About the Author

Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others. https://twitter.com/bradberman

Today

There’s never a good time for a pandemic. But for the engineers working on the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, and now working from home, the timing could have been a lot worse. The final engineering sign-off on the base model was early February. So engineers can now do the last tweaks remotely, according to Robert Iorio, the Mustang Mach-E’s vehicle engineering manager.

Dozens of the electric SUVs are circulating between engineers, each one getting a thorough wipe-down before being swapped to the next home’s driveway.

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We’re coming up on the first anniversary of Audi announcing its plans to introduce 20 new EVs in the next four years. The Volkswagen luxury brand yesterday posted a summary of its plans, repeating the goal of making 800,000 EVs a year by 2025 – using, count ‘em, four different EV platforms.

It might seem strange to have more platforms than cars at this stage. But Audi told us about the method to their madness, following a Tech Talk published to its website.

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China is poised to temporarily ease its quotas for EV production, according to Reuters. The reason cited for the backsliding is to give automakers a chance to recover from slumping sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. The move would follow the United States relaxing its vehicle emission rules. However, unlike the US, China plans to extend its electric-vehicle subsidies for two years.

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March 31

Jeep has been promising up to four new electric vehicles for more than two years. So it would be easy to dismiss Christian Meunier, Jeep’s chief, when he makes new claims about his outfit as “the world’s most sustainable SUV company.” But his interview today on Autocar reveals a new type of EV message: raw performance. That should excite both 4×4 buyers and EV fans.

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General Motors was planning this year to refresh the Chevrolet Bolt with design and technology enhancements, including more comfortable seats and offering adaptive cruise control for the first time. However, the company told Electrek today that it’s delaying the launch of the new and improved version from this year to 2021 – due to business impacts from the pandemic. The updates will now come with the 2022 model-year Bolt.

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The British Medical Journal is calling for warning labels to be placed where consumers buy fossil fuels. The US and British health experts that authored the article explain that more than 118 countries use stark warnings on cigarette packages to change behavior related to smoking. Similar warnings should be placed on gas pumps because burning fossil fuels are linked to 3.5 million premature deaths per year.

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March 30

The Trump administration plans to release a final rule Tuesday on vehicle mileage standards through 2026. Trump is expected to reverse Obama-era efficiency standards, gutting one of the country’s most significant measures to combat climate change and the public-health impacts from tailpipe emissions. The implications for the electric-vehicle market could be experienced for several years.

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The all-electric GAC Aion LX at the 2019 Shanghai auto show
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Retail auto sales in China dropped 45% in the first three weeks of March. It might take into the fall for the Chinese auto market to recover. So, to jumpstart the resumed sales of EVs, automakers are using creative but gimmicky methods. Will they bring car buyers back to dealerships and put them behind the wheel of an EV?

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Ford says that its engineers who were sent home due to the coronavirus outbreak are continuing to develop the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.

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There is a schism forming between European automakers. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) last week asked to delay the EU’s CO2 targets. On one side, you have German carmakers, who are ACEA members but have invested in electric vehicles. The German carmakers don’t want the delay. However, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Mike Manley and now president of ACEA, represents those who oppose strict emission rules. Manley signed the letter pleading to the European Commission to relax the CO2 targets.

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March 27

A worker prepares a cleanroom to produce surgical masks at GM’s Warren, Michigan manufacturing facility.
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President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon said he signed a presidential memorandum directing the government to use “any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act” to require General Motors to make ventilators for hospitals to help patients with COVID-19.

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The season finale of the 2019-2020 all-electric Formula E Championship is scheduled to take place at a unique indoor/outdoor 2.4-kilometer circuit in London. But with several of this year’s venues postponed for at least two months ­— and the future of others uncertain — London’s ExCel center will instead be converted into a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

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Electric vehicles were on a roll in Europe through February, before the coronavirus reached higher impacts on sales and production. JATO Dynamics, an auto market firm, reported this week that BEVs were up 92% to 38,700 units year-on-year, and plug-in hybrids were up 153% to 28,700.

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Rumors continue to swirl about Volkswagen facing major software problems with its ID.3 electric car. Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper yesterday cited internal sources declaring the situation as an “absolute disaster.” But Volkswagen tells us that the launch schedule for Europe is “fixed” for this summer. And the first units rolling off the production line will be “handed over to Volkswagen plant staff for far-reaching quality assurance.”

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March 26

In the past two years, more than 8 million households in Japan have experienced power outages due to natural disasters. In response, Nissan developed a system that uses vehicle-to-grid technology that allows customers to use the Leaf’s battery pack to power buildings.

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The new Wuling/GM electric car
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Wuling Motors, a joint venture with General Motors and SAIC Motor, revealed photos this week of its first all-electric vehicle. The company said that it’s inspired by Japanese Kei cars, among the world’s smallest highway-capable vehicles. It could give us a glimpse of the type of cars that GM will help fulfill the country’s promise of selling a million EVs a year by the middle of the 2020s.

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Asia still dominates for EV battery production, with North America holding a solid second place. But Europe is on the rise, where EV sales are growing the fastest. That’s evident from a flurry of news about new and expanded battery plants from Audi, BASF, Tesla, Microvast, and Volvo.

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When automakers tout big plans for electric vehicles, the key question is: How many will you produce and when? Specific numbers are seldom provided. But Reuters reports today that the total combined output in North America from General Motors and Ford in 2026 will be 320,000 electric vehicles. That’s based on internal planning information provided to suppliers by the automakers and obtained by AutoForecast, a sales planning analysis firm.

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March 25

Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Groupe PSA (formerly PSA Peugeot Citroën), was already ambivalent about EVs. A few weeks ago, he said, “We are selling our electric vehicles to green addicts.” Fiat Chrysler has also been reluctant to invest in electric vehicles. But the planned merger between the two would have allowed them to share EV-development costs ­— and finally deliver electric cars on a large global scale.

But it now appears that negotiations to finalize the merger are being threatened by the coronavirus.

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Transport for London (TFL) this week suspended charges for its Ultra Low Emission Zone. London Mayor Sadiq Khan asked TFL to make these changes to allow key workers, including the National Health Service staff and those delivering medicine and groceries, to get around “as easily as possible.”

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