Quite naturally, fully electric cars are seen as a green choice. If we put aside the thorny question of how the electricity has actually been generated for the zero emission vehicle, it’s a rather marvellous thing. A car being propelled by a propulsion system that isn’t reliant on burning fossil fuels at the point of use. But there are problems with the battery technology and there’s still an image problem (a utility-trumps-all legacy of some of the early EV examples) to overcome. Tesla‘s Elon Musk said at the outset of his electric car mission, that he wanted to make an electric car an attractive proposition for the automotive enthusiast, not simply an alternative vehicle for the green brigade. And, starting out with the Roadster, Tesla has played an important part in changing general perceptions about electric cars.
The major OEMs are now sinking a lot of R&D into improving the technology and bringing more electric vehicles to market. The slow train coming can just about be heard, coming down the track, sales in major regions around the world growing (albeit from low bases). And a petrol-head (please forgive the rather fossil fuel-centric term) would surely no longer dismiss electric cars out of hand. Some engineers are dedicated to getting serious sports performance out of electric drivetrains (an electric Porsche, an electric Jaguar F-Type etc). Think of it as saving the polar bears, with benefits.
There were a couple of eye-catching sporty EV examples to think about this week. NextEV chose London to unveil an electric supercar that was pretty jaw-dropping. It also comes loaded with advanced electric power systems – four motors and four gearboxes – to extract maximum performance. Meanwhile, we also had an exclusive item about an electric Maserati. That Alfieri does sport some very nice design lines and curves.
There are also some intriguing electric vehicle developments taking place in the mainstream automotive world. Volkswagen is, perhaps understandably, making a big thing about its shift to cuddly electric vehicles in the long-term. Volkswagen Group certainly has the industrial framework and capability to go for huge scale on EV components such as batteries. I would guess it will almost certainly want control of that. Toyota also seems to be putting some serious thought and effort into batteries.
In other news, we’ve noticed a lot of restructuring and M&A activity in the supplier sector lately. You know it’s serious when the big private investor groups get involved. Some examples this week:
- KKR to buy Calsonic Kansei
- Crestview Partners completes Accuride buy
- Schaeffler sells blanking business to Güntensperger
- Valeo bids for full Ichikoh takeover
And I had a bit of a think about Samsung and Harman. That’s a big one.
Did ‘Mr T’ over in the US make our news again? Perhaps inevitably so. He more or less torpedoed the TPP deal for free trade between the US and a number of Asian nations. The big question now is whether he will follow through with other protectionist sounding campaign pledges. It’s not just Ford that is worried. Sergio realises FCA could take a dent on its bottom line. And still on FCA, it is interesting to note that the company will be working with Amazon for online sales. You don’t buy a car the way that you would a DVD maybe, but it’s another sign that traditional models for business operation – in sales and manufacturing – are constantly being challenged these days.
Oh, and there was a story in China that was a little bit eyebrow-raising.
Have a good weekend.