Garden Bridge architect builds an electric car

The latest news from the world of EV.

Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name is Tom Riley.

Big news in my mind today is that Thomas Heatherwick, the famous British architect, has designed his own clean car. Elsewhere, there is a lot more car news as it is currently the Shanghai Motor Show, so everyone and their mum is launching an EV.

Do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.

In the news…

HEATHERWICK EV: The architect behind the famous Olympic Cauldron, failed Garden Bridge project and the Routemaster Bus redesign has now come up with an electric car. Thomas Heatherwick and his studio of blue-sky designers have created the “Airo”, an electric concept vehicle for Chinese car manufacturer IM Motors (a high-end intelligent pure electric vehicle brand). It was launched at the Shanghai Motor Show this week. The car is designed with self-driving in mind as it doubles as a mobile living space. It has a pop-up table for dining, rotating seats that can face each other, or you can fold them all away to create room for a bed, while the roof turns dark for privacy.

The Airo also comes with a high-efficiency particulate air filtering system, meaning it will clean the outside air as it drives along. This might be why it is called the ‘Airo’, which in Greek means ‘to pick up’. The Airo is thought to enter production in 2023. Read more here or watch Heatherwick explain the design below.

NO SUPPLY: The energy consultants Rystad Energy have claimed in new research that lithium supplies will fall below the required demand by 2027. They believe the shortage, against the massive demand and impending petrol/diesel bans, could triple lithium prices. This would have a knock-on effect on the price and production of new cars. Rystad has suggested more mining projects need to be added in order to meet the demand.

GOOD FOR AUS: One of the beneficiary’s of lithium rise in value is Australia. Despite the country itself being a little lacklustre promoting EVs, miners have been quids in. Australia is rich in the ingredients for lithium production. Yesterday it was announced that Australian mining groups Orocobre and Galaxy Resources, both involved in lithium, plan to merge in a $3.1bn deal. The deal will make them one of the largest lithium suppliers in the world.

ELECTRIC HORSE: Ferrari’s Chief Executive has announced to shareholders that the supercar company will launch its first EV in 2025. On the electric car, CEO John Elkann said: “you can be sure this will be everything you dream the engineers and designers at Maranello can imagine for such a landmark in our history.” That’s all very nice, but I do wonder if Ferrari might be waiting a bit too late to go to market with an EV. The Tesla Roadster will launch in 2022 and Rimac is already becoming a well known and loved brand with young voltheads. Be a shame if they do a Blockbuster.

NEW A6: Audi has revealed the concept for their new A6 E-tron. It will join the recently announced Q4 E-tron as being built for the more sophisticated audience. This is unlike the boy-racer Audi GT E-tron which is designed specifically for performance. The A6 is due to have a 100kWh battery, which can do 435 miles, and a whopping charging capacity of 270kW - meaning you can add nearly 200 miles in 10 minutes. However, that’s only if there is a charger that can deliver that amount - the UK only has 15 such chargers at the moment. Carwow has a good rundown of the new concept car. 

BUM IN GEAR: Despite being early leaders in electric cars, Toyota fell behind competitors which have moved faster. That was until this week at the Shanghai Motor Show where Toyota announced it will launch at least 15 pure-electric vehicles by 2025. At the show itself, they also revealed a new concept car called the ‘bZ4X’. It sounds like a name Elon Musk would call his dog, but it actually stands for ‘beyond zero’ - which relates to its EV strategy. While they haven’t revealed any specs for its new EV, Toyota has said it will launch in China and Japan later this year. Read more in AutoCar.

COPYCATS: Looking closely at images of the bZ4X, it does look pretty much finished. One item I noticed was the steering wheel. They are opting for a ‘yoke’ style wheel. This is a total rip off from the mooted (and controversial) Tesla wheel of three months ago. For me, this isn’t a good sign if Toyota is having to steal gimmicks from competitors. 

ANOTHER ONE: Last new car of note in today’s edition, Mercedes unveiled its new electric ‘EQB’ at the Shanghai Motor Show. It’s a car designed to challenge the Audi Q4 E-tron. However, from looking at the stats and pictures, it will be a challenge. It doesn’t have looks going for it. It strikes me as a plastic toy car blown up to a 1:1 scale. But, under the bonnet, there will only be a 66 kWh battery giving a rumoured range of around 260 miles. That’s 52 miles more than the basic model of the Q4. Given both are aiming at a family audience, perhaps range will trump looks. We’ll be able to compare a lot better when full details are revealed. Read more on AutoCar.

TRUCKS AWAY: Volvo is planning for half its truck sales to be electric by 2030. This morning they have announced three new heavy-duty electric trucks designed for intercity and urban transport. For longer journeys, Volvo is expected to build trucks using hydrogen fuel cells. This ambition by Volvo is broadly identical to truck maker Traton, who are owned by VW, that also want 50% of sales to be electric by the end of the decade. VW has already invested $1.6 billion into Traton to make that a reality. This news comes as the UK’s Road Haulage Association called for a roadmap for haulage going green and more truck-specific charging points. It’s estimated by industry insiders that 10,000 charging points, as well as 300 hydrogen points specifically for trucks, will be needed by 2025. Read more in the FT.

NO PILOT: There was news from America yesterday that, sadly, two people died in their Tesla after it crashed off the road. Reports suggest neither people were in the driving seat, potentially meaning they had the self-driving mode on. Elon Musk has said this was not the case based on the data he’s seen. Perhaps we’ll learn more in a few days but, whatever happens, evidently something has gone wrong for someone to be able to remove themselves from the front seat without any alerts being triggered.

By Tom Riley