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30 minutes ago
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2025 Nissan Leaf to become compact SUV for third generation


Pioneering EV to transform into Nissan's fifth electrified SUV

The new electric crossover model to be built at Nissan's Sunderland factory will be the replacement for the Leaf, the firm’s Europe boss, Guillaume Cartier, has confirmed.

Plans to build a new crossover in Sunderland as part of a huge £1 billion investment in the plant to secure its future were announced back in July. That model was expected to be the Leaf’s replacement, something confirmed today by Cartier. 

The Leaf replacement will therefore switch from a hatchback to a crossover bodystyle – and be based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-EV platform – in around 2025. 

By then, Nissan’s core future model line-up will include five models, all of them electrified crossovers: the Juke, Qashqai, Ariya and X-Trail, plus the Leaf replacement.

The Japanese car maker will therefore not solely develop any more conventional models in Europe, such as saloons, hatchbacks and estates. However, it will turn to its Alliance partners, Mitsubishi and Renault, to source underpinnings for other segments, chiefly a small car to replace the Micra.

“We will look to the Alliance for a full line-up and powertrains,” said Cartier. “One topic that is still open is the entry [the Micra-sized replacement]. Key point is how we offer something from the Alliance with the Nissan brand.” He added that making it profitaby was the main issue, and that the car “absolutely” would be an EV.

The focus on electrification means that Nissan will not invest in internal combustion engine technology to make it EU7 emissions compliant, regulations due to come in Europe in the middle of the decade.

“Strategically, we bet on electrification,” said Cartier. “If we invest in EU7, the ballpark cost is about half the profit margin per car, around €2000 you would have to pass onto the customer. So we bet on EV, knowing it will decrease in cost.”

Nissan expects 80% of its sales to be full EVs by 2030 and by 2025 will have electrified its entire range with either full EVs or its E-power hybrid option.

Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida confirmed that the company will not be investing in hydrogen technology, instead choosing to focus on battery-electric vehicles. “Our competitors have many solutions for technology,” he said. “For us, we decided EVs. We used to have hydrogen technology at Nissan, and maybe in a different world, we still would. But so far, this [EVs] is our asset, and what we want to be on."

Uchida also confirmed that the future of sports cars at Nissan in Europe is still uncertain due to the needs of electrification. However, he said the company remains a supporter of Formula E and will continue in the championship because it is a great way of promoting Nissan’s wider electric ambitions. 

He responded to suggestions that Nissan has been slow to capitalise on the impact it had in the world of EVs with the launch of the Leaf a decade ago by saying that he will be revealing plans for Nissan’s next era of electric cars and electrification later in the autumn.

On the shortage of computer chips impacting production of cars, Uchida said that "step by step, it’s getting better” but that the crisis is far from over and it will rumble on for some time. The crisis has shown Nissan that it must "adapt to new ways of working with suppliers [and] make partnerships stronger”.

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3 hours ago
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Stellantis partners with LG for new EV battery factory in US

1ellesmere 3 1

Factory will have annual capacity of 40GWh, supplying assembly plants throughout the US, Canada and Mexico

Stellantis will aim to establish a new facility to manufacture batteries in North America in 2024 in partnership with South Korean electronics giant LG.

The factory, which Stellantis hopes will have a production capacity of 40 gigawatt hours per year, will supply batteries to the firm’s assembly plants throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. The batteries will to be installed in "next-generation electric vehicles", including plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. 

“Today’s announcement is further proof that we are deploying our aggressive electrification road map and are following through on the commitments we made during our EV Day event in July,” said Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis. 

“With this, we have now determined the next ‘gigafactory’ coming to the Stellantis portfolio to help us achieve a total minimum of 260 gigawatt hours of capacity by 2030. I want to warmly thank each person involved in this strategic project. Together, we will lead the industry with benchmark efficiencies and deliver electrified vehicles that ignite passion.” 

The facility will form part of Stellantis’s €30 billion (£25bn) investment into electrification and software development through 2025. 

Stellantis first partnered with LG in 2014, when the electronics giant was chosen to supply a lithium ion battery pack system and controls for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

“Establishing a joint venture with Stellantis will be a monumental milestone in our long-standing partnership,” said Jong-Hyun Kim, president and CEO of LG Energy Solution. “LGES will position itself as a provider of battery solutions to our prospective customers in the region by utilising our collective, unique technical skills and mass-producing capabilities.”

The factory’s exact location is yet to be determined, but construction is targeted to start by the first quarter of 2024, given that documentation, closing conditions and regulatory aspects are approved.

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4 hours ago
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New Maserati Grecale: chip shortage delays reveal to Spring 2022


Modena's Porsche Macan rival will be offered with mild-hybrid, full EV and fiery V6 powertrains

Maserati is gearing up to launch the Grecale as its second SUV, but the ongoing semiconductor shortage has forced the brand to push back the reveal date from 16 November to Spring 2022.

The company said it made the decision "in view of the background problems that have caused interruptions in the supply chains for the key components necessary to complete the car’s production process". Production limitations imposed by the crisis mean it would not currently be able to cater to the anticipated global demand for the car. 

A new date has yet to be set, but the brand has hinted at a further announcement to be made on the Grecale's originally planned unveil date. 

The Grecale is clearly a similar size to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, with which it will share the bulk of its underpinnings, and despite heavy camouflaging and a fence obscuring most of the car's final design, the influence of the larger Levante is evident.

The brand's important second SUV is named Grecale after the "fierce north-east wind of the Mediterranean Sea". The model forms a key part of Maserati's bold revival plan that it launched last year with the reveal of the MC20 supercar. 

Destined to play "a key role in the brand's development", the Porsche Macan rival will be built on the same production line as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in the FCA plant in Cassino, Italy. Maserati is planning an investment of around €800 million (£790m) in the plant.

It will also share much of its underpinnings with the Stelvio, and a fully electric version is also due to arrive by 2022. However, the combustion-engined models will use Maserati rather than Alfa-sourced engines, likely to include the mild-hybridised 2.0-litre turbo offered in the Ghibli and Levante, and a downtuned version of the MC20's new Nettuno V6 for the most potent variant. 

Maserati global planning boss Francesco Tonon told Autocar the Grecale will be "the most practical in its class, but it will also be luxurious", adding: "It will feature the best-in-class design and features. Of course, it's still a Maserati but it will also offer best-in-class performance and handling."

SUVs are expected to account for 70% of Maserati's sales by 2025, with saloons reduced to 15% and sports cars, such as the newly launched MC20, making up 5%. 

The new SUV was first confirmed back in 2018 by former FCA boss Sergio Marchionne as part of a total overhaul of its product line-up. Also included are the MC20 in three variants: coupé, Spider convertible and fully electric, plus a new Granturismo and Grancabrio, due in both combustion and electric forms. 

By 2023/2024, the brand will also have a new-generation Levante and Quattroporte, also both available with an electric powertrain. In top-spec form, this will use an 800V electrical system and three motors.

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5 hours ago
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New Ineos Grenadier FCEV to use Hyundai's hydrogen technology


FCEV version of Defender-inspired off-roader will begin testing in 2022

Ineos will use Hyundai's fuel cell (FCEV) powertrain technology for a hydrogen-fuelled concept version of the Grenadier 4x4, which is highly likely to evolve into a series-production car.

As part of a wide-reaching plan to ramp up its investment in hydrogen technology, Ineos will build the prototype in partnership with UK-based engineering firm AVL, ahead of on- and off-road testing beginning by the end of 2022. 

AVL recently worked with Ford on a similarly conceived, one-off FCEV version of the Transit van, which will be used in a long-running trial programme to determine the viability and capability of hydrogen-fuelled commercial vehicles. 

It is not yet confirmed exactly which powertrain the Grenadier FCEV will use. Hyundai currently sells the Nexo with a 95kWh fuel cell and a 159bhp EV motor, but will usher in a heavily updated powertrain in 2023, which will be more compact but offer improved efficiency and durability. 

Ineos's partnership with Hyundai, detailed in late 2020, has mutual benefits for both parties: Ineos gains access to one of the most mature hydrogen-fuelled powertrains on the market for use in its vehicles, while Hyundai can tap into the British chemical company's experience in producing and distributing hydrogen itself.

No date has been given for the retail roll-out of the Grenadier FCEV. The BMW-engined petrol and diesel variants will go on sale in the UK from July 2022

The announcement forms part of Ineos's wide-reaching commitment to popularising hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. It has already pledged €2 billion (£1.7bn) to its efforts in this area, and has today launched a 'hydrogen advocacy' campaign emphasising the benefits of the fuel source. 

Ineos claims to be "Europe's largest existing operator of electrolysis" – a means of hydrogen production – and says the 400,000 tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen it produces each year is the equivalent of replacing "up to 2 billion litres of diesel".

Company boss Jim Ratcliffe said: “Electric cars are ideal for city centres and short journeys. But hydrogen is much better for longer journeys and heavier loads and that requires immediate investment in hydrogen distribution and hydrogen filling stations.

“The issue is that industry can only do so much, and the UK government must start to invest in the development of our hydrogen infrastructure to allow the gas to be much more widely used. At the moment, we are massively lagging behind Europe and the gap is starting to grow”.

As part of the company's hydrogen campaign, it will also display prominent billboards across London and Glasgow, tour the country in a hydrogen-fuelled bus and display a hydrogen-fuelled car at the COP26 summit in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.


Autocar's Ineos Grenadier review

Ineos Grenadier to launch in July 2022 at £48,000

Hyundai and Ineos confirm hydrogen co-operation

Ineos considering hydrogen version of forthcoming Grenadier

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7 hours ago
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Goodwood Festival of Speed moves to June for 2022


Festival of Speed will take place on 23-26 June; dates for Revival and Members' Meeting also confirmed

Goodwood has announced dates for the 2022 Festival of Speed, along with several other automotive events that are set to return with full-capacity crowds. 

The 2022 Festival of Speed will run from Thursday 23 June to Sunday 26 June – having taken place in July for the past few years – with the newest models, technology and innovation on display. Formula 1 cars, drift displays and champion drivers will also make a return, as will the festival’s Future Lab and Electric Avenue, which made its debut this year.

“I am thrilled that our much-loved, sell-out motorsport events will be making a spectacular return in 2022. Thank you to everyone who attended and partnered with the Festival of Speed, Revival and Members’ Meeting this year,” said the Duke of Richmond. 

“Your loyalty and support after a challenging 18 months made them more special than ever, and we can’t wait to see you back at Goodwood again next year. It really will be a season not to miss.”

Goodwood also announced the return of its annual Members' Meeting for its 79th year, which will take place from Saturday 9 April to Sunday 10 April, and the Goodwood Revival, which returns from Friday 16 September to Sunday 18 September.  

Tickets for all three events go on sale from 30 October this year for members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club, Monday 1 November for Fellowship members and Monday 8 November for the general public. 

Two new events will also launch at Goodwood this year, with dog-themed 'Goodwoof' taking place from 28 to 29 May, and cycling-focused Eroica Britannia from 6 August to 7 August. 

The two new events will bring ‘all things dog’ and vintage cycling, respectively, to the estate’s popular events portfolio. Tickets to Goodwoof are on sale now at, with Eroica Britannia to follow later this year.

Tickets can be purchased through the official website, or by calling the ticket office on 01243 755055.

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9 hours ago
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Confirmed: Ford to build EV drive units at Halewood factory

2018 ford edge st line white platinum 035 1

Blue Oval's electrification strategy sees it make a £200m-plus investment in the future of its UK factory

Ford will make a huge investment in its UK manufacturing presence, transforming its Halewood plant into a dedicated electric powertrain production facility by 2024. 

The company will invest £230 million into the Merseyside site, where 500 workers currently build gearboxes for the Focus and Fiesta. Some £25m of the funding comes from the government's Automotive Transmission Fund (ATF), which is also part-funding the expansion of Nissan's EV battery plant in Sunderland and the transformation of Stellantis' Ellesmere Port facility.

Ford's ambitious electrification goals mean its European passenger car fleet will go all-electric by 2030, with the Halewood site lined up to eventually have a capacity of 250,000 units per year for export to vehicle production sites across Europe - as reported by the Financial Times.

The company is investing more than £700 million in turning its Cologne factory - where the Fiesta is currently built - into a dedicated 'Electrification Centre', but it has yet to officially detail plans for other major facilities, including Saarlouis (where the Focus is built) and the engine production plant in Dagenham, Essex. 

Ford and battery production partner SK Innovation will soon announce the location of their first European-based 'gigafactory', and the FT quotes Ford of Europe CEO Stuart Rowley as saying the UK is "always a candidate". 

Only six months ago, Ford safeguarded around 700 jobs at the Halewood plant by ending its 50/50 joint venture with Magna PT (previously Getrag) and taking full control of the facility – as well as a similarly joint-operated site at its European HQ in Cologne. 

Plans for Ford to maintain a presence at Halewood were hinted at by plant manager Andy Roche in March, when he said: "We are convinced now with Ford coming in to buy us that they've got plans for us. They took us for a purpose and will want to invest. They’re not going to buy us to shut it down. We see this as a protection of jobs.

"So any new jobs that they create, they will be Ford employees, which is fantastic. It's fantastic to be associated with a world-renowned company."

Ford's move is the latest in a line of positive news stories for the UK automotive sector. Nissan recently confirmed plans to build a battery factory and a new electric crossover at its Sunderland plant, Jaguar Land Rover vowed to keep its UK sites open as it shifts to electrification and Stellantis safeguarded the future of its Ellesmere Port factory by adapting it to build electric vans.

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Today, 03:36 AM
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Used buying guide: Westfield SE

99 used buying guide Westfield SE lead

If you want adrenaline-rush immediacy and driver reward from £4000 up, head for a Westfield

"If you want to get back to real driving, buy a Westfield.” Not our words, or indeed Westfield’s, but those of Westfield enthusiast and workshop specialist Mark Glasswell.

We’d agree, of course. We’d also say the same about Caterhams, which are more expensive – your money buying an aluminium rather than glassfibre body, a generally better finish, a more track-tuned set-up out of the box and a direct association with the original Lotus Seven.

Not that the Westfield is a poor relation, as many owners will attest. In fairness to Glasswell, he’s not dewy eyed about the cars, being equally passionate about Caterhams.

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

The staple Westfield is the SE. Early ones from the 1980s have a five-link, solid rear axle from the Ford Escort. It suits track use. Towards the end of the decade, the SEi emerged with an independent set-up at the back featuring double wishbones and an Escort differential in a Westfield housing. It’s better suited to road use. So-called wide-body versions of both types (they’re also longer) appeared in around 1990. The following year, the narrow body was dropped.

Next came SEiGHT versions powered by a Rover V8. The first cars had an Escort diff but it was deemed too weak for the torque and was replaced by one from the Sierra. Although the SEiGHT is bit nose heavy in corners, the 3.9 V8 is a grunty thing that can power the car around a track on a whisper of throttle. Talking of torque, there are diesel-powered Westfields, too.

Back to petrols, and early engines included Ford Kents, Pintos and CVHs, as well as very screamy Fiat twin-cams. They were followed by Rover K-series and Vauxhall Red Top twin-cam units, Toyota 1.6 and Honda S2000 engines, and Ford Zetec and Sigma units. Ford Ecoboost engines are popular today. As for gearboxes, early Westfields are likely to have the four-speed Escort ‘rocket’ gearbox and later ones the Type 9 ’box from the Sierra or its successor, the MT75.

The range of engines and ’boxes makes navigating the world of Westfield far from straightforward. More of the cars are home-built from kits, too, whereas Caterhams tend to be bought whole, so there are huge differences in build quality.

For example, one leading owners’ forum features photos of crudely built Westfields, their rear wheels not centralised in the arches – a common fault. A near-perfect relationship of wheels to body, carefully routed pipes, a lovingly trimmed interior, well- lubricated suspension, an updated cooling system and a photographic record of the car’s assembly are the hallmarks of a well-built Westie. Unless you can put your hand through one, don’t fret unduly over panel gaps, especially on early cars.

If you’re on the large side but charmed by a narrow-bodied SE, you might find a change of seat liberates a few extra precious centimetres. It would be a shame to be separated from a Westie by so small a margin.

An expert's view - Mark Glasswell, founder, MKG Automotive

“I wanted a Lotus Seven when I was 17 and then, when I realised I couldn’t afford one, a Caterham. When I realised I couldn’t afford one of them either, I bought a Westfield in kit form. That was in 1990 when I was 18 and I still have it. It’s a narrow-body SEi powered by a 2.0-litre Ford Pinto engine that is perfectly adequate for such a lightweight car. I’d still have a Caterham. I love the whole concept and don’t understand the rivalry between Caterham and Westfield owners, but the Westfield is what I could afford and what I’ve become a specialist in. Being more expensive, Caterhams are of a higher quality but a Westfield gives you the same buzz. You get out after a drive and think: ‘I’ve just survived something really special.’”

Buyer Beware...

Engine: There are many types out there so it’s a question of listening for odd noises, looking for leaks and checking the colour of the exhaust smoke. Many later engines have a timing belt so find out when it was last changed.

Gearbox: Ford gearboxes are very oil-grade sensitive but all should be checked for smoothness of operation and oil tightness. Check for clutch slip and that the biting point is to spec.

Brakes, steering and suspension: If the suspension hasn’t been refurbished, expect bushes to be tired. Check for scored and corroded discs and, on rear-drum-brake cars, that the shoes aren’t seized through lack of use. Ask a mate to shake the steering wheel while you check there’s no free play in the top and bottom ball joints.

Body: Inspect panels for cracks, stone chips and parking shunts. Mouldings weren’t the best and getting doors and the rear end to line up was fiddly, so don’t expect perfection. However, do expect the rear wheels to sit centrally in their arches. Likewise, windscreen, bonnet and front wheels should line up properly. Make sure you know what roll hoop it has (see ‘Also worth knowing’).

Interior: A removable steering wheel is good to have. Check the condition of the inertia reel belts or, if fitted, racing harness.

Also worth knowing

The standard rollover hoop doesn’t offer the greatest protection. You would be advised to replace it with the far stronger rollover bars offered by the RAC and MSA. Both offer little space between your head and the ground but should save your skull. The RAC bar is effective but enthusiasts claim the MSA X-tube item is stronger.

How much to spend 

£4000-£4999: Project SEs and runners needing TLC.

£5000-£6000: Some very nice SEs and SEiWs, a few of them dealer cars with warranties. Great value for money.

£8500-£9999: Proper cars with full-race specs but likely to have been tracked regularly 

£10,000-£15,000: Concours and later cars up to 2015-reg

One we found

Westfield SE, 1998, 3500 miles, £6350: Good toe-in-the-water car for a first- timer. This privately offered example has a rebuilt Kent crossflow 1.6 engine producing 106bhp, a new clutch, updated cooling system and new electronics. It comes with side doors, aero screen and soft garage cover.

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Yesterday, 09:44 PM
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How recovery firms are adapting to the rise of EVs

99 breakdown cover for EVs lead

Electric cars pose unique challenges for breakdown companies. Are they prepared?

The swift rise in demand for electric cars has never been more apparent.

Over 600,000 plug-in vehicles are now on UK roads and showrooms are crammed full of mild-hybrid, plug-in and fully electric models. Drivers are almost spoilt for choice but the available selection of models is set to expand considerably. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) forecasts that around 300 plug-in models will be on sale in the UK by 2025.

One of the significant draws of a pure-electric vehicle is its supposedly greater reliability. EVs have fewer moving parts than cars with conventional, internal-combustion engines, so the chances of mechanical failure are reduced.

The What Car? Reliability Survey from July 2021 found that just 5% of Tesla Model 3s suffered a fault within a 12-month period, for instance. But when drivers run out of charge, or the brakes, tyres, electric motors or suspension systems go wrong, someone needs to be there to fix them.

The influx of EVs has meant that, just like consumers, vital services have had to adapt. These include breakdown companies, where equipment, mobile patrols and working practices have had to be adjusted to reflect the pace of EV adoption. To put that rate of uptake into context, 73,893 electric cars were registered in the UK in the first half of 2021.

Changes became evident at the RAC in 2019, when the firm launched an EV flat battery recovery scheme, providing mobile support using 3.5kW electric chargers to help those stranded with no power. Recovery vehicles carry sizable generators to supply power to the broken-down car, drawing their energy from the vehicle’s 1.9-litre diesel engine.

The RAC says its chargers are capable of supporting 99% of all electric models on UK roads today and it is continuing to expand the availability and speed of its EV Boost system within its patrol fleet.

“We started with a 3.5kW charger, which we’ve uprated to 5kW, which means we can give a range of 10 miles in around 30 minutes,” the RAC told Autocar. “Very soon, we should have a 7.5kW unit, giving a faster emergency charge… By the end of 2021, we’ll have 200 vans equipped with EV Boost, and next year, we will roll out another 120, which will mean one in every five RAC patrol vans will be able to give electric vehicles an emergency roadside boost.”

When drivers do get stuck in dangerous locations, be it from a lack of charge or a more serious accident, there are further issues to overcome. Electric vehicles can’t be towed like their internal-combustion-engined counterparts, which poses a new challenge for recovery businesses.

“It’s always safer to tow an EV with all four wheels off the ground,” the RAC said. “We’ve added a dolly to the existing rapid deployment trailers that all our patrols have in the back of their vans, in order to create the All Wheels Up rapid recovery system. If, for some reason, we have to tow an EV to a garage, more of our patrols can do this, rather than the driver having to wait for a separate large flatbed vehicle to be called out.”

The RAC’s patrol vehicles are diesel powered and the firm says this is still the most feasible way to recover stranded cars because suitable electric vans aren’t yet ready for recovery requirements.

“There aren’t currently any electric vans that can carry the weight we need, tow broken down vehicles and have a range of 250-plus miles,’’ the RAC said. “We are constantly testing electric vans, and as soon as one becomes available that is close to meeting our requirements, we will test it. We are in the process of electrifying our company car fleet.”

Along with the equipment changes, mobile mechanics have had to adapt to ensure that work carried out on electric cars is conducted safely. The AA is making similar strides to the RAC. The company has been training patrol members for EV recovery since 2012, using two levels of instruction. Level one patrol staff are designated with ‘EV awareness,’ having attained knowledge of high-voltage and EV systems, and are permitted to work directly on an electric vehicle, but not on a high-voltage system. Level two patrols are ‘EV prepared,’ which means they can “isolate and reinstate the vehicle’s high-voltage system where it might be necessary to do so for safety reasons,” the firm said.

Despite this, the most frequent issues are similar to those of internal-combustion models. “The most common faults remain the same as we find with our combustion-engine customers,” said Damon Jowett, Green Flag’s head of service delivery. “These include issues with tyres and with the 12V starter battery. These account for around 80% of our breakdown faults across our customer base, and whilst the data sample is smaller, EVs do seem to be following that trend.

“The consumer perception is that range or running out of charge would be the most prevalent cause for a breakdown, and whilst they do occur, it’s the traditional tyre and flat battery issues that seem to be the cause of requiring our breakdown assistance,” Jowett added, referring to the 12V battery used by most cars.

Green Flag also believes education is vital to support customers. Jowett said: “Education is key to helping customers make the transition to EVs as they attempt to decipher range, charge times, vehicle cost and the changes in mechanics. Once an EV purchase has been made, if we can try to provide them with education around finding access to tools that help locate charging points, speed of chargers and journey mapping, this will help offset any range/ charge anxiety they have.

“We already cover customers for EVs, but it’s our role to ensure our customers are aware that our products do cover them for breakdowns and provide them with peace of mind, as this will help them feel more confident in purchasing a vehicle of this type.”

Big EV hurdles ahead for independent breakdown firms

While the biggest players in the industry are adapting to change, many independents are facing severe consequences from the rise of electric vehicles.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve been so underfunded as an industry,” said Steve Smith, president of the Association of Vehicle Recovery Operators. The two core issues that need to be addressed, he said, are training and equipment.

“It’s almost like a double-edged sword. Firstly, electric vehicles on the road are heavier, so we need heavier vehicles and more specialist equipment and different types of strategies to be able to recover them.”

The other side of the sword, Smith said, is that future recovery vehicles will also need to be powered by electricity, which will lead to issues with payload limits and a massive increase in costs.

“One recovery vehicle at the moment can carry two or three broken-down cars, whereas the vehicles we’re looking to purchase in five or 10 years’ time will only be able to carry one,” he said. “There is a huge increase in cost in terms of ‘less revenue per journey’.”

Smith also noted that standard 3.5-tonne beavertail recovery vehicles are already borderline for weight restrictions and could be obsolete within five years. Compared with a diesel counterpart, the Renault Master electric van has a payload capacity reduced by 40% and the Volkswagen eTransporter is capable of carrying 19% less, he said.

For those working at independent firms, cost appears to be the biggest barrier for the jump to electric. Training in particular can be costly, with some high-end EV training schemes costing as much as £1500.

Smith said: “To be a recovery operator, you should really adhere to PAS 43 standards. Within that, all our engineers on the road should have a certain minimum standard of training.

“When you’re looking at electric vehicles, even in the most basic of training, there’s a cost. For some of our guys to be completely independent at the roadside, some of these advanced electric vehicles training schemes are about £1500 per delegate. “These are the top-end ones where you can arrive at the scene, disconnect a vehicle at its power… It’s unsustainable.”

The government has a role to play, according to Smith. He suggests looking at the core issues of training and equipment, as well as improving communication with emergency services.

Talks with the emergency services, the Faraday Institute, the Department for Transport and Highways England are ongoing, but Covid, Brexit and other issues mean progress has stalled.

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Yesterday, 08:41 PM
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Inside the industry: is road pricing the only alternative to fuel duty?

99 business opinion fuel pumps

Switch to electric could leave massive hole in country's finances without changes

Last year fuel duty raised £20.9 billion for the exchequer, down from a previous six-year average of £27.7bn – a sharp, Covid-induced insight into the sort of shortfall that EV sales could very quickly present were they to boom.

Today, tax is levied on petrol and diesel at a flat rate of 57.95p per litre, with VAT then added at 20% on the product and duty. The percentage of what you pay at the pumps in tax is actually at its lowest level since 2013 (about 58%), such has been the effect of duty freezes and rising prices.

While the 2030 ban on the sale of purely combustion-engined cars applies to only new vehicles – and a car parc of 25 million or so combustion-engined cars will live on to at least 2040 and possibly 2050 – it’s clear that urgent reform is needed to protect the nation’s finances. Fuel duty accounts for 3.3% of all the exchequer’s receipts. In the current climate, a dwindling returns model will not work.

How to replace income that is estimated to cost the average car-owning household £1000 a year? The exchequer has been busy recently clarifying VAT on public EV charging, but this is fiddling at the edges. Household charging makes pump-style taxation impossible. An alternative is needed, and it is looking increasingly likely to be pay-per-mile road pricing.

The idea has bounced around governments for decades but was regularly kicked down the road for being too much of a hot potato. In the late 1990s, Labour came close to making a decisive switch but demurred in the face of a public backlash, and it’s no coincidence that earlier this year, it was the Tony Blair Institute that put the idea back in the news. Soon, one of the parties is going to have to blink, just because of the timelines involved – if not this government, then surely the next. Even if the charges are equitable at around 5p/mile, a tax most pay unthinkingly today will become front of mind.

Despite road pricing being rooted in the same principle as fuel taxation – the further you drive, the more you pay – issues centre on the cost of setting up the charging infrastructure through to the moral arguments around tracking everyone, and the grey areas around data that follow from there. No matter that carrying a mobile phone in your pocket can do almost all these things today, this is perceived by its critics as Big Brother working on a whole new scale. The fallout will be significant and come from many angles.

But what choice is there? The move to electrification isn’t just a transportation shift but a societal one – and many of the shock waves have yet to hit.

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Under the skin: The science behind Lotus's E-Sports architecture

99 under the skin lotus ev platform lead

Advanced techniques reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing Lotus’s new aluminium architecture

With the need to reduce weight on the cheap to offset the weight of EV batteries, the art and science of producing modular aluminium architectures is pretty much in full swing now. But when Lotus announces anything engineering-related, the detail involved is likely to be worthy of close scrutiny, and such is the case with its new-age lightweight electric vehicle architecture.

LEVA takes the now familiar modular approach to construction, which allows a toolbox of structural components to be assembled in various configurations to produce different cars. It also follows the most basic of Lotus principles, which is to not duplicate things unnecessarily and to relentlessly chase ways to make things lighter. The battery pack, for example, is housed within the existing structure of the chassis without adding weight by creating a separate container for it.

The project is linked to the E-Sports vehicle platform announced by Lotus in April and is focused on developing highly advanced front and rear subframes. Lotus collaborated with both Brunel University and Sarginsons Industries on the lightweighting aspects of the project.

While most cars have subframes bolted to unitary-construction bodyshells front and rear, carrying the engine, drivetrain and front and rear suspension, the new subframes aren’t. Instead, they’re riveted and bonded (glued) to the interchangeable main structure. The subframes are made from a low-pressure die-cast aluminium alloy by Sarginsons. Die-casting is an age-old process of injecting liquid metal into a steel mould (die), normally at high pressure.

The low-pressure technique makes the finished piece stronger, and because it happens more slowly, it works better for detailed castings. The chosen aluminium alloy is high in ductility (pliable rather than brittle), so it absorbs crash impact well. It can also be welded easily and the tooling needed to produce the subframe (the dies themselves) is in line with the relatively low volumes that Lotus will produce.

The main structure is predominantly aluminium, but Lotus will always use the most appropriate material for a specific role. The construction makes use of specialist joining techniques, such as spot curing of adhesives to make it easier to remove the completed chassis from its jig and an advanced welding technique called robotic cold-metal transfer.

The modular nature of the E-Sports architecture makes it simple to vary the battery packaging between an eight-or 12-module chest (a rectangular box shape) with vertically stacked modules behind the two seats or an eight-module slab between the axles for 2+2 models.

The powertrain consists of either one or two electronic drive units that combine the motor, electronics and geartrain all into one unit. EDUs have been the subject of considerable investment in the supplier industry and are ideal for use in lower- volume, niche cars.

The central positioning of the battery packs and EDUs pretty much apes the configuration of a regular mid-engined sports car, so the forthcoming Lotus Type 135, the first car to be built on the new architecture, should be one to watch.

Switching the torque

US company ePropelled has come up with a new dynamic torque-switching motor (eDTS) that can reconfigure itself on the fly under software control. Capable of high torque at low speeds without drawing high current, it can also operate at high speed and low torque levels more efficiently than a normal motor. Overall, it can reduce power efficiency by 15%, allowing the use of a smaller and therefore cheaper battery.

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