Elec­tric cars and SUVs cre­ate a mar­ket buzz

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE -

on Tues­day.

Auto man­u­fac­tur­ers spend heav­ily to de­velop and im­prove en­vi­ron­ment-friendly ve­hi­cles to meet in­creas­ingly tough gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions across the world

FRANK­FURT — Car man­u­fac­tur­ers wheeled out a fleet of elec­tric ve­hi­cles at the glitzy Frank­furt In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show in Ger­many this week.

The in­dus­try’s ma­jor play­ers are des­per­ate to stay in a race that is grad­u­ally be­ing dom­i­nated by e-cars as the sec­tor goes through a pe­riod of rapid change.

Ger­man gi­ant Volk­swa­gen AG showed off a re­vised ver­sion of its elec­tric ID Crozz cross­over SUV con­cept ve­hi­cle as it an­nounced a longterm elec­tri­fi­ca­tion cam­paign.

By 2025, VW plans to in­tro­duce 80 new e-ve­hi­cles as well as in­vest­ing 20 bil­lion eu­ros ($24 bil­lion) in up­grad­ing plants.

“Now the big ques­tion that ev­ery­one is ask­ing is, when will we see (elec­tric cars) in mass vol­ume,” Matthias Mueller, CEO of Volk­swa­gen said ear­lier this week.

De­pend­ing on mar­ket devel­op­ments, VW hopes to sell three mil­lion bat­tery-only ve­hi­cles a year in 2025. But they will face stiff com­pe­ti­tion in what is turn­ing into a cut­throat mar­ket.

Daim­ler AG’s MercedesBenz un­veiled a com­pact elec­tric ve­hi­cle un­der its EQ sub­brand on Wed­nes­day and the GLC F-Cell, a bat­tery-fuel cell hy­brid, which can run on hy­dro­gen and emits only wa­ter va­por.

BMW AG is also show­ing off a con­cept ve­hi­cle for the first elec­tric Mini com­pact due to be rolled out in 2019.

In­deed, auto com­pa­nies are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to de­velop and im­prove e-cars to meet in­creas­ingly tough gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions aimed at com­bat­ing air pollution.

This comes at a time when elec­tric models are not en­joy­ing high sales glob­ally be­cause of lim­ited range, high prices and a lack of fastcharg­ing sta­tions.

As bat­tery tech­nol­ogy im­proves and costs come down, an­a­lysts ex­pect elec­tric sales will even­tu­ally take off. Matthias Mueller,

Ac­cord­ing to re­search and an­a­lyt­ics firm IHS Markit, bat­tery-only cars were 0.57 per­cent of global pro­duc­tion in 2016 and will in­crease to 0.86 per­cent this year.

The United King­dom and France have pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion en­gine cars by 2040.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is de­vel­op­ing a timetable to end the pro­duc­tion and sale of tra­di­tional fuel cars as well as pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment of elec­tric tech­nol­ogy, State me­dia cited a min­is­ter-level of­fi­cial as say­ing.

The coun­try also plans to use ethanol gaso­line by 2020, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion, and the Na­tional En­ergy Ad­min­is­tra­tion or NEA.

The plan was un­veiled on Wed­nes­day as China pushes the use of bio­fu­els. It is an­other ideal al­ter­na­tive to fos­sil fu­els, a se­nior NEA of­fi­cial said.

Still, there are cru­cial chal­lenges ahead for new en­ergy ve­hi­cles.

“It is not just a mat­ter of what is be­ing of­fered from man­u­fac­tur­ers but also the elec­tric charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture,” Mueller at VW said.

“That is why it is im­por­tant to have a fact-based con­ver­sa­tion about the ur­gent prob­lems with elec­tric mo­bil­ity and how they can be solved. This needs to be dis­cussed jointly, with elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies, with states, with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties,” he added.

The ar­rival of bat­tery-pow­ered cars is just one an­tic­i­pated change.

Au­tomak­ers are also search­ing for ways to adapt to a fu­ture in which peo­ple find ways of get­ting from one place to an­other with­out nec­es­sar­ily own­ing a car through ride-hail­ing firms.

They are also work­ing on de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles that could drive them­selves — un­der lim­ited cir­cum­stances such as cor­po­rate cam­puses at first.

Even­tu­ally, e-cars look cer­tain to dom­i­nate the show­rooms and high­ways of the fu­ture.

In Frank­furt, the three Ger­man lux­ury car man­u­fac­tur­ers set up large dis­play ar­eas, while some ri­val com­pa­nies skipped the mo­tor show al­to­gether.

Cost was a ma­jor rea­son as well as opt­ing to dis­play cars to the pub­lic through live stream­ing events. No-shows in­cluded Fiat Chrysler’s name­sake Fiat and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands, Peu­geot and its DS lux­ury divi­sion, plus Nis­san, Infiniti and Volvo.

Even Porsche, part of Volk­swa­gen, did not wait for the event but showed off its new Cayenne SUV last month with an elab­o­rate streamed cur­tain-raiser from its base in Stuttgart.

Small SUVs are also a theme at the show as man­u­fac­tur­ers crowd into a seg­ment that has proven a win­ner with con­sumers.

New SUV of­fer­ings, or SUV-like body stylings, on com­pact car plat­forms include Volk­swa­gen’s T-Roc, the SEAT Arona, Jaguars E-Pace, Kia Stonic, Citroen C3 Air­cross, Skoda Karoq and a so-far un­named of­fer­ing from Ch­ery.

But high-end cars re­main a fix­ture as be­fore. Rolls-Royce has a new ver­sion of its Phantom, and Daim­ler is un­veil­ing its Mercedes-Benz-AMG Project ONE, a two-seater hy­brid with more than 1,000 horse­power and a top speed of 350 kph.

It is not just a mat­ter of what is be­ing of­fered from man­u­fac­tur­ers but also the elec­tric charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture.” CEO of Volk­swa­gen

XIN­HUA

Daim­ler AG’s new Smart con­cept au­ton­o­mous car Vi­sion EQ is dis­played dur­ing the Frank­furt In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show (IAA) in Ger­many

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