Newsflash: BMW komt met 540 pk sterke M4 CSL


+++ Egads. As expected, there’s a new, higher-performance version of the most recent BMW M4 (you know, the one with the schnoz) on the way and it’s packing an even more ostentatious version of the oversized kidneys that BMW has featured for decades. The new variant, which I presume will carry the CSL designator, has been spotted testing wearing what appears to be a very aggressive aero package. The most prominent update to the standard M4 are, as you’ve probably come to expect from the team led by head of brand design Domagoj Dukec, to its face. There are 4 angular intakes flanking the lower fascia under the big nostrils, effectively making blank space the most notable styling detail. The grille itself looks to have a unique pattern applied inside the openings, almost in an exaggerated honeycomb pattern at the edges that may match that of the blacked-out wheels. A large splitter is affixed to the bottom, extending well past the rest of the car’s fascia, and what look like more cooling ducts sitting at the edges just above. Unique headlights can also be seen. A ducktail spoiler can clearly be seen in the profile pictures, standing out despite the swirly camouflage. What we cannot see are the rear lights, which we assume means they are, like the front headlights, unique to this new variant. The camo over the rocker panels makes us believe there must be some extensions added. We expect there’s plenty of lightweight carbon fiber hiding under the black-and-white patterns, including the entire roof panel. With no shots of what’s sitting underhood, we can’t be sure what powertrain this track-ready prototype is sporting. Rumors suggest a tweaked version of BMW’s S58 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine producing 540 hp. Those ponies would be shuffled to the rear wheels via an automatic transmission that I’d guess will have 8 ratios. If true, that would make this BMW’s most powerful production 6-cylinder. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar model were in the works for the four-door M3. +++

+++ FORD recently announced its exit from the retail automotive market in India after 25 years on dealer lots there. One casualty of the move is Ford’s pocketbook, the automaker already having lost $2 billion over the past 10 years and taking another $2 billion in charges tied to the move over the next several years. Roughly 4.000 employees will also need to deal with the blow. But there’s one more subcompact casualty from the fallout: Ford confirms that the EcoSport won’t be sold in the United States anymore after production ends in India. A company spokesperson said: “With Ford India’s restructuring announcement, the Ford EcoSport will now be sold only through the second half of 2022”, after which it would “continue to serve EcoSport customers with parts, service and warranty support”. It’s not the end of the EcoSport, only the end of the EcoSport in the United States. The Europeans get their version from Romania and it will continue being produced there. The American version, on sale since the last few weeks of 2017, comes from an assembly plant in Chennai, India that will be shuttered by the end of June 2022. Sales weren’t terrible through the end of last year, the model dipping just 6.4 % compared to 2019, moving 60.544 units in 2020. This year, however, the numbers have declined 22 %. The Chevrolet Trax and Kia Soul have taken a hit, too, while the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona have barely felt any pain, but all of them already handily outsold the EcoSport. It might have helped if Ford had cared about it. The EcoSport was tested in 2018 and the conclusions ended with: “it’s an aging model designed for other markets” and “it might make more sense to wait for Ford to revamp the model”. Now, for the Americans, the wait is over. It remains to be seen wether the European version will be updated. Probably not since the salesvolume is too low. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS is taking a more direct role with South Korea’s LG, its longtime electric vehicle partner, in tracking down and fixing problems linked to battery fires in Chevrolet Bolts (Opel Ampera-e) that threaten the strategic plans of both companies. At an investor conference, GM chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said LG is working with GM engineers to “clean up the manufacturing process” at LG battery plants and implement some “GM quality metrics”. Battery plants in South Korea and Michigan operated by LG Energy Solution (LGES) have been identified by GM as the source of defects behind a rash of battery-related fires in the Bolt that have triggered three recalls and $1.8 billion in warranty set-asides by GM since last November; recalls for which GM still has not implemented a hardware fix. LGES and sister company LG Electronics reiterated their “close relationship” with GM and said the 3 companies are “actively cooperating to come up with a final recall plan” to “wisely resolve” battery issues in more than 140.000 Bolts ; the entire production run since late 2016. “Experts from GM and LG continue to work around the clock on the issues”, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. “We are determined to do the right thing for our customers and resolve the problem once and for all. Once we are confident LG can provide us with good battery modules, we will begin repairs as quickly as we can”. GM has said early Bolt models will have their entire battery pack replaced, while newer models will have only defective modules within the pack replaced. Those new parts may not be available until after November. In the meantime, Bolt owners and prospective EV buyers have unleashed a torrent of complaints and concerns on social media aimed at both GM and LG. It is unclear how much permanent damage either company may sustain from the battery fires. “Not even Tesla has been slowed by fires”, said Tyson Jominy, JD Power vice president of automotive data & analytics. “I don’t expect this to slow down the EV transition much”. With resolution of the costly recall debacle still up in the air, relations between GM and LG have soured, people familiar with the situation said. The partners are stuck in what one Korean analyst deemed a “show window marriage”, one in which a divorce is unlikely as few immediate alternatives are available. For now, GM’s Michigan factory that assembles the Bolt is shut down and its 1.000 workers idled until late September. The automaker said it has bought back some Bolts from owners and is reviewing such requests on a case-by-case basis. GM also has said it expects LG to help shoulder the $1.8 billion expense to replace Bolt battery packs. GM’s Jacobson said the 2 companies are having “high level conversations” about costs, and that GM expects reimbursement. But the ultimate cost to GM and LG could be even greater. GM is ramping up a $35 billion campaign to launch a new generation of electric and automated vehicles powered by its proprietary Ultium battery technology. The Ultium batteries GM plans to use in key electric models such as the GMC Hummer EV and electric Chevrolet Silverado are scheduled to be made with LGES in joint-venture factories in Ohio and Tennessee as part of a $4.6 billion investment program. But following the latest Bolt recall in late August, chief executive officer Mary Barra left open the possibility that GM could find new partners for future battery plants. GM’s Ultium cells have a different design, size and chemistry than the LG cells in the Bolt and are packaged into modules and packs in a different way. GM executives also stress that the automaker, not LG, will control manufacturing and quality control for Ultium batteries. LG and its affiliates have as much at stake as GM, if not more. The Bolt recalls are not the only ones involving LG batteries. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor earlier this year recalled nearly 76.000 Kona Electric cars worldwide to replace defective battery modules after reports of fires linked to LG batteries made in China. LG’s signature battery technology, a thin and flexible rectangular format called pouch cells, is 1 of 3 different battery types used in electric vehicles. Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk took a jab at the GM-LG pouch cell technology in a recent tweet, writing that “probability of thermal runaway is dangerously high with large pouch cells. Tesla strongly recommends against their use”. Tesla mainly uses cylindrical cells from several sources, including some made in China by LG. It is not clear what type of cells LGES expects to produce as part of its plan to invest another $4.5 billion in two additional U.S. battery plants. Switching battery cell technology and formats could slow the investment timetable. On Friday, LGES told: “We will continue to win orders and proceed with our investment in global markets, including the United States, as planned”. +++

+++ PORSCHE and its international partners have started building the factory that will produce a new synthetic fuel starting in 2022. Located in southern Chile, the plant will make fuel for race cars, sports cars like the 911, and classic cars. Producing synthetic fuel is an extremely complex and highly innovative process. In the company’s words, electrolysers split water into oxygen and hydrogen using wind power, hence why the plant is in Chile; it’s located in one of the most reliably windy parts of the world. CO2 is then filtered from the air and combined with the hydrogen to produce synthetic methanol, which in turn is converted into fuel that can be burned in a piston engine. Porsche sees synthetic fuel as a non-electrified alternative to gasoline in markets where so-called Green Deal regulations are trying to make the internal combustion engine illegal in the coming years. “Our icon, the 911, is particularly suited to the use of eFuels. But so are our much-loved historic vehicles”, said Porsche’s R&D boss Michael Steiner. He added that approximately 70 % of the cars Porsche has made are still on the road. In theory, running a car on Porsche’s synthetic fuel won’t require mechanical modifications. “Our fuel specifications meet exactly the existing ones, so you could burn such fuel in a 993 without damaging the engine and without making mechanical adjustments”, Steiner told Hagerty. There’s a catch: it won’t be cheap. When it arrives in Europe, where it will be distributed by ExxonMobil, it could cost about €2 per liter depending on taxes. That’s about $9 per gallon at the current conversion rate, which is more than even most Norwegians pay for gas in 2021. Porsche will begin making synthetic fuel in 2022; it notably plans to fill up the cars that race in its Mobil 1 Supercup series with it. The plant will produce about 34,000 gallons of the fuel in 2022. If everything goes according to plan, its annual output will increase to about 14.5 million gallons by 2024 and around 145 million gallons by 2026. +++

+++ RENAULT unveiled the Megane E-Tech Electric at the Munich Motor Show. While the specs seem decent enough, it’s the safety functions that are the most eye-catching aspect of this electric vehicle. The Fireman Access feature stems from a partnership between Renault Group and French firefighters that stretches back for over a decade. The EV includes special access to the battery for rescue teams. Renault claims this can allow first responders to put out a battery fire in 5 minutes, compared with between 1 and 3 hours for most EV battery blazes. There’s also a switch under the rear bench that lets rescue teams disconnect the battery. In addition, Renault put a QR code on the windscreen. The idea is that rescue teams can scan the code to see details about the car’s structure. They can find out the locations of the battery and airbags, as well as information about where it’s safe to cut into the vehicle. Renault says this information can help first responders save up to 15 minutes when attempting to free a crash victim, which could help save lives. No 2 electric vehicles are built the same and first responders won’t necessarily know the intricacies of each vehicle. So, providing information about the Megane E-Tech Electric’s structure using a QR code is a smart move that it’d be nice to see more automakers adopt. The same goes for easy access to the battery to help put out fires faster. The latest iteration of the Megane line is built on Renault’s CMF-EV platform. For the body, designers took inspiration from the Morphoz concept the company showed off last year. There are 2 powertrain options: a base model with 132 hp and a more advanced alternative with 218 hp and 300 Nm. You can choose between 2 battery packs as well. The 40 kWh option has a range of 300 km and the 60 kWh pack should get you up to 470 km of driving on a single charge, according to Renault. The company based the estimates on the European WLTP testing procedure. Plug the Megane E-Tech Electric into a 130 kW fast charging station, and you can add up to 300 km of driving range in 30 minutes of charging time. Elsewhere, the OpenR infotainment system is based on Android Automotive OS, so you’ll have access to Google apps and Google Assistant. While you’re on a longer trip, the system can help you locate charging stations that minimize your journey time, Renault says. The Megane E-Tech Electric orders open in February 2022, and sales start the following March. +++

+++ Toyota has announced a $13.5 billion investment in electric car batteries, including SOLID STATE BATTERIES . Solid-state batteries could be game changer for electric vehicles (EVs) by storing more energy, charging faster and offering greater safety than liquid lithium-ion batteries, helping accelerate the shift away from fossil fuel-powered cars. Solid-state batteries use thin layers of solid electrolytes, which carry lithium ions between electrodes. Lithium/ion batteries use liquid electrolytes and have separators that keep the positive electrode from coming in contact with the negative electrode. Currently, solid-state batteries are used in devices such as pacemakers and smart watches. Mass market production of these batteries for cars is 3 to 5 years away, experts say. They are likely to be safer and more stable than liquid li-ion batteries in which the electrolyte is volatile and flammable at high temperatures. This makes electric vehicles that use li-ion batteries more vulnerable to fires and chemical leaks. Increased stability means faster charging and reduces the need for bulky safety equipment. They can hold more energy than liquid li-ion batteries, helping speed up a switch from gasoline vehicles to EVs because drivers would not need to stop as often to charge their cars. Carmakers and technology companies have produced solid-state li-ion battery cells one at a time in a lab, but have been unable so far to scale that up to a mass production. It is hard to design a solid electrolyte that is stable, chemically inert and still a good conductor of ions between the electrodes. They are expensive to fabricate and are prone to cracking because of the brittleness of the electrolytes when they expand and contract during use. Currently, a solid-state cell costs about eight times more to make than a liquid li-ion battery, experts say. Toyota is one of the front runners to mass produce solid-state batteries. It has said it is struggling with their short service life but still intends to start making them by mid 2020s. In addition to Toyota’s in-house research, it has teamed up with Panasonic to develop these powerpacks with their Prime Planet Energy & Solutions Inc venture. Close on their heels, Volkswagen has invested in Bill Gates-backed U.S. battery firm QuantumScape, which aims to introduce its battery in 2024 for its electric vehicles and eventually for other carmakers. VW says the battery will offer about 30 % more range than a liquid one and charge to 80 % capacity in 12 minutes, which is less than half the time of the fastest charging li-ion cells now available. Stellantis, formed in January by the merger of Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA, has a venture called Automotive Cells with TotalEnergies and a partnership with China’s CATL. Stellantis intends to introduce solid-state batteries by 2026. Ford and BMW have invested in startup Solid Power, which says its solid-state technology can deliver 50 % more energy density than current lithium-ion batteries. Ford expects to cut battery costs by 40 % by mid-decade. Hyundai, which has invested in startup SolidEnergy Systems, plans to mass produce solid-state batteries in 2030. Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Electronics, is working on developing solid-state batteries. EV market leader Tesla has so far not said it wants to develop or use solid-state cells in its cars. +++

+++ TESLA has one simple request and that is to have cars that have frickin’ laser beams attached to their hoods. That request is now one step closer to being a possibility, as Musk’s electric car company has obtained a patent for the use of laser beams to clean windshields. Tesla successfully obtained the patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week. The title describes the technology as “pulsed laser cleaning of debris accumulated on glass articles in vehicles and photovoltaic assemblies”, implying that it’s not just good for windows, but the Tesla’s solar charging panels as well. An associated illustration shows beams originating from 2 rear-facing points on the hood where wiper fluid nozzles would normally be, angled up towards the windshield. The patent goes on to describe the system as comprising “a beam optics assembly configured to emit a laser beam to irradiate a region on a glass article that is installed in the vehicle”, debris detection circuitry, and control circuitry calibrated to limit the laser from going past the thickness of the glass and to “mitigate a risk of damage to different in-vehicle components beneath the region on the glass article”. Presumably, they’d want to limit damage to the occupants’ eyes as well. Delving further into the patent-speak, I find that the system consists of at least one camera (but could also include a dashcam rear-view camera or surround-view camera) to detect windshield grime, a transparent resistive coating overlaid on the windshield, and equipment to steer, focus, and emit the laser beam. Or, you could just, you know, continue to use a piece of rubber attached to a motorized arm. It’s important to note that just because Tesla has the patent doesn’t mean it’s going to use it. The company also has a patent for electromagnetic wipers. This system would involve an electromagnetic block moving past magnet bars embedded around the windshield to drag a single blade across the full expanse of the windshield, like a giant squeegee. For its part, Tesla says the wind resistance created by traditional wipers’ mechanical components decreases vehicle range. The electromagnetic wiper seems at least a little more realistic than laser beams, but either system would add significant cost and complexity to the car. +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , Toyota and Honda sharply criticized a proposal by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to give union-made electric vehicles in the United States an additional $4.500 tax incentive. Toyota said in a statement that the plan unveiled late Friday discriminates “against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize”. The bill, set to be voted on Tuesday by the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee as part of a proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill, would benefit Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which have union-represented auto plants. In a statement, Honda called the bill “unfair” and said it “discriminates among EVs made by hard-working American auto workers based simply on whether they belong to a union. The Honda production associates in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio who will build our EVs deserve fair and equal treatment by Congress”. The proposal, estimated to cost $33 billion to $34 billion over 10 years, would boost to up to $12.500 the maximum tax credit for electric vehicles, up from the current $7.500. The $12.500 figure includes a $500 credit for using U.S.-produced batteries. The proposal is a key part of Democratic president Joe Biden’s goal to ensure EVs constitute at least 50% of U.S. vehicle sales by 2030 and boost American union jobs. The bill, however, does away with phasing out automakers’ tax credits after they hit 200.000 electric vehicles sold, which would make General Motors and Tesla eligible again. It would also create a new smaller credit for used EVs of up to $2.500. GM, Ford and Stellantis assemble their U.S.-made vehicles in plants represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. In contrast, foreign automakers operating in the United States as well as Tesla do not have unions representing assembly workers and many of them have fought efforts by the UAW to organize U.S. plants. Tesla would be eligible for up to $8.000 credits under the bill. UAW President Ray Curry said the tax credit provision “would go a long way in supporting-good paying union jobs in the EV auto sector that President Biden has championed”. The bill limits the EV credit to cars priced at no more than $55.000, while trucks could be priced up to $74.000. Toyota added it will “fight to focus taxpayer dollars on making all electrified vehicles accessible for American consumers who can’t afford high-priced cars and trucks”. +++

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