South Korean EV mischief and Dubai's self-driving cars

The latest news from the world of EVs

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

Lots of extremely fascinating news in today’s edition. From Dubai’s purchase of a fleet of 4,000 self-driving cars. And then a couple of stories about South Korean companies seemingly taking one step forward then one step back.

As ever, if you have any feedback, questions or comments please do email me at tomrileylondon@gmail.com

In the news…

GREAT MATE: The founder of Rimac, maker of super electric cars in Croatia, has completed a lengthy interview with the Daily Telegraph. Mate Rimac (the founder) is extremely authentic and forthcoming in his interview talking about the highs, lows and super lows - such as in 2017 when Richard Hammond crashed one of their cars leading to thermal runaway of the batteries. This was something that worried investors and customers. However, Rimac has gone from strength to strength in the years since. They are now widely regarded as Bugatti’s electric counterpart - even though in reality, it is Rimac, with backing from Porche and VW, who may literally takeover Bugatti. Rimac explained to the Telegraph their company is building a campus in Zagreb capable of housing up to 2,000 staff. As ever in these articles, Mate was compared to Elon and he resisted being drawn in, though admitted the two had never met saying “I’m not yet happy at the level where the company is, it’ll be a few years until we achieve some of the things I want us to achieve, then maybe I’d like to meet him.” To be fair to Rimac, they are not even fighting on the same battlefield as Musk at all. He certainly comes across as extremely passionate. In his list of hobbies for the Telegraph, he put: “I’m 100% dedicated to the company. As an entrepreneur, I don’t have time for them.” The real Tesla. Read the interview.

NEW YORK AIR: In a new video posted on Lucid Motors YouTube channel, its CEO, Peter Rawlinson, is filmed travelling around Manhatten in the soon to enter production Lucid Air - this is the 2nd time he’s done a CEO test drive. From the shots, the car looks very at ease in the urban environment but it’s really the interior that looks like a kingpin’s office chair - very comfortable. Peter’s walkthrough is also golden. He is an interesting personality compared to the Mate Rimacs and Elon Musks - he is extremely soft, calm and self-assured. He’s from Wales, though carries quite a traditional British accent - presumably, the Welsh voice was kicked out of him while he was Principal Engineer of Jaguar. In the video, the car speaks volumes where, perhaps, Peter struggle to find the right descriptors. “Very intuitive,” seemed to be his go-to adjective. The video ends with Peter arriving in the Air at their new office in the meatpacking district of Manhatten. 

NEW POINTS: In February, energy company Shell explained how they would install 500,000 charging points worldwide by 2025. At the end of last week, the Head of Shell UK revealed in an interview with UK Investor that, out of this figure, Shell would be installing a total of 5,000 charging stations in Britain by 2025. A large proportion of these new chargers will be installed at Shell’s 500 petrol stations - they plan to install an average of one to two DC charging points at each. Another item of note in the interview was Shell’s admission that many petrol stations will serve multiple fuel types for ‘decades’ but that in some the sale of petrol will be stopped completely. 

STOLEN CAR: The restaurant critic Giles Coren told the Evening Standard yesterday how his new Jaguar I-Pace was stolen over the weekend from his home in Hampstead but, very luckily, he was able to locate and retrieve it. “I was f***ed off because it’s an electric car so there I was doing my bit for the environment... It’s like stealing a car from Jesus. I don’t think they should steal electric cars,” Coren told the Standard. Apparently, during a conversation with the police, they let slip on a possible location. Coren, before waiting for officers, then recovered the car himself. He told the Standard he feared the thieves has cloned his key, so he might leave the car without charge so they can’t get far. Read more.

BIDEN BATTERY: Back in February, the U.S. International Trade Commission banned South Korean giant SK Innovation from selling its cells in the US on account of having stolen trade secrets from competitors - a move which was likely to disrupt Ford and Volkswagen’s plans to build electric vehicles in the country. However, SK and LG - another large South Koren conglomerate who brought the action against SK - have now come to a billion-dollar agreement. Under the agreement, SK will pay LG $1.8bn via cash and a running royalty. This move was welcomed by President Joe Biden who called it a “welcome relief” for American workers. Read more.

ROBOT TAXI: The self-driving car company ‘Cruise’ - which is backed by GM, Honda and Microsoft - has signed a contract to supply Dubai with 4,000 of its driverless vehicles with a view of deploying them from 2023. The deal was announced by Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed who said it was “the first of its kind worldwide between a government entity and a leading developer of autonomous vehicles.” The vehicles will form part of a ride-hailing infrastructure to encourage carpooling. This has planted Cruise way ahead of any competitors and has an exclusive agreement with Dubai until 2029. I still think their vehicle, called the ‘Origin’, looks like James May’s limo from old TopGear! (below)

SOUR APPLE: More naughtiness brewing in South Korea. It has transpired that back in January when all the rumours were running wild about Apple being in early-stage talks with Hyundai, 12 Hyundai executives sold shares in the company raising $753,000 (according to Reuters) after they rose up to 20% on the rumours. It later came out that they were not pursuing an arrangement with Apple and the shares subsequently went back. South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service has now launched a probe “looking into suspicions about insider trading at Hyundai.”

MINI ELECTRIC: I had to read this quite a few times as it’s a lot to digest. However, in essence, according to Autocar, Mini is about to undergo a major shake-up. Its parent company, BMW, wants to spice up their line-up and transform it into an electric-only maker by 2030. Part of this shake-up will include introducing a number of new Mini EVs between 2022 and 2025, this includes a countryman crossover and an electric minivan. Autocar has a prototype image for the latter and it’s honestly the most offensive things I’ve set eyes on. It’s not even a funny shape, it’s just horrible. In addition to these, Mini is also making a smaller pure EV which will be closer in size to the original Mini Cooper and will be made in China with Great Wall Motors. It has been spotted doing Winter testing and the rumour is it will be called the ‘Minor’ - using the name of the Morris Minor. I really hope Mini don’t lose the plot while going all-electric. Read more on Autocar.

NEW ENTRANT: Huawei has announced it will invest $1 billion in researching self-driving and electric-car technologies. It comes as Huawei’s autonomous-driving technology has already surpassed Tesla’s in some spheres, such as by allowing cars to cruise for more than 1,000km without human intervention, according to its Chairman. Bloomberg reports Huawei is partnering with three manufacturers in order to make their own self-driving EV. This is all fascinating stuff, but they are seemingly late to the party when you consider services (like that of Cruise in Dubai) being launched in the next 12 months.

By Tom Riley