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  1. The electric Mini is going into production; deliveries start early 2020 The addition of batteries doesn't compromise space, but range will be limited. It looks like any other Mini Cooper, but the Mini Cooper SE is a new battery electric vehicle version of the zippy little hatchback. Toward the end of June, we reported that BMW is accelerating its electrification strategy. Originally, it had promised 25 new electric models across its brands by 2025; now that timeline has been moved up by two years. And the first of these will be a Mini Cooper SE battery electric vehicle. We've actually known the BEV Mini has been in the works for a while, but on Tuesday the automaker confirmed that production will begin at Mini's Cowley plant in the UK in November, and it has released some of the car's specs. Throughout Mini's 60-year history, the brand has always been about small front-wheel-drive cars, and that continues here. In this case, the front wheels are going to be driven by a 181hp (135kW), 199lb-ft (270Nm) electric motor, powered by a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. To avoid compromising the Mini's diminutive form factor, the battery pack is T-shaped, and apparently there's no reduction in cargo volume as a result. Although weight has crept up by 319lbs (145kg) compared to a Mini Cooper S (with an automatic transmission), overall weight is still only 3,009lbs (1,364kg) which isn't too bad for a BEV. And despite an increase in height (0.7 inches/18mm), the weight of the batteries in the floor means the car's center of gravity is actually lower by 1.2 inches (30mm). It's not all gravy, though. The range estimates provided are 148-167 miles (235-270km), but that was calculated using Europe's WLTP and NEDC testing protocols. (EPA testing has not taken place yet.) Although WLTP was supposed to be closer to reality than NEDC, it remains wildly optimistic compared to the EPA test cycle, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Mini Cooper SE goes on sale in the US with an EPA range closer to 130 miles on a full charge. Probably not one for long road trips then, especially considering that DC fast charging tops out at 50kW. But odds are high that the BEV Mini will drive the way it's supposed to, which means kart-like handling, particularly with such a low CoG. Mini is quoting the 0-62mph (0-100km/h) stat at 7.3 seconds, and the car has an electronically limited top speed of 93.2mph (150km/h). Listing image by Mini Source: The electric Mini is going into production; deliveries start early 2020 (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link.)
  2. BMW speeds up plans to electrify 25 new models, now due by 2023 More than half will be battery EVs, with plug-in hybrid versions of other models. In Munich on Tuesday, BMW revealed it is speeding up the plan to electrify its model range. Previously, it had committed to introducing 25 electric vehicles by the year 2025. Now, those EVs will reach us by 2023. Of those 25, BMW says more than half will be battery EVs, with the remainder being plug-in hybrid EVs (hopefully). "By 2021, we will have doubled our sales of electrified vehicles compared with 2019," said Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG, in Munich on Tuesday. "We will offer 25 electrified vehicles already in 2023—two years earlier than originally planned. We expect to see a steep growth curve towards 2025: Sales of our electrified vehicles should increase by an average of 30 percent every year." The Bavarian car company has actually been rather proactive when it comes to electrification. It created the BMW i sub brand as a place to experiment with lightweight construction and electrification, which gave us the charming i3 city car and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. When it introduced the 530e plug-in hybrid, it bucked the trend of making PHEVs more expensive than their non-hybrid siblings, offering it at the exact same price as the plain-old 530i. As we've detailed previously, BMW's newest vehicle architecture is highly flexible, allowing the company to use any powertrain—internal combustion, PHEV, or BEV, in any new model using that toolkit. BMW says that this is the reason it's able to pull its timeframe forward by two years. Enlarge / These 3D-printed models illustrate BMW's future vehicle architecture that will allow it to use any powertrain in any new model. The model on the left uses an internal combustion engine. In the middle is a plug-in hybrid EV, and on the right is a BEV. (In both cases the models only show a portion of the battery pack, BMW is not planning on building lop-sided PHEVs and BEVs!) Jonathan Gitlin What do we know about these new cars? We already know about some of the models that are due in the next four years. Later this year, a BEV Mini will go into production in England. An electric version of the existing X3 crossover called the iX3 will go into production in China in 2020 and may be exported to Europe and the US. In 2021, production begins on the iNext, a similarly sized fully electric crossover that we checked out (in an airplane no less) last fall. You may remember that one as having an interior like a boutique hotel, which is surely not going to make it into the production version. That same year, BMW will also bring us the i4, which is almost certainly a production version of the I Vision Dynamics concept I swooned over in 2017. On top of that, there will be PHEV versions of the 3 series, 7 series, and X5; a China-only PHEV X1; and then new PHEV 5 Series and 2 Series models using the fifth generation of BMW's EV technology that should squeeze in more kWh and more range. BMW says that PHEV versions of the X1 (for Europe and the US) and a PHEV 3 Series touring (station wagon) are also in the works. At the event in Munich, BMW also unveiled the Vision M Next. It's pretty clear from the way the concept looks that it's a replacement for the i8, which should end speculation as to the future of that car. BMW says that the Vision M Next, a PHEV like the i8, will have 600hp, a 3-second 0 to 62mph (0-100km/h), and a top speed of 186mph (300km/h), which should comfortably outclass the recently refreshed i8, assuming the production car keeps to those targets. Listing image by BMW Source: BMW speeds up plans to electrify 25 new models, now due by 2023 (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  3. Electric car charging interoperability is the next big thing in mobility More companies sign bilateral agreements, but there's an even better solution out there. Enlarge Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images Last week, we reported that Electrify America and ChargePoint had just inked a roaming agreement allowing their customers to use each other's electric car charging networks. On Tuesday, another major network, EVgo, announced it has also signed agreements, this time with ChargePoint and EV Connect. In a press release, EVgo says that the agreements will mean EVgo customers will have access to 400 new fast charging stations in addition to the 750 DC fast chargers the company currently operates in the US. "EVgo’s two new bilateral interoperability agreements will make charging for EVgo customers even more convenient through our strengthened commitment to open standards, collaboration, and innovation," said Cathy Zoi, EVgo's CEO. As Zoi's statement points out, this deal—like the Electrify America/ChargePoint one before it—is a bilateral agreement between individual networks. That's great if you're an EVgo customer who wants to use a ChargePoint charger without creating a new user account. But it's obviously no help if (for example) you're an Electrify America customer who needs to plug in to an EVgo charger. Luckily, there is a solution that may work better for the end-user: over in Europe, Hubject appears to point the way. It was created in 2012 and is owned by three German automakers (BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen) as well two technology companies (Siemens, Bosch) and a pair of utilities (EnBW, Innogy). "They came together to solve the issue of charging and roaming," said Paul Glenney, Hubject's North American CEO. This group's solution to the interoperability problem is called eRoaming, and it works in a similar manner to the way mobile phone users can seamlessly use other networks while traveling. The arrangement doesn't mean EV owners need to run out and add a Hubject account. All of this should be invisible to the end user—Hubject's actual customers are the charging networks or utilities. Its platform provides an API that different charging networks can use to make that interoperability painless for drivers. "Our software is middleware that runs between network providers in a hub architecture," Glenney explained. "For example, an OEM who wants all to be able to display charging stations on their smartphone app and infotainment system would connect to Hubject, and the driver gets real-time dynamic point-of-information of where chargers are, services around there, pictures of the charging station, and so on," he said. "It will also tell the user if the charger is available, being repaired, and so on. As you drive around, you can access different charging providers as long as they’re on the network." Hubject came to the US in 2017. Last year, the EV charging networks Blink and Moev signed on as a partners. Source: Electric car charging interoperability is the next big thing in mobility (Ars Technica)
  4. By 2025, all Lexus models will have an electrified option At an event celebrating 30 years of Lexus' past, the automaker gave us a look into its electrified future. Lexus This week, at a Lexus Milestones event held to celebrate 30 years of the Lexus brand, the Japanese luxury automaker gave a preview of its future. This included Lexus' plans for upcoming autonomous driving technologies and expanding the number of electrified vehicles and powertrains throughout its entire lineup. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Executive Vice President of Lexus International Koji Sato said, "Between Toyota and Lexus, we plan to roll out 10 EVs by 2025. At the same time, every Lexus model on the road will be available as a dedicated electrified model or have an electrified option." In this case "electrified" includes a combination of self-contained hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, all of which are on the table as options for future Lexus models. Ultimately, which technology is chosen for a particular vehicle will depend on the market in which that vehicle is sold and the needs of the vehicle and drivers in question. "There is not one powerplant that will work for the globe. The reality is that different legality and social conditions have created a landscape where automakers must offer a variety of choices," Sato said. "We will chose for each model based on the demand or background of the market." Depending on the market and the model, "electrified" might mean hybrid, battery or even fuel cell-powered vehicles. Toyota When asked about fuel cell vehicles, Sato said that "from a technology point of view" the automaker is "very serious about FCEVs," but is carefully consider the rollout of hydrogen depending on the local infrastructure conditions. So, in the US at least, that landscape will likely be populated by more hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. "A proven history mastering battery management, reduced mass components and electric motors offers an advantage that will help us create a dedicated pure EV platform that speaks to the next generation of luxury consumers that do not want to make compromises for performance, excitement, range or capability," he said. The automaker is already well on its way toward achieving its goal of a fully electrified lineup. Of the 11 models in its portfolio, only five aren't currently available as hybrids. The IS, RC and GS make sense to hybridize; the GS, in particular, was offered with a hybrid powertrain previously. Speaking candidly with a Lexus representative later in the day, I learned that the GX and LX -- Lexus' two largest SUVs -- are tricky because customers expect a different level of off-road and towing capability from a vehicle in this class and the automaker needs to make sure that it meets those expectations with whatever electrification route it takes. Lexus is off to a pretty good start. More than half of its current lineup is offered in hybrid trim. Lexus Fortunately, Lexus' hybrid technology is continuing to evolve. The new LC400h halo car, for example, features a trick new transmission technology that aims to make hybrid driving more engaging. The automaker is also developing new battery and electric motor technologies, including in-wheel electric motors. Sato explains, "We expect that four wheels operating independently will offer a greater agility, stability and excitement. Of course, in-wheel electric motors are just a concept currently and it will take years to make the technology perfect. But we will continue to pursue this exciting opportunity." We should learn more about what the future of Lexus electrification will look like at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show later this year, where the automaker plans to unveils a new electric concept car. I got an early peek -- which I sadly can't share just yet -- and it looks… well, intense. Stay tuned. Source: By 2025, all Lexus models will have an electrified option
  5. Are electric vehicles doomed? We don’t think so, despite poor sales The prospects are good for EVs, particularly bigger commercial trucks and buses. Enlarge Aurich Lawson / Getty 78 with 51 posters participating This year’s Super Bowl featured three advertisements for new electric vehicle (EV) models, matching the total from all previous Super Bowls combined. With multiple automakers coughing up more than $5.5 million per 30-second spot during the United States’ marquee television event, EV enthusiasts hailed the milestone as a harbinger for the automotive sector in the coming decade. More skeptical industry watchers questioned whether we had actually hit a turning point. Their concern isn’t unwarranted. After a large increase in 2018, EV sales as a share of the overall US passenger vehicle market barely grew in 2019, to 2.5 percent. A recent consumer survey from Cox Automotive found demand for EVs barely budged between 2016 and 2018. Automakers not named Tesla, whose Model 3 represented more than half of US EV sales in both 2018 and 2019, are still struggling to make inroads in the US market. Toyota’s Prius is old news, and though its sales are respectable, neither the Chevrolet Bolt nor Nissan Leaf has been a game-changing product. Offerings from Jaguar, Audi, and Porsche haven’t totally flopped, but their ultra-premium segment is a small fraction of the overall consumer vehicle market. These automakers have all benefited from generous federal- and state-level incentives, some which have now sunset. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown state budgets into disarray, jeopardizing current and future incentive programs. Shutdowns across the country are devastating household finances and have sent oil prices to two-decade lows, potentially dampening EV appeal for the near future. Automakers face existential threats from the collapse in economic activity and must decide whether to double-down on emerging technologies or taper investments and retrench behind profitable business segments. Transportation eclipsed the energy sector with the largest share of US carbon emissions production for the first time in 2016, and, justifiably, climate advocates turned their attention to vehicle electrification as an urgent concern. Automakers met those demands with a series of multi-billion-dollar investment commitments, and expectations are now sky-high that those investments will translate to rapid EV adoption domestically. Advocates are increasingly concerned we’re failing, even as both China and Europe leap ahead of the US in EV technology development and adoption. In truth, expectations have simply outpaced tremendous progress. Despite serious challenges ahead, advocates do have cause for optimism. Stubborn roadblocks No single factor completely explains the sluggishness in EV adoption we’ve seen to date. Consistently low prices at the pump certainly have played a role, and with crude oil prices hovering at levels previously unseen in this century, energy cost considerations alone are unlikely to shift demand back to light passenger EVs any time soon. The dearth of mass-market options, range-anxiety concerns, and insufficient coverage of fast-charging infrastructure have played significant roles, too. Currently, there are fewer than 20 discrete battery electric (BEV) models available in the US market, and fewer than twice as many plug-in hybrids (PHEV). These represent a fraction of the overall vehicle market, and even with generous federal and state tax incentives, most still retail above $30,000. Models available to date have largely been at odds with growing American consumer preference for crossovers and SUVs. Dealerships rarely promote their EV offerings, knowing reduced maintenance requirements offers them less revenue potential. Though range for BEVs is rapidly improving, car-buyers still worry that these vehicles won’t suffice for longer trips. Interstate DC fast-charger (DCFC) infrastructure remains inadequate, with some significant corridor gaps and insufficient density in higher-traffic areas. Urban environments add their own challenges. Newer multifamily developments may future-proof their garages to accommodate EV adoption, but older buildings face prohibitively expensive installation costs that leave residents reliant on workplace or public chargers. PHEVs will remain a necessary alternative to address range and infrastructure shortcomings, even as they fail to excite advocates in quite the same way as their fully electric counterparts. The shift before our eyes In spite of these setbacks, those hoping to see a long-awaited paradigm shift in the near future need not wait much longer. For starters, dozens of new passenger EV models will hit the US market in the next two to three years. These are finally addressing the light truck, SUV, and crossover markets in large numbers, including much-hyped offerings from Rivian, Ford, and Tesla. COVID-19 has impacted some delivery schedules, but these delays are marked in months, not years. Rivian hasn’t reached Tesla’s media acclaim, but the nearly $3 billion it raised in 2019 was a major vote of confidence for a manufacturer from industry heavyweights. Amazon’s investment and 100,000-van order from the startup marked a seismic shift in the logistics industry, and UPS wasted little time following with its own investment in British EV startup Arrival and 10,000-van order. Both should begin delivering in 2021-2022 and will almost certainly promote accelerated development in light commercial platforms from Ford (which also invested in Rivian), Daimler, General Motors, and others. Urban delivery was already among the fastest-growing segments of transportation demand prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdowns in response have accelerated that trend. Rapid electrification in that market will not only serve emissions-reduction objectives but also support electric powertrain and battery technology development across multiple light- and medium-duty vehicle platforms. Don’t underestimate the importance of this cross-platform technology-sharing dynamic. As fans of motorsport are quick to illustrate, innovations for one vehicle platform often bleed into others. Big progress with big vehicles Though consumer EVs consistently generate the most media attention, progress on transportation electrification is occurring rapidly in heavier vehicle segments. In 2017, one-quarter of all transportation emissions in the United States came from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Electric transit buses, backed by steady (and growing) federal and state investment, have led the charge in both BEV and hydrogen fuel cell electric (FCEV) technologies for much of the past decade. By the end of 2020, more than 1,000 should be in service across US transit agencies, a tenfold increase from five years earlier. At least an additional 1,000 will be in the procurement pipeline. Moreover, those technologies first developed for transit bus platforms are diffusing into other on-road vehicle segments, including commuter coaches, school buses, and medium-duty trucks. New Flyer and BYD have ported battery and electric powertrain technology first developed for their transit buses to BEV coach platforms. Proterra leveraged its transit bus technology to support joint development of a BEV school bus with Daimler subsidiary Thomas Built. Their “Jouley” joins other BEV school bus offerings from Blue Bird, IC Bus, and Lion Electric. Proterra’s collaboration with Daimler also now extends to Freightliner for development of a BEV medium-duty truck. Navistar (which owns IC Bus) and Peterbilt are expected to debut their own BEV medium-duty offerings in 2021. This Cambrian explosion of sorts extends into heavy-duty and off-road vehicles as well, with BEV, PHEV, and FCEV variants emerging across dozens of vehicle platforms. These include big rigs, drayage trucks, terminal tractors, forklifts, and other industrial equipment. The US Departments of Energy and Transportation have been key funders of these technologies’ development over the past two decades, and in the past several years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC) have also stepped in with hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support vehicle demonstration and deployment. While these investments pale in comparison to what China is pumping into electric transportation through industrial policy and aren’t sufficient to keep pace with Europe in the long-term, they are non-trivial foundations for scaling EV deployment domestically. Geopolitical and federal policy winds are shifting, likely in favor of EVs COVID-19’s direct economic impacts and its second-order effects introduce additional uncertainty to both global energy markets and the automotive industry. With car sales tanking, automakers must decide whether to retrench around their most profitable business segments or double-down on next-generation technologies and services. Though personal vehicle sales are beginning to recover in China following the relaxing of the country’s COVID-19 shutdowns, its already-struggling EV market is likely to suffer further from a hit to personal finances. Oil prices may rise again in the medium-term as domestic producers go bankrupt and the Saudis dial-down their assault on global competitors. A combination of low oil prices, depleted highway-financing revenues, and shifting climate politics may push Washington closer to significantly raising the federal gas tax. The broader federal response remains a wildcard. The 2020 presidential election will likely decide the extent to which we see an ambitious infrastructure plan oriented toward decarbonizing the US transportation system. Proposals are already on the table to create large federal funding programs for EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, electric school bus deployments, and expanded incentives for vehicle purchases of varying uses and weight classes. Irrespective of the White House occupant, however, bipartisan sentiment is shifting toward embracing electrification as a matter of global economic competitiveness. Change hasn’t met expectations in the consumer market, but even that is finally poised for a major breakthrough. Supporting infrastructure is quietly in a phase of rapid expansion, as public charging units roughly quadrupled between 2013 and 2019 to 78,000. Electrify America still has hundreds of millions of dollars it must spend on charging infrastructure over the next five years per the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement, and competitors will invest to keep pace. Commercial and public sector fleet operators are facing increasing economic and political pressures to accelerate electrification, and we should expect public funding will grow to support them. We should also maintain an open mind about the shape of progress. Though many industry boosters are adamant that BEVs are the only viable path forward, hydrogen fuel cells and other hybrid technologies address key technical and supply-chain shortcomings across multiple vehicle platforms. Advocates for transportation decarbonization have plenty to celebrate from the past decade and even greater cause for optimism over the next several years. They just need to look in the right places to see green shoots. Source: Are electric vehicles doomed? We don’t think so, despite poor sales (Ars Technica)
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