Wednesday, July 6, 2022

METAL-URGING - THE SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL EV TRANSITION? by John Crawford

Here’s a new take on the previous post. As the EV business (both car and battery makers) scramble to find new sources of rare earth metals, plus hopefully new (and bigger) discoveries of lithium and cobalt, comes a report warning that unless new sources are discovered soon, the entire EV strategy may be doomed to a massive slowdown in the growth of the concept.




A realistic assessment of the use of rare earths in EVs suggests that EVs use SIX TIMES more of these critical metals than ICE cars! The minerals include silicon, rare earth elements, uranium, copper, aluminium, steel, lithium, cobalt and nickel.



Despite optimistic future EV forecasts, that future is not assured.

That can only happen if sources of critical elements grow exponentially.


The International Energy Agency estimates that the annual demand for critical minerals from ‘clean energy technologies’ will exceed USD$400bn by 2050, which is equivalent to the annual revenues from the current coal market! S&P Global Insights forecasts that global light EV sales could hit 26.8 million by 2030 up from 6.3 million in 2021.

 

In addition to this scramble for critical minerals, there is also massive investment in trying to create the ‘silver bullet’ battery technology, which will deliver larger driving ranges, faster-charging and cheaper batteries. New developments hit the news weekly, but the trouble is they are either produced with a resultant huge carbon footprint; or the technology is not economically scalable, and in addition higher cost of new technologies hobbles rapid expansion of EV sales, with ever-rising retail prices of EVs.



The successful future of EVs then is completely saddled by lack of plentiful critical minerals, and the battery chemical evolution.

Also keep in mind that China has the largest reserves of lithium in the world, and it has announced it will not export lithium to the rest of the world.


A sobering statistic from Tesla’s recent disclosures to analysts reveals that US customers who ordered a Model Y in June, will not only have a considerable wait to take delivery, but the car will cost them USD$14,000 more when it lands on their driveway. Not only are all Tesla factories, according to Elon Musk, ‘gigantic money furnaces’, but output in the past year has been slashed by a third in some case, and by 50% in places like China.


However, China currently still dominates the global EV market.



All of this brings me to a sobering conclusion. Once you have dug up the rare earth elements and other metals out of the ground and used them, then that supply source is exhausted – so the world MUST keep on finding new sources to support this rush to total EV replacement of ICE cars.

 

There is also the environmental degradation after intensive mining, as China is finding out (top), with the toxic aftermath of mining for rare earth metals.


The devastation of the post-mining landscape in Colombia (bottom), Chile and Peru is even worse.


I believe that there’s a secondary industry out there, waiting to be developed, and it could generate considerable profits, and that is a widespread, technologically-feasible and mature re-cycling strategy to recover as much useable material as possible from discarded EVs.

 

Despite the appearance of some very stylish EV designs, it’s clear to me that the future of personal mobility is not an ironclad forecast.

Believe me, after covering the motor industry for as long as I have, there are ZERO certainties over the next three decades.

Nothing, and I repeat, nothing is certain and the sooner the EV ‘babes’ – along with the Greens and the impractical environmentalists understand this, then and only then will the way be open to devise a logical, and sustainable way forward.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

YOUR EV DREAM CAR? HOLD ON TO THE DREAM A BIT LONGER by John Crawford

Every time it seems like there’s good news for the future of electric vehicles (the YIN), there’s a new delay in delivering the dream (the YANG).



 In the USA, the order books are full of customers who will wait two years before the EV they’ve dreamed about and splurged on sits on their driveway. Not only that, before they take delivery, they’ll be paying more than they planned.

 

The reality shattering the dream is not new. Huge price increases in the rare metals used in the manufacturing of the huge battery packs; shortage of chips, and the need to make a profit are pushing EV prices higher, and higher.

 

Ford says recent material cost increases have virtually wiped out profit margins on the Mach-E.

GM has raised Hummer EV prices by almost USD$10 grand, and in a call with analysts last week Elon Musk said Tesla, which has lifted the prices on its Model Y SUV (below) three times this year says it will almost certainly lift prices on all models.


Musk also reported that ALL of Tesla's factories are losing money!


All three companies assured analysts they will attempt to curb price increases over the next 12 months by striking supply deals directly with the source producers of rare earth metals.

 

Right now EVs are being bought by early adopters, but despite the cost pressures, analysts say the car companies may have to reduce prices to broaden the sales profile. Given that car companies have to answer to shareholders, selling EVs at little or no profit is hardly appealing.

According to the WSJ, EV prices have risen 22% from a year ago, whilst the price of ICE cars has risen only 14%.

 

Whilst Wall Street analysts are enthusiastic about the potential growth in EVs helping the companies’ bottom line, the levels of investment are rising rapidly.


According to Detroit consultant Alix Partners, the planned investment in EVs has doubled in the past two years, exceeding USD$526bn!

 

If you’re thinking that EVs are not meant for the hoi polloi you’re not far off the mark. Only the rich will be driving EVs for a long time. In the last year the percentage of EVs in the giant US car market is a flat 5%. In Australia, EV market share is just 2%.

 

The VP of data and analytics for JD Power said: “Car companies will need to make EVs accessible to more than the affluent.” Well, duh! “For mass consumer adoption the industry still has to find a way to get cheaper EVs to market.” Well, duh! Again!

 

The cheapest American-built EV in the USA right now comes from GM, the Chevy Bolt, with GM cutting the price by USD$6,000 to USD$27,000.

 

The cheapest EV in Australia at the moment is the Chinese-built MG HS at around $50,000!

 

When you can buy a well-specc'd Hyundai i30 ICE for around $23,000, it’s hard to imagine anything less than 10 years to payback the EV investment.


So the for moment would-be EV buyers – dream on.

 



JOHN CRAWFORD

Friday, July 1, 2022

WAXING LYRIQ-AL ABOUT A CADDY by Paul Eisenstein

With the debut of the 2023 Lyriq battery-electric vehicle, Cadillac just might once again be ready to lay claim to being the once-and-future "standard of the world."



The flagship arm of General Motors once set the benchmark all other high-line brands had to reach for. In recent decades, despite a much ballyhooed "renaissance," Cadillac struggled to be little more than an afterthought for luxury buyers. But its first all-electric model finally shows what the brand is capable of.

 


The midsize SUV is one of the first EVs to use GM's new Ultium "architecture" and battery technology. While that platform is shared with the new GMC Hummer EV -- and an assortment of all-electric models to follow -- Lyriq is an otherwise ground-up effort. And its product development team was clearly liberated to do what they thought best.

 

Lyriq features a striking design that falls somewhere between fastback and SUV. It is a welcome contrast to the bland and increasingly dated look of the comparably priced Model Y that Tesla has been loathe to update.




The Lyriq's distinctive face is all the more exciting when viewed at night, with its classic-Caddy vertical headlamps and unique, backlit grille.



The cabin makes good use of the space freed up by moving the drivetrain, including battery pack, below the load floor. It's not just roomy but strikes a balance between classic luxury and a more modern, digital interpretation, anchored by its 33-inch LCD display.




At launch, only the rear-drive version of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq will be available. It's reasonably muscular, at 340 horsepower, and can hit 60 in 6.5 seconds. The twin-motor, all-wheel-drive package coming early next year should take it to a new level, at 550 hp.


Of course, the real delight of modern battery-electric vehicles is that instant torque their motors deliver. And Lyriq really delivers in that department. Meanwhile, at a U.S. EPA-estimated 312 miles per charge, it offers solid range that few others currently can match. Charging time isn't quite benchmark, but reasonably quick.

 

I had the chance to spend two days behind the wheel of the Lyriq in and around Park City, Utah - mountainous terrain that gave the new EV a chance to show off. I ran into some minor problems with the infotainment system -- though I expected that going in. Caddy officials warned me they hadn't installed the latest software update on my pre-production prototype. I expect everything to be fine by the U.S. sales launch later this month. 


Beyond that glitch, the Lyriq did everything promised. It not only was fun to drive but made you feel great simply to sit in. And that is what a luxury standard should do.




I expect the 2023 Lyriq to have a lot of current Tesla owners -- and those who've considered buying one -- heading for Cadillac showrooms.


PAUL EISENSTEIN

Thursday, June 30, 2022

DRIVEN PERSONALITIES - PAUL EISENSTEIN by John Crawford

Over my 30 year career as an automotive public relations executive I’ve met a LOT of media people all over the world – some memorable, others not so much. I have been very fortunate to form great friendships with quite a lot – and our relationships have spanned many years.

 

One such is my very good friend from Detroit, Michigan – Paul Eisenstein, whom I would happily describe as a renaissance man. He started out as a photographer, a skill he would build on, creating beautiful and artful images. However, he’s also a keen kayaker, and spends a lot of time in the outdoors in northern Michigan – that is when he’s not flying around the USA or the world covering the automotive beat for The Detroit Bureau.

 

Paul started in the 1970s in broadcast mediums of television and radio, then moved into print journalism, via a contract with National Public Radio (NPR). However, when NPR said they wanted him to cover other subjects, but definitely not the automotive sector, he quit.

 

He had by this time earned fame as a straight shooter, with an abundance of both hard line and sympathetic car reviews, as well as interviews with the big-time suits in Detroit, and Europe.

 

He decided to start THE DETROIT BUREAU in 1979 and it has become one of his strongest passions. As publisher and editor he leads a great team covering a wide variety of subjects and new technologies. As an automotive website it is right up there in the top echelon, and he has smoothly transitioned from covering conventional cars to all the new kids on the block, like EVs.

 

I’m delighted to welcome Paul to DRIVING & LIFE as our newest contributor. I value his opinions - and his skill as a writer complements his ‘eye for a story’. He is also very adept in picking apart PR bullshit.

 

I have accompanied Paul on many media events when I was PR Director for Bentley Motors North America. He was invited because of the reach and coverage of The Detroit Bureau, but also because I truly enjoy his company.


We connect on the same wavelength in our personal rapport, and have shared some great experiences during new Bentley launches and meeting up at places like Pebble Beach Concours, etc.

Bentley Chairman, Adrian Hallmark (centre)

One of our most interesting events was when Paul, and another good friend, Howard Walker (L), joined Bentley's Chairman, Adrian Hallmark, in Venice to launch the Continental Flying Spur saloon.

 

Probably the most fun, was when Bentley Motors decided, in 2005, to celebrate an event in Bentley’s colourful history, called The Blue Train Race.


I was able to invite Paul, and then Editor of Road & Track magazine, Thom Bryant (who sadly passed away in 2020) to join a small group of journalists and Bentley management in Cannes.



We would be retracing the route of a famous race in 1930, undertaken by the then Chairman of Bentley Motors, Woolf Barnato. 

Barnato wagered he could beat France’s famous ‘Le Train Bleu’ by driving his ‘company car’ (an 8 litre Bentley Mulliner saloon - bottom) from Cannes all the way to his Club in London before the train reached its terminus in Calais.


He did, and he won the wager. Rather than re-tell the story of the Blue Train Celebration run, here’s a link to the Post.

 

http://www.drivingandlife.com/2012/05/portfolio-blue-train-story.html

 

What made the celebration run even more special is that both the historic Bentleys connected to the original race were brought along to run with modern Bentleys, allowing our guests to sample the 1930 cars, alongside a number of 2005 Bentley Arnage sedans. Both the historic Bentleys are owned by US entrepreneur and Bentley enthusiast Bruce McCaw of Seattle.


Clockwise from top left - Paul (always working) and Thom Bryant; Historic Bentley owner Bruce McCaw, Bentley's Richard Charlesworth and Paul; Richard and Paul in a Bentley Blower; Starting from Cannes at dawn.

So welcome Paul. What have you got for us?

 

JOHN CRAWFORD


www.thedetroitbureau.com

Sunday, June 26, 2022

FERRARI TAKES TRAINING TO NEXT LEVEL by John Crawford

Ferrari has signed contracts with Gold Coast company NEXT LEVEL RACING to acquire a number of racing simulators for use in Maranello to train its eSports race drivers.


Ferrari's Charles Leclerc

The simulators cost AUD$30,000 to build, and while that may seem chump change for Ferrari, given its multi-million dollar racing budget, it’s a huge boost for the small Australian company, says founder Hes Ghah.

 

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate (Photo: Heidi Sheehan)

NEXT LEVEL RACING invited Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, to take a spin in a simulator and afterwards he was energised, excited and exhausted. He said: “If this is how drivers make their money, then they really earn it.


Next level Racing founder, Hes Ghah, racing with Tom Tate (Photo: Heidi Sheehan)

Hes Ghah says he is keen to sell the simulators around the world, and already a number of teams have shown keen interest in the product.


Hes says Ferrari's recognition of the quality of the NEXT LEVEL RACING simulators is a great boost for his small company in terms of global recognition, and providing building blocks for future products.



The popularity of SIM racing  is not restricted to racing teams because they are also important as entertainment activities and even for regular drivers to hone their skills.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A DIRTY-CLEAN EV TALE - by John Crawford

Many of the world’s big thinkers are on a similar wavelength when it comes to the false claims that EVs are ‘clean’.



A recent meeting of global energy consultants announced that whilst ever grid supplies were generated by fossil fuels, then BEVs are certainly NOT the answer to reducing emissions produced by personal mobility.

 

This position has also been repeated by Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer, Masahiko Maeda, when defending Toyota’s decision to embrace multiple types of motive power for its products. Some Toyota shareholders have told the auto giant that it isn’t moving fast enough on releasing BEVs.

 

In turn Maeda-san reiterated the company’s strategy of offering a variety of powertrains to suit a variety of markets. He said that the overall global position is neither stable, nor represents any sort of maturity in proposals to clean up vehicle emissions.

 

Toyota offers ICE, Hybrid, BEV and Fuel Cell options.



Yes, it’s hedging its bets on how the future will play out, but I believe Toyota is right to claim that Hybrid technology is definitely a greener alternative as the automotive world transitions toward an ‘electric era’.

 

However, in between the mass of articles arguing over the push to EVs I did spot one ray of hope.

The experts I listen to are saying that Hybrid/BEV batteries have a roughly 100,000km life, before they need to be replaced.


But from a number of parts of the world comes news of many companies harnessing ‘used’ batteries’ capabilities to store energy from wind and solar generators.

 


Recycling ‘dead’ car batteries is both a costly and carbon-intense situation, and the world has not seen a big enough shift by industry to move into battery recycling, or re-purposing, in any great numbers. However, if whatever remains of use in a ‘used’ battery can be harnessed and utlilised then there is some light at the end of the EV tunnel.

 

And again, Toyota is moving to the forefront of sensible recycling.

 

Old EV batteries can be repurposed as a renewable energy source for homes and businesses. Even if they have a reduced storage capacity, they can be reused to store wind and solar energy, according to Innovative News Network. This can extend their life cycle by another seven to 10 years.

 

A good example of this is Toyota's initiative to sustainably power Yellowstone Park. The car company equipped the landmark with solar panels powered by batteries that once belonged in Toyota Hybrids, replacing diesel generators.



Even General Motors is getting in on the act, using ‘old’ Chevy Volt batteries for re-powering.




This has similar ramifications for the nuclear industry, and I would love to see imaginative, innovative and enterprising solutions being developed on a large scale for re-purposing spent nuclear fuel rods.

 

Two companies, one in the UK and one in Germany, are actively working on using spent fuel rods in powering small nuclear activities – rather than storing them in drums and burying them in concrete bunkers underground.



Combined with latest technology (small modular nuclear generators) this re-purposing of spent fuel rods could show the way to a more acceptable use of nuclear power generation, which would put a lid on criticism of embracing nuclear energy to provide clean, sustainable and reliable grid electricity.

 

However, both the first and second parts of this Post cannot succeed without visionaries in global governments actively encouraging innovation to face the challenges ahead for vehicle emissions and the generation of clean nuclear-sourced electricity. Industry cannot alone drive the thinking and regulatory changes needed to overcome the huge challenge ahead.

 

The new Australian government needs to get on with creating practical opportunities and options. Nuclear is the way forward.


This is not something that can be put off, governments need to be braver and pay more attention to finding solutions, than placating the Greens and the inner city elites.


JOHN CRAWFORD

Thursday, June 16, 2022

DO TESLAS RUN ON RAILS? by John Crawford

No, they drive on the same highways and byways that you and I do, and they are dangerous. According to an article in the New York Times: Tesla vehicles running its Autopilot software have been involved in 273 reported crashes over roughly the past year, according to regulators, far more than previously known, and providing concrete evidence regarding the real-world performance of its futuristic features.



The numbers, which were published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time Wednesday, show that Tesla vehicles made up nearly 70 percent of the 392 crashes involving advanced driver-assistance systems reported since last July, and a majority of the fatalities and serious injuries — some of which date back further than a year.

This points me to the people who have been involved in these accidents. However, first I must ask: “Is Tesla at fault?”

My unequivocal answer is ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. First, if the idiots who were involved in these incidents think that it’s cool, smart, or fun, then that really says all you need to say about THEM.



The fact that Tesla has developed and advertises that it offers a semi-autonomous driving feature doesn’t necessarily mean you must use it. After all, we know it’s very immature technology, and can’t be trusted. Even offering the option is irresponsible.

Autonomous operation of a vehicle demands (not, needs) a high degree of roadway infrastructure to ensure the vehicles can actually drive safely, without a driver. This infrastructure, generally speaking, simply doesn’t exist in a large enough degree to be depended on. So, if that’s the case, why use it at all?

Second, why in all that’s sensible has the NHTSA even allowed semi or full autonomous driving WITHOUT the infrastructure these vehicles need, to operate safely, efficiently or effectively?

I’m afraid this is yet another case of – “We’ve invented something. We’re not sure if it’s useful or needed, but here it is.”

This is the immediate signal to the idiots that, even though it has not been proven to be: (a) useful, (b) trouble-free, or, (c) of any actual benefit – “I simply must use it, so I can ensure my friends know I am up with the latest tech, and I’m c-o-o-l!”



I truly believe that autonomous vehicles (no matter how much we may admire the technological achievement) are simply of no actual use at all. They don’t solve a problem; they cost a bomb to support (all taxpayer dollars), and, people are dying, because they are stupid enough to use them.

The car manufacturers are not blame-free either. They think they MUST get on the bandwagon, or their sales will suffer. Only Mercedes-Benz and BMW have produced any truly ethical explanations of how unreliable the feature is, and that it should not be depended on.

However, I believe that the statistics quoted in the NYT, so far, will not be the end of it. There are so many idiots out there dying to use the latest tech, the numbers will keep rising.

There's more research needed, including educating pedestrians that there may be an EV creeping up behind them, with an idiot at the wheel who fails to warn them! Yep, they're that stupid!



Don’t get me wrong, I admire the pursuit of new technology, but please, let’s have the cost/benefit ratio explained more honestly, and let’s NOT licence its use until we have a cogent explanation to the idiots of the world what the ramifications are of jumping on this silly bandwagon with square wheels.

In the final analysis I have to ask the question: "Who needs a self-driving vehicle? Really? Who?

 

JOHN CRAWFORD