+++ A conservative group has sued the U.S. government for access to a report on whether AUTO IMPORTS pose a big enough security risk to justify hefty tariffs on the sector, part of a growing chorus demanding a copy of the document. Cause of Action Institute (CoA), a watchdog aligned with the conservative political activists David and Charles Koch, asked the District of Columbia Federal Court to require the Commerce department to hand over a copy of the report, which could unleash tariffs of up to 25 % on imported cars and parts. Last month, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross submitted the so-called ‘Section 232’ national security report to President Donald Trump, starting a 90-day countdown for him to decide whether to impose the tariffs on millions of imports. The industry has warned that tariffs could add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses throughout the U.S. economy. The Commerce Department started its investigation in May 2018 at Trump’s request. Known as a Section 232 investigation, its purpose was to determine the effects of imports on national security. It had to be completed by February. In the suit, CoA alleged the Commerce Department has missed deadlines to respond to Freedom of Information Act Requests it filed for the report on Feb. 18, a day after the report was sent to the White House. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has also sought a copy of the report without success, Politico reported. Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the two trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen will end production of the born-again BEETLE in the summer of 2019. Since the announcement of its demise, widespread rumors have claimed the model will come back a third time, likely as an electric car, but the company’s chief executive confirmed a third-generation Beetle isn’t in its product plan. “You have to do something emotional, but I think we can’t cover the historic lineup of Volkswagen with electric cars, and we shouldn’t”, said Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess in an interview. He added that it would be easier to make another Beetle on the MEB platform than on the MQB architecture found under many cars, including the Golf. MEB is built around a massive, lithium/ion battery pack so it’s entirely flat; MQB is not. But ease of packaging alone can’t make a business case for a new Beetle, and Volkswagen wasn’t able to put one together, either. The Beetle is dead, and this time it’s for good. Volkswagen is sending off the Beetle with a limited-edition model named Final Edition. Production will end halfway through 2019, but its line-up of models won’t remain without a retro-styled car for long. The company previously announced the heritage-laced ID.Buzz concept will spawn a production van in 2022. It will ride on the modular MEB platform, meaning it will be entirely electric, and its design will be a tribute to the rear-engined, Beetle-based Bus made for decades. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER has asked Goldman Sachs to help it explore increasing its stake in Chinese carmaker BAIC Motor, its main China joint venture partner, 2 people with knowledge of the matter said. A deal would be only the second since the world’s biggest auto market relaxed foreign ownership rules last year. Daimler’s rival BMW became the first to take advantage of the changes when it agreed in October to buy control of its venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings for €3.6 billion euros. Caps on foreign ownership previously prevented overseas carmakers from controlling any Chinese maker or joint venture with foreign peers. Last year those limits were removed for firms making fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which will be followed in 2020 by the removal of limits on makers of commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses. In 2022, the limits will be lifted on the wider car market. BMW’s deal with Brilliance China will only take effect then. Daimler’s discussions with BAIC are at an early stage and its plan to increase the stake in BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed entity has not been finalised and could change later, cautioned the people, who declined to be identified as the information is confidential. Daimler holds 30.4 % of BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed shares, representing a 9.55 % overall stake in its Chinese partner, according to BAIC’s June 2018 interim report. State-owned BAIC Group and steel giant Beijing Shougang owns 42.6 % and 12.8 % of BAIC through its non-tradable domestic shares, respectively. It is not clear whether Daimler would seek a majority stake in BAIC, which has a current market capitalisation of $4.9 billion. Daimler owns 49 % in Beijing Benz Automotive, its main JV with BAIC, as well as a 3.93 % stake in Beijing Electric Vehicle, a subsidiary of BAIC. It also has a smaller JV with new energy vehicle maker BYD. It is also setting up a ride-hailing JV in China with the Geely Group. Geely bought a 9.69 % stake in Daimler in early 2018 and demanded an alliance. Daimler sold 653,000 cars in China last year, its biggest sales market in the world. 2 separate people with knowledge of the matter said Daimler would still like to raise its 49 $ stake in Beijing Benz Automotive. It held talks with BAIC last year but those petered out earlier this year, said one of them. BAIC denied a Bloomberg report in early December that Daimler had raised the prospect of increasing its stake in Beijing Benz to at least 65 %. +++ 

+++ Amnesty International attacked the ELECTRIC Vehicle (EV) industry for selling itself as environmentally friendly while producing many of its batteries using polluting fossil fuels and unethically sourced minerals. Manufacturing batteries can be carbon intensive, while the extraction of minerals used in them has been linked to human rights violations such as child labor, a statement from the rights group said. “Electric vehicles are key to shifting the motor industry away from fossil fuels, but they are currently not as ethical as some retailers would like us to believe”, it said, announcing the initiative at the Nordic Electric Vehicle Summit in Oslo. Production of lithium/ion batteries for EVs is power intensive, and factories are concentrated in China, South Korea and Japan, where power generation is largely dependent on coal or other fossil fuels, Amnesty said. Global automakers are investing billions of dollars to ramp up electric vehicle production. German giant Volkswagen for one plans to raise annual production of electric cars to 3 million by 2025, from 40,000 in 2018. Amnesty demanded the EV industry come up with an ethical and clean battery within 5 years and in the meantime that carbon footprints be disclosed and supply chains of key minerals identified. Last month, 14 non-governmental organizations including Amnesty and Global Witness had opposed plans by the London Metal Exchange to ban cobalt tainted by human rights abuses. Instead of banning the cobalt brands, the LME should work with firms that produce them to ensure responsible sourcing, they said. +++ 

+++ FORD has changed its North American production plans for autonomous and electric vehicles. The automaker said its Flat Rock Assembly Plant near Detroit eventually will become a second location for production of battery-electric vehicles, in addition to a plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico. It is scrapping plans for an autonomous vehicle center at the Flat Rock site and instead will build those vehicles at another location in southeast Michigan. The $900 million Ford had planned to spend on AV (autonomous vehicle) production in Flat Rock through 2023 will instead be largely dedicated to EVs and the next-generation Mustang, officials said. The plant, which is scheduled to lose its second production shift this spring, eventually will get the shift back, along with 900 new jobs. Ford did not say when the jobs, which it had previously announced, would be added. As part of the moves, Ford said production of the next-generation Transit Connect van for North America would shift to Mexico from Valencia, Spain. Ford had been expected to start North American production of the Transit Connect, with Flat Rock among the locations believed to be under consideration. “It’s a better plan for how we allocate capital in a more efficient way”, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, told. The automaker did not disclose a location, investment figure or jobs estimate for its autonomous vehicle center. In a statement, Ford said the site will upfit purpose-built, commercial-grade hybrid vehicles with self-driving technology and unique interiors. Production is slated to begin in 2021, with the vehicles being used commercially rather than sold to consumers. “As we ramp up AV production, this plan allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth of this exciting new technology”, Hinrichs said. “This new plan combines our core strength in mass manufacturing with the agility and leanness we’ve shown with our modification centers for specialty manufacturing”. Ford has shifted its EV and AV assembly plans several times since January 2017, when it canceled a $1.6 billion small-car plant under construction in Mexico shortly before President Donald Trump took office. At the time, Ford said it would make a big investment in Flat Rock to build autonomous vehicles and a long-range battery electric crossover. Later that year, it reversed the decision, saying it would focus on AVs in Flat Rock and move production of the battery-electric crossover to Mexico. The long-range battery electric crossover, which Ford says is inspired by the Mustang and due in 2020, will still be built in Mexico. Flat Rock will be dedicated to Ford’s future EVs, which will sit on a new, dedicated battery-electric architecture. Ford’s decision to build its next-generation Transit Connect in Mexico, after years of importing it from Spain and Turkey before that, allows the company to source more parts for the van from North American locations to meet requirements for the pending USMCA trade agreement. Ford is involved in a court battle with the government over allegations that it was unfairly skirting the so-called chicken tax (a 25 % tariff the U.S. has levied on light-truck imports since 1964) by bringing over Transit Connects that were built as passenger vehicles and then converting them to cargo vans stateside. The third-generation Transit Connect, which analysts expect to go on sale in 2021, will be made in Hermosillo, Mexico, where production of the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ is slated to end at an undisclosed time. “It wasn’t so much about avoiding tariffs”, Hinrichs said, “it was about improving the business”. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS will announce plans to invest $300 million in a suburban Detroit plant that builds electric and self-driving vehicles for Chevrolet and the automaker’s self-driving Cruise unit, 2 people familiar with the plans said. The largest U.S. automaker is expected to announce it plans to build a new electric compact vehicle for Chevrolet. GM executives also will formally endorse a revised North American free trade deal known as USMCA, the sources said. Company executives are expected to make the case that the new EV (originally considered for one of GM’s Chinese plants) is being built in the United States because of the new trade deal that is still awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress. GM has come under harsh attacks from President Donald Trump over its decision to end production at its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant. The company said company executives would be joined at the Orion plant by United Auto Workers union Vice President Terry Dittes and government officials to announce “a major new investment focused on the development of GM future technologies”. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra is expected to make the formal announcement, which could add hundreds of jobs. The new Chevrolet vehicle is based on the same compact architecture as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Cruise AV that are assembled in Orion. The Orion Township plant is slated to begin building a new generation of electric and self-driving vehicles, using GM’s dedicated BEV3 architecture, but not until 2023, a third source said. GM said a year ago it would invest $100 million to upgrade the Orion Township plant ahead of commercial production of the Cruise AV in late 2019. +++ 

+++ IONITY , the European electric vehicle charging joint venture of Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and Ford, is on track to install 400 loading stations in Europe by end-2020 and has plans for more. Ionity, which is not yet profitable, aims to install the 400 charging stations by the end of next year, with each having about 6 individual loading spots. It has so far installed 63 stations, with a further 52 under construction. The group specializes in ultra high-speed charging along European motorways to try to address the issue of range, which along with price, is still seen as a reason for why demand for electric vehicles has been subdued so far. “There’s a lot of momentum, activity will be high”, Ionity Chief Executive Michael Hajesch told. “The expansion plans are currently being prepared”, he added. This could include more and bigger charging stations along highways but also busy roads leading in and out of larger metropolitan areas where demand for charging infrastructure is highest, Hajesch said. He said that competition in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure space, where players range from oil majors and engineering conglomerates to utilities and carmakers, would increase further in coming years. Earlier this year, Shell acquired U.S.-based Greenlots, following its acquisition of NewMotion in 2017, which has established the oil group as one of the largest players in the field. The International Energy Agency estimates that the number of electric cars on the road will increase to 125 million by 2030, boosting demand for chargers. There were almost 3 million private chargers at homes and workplaces and about 430,000 public chargers in 2017, according to IEA estimates. +++ 

+++ LAMBORGHINI embarked on a model offensive when it released the Urus in late 2017. The family-friendly, V8-powered SUV has helped the small company significantly increase its annual sales. Lamborghini doesn’t want to become as mainstream as Honda, but it confirmed it still has room to grow before it begins to dilute its image. Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali admitted his team is still looking into the possibility of launching a 4th model. It would likely arrive as a 2+2 coupe in the vein of the Asterion concept introduced during the 2014 Paris auto show. The company is in the process of deciding which platform to build the car on. It could use the architecture found under the Porsche Panamera and the Bentley Continental GT, which would allow it to power the model with gasoline engines, and release a plug-in hybrid variant if needed. Alternatively, it could go electric by borrowing the PPE platform from the upcoming Porsche Taycan. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Lamborghini is also considering making a second SUV inspired by the LM002. Customers often ask Lamborghini for an off-roader like the LM002, and the original model (of which 347 examples were made) is shooting up in value. The SUV hasn’t received the green light for production yet, but Lamborghini is at least looking into it. The 2+2 coupe would likely arrive as a regular addition to the Lamborghini line-up; it would compete in the same space as the Ferrari GTC4Lusso. The SUV (assuming it’s approved) would probably be a limited-edition model, and priced accordingly. We don’t expect to see either model in the metal before the end of 2019, but we could learn more about how Lamborghini will expand its portfolio in the coming months. +++ 

+++ The next-generation Skoda OCTAVIA is due to be revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show and will enter production shortly afterwards. The new Skoda Octavia has been confirmed for production later this year. Due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the new model features a range of mechanical and cosmetic updates, including the arrival of plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid drivetrains, as well as more sophisticated styling. Bernhard Maier, CEO of Skoda, confirmed the new Octavia’s production schedule at the firm’s annual conference, stating: “The Octavia remains our best-selling product. We sold 388,200 units of the car in 2018, even in its 7th year of life. We will introduce a new generation of Octavia later this year, just in time for the model’s 60th birthday”. The Octavia’s redesign won’t necessarily mean an increase in size. The Czech firm’s new Scala hatchback, which sits below the Octavia in the company’s line-up, is already large for a “conventional” hatch, so it’s unlikely that Skoda will feel the need to expand the Octavia’s dimensions. I expect the new model to have the same wheelbase as the existing model, maintaining its useful advantage of rear-seat space over its rivals. Inside, the new Octavia will get upgraded materials, with higher-grade plastics being paired with piano black and metallic finishes. The dash will also feature the VW Group’s latest infotainment systems. Entry-level versions could get a 6.5 inch display, whilst mid-range models and up will come with either an eight-inch or 9.2 inch touch screen. I’d expect the dash will offer the useful ledge below the infotainment screen, first seen in the Scala, where users can rest their hand when using the display. High-end variants will be offered with a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument binacle, but unlike with the forthcoming Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, Skoda is likely to still offer conventional dials (with a central digital information display) on entry-level editions. Speaking at the recent launch of the Scala, Skoda’s board member for technical development, Christian Strube, told: “Octavia is on the MQB platform, and that gives us more possibilities for the Octavia. We can also improve the next Octavia as we have improved the Scala”. The new Skoda Octavia’s engine line-up will focus on a pair of petrols, both of which are well-known motors in the VW Group. The entry point will be a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol producing 115 hp, while at the core of the range will be the latest 1.5-litre 4-cylinder unit, with cylinder deactivation on demand and 150 hp. Skoda might have been tempted to axe the 1.0-litre engine from the Octavia range (reflecting its positioning above the Scala in the line-up) but Strube said: “We won’t drop the smaller engines. We are not premium. Octavia will be a normal car for normal people. A smart choice”. Despite dropping diesel engines from its facelifted Fabia, Skoda remains committed to the fuel choice in its larger models, so the Octavia will have up to 3 diesel variants, with 1.6 and 2.0-litre capacities and power outputs from 116 hp up to 190 hp. This generation of Octavia should be the one that introduces electrification, too. Strube confirmed that a plug-in hybrid version of the car is all but guaranteed. It should stick closely to the specifications of the Superb hybrid, which is due this year with a pure-electric range of around 70 kilometres. There’s also the option, on some engines at least, of 48 volt ‘mild-hybrid’ power. This set-up is likely to be make its debut on the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, also due in the second half of 2019, and Skoda could well harness the tech’s potential on some of the Octavia variants as well. It’s conceivable that the firm will initially limit 48 volt to the 1.5-litre version of the car, preferring to keep the 1.0-litre 3-cylinder motor (which can also use the technology) simpler and cheaper. Within a year of launch, the model should get new generations of its RS performance variants. I’d expect a couple of power options, and for the more potent edition to be the fastest Skoda Octavia yet, with around 265 hp. A Frankfurt show debut will mean the Octavia will likely arrive in UK dealers late in the autumn. Prices will rise slightly over the existing version, to reflect improvements in safety technology and infotainment. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen’s supervisory board is set to meet to discuss the company’s ambitious cost-reduction plans. The extraordinary board meeting has been scheduled to mediate between management at Germany’s biggest carmaker and the head of its works council, Bernd OSTERLOH , who is also a member of the supervisory board. A Volkswagen spokesman said he did not know of any planned board session. A participant at a staff gathering told that Osterloh had said that unless the management offered concessions on planned job cuts there could be a confrontation that would “paralyze the company for months”. Volkswagen this month said it would shrink its workforce by up to 7,000, raise productivity and eke out €5.9 billion in annual savings at its core VW brand by 2023 in an effort to raise operating margins to 6 %. Osterloh demanded a jobs guarantee to 2029 and that the Wolfsburg-based carmaker restaffs all currently open positions. “I will tell Mr. Porsche the same thing this week”, Osterloh was quoted as saying by the meeting participant. Wolfgang Porsche is chairman of Porsche SE, the holding company that controls Volkswagen, and is a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board. Tensions had flared this month after he criticized what he described as rigid structures in Wolfsburg and demanded greater flexibility from VW’s workers to help Chief Executive Herbert Diess to overhaul the carmaker. “We give job guarantees until 2025 or 2028 and have no idea what the competition in China will be unveiling in 2 years time”, Porsche said at the time. Osterloh has retaliated by blaming management mistakes for high costs and low profitability at VW. +++ 

+++ The next-generation PORSCHE Cayenne, due around 2025, could be fully electric, but only if battery technology has advanced significantly. Porsche has already committed to launching the fully electric Taycan sportsedan later this year, and will follow it with launches of the Taycan Cross Turismo and the next-generation Macan, which will launch in 2021 in both EV and petrol-powered forms. However, pressure from markets (led by China, the world’s largest car market and largest EV market) is leading Porsche to evaluate launching more EV models, including the next-generation Cayenne. “Of course we are discussing the electrification of the Cayenne, but we are doing the same for every model line”, said Wolfgang Butschek, Porsche’s manager for sales and marketing. “Many markets are asking for electric cars, but we have a strategy of developing 3 drivetrains (petrol, plug in hybrid and EV) at the same time”. Porsche CEO Oliver Blume also admitted discussions were ongoing about the next-generation Cayenne’s powertrain, saying it is “a discussion for the next decade”. It is believed that the decision to electrify the Cayenne could rest on the development of solid state battery technology by 2025; if successful, it would allow more energy dense batteries to be developed at a lower cost and a lighter weight, removing many of the compromises inherent to today’s battery-electric cars, and which would have a particular impact on an inherently heavy vehicle like the Cayenne. By the time the next generation Cayenne launches new Euro 7 regulations for combustion engined cars will also be in place, raising the possibility that the Cayenne could follow the Macan’s lead and be sold in both EV and engined forms. Talking about the decision to sell parallel versions of the Macan, Blume said: “They will sit side by side for 2 to 3 years at least, then we can decide what to do based on where the world is. Some markets want electric now; others are a long way from that decision because the infrastructure isn’t there. We have time on our side before we have to make a decision”. +++ 

+++ SKODA boss Bernhard Maier has confirmed that a low-cost electric model based on the VW Group’s MEB platform is under consideration. The new model would be a sibling car to the Volkswagen ID.3 hatch and recently revealed Seat El-Born, but will arrive after those models. An electric Citigo city car with 300 kilometres of range will launch this year as the firm’s first EV, before a production version of the Vision iV concept goes on sale in 2020. That machine will be the first model to launch outside of Volkswagen to use the MEB platform. There will be 2 derivatives of that car: a standard SUV and a coupé variant akin to the Kodiaq and China-only Kodiaq Coupe. Maier confirmed the plan: “We have two MEB cars, one is the basis, one is the derivative”. Both of these models will be launched before the end of 2022 and form part of a strategy to launch 30 new models by that date, including more than 10 electrified cars. A lower-cost car is likely to launch after this date. Maier said: “We are looking for a lower-specced car as well. Once we have a positive business case we can come up with a clear solution”. He added: “We are building on the same platform as VW. We want to do a car equivalent to the ID.3 or El-Born, but it has to be one step after another. We have a clear product target”. He added that such a car could be built at its Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic, where the plug-in hybrid Superb will start production in the next few months. Skoda has yet to commit to a more affordable electric car. The new model will be part of Skoda’s plan to launch “at least 10” fully electric, plug-in hybrid or 48-volt mild-hybrid vehicles by 2022, but while this number will include an additional MEB model, the company’s CEO Bernhard Maier told that it has yet to commit to following Volkswagen and Seat with a more affordable pure-electric offering. “We have two MEB cars coming. One is the basis and the other is the derivative of that first model”, Maier said. However, Maier said Skoda is “still working on” the idea of a more affordable MEB model; in the same way as VW’s stated goal of selling the entry-level ID.3 hatchback for about the same price as a well-specced diesel Golf. “This platform is really multi-functional. It is usable for different car sizes and different car segments”, Maier said. “We are looking for a lower-specced car as well. And once we have a positive business case we can come up with a clear solution”. He added: “We want to do a car like the ID.3 or the el-Born, but it has to be one step after the other. We have a clear product target”. +++ 

+++ TESLA ’s vehicle deliveries scheduled across Europe, China and North America should be a “primary priority” for all employees during the last 10 days of the first quarter, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in an email to employees. Deliveries set for 2 continents simultaneously with North America were a first for the Palo Alto, California-based company and the associated stress is something that will not be repeated in subsequent quarters, Musk said. “What has made the delivery targets particularly difficult is that Europe and China are simultaneously experiencing the same massive increase in delivery volume that North America experienced last year”, Musk said. The delivery rate per day is over 600 % higher than its previous peak, Musk said. The company’s job cuts in January particularly hit the delivery team that supplied electric vehicles to North American customers, indicating a slow pace of deliveries in the near term. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has said that the GT86 will be replaced with a new second-generation model developed in conjunction with Subaru. The new version of the 4-cylinder lightweight 4-seater will sit beneath the recently launched 6-cylinder Supra 2-seater in an expanded line-up of Toyota sports cars, which will also make use of the firm’s GR Sport brand. Following the launch of the Supra, there were reports that the GT86 may not be replaced. Confirming that Toyota intends to develop a new GT86, European marketing boss Matt Harrison said it has been “a successful ‘halo’ product for us”. He added: “Supra is not to replace that car. They are for different audiences and are different products. We see a situation where they will sit alongside each other”. The original GT86, launched in 2011, was co-developed with Subaru alongside the BRZ. It uses Subaru’s flat-four Boxer engine and transmission, and Harrison said it was “a safe assumption” that the next-generation model would retain those links. Toyota has used partnerships to help offset the high costs of developing relatively low-volume sports car models, with the Supra developed alongside the BMW Z4. Toyota sees the GT86 and similar sports car models as powerful brand ambassadors, and company boss Akio Toyoda recently expressed a desire to build a full family of performance machines, in particular with its hot GR Sport line. Speaking about the GT86, Harrison added: “Its role is not one particularly about volume globally. It’s about adding excitement to the brand and emotional appeal. The GT86 has definitely been successful for us in achieving that”. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN and Swedish battery maker Northvolt and other companies as well as science labs are joining forces in battery cell research. Starting in early 2020, the so-called European Battery Union (EBU) aims to accumulate know-how on battery cell production, including research on raw materials, cell technology but also the recycling of used batteries. “All the partners will step up their investments as a result of the planned additional research activities”, Volkswagen said, adding that they could seek funds from the German economy ministry. Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros to support a consortium looking to produce electric car cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries. More than 30 companies have applied for the program to support the production of battery cells, the Economy Ministry said earlier this month. +++ 

+++ VOLVO has apparently encountered difficulty keeping up with demand for its hybrid variants, prompting an aggressive production ramp-up for electrified vehicles. Hybrid versions of the XC60, XC90, V60 and V90 account for up to 15 % of the company’s global sales volume. Demand far outstripped availability, however. “We are not happy because we could sell more”, Volvo chief Häkan Samuelsson said at a recent gathering. “We underestimated the demand”. The Swedish marque is consequently hoping to triple hybrid powertrain production in 2019, including both plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid components. The company expects the manufacturing adjustment to boost hybrid sales to 20-25 % of total deliveries by the end of the year. +++ 

+++ Norway’s capital Oslo will become the first city in the world to install WIRELESS CHARGING SYSTEMS for electric taxis, hoping to make recharging quick and efficient enough to speed the takeup of non-polluting cabs. The project will use induction technology, with charging plates installed in the road at taxi ranks linking to receivers installed in the vehicle, Finnish utility Fortum said. From 2023 onward all taxis in Oslo will have to be zero emission and Norway wants all new cars to be zero emission by 2025. Among other nations, Britain and France have similar goals for 2040. Fortum, which is working with U.S. firm Momentum Dynamics and the City of Oslo on the scheme, said the greatest hurdle for electrification of taxis had so far been the infrastructure, as it is too time consuming for cabbies to find a charger, plug in, then wait for the car to charge. Induction is more energy efficient and enables charging the taxis while they are in the slowly moving queues at taxi ranks. “Time equals money when taxi drivers are working”, said Ole Gudbrann Hempel, head of Fortum’s public charging network in Norway. Norway has the world’s highest rate of electric car ownership, partly thanks to long-term perks such as free or discounted road tolls, parking and charging points. Last year, almost one in three new cars sold was electric. The government also exempts electric vehicles from taxes on traditional vehicles that are very high in a country which does not have its own fossil fuel car industry to lobby against them. With just 5 million people, Norway bought 46,143 new battery electric cars in 2018, making it the biggest market in Europe, ahead of Germany with 36,216 and France on 31,095, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. +++

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