Newsflash: nieuwe Range Rover Velar wordt volledig elektrisch


+++ The next-generation AUDI A8 is around the corner, and a recent report suggests that the big sedan is in for a round of revolutionary changes. Allegedly offered only with electric power, the flagship will get a more streamlined design and a lot more horsepower than its predecessor. Without citing sources, the fifth-generation will be called A9 e-Tron and will ride on a version of the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture currently being developed jointly by Audi and sister company Porsche. This is the same architecture that will underpin the Q6 e-Tron and the second-generation Macan, though it will be stretched to serve as the foundation for a 5,1 meter-plus long sedan. The PPE platform’s 800 volt architecture will make the A9 e-Tron compatible with 270 kW charging and that the sedan could be the most powerful regular-production model that Audi has ever launched. For context, the GrandSphere concept presented in 2021 as a thinly-veiled preview of the A9 e-Tron used a pair of electric motors (one per axle) whose combined output checked in at 710 hp and 950 Nm. Electricity will reportedly be stored in a 120 kWh lithium-ion battery. Speaking of the GrandSphere, many of its defining styling cues will be carried over to the A9 e-Tron, meaning the sedan will ditch the 3-box silhouette that has characterized it since the original model made its debut in 1994. “The GrandSphere is a very concrete teaser. It’s not far away from what will become production. It’s not 1:1, but it’s very close”, Marc Lichte, the head of Audi’s design department, said. Big changes will be found inside as well. The A9 e-Tron will benefit from the latest advancements in semi-autonomous driving technology, and its cabin will be configured accordingly. Digitalization will play a big role in shaping the interior. Audi claims it designed the GrandSphere from the inside out, meaning with a focus on passenger comfort, and it’s reasonable to assume this thinking will permeate the upcoming A9 e-Tron. +++

+++ Chinese BATTERY giant CATL has launched a radical new type of cell with an energy density of 500 Wh per 1 kg, which could enable electric cars to use far lighter batteries and offer longer ranges. It represents a significant advance in battery technology: the Panasonic 2170 cells used in the Tesla Model 3 are widely reported to have a density of around 260 Wh per 1 kg, almost half that of the new ‘condensed’ units. CATL’s Qilin battery, which recently entered mass production, has a maximum density of 255 Wh per 1 kg. An “automotive-grade” version of the new condensed cells will enter mass production by the end of this year, according to the Chinese manufacturer. Initially, the focus is on trialling the new technology in an aviation context. CATL says the new packs could enable the first electric airliner. “Meeting customers’ requirements is the core driving force that drives technological innovation for CATL”, said chief scientist Wu Kai. The new technology could yield 100 kWh battery packs weighing just 200 kg, a significant reduction compared with current cells. For comparison, the 83.7 kWh lithium ion battery pack fitted to the Audi e-Tron GT weighs 630 kg. Smaller, lighter battery packs open up a world of opportunities for electric car makers, creating the potential for tightly packaged urban EVs with longer ranges and lightweight sports cars, for example, and across all segments could make for a reduction in ride height and a boost in interior space. CATL was the world’s leading supplier for electric car batteries in 2022, according to South Korean research firm SNE research. The Chinese manufacturer sold 165.7 GWh of batteries between January and November last year, tripling the output of BYD. It has several partnerships with EV manufacturers, including BMW (which it will supply cylindrical cells to from 2025) and Ford (which will licence CATL’s lithium-iron-phosphate technology to build cells in Michigan, US). As such, the new condensed cells could be destined for any number of models. The initial run, however, is most likely to be used in low-volume luxury cars, with prices expected to be high as production begins to scales up. +++


+++ A 2-seat all-electric CUPRA halo sports car has been previewed by a radical digital-only concept. Shown off in hologram form as part of the brand’s Tavascan launch (its second electric car) the DarkRebel previews a Toyota Supra-like sports car that features a slick, low-to-the-road design which Cupra describes as “the athletic proportion of a sports car combined with a shooting brake architecture”. When it arrives it will top a four-car electric lineup that will include the Born, Tavascan, and production version of the UrbanRebel concept. Easily the most radically designed Cupra yet, key design elements include front and rear lights that are incoporated into the bodywork, large side vents, and roof-mounted wing. Like the Tavascan, it also features an illuminated Cupra badge. The cabin features a 2-seat layout with bucket seats and a ‘gamifying’ steering wheel. As with previous Cupra’s, like the Tavascan and Born, the production DarkRebel will be as close to the concept “as posible”, design director Jorge Diez told. He added: “It’s a dream and embodies the DNA of Cupra. We have pushed boundaries and created something unique”. Few details were revealed about the car, such as what powertrain, battery or electric range it features, or when exactly we might see it in production form. It’s expected though, given the model’s proportions and the sporting character of the previously revealed Cupra Urban Rebel, that it will feature a high-performance powertrain and be Cupra’s most powerful model yet. The Spanish brand hasn’t offered any details about what underpins the DarkRebel, but sibling VW Group brands Audi and Porsche are about to launch performance-focused models atop the new PPE platform, which could form the base of the sporty Cupra. “It is mysterious and stands out from the crowd”, boss Wayne Griffiths told reporters in Berlin. “After 5 years of building the brand Cupra in today’s world, it is time to think about the next step. Our next dream. The Cupra DarkRebel is the ultimate interpretation of our vision”. +++


+++ More than half of all new car registrations in EUROPE were battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the first quarter of 2023, according to figures from industry analyst Jato Dynamics. The volume of all-electric models increased by 43% to over 219.000 units, which Jato says was down to an increase in model choice, appealing incentive packages and lower prices. EV market share also reached its highest-ever level, taking up 13.4% of the European car market in the first quarter of the year. The rise in EV uptake rounded off a healthy first quarter for Europe, with overall new car registrations increasing by 17% to 3.220.806 units. Some 1.414.815 of that figure came in March, up 26% year-on-year. “The increase in registrations is largely explained by accumulated orders from months previous that could not be delivered due to the lack of components at the time”, said Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics. “We’ll be watching closely to see how this growth is impacted by further inflationary pressure in the coming months”. The Tesla Model Y was Europe’s bestselling model in the first quarter of 2023, with 71.683 units registered, also topping the sales chart for March. The smaller Tesla Model 3 was not as successful as its crossover counterpart, with sales down by 42% year-on-year in March, and down by 40% compared to the first quarter of 2022. “Increase in production alongside fewer supply chain issues enabled Tesla to finally deliver vehicles to its customers at pace. The Model Y will likely be among the 5 bestselling products in Europe at the end of this year”, Munoz said. The full top-10 bestsellers list for Europe in the first quarter of 2023 are: 1. Tesla Model Y (71.683, +173% year-on-year), 2. Dacia Sandero (60.202 sales, +27%), 3. Volkswagen T-Roc (54.960 sales, +50%), 4. Peugeot 208 (53.336 sales, +3%), 5. Opel/Vauxhall Corsa (53.307 sales, +38%), 6. Toyota Yaris Cross (53.050 sales, +57%), 7. Abarth/Fiat 500 (45.598 sales, +30%), 8. Dacia Duster (45.310 sales, +31%). 9. Renault Clio (44.134 sales, +16%), 10. Volkswagen Golf, (42.903 sales, -8%). +++


+++ The high-performance electric HYUNDAI Ioniq 5 N will make its debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. The much anticipated sports EV from the makers of class-leading hot hatches such as the i20N and i30N has previously been spied testing on public roads near the Nürburgring, where the European arm of the N division is based. Its debut in front of a British audience is said to reflect the market’s potential for sales of high-performance cars, with Hyundai UK managing director Ashley Andrew highlighting its importance to the brand’s credibility. “Having N cars is a key point of difference for Hyundai: they hammer home the point that we are a car company, not just a company that makes cars”, he said. “We have so much talent around the globe, and these are the cars where it all coalesces. “The essence of successful car manufacturing is when all the talented people come together to have fun, and what I love about Ioniq 5 N is that they are using all that know-how, and all that technology to create a car with the sort of character that we will all recognise from great performance cars of the past. These are the vehicles that differentiate car companies, and being able to show it off for the first time at Goodwood will be incredibly special”. Although disguised, Ioniq 5 N spy pictures have shown the car with a more aggressive front end with a new lower grille opening, flanked by 2 air dams. Wider wheel arches also feature, housing new 5-spoke alloys and larger brakes. A new spoiler is present at the rear end with a dual-segment design that dips in the centre. It’s anticipated the Ioniq 5 N will feature a ‘drift mode’ similar to that on the 585 hp Kia EV6 GT, with which the Ioniq 5 shares its platform, and Genesis GV60. Hyundai has already launched N-badged versions of the i20, i30, i30 Fastback, Kona and the US-market Veloster. It has also shown the hydrogen-powered 680 hp N Vision 74 concept car, while there is already an electric racing version of the Veloster N for the Pure ETCR series. +++

+++ The next-generation Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Velar and Discovery Sport models will be exclusively offered as electric cars. JLR (as Jaguar Land Rover is now known) has confirmed its Halewood, Merseyside plant will switch to making exclusively electric models from 2025 and will build each of those 3 cars. The cars will be built on a new architecture called EMA (Electric Modular Architecture). This had previously been planned to be hybrid as well as electric but will now be electric-only. New JLR CEO Adrian Mardell said this was in response to the way the market had shifted so dramatically towards electric that it made sense for the brand’s future mid-size SUV models to do the same. Mardell confirmed that “3 vehicles, maybe 4” would be built on EMA, which includes the next Evoque and Discovery Sport. The first model to come from Halewood will be “from the Range Rover family”, according to a JLR statement, and understands that model is set not to be the Evoque but the Velar, which will switch to EMA and the Halewood plant for its second generation. The identity of the 4th model is not yet known, but it opens up the tantalising possibility of a smaller electric Defender, as well as an additional model in the Discovery range. The new models would use batteries sourced in the longer term from a new European Tata gigafactory, but until then they would be from an external supply contract JLR has already secured. reported last year that JLR had taken the first steps to convert Halewood to build electric vehicles, securing the factory’s future as the company begins rolling out low- and zero-emission vehicles. As of September, the company had begun the tendering process to upgrade the factory to build cars on the new ‘native BEV’ Electrified Modular Architecture (EMA), a source close to the process told. JLR has previously confirmed the platform for the Halewood plant, one of its three vehicle assembly facilities in the UK. However, the latest development will come as good news for the facility’s 3700 employees in a period of high uncertainty. The extended shutdown period to convert the plant will happen in 2024, the source told. JLR has said cars on its EMA platform will arrive in the same year. Halewood’s confirmed role in building electric cars will ensure its future is secure well into the medium term. The factory was opened in 1963 by Ford, which retains part of the site for building gearboxes and will invest £380 million repurposing it as an electric drivetrain factory by 2024. Last summer, JLR also submitted planning requests to extend Halewood’s body shop “to increase its production capacity for new model lines”, according to documents lodged with the local Knowsley council. The new 2-storey building would expand the additional body shop, where the car’s metal bodies are joined together, by around 32.000 m2. JLR is putting the new EMA platform through its engineering approval process, Mardell told investors during a conference call in July 2022, when he was JLR’s chief financial officer. By 2030, Jaguar Land Rover is aiming for 60% of its global sales to be fully electric, with 10% plug-in hybrid and 30% to be mild or standard hybrid. It is aiming for all global sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2036, it has said. +++

+++ TESLA increased prices of its Model S and X vehicles in the US after steep markdowns early this year took a toll on profitability and the carmaker’s shares. Tesla bumped up each variant of its high-end models by $2.500, raising the cost of the liftback and cross-over by 2% to 3%, according to the company’s website. The Model S and X now start at $87.490 and $97.490, respectively. The increases still leave the vehicles cheaper than they were at the end of the first quarter, when price cuts across Tesla’s lineup squeezed profit margins. The adjustments come two days after Tesla lowered prices of its much higher-volume Model Y and Model 3 for the second time this month. Tesla shares slid 9.7% on Thursday, their biggest drop since January 3, after chief executive officer Elon Musk suggested the company will keep cutting prices to stoke demand. The stock traded up 1.8% before the start of regular trading Friday. “We’ve taken a view that pushing for higher volumes and a larger fleet is the right choice here versus a lower volume and higher margin”, Musk told analysts late Wednesday. Tesla moving around prices of its higher-end vehicles is much less meaningful to its bottom line than adjusting what it charges for the Model 3 or Y. The company sold just 10.695 Model S and X vehicles in the first quarter, about 2.5% of total deliveries. While Musk has said the 2 vehicles are “of minor importance” to Tesla’s future, the company recently started exporting them again from its California car plant. Tesla’s automotive gross margin excluding sales of regulatory credits dipped to 19% for the quarter, below the 20% threshold that chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn said 3 months ago the company expected to stay above this year. Its operating margin shrank to 11.4%; a roughly 2-year low. The company remains ahead of other automakers in return on sales: In 2022, General Motors reported an operating margin of 6.6%, while Ford’s was 4%. Hours before the price hikes were posted, Ford CEO Jim Farley said Tesla could start a price war and turn certain electric vehicles into commodities. Tesla’s moves to bolster growth are “completely rational and should surprise no one”, Farley said at a charity event in Detroit. “Price wars are breaking out everywhere. Who’s going to blink for growth?” Tesla’s unique position among EV makers has drawn comparisons to the early days of Ford. Its early 1900s innovation (the moving assembly line) put other carmakers out of business by lowering costs to levels other companies couldn’t match. Musk said Wednesday that Tesla isn’t looking to put competitors out of business, but to make its cars more accessible amid rising interest rates and stubborn inflation. +++

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