Newsflash: Bentley werkt aan 700 pk sterke stekker hybride Continental


+++ BENTLEY previously said it was choosing to focus on electrifying its Continental range rather than producing extreme high performance variants to sit above the Speed, and spyshots of a Continental GT hybrid prove it’s sticking to that plan. Bentley will launch its first all-electric car in 2025, and by 2030 will only sell electric models, but between now and the end of the decade it will also roll out hybrid versions of its existing cars, including the Continental GT. Carmakers love trying to throw us off the scent when they’re testing new model prototypes, and not just by covering over badges and grilles. You’ve probably seen shots of test cars from one company dressed up to look like they’re from an entirely unrelated brand. The GT on the spyphoto is wearing no disguise at all, however, and all of its badges are in place and uncovered, including the “12” badge at the base of the front fender, between the front wheel and driver’s door. That would normally indicate the presence of a W12 engine under the hood in place of the V8 fitted to less expensive models, but in this case I think it might be telling porkies. The yellow safety sticker on the rear glass confirm it’s running a hybrid drivetrain but it’s very unlikely that Bentley is working on a hybrid version of its W12. More believable is the idea that the Continental PHEV will get a version of the 2.9-liter V6 hybrid powertrain already fitted to the Bentayga and Flying Spur. That means 544 hp. But since this number isn’t exactly huge in the context of 600-horsepower rivals from BMW and Mercedes, it’s likely that Bentley is looking to leverage its access to the VW Group parts bin and is developing a hybrid V8 package. Sister company Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid serves up 700 hp, accelerates to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, and can reach 315 km/h, and those numbers sound like the kind of figures Bentley will (or should) be aiming for. There’s no hint about when we might see the Continental GT PHEV, or whether its electric driving range will match the 113 km offered by recent luxury hybrids like the Mercedes S-Class 580e and Range Rover, or at least improve on the comparatively pathetic 40 km WLTP range of the Bentayga Hybrid. But Bentley admitted last year that its Continental customers were already asking for something that could drive in the city on electric power, so we’re unlikely to have much longer to wait to see the result. +++

+++ Electrification is threatening the existence of affordable vehicles, the boss of CITROEN Europe has said, as the rising price of raw materials impacts car production around the world. Speaking at the launch of the Citroën ë-C4 X, Arnaud Ribault suggested that the French manufacturer is aiming to reduce costs of its electric cars. “The work we’re all doing now is to decrease the costs of cars to compensate for the raw material cost increase and the electrification cost increase”, Ribault said. “It’s really a threat that the electrification has increased the price of the car so much that people can’t afford cars any more. It’s a real threat, not only regarding Citroën, so we’re increasingly conscious of that and are working on this”. While prices for the ë-C4 X haven’t been revealed yet, the fastback is expected to command a higher price to the ë-C4. Citroën maintained that a key draw of the ë-C4 X will be its affordability, however. “We’re not running after having the biggest battery on the market, but we’re in the running for the most affordable and near-to-customers battery, for example, for electric cars”, said Pierre Monferrini, its head of future products. Citroën said that it also wants to be sustainable by design, costing less from a technical point of view and lasting longer from a customer’s point of view. “Sustainability is our future, the future of our industry and the C4 X is ready for that”, said Ribault. “Our customers are looking for sustainable mobility solutions. That’s why the C4-X will only be available as a BEV in 14 countries in Europe”. +++

+++ The European Union member states have locked down a plan to reduce vehicular carbon emissions to zero by 2035, effectively signing the death warrant on combustion technology and creating a headache for automakers. But it’s not the phasing out of ICE-powered cars and SUVs that is the cause of that headache. According to Arno Antlitz, Volkswagen Group’s Chief Financial Officer, it’s sourcing a sufficient quantity of batteries to power their all ELECTRIC replacements that is giving car manufacturers sleepless nights. Though the decision to implement a 100 percent reduction in CO2 by 2035 still hasn’t been enshrined in law, the deal is as good as sealed. Five countries, including Italy and Slovakia, had been requesting an extra 5 years to reach the 100 percent target. But eventually all of the member states agreed to back the original proposal, making it impossible to sell an ICE vehicle for road use in Europe beyond 2035, and forcing automakers to switch wholesale to electric cars. Minerals including lithium have already increased in price and are likely to rise further. Some car companies had previously pushed back against the plan, though Volkswagen, along with Ford, Volvo and Mercedes, added its backing. “It’s a challenging goal. We think it’s doable”, Antlitz told in an interview. “The most challenging topic is not ramping up the car plants”, he explained. “The most challenging topic will be ramping up the battery supply chain”. That supply chain is dependent on the availability of essential components like lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt that go into making modern EV batteries. But the price of those minerals has already rocketed due to undersupply, and is likely to get much worse as carmakers begin rolling out huge quantities of new EVs in the years immediately preceding the ICE ban. Stellantis CEO, Carlos Tavares, has predicted that the entire auto industry will be hit with a shortage of batteries as soon as 2024-25. +++

+++ FERRARI makes some of the fastest cars on the road, but the luxury Italian automaker is taking the slow lane to an electric future as it tries to overcome the technology’s disadvantages against today’s powerful fossil fuel engines. At an investor day this month, executives promised a new era, with the first fully electric Ferrari in 2025. But for now, combustion engines remain the noisy heart of what it does. Unlike some rivals, Ferrari has not provided a roadmap for going all electric. Volkswagen’s Bentley brand and Volvo are both targeting 2030. According to a source familiar with Ferrari’s business plans, a new production line focused on electric vehicles (EVs) should help lift annual production at its plant in Maranello, Italy, by more than 35% to over 15.000 cars by 2025 versus 11.155 in 2021 (or 65 cars per day versus 46 currently) delivering higher profit margins in the process. The carmaker has told investors it is targeting a core profitmargin of 38-40% in 2026, versus 35.9% in 2021. Its line-up could also grow to at least 17 models by 2026 from 12 today. But most new models will, at least initially, have a combustion engine (including its first SUV, the Purosangue, powered by its trademark huge 12-cylinder engine) though some may be hybrids. Ferrari currently has 4 plug-in hybrids in its lineup. A zero-emission future poses the same challenges for Ferrari as it does for rivals: EV batteries weigh hundreds of pounds, which affects aerodynamics and handling, and can’t match the sustained power and throaty roar of a massive combustion engine. To solve those expensive challenges, Ferrari is researching solid state batteries, which could theoretically improve battery power, as well as hydrogen fuel cells and synthetic fuels, both of which face an uncertain future. European Union countries agreed this week to an effective ban on new fossil-fuel car sales, but will assess in 2026 whether hybrid vehicles and synthetic, or CO2-neutral, fuels could comply with that goal. If it becomes law, the EU proposal would also provide small carmakers like Ferrari some wiggle room to negotiate their own intermediate targets until 2036. At that point, they would face the EU requirement to sell only zero-emission cars, which would kick in for bigger carmakers in 2035. “In every case where you have a technology transition, by definition you have a situation which is a little bit fuzzy, there is some fog”, Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna, a technology industry veteran who took over in September, told. Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois describes Ferrari’s approach as “measured,” but adds that may not be popular with investors as some automakers charge towards an electric future. “They can run their profit center with combustion engines longer and amortize their investment there”, he said. “But it’s not necessarily what the market wants to hear because the mindset is let’s rush into EVs and never look back”. Every 22 minutes on the V8 assembly line at Maranello a finished engine and chassis come together, which Ferrari calls a “marriage”. For an undisclosed sum, the engine with a V12 model includes a plate bearing the name of the worker who made it. Ferrari executives highlight the emotion some drivers feel when they buy one of their cars, that start at over €250,000 in the Netherlands. “I see customers coming to take their cars and some of them are crying”, Vigna told. So it’s crucial for Ferrari to create a similarly passionate response to its EVs. Hybrid sports cars have been a success, pairing powerful engines with the instant acceleration of an electric motor. But fully-electric sports cars currently have a weight problem because of the huge batteries needed to provide enough power. Croat hypercar maker Rimac’s Nevera, for instance, weighs 2.200 kg; more than fossil-fuel sports cars and heavier even than Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans. That enormous weight “in turn affects performance, driving dynamics and experience”, said Dario Duse, managing director at consultancy firm AlixPartners. Ferrari is not alone in facing these challenges, and few ultra-luxury rivals are rushing to go electric. Lamborghini, for instance, doesn’t plan a fully-electric car until the end of the decade. But, according to AlixPartners’ Duse, Ferrari must weigh its options more carefully than Lamborghini, which has a deep-pocketed owner in world No.2 carmaker, the Volkswagen Group. “For Ferrari, which unlike Lamborghini does not have access to a development platform like that of VW, the issue of investments is also certainly relevant”, Duse said. Among its options, Ferrari is researching hydrogen fuel cells, a future zero-emission solution touted by Japan’s carmakers and the likes of BMW in Europe that can match the sustained power of combustion engines. British startup Viritech is already building a hydrogen hypercar, with input from Italian auto design house Pininfarina, a limited-edition vehicle weighing 1.000 kg that it aims to use to sell the technology to carmakers. CEO Timothy Lyons says over the last 18 months Viritech has seen a “huge spike in interest” from conventional carmakers in the concept. But hydrogen fuel cell cars need infrastructure for producing “green” hydrogen using renewable energy and fueling stations, which are unlikely to be in place until the 2030s. Vigna said Ferrari is also working with four partners in Europe and Asia on battery components to research the next generation of high energy density solid state batteries, which are lighter than today’s cells. Carmakers such as Ford and BMW have invested in solid state batteries, but the technology is still some years away from use in cars. “Solid state batteries are turning into a bit like the hydrogen story in that it’s a fuel of the future”, Houchois said. He warned Ferrari’s slow pace of change could be seen as dragging its feet, or even “socially wrong”. “But from a business standpoint, they’ve got a great business and it doesn’t have to go away that quickly”, he added. “They’re avoiding excessive commitments that they can get to a certain point by a certain date at a certain price because they don’t know”. +++

+++ The MERCEDES-BENZ EQA only started rolling out of the company’s Rastatt, Germany, plant last year, but it looks like it’s already going under the knife. Part of Benz’s rapidly growing EQ-badged electric vehicle family, the EQA is the firm’s smallest EV and is based on the ICE-powered GLA. Most of the bodywork and styling is shared, but the EQA is recognizable by its horizontal strip of lights running along the trunk lid, and headlights that bleed into a smooth, flush-fitting grille. But are buyers not digging that EV-specific grille? Or is Mercedes updating it with the star-motif design seen on some electric MB concepts, and since made available as an option on cars like the EQS flagship sedan? I don’t know, but the fact that the grille on a EQA development car is taped up means Mercedes definitely has something to hide. The rest of the front end, including the headlights with their peripheral DRLs, and the lower bumper, appears unchanged. As does the rear end of this EQA, where we can clearly see the same bumper design and taillights used by current models, suggesting that Mercedes is only making small changes, rather than embarking on a full facelift. Or perhaps this development car is a stealthy test bed for the AMG-branded performance version of the EQA Mercedes has promised. But in another shot, it looks like the driver is reaching to pull a dashboard disguise sheet from the base of the windscreen having clocked our spy photographer lurking on the outside of the corner. It must mean Mercedes is looking at making some changes to the crossover’s interior, including its MBUX infotainment system, which is likely to lose its bulky touchpad controller. It’s possible Mercedes could up the battery capacity to coincide with the grille and interior tweaks. +++

+++ TESLA is expected to end its nearly 2-year-long run of record quarterly deliveries as a prolonged Covid-related shutdown in Shanghai hit its production and supply chain, highlighting the risks of its reliance on China. While Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has been pursuing the acquisition of social media platform Twitter, his crown jewel, Tesla, has grappled with production glitches in China and slow output growth at new factories in Texas and Berlin. Analysts expect Tesla to report deliveries of 295.078 vehicles for the second quarter. Several analysts have slashed their estimates further to about 260,000 due to China’s prolonged lockdown. This would be down from its record deliveries of 310.048 the preceding quarter, marking Tesla’s first quarter-on-quarter decline in deliveries since the first quarter of 2020. The world’s most valuable automaker has posted record deliveries every quarter since the third quarter of 2020, weathering pandemic and supply-chain disruptions better than most automakers. China has been instrumental in Tesla’s rapid increase of vehicle production and Musk has praised workers there for “burning the 3 a.m. oil”. But China’s prolonged zero-Covid lockdown (Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called it Tesla’s “albatross” this quarter) caused deeper disruptions to output than Musk predicted. Tesla’s low-cost, lucrative Shanghai factory produced roughly half of the company’s total cars delivered last year, and Ives estimated the shutdown wiped out about 70.000 units in the quarter. Musk said in April that Tesla’s overall vehicle production in the second quarter would be “roughly on par” with the first quarter, driven by a China rebound. But he recently said Tesla had a “very tough quarter”, citing production and supply-chain challenges in China. Musk also said Tesla’s new factories in Texas and Berlin are “gigantic money furnaces” losing billions of dollars as they struggle to increase production quickly. He said the carmaker’s supply-chain problems are not over and keeping the factories running remains a concern. “The key question is the magnitude of the China production decline and whether the Fremont (California) factory was able to help support volumes”, CFRA Research analyst Garrett Nelson said. He expects volumes to rebound strongly in the second half of the year, as Tesla boosts production at the Shanghai factory with the easing of a Covid-19 lockdown. Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, was cautious about the outlook, saying the third quarter will be difficult for Tesla and other tech firms, citing a risk of recession. Tesla has been laying off hundreds of employees in the United States, after Musk early this month told executives that he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy and needed to cut about 10% of staff at the electric car maker. Nevertheless, Musk has said demand for Tesla vehicles remains strong. Tesla shares have fallen 37% since early April, hurt by Musk’s Twitter deal and the China lockdown. Musk, a prolific Twitter user who this week passed the 100 million follower mark, has not been tweeting for over a week. Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne said in a report, “investors are growing fatigued with Elon’s rants” on the Twitter saga, politics and other topics. “Many we speak to are questioning if we have reached ‘peak Elon’ “. +++

+++ At the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon, one of the TOYOTA I feasted on was the Gazoo Racing GT3 Concept. Born of the Japanese automaker’s belief that it can provide more enthusiast enjoyment by commercializing race cars than by making customer cars racy, the quotes and suggestions at the time were that the GT3 Concept would result in race car that would become a road car. Toyota said it would have prototypes on the road by the end of the year. The month after the Salon, TRD President David Wilson said the next Lexus IS would be a race car first, then a road car. Whatever is going to happen appears to have taken another big step in Europe, where a Toyota filing at the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) was caught. That bureau posted an image of a version of the GT3 Concept featuring everything one expects save the concept’s impressive rear wing, which has been replaced by a small spoiler under the rear window. GT3 class rules require cars to be based on a mass production road car. As part of the hook to buyers, manufacturers like to tout their GT3 donor models as boasting similar parts content or spec to their GT3 race car. I’m not sure how this image reflects what might arrive on a race car or road car; Toyota could merely be protecting its race car with this filing. The images include the concept’s side exhaust, dive planes, aggressive front spoiler and rear diffuser, center-lock wheels, and racy tires. All but the side exhaust would be no surprise to make production; a few GT3 competitors mount pipes along their flanks, but none of their road-car inspirations are set up the same. I’d be looking for 2 street versions to come of this concept. Design details on the GR show car, especially in the rear, could have come straight out of a Lexus studio. In fact, Wilson already said, “It’s fairly safe to connect the dots and suggest that the GR GT3 concept could be a precursor to the next global GT3 car for Lexus.” On top of that, we noted the similarities between the GR GT3 Concept and Mazda’s RX-Vision GT3 Concept from 2020. That puts Mazda on the map, so we’ll wait to see if the much smaller automaker follows through. +++


+++ VOLKSWAGEN appears to be optimistic about the near-term progress, noting that easing semiconductor shortages start to offset supply chain bottlenecks and rising costs. CEO Herbert Diess said that the company is “earning more than ever” and ramping up electric car production in its biggest markets, Germany and China. All of that is expected to enable the German manufacturer to narrow the EV gap between Volkswagen and Tesla, on track to become #1 globally by 2025. At least that’s Diess’ vision, who also points out that Tesla’s position will weaken. Diess said that Tesla’s issues at Giga Berlin-Brandenburg and Giga Austin plants, plus expansion of Giga Shanghai, will drain strength out of Tesla: “Elon has to ramp up 2 highly complex factories in Austin and Grünheide at the same time, as well as expand production in Shanghai. That’s going to take strength out of him”. Volkswagen’s boss likes to say things like that from time to time. Earlier this month, he said also that “the race” with Tesla will be tight, but we noted that as far as Q1 is considered, the Volkswagen Group is not even #2 in terms of BEV volume. On the other hand, Tesla really has some issues (as basically everyone – including Volkswagen) to solve. In the case of Texas, it might be mostly the availability of the all-new 4680-type cylindrical battery cells. The ramp-up in Germany was slower than initially anticipated (including the recent reports about delayed deliveries), but there is also news about the addition of the third shift early next month. The Chinese plant is recovering from lockdowns and preparing for an upgrade. I am not in a position to evaluate Diess’ thesis, but I remain cautiously optimistic, as Tesla has a proven track record of navigating through challenges pretty well. In a matter of a few days, we will see Tesla’s Q2 production and sales numbers, which will give us a hint about the situation. +++

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