+++ Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-born entrepreneur and entertainer best known for his hip hop musical forays both solo and with The Fugees, has launched a new automotive company. The first machine that Wyclef unveiled to the masses at The Amelia in Florida and to his 2.2 million followers in Instagram is called the ATTUCKS Apex AP0 electric supercar. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Attucks Apex AP0 tick, starting with the name. The company’s name comes from Crispus Attucks, a Black man who was killed by British troops at the Boston Massacre, known as start of the American Revolutionary War. As for the numbers, the AP0 has a claimed top speed of 300 kph and is reportedly capable of running from 0-100 in a scant 2.5 seconds. Power comes from an electric motor at the rear that spins out 650 hp and 580 Nm of torque. Power comes from a 90 kWh lithium-ion battery pack of unknown origin. While there are a great many electric cars with a much more powerful motors, the AP0’s performance claims are buoyed by a claimed weight of 1.200 kilograms, made possible by a “monocoque carbon chassis, with a modular spaceframe and a central spine for maximum rigidity”. Somewhat shocking is the price, but because in a world of multimillion dollar super cars, it has a comparatively bargain suggested price of €470.000 (Dutch pricing). Attucks claims the Apex AP0 is the lightest electric supercar in existence. It certainly does look comparatively diminutive in pictures. To put its claimed weight into perspective, the Rimac Nevera weighs in at 2.500 kilos, making it more than twice that of the Apex AP0, and gets its motive force from a 1.914 hp electric drivetrain fed by a 120 kWh battery pack. Even the Lotus Evija, from a company historically obsessed with weight, comes in around 2.035 kilos. Of course, the Nevera and Evija cost a couple million dollars, too. I’m not sure how Attucks was able to stealthily engineer such a lightweight electric supercar or how it could sell such a machine for such a comparatively reasonable sum, but we certainly look forward to finding out more. According to the press release announcing this new venture: “Attucks’ future and technology is a platform to voice and create dreams in the community, headquartered in Little Haiti, Miami”. It continues: “This platform will be responsible for discovering, grooming, and developing technology, starting with inventions, technological solutions, sustainability, creativity and design, coding, and web3”. We’re not sure how the company’s platform will translate into future products like the AP0, so like we said in the previous paragraph, we’ll definitely stay tuned. +++
+++ AUDI is currently testing the new A5 Avant. Despite the increasing range of Q-badged SUVs, Audi’s compact executive car will remain an important part of its portfolio, even if this new model won’t come with an all-electric e-Tron variant. It will adopt an evolutionary design based on the outgoing model with a sharp, clean look. The A4 executive car that we know today will take on the A5 name for Limousine and Avant models, as Audi’s even number cars move to full-electric powertrains. An example of this is the upcoming A6 will become A7 with the upcoming A6 e-Tron set to provide the EV alternative. The front radiator grille will be narrower, joined by a set of aggressively shaped headlights. Side air intakes feature beneath and there’s a wide lower grille. The surfacing along the sides of the A5 is cleaner, without the razor-sharp creases of recent Audis. The production-ready rear lights look similar to the ones found on the current A3. I’ve also seen the sporty S5 Avant version testing. The overall styling is not too far removed from the standard model (likely to make room for the range-topping RS5 performance car). There’s a new honeycomb-shaped grille insert, larger wheels, a beefy brake setup and a quad-exit exhaust system. The hot RS5 version of this car could be one of the last petrol-powered performance estates as Audi looks to launch its final internal combustion models by 2026. Previous spy shots have also given us a peek at the A5’s interior. The latest version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit gets a larger unshrouded driver’s display behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel (a round wheel will probably feature in the standard models). Expect fewer physical controls. There will be a standalone central screen sitting on the dash and the centre console will get new toggle gear selectors. It’s almost certain the new A5 will only be available with an automatic gearbox. The biggest changes will happen under the skin, though. The next A5 will stay on the same MLB underpinnings as the current model, but it’ll be powered by a line-up of new combustion engines which Audi’s head of technical development, Oliver Hoffman, describes as “the best the company has ever launched”. Most of the line-up will be based around an updated version of the Volkswagen Group’s omnipresent EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine. Improvements will include new variable-section turbochargers that claim to improve throttle response and a higher-pressure fuel injection system. Electrification will play a key role in the A5 range, too. The petrol engine will be offered with 48 volt mild-hybrid technology at the lower end of the line-up and full-blown plug-in hybrid technology towards the upper end of the range. The latter option will probably use the same 14.4 kWh battery pack and electric motor as other MLB models, such as the Q5. Audi could also launch a pure-electric version of the A5 Avant later in the car’s life cycle, likely to be badged A4 e-tron, which would give the brand something of an edge over the competition. None of the current A4’s main rivals have been offered as pure-electric estates. The focus in this class is currently on saloons, as shown by the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3. However, if it does materialise, the pure-electric A4 e-Tron will probably move to a different platform, because the MLB underpinnings aren’t set up for EV powertrains. It’s probably use a modified version of the PPE chassis that will sit under the upcoming A6 e-Tron. +++
+++ HYUNDAI is planning next-generation versions of the i10 city car, i20 supermini and i30 family car, and is considering how it can offer entry-level EVs in the future. While some rivals are abandoning the market for city cars and traditional hatchbacks in favour of expanding their SUV line-ups, Hyundai is committed to the markets, said European chief Michael Cole. He said: “We’re strategising now about what comes beneath the Kona long-term. For now, the i10, i20, i30 are all still in our plan, even for the next generation. We’re looking at what we have. Exactly what we will have across those 3 lines, I can’t say today”. Cole added that the next challenge was to evaluate smaller EVs. He said: “I believe there’s a market below the Kona Electric and maybe even in more traditional bodystyles, such as hatchback. It’s in our thinking, rather than necessarily in our long-term plan now, but for the European market, we have to be thinking about that. We don’t want to lose any customers, I don’t want to walk away from any customer group. So we have to think about those i10, i20, i30 customers. What could the future with electrification look like for them? It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the Kona Electric or Ioniq 5. We have to think about what could come sub-Kona”. Cole suggested that could also help to make smaller EVs more affordable in the future, saying: “I do believe monthly payments and even moving towards subscription-type scenarios will help. I can see, and this is a personal view, not a corporate decision, a situation where we have a smaller EV that would just go onto subscription, and we keep the vehicle in a programme for 5 to 7 years”.
+++ LAMBORGHINI ’s first plug-in hybrid supercar, which will replace the Lamborghini Aventador, will have a new V12 engine supplemented by 3 electric motors (which weigh 18.5 kg each), producing a combined 1.000 hp, making it the most potent Lambo yet made. The supercar, codenamed LB744, ushers in a new electrification era for the Italian marque, whilst also allowing its signature V12 engine to “live on”, rather than being killed off by increasingly strict emissions regulations. This new, lighter 6.5-litre V12 is key to the PHEV’s performance, said Lamborghini, which has also paid significant attention to the way it sounds. It weighs in at 218 kg, 17 kg less than the Aventador’s V12, while still producing 820 hp at 9.250 rpm and 720 Nm at 6.750 rpm. This allows the 3 motors (2 driving the front axle, and 1 gearbox-mounted driving the rear) to be fitted with minimal impact of weight (a total figure is yet to be given) and therefore performance, with a combined output of 1.000 hp. The unit also emits 30% less CO2 emissions than the Aventador Ultimae’s 780 hp powerplant. Those motors also boost low-end torque, with 340 Nm immediately available. Although acceleration figures have yet to be confirmed, this will give the LB744 blistering off-line speed, likely with numbers close to the special-edition Lamborghini Veneno, which can hit 60mph from standing in just 2.9 seconds. Electric power is drawn from a 3.8 kWh lithium ion battery, mounted within the transmission tunnel to keep the car’s centre of gravity as low as possible. It can be charged either through an external 7 kW current, which takes 30 minutes, or by a combination of regenerative braking and the petrol engine, which Lamborghini claims takes as little as 6 minutes. The LB744 even has the ability to run solely on electric power, driving the front wheels when cruising, and all 4 wheels when the power is asked for (depending on drive mode). However, given the battery’s small size, EV range isn’t expected to be more than 8 km. As this battery takes up the room normally used by the gearbox, a new smaller one was developed. The LB744’s compact 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (which measures just 56 cm long and 75 cm wide and weighs 193 kg) is positioned behind the V12, also aiding weight distribution. The LB744 will be only the second Lamborghini road-going car to be fitted with a transversely mounted gearbox, after the iconic Miura of 1966. It uses a different setup to limited-run Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 and Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 hyper-hybrids, which had a supercapacitor in a mild-hybrid system, boosting power without the ability to run on electricity alone, bar in reverse gear; a trait the LB744 adopts. More details will be released on the Aventador’s replacement in the coming weeks, but it will be “completely new from the ground up”, chief technical officer Rouven Mohr previously told. Confirming this will be the case for the also-upcoming follow-up to the Huracán, he said: “There’s no carry-over from any car. From the model point of view, all relevant modules, meaning engine, gearbox, drivetrain or whatever, everything is new”. Mohr added: “You can be sure the car will not be a disappointment regarding the emotions. We will fulfil the regulations, but we will [also] improve the emotions. I can guarantee that”. +++
+++ NISSAN ’s credit rating was slashed to junk by S&P Global Ratings, the latest setback for a carmaker that’s struggled to boost profitability in the years following former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest and the industry’s pivot toward electrification. The Japanese automaker’s credit rating was cut by a notch to BB+ by S&P, which said a strong recovery in profit and sales was “unlikely” and cited persistent supply chain turmoil and high costs in the industry. Nissan recovered from 2 years of losses and is still targeting an operating profit of ¥360 billion ($2.7 billion) for the fiscal year ending this month. A weaker yen in late 2022 also helped boost income brought home, which made up for production snags, but that advantage is fading as the currency strengthens. “Performance at the company has been sluggish for more than 3 years”, S&P said in a statement. “We now expect its earnings will remain weaker than we previously assumed given the prospect of another difficult year in 2023”. Nissan’s profitability will continue to lag behind its competitors for the next 1 to 2 years, S&P added. The agency said it expects supply chain issues to persist, delaying any recovery in sales across the US and Europe, and pressure companies to lower prices. A junk rating means Nissan will have to pay higher costs to sell foreign currency bonds abroad. While the Yokohama-based company sold a yen-denominated sustainability bond in January, it last sold dollar and euro bonds in 2020. The price of its dollar-denominated note maturing in 2027 dropped 0.2 cents to 91.1 cents on the dollar on Tuesday. It has fallen about ¥3 since the beginning of February. The outlook for the Japanese carmaker is stable, S&P said, citing that profitability is gradually improving and that the company is being conservative in its financial planning. The agency projected Nissan will sell 3.6 million to 3.7 million cars in the fiscal year ending March 2024, falling short of the 5.4 million units targeted by the company’s in its long-term business strategy. S&P also said it will consider raising its rating if, over the next 12 to 18 months, Nissan can significantly improve sales and increase cash flow. But its rating could be lowered, the agency said, if free operating cash flow becomes negative long-term, or the company’s financial base is impacted by large strategic investments, or its market position falls further in North America or China. +++
+++ The electric resurrection of the International Harvester SCOUT will be built in South Carolina, the US, in volumes that could hit as high as 200.000 per year. Production at Scout Motors’ first manufacturing plant is projected to start at the end of 2026. Its Rivian-rivalling electric 4×4, arriving with SUV and pick-up variants, will “hark back” to the IH Scout vehicles produced from 1960 to 1980. The news follows a $2 billion investment for the Volkswagen Group-owned brand, with 4.000 jobs set to be created at the factory. The 1.10 -acre Columbia site will also, if the production green light is given, be home to VW Group sibling Audi’s upcoming go-anywhere electric 4×4 SUV, which will compete with Land Rover as an electric alternative to the Defender. Scout president Scott Keogh said: “Scout has been an American icon since introducing an SUV in 1960. It’s the vehicle that took your family on a camping trip, that gave access to the great outdoors and that showed up on the job site every morning. Today we’re reimagining Scout’s original ingenuity and electrifying its future. We’re bringing the Scout spirit to South Carolina, and it’s going to be a hell of a ride”. The brand’s 4×4 will sit on a newly designed EV platform, it has confirmed, backing a previous statement from VW that denied it would be based on the MEB platform used by other Volkswagen Group EVs, including the ID.4 and ID.5. It will use batteries and electronics from Canadian components giant Magna. As reported, the VW Group board is said to also be leaning towards giving Magna (which coincidentally builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in Austria) the contract to build the Scout models. Although no full pictures of the new Scout vehicles have yet been shown, the firm said the cars will possess a “strong stance and upright posture reminiscent of classic Scout models”. Teased on its website, blacked-out images show the models will ride on large off-road tyres and possess substantial ground clearance. A high-set bonnet with distinctive contouring, square-shaped exterior mirrors, an upright glasshouse and roof rails (elements that typically distinguished the original line of Scout models) are also evident on the new SUV. VW’s plans to resurrect the Scout brand were made official in May 2022, with its boss Keogh being a former CEO of Volkswagen USA. Rumours have linked Scout with a possible technical tie-up with Ford. VW’s Commercial Vehicles division already co-operates with the company on the Amarok pick-up truck, which was designed, developed alongside the latest Ford Ranger. However, VW has so far denied any involvement between Scout and Ford. +++
+++ TESLA bosses have given early details of how new production processes and technical innovations will help it massively boost the efficiency of both its factories and its vehicles. In a wide-reaching strategy presentation termed Masterplan 3, available to watch below, CEO Elon Musk and other Tesla managers gave updates on a wide array of developments for the EV firm, ranging from advances in electric motor technology to new car construction processes that speed up production. Taking to the stage at the Texas Gigafactory before Tesla stakeholders, fans and car owners, Musk was expected primarily to outline a long-mooted new EV architecture that’s tipped to underpin an ‘affordable’ entry-level car sitting beneath the big-selling Tesla Model 3. Musk instead outlined his vision for a cleaner global economy in the post-ICE age, saying: “There is a clear path to a fully sustainable Earth, with abundance”, adding that this can be achieved without “austerity” and predicting that “an electrified economy will require less mining than the current economy”. The all-out switch to electric road vehicles will cut fossil fuel usage by 21%, Tesla said. Furthermore, according to Musk: “All cars will go fully electric and autonomous. Driving a non-autonomous gasoline car is going to be an allegory for riding a horse and using a flip phone”. Musk spoke of the need for a massive ramp-up in battery production and storage capacity; the latter of which he estimates Tesla will ultimately need 240TWh. “This is a lot of batteries but a very achievable amount”, he said, explaining that the tally included batteries both in and out of electric cars, at a ratio of around 1:8. His battery ambitions are in line with a conviction that “as we improve the energy density of batteries, you will see all transportation go fully electric”. He was condemnatory about the potential for other fuel types to transform the mobility industry, saying: “Hydrogen will not be meaningfully used in transport”. It had also been expected that the presentation would shed light on the long-delayed Cybertruck and Roadster EVs and future production facilities, but this time Tesla was less focused on showcasing future products than in recent years. The Cybertruck, Roadster, Robotaxi and Semi are still yet to reach volume production (or any production) several years after they were announced. Investors didn’t take kindly to the dearth of product announcements, with Tesla’s value dipping 5% overnight following the presentation. Global reports had also suggested that Musk could give new details of Tesla’s long-mooted ‘affordable’ EV, which would be smaller and cheaper than the hugely popular Model 3 and provide the American company with a rival to the Volkswagen ID.3. Sketches of that car had been circulating on social media, with speculation that it could have a price tag of around €27.000 in the Netherlands and a range of around 400 km. Tesla engineering boss Lars Moravy said the Model 3 “landed us in production hell” with various delays and obstacles throughout the construction process hampering the crucial saloon’s roll-out. But now new methods of vehicle production (first explored during development of the angular, unpainted Cybertruck) are touted as allowing a 40% reduction in factory footprint, cost savings of up to 50% and a drastic reduction in risk of delays at each stage of the production line. Fundamentally, Tesla will look to minimise the amount of work needed at each stage of the process. For example, the seats will be mounted directly to the underfloor battery pack, with the entire unit then raised up into a bodyshell that has been painted in sections to avoid the need for door removal and reinstallation. The new process is essentially centred on “only doing things that are necessary”, which is to say avoiding any unnecessary movement or disassembly of the car or its components during its journey down the production line. All in, Tesla estimates that its new platform will reduce construction cost per vehicle by around $1.000. Moravy explained that today’s established mass-production processes are based on those pioneered by Henry Ford. “It’s hard to change the car production process after 100 years”, he explained. Details of the next Tesla car have been kept largely under wraps, with engineering boss Lars Moravy going so far only as to confirm that “it would not be a Model Y” that benefits from the outlined production advances, as was depicted in an illustration that showed the innovations. Tesla design boss Franz von Holzhausen said details of the firm’s next car would come “at a later date”. It’s likely to be the first Tesla produced at a new factory in Monterrey, Mexico. Tesla estimated that its new platform will reduce construction cost per vehicle by around $1.000, which should translate into a tangibly lower price point for the consumer. Notably, Tesla will face fierce global competition from the likes of Volkswagen, Renault, MG and various other Chinese manufacturers that have confirmed plans to launch EVs priced more in line with today’s more affordable ICE cars. At a vehicle level, upgrades to battery and motor technology have resulted in a 75% reduction in silicon carbide, and mean the firm’s next platform will be able to accept batteries of any chemistry. Powertrain boss Colin Campbell added that the next-generation Tesla EV motor will not use any rare earth metals in its construction. What else did I learn at Tesla’s Investor Day? The long-delayed Cybertruck pick-up will enter production later this year, having been shown in production form at Investor Day more than 3 years after its headline-baiting reveal. It was originally due to be launched in 2021, and Tesla claimed to have received 200.000 orders as early as November 2019. Conspicuously absent from a Tesla product plan was the long-promised successor to the firm’s debut model, the Roadster. A concept was shown in 2017 and Musk much later confirmed plans for a launch in 2023. But there were only 2 products under sheets in the new Tesla preview: one clearly the affordable ‘Model 2′ and the other a more upright and much larger shuttle-style vehicle, likely the Robotaxi. Upgrades to motor technology have resulted in a 75% reduction in silicon carbide. Powertrain boss Colin Campbell added that Tesla’s next-generation motor won’t use any rare earth metals at all. +++
+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , new car registrations increased by 26.2% in February, representing a 7th consecutive month of growth, according to new figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Total registrations for the month hit 74.441, which is a significant improvement over last year, if down 6.5% on pre-pandemic 2020. The SMMT said the easing of supply chain and semiconductor shortages contributed to the year-on-year growth, with sales growing by 5.8% for private buyers and 46.2% for large fleets. Plug-in vehicles formed nearly a quarter of all deliveries (22.8%) and the SMMT is expecting additional growth throughout the year. It expects almost half a million (488.000) plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles to be sold by the end of the year. With this expectation, the SMMT has called on the UK government to strongly consider the country’s progress to net-zero in the upcoming spring budget. It suggested a long-term plan should be implemented to support the increasing number of plug-in vehicles in the UK with better investment into public chargers. The SMMT also said the government should consider aligning VAT on public charging with domestic energy use and review VED that it says will “unfairly penalise EV buyers” making the switch. “After 7 months of growth, it is no surprise that the UK automotive sector is facing the future with growing confidence. It is vital, however, that government takes every opportunity to back the market, which plays a significant role in Britain’s economy and net zero ambition”, said Mike Hawes, SMMT boss. “As we move into ‘new plate month’ in March, with more of the latest high-tech cars available, the upcoming Budget must deliver measures that drive this transition, increasing affordability and ease of charging for all”. Meanwhile, hybrid vehicle registrations rose by 40%, the highest growing powertrain type this month, to claim a 12.9% market share. Petrol vehicles remained popular, growing 35.8% and taking 56.9% of the market, but diesel vehicle purchases continued to wane, dropping 14.6% to a market share of just 4.5%. The best-growing segment in February was minis, which increased by 66.1%, followed by multipurpose vehicles (41.9%) and superminis (37.7%). The latter is still the best-selling segment, making up 33.1% of all deliveries in the UK. Vauxhall claimed the top 2 spots in February’s bestsellers list, with the Corsa and Mokka finishing in first and second respectively. The Corsa and the Volkswagen T-Roc remain the 2 bestselling models since the year began. Next come the Nissan Qashqai, the MG HS, the Ford Puma, the Hyundai Tucson, the Kia Niro, the Kia Sportage, the Vauxhall Mokka and the Ford Fiesta. +++