Tesla is bringing its China-built cars up to par with their American counterparts, BMW has a new battery that could change the EV game, and Volkswagen may set up a battery shop in North America. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, December 1, 2022.
1st Gear: Tesla Updates China-Built Cars With American Recall Software
Last week, Tesla recalled hundreds of thousands of cars in the U.S. to fix an issue with the rear lights. Now, over a week and a half later, it seems that update is finally making its way out to Chinese-built cars that share the issue. This prompts an interesting question: Why the delay? From Automotive News:
Tesla Inc. will conduct an over-the-air software update on more than 435,000 electric vehicles made at its factory in China due to a rear-lighting defect.
China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said 142,277 Model 3 sedans and 292,855 Model Y crossovers could be affected by the issue, which in extreme cases raises the risk of crashes. The recall follows a similar move in the U.S. last month, when Tesla had to update software on more than 321,000 EVs because their tail lights might fail to illuminate.
One would think that Tesla would implement critical safety updates across its entire, global fleet simultaneously. To update cars piecemeal, divided up by the factories that built them, is an odd move. Is there a technical difference that caused the delay, a regulatory one, or a secret third thing?
2nd Gear: BMW’s New EV Battery Claims 30 Percent More Range
The core problem with EVs, as they stand, is battery density. Customers demand hundreds of miles of driving range, but current battery technology simply can’t keep up. Everyone from LG to Tesla is working on a solution, and BMW thinks it’s found one by reshaping its battery cells. From Automotive News:
BMW Group is developing a battery cell that promises to go farther, cost less and be gentler on the planet.
The new lithium ion cell will power BMW’s next-gen Neue Klasse electric vehicles.
The so-called Gen 6 battery, under development at the BMW Group Battery Cell Centre of Excellence here, delivers up to 30 percent greater driving range than the current generation, according to the company.
A key to the performance is the battery cell’s cylindrical shape, said Simon Erhard, who helps lead Gen 6 development at BMW Group.
While current BMW batteries feature prismatic cells configured in modules bolted together to form a pack, the next-gen design ditches the modules. Its new cell-to-pack design allows more power-packing cells to be squeezed into the same battery footprint. The Gen 6 battery has a diameter of 46 millimeters.
Using cylindrical cells is nothing new, plenty of existing EVs use that same design. But, does that cell diameter sound at all familiar? What will happen when another automaker takes a crack at Tesla’s 4680 battery?
3rd Gear: Volkswagen May Be Setting Up Shop In Canada
Volkswagen has plans to corner the EV market, but electric cars require a lot of previous metals. Conveniently, it just so happens that Canada has a lot of precious metals. With a match like that, it’s no surprise the company is reportedly eyeing a battery factory in the Great White North. From Reuters:
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and its battery subsidiary PowerCo SE have begun searching for a site for the carmaker’s first battery cell factory in North America, a company source told Reuters on Thursday.
The source said Canada was “a logical option” for the plant, which would be VW’s first gigafactory outside Europe.
The move was described as an expansion of the memorandum of understanding signed between Volkswagen and mineral-rich Canada in August, in which they agreed to intensify efforts to secure access to lithium, nickel and cobalt.
The hunt for battery minerals has automakers in something of a modern gold rush. There’s lithium in them there hills, and everybody’s staking their claim wherever they can.
4th Gear: Ford Bets Big On UK EV Production
Remember when Brexit threw the future of UK auto manufacturing into question? It seems Ford has found an answer, and that answer is to keep making cars in the same places it was making them before. Isn’t it nice when things are simple? From Reuters:
Ford Motor Co (F.N) will invest an extra 149 million pounds ($180 million) to boost output of electric vehicle (EV) power units by 70% at its engine factory in northern England as the U.S. carmaker accelerates its push to go electric.
Electric drive unit production capacity at the Halewood plant will increase to 420,000 units a year, from 250,000 units, starting in 2024, the Detroit-based carmaker said on Thursday.
Halewood is expected to supply 70% of the 600,000 EVs the company aims to sell in Europe annually by 2026, Ford said.
The latest Ford investment includes 125 million pounds in the plant itself and 24 million pounds in the development and testing of new EV parts for production at Halewood.
$180 million is chump change to a company the size of Ford, but the capacity increase the company claims for that investment is massive. I wish I could drop a couple hundred bucks and get 70% more of something.
5th Gear: Hyundai And Kia Are Doing Just Fine
The car market is slowly rebounding from chip-shortage lows, but Kia and Hyundai seem to have stepped up their collective game. Both brands saw major year-over-year sales increases for November, moving enough cars to set their own personal records. From Automotive News:
U.S. sales at Hyundai and Kia rose double digits last month from a year earlier, with both brands setting November records.
Deliveries jumped 43 percent at Hyundai and 25 percent at Kia.
The results come amid rising production and inventory across the industry after the microchip shortage and other supply chain snags limited automakers from being able to meet demand for new vehicles for much of the past two years.
Hyundai said its inventory has more than doubled from a year ago, to 39,898 vehicles at the end of November. That’s up from 31,529 a month earlier and 17,096 in November 2021.
U.S. light-vehicle deliveries were expected to rise from November 2021 as inventory shortages continued to ease. Higher interest rates are increasing customers’ monthly payments, but dealerships are now selling fewer vehicles above sticker price — 41 percent in November vs. 50 percent in July, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
Ah, supply and demand. Carmakers start increasing production, and dealers lose their bargaining chip for on-the-lot markups. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Reverse: Civil Disobedience
Neutral: Please Stop The Music
Our office now plays Christmas music in the bathrooms. I love the holiday season, I love snow and lights and trees and presents, but I cannot do a full month of Boomer-core holiday songs. Has your office fallen victim to the end-of-year earworms that threaten our collective sanity? If so, here’s a true bop to help out.