GM Commits to 30 EVs through 2025

Mary Barra, General Motors Chairman, and CEO recently gave an update on the company’s plans for electric vehicles.

In a virtual conference for investors, Barra said that GM is committed to launching 30 EVs globally through 2025 and that 40% of its lineup here in the United States would be battery-electric powered by the same date. The twelve upcoming EVs were revealed back in July.

Barra said that GM will spend $27 billion over the next five years to fund the development of all of these EVs, as well as self-driving technology. This is $7 billion more than what the auto company previously planned.

Most of the future EVs will be powered by GM’s own batteries branded Ultium. The GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq, which are due in late 2021 and early 2022, respectively will be the first vehicles to use Ultium batteries.

GM had made further advances to its Ultium batteries and estimates the biggest battery packs will deliver up to 450 miles of range, up from a previous estimate of 400 miles. The automaker wants to continue refining the technology and has already begun testing a second-generation design estimated to cost 60% less than today’s Ultium batteries with double the energy density and is due by the middle of the decade.

The lower cost of the second generation design is due to new cell designs that enable higher energy density and use less non-active material, making more room for the part of the battery that produces energy. Additionally, the cells use less expensive materials and eliminate the need for expensive cobalt found in batteries today. There is also better integration between vehicles and their battery packs which allows fewer cells and modules.

According to GM, Ultium batteries will be much easier to service at the module level which will lead to less expensive costs for repairs instead of having to replace the entire pack. The batteries are also flexible enough to accept new chemistry as well as new cell types, without doing major tweaks to the design.

Because of this flexibility, the development of many of GM’s future EVs can be accelerated. For example, starting with the upcoming GMC Hummer EV, GM’s benchmark development speed for a new EV is now 26 months instead of the standard 50 months.

Japanese Auto Brands Rank Highest in This Year’s Consumer Reports

Japanese auto brands took five of the top ten spots for this year’s Consumer Reports Reliability Survey, with Mazda finishing on top for the first time, followed by Toyota and Lexus. Last year, Lexus ranked first, followed by Mazda and then Toyota.

Buick was the highest-rated domestic brand in this year’s survey, finishing fourth, with Hyundai and Honda taking the spots for “most reliable.”

The survey covers model year 2000 through 2020 and collects data from each organization’s members about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles. The nonprofit then assigns a predicted new-vehicle reliability score to various nameplates on a scale of 1 to 100. The scores of all brand’s models from which the magazine has gathered statistically sufficient information is used to determine that brand’s average reliability score.

Buick moved up fourteen spots from last year, followed by Ram and Dodge.  GMC, Chevrolet, Jeep and Cadillac improved from last year but still finished below average. Ford dropped six spots and fell into the “less reliable” tier.

Lincoln finished last among all brands, with an average reliability score of only 8, sitting 21 points lower than Tesla, which was seconds to last. Porsche took the spot for highest-ranked European brand. Consumer Reports said vehicle owners “reported everything from transmissions needing replacement after as little as 5,000 miles to display screens that required hardware replacement.” It also said all of Toyota’s models had average or better reliability but said Lexus’ standing was dragged down by the LS sedan.

Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports said “what we’re seeing now is, when automakers launch EVs, they’re changing a lot,” including new platforms instead of modifying existing vehicles with an electric powertrain. “Almost all automakers seem to use the opportunity to make these vehicles a technological tour de force, and as a result, they’re creating problems because they’re changing everything.”

Used Cars Are In Demand

COVID-19 has affected the way the world runs. Many industries have had to quickly adapt to new changes to keep afloat. The automotive industry has especially been hit hard. In the midst of a recession, people are wary about purchasing vehicles. No one wants to make a large purchase with jobs potentially on the line. The jobless rate in the spring was the highest the U.S. has experienced since the Great Depression. It took years for the Great Depression to reach its lowest point. The coronavirus pandemic devastated the economy in a matter of weeks.  Because of this, used car sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Even more, shoppers are actively searching for used leases.

While dealerships have been struggling to sell new cars, facing lockdowns at one point, the complete opposite has occurred with selling used cars. The past two months, August and September, posted the fastest rate of used car inventory turnover in the past six years, according to Edmunds.com data. According to more data, the number of sales is exceeding pre-COVID sales. This is pretty remarkable.

At the beginning of the pandemic, during lockdown, there were no cars made during these few months. This helped create the situation we have today. Dealerships have had to get creative with finding inventory. The situation created a buyers and seller’s market because if you’re selling a car, you’ll get a good rate, and the buying is happening at insane speeds. There might even be inventory shortage  if this continues on.

Another reason why there has been such is a boom is because people are concerned about taking public transportation or take car-sharing services like Uber with strangers. People don’t want to risk their health by getting on crowded buses and trains. The best option is to buy a used car. It is economical and for some people, it might be temporary. Among people living in cities with public transport available who do not currently own a vehicle, interest in owning a new car has risen significantly. According to what the market has shown so far, people may now be eager for a safer and more private alternative to public transportation.

Mercedes Focus on Evolution of Cars, Tesla Continues to Focus on Automated Driving

As Tesla recently announced its new Full Self Driving software, Mercedes-Benz says it has developed a similar system, but won’t allow the technology to yet be used on public and urban roads. German engineers that developed the advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) are taking a step-by-step approach to releasing new technology, relying on their own insight rather than the public to validate their findings.

While the Mercedes approach is more conservative in nature, Tesla continues to be more bold and determined to push highly automated driving onto public roads, a step that could reduce accidents since computers respond much quicker than the reflexes of humans.

ADAS can provide steering, braking and acceleration support under limited circumstances, generally on highways.

Automakers have stayed away from relying on technology completely, yet Tesla broke this mold with it released its FSD software, which allows computer-powered cars to test their reflexes in inner-city traffic. Mercedes does not allow members of the public to test their systems which are still in an experimental phase. Rather than force their customers to put their trust in processors, software and the ability of machines to learn over time, German engineers want their cars to be validated by engineers so that they remain predictable for owners.

“We do not want blind trust. We want informed trust in the car. The customer needs to know exactly what the car can and cannot do,” a Mercedes spokesman told Reuters on the sidelines of the automaker’s test track in Immendingen, Germany. “The worst thing would be if the car gets into a complex situation and there was ambiguity over whether the car is in control or not,” he said.

For this reason, Daimler has emphasized its decades of experience with ADAS as it seeks to gain regulatory approval for its Level 3 autonomous systems. Level 3 means the driver can legally take their eyes off the wheel and the automaker would assume insurance liability, depending on the jurisdiction. The new Tesla system requires customers to take responsibility for any crash.

Mercedes started using camera-based systems in 2009, offering traffic-light recognition and lane-keeping assistance systems, switching to stereo cameras in 2013, to add depth of field and pedestrian recognition for emergency braking functions.  It was on a joined project that Elon Musk of Tesla learned about camera and radar-based systems.

Mercedes plans to launch Drive Pilot next year and is pitching it as an evolution of its Distronic system, launched in 2013, which uses cameras and radar to keep cars in lane and at a distance to the car in front. Drive Pilot will add a new sensor: lidar. It will be used to cross-reference data gathered by radar, ultrasonic sensors, high-definition mapping, radar and cameras.

“It is a paradigm change from Distronic, but it is a strategic evolution. For us, this is the logical next step and it is not shooting for the moon,” said Michael Decker, manager of automated driving at Mercedes.

It will function only on highways in Germany starting in mid-2021, if a new law is passed.