Year in review 2019: Electrification

03 January 2020

3 January 2020

With stricter CO2 emissions rules due to cause financial havoc in 2021, carmakers are increasingly looking at electrifying their fleets in order to avoid fines. The decline in the diesel market has intensified these plans, meaning 2019 was a year full of planning and model launches.

VW leading

Earlier in the year, Volkswagen Group increased global electric vehicle (EV) production estimates. The group, including the Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and SEAT brands, announced plans to launch 70 full-electric models over the next decade, meaning around 22 million EVs will be available. This is an increase on the 15 million units across 50 models the company originally planned by 2025.

The company is widely regarded as a leader in EV technology, thanks to its MEB platform, which underpins the new ID.3 model, the first mass-market EV the carmaker is producing. The first model rolled off the production line in Zwickau during November, watched by German chancellor Angela Merkel and CEO Herbert Diess. The carmaker plans to sell about 22 million EVs around the world by 2028 and sees the ID.3 as the model to spearhead its campaign.

The MEB platform is also widely sought after in the automotive industry, with VW announcing that it plans to share the technology. The group currently projects a first wave of around 15 million electric vehicles based on the MEB platform.

Ford will be one of the main beneficiaries, announcing a partnership with the German carmaker that will see the two companies share electric and autonomous technologies.

Rebuilding efforts

BMW announced plans to advance its rollout of EVs in a bid to convince investors that it can catch its rivals in the race to be a market leader.

Initially, the carmaker planned to release 25 battery-electric vehicle (BEV) or hybrid models by 2025. However, this is now set to take place by 2023, two years earlier than planned. While BMW was one of the first to launch a BEV, the i3, the group is regarded as having lost momentum since that period.

This failure to capitalise on the emerging market in the same way that Nissan has, saw the resignation of chairman Harald Krüger, with Oliver Zipse taking up the role to drive the company forward.

New models

Daimler started production of its first electric vehicle, the EQC, The vehicle is produced at the company’s plant in Bremen, integrated seamlessly into the production facility, alongside the ongoing series production of vehicles with a combustion engine or hybrid drive.

‘With the Mercedes-Benz EQC, we are entering a new era of mobility. It is part of the growing family of all-electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz and combines brand-defining features such as quality, safety and comfort,’ states Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes-Benz Car Sales.

Audi too began production of its e-tron SUV and has announced a new entry-level version of its first EV as it looks to make the technology more affordable for customers.

The new version, the e-tron 50 Quattro, still features two electric motors but has a smaller battery that produces 230kW output. The carmaker suggests the model has a range of more than 300km and will be priced to qualify for the German environmental bonus.

EU manufacturing

VW and further European partners joined forces to form the European Battery Union (EBU) as the industry looked into ways to boost Europe’s place on the global battery market.

The new establishment will look to forge ahead with battery research throughout the continent and hopes to remove the reliance of continental manufacturers on Asian suppliers of electric vehicle technology. The new consortium is led by the Volkswagen Group and the Swedish battery producer Northvolt.

Meanwhile, France and Germany asked the European Commission to approve state subsidies for a cross-border battery-cell consortium.

The plans involve PSA Group and its German subsidiary Opel, as well as Total’s Saft. An estimated €1.7 billion has been earmarked by the two countries to support company alliances that would help protect jobs as the industry shifts away from the internal combustion engine.

Later in the year, Tesla announced plans for an EV facility in Germany. The company will be building its new factory near the country’s capital, Berlin. Tesla will also create ‘an engineering and design centre’ alongside the production plant.

Infrastructure growth

Nissan claimed that with the emergence of 1,000 new electric vehicle (EV) charging point locations, there are now more of these in the UK than filling station forecourts.

The EV pioneer correlated data from the Energy Institute and charge point mapping app Zap-Map to establish that there are now 9,300 EV charging locations compared to 8,400 fuel stations.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) warned that a severe lack and unbalanced distribution of charging points is putting consumers off buying electric vehicles (EVs).

In 2018, there were some 150,000 charging points for electric vehicles in the EU. At least two million will be needed by 2025, according to conservative estimates by the European Commission. That means there should be, at a very minimum, a twelve-fold increase within the next five years.