Do you know the average miles of range added by a Level 1 charger per hour? Or the average savings in ownership costs for an EV owner versus a medium sedan owner? We know the readers of InsideEVs are a well-informed group of people that know a lot about EVs but do you know as much as you think?
At EPG, we used our electric vehicle testing and staffing experience to develop an online electric vehicle educational course and we wanted to give you a sample of some of the information that you’ll learn by taking our course. It teaches most people a new thing or two about EVs by covering the topics of nomenclature, how EVs work, the battery, charging, cost of ownership, government incentives, performance, features, safety, benefits, and concerns.
Like many things, the electric vehicle world has been in limbo for the last few months. Many OEMs are still currently on track for new model releases but, as expected, many are also delayed. With canceled auto shows, cash flow issues, closed proving grounds, and shuttered production facilities, we’ve seen announcements, R&D, and plant construction come to a virtual standstill. These unexpected *speed bumps* are detrimental to schedules that are meticulously put in place well before a vehicle is scheduled to be in a customers’ hands.
Of the EVs slated to be released in the next year or so, these are some of the more interesting ones that have provided further details about their current state of affairs.
Markus Baumann, Head of Test and Digital Commissioning at BMW, recently told Austrian Industry Magazine that the i4 “is at the moment completely in the green area.” Meaning the vehicle is still on its original testing, validation, and production schedule, and that the vehicle should be released as promised in 2021.
Back in January, Byton announced that the U.S. launch for the M-Byte would be pushed from 2020 to sometime in 2021. Now the company has put “about half” of its 450 staff members in Santa Clara on furlough. The end of May was the target timeline for people to return to work but there have been no reports of this going into effect. A spokesperson told Electrek that the “production timeline will no doubt be impacted.” While all product testing is currently done in China where no workers have been furloughed, it’s possible that the timeline for the M-Byte to be delivered in the U.S. will be pushed back again.
One of the bigger EV debuts of the year is Ford’s Mach-E which is still on track to arrive in late 2020 for the US (Europe is delayed). As reported by CNN back in April, Ford engineers took home more than a dozen pre-production vehicles to continue making improvements in order to keep the original delivery dates on track.
General Motors has confirmed for now that it’s electric vehicle program is still on schedule with the Hummer, Lyriq, and GM’s Cruise Launches Origin, A Fully Autonomous Vehicle, expected to be released next year. The unveiling of these vehicles has been postponed for now but the work on these vehicles is said to still be pushing ahead. Details have not been given on how the development is pushing forward with a remote workforce, but one program is said to even be ahead of schedule at this point.
Karma announced that its all-electric vehicle the Revero GTE will be released in the Spring of 2021. A few weeks ago, Karma said that it had started prototype testing of the new model. Stating that “Karma engineers recently conducted dynamic testing at California’s exclusive Thermal Club race track, among other performance circuits and conditions.”
Lordstown Motors, a maker of light-duty work trucks, said that it has moved plans back to deliver the first vehicles to customers to January 2021, one month later than the original delivery date. The automaker recently announced that due to the canceled North American International Auto Show, the unveiling of the Endurance will now take place virtually on June 22nd. Included in that announcement was an update on the progress of the conversion of GM’s former plant into an EV production facility, which appears to be on schedule.
Lucid has trudged ahead with the construction of its production facility in Arizona and is actively hiring for all types of positions. It has also been giving a behind the scenes look at its beta prototypes that have been immobile for the last few months. Normally “these vehicles would be racking up long-distance miles on the highway or circling a test track as [Lucid] refine and validate the Lucid Air’s advanced engineering and game-changing performance.” For now, they are awaiting the opportunity to get back out on the road for testing and validation. The production unveiling that was originally scheduled for the New York Auto Show, has not been rescheduled, and production dates of late 2020 are still on track, according to CEO Peter Rawlinson.
The highly anticipated release of the R1T by Rivian has been pushed back to 2021 from late 2020. While a few workers have been on-site the last few months prepping the plant in Normal, Illinois for production, testing has effectively come to a halt. However, the plant has recently started reopening on a larger scale using a phased approach. Rivian’s Amazon delivery truck is still on track for its first deliveries next year.
In other Rivian news, Lincoln canceled its all-electric partnership with Rivian citing “[g]iven the current environment, Lincoln and Rivian have decided not to pursue the development of a fully electric vehicle based on Rivian’s skateboard platform.”
Volkswagen has been running into software issues with the ID3 causing delays of deliveries until September of this year, a delay of a few months. These delays date back to December of last year. The ID3 is viewed as a vehicle that will be around for the long term for VW so a few delays should not impact their larger electrification plans for the future.
BloombergNEF recently published its yearly outlook for the electric vehicle (EV) market with some intriguing findings. We’ve highlighted the facts and predictions that stood out to us most but you can see the full report here:
As some states slowly look to lift restrictions related to COVID-19, we still look to other countries that are ahead of the US in terms of lifting restrictions such as China to see what the future may hold. In a time when social distancing may become a new norm, what does this do to mass transportation and the future of private car sales?
In a recent study completed by Ipsos, before COVID-19 hit China, 34% of respondents used their own private car and 56% used the bus or metro. After the COVID outbreak, 66% planned on using their own private car vs. 24% now planned on using the bus or metro. While there was a slump in sales while the outbreak was occurring, there may be a larger demand for private cars after restrictions are lifted. In the survey by Ipsos, 66% of the people that responded planned on purchasing a car within the next 6 months due to the fear of infection from mass transportation.
In the US, we’re still in the midst of the COVID outbreak but we are starting to see some states lift restrictions. We would expect that there may be a shared view of mass transportation and a major sentiment to drive a personal car. While ICE and EV sales are expected to be 50% of what they were in April 2020 vs. April 2019, according to CNBC, a bounce-back in the near future looks likely.
For EVs specifically, sales were strong prior to COVID. According to InsideEV, they were up 16% compared to the previous year. COVID has thrown a wrench into the car sales industry and it’s yet to be seen how sales will be affected post-COVID. People are enjoying cleaner air and quieter roads, which can be partially attributed to fewer cars on the road. Both of these benefits could be enjoyed more with an increase in EV market share, as noted in our previous article. We see this as a speed bump to the EV industry, but we believe that sales will bounce back as people experience the benefits of EVs.
Car manufacturers have also dedicated billions of dollars to R&D for new EV models and we expect this trend to continue. For example, Volvo recently told Automotive News that they will cut some R&D and design budgets but will keep their EV budget intact. CEO Hakan Samuelsson remarked, “electrification, autonomous driving, and our future technology development are an absolute priority.”
How sales occur may change as well. Right now, car dealerships are offering to deliver cars to your house, or you can make an appointment at a dealership to test drive a car with minimal human interaction. Of the responses in the previous survey, 79% preferred this method after the outbreak. We expect dealerships to continue with this approach in order to ensure the safety and health of customers, but also their employees. Closing the transaction may be a new experience as well. Instead of signing the mounds of paperwork that you typically would at a dealership, you may just sign electronically. The future may be researching online, having a vehicle dropped off at your house, negotiating the price over the phone, and then finalizing the paperwork digitally. Time will tell if this will be the new norm. For now, we will enjoy test driving an EV next weekend with minimal interaction with a salesperson. Stay tuned for more about this adventure next week.
COVID-19 has affected us all to some degree, from orders to shelter in place to maintaining social distance. For the electric vehicle (EV) industry, it has had various impacts including affecting research and development, the supply chain and specifically, the production of its batteries. For years, the United States has fallen behind its competitors in EV battery production, but will COVID-19 act as a catalyst in the move of battery manufacturing from China to the US?
In recent years, moving manufacturing out of China has been on the docket for many companies. A Bank of America survey revealed that “two-thirds of global sectors in North America have either implemented or announced plans to pull at least a portion of their supply chains out of China”, including the automotive industry. For most industries, including the EV battery industry, the factory shutdowns as a result of COVID-19 could serve as an eye-opener to the United States’ reliance on China. A move to the US for EV battery manufacturing would provide more eco-friendly jobs, increase national energy security, reduce foreign dependence, and help the US firmly establish itself as the world leader in the transition to EVs.
Bringing EV battery manufacturing to the US is easier said than done. Most EV batteries are lithium-ion. The majority of this battery production currently takes place in China. Yayoi Sekine of BloombergNEF reported that in 2019, of the 316 gigawatt-hours of lithium cell manufacturing capacity worldwide, China led the way globally with 73% compared to only 12% to the next largest producer, the United States. With this large of a gap, it would take a concerted effort over the coming years to move production primarily to the US, but it can be achieved.
To better understand how a change like this could happen, it’s important to look at where the main elements of lithium-ion batteries come from. You guessed it, lithium is a large component of EV batteries. For years dating back to the early 1990s, the US led the entire world in lithium production, but for the last 25+ years, that hasn’t been the case. With the advent of EVs, mining companies across the US have worked to improve their positions as top producers but have fallen short. There are currently four countries that dominate in lithium production: Australia (51,000 tons), Chile (16,000 tons), China (8,000 tons), and Argentina (6,200). Because of privatization and secrecy, lithium production numbers aren’t public and are just an estimate in the US, but we do know that the US is far behind. It’s not that the US can’t become a leader in lithium production, it just hasn’t done so in recent years.
China also dominates the US when it comes to the other elements within lithium-ion batteries: cobalt, nickel, manganese, and graphite to name a few. For example, China is the only commercial-scale producer of spherical graphite. In order to improve the US’s place in the EV battery manufacturing world, it needs to improve in all facets of element production for batteries.
James Breyer, CEO of startup Hercules EV, commented when asked about the current state of EV battery manufacturing in the US: “US domestic production of batteries and other energy technologies is paramount to the security and sustainability of the electric transportation industry moving forward. While supply chain disruptions of the magnitude seen with COVID-19 are hopefully fewer than once per millennium, it showcases the need for distributed supply chain networks.” To overcome this, he has promised that his company will make a strong effort to partner with manufacturers that have regional supply chain capabilities.
According to research, the global EV battery market is expected to grow by $15.7 billion between 2019 and 2023, providing an opportunity for the US to close the gap with China. COVID-19 has opened the world’s eyes to many ways that we can change and improve. Will the location of EV battery manufacturing be one of them? We won’t know the true impact for a while, but this could be the start of big change for the EV industry.