Blog Archives

Germany overtakes Norway

Germany overtakes Norway as Europe’s top market for electric vehicles (EVs).

Sales of EVs increased by 70 per cent in Germany to 17,574 cars in the first quarter, nudging ahead of Norway for the first time, according to data from European industry association ACEA. The figure includes full-electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

VW, Daimler and BMW are retooling their assembly lines in response to stricter European regulations on combustion engines and the fallout from the 2015 VW emissions-cheating scandal.

While consumers have turned away from diesel — especially in Germany — automakers are depending on customers to embrace electrified powertrains if they are to recover the massive investments they are making.

Across Europe, sales of EVs advanced 41 per cent, with full-electric cars up 35 per cent and plug-in hybrids up 47 per cent, while diesel in the EU dropped 17 per cent.

Once rare in Germany, Teslas have become increasingly common on the streets of cities such as Munich, alongside other fully-electric models like BMW’s i3 and the Nissan Leaf, according to Automotive News.

While the Germans have an advantage in Europe, their next challenge as the market for EVs expands will be to prove to consumers in the U.S. and China that their products are superior. Elon Musk’s recent troubles with Model 3 production issues and quality reviews, may have opened a door.

“Tesla’s golden age is nearing its end and it will become a product among many,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler to Automotive News. “As the consumer pool for electric cars grows, tolerance over quality issues may be lower too as it’s less about the early adopters who went for Teslas based on novelty.”

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China to lower tariffs

Chinese President Xi Jinping has confirmed that China will lower its vehicle import tariffs to allow for fair trading. People close to the matter revealed to Bloomberg News that the Chinese State Council is considering just how low to drop those taxes.

Currently, car manufacturers must pay a hefty 25 per cent in tariffs in order to import its vehicles into China. Conversely, the same action is taxed at only 2.5 percent in the United States.

US President Donald Trump fired off heavy criticism on this tariff during trade negotiation tensions between the two countries prior to China concluding that it would reduce the rate, though just how low is still undecided. 

Bloomberg reports that its anonymous sources state that current talks revolve around a tariff between 10 and 15 per cent, a reduction of nearly 60 per cent. A final decision is expected by early next month.

China has reportedly also stated that this plan has been in the works for some time and rejects efforts to give credit to President Trump.

This is the second step China has made in opening up its car market. Last week, country officials confirmed that China will remove foreign ownership caps on local auto companies by 2022. Currently, any foreign car manufacturer that decides to build vehicles in mainland China is required to partner with a Chinese-owned company. 

Car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors have already established partners with several companies in order to market their electric vehicles in one of the world’s largest growing EV markets. 

Due to the tariffs imposed on imported vehicles, the Chinese automotive market is expensive to compete in. This upfront cost has led to a large domestic centralization for most automotive buying in the country. Of the 28.9 million vehicle sales in 2017, only 1.22 million, or 4.2 percent, were imported.

In the United States, nearly 49 per cent of the 17.1 million vehicles sold in the United States were imported from foreign countries. Reducing the cost to manufacturers may, in turn, reduce the cost of imported vehicles for consumers, leading to a larger number of foreign cars in China.

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Electrifying NZ’s heavy vehicles

The opening of Waste Management’s truck conversion workshop in Auckland

As better battery technology is lowering the cost and boosting the range of passenger electric vehicles (EVs), those advances are making electrification of heavy vehicles more appealing.

“Changing from diesel buses and trucks to electric tackles the air quality issues of central cities, as well as reducing carbon emissions,” says Liz Yeaman, EECA’s Transport Development Manager. “It’s good news for the millions who live and work in big cities.”

There have already been three project launches part-funded by the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by EECA. Two projects, one with Auckland University of Technology and one with Auckland Transport, put electric buses on the road in Auckland; the third, by Waste Management Ltd, is a workshop to convert diesel trucks to electric.

The workshop plans to convert 20 of our national truck fleet in the next two years. The first conversion is almost completed and the truck will be used to collect waste from Auckland Hospital. In addition, the workshop is also open to other companies looking to transform their vehicles into EVs.

“Our investment in the EV workshop will create a knowledge centre for EV conversion in New Zealand and will help us move towards our long-term goal of a fleet of fully electric vehicles,” said Tom Nickels, Waste Management Managing Director.

“Our conversion partner EMOSS in the Netherlands has provided the kitsets and knowledge for our team to start completing conversions here in Auckland. We are also looking forward to helping other New Zealand businesses convert their fleets for a more sustainable future.”

Medium-sized electric trucks are expected in the market later this year. Fuzo NZ said last September it plans to begin testing their box body eCanter on New Zealand roads in the third-quarter.

“Others will follow,” says Yeaman. “Nearly 80 per cent of all freight movements are within regions so there’s heaps of scope to go electric.”

As heavy electric vehicles are exempt from road user charges until they make up 2 per cent of the heavy vehicle fleet, owners of trucks and buses should have a hard look at electric options for their next vehicle purchase, she says.

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Denmark reconsiders incentives

Denmark may announce new financial incentives to buy electric vehicles (EVs) after seeing a sharp drop in sales, according to Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

“We have tax incentives for electric cars, and you could discuss if they should be bigger. I will not exclude that,” Rasmussen said in an interview in Copenhagen to Automotive News. Any new incentives would be announced along with a government plan to boost clean-energy consumption after the summer, he said.

Rasmussen’s government phased out subsidies such as those offered in Norway and Germany, which saw Danish sales of EVs fall dramatically, from nearly 5,000 in 2015 to around 700 in 2017.

With diesel having fallen out of favour across Europe in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, Denmark is now debating which vehicle types to promote and which to discourage.

The government has come under fire for its indiscriminate cuts to registration taxes, which have eroded incentives to buy green vehicles rather than those powered by fossil fuels. Denmark has no car industry of its own and has one of the highest import duties in the world.

Adding to pressure on the government, the opposition Social Democrats grabbed the limelight last week by announcing plans to ban the sale of diesel vehicles by 2030, if they win elections due to be held by June 2019.



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Australia ups EV game

The Australian government recently announced that it plans to see 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030, and wants half of its annual vehicles sold to be electric in the future.

The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) also wants to reduce the cost of EVs by about $7,000 per car for consumers.

“By providing discounted finance through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, it is hoped we can encourage a greater uptake of electric vehicles and reduce emissions,” said Josh Frydenberg, the country’s Minister of Environment and Energy.

The EVC also noted that if the country achieves the desired amount of EV sales by 2030, carbon emissions will decrease by 18 million tons.

Ten auto brands, along with a new Australian startup, will introduce new electric cars in Australia by 2020.The first Australian-made EV will be manufactured in Queensland. ACE Electric Vehicles, which began as an energy management company, is creating a vehicle with a 40-kilowatt battery and an impressive range of 350 kilometres.

“We are proud to be launching our first range of Australian electric vehicles,” ACE Electric Vehicles managing director Greg McGarvie told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This is now a realistic proposition since our agreements on a new patented manufacturing process for electric vehicles.”

The first two models are a truck called the Yewt – a play on the Antipodean term ute, for a utility vehicle – and a cargo van. Both will be priced at less than AUS$40,000 and are designed for cities, with an expected range of 350 km from a 40 kWh battery.

Two more vehicles are in the works for anticipated releases in 2019.

The Hyundai Kona Electric, the lux Audi e-tron, the Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV, the Volvo XC40, the sleek Porsche Mission E, and the 2018 Nissan Leaf are just a few of the impressive models that will enter the market.

Australia is joining other countries who have successfully incorporated EVs into their car market. The US plans to have several million EVs on the road in the next five years. In India, ride-sharing app Ola will have 1 million EVs on the road in the by 2021. Norway also plans for 100 per cent of its new vehicles sold to be electric by 2025.


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First domestic V2G charger

UK firm, OVO Energy, has unveiled what the company is calling the world’s first widely available, domestic electric vehicle-to-grid charger.

With a 6kW charge and discharge power rating, this intelligent device has been designed to give drivers the option to discharge excess electricity from their cars back to the electricity grid, providing flexibility services and helping to supply energy at times of peak demand.

OVO CEO and Founder Stephen Fitzpatrick, said, “Today we’re launching the world’s first widely available vehicle-to-grid charger, helping to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the energy sector. We’re enabling thousands of EV batteries to help balance the grid in times of peak demand, more renewable energy to come onto the system, and households to reduce their electricity bills.”

Fitzpatrick added this new approach to energy was made possible by the “convergence of emerging technologies, applying intelligence, and years of working with customers to redesign the entire energy system.”

The 6kW OVO Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Charger offers drivers of certain electric vehicles the opportunity to discharge excess electricity from their cars back to the electric grid to help supply energy at times of peak demand. 

Using VCharge, this charger will also optimise vehicle charging to take advantage of cheaper electricity when it’s available. The OVO Vehicle-to-Grid Charger will be rolled out from summer 2018 for up to 1,000 Nissan electric vehicle owners as part of a two-year trial.

VCharge is a highly scalable system that remotely connects distributed flexible electrical devices and aggregates them into a virtual power plant.

This connected system reacts as a whole to changes in demand and supply, recognising strain and reacting within a second.

By intelligently managing both generation and demand in this way, the company states that VCharge could facilitate more renewable energy generation and supply without the need for costly infrastructure investment.  

Vector also introduced a two-way electric vehicle (EV) charger in New Zealand in July 2017.  

“With V2G technology, many homes could be powered by their EVs at peak time. Similarly, EVs will be releasing energy back to the grid to support grid demand while taking advantage of a higher peak energy buyback rate,” said Andre Botha, Chief Networks Officer.

According to Botha, Vector will be offering V2G to customers in the near future.


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China to remove ownership caps

China will remove foreign ownership caps on local auto companies by 2022 and restrictions on new-energy vehicle ventures this year, which will open the market wider to carmakers.

The Chinese authorities said in a statement that in the next five years they would remove the rules that have required carmakers like General Motors (GM), Toyota and Volkswagen to link up with a local partner before building a factory in China. This not only applies to manufacturers of electric cars, but for companies that make jetliners, helicopters and drones.

Beijing plans to move even faster, eliminating foreign ownership limits this year.

Tesla would be the immediate big winner from the changes. The electric carmaker has already identified a site in Shanghai for a factory but has not wanted a partner for fear of losing control of its technology.

Tesla chief Elon Musk said last month China’s tough auto rules for foreign companies created an uneven playing field as scores of local and international companies compete for a slice of China’s fast-growing market for EVs.

However, some carmakers are hinting that they will remain with their local partners, and may even see more risks than opportunities in ditching the joint venture structure.

An unnamed senior General Motors executive said to the New York Times last week that even without ownership caps the U.S. carmaker would not cut ties with local partner SAIC Motor Corp., adding GM would not be as successful in China on its own.

On Tuesday GM indicated further that it was not eager to buy out its partners. “G.M.’s growth in China is a result of working with our trusted joint venture partners,” the statement said. “We will continue to work with our partners to provide high-quality products and services to consumers.”

Honda Motor Co. said its China business had grown on the back of strong local tie-ups. “At the moment we have no plans to change our capital relationship,” a Honda spokesman said to Automotive News.

Volkswagen, however, had deliberately created a temporary joint venture with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, which would allow them to “explore whether new opportunities were possible.”

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Ford’s self-driving cars to launch ‘at scale’

Miami Mayor Carlos A. Giménez announces collaboration with Ford Motor Company to test its self-driving vehicle business model on the streets of Miami and Miami Beach.

Ford seems determined to meet its 2021 deadline to launch a service in the United States using its self-driving cars. This won’t be a small test operation in a single city, it wants to launch and operate its own service “at scale,” with all the necessary components in place to ensure it’s both efficient and profitable.

Ford’s Jim Farley recently told the Financial Times in an interview that the automaker’s self-driving car network will be running “at scale” in 2021.

Farley also emphasised that this would be a truly Ford-run service. While Ford does have self-driving car partnerships with companies like Lyft, it intends to “own the fleet” for its own services. That’s somewhat similar to Renault-Nissan, but a sharp contrast with Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and others focused on selling vehicles to outside services.

The company’s own efforts are focused more on delivery than on passengers. However, it’s not entirely surprising that the company would push for a large, in-house driverless network.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said that his company is developing its very first “autonomous vehicle operations terminal” to maintain and securely house its vehicles.

The site, located a short distance from downtown Miami, is set to include facilities to wash the vehicles, including their all-important sensors, with routine maintenance also carried out.

To help drive its autonomous-vehicle ambitions, Ford last year invested US$1 billion in artificial intelligence company, Argo A.I.

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EV selection set to take off

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

New electric vehicles (EVs) will hit the market at a rapid pace over the next two years, not-for-profit group Drive Electric says.

That is because the push towards electrifying the world’s vehicle fleet is gathering momentum, with many countries setting deadlines of between 2030 and 2040 to end the sale of new internal combustion engine cars.

Drive Electric board member Dean Sheed says original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been pouring money into electric and autonomous vehicles in order to keep up with the deadlines.

“There’s some big paradigm shifts happening in the world. Everyone is investing serious levels of money in EVs and autonomous drive.

Dean Sheed, Drive Electric board member

“Because different brands have their own unique development pathways, you will get critical mass in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Then the number of models on offer starts to get really significant.”

However, converting the fleet will take time, Sheed, who is also Audi New Zealand general manager, says.

“2.3 per cent of the 100,000 new cars in 2017 were hybrids or EVs.

“We are on the way, which is great, but we need a bigger share of EVs coming into the country as new and used. “Then you’ll see consumer behaviour change.”

On a global scale, Sheed says the move to petrol vehicles may actually go up in the short term as diesel falls out of favour in places like Europe, because of the current focus on harmful emissions, like NOx.

“Moving from diesel to petrol will probably see CO2 increase. It’s going to get a lot of people concerned about CO2 in the shorter term until the move to EVs. “At some point internal combustion engines will come down as EVs take over and become the demand focus.

“Many countries in the world have CO2 targets to meet with taxation effects. EVs are the solution to get there.” Unlike many other countries, New Zealand is in an enviable position to adopt EVs, with 85 per cent renewable energy.

“New Zealand is one of the four or five countries globally in terms of cleanest producing electricity. “The world has to get off electricity generated by coal.” In the next five to ten years, the increasing percentage of EVs will become available in both plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery electric (BEV) forms.

“Ultimately BEVs will take over and we will all be in fully electric vehicles, with increasing levels of autonomous drive.”

There could be more incentives put in place to get New Zealanders into EVs more quickly, Sheed says.

“If the Government wants to see more fleets adopt EVs, it needs to have some levers to pull to make them more attractive for businesses.” Ideas like lowering fringe benefit tax on EVs through Drive Electric’s Project Switch is one potential way to do that.

“The more adoption of EVs by big companies the better. After three years, fleet cars go back to the consumer as ex-lease vehicles.”

New Zealanders’ love of SUVs and utes is also a challenge that has to be met, Sheed says. While there are some electric SUVs on the way, the same can’t be said for utes.

“You need to have an electric offering in all vehicle segments.”

Getting the infrastructure in place is also important to sell the EV message, Sheed says. “Rapid chargers need to go sub 30 minutes and then sub 15 minutes for a full charge. We need massive chargers that can dump high volumes of current in quickly.

“It’s about having enough of them at the right capacity. Infrastructure needs to be built up at the same time as the fleet.”

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Carmakers are delaying efficient cars

Carmakers are delaying building more efficient models until 2019 in a bid to maximise profit margins before new EU rules on CO2 emissions kick in, according to a new report.

The report uses a wide range of sources to show that progress has stalled and many of the underlying trends are contrary to what is needed.

Only six of top 50 car models were upgraded in 2017, however 21 will be re-launched as more fuel-efficient, low-carbon models in 2019-2020, the Brussels-based sustainable transport group Transport & Environment said in its most recent report.

Battery electric models are expected to increase five-fold to 100 by 2021, increasing driving-range, choice, and competition. That means most European carmakers are set to meet EU’s 2021 CO2 reduction targets on time, the report adds.

However, the move comes after European car constructors have pushed the sales of bigger cars, the organisation stressed in its report.

“SUV sales have rocketed from 4 per cent in 2001 to 26 per cent in 2016 and the average SUV has emissions of 132 g/km compared to 118 g/km for a medium segment car. The increase in the average weight of new cars by 124kg from 2000 to 2016 led to a rise in average emissions of around 10g/km.”

“Another common misunderstanding is that a fast fleet turnover is essential to lower CO2
emissions.There is a trade-off between measures to improve the efficiency of new cars and keeping cars cheap to encourage their early replacement.”

However, the report concludes that on a lifecycle basis, rapid fleet renewal actually increases emissions due to the additional releases during manufacture and disposal.

“A vehicle lifetime of 15-20 years is optimal to minimise lifecycle emissions the typical lifetime of cars today.”

Sales of new cars and vans with engines must end by 2035 to ensure that by 2050 the fleet is fully decarbonised. To achieve the Paris climate goals transport emissions must be reduced by more than 90 per cent.


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Toyota suspends autonomous driving tests

The first fatality involving an autonomous Uber car and a pedestrian has sparked discussions over the future of Toyota’s self-driving vehicle testing on public roads.

While Toyota executives emphasised they didn’t know the particulars of the crash, they quickly announced that it was suspending testing of its self-driving vehicle system on California and Michigan streets.

Jim Lentz, Toyota’s Plano-based North American CEO, recently told the Dallas Morning News that it wasn’t doubts about the technology that spurred the auto giant’s move.

“We were concerned that our drivers have been upset,” he said, speaking from the New York Auto Show. “We’ll go back into testing as soon as our drivers are ready to get back behind the wheel.”

Lentz said that even the test cars in complete self-driving mode typically have two drivers and two steering wheels.

Lentz said that although Toyota doesn’t know about the specifics about the Arizona crash, the questions it raises are interesting.

While he doesn’t expect that the crash will slow down the automaker’s timeline, but it has forced drivers and regulators to think about their appetite for risk.

How quickly autonomous cars will be rolled out for the general public, Lentz said, will be “based primarily on two things.” Neither of them have anything to do with the technology.

“One is cost,” he said. “Today, autonomous vehicle systems are $100,000 to $150,000—those costs have to come down before you have widespread use.”

“The second is how many high-profile accidents like the one in Arizona lawmakers are willing to stomach to save more lives in the long run.”

“My thinking on policy is, we believe first and foremost that autonomous cars are there to save lives—not to put Uber drives out of business,” Lentz said. “Autonomy could technically save 35,000 lives a year, but it won’t be perfect and people will lose their lives.”

“Even if you save a net, as a government policy are you willing to accept other similar accidents?” he said. “If the answer is, ‘No,’ I think that’s going to slow down the adoption of these (higher level) autonomous vehicles.”

Still, Lentz said cars are evolving to be closer to autonomous, even if they don’t fully drive themselves.

“Today we have emergency braking and a host of sensors, which are a precursor to autonomy,” he said. “That next step, in our case, is this guardian mode, where you will be in control of your car but they will prohibit you from making a big mistake—stop you from turning down a one-way street.”

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