Newsflash: Fisker Pear laat zich zien


+++ Top officials from the EUROPEAN UNION are aiming to be more vocal at a trade meeting with their U.S. counterparts on Monday in their criticism of president Joe Biden’s climate law that would cut off the bloc’s electric vehicles from U.S. tax credits. The U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), a year-old transatlantic forum for dialogue, focused in its first 2 meetings on regulatory cooperation and presenting a united front against China’s non-market economic practices. But the 27-country bloc fears the $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) with its generous tax credits of $7.500 for Tesla, Ford and other North American-made EVs will significantly damage European automakers. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said he and German economy minister Robert Habeck have started talks with their U.S. counterparts on exemption for all EU-made green products. But he also said the EU needed its own equivalent of the IRA. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday the EU would adapt its state aid rules to prevent an exodus of investment triggered by the IRA, while offering cooperation over raw materials to counter China’s dominance. The topic is on the agenda of the TTC meeting on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland, U.S. and EU officials said. Participants include U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Margrethe Vestager. In a draft of a joint statement to be issued later on Monday, the 2 sides are to say: “We acknowledge the European Union’s concerns and underline our commitment to address them constructively”. The draft document, which may still be revised, did not set out specific measures. “The Inflation Reduction Act will be part of the range of discussions on trade”, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said. The U.S. side was “committed to continuing to understand EU concerns” through a newly established task force, the spokesperson said. The meeting would produce a “joint roadmap” to assess trustworthy artificial intelligence technologies as well as a task force to reduce research barriers related to quantum computing science and technology, the spokesperson said. European and South Korean officials criticized the Inflation Act at the G20 Summit in Indonesia last month. During his state visit to Washington last week, French president Emmanuel Macron told broadcaster CBS it was a “job killer” for Europe. Biden told Macron in Washington that there could be “tweaks” to the law to make it easier for European countries to participate in the credits. French officials said they are hopeful an executive order from the White House could give European nations a break, without the need for seeking revisions from Congress, a move the White House wants to avoid. +++

+++ FISKER has started road-testing its upcoming Pear electric city car, which will arrive in 2024 with a sub-$30,000 (€40.000 in the Netherlands) price tag. Making its debut in a new video clip, the Pear (Personal Electric Automotive Revolution) will sit below the upcoming Fisker Ocean crossover, with a shorter wheelbase than its sibling but while retaining a spacious interior. It will be built by technology manufacturing giant Foxconn at a facility in Ohio (previously owned by General Motors) at an initial rate of 250.000 units per year the second half of 2024, with first deliveries expected soon after. Company boss Henrik Fisker previously told the Pear “is the vehicle that ultimately will take us to 1 million vehicles per year in 2027”. The Pear will be based on a dedicated steel platform (cheaper than the aluminium skateboard architecture of the Ocean) which will be used to spin off a further 2 EVs. The prevailing focus of its development programme is streamlining the manufacturing costs to ensure it can be sold as “a premium car for under $30,000”. US prices have been confirmed to start from $29,900. The Volkswagen ID 3-rival will also be kitted out with unique features including a boot lid that slides behind the rear bumper for better access in tight parking areas. There will be a number of innovative storage solutions in the cabin as well, and 2 battery options will be offered on launch: 1 for city driving, and the other 1 for longer distances, which Fisker claims will have a range of more than 500 km. Fisker has appointed Alpay Uguz, previously general manager of BMW’s SUV production line in South Carolina, as a “manufacturing guru” to work with Foxconn on integrating cost efficiencies into the line, which, Henrik Fisker says, forms part of his firm’s ultimate ambition “to revolutionise automotive manufacturing and, to a certain extent, supply chain”. Details of how the company can achieve this remain to be seen, but he said there is a “huge possibility for Fisker to have input in the factory” and the company is committed to keeping the number of components in the car to an absolute minimum. Fisker describes the Pear as “kind of a funky vehicle” and says it is difficult to slot it into a segment: “I guess you’d call it a crossover but it doesn’t really look like an SUV. It looks like a futuristic little space shuttle – to describe it best”. For that reason, he said, “it’s probably a little risky” because of the difficulties in benchmarking cars outside of core market segments and the fact that it has “a lot of unique features that have never been done before”. Hot on the heels of both the Ocean and Pear will be the 2024 Fisker Ronin, a 4-seat drop-top supercar being developed at the firm’s UK-based ‘Magic Works’ facility. Its tri-motor powertrain is intended to send it from 0-100 kph in less than 2.0 seconds and Fisker is targeting a range of more than 1.000 km. More importantly, it will serve as a test bed and a showcase for features of future high-volume cars. Henrik Fisker said: “The benefit of a supercar is being able to explore new technologies that we normally wouldn’t be able to do on a high-volume car. For example, we are working on a very large integrated battery pack solution. We are also looking at expanding the use of luxurious recycled materials in the interior, which is probably too expensive right now for a high-volume car. But there is also the enthusiast aspect to consider. There’s also just emotion in it. I love cars: we need to have a supercar”. +++


+++ HYUNDAI is preparing to release a quicker version of the electric Ioniq 5 developed by its high-performance N division. The hatchback likely won’t make its official debut until 2023, but a promotional video gives us a better idea of what to expect from it. Embedded above, the 8 minute video sheds light on how Hyundai plans to make electrified performance cars; the RN22e and N Vision 74 concepts both play a prominent role in the flick. The hot-rodded Ioniq 5 appears at the very end, and it’s wearing less camouflage than in previous spy shots. We can tell that it features a specific front bumper with redesigned intakes below the headlights and a wide air dam. The video stops short of providing technical details. Like the standard Ioniq 5, the N will ride on the same Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) architecture found under the Ioniq 6 and the Kia EV6. We expect that power will come from an evolution of the EV6 GT’s dual-motor drivetrain, which is rated at 585 hp and 740 Nm of torque. It should get a limited-slip rear differential as well. It will be interesting to see how Hyundai keeps the 5 N’s weight in check. While the regular 5 isn’t a giant car, it’s far bigger and heavier than, say, a i30 N. I’m guessing it will be fairly quick, however: In its most powerful configuration, meaning with 2 electric motors (1 per axle) rated at a total of 325 hp and 605 Nm of torque, the non-N-tuned 5 reaches 100 kph in 5,1 seconds. Hyundai added that the Ioniq 5 N is “coming soon” and we expect it will break cover before the end of 2023. +++


+++ In February, unearthed patent filings indicated that Toyota might be working on a manual transmission for electric vehicles. It seemed rather far-fetched, and as we know many patented ideas never actually make it into production. However Toyota (or rather, its LEXUS luxury performance division) is seriously working on this, as the company confirmed during a conference in Europe. The system uses a physical gear shift, tachometer and third pedal. We hesitate to call it a clutch pedal because it’s not actually connected to a clutch. Of course an EV wouldn’t have a gearbox with actual gears and synchros, either. Everything is simulated via software. Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer of Lexus Electrified, described it as a “simulated drive force map with pedal and shift positions to reproduce the feeling of a manual transmission.” It’s so realistic, though, that the driver even faces the possibility of stalling the car or rolling backwards on a hill start. And since the system is governed by ones and zeroes, each driver can choose their preferred “gearing” without having to swap out cogs of varying ratios. “This new project all started with some Lexus engineers reflecting on what they liked about traditional internal combustion vehicles and what they had to miss out on with electric cars”, said Watanabe. “The manual transmission was one thing they enjoyed in particular”. Tantalizingly, Watanabe revealed this technology while standing before the Lexus Electrified Sport concept, a car rumored to be an electric Lexus LFA successor. In practice, the transmission has been installed on a Lexus UX300e for testing. In a short video the prototype weaves through a parking lot complete with simulated engine revs. Watanabe said that the prototype was “so much fun that the project is now under serious development and it might actually be on future BEVs.” Indeed, when the driver changes gear, the hand-held camera even jerks a little, confirming that it behaves like a stick-shift ICE car. It certainly does look quite a bit livelier than a CVT-equipped UX, raising the question of what it would be like in a true sports car like the Electrified Sport. Fortunately, Watanabe had some positive news about the sleek concept that is claimed to go from 0-100 kph in around 2 seconds. “I cannot tell you when we will be launching a production vehicle based on the Electrified Sport. But I can confirm that we are working on it”. He also affirmed that the manual transmission, along with all-wheel drive, steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire, were all being developed for the production version. “This is not just a design concept. It is meant to become reality”. +++


+++ Scottish start-up MUNRO will take on the upcoming Ineos Grenadier with a rugged, go-anywhere SUV of its own; only this one is an EV. Freshly unveiled in Edinburgh and named after the honorary title given to any Scottish mountain over 1.000 meter, the Munro Mk1 will arrive next year in 5-door stationwagon form, with prices starting at £59,995. While the initial batch will be hand-built, Munro is planning to open a factory with capacity to produce up to 2.500 cars per year, making it the first manufacturer to produce cars in volume in Scotland since the Peugeot-Talbot factory at Linwood closed in 1981. Beyond its new-age powertrain, many of the Munro’s specifications read like those of a traditional off-roader. It sits on a ladder-frame chassis and uses live axles at both ends, with permanent four-wheel drive, a standard locking centre differential and optional front and rear lockers. Power comes from a single axial-flux motor, which sends drive to each corner mechanically through a twin-speed transfer box, giving a low-range ratio. As such, it takes pretty much the diametric opposite approach to the forthcoming electric Mercedes-Benz EQG with its individual wheel motors with integral 2-speed transmissions. Munro will offer both 300 hp and 380 hp motor options, as well as 61 kWh and 81 kWh batteries, spread across 3 separate packs, 1 between the chassis rails and 2 positioned between these and the sills. The more powerful motor will only be available with the larger battery. In its most economical guise, Munro is targeting a 300 km WLTP range rating. The Mk1 will support AC charging at 7 kW and 22 kW as well as DC fast charging. The more powerful motor will give a claimed 0-100 kph time of 4.9 seconds. Top speed is limited to 130 kph. The Mk1 sits on a 3.300 mm wheelbase, but very compact overhangs mean it’s only 4.590 mm long. That’s 170 mm shorter than the Land Rover Defender 110 and 500 mm shorter than the new Defender 130. The Mk1 also boasts some very impressive off-road statistics, with Munro claiming a huge 480 mm of ground clearance; much more than either an air-sprung Defender or the Grenadier. Its 84 degree approach angle, 51 degree departure angle and 31.6 degree ramp-over angle are equally serious, as is its 800 mm wading depth. Kerb weight is claimed to be around 2.500 kg, which is light by segment standards. The Mk1 also has a 1.000kg payload (allowing it to be regarded as a commercial vehicle for tax reasons) and a plywood-lined loadbay that can accommodate a Europallet. It can also tow a braked trailer of up to 3.500 kg. While expecting that the Mk1 will appeal to some ‘lifestyle buyers’, Munro said it’s designed for work, citing the construction, mining and farming sectors as being likely customers. The cabin features rugged construction and switchgear designed to be operated through gloves. It also features dual wireless phone charging pads and 2 sockets (240 Volt) able to power appliances including microwaves and kettles. The double-DIN dashboard screen is compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. +++


+++ TESLA drivers claim they’ve faced more incidents of road rage, like being cut off in traffic and heckled, since they started driving the electric car, according to a recent report from The Guardian. “I noticed the road rage within the first week I got it”, said one man, who lives in Thousand Oaks, California, and didn’t want to be publicly outed as a Tesla driver. He told the publication that he’d faced incidents of road rage 8 times in November, alone. “I’ll just be driving the same speed I had in my old Ford Fusion, but they’ll cut in front of me and drive really slow or prevent me from switching lanes”. Multiple Tesla owners told The Guardian that the incidents appear to stem from anti-EV sentiment, rather than dislike of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is virtually synonymous with the brand and has generated a slew of polarizing headlines over the years. One Tesla driver, John Shevelew, told The Guardian that the incidents seem more likely to occur in Southern states, where electric cars are less prevalent. Three more drivers said the instances of road rage are often perpetuated by individuals driving pickups. “It’s almost always a guy in a pickup who does something”, Laura Kennedy, a Tesla owner from Pennsylvania, said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been flipped off in my life as much as I have in the past year or so”. There’s no data to prove Tesla drivers face more road rage than others, but there have been several reports of situations where electric cars appear to be targets of harassment. In August, Axios reported that over a dozen Tesla drivers in Iowa had been “routinely heckled, cut off in traffic, and blocked from charging stations”. The publication detailed several common threads across the reports of harassment from the Iowa Tesla Owners Club, including instances of “rolling coal” and “ICEing”. Rolling coal refers to moments when drivers of larger vehicles blow exhaust at an EV, while ICEing is when drivers of combustion-engine vehicles attempt to block electric-car owners from accessing charging stations. Many Tesla owners have caught the instances on camera, and there’s even a YouTube channel dedicated to Tesla car crashes; many of which are attributed to road rage. The channel, called Wham Baam Teslacam, also depicts instances of people cursing out Tesla drivers, vandalizing the cars, and chasing them down. Teslas are equipped with multiple cameras and also feature Sentry Mode, a system that allows drivers to monitor their vehicles from afar. +++

+++ Many have accused TOYOTA of dragging its feet on EVs, but the company is not treating battery electrics like a foregone conclusion. Like a college freshman who’s just dumped their high school sweetheart, it’s keeping its options open. It’s been campaigning a hydrogen combustion race car (note that it’s not a fuel cell vehicle but a conventional piston engine that burns H2), and the first road car derived from that technology has entered the prototype stage. The Toyota Corolla Cross H2 Concept is powered by a version of the turbocharged 1.6-liter 3-cylinder found in the GR Yaris and GR Corolla. That means it still has pistons, rods and a crankshaft. And instead of using hydrogen in an electrochemical process to power a car electrically, the engine employs a modified fuel delivery system, injectors and ignition setup to burn the element. It adopts the hydrogen storage technology put forth by the Mirai, but can be built easily using traditional ICE manufacturing methods. Toyota says the system has quicker refueling times than charging a BEV and reduces dependency on precious metals like nickel and lithium, both required for electric vehicles. In 1 year of campaigning what is essentially a GR Corolla that runs on hydrogen in Japan’s Super Taikyu endurance series, Toyota has been able to markedly improve efficiency of the hydrogen combustion engine. By the end of the season, Toyota says it upped horsepower by 24% and torque by 33%, putting it on par with gasoline engines. The race car didn’t have the range of an equivalent petrol car, but engineers managed to increase the distance covered on a tank of H2 by 30% over the season. Similarly, refueling time was greatly reduced, from about 5 minutes to just 90 seconds. The race Corolla had 4 tanks of hydrogen stuffed in the cargo area, but the Corolla Cross H2 will test real world practicality. It can carry 5 occupants and their luggage. It will soon begin winter testing in Japan. Toyota estimates that the Corolla Cross H2 is only 40% of the way to commercialization, and doesn’t yet know if it can bring it to market. The prototype’s reveal took place at the same EU conference where the company announced an EV manual transmission and an expansion to six electric vehicles in the BZ family, so Toyota isn’t under any illusions that EVs will be a big part of the future. On the other hand, Toyota sells cars in 170 countries with very different infrastructures and driving habits. Toyota believes that with a multi-technology approach (which includes battery electrics, hybrid-electrics, plug-in hybrid electrics, hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen combustion cars) they have a better chance of achieving zero emissions. Simultaneously Toyota is working with companies researching green hydrogen production and transport so that it has many avenues to get to carbon neutrality. The race cars are fueled with hydrogen fuel created from renewable energy. If nothing else, the firm is proving that even in a non-gasoline future, motorsports is still an important crucible for developing technology that can filter down to road cars. +++


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