging infrastructure in the member states,” said ACEA president Oliver Zipse, who is also chief executive of German carmaker BMW.

“Otherwise, even the current reduction targets in fighting climate change are at risk,” he said.

Electric vehicle (EV) sales have recently gained momentum as those of combustion engine cars fell during lockdowns in the coronavirus crisis.

Carmakers are launching new EV models to meet tougher EU emissions rules and several governments have introduced EV subsidies as part of pandemic recovery programmes.

However, the rollout of public charging stations, to complement workplace and home charging, has been slow and there are multiple tariffs and payment methods.

Industry figures show the EU had 224,538 public charging points in 2020.

The letter, also signed by consumer lobby BEUC and the Transport & Environment (T&E) caucus, urged the Commission to create common standards.

It should also set a target for around 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2029, the letter said.

The German government on Wednesday agreed a draft law to aim for 1,000 fast charging stations alongside motorways by the end of 2023. It expects to spend 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion).

Volkswagen taps Microsoft’s cloud to develop self-driving software

(Reuters) – Volkswagen AG on Thursday said it will use Microsoft Corp’s cloud computing services to help it streamline its software development efforts for self-driving cars.

Volkswagen, which owns brands such as Audi and Porsche, is working on both self-driving cars for the future and driver-assistance features such as adaptive cruise control in current vehicles. But the company’s brand had been developing those features independently.

Last year, Volkswagen consolidated some of those development efforts into a subsidiary called Car.Software to better coordinate among the makers, with each company handling its own work around the look and feel of the software while collaborating on core safety functions such as detecting obstacles.

But the various companies inside the group were still using different systems to develop that software, and the deal announced Thursday will put them on a common cloud provider, Dirk Hilgenberg, chief executive of Car.Software, told Reuters in an interview.

The Microsoft deal will also make deploying software updates to add new features to cars – a practice that helped set Tesla Inc apart from many rivals early on – much easier.

Volkswagen in 2018 inked a deal with Microsoft to connect its cars to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service. The Thursday deal means that the software updates will be developed on the same cloud that will then beam those updates down to the cars.

“Over-the-air updates are paramount,” Hilgenberg said. “This functionality needs to be there. If you can’t do it, you will lose ground.”

In practical terms, the deal means that cars that initially hit the road with a few driver-assistance features today could add new capabilities over time that bring them closer to autonomous driving, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of cloud and artificial intelligence at Microsoft.

“For our phones 15 or 20 years ago, when you bought it, it pretty much never changed. Now, we expected every week or every couple of days that, silently, there’s new features,” Guthrie told Reuters in an interview. “That ability to start to program the vehicle in richer and richer ways, and in a safe way, transforms how the experience works.”