Newsflash: Chevrolet komt met stekker hybride Corvette

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+++ China’s largest automotive lithium/ion battery maker, Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd ( CATL ), plans to raise through private placement no more than 58.2 billion yuan (about $8.99 billion), mostly for production expansion and research. In a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, CATL said it will issue no more than 232.900.780 new shares, or 10 % of the total equity before the stock issue, to no more than 35 investors. CATL said the majority of the proceeds from the offering will be invested in five lithium-ion battery production facilities. The remaining will be invested in research and development and to supplement its working capital. The stock issue is still subject to regulatory approvals. +++

+++ Spies caught a few CHEVROLET Corvette prototypes testing alongside an Acura NSX in rural Michigan this week, lending credence to ongoing rumors of electrified variants of GM’s mid-engine sports car. At launch, the current Corvette was expected to generally follow previous generations’ powertrain hierarchy, with the potential addition of hybrid or even battery-electric models. The notion of a halo performance hybrid model named “Zora” intended to compete with the world’s hypercars has even been floated, but so far, GM remains relatively mum on what to expect from its quicker models. While we’d love to believe that GM is testing a 1.000 hp halo model already, the presence of Acura’s 573 hp mid-engine hybrid suggests that we’re looking at something milder. To command a premium over the 495 hp V8 offered in the base Corvette, we’d expect a hybrid variant to match or eclipse the NSX’s output. Some rumors have suggested the long-trademarked “E-Ray” badge could adorn a mid-range hybrid model that would slot into the lineup in place of the previous Grand Sport model. In its most recent iterations, Grand Sport has been the choice for buyers who want chassis improvements along the lines of those available on the Z06 without having to spring for the latter’s range-topping price. The new Z06 was spotted testing in the same general area as these likely hybrids. One thing I can say with certainty is that these are not full electric models. The large openings in the front fascia are a dead giveaway in that regard, and audio supplied by my spy shooters confirms that each photographed prototype is at least partially motivated by internal combustion. +++

+++ The chip shortage is continuing to take its toll on the automotive industry and the FORD Mustang Mach-E is the latest big-name example to be delayed. According to an email from Ford, customers who placed orders for or are expecting a Mach-E to be delivered between July 5 and October 1 should expect their cars to be delayed. Ford is citing the “global semiconductor chip shortage” in the letter as the reason for why the cars are being delayed. Ford’s letter is telling folks that once it’s able to install the required chips, it will update order holders with an email and new estimated week of delivery. In total, Ford estimates that delays will stretch to 6 weeks at a minimum, meaning there’s potential for even longer delays beyond 6 weeks. However, in exchange for the inconvenience, Ford is gifting those experiencing delays a complimentary 250 kWh of charging. I’ve asked Ford for any updates it might be able to provide. Here’s what I received in response from a company spokesperson: “The global semiconductor shortage continues to affect global automakers and other industries in all parts of the world. We are working closely with all of our key suppliers to address production constraints tied to this global semiconductor shortage so we can continue to build Mustang Mach-E vehicles, and get them to our customers as quickly as we can”. Basically, I don’t have any better idea of when the delay will abate than what was already said in the initial letter. Ford also made mention that the letter posted to the forums was a draft that wasn’t sent out to customers yet, but did not contradict any of the contents. +++

+++ HYDROGEN has been long considered to be an alternative fuel that could help stem emissions from cars, trucks, planes, and other forms of transportation. However, a new study reveals that the ways in which we manufacture hydrogen in the United States may actually be doing more damage to the environment than good. Before we delve into the study, it’s important to know that the newspaper headline, “For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts” can be confusing if you don’t read the full article. That’s because it’s not hydrogen that’s the culprit, but natural gas. And unfortunately, natural gas, which is still a fossil fuel, is the primary method of making hydrogen. So-called “blue hydrogen” requires the burning of natural gas to split water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules, where it can then be used, for example, in hydrogen fuel cell powertrains. According to a new study published in the journal Energy Science & Engineering, the mining of natural gas creates significant quantities of carbon dioxide. Not only that, but the study also found that during the natural gas mining process as much as 3.5 % of the gas leaks into the atmosphere, a consequential portion of which is methane. Methane can be, by some estimates, 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in regards to the greenhouse effect. Of course, even that number has nuances that depend on time and source. In fact, the Energy Science & Engineering study shows that as a result of these previously unknown figures, it would be less polluting just to burn the natural gas directly rather than convert it to blue hydrogen. While many energy companies are promoting hydrogen as an alternative fuel due to investments in natural gas mines, it would be far more friendly to Mother Earth if hydrogen was manufactured using solar or other forms of renewable energy. This type of hydrogen is called green hydrogen. The manufacturing methods may explain in part why some carmakers have such divergent views when talking about alternative fuels. Toyota, for example, has been quite stubborn about their hydrogen research, while in the United States, battery-electric vehicles seem on track to replace cars with an internal combustion engine. When I spoke to Toyota about its recent hydrogen fuel-powered Corolla endurance racer with a slightly modified GR Yaris motor, the engineers told me that in Japan, hydrogen is manufactured using electricity sourced from nuclear plants and fossil fuels, thus making it slightly cleaner than the natural gas method. Meanwhile, the Corolla race car used green hydrogen produced solely by solar power, so that was definitely cleaner overall than an EV. Additionally, some types of vehicles are more suited to hydrogen. Hydrogen can be quickly filled, like gasoline, which means that long-haul trucks, for instance, will require less downtime that they would for recharging. Planes, on the other hand, may not be able to support the weight of heavy battery packs and will likely eventually turn to green hydrogen for fuel. In any case, it’s important to underline that hydrogen itself is not the issue. It’s the natural gas and the fact that it’s the primary method of hydrogen manufacture. +++

+++ HYUNDAI said Friday its manufacturing plant in Alabama in the US has produced 5 million vehicles in total since the facility began operations in May 2005. Some 2.56 million Sonatas were produced at the plant, as well as 1.48 million Elantras, 0.9 million Santa Fes, 36.989 Tucsons, and 1.784 Santa Cruzes. A Santa Cruz built in late July brought the automaker to the 5 million milestone. “The 5 millionth vehicle represents a tremendous achievement for Hyundai North America. We could not have achieved this success without the strong leadership and commitment of our team members in Alabama. Hyundai will continue to invest and grow throughout the region”, said Jose Munoz, the global chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor Company and president and CEO of Hyundai Motor North America. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama president and CEO Ernie Kim, said the milestone was only possible thanks to “the energy and enthusiasm of our valued team members, the dependability of our supplier network and unwavering support of state and local governments”. Spanning over 7 million square meters, the manufacturing plant in the southern US state produces some 370.000 vehicles a year, including the Avante, Sonata, Tucson, Santa Fe and Santa Cruz. It hit the 1 million threshold in 2009, and by 2018, the figure had already quadrupled. With the production of electric vehicles such as the Ionic 5, the production volume at the plant is projected to increase. “Over the last 2 decades, HMMA has become an essential part of our community, and I applaud their continued commitment to growing our local economy and creating jobs for hard-working Alabamians. I wish them success on this momentous occasion and for years to come”, said US Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama’s 7th district, who took part in an event celebrating the 5 million mark. +++

+++ China’s premium electric car startup NIO is poised to enter the volume vehicle segment with a new marque as new energy vehicles see their popularity rise in the country. Nio founder and CEO William Li said the company is stepping up preparations to make mass-market products under another brand and a core team has been established. “The relationship between Nio and our new mass-market brand will be like that of Audi and Volkswagen as well as Lexus and Toyota”, Li said. The Shanghai-headquartered electric car startup’s Nio-branded vehicles compete with those from premium brands including Audi, BMW and Mercedes. “We want to provide better product and service at prices lower than Tesla”, said Li. But he said the company will not produce mini-sized electric cars such as the popular Wuling Hongguang ones. Li did not give a detailed schedule about the new marque’s launch. Nio’s plan to unveil the volume car marque comes amid electric vehicles’ growing popularity in the country. In the first 7 months of the year, 1 in every 10 vehicles sold in China from January to July this year was an electric car or a plug-in hybrid, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. China expects such vehicles to account for 20 % of total new car sales in 2025 and 40 % in 2030. Nio is also offering more affordable models in its namesake marque. Li said the company will launch 3 models in 2022, and 1 of them will have the lowest price of all Nio-branded models. Nio is one of the best-selling premium electric carmakers in China. It delivered 21.896 vehicles in the second quarter this year, up over 111.9 % from the same period last year. It reported losses of 659.3 million yuan ($101.8 million) in the second quarter; 45.4 % narrower than a year earlier. The carmaker expects deliveries in the third quarter to reach 23.000 to 25.000 units. Nio is stepping up efforts in research and development. Li said the company R&D budget is 5 billion yuan this year. Its autonomous driving team has over 500 engineers and the number will reach 800 by the end of this year. +++

+++ SAIC – GENERAL MOTORS -WULING (SGMW) , a major Chinese automobile manufacturer, reported strong vehicle export growth in the first seven months of this year, the company said. SGMW, located in Liuzhou, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, exported 87.401 vehicles during the period; up by 98 % year-on-year, exceeding its total export volume of last year. Its total sales revenue in overseas markets in the period reached about 4.35 billion yuan (nearly $672 million), up by 56 % compared with the same period last year. A total of 24.214 units of the SGMW’s compact crossover SUV model Baojun 530 were exported between January and July, surging by 170 % year-on-year. The exports of the Baojun 510, another SUV company brand, reached 8.364 units. Following the countries of Chile, Peru, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, at the end of June, 1.000 units of its brand Hongguang V were exported to Mexico for the first time, the company said. +++

+++ SAMSUNG SDI may build a battery plant in central Illinois, according to a report. The news came after Illinois senator Dick Durbin said in a press conference that there were discussions to bring in a “major Samsung battery facility” during their meeting with South Korean delegations this week. While the decision has not been finalized, said Durbin, the facility will possibly be next to electric-vehicle start-up Rivian, which said in April it would source EV batteries from Samsung SDI. The news follows last month when multiple foreign media reports said that Samsung SDI would build a battery plant in the United States. Samsung SDI was reportedly in talks to supply batteries to EV manufacturers like Rivian and Stellantis, each backed by Ford and Amazon, respectively. The company is said to invest at least 4 trillion won to supply batteries to the 2 carmakers, reports said. Following reports, Samsung SDI admitted it had a meeting with Illinois State government officials, but did not confirm any details on a potential factory there. “As we have said in the second quarter conference call, the company is reviewing plans to expand our EV battery manufacturing line to the United States. The meeting (reported in the media) was part of our location search. We regret being unable to provide further details on the matter”, said Samsung SDI. Samsung SDI has EV battery plants in China and Hungary, and supplies to customers such as BMW, Ford, Volvo and Volkswagen. +++

+++ TESLA chief executive Elon Musk said that he hopes to start producing cars at its new factory outside Berlin in October. The U.S. company had originally planned to begin manufacturing its electric cars at the “Gigafactory” in Grünheide, east of the German capital, in July. But legal challenges and problems getting official permits have delayed the project. “We’re looking forward to hopefully getting the approval to make the first cars, maybe in October if we’re fortunate”, Musk said during a visit to the site. Armin Laschet, the center-right Union bloc’s candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in next month’s election, thanked Musk for his investment in Germany. Laschet suggested German laws should be changed to make it harder for people not directly affected by the factory’s construction to file legal complaints against it. The project has been plagued with legal challenges and red tape. In the latest controversy surrounding the project, victims of communism in East Germany criticized the decision to grant Tesla a subsidy of €8.1 million from a trust fund managing what’s left of the communist regime’s fortune. German media reported that the state of Brandenburg is allocating the funds to pay for infrastructure costs related to the Tesla Gigafactory. UOKG, an association representing victims of communism in East Germany, said it welcomed the construction of the factory but questioned “why the state government of Brandenburg is helping the third-richest man in the world” with money seized from former regime entities. The group’s chairman, Dieter Dombrowski, said the money could also have gone toward helping build schools, elderly care homes, daycare centers for children or memorials for victims of the communist dictatorship. He noted that Friday marks the 60th anniversary of the day when construction began on the Berlin Wall, where dozens of fleeing East Germans were killed until 1989. Katharina Slanina of the opposition Left party in Brandenburg state likewise criticized the decision. “It’s not right that multi-billionaire Musk should put the risks and side effects of his project onto the public’s shoulders, but keep all the profits for himself”, she said. Her party is effectively the successor to East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. +++

 

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