The BMW iX3 electric concept car was finally unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show (Auto China 2018) last week. The long touted prototype of BMW’s first electric SUV – derived entirely from the conventional X3 model and expected for sale in 2020 – was accompanied at the show by the BMW i Vision Dynamics four door concept, previously unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show and precursor of BMW’s future mid-size electric saloon (a Tesla Model 3 competitor).
The German automaker chose the ever more important Chinese event to give new substance to its to-date somewhat confusing electrification plans. Following an early and promising start in the EV sector with the unveil of the BMW i sub-brand in 2011, later incarnated in the i3 and i8 models, BMW had in fact fallen behind the competition and let years go by without meaningful model updates or a clear strategy. We now finally have an almost production-ready SUV prototype and a sedan concept indicating two new electric models coming to market over the next two to four years. The choice of segments should not surprise (mid-size SUV and sedan), given their popularity and BMW’s rivalry with Tesla, the impact of which was also confirmed in Tesla’s latest earnings call. And while up to twelve all-electric models are promised by 2025, this is all that should be expected in the near future. Will this be enough to compete with Tesla’s skyrocketing growth and German rivals’ electrification plans in an increasingly crowded EV space?
The new Nissan Leaf was unveiled last September to great fanfare, as Nissan launched a months-long global marketing offensive to trumpet the arrival of its second generation mass market electric car. A daunting task: replacing the World’s best selling EV, the 2011 Nissan Leaf, produced in around 300,000 units since it came to market. Expectations were particularly high: Nissan was the first automaker to aggressively pursue the EV market, but had not followed up with a new product since. Meanwhile, progress in the field has been explosive and competition is finally raging. Would Nissan once again lead the way? That was the question.
The increasingly popular FIA Formula E electric car championship is about to land in the Eternal City, as Rome hosts the first ever Italian E-Prix through its city streets on Saturday 14 April. Formula E has been showcasing electric powertrain technology for the past few years and now, in its fourth season, is maturing with a growing number of heavy-weight partners and sponsors. Porsche and Mercedes have just been formally approved as manufacturers for future seasons, while BMW and Nissan have also announced their entry in the coming years. Notably, Audi and Jaguar – the only two European car makers with long range production EVs on the market this year – are already racing with their official teams along names such as Renault, Nio and Mahindra.
Tesla’s production figures for the first quarter 2018 were released recently and provided great support to the company’s mission to accelerate the adoption of electric cars. Elon Musk’s company is under intense pressure as it strives to ramp up production of its first affordable car, the Model 3, which is seen as a game changer as it will appeal to a wide variety of customers, particularly with the forthcoming $35,000 base model. Production numbers at Tesla’s factories are increasing dramatically with the addition of Model 3 to the line up. This, together with the expected ramp to full speed production as well as the future Model Y crossover – due to be unveiled later this year – provide a clear indication of how Tesla’s journey to mainstream is quickly reaching a tipping point.
Tesla has finally revealed production numbers for Q1 2018 on its website (they can be found here). The much awaited news got analysts and media crunching numbers to obtain guidance on the company’s near term progress and longer term expectations. Among the most important news is the confirmation that – despite difficulties – Model 3 production is finally ramping up quickly with almost 10,000 cars produced this quarter, 2,000 of which just last week.
I recently wrote about this year’s Geneva Motor Show, arguably the first time production EVs really steal the scene at the Salon Auto. The brilliant Youtube channel Fully Charged has covered the show with a brilliant double episode, a pleasure to watch (you really should subscribe to that channel). You will obviously find video coverage of the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron Quattro, Kia Nero electric – as discussed in my article – and much more. Enjoy.
Exactly two years ago today, I was preparing to watch one of the most awaited events in the Elon-Musk-age: the Tesla Model 3 reveal. 31st of March 2016 at 8.30pm in California. Touted as the first mass produced, affordable long range electric car in the world, expectations on Model 3 from fans and media alike were sky-high. Living in London, I had to wait till late into the night for the live stream, so I set my alarm clock at 4.15am Greenwich Mean Time, 1st of April. I was to order mine online as soon as lines would open and the car be revealed. As the alarm rang, I rushed to Tesla’s website to get ready for the event. Much to my surprise, pre-orders were already open (a last minute decision to open orders one hour before the event to avoid overloading Tesla’s servers), so without thinking twice, I rushed to my credit card, filled in the online form and placed the order for delivery to my Milan address. Sight unseen.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman revealed on Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding with Japanese group SoftBank to invest $200 billion dollars in the development of a 200 GW solar power plant in Saudi Arabia. You read it right, $200 billion, 200 GW. The announcement was given at a ceremony in New York with Softbank’s founder Masayoshi Son and is part of an ongoing effort by the Crown Prince to diversify the economy of the Oil Kingdom, the so called “Vision 2030″. It follows previous plans for a $50 billion investment in solar power announced just a year ago.
The project aims clearly at making Saudi Arabia a solar power exporter – rebalancing an economy overdependent on fossil fuels for exports and self consumption. This could mean some $40 billion in savings to power costs, it would also provide up to 100,000 jobs to the country, encompassing all related sectors from construction to panel manufacturing to power generation. Battery power storage also forms part of Saudis’ plan.
Any EV enthusiast knows that Norway is a country of early adopters, so much so that it actually keeps breaking records. Thanks to a generous incentive regime, something like half of all new car sales in the Scandinavian country are electric cars, a feat that no other country in the world is yet getting even close to.
It won’t surprise then if many interesting news in the EV sector often come from Norway. The Norwegian EV Association, Norsk elbilforening, recently conducted a thorough, 2-day and 700 km winter test of five electric cars – Nissan Leaf, VW e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Opel Ampera-e (Chevrolet Bolt), and the BMW i3 – putting them through harsh weather conditions and drawing some interesting, as well as surprising, results.
This year’s Salon Auto in Geneva will be remembered as the one where electric concept cars got finally replaced with production models. The transition has been years in the making, around ten or so in fact, but never did it get so evident as this time.