This week, GlobalData assessed whether electrode-to-pack batteries could be a potential option for BEVs in future. At present, Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) battery packs are made of singular cells comprised of an anode, cathode, a separator and an electrolyte. These are contained in either a pouch, a prismatic metal container, or a cylindrical metal container. They are connected through a mixture of in series and in parallel configurations, in either a module or, in more recent cases, directly into the battery housing, known as cell-to-pack (CTP), or directly to the body, known as cell-to-body (CTB). Moving away from modules offers considerably higher packing density, and therefore higher energy density. The caveat of this is a reduction of serviceability; however, regardless of how these cells are packed, inefficiency is always present as a result of the space between the cells (especially affecting cylindrical cells) and the housings surrounding the internal components of the cells. A way of increasing the packing efficiency would be to remove the housings entirely and hence enter the realms of electrode-to-pack (ETP) batteries. Read on here.
COP28 itself may be underwhelming from an auto industry standpoint but it’s not the whole story by any means. As we noted this time last year, the annual UN climate change gathering (this year’s is the 28th ‘Conference of the Parties’) doesn’t seem to be an event that gets the auto industry’s big guns out. While the formal COP28 sessions are mainly for politicians and experts with a sector-by-sector look at progress (or not – the so-called ‘stocktake’) and discussion of next steps, there’s a big informal aspect to the event where companies and others can choose to have stands, talk to delegates or the press, make presentations and so on. Some 75,000 attendees will be milling around at the COP28 event in Dubai. The car companies and major suppliers have a good story to tell don’t they? Well, yes – but let’s put to one side the history of delivering fossil-fuel based products in transportation that have wrought a very heavy cost to the environment in terms of CO2 emissions. That’s very much what the industry would like to consign to the past but is something that can be uncomfortable to be reminded of. It’s still there, though the industry has massively cleaned up its act in terms of both emissions that are harmful to human health today and the greenhouse gas emissions that are potentially catastrophic for future generations. While concerns inevitably remain over the full environmental impact of the industry in terms of manufacturing activity as well as vehicles in use, there is progress there, too.
Future BMW & Mini
Our new and future models sage booted up his crystal ball for a look at the future product plans of BMW and Mini. All engine production in Germany has just ended, while China-built EV exports are imminent – big change for BMW’s two main brands is no longer coming, it’s here. Of the mass-volume makes specialising in premium-priced vehicles, BMW is second only to Audi in Europe, holding a 6% share of the giant regional market. Positioned fourth overall (VW remains #1 with Toyota second), the Munich-based brand may trail its Ingolstadt rival but it’s ahead of Stuttgart’s Mercedes, an achievement it should be especially proud of. Add Oxford’s Mini numbers to the mix and the group tranche rises to 7.3% (ACEA data for October 2023), also lifting it ahead of Toyota-Lexus. To remain in such a position of strength, BMW is calculating it will need a two-speed approach, not just for future powertrains but platforms too. And then there is the company’s alliance with Great Wall Motor for electric Minis. As well as as sports car and fuel-cell agreements with Toyota. Inevitably, further partnerships will right now be at the exploration stage as this rich but only medium-sized OEM casts about for win-win deals. These it will need to assist with the development of many cars for the 2030s. And not every model will be an EV, as this report details.
Toyota Thailand’s tiny(ish) truck
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Toyota Thailand has launched a new, smaller pickup truck, adding an entry level model in a top selling segment in the country which is a global production hub for multiple light truck brands including the automaker’s regular Hilux line. The new Hilux Champ was designed to meet the needs of small businesses and consumers. The range was unveiled first at the Japan Mobility Show last October and was launched in Thailand, the Hilux’s largest single market, at this week’s Bangkok International Motor Expo. Toyota said development of the truck was led by Thai engineers after “thoroughly researching local customer lifestyles”. The new model is based on the IMV platform used for the regular Hilux line and also the long-running, low price entry levek Indonesian made Innova MPV.
Merc’s new charger hub
Mercedes-Benz has inaugurated its first German charging hub in Mannheim. The new facility is in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region, on one of Germany’s most important transport corridors. EV drivers can charge cars and vans at six points, each with an output of 300 kW. Each charger has only one port to ensure maximum energy reaches the charging vehicle.
Chinese autonomous trucks
Inceptio Technology, a Chinese developer of autonomous driving technology for heavy-duty trucks, has delivered the first batch of autonomous trucks to Yunyi Transport, an international express logistics company. The vehicles will be deployed in China. Yunyi Transport’s record order for 300 heavy-duty units is the latest step in the large scale commercialisation of autonomous trucks in China, Inceptio said.
Detroit counts strike cost
General Motors said new labour deals, agreed with United Auto Workers union members only after a lengthy US strike, will cost US$9.3bn even as it outlined $10bn in share buybacks, a 33% dividend increase and “substantially lower” spending at its robotaxi unit Cruise. had GM lowered 2023 profit expectations after the strike. “Finally some good news for GM and this was strong outlook and comments from [CEO Mary] Barra & Co [after] the UAW debacle,” Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives told news agency Reuters. “Now it’s about getting the train back on the tracks and this a great start.” The report said the $9.3bn in additional costs to the end of 2028 was for agreements with the UAW and Canadian union Unifor and worked out at about $575 per vehicle over the deals’ life.
Bad news for tyre makers
Michelin said this week it would gradually wind down production at its Karlsruhe and Trier sites in Germany as well as new tyre and semi finished products manufacturing in Homburg. It would also transfer its customer contact centre from Karlsruhe to Poland. A total of 1,532 employees are affected by the restructuring intended to be completed by the end of 2025. “This decision is linked to the growing competition [from] budget truck tyres and the lack of competitiveness of our German operations for our European and export markets,” the tyre maker said.
Swap your battery, sir?
Following the recent announcement about a similar deal with Changan, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group has joined EV maker Nio to promote battery-swapping technology and services to address shortcomings in the country’s EV charging infrastructure. Nio said in a statement that the two companies had “agreed to carry out comprehensive cooperation on battery standards, battery swapping technology, battery swapping network expansion and operation, swappable model development and battery asset management”. Geely is the second automaker just this month to agree to collaborate with Shanghai-based Nio after Changan signed its similar agreement last week to establish common technology standards and develop a shared recharging network.
A unit of South Korean steel giant Posco Group announced this week it had completed building a lithium hydroxide plant in the Yulchon Industrial Complex in Gwangyang province. The refining plant, the first of its kind in the country, would be operated by Posco-Pilbara Lithium Solution – a joint venture with between Posco and Australian mining company Pilbara Minerals. The facility, which cost KRW575bn (US$451m), has capacity for 21,500 tons of lithium hydroxide per year and would help strengthen the group’s presence in the electric vehicle (EVs) battery supply chain.
News from the home front
UK car production output surged 31.6% in October, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). In the eighth month of growth this year, 91,512 units left factory gates marking the best October performance since 2019. The string performance is against chip crisis constrained levels of output last year and reflects a worldwide surge in vehicle output as supply shortages of critical parts have eased through 2023. UK car production for both the home and overseas markets grew in October, up 23.9% and 33.4% respectively, although it was exports which drove output. More than eight in 10 (82.3%) cars were shipped abroad, representing 75,343 units, while 16,178 cars stayed in the UK. Export growth was driven by rising shipments to the EU, up 58.5%.
UK commercial vehicle (CV) production returned to growth in October following a September decline, rising 47.1% year on year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). A total of 12,853 vans, buses, trucks, coaches and taxis rolled off British assembly lines, up 4,113 units on last year for the best percentage gain of the year. In a sign of the significance of the recovery, the increase was the best October tally since 2008, up 41.4% on pre-pandemic 2019 output. October 2023 production was driven by exports, up 47% year on year to 8,680 units as 67.5% of output was shipped abroad.
Have a nice weekend.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, Just Auto