Newsflash: Mercedes EQE ook als Shooting Brake?


+++ China’s CATL is working on new BATTERY materials that can improve energy density by 10% to 20% compared to iron phosphate batteries, the company’s chairman said, as the battery giant scrambles to retain its top position amid competition. The new material technology known as M3P can enable an electric vehicle to run 700 km per charge combined with CATL’s next generation of battery pack technology, Zeng Yuqun said at the World New Energy Vehicle Congress in Beijing on Saturday. The new materials will also lower the costs compared to nickel and cobalt-based batteries, he added. Zeng, however, didn’t say what metals M3P batteries will use or when mass production could start. CATL, whose clients include Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW and Ford, is the world’s biggest battery maker accounting for more than a third of the sales of batteries for electric vehicles (EV) worldwide. It aims to increase the lead over rivals such as LG Energy Solution and BYD by accelerating expansions globally and innovation in new battery technologies. Wan Gang, vice chairman of China’s national advisory body for policy making, said the global market size of EV batteries is expected to reach $250 billion by 2030, with demand exceeding 3.5 terrawatt hours. CATL said in a separate announcement on Saturday that it will supply Qilin batteries with its latest battery pack technology to power Geely Automobile Holdings’s Zeekr cars due to hit the market in early 2023. CATL launched the Qilin battery in June and touted a 13% higher energy density compared to the same size of pack of Tesla’s 4680 cylindrical battery cells (denoting 46 millimeters in diameter and 80 millimeters in length) while using same type of materials. +++

+++ Japan’s 3 biggest carmakers are facing the greatest risk from CLIMATE CHANGE among global auto companies because much of their manufacturing remains concentrated in the island nation, according to a study by Greenpeace. Toyota, Honda and Nissan will face major challenges ranging from hurricanes and flooding, to high temperatures and water shortages, in the coming years based on where their factories are located, said the environmental-advocacy group, which analyzed data from Moody’s ESG Solutions on physical risks. When it comes to environmental, social and governance issues, the spotlight is usually on the impact that manufacturers have on the climate, or society. Yet, as changes in the weather make the impact of natural disasters more frequent and intense, carmakers will face “a high level of physical risk” of damage and disruption at their operational facilities as well as supply-chain disruptions, Greenpeace said. To an extent, the list reflects the realities of geography. The Japanese carmakers, which also have factories elsewhere in Asia, have facilities scattered across an archipelago that’s susceptible to typhoons. The word itself means “big wind” in Japanese. Toward the bottom of the list of major carmakers facing less climate risk are Volkswagen, Stellantis and other European automakers with manufacturing facilities in northern climates. Even so, Greenpeace singled out Toyota, which scored the highest, as being “reluctant to disclose climate risks in relation to its facilities” and recommended that the company “take more aggressive action to reduce its carbon footprint”. More than 90% of Toyota’s manufacturing sites are at high risk for at least one climate hazard, according to Greenpeace’s analysis. Toyota pushed back on the study, saying that it has worked to build a “disaster-resilient supply chain”, disclose its emissions and taken steps to secure water supplies. Almost 30% of Toyota’s vehicle output came from Japan in the first half. “Toyota has a solid track record of working within its resources to restore its operations and production in the event of climate change-related disasters, earthquakes and fires with humanitarian assistance and early restoration of affected areas as the utmost priority”, the company said in a statement. “It is impossible to predict exactly when, where, and what kind of disaster will occur in each country and region, we believe it is more important to create a system and human resources to minimize damage through early restoration and other measures”. Nissan said it conducts long-term assessments of climate-change risks, and takes that into account when setting strategy for its supply chain. “We’ll continue to hold a dialog with stakeholders and proactively strengthen our activities”, Nissan spokesman Shiro Nagai said. A spokesperson from Honda declined to comment on the report, which will be published soon. +++

+++ The passenger car market of EUROPE continues to struggle as the overall sales decreased again in July. The plug-in electric car segment is also affected by the challenging market situation, especially the constrained supply of new cars. According to EV Volumes data, shared by Jose Pontes, 157.694 new passenger plug-in cars were registered in Europe last month, which is 5% less than a year ago. On the positive side, the market share remains relatively strong at 19%. The main issue behind the overall drop is a significant 25% decrease of plug-in hybrid car sales, because all-electric cars are actually doing very well, recording a 19 % increase compared to the previous year. It will be interesting to see whether PHEVs will return to form or gradually fade behind BEVs. In July, sales were 66.000 ((down 25% year-over-year and 8% share) and 91.000 (up 19% year-over-year and 11% share). So far this year, 1.285.520 new passenger plug-in electric cars were registered in Europe. That’s about 20% of the total volume. BEVs did 0.77 million (12% share) and PHEV sales were 0.51 million (8% share). In July, the Fiat 500 Electric was the most registered electric car model in Europe, with 5.053 units. It was followed by 3 MEB-based models: the Volkswagen ID.4 (4.889 sales), the Skoda Enyaq iV (4.654) and the Volkswagen ID.3 (3.697). The top 10 for the month was been completed by the all-new Renault Megane E-Tech (3.549), the Peugeot e-208 (3.470), the Hyundai Kona Electric (3.460), the Cupra Born (2.999), the Dacia Spring (2.970) and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (2.873). An interesting thing is that there were only 3 PHEV models in the top 20 plug-ins. The highest classified PHEV happens to be the Hyundai Tucson PHEV (#14 and 2.608 units). The Tesla Model Y noted only 1.725 units in July, but at the same time, it was the highest result in the first month of a quarter for this model. Sales results year-to-date are: Tesla Model Y (47.003), Tesla Model 3 (40.679), Fiat 500 Electric (38.213), Volkswagen ID.4 (28.669), Skoda Enyaq iV (26.908), Peugeot e-208 (26.602), Renault Zoé (24.502), Ford Kuga PHEV (24.137), Kia Niro EV (e-Niro; 23.981) and Hyundai Kona Electric (23,969). The top plug-in brands (marketshare year-to-date) are: BMW 9.2%, Mercedes-Benz 8.1%, Volkswagen 6.9%, Tesla 6.8%, Kia 6.3%, Peugeot 5.8% and Audi 5.8%. The top plug-in automotive groups (marketshare year-to-date) are: Volkswagen Group 19.4% share (Volkswagen brand at 6.9%, Audi at 5.8%), Stellantis 16.7% share (Peugeot brand at 5.8%), Hyundai Motor Group 11.6 % share (Kia brand at 6.3%, Hyundai at 5.3%), BMW Group 11.1% share (BMW brand at 9.2%), Mercedes Group – 9.1% share (Mercedes-Benz brand at 8.1%), Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance 8.7% share and Tesla 6.8% share). +++

+++ Motorshows are back, slotting into 1 of 2 distinct camps: real and unreal. Let’s start with the latter. Switzerland has staged its annual car exhibition for more than 100 years. Having attended it 30-odd times (plus all its major rival shows in Asia, Europe and North America), I can confirm that the GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW was, consistently, the world’s best and most significant automotive gathering – right up until 2019. But on August 18, the organisers in effect pulled the plug on this big and once hugely important event. Why? “Uncertainties in the global economy and geopolitics”, plus “the development of the pandemic”, they explained. Tragedy then morphed into comedy with the follow-up announcement that “the Geneva International Motor Show will be held exclusively in Qatar in 2023”. Put another way, the once great Swiss car exhibition is being moved to, er, Doha. Daft, laughable, unreal and unworkable? All 4, I reckon. Meanwhile, 1.000 km from Geneva in Farnborough on the same day, the British Motor Show opened its doors to the car-hungry public, the motor trade/industry, a few motor-mad celebrities and a car-friendly politician or 2. Sure, there were a few chaotic and comedic moments at the indoor/outdoor Brit bash last week, but they were mostly related to traffic congestion and unpredictable weather, without which, Britain just wouldn’t be Britain, would it? On a more productive note, United Kingdom government’s trade minister, Ranil Jayawardena, was brave enough to put in an appearance and face critics like me. He spoke loud and clear to members of the press, public and industry, with what sounded like genuine enthusiasm for cars, technology, investment, manufacturers and most other things automotive. There was an official world record by global (including Hollywood) stunt driving ace Paul Swift, from Darlington! Plus the world unveiling of the ruggedly impressive looking INDe E, from Hailsham. Meanwhile, the Best Cars of the Year stand was delivered by little ol’ me, from Greenwich. +++

+++ The MERCEDES EQE is fundamentally an excellent electric car with great range, a comfortable ride, and all the latest tech. However, many have been critical of its design. Sure, from an efficiency perspective it’s superb (the EQE has a drag coefficient of just 0.22). But aesthetics-wise, the EQE’s bubbly silhouette has often been compared to that of a Honda Civic. The EQE is not a terrible looking car by any means, but we can understand how some might think it looks a bit dull in comparison to a Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT, or Tesla Model S. That said, a sleeker estate variant is reportedly in the works. According to a German outlet, Mercedes is planning an EQE Shooting Brake. This model would seemingly slot in between the EQE saloon and the upcoming EQE SUV. It’s important to note an EQE Shooting Brake has not been confirmed by Mercedes and is nothing more than a rumour for now. An EQE SUV has been confirmed though and will debut in full on 16 October. +++

+++ Preliminary steps to list PORSCHE on the stock market are expected in the coming days, 6 people familiar with the matter said, adding executives at parent Volkswagen and family members were gathering to sell the idea to wary investors. A flotation would test the investor appeal of Europe’s largest auto manufacturer group as the continent grapples with the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, the threat of gas rationing and recession, and the most severe inflation in decades, driven by energy costs. When stock market volatility has reduced the number of listings, a long-awaited public sale would also demonstrate the extent of appetite for a stake that gives a share in a prestigious brand but is too small to influence boardroom decisions. The boards of Volkswagen and its biggest shareholder Porsche SE are expected to make a recommendation in the coming days, which would then go to the companies’ supervisory boards for approval, the people said. That would trigger an announcement of the initial public offering (IPO) or “intention to float”, as soon as the first week of September, the people said, marking the beginning of a roughly four-week period for buyers to get ready to invest. Still no final decisions have been taken, three of the people said, as uncertainty linked to the Ukraine war and an escalating energy crisis could lead management to decide to wait. Volkswagen and Porsche SE announced initial talks on a listing on February 22 and gave more details on February 24, the day Moscow invaded Ukraine, marking the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two. Even if management gives approval for canvassing investors, the group could halt the listing should attempts to secure demand fail, one of the people said. The people declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press. Some investors are reluctant because just 12.5% of Porsche’s stock will be sold on the open market. One of the people told investors were taking a critical attitude and described the situation as fluid, but said a stock market listing was the likely outcome. Another of the people acknowledged the bleak mood on markets saying the listing could yet be cancelled were it to worsen. Even before the turmoil surrounding energy costs and war, Germany’s carmakers faced the challenge of adapting to the phase-out of diesel and gas motors in favour of electric vehicles. Porsche wants 80% of its car sales to be electric by 2030, more than quadrupling the current level, and Volkswagen has also embarked on a shift towards electric vehicles, batteries and software. The listing is designed to help fund the transition. If it does not go ahead or gets through only at a discount, there will be less to invest. Management’s decision will also be influenced by the price the stock can be sold for and whether Porsche would have to accept a steep discount if it is determined to press ahead. Original expectations were high for the luxury car brand, with some valuing it at more than 80 billion euros ($80 billion), bankers involved said. Porsche may have to settle for as little as 60 billion euros, one of the people involved in the process told last month. But the stock market listing is about the ambitions of the families that control Porsche as well as money. Already a botched attempt by Porsche to take over VW more than a decade ago made the Porsche and Piech families Volkswagen’s most influential shareholders. An IPO would increase their control as Porsche SE would buy 25% plus 1 ordinary share in Porsche AG as part of the proposed structure of the deal. +++

+++ Human nature (take the easiest route) and financial considerations (take the most profitable route) are arguably the two things that drive society forward. That’s especially true when solving the world’s problems, such as global warming. Electrification of cars ticks both boxes but raises the question of whether the early decision to abandon combustion engines misses a trick. The world’s biggest oil producers potentially stand to lose the most because alternatives might rule them out. While they may have a grip on the expertise and resources to drill for and produce petroleum products, the same isn’t true for other energy sources. Yet they are well placed to invest more in ‘drop-in’ carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, which can be dispensed using existing filling station forecourts without the need to create an entirely new infrastructure. Experts have been saying for years that the fastest way to reduce CO2 from transport is to switch to a sustainable, carbon-neutral, synthetic liquid fuel that existing vehicles can run on. ‘Drop-in’ means that, unlike petrol heavily dosed with ethanol, there can be little, if any, downside. If the world’s vehicles could fill up with fuel synthesised from organic materials tomorrow, atmospheric CO2 derived from transport fuel would all but vanish overnight. The Volkswagen Group is one of the manufacturers that have been pursuing the development of SYNTHETIC FUELS for a couple of decades. Porsche is among the latest to stick its head above the parapet with a racing project and now Mazda, which last year became the first car manufacturer to join the eFuel Alliance, is taking an interest. Like Porsche, it has taken to the race track to help develop and promote the use of synthetic fuel. In Mazda’s case, a 1.5-litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine, rather than a petrol engine, powered a race-prepared 2. The Mazda runs on Susteo, a synthetic fuel supplied by partner Euglena, and the raw materials needed to make it are used cooking oil (90%) with oil and fat extracted from the microalgae, called euglena, making up the balance. The use of vegetable oil doesn’t mean vehicles run around smelling like a fish and chip shop. It’s just a source of sustainable, waste bio-material that can be converted into synthetic petrol or diesel. It’s CO2-neutral because the plants used to produce it gorged on CO2 from the atmosphere while growing. However, the aim is to move entirely towards algae as the source. It can be grown on land unsuitable for agriculture and doesn’t compete with food production. A lot would be needed to replace the world’s consumption of petroleum oils, though. Road transport consumes around 1.3 billion gallons of petrol and diesel per day globally but, that said, the figure for vegetable oil is around 140 billion gallons. Put that way, the idea of producing enough guilt-free liquid fuel from algae to power existing combustion engines doesn’t seem like such a stretch. Queensland University of Technology robotics researchers have been working since January on how autonomous vehicles perceive their surroundings. Research is centring on a system that can learn which cameras on a car are more effective on a particular stretch of road, so it can use that camera on every subsequent visit to the same road. +++

+++ As more EVs get introduced, a handful of them had already gone through the dreaded moose test. Designed to check if a car can safely manoeuvre away from a sudden obstacle (and return to the lane after), electric vehicles usually ace the moose test. Even higher crossover EVs perform generally well, except the VOLVO C40 Recharge that recently got tested. Introduced last year for the 2022 model year, the C40 Recharge is the coupe version of the XC40 Recharge. The variant tested was fully equipped and was wearing Pirelli PZero Elect tyres. The car was in Normal mode while on the duration of the test. At the benchmark speed of 47.8 miles per hour, the C40 Recharge failed, with the tester noting that there was too much understeer. The reactions of the car were said to be normal, though it was said the tyres and temperature that day could be a factor in the failed attempts. However, the lack of reaction from the car’s ESC was also noted to be a factor. The best attempt was done at 43.5 mph, which was a bit low compared to other cars within its class. In comparison, the Tesla Model Y aced the moose test before, completing the manoeuvre at 52 mph. Other crossover EVs like the VW ID.4 and Mazda MX-30 also fared notably well but not any better than what the Tesla crossover EV has achieved so far. Meanwhile, the Kia EV6 also recently completed the test at a passing speed of 48.5 mph. This shows that the low centre of gravity isn’t the only factor for a vehicle to pass the dreaded moose test. Electronic aids also affect the results but more importantly, the traction that the tyres employ. +++

+++ The year was 2018 and the event was the Geneva Motor Show. A Danish automaker presented a million-dollar hypercar called the TSR-S, which can sprint from a standstill to 62 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. The company? ZENVO , and it looks like the exotic carmaker wants to make headlines again next year. In a confirmation, chairman and CCO Jens Sverdrup said that a V12-powered hypercar is in the works. Its design is still a secret at this time but probable buyers have already been given an exclusive preview. The public debut is set to happen in 2023. Sverdrup isn’t secretive with the upcoming hypercar’s details, though. He told that the unnamed car will have a brand-new modular carbon fibre chassis, along with a new gearbox, modular V12 engine, and electric drivetrain. All of these elements are to be designed and built in-house. Unlike the supercharged Zenvo TSR-S, the upcoming hypercar will have 2 electric turbochargers connected to the V12 mill, for a total of 1.200 bhp. The target, however, is up to 1,800 hp, which should be achieved through the use of an electric motor. Sverdrup also shared that there are 2 versions being planned. One is a hybrid GT, with the electric motor mounted on the front axle for an all-wheel drivetrain. However, this is still up for discussion at this point. Meanwhile, the second version is said to be track-focused (but still road-legal) and could feature several aero elements for better downforce. The target weight is 1,250 kilograms. The price is likewise undisclosed at this time but considering the previous cars made by the company, I’m not expecting a small figure. +++


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