China’s internet giant Baidu tied up with Geely Auto Group — one of the country’s fastest growing automakers — to develop a smart EV that will come equipped with self-driving capabilities. Not much other detail is available on the car or when it will be launched, but Geely, which owns the Volvo and Lotus brands, will build the body of the vehicle. Baidu, on the other hand, will develop the car’s software and autonomous driving feature through its expertise in artificial intelligence. Its autonomous car software, Apollo, is already being tested in public robotaxis in Beijing.
Apple, too, is reportedly stepping up its commitment to launching its own electric car — possibly with its own line of batteries. It is in talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Motors and the two may launch a ‘beta’ version of the car by as early as 2024 (for extensive testing) and a production version by 2027.
Scientists microwave coal powder into highly-useful polycrystalline graphite
A team of scientists reported that it was able to convert raw coal powder into polycrystalline graphite simply by microwaving it on copper foil and a glass jar filled with argon and hydrogen. The inexpensive process did not require any chemical pre-treatment of the coal — taken from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin — and took only 15 minutes to convert it to high-value nano-graphite, which is used in a wide variety of applications, including for anodes in li-ion EV battery packs.
IIT team develops AI-driven battery repair hardware, VoltUp offers 2-minute battery swaps
PURE EV, an e-mobility startup at India’s IIT Hyderabad, developed an AI-driven hardware that is capable of automatically identifying and repairing defects in li-ion battery packs. Called the BaTRIcs Faraday, the system runs on an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) algorithm and works to repair the cells to the best of their electro-chemical potential without any manual intervention. If proven reliable, the startup claims the innovation will significantly lower the turnaround time (TAT) in servicing EV batteries when compared to existing repair facilities.
PURE EV also aims to launch the service commercially in the first quarter of 2021 through its “Better Diagnostics and Repair” workshops across India.
Also, Mumbai-based startup VoltUp is partnering with Hindustan Petroleum (HP) to launch two battery swapping stations for two- and three-wheelers in Jaipur, that will enable EV users to swap their depleted battery packs for a fully charged pack within two minutes. VoltUp claims that this will help drive EV adoption in the country as EVs currently have to be plugged in for several hours for a full recharge. Fifty such stations will be opened across India in the next six months.
Electric cars accounted for more than 50% of Norway’s new car sales in 2020
The sale of electric cars in Norway peaked to such high levels that they accounted for 53.4% of new car sales in the country in 2020, up from 42.4% in 2019. Four models made up the majority of the sales — the Audi e-tron, the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model 3 and the VW ID.3 — and the high sales figures are attributed to Norway’s heavy subsidies and numerous incentives for customers to buy electric. Sales in neighbouring Sweden also jumped by an incredible 310% year-on-year for battery EVs in 2020, which has taken its share of plug-in cars in new car sales to 49%.
Tesla registers entity in India, starts with R&D centre in Bengaluru
Tesla Motors officially registered itself in India under the name of Tesla Motors India and Energy Private Limited after its incorporation was approved on January 8. It also set up an R&D unit in Bengaluru for its India operations and is reportedly in talks with four other states — Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra — to establish its manufacturing units and stores. This is despite the price of Tesla cars, around ₹55 lakh for the Model 3, being prohibitively high for most customers, since they would have to be imported and would face high tariffs under current Indian regulations.
However, Tesla fansite Tesmanian explained that the cars are primarily targeted at a small sliver of around 85 million wealthy Indians, and that they may become affordable for the middle class once Tesla starts manufacturing them at its Indian factory.