Newsflash: Audi broedt op RS Q6 e-Tron

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+++ It’s no secret that AUDI will launch another electric cross-over that will sit below the e-Tron. Dubbed the Q6 e-Tron, this EV is expected for the 2023 model year. But recent developments hint a high-performance version is coming soon as well. A document was uncovered that shows Audi registering the name RSQ6. With ‘RS’ attached to its name, there is a chance that Audi is preparing its first hotted-up EV cross-over. Expect design elements from other Audi RS models. That means it gets the large corner intakes similar to the RS6 and RS7, along with a closed-off grille. Before you get excited, a trademark registration doesn’t necessarily mean Audi will build this model. I might be Audi securing the rights to the name, but it won’t use it for the time being. It is an interesting development nonetheless and one that’s worth keeping an eye out for in the coming months. If this model reaches, the RSQ6 might put out around 600 hp and 800 Nm just like the RS e-Tron GT. As for the standard Q6, it will use the PPE (Premium Platform Electric) architecture. It will be among several models in the Volkswagen Auto Group that will utilise this platform. Some vehicles set to use the chassis include the Porsche Macan EV and the Audi A6 e-Tron. +++

+++ The new facelifted BMW 3 Series has been spied by photographers in its clearest guise yet, undergoing tests on public roads in Germany. The executive saloon was pictured with an obscured front and rear, disguised by a black-and-white patterned livery. Design updates appear subtle compared with the current car, but the model pictured features what appears to be M Performance styling and new aerodynamic addenda. A spoiler is clearly visible at the rear, while there’s a spoiler lip, larger air intakes and a honeycomb-style grille at the front. The 3 Series is yet to feature BMW’s controversial new grille but does receive freshly updated front and rear lights. It will also once again offer a choice of saloon and Touring bodystyles. It’s not yet clear which engines BMW will offer for as part of the 3 Series’ update, but it looks likely that the model will retain a choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains. A mild-hybrid variant of the 4-cylinder petrol engine could also be added to the range, joining the diesel and 6-cylinder MHEV options. The 3 Series’ infotainment system will be the 8th generation of the firm’s iDrive system, as seen in the electric iX and i4. Should the 3 Series gain the latest iDrive system, it would be one of the model’s major updates. BMW described the system as its “most powerful” yet, featuring a rotary controller, 5G data support, new touchscreen controls and a large, curved central display. In the iX, the system pairs a 12.3in digital instrument cluster with a 14.9in infotainment screen that has a 200ppi resolution. The facelifted BMW 3 Series is expected to go on sale later this year, likely commanding a slight price premium over the outgoing car. +++

+++ Corn-based ETHANOL , which for years has been mixed in huge quantities into gasoline sold at U.S. pumps, is likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline, according to a study published Monday. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicts previous research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing ethanol and other biofuels to be relatively green. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing policies on biofuels as part of a broader effort to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050 to fight climate change. “Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel”, said Dr. Tyler Lark, assistant scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and lead author of the study. The research, which was funded in part by the National Wildlife Federation and U.S. Department of Energy, found that ethanol is likely at least 24 % more carbon-intensive than gasoline due to emissions resulting from land use changes to grow corn, along with processing and combustion. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol trade lobby, called the study “completely fictional and erroneous”, arguing the authors used “worst-case assumptions and cherry-picked data”. Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a law enacted in 2005, the nation’s oil refiners are required to mix some 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into the nation’s gasoline annually. The policy was intended to reduce emissions, support farmers, and cut U.S. dependence on energy imports. As a result of the mandate, corn cultivation grew 8.7 % and expanded into 6.9 million additional acres of land between 2008 and 2016, the study found. That led to widespread changes in land use, including the tilling of cropland that would otherwise have been retired or enrolled in conservation programs and the planting of existing cropland with more corn, the study found. Tilling fields releases carbon stored in soil, while other farming activities, like applying nitrogen fertilizers, also produce emissions. A 2019 study from the USDA, which has been broadly cited by the biofuel industry, found that ethanol’s carbon intensity was 39 % lower than gasoline, in part because of carbon sequestration associated with planting new cropland. But that research underestimated the emissions impact of land conversion, Lark said. USDA did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the nation’s biofuel policy, is considering changes to the program. Under the RFS, Congress set blending requirements through 2022, but not beyond, giving the EPA authority to impose reforms. EPA plans to propose 2023 requirements in May. +++

+++ While the trend is unlikely to make a big dent in overall sales, it highlights a perception that many domestic automakers have been slower to embrace battery EVs, focusing instead on hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cells and alternative fuel for internal combustion engines. “I wanted to buy something that would be best for the environment”, said the 30-year-old, who runs a company in Tokyo selling farm produce. Toyota has committed 8 trillion yen ($69 billion) on electrification up to 2030 and expects to sell around 3.5 million battery EVs worldwide by then. That represents around a third of Toyota’s current annual auto sales. Volkswagen predicts half its cars will be battery EVs by then. 90 % of the 5 million cars sold annually in JAPAN are from domestic firms such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan. But while overall car sales in Japan, not including small light vehicles, dipped 3.2 % last year, sales of foreign models rose 1.7 %. Imports of battery EVs jumped almost 3 times to a record 8.610 vehicles, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association. Analysts estimate around half of those were Tesla Inc cars. Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, is one of the foreign makers that see a battery-EV opening in Japan. It plans to sell more than 12 such models in Japan by 2024, including cheaper Audi and Volkswagen sports utility models this year that will target a broader swathe of consumers, country manager Matthias Schepers told a news conference in January. It expects battery EVs to account for a third of Audi sales, or around 10,000 vehicles, in Japan for 2025, he said. The VW group will expand the installation of fast chargers to 250 of its own showrooms by the end of this year, he said. Stellantis, the owner of the Peugeot brand that Abe bought, is also expanding its line-up in Japan, with two new models going on sale this year. They are being joined by Hyundai, which this month said it is returning to Japan 12 years after it left because of poor sales. Japanese drivers will be able to order its Nexo hydrogen fuel cell EV and its Ioniq 5 from May. To bolster its chance of success this time round, the South Korean company has tied up with a car sharing service operated by online social gaming company DeNA Co and insurance company Sompo Holdings to let Hyundai owners rent out their zero emission cars. +++

+++ The past month has been a rough one for some of the electric vehicle startups that went public by merging with special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. LORDSTOWN MOTORS , Canoo and Electric Last Mile Solutions all have seen key personnel leave, and all three are under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Lordstown lost Chuan Vo, a former Tesla engineer who was head of propulsion. That’s a pretty big job for an EV company. He was the one overseeing development of the electric drive system for the Endurance pickup that is supposed to go into production in the third quarter of this year. EV startups are notoriously volatile, but at least in Lordstown’s case, the company is firming up a management team under chief executive officer Dan Ninivaggi, a former Carl Icahn associate who joined in August after playing a role in the Chapter 11 restructuring of Hertz. Ninivaggi told me the turnover is part of a series of steps he’s taking as the company abandons founder Steve Burns’ vision of making EVs largely on its own. “The team is totally different”, Ninivaggi said during a short interview when Vo left. “We’re bringing in new talent and we’re pivoting from a manufacturing company to a product-engineering company”. The plan is to approach carmaking more like Apple makes phones. Lordstown will have Taiwan’s Foxconn build the commercial vehicles Ninivaggi’s team develops. Lordstown will design and engineer vehicles, while Foxconn owns the plants and pays the assemblers. For a startup in a capital-intensive business, getting someone with deep pockets and expertise in supply chains and manufacturing to do the heavy lifting makes sense. The company agreed in September to sell its Lordstown, Ohio, factory (the one it bought from General Motors in 2019) to Foxconn. The iPhone assembler will make the trucks while Lordstown develops future commercial vehicles, perhaps delivery vans, from an office in suburban Detroit. In November, Ninivaggi hired former GM and Ford Motor executive Edward Hightower as president, replacing Rich Schmidt. Hightower led development of GM’s crossover SUV business, including the Cadillac XT5 and Chevrolet Blazer. Schmidt had been in manufacturing for Tesla and Toyota. As for Vo, he sold stock in February of last year, then bought more shares that month at a lower price. Under trading rules, he had to refund the company the roughly $400,000 he netted by buying the shares after the value of the stock tanked. A spokeswoman for Lordstown said that’s not why he left: Vo wanted to return home to California. Plus, with the Endurance battery finished and any future products coming from Foxconn’s MIH EV platform, the company doesn’t really need someone to develop propulsion. Vo didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Other EV startups have seen executives depart amid SEC probes. Van maker Electric Last Mile Solutions’ CEO Jim Taylor and chairman Jason Luo left after the board determined they bought company stock before its merger at a discount to market value. 4 Canoo executives parted ways this month. Both companies’ stocks are trading below the $10-a-share price investors in the SPACs paid to get in on the respective deals. That’s true for Lordstown, too. Its shares have traded below $4. That’s the market’s way of saying investors want more proof that Ninivaggi’s plans, however sensible, will pan out. +++

+++ Crafted in Japan, the all-new MAZDA CX-60 will premiere on 8th March 2022 with a Kaichô-inspired interior. The all-new PHEV‘s beautiful and dynamic styling is the latest development of Kodo, the Mazda design philosophy that breathes life into its cars, now combined with the Japanese concept of Ma, which is the calm and dignified beauty of empty space, inside the toughness of the striking new front-engine, rear-wheel drive SUV. Uniquely Mazda, and rooted in the company’s Japanese heritage, the designers have crafted an elegant, high quality interior that combines both traditional methods and new technologies. The CX-60 introduces for the first time the ideas of Kaichô, the harmony which comes from mixing different materials and textures, including maple wood, nappa leather, Japanese textiles and chrome details, and Musubu, the uniquely Japanese way of binding textiles which was the inspiration for the instrument panel stitching. The all-new Mazda CX-60 interior will be a totally new experience for drivers and passengers. +++

MazdaCX60dashboardPlaag

+++ TOYOTA has called on Yamaha to create a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine. And Yamaha hasn’t done things by half-measures, choosing to take the Lexus RC F’s 5.0-litre V8 unit as a starting point for the project. The block is basically the same, but Yamaha has made modifications to the engine’s fuel injectors, cylinder heads and intake manifold to allow it to run on compressed hydrogen. The engine is topped-off by an immaculately fabricated eight-into-one exhaust manifold. Renault concept car teaser Renault teases new concept car with hydrogen engine Yamaha has managed to screw 450 hp from its hydrogen V8 engine, which is only 14 hp less than the unit produces when powered by petrol. Interestingly, though, the unit develops 540 Nm of torque, which is 20 Nm more than the standard powertrain. Because all of the mounting points are identical to that of the standard Lexus 2UR-GSE V8 engine, theoretically, it could be dropped into the nose of an standard RC-F with minimal modifications. The only major changes required would be a new fuel system with a pressurised hydrogen storage tank in place of the coupe’s standard petrol tank. The project forms part of a wider collaboration between Kawasaki, Subaru, Toyota, Mazda and Yamaha, which was announced at the end of last year. The aim of the project was to research and develop alternative fuel options for internal combustion engines that would allow the technology to become carbon neutral. Yamaha Motor’s boss, Yoshihiro Hidaka, said: “We are working toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. At the same time ‘Motor’ is in our company name and we accordingly have a strong passion for and level of commitment to the internal combustion engine”. Hidaka continued: “Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time. Teaming up with companies with different corporate cultures and areas of expertise as well as growing the number of partners we have is how we want to lead the way into the future”. Takeshi Yamada, from the automotive arm of Yamaha’s Technical Research and Development Centre, said: “This is a challenge we can sink our teeth into as engineers and I personally want to pursue not just performance but also a new allure for the internal combustion engine that the world has yet to see”. Mazda recently outlined its research into synthetic fuels that are made from carbon which has been pulled out of the atmosphere by enormous filters. The captured carbon is then combined with hydrogen in the correct quantities to produce fuel with exactly the same properties as petrol and diesel, without adding any new carbon to the air. Mazda is also working on biodiesel fuels that are made from sustainable raw materials such as micro algae fats and used cooking oil – and the firm recently joined the eFuel alliance in an effort to promote and develop renewable fuels. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN boss Herbert Diess recently took part in a Reddit Q & A session, answering a wide array of questions with a particular focus on electrification, software and autonomy. When quizzed about his stance on Lidar technology, Diess remarked that it was essential in achieving Level 3 autonomy: Lidar technology is still expensive, but today it’s the only way to offer redundant perception to the 360 camera systems which are a must. Safety is really crucial in autonomous driving. For level 3 driving you need redundant perception. Volkswagen has partnered with Intel subsidiary MobileEye for its Lidar systems. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a personal friend of Diess, has a different opinion on Lidar. Musk thinks its unnecessary, and has in the past pointed out how humans don’t come equipped with Lidar so cars don’t need to either. Apart from Lidar, Diess also touched on a major software update for the ID.4 coming his summer: We will have a major OTA update for the ID.4 coming this summer, which will add features like Plug&Charge and Auto Hold, as well as a higher capacity onboard charge capability. Diess also believes an electric pickup for the US market could be a “good idea” meanwhile a sub $25,000 EV with 480 km of range could be a challenge at that price point, but VW is working on “electric cars around €20.000 for entry segments”. Software has been a sore point for VW in recent times, with issues relating to the ID.3’s infotainment delaying its launch. Diess stated VW is doing more to become self-sufficient and develop software in-house: “We are building up capabilities to become self sufficient in car software, through organic growth, majorc auqisitions, partnerships to build up own IP and recruiting tech talents. Last year we hired around 1000 software engineers. To aquire IP we started a partnership with Bosch. To advance our image recognition capabilities we aquired the Hella Aglaia team. More to come. Currently we are investing 2 billion for software per year & Cariad is already delivering the software updates over the air, preparing new launches and features together with our brands. When asked what the next 25 years could look like for Volkswagen, Diess admitted it was difficult to predict but advances in tech are coming at unprecedented speeds: 25 years are very difficult to predict. Advancements in technology are coming fast. My guess: All cars will be able to drive autonomously, very safe, probably no accidents at all anymore. Emission free, very comfortable: cars will take you where you want to go and when you want to go. Still there will be precious brands for different customer preferences, still cars will be the most important means of transport. But totally safe, convenient and sustainable”. +++

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