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+++ Fully AUTONOMOUS cars with no steering wheels are unlikely to be a regular feature on Europe’s roads before 2045, according to the region’s Commissioner for Transport. EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said that while automated cars equipped with steering wheels are likely to be mixed with regular cars by 2030, it could take more than another decade before fully autonomous transport becomes widespread. “The goal by 2030 is that we’ll be able to introduce mixed traffic, with automated and classic traffic. Automated means there’s still a steering wheel and you can take control”, said Bulc. “Probably it will take 10 or 15 years more to have autonomous mobility, which means no steering wheel. We see this happening now in campuses, very controlled streets in the cities, airports etc. And little by little this will become more acceptable”. Bulc said that the EU hopes to avoid the accidents in self-driving tests in the United States that have attracted media attention worldwide. “It’s hard to talk about acceptance for fatalities”, she said. “But we’ve been extremely tolerant in the past. I believe with a coordinated and controlled approach, we’re able to minimise this to zero. I’m not in favour of just throwing new technology into the social environment and seeing what is happening. “We’re going to introduce, little by little, the green and autonomous technology and monitor closely what needs to be done to ensure full acceptance in the future. Right now we need to think of the elderly, disabled, kids; their behaviours are much more unpredictable. That’s why I’m in favour of step by step testing and then slowing increasing the impact of autonomous vehicles”. +++

+++ The European Commission has announced a new BATTERY Action Plan, which seeks to address the inability of EU member states to mass-produce batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). Chinese and Korean companies currently dominate the EV battery market, with firms like LG, Samsung, CATL and SK Innovation surging ahead as electric vehicles gain traction with consumers. Tesla’s $5 billion Gigafactory in Nevada, meanwhile, is set to make America a serious player in the market, almost doubling global battery production when it opens in 2020. European businesses could soon challenge those companies, however, after European Commission chiefs confirmed an EU Battery Action Plan will “establish competitive, innovative and sustainable battery manufacturing projects” in EU countries. The Plan follows the founding of a European Battery Alliance in October last year, and aims to secure access to raw battery materials (like cobalt and lithium) from countries outside the EU. The plan will also provide training and skill support for battery engineers and technicians in Europe, and forge corporate partnerships between EU companies. Other aims include the securing of funding mechanisms, new battery sustainability and recycling projects, and the streamlining of EU regulations surrounding EV batteries. The Commission considers “Europe has what it takes to become a world leader in sustainable battery technology”. Earlier this year, German automotive supplier Bosch announced it was pulling out of the EV battery market as it considered the investment required for producing its own cells was “too risky”. The company said it would rely on an outsourced battery cell supply, partly because it estimated that it would need to invest €20 billion in order to gain a 20 per cent share of the EV battery market. The European Union previously announced it wants to create an Airbus-like consortium of vehicle and technology manufacturers to develop and build electric vehicle batteries in the future. Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, said that as electric car demand continues to grow, Europe cannot afford to get left behind by Asian and American battery producers, and that the region needs its own battery cell production facilities. While the US, China and Japan all have factories in place for building the latest lithium-ion cells and batteries, there’s not a single factory in Europe. Investment bank Goldman Sachs has previously estimated the demand for lithium-ion batteries to reach $40 billion by 2025. Sefcovic said that Europe cannot have any “Kodak moments”, where an industry fails to keep up with the latest technology and struggles as a result. Instead, Sefcovic said he wants to see European manufacturers group together and pursue economies of scale like they did in the aerospace industry when creating Airbus. “What we need is an Airbus for batteries”, he explained. “In the 1960s, we had a lot of smaller companies with cutting edge but what they missed was the scale. We needed the Germans, the French and other Europeans to get together and to develop what today is a marvellous plane”. +++

+++ The BMW X8 is likely to be the brand’s highest-priced SUV model when it is launched around 2020. It will be pitched as a coupé-styled rival to the Range Rover and upcoming Audi Q8 and could compete in fully loaded guise against low-end versions of the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The X8 moniker has been trademarked in markets around the world since 2018, with markets in the Far East being the latest to have X8 trademarks filed. BMW’s head of development, Klaus Fröhlich, wouldn’t confirm plans to push BMW into an even higher price segment with the X8, but he did say such a car was under evaluation and the idea of it held strong appeal. “The sector is growing fast, so there will be opportunity”, said Fröhlich. “It is early to talk about X8, but one of the first decisions I made when I worked on product strategy was to take the X5 and make the X6. Everyone said it was not necessary, but it worked. Now we have the X2, X4 and X6. They are emotional and sporty derivatives that work for us. There is room for X8, especially in markets like China, but there are no decisions yet. Each car must have a distinct character, and these are the sort of areas that take time to evaluate”. Discussions are believed to centre on the platform structure the X8 would need and whether it should be a coupé version of the X7, which was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show and goes on sale in the middle of 2018, or a long-wheelbase version of that car, which would free up additional rear space and allow for a sweeping roofline. Either way, the X8 is likely to have the option of 4 or 5 seats across 2 rows, rather than the X7’s 7 seats in 3 rows. As such, the emphasis will be on delivering luxurious rear-seat travel, with the materials and finishes chosen to further that goal, rather than being focused on outright practicality. While the latter idea is said to be favoured by many, it potentially adds complexity to the project as it may require the car to be built on a hybrid mix of BMW’s CLAR modular platform, which underpins the firm’s other X models, in order to achieve rigidity without adding too much weight or cost. The decision on how sweeping to make the roofline is said to hinge around the need for the rear seats to be commodious, given that the X8 is likely to be chauffeur driven for many owners, and how much differentiation is required to give the car a unique character from the X7. Achieving coherent styling of the sweeping roofline without bringing down the roof height ahead of the boot line will inevitably be problematic. The X7’s dimensions in comparison to rivals suggest there is room for a longer version in the line- up. It is 5.020 mm long with a wheelbase of 3.010 mm, while the Mercedes-Benz GLS is 5.131 mm long and has a wheelbase of 3.076 mm. A Range Rover is 4.999 mm long and has a wheelbase of 2.922 mm in standard form. Power is likely to come from the same powertrains as for the X7, although the sales focus in China, Russia and the Middle East may mean that initial offerings are confined to higher-powered petrol or plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivelines. Given those target markets, the possibility of a V12-engined X8, powered by the 610 hp, 800 Nm 6.6-litre unit that is found in the 7 Series, is highly likely. The petrol-electric hybrid powertrain is believed to be derived from the same set-up as that used by the 740e xDrive iPerformance, with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine operating in combination with an electric motor in the forward section of the gearbox housing, albeit with a larger-capacity battery to give a 100 kilometres electric range. +++

+++ FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is to halt production of Fiat cars in Italy and instead focus on building the models of its more premium brands in the country. The move is set to be officially announced at the start of June and will result in Panda production transferring to Poland where the 500, Abarth 595 and Lancia Ypsilon are currently produced. FCA’s plants in Naples and Turin, which currently produce the Alfa Romeo Mito and the Panda, will be retooled to produce Maserati and Jeep models; the Turin factory already handles Maserati Levante production. The Punto, currently produced in FCA’s Melfi plant, will be axed after a production run of over 13 years. The Mito, which was introduced in 2008, will also be culled. The Mito’s production line will be replaced by that of a second Maserati SUV. This strategy will better allow FCA to implement hybrids into its lineup, according to sources close to the plan. The car giant will abandon diesel-engined models by 2022 and plans a range of performance hybrids at the top of its luxury car ranges. Its roll-out of electric vehicles will start with the Maserati Alfieri in 2020. It’s believed that the plan plays to FCA’s strengths; a burgeoning catalogue of premium brands, and a booming SUV segment, while Fiat’s own-brand cars outside of the 500 remain relatively unloved by the public; hence the move to areas of production where they can be more profitably made. The revitalised premium brand’s sales across the globe increased 60% in 2017 over the previous year. The ambitious plan is thought to be the parting shot of outgoing chief executive Sergio Marchionne and is aimed at making FCA competitive on the global automotive stage. The 65-year-old retires from his position at the helm of the Italo-American car giant next year. +++

+++ GENESIS will be launched in Europe in 2020, according to brand boss Manfred Fitzgerald. Hyundai’s luxury arm launched as a brand in its own right in 2016, focusing on US and Asian markets but with the expectation that it would eventually arrive in Europe. Former Lamborghini brand and design boss Fitzgerald said: “We’ll be entering the European market in the next couple of years”. Genesis’s line-up is currently spearheaded by 3 saloons, but 2 SUVs (a Mercedes GLE rival called the GV80 and a GLC competitor named the GV70) will arrive in 2020. Given the still-growing demand for SUVs, the GV80 and GV70 will be crucial in making a dent in the European market, but Fitzgerald said it will launch its entire range here. “To launch the brand, you come with your entire product portfolio”, he said. “It’s not about volume. If it were, then you would go for a specific body type. Instead, it’s a brand- building exercise”. Genesis will launch its first electric model by 2021 but it will not be a production version of the recently revealed electric Essentia GT concept. Although Fitzgerald said the Essentia GT is likely to make production in 2021 or 2022, it is not yet confirmed. The first zero-emissions Genesis is instead expected to be the G80, the launch of the next-generation saloon set to coincide with that of an electric variant. Despite reports of plug-in hybrid versions of the GV70 and GV80, Fitzgerald is unconvinced by such technology. “I’m not so sold on plug-in hybrid”, he said. “They have a lot of issues and we’re still looking at all options. Internal combustion engines or pure electric are our favourite options”. +++

+++ The next-generation MERCEDES-AMG A45 looks set to have the highest specific output for a production engine in the world, eclipsing even the McLaren Senna’s 800 hp V8. AMG boss Tobias Moers told earlier this year that the A45 will get “well over 400 hp” from its new engine, which is expected to be an extensively re-engineered version of the current car’s 2.0-litre unit. That means it will have more than 200 hp per litre, ranking the car at least 12 hp-per-litre higher than the current A45 and beating the current specific output champion, the 200 hp-per-litre Senna. The model, dubbed by AMG insiders as ‘The Predator’ as a nod to its extreme performance, is expected to serve a slam-dunk to Audi Sport’s RS3 in the pairing’s ongoing super-hatch fight, while also ensuring the A45 offers stronger straight-line performance than the forthcoming BMW M2 CSL, which will likely be more adjustable. Despite rumours to the contrary, the model will be pure petrol and will not require a hybrid set-up to produce its headline-grabbing numbers. “It’s going to be the next step in every perspective, including driving dynamics”, said Moers, who also confirmed that a softer AMG model, the A35, “will arrive ahead of the A45”. That car will use a lower-powered version of the 2.0-litre, likely outputting 300-310 hp to rank it directly alongside the Volkswagen Golf R. The A45’s big power advantage will be illustrated with only small aesthetic differences. It will have a quad oval-exit exhaust system, whereas the A35 will get a dual-exit system. Also featured on the A45 is AMG’ Panamericana front grille, giving the 2019 car a design nod to the recently revealed GT 4-door Coupé. The A45 will have its own unique chassis developments with optional adjustable damping offering an extreme mode for high-speed circuit running. The current A45 is renowned for its stiff adjustable set-up, but the recently sighted test cars for the next-gen model look to be sitting lower, suggesting AMG could be targeting even more body composure for track-day driving in its future model. The new A-Class is 10mm longer than today’s car and adopts a new floorpan and body structure that are claimed to provide significant increases in rigidity. This provides it with improved refinement. The new A45 will also get a significantly wider front track and receive its own unique wheel carriers in a bid to reduce unsprung mass. It will roll on standard 18 inch wheels, but 19 inch rims will be an option. The 381 hp original A45 is capable of 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, but AMG is planning to ramp up straight-line performance further still. The basis for the changes to the M133 unit comes from Mercedes’ new M260 4-cylinder engine. This is derived from the older M270 motor used by today’s A-Class but has a new crankcase and cylinder head. Initially, the reworked M133 will feature a traditional exhaust gas-driven twin-scroll turbocharger. However, AMG is also developing a more advanced variant of its new engine that uses a 48V electrical system and runs both an electric-driven turbocharger and electric motor in a hybrid set-up that promises an even greater ramp-up in performance. AMG is also looking to endow its new hatchback model with an extra 30 Nm; a move that, insiders have told, will provide it with at least 500 Nm and allow its 0-100 km/h sprint to crack the 4.0 seconds mark. The changes to the A45’s driveline extend to its gearbox and multi-plate-clutch four-wheel-drive system. Both have been extensively redesigned to handle the higher torque loadings of the new model. In line with developments further down the new A-Class line-up, AMG’s new flagship hatchback model is set to adopt a new 9-speed dual-clutch transmission, together with a faster-reacting 4-wheeldrive system that offers greater variability in the drive split between the front and rear wheels, plus a torque vectoring function for added on-the-limit handling delicacy. The new A-Class, which is codenamed W177, will have the most comprehensive AMG range thanks to the introduction of the Golf R and Ford Focus RS-rivalling A35. That car will also face BMW’s next 1 Series hot hatch, which is set to adopt all-wheel drive and be called the M130iX. “We’ve identified a market for a milder AMG model positioned below the A45 4Matic”, AMG boss Tobias Moers told. “The strategy is going to be similar to that seen further up the line-up, where our various 43 models support the 63 models”. The new A45 builds on the developments of the new 4th-generation A-Class. The model is the first of up to 8 new compact cars, which include replacements for today’s B-Class, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake, as well as the GLA. There will also be an A-Class Saloon (and its own 400hp+ A45 variant), a GLB and a possible new 7-seat version of the GLB. +++

+++ Intel-owned MOBILEYE has reportedly landed an enormous supply contract with a European automaker, hinting at the timing for wider rollout of advanced autonomous technology. The Israeli-based supplier has agreed to supply driver assistance hardware for 8 million vehicles starting in 2021. It is not known which European automaker signed the contract. Mobileye expects its EyeQ5 platform to arrive with support for fully autonomous driving by 2021. The European contract is not explicitly for EyeQ5 equipment, however, leaving open the possibility that a major automaker, such as Volkswagen Group, is preparing to expand availability of automatic emergency braking or other comparatively simple semi-autonomous technologies. Mobileye already has a significant footprint in the automotive industry, providing equipment for more than 27 million cars on the road today. “By the end of 2019, we expect over 100,000 Level 3 cars with Mobileye installed”, says Mobileye chief Amnon Shashua. +++

+++ Controversial doesn’t really sum it up, but the reaction to ROLLS-ROYCE building an SUV, and then to the car itself, has been somewhat mixed. A few weeks ago, I was invited down to Rolls’ sprawling headquarters in Goodwood to see the new Cullinan. I’ll admit to being apprehensive; the camouflaged spy shots hinted at a brute of a car that would be less private club and more club hammer. Could Rolls-Royce, the most luxurious car maker on the planet, really produce an SUV with the grace that’s become synonymous with the brand? The answer is yes and no. Rolls-Royce’s design boss Giles Taylor told me that he was encouraged to “go big” with “a functional aesthetic that offers no apology”. He’s done that alright. So can such a ‘high-sided’ car that weighs 2,660 kg be graceful? As the covers came off that morning in Goodwood I was surprised by 2 things: firstly, the car looked more compact than I was expecting (and than the pictures would lead you to believe); it’s roughly the same length as a Rolls-Royce Ghost. And secondly, there’s some of the nicest detailing around the car that I’ve seen in a long time. So has Taylor designed a graceful car? No. But has he designed an SUV that is every inch a Rolls-Royce? Absolutely. What I admire almost as much is the bravery to build this car; and credit must lie with BMW, the guardian of 2 great British brands, Mini and Rolls-Royce. Sure, the business case for Cullinan probably stacked up quite nicely; people will buy it, for sure, and it’ll make money. But the more difficult question was surely whether Rolls-Royce should’ve made it. For me, it was clearly the right decision; a progressive decision. And proof that, under BMW, both Rolls-Royce and Mini have never been in better shape. +++

+++ TESLA is apparently orchestrating a massive Supercharger buildout plan as Model 3 output volume slowly increases. “There are thousands of Supercharger locations going through permitting/construction”, CEO Elon Musk mentioned on Twitter. “Will publish an updated map in the next few days”. Tesla has already stepped away from offering free Supercharger access for life, encouraging owners to use home chargers as a primary connection and only use official Supercharger stations when making long drives. Addressing congestion at particular sites, the company also introduced parking fees for cars that are left long after the vehicle is done charging. With a production volume target of 500,000 annually for the Model 3, some existing locations will presumably face even greater congestion than with the limited number of Model S and X vehicles currently on the road. Tesla is also exploring Supercharger rest areas, adding coffee shops and restaurants on-site. +++

+++ Care by VOLVO , the Swedish brand’s car subscription service, is being extended to include the new V60 and forthcoming S60, the company’s boss has revealed. The service, which rolls in a car, servicing and insurance for a monthly fee, is being trialled using the XC40. But it has been rolled out with that vehicle across all but 3 states in the US, where Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson says “more than a thousand” people have signed up. Samuelsson says that Care by Volvo could account for a significant percentage of Volvo’s vehicle registrations by the early years of the next decade, and he revealed the next cars that will be offered through the service. “In the US we’ve more than one thousand cars already in a couple of months”, he said, “but 5 years from now, it should be about a quarter of our business. It could even happen faster than that. We’re seeing a high conquest rate with lots of people who perhaps before have not owned a car; people who’ve used leasing or car rentals. “We’re offering Care by Volvo in 8 countries right now”, Samuelsson added, “and that’s just with the XC40. Now we’re doing it with the V60 and in a couple of months, the S60”. That’s the first confirmation that Volvo is going to expand the Care by Volvo range to include larger models, as well as its 40-series of small cars. “The consumers will ultimately decide”, Samuelsson said, “but see how many people actually buy their mobile phone these days. Most people are on 24-month plans instead. We think that in the future, consumers will appreciate being treated very transparently, with no nasty surprises. We don’t want to follow the printer model where you buy the printer first at a good price, and then the ink costs you a lot”. +++

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