Jaguar, Audi, Porsche and BMW: their EV futures

Electric saloons and crossovers were big – seriously big – news at the Geneva Motor Show.

Jaguar had the big production car story with the I-Pace. Which is perhaps why Audi felt the need to send a couple of prototypes of its rival e-tron shuttling around the showground, wrapped in disguise graphics.

Porsche showed a reasonably realistic vision of its second Mission E model, and told Top Gear a lot more detail about the first Mission E, which launches next year.

VW showed a big saloon concept, the ID Vizzion, which will go into production in 2021. By which time VW will have have tacked on a steering wheel.

BMW, meanwhile, had nothing to show but announced it will put into production the i4. That’s the real-world version of last autumn’s Vision i Dynamics concept car, itself a realistic derivation of the fantastical BMW 100th anniversary concept. (OK, time to ‘fess up, we called it the i5 when we first wrote about it.)

Aston Martin unveiled the Lagonda too. While we know they’re serious about Lagonda and about EVs, this particular concept is pretty far-fetched. It’s designed around solid-state batteries, a technology that’s not even in the prototype stage yet. At least not in vehicles, only in the lab.

Hyundai had a production electric Kona, available with two battery sizes, the biggest able to store 64kWh for 300-odd miles of real-world range. There was even a SsangYong EV, a crossover due in 2019. As with the Kona, there’s a similar version with an engine, the new Korando due later this year.

Among carmakers building both electric and combustion cars, there is one striking difference. Do they scratch-design the EVs, or do they share platforms with their conventional petrol, diesel and hybrid cars?

BMW has a platform-sharing approach. The i4 uses an adapted version of the architecture that serves everything from the next-gen 3 Series to the upcoming X7, including the current 5 and 7 Series. I asked BMW boss Harald Krüger why they don’t have a dedicated electric platform, which is what Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche – and of course Tesla – have settled on.

The reason, he said, is flexibility. “Who can predict future electric market share?” So if EVs stiff out, BMW won’t be over-committed. Not only that, but also the opposite, says Krüger. “Even if EV grows fast we can react fast and build them on the existing combustion-car production lines. If you have dedicated EVs, what do you do with the old combustion-car plants?”

OK, but what if building a dedicated EV platform results in a better EV? Krüger simply tells me to look at the i4 concept, and asks if I see any problem with the looks, performance or range.

Porsche says electric cars would be additional sales, not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911

But Audi’s R&D chief, Peter Mertens disagrees. “The e-tron has an architecture called PPE, or Premium Platform Electric. It’s dedicated to electric and won’t be used for combustion cars or even plug-in hybrids. We have a Chinese wall between the two. They are so different as to proportions, packaging, weight distribution.”

Which is all very well, but until 2016 Mertens had the same R&D role at Volvo. And there he was responsible for the CMA platform, which sits under the new XC40. That one was designed to accommodate a full-EV version.

Jaguar has seized the advantages of a bespoke EV platform. The I-Pace’s proportions are radically different from the other Jag SUVs. Jaguar design chief Ian Callum likens it to the shift in sports cars from front to mid engines.

Absent a bulky engine at the front, its design pushes the driver forward, allowing more cabin space, and the long wheelbase leaves room for a bigger battery. Compare that with the long-bonnet BMW Vision i Dynamics.

What about the lack of flexibility and extra risk BMW’s Krüger talks of? The Jaguar is built under contract by Magna in Austria, so to an extent Jaguar has off-loaded the risk to Magna. It’s Magna who makes the E-Pace, too, as well as two BMWs and the Mercedes G-Class, so it manages to be a pretty flexible shop.

But Audi’s Mertens acknowledges the risk that BMW’s Krüger is talking about. “Yes, it does give us less flexibility in production. We have made a bold commitment.” The e-tron is to be made in a re-fitted Audi factory in Brussels. Mertens says Audi expects 15 per cent of its cars will be full-electric by 2025.

Porsche is pretty solidly committed too. That’s an understatement. It is investing €6 billion (£5.5bn) on electric R&D and production and the world’s highest-power charger network. Those things will zap up a Mission E from zero to 80 per cent charge in an astonishing 15 minutes.

Porsche has found space in its historic Zuffenhausen plant to install a dedicated new production line for the Mission E. I asked Porsche’s Sales and Marketing chief Detlev von Platen about his sales expectation. “There have been thousands of studies into the takeup of EVs and they have got thousands of answers. But €6 billion says we will be bold.”

That Mission E production line is geared for 20,000 cars a year, including other versions like the Cross Turismo, shown as a concept in Geneva. For reference, Porsche sold 250,000 cars and crossovers last year. Von Platen says the electric cars would be additional not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911.

Porsche is also developing leasing schemes where an owner pays a monthly fee and can swap between several Porsche models. That means if an EV wouldn’t work for, say, a holiday to a remote place, they would swap into a Cayenne or Panamera for the occasion.

Porsche’s R&D chief Michael Steiner says the Mission E uses a dedicated Porsche platform. The battery has cut-outs in the footwells so the passengers sit lower than other electric cars, to get a low roof line and the centre of gravity right down. Odd then that they jacked it up for the Mission E Cross Turismo concept, but the first production Mission E will be low as a snake’s belly.

Steiner confirms that Porsche is additionally working on the PPE platform with Audi. That’s the one used by the Audi e-tron, and its battery is a simple sandwich shape.

So Porsche will launch a second full-electric line. There will be the Mission E family, and, later a whole other electric crossover lineup on the PPE platform. That’s another part of the €6bn then. Will it be too similar to the Audi? “No-one questions that the Macan is a Porsche, even though it is related to an Audi.”

What does Steiner think of the possibility of a flexible platform that would also allow petrol versions? “You would have to compromise. You would have to make room for the engine, and for batteries.”

Those things are very different shapes. He says with solid-state batteries it would be easier, because those batteries might be half the size and weight of lithium ion. But even so, “Porsche does not like compromise.” Tell that to BMW then…

[“Source-topgear”]

Why Oil and Coal States Are Slashing Their Education Budgets

A crane-like machine drills into a field for oil

A pumpjack in Wyoming David Zalubowski / AP

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed legislation on Monday approving $34.5 million in cuts to the state’s K-12 education budget. The new spending plan also denies tax increases that would raise additional money for education, though it does establish a special committee to determine future modes of funding. Ultimately, the legislation seeks to address a shortfall in Wyoming’s education budget that could reach $1.8 billion by 2022.

“We’re going to need to think about funding education as a Chevy rather than a Cadillac in the future,” Jillian Balow, the state superintendent of public instruction, told The Casper Star-Tribune back in December.

Beyond overspending, there’s a larger explanation for why these budget cuts are necessary. The majority of Wyoming’s funding for public education comes from taxes and other revenue sources that depend on the state’s declining oil and coal industries.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that coal production had reached its lowest point in 35 years, forcing many coal companies to declare bankruptcy. Oil prices in the U.S. have also fallen from $99 a barrel in 2014 to $30 a barrel in January 2016.

As these industries struggle, states that depend on them like Wyoming, Alaska, and Oklahoma are forced to cut spending for education. According to data from 2011-2012, around 30 percent of Wyoming’s education spending comes from federal mineral royalties, while another 30 percent comes from property taxes often backed by these minerals.

A 2016 report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government identifies eight states whose economies have been severely impacted by the decline of oil and coal revenue in the U.S.: Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In each of these states, oil, natural gas, and mining account for around 10 percent of GDP.

Last year, statewide budget cuts in Oklahoma led to a $109 million loss in funding for public schools. As a result, many Oklahoma school districts were forced shorten their school weeks to reduce costs.

Last June, Alaska Governor Bill Walker also unleashed a series of cuts to schools and universities, which totaled $150 million. In the same year, North Dakota was forced to cut $172 million in spending for K-12 education, but this loss was supplemented by a special reserve fund for elementary and high schools.

Although education isn’t the only public sector to suffer from widespread budget cuts, it has certainly felt the burden within these struggling economies. Indeed, the future of educational programs in states like Wyoming may depend on the fate of oil and coal industries in the U.S.

[“Source-.theatlantic”]

The First LG Laptops Are on Their Way to the U.S. Market

LG, the Korean electronics giant known for its smartphones, appliances and tablets is bringing its first laptops to the U.S. market.

The company announced the release of the Gram series of laptops in a press release recently.

The machines, named Gram to highlight their light weight, are available in 13-inch and 14-inch models.

The 13-inch model has 128GB of storage, 8GB memory and an Intel Core i5 processor. There are two different models of the LG Gram 14-inch laptop.

The first boasts 128 GB of storage, 8GB memory and an Intel Core i5 processor. The second features a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor, 256 GB of storage and 8 GB memory. All three laptops weigh 2.16 pounds — making them lighter than MacBook Air.

All Grams are crafted of strong and light carbon-lithium and carbon-magnesium materials. According to the company, these are the same materials used in racing cars and spacecrafts. The laptops are also about a half-inch in thickness.

The machines include Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, extra ports for USB 3.0, as well as micro-SD and micro-USB slots. The laptops also feature a built-in HDMI port and advanced sound quality courtesy of their built-in Digital-to-Analog converters that immensely reduce distortion and noise, allowing users to experience hi-fi quality sound.

All three devices feature Full HD displays and boast 16:9 aspect ratio and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

The company also says that all Gram laptops have a battery life of up to 7.5 hours, so you can use your laptop all day on a single charge.

The Gram laptops include an instant boot feature that allows the Operating System to start up immediately while “Reader Mode” provides for optimal reading conditions by reducing the blue light and making it easier to read for long periods.

David VanderWaal, the vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA, said in a statement included in the press release:

“LG has a long history of developing innovative consumer electronics products and has applied that expertise, along with its laptop success in other markets, to the LG Gram series in the U.S.

“We recognize this is an extremely competitive category, and are confident consumers will respond well to this product that combines powerful performance with lightweight design.”

The new devices all use Windows 10 and are now available .

The LG Gram 13, available in white, sells for $899. Both 14-inch models come in gold. The 14-inch Core i5 Gram laptop goes for $999, while its counterpart, the 14-inch Core i7 Gram, retails for $1,399

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

The First LG Laptops Are on Their Way to the U.S. Market

LG, the Korean electronics giant known for its smartphones, appliances and tablets is bringing its first laptops to the U.S. market.

The company announced the release of the Gram series of laptops in a press release recently.

The machines, named Gram to highlight their light weight, are available in 13-inch and 14-inch models.

The 13-inch model has 128GB of storage, 8GB memory and an Intel Core i5 processor. There are two different models of the LG Gram 14-inch laptop.

The first boasts 128 GB of storage, 8GB memory and an Intel Core i5 processor. The second features a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor, 256 GB of storage and 8 GB memory. All three laptops weigh 2.16 pounds — making them lighter than MacBook Air.

All Grams are crafted of strong and light carbon-lithium and carbon-magnesium materials. According to the company, these are the same materials used in racing cars and spacecrafts. The laptops are also about a half-inch in thickness.

The machines include Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, extra ports for USB 3.0, as well as micro-SD and micro-USB slots. The laptops also feature a built-in HDMI port and advanced sound quality courtesy of their built-in Digital-to-Analog converters that immensely reduce distortion and noise, allowing users to experience hi-fi quality sound.

All three devices feature Full HD displays and boast 16:9 aspect ratio and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

The company also says that all Gram laptops have a battery life of up to 7.5 hours, so you can use your laptop all day on a single charge.

The Gram laptops include an instant boot feature that allows the Operating System to start up immediately while “Reader Mode” provides for optimal reading conditions by reducing the blue light and making it easier to read for long periods.

David VanderWaal, the vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA, said in a statement included in the press release:

“LG has a long history of developing innovative consumer electronics products and has applied that expertise, along with its laptop success in other markets, to the LG Gram series in the U.S.

“We recognize this is an extremely competitive category, and are confident consumers will respond well to this product that combines powerful performance with lightweight design.”

The new devices all use Windows 10 and are now available .

The LG Gram 13, available in white, sells for $899. Both 14-inch models come in gold. The 14-inch Core i5 Gram laptop goes for $999, while its counterpart, the 14-inch Core i7 Gram, retails for $1,399.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]