Listen to “AD #3466 – Fusion Energy Breakthrough; 66 Battery Cells a Second; GM Dealers Get Cost Competitive with Direct Sales” on Spreaker.
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0:08 Fusion Energy Breakthrough Announcement
0:54 Rivian Stops EV Van Deal with Mercedes
1:22 Mercedes Plunges Ahead with EV Vans
1:48 Skoda Could Quit in China
3:02 Car Loan Prices Easing, Sorta
3:45 Charging EVs At Home Can Lower Utility Bills
4:47 Hummer EV Makes IIHS Rethink Crash Tests
6:13 GM Dealers Get Cost Competitive with Direct Sales
7:03 Did Jeep Cherokee Just Become a Bargaining Chip?
7:57 66 Battery Cells a Second
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
FUSION ENERGY BREAKTHROUGH ANNOUNCEMENT
Wow, this could be huge. Tomorrow, Jennifer Granholm, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy is reportedly going to announce a breakthrough in generating power from nuclear fusion. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore national laboratory in California produced more energy in a fusion reaction than the process consumed. That’s never been done before. Today’s nuclear reactors use nuclear fission, which leaves a lot of radioactive residue. Fusion does not produce nuclear waste. Though it could take several decades to commercialize this technology, it could solve any problems with climate change and make electric and fuel cell vehicles extremely sustainable.
RIVIAN STOPS EV VAN DEAL WITH MERCEDES
Just three months ago, Rivian and Mercedes-Benz signed an agreement to build electric vans in Europe. But now the deal’s off. Rivian says it’s “pausing” the agreement so it can focus on its consumer and commercial business in the near-term. It said it’s open to working with Mercedes in the future “at a more appropriate time” for the company. In other words, Rivian is struggling with what it’s got on its plate right now, and doesn’t need other distractions.
MERCEDES PLUNGES AHEAD WITH EV VANS
At the same time, Mercedes is moving forward with plans to build electric vans in Europe. It announced that it’s investing more than a billion euros to expand production at its factory in Poland to build EV vans, where it currently makes combustion engines. The site will produce medium and large electric vans based on Mercedes’ new VAN.EA platform which launches in 2025.
SKODA COULD QUIT IN CHINA
Czech automaker Skoda, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, is considering leaving the Chinese market. The company’s CEO says it might withdraw because the “competition is very intense there.” It’s also considering exporting vehicles to sell in China instead of producing them in the country. Skoda wants to focus on the Indian market instead. And Skoda isn’t alone, Stellantis also decided to stop building vehicles in China and will instead export them. A key reason is that Chinese domestic brands are coming on stronger than anyone expected, especially with EVs.
CAR PRICES EASING, SORTA
With vehicle prices going up, so are the loan amounts people are taking out. According to Experian, the average loan for a used vehicle was up 8% in the third quarter, compared to the same time last year, while new vehicles were up 10%. That translates to an average loan of $28,500 for used and over $41,600 for new. Monthly payments for a new vehicle also hit a record high of $700. But there are signs of a slowdown on the used side. While they were up 8% in Q3, that’s less than the 21% increase from 2020 to 2021.
CHARGING EVS AT HOME CAN LOWER UTILITY BILLS
EV owners are helping to lower utility costs for ICE owners. A recent study looked at three utility companies in California that provide power to a large number of EV households and found they generate a lot more profit. $1.7 billion to be exact. Since EV customers use a lot more power, it’s kind of like, no duh, right? Another contributing factor to generating all that profit is that many EV owners charge during off-peak times, so the utilities can provide electricity at a cheaper rate. But many utilities are revenue-capped, which means they return excess profits in the form of lower rates and that goes out to everyone in their area. This exact study doesn’t say how much it lowered rates, but a previous one estimated that more EVs charging in Nevada could drop each household’s yearly utility bill by $123 by 2050.
HUMMER EV MAKES IIHS RETHINK CRASH TESTS
The Hummer EV made the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS rethink the way it crash tests vehicles. It has crash tested other EVs, like the Audi e-tron, but it started to get worried its equipment wouldn’t be able to handle bigger EVs, which are heavier than their ICE counterparts. Specifically, the IIHS had never tested a vehicle above 9,000 pounds or about 4,100 kilograms and that’s a figure a decked-out Hummer EV easily tops. So, it started loading up old trucks and SUVs with big steel plates and concrete blocks to see how its equipment fared. Even at 9,500 pounds or 4,300 kilograms, the IIHS was able to get the vehicles up to 40 MPH and crash them without incident.
GM DEALERS GET COST COMPETITIVE WITH DIRECT SALES
You’re not going to see acres of new electric cars sitting on any of GM’s dealers’ lots. That’s because GM is going to carry the electric inventory, not its dealers. The Detroit News reports that the automaker is storing Chevy Bolts in what it calls EV fulfillment centers instead of having them sit on dealers’ lots. It currently has two in California and another in the southeast of the U.S. GM says the centers can deliver EVs in as little as four days and expects that to save the company $2,000 per vehicle. Dealers, for the most part, are on board because they won’t have to floorplan those vehicles which is going to save them money. And this could make GM’s dealer network cost competitive with the direct sales model that Tesla uses.
DID JEEP CHEROKEE JUST BECOME A BARGAINING CHIP?
Sales of the Jeep Cherokee are down 61% this year in the US market, and will likely close out the year below 50,000 units made. That’s not enough to justify keeping an assembly plant open, and so Stellantis is idling its Belvidere plant with no new product allocated to be made there in the future. It blames Covid, the chip shortage and the transition to electric vehicles. But the UAW is really mad and promises to fight to keep the plant open. And so here’s our Autoline Insight. Maybe Stellantis is truly getting ready to close this plant for good, but we also think that this is a great bargaining chip for the company to use as it gets ready for next year’s contract negotiations. What will the UAW be willing to give up to keep that plant open?
66 BATTERY CELLS A SECOND
Some of the statistics about making EV batteries are enough to make your head spin. While a typical assembly plant makes about 60 cars an hour, a big battery plant makes 66 battery cells a second. That’s a cell every 0.09 seconds, meaning it’s just spitting them out. And that plant will use 300 miles of copper foil a day. That’s a lot of miles, and it’s another one of the fascinating facts that we learned at the SAE’s North American International Propulsion Conference. While the auto industry practically invented mass production, making battery cells is taking it to a whole new level.
And that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for making Autoline a part of your day.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.