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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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China threatens new EV tariffs

China has recently announced that electric vehicles (EVs) will be included among American products that will incur additional tariffs, a huge setback for EV manufacturers. 

Tesla Inc. is at particular risk. The car maker relies on US-built vehicles for all its Chinese sales, whereas US carmakers General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. manufacture in China and import few vehicles into the world’s largest market. 

China is Tesla’s biggest market after the US, and an additional tariff would hand local EV manufacturers a huge pricing advantage. 

“The jump in tax levy hurts Tesla the most as it had not yet started local production in China,” said Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of China’s Passenger Car Association to Bloomberg News. “For GM and Ford, they can always make up with China-produced ones.”

The U.S. carmaker is already hindered by China’s current 25 per cent import tax that hikes the prices of Model S sedans and Model X, relegating Tesla into a niche marque only afforded by the seriously wealthy.

China’s import taxes have contributed to other carmakers’ decisions to produce in China under joint-venture agreements. Volkswagen AG makes most of the vehicles it sells in the country at local plants, and about two-thirds of BMW and Daimler sales come from domestic factories.

 Proposed factory
Tesla said it was working with Shanghai’s government to explore assembling cars, an agreement hasn’t been clinched due to the two sides disagreeing on the business structure for a proposed factory.

Tesla’s reluctance in investing in local manufacturing means losing out on a chance to capitalise on China’s hard sell for new-energy vehicles (NEVs), such as all or hybrid EVs.

In the US, Tesla accounted for the majority of the 104,471 battery-powered cars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. However in China, Tesla sold a mere 14,883 vehicles, accounting for just 3 per cent of the nation’s battery-powered EV sales of 449,431 units.

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Fuel levy may accelerate transition to EVs

The proposed regional fuel levy may help increase demand for electric vehicles and expedite the introduction of charging infrastructure but may also have repercussions for international visitors according to industry experts.

Coby Duggan, Volvo’s NZ General Manager

Volvo’s New Zealand General Manager, Coby Duggan, says an additional levy on the price of fuel would act as a de facto subsidy for EV’s – making them a more attractive financial proposition for car owners.

“The decision to purchase an EV or hybrid is in part, an economic one for many buyers.

“Kiwi motorists already contend with petrol prices which are among the highest in the OECD and as the cost of fuel increases, the appeal of this alternative energy source broadens to include more and more drivers.

“We are already seeing a high uptake among passenger vehicles like taxis which spend a lot of time on the road each day and where the ratio of running costs to capital outlay of the vehicle is much higher.

“A 20 cent per litre increase represents about a 10% increase in the fuel cost which means a driver that spends $130 per week in petrol currently would see this increase to $143 – around $7,436 per year.

“It’s estimated that an EV would cost around the equivalent of 30c per litre or about 13.5% of the running cost of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle – when factoring in the proportional reduction as more fuel levies are added,” says Duggan.

Jucy COO Dan Alpe says an increase in the price of fuel may make also NZ less attractive for tourists who tour the country long distances in petrol or diesel powered campervans as this can represent a significant proportion of their daily budget.

“Overseas visitors who see the country by campervan could travel over 10,000 thousand KM per trip,” he says.

Alpe says following a successful trial, the company expects to have a fleet of long range, electric campervans on the roads within 12-18 months.

“As the cost of fuel increases, we expect demand for our new EV fleet to rise – we are testing the latest battery technology at the moment to ensure these vehicles can travel the distances between charging points around the country.

“At the same time we are working with popular campgrounds to see more charging stations introduced. As the cost of travel here decreases and becomes more environmentally friendly, New Zealand becomes a more attractive destination for visitors,” he says.

Duggan says while NZ currently does not directly subsidise new EV purchases, other markets around the world have introduced them and have seen the rate of ownership rise substantially.

“In European markets which offer a range of EV ownership incentives such as tax deductions, free public parking, exemption from toll charges, access to bus lanes, exemption from ferry fees, and free charging on public charging points, as many as one in every two new vehicles purchased is electric,” he says.

In New Zealand only 1-2 per cent of new vehicles purchased is a hybrid or fully electric vehicle.

Duggan says Volvo Cars recently announced all new models introduced from 2019 onwards will feature an electric motor, offering a range of hybrid and fully electric alternatives and becoming the first major car manufacturer to make the transition.

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Nissan to sell 1 million EVs a year by 2022

Nissan IMx KURO concept

Nissan has unveiled plans to launch a growing number of electric vehicles (EVs), expand and evolve autonomous driving systems, and accelerate vehicle connectivity as part of its Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022 midterm plan.

Among the targets, Nissan is aiming to sell 1 million electrified vehicles, either pure electric models or those with e-POWER powertrains, annually by FY 2022.

As part of Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022, the company intends to:

  • Develop eight new pure electric vehicles, building on the success of the new Nissan LEAF
  • Launch an electric car offensive in China under different brands
  • Introduce an electric “kei” mini-vehicle in Japan
  • Offer a global crossover electric vehicle, inspired by the Nissan IMx Concept
  • Electrify new INFINITI models from fiscal year 2021
  • Equip 20 models in 20 markets with autonomous driving technology
  • Reach 100 per cent connectivity for all new Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun cars sold in key markets by the end of the plan

Philippe Klein, Nissan’s chief planning officer, said: “Our product and technology strategy is dedicated to positioning Nissan to lead the automotive, technology and business evolution. Our efforts are focused on delivering Nissan Intelligent Mobility, encompassing the three core elements of electrification, autonomous drive, connectivity and new mobility services.”

Speaking at a media briefing alongside senior vice presidents Takao Asami and Ogi Redzic, Klein reaffirmed that the midterm plan aims to boost annualised revenue by 30 per cent to 16.5 trillion yen by the end of fiscal year 2022. The company is also targeting an 8 per cent core operating profit margin and cumulative free cash flow of 2.5 trillion yen.


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LEAF batteries to light up Japanese town

Nissan and its affiliate 4R Energy Corporation have teamed up to install new streetlights that will be powered by a combination of solar panels and used batteries from the Nissan LEAF electric car in Namie, Japan.

As Nissan has been making more and more electric vehicles, the car manufacturer has also been aware that there will be many decommissioned electric car batteries in the future.

As the auto industry makes the transition to electric power, battery repurposing and recycling will be one of the obstacles to be overcome.

The project, titled “The Reborn Light,” aims to provide public lighting for Namie’s residents as part of the town’s recovery efforts following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The project utilises the growing number of used electric-car batteries that will become available as electric vehicles increase in popularity around the world.

Nissan and 4R have created a new type of outdoor lighting that operates completely off the main power grid, requiring no electric cables or outlets. Since the lights are not connected to the grid, even in the case of a natural disaster which could knock out the central power supply, the Nissan lights can keep on working.

A prototype will be tested March 26 at the 4R battery reclamation factory in Namie, with full-scale installation beginning shortly. 

Nissan LEAF batteries to light up Japanese town

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BMW to wait until 2020 for mass rollout of EVs

BMW Group Annual Accounts Press Conference at BMW Welt in Munich on 21 March 2018.

BMW CEO Harald Krueger said the automaker will hold back the mass rollout of electric cars until 2020 because current fourth-generation EV technology is not profitable enough for volume production.

“We wanted to wait for the fifth generation to be much more cost competitive,” Krueger said. “We do not want to scale up with the fourth possible generation.”

The cost advantage between BMW’s fourth- and fifth-generation EV technology amounts to a “two-digit number,” Krueger said. “If you want to win the race, you must be the most cost competitive in the segment, otherwise you cannot scale up the volume.”

BMW unveiled its first EV, the i3, in 2013, and has been working on different generations of battery, software and electric motor technology since then.

Earlier this week, we reported that BMW will bring 25 electrified models to market by 2025. Half of those models will be fully electric with an all-electric range of up to 700 km.

It also showed its i4 electric sedan, which will rival the Tesla Model S.

Separately, Krueger said BMW has chosen Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) as its partner in China for battery cell production.

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