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Speaking of Conversions, Classic VW Kombi gets electric overhaul...

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    Speaking of Conversions,

    Classic VW Kombi gets electric overhaul in Byron Bay

    Byron Bay is now home to one of Australia’s first all-electric VW Kombi vans, thanks to the know-how of ex-aircraft engineer and Kombi hire business owner Alex Bosin.

    Originally from Germany, Bosin and his wife Brita have made a passion out of Byron Bay’s reputation for alternative lifestyles and as a wedding venue, hiring the classic campervans to brides and grooms, and overseas visitors alike.

    Now, Bosin is combining that love of the “hippy” and “new age” culture which more or less adopted the Kombi (known in the US as a Microbus) as its own in the 1960s, and for which Byron Bay is so well known, with the desire to do it in zero-emissions style.

    Bosin’s Kimbi conversion bridges the gap between his experience as an aircraft engineer and his love of the Byron lifestyle.

    “I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and worked for German airline Lufthansa as a senior engineer and used to do quite a few customer-specific modifications on big government aircraft,” he tells The Driven.

    “After we came to Byron Bay and had kids, we wanted to stay in Byron so built up our business, and I fully restored a few Kombis.”

    “Now, my engineering background is kicking in again, after going back to Germany and seeing what’s happened over there with the EV transition.

    “I have studied solar and always had a passion for renewable energy, so now it’s all coming together.

    “I also have a passion for classic cars and I came to the idea of doing a conversion,” says Bosin.

    At first Bosin planned starting with an electric Beetle (such as Energylab’s Nick Lake’s red electric Beetle which you can read about here). But, he says, it was far too nice to take apart, so he turned to a Kombi instead.

    “The Kombi fits with Byron lifestyle – you can go to the beach in it, take the kids to town, or I can drive it to the workshop,” says Bosin.

    After one and a half years, the conversion project is complete and more than just a vehicle for day-to-day drives (Bosin says that even with its current range of 40km, which he is intending to increase to 150km, he does actually use it daily).

    “I see it as investment, because that’s what I see with all my Kombis. It’s a sustainable car – but you also no longer have the maintenance, the noise of the engine, and complicated mechanics,” he says, explaining that with its brushless motor and regenerative braking there are almost no maintenance costs.

    He says that he doesn’t miss the dack-a-dack of the original drivetrain one bit – instead, it’s a nice, quiet drive.

    “I’m starting to enjoy my car again,” he says, adding that he will be making it available for hire also.

    “We want to show awareness and where we can go and what we can do (with electric mobility), so people can experience this style of driving around in a classic car,” he says.

    “I think will have it forever.”


    VW flags replacement of ICE Passat with all-electric vehicle

    The Volkswagen Passat may be one of the most recognised name brand cars in the United States, but company executives have revealed that the car does not have a place in the company’s long-term plans, and that an all-electric vehicle may step in to fill the void left when Volkswagen moves to mothball the Passat.

    Speaking to CNET’s Roadshow, Volkswagen of America’s chief operating officer Johan de Nysschen explained that the “Passat is a car that has a finite lifespan in terms of our planning.”

    Speaking last Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show, de Nysschen said that it was “a reasonable assumption” that when the Passat reached the end of its lifecycle, its successor would “probably not feature an internal combustion engine.”

    Volkswagen only moved 14,123 Passats in the United States last year, and with most big-name auto manufacturers looking for ways to ensure their futures are electric, phasing out the ICE Passat seems like a good idea.
    The company has also said that it will likely build a production version of the ID Vizzion sedan concept vehicle which might serve as the potential future Passat replacement.

    Volkswagen’s electrification strategy is expected to result in a full range of battery-powered models under the ID header, starting with the ID.3 unveiled last year in Paris.

    The first all-electric Volkswagen set to reach Australian shores is the ID.4 SUV, which was confirmed in September – a savvy move to prioritise SUVs in a country more than willing to adopt an SUV or ute.

    The German automotive giant also announced in November of last year that it was planning to spend nearly €60 billion ($A97.3 billion) over the next few years in a large-scale transition towards electric vehicles – a move which will see as many as 75 all-electric models rolled out alongside up to 60 hybrid models.

    “We are resolutely pressing ahead with the transformation of the Volkswagen Group and focusing our investments on the future of mobility,” declared Hans Dieter Pötsch, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Volkswagen Group.

    “This is part of our systematic and consequent implementation of the Group’s strategy
    “We will step up the pace again in the coming years with our investments,” added Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group.

    “Hybridisation, electrification and digitalisation of our fleet are becoming an increasingly important area of focus. We intend to take advantage of economies of scale and achieve maximum synergies.”

    Further cementing the company’s commitment to its electrification strategy was the news in September of last year that Volkswagen had begun manufacturing a small pilot line of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars at its new production facility Salzgitter in Lower Saxony, the start of a larger plan to deliver 16GWh of EV batteries each year.

    Check out our Models pages for news and analysis, reviews and road trips on this and all EV models currently or soon to be available in Australia.


    WA buries report on low cost charging network, frustrating EV industry

    The Western Australian government has drawn criticism around a highly unusual delay on the publication of a report on establishing a statewide electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

    The report, which proposes a relatively low cost roll out of a network in Perth and across regional and remote West Australia, has sat on the desk of cabinet for more than twelve months since it was finalised.

    The product of an electric vehicle working group created in 2017 under a memorandum of understanding to “identify opportunities to collaborate in promoting and accelerating the transition to electric vehicles”, it was finalised in December 2018 and only published after a push by its authors.

    Although Australia lags behind the transition to electric mobility, there were three times as many EVs sold in Australia in 2019 compared to 2018 and the global shift is likely to continue as carmakers are forced to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles in countries such as the UK.

    Western Australia once led the way in the introduction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure – the RAC EV charging network rolled out in 2015 consisted of 11 sites from Perth to Augusta in the south, and was the first of its kind in Australia.

    The new report seeks to ensure equity of access to EV charging infrastructure across remote and regional WA and hence encourage consumer confidence in the technology – and according to the authors it could be done for the “crazy cheap” sum of $23.6 million.

    “The last barrier to EV uptake is to encourage regional and rural Australia to embrace EVs,” says Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) spokesman for WA, Chris Jones, adding it wouldn’t cost very much compared to other vehicle refuelling infrastructure.

    “It’s crazy cheap compared to what we spend – even a (petrol station) roadhouse is a minimum $2 million.”

    After it was submitted to cabinet, Jones says he and other contributors to the report, including EV owner David Lloyd and head of the UWA Renewable Energy Vehicle Project (REV Project) Thomas Bräunl, were surprised at the lack of action on the report.

    “Usually when proposals go to cabinet its in lockdown and then it comes out as a policy. We thought maybe they’re spending time devising a cracking good EV policy,” Jones tells The Driven.

    Bräunl tells The Driven, “After one year lapsed and nothing had been done we were really pushing to get it published so we could at least use it for scientific publications.”

    It took Bräunl writing to government to request it be published or he would publish it to get any response. As a result, it is now published on the REV Project website, not a government site.

    The report outlines a plan to establish 6 EV charging sites in the Perth area and another 57 sites across the state about 200km apart to provide access for locals as well as encourage electric vehicle tourism.

    It also encourages the state government fleet to adopt a moderate target of 25% electric vehicles that would also help establish a secondhand market for electric vehicles.

    But Lloyd says that the report may have been held back by the hydrogen lobby backed largely by the powerful gas industry.

    “The amount of $23.6 million” is a drop in the bucket for main roads,” says Lloyd.

    “One reason for delay was the hydrogen lobby which wanted the report to include hydrogen stations,” he says.

    Jones agrees. “I do think they’ve been huffing on hydrogen pretty hard, because gas industry rules the roost,” he says.

    But installation of hydrogen refuelling stations have an asking price of $4-5 million per station according to Lloyd – and while the technology may make sense for long haul and heavy vehicles, there are only two hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles currently on the market, the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo.

    Hydrogen infrastructure would not only cost more to build, it would also cost drivers more at the pump.
    “To produce the hydrogen it’s going to cost more than petrol, cost more than electric energy, because the energy efficiency is 4-5 times lower for hydrogen compared to electricity for passenger vehicles” adds Bräunl.

    Because the government has chosen to instead sit on the report, Jones and fellow AEVA members are instead taking matters into their own hands, starting a campaign to build a crowdfunded EV network between Perth and Esperance.

    “In the absence of government support we have to do it ourselves,” says Jones. “We’re sick of waiting, although I don’t think it’s a sustainable way to do it.”

    Bräunl says that it’s not too late to table the report, and AEVA is encouraging EV owners to pressure their local members to do so.

    “The data hasn’t dated, ideally it should be actioned,” says Bräunl.

    “There needs to be initial funding from government otherwise it’s not going to be economical.”

    “Western Australia is unique from most western countries – the market is not going to solve this.”


    EV battery supply bottleneck hits Jaguar I-Pace production

    British luxury vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is reportedly halting production of its best-selling I-Pace electric car due to a shortage of batteries.

    The news was reported over the weekend by British newspaper The Times, which claimed that production would halt on the I-Pace “for a week from Monday next week because of a shortage of lithium-ion batteries.”

    Lithium-ion batteries for the I-Pace are supplied by South Korean electronics giant LG Chem and manufactured in Wroclaw, Poland.

    Unsurprisingly, at the time of writing, neither Jaguar or LG Chem had published any official word of the reports.

    However, a Jaguar Land Rover spokesperson confirmed to electrive that production of the I-Pace “had to be reduced at short notice due to a supply bottleneck,” and that all parties were working on a solution to minimise the impact on customer orders.

    Jaguar is not the first automotive manufacturer to suffer battery supply issues, nor even companies affected by LG Chem supply issues specifically.

    In April last year, German auto manufacturer Audi AG moved to reduce planned production for its e-tron electric SUV due to battery supply issues, with one factory inside reportedly explaining that “There are tons of problems with LG, who supplies the battery cells.”

    And just last month, another German auto manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, confirmed they were also suffering battery shortage issues from LG Chem.

    Despite widespread anticipation that global battery manufacturing capacity will expand, there are still major concerns around battery shortages as demand outstrips supply.

    German business and trade publication Handelsblatt highlighted a discrepancy in sales figures between companies like Mercedes-Benz and other electric vehicle manufacturers, such as BMW which sold more than 9,000 electric vehicles in Germany in 2019, and Tesla close to 11,000.

    Conversely, Mercedes-Benz reportedly only sold 700 EVs in 2019 due to what Handelsblatt described as “a lack of battery cells and too little knowledge of cell chemistry”.

    Specifically, according to Handelsblatt, “LG Chem does not manage to deliver enough cells of consistently good quality and in the company’s own battery assembly in Kamenz you also struggle with the pitfalls of cell thickness growth and heat management”.

    Unfortunately, if these issues cannot be addressed, future supply issues are almost guaranteed, as political targets and ambitions are only increasing the demand for electric vehicles across Europe, and the rest of the world.

    With the United Kingdom moving forward their ban on ICE vehicles to 2035, Ireland moving to ban ICE vehicles by 2030, and agitation among EU Member States to ban ICE vehicles across the Union, battery supply issues will only worsen if measures are not taken quickly to find alternative lithium-ion battery manufacturing and supply.


    Rivian aims to introduce three more models by 2024, build 250,000 a year

    The Rivian R1T. Source: Twitter/Rivian

    Electric car startup and potential Tesla rival Rivian aims to introduce another three more affordable electric vehicle models, including a much smaller vehicle, by 2024 and will be producing 250,000 vehicles a year by 2025, founder and CEO RJ Scaringe has said.

    They’re big plans for Scaringe’s Michigan-based startup, which first blew onto the electric car scene in November 2018, when it emerged from stealth mode to reveal its ready-to-roll, all-electric R1T utility truck and R1S SUV.

    Its first two models are scheduled for a production start in late 2020 for US deliveries in 2021, and Rivian is in the throes of completing a huge $US750 million ($A1.1 billion) renovation of its Normal, Illinois facility in preparation for the impending rollout of its highly-anticipated electric trucks.

    In an interview with Forbes, Scaringe has now confirmed that these will be followed by three additional models, all of which will cost less than the R1T and R1S, which Rivian will also be dropping the price on possibly to better compete with the “cut price” and innovative Tesla Cybertruck.

    Scaringe has not given any more details on what kind of vehicles these may be, although we imagine the smaller model could come in the form of a compact crossover.

    At first, Rivian will aim to deliver 20,000 units of its R1T and R1Sin 2021 and double that to 40,000 in 2022.

    By 2025, it is aiming to deliver a quarter of a million vehicles per year.

    “When we’re done cleaning, painting and installing the equipment,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe was quoted as saying by Forbes.

    “We will eventually be able to produce 250,000 vehicles per year by mid-decade.”

    If Rivian can do this, it will indeed be impressive. Tesla’s own hyperbolic scale up of production to 400,000 units has taken 8 years since the Model S was first introduced in 2012.

    But, backed by a total $US2.85 billion ($A4.23 billion) injection from Amazon – for which it will make 100,000 electric vans – and Ford, for which it will develop an all-electric Lincoln, as well as from Cox Automotive and T. Rowe Price – if Rivian doesn’t do it, it won’t be for the want of funds.

    Some other details discussed in the interview with Forbes are that Rivian is already developing its own proprietary network of chargers, the we first reported on in 2019 and that will be installed in out of the way places to enable adventurous Rivian owners to top up electrons no matter where they are.
    “We are developing them in parallel,” Scaringe says.
    It’s not entirely clear if the 250,000 by 2025 will include production for overseas markets – which Rivian has confirmed will happen and Scaringe has previously said will include Australia.

    For now, it is a matter of sit and wait.

    We don't have any details available on our international expansion just yet, stay tuned and we'll let you know as soon as we can!
    — Rivian (@Rivian) February 8, 2020


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