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India is considering making flex-fuel engines mandatory for automakers, according to remarks made by a government minister. Local media reports have cited union minister Nitin Gadkari saying that a decision to confirm the move will be taken within 10 days. He said the move – which would see cheaper bio-ethanol supplied for automotive use – would help farmers and boost the Indian economy. Bakar Sadik Agwan, senior automotive consulting analyst at GlobalData, said the latest development came two weeks after the government brought forward the cut-off date for 20% ethanol blending petrol programme (E20) from 2030 to 2025. The production mandate for ‘all Flex-fuels vehicles’, if implemented, will be a major milestone in the Indian automotive sector but it will have its own sets of benefits and challenges. “The government’s swift attention to biofuels is a result of the increasing economic burden attributable to high crude-based fuel prices recently,” Agwan says. “India has a surplus of feedstock required for ethanol production, ensuring adequate supply for fuel production. Increase in ethanol blending can help the government to reduce oil imports, reduce carbon emission and curb fuel prices.” Agwan noted that there has been a push by the government in the past to increase ethanol blending in petrol for cost and environmental benefits. The National Policy on Biofuels, approved in 2018, aims at blending 10% ethanol in petrol by 2022 and 20% by 2025. Presently, about 8.5% of ethanol is mixed with petrol.

BASF will build a battery recycling prototype plant in Schwarzheide, Germany, at the site of its cathode active materials (CAM) plant. “The prototype recycling plant will allow for the development of operational procedures and optimisation of technology to deliver superior returns of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries as well as off spec material from cell producers and battery material producers,” BASF said in a statement. “With the expected rapid growth of the electric vehicle market, recycling provides competitive and sustainable access to relevant metals for cathode active materials. The extracted metals will be used to produce new cathode active materials and will enable a circular economy for the battery value chain.” “With this investment in battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total compared to industry standards,” said Matthias Dohrn, SVP, precious and base metal services. “This will enable us to meet the needs of our automotive OEM customers.” The investment will create about 35 new production jobs, with startup planned for early 2023.

Bosch has appointed Stefan Hartung as new CEO. Hartung has been with Bosch for 17 years and a member of the Bosch board of management since 2013. As chairman of Mobility Solutions, he has been responsible for the company’s largest business sector since 2019. Prior to that, Hartung’s responsibilities included the Energy and Building Technology, as well as Industrial Technology business sectors. Earlier executive positions at Bosch Power Tools and BSH Hausgeräte mean Hartung has gained first-hand knowledge of large parts of the group and has experience concerning the product and service portfolio across its business sectors. Most recently, he has been instrumental in the realignment of the Mobility Solutions business sector. Effective 31 December, 2021 and following 36 years of service with Bosch – 16 of those on the board of management and 10 as CEO – Volkmar Denner will retire from the Bosch board.

Renault is accelerating its EV strategy, leveraging its technological and industrial assets, along with ten years of experience in electric mobility. The automaker says its plans include: The greenest mix in the European market in 2025, with more than 65% of electric and electrified vehicles in the sales mix and up to 90% electric vehicles in the Renault brand mix in 2030; Renault ElectriCity: an electric ecosystem in Northern France, combined with the Group’s e-powertrain MegaFactory in Normandy; A partnership with Envision AESC to build a gigafactory in Douai to support the manufacture of latest technology, cost-competitive, low-carbon batteries from 2024; A joint project with the French start-up Verkor to codevelop a locally sourced, and sustainable battery by 2022; A standardised cell footprint covering 100% of future BEV launches across all segments to reduce costs by 60% at pack level by 2030;  and a highly compact e-powertrain enabling -30% on costs and -45% on wasted energy, giving an extra EV range of up to 20km. Renault added its approach encompasses a more balanced and more profitable product portfolio with 10 new electric vehicles; Renault 5 costing 33% less than the Zoe and another revival with ‘4ever’; an all-electric C-segment with the redesigned MeganE in 2022 and Renault Group experience in generating added value throughout the battery life cycle with Mobilise: up to EUR400 per year with V2G for EV drivers and a residual value of up to EUR500 per battery. “Today is a historic acceleration of Renault Group’s EV strategy and for ‘made in Europe,’” said CEO, Luca de Meo. “By building Renault ElectriCity, our compact, efficient, high-tech electric ecosystem in Northern France, together with our e-powertrain MegaFactory in Normandy, we are creating the conditions of our competitiveness at home.”

Renault has entered into two partnerships to support the creation of a new battery gigafactory in Douai, close to Renault ElectriCity, in a move it claims will create nearly 4,500 direct jobs in France by 2030. The latest step in the ‘Renaulution’ roadmap is secured through the signing of two major partnerships: with Envision AESC – a specialist in battery technology and smart, digitalised, low-carbon battery plants, and a long-standing partner of Nissan – and Verkor, a Grenoble-based startup specialised in the development of EV battery cells. These latest partnerships supplement existing programmes within the group, in particular the agreement with LG Chem which currently supplies battery modules for the EV range and for the upcoming MeganE. In parallel, there are on-going discussions with ACC to potentially join the ecosystem as of 2027. Research also continues within the Alliance to deploy solid battery technology from 2030, with the ASSB project (All Solid-State Battery technology). Renault plans a gigafactory in Douai with a capacity of 9GWh in 2024 and with aim of reaching 24GWh by 2030. As the battery arm of global green tech company Envision Group, it will invest up to EUR2bn to produce latest technology, cost-competitive, low-carbon and safe batteries for electric models, including the future R5. Thanks to this partnership, Envision AESC forecasts 2,500 new jobs by 2030. The proximity of the Envision AESC’s gigafactory to Renault ElectriCity production sites at Douai, Maubeuge and Ruitz, which will create 700 additional jobs in the Hauts-de-France region, means the group can significantly boost its competitive edge and greatly improve the efficiency of its EV production chain, the company said.

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Fischer Automotive has opened a new plant in Jagodina, Serbia. The German company has significantly expanded its production capacity in Europe, while remaining in close proximity to key hubs of the global automotive market. It has additional subsidiaries outside Europe in the US and China. Other companies from the automotive industry are based in the region, which means existing necessary manufacturing know-how in terms of injection moulding technology results in valuable synergies, maintains the supplier. “Our new plant in Jagodina allows us to further expand our competitive power, as Germany has now become too expensive as a production site,” said company owner Klaus Fischer. First products were produced last February. The new building has area of 8,500 m² which houses injection moulding, assembly, logistics and administrative departments.

Ford has expanded its connected uptime system to European fleet operators with the introduction of Ford Telematics Essentials – a complimentary new fleet management tool designed to help increase the productivity of connected commercial vehicles. Delivered by Ford Pro – Ford’s new global vehicle services and distribution business for commercial and government customers – FORDLiive is a key pillar of the automaker’s always-on relationship with customers to help enhance their fleet operations. The new service delivers Smart Maintenance alerts based on real-time vehicle health data which help businesses to maximise uptime by reducing the number of breakdowns and achieving quicker servicing and repair times. Harnessing connected vehicle data from the fleet, it also links businesses to the support available from the Transit Centre network through Smart Diagnostics so that the productivity of each individual vehicle can be optimised. Available for fleets in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, Ford Telematics Essentials supports higher productivity via an easy-to-use web-based interface which displays key details and maintenance alerts as well as each vehicle’s current health status to help managers plan more effectively and maximise vehicle utilisation.

The last few years have seen a gradual evolution of car interior technology, including high-resolution haptic touch screens, telematics and advanced navigation. We spoke to Tom Blackie, founder and CEO of VNC Automotive, a Cambridge (UK) based business whose tech can be found in over 35 million cars globally, about future integration opportunities as well as the challenges brought on by the current global semiconductor shortage.

Gallium nitride (GaN) is a mechanically stable wide bandgap semiconductor. Suppliers claim that GaN can save electric vehicle manufacturers $1.1 billion in lower materials and battery costs and increase driving range (km) by 6 percent. To learn more, we spoke with Larry Spaziani, Vice President of Sales at GaN Systems.

Industry-wide supply crisis in semiconductors will take time to resolve, but Asian governments are looking to boost long-term capabilities in this key component technology. Governments in Asia are stepping up their efforts to bolster their national  semiconductor capabilities as the unprecedented global shortage of critical electronic parts continues to affect vehicle production and sales across the world. A number of national governments have held in-depth discussions with major domestic electronics manufacturers not only to address the current global semiconductor shortage, but also to develop long-term national strategies for this industry.

Wuling Motors has defied the recent, general sales slide in China. In fact its rise has been dramatic. The brand’s secret weapon? An astonishingly cheap electric car which is the fifth best selling vehicle of 2021.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, Just Auto