The transition to EVs continues in slow but consistent increments around the world, and electric car makers are quickly adapting to new technologies to ease EVs’ mass market readiness. Just this week, Tesla (of course), GM, the New Nissan LEAF, Formula E, and Via were in the EV news with announcements, modifications, and rumors. So, in case you missed ’em, check out these EV stories of the week that chronicle the inevitable shift of societies around the world to electric-powered transportation.
Large US Automakers Aren’t Even Trying to Make the Transition to EVs
We in the US are experiencing a huge case of EV cognitive dissonance. At the same time that the world’s biggest car market, China, is implementing a timetable to end production and sales of traditional energy vehicles, Big US Auto just is simply not trying to market electric vehicles. Does it matter to the traditional Band of US Automaker Brothers that the UK and France are also establishing national goals for the phaseout of internal combustion vehicles? Apparently not.
In autumn, 2017, market research firm Ipsos RDA sent mystery shoppers to 141 dealerships in the 10 largest US markets to document the EV showroom sales experience. And what they found is quite disconcerting. (Note: Tesla got high scores.) Unprepared staffs. Inconsistent practices. Limited EV inventory and information.
Wouldn’t you think that, after such a scathing report, traditional US automakers would have a Come-to-the-Higher-Power moment and completely rewrite SOPs? Nope. According to the most recent quarterly sales figures, sales staff still regularly revert back to what they know: selling conventional gasoline-powered cars.
In 2016, Britta Gross, director of advanced vehicle commercialization policy at General Motors (GM), told an audience at the global Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition that consumers “adore” EVs. “People love the quietness, the smoothness, the seamless drive.” Fast forward to 2018. GM, the 2017 leader among Big Auto, couldn’t get more than 1,177 people to buy the Bolt. They couldn’t extend production of Bolts after over one year of production and demonstrated a really weak ability to generate consumer demand as chronicled in January, 2018 reporting.
But is there a chance that this Big Auto instinct of recalcitrance could be changing? In an interview with Reuters, General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra promised investors that GM could become profitable selling electric cars. To do so, GM will need to partition into two distinct businesses by the mid-2020s. One will continue the traditional focus in North America on trucks, sport utility vehicles, and cars fueled with petroleum. The other will be a global electric car company centered in China, branching into pay-per-use services such as robotaxis.
It all began, it seems, with the Chevy Bolt’s “warm reception by reviewers, customers, and investors.” It was a “holy shit” moment, according to an anonymous GM insider, that made the company rethink what might be possible in the world of electric transportation.
The Transition to Tesla’s Middle Class EV is Dotted with Distress
When I traveled to the Middle East recently on the Global EVRT, several Teslas were part of a fleet that traveled 9 days to expose new people to the promise of electric vehicle transportation. Inevitably, the topic of the Tesla Model 3 production difficulties came to the surface. One savyy road tripper, Daniel Oden, Regional Quality Manager, GM Middle East Operations, explained, “It’s really hard to build an automobile.”
Tesla’s Model 3 difficulties were exacerbated this week when Munro & Associates suggested that the Tesla Model 3 has “flaws we would see on a Kia in the ’90s.” Munro conducts “competitive benchmarking,” which means it tears apart manufactured goods to see how they are made and how much they cost to manufacture. While such deconstruction is a standard procedure in the automotive industry, it can be quite destructive to a company’s reputation and good intentions.
Munro’s Tesla Model 3 concerns were over safety, inconsistent door opening between the front and rear, and additional material in the doors to prevent noises when opening and closing. Tesla fans and opponents alike were afire over the Kia allusion.
The 2018 World Car Awards Include an EV
The World Car Awards (WCA) is a program in which 48 international automotive journalists from 22 countries review the current year’s models that are sold in at least five countries and on least two continents. Their individual vehicle evaluations take place at exclusive drive events staged by the award’s organizer, and the ballots are secret.
With all the exclusivity surrounding the WCA, you might think that it would only be the crème de la crème of automobiles prominently featured in the news that get these journalists’ nods (Read: Tesla). But it’s not so, for, in 2018, the New Nissan LEAF was named as a top 10 finalist in the WCA awards.
“The world is moving towards electric cars at a fast pace, and the Nissan LEAF is one of the best,” said Paul Gover, one of Australia’s most respected automotive journalists and World Car of the Year judge. “You don’t get onto the World Car of the Year final list if you are not extremely worthy. The LEAF is a car you have to look at when you think about the future of motoring.”
The 2018 World Car Awards prize-giving ceremony will be hosted by the New York International Auto Show on March 28.
Racing and the Transition to EVs
When I first attended a live Formula One race years ago with the V10 engines, a wave of noise and energy whipped across the track. It was a truly visceral experience. When I saw my most recent F1 race at Monza, it was a really different event. I didn’t even need to wear earplugs. The turbo-charged V6 engines, with their reduced sounds, changed the entire way I perceived being a fan on site.
And yet change is constant, and we as humans are quite able to adapt. So it makes sense that, as the fifth season of Formula E begins, more and more fans are acquiescing to racing that’s no longer associated with roars that pound the ears. Updates to the Formula E sport include a new look to the cars, more intensive racing, and charging that — finally — lets each car to the entire race distance instead of swapping cars mid-race. Could there also be passing? It’s a real gap with F1 and one on which Formula E could focus.
Via and the Trucking Transition to EVs
Via Motors has just made a deal that will open the company to Volvo’s advanced Drive-e engines and hybrid batteries. That means they’ll be a bit more closer to their original goal of getting their trucks to series production. Of course, no deal is one way, and Geely/ Volvo will now have access to Via’s proprietary control software designed specifically for commercial vehicle use.
The mission of Via is to accelerate the transition to “Green Logistics Vehicles” through electrification of commercial fleets, which will reduce their operating costs, improve their environmental footprint, and ensure continued access to major urban centers.
Via, as you may know, is a brainchild of Bob Lutz, the former vice chairman of product development for General Motors. Lutz made the news in November, 2017 when he wrote an editorial decrying the end of automotive transportation as we know it in lieu of autonomous driving fleets.
Photo on Foter.com