In Autonomous Vehicle Technology’s February editorial we touched on what appears to be a tipping point on the road to vehicle electrification. The impetus was analysis from BloombergNEF (BNEF), Bloomberg’s primary research service, which had just published its annual 10 predictions with insights from its experts on the outlook for clean energy overall, and electric vehicles made the list.

There are now almost 5 million passenger electric vehicles on the road globally (over 5 million including buses and other commercial vehicles), reported Colin McKerracher, Head of Advanced Transport. BNEF expects another 2.6 million to be sold in 2019, representing around 40% growth rate. Broader macroeconomic factors (higher interest rates and slowing consumer spending) will also impact global sales.

Then last month’s cover story featured a sneak peek of ID.3, the first model from Volkswagen’s multi-billion-dollar effort to create a fleet of EVs from its high-volume MEB component set. Months before its official launch at the 2019 IAA (Frankfurt Motor Show) in September, Volkswagen showed at a Berlin event in May a camouflaged version of the ID.3 in Berlin, opening up order books for European customers to register for the exclusive launch edition. Potential customers can register for an early Tesla-style reserved production slot at by paying a deposit of €1000.

Further evidence of impending explosive growth in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) comes from analyst firm Navigant. Key findings from its recent report on the subject found that sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) expanded globally more than 70% from 2017 to reach almost 1.9 million in 2018. And growth in 2019 is likely to be strong again. The report analyzes the global market conditions and regulatory policies for PEVs, providing sales and population forecasts to 2030 of major regions by PEV powertrain type.

In the last year, PEV sales doubled in North America, and sales in Europe and China increased 39% and 77%, respectively. In 2019, multiple deployments of long-range battery EVs (BEVs) in crossover classes, as well as Tesla reaching full-scale production on the Model 3 and expanding its vehicle shipments to markets abroad, are setting the stage for continued market growth.

“By 2030, annual PEV sales are estimated to be between 15% and 32% of the global light-duty vehicle market, producing a global PEV population between 107 million and 190 million,” said Scott Shepard, Senior Research Analyst with Navigant Research. “This long-term growth is expected to be propelled by improving vehicle technology economics—a function of battery innovations, government transportation energy policies, oil price projections, and movements to price carbon.”

Although PEV market growth has been considerable, challenges remain. These include vehicle availability, consumer awareness, charging infrastructure, and threats from competing alternative fuels or fuel efficiency solutions. These challenges and threats are eroding with the natural cycle of technological development and concerted efforts by stakeholders (governments, automakers, and energy providers) to move the market toward lower emissions transportation, specifically electrification. Of the competing powertrain options, PEVs are close to becoming the leading conventional alternative and are best positioned to lead the future light-duty vehicle market, according to Navigant Research.

The report, “Market Data: EV Market Forecasts,” analyzes the global market conditions and regulatory policies for PEVs. The study examines the next decade of the PEV market with a focus on how government interventions, vehicle economics, infrastructure, and automation will affect new markets and subsequent growth of the PEV population. The study provides sales and population forecasts to 2030 of major regions by PEV powertrain type: BEV and plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV). Forecasts are provided by segment under conservative, base, and aggressive scenarios alongside historical data on BEV, PHEV, and overall light-duty vehicle sales. An executive summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.


Ford invests for access to Rivian EV skateboard

The latest wave of OEM announcements was kicked off in late April by Ford Motor Company, investing $500 million in electric-vehicle startup Rivian. The companies agreed to work together to develop an all-new, next-generation battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

“This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility,” said RJ Scaringe, Rivian Founder and CEO. “Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry’s earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

“We are excited to invest in and partner with Rivian,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s Executive Chairman. “I have gotten to know and respect RJ, and we share a common goal to create a sustainable future for our industry through innovation.”

Rivian already has developed two clean-sheet vehicles. The company’s launch products—the five-passenger R1T pickup and seven-passenger R1S SUV—will deliver up to around 400 mi (644 km) of range and provide an impressive combination of performance, off-road capability, and utility, starting in late 2020. Rivian is now accepting preorders on its R1T and R1S.

“As we continue in our transformation of Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both,” said Jim Hackett, Ford President and CEO. “At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford’s industrial expertise and resources.”

Ford intends to develop a new vehicle using Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform. This is in addition to Ford’s existing plans to develop a portfolio of battery electric vehicles. As part of its previously announced $11 billion EV investment, Ford already has confirmed two key fully electric vehicles: a Mustang-inspired crossover coming in 2020 and a zero-emissions version of the best-selling F-150 pickup.

Rivian remains an independent company. Following Ford’s investment, which is subject to customary regulatory approval, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Automotive, will join Rivian’s seven-member board.

Stephanie Brinley, Principal Automotive Analyst at IHS Markit, commented on the investment and noted that Ford’s $500 million investment in Rivian and the decision to work with the EV startup reflects the ongoing shift in the automotive industry toward more focused partnerships and collaborations compared to traditional mergers.

“Creating this type of partnership is a path Ford has been moving forward with aggressively for the past two years,” she said. “Both parties bring specific expertise to the partnership, and have much to offer each other. This partnership model is particularly important for EVs and mobility technology, which are extremely capital intensive with a resulting scaled, profitable, and sustainable mobility business possibly a decade or more away. The move also reflects the viability of Rivian’s business model, which includes both selling the skateboard and producing its own vehicles.

“Rivian is also free to use the Ford equity funds as it sees fit, and to work with other partners. She continued. “Ford will benefit from lessons learned, as will Rivian. Rivian expects to be successful, and Ford should see return on that investment from a purely financial perspective as well.”


Toyota shifts focus to battery-electric vehicles

In the span of just a few days in June, Toyota Motor Corp. announced a joint effort with Subaru Corp. to develop a BEV platform and a BEV SUV, and it announced significant plans to accelerate its plans for BEVs in general.

Toyota and Subaru plan to jointly develop the BEV platform for midsize and large passenger vehicles and to jointly develop a C-segment-class BEV SUV model for sale under each company’s brand. The companies say that the platform will be developed in a way that will make it “broadly applicable to multiple vehicle types, including C-segment-class and D-segment-class sedans and SUVs, as well as to efficient development of derivative vehicle models.”

Following this agreement with Toyota, Subaru stated that it will shift its existing BEV development resources to the new joint project. Within the new framework, Subaru will continue its efforts to create an attractive BEV SUV for its customers while improving efficiencies in terms of engineering, development, purchasing, and other areas through the new joint project.

A few days after the Subaru announcement, Toyota said it was further accelerating its plans for BEVs by five years. Amid an industry surge in vehicle electrification, Shigeki Terashi, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation, noted that Toyota is about five years ahead of schedule in terms of popularization of electrified vehicles.

Terashi noted that much work lies ahead and added that the company will be focusing on vehicle development and the stable supply, improved durability, and reuse of batteries in its plans to popularize battery electric vehicles. He said that Toyota is steadily preparing a framework to respond to the challenge and putting all the pieces in place, including the creation of new business models.

Toyota’s main zero-emission vehicles include fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles, and BEVs ranging from walking area, ultra-compact, compact, and midsize vehicles. Toyota also is developing mobility as a service (MaaS) initiatives.  

Toyota’s plan for active rollout of BEVs, which was announced in December 2017, called for mass production of proprietary BEVs starting in China from 2020. Toyota premiered the C-HR/IZOA BEV ahead of the 2020 launch at the Shanghai Motor Show in April 2019. The plan also includes the gradual introduction of Toyota and Lexus models in Japan, India, U.S., and Europe, and for 10 BEV models to be available worldwide by the early 2020s.

Toyota plans to create new business models leveraging ultra-compact BEVs, starting in Japan. For areas where the BEV market is already growing, Toyota will develop different types of BEVs adapted to market needs, at a low cost. The company will also develop high-performance batteries, which are key to improved performance, and prepare a system for supplying batteries to respond to the expanded needs for electrified vehicles.

Toyota exhibited the Concept-i RIDE ultra-compact BEV at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017, and the company plans to release an ultra-compact BEV for use in daily errands or short-distance trips by 2020. The vehicle is planned to hold two people, reach a maximum speed of 60 km/h (37 mph), and cruise at about 100 km (62 mi) on a single charge. Toyota’s i-ROAD, which is about the size of a motorcycle, is intended for short-distance mobility. It is exptected hold one or two people, reach a maximum speed of 60 km/h, and cruise at about 50 km (31 mi) on a single charge. Toyota exhibited the Concept-i WALK walking area BEV at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017. The standing type, slated for release in 2020, is planned to cruise for about 14 km (9 mi) on a single charge; charging time is 2.5 h. The seated type and wheelchair-linked type are planned for release in 2021.

The BEV business models under consideration include peripheral services that add convenience or value—such as charging services and insurance—and the creation of high-performance batteries at reasonable prices. Sales and leases to reduce customer burden and improve battery recovery rate are other aspects under consideration. Models to assess and judge battery remaining value will be examined, as well as possible establishment of a used BEV business to leverage remaining battery value. Models to reuse and recycle batteries are also being considered.

Toyota says it is currently working with 40 companies or local governments to share ideas and adds that it is searching for more partners to collaborate in various fields.


BMW, Jaguar Land Rover partner on electrification technology

Also in June, BMW Group and Jaguar Land Rover announced they are partnering to develop a next-generation electric drive. In a statement, the companies said that they share the same strategic vision of environmentally friendly and future-oriented electric drive technologies. The BMW Group says it’s bringing its in-house experience of developing and producing electric drive units, while Jaguar Land Rover says it has demonstrated its capability with this technology through the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace and its plug-in hybrid models.

The BMW Group’s most sophisticated electrified technology to date features an electric motor, transmission, and power electronics in one housing. The company says that this electric motor does not require rare earths.

Starting next year, the BMW Group will introduce this electric drive unit, the fifth generation (Gen 5) of its eDrive technology, with the BMW iX3 Sports Activity Vehicle. The Gen 5 electric drive unit will be the propulsion system upon which subsequent evolutions launched together with Jaguar Land Rover will be based.

“The automotive industry is undergoing a steep transformation,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development. “We see collaboration as a key for success, also in the field of electrification. With Jaguar Land Rover, we found a partner whose requirements for the future generation of electric drive units significantly match ours.

“Together, we have the opportunity to cater more effectively for customer needs by shortening development time and bringing vehicles and state-of-the-art technologies more rapidly to market.”

The two companies say that the collaboration will allow them to take advantage of cost efficiencies arising from shared development of future evolutions and production planning costs as well as economies of scale from joint purchasing.

A joint team of BMW Group and Jaguar Land Rover staff located in Munich will be tasked with further developing the Gen 5 power units with production of the electric drivetrains to be undertaken by each partner in their own manufacturing facilities. Both companies will seek to adhere to their own brand-specific propositions in any project.


Volvo Car Group signs battery supply deals

OEMs have also been busy making deals with suppliers to secure future electrification plans.

Volvo Car Group signed long-term agreements with battery makers CATL and LG Chem to ensure the multi-billion-dollar supply of lithium ion batteries over the coming decade for next-generation Volvo and Polestar models. The agreements cover the global supply of battery modules for all models on the upcoming SPA2 and the existing CMA modular vehicle platform.

“The future of Volvo Cars is electric, and we are firmly committed to moving beyond the internal combustion engine,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. “Today’s agreements with CATL and LG Chem demonstrate how we will reach our ambitious electrification targets.”

CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea are battery manufacturers that have track records supplying lithium ion batteries to the global automotive industry. In China, battery supply will benefit from the scale of the wider Geely Group.

Volvo Cars’ first battery assembly line is currently under construction at its manufacturing plant in Ghent, Belgium. It will be finalized by the end of this year. The first fully electric Volvo to be built in Ghent is the XC40 small SUV, although plug-in hybrid variants of the XC40 are already manufactured there.

The Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) currently underpins the XC40, as well as the fully electric Polestar 2 fastback and several models sold by Lynk & Co., Volvo’s sister brand that it co-owns with Geely. As of this year, all three models will be built on a single production line at a Volvo-operated manufacturing plant in Luqiao, China.

The upcoming SPA2 architecture is the next generation of Volvo’s in-house developed Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and will be launched early next decade. SPA currently underpins all Volvo models in the 90 and 60 Series. The first Volvo to be launched on SPA2 will be the next generation of the XC90 large SUV.

Earlier this year, Volvo Cars revealed a number of upgraded and newly developed electrified powertrain options to be made available across its entire model range going forward. It has upgraded its existing T8 and T6 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrains with plug-in options now available on every model it produces.


NEVS acquires Protean Electric

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a subsidiary of Evergrande Health, has acquired Protean Electric, a developer of in-wheel motor technology. The companies say that the deal will advance development of innovative propulsion technologies for next-generation electric and autonomous vehicles.

Protean Electric says it has devoted more than a million engineering hours to develop and validate its ProteanDrive in-wheel motor technology, which are designed to offer improved powertrain efficiency and greater flexibility in vehicle design compared to conventional electrified powertrains. The technology combines a direct drive electric motor and power electronics that can be used on a range of platforms, including passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, urban mobility vehicles, and autonomous pods.

Protean Electric will continue to operate as an independent business under the Evergrande umbrella. Formally, Protean Holdings will now be merged into Virtue Surge, a subsidiary of NEVS.

Stefan Tilk, CEO of NEVS, said that the acquisition will lead to many benefits for both companies. KY Chan, CEO of Protean Electric, added, “This acquisition will aid Protean Electric in establishing a strategic advantage in the new energy and mobility markets and bring in new expertise. Evergrande is a well-established and ambitious business, determined to make a mark in the clean mobility arena across the world. We look forward to working closely with the Evergrande and NEVS teams to deploy our technologies.”