Will China hold our electric future at ransom? Not if Toyota can help it

Toyota’s Akira Kato demonstrates lean neodymium. (c) Bertel Schmitt

If the supply of electric vehicles is to grow as predicted, the demand for strategic materials will increase along with it. The various oil crises of the past, and the wars that came with it, illustrate where such a dependency can lead. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, two choke points have been identified: The supply of cobalt needed to make batteries, and the supply of rare earth minerals needed to make the magnets in electric motors.

There are two ways to address the problem. We can hope it will take care of itself. Or we can do something about it. Toyota is in the second camp, and it aims to reduce the dangerous dependency on neodymium. Expensive neodymium already is the main cost driver in the production of magnets, we heard today at a meeting at Toyota’s Tokyo HQ. If electric vehicles will gain popularity as expected, shortages of neodymium could occur as early as 2025, Akira Kato, general project manager at Toyota’s R&D company, told us today. [Continue Reading]

‘Fool cell’ Toyota Mirai trounces ‘S-curve’ Tesla Model 3

Hand made Mirai. (c) Bertel Schmitt

Last October, we raised the possibility that Tesla’s alleged mass market car, the Model 3, could be out-sold by Toyota’s not-at-all-mass-market car, the fuel-cell powered Mirai. We called that a “strong possibility,” and a Toyota tipster said “if Tesla maintains its graceful pace of some 130 a month, for sure we will have made more Mirai this year by end of December.”

As the world is well aware by now, the Model 3 ramp-up was disgraceful, and as hard as it may have tried, Tesla could report only 1,770 Model 3 as sold to (mostly in-house) customers in 2017.

Today was December and calendar year 2017 numbers day in Japan, an opportunity to ask Toyota how its Mirai has been doing. [Continue Reading]

China NEV Weekly Episode 7: Las Vegas, Lifan, and LvChi

China NEV Weekly Episode 7

Happy New Year! No time to waste: we continue with a new episode of China NEV Weekly, bringing you the latest New Energy Vehicles from China. This week, we start in Las Vegas:
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China NEV Weekly Episode 5: Bangle and the World Cup

 

Welcome to another episode of China NEV Weekly, with the latest New Energy Vehicles from China. This week with Chris Bangle, the World Cup, and a fake Picasso.

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China NEV Weekly, Episode 4: Pickup Your BingGo

China NEV Weekly

Welcome to Episode 3 of the China NEV Weekly, where we look at the latest New Energy Vehicles from China. This week with pickup trucks, a Hozon, and we are going to play bingo!

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Portrait of the Con Artist as a Stung Man

Rolling Stone’s recent profile of Elon Musk revealed Mr. Musk’s plans to shape the world. But much more than this it revealed how the world has shaped Mr. Musk. The panegyric to this man of genius without limit is more the portrait of the con artist as a stung man.

What Truly Drives Musk?

Perhaps I reveal my own jealous pettiness. Who would not wish to be Mr. Musk?

He has been an innovator on the internet and raced to the lead in electric cars, solar panels, spacecraft, self-driving technology, tunnels, artificial intelligence and human-computer interfaces. In his fans he has the loyalty of thousands. He commands the respect of millions. His is a fortune in the billions. To Big Oil companies he is Shiva the Destroyer, a Juggernaut made flesh. They do not see him as “Iron Man” but as Darth Vader. [Continue Reading]

Don’t even think it: No, China is not caving in to Tesla

Customs checkpoint at the Xiamen Free Trade Zone. Picture courtesy brics2017.org

When you read this, you probably have heard that China is doing away with its requirement that foreign automakers need a 50:50 Chinese partner before they can make automobiles in the Middle Kingdom, the only legal way to avoid the country’s egregious 25% import tax. You will also have heard that this will open the gates to Tesla’s ultimate domination of the world’s largest car market, and especially of the world’s largest electric car market. If you haven’t heard, you certainly will.

There is only one problem: It is not true. Car companies indeed will be able to build EVs on Chinese soil, and on their own, but they won’t get around the tax, and therefore won’t be competitive with indigenous products. [Continue Reading]

China NEV Weekly, Episode 3: Electric sports cars, electric Trucks

Welcome to Episode 3 of the China NEV Weekly, where we look at the latest New Energy Vehicles from China. Today with electric sports cars, trendy electric minis, and big electric trucks. Yes, trucks. Been there, done that.

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