by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market
Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….
- Didi buying Uber’s China business: Uber’s arch-rival in China, Didi Chuxing, will be acquiring Uber’s Chinese business unit. It will effectively halt a fierce competitive battle and price war for the Chinese ridesharing and ride-hailing market. Didi will take over all of Uber China and will operate it as a separate brand. Uber will receive a stake in Didi and Uber founder Travis Kalanick will join the Chinese company’s board, according to news coverage. Uber has already lost $2 billion in China in two years there, people familiar with the matter have said, prompting Uber investors to pressure the company to cut a deal. As part of the arrangement, Didi will invest $1 billion in Uber’s global company, sources said. Business has been profitable in the U.S. and Canada, but losses in developing markets like China have undercut progress for Uber. The huge losses in China have been one of the main sticking points holding up Uber’s potential initial public offering (IPO), according to people familiar with the matter. Didi has received backing from more investors, including the recent announcement of $1 billion coming from Apple.
- Tesla merging with SolarCity: Independent board members of both Telsa Motors Inc. and SolarCity Corp. have approved a $2.6 billion all-stock deal. SolarCity stockholders would receive 0.11 Tesla shares for each SolarCity share they own. The deal still requires approval by a majority of shareholders at both companies, including Elon Musk, who is the largest investor at both companies. SolarCity is still open to bids over the next 45 days to see if any other bidder can top Tesla’s offer. Tesla and SolarCity shares were down after the announcement. Tesla shares dropped after the initial announcement in June, but have since come back. Wall Street has been concerned over whether combining the companies will be the best way to go.
- Volt passes 100K mark: Chevrolet has sold over 100,000 Volts in the U.S. since the plug-in hybrid’s launch in December 2010. In its current version, the Volt can go 53 miles on a charge and travel a total of 420 miles on electricity and gasoline. “The Chevrolet Volt delivers not just a fun driving experience behind the wheel, but has become the first vehicle with plug-in electrification technology to truly become mainstream,” said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. “Not only is the Volt a class-creator, it serves as the foundation of a Chevrolet electric family that will soon add the first long-range, affordable EV available to customers across the U.S., the Chevrolet Bolt EV.”
- Model X vanpooling: Green Commuter is rolling out a Tesla Model X fleet in carsharing and vanpooling services in the Los Angeles market. The company says that the Model X was chosen because it’s the only all-electric vehicle currently able to seat seven. Its official launch date is today, August 2, and coincides with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign offering its services at discounted rates. Packages start at $10 an hour and $150 per weekend rental.
- Details from Gigafactory tour: During the media tour last week at its Nevada-based Gigafactory, Tesla announced its Model 3 will start production about six months earlier than anticipated. Instead of late 2017, the Model 3 will start being built in the summer of next year, CEO Elon Musk said. Musk is confident the company will reach a price of $100 kilowatt hours by 2020, down from an average price of $1,200 in 2010. That will play a big part in keeping the Model 3 cost competitive, as batteries can make up about a third of the price of an electric car. Tesla and Panasonic will be building components in-house instead of the usual costs shipping and repackaging – keeping supply chain costs down.
- Changes in store for electric racer series: Formula E will be adopting changes to electric racers allowed to enter the global racing competition. Power output will remain at 200 kW and rise next season to 220 kW and 250 kW in season five; the regenerative braking level will increase to 150 kilowatt (up from 100 kW), and the weight drops from 888 kilograms to 880 kg. The design is starting to change with “unique visual identify” that will be displayed later this month during test days at Donington Park in the UK. The organizer says that “the new two-tier wing makes the fully-electric single-seater look more aggressive and unlike any other racing car in the world.”
- Mission E scheduled for launch: The Porsche Mission E is due to go into production in 2020 as a rival to the Tesla Model S. Codenamed J1, the electric car will be built on an all-new platform developed specifically around its electric drive system, which is different from the structure being developed by parent company Volkswagen for its new range of electric cars. Porsche revealed the 600-horsepower Mission E concept at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The German automaker has raised the number of new jobs it will create to more 1,400 from more than 1,000 already announced for the Mission E. More than 1,200 of the new positions will be created at the brand’s base in Zuffenhausen, near Stuttgart, Germany
- Elio lobbies for “autocycle” category: Elio Motors has been seeing positive results in its efforts to lobby for allowing licenses for driving its three-wheel vehicle in states across the U.S. Elio vehicle owners are benefiting from the new state laws including the “autocycle” category; this has brought the number up to 41 states that say you don’t need a motorcycle to drive the three-wheeler. Elio Motors says that its vehicle will have a targeted base price of $6,800 that will get up to 84 mpg.
- VW top seller: Volkswagen became the top-selling global automaker during the first half of 2016, even after being absorbed in the “dieselgate” scandal since September of last year. Toyota lost first place following a series of production stoppages in the first half of the year. While sales of its mass-market VW brand have suffered, sales have been more than offset by strong demand for luxury Audi and Porsche models as well as Czech brand Skoda.
- Wastewater to hydrogen: Fukuoka, Japan, now has a hydrogen fueling station in place fueled by biogas coming from a combination of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the breakdown of wastewater from a central sewage plant. Fuel cell car owners can fuel up at what’s being called a “toilet-to-tank filling station.” It’s now the second of its kind, following a demonstration facility that used similar technology at a Fountain Valley, Calif., wastewater plant that is no longer in operation.