Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the stories you need to know.
1st Gear: UK Accepts Our Electric Future
The country will soon require all new homes to have electric car charging points, in addition to giving millions of pounds to companies that want to install charging points elsewhere across the country, according to Bloomberg. This in reaction to range anxiety, or the idea that the mass adoption of electric cars won’t happen until people are comfortable with the idea of driving a battery-operated vehicle long distances.
(The actual merits of range anxiety, which is silly since the vast majority of drivers take short trips, is an argument for a different day.)
More from Bloomberg:
New street lighting columns also will be required to have charging points in areas with on-street parking and a 40-million pound program will be introduced to test low-cost wireless charging technology, in other measures unveiled by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. The proposals are part of the government’s push to end the sale of new cars and vans fueled by gasoline and diesel by 2040.
The government will also take powers through the “Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill” to ensure that charging points are available at freeway service stations and large gas retailers, according to a statement. A consultation on ensuring new houses built in England are electric vehicle ready will also begin as soon as possible, it said.
So, an example of a national government reckoning earnestly with its future, and finding solutions. Let’s check in elsewhere...
2nd Gear: Self-Driving Car Legislation In Congress Is Going Nowhere Fast
The legislation, which seemed on the fast track to becoming law a year ago, now has stalled out in the Senate, as other Republican priorities take precedent. The bills being considered would make it easier for companies to test self-driving cars on public roads, and allow companies to skirt state-level rules for self-driving cars, in what proponents say would give the U.S. an edge in self-driving research and development. Detractors, meanwhile, quite reasonably point out that the whole process should be slowed down anyway in the interest of safety, especially following the fatal Uber crash in March.
What is helping no one is dysfunction in Congress, which can’t even bring the legislation bring to a vote.
From Automotive News:
The bill’s sponsors, Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., are trying to get it through the Senate. But five Democrats, concerned that self-driving cars aren’t yet safe enough to place on public roads without stricter performance requirements, have blocked the bill from being approved by unanimous consent, meaning it would have to be scheduled for a separate floor vote by the Senate and face more procedural hurdles.
In any case, there are few working days left on the Senate calendar for a stand-alone AV START bill to be considered in the current session of Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is shortening the Senate’s traditional August recess, but most of the extra time will be for clearing a backlog of administration nominations and spending bills, and the new priority of confirming a new Supreme Court justice.
The only realistic alternative for autonomous vehicle proponents is to get the bill attached to other legislation that will go to the floor, with Thune and others suggesting the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration as the most likely candidate. But the FAA bill, too, has languished for a year because of disagreements over controversial provisions.
On balance, this is all probably a good thing, since testing rules should be strict for self-driving cars. And, yet, what I would give for a federal government capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.
3rd Gear: Nissan Still Hasn’t Got Its Shit Together In Japan
Previously, Nissan was accused of doing shoddy inspections on cars sold in Japan for roughly four decades. Today, the company said that, in fact, it is still uncovering the depth of its misconduct.
Nissan said it had found sample test environments for emissions and fuel economy in final vehicle inspections at most of its factories in Japan were not in line with domestic standards, and that inspection reports were based on altered measurements.
The issue was discovered during voluntary compliance checks it launched following last year’s vehicle inspection scandal, and affects models including the Note, the subcompact hatchback which is Nissan’s top-selling model in Japan, and the Juke SUV crossover.
Of around 2,200 sample tests performed at six plants producing Nissan vehicles, 1,200 at five locations showed some form of falsification, Nissan said.
The automaker discovered incidents in which vehicle driving speeds and durations, along with external temperatures, had not been in line with Japanese regulations for emissions testing, while testing equipment had not been calibrated properly.
In addition, mileage data were overstated in some cases to make them appear more favorable.
The shoddy inspections only apply to cars sold in Japan, not exports.
The passive nature in which these problems are “discovered” always gets me. In other Nissan news...
4th Gear: The Sale Of Their Lithium Ion Battery Business Is Off
Nissan had planned to sell its battery manufacturing unit to a Chinese buyer for $903 million. But now that buyer says it doesn’t have the money, tabling the deal for the moment.
From Automotive News:
Nissan had arranged last year to sell its multiplant in-house battery manufacturing unit Automotive Energy Supply Corp. at a whopping ¥100 billion ($903 million), according to Japanese media reports. The buyer was GSR Capital, a Chinese private investment fund whose holdings include Iconiq Motors and Fisker Inc.
But when the June 29 closing day arrived, GSR had backed out.
According to a Nissan filing with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, GSR Capital “was not able to have the funds available to fulfill its contractual obligations.” Nissan, still saddled with a battery maker set up more than a decade ago to supply the Leaf EV, says it’s unsure what to do next.
At first glance, this is a bit counterintuitive—why would Nissan want to exit the battery business, since electric cars our are future? But as Automotive News reports, the real money is not in battery manufacturing but in battery innovation. Had the deal gone through, the money would’ve freed up Nissan to focus more on the latter, though, as it stands, the company’s now in a weird purgatory.
Buying AESC could have locked GSR Capital into a battery making operation that had a limited customer base as well as a supply chain restricted to NEC components. At the same time, Nissan would likely have retained the key battery know-how, which carries the biggest value in any battery venture.
“The business of battery manufacturing is very high risk,” said Yusuke Shimizu, an automotive consultant at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting in Tokyo. “Because battery technologies are moving fast, r&d has to be in-house. But purchasing and production should be outsourced.”
5th Gear: Obligatory Trade War Update
France says that the European Union is united in any retaliation against President Deals and potential tariffs on cars. Which is news because car tariffs would hurt Germany, not France, the most.
“If tomorrow there is an increase in tariffs, like in the car industry, our reaction should be united and strong to show that Europe is a united and sovereign power,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
“The question is no longer whether or not there will be a trade war, the war has already started,” he added, speaking at an economic conference in Aix-en-Provence, southern France.
The war is here indeed.
Reverse: 500 Fiat 500s
Neutral: Is Range Anxiety Really A Thing For You?
I mean, how often do you find yourself driving over 200-250 miles when not on vacation? I grew up with (and retain) a deep fear of running out of gas, so I get it on some level. And yet stopping to recharge for an hour somewhere doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world?