Nissan, a major manufacturer of electric vehicles on its own, is reportedly planning on partnering with a startup for its next big electrification project. I... why? All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 20, 2020.
1st Gear: Wasn’t Nissan Supposed To Have This Stuff Handled?
Nissan was meant to be the EV company, going mainstream with the Leaf and building from there. Now it’s supposedly in need of help from a startup to make its big pickup all-electric, as Bloomberg reports:
The Japanese automaker is considering buying a battery-electric powertrain from Hercules Electric Vehicles for its Titan pickup and sharing parts for the startup’s own truck in a prospective strategic partnership, said the people, who declined to be named.
A partnership between Nissan and Hercules would mirror similar deals forged by Ford and GM with EV startups. Ford plowed $500 million into Rivian last year for access to its truck-sized electric “skateboard” platform. GM has a tentative deal for a $2 billion stake in Nikola Corp., though that partnership may be on the rocks after Nikola’s founder stepped down amid regulatory probes. In that deal, GM would offset its own development costs by providing electric propulsion technology for Nikola’s Badger pickup.
Hercules was founded in Detroit in 2018 by James Breyer, an auto engineer with stints at GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and Magna International Inc. He was soon joined by co-founders Greg Weber, another veteran of Fiat Chrysler who also worked at battery maker LG Chem Ltd., and Julie Tolley, a former engineer at engine supplier Eaton Corp.
Bloomberg points out that major OEMs partnering with startups isn’t all that uncommon for EV development, with Ford tying up with Rivian and GM with Nikola (whew!). I’d also point to Porsche and Rimac in that realm.
What’s different is that none of those companies positioned themselves as self-sustaining EV experts only a few years ago. What happened, man?
Oh right, Nissan’s EV plans were heavily backed by Carlos Ghosn. I wonder what happened to him!
2nd Gear: Jaguar Claims Porsche, Audi SUVs Are Stealing Its Patented Tech
The headline on this Bloomberg article really lays out some drama with “Jaguar seeks to block US imports of Porsche, Audi SUVs.” The actual meat of the story is that Jaguar Land Rover believes that the high-end VW Group SUVs are using tech that’s been patented by JLR:
Jaguar Land Rover, a British carmaker owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd., said in its filing with the U.S. International Trade Commission that the technology helps negotiate a “broad range of surfaces” and is a key feature in Jaguar’s F-Pace and Land Rover Discovery vehicles.
“JLR seeks to protect itself and its United States operations from companies that have injected infringing products into the U.S. market that incorporate, without any license from JLR, technology developed by JLR and protected by its patent,” Jaguar’s lawyer, Matthew Moore, said in the filing.
The cars JLR claims are stealing: the Porsche Cayenne, the Lamborghini Urus, the Audi Q8, Q7, Q5, A6 Allroad, and E-Tron, as well as the VW Tiguan. These are serious moneymakers for the VW Group, so I don’t think this will go down without a fight.
3rd Gear: The UK’s Ban On Gas-Burning Cars Is Getting Instantly Dumber
All of these bans on gas-burning cars end up a little dumb in that, well, they are not taking place immediately. They might as well! Earth’s not getting any cooler.
In any case, the specifics of the UK’s upcoming 2030 ban are already eroding in the face of protectionism, as Automotive News reports:
Automakers including Nissan, Toyota and Ford will breathe a sigh of relief, for now, after the British government signaled that it will likely allow full hybrids to be sold for another five years after a ban on sales of new cars with gasoline and diesel engines.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the government will bring forward a ban on new gasoline and diesel cars and vans to 2030 from 2035. He said the ban would come into effect five years later, in 2035, for hybrid cars and vans “that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe.”
This appeared to favor plug-in hybrids but not full-hybrid models, which cannot be plugged in to recharge the battery. This meant that full-hybrid cars built in the UK would be banned in 2030, not 2035. Toyota builds a full-hybrid Corolla in Burnaston, England, and Nissan will launch the Qashqai E-Power, produced in Sunderland, northeast England, next year.
Allowing regular-ass hybrids to slip under the radar is a major cop-out, but not a surprise in the auto industry. This is a world of loopholes and regulatory cheats.
4th Gear: Tesla Breaks Into Lucrative Novelty USB Drive Market
Tesla nerds spotted some Tesla-branded USB drives in some recent Tesla media and have been clamoring for one of their own. Tesla, as it appears, is ever-happy to provide, as CleanTechnica reports:
Tesla is selling its branded USB drives that we first noticed in some 2021 Model 3 refresh videos. Actually, this is going to sound like some type of weird coincidence, or maybe magic — let’s go with magic — but while I was writing this article (the first look at the 2021 Model 3, which was centered around a video by Driving UpCar), I first noticed the USB drive in the host’s hands and thought that this would be a really cool accessory for the Tesla shop. I paused, took a screenshot of the video, and tweeted it to Elon on Twitter.
When I said “those of us who like buying flash drives,” it was a mental reminder for myself to get one, as I need something to store all of my gem and mineral content on as well as some of the videos of my rescue kitties when they were babies. I keep forgetting to pick one up when I’m at the store, even though my phone storage notification is a nag and keeps telling me I have no space.
Anyway, I tweeted it and forgot about it until today, when I saw a few people tagging me while sharing this article by Drive Tesla Canada. The new USB drive, which is part of the upgrade that moved a USB port to the glovebox, has 64GB of storage, while Tesla has added one to its store that offers double that — 128GB. I’d say it’s well worth the $35 price tag, especially when you add in the free shipping that Tesla provides.
There is no end to Tesla novelty items, a Spaceballs gag made real.
5th Gear: Please Appreciate This Bloomberg Article Stirring The Pot
Speaking of Tesla and fandom, we cannot rule out members of the media as some kinds of fans themselves. For instance, China recently has been supporting hybrid power development. OK! Cool! I don’t love hydrogen tech in cars but I guess I support ultra-rich governments throwing some money at it in case it pans out. Bloomberg, however, saw the Elon angle.
“China Defies Elon Musk’s Warnings and Pushes Ahead With Hydrogen” reads the article, which plays Elon against the entire government of China:
Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has spent years mocking the idea of using hydrogen fuel cells rather than electric batteries to power next-generation green vehicles. “Fuel cells = fool sells,” the boss of the world’s top electric-car maker tweeted in June.
China, the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles, isn’t so quick to dismiss the alternative to batteries. Officials are promoting the development of hydrogen-powered cars, trucks and buses, with Beijing offering to reward cities that achieve adoption targets.
In a 15-year plan for new-energy vehicles released on Nov. 2, China’s State Council said the country will focus on building the fuel-cell supply chain and developing hydrogen-powered trucks and buses. President Xi Jinping in September set a 2030 deadline for China to begin reducing carbon emissions.
I don’t know why Bloomberg is pressing this as defiance of Elon, but I do agree it makes this story a bit juicier.
Reverse: Do Not Fuck With Sperm Whales
Neutral: Is Nissan’s Slowed EV Development A Ghosn Problem Or A Leaf Problem?
I can’t decide what I think slowed Nissan’s EV momentum more: Carlos Ghosn getting booted out of the company or the Nissan Leaf looking like a robot fish.