Newsflash: meer details bekend over nieuwe Volkswagen ID.2

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+++ “The people have decided that Mercedes, BMW and Audi are no longer top-10 car brands”. The 2021 DRIVER POWER SURVEY shows changing attitudes towards premium cars. Looking for the best new phone, laptop, house, holiday, or other essential consumer product in 2021? Then take it from me, the more expensive it is, the better and more satisfying it’s likely to be. There can be no guarantees of course, but the general rule is that the more you pay, the higher the quality of the product you end up with. But this is no longer the case with new motor cars. Who says? Not the usual suspects – road test professionals, consumer organisations, or the judges, jurors and executioners like me, who sit on one or more of the panels for the countless car awards programmes around the world. No, it’s the more important real-world consumers – the buyers and owners putting their hands in their pockets in the showrooms and living with the resultant cars – who say so. And they’re saying it now, today, loud and clear, via our two latest Driver Power surveys. Both perfectly illustrate the point that lower to mid-priced cars are, in the main, better than their more expensive competitors – too many of which don’t meet the wants and needs of consumers. Traditional, leading (but not any longer, perhaps) makers from Germany (the premium car capital of the world) don’t get a look in among the Top 10 new vehicles to own in 2021. Instead, modest Kia and Skoda (with 2 entries apiece), Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota, Opel, more upmarket Volvo and increasingly credible Seat do. The highest-ranked premium German cars in Driver power (the Audi Q3 and Mercedes A-Class) didn’t even make it into the top 20. And while MG as a company brings up the bottom of the separate brand rankings this week, the cheapo ZS is ranked higher or considerably higher than 14 premium Audis, BMWs and Mercs, plus 3 borderline-premium Volkswagens. Or in other words, a comparatively downmarket Chinese-British car thrashed countless upmarket German cars. How’s that for a sign of the times, and the possible shape of things to come in the near future? The pattern changes slightly when the attention moves away from the 10 best individual cars to the 10 best brands. The humble Asian players (rampant Kia, followed by Mazda, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi) dominate the top 10 of the manufacturer rankings to an undeniable degree. Porsche, the German sports car specialist (not the same as being a maker of premium saloons, estates, family hatches and city cars) does incredibly well to take the No. 1 slot with so consistently high a set of scores. Tesla makes a welcome appearance, while Volvo and Lexus sneak in, too. But more importantly, so does Jaguar; which I take to mean the firm and badge are liked or loved, despite, like Tesla, owners reporting a rather high fault rate across the marque’s cars. Yet still, the people have decided that just as the three major premium German car firms no longer make models that go down as well with their owners as we (and they) might expect, Mercedes, BMW and Audi no longer qualify as top-10 car companies. Harsh. But true. +++ 

+++ HONDA has boosted its operating income forecast for the full year but gave guidance that missed analyst estimates, leaving investors disappointed as the automaker embarks on an ambitious plan to go all electric by 2040 and make highly autonomous cars a reality. Operating income for the 12 months ending March should touch ¥780 billion ($7.1 billion), up from previous expectations for ¥660 billion, Honda said in a filing. Analysts had been looking for around ¥803 billion. For the first quarter ended June, Honda reported operating income of ¥243.2 billion; more than double the average analyst estimate of ¥100.8 billion. Despite spending heavily on research and development, Honda’s hightech plans haven’t borne much fruit. The Tokyo-based company has struggled to balance being financially savvy while still spending enough to realize its transformation goals. The operating profit margin for its car unit has improved, but is still relatively low at 3% versus a margin of 15.6% for its motorbike unit. “Honda has brand name, good residual value, high market share. Why isn’t it making more profit?” said Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Nakanishi Research Institute, prior to the publication of the results. “It’s all about inefficiencies”. Honda plans to rectify that in part by teaming up with bigger carmakers, helping it to fast-track its EV ambitions. It struck an agreement with General Motors last year to jointly develop 2 new EVs using GM’s Ultimum battery platform. The relationship is complementary, too, considering Honda’s strength on the east and west coasts of the United States and GM’s strength in the interior. Strong sales in the U.S. in the most-recent quarter contributed to Honda’s improved profit margin, Kohei Takeuchi, the automaker’s senior managing director, said during an earnings briefing. Chief Executive Officer Toshihiro Mibe, who took the reins in April, also has the right background (on paper at least) to propel Honda to next-generation success. His engineering qualifications should enable him to lead the shift to EVs considering that if leaders don’t understand the technical side, “it’d be hard to make it work”, according to Takeshi Miyao, managing director at auto consultancy Carnorama. Honda is also bolstering its in-house expertise in self-driving vehicles by diverting more engineers to the cause. It was the world’s first automaker to unveil a so-called Level 3 car, in March, but so far has only leased about 80 of the 100 Legend units it planned to corporate customers, making a decent return on investment tough. Mibe has flagged a desire to develop Level 4 cars, but also cautioned that making such technology available in regular passenger vehicles may be some time off. “We’ve always tackled things that seemed impossible”, Mibe said in an interview last month, adding that he wants to “be able to look back and think, ‘It was good and meaningful to make that shift’ ”. Honda forecast sales of ¥15.5 trillion for the full year, broadly in line with its own expectations for ¥15.2 trillion. For the quarter, sales were ¥3.6 trillion versus a market forecast of ¥3.3 trillion. Separately, Honda said its vehicle sales in China fell 21% year-on-year to 108.139 units in July due to tight supply of spare parts. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is unveiling plans for a second car-battery factory in as many months, betting that demand for electric vehicles will justify the investment in additional capacity. Envision AESC and Nissan will jointly operate the plant, to be built in Ibaraki Prefecture with an initial investment of ¥50 billion ($456 million) and annual production capacity of 6 gigawatt-hours in 2023. The plans include spending as much as ¥100 billion and boosting output to 18 gigawatt-hours after about 5 years, or roughly enough for 163.000 Leaf electric vehicles. Last month, Nissan and Envision AESC unveiled plans to create a $1.4 billion EV-manufacturing hub in Britain. Automakers globally have struck several deals this year to add battery-manufacturing capacity as they seek to shift away from gasoline-burning engines. Ford and South Korea’s SK Innovation are building EV batteries at 2 factories in the U.S., while Volkswagen has committed $29 billion to challenge Tesla. AESC was part of Nissan until 2018, when the Japanese automaker sold a majority stake in the EV battery business to Envision Group, a Shanghai-based sustainable-energy company. Nissan still owns 20 % of AESC. Azusa Momose, a spokeswoman for Nissan, declined to comment on the plans but added: “We are not able to directly comment on Envision AESC’s plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, but they are one of our key partners, as they are the battery supplier for Leaf vehicles for over 10 years and are planning to build a new battery plant in the U.K. adjacent to the Sunderland plant”. However, as Nissan seeks to keep closer tabs on battery development and ensure access to the critical EV component, it’s now exploring ways to increase its stake or deepen its alliance with Envision AESC, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Originally called Automotive Energy Supply, the car-battery manufacturer was created in 2007 as a joint venture between Nissan and NEC as Nissan prepared to introduce the Leaf, which once commanded a sales lead before Tesla’s ascendancy. Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s chief executive officer, said in an interview last month that the U.K. project was just the “start in our electrification strategy”. Nissan is planning to roll out a new EV called Ariya, although the flagship SUV’s debut was pushed back to the end of this year from an originally planned rollout of “mid-2021”. In an interview, the CEO said he’s confident Nissan will keep up profits despite headwinds. Envision Group is also expanding its own battery business, announcing plans to spend as much as €2 billion on a plant in northern France to power EVs made by Renault, Nissan’s partner in a global automaking alliance with Mitsubishi. Nissan and Envision AESC’s plans to build the Ibaraki plant was first reported by NHK in May. Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the factory, according to the document. +++ 

+++ The RENAULT Group will seek to strengthen its foothold in East Asia by forming a partnership with Geely to build hybrid cars for the local market. The partnership will focus initially on launching Renault-badged hybrid models, using Geely-derived underpinnings, in the Chinese and South Korean markets. While Geely will supply the vehicles, Renault will maintain control of “branding strategy, channel and service development” in the regions. Financial terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed. The partnership doesn’t affect Renault’s 80.1% stake in Korean manufacturer Renault Samsung Motors, which builds a range of Renault-based models for local sale. However, Geely and Renault said that they will “explore localisation of vehicles based on Lynk&Co’s energy-efficient vehicle platforms for local markets”. The move comes as the latest step in Renault’s drastic Renaulution transformation strategy under new boss Luca de Meo. It will allow it to “share resources and technologies” with the Geely Group, which owns LEVC, Lotus, Lynk&Co, Polestar and Volvo, among others. The arrangement is similar to Geely’s 50:50 joint venture with Mercedes-Benz, under which the former will build Smart-badged electric cars for global retail; the first of which will be shown in concept form at next month’s Geneva motor show. Renault also collaborates with Mercedes on the development and production of small commercial vehicles (the new T-Class will be a twin of the Kangoo, for example) but this is completely unrelated to the new Geely-Renault partnership. In April last year, Renault withdrew from a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Group, bringing to a halt the sale of non-electric Renault-badged cars in that market. Electric models were to continue on sale as part of other joint ventures with Brilliance Jinbei Automotive, eGT and Jiangxi Jiangling. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , new car sales were suppressed by chip shortage and Covid ‘pingdemic’ in July. The car market saw the weakest July figures since 1998 as ongoing supply and demand issues combine with test and trace impact. New car registrations in the UK declined 29.5 % in July 2021 compared with the same month last year, with the ongoing semiconductor shortage and so-called ‘pingdemic’ to blame. July 2020 was a particularly strong month for the market, with showrooms enjoying their first full month of operation after the first national lockdown, resulting in a release of pent-up consumer demand. Although this puts July 2021 at an immediate disadvantage, the 123.296 new cars registered was still 22.3 % lower than the 10-year July average, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips was one major issue, with manufacturers unable to build and deliver customer’s cars as quickly as they normally would. Furthermore, the pingdemic, which is seeing hundreds of thousands of people being told to self-isolate by the NHS, has complicated matters. The biggest decline in the market in July 2021 was with fleets, which saw 28.7 % fewer registrations than average. Private registrations were down 10.7 % meanwhile. Electric cars enjoyed a 9 % growth in registrations, however, with plug-in hybrids up 8 %. The SMMT forecasts that 1.82 million new cars will be registered in 2021; up 11.7 % on 2020, but still 21.8 % lower than the 10-year average. Electric cars will account for a 9.5 % market share by the end of the year, though, with PHEVs taking 6.5 %. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “The automotive sector continues to battle against shortages of semiconductors and staff, which is throttling our ability to translate a strengthening economic outlook into a full recovery. The next few weeks will see changes to self-isolation policies which will hopefully help those companies across the industry dealing with staff absences, but the semiconductor shortage is likely to remain an issue until at least the rest of the year. As a result, we have downgraded the market outlook slightly for 2021. The bright spot, however, remains the increasing demand for electrified vehicles as consumers respond in ever greater numbers to these new technologies, driven by increased product choice, fiscal and financial incentives and an enjoyable driving experience”. There is some hope however. 2021 is performing much better than the previous year as the UK returns to some normality. New car sales are up 24.7 % for the year-to-date and many are switching to electric vehicles with a 117.4 % increase of new EV sales from 2020. However there’s still a long way to go before sales recover to the levels pre-Covid. To help counter the lockdown effect, a growing number of companies have been offering online car buying solutions, from click and collect to home delivery, that can get you a new vehicle in socially distanced safety. As far as individual model results go, the Vauxhall Corsa is leading the way so far in 2021 with a total of 26.215 units sold, but this relatively low figure only indicates the struggles the industry faces as we emerge from the pandemic. The usually dominant Ford Fiesta has had a poor start to the year by its own high standards, although it remains second overall. Meanwhile Volkswagen will be celebrating the achievement of its Golf, recording a decent enough July to maintain third overall, closely following by the Mercedes A-Class in the year-to-date table. The rest of the top-10 consists of the Ford Puma, the Kia Sportage, the Volkswagen Polo, the Toyota Yaris, the Nissan Qashqai and the BMW 3 Series. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is set to introduce smaller and cheaper all-electric ID. models with a ID.2 baby SUV followed by a supermini EV later, and the cars could well be manufactured by Seat in Spain. VW has been working on a more affordable version of the all-electric MEB platform that underpins the likes of the ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq for over 3 years. The project, codenamed MEB Entry, is expected to spawn at least four new models in the middle of the decade for the German and Czech brands, along with Seat. Following Volkswagen’s existing naming convention, the 2 badges at the bottom of the ID line-up, ID.1 and ID.2, will be used for a supermini and a small SUV respectively. Teasers in recent VW Group presentations suggest that the ID.2 will be the first to arrive, appearing before the end of 2025. The ID.2 will try to maximise the benefits of a bespoke all-electric platform by having short overhangs at the front and rear, freeing up a longer wheelbase. The car should be about the same length overall as the T-Cross, and the height of the seating should be similar, but cabin space is likely to be comparable to that of the larger T-Roc. The ID.2 will incorporate other ID elements, potentially including the flush front grille area and a black tailgate, while in the cabin, expect VW to harness the power of economies of scale to use features such as the existing ID.3’s digital dashboard and ‘rocker-switch’ drive selector. It seems likely that the ID.2, and all MEB Entry models, will be offered with a choice of battery sizes to suit different budgets. The cheapest version could have as little as 30 kWh of usable capacity, delivering a range of around 200 kms, while higher-end variants will use all of the available space between the axles to offer up to 45 kWh. Even with improvements in battery energy density, the focus on cost seems likely to ensure that none of the initial wave of MEB Entry models will offer any more than around 300 km of real-world range. The lengthy nature of the budget EV project (it could end up taking almost eight years to get its vehicles to market) shows just how big a challenge it is to deliver sensible range while getting the price below the target figure of €23.000 in the Netherlands before any subsidies or discounts. For context, Peugeot’s e-2008 (roughly the same size as the proposed ID.2) has a 50 kWh usable battery capacity for a WLTP range of 320 km, but its list price starts at €34.530. The main factor in the price, of course, is battery cell technology. Earlier this year, VW announced plans for a ‘unified cell’ platform that could deliver cost savings of up to 50 %. But the company’s head of battery tech, Frank Blome, has conceded that while a standardised battery-housing design will be part of the process, there is scope for vehicles at different prices to use different chemistries within cells of the same size. The upcoming ID.2 and its stablemates could well use lithium iron-phosphate (LFP) technology. Previously seen as giving poor energy density compared with the more commonly used nickel-cobalt-manganese and nickel-cobalt-aluminium mixes, LFP has gained popularity recently after Tesla began using it more to avoid rising nickel prices. “These cells are cheap and robust”, Blome said. “They can withstand many charging cycles and this makes them very promising for vehicles with short ranges”. The ID.2 is all but certain to be produced alongside sister vehicles from Seat and Skoda in a Spanish factory, probably Barcelona. Volkswagen confirmed last month that Spain will be the base for the third of the company’s 6 planned battery cell factories. And while the plant could yet be based near the facility in Navarra, which makes the Polo and T-Cross, it’s more likely to be sited close to the huge site in Catalonia that’s currently the home to 4 Seat vehicles, as well as Audi’s Q3 and A1. Seat president Wayne Griffiths said earlier this year: “We want to make 500.000 urban EVs per year in Martorell, starting in 2025. The urban electric car would be a huge project in terms of potential volume for Spain”. Indeed, Seat is likely to be the first of the Volkswagen Group brands to launch a car on MEB Entry. Griffiths said that a small pure-electric Seat SUV “will be the first car for an entry platform for different brands of the Group”. This vehicle, a small SUV, remains the only confirmed pure-electric model in the pipeline for Seat, because all other EV projects coming out of Barcelona are attached to the more premium Cupra brand. The ID.2 may still be up to 4 years away from reaching showrooms, but we should get a strong official hint soon on how it will look. Volkswagen boss Ralf Brandstätter suggested that the new model could appear, albeit in concept form, as early as next month’s Munich Motor Show. “Our Munich trade fair star could be a vision for an electric car that does not yet exist”, he said. “Around €23.000, compact, with features that you would not expect in this class”. +++ 

+++ In late December 2019, managers at VOLKSWAGEN headquarters in Wolfsburg realized they might have a serious problem in China, the company’s biggest market and ticket to its electric future. Its flagship Passat had fared badly in an unofficial safety test carried out by an insurance industry body which simulated a front-on driver’s side collision, a test that’s been widely used in the United States for around a decade. The car was mangled. The crash-test video went viral, attracting millions of views and triggering a social media furor across China, where the German auto king’s success is built on its reputation for superior quality and engineering. Volkswagen was not obliged to do anything: the Passat had passed the Chinese regulator’s frontal collision test, the same test that’s used in much of Europe, and one that the carmaker and many industry experts believe better reflects driving conditions in China. Nonetheless, Wolfsburg acted swiftly, according to 2 people with direct knowledge of the matter. Days after the test results were announced, it assembled a team of dozens of engineers and managers to work with SAIC-Volkswagen, the 50-50 joint venture that makes Passats in China, they said. In early 2020, that team decided that strengthening metal components should be added to the front of all new Passats and a variety of other models made at the Shanghai-based venture, at a cost of about 400 yuan ($62) per vehicle, according to the sources. That structural modification, details of which have not been previously reported, would amount to tens of millions of dollars for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would be affected at the venture a year, the sources said. It was a significant cost for a company that had said it was trying to trim manufacturing costs in China and globally. The intervention in the face of online consumer activism underlines the importance of China, the world’s biggest car market, and one which Volkswagen is relying on to fund its €35 billion ($42 billion) transition to electric vehicles and make good on its pledge to overtake Tesla to become global EV leader by 2025. Global automakers’ expensive renunciation of oil comes at a time when they can no longer count on the dominance they have enjoyed in decades gone by in China, where they’re feeling the heat from local gasoline and electric players challenging them on technology and design. A Volkswagen spokesperson said it developed products specifically for the Chinese market and that the test failed by the Passat had simulated a head-on collision between 2 cars; a scenario it said was less likely in China than the United States. “In China there are central barriers on the highways”, Volkswagen added. “In China there aren’t normally as many trucks or pickup trucks compared to U.S. traffic scenarios”. Asked about the 400-yuan modification, the spokesperson said Volkswagen was constantly improving its products according to customer feedback, and to make them safer. It’s difficult to compare designs of Passats across Volkswagen’s markets as they are often fundamentally different vehicles built on different production platforms. The new Passat in China was the first model to have such a structural modification when it was rolled out in mid-2020, according to the sources. It passed the insurance industry test that its predecessor had failed. But the reputational and financial damage has proved more persistent for Volkswagen, which has been the top-selling foreign carmaker in China and has made largely healthy profits during its over 3 decades there, the longest of any overseas player. Volkswagen’s profit per vehicle in the country has fallen from levels of €1.400 – €1.500 in around 2015 to about €1.000 and even closer to €800 in the most recent quarters, according to Bernstein analysts who described China as “of utmost importance for VW’s financial health”. Sales of the Passat, and more broadly at the venture with SAIC Motor, have slumped; something Volkswagen has attributed mainly to the backlash over the failed crash test, as well as product lineup issues and a global chip shortage. In a sign of the financial pressures facing the industry, one internal memo showed that SAIC-Volkswagen’s finance team ordered managers to cut costs at workshops by 30% in 2019, versus the year before, when China’s car sales dropped for the first time since 1990s. Volkswagen declined to comment on the Bernstein profitability figures or the internal memo. SAIC-Volkswagen’s revenue dropped 26 % to 174.5 billion yuan last year versus 2019, while profit fell 23 % to 31 billion yuan. Sales of the Passat, once one of the best-sellers in its sedan class before the insurance body’s test, fell 32 % to 145.805 vehicles, according to consultancy LMC Automotive. While the Covid-19 pandemic clearly played a big role, the decline at the venture was far steeper than the overall 6.8 % fall in Chinese passenger vehicle sales in the same period, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association. Moreover, Volkswagen’s other main venture in the country, with local automaker FAW (whose products were not involved in the crash test controversy) saw sales rise 1.5%, though VW officials say it gained momentum by introducing SUVs and premium Audi models to the market. The 2 joint ventures make up the bulk of Volkswagen’s Chinese business, accounting for all its local production. They have historically been close in numbers of vehicles sold, though FAW has taken the lead in recent years. There’s been no respite for SAIC-Volkswagen in 2021, with sales falling 7.8% in the first 6 months compared with a year earlier when the pandemic raged. FAW-Volkswagen saw sales grow 23 % while overall Chinese passenger car sales jumped about 29 %. The C-IASI test that the Passat initially failed in 2019 was developed by a Chinese insurance industry body, the CIRI Auto Technology Institute, which was unsatisfied with the standard C-NCAP test conducted by CATARC, a government-backed vehicle testing agency. It said many insurers felt that C-NCAP failed to distinguish in enough detail between vehicles in terms of collision safety, and started publishing test results in 2018. Most foreign car brands received positive results in the C-IASI test, though even those that fared poorly did not receive the online backlash that was aimed at the Passat. The C-IASI test subjects 25 % of the car’s front to a head-on impact. It fractured the Passat driver’s side front roof support, known as the A-pillar. The standard C-NCAP test hits 40 % of the car front, which allows the impact to be better absorbed. The CIRI and CATARC did not respond to requests for comment. In the United States, a 25 % frontal impact test is used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit group funded by auto insurers. IIHS tests are widely publicized, and automakers design vehicles to pass them as well as federal crash tests. Volkswagen’s China chief Stephan Wöllenstein acknowledged in January that the failed crash test and subsequent online backlash had triggered the decline in Passat and SAIC venture sales. Last month, though, he said Volkswagen had fixed the problems revealed by the test, that the ructions of the episode had subsided and the carmaker’s Chinese business was recovering. “We have once again clearly one of the safest cars on the market in this segment”, Wöllenstein told reporters in July. “We will once again take up the old leadership of the Passat”. But there is quite some ground to regain in the large family car segment. A total of 47.480 Passats were sold in the first 6 months of this year in China, some way behind the 91.110 Toyota Camrys and 89.157 Honda Accords, according to LMC. The figures from the same period of 2019, before the pandemic struck, show how steeply the Volkswagen model has fallen away of late: 91.400 Passats were sold versus 111.968 Accords and 85.396 Camrys. +++ 

+++ Lithium ion batteries have been around for a long time, but it’s becoming clear that changes in their chemistry and a rethink of the way they’re incorporated into cars will yield major improvements. VOLVO ’s first-generation battery uses dual layers of standardised modules. The nickel content of the cathode (the nickel-based positive electrode) has been raised and the reliance on cobalt reduced; and work is ongoing to improve the anode (the graphite-based negative electrode) by adding silicon to improve energy density. Volvo hopes these improvements will give its second-generation battery, due in 2024, an energy density significantly above 700Wh per litre. The next step will bring more new materials into play up to pure-lithium anodes; the holy grail in terms of lithium ion battery development. That has so far proved impossible, due to the formation of tendril-like ‘dendrites’ on the anode, which will eventually short out the cell. Lithium-metal anodes would represent a huge leap in battery design, giving an energy density of around 1000Wh per litre, which Volvo says would “approach real solid-state batteries”. The credit for that goes to the company’s new Swedish battery development partner, Northvolt, which acquired Silicon Valley start-up firm Cuberg early this year for its lithium-metal battery technology, which was originally aimed at powering aircraft. Cuberg’s new electrolyte prevents issues with lithium-metal anodes, the use of which it says can increase battery capacity and range by 70 % over conventional lithium ion technology. This invention should appear in Volvo EVs by the second half of this decade. Volvo’s current standardised-module batteries will be replaced by types giving a flat floor and then, by a third generation, dispensing with what Volvo calls “putting a box in a box” and becoming a structural part of the floor. To do that, the prismatic cells will be housed in aluminium and then glued together to form a sealed-for-life unit. Other improvements, such as a reduction in the internal resistance and improved thermal management of batteries in the third generation, plus an 800V architecture, should yield a 10-80 % charging time of only around 15 minutes. Volvo is confident that quality has reached a level at which the need to replace modules (already a rare occurrence) will be all but non-existent. Integration with the car’s structure is expected to reduce weight to the extent that the whole vehicle energy density will increase another 20 %, further upping range to between 900 and 1.000 km. Batteries are already being produced at a Northvolt site with a 15GW annual capacity, which is enough for some 150.000 cars. The partners plan a new 50 GWh factory making enough batteries for 500.000 cars per year. Volvo is confident that those volumes, plus the recycling of the mineral and chemical elements of the batteries, will dramatically reduce the cost of its EVs down to that of its equivalent ICE cars by the middle of this decade. Recycling and the use of 100 % renewable energy for production will make them a sustainable proposition, too. Brushless permanent magnet synchronous motors are popular in EVs, but the magnets’ use of rare earth materials is problematic. The Renault Zoé uses an externally excited synchronous motor (EESM), which lacks permanent magnets but isn’t brushless. Brushes can wear out, so Renault is looking into brushless EESMs, which usually have a rotating transformer to wirelessly transfer electrical energy to coils in the spinning rotor to generate an electromagnetic field. +++ 

+++ Electric cars are better for the environment and cheaper to run. They’re gaining traction in many countries as governments strive for carbon neutrality. But one thing they don’t have on regular vehicles: that throaty roar that lights up the eyes of gearheads around the world. YAMAHA is working on a solution. Better known for its motorcycles and sharing historic ties with music instrument maker Yamaha, the company is crafting a range of soundscapes to replicate the noise an internal combustion engine car makes upon acceleration. Engineers at the division, called alive, believe sound is crucial for a driver to get a sense of control and speed. Many people prefer the classic vroom-vroom noise, but the sky’s the limit, according to Hideo Fujita, who is part of the team developing the soundscapes at Yamaha. “Even one that sounds like Star Wars” is possible, he said. Yamaha is also getting some help from its musical stablemate. It sourced sound chips from the piano maker and worked on tests that treated a car shell more like a musical instrument, looking into what sort of tones reverberate best when a driver stomps on the pedal. The Japanese company isn’t alone in trying to bring a bit of excitement to the eerily quiet world of electric cars. BMW is collaborating with German film-score composer Hans Zimmer to produce sound for the i4, the M version of the i4 and the iX. However in Yamaha’s home country, where electric cars are still nascent, even sports car aficionados are finding it harder to get their guttural fix. Japan tightened the rules around noises from passenger cars last year, limiting the sound to 70 to 74 decibels, about the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner or television. Yamaha hasn’t announced when it will start selling the soundscapes, but it plans to start small, selling them first to drivers of luxury electric sports cars. One day, as more people switch to EVs, the sound devices could become a regular feature in EVs, Yamaha engineer Sumito Tanaka predicts. “When it comes to making a soundscape that’s compatible for a car, we have those strengths”, Tanaka said. “No one can beat us”. +++

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