Newsflash: BMW breidt SUV gamma uit met X8

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+++ Renault’s tiny ALPINE subbrand is likely to see a significant expansion even as the French carmaker makes big cutbacks in the wake of the global pandemic. Despite selling just 4.400 of its aluminium mid-engined A110 model in 2019, a leaked internal memo suggests that new Renault boss Luca de Meo wants to see Alpine line-up expand and even move into a ‘series of small electric cars’. The memo was said to refer to Alpine having a ‘Porsche 911 program’, something which could develop into the brand rolling out a wider range of high-performance variants and limited-editions, in a way that has characterised the German sports car over decades. With lightness at the core of the Alpine project is seems unlikely that future variants will get engines bigger than 4-cylinders but higher outputs (heading beyond 300 hp) seem likely, as does a hybrid drivetrain. On the other side of the ledger, other future versions of the A110 are likely to emphasise weight saving and an even purer driving experience. The current model weighs in around 1.100 kg. The potential for a sub-tonne A110 is clear. The Alpine is brand is clearly of significant importance to Renault as its becomes the face of the company’s motorsport efforts. As well as the Renault F1 re-branding as Alpine for the 2021 season, Alpine will enter a car in the LMP1 class in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The leaked memo also suggested that Alpine might ‘spawn a series of small electric cars’. These might be the new models recently hinted at by Alpine managing director Patrick Marinoff. He recently told “there will be Alpine models coming up. We can’t tell you exactly when and what, but the momentum behind the Alpine brand is very strong and our new CEO, Luca de Meo, is a promoter of Alpine as a brand”. This raises the intriguing possibility that Renault may launch a new variant of the bestselling Zoe as a more sporting ‘hot hatch’ using the Alpine brand. The logic of such a move is impeccable: EVs have sparkling performance but are currently styled and marketed as low-impact eco-friendly transport. An Alpine EV could open a new market for Renault and give it the jump on the rest of industry. The company has previously experimented with performance EVs, producing a concept Zoe e-Sport with 460 hp, though it never reached production. Alpine’s expanding role comes in stark contrast to the rest of Renault, which could see even bigger cuts that already announced, according to the leaked memo. In May, cuts of around €2 billion were announced but these might be deepened over the next 2 years because of the maker’s ‘dire cash position’. Renault could cut its model range by 30 % and increase the price of smaller cars by 25 %-30 %. The latter hints at both reversing a policy of showroom discounting and the extra cost of building more mainstream hybrid models. The memo suggested that Renault’s patchy profitability record had been powered mainly by financial services and aftermarket sales rather making money from car sales. +++ 

+++ Face masks, body temperature checks and health-document scans: these and other preventive measures that are being taken at this year’s BEIJING AUTO SHOW , which remind us that the Covid-19 pandemic still casts a sense of uncertainty on the auto industry. Yet the crowded east and west halls of the exhibition center that cover 200.000 square meters and the congested traffic around the venue render some certainty. First, the Chinese market is recovering and second, the trend of electrification is becoming more obvious in the show, which is a miniature of the largest single automobile market in the world. For instance, Japanese carmakers, which were less aggressive in electric car plans, are stepping on the pedal to showcase their products in the hope of winning a slice of the segment. The Toyota booth is packed with electrified vehicles, ranging from its first production electric car, a compact crossover called the C-HR EV and an autonomous electric shuttle concept named e-Palette, to its more familiar hybrids and Mirai fuel-cell sedan. Honda’s SUV e concept and Nissan’s Ariya crossover, both of which are the first electric model for the brands, are hogging the limelight of their respective booths. Chinese startups are increasing their offerings. Nio is demonstrating its battery-swap service and autonomous driving system. WM, which has just finished a 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) financing round, announced prices of its 6-seat EX6 Plus SUV. Meanwhile, Xpeng unveiled a flying electric car prototype. Enovate is highlighting the digitalized functions of its ME7 and Human Horizons, whose stand is next to Tesla’s, wowed the audience when its HiPhi X SUV was unveiled 2 days ahead of the auto show. “The pandemic has made the entire automotive industry understand the general direction of future development”, said Wang Hao, Tesla China general manager. “A brand-new automotive era will be established, that is, the era of new energy vehicles. This is a new track, a new direction. It is driven by user experience, defines cars with software and takes sustainable energy as the core. There are endless possibilities in this direction”. The show is not just about electric cars. The premium segment was the first to recover since the industry’s rebound in second quarter of the year. Mercedes-Benz’s all-new S class, the Audi Q5L Sportback and the allnew BMW M3 and M4 made their public debuts at the auto show. The top-notch players were ready to catch eyes of spectators. Maserati has brought its MC20 to Beijing, Porsche is showcasing such models as the new Panamera, vowing to offer more cars first in China, and James Bond’s Aston Martin held the global offline premiere of its Vantage Roadster. Volume brands also bring to the show their canon products, including the 7th generation Elantra sedan from Hyundai, Ford’s electric SUV Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen’s new Phideon and CC sedans. “This year, car models and presenters are all wearing face masks. It is less distracting and allowing us to focus more on the cars”, said Zhang Xiao, a website editor. Despite the hustle and bustle of the show, insiders said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the future. Data show that 785 cars hit the stage this year, compared with 1.022 displayed at the last Beijing auto show, which is held every 2 years. Similarly, the number of carmakers that chose Beijing for their world premieres dropped from 105 to 82. The scale-down roughly matches with overall trend of the market. Official data show that sales and the production volume of passengers cars in China dropped 15.2 % to about 11 million in first 8 months of this year compared to 2019. Looking ahead, GM China president Julian Blissett said he has full confidence in the Chinese market’s near-term resilience and long-term growth. China’s economy has quickly gotten on a recovery track that has helped revive new-car sales, leading automakers from around the world to increasingly depend on the Chinese market amid the unceasing global novel coronavirus pandemic. “Let me show you this car that indicates the direction of future Honda electric vehicles”, said Katsushi Inoue, a managing officer of Honda and the chief officer of China operations. He proceeded to unveil a prototype of the Honda SUV e:concept for the first time in the world at the auto show. Honda’s research center in Guangzhou, China, led the development of the EV, positioning the model as a strategic vehicle that it aims to market globally from China. Nissan president and chief executive officer Makoto Uchida participated online in the company’s presentation, saying, “For Nissan, China will play a central role as a core market”. Nissan announced plans to invest in 9 new models in China by 2022. The head of Volkswagen’s Chinese subsidiary also said China’s potential is even stronger now. Behind these moves is the strong recovery of new-car sales in China. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, February saw a 79 % year-on-year decline in new-car sales due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. But then the government policy to prop up sales has proved to be effective. Since May, sales have enjoyed double-digit growth over the same month the previous year, and the trend is in sharp contrast to Japan, the United States and Europe, where recovery has remained slow. In August, Volkswagen’s sales in China accounted for about 45 % of its total sales volume. China was also where Nissan recorded nearly 60 % of its total sales in April and more than 30 % in July. In February and March, when the spread of the coronavirus was serious in China, the supply of auto parts from China slowed and affected automobile production in many countries. In light of the recent strong sales, however, many automakers don’t view China as a risk and have stepped up their inclination to the Chinese market. +++ 

+++ Development work looks to be under way at BMW on a luxury SUV flagship to rival the Bentley Bentayga. Thought to be called the X8, following a series of global trademark filings in 2018, it is likely that the new arrival will be the most expensive model in BMW’s line-up when it goes on sale. A launch date this year was initially rumoured but, given the amount of disguise on this prototype, the car is probably still at least 12 months away from being unveiled. The X8 will not, as previously thought, adopt a coupé-style roofline like that of the similarly conceived Audi Q8 and Lamborghini Urus. Instead, we can see that its upright rear, extended roofline and lengthy rear overhang should allow for 3 rows of seats inside, most likely with the choice of 6 or 7 seats. At the front, the SUV adopts different styling to that of its X7 stablemate, going against earlier indications that it will be heavily based on the existing car. Though the X7’s prominent front grilles look to have been carried across, the X8’s lower air intake will be reshaped, with a new bonnet design and lower splitter further setting it apart. The X7 is due for a facelift, but a recently spotted prototype indicated that changes to the front end will centre on the introduction of narrower new headlights, in line with the upcoming i7 electric saloon, which also appear to feature on the X8. In 2018, then head of development Klaus Fröhlich told that BMW was evaluating the idea of a new addition at the top end of its model line-up. “The sector is growing fast, so there will be opportunity”, he said. “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”. At the time, internal discussion was believed to be centred on whether the new flagship should serve as a coupé-bodied or extended-wheelbased version of the X7. The latter was said to be a popular option but more complex as it would require BMW to create a bespoke platform using elements from both the X7 and its Rolls-Royce Cullinan sibling. Technical details have yet to be revealed, but the X8 can be expected to offer the same xDrive40i and xDrive40d engines as its X7 stablemate, while ushering in a plug-in hybrid version (confirmed by the mandatory hybrid stickers on this prototype) and a range-topping X8 M performance variant. +++ 

+++ Global automakers are looking to CHINA to boost sales and reverse losses, as the country is the first major economy to start recovering from the coronavirus pandemic with the disease under control. Auto China 2020, which opened Saturday and ends Monday, is being held under anti-virus controls, including holding news conferences via international video link. It attracted global and Chinese automakers to display dozens of their electric models. The country’s auto market (the world’s biggest) already has rebounded with sales above pre-pandemic levels, with passenger car sales up 6 % in August compared with the same period a year earlier. “We need to adapt to the Chinese market”, Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said in a news conference conducted by video link from the company’s Japan headquarters. He said China is a key part of an effort underway to return Nissan to profit, after it reported a $6.2 billion loss for the year ending in March. Nissan showed its all-electric Ariya SUV during the show and plans to release nine electrified models in China by 2025. BMW displayed its iX3 electric SUV, which will be produced at a factory in Northeast China for sale worldwide, according to BMW’s China CEO Jochen Goller. The company also hosted the global debut of its M3 sedan and M4 coupe, reflecting the growing importance of China’s luxury market. China’s local brands are also working to extend their range of electric vehicles to appeal to a broader market. Geely Auto, Xiaopeng and Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp displayed models all promising more than 500 kilometers on one charge. Chinese brands also plan to export to developed markets, despite weak US and European demand. Chery, one of China’s biggest independent brands, is working on plans to export its X70PLUS petrol-powered SUV to Western Europe, according to its general manager, Chen Jiacai. China’s automobile imports and exports continued to rebound in August by gaining 9.2 % month-on-month, according to data provided by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Last month, the import and export volume totaled $13.48 billion; up 4.1 % year-on-year, said the CAAM, citing customs data. Month on month, auto imports climbed 10.6 % to $7.11 billion in August while exports rose 7.6 % to $6.37 billion during the period. In the first 8 months of the year, auto imports and exports totaled $87.39 billion; down 16.3 percent year-on-year but narrowing from the January-July decrease, said the CAAM. China’s auto market, hit by Covid-19, began to recover in April thanks to unleashed pent-up demand and supportive policies, with sales rising 4.4 % year-on-year. This ended a contraction streak over the previous 21 months, according to the CAAM. +++ 

+++ A list of 14 CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGIES in new energy vehicles was released on Monday at the 2020 World New Energy Vehicle Congress in Haikou, Hainan province. Ouyang Minggao, a professor at Tsinghua University and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced the top technologies on display. 7 developments (including the integration of an EV battery pack with blade cells and an 800-volt SiC inverter technology) were listed as innovative. According to the selection criteria, innovative technologies must already have industrial applications with products in volume production. The list of cutting-edge ideas included seven items, such as environmental perception technology and a computing platform for autonomous driving technology and high density GaN on Si power module technology. This category refers to a forward-looking, pioneering and exploratory technology that has a high potential to be an important fundamental technology in the future of NEV product development. The selections were made by a panel of 27 well-known experts and scholars in the NEV field, led by big names such as Wolfgang Bernhart, senior partner of Roland Berger, and Hans Georg Engel, senior executive vice-president and head of R&D, program management and procurement Mercedes Benz China. Themed “Join hands in tiding over difficulties, cross-sector integration and win-win cooperation”, the 4-day event includes broad exchanges of technical information and ideas on a variety of topics, such as integration, development and cross-sector collaboration; technological change; and NEV technology innovation. “The automobile industry has played a connecting role in both domestic and international cycles”, said Wan Gang, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and president of the congress, in a keynote speech. “It is not only a guarantee for the domestic industrial chain but has become the driving force of the international industrial chain. During the pandemic, we have looked for new opportunities. A new round of scientific and technological revolutions is enabling the transformation of the automobile industry”. Breakthroughs in new energy, new materials, artificial intelligence and big data continue to push the automobile industry toward an electric, intelligent and shared course of development, Wan added. The event will feature 2 plenary meetings on sustainable development and global cooperation in the NEV industry, as well as cross-sector collaboration, online summits and forums and other activities. Germany was invited to be the guest of honor, as this year marks the 10th year of Sino-German cooperation on electric vehicles. A special forum featuring representatives from China and Germany was held to discuss the results of that cooperation over the years and the outlook for the future. +++ 

+++ It’s 10 years, almost to the day, since I first drove the Nissan Leaf: the first mainstream pure ELECTRIC car on sale. Great that 500.000 have been built since. Shame that its maker has almost certainly made a loss on every one of them. The problem is that 100 % electric cars with punishingly pricey battery packs are expensive to make and comparatively difficult to sell in large numbers, which in turn means they’re built in low volumes. Such vehicles lack the necessary economies of scale their less expensive, pile-’em-high, sell-’em-cheapish petrol or diesel counterparts enjoy. This isn’t just a Nissan problem, it’s a major headache for the global motor industry. Keen, lean, mean Elon Musk may have mastered the art of selling 100 % at a profit, but Tesla is an exception to the general rule, because pretty much every other firm loses money on pure-EV sales. So before we complain about the unquestionably high price stickers slapped on these cars, maybe we should derive some comfort from the fact that we’re able to buy most of them at less than cost. But according to TV bloke turned EV crusader Robert Llewellyn, “Within 2 years, they will cost the same or cheaper, and manufacturers who don’t do that will go out of business”.  It means that in 24 months the, for example, Volkswagen e-Up will be the same as the petrol version. And if it doesn’t, VW won’t survive. Really? You sure, Bob? I’d prefer less EV hype, more realism, fewer broken promises, the whole truth about the cars and the often-criticised charging network. It’s time for more EV-related honesty. On the industry front, the signs are looking more reasonable and considered, with Polestar already demanding greater transparency. General Motors telling its dealers each one needs to spend hundreds of thousands on EV training and kit and Citroen soon staging its Urban Collectif, where we’ll discover more about Ami, its dirt-cheap breakthrough personal mobility machine that’s genuinely unique. Kia is also saying and doing the right things thanks to its already world-beating e-Niro and e-Soul, plus at least one new electric model every year for the next 7 years. Among the volume manufacturers, Nissan of Japan bravely went for the title of World EV Champion, temporarily acquired it, then lost it as the Leaf started to look out of shape and out of breath. Kia from neighbouring South Korea is fighting fit, has got its timing right, and intends to inherit that World EV Champ crown, if it hasn’t already done so. +++ 

+++ Hyundai’s luxury brand GENESIS has stepped up plans for an imminent European market launch, appointing former Audi sales boss Dominique Bösch as its first managing director for the region. Bösch will begin his role at the new Genesis Motor Europe headquarters in Germany on 1 October, reporting directly to global brand boss Jaehoon Chang. He joins following 20 years at Audi, where he held roles including sales director for France, head of European sales and managing director in Korea, Japan and China. Most recently, he was in charge of developing the brand’s global retail strategy. He said: “I feel privileged and excited to join Genesis Motor Europe and bring an ambitious Korean contender to the region. The brand will stand out through dynamic design, athletic performance, truly premium customer service and a driving experience tailored to European roads. Europe is the spiritual home of the premium car market and I am certain that the Genesis models we plan to launch here will be a pleasant surprise to many”. The Korean brand has yet to confirm when it will launch in the region or what its initial model line-up will comprise. It was initially planning a roll-out in 2020. Bösch’s appointment follows that of former Aston Martin and Maserati executive Enrique Lorenzana as head of sales for Genesis in Europe. Bringing Lorenzana on board gives some indication of the premium market Genesis will be aiming for in Europe. He most recently served as Aston Martin’s head of European sales, following a 7-year spell at Maserati. The Spaniard has also worked at Audi and fellow Hyundai-owned brand Kia. Genesis boss William Lee said Lorenzana’s appointment “shows that Genesis is strongly committed to Europe and its automotive luxury market”. Genesis was launched by the Hyundai Motor Group in 2015, taking its name from the long-running Hyundai Genesis executive saloon. The first bespoke Genesis model, the G70, went on sale in 2017, and has since been followed by the G80 and G90. The brand has also revealed its first SUV, the GV80, and last year showed the Mint electric city car concept. This week, a teaser for the GV70 was presented (photo). Genesis has already launched in countries including South Korea, the US and Russia. +++ 

+++ The GLOBAL market share of new energy vehicles (NEVs) hit 2.5 % in 2019; a record high, according to a report at the ongoing 2nd World New Energy Vehicle Congress (WNEVC 2020). About 2.2 million NEVs were sold globally last year, a year-on-year increase of 10 %. “Sino-German Cooperation and Development on New Energy Vehicles” was jointly compiled by the China Society of Automotive Engineers and the German Association of the Automotive Industry. The NEV industry in China has witnessed rapid development and has been leading the world in sales for 5 consecutive years, with a total of 1.2 million NEVs sold in China in 2019, according to the report. Focusing on the sustainable and healthy development of NEVs, the WNEVC 2020 kicked off on Sunday in Haikou, capital of South China’s Hainan province. Government officials, academicians, experts and high-ranking executives of well-known auto manufacturers from home and abroad are expected to share their insights into the NEV industry and related technologies, as well as their visions for the future of the sector, during the four-day event. +++ 

+++ GREAT WALL MOTORS said it is to invest 3.7 billion yuan ($542.26 million) to upgrade its Russian plant in Tula, a city almost 200 kilometers south of Moscow, marking the latest move for China’s largest SUV producer in going global. The investment is part of the special investment contract signed with the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. The contract features a government policy designed to stimulate large companies to increase their investment in Russia, offering stimuli including tax incentives as well as eligibility for state procurement. Great Wall Motors, the first Chinese carmaker to sign such a contract, said the money will be spent on improving the Tula plant’s capabilities in localized production of core components including engines, transmissions and vehicle control systems. Denis Manturov, Russian minister of industry and trade, said a higher level of localization will help increase Great Wall Motors’ competitiveness in the Russian market. The Tula plant, with an investment of $500 million, started production in June 2019. It is Great Wall Motors’ first wholly-owned overseas plant. The company is producing several models at the plant, including the Haval F7 and the Haval H9. Statistics show that the carmaker’s sales in Russia in the first 8 months grew 85 % year-on-year. Tony Guang Sun, vice-general manager of the carmaker’s international marketing arm, said: “Going global is an inevitable trend for Chinese brands”. He made the remarks on Saturday at the opening of this year’s Beijing auto show. Sun said the carmaker started to sell vehicles overseas in 1998, and now it has an international sales network of over 500 dealerships in over 60 countries and regions. Over the years, its accumulated overseas sales have totaled 700.000. Sun said Chinese companies including Great Wall Motors can now compete with international rivals in terms of product quality, but they still have a long way to go in brand building. “Now the biggest concern of our customers in overseas markets is not product quality, but how long we will be there”, he said. Sun said one of the key solutions to dispel their anxiety is localization, including building production plants, as well as sales subsidiaries and spare parts warehouses, which can ensure the quality and speed of after-sales service. Local employees account for usually 70 % to 80 % of Great Wall Motors’ overseas business. Great Wall Motors has already built subsidiaries in key regions like Russia, Australia and South Africa. It is planning to set up such agencies in the Middle East and South America soon. Sun said the company aims to sell 70.000 vehicles overseas this year, which will account for around 7 % of its total sales. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , the top 3 automakers continued to report year-on-year drops in global output in August amid the coronavirus pandemic, though the pace of decline eased at Toyota, data showed. Toyota produced 634.217 vehicles in August; down 6.7 % from a year earlier. Despite August marking the eighth straight month of decline, the fall was smaller than the 10.2 % drop in July, as Japan’s largest automaker saw a recovery in China and other overseas markets. Production in Japan totaled 202.691 vehicles; down 11.5 %, according to Toyota. Honda’s output fell 6.4 % to 389.481 vehicles, though the decline was modest, helped by increased production in China that hit a record high for the month of August, according to the automaker. Nissan was the only one of the top 3 that reported a double-digit fall. The automaker, which is seeking to get back on its feet after the removal of Carlos Ghosn as chairman, built 304.739 vehicles; down 25.1 %. After taking a hit earlier this year from the novel coronavirus pandemic, economic activity has gradually resumed, with governments around the world seeking to keep the spread of the virus in check. The death toll from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, has topped 1 million globally, with over 33 million infections confirmed, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. Toyota’s global sales decreased 10.6 % to 720.765 vehicles, falling for the 8th straight month, with solid demand in China offset by weakness in Japan and North America. Weak sales in North America, especially in the United States, pushed Nissan’s global sales down 23.3 % to 327.297 vehicles. +++ 

+++ Mainstream media seized upon research by Greenpeace and Transport and Environment last week, suggesting that PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES have become a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. This won’t surprise many Autointernationaal.nl readers, but it turns out that PHEVs aren’t that efficient if you don’t, well, plug them in. It was an interesting angle for the environmental pressure groups to take. PHEVs are a relatively easy target for the likes of Greenpeace, because if they aren’t used properly, then they are, in effect, regular combustion-engined cars made less efficient by the extra weight of the batteries that they’re forced to carry around. I agree that this situation is unsatisfactory. But at the same time, we’re with the car industry in rating plug-in hybrid technology as a useful tool in the transition towards all-electric motoring. So here’s an idea. With fully connected cars becoming more prevalent, there’s scope for a better intelligent taxation system which continues to offer company car choosers financial benefits through choosing more eco-friendly vehicles, but which then hits them with a penalty if they don’t use that zero-emissions ability to a sensible extent. The cars will almost certainly keep a record of when the engine is running and when they’re using battery power alone, so why not use that data to encourage more responsible use of PHEVs? +++ 

+++ POLESTAR, Volvo’s EV spin-off brand, has detailed the lifetime climate impact of its new 2 fastback, claiming it’s “spearheading a movement for transparency throughout the automotive industry”. As well as detailing the energy and CO2 produced in the manufacture of the 2 compared with a petrol-engined Volvo XC40, Polestar said it is planning to reveal more about the wider environmental impact of building electric vehicles. Company boss Thomas Ingenlath said: “Car manufacturers have not been clear in the past with consumers on the environmental impact of their products. That’s not good enough. We need to be honest, even if it makes for uncomfortable reading”. The firm’s analysis showed the 2 has a lower environmental impact over its lifetime than a petrol-engined XC40, but it also stated that “going green isn’t quite as simple as just buying an electric car”. It added: “It’s tempting to assume that we can achieve a sustainable and emission-free future by simply getting everyone to drive electric cars. But the truth is a lot more complicated”. Polestar says manufacturing a 2 creates 24 tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalents), compared with just 14 tonnes of CO2e to make a petrol-engined XC40. This extra CO2 is largely attributable to the production of the battery pack needed for the EV. Depending on the source of power used to charge the Polestar during its lifetime, the EV will eventually offset the XC40’s lower manufacturing CO2 footprint, becoming the ‘greener’ of the 2 cars. There has been considerable controversy in the automotive industry about the ‘embedded energy’ in battery packs, with claims that manufacturing large batteries particularly results in a ‘carbon footprint’ that makes nonsense of claims that EVs are the energy-efficient future of motoring. Over a lifetime of 200.000 km, Polestar says, the XC40 (a petrol version rated at 163 g/km of CO2) releases another 41 tonnes of CO2 through the use of fossil fuels, which is where the 2 EV starts to gain its advantage. Even so, the low-CO2 mileage required for the 2 to negate its greater production CO2e is much higher than you might imagine. In an ideal world, with the Polestar charged using entirely renewable wind power, a driver would still need to travel 31,000 miles before the EV’s carbon footprint becomes smaller than the petrol XC40’s. This wind-powered scenario would involve just 0.4 tonnes of carbon being released over 125,000 miles of travel. If the 2 is charged from what Polestar calls the ‘European grid’ (the average electricity mix across 28 countries) the EV has to travel 80.000 km before its lifetime carbon footprint is lower than the petrol XC40’s. Clearly, the mix of wind and nuclear power across Europe significantly helps to reduce the CO2 load when recharging an EV. Polestar’s calculations, based on the average global energy mix, show it would take 110.000 km before the 2 had a CO2 advantage over the petrol XC40. The Polestar report considered only CO2 emissions from the XC40, saying “methane and nitrous oxide emissions (CH4 and N2O) are not included because they contribute to only a minor fraction of the total tailpipe GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from a petrol car”. That highlights just how clean a modern petrol engine can be in terms of air pollution. Polestar isn’t limiting its examination of the EV business to just a carbon lifecycle calculation, noting that ethical battery manufacturing is also key. The firm said: “We work hard to ensure that the minerals we use in our batteries are mined responsibly, paying full respect to human rights and creating minimal pollution”. As with related firm Volvo, Polestar is using technology to track cobalt through its supply chain to check the methods by which it’s mined. The Chinese-owned Swedish brand is laying down a serious challenge to rival EV makers, not just in terms of revealing the energy used to make battery packs but also in promising future transparency in relation to mineral mining. In a premium market space that trades almost entirely on environmental credentials, Polestar’s transparency pitch could give the brand a decisive advantage over rival car makers that cannot, or perhaps will not, release similarly detailed audits. Volkswagen says production of both its ID.3 and new ID.4 electric cars is effectively carbon-neutral, because of a huge investment in its Zwickau factory, where both models are made. The German plant is powered entirely by hydroelectric, wind and solar power, heating from the on-site powerplant is provided by natural gas and VW says it has minimised energy consumption in key areas. But there’s a difference between ‘carbon-neutral’ production and ‘zero-carbon’ production, and VW notes that with the ID.3 and ID.4, it “compensates for unavoidable emissions through climate protection projects”. As with the Polestar 2, the lifetime carbon footprint of VW’s ID models depends on where the power comes from to charge them, with the firm claiming they’re ‘net-CO2-neutral’ if powered entirely by renewable energy. Polestar this week confirmed it has given the green light for production of the Precept concept (photo). +++ 

+++ An updated version of the SEAT Arona has been spotted on public roads for the first time. Seat’s revised junior SUV isn’t expected to go on sale until the end of next year, but early prototypes have now been seen in the French Alps undergoing dynamic testing. While the test mules are disguised, the camouflage indicates that this will be a fairly minor facelift, concentrating on the front and rear ends of the car. The revised Arona appears to be sporting headlights similar to the ones seen in the current model, although this may change before the production model is signed off. A new mesh design can be seen on the front grille, the lower part of which appears to be smaller than the existing car’s. The rear end looks largely the same as before, with visible exhaust tips suggesting that it is the sportier FR model being tested. Although these initial images give no indication of interior changes, it seems certain the new model will receive a variation of the technology upgrades seen in the recently facelifted Ateca. At this early stage, it is unclear whether the Arona will be getting any new engines. Hybrid technology may be on the cards, with the company recently committing to spending €5 billion on electrifying its line-up by 2025. Other Volkswagen Group models have begun using 48 Volt mild-hybrid powertrains, although none is currently based on the Arona’s MQB A0 platform. The Arona has been on sale for around 3 years now and is currently one of Seat’s most popular models, helping the company to break its sales record last year, with 574.078 vehicles finding owners. +++ 

+++ There’s something about a STRAIGHT SIX engine, with that intoxicating soundtrack and silky smooth power delivery. Yet for a time, it looked as though they would disappear from the radar to be replaced by vee engines. BMW even substituted a V8 for the M3’s sublime 3.2-litre six for a time. Now manufacturers are embracing the inline-6 once again and, ironically, one of the reasons for that is why they gave way to V6s in the first place: packaging. First, though, why is the straight six such a desirable configuration for an internal combustion engine, regardless of the fuel type? The clue lies in that silky smoothness. Vibration is caused by reciprocating parts, like pistons, and things that rotate, like the flywheel or crankshaft. Engine balance is fiendishly complex but the two main types of vibration are primary ones, which have an even frequency in sync with the engine revs, and secondary. Primary vibrations are caused by the inertia of the pistons moving up and down at a manic rate and the force of combustion. Secondary vibrations are more complex, uneven and essentially caused by the internal geometry of an engine, which means pistons accelerate faster in the top half of the stroke than the bottom half. The configuration of the engine makes a big difference to both types of imbalance. In an inline-4 with pistons connected to the crankshaft at 180 degree intervals, when pistons 1 and 4 are travelling upwards then 2 and 3 are moving downwards. The power strokes don’t overlap and there’s a primary imbalance and a high secondary imbalance. In a straight-six engine, pistons are connected to the crankshaft at 120 degree intervals, power strokes overlap and each piston has a twin moving in the opposite direction, cancelling out imbalance. So although there’s still some secondary imbalance, primary balance is perfect. Although lacking the perfect primary balance of straight sixes, 60 degree V6s became popular in mainstream cars mainly for packaging reasons. It’s relatively straightforward to mount them transversely for front drive, and when mounted in line, a shorter V6 makes more room for crash structures. Some car makers based V6s on cut-down 90 degree V8s but these, too, lacked the inherent smoothness of a straight six. But as turbocharging became more prevalent, packaging considerations gave inline sixes the edge over vee engines. Inline engines have a hot and a cold side, with an exhaust manifold on one side taking hot gases away and the fuel injection system on the other. Mounted longitudinally, there’s more space on the hot side for single and increasingly common bi-turbo set-ups, e-boosters and managing under-bonnet heat. There’s also more room for fast-emerging technologies such as the belt-driven starter-generators of mild hybrids, which are bulkier than the alternators they replace. Apart from the inherent advantage of smoothness, straight sixes are more economical to make and have a simpler design, with 1 cylinder head instead of 2, fewer camshafts and less complex induction and exhaust systems. +++ 

+++ TESLA ’s plan to build a $25,000 car within the next 3 years doesn’t seem to have fazed China’s most-promising electric vehicle startups, with executives at the Beijing Auto Show saying Elon Musk can bring it on. “It’s a good thing for us”, WM Motor founder and Chief Executive Officer Freeman Shen said. “We are very happy Tesla came to China because Tesla is just like Apple in the early days, they educate the whole market”. Just as Apple’s share in the mobile-phone market has been eroded by local players like Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei, so too will Tesla’s, however over a longer time horizon, Shen said. Tesla’s slice of the “mainstream” electric vehicle market will significantly decrease in 5 to 10 years, he said. Where WM Motor will be by 2030 isn’t certain either. The company earlier this month raised $1.5 billion in a Series D round led by SAIC. People familiar with the matter have said WM plans a stock-market listing in its hometown of Shanghai as soon as this year, something Shen indicated on Saturday sounded ambitious, but declined to comment on further. Xpeng vice chairman Brian Gu meanwhile described Tesla as a partner, with both EV manufacturers trying to make sure more consumers are attracted by smart, environmentally friendly cars. EVs are “less than 5 % of the market” so together “we are accelerating that change and conversion”, he said in an interview. Gu also said Tesla’s plan to expand its output in Shanghai to an annual capacity of one million vehicles in the coming years wasn’t of concern. If CEO Musk “achieves one million units, that means the market has grown so much faster and bigger than what we anticipated”, Gu said, adding that Xpeng’s midrange EVs come in around the $25,000 mark already. Xpeng, which reported a net loss of $113 million on revenue of $142 million for the six months ended June 30, raised $1.5 billion in an initial share sale in the U.S. in August. The firm is among a handful of Chinese car startups to tap the market, surfing a wave of investor demand for EV stocks. Li Auto, another Chinese EV company, increased the size of its U.S. IPO in July to raise $1.3 billion. Tesla’s presence at the Beijing Auto Show was primarily centered around displaying its China-made Model 3. The Palo Alto, California-based company plans to ship cars made at its Shanghai factory to Europe and other countries in Asia, including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, as soon as the end of this year or early 2021, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month. NIO chief executive officer William Li, when asked about Tesla’s plans for a $25,000 car, noted that battery costs have been steadily declining. Batteries currently represent about one-quarter of an EV’s cost because of the expensive metals used. “We reached a gross margin of 10 % in the second quarter and it will increase each quarter”, he said in an interview. “The overall battery cost decrease will help promote EVs. Our price tag is more than $60,000 and even in China we have a lot of work to do for this niche market”. Shanghai-based NIO, which has received a municipal government cash injection and credit facilities from local banks this year, reported a positive gross margin for the first time in the second quarter. Li also talked about customer service being more important than volume. “Auto products aren’t only about producing cars but more importantly, serving your customers well”, he said. “For each family, buying a car isn’t a small expense like buying clothes, and it’s closely related to one’s safety. Quality and service will be the biggest challenge for all automakers in rapid expansion”. +++ 

+++ Timed specifically to coincide with the fifth anniversary earlier this month of Volkswagen’s dieselgate shame breaking across global news, a lobby group called TRANSPORT & ENVIRONMENT (T&E) released information pertaining to “new cheats” in the industry, with a specific focus on the official mileage claims of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) versus the real-world reality. Overall, its commentary was a sometimes contrary assault on an industry and technology that works to criteria sanctioned and set by independent law makers. After all, you don’t often hear of gun makers being held responsible for someone pointing their product at a person rather than a paper target. Part of T&E’s summary was that PHEVs are not a stepping stone to full electrification, but rather closer in terms of their environmental impact to petrol and diesel cars. It claimed the average official emissions of PHEVs of 44 g/km of CO2 were out by a factor of 2.5 as a result of owners not plugging them in or the cars automatically engaging their engines, such as in low temperatures. All fair points, although hardly a secret, or cheats, given that all of the cars studied meet regulations, albeit ones T&E refers to as flawed. If I drove only 65 km per day (and many do) in a hotter climate, I could run many a PHEV infinitely with no tailpipe emissions. It didn’t help that much of the evidence gathered to support these claims was several years old. In the early days, there were anecdotal reports of PHEVs being bought purely for tax reasons and their charging cables never even leaving their cellophane wrappers, but studies by car makers from Mitsubishi to Bentley in recent years suggest that’s rarely the case now. The fact that T&E has a long track record of bashing the automotive industry might also give you an understanding of the amount of eye-rolling that its research (picked up and amplified by national media outlets) prompted within the industry. Given that T&E’s conclusion was that the government shouldn’t consider giving PHEVs a stay of execution beyond the date it chooses to ban the sale of purely combustion-engined cars (set to be 2030, 2032 or 2035), yet its own figures showed them to be cleaner, it’s understandable why. But let’s also remember that VW’s actions (and those of other car makers who have subsequently agreed pay-off deals) rather undermined the car industry’s right to complain about scrutiny, however one-sided. More crucial is that legislators focus on the facts when they weigh up the best route to their goals. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN announced that it is planning to invest a total of roughly €15 billion together with its joint ventures in e-mobility between 2020 and 2024. According to a statement of Volkswagen Group China, the investment in China comes on top of €33 billion already announced by the Volkswagen Group for development in global e-mobility for the same period. Pursuing a strategy of electrification and digitization, Volkswagen also planned to produce a total of 15 different new energy vehicle models locally by 2025, with 35 % of the product portfolio in China made up of fully-electric models. China has announced recently a climate target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, which is expected to accelerate the world’s transition to green and low-carbon development. “We very much appreciate this announcement, which is what we aim to achieve with our goTOzero strategy”, noted Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, in the statement. “Volkswagen is committed to being an active partner in the nation’s drive towards electrification and carbon neutrality”, he added. China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. +++ 

+++ VOYAH , the high-end arm of Chinese State-owned carmaker Dongfeng Motor, is planning to launch its first production model, an electric SUV based on its iFree concept, in 2021. The brand is showcasing the concept at the ongoing Beijing auto show. The iFree has the same design philosophy as the iLand concept, which was unveiled around two months ago in Wuhan, Hubei province. Voyah said the launch of the iFree, which is undergoing tests around the world now, will meet consumers’ expectations for style, performance, intelligence and quality. Starting in 2021, Voyah will launch at least 1 model a year and have offerings in segments including sedans, SUVs and MPVs in 5 years. Lu Fang, CEO and CTO of the brand (photo), said Voyah aims to become a leading player in China’s high-end premium electric vehicle segment. The brand has developed a platform called the EAAS, which stands for the Electric, Smart and Secure Architecture. Voyah said the architecture is designed to offer its vehicles multiple power choices, software updates and improved safety. +++

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