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Around the EV World
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Around the EV World

May 09, 2020

Lithium Depressed by Global Disease Spread 

The price of battery-grade lithium carbonate tumbled by more than two-thirds over the past two years, reaching a four-year low. Unsurprisingly, poor EV sales in China, the world’s largest lithium consumer, due to the coronavirus pandemic have gutted demand for the substance. Lithium is currently trading at U.S. $6,500 per metric ton, down from almost $20,175 in April 2018, according to figures from Trading Economics.  

Prices for the other two key metals in EV batteries – cobalt and nickel – have also fallen, with cobalt following a similar trajectory to lithium and nickel, trading slightly less than two years ago after a double spike. 

New Pad Thailand 

Mitsubishi got the official greenlight to revamp its car production line near Bangkok, Thailand. The plant will output 9,500 battery EVs and 29,500 hybrids, starting from 2023. Current models include the gas-powered Mirage and Pajero SUVs.  

Nissan, which forms part of an alliance with Mitsubishi and Renault, said it intends to introduce its e-Power hybrid range extender to Thailand and possibly in Europe. Until now this range extender has only been offered in Japan. Last year, there were reports e-Power could also soon come to Europe, specifically for the Qashqai compact SUV. 

Nissan has not commented perhaps because it recently announced it wants to withdraw from Europe and instead focus more on its main markets in the U.S, China and Japan, according to some news reports. The plan of the restructure will be presented at the end of May.

In future, Nissan wants to look to Mitsubishi for plug-in hybrids, especially for Asian markets outside China and Japan, while Renault will concentrate on BEV technologies and Europe. 

Trucking Along in the U.S. 

Rivian has delayed the launch of the most-anticipated EV of the year – the R1T truck – until 2021. The truck has a feature called “tank turn,” which allows the all-electric truck to spin in complete circles without moving, a move once reserved for only military tanks, monster trucks and commercial lawnmowers, its website states. 

Rivian’s R1T truck, shown above at the New York International Auto Show in 2019, can turn on its axis like a tank. Hopefully, the rest of the vehicle’s features are not inspired by military hardware. Photo @ Miro Vrlik Photography

Bollinger Motors unveiled its E-Chassis, which will underpin the B1 SUV and B2 pickup. Billed as the “world’s first and only Class 3 electric platform,” the E-Chassis is a heavy-duty architecture that has been designed with commercial applications in mind. The company hasn’t said too much about the platform, but noted it’s “fully customizable” and can be offered with front-, rear- and all-wheel drive configurations. The architecture can also be adapted to accommodate various different wheelbases. 

The coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to activity at Lucid Motors, as construction of the company’s production line in Arizona lays dormant. When the line is finished, it will make the Air, a luxury EV sedan dubbed the Tesla killer by the motoring press. 

Panasonic Boom and Bust 

After a year of corporate preparations, two Japanese industrial giants Toyota and Panasonic will go ahead with a new lithium-ion and solid-state battery joint venture called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions.  

However, after inking the deal, the Japanese electronics giant pulled out of another with Tesla for the production of solar panels at a facility in the U.S. Ties between Tesla and Panasonic have not been severed completely, and Panasonic maintains its battery partnership at the Nevada gigafactory battery production plant (see PEV Quarterly May 2019), although the company is not Tesla’s exclusive suppliers anymore. Tesla split the supply chain with LG Chem from South Korea and Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL, from China. 

While supplying Tesla, CATL is also stumping up $1.4 billion in a new plant in Ningde, China. The world’s biggest maker of EV batteries also aims to raise another $2.8 billion to start production in Fujian, Jiangsu and Sichuan. CATL also has supply deals with BMW, Audi, Geely, Mercedes and Freightliner.

Solid Engineering 

Korean electronics giant Samsung think it’s cracked the solid-state EV battery nut: how to overcome the problem of dendrite growth on the lithium anodes used in solid-state batteries. Dendrites are formed by electrons combining with lithium ions to form a coating of lithium on the anode, reducing the battery’s lifespan.  

Samsung’s engineers used a silver-carbon composite anode, allowing for larger capacity and therefore reducing the battery’s overall size.  

The advantages of solid-state batteries are greater energy density and lower operating temperatures. To provide the equivalent power of a lithium-ion battery, they must be significantly larger, so reducing their size-to-power ratio could make them a viable EV option. 

BMW has decided not to press ahead with the development of its very limited-edition Vision M Next hybrid concept car, citing the coronavirus crisis and the resulting slump in profits.

Clash of the Teutons 

The Vision M Next, BMW’s hybrid concept and successor of it i8 sports car, will probably not go into production, according to the German car magazine Auto Motor Sport and the BMW’s Blog. “Because of the corona crisis and the resulting slump in profits, BMW will forego a premium object with low sales figures,” reported the magazine. “So, M Next remains what it was – a study, nothing more.” 

Volkswagen is open for pre-orders of its VW ID.3 first edition EV from June 17. Sales boss Jürgen Stackmann confirmed the opening of binding pre-orders for Europe in June and the United Kingdom in mid-July. The slight delay is due to the extra time needed to get type approval for right-hand-drive versions of the group’s first EV using its modular electric drive matrix, or MEB, platform. 

Czechia’s Skoda announced its first all-electric sports utility vehicle production model based on parent company Volkswagen’s MEB. The electric SUV model is named Enyaq and will feature five performance variants – three with rear-wheel drive and two with four-wheel drive. Three battery sizes will also be available. 

Volkswagen also resurrected its marque Seat’s development of the MEB for small EVs costing less than €20,000, according to reports. 

Audi’s all-electric e-tron Sportback will be launched in the U.S. this summer. It is Audi’s second U.S. BEV after the e-tron SUV.  

Stockholm Sales Syndrome

Registrations of new plug-in vehicles in Sweden more than doubled year-on-year in April 2020 to snatch a market share of 22.6%, up from 10.1% in the same month of 2019. Volvo came out at the top of the sales leaderboard.

The picture isn’t rosy, however. Overall auto sales in Sweden slumped by 36.9% year-on-year in the same month due to the coronavirus pandemic. One auto industry association predicts overall car sales in 2020 will be down by 84,000 units from 2019.

China Might 

BYD plans to start selling EVs in Europe in 2020, choosing Norway as its entry market, where the company will initially launch with the all-electric SUV Tang EV600. BYD is China’s largest EV maker and the second-largest in the world after Tesla. 

BAIC BJEV’s Arcfox Alpha-T, a large luxury e-SUV with a range of more than 650 kilometers, went on sale in May. The vehicle was debuted at the Geneva Motor Show 2019 as a near-series concept. Alpha-T follows the same design path as other Chinese EVS with a large battery but relatively small capacity compared with European models. 

Tesla Foil 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Elon Musk were in a heated dispute over the EPA’s range test for the Tesla Model S.

“We can confirm that [the] EPA tested the vehicle properly, the door was closed, and we are happy to discuss any technical issues with Tesla, as we do routinely with all automakers,” an EPA spokesman said recently after Musk argued the test was botched.  

“When we did the last EPA test, unfortunately [the] EPA left the car door open and the keys in the car,” Musk countered. The car went into “waiting for driver” mode and lost 2% of its range overnight, Tesla claimed. Musk added that as soon as the EPA reopens for testing, “We will redo the test, and we’re extremely confident that we’ll achieve a 400-mile or greater range with the Model S.”  

Musk reiterated that for the past two months, the true range of the Model S has been 400 miles but wasn’t yet specific about whether that upgrade applies to cars previously built. 

By doing real-time tests, EPA examines whether Tesla’s fine print that S and X models can reach 400-mile range is accurate.  

Also this quarter, Musk threatened to pull his company out of its home state of California after local health officials stopped the company from reopening its plant.