Newsflash: BMW X8 krijgt 760 pk sterke stekker hybride aandrijflijn

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+++ Rumours of a stretched Bentayga have been swirling around the Internet for nearly 4 years and now it looks like it’s finally happening. BENTLEY chief Wolfgang Dürheimer told at the end of 2016 about the success of the now-defunct Mulsanne LWB and how it would be easy to stretch other models in the portfolio. It appears the company’s luxurious SUV is next in line for the long-wheelbase treatment to cater to the Middle East and China. The distance between the axles will grow beyond the 2.995 millimetres of the standard Bentayga and you can easily see the prototype’s rear doors are much longer. Needless to say, the added length between the front and rear wheels will pay dividends in terms of rear legroom. Bentley already calls the 4-seat version in its facelifted guise as the “limousine of SUVs”, but expect the LWB model to kick things up a notch in terms of comfort. It’s a bit surprising that Bentley decided to wait until the second half of the Bentayga’s life cycle to prepare a stretched derivative, but better late than never. Parking the luxobarge on a tight street will pose quite the challenge considering the regular model is already massive, measuring 5.140 millimetres. It would appear the peeps from Crewe aren’t planning any design changes as the Bentayga LWB looks virtually the same as the standard model, save for XXL rear doors. Chances are the interior will be subjected to a few tweaks by making the most out of the added rear room with cushier seats and additional amenities. Bentley is expected to unveil the elongated Bentayga sometime in 2021 and it will be interesting to see whether the fancier variant will be sold in Europe and North America as well. The powertrains should include the usual suspects, with the V8 likely to represent the bread and butter of sales as the W12 commands a hefty premium and huge taxes in China. The diesel-fuelled Bentayga is unlikely to make a return, while a plug-in hybrid is coming. +++ 

+++ BMW had announced that the cumulative production of the i3 model just reached 200.000. The i3 has been produced in Leipzig, Germany for almost 7 years. It’s the first series-produced all-electric car from BMW Group (there is also the i3 REx version with a small emergency generator). “The 200.000th i3 model rolled off the production line yesterday, almost silently as always. The BMW i3s with Fluid Black metallic paint finish and accents in BMW i Blue was produced for a customer from Saxony and will be delivered by the BMW branch in Leipzig”. The i3 achieved a milestone of 150.000 in May 2019, so we can estimate that it needed one and a half years to add an additional 50.000. As the Group so far sold well over 600.000 plug-in cars (mostly PHEVs), the i3 is responsible for close to one third and remains the best selling plug-in in the lineup (cumulatively). According to the German manufacturer, the i3 “is still enjoying strong demand”, which is kinda cool after all those years and growing competition from a growing number of newer BEVs on the market. Currently, there are 2 versions of the i3 BEV: standard (170 hp) and sporty i3s (184 hp), both equipped with the 44.2 kWh battery pack (almost twice bigger than the initial 22.6 kWh 7 years ago). The WLTP range varies between 284 km and 310 km. The i3 is quite unique, as it utilizes carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) on an unprecedented scale for series-produced cars. Since 2019, parts from the i3s (like the drive unit) are used also in the all-electric Mini Cooper SE. The next step for BMW is the fifth generation of BMW eDrive technology and the new wave of electric models, starting with the iX3. The Leipzig plant in particular will start production of new battery modules in 2021. “The site will become part of the BMW Group’s international production network for battery modules as early as 2021. By 2022, the BMW Group will invest more than €100 million in establishing battery module production in Leipzig. In future, the lithium-ion cells supplied, will be assembled into standardised modules in a highly automated process. These will then be assembled together with the connections to the vehicle, the control units and the cooling units in an aluminium housing specific to each model. By 2022 more than 150 employees will be working in the battery module production in Leipzig”. +++ 

+++ BMW will soon crown its SUV line-up with a range-topping X8, including a flagship hybrid M version that will be the Munich firm’s most powerful series production model to date. Expected to be revealed late next year as a 2022 model, the X8 serves as a sportier, more daringly styled version of the seven-seat X7. Although the BMW X8 was once thought to take coupé-like rear-end design cues from the smaller X6, first spy shots reveal that it retains a squared-edged roofline, albeit one that appears to be lower than the X7’s. This suggests that the X8 will retain 3 rows of seats, either in 7-seat form or with 6 captain-style chairs offering greater luxury. Neither is confirmed, though. Other design cues that mark this car out from the X7 include what appears to be a sharp nose design and broader shoulder line, plus a reduction in the glasshouse. Details of the X8’s technical make-up have yet to be revealed, but the expectation is that it will share its platform and much of the wider mechanicals with the X7. That means a range of six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with mild-hybrid tech, an eventual plug-in hybrid and a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 530 hp in an X8 M50i. But, unlike the X7, the M50i won’t be the pinnacle of the range because the X8 has also been conceived with a full-fat M version at the forefront of its development. Although Autocar understands it won’t be launched until about a year after the standard X8, the X8 M will feature a plug-in hybrid system, mating the 4.4-litre V8 to an electric motor and battery pack. Insiders suggest anything up to 760 hp would be possible as a result, making this easily the most powerful BMW yet. Internally dubbed Project Rockstar, the X8 M hybrid will mate an electric motor of around 200 hp to the petrol engine and offer all-wheeldrive. However, it is likely to adopt the switchable system of the M5 and M8 models, allowing on-demand rear-wheel drive when required. The plug-in hybrid element will also allow BMW to dramatically reduce the car’s fleet average emissions. Expect a CO2 rating of well under 100 g/km as a result. What’s not yet clear is if BMW is also planning a conventionally fuelled X8 M to sit alongside it, with reduced power and weight. +++

+++ CADILLAC ’s 4th generation MagneRide suspension is good to go in the CT5-V and CT4-V, and will also become available for the CT5 Sport and the all-new Escalade. MagneRide 4.0 features a 45 % faster damping response, which, according to Cadillac, makes it the world’s fastest reacting suspension technology. Changes include new accelerometers, better magnetic flux control and increased sensitivity to body motion. “With MagneRide 4.0, the world’s fastest reacting suspension system is now even faster”, said Cadillac’s vehicle performance engineer, Thomas Schinderle. “When paired with our sedans’ award-winning rear-wheel-drive architecture, the result is 2 of the most responsive sport sedans on the market, with reflexes that elevate the already high threshold of the V-Series legacy”. In its 4th iteration, MagneRide’s new wheel accelerometers are able to read the road up to 1.000 times per second, triggering changes in the magnetic charge within the magnetorheological fluid, which in turn alters the damping rates of the shocks “almost instantly”. It’s 4 times faster than the previous system and can allow engineers to tune it for more pronounced differences between drive modes. The CT4-V and CT5-V feature MagneRide 4.0 as standard and are priced from $45.890 and $48.790 respectively in the United States. In case of the 2021 CT5 Sport, it starts from $42.790 and MagneRide 4.0 is available as part of the new optional V Performance package, which also adds extra suspension performance upgrades and plus a mechanical limited-slip differential. In the Escalade, MagneRide 4.0 is standard on the Sport and Platinum specs, which are priced from $86.890 and $101.290, respectively, and available with the optional Performance Package on the Premium Luxury trim. +++

+++ CHINA ‘s auto sales last month rose 12.8 % year-on-year to 2.57 million units as the market warmed alongside government policies to spur consumption, data from an industry association showed. The rise marked the fifth consecutive month of double-digit growth. Auto sales rose 17.4 % on a monthly basis, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. In the first 3 quarters, auto sales totaled 17.12 million units; down 6.9 % year-on-year. Last month, sales of passenger vehicles gained 8 % year-on-year to 2.09 million units, while those of new energy vehicles (NEVs) surged 67.7 % to 138.000 units. China’s auto market, hit hard by Covid-19, began to recover in April thanks to unleashed pent-up demand and supportive policies. To meet new demands generated by green consumption, China’s State Council last week approved a plan to boost the country’s NEV industry, which underlined efforts to tackle vital technologies, consolidate the construction of infrastructure including charging facilities, and strengthen international cooperation. The data also showed China produced 2.52 million cars last month; up 14.1 % year-on-year. +++

+++ CRUISE is about to take a big step forward as chief Dan Ammann has revealed the company will begin testing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers by the end of the year. The move follows a permit granted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles and it will allow Cruise to test electric autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco without safety drivers. This is a significant change and Ammann noted “safely removing the driver from the vehicle is the true benchmark of a self-driving car”. While the executive acknowledged they’re not the first company to receive this type of permit, they’ll be the first to “put it to use on the streets of a major U.S. city”. This is noteworthy for a couple of reasons including the increased traffic that is present in large cities such as San Francisco. Ammann pointed to this as he said, “While it would be easier to do this in the suburbs, where driving is 30–40 times less complex, our cities are ground zero for the world’s transportation crisis”. He added cities are home to accidents, pollution and congestion, and all of these things can be alleviated by autonomous electric vehicles. The move also helps to pave the way for the Origin which was introduced earlier this year. It’s a purpose-built autonomous vehicle which features a roomy interior that lacks traditional controls such as a steering wheel and pedals. The Origin is slated to go into production in 2022 and will launch following the coronavirus pandemic which has made public transportation and ride-sharing services less appealing. Ammann touched on the changes as said “the pandemic has seen the killing of Americans on our roads accelerate to the fastest rate in 15 years” as less traffic has people driving “like idiots”. He also noted urbanites are now buying more cars than ever and this will only cause traffic and congestion to get worse. While the pandemic will hopefully be a long forgotten memory by the time the Origin arrives, it could still have lasting impacts. +++

+++ Hyundai and its affiliate Kia may see their combined share in EUROPE surpass 7 % for the first time this year, industry watchers said. Hyundai and Kia sold 101.322 vehicles in Europe in September; down 0.8 % from a year earlier and representing a 7.8 % market share, according to the 2 companies. Hyundai’s sales declined 4.6 % on-year to 49.439 units in Europe last month, while Kia’s sales gained 3.2 % to 51.883 units. In the January-September period, the 2 carmakers sold a total of 620.072 units in Europe, down 24.1 % from a year earlier amid the fallout of the new coronavirus outbreak. Hyundai sold 308.747 autos in the cited period; down 27.9 % from a year earlier. Kia’s sales declined 20 % on-year to 311.325. But during the first 9 months of the year, their combined share in the European market reached 7.2 %; up from 6.7 % in the same period of last year. Industry watchers said in light of the trend, their market share in Europe is expected to surpass 7 % for the first time this year. +++

+++ Contract talks between FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and Canada’s Unifor union went down to the wire as a tentative agreement was announced “moments” before the strike deadline. In a press conference, Unifor National President Jerry Dias said they went into negotiations concerned about FCA’s product portfolio and the future of the Chrysler 300. The tentative agreement calls for maintaining the existing portfolio and this means the future of the Chrysler 300 is secure. More importantly, it calls for 3 new derivatives / top hats to be built at Brampton Assembly. When pressed for more details, Dias said they would be “buzz” models that enhance Brampton’s existing portfolio which includes the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger. This could suggest there will be more high-performance special editions in the same vein as the Challenger SRT Demon. That remains unconfirmed, but Dias suggested one new derivative would be launched each year of the contract. At Windsor Assembly, $1 – $1.1 billion will be invested to build plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles based on a “state-of-the-art multi-energy” platform. The first model is slated to roll off the assembly line in 2024 or 2025, and Dias said the architecture is flexible enough to underpin everything from cars to crossovers to pickups. The union was particularly concerned about the Windsor plant as FCA dropped the third shift this summer. Thanks to the new platform, thousands of jobs will be created and laid off workers could be recalled as early as 2023. We’ll likely learn more about the contract in the coming days as members need to ratify it. However, Dias sounded happy with the agreement and said it is a “significant commitment” to maintain and build FCA’s manufacturing footprint in Canada. +++

+++ FORD said its China sales rose 25 % over July to September from the same period a year earlier to 164.352 vehicles, attributing the increase to product launches and a localisation strategy. The result represents Ford’s second consecutive quarterly sales increase in the world’s biggest auto market following almost 3 years of decline. The Dearborn-based firm makes vehicles in China through joint ventures with Chongqing Changan Automobile and Jiangling Motors. Rival General Motors said its China sales grew 12 % in July-September to 771.400 vehicles. Overall vehicle sales in China grew 13 % in September, 12 % in August and 16 % in July. Jon Huntsman Jr., US ambassador to China during president Barack Obama’s tenure, will return to Ford’s board of directors as the US automaker looks to tap into his trade expertise and global experience, especially in China. Ford China reported a 25 % sales increase year-on-year in the third quarter of this year, the largest quarterly growth since the 4th quarter of 2016. “Jon Huntsman is exactly the right guy at the right time for Ford”, the local newspaper quoted Michael Dunne, CEO of Hong Kong-based advisory firm ZoZo Go LLC, as saying. “As Ford constructs a comeback in China, Huntsman can play a pivotal role, especially on the crucial company-to-government relations front”. Huntsman’s election to Ford’s board brings the total number of directors up to 14. He’ll serve on the board’s nominating and governance, compensation, and sustainability and innovation committees. +++

+++ FOXCONN is best known for assembling the Apple iPhone, but now they’re setting their sights on electric vehicles. During their HHTD 20 event, Foxconn unveiled its new “EV Open Platform” which will be shared with other companies for the “common good”. Like platforms from traditional automakers, the architecture is flexible and can underpin a variety of vehicles including hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs and MPVs. In particular, the company said the platform can accommodate wheelbases ranging from 2750 to 3100 mm. The architecture can also support various tracks and ride heights. On the performance side of things, Foxconn mentioned battery packs with capacities of 93, 100 and 116 kWh. They’ll power front- and rear- mounted electric motors as well as a dual-motor allwheel drive setup. Front motors will have outputs of 129 hp, 204 hp and 272 hp. Likewise, rear-mounted motors will produce 204 hp, 272 hp, 326 hp and 462 hp. The company is also promising high-tech software that supports over-the-air updates as well as different levels of autonomous driving. Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also slated to be part of the package. While it seems odd that Foxconn is jumping into the EV game, the company said Tesla is the iPhone of electric vehicles and they want to be the Android of EVs. The company is set to build electric vehicles in China as part of a joint-venture with FCA. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS envisions a zero-emissions future and the company is taking a step in that direction as the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant is being transformed into “Factory Zero”. Set to become ground zero for electric vehicle production, the automaker is investing €1.9 billion into the facility to build EVs “at scale”. That’s a staggering amount of money and the company noted it’s their “single largest investment in a plant in GM history”. The funds will be used to revamp the facility which used to build the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6. As part of the transformation, the plant will feature an all-new entryway, a renovated assembly hall with new tooling, and a modernized paint shop. Factory Zero will also feature battery assembly areas and an upgraded body shop. Since the facility will be building eco-friendly vehicles, the plant is being transformed with sustainability in mind. As part of this effort, waste concrete has been repurposed to create temporary roadways during construction. The facility also features a solar carport, a solar array and will eventually be powered by renewable energy. The plant will begin building the GMC Hummer EV pickup in late 2021. The highly anticipated model will be unveiled on October 20th and the company has already confirmed it will be followed by an electric SUV. Factory Zero will also build the Cruise Origin which is an electric and fully autonomous shuttle. Additional models are expected to be built at the plant including a more mainstream electric pickup. This will keep workers pretty busy and GM said, once fully operational, the plant will employee more than 2.200 people. That’s good news as the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant was originally slated to close like Lordstown Assembly. +++

+++ Starting his first day as Hyundai Motor Group’s chairman, Chung Euisun attended the government’s HYDROGEN economy committee meeting, riding there in his company’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Nexo. Prior to the meeting, Chung had agreed to establish a joint entity with the government to expand the number of hydrogen charging stations across the country, clearly showing his commitment to creating a hydrogen ecosystem. During the meeting, Hyundai signed a memorandum of understanding with government entities, energy companies and other local companies to establish Kohygen (Korea Hydrogen Energy Network), a special-purpose company. The agreement is part of the government’s Green New Deal policy, which involves making joint efforts with corporations to foster hydrogen fuel cell mobility. The signing ceremony was also attended by prime minister Chung Sye-kyun; Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo; Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae; and Hyundai president Kong Young-woon. Kohygen, which will officially kick off operation in February, will install 10 gaseous hydrogen refueling stations starting in the new year, according to the government and Hyundai. Kohygen will also establish more than 25 liquid hydrogen refueling stations in 2023. Along with Hyundai, Korea District Heating and 7 energy companies, including SK Energy, GS Caltex and S-Oil are participating in Kohygen. During the hydrogen economy committee meeting, Chung participated as a civilian member. In July, Chung had vowed to lead the company to become one of the world’s top electric vehicle producers, as he took part in the government’s presentation announcing the Green New Deal. “There are still many problems that need to be addressed, but I positively view that South Korea will be competitive and move faster than others in the field of hydrogen fuel cells”, Chung told reporters after the meeting. When asked about his thoughts on leading the automotive group as chairman, Chung reiterated that it is important to change the company environment so that it is “more open” to good ideas. Regarding the restructuring of the ownership structure of Hyundai, Chung said he was “deliberating” on it. Amid public pressure to streamline its shareholding structures, Hyundai had planned for a spin-off merger of its affiliates in 2018, but this failed to go through due to opposition from global hedge fund Elliott and proxy advisers such as Institutional Shareholder Services. Chung also said his father, the former group chairman and now honorary chairman Chung Mong-koo, has always told him to keep quality products, and also to work diligently and maintain good health. Meanwhile, Hyundai said it is working to expand its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle portfolio, which includes buses and trucks. Hyundai recently exported the world’s first fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck, Xcient, to Switzerland. The automaker said it aims to sell a total of 80.000 units of fuel cell commercial vehicles worldwide by 2030 (22.000 in South Korea, 12.000 in the US and 27.000 in China). In addition, Hyundai said it is tapping into the Kazakhstan market with CKD (complete knockdown) manufacturing plants. Trade, Industry and Energy minister Sung and Hyundai CEO Lee Won-hee attended the completion ceremony for the Hyundai assembly plant in Kazakhstan, which was held online, according to the automaker. Hyundai would export its automobile parts to the manufacturing plant and the vehicles assembled there would be released to the market as Hyundai vehicles, the company explained. According to the Trade Ministry, the plant is expected to produce about 30.000 vehicles annually and create about 700 jobs there. +++

+++ KARMA AUTOMOTIVE has announced U.S. pricing for its first all-electric production model, the upcoming GSe-6 luxury sedan. Scheduled to reach customers in 2021, the Karma GSe-6 will have a starting price of $79,900, roughly half the price of the Revero GTS. Mind you, the price is before all applicable tax rebates and incentives; it also excludes taxes, fees and delivery charges. The Chinese-backed company has created a reservation site where prospective customers can pre-order the GSe-6 for a fully-refundable $100 deposit. Karma’s GSe-6 sedan retains the design of the Revero GT and the full aluminum body but replaces the latter’s complicated two-motor range-extender system with an all-electric powertrain. The model will come standard with connected car capabilities, internet radio, haptic steering wheel controls, surround view camera, 21 inch wheels, adaptive headlights and Level 2 autonomous driving. One look at the reservation site reveals that the GSe-6 will offer optional Sport and Luxury packages, with each bringing exclusive exterior and interior appointments. More importantly, the Karma GSe-6 will offer a driving range of up to 483 km and a “fast enough” acceleration. Expect a short charging time for the battery as Karma mentions a maximum charging speed of 110 kW. “We are pleased to announce that our first all-electric vehicle is now available for pre-order at a price point that is competitive with other vehicles in the space”, said Joost de Vries, Karma’s vice president of global sales and customer experience. “We have been producing vehicles here in the USA for a while and the new all-electric GSe-6 was the next logical step in our progression as a company. We like to say we go ‘beyond EV’ and this vehicle (combined with our existing extended range EV technology in the Revero GT) offers consumers a unique solution for their next vehicle purchase”. +++

+++ A KONA ELECTRIC caught fire while connected to a charger, a day after Hyundai initiated a voluntary recall of the electric vehicle (EV) in Korea, the company’s most popular electric model. More than a dozen Kona EVs have gone up in flames over the past 18 months. In the latest incident, a 2018 Kona Electric caught fire in a parking lot in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, while connected to a rapid charger and turned into a smoldering wreck. “It seems the vehicle caught fire while being charged”, said an official from the local fire station. The Kona Electric is the bestselling EV from Hyundai and the second most popular in Korea, after Tesla’s Model 3. The electric version of the small SUV was introduced in 2018. About 25.000 have been sold nationwide, and more than 77.000 globally. By now, 14 fires involving the Kona Electric were reported in and outside Korea, the most recent in Daegu on October 4. Of the 14 cases, 10 were in Korea, 2 in Canada and 2 in Europe. Hyundai is expected to begin the recall in the United States on December 11, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It said Hyundai will update the Battery Management System, which monitors and manages the state of the battery, and replace the lithium-ion cells if necessary. Owners will be advised to park their cars outside and away from structures until the repair is complete, according to the NHTSA. In the United States, 6.707 units built between August 2018 and March 2020 are affected. Hyundai plans to start the recall in Canada of more than 4.375 Kona Electric cars as well as 37.000 units in Europe and 3.000 more in other countries including India. The cause of the fires hasn’t been confirmed yet. The country’s Transport Ministry suspects a defect in the battery cells, citing an investigation by the institute Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute. LG Chem, which supplied the batteries, says no cause has been determined and that fires did not occur during tests simulating similar conditions. +++

+++ 3 of LEXUS ’ longest-standing models in Europe will be discontinued very soon. And the reason for that, as you may have guessed already, is the company’s focus on crossover and SUV models for the region. The CT, IS and RC will all be eliminated from the Japanese firm’s portfolio in Europe once the current stock is sold. All 3 are no longer in production since the summer of this year and Lexus has no plans to bring them back on the assembly lines. “It’s a decision based on the evolution of our portfolio”, an unnamed spokesman for Lexus told. “If you look at the sales of Lexus in Europe and the overall market, the evolution is going more toward SUVs”. Indeed, the numbers show the brand’s non-crossover models are its slower-selling ones. In Europe, the CT 200h, which is also the marque’s oldest offering, was sold just 2.344 times from January to August this year, representing a drop of 35 % compared to the same period of 2019. The IS 300h recorded just 1.101 sales during the first 8 months of 2020, while the RC 300h found 422 new customers. For comparison, the numbers are way better for Lexus’ crossovers and SUVs. The UX was the brand’s bestseller on the Old Continent with 10.291 deliveries in the first 8 months of the year. The NX was behind with 7.739 sales, followed by the RX, Lexus’ largest SUV, with 3.474 sales. Given these numbers, it’s a bit surprising that Lexus plans to continue selling the LS flagship saloon in Europe despite its marginal sales numbers of – behold! – just 58 units in the first 8 months of 2020. “The LS is our flagship. Despite the lower numbers, it’s a model that carries a lot of innovation and is a strong brand builder”, the spokesman told our source. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI has agreed with Thailand’s national power generator to cooperate in developing a system that would enable electric vehicles to power homes in case of blackouts and for other purposes. The automaker’s local arm signed a memorandum of understanding with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, calling for collaboration on the development, testing and data compilation for energy conversion from EV batteries to the country’s power grid, according to a statement. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV will be used for the project to be undertaken at the National Control Center of the EGAT headquarters in Nonthaburi province in the northern outskirts of Bangkok. The Mitsubishi subsidiary is scheduled to launch production of the plug-in hybrid SUV at its plant in the province of Chonburi, eastern Thailand, in 2021. It also plans to set up a booth at the EGAT head office to showcase a package of conceptualized plans for household use, including the vehicle-to-home power supply system, intended to reduce electricity bills as well as using it as a backup power source. +++

+++ According to a recent study, most PLUG-IN HYBRID MODELS aren’t more environmentally friendly than their regular combustion engine counterparts due to their limited all-electric range. Furthermore, if PHEVs aren’t regularly charged, their CO2 emissions can actually be worse than those of a conventional gasoline or diesel model. The study concludes with German researchers saying that regulators and governments must stop giving PHEVs excessively beneficial treatments. While such a conclusion only serves as ammunition for critics of the technology, German premium carmakers in particular have embraced plug-in hybrid systems as an effective way to reduce CO2 emissions. So what do the numbers say? Well, researchers at the Fraunhofer ISI institute and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) examined usage data from more than 100.000 PHEVs across more than 66 different models sold in Europe, the U.S. and China. What they found was that, at best, a plug-in hybrid car produces average CO2 emissions that are twice as high as what carmakers claim regardless of test cycle (NEDC or WLTP). At worst, CO2 output from PHEVs is 4 times above official figures, meaning that a plug-in hybrid model with an official CO2 level of 50 grams per km will actually put out between 100 and 200 g/km. A big reason for this is the fact that PHEVs are also used as company cars, which in turn are usually driven distances that exceed their relatively limited full-electric range. Furthermore, company car drivers are in most cases incentivized to fill up with gas seen as how their employers pay for the fuel. “If we want to see lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in real life, the engine’s horsepower needs to be reduced and the electric range increased”, said the study’s leading author, Patrick Plotz. According to his estimates, in order for a plug-in hybrid to efficiently replace conventional ICE models (in Germany at least), its all-electric range would need to be between 80 km and 90 km, instead of just 30 km to 60 km. There is one issue with this study, namely that Plotz himself presented a different research back in 2017, when he was in favor of PHEV technology. In fact, just last month VW pointed to his work, titled “Plug-in hybrid vehicles are better than their reputation” as proof that drivers not charging their vehicles is nothing more than a myth. However, Plotz claims that carmakers failed to mention that the 2017 study was not designed to provide a definitive conclusion on the matter. “At the time, we looked solely at the number of kilometers driven electrically”, he told. “We did not examine the deviation from the test cycle and that is where these unflattering results can be found”. The new study pretty much labels plug-in hybrids “compliance cars”, meaning they are only fuel-efficient on paper, but in reality emit just as much CO2 as conventionally-powered models. What if governments start cracking down on PHEVs? This would have a considerable effect on sales. For example, the Netherlands already slashed incentives for plug-in hybrids in recent years and saw their sales fall from an EU-best 40.000 units in 2015 to a mere 1.150 units a mere 2 years later. As for right now, more plug-in hybrids have been sold in Europe than anywhere else in the world, namely 780.000 units, eclipsing China by roughly 10.000 units. +++

+++ PORSCHE has shared its sales numbers for the first 9 months of the year, recording a decline in most global markets save for the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East region, where they actually shipped more cars than in the first three quarters of 2019. That is a mere 1 % increase, according to the Stuttgart company, from 86.235 to 87.030. In China, they sold 62.823 units; down from 64.237, and another 49.034 in America, including 39.734 in the United States; a 11 % decline. In Europe, 55.483 cars were delivered; down 9 %, including 17.462 in Germany; a 23 % loss. “Porsche is demonstrating resilience in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Thanks to a fresh updated product portfolio, we have been able to keep the decline in deliveries to a moderate level”, commented member of the Executive Board for Sales and Marketing, Detlev von Platen. “The Chinese market has recovered quickly after the lockdown, and demand in other markets is also showing significant growth once again, all of which has contributed to achieving this result”. In total, Porsche sold 191.547 vehicles globally from January to September; down 5 % from the same period last year. The Cayenne remained its bestseller, with 64.299 deliveries, and the Cayenne Coupe contributed to an increase of deliveries by 4 %. The Macan accounted for 55.124 units and the 911 turned out to be popular too with 25.400 examples; a 1 % increase, while the all-electric Taycan contributed to Porsche’s overall sales with 10.944 units. +++

+++ RENAULT ’s promotional blitz for its growing electric lineup may be too late for the maker of Europe’s bestselling EV to stay atop the region’s expanding market for battery-powered cars. The French manufacturer and its partner Nissan have long enjoyed a first-mover advantage in the market. But their alliance has seen its share of Europe’s EV market shrink by almost half during the past 4 years. Tesla took over the pole position in 2019 and Volkswagen is now closing in fast. Fighting back is now among the top priorities for new chief executive officer Luca de Meo, who in July took over a company still reeling from the 2018 arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn. He previewed 2 new electric models: the Dacia Spring coming next year and the Mégane eVision. It’s also debuting a pure-electric version of the Twingo and showing hybrid and plug-in iterations of its Clio, Captur and Arkana models. Reinforcements are sorely needed. Volkswagen’s 22 % slice of Europe’s battery-electric vehicle sales was just short of the 24 % held by Renault and its alliance partners Nissan and Mitsubishi in the first 8 months of the year, Credit Suisse analysts said in a report. Much of the focus of car companies in Europe has shifted to electrics and plug-in hybrids, even as their share of sales remains relatively small at about 6.5% of the region’s total. Government incentives in the biggest markets of France and Germany have fueled an 85 % rise in unit sales and boosted the segment’s share of the market by 3.5 percentage points from a year ago. The top-selling electric model in Europe in the first 8 months of the year was Renault’s Zoé, followed by Tesla’s Model 3 and Volkswagen’s e-Golf, according to Credit Suisse. The Zoé helped Renault and Nissan retake the lead in battery-electric vehicle sales through the first 8 months of this year, but that position is vulnerable now that VW’s ID.3 hatchback has arrived. The German carmaker will soon follow that model up with the ID.4 crossover. French rival PSA Group’s Peugeot e-208 also is making steady gains. While the Zoé may fall behind, Renault’s new cars could compete well with the Volkswagen ID.3 and Tesla Model 3, said Bloomberg Intelligence auto analyst Michael Dean. “2021 will be a big year for battery-electric vehicles, with a further jump in market share as more BEV models are made available”, he said. De Meo plans to overhaul Renault’s product range (which he deems roughly 30 % too broad) and cut costs after a record €7.3 billion first-half loss. The carmaker is freshening its electric lineup after relying on the Zoe for years. After the latest of several makeovers, the model has enjoyed surprising sales success this year, though it’s largely been a French phenomenon. Nissan’s Leaf has had better traction internationally and was the world’s best-selling electric model before being overtaken by Tesla. An electric car costing less than €20,000 is key to safeguarding the alliance’s early advantage, according to de Meo, who has said Renault should focus on developing a profitable range of models built in France. “We are pioneers in the area”, he said in a memo to employees last month. Calling Renault’s electric-vehicle platform a “weapon against Volkswagen”, he said Renault would not “give up our advantage and fall on the first offensive from a competitor”. Under a job-sharing plan mapped out by the alliance in May, Renault will take the lead on the body of electric cars and some electric powertrains, while Mitsubishi will work on plug-in hybrids and Nissan on autonomous driving. In remarks designed to give a jolt to Renault staff, de Meo warned last month the carmaker is in the “red zone” and that cost-cutting may have to go deeper than the €2 billion already planned. He has spent months building his team (including by poaching top managers from PSA) and is working on a strategic plan to be unveiled at the start of next year. Renault has drawn down part of a €5 billion loan guaranteed by the French government, put in place earlier this year to shore up its finances during the coronavirus crisis, its chairman said. Jean-Dominique Senard did not detail how much of the loan Renault had tapped, but added that the group had ample liquidity and that it had only drawn down on the facility to make the most of the tools at its disposal. “There will not be a single euro of public money used for Renault, I’m stating this clearly, unless the world collapses”, Senard said at an event at which the carmaker unveiled a new design for an electric vehicle. Renault joined several other major French companies including Air France-KLM in obtaining state-backed loans, as part of a crisis programme set in motion in France to help firms cope with the pandemic. Its credit facility is loaned by commercial banks but carries a guarantee from the French government of up to 90 % of the amount borrowed. Financial chief Clotilde Delbos added that the loan was due to mature at year-end and that it would have been “a bit of a shame” not to make use of it. “We have a very good level of liquidity, there is no liquidity problem, it’s just good financial management”, Delbos said. +++

+++ Is there a new king of speed in the production car world? Officially, not yet. However, an unofficial report from KPVM-TV in Las Vegas says the SSC TUATARA set a new record over the weekend on the same stretch of road Koenigsegg used for its record run back in 2017. The report further states that SSC will make an official announcement soon, but the big question now is, did it go faster than Koenigsegg, or Bugatti? Officially, the current Guinness World Record for the fastest production car is held by the Koenigsegg Agera RS at 277.9 mph. That run took place in late 2017 on the identical stretch of State Route 160 in southern Nevada that SSC used this past weekend. To count as an official top speed run, a car must make two sprints in opposite directions to negate the effects of headwinds and tailwinds. The Agera RS actually reached 284 mph on one of its passes, but the average for both directions brought the speed down to 277.9 mph. As for Bugatti, it broke the 300 mph barrier in September 2019 with a special version of the Chiron that would become the Super Sport 300+. It reached 304.7 mph at the Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany, however, only a single pass in one direction was made. This was reportedly due to the grain of the track surface being potentially dangerous at such speeds when driven in the opposite direction. Video shows the car reaching 304.7 mph, but the single-direction run remains both unofficial and controversial in the world of ultimate speed, especially since Bugatti limits the Super Sport 300+ to 275 mph in production form. This leads us to the big question for this million-dollar hypercar. Ever since the Tuatara’s official launch, SSC seemingly set its sights on Bugatti. The car was envisioned to go 300 mph, and in fact, the Tuatara’s top speed is estimated to be 312 mph. With no less than 1.750 hp generated from a twin-turbocharged, flat-plane-crank 5.9-litre V8, it should have the power to break the 300-mph barrier. It also weighs just 1.250 kg and boasts a drag coefficient of 0.279, so on paper at least, the Tuatara looks like a match for Bugatti’s unofficial title, never mind Koenigsegg’s official one. As soon as I have an official word from SSC I’ll certainly provide an update. +++

+++ You don’t have to buy a new car to get a range upgrade from TESLA , at least for the right model. Tesla is pushing a software update that improves the range of existing Model Y crossovers. The exact gains aren’t clear, but one Long Range driver said the upgrade was roughly on par with the 520 km you’d get with a brand new Model Y. The improvements come through code that “improves the efficiency of the motors and the climate control systems”, Tesla said in its release notes. In other words, Tesla’s “efficiency package” mentioned with the Model 3 refresh appears to revolve around software. It’s not certain if this applies to Model 3 owners, or whether all on-the-road Model Y examples will get the update. The Y has only been on the road for several months, so there’s a chance this could cover all existing models. Tesla has previously improved range through software, adding 24 km to some Model 3 versions. in 2019. Even so, this could easily be welcome; and important when range may be crucial to fending off competitors like the Volkswagen ID.4. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN South Korea aims to “popularize” import cars for local consumers by selling them for less, starting with its latest Jetta. The compact sedan is available to be ordered starting Thursday. Introduced in 1979, the model is a steady seller at Volkswagen and the latest release is in its 7th generation. In South Korea alone, more than 170.000 Jetta sedans were sold since Volkswagen Korea was established in 2005. The official price tag for the new Jetta is 27.5 million won ($24,000) for the premium model and 29.9 million won for the prestige model, which comes with upgraded options like a camera on the back and heated back seats. With the support of Volkswagen’s final service program, the premium Jetta’s price can be cut to as low as 23.3 million won, including tax. For a foreign car brand in Korea, a price in the 20-million-won range is extremely rare. Comparing compact sedans from other German brands, the price range is typically in the 30-to-40-million won range. The 7th generation Jetta is 4 to 7 million won cheaper than its previous model, despite being longer and wider. Volkswagen Korea also extended the warranty to 5 years and 150.000 kilometers, and offers a 3-year Service Plus program during which Volkswagen exchanges auto parts for free. “The ‘democratization of the imported car market’ is our mission”, said Stefen Krapp, Volkswagen Korea’s head, during a promotional event in eastern Seoul. “There are still plenty of Korean customers having little or no opportunity to own or even experience an import car at all. This, we want to change”. During the event, Volkswagen Korea also laid out midterm plans for its local business by 2022: The midsized premium sedan Passat GT is due release in December, followed by the T-Roc in early 2021. Volkswagen’s 8th-generation Golf is rolling out in fall 2021 and a new, large-sized SUV Teramont is due release in 2022. The German carmaker also disclosed plans for electric vehicle (EV) sales in Korea. The first Volkswagen EV will launch domestic sales in 2022, the company said, starting with the all-electric SUV ID.4. As for its Korea operation overall, Volkswagen said its sales within the first 3 quarters amounted to 10.000 cars locally, making it the 4th-most-sold foreign car brand in the country. The Korean unit of the German automaker said the success this year despite the pandemic woes were thanks in large part to its bestselling SUV the Tiguan, the new high-end flagship model the Touareg and the carmaker’s flagship sedan the Arteon. During the event, managing director Stefan Krapp vowed to expand the carmaker’s presence in the 4th quarter with plans to focus on sedans such as the new Jetta and the facelifted Passat GT. He also added that the company hopes the affordable new Jetta is seen as a “first-car option” by many. +++

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