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This Next Generation Of Electric Cars Will Be Cheaper And More User-Friendly

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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 important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: The Next Wave Of EVs

Automakers, especially certain ones recovering from expensive diesel emissions cheating scandals, have repeatedly stressed lately that electric cars are the future. And at last week’s Paris Motor Show, many of them started putting their money where their mouths are. Besides Tesla and Chevrolet/Opel, we have big electric projects coming from Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Renault and more.


Until now, electric cars have been limited in range and in some cases prohibitively expensive. We’re starting to see that change. Via Automotive News:

Volkswagen, for instance, rolled out its I.D. concept car, an EV that brand chairman Herbert Diess said will sell for about the price of a Golf diesel — think mid-$20,000s — and have more than 250 miles of range. VW plans to have 30 EVs in its lineup by 2025, he said.

Diess said VW must take aggressive steps to fend off competitors like Tesla, whose Model 3 is projected at a $35,000 base price and 215-mile range, and potentially Google and Apple.

“You have to be more radical if you want to compete with those,” Diess said. “As long as you carry along the combustion engine, I think you don’t have a chance to compete with the new entries.”

[...] Mercedes-Benz’s EQ concept heralded the debut of an ambitious plan to introduce at least 10 battery-powered cars in the coming years, bundled under the new EQ brand.

The first new all-electric model will be a coupelike SUV that will be for sale before the end of the decade.

“We’re now flipping the switch,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said. “We’re ready for the launch of an electric product offensive that will cover all vehicle segments, from the compact to the luxury class.”


It’s inevitable, but also good. And exciting.

2nd Gear: Fuel Cell Cars? Not So Much

But make no mistake that at least for a while, we’re talking about rechargeable battery EVs. Over at Wards Auto, one analyst makes yet another case against hydrogen fuel cell cars for now, despite heavy investments by Honda and Toyota:

“The cost of the fuel cells, the cost of building a hydrogen network and the fact that hydrogen isn’t green all raise serious questions,” says Chris Richter, managing director of investment firm CLSA. “You get hydrogen from reforming natural gas, thus it’s an odd decision to spend money for a technology that doesn’t really solve the CO2 problem.

“If you want to make it truly green (through solar energy or electrolysis of water), then it’s going to add cost to an already-expensive system.”

In contrast, Richter, who comes down on the side of battery-electric technology with qualifiers, notes the power grid is already there. “Thus, the set of problems is smaller. Effectively, you have a fueling station in your house if you own an EV.”

Further detailing problems facing proponents of fuel-cell technology, he warns the biggest is where the hydrogen comes from. “While a fuel-cell vehicle is indeed zero carbon emissions on a fueling-pump-to-wheel basis, it leaves a lot to be desired when the source of the hydrogen is considered,” he says.

One thing at a time, maybe.

3rd Gear: Electric X3 And Mini Coming

One more bit of EV news! BMW may have peaced out of the Paris show this year, but they have decidedly more mainstream electric offerings coming up than the high-tech but niche i cars. Via Reuters:

Reuters reported on Sept. 9 that top BMW executives were skipping Paris auto show events this week to resolve differences over electric vehicle strategy and chart a new electric product offensive, including a possible electric Mini.

The electric Mini is expected to debut in about three years, company officials said.

BMW faces increasing pressure from German rivals Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) as well as Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) of the United States, which have outlined aggressive plans to court affluent buyers - and respond to regulators - with new electric vehicles.

BMW moved earlier than its German rivals to field innovative electric cars, launching the BMW i3 battery-powered city car in 2013 with a lightweight body made of carbon fiber instead of steel or aluminum. However, the i3 and the plug-in hybrid i8 have been slow sellers.


The X3 will be a good volume seller and competitor with the slew of electric crossovers coming out, but a Mini with electric torque sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.

4th Gear: Mr. Autonomous Car Goes To Washington

Our nation’s highway chief says that whoever becomes America’s president next will continue the push for autonomous vehicles. Via The Detroit News:

The nation’s top highway regulator predicted Friday that President Barack Obama’s replacement in the White House — whomever that may be — will continue the current push for advancement of self-driving cars.

Federal Highway Administration chief Greg Nadeau said during a speech in Washington on Friday he is confident that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump will not put the brakes on the Obama administration’s rollout for rules governing and advancing self-driving car technology.

“It’s going to be an ongoing, evolutionary thing,” Nadeau said at a vehicle technology forum held in conjunction with the Consumer Technology Association. “I am absolutely confident that whoever wins the election, the next administration and Congress will continue to encourage this kind of activity because frankly, our future transportation system depends on it.”


Not sure I share your confidence, but OK.

5th Gear: Trump Swears He’ll Bring Back Auto Manufacturing Jobs

Hot on the heels of a dustup with Ford over Mexico production that inadvertently led to confirmation of a new Ranger and Bronco in the U.S., GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump also told a crowd of Michigan supporters that he’ll bring back auto manufacturing jobs and renegotiate NAFTA. Via The Detroit Free Press:

“It’s time to rebuild Michigan and we are not letting them take your jobs out of Michigan any longer,” Trump said to a crowd of several thousand cheering supporters Friday at the Suburban Collection Showplace. “Hillary Clinton...will never protect the freedom and jobs of the American people. I am not running to be president of the world, I am running to be president of the United States of America.”

Trump has made free trade and his desire to renegotiate NAFTA a centerpiece of his campaign. And he has been using his free trade position to appeal to blue collar union workers in the Midwest and in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“We will bring back your auto manufacturing business like you have never ever seen it before,” Trump said.


Reverse: Wow, That’s Timely


Neutral: How To Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing Jobs?

Okay, let’s play the game a bit. How does the president get automakers to make more cars in the U.S.? And what does that mean for vehicle prices?