+++ BMW says its range of electric vehicles will have the same life-expectancy as current internal-combustion vehicles, despite some degradation in battery efficiency. BMW head of battery development, Andreas Raith, said talk of longevity issues is not backed up by field data. “It’s not a marketing statement, those batteries are designed to last as long as the vehicle”, Raith said. As for how long BMW considers the lifecycle of a car, Raith said “15 years and beyond”. “We can prove that with the field data that we see today coming in from our existing fleet of plug-in hybrids. It’s fair to say and I think it’s a statement for the entire industry and community, everyone is so concerned about battery life time and the engineering community as a whole takes a very conservative approach to preserving those batteries”. As far as Raith is concerned, all of BMW’s future pure-electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to have the same lifetime as those powered by an internal-combustion engine. “BMW specification in case of durability is no different between combustion engines or battery driven vehicles”. Unlike vehicles powered by an internal-combustion engine, Raith admits a battery’s ability to hold charge may be reduced to around 70 percent of its original specification after 15 years. “It’s still what is considered to be suitable, it’s still works right? It’s what is considered to be suitable in an automotive application. It’s hard to say how that translates into the performance of a conventional vehicle, maybe you lose a bit of power, maybe a bit of energy, but 70-80 percent is kind of the expectations… field data proves we are staying well above that”. Once the vehicle has had its turn with the lithium/ion batteries, they can then either be used in industrial applications or recycled. “As soon as the recycling pipeline fills up, and it takes so many years to fill up, there is substantial value in those batteries”. Raith said unlike personal devices such as an Apple iPhone, which has a mere 3 percent recycle rate, electric vehicles will be very different. “On the automotive side, we expect the pipeline to be pretty solid, and those materials lithium, nickel, copper, there is no toxic in there, it’s just metals and its very recyclable”. BMW’s onslaught of electrified vehicles has already started with a range of hybrids. What’s more, the brand expects to have 25 electrified models by 2025, of which at least 12 will be fully-electric. +++

+++ FARADAY FUTURE won’t necessarily end 2017 on a high note. The company’s chief designer, Richard Kim, tendered his resignation on November 27. Kim is a former BMW designer and one of the earlier hires at the fledgling electric-car company. Kim had discussed leaving for about 2 or 3 months before officially handing in his resignation. His final day was December 1. The designer brought his expertise from BMW, where he helped shape the i3 and i8 electric cars. Kim was responsible for bringing Faraday’s FF91 to life, which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of 2017. It’s been an incredibly rough year for the company. After its main backer, the Chinese multinational conglomerate LeEco, ran into substantial financial issues, it throttled back funding. Faraday Future nixed plans for its 1 billion dollar factory in Nevada, opting instead for a turn-key facility in California after an emergency loan from a venture capital firm. Things didn’t pick up from there, though. The company fired 2 additional executives, Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause and Chief Technology Officer Ulrich Kranz, last month. The 2 execs, also from BMW, were brought on to help steer the company in a positive direction. Faraday Future and Krause ended things on poor terms after the company claimed the exec hindered fundraising efforts. The latest departure of Kim reportedly diminished morale around the office. An email obtained from Allan Lu, head of marketing, describes employees either not showing up to work or coming in late. The email made reference to a morning meeting with main financial backer Jia Yueting, who founded LeEco, and potential investors that proved to be an embarrassment because only 2 employees were in the office at that time. +++

+++ The face-lifted JEEP Cherokee will reportedly be offered with the option of Fiat Chrysler’s new 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Jeep will use this engine also for the next-generation Wrangler. Boasting 270hp of power, the 2.0-litre mill will replace the aging 271 hp 3.2-litre V6 in Europe. The new Wrangler will also be available with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel. De updated Cherokee will feature a more conventional front-end design, with the split headlight treatment and beaky grille being thrown out. That the updated Cherokee will employ the 2.0-litre turbo engine should come as no surprise; it seemed highly unlikely Fiat Chrysler would develop a new engine and use it only in a single vehicle line. +++

+++ Geely’s new LYNK & CO brand is set for an aggressive launch schedule, meaning there will be at least 3 different models when exports begin. The 01 SUV has just gone on sale in China, and will be followed in short order by a lower-roofed crossover branded the 02, along with a more conventional 3-box saloon. No prizes for guessing what that will be called. Beyond the 01, 02 and 03, Geely has plans to fill out the range with 3 more models, although (given Chinese tastes) none is going to be a conventional sports car. I have been told to expect another SUV, a hatchback and “something else”. It’s likely some variants will be restricted to the Chinese market, but we can expect the SUV and crossovers to make it as exports. The brand predicts most cars will be leased short-term on an all-inclusive subscription model, likely with nothing more than a month-by-month commitment. That’s not where it ends: Lynk & Co is also planning for these cars to go through 2 or 3 subscription cycles, meaning it will be possible a few years down the line to subscribe to a used car for less than the cost of a new one. “It’s like getting an iPhone 7 for less than an iPhone X”, Lynk & Co boss, Alain Visser, told me at the launch of the 01 in China. And beyond that? It looks like buyers won’t be able to pick up a well-used bargain; according to Visser the current plan is for Lynk to scrap its cars rather than let them spoil its brand image of shiny newness and cutting-edge technology. +++

+++ It’s about to get even easier to get behind the wheel of an MERCEDES-AMG . The Affalterbach tuner is preparing 2 tiers of performance for its next-generation compact cars, in the same way that its larger models come in milder ’43’ and full-bore ’63’ flavors. With the next-generation compacts, you’ll have successors to the current ’45’ series models along with a new ’35’ series entry-level range. The information comes directly from AMG boss Tobias Moers. “I see a huge opportunity for the A35”, Moers said. “It’ll be the A45’s little brother”. He went on to confirm that the A35 will get a pumped up engine but will miss out on some of the upgrades found on the A45 to keep its price level low. The first of AMG’s next-generation compacts will be based on the new A-Class due out early next year. The A45 is expected to deliver 400 horsepower this time around. The A35 will likely deliver something in the vicinity of 300 hp, which would make it a more premium alternative to cars like the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R. Moers also confirmed a “53” series range slotting in between the 43 and 63 series models. The first of these will be a CLS 53 debuting at next month’s 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It will feature an uprated version of the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 and electric motor mild hybrid system in the recently revealed CLS 450. Sadly, Moers also confirmed that V12 engines are probably on their way out at AMG. He said the big mills still make sense for luxury models like Maybachs but not for performance cars like AMGs. The thinking makes sense since smaller, lighter and more fuel-efficient V8s are capable of producing similar performance levels to V12s. +++

+++ As a solution to declining sales in the United States, BMW is considering turning MINI into a purely all-electric brand. During the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, BMW board member who is in charge of Mini, Peter Schwarzenbauer, mentioned that Mini’s sales in America have noticeably gone down by 10 percent just in the last month. This is because the market has been leaning towards getting SUVs. Unlike Europe where people criticized the automaker for selling increasingly bigger Minis like the Countryman SUV, the US market thinks that the vehicle still is pretty small. In fact, Schwarzenbauer said that it is only in the United States where the brand is facing this problem. And so this is why Mini in the US is looking into electrifying all their cars, turning the company into a brand known only for electric urban mobility. A little over a year from now, Mini is actually planning to unveil an all-electric model. But if Schwarzenbauer’s plans are realized, it could be the only one offered in the US in the coming years, considering that it will be the only all-electric vehicle they have so far. BMW also mentioned that the electric model would be built in the UK, though he did not clarify whether the new plan from BMW means that the Mini will also use their United States factories to build electric cars. BMW is currently looking for partners to lower the costs of the venture to build small but affordable electric cars. That is not all they have to worry about as they also need to consider how to fit enough batteries into the Mini’s tiny platform. They have to make sure that the vehicles will have a range that is extensive enough to be appealing to customers. It would have to be comparable with Tesla’s range. As I said earlier, the electric Mini will be built at the Oxford plant in the UK. However, some parts of the car like the electrified running gear and batteries will be built in Germany, alongside platforms for the BMW’s own electric cars, before getting shipped to the UK to be fitted into the cars. To ramp up EV production, electric Minis will be put alongside gasoline and diesel examples, that’s if and when the production of Internal Combustion Engines models will be stopped entirely. Do you think that BMW’s plan for Mini to be an all-electric brand work in the United States? I have to admit that it does have an appeal. However, I am also aware that many customers in the US prefer models that are larger than the current Minis so the size is definitely a factor. We’ll have to see later on how fast and how deeply Americans will embrace electric cars. +++

+++ There’s no stopping the increasing popularity of electric vehicles across the globe. Nevertheless, a lot of people are still into internal combustion and do not want that to become extinct. However, if PORSCHE is right, the future of performance could possibly be more silent. Klaus Zellner, Porsche’s President and CEO of North America said that hybrid technologies have brought more new buyers to Porsche showrooms more than any other models they have sold. He said that the automaker expects half of its global sales volume to come from plug-in hybrids by 2025. In fact, this figure seems a lot more than what people might expect. It is also more aggressive than estimates from Porsche’s cousins at Audi, where 25 percent of global sales are expected to be of the hybrid variety for 2025 as well. But for this to actually happen, Porsche will have to develop and offer more plug-in hybrid models. As of today, it is just the Panamera and the Cayenne that have such technology. In the near future, the Mission E will be part of the lineup, but this will instead rely solely on the electric power to provide its punch. And for other hybrid offerings, Zellner did not further expound on this matter, though he did talk about the other requirement for stronger plug-in hybrid and electric sales, and this is the car’s ability to recharge. Moreover, Porsche’s president mentioned that they will soon be working on an 800 volt fast-charging system that can operate at up to 350 kilowatts. In as short as 20 minutes, the car will be able to charge itself up to 80 percent. Of course, Porsche dealerships would make use of fast charging systems for these. And at the same time, they will also be seeking to increase charging stations in places where traffic is higher, such as hotels and restaurants, making EV car owners worry less about where they could charge their vehicles. Having said that, there is also the ongoing Electrify America project by Volkswagen, which is designed to beef up the charging infrastructure in the United States of the course of 10 years. So here is what we have to say to internal combustion fans right now. Make the most of your time with your flat-6 engines right now and enjoy its sounds because the changes will arrive sooner than you think. It seems like the future will be a little more silent with battery-operated vehicles, according to performance car manufacturers like Porsche. +++

+++ TOYOTA first confirmed joint-development of a new sports car with BMW way back in 2012. Since then, we’ve seen Toyota’s new sports car, potentially named Supra, testing numerous times, and BMW showed its Z4 concept that previews the fruits of its labor through the partnership. But the reborn Toyota Supra isn’t primed for a 2018 Detroit Auto Show debut; and the company may not even call it Supra after all. The new sports car isn’t quite ready yet, according to Jack Hollis, Toyota group vice president and general manager of North America. He then dropped another bomb: Supra isn’t a final name. “There are other names that could be better”, Hollis said. Toyota could badge the Supra under the Gazoo nameplate in a nod to its Gazoo Racing unit, but the Supra name has seemed like an obvious choice for some time. Perhaps it’s worth noting Toyota renewed the Celica trademark this past September as well. The Supra was originally a derivative of the Celica itself. Toyota first ignited Supra rumors after the FT-1 concept debuted at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, 2 years after partnering with BMW on the sports car project. Since then, I’ve received trickles of information over powertrains, transmissions, and more. It remains unclear what will sit under the sports car’s hood, but rumors and leaks have suggested an inline-6, a V6 supported by an electric motor, and a turbocharged inline-4. A manual transmission option is also uncertain. This isn’t the first time Toyota has teased out the debut of an eagerly anticipated new performance model; the Lexus LF A was delayed constantly before it was eventually revealed. We’ll have to wait awhile longer before Toyota is ready to show its new sports car, but whatever Toyota will call it, it has some big wheel wells to fill. +++

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