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e-mobility boost 

Strikes battery deals, confirms electric R5 for 2022

Renault has confirmed the Renault 5 Prototype (shown at the Munich IAA) will give rise to a production model next year. Like other OEMs in Europe, Renault is prioritising its electric vehicle strategy. The new model will be made at Renault’s Douai plant in France.

Renault claims the next R5 will cost 33% less compared to its Zoe electric car. As part of its EV strategy, Renault is partnering with Envision AESC, which will develop a gigafactory in Douai with a capacity of 9 GWh in 2024, aiming at reaching 24 GWh by 2030. Close to Renault ElectriCity, Renault’s partner will produce batteries for Renault Group electric models, including the future Renault 5.

Renault says the latest step in the ‘Renaulution’ roadmap has been secured through the signing of two major partnerships: with Envision AESC – a specialist in battery technology and smart, digitalised, low-carbon battery plants, and a long-standing partner of Nissan – and Verkor, a Grenoble-based startup specialised in the development of EV battery cells.

These latest partnerships go hand in hand with existing programmes within Renault Group, in particular the agreement with LG Chem which currently supplies battery modules for Renault’s electric range and for the upcoming MéganE.

Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group, said: “Our battery strategy builds on Renault Group’s ten years of experience and investment in the electric mobility value chain. The latest strategic partnerships with Envision AESC and Verkor greatly bolster our position as we ensure the Europe-based production of one million electric vehicles by 2030. This marks a major milestone as we strengthen our competitive edge, by rooting our Group in the underlying momentum of French industry and striving to reach our carbon neutrality objectives. The group thus reaffirms its willingness to produce popular, affordable, and cost-effective electric cars in France.”

Porsche assembly to begin in Malaysia

Porsche AG has agreed to vehicle assembly in Malaysia, the first time its vehicles will be produced outside Europe, according to the local distributor.

The sports car maker has signed an agreement with Malaysian distributor and retailer Sime Darby to assemble its cars for local sale from 2022.

The local conglomerate, which operates in the automotive, industrial, healthcare, logistics and insurance sectors, currently distributes and retails premium automotive brands like BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche and mass-market brands such as Ford, Mazda, Mini and Hyundai.

The company has two plants in Malaysia. The Selangor factory assembles BMW and Land Rover vehicles while the former Inokom plant in Kedah builds Hyundai, Mini and Mazda. Combined output last year was 17,141 units.

Sime Darby CEO Dato’ Jeffri Salim Davidson said in a statement: “This partnership with Porsche marks a coming of age of our relationship with the brand. To be entrusted to assemble cars for one of the world’s most admired sports car brands speaks volumes of the highly qualified and competent Malaysian talent we have at Sime Darby and our ability to provide meaningful value to our partners.”

Mercedes-Benz outlines EV strategy; new platforms all-electric from 2025

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit has updated its EV strategy, including the aim that all newly launched architectures will be electric-only from 2025 onwards.

Also, in 2025 Mercedes-Benz will launch three electric-only architectures and the brand says it will be ready to go all electric at the end of the decade, ‘where market conditions allow’. Mercedes-Benz is also planning to install battery cell capacity of more than 200 Gigawatt hours with partners and is planning for eight Gigafactories. By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will have battery electric vehicles (BEV) in all segments the company serves.

From 2025 onwards, all newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only and customers will be able to choose an all-electric alternative for every model the company makes.

“The EV shift is picking up speed – especially in the luxury segment, where Mercedes-Benz belongs. The tipping point is getting closer and we will be ready as markets switch to electric-only by the end of this decade,” said Ola Källenius, CEO of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG. “This step marks a profound reallocation of capital. By managing this faster transformation while safeguarding our profitability targets, we will ensure the enduring success of Mercedes-Benz. Thanks to our highly qualified and motivated workforce, I am convinced that we will be successful in this exciting new era.”

To facilitate this shift, Mercedes-Benz is unveiling a comprehensive plan which includes significantly accelerating R&D. In total, investments into battery electric vehicles between 2022 and 2030 will amount to over €40 billion. Accelerating and advancing the EV portfolio plan will bring forward the tipping point for EV adoption.

GAC claims 'graphene-based' fast-charging battery breakthrough

Guangzhou Auto (GAC) Group says it has achieved a breakthrough in graphene-based fast-charging battery technology and that its vehicle model Aion V will be equipped with the new battery, which is to start production in September.

GAC says that in recent years, graphene, a new material with excellent electrical conductivity, has been the key to breakthroughs in battery technology.

Aion V, the first vehicle to be equipped with the new battery, underwent winter testing and is initially scheduled for mass production in September this year.

At the "2020 GAC Tech Day" held last July, GAC Group demonstrated its 3DG (three-dimensional graphene) production technology with independent intellectual property rights, solving the issue of high costs of graphene, it is claimed. It says the simple, stable, and efficient production method reduces costs to only one-tenth of the conventional method.

After achieving low-cost and large-scale production of graphene, GAC Group says it has also made major breakthroughs in the downstream application of its use. Among them, the electric vehicle industry is most interested in the graphene-based super-fast-charging battery. This graphene-based battery has a 6C fast charge capability, combined with a 600A high-power charger, can be recharged to 80% capacity in 8 minutes. GAC says the battery has also passed the most stringent safety test - Battery Shooting Test, possessing quality and reliability of the highest standard.

GAC says the graphene-based battery technology will significantly shorten charging time, as well as greatly extend battery life, solving the current "pain points" of pure electric vehicles.

VW 'Project Trinity' car to lift EV/AV strategy

Volkswagen says it is planning an electric car to be built in Wolfsburg from 2026 that will set new standards in terms of range, charging speed and digitization – and will be able to drive highly automated according to SAE Level 4.

The project for the car is named Trinity and stands for three crucial themes: (1) a newly developed electronics platform, (2) the simplification of the supply structure, and (3) fully networked and intelligent production at the main plant in Wolfsburg.

"Trinity is a sort of crystallization point for our 'Accelerate' strategy, a lighthouse project, our software dream car," says Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of the Volkswagen brand. VW says the newly developed vehicle architecture will set standards in terms of range, charging speed ("charging as fast as refuelling") and digitalization.

In addition, VW claims Trinity will make autonomous driving in the volume segment possible for many people. By the planned start of series production in 2026, VW says Trinity will already reach Level 2+ and be technically ready for Level 4. "We are using our economies of scale to make autonomous driving available to many people and to build a learning neural network. In this way, we are creating the conditions for the continuous exchange of data from our vehicle fleet – for example, on the traffic situation, on obstacles or on accidents," says Ralf Brandstätter.

VW claims that Trinity gives people time and saves them stress. After a long highway trip, for example, you arrive at your destination relaxed 'because you have been driven by a chauffeur to your vacation or to your home after work'.

"Trinity therefore becomes a kind of 'time machine' for our customers," says Ralf Brandstätter.

With the production of the series version, the Wolfsburg plant will become a showcase for an intelligent and fully networked production processes, VW says. "We will completely rethink the way we build cars and introduce revolutionary approaches. Digitalization, automation and lightweight construction play an important role here," says Ralf Brandstätter.

VW maintains that future vehicle models such as Trinity will be produced with considerably fewer variants, and the hardware will be largely standardized. The cars will then have virtually everything on board and customers will be able to activate desired functions "on demand" at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car. This will significantly reduce complexity in production, the company says.

By developing the automobile into a software-based product, Volkswagen says it is creating the conditions for new, data-based business models. Entry barriers to individual mobility are to be lowered while at the same time offering 'even more attractive usage packages'.

Volkswagen intends to generate additional revenue in the usage phase – for charging and energy services, for software-based functions that customers can book as needed, or for automated driving. "In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car," says Ralf Brandstätter.

VW says that all-electric vehicles are expected to exceed 70% of European and 50% of Chinese and US sales volumes by 2030.

Half Daimler suppliers commit to carbon neutral

Almost half of about 2,000 Daimler suppliers have signed an Ambition Letter of Intent and are committed to supplying only CO2 neutral parts, said Gunnar Guethenke, head of procurement and supplier quality for Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Under its 'Ambition 2039' plan, Mercedes-Benz wants to offer a CO2 neutral new car fleet in less than 20 years. The switch to electric mobility poses supply chain challenges because, compared to ICE vehicles, the production of an all-electric is twice as CO2 intensive, mainly because of the lithium-ion batteries. But, despite the higher energy demand for production, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles offer a clear advantage in terms of CO2 emissions compared to conventional drives already today, since only when the entire life cycle of the vehicles is considered a realistic picture emerges: electric vehicles can make up for a large part of the initially higher CO2 emissions from the upstream value chain due to their emission-free driving.

R&D head Markus Schaefer said: "With the electric EQS luxury sedan, we have already achieved important milestones in close cooperation with our partners - for example by purchasing CO2 neutrally produced battery cells.

"When awarding contracts for our subsequent electric vehicle platform - Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) for compact and medium-sized cars - we are already applying CO2 as a key criterion."

The automaker said it was talking with all other suppliers to jointly develop strategies for CO2 reduction.

Climate-neutrality is incorporated into contractual terms, and the ambition letter is a key criterion for awarding contracts. From 2039 at the latest, only production materials which are completely CO2 neutral will be purchased and any supplier declining to sign the ambition letter will not be awarded new contracts.

Mercedes-Benz will additionally focus on materials and components that are particularly CO2 intensive in manufacturing and processing until 2039 - items such as battery cells, steel, and aluminium which account for about 80% of the CO2 emissions in the supply chain of a fully electric vehicle.

CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology) and Farasis Energy have committed to supply battery cells that are produced using electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower, wind, and solar energy. This reduces the CO2 footprint of an entire battery by more than 30%. The rest of the supply chain will be included next.

The goal is to consistently reduce the use of primary raw materials for electric drives by 2030 and gradually increase the share of secondary and renewable materials in vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz plants, including the global battery production network, will produce on a CO2 neutral basis worldwide from 2022. This will make them role models for the supplier network. In line with plant procedure, suppliers are required to avoid and reduce emissions as a fundamental principle. Only then can compensation via high-value projects be considered. The areas of approach for climate-neutral production are diverse, and range from reducing consumption to purchasing energy from renewable energy sources.

The company aims to have plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles to make up more than 50% of its car sales by 2030. Other major goals include involvement in shaping the charging infrastructure and agreeing to specific CO2 measures with suppliers.

In brief

Renault and Geely sign MoU for hybrid vehicle production

Renault is set to return to China after signing a preliminary agreement with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to collaborate on hybrid vehicles, according to local reports.

According to the memorandum of understanding (MoU), the two companies plan to share resource and technology to produce hybrid vehicles for sale in Asia.

The two carmakers said in a joint statement: “Based on Geely Holding’s existing technology and mature industrial footprint in China, both partners will jointly introduce Renault brand hybrid vehicles with Renault contributing brand strategy, [sales] channel and service development.”

No further details were available but local analysts think the MoU could pave the way for new production joint ventures between the two companies.

The agreement comes a year after Renault quit a loss-making joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group in Wuhan due to poor sales.

Wuhan was the epicentre of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 which subsequently spread across the globe, and was the first city to endure strict lockdown.

Renault sold its 50% stake in the joint venture to Dongfeng Motor in April 2020, saying it wanted to focus on light commercial vehicles and electric vehicles.

China sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), including electric and hybrid vehicles, are expected to rise by over 80% to 2.2m in 2021 and to 6.1m by 2025.

Chips challenge to last rest of 2021- ZF CEO

ZF says it expects challenges in semiconductor supply to continue this year, with programmes adapted into 2022, as the world grapples with colossal demand for chips, with industry recovering and the trend for homeworking lasting at least for the time being.

One of the many effects of the pandemic has been huge demand for semiconductors fuelled by government-mandated stay-at-home orders driving domestic computer needs, both for domestic working arrangements and gaming in the face of a paucity of exterior entertainment.

Reliance on overseas chip supply has led many to question whether domestic semiconductor manufacture needs to be ramped up in a bid to avoid the bottlenecks currently being seen around the world and which has caused numerous industry headaches.

“Basically, overall industry around the global – [there] was high demand,” ZF CEO, Wolf-Henning Scheider told just-auto at the German supplier’s presentation of its half-year results from its headquarters in Southern Germany.

“It started in 2021 and it applies to all sectors, for example, for PCs and home offices with radio masts. They need these chips, so capacity needs to be adapted over a longer period.

“I expect this shortage will remain with us for this year and in 2022 we will have to adapt our programmes to have capacity available.

“We are in constant dialogue with the chip manufacturers and clients. We managed to maintain the supply chain. Due to the scarcity, we have seen an all-time high in demands. These are further exacerbated by partially-interrupted supply chains.”

Hyundai sets hydrogen goals

Hyundai Motor Group said it would popularise hydrogen by 2040 through the introduction of new technology and mobility products in transportation and other industrial sectors.

It will electrify all new commercial vehicle models featuring fuel cell electric or battery electric powertrains as well as fuel cell systems by 2028. That will make it the first global automaker to achieve such ambitions for commercial vehicle transportation.

“[The] group’s vision is to apply hydrogen energy in all areas of life and industry such as our homes, workplaces and factories. The goal is to make hydrogen readily used for everyone, everything, and everywhere,” chairman Chung said at the Hydrogen Wave online global forum.

In 2013, the Tucson FCEV (ix35 Fuel Cell) was introduced, opening the door to the mass production of FCEVs. Then, in 2018, the company launched the next-generation fuel cell SUV, NEXO, and the world’s first heavy-duty fuel cell truck, XCIENT Fuel Cell, in 2020.