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0:00 U.S. Car Market Doing Better Than Expected
0:56 Florida Handcuffs Legacy OEMs To Franchise Dealers
2:05 DLE Is the New Way to Mine Lithium
3:11 Baidu Expands Robotaxis to Shenzhen
4:26 VW Updates MQB, Adds PHEV Range
5:36 VW Using Dry Coating for Electrodes
6:19 AEHRA Reveals Wild EV Sedan Concept
6:50 Tesla Adds Incentives to Model 3 In China
7:49 Mercedes Makes World First with Chat GPT In Cars
8:45 New Mercedes Concept Inspired by Old C-111 Test Car
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
U.S. CAR MARKET DOING BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Back at the beginning of the year Elon Musk predicted the US economy was headed for a serious recession. This week, Cox Automotive came out with its latest survey of car dealers, who are complaining that high interest rates and lower credit availability are holding back car sales. And yet, new car sales came in stronger than expected in May. Inflation is dropping fast, job growth is at historic highs, and now GM and Ford say the outlook is far better than what they thought at the beginning of the year. GM’s CFO, Paul Jacobsen, speaking at a Deutsche Bank investor conference, said GM could significantly outperform the guidance that it gave to analysts in January.
FLORIDA HANDCUFFS LEGACY OEMS TO FRANCHISE DEALERS
Florida just passed a law that essentially bans car companies from selling directly to consumers. But it only applies to automakers that already use franchised dealers, which means Tesla is free to continue selling directly. The law was designed to prevent legacy automakers from trying any kind of direct sales, which Ford’s CEO Jim Farley wants to do with the company’s electric vehicles. It also prohibits automakers from establishing no-haggle pricing. What’s more it stipulates that dealers will get 8% of any revenue for any kind of over the air updates an automaker sells to customers for two years after the sale of a new car. Not surprisingly, automakers are completely against this. Their lobbying group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, says this forces legacy automakers to deal with restrictive, costly, and complex franchise laws, while exempting startups.
DLE IS THE NEW WAY TO MINE LITHIUM
Lithium demand is soaring. It’s expected to hit 2.7 million metric tons by the end of the decade, which is four times higher than 2022. So companies ranging from oil, to mining, to tech startups are racing to extract lithium using a new process. Currently, lithium is sourced from evaporative ponds but only 50% of the metal can be extracted this way. By using new direct lithium extraction, or DLE, producers can get 90% of lithium from brines. The DLE process doesn’t take up as much space and it can deliver lithium in hours or days, as opposed to several months with the evaporative ponds. And it saves a bunch of water. The first commercial DLE projects are expected to launch in the next 12 to 18 months and by 2030, 13% of the world’s lithium will be produced with DLE technology.
BAIDU EXPANDS ROBO TAXIS TO SHENZHEN
Autonomous cars keep making progress. Chinese tech giant Baidu is expanding its robotaxi service. Called Apollo Go, it’s now available between 7AM and 10PM in Shenzhen in a 188-square kilometer area of the city. The service is also available in Wuhan, Chongqing and Beijing. No safety drivers are required on board and users can book a ride with an app. Baidu first launched the fully driverless service in August of 2022 and has provided more than 2 million rides through the end of the first quarter of the year.
VW UPDATES MQB, ADDS PHEV RANGE
Volkswagen is making updates to the platform that it uses for most of its ICE vehicles, which it now calls MQB evo and will first appear on the all-new Tiguan. It supports gas, diesel, mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid setups. Plug-in versions will now have up to 100 kilometers or about 62 miles of range as well as faster AC charging and DC charging for the first time. Volkswagen also made improvements to the adaptive suspension system and high-def Matrix headlamps will be available too. Interiors will feature more upscale materials, digital screens and a rotary control knob with its own little screen in the middle. We wouldn’t be surprised if most models adopt a similar look to the new Tiguan, including the upright, gloss-black face of the dashboard, which also includes a nice little design element that’s picked up in the door panel as well. The uncamouflaged version of the Tiguan will debut sometime in the autumn and then it launches on the market sometime in 2024.
VW USING DRY COATING FOR ELECTRODES
In other VW news, the company’s battery division, called PowerCo, is switching to a dry coating process. Others do this as well, like Tesla with its 4680 battery cells. Applying drier, rather than wet electrode material to copper or aluminum foil eliminates two steps from the cell making process and, in turn, 15% of floorspace. VW says a plant that could make 20 GWh of batteries a year could get rid of four coating and drying lines, which also reduces the plant’s energy consumption by about 30%.
AEHRA REVEALS WILD EV SEDAN CONCEPT
We’ve got a quick followup on a new EV we reported about at the end of last month. Startup AEHRA revealed its Sedan concept. It has sleek styling, wild doors and a wild interior. As we said in our last report, AEHRA had recently secured its battery supplier, a company called Miba Battery Systems. So, the company is clearly progressing along and we’re rooting for them. But it’s still way too early to tell if it’ll make it.
TESLA ADDS INCENTIVES TO MODEL 3 IN CHINA
Earlier this month, the Tesla Model 3 became much more affordable in the U.S. with the entry level version now qualifying for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, which can drop its price to just over $32,000 for qualifying buyers. And now Tesla is making the model more affordable in China. It’s offering $1,100 worth in insurance and loan incentives for the rear-drive version of the 3, which brings the out-of-pocket cost of the car down to $31,400. But it’s a limited time offer that’s only available until the end of the month. Analysts are speculating that Tesla is dropping the price of the Model 3 as well as other incentives, like several months of free Supercharger charging, in order to clear inventory before it launches the refreshed version, which is expected to happen sometime soon.
MERCEDES MAKES WORLD FIRST WITH CHAT GPT IN CARS
Would you like to get Chat GPT in your car? Well, if you’ve got a Mercedes with a Mercedes-me-connect package all you have to do is tell it, “Hey Mercedes, I want to join the beta program.” Mercedes is rolling it out in the US by using Microsoft’s Open AI to bring artificial intelligence to voice commands. Mercedes says that most voice assistants are limited to predefined tasks and responses, but ChatGPT is less restrictive and talking is more natural and it will even engage in conversations. The beta program starts today and will run for three months. Interestingly, Mercedes, not Microsoft, will run all the IT and collect all the data. Then it will figure out how to offer the service in other languages in different markets around the world.
NEW MERCEDES CONCEPT INSPIRED BY OLD C-111 TEST CAR
Speaking of Mercedes, it’s reinterpreting an icon from its past. The C-111 was an experimental mid-engine sports car that the company used as a testbed for new technology. Around in the 1960s and 70s, the C-111 at times featured Wankel and turbo diesel engines and new polymer body panels with gullwing doors. And now the all-new Vision One-Eleven concept has a new-age wedge-shaped look and will again act as a testbed for future technology. That includes two axial-flux electric motors that are a third the size and weight of a typical motor with the same output. The batteries are new liquid-cooled cylindrical cells that have “a novel chemistry.” Mercedes is also exploring how augmented reality could change the user experience and how technology could change driving. The Vision One-Eleven has a race mode where the driver is in full control, but there’s also a lounge mode where the seat slides back to merge with the rear sill and center tunnel. Mercedes calls it a completely new approach for the sports car of the future.
And that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you have a great weekend.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.