Toyota Could Begin Mass Producing Electric Cars In China As Soon As 2019

Toyota may be ready to plunge into China’s “new energy vehicle” electric car market as early as 2019.

While the company wouldn’t confirm the plan as reported by Reuters, a Toyota spokesman on Friday confirmed that electric vehicles will be introduced to that market.

“We are going to introduce EVs in China with a few years. However, we don’t talk about any future product plans,” Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai told major Japanese daily Asahi.

The newspaper reported that the first EV model will be based on Toyota’s C-HR sport utility vehicle and will be made for the China market only. Asahi didn’t cite sources on that statement.

The report expects annual output to start at more than several thousand units. Pressure has mounted with the Chinese national government’s intention to stick to a mandate requiring automakers to meet a high level of NEV sales starting next year.

The pace of production scheduled by Toyota will be calculated after taking into account these strict mandates and available subsidies for manufacturers and buyers of NEVs, the report said.

China cut funding for subsidies 20 percent this year, which is expected to be the first phase towards eliminating these incentives by 2020. The national government has been most interested in following California’s lead on the zero emission vehicle front, requiring sales percentages be met and that automakers can purchase and trade credits from competitors like Tesla that surpass the quota.

In March, Reuters reported that government officials are considering mandating that 8 percent of new vehicles sold fall under the NEV category by 2019; that would rise to 10 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020, two auto executives said.

Toyota has been preparing to move back into the EV market after investing its resources in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrid vehicles in recent years. In December, a group of Toyota executives headed by CEO Akio Toyoda forged a collaborative to develop EV technology. That group consists of Denso, Aisin Seiki, and Toyota Industries.

China includes battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles under the NEV category. NEVs are making for about 2 percent of total sales now in China.

Toyota has expressed interest in selling it Mirai fuel cell vehicle in China. The refueling infrastructure is not there, which sets up another set of problems for Toyota to consider making a splash on that front.

SEE ALSO:  Toyota Bringing Plug-in Hybrids to China

Electric cars may make the most sense to meet government mandates and car buyer interest in the China market.

That could include plug-in hybrids. Toyota’s China operations Hiroji Onishi told reporters last year that the Japanese carmaker plans to launch plug-in hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla and Levin in China in 2018.

There’s always the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, which has done very well in the U.S. market.


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Will GM Replace the Chevy Volt With A Plug-in Crossover?

Word has it that General Motors is mulling whether to discontinue the Chevrolet Volt in 2020 and replace it in 2022 with a crossover-style variant, but would this be desirable?

According to Reuters, which cited “people familiar with the plans,” the Volt is one of six presumably under-selling vehicles the automaker is thinking about canceling. Speaking to United Auto Workers Union President Dennis Williams, Reuters said the union and GM are discussing ways to increase production in the under-utilized Detroit-Hamtramck plant where the Volt is made by replacing them. Several of the “at risk” vehicles are sedans, and more popular vehicles such as crossovers which are hot sellers these days could be their eventual replacements.

GM has not confirmed the report, saying it does not comment on future product, but what could otherwise be a dispassionate business decision also stands to touch the Volt.
This extended-range electric car has been a symbolic pioneer in the electrified car movement, with very outspoken fans, and some detractors.

It has the highest all-electric range of any plug-in hybrid, but being compact it’s smaller than mid-sized competitors so it has a more-cramped back-seat. With a $7,500 federal tax credit assumed, and potential state incentives, the car that starts around $34,000 can net out in the middle, even lower 20s with discounting, but it has never broken into mainstream sales volume as was once hoped.

Originally launched for model year 2011 the Volt was simultaneously controversial, fascinating, and widely misunderstood from the start. It had been pushed through to production by a pre-bankruptcy GM after former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz was compelled by the Tesla Roadster in 2006.

A 2011 Volt. From 2011-2012 it had 35 miles EV range. In 2013-2015 it became 38. The original car still has more range than competitors with 20-some miles e-range. Today generation-two is rated for 53 miles range with 42 mpg, now on regular, not premium gas.

GM wanted to build an electric car too, Lutz has said, but settled on the “extended-range electric” idea with no “range anxiety” providing 35 miles of EV range for 75 percent of drivers’ daily needs, with 37 mpg in gas hybrid mode.

The Volt was thus the first major manufacturer plug in hybrid, launched alongside the first major manufacturer EV, the Nissan Leaf. Whether it’s been a success or failure is still an open question by those dazzled by all the rhetoric spun over the electrified car, as one commenter observed:

“And today GM announced it will discontinue the failure..Chevy Volt! Let me find my shocked face! Do you think BO purchased his already? ;),” wrote a reader over the weekend under an article saying Barack Obama had once promised to buy one when he left office.

To be clear, nothing has been “announced” by GM, but this unflattering commentary is one voice among others, and the Volt was also a victim of politicization during the 2012 election season and memories may die hard.

This said, even Volt fans, though torn by a need to support and cheerlead the car, have suggested a larger body – or simply more back seat space on a longer-than-Cruze-size platform – would be better.

Unquestioned among supporters is the Volt is a unique and even inspiring car. It’s fun to drive, peppy, corners well, is quiet, smooth, and has been relatively reliable. It also, until Honda’s 40-mile Clarity PHEV gets here next year, has more than double the EV range of “blended” plug-in hybrids.

GM treats it with “halo” status, and talks in glowing terms of its technology as seed stock or a learning experience that’s enabled it to build current and pending hybrids, plug-in-hybrids, and even all-electric offerings like the similarly named Bolt EV.

The Volt’s public relations image however was attacked out of the gate, as noted, and many never got their mind wrapped around it. As one example of how automakers view the mainstream American public’s comprehension of PHEVs, Chrysler went so far as to distance its new Pacifica Hybrid minivan from the fact that is actually a plug-in hybrid.

Did Chrysler see all the frustration GM went through trying to explain the Volt? It has said people in minivan demographics might jump to conclusions it’s an EV and be afraid of being stranded.

Beyond that, it’s commonly said the Volt is under-advertised, and this publication broke a story in 2014 that it was relegated to niche status, but to be fair, GM has tried as commercials from as long as eight years ago show.

Couple this with the trend that consumers are grooving on widely defined “crossover” vehicles, and maybe it would be good to let this one evolve to something else?

Plans Forgotten

The Volt went through a staged rollout in 2011, and GM made the mistake of projecting for 2012 45,000 U.S. sales and 15,000 exported sales of Open/Vauxhall Amperas, Holden Volts, and European Volts before that brand subsequently all-but exited Europe.

By the end of 2011, the official statement became it will not project any sales number, but will match supply with demand.

MPV5 shown in Shanghai in 2010.

Also changed along the way was hope the Volt would be the first of other “Voltec” spinoffs.

SEE ALSO: Will GM Expand the 2016 Volt’s Market, or Will it Remain a ‘Geographical’ Niche?

The latest news that GM may make it a crossover is really an old idea, and in 2010 it had shown the MPV5 crossover in China but the thought then was it could be a stablemate.

Since then Volt fans have tirelessly petitioned GM in forums like GM-Volt.com for more variants, but that request has largely been not heeded.

One Voltec car that was made, and then soon killed, was the 2014-2016 Cadillac ELR – a gorgeous but small Cadillac that cost more than an entry level Tesla Model S.

SEE ALSO: GM Securing ‘CrossVolt’ Trademark Possibly For Future Plug-in

Meanwhile mainstream sellers were never introduced by a company that seemed to have inherited a sacred cow of a car to the alternative-energy minority, and not wishing to play a starring role in a film that could be called “Who Killed the Electric Car – Again.”

GM was the culprit in the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” and to its credit thanks to the Volt, became a star in “Revenge of the Electric Car,” and so it is working on “electrified” vehicles which meanwhile are a niche product all around.

In fact, the Volt this year is selling almost neck and neck with the admittedly more expensive, but much more popular Tesla Model S. Through the first half of the year, Chevrolet reported 10,932 Volt sales, and Tesla has an estimated 11,100.

For those who want to call it a “failure,” the Volt is the second best-selling plug-in car in the U.S.

Crossover Better?

Agreed on even by some fans is a more roomy Volt would be better. If the Malibu Hybrid, for example, had a plug-in powertrain with sufficient e-range, some needing to carry larger passengers in the back seat have said that would be so much better.

Chevy Equinox. Offered in turbo-diesel, later maybe Voltec? The automaker books most of its profits on sales of SUVs, crossovers, and trucks.

But while GM plays its hand much closer to its chest than automakers like VW Group, Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, Hyundai/Kia, and others who’ve announced sweeping plug-in agendas, it is clear the automaker will be building more.

And thanks largely to the Volt, GM is on track behind Tesla to hit 200,000 plug-ins produced in the U.S. during 2018 and thus hit its cap for the federal tax credits – which then fade away over four successive quarters.

SEE ALSO: 18 Hurdles Electrified Vehicles Are Having To Overcome

GM is not talking about a stable of Voltecs, however, so we shall see what comes about.

Whether the Volt in present form factor remains is a decision not yet officially made, but reportedly its cancellation is in consideration.

Whatever is decided, plug-in supporters can only hope better cars come along if this original grandfather of a plug-in is indeed retired in the next couple of years.


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Fisker Cancels Graphene Battery Plans, Bringing In LG Chem Li-Ion

Fisker is parting ways with battery technology supplier Nanotech Energy for the upcoming EMotion all-electric luxury sports sedan.

Its Fisker Nanotech joint venture was going to use battery cells made from graphene for the EMotion’s battery pack. The JV, called Fisker Nanotech, came to be with founder Henrik Fisker’s announcement of Fisker Inc., in October 2016.

The EMotion will instead receive its power through advanced cylindrical lithium-ion NCM chemistry cells provided by LG Chem, Fisker said.

Nanotech Energy had its plate full with Fisker, neglecting other client projects.

“In order to meet the timetable for Henrik Fisker, we would have had to just focus on that and that alone,” said Jack Kavanaugh, chairman and acting CEO of Nanotech Energy. “It wasn’t right for us as a company to just focus on one thing.”

Fisker had been vocal about Fisker Nanotech last fall with introduction of the EMotion. That battery was going to bring 400 miles of range, and able to receive 125 miles worth of recharging in just 9 minutes. It would support a drive train capable of hitting a top speed of 161 mph.

Fisker said changing over to LG Chem won’t hurt those performance metrics.

Graphene is known for providing a very strong structural element, Kavanaugh said. That helps charge and discharge cells faster while improving safety and range. The cells could come from another source like lithium ion.

The electric carmaker will continue to “work with Nanotech on the applications of graphene,” but it will use battery cells provided by LG Chem in the EMotion, Fisker said.

The battery cells will come from LG Chem, which Fisker said his company is confident will provide what they need for power and fast charging.

Fisker Inc. will continued working on sold state battery technology, but that will be a few years out. Solid state batteries replace the liquid electrolyte used in lithium ion batteries with a solid one. They’re capable of being more compact and stable, allowing for more voltage to be stored in a smaller battery pack.

“We are enhancing and expediting our efforts in solid-state technology and will be announcing our recent developments and partnerships on the near future,” Fisker said.

Fisker said that technology remains five to seven years away, if not more. Going mass market with solid-state batteries will happen sometime “ahead of 2025.”

The startup automaker has been receiving refundable $2,000 deposits for the EMotion. Without giving numbers, Fisker said that 2019 delivery goals have already been met with down payments. Future deposits will to Emotions released in 2020.

SEE ALSO:  New Fisker EMotion Images and Details Revealed

Fisker had a previous fallout with a battery technology supplier. A123 Systems provided the battery packs for the Fisker Karma until it went out of production in late 2012.

Fisker had been given enough batteries for Karma production until the first part of 2013, but the company had gone through upheaval losing much of its inventory. That came from Hurricane Sandy flooding a New Jersey port in November 2012, destroying 338 Karmas.

Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy in 2013, following A123 System’s filing in October 2012. Both companies were purchased in their BK settlements by Chinese auto parts giant Wanxiang Group.

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