Newsflash: Toyota schrapt plannen voor een straat legale hyper sportwagen

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+++ AUDI designers have been working on a trio of concepts branded with the word Sphere, all presaging aspects of the battery-electric and autonomously capable future Ingolstadt has planned for not long from now. The Sky Sphere sports car debuts from the automaker’s Malibu, California, studio, the Grand Sphere sedan is expected at the Munich Motor Show, the crossover Urban Sphere should join before the year is out. For a timeline recap, remember, Audi announced it would stop developing new gas-powered engines in 2025 and stop selling ICEs in 2033. The TT and R8 sports cars are the 2 cars closest to meeting Charon at the River Styx. What Audi would do with two of its longest-tenured icons has been the subject of rumor for years. The consistent line has been that if Audi retains the nameplates, both will go electric. Whatever’s going to happen, it’s likely to happen in 2024 for both models. The current-generation TT will be 10 years old at that point, the R8 will be 9. An Audi exec said of a potential new R8 EV this year that it “won’t just be an R8 with an electric motor”, it would be, rather, “an R8 but different”. In the hatchback/sedan family, the recently launched A3 is said to have established the template for the impending generational makeovers among the whole lineup. That means freshened exteriors with minimal but noteworthy adjustments, new mild hybrid systems, and entirely overhauled cabins with the latest infotainment and driver assistance systems. The A6, A7, and A8 are expected next year, the A4 and A5 the year after that. We’ve a couple of years to wait for movement in Audi’s SUV bin, the Q3 coming first in 2023, the same year as the A4 and A5, plus a refreshed Q8. The new Q7 is expected in 2024, the last new gas-powered Q5 pulling up as the caboose for the ICE train in 2025. During all of this, the brand is concurrently plotting the rise of its all-electric lineup that’s commenced with the e-Tron and e-Tron GT launched already. The Q4 e-Tron crossover is due this year, an updated e-Tron should come next year and bring better range with it. The A6 e-Tron sedan, presaged by a gorgeous concept, and the Q6 e-Tron SUV could come by the end of 2023 for the 2024 model year. The former would go on sale next to its gas-powered counterpart, the latter would be a new entry. Those electric offerings are built on a mix of the Volkswagen Group’s MEB battery-electric platform and the PPE all-electric platform Audi shares with Porsche. In the latter half of the decade, the Volkswagen Group plans to transition to its Scalable Systems Platform for all of its group EVs, the architecture Audis will be based on come the 2023 sunset for ICE sales. A preview of that future will show in 2026 when Audi debuts its Artemis technology initiative, a globally developed Level 4 autonomous entry that aims to “implement additional high-tech benchmarks” and “utilize new opportunities in the markets”. +++

+++ AUDI has introduced the first of three futuristic concept cars it created to showcase the technology and design cues it will incorporate into its range in the coming years. Called SkySphere, the first concept is a luxurious electric roadster with a wheelbase that can be modified by the driver and a handful of clever heritage-laced styling cues. Designed digitally in Malibu, California, the SkySphere stretches about 5,2 meter long and 2 meter wide, dimensions that make it about 1 inch shorter and 6 inches wider than the Horch 853. What’s a Horch? Glad you asked: It’s one of the brands that merged to form Auto Union, which later became Audi, and it stood proud as one of Germany’s most prestigious automakers during the 1930s. It was widely celebrated as Mercedes-Benz’s only true German rival. It’s this spirit and positioning that designers wanted to recapture when they drew the SkySphere. Going full retro, Volkswagen New Beetle style, was out of the question, and the SkySphere looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie. LED technology creates a new interpretation of Audi’s familiar Singleframe grille. And yet, there are a number of retro touches concealed in the design. For example, the shape of the 23 inch wheels was inspired by the wire wheels fitted to the 853. It’s functional, too, because each group of spokes channels cooling air to the regenerative braking system that helps increase driving range. Suicide doors forge another link to the past. Here is Audi’s curveball: The SkySphere’s wheelbase can be adjusted by 25 centimeter. Engineers developed a system that consists of body and frame components designed to slide into each other to give the driver the option of choosing a short- or a long-wheelbase car. Selecting a driving mode named Sport locks in the short wheelbase and takes advantage of the rear-wheel steering system to deliver sharp, nimble handling. Dialing in the Grand Touring mode increases the space between the axles to clear up a generous amount of room for the occupants. When this profile is selected, the steering wheel and the pedals disappear into the dashboard as Level 4 autonomous technology drives the car. The two passengers are free to read a book, take in the scenery or work on the go. Power is provided by an electric motor mounted over the rear axle. It zaps the rear wheels with 623 hp and 750 Nm of torque by drawing electricity from a lithium/ion battery pack. That’s enough for a 4-second sprint from 0-100 kph, according to Audi. The company adds that the concept weighs about 2.200 kilos, and that around 60 % of the mass is located on the rear axle thanks to a 2-part battery pack. Around 70 % of the cells are stuffed in the space between the seats and the rear axle, while the rest are integrated between the seats. The interior is just as futuristic as the exterior, it’s dominated by screens and touch-sensitive surfaces, but it doesn’t look out of reach. This is the direction the car industry is going in: more digital, more entertainment and more connectivity. “We’re transforming the car into an experience device thanks to digitalization”, Audi explained. That doesn’t mean the SkySphere will replace the R8 at the top of the the company’s range, however. “We’ll see a lot of the SkySphere, but not in that form. It will be a lot of elements, this is really showing us Audi’s upcoming design language. You can imagine elements like the front, or maybe the way we work on the surfaces, that we get into production”, Gael Buzyn, the director of Audi’s Malibu design studio. Audi will unveil the SkySphere on August 13 on the Pebble Beach golf course in California. Looking ahead, the next two concepts in the series are called GrandSphere and UrbanSphere, respectively. The first looks like a limousine-like sedan with unusual proportions and a living room-like cabin; it will make its public debut at the 2021 edition of the Munich auto show that opens its doors on September 7. The second is a taller model that seemingly blurs the line between a minivan and a crossover. It will be presented in Shanghai, China, at some point in 2022. +++

+++ We’ve seen this odd circumstance previously, but it’s happening yet again. BMW just issued a recall notice for the Toyota Supra. At this point, you probably know why this is happening. The new Supra is largely a BMW Z4 underneath, and it’s even made by Magna Steyr, not Toyota. Due to these circumstances, BMW is the one who officially issues recall notices for the new Supra. This time around, BMW is recalling Toyota Supras from the 2020-2021 model years due to a potential loss of braking assist power. It’s not just the Supra being recalled, though. BMW is also recalling some of its models: M340i, 540i, X3 M40i, X4 M40i, 745Le and BMW Z4 M40i. All of them will come in for the same issue. BMW says the problem stems from engine management software that “could damage the oil/vacuum pump which supplies vacuum for brake assistance”. If this occurs, BMW says full mechanical braking is not affected, so technically, you’ll still have brakes. How does the car damage the vacuum pump, you ask? BMW says it has to do with specific engine start conditions. Those include pressing the engine start/stop button two times in rapid succession or depressing the brake pedal very briefly while pressing the engine start/stop button. The latter sounds extra easy to do, as you have to depress the brake pedal every time you turn the car on anyway. BMW’s analysis (triggered by an unusual number of warranty claims for this problem) concluded that these start conditions had the potential to cause a brief reverse rotation of the crankshaft, which is what causes the damage to the pump. If your oil-vacuum pump does become damaged, BMW says you’ll have full brake assist for about 2-to-3 full brake applications or about six partial brake applications before it’s all mechanical. Ultimately, the fix is all software for anybody who doesn’t have damage done to their vacuum pump. BMW will upload new engine management software to make sure this doesn’t happen, and you’ll be good to go. Not only will the recall work have to be done, but the Supras in inventory with this issue are also subject to a stop-sale order from Toyota. There are only approximately 260 Supras in inventory affected by this order, but you won’t be able to buy those vehicles until they’re fixed. As of now, Toyota estimates that the parts will be ready for dealers to fix the cars in late August. For Supra owners and those with affected BMWs, the current advice is for you to firmly press the brake until the engine has started. Don’t lift off early, and don’t press the button twice. +++

+++ Europe’s plan to phase out combustion-engine vehicles has put the region at the forefront of climate protection. Yet without progress cleaning up poorer nations’ roads, it won’t be enough to keep global warming below dangerous levels. Take Nairobi, for example. The Kenyan capital’s vehicle fleet doubles every 8 years and its roughly 4.5 million inhabitants rely on minibus taxis called Matatus to get around. While they’re cheap, they tend to be older and often run on dirty diesel. While virtually all of the world’s population growth by 2050 is forecast to take place in developing countries, thousands of cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America may stick to fossil fuel-powered vans, buses and motorcycles for decades, said Rob de Jong, who heads the mobility unit at the United Nations’ environment program. In Kenya, carbon dioxide emissions have roughly doubled since 2005, with the transport sector responsible for much of the increase. “If we only bring ELECTRIC vehicles to the U.S. and Finland and the Netherlands, we will not meet the Paris climate agreement targets”, de Jong said in a phone interview. “We need low- and no-emission vehicles also to be introduced in low- and middle-income countries”. Most EVs are sold in the U.S., China and Europe, where state-backed purchasing incentives and investments in charging infrastructure make it easier for customers to abandon combustion cars. Yet in many developing nations, a lack of government spending power and patchy infrastructure present major obstacles to making the switch. The European Union this month proposed that member states stop selling cars with any emissions no later than 2035; a move expected to speed up EV adoption and help the region reduce transport emissions that have climbed by a third since 1990. Richer nations are responsible for most of man-made warming, with three-quarters of industrial emissions originating in North America, Europe and China, according to University of Oxford research. Africa accounts for just 3 % of the total, but its share is expected to climb rapidly due to population growth. When the Paris climate accord was adopted in 2015, countries pledged to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Researchers now believe a 1.5-degree cap is required to avoid some of the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, putting pressure on the West to also assist poorer nations in their quest to rein in emissions. Countries including Uganda and Morocco have already introduced rules to raise the quality of the hundreds of thousands of used cars imported from the West every year. Most of these vehicles are between 16 and 20 years old, meaning the industry has contributed to worsening air pollution in the region. Part of the problem is that global automakers design their cars, vans and motorcycles to win over well-heeled customers in the West, largely ignoring the needs of potential buyers in poorer markets, de Jong said. “We don’t want a Tesla Model S. We need a small $10,000 urban vehicle. We don’t want a Harley-Davidson or Vespa. We want a $1,500 electric motorcycle that is very sturdy and can carry 3 people and a goat”. Local EV startups are cropping up across Africa to capitalize on the potential. Demand for battery-powered vehicles is already vastly outstripping supply in nations like Rwanda, where motorbike maker Ampersand is expanding its bike and battery-swap station network. China’s BYD is selling its electric vans in Kenya via a local distributor that aims to import as many as 100 units by the end of the year. The Kenyan government’s electricity producer has spent hundreds of millions of dollars drawing geothermal energy from the volcanic Rift Valley; power for the grid that startup ARC Ride plans to use to charge its fleet of electric rickshaws and motorbikes. Yet without additional institutional backing and the resources wielded by major automakers, scaling up local manufacturing and electrifying auto fleets may remain elusive. Volkswagen, the world’s second-largest automaker, plans to accelerate the rollout of EVs in Europe in a push that could see its namesake brand fading out combustion engines in the region between 2033 and 2035. But the industrial giant also is exploring bioethanol in Brazil and has suggested that in some parts of the world, fossil fuels may stay around longer. ARC Ride is trying to speed up the shift. The company aims to offer cleaner transportation in several African cities and is currently focusing on Nairobi, where its motorbike fleet has helped deliver for Uber Eats. The startup plans to roll out the vehicles as taxis in Rwanda from next year. “These cities are rapidly growing, and it would be catastrophic for the climate if that growth is carbon-heavy”, chief executive officer Joseph Hurst-Croft said. “We really can and urgently need to leapfrog whole energy systems to create transport that’s cleaner end-to-end”. +++

+++ U.S. electric automaker FISKER expects operating expenses to reach between $490 million and $530 million this year, a slight increase in its business outlook for the year that is driven by R&D spending on prototypes for its Ocean SUV, testing and validation of advanced technology, hiring and its “accelerating” partnership with Foxconn. The company raised its business outlook for expectations for key non-GAAP operating expenses and capital expenditures for the full year up from its previous guidance of $450 million to $510 million. The earnings report pointed to R&D spending on prototype activities in 2021 driven by testing and validation on advanced driver assistance systems, powertrain and user interface. The company also noted an increase in spending on in-house costs, such as virtual validation software tools, hiring and virtual and physical testing to account for recently tightened Euro NCAP and IIHS safety regulations. Co-founder, CFO and COO Geeta Gupta Fisker added during an investor call that the company made a strategic decision to develop internal capabilities to test and validate, instead of relying solely on third parties. Co-founder and CEO Henrik Fisker said in an interview its partnership with Foxconn, which is “moving faster than expected”, also is contributing to an increase in spending. “We were really aligned”, Fisker said in the interview. “I mean it’s a very unique business deal because we are both investing into this program; it’s not like we just hired Foxconn to make a car”. Fisker has 2 vehicle programs in the works. Its first electric vehicle, the Ocean SUV, will be assembled by automotive contract manufacturer Magna Steyr in Europe. The start of production is still on track to begin in November 2022, the company reiterated. Deliveries will begin in Europe and the United States in late 2022, with a plan to reach production capacity of more than 5.000 vehicles per month during 2023. Deliveries to customers in China are also expected to begin in 2023. +++

+++ Earlier this year, we marveled here on the ground and from space at the thousands of F-150 pickups Ford parked at sites around the Midwest while the pickups awaited components. GENERAL MOTORS is pursuing the same strategy as Ford, called “build-shy”. The term means building as much of a vehicle as possible, with final assembly waiting for the last components. As we all know, the last components this year are the ones requiring semiconductor chips. According to the most recent figures, the SUV backlog has reached more than 10,000 units parked around Arlington and in the nearby town of Midlothian, Texas. The Arlington plant is one of the only GM facilities to escape downtime this year due to the chip shortage. The plant builds around 1.200 SUVs per day over 3 shifts, those being the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade. As at other plants, the build-shy vehicles go on car carriers that will deposit them at the waiting lots. It’s key to note that these are rolling figures. When GM gets new shipments of chips, the automaker apportions them in the best way to satisfy dealers, customers, and its bottom line. One big batch of chips were used to get the vehicles cleared out of lots earlier this summer, which could be partly why the number of SUVs in storage has risen while the pickup figures have declined from the May numbers. After Ford CEO Jim Farley recently said during Q2 earnings calls that Ford is heading toward a lot more build-to-order production and won’t go back to huge inventories sitting on dealer lots, GM CEO Mary Barra has done the same. She said the company’s created new vehicle distribution tools for dealers, so GM “will never go back to that inventory we had pre-pandemic because we’ve learned how to get the right vehicle to the right dealer and customer at the right time without having to have deep inventory on their lot”. It won’t be a lot lower, though, “because a consumer does like to come to a dealership and be able to drive off a lot in a new car”. So far, the build-shy strategy has kept GM in the money even as AutoForecast Solutions predicted GM would build 326.651 fewer vehicles this year. After strong earnings in the first quarter, GM’s second-quarter numbers were good enough to allow GM to maintain its earnings forecast for the year. +++

+++ MAZDA appears to be working on a high-end sports coupe, according to patent filings in Japan. This goes much deeper than the typical model name trademark application, as it includes many intricate illustrations detailing an aluminum spaceframe structure. From what we can glean in the few depicting the exterior, though, it looks surprisingly close to the 2015 RX-Vision concept. The patent filings show the rear half of what is clearly a two-door car. Its C-pillar and taillight notch look very similar to the gorgeous RX-Vision concept. The rear haunches, though look a bit more subdued, an inevitability when translating such a low-slung concept to production reality. The majority of the illustrations accompanying the filing deal with the support structures to the aluminum spaceframe, explaining how the sections will minimize crash damage or reduce vibrations and noise. However, another diagram gives a hint at what the car may be. It shows a rear-wheel-drive layout with a 48 volt system and a rear transaxle. The front wheels appear to have in-wheel electric motors, hinting at a rear-biased all-wheel-drive hybrid-electric sports coupe. Moreover, some of the drawings reveal that the chassis may be more supercar than mass-market commuter. The unibody appears to be heavily supported by a central Y-frame, with the Y’s heavily reinforced trunk forming the center tunnel, while the arms of the Y extend to the front strut towers, forming an incredibly rigid chassis. The engine would nestle between the arms. Finally, the car seems to employ a double-wishbone suspension front and rear. Mazda has indicated it’s working on a rear-wheel-drive platform that will underpin a sports sedan and large crossover, along with a straight-six engine. A sports coupe would seem like a natural extension to make the most out of the chassis. Mazda is has stated its commitment to excellent driving dynamics. If what we’ve seen comes to fruition, these could result in a serious driver’s car. +++

+++ PORSCHE SE, Volkswagen’s largest shareholder, is facing a lawsuit in the United States over claims related to the carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal. The suit, filed with the Supreme Court of the state of New York in April, targets Porsche SE as well as former members of the management and supervisory boards of Volkswagen, Porsche SE said in its half-year report. Porsche SE, which holds 31.4 % of Volkswagen, did not identify the plaintiffs and did not detail or quantify possible claims, saying the action had not yet been served. “The plaintiffs claim to be shareholders of Volkswagen and assert with their action alleged claims of Volkswagen AG on behalf of Volkswagen”, Porsche SE said. The lawsuit marks the latest chapter in the “dieselgate” saga since Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to using illegal software to rig diesel engine emissions tests. The scandal has cost the carmaker more than €32 billion in fees, fines and legal costs so far. Volkswagen and Porsche SE are already subject to €4.1 billion worth of shareholder claims in relation to the crisis, but it could take years before they are resolved. Last month, Volkswagen shareholders approved a deal to settle claims against four former executives, including long-time CEO Martin Winterkorn, related to the crisis. +++

+++ TESLA posted a bigger second-quarter profit than expected as it raised vehicle prices and cut costs. In fact, the automaker earned $1.1 billion in the April-June period (more than 10 times its profit at the same time last year) while revenue nearly doubled from last year to about $12 billion. That’s excellent for investors, but customers anxiously waiting for updates on the automaker’s upcoming Cybertruck and Semi truck didn’t get similarly good news. In a statement provided to shareholders, the automaker said “we have shifted the launch of the Semi truck program to 2022. We are also making progress on the industrialization of Cybertruck, which is currently planned for Austin production subsequent to Model Y”. When pressed for an update on the timing of the long-awaited Cybertruck electric pickup, Lars Moravy, vice president of vehicle engineering at Tesla, said it “is at a stage where we finished basic engineering of the architecture of the vehicle”, and added “we are moving into the beta phases of Cybertruck later this year and we will be looking to ramp up production at Giga Texas after Model Y is up and running”. Put simply, it seems there is very little chance that any Cybertrucks will be delivered before the end of 2021, as was originally announced when the truck debuted in 2019. And the Semi, which was unveiled way back in 2017, has officially been delayed again. In a call with investors and analysts, Tesla executives said that volume production growth for this year will depend on parts availability, as it aims to grow deliveries by more than 50%. Musk said Tesla has “many calls at midnight, 1 a.m., just with suppliers about resolving a lot of the shortages”. While some people had suggested Tesla build its own chip fab, he pointed to the long leadtime. “That would take us, even moving like lightning, 12 to 18 months”, he said. Still, Musk said Tesla expects to start limited production this year of the Model Y SUV at factories under construction in Texas and Germany. “It is difficult to say when the last of the technical challenges will be solved”, he said, referring to its 4680 battery cells. He said Tesla has a backup plan of using its existing 2170 batteries, adding that its battery cell suppliers would double production next year. During yesterday’s announcement, Tesla said operating income rose with volume growth and cost reduction, which offset higher supply chain costs, lower regulatory credit revenue and other items including $23 million in losses on investment in cryptocurrency bitcoin. Tesla’s profitability has often relied on selling regulatory credits to other automakers, but in the second quarter, Tesla was profitable without these credits for the first time since the end of 2019. Its net income was $1.14 billion in the second quarter. Revenue from the credits only totaled $354 million. “Tesla impressed with its numbers, as most of its revenue came from vehicle sales”, Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at Investing.com, said. A quick glance at Tesla’s reservation page for the Cybertruck shows that the fine print now says “You will be able to complete your configuration as production nears in 2022”. Interestingly, there are no caveats for the order of production; earlier versions of the configurator page said that the dual- and tri-motor versions would be produced first. Those anxiously awaiting a new electric pickup truck in their driveways will have to wait a bit longer for the Cybertruck: it’s not clear how limited the 2022 production will be or if it will be confined to specific variants, or choose to throw their reservations into the ring for a different alternative, such as the Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer or the attractively priced Ford Lightning. Something tells us, though, that a good number of Cybertruck reservations holders will go ahead and keep their places in line as Tesla’s pointy stainless hauler continues through its engineering and production phases. +++

+++ TOYOTA has placed its first street-legal hypercar on the back burner, according to a recent report, after a fire destroyed a prototype during testing. But the race variant isn’t in danger. Although official details about the Japanese carmaker’s hypercar program are few and far between, the reporters learned the street-legal version of the GR010 unveiled earlier in 2021 was canceled because of what’s described as a “serious incident” that took place on the Fuji Speedway. One of the pre-production cars Toyota was testing was badly damaged by a fire. The source of the blaze remains unknown outside of Toyota. If the report is accurate, it means Toyota has chosen to consign about three years of research and development to the automotive attic; the issue must have been a seriously alarming one. Details about the hypercar haven’t been released yet, so all we know is that it should have been closely related to the Le Mans-bound race car and that it would have been built in strictly limited numbers. For context, the track version of the GR010 uses a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain rated at 938 hp, though race regulations cap its total output at 670 horses. Some feared the incident would put an end to Toyota’s involvement in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), but anonymous sources told Racer that’s not the case. The firm doesn’t need to build a pre-determined number of road cars for homologation purposes; it can if it wants to, and that was the plan until recently, but it’s not required. While those saving up for a GR010 will be disappointed, Toyota might have a consolation prize. It’s allegedly considering entering the GR010 in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023. Racing in 2 similar yet fundamentally different series isn’t as expensive as it sounds because the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) aligned their technical regulations to let manufacturers compete in events on both sides of the pond without going through the resource-sapping process of developing a specific car for each series. Dodge is considering taking advantage of the new rules as well; it would race its own version of Peugeot’s Le Mans car. +++

+++ Corporate gripes don’t usually end up on social media, because everyone’s got too much to lose; just the public perception of executives sniping accusations like “The Real Housewives” can be bad for business. But VOLKSWAGEN Group CEO Herbert Diess has had enough of European EV charging network Ionity. While driving an ID.3 Pro on vacation to Italy, Diess posted complaints about Ionity’s charger locations and facility condition. He said he didn’t find an open charging station on the Brenner Pass connecting Italy and Austria, so he kept driving to Trento, Italy, the next Ionity location on his southward journey. When he got to Trento, his translated post said of the facility, “No bathroom, no coffee, an out-of-service/broken charging point, a sad state of affairs. It was anything but a premium charging experience, Ionity!” For some context, there are 4 chargers at the Ionity site on the Brenner Pass. The station is outside a mall, though, so 4 stations will fill up quickly, especially during Europe’s summer holidays. The Trento station is 160 km south of Brenner. The nearest station to the Brenner Pass would have required Diess to reverse course, either 100 km northwest to Nassereith or 105 km northeast to Angath, both in Austria. The Trento station also counts 4 chargers, but according to Diess, only 3 of them worked. The next nearest station is in Montecchio Maggiore, Italy, 140 km away. The Volkswagen ID.3 Pro has a range from 400 to 540 km on the European WLTP cycle depending on battery spec, so after Diess burned 160 km getting to Trento (and would have eaten up a minimum of 240 km based on the distance between the 2 nearest chargers on his north-south route), it’s possible he had to shack up in Trento no matter what. What’s even loopier about this affair is that Volkswagen is 1 of the 4 initial investors in Ionity in 2016, with BMW, Daimler and Ford. Each automaker is reported to have put in €200 million, making Diess’ LinkedIn post a statement that begs this question: “What are you doing with our money?!” Someone’s going to have some good answers soon, since Ionity is looking for investment to expand the network. Hyundai said last year it planned to invest, and Renault is also looking at a stake. Volkswagen might not stump up more funds, since Ionity isn’t on schedule with its buildout, and this isn’t an OEM’s first public complaint about Ionity. A Volkswagen marketing exec said the company charges too much for kilowatts, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann has already floated the idea of Audi creating its own charging network. And BMW called Ionity’s build schedule “too unambitious”. It seems all Diess would have had to do for intel on Ionity’s issues is read its reviews. Automedia tried an Ionity charger earlier this year, describing the process as going “disastrously” when one unit was broken, it couldn’t get the 2 working units to dispense any energy, yet it still got charged €150 in pre-authorization fees. Ionity’s Facebook page has 142 reviews that add up to 1.5 stars out of 5 for Ionity, while review site Trustpilot gives Ionity a slightly better 2-star rating from 31 reviews. Users from Ireland to Norway complain about the complicated setup and high prices, leaving comments like, “It’s cheaper to burn your empty car and buy a new and charged one”, and, “The EV charging company that makes ICE cars attractive again”. So far, I’ve only come across 1 Ionity response to the Diess situation, the company telling: “We cannot comment on your request with a statement on our part and hope for your understanding”. Ionity was meant to rival Tesla’s Supercharger network. Clearly, this hasn’t happened yet, but maybe callouts like this one will get everyone motivated to forge a more successful path forward. A potential shortcut to a more successful rollout could be installing EV chargers at gas stations; an idea suitable for the lackluster U.S. charging situation as well, not including Tesla. Roadway fuel stations in the EU are already built out with plentiful comfort facilities to keep families fed, relieved and entertained while those families wait for EV refills. Royal Dutch Shell is said to be considering taking up to a 24 % stake for as much as €500 million. Meanwhile, more EV drivers will likely put more money in Tesla’s expanding pockets when Tesla opens up its Supercharger network of roughly 600 locations in the EU later this year. +++

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