Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Cars’ Category

VW received 20,000 e-up! electric car orders, rivaling gas-powered version

Elektrek 31 March 2020

Volkswagen claims to have received 20,000 e-up! electric car orders in Germany over the past 3 months – rivaling the demand for its gas-powered version.

Today, the German automaker shared a press release to boast about the demand for the e-up! electric car and the Passat GTE PHEV in Germany.

The latter is not very impressive since we are talking about every seventh Passat customer in Germany opting for the PHEV version.

However, when it comes to the former, the little e-up! (yes, there’s an exclamation point in the name), VW had some impressive data to share.

The e-up! is the electric version of the up! model series and now VW says that every other customer buying an up! model series vehicle in Germany is ordering the electric one.

The automaker claims to have received over 20,000 orders for the e-up! electric car in Germany this year:

“Even before the launch of the new ID.304 this summer, the demand for electric mobility has considerably increased in Germany: already every second order for the up! model series is for the fully electric version, around 20,000 orders have been received. […] Around 20,000 vehicles have been ordered already over the first three months of this year.”

The increased demand comes after VW updated the e-up! for the 2020 model year last year with a much longer range:

“The e-up! generates 61 kW (83 PS) has been launched in November 2019 and represents the new entry-level model to Volkswagen’s electric world. Compared with the predecessor, it offers a significantly increased range (up to 260 km in the WLTP cycle).”

VW attributes the increase in demand in Germany partly to the low cost of the vehicle after incentives in the market:

“The low running costs are the crucial purchasing argument: In Germany, its manufacturer suggested retail price (€21,975) is reduced by an environmental bonus (€6,570, both gross amounts) and the German insurance categories are favourable (liability category: 12, fully comprehensive category: 16). And no charges are incurred for road tax or engine oil changes for the e-up!.”

As we reported last week, the e-up! might not have long to live despite its success since VW says it’s working on entry-level ID.1 electric car that would replace the e-up!.

Electrek’s Take

This is really good news for VW. It’s going to help them reach their emission goals in Europe until the ID.3 is available.

They are just talking about Germany here, but the economics of the new e-up! are likely good in several other European markets.

I would note though that VW is only talking about orders and not deliveries. I doubt that they have the production capacity to deliver on the demand for the e-up! since they have only been planning for real EV volume production with the MEB platform.

Nonetheless, I’m curious to see how many of the new e-up! VW ends up selling this year.

Lithium Supply Fears Loom Over Electric Vehicle Happy Talk — Or Not, As The Case May Be

Cleantechnica 27 May 2020

Spring has sprung, which means it’s time for another round of guess how much lithium automakers will need to make enough lithium-ion batteries for the electric vehicle of the future, of which there are expected to be many millions on the road within the next ten years or so. Spoiler alert: we’re going to need a lot more lithium mines than we have right now. Or, maybe not.

The Clock Is Ticking On The Electric Vehicle Supply Chain of the Future

The big question is, should auto makers start investing in lithium mines to guarantee their future supply?

Lithium miners certainly seem to think so, because new lithium investors are becoming harder to find  these days. Investors are skittish in part because there is currently an oversupply of lithium and prices have dropped considerably from two years ago.

One example is Finland’s Keliber, which has laid claim to the first lithium mine in the EU. Now it is also claiming to be the first ever mining company to solicit investment from the auto industry.
Alternatively, Keliber is looking to nail down long term supply contracts with automakers.

As for the supply of lithium itself, miners have barely scratched the surface of the global lithium potential. The challenge is to match the mining timeline with the electric vehicle manufacturing timeline. It can take years to start up a new mining operation, and meantime automakers are already gearing up for an electric vehicle recovery after the COVID-19 downturn.

Consolidation in the mining industry and environmental damage are two other areas that will challenge automakers — and other lithium investors — in future years.

All Lithium Roads Lead to More Electric Vehicles

For a deeper dive into the investor angle, check out a new YouTube interview from our friends over at EV Stock Channel.

In the meantime, technology could become the final arbiter of how much lithium mining is needed, and how quickly, for the all-electric personal mobility market of 10 or 20 years from now.

One alternative supply source is evaporated salt brine. A movement is already afoot in that area to replace inefficient (and environmentally damaging) natural evaporation ponds with more efficient technology.
Piggybacking lithium recovery with geothermal energy is another avenue of approach. The US Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been working on a reusable material that would extract lithium from concentrated brine at geothermal plants.

Not for nothing, but researchers estimate that there are 230 million tons of untapped lithium in ordinary seawater. Untapped it will probably remain in the near future, because the concentration of lithium in seawater is extremely low. However, researchers are already looking to the farther future when membrane extraction technology improves.

The Lithium-Free Electric Vehicle Of The Future

Then there’s the circular economy approach, in which lithium could be recovered from spent electric vehicle batteries.

That could be a long time coming, though. Electric vehicle batteries last a long time, and they could last even longer in a second life as stationary energy storage devices.

A whole ‘nother option is to come up with an electric vehicle battery that uses less lithium, or none at all.

After all, cobalt has been a mainstay of EV battery technology, and now it’s on the way out. Ditto for conventional lithium-ion technology, which is all of a sudden being replaced by solid state architecture and a lithium-metal formula.

So, could the electric vehicle of the future be powered by a lithium-free battery?

They will, if fans of sodium-ion batteries get their way. The sodium-ion field has a lot of catching up to do, but a new diagnostic approach developed by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory should help speed things up.

It also depends on what you mean by battery. After all, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles run on electricity, and they don’t use lithium. The passenger car area has been a challenge, but automakers are already beginning to diversify their approach to EV technology by investing in fuel cells for heavy duty vehicles (note: the environmental advantage depends on how quickly renewable hydrogen can replace fossil-sourced hydrogen).

In the category of farther future, flow battery technology could cross paths with hydrogen, if a new refillable version developed by a research team at Purdue University pans out.

Volkswagen CEO: We Need To Move Faster On Electric Vehicles Or We Will Follow Nokia’s Fate 16 January 2020

Volkswagen’s CEO, Herbert Diess, has reportedly expressed yet again the corporation’s powerful internal struggles regarding the transition to electric vehicles. Before jumping into his latest comments, though, I’d like to go back to what former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne made rather clear a few years ago: legacy automakers have to reinvent themselves in order to be true electric vehicle competitors. Many outsiders consider the shift from making fossil fuel vehicles to making electric vehicles as a simple transition, but it’s actually an existential crisis for large automakers.

As I’ve written before, legacy automakers are walking an extremely thin and difficult tightrope. On the one hand, if they don’t electrify fast enough, they’re dead. On the other hand, they have to invest an enormous amount of money to move from fossil powertrains to electric powertrains to remain at a similar production scale as they exist today, and they will certainly have to swallow stranded assets and sunk costs that will make their financials look a bit shabby for a while.

I think Diess has been making this point in a variety of ways in recent months — and years even — since he has to communicate to both investors and employees the difficulty of this transition and the potential for failure.

Volkswagen ID Crozz concept electric car

According to Reuters (h/t Steve Hamel), Diess today highlighted to reporters, “The big questions is: are we fast enough?” This focuses on my first point above about the tightrope they must walk. “If we continue at our current speed, it is going to be very tough,” Diess added, and he went into what some might term “CleanTechnica Tesla fanboy” territory by also noting that Volkswagen could end up going the route of Nokia if it goes too slowly.

This comes on the heals of an increase in Volkswagen and Volkswagen Group electric vehicle production targets. In the coming few years, Diess wants his expansive corporation to become the world’s #1 electric automaker. Some see the targets as still far too slow. Some see them as overly ambitious. The chance that they are just right is probably not something anyone at Volkswagen wants to think long about, as it’s very challenging to time a transition like this perfectly as a large incumbent. I personally think Volkswagen is moving in a good direction, and today’s comments make me think that even more.

One week ago today, I wrote the article, “The 2 Big Questions Regarding Volkswagen’s Future*.” The first matter discussed therein was autonomy, which is a topic for another day, but the second matter is one that I think Diess must spend a lot of time considering — the Osborne effect. I would sweat profusely if it was my job to transition Volkswagen Group in a way that rode the electrification wave beautifully to the shore. The Osborne effect is like a giant rock in the middle of the breaking wave. The best explanation to date that I’ve seen about this challenge in the automaker context is one written by Maarten Vinkhuyzen, so I highly recommend reading or rereading that essay. No one should assume Volkswagen has an easy solution to this challenge, and I think public acknowledgements of that by Diess himself are useful in bringing this discussion to the public and highlighting the uncertainty of the moment.

Again echoing CleanTechnica commenters who are often seen as radical, unrealistic souls, I’ll end with this line from Volkswagen’s global leader: “The era of the classic carmakers is over.”

I think it is appropriate to use the term “leader” for Diess. I think he is making tough decisions and saying difficult things in order to move his company forward. When the era of class carmakers is over, there is perhaps no greater industry challenge than remaining a major carmaker in the new era. We’ll see how Volkswagen Group does on this growing worldwide wave.

*Perhaps Diess read that one. My understanding is that it wouldn’t be the first CleanTechnica article he consumed with an open mind.