In the 1960s, James Bond’s Aston Martin had changing numberplates and in 2021, BMW’s iX Flow featuring E Ink has changing body colours. But just like the feature on James Bond’s car, don’t expect it to be offered on BMWs anytime soon. It is a demonstration of future technology for a model displayed this week at CES 2022 (the consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas) to show how digitisation can be used to adapt the exterior of a vehicle to different situations and individual wishes.

The fluid colour changes are made possible by a specially developed body wrap that is tailored precisely to the contours of the all-electric Sports Activity Vehicle from BMW. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different colour pigments to the surface, causing the body skin to take on the desired colouration.

More sophisticated personalisation
The use of innovative E Ink technology opens completely new ways of changing the vehicle’s appearance in line with the driver’s aesthetic preferences, the environmental conditions or even functional requirements. The technology thus offers unprecedented potential for personalisation in the area of exterior design and the iX Flow demonstrates this potential to impressive effect.

Already today, the colour chosen for a car is an expression of the driver’s personality. The choice of exterior finishes available for current BMW models covers a wide colour spectrum. In this way, the longing for a wildly expressive, extravagant, or sporty appearance on the outside can be taken into account as well as the desire for an understated, subtle or elegant appearance.

Against this background, the BMW Group is driving the development of the technology so that a new form of personalisation can be experienced both on the outside and in the inside of future production vehicles. Apart from a greater degree of personalisation, a customer will also not have to settle for just one colour – he or she can have many more for different occasions!

“This gives the driver the freedom to express different facets of their personality or even their enjoyment of change outwardly, and to redefine this each time they sit into their car,” said Stella Clarke, Head of Project for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink. “Similar to fashion or the status ads on social media channels, the vehicle then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in daily life.”

Increased efficiency too
A variable exterior colour can also contribute to wellness in the interior and to the efficiency of the vehicle. This is done by taking account of the different abilities of light and dark colours when it comes to reflecting sunlight and the associated absorption of thermal energy. A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one. By implication, heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment as a result of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light colour. In cooler weather, a dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.

In both cases, selective colour changes can help to cut the amount of cooling and heating required from the vehicle’s air conditioning. This reduces the amount of energy the vehicle electrical system needs and with it also the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption. In an all-electric car, changing the colour in line with the weather can therefore also help to increase the range. In the interior, the technology could, for example, prevent the dashboard from heating up too much.

E Ink technology itself is extremely energy efficient (though, at this time, it would be very expensive technology). Unlike displays or projectors, the electrophoretic technology needs absolutely no energy to keep the chosen colour state constant. Current only flows during the short colour changing phase.

Millions of paint capsules
Electrophoretic colouring is based on a technology developed by E Ink that is most well-known from the displays used in eReaders like Kindle. The surface coating of the iX Flow contains many millions of microcapsules, with a diameter equivalent to the thickness of a human hair. Each of these microcapsules contains negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. Depending on the chosen setting, stimulation by means of an electrical field causes either the white or the black pigments to collect at the surface of the microcapsule, giving the car body the desired shade.

Achieving this effect on a vehicle body involves the application of many precisely fitted ePaper segments. Generative design processes are implemented to ensure the segments reflect the characteristic contours of the vehicle and the resulting variations in light and shadow. The generative design algorithms enable the necessary formability and flexibility required to tailor the ePaper exactly to the design lines of the vehicle.

Laser cutting technologies are used to guarantee high precision in generating each segment. After the segments are applied and the power supply for stimulating the electrical field is connected, the entire body is warmed and sealed to guarantee optimum and uniform colour reproduction during every colour change.

“Digital experiences won’t just be limited to displays [inside the car] in the future. There will be more and more melding of the real and virtual. With the BMW iX Flow, we are bringing the car body to life,” said Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.


At CES 2020 (the major consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas), the Sony Group announced that it would be venturing further into the mobility business, with a sleek prototype car called the VISION-S. At that time, though, what it displayed seemed to be a concept car to show off various technologies, which is also done by other electronics companies

However, the company was actually going further with the concept car and began quietly developing it into a running prototype. By CES 2021, it revealed that there was a running prototype and it was being tested on public roads and on a test track in Austria. Engineers also started verification tests of the safety and user experience of the imaging and sensing technology installed inside and outside the vehicle, along with the human-machine interface (HMI) system.

The VISION-S 02 concept (left) joins the original VISION-S 01 prototype.

Second prototype displayed
At CES 2022 this week, Sony has not only provided an update on the progress of the project but is also displaying a second prototype, the VISION-S 02. This has a SUV design as a new form factor and rides on the same EV/cloud platform as the original VISION-S 01 prototype. By offering entertainment experiences utilizing the large interior space and variations of a 7-seater, this new prototype will promote the accommodation of a large variety of lifestyles within a society where values are becoming increasingly diversified.

The VISION-S 02 measures almost 4900 mm long and 1930 mm wide, which is about the size of a Lexus RX300. It has 200 kW electric motors powering the front and rear wheels so there’s all-wheel drive and the claimed top speed is expected to be over 180 km/h.

Advanced sensor system
Electronics are obviously one of Sony’s strengths and it has been developing a sensors system to support the driver. The system recognizes and analyzes the surrounding environment in real-time, using sensors installed to cover all around the vehicle. These sensors include high-sensitivity, high-resolution, wide dynamic range CMOS image sensors and LiDAR sensors that accurately sense 3-dimensional space.

In addition, the system provides intuitive driver interaction in conjunction with the vehicle’s sound system and HMI system, so that the driver can accurately judge the status of the surrounding environment, such as the presence of emergency vehicles, even from inside the vehicle.

Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors are used to provide monitoring functions for driver authentication and to watch over passengers. They also support intuitive gesture and voice commands that are intended to enhance usability of the car interface. Additionally, in order to deliver an environment that suits each user’s preferences, the vehicle will include a new function that allows users to customize the display theme and the acceleration and deceleration sounds of the vehicle.

Vehicle settings, key locks, and user settings can be synchronized by linking the vehicle to the cloud using mobile communication, including 5G communication, which features low-latency, high-capacity, and high-speed capabilities. In addition, since updates are reflected in the vehicle via over the air (OTA), it is possible to provide security and evolve service functions and value-added offerings continuously.

5G connectivity
5G driving tests were also conducted from April 2021, the next-generation network connectivity enabling a continuous connection between the in-vehicle systems and the cloud, in order to synchronize data and control signals, and update the systems OTA (Over The Air).

“Real time mobile communication turns cars into databases on wheels. In our 5G Mobility Lab, the VISION-S Prototype learns to communicate in real time. Together with Sony, we are preparing the first prototype for 5G so that in the future new features can be imported into the car over the air and with a simple software update,” said Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Germany, which is collaborating with the Japanese company.

Utilizing Sony’s in-house technologies and knowledge of communication technology and security cultivated through the development of smartphones, it has positioned remote operation as an important technology in anticipation of the arrival of the autonomous driving era.

Enriching the mobility entertainment space
The seat speakers, which create a three-dimensional sound field, and the streaming service compatible with ‘360 Reality Audio’ provide an immersive music experience. The high quality would only be expected from Sony, which has a strong reputation in this field.

In addition, to provide a high-quality movie experience, the VISION-S models include the fully integrated digital video service ‘BRAVIA CORE for VISION-S’. The service enables shared or individual video playback on the front panoramic screen and individual rear-seat displays. Further extending the possibilities of in-vehicle entertainment, gaming capabilities have expanded to being able to play PlayStation games through a remote connection to a console at home, in addition to the ability to play streaming games through the cloud.

To make the best use of AI and robotics technologies, Sony will soon establish an operating company called Sony Mobility Inc., through which the company intends to explore entry into the EV market.

At one time, when mention was made of ‘EV’ or electric vehicle, a small bubble shaped car might come to mind. And though electric motors do have a lot of zip, EVs were thought to be poor performers which provided basic transportation but no driving pleasure. But as we are now seeing, the EVs set to replace cars with combustion engines in coming years will continue to offer the driving pleasure that motorists enjoy, and even exhilarating performance – with zero emissions to damage the atmosphere.

And with new freedom for design due to the entirely different architecture, the stylists can come up with new forms that are sleeker than today’s cars. The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX concept shows us the sort of car we could be driving on roadtrips in future. It’s a concept car for now, though it is not just for show as many technological elements will likely be used in production models when they are validated and can be produced at a reasonable cost.

Range and efficiency are the key points about the VISION EQXX, achieved by having an ultra-efficient fully electric drivetrain and lightweight engineering. “The Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX is how we imagine the future of electric cars. Just one-and-a-half years ago, we started this project leading to the most efficient Mercedes-Benz ever built. The VISION EQXX is an advanced car in so many dimensions – and it even looks stunning and futuristic. With that, it underlines where our entire company is headed: We will build the world’s most desirable electric cars,” declared Ola Kallenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.

The result is an efficiency masterpiece that, based on internal digital simulations in real-life traffic conditions, will be capable of exceeding 1,000 kilometres with a fully charged battery pack. That’s a distance equivalent to going from Berlin to Paris, or from Beijing to Nanjing. Based on average distances driven per year, a driver in the USA or China would have to fully recharge the VISION EQXX only twice per month or, in Europe, just once per month.

The secret here is efficiency as the VISION EQXX uses less than 10 kWh of electrical energy to travel 100 kms. That equates to traveling 9.7 kms on 1 kWh of electrical energy. Translated into fossil-fuel consumption, this is around the golden figure of 1 litre per 100 kms/100 kms per litre or for those who remember the old measure, 282 mpg.

And it’s not about having a bigger battery either; in fact, the prototype battery pack in the concept car could easily fit into a smaller sized vehicle than the VISION EQXX. Battery technology is continuously advancing and what is used has the latest advanced developed by the German carmaker. Rather than simply increasing the size of the battery, Mercedes-Benz and the HPP team developed a completely new battery pack, achieving a remarkable energy density of close to 400 Wh/l. Overall, the battery weighs around 495 kgs.

“In effect, we fitted the energy of the EQS into the vehicle dimensions of a compact car,” said Adam Allsopp, Advanced Technology Director from HPP. “The battery has almost the same amount of energy but is half the size and 30% lighter. The battery management system and power electronics have been designed with an absolute focus on reducing losses. In achieving this efficiency milestone, we learnt a lot that will flow into future development programmes.”

Tasked with pushing the envelope of technical feasibility on all levels, the battery development team also decided to experiment with an unusually high voltage. Increasing the voltage to more than 900 volts proved an extremely useful research tool for the development of the power electronics. The team was able to gather a great deal of valuable data and is currently assessing the potential benefits and implications for future production models.

Additional energy is also draw from the sun, the original source of all energy on Earth. The electric system that powers many of the ancillaries gets additional energy from 117 solar cells on the roof. The net result of reducing the energy drain on the high-voltage system is an increase in range. On a single day and under ideal conditions, this can add up to 25 kms of range on long-distance journeys. The solar energy is stored in a lightweight lithium-iron-phosphate battery, which supplies a climate blower, the lights, the infotainment system and other ancillaries.

At its heart, efficiency means achieving more from less. The most familiar expression of automotive efficiency is that of fuel consumption or fuel economy. This is expressed in different ways depending on where we are in the world (eg litres per 100 kms, miles per gallon or kilometres per litre). Regardless of convention, they all relate units of fuel (energy) with units of distance. Electric mobility is no different in that respect, but the imperatives of electric mobility and sustainability have shifted the framework for efficiency.

For Mercedes-Benz, quantifying technological development across the board now goes beyond fuel efficiency alone. As well as meaning more range from less energy, it also means more tangible luxury and convenience with less impact on nature, and more electric mobility with less waste.

“Electric range sounds easy but is a complex technical challenge. The easiest way is to put a bigger battery in the car. However, this leads to diminishing returns due to size and weight. This is definitely not the smartest route and it’s also not the best use of scarce resources. With the VISION EQXX, we’re presenting the results of an extraordinary challenge: we pushed efficiency to a totally new level. And we explored new ways to increase the range of an electric car,” said Joerg Bartels, Vice-President for Vehicle Engineering and Overall Vehicle Functions.

The electric drive unit is a dedicated unit consisting of the electric motor, transmission and power electronics featuring a new generation of silicon carbides. The power electronics unit is based on the one in the upcoming Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar.

With output of around 150 kW, the super-efficient electric drivetrain (encompassing everything from battery to electric drive unit to wheels) provides the power and stamina. It is an electric drivetrain with 95% efficiency – that means up to 95% of the energy from the battery ends up at the wheels –compared to just 30% from even the most efficient combustion engine drivetrain or around 50% from an average (human) long-distance runner.

“One of the best ways to improve efficiency is to reduce losses,” explained Eva Greiner, chief engineer of the electric drive system at Mercedes-Benz. “We worked on every part of the system to reduce energy consumption and losses through system design, material selection, lubrication and heat management. And our fantastic simulation tools helped us find out quickly what works and what doesn’t.”

Aerodynamics have long been known to have a great influence on efficiency. Reducing the wind resistance of the car’s shape to as low as possible means the powertrain has to work less hard to achieve a given speed, reducing consumption or fuel or electricity. In the case of an EV, on a regular long-distance drive, almost two-thirds of its battery capacity may be used to ‘cut’ through the air ahead.

Through simulations and wind tunnel studies, the VISION EQXX has an ultra-sleek and slippery drag coefficient of 0.17 Cd. A huge amount of work went into integrating the painstaking passive and active aerodynamic features into the external form which retains the sensual purity of the Mercedes-Benz design language and the practicalities of a road car.

When it comes to lightweight engineering, the best on Earth is Mother Nature. No-one else comes close. Over millions of years, she has honed the finest examples of high-efficiency long-distance travellers – from the Monarch butterfly to the Arctic Tern.

With a considerably shorter timescale for the VISION EQXX, Mercedes-Benz engineers drew inspiration from her creations and pulled in some lateral-thinking external expertise to assist. The result is a weight-efficient design derived from engineering excellence paired with a sustainable combination of trash and Hollywood.

This intelligent use of sustainable advanced materials and methods inspired by nature is dubbed ‘bionic engineering’ and was facilitated by a digital process called bionic mesh design. Mercedes-Benz has a long history of applying bionic engineering techniques dating back to its “bionic car” concept study from 2005.

The VISION EQXX demonstrates that this is all within reach in a real-world vehicle that pushes the envelope on all fronts. It gives a clear insight into what premium efficiency for the electric and digital era looks like and feels like.

The all-electric future of Mercedes-Benz

It may seem like a fun job being a test-driver in a car company, driving prototypes of new models long before they are revealed to the world. While there may be some element of enjoyment at certain times, the work of a test-driver is largely planned and precisely run to verify performance as well as test many different parts and systems in a variety of conditions.

Every new vehicle must go through such demanding test programs and depending on the model, it might be in different parts of the world. The BMW i7, for example, is now entering its final phase of development work and is being tested in extreme road and weather conditions. It will be launched later this year, along with the new 7-Series.

During so-called hot-region testing on tracks and public roads all over the world, the development engineers primarily verify the performance and reliability of the electric motors, the all-wheel drive and the high-voltage battery when being exposed to maximum stress from high temperatures, unpaved roads, dust and large differences in altitude. They will travel over gravel tracks into deserts, into the mountains and on a whole series of highly dynamic routes, besides BMW’s own test courses.

The endurance test in the hot regions of various countries and continents serves in particular to test and safeguard all components of the electric drive system. The components of the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology developed for the i7 demonstrate their unrestricted functionality – even under the most adverse conditions when being used continuously in extremely high outside temperatures, permanent sunlight and dry conditions.

Within a firmly defined test programme for the prototypes, loads are simulated that correspond to the challenges faced by a series-production vehicle during a complete product life-cycle. Supported by sensitive on-board measurement technology, experienced test engineers register every reaction of the electric motors, the high-voltage battery, drive control and the integrated cooling system as well as the charging technology and energy management to weather and road-related influences.

The testing programme, which covers tens of thousands of kilometres, includes long-distance and high-speed driving as well as stop-and-go traffic in high temperatures. In addition, test sections with particularly large differences in altitude were selected at the hot-region test sites. In this way the temperature behaviour of the electric motors and the torque control of the all-electric BMW xDrive can be analysed during a particularly dynamic and long-lasting uphill drive.

To further increase the load on the drive system, the test programme also includes mountain driving in trailer mode. At the same time, the high-voltage battery shows how it able to continuously deliver peak power to supply the e-motors. As an extreme scenario and a particular challenge for energy management and power electronics, the test also involves driving downhill with a high-voltage storage system that is already fully charged at the start and can therefore no longer absorb any recuperation energy.

The gruelling hot-region test procedure is also used to put the performance of the air-conditioning and other on-board electronics, as well as the temperature resistance of the materials used in the interior, to a particularly tough test. This is all to ensure that the world’s only purely electrically powered luxury sedan will delivers reliable performance in any situation, anywhere in the world.

BMW Group Malaysia moves into next phase of electrification with new BMW i model range

From this month onwards till the end of 2023, electric vehicles (EVs) imported to Malaysia will be exempted from all taxes and excise duties and even roadtax. This applies only to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and not hybrids, for which the government provides other incentives for those which are assembled locally. Companies which decided to also assemble BEVs will get the full tax exemptions up till 2025.

To Malaysians, always frustrated by the high duty structure that makes cars expensive, the thought of duty-free cars gives them the idea that they can get cars much cheaper. However, BEVs are not cheap anywhere in the world if they are the type that are equivalent of the small and medium sedan or SUVs with combustion engines. They cost more and governments offer various incentives to reduce their prices for buyers so that adoption is faster.

If volumes can go up quickly, then production costs can come down and they can be sold more cheaply. This has happened in China where, since 2009, the government has offered subsidies to buyers of BEVs and the sales of such vehicles has grown to almost 5 million units a year. The volume is considered high enough and the subsidies will stop after this year.

Because of the sudden announcement only in October last year, plans to import vehicles have had to be put in place in the past few months and some companies have indicated they will be adding BEVs to their range later this year. Contrary to what those in the government may think, vehicles cannot be supplied right away. Orders have to be placed and factories have to slot in the orders and if demand is high from other markets, then it may take longer to get the vehicles. So many have indicated that they will start selling from the second half of this year, perhaps towards the last quarter.

The Hyundai Kona Electric is the first BEV which has a price officially announced in Malaysia and it costs between RM150,000 to RM200,000 – duty-free.

The prices indicated are not exactly low and many seem to be RM150,000 upwards – even with no taxes imposed. That sort of price level does not put BEVs within the reach of the masses which means that the volumes will not grow fast like in China and other markets. Not being able to reach a high volume will also slow the pace of infrastructure development as those who spend on it will see returns being slow.

As mentioned earlier, BEVs are expensive due to the technology which is still young compared to the technologies for combustion engines which have been developed and used for over 100 years. The ones that cost RM150,000 upwards are the ‘conventional’ type but in places like Japan and Europe, there are also smaller BEVs that cost much less though they can only seat two.

2022 Toyota C+ Pod BEV

One such model is Toyota’s C+ Pod, an ultra-compact BEV which costs around RM60,000 in Japan. It went on sale in 2021 but only to corporate customers and government agencies. However, last month, Toyota announced that it would also make the C+ Pod available to the general public. The cars will be offered via lease contracts from Toyota dealerships

The C+ Pod is classified as a kei car, a category of minivehicles in Japan. It’s just 2.49 metres long and 1.29 metres wide; in comparison, the old Perodua Kancil was 3.4 metres long and 1.4 metres wide and could accommodate 4 persons. Although it has a light powertrain, the 9 kWh battery pack does add weight and makes the C+ Pod as heavy as a Kancil (690 kgs).

2022 Toyota C+ Pod BEV

The small electric motor is positioned at the rear and can generate up to 9.2 kW with 56 Nm of torque. With the typical characteristic of an electric motor which delivers maximum torque from start-up, the little C+ Pod has good acceleration. However, it is clearly intended for city use and has a range claimed to be up to 150 kms.

The recharging infrastructure is well developed in Japan (almost 10,800 points nationwide) so owners can conveniently top-up the battery pack almost anywhere (though it will take 5 to`16 hours if the battery pack is completely empty).

Additionally, the C+ Pod is designed to be a mobile power supply system which can provide electricity in disaster areas. It’s an idea which developed after the big tsunami and earthquake in East Japan as there was urgent need for power supply by rescuers. There are sockets on the car to connect to and power can be supplied for up to about 10 hours, depending on conditions.

2022 Toyota C+ Pod BEV

2022 Toyota C+ Pod BEV

The cabin is like a car’s, with a simple layout that maximises use of the 1100 mm wide space, an important consideration since it is such as small vehicle. The exterior panels are made of plastic to keep weight down. But Toyota has ensured that safety standards (for this vehicle category)  are met and there is a structure that efficiently disperses and absorbs impact energy across multiple components. This protects the occupants from serious injuries in the event of frontal, side or rear impacts. At the same time, the structure is also designed to reduce pedestrian injury.

To help the driver avoid accidents, there is also a Pre-collision Safety System which can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. An Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Parking Support Brakes (Stationary Objects) is also included to help avoid collisions, or mitigate damage, with walls and other obstacles during low-speed operation.

2022 Toyota C+ Pod BEV

The C+ Pod is just one of many small BEVs now on sale and they are popular in more developed countries like Japan where people appreciate having simple, personal transport. But will Malaysians accept such a small car priced at RM60,000, which is still almost double the price of a Saga? Incidentally, a Honda N-Box, the bestselling kei car in Japan, is priced between RM70,000 and RM80,000. As long as EVs do not have prices at the same level as the cheapest models of the two national brands, it will be hard for the country to move towards electrification.

Toyota to step up investment and development of fully electric vehicles during this decade

There were electric vehicles 100 years ago; in fact, even Henry Ford’s wife, Clara, drove and electrically-powered car because it was easy to start and had no transmission. However, battery technology at that time was not advanced and poor performance made electric cars unappealing, allowing cars with internal combustion engines to grow and then dominate the planet. With poor interest in electric cars, the manufacturers stopped developing them and would not consider them again till the 21st century.

During the 100 years, many technological advances have been made and in the past 20 years especially, battery technology – an important element for electric vehicles (EVs) – has advanced greatly. The incentive to accelerate technological development has been the tightening of emission regulations, especially in the more developed nations, which has forced carmakers to start switching to emission-free powertrains. There is urgency as well due to climate change, with exhaust emissions of motor vehicles being identified as one of the causes.

The technology and manufacturing processes for the internal combustion engine (ICE) have been developed over more than 100 years so production costs have stabilized and as volumes grew, economies of scale kept pushing the costs down. EV technology is relatively young and the volume of EVs has not reached a point where economies of scale have fully kicked in. As such, the technologies – which are still evolving and advancing – are still expensive and EVs equivalent to ICE vehicles are still more expensive.

In order for EVs to be adopted by more people, the auto industry expects governments to help. Obviously, funding cannot be provided directly but the prices to buyers can be offset by subsidies. The lowering of retail prices can then attract motorists to consider them, while other elements like infrastructure and performance continue to get better.

Many countries have subsidies for EV buyers and the nature of the subsidy varies. Typically, there is a fixed sum provided based on the price although in Malaysia, from this year, the government has decided to exempt battery electric vehicles (BEVs) from duties and other taxes and even the annual roadtax will not be charged. It’s a bold move but it does not necessarily bring prices down below RM100,000 so a large segment of the population will still not find it easy to buy one. And there is no point using the argument of ‘saving the planet’ because many Malaysians today have to save themselves and their families from financial difficulties, so they certainly won’t care to pay more for their car.

China, as the world’s largest car market, has had an incentive program since 2009 when it introduced subsidies for New Energy Vehicles (NEVs), ie BEVs, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs). The NEV program actually began in the 1980s but the incentive policy only began in 2009, with nationwide adoption from 2013. To qualify for subsidies, the vehicles must meet minimum technical and performance requirements, and the size of the subsidy is indexed to a variety of vehicle specifications and utility parameters. Every few years, the qualification criteria have been tightened, forcing manufacturers to push their technology further.

As qualification criteria for subsidies tightened during the past decade, the manufacturers had to keep improving their EV technologies.

By the end of 2020, the NEV push had resulted in 4.92 million NEVs being put on China’s roads, or 1.75% of the vehicle population. The number almost meets the 5 million target set in 2013 and having reached this level, the government now believes that acceptance has been achieved and NEVs are in the mainstream of the car market. This year NEVs are expected to account for 18% of all vehicle sales in China (13% greater than in 2019) and add another 5 million NEVs according to industry forecasts.

With this year being the final year that EVs will be subsidised, there should be increased interest and higher sales in China.

And with that target achieved, it has now decided that subsidies can be phased out completely. In fact, in April 2020, there was already an indication of this when it was announced that subsidies would be reduced by 20% in 2021. This year, the cut will be 30%, after which there will be no more subsidies provided from January 1, 2023.

The subsidies have typically applied to vehicles costing less than RMB300,000 (about RM197,130). A typical subsidy has been around RMB18,000 (about RM11,800), and in 2022, it will fall to around RMB14,400 (about RM9,500).

Tesla Model 3 was among the best-selling NEVs in China last year.

The domestic carmakers have already reached large volumes that allow them to have economies of scale. BYD, an early EV manufacturer, was already doing over 753,000 EVs in 2019, second after world leader Tesla which sold 900,000 EVs.

Toyota to step up investment and development of fully electric vehicles during this decade

US-based Magna, a mobility technology company, is supporting the accelerated shift towards electrification by carmakers with its all-electric connected powertrain, EtelligentReach. This latest innovation will be used for a new model that will debut this year. The complete system comprises 2 electric motors, inverters and gearboxes, and uses advanced software to maximize vehicle range and driving dynamics.

eDrive technology advancements and the holistic vehicle development approach of the EtelligentReach achieve a range increase that is said to be up to 145 kms, or 30% compared to certain production BEVs (battery electric vehicles) in this segment which is a key differentiator in the growing electrification space.

Magna’s intelligent operating strategy controls the two eDrives: the eDS Mid+ with next-gen eDrive technologies and decoupling on the front, and another eDS Mid+ with torque vectoring on the rear. This powertrain solution is said to set a new standard in range, driving dynamics and safety.

The next-gen innovations include Decoupling+, inverters with silicon carbide technology, and a boost function for a short-time increase of drive power (eg overtaking maneuvers). Magna’s Decoupling+ function on the front drive is unique in its competitive field and helps increase range without compromising driving dynamics and safety. Increased efficiency also reduces CO2 emissions, while the torque vectoring function can improve the safety margin by up to 10% by controlling each axle individually in all road conditions, as well as significantly reduce steering effort during dynamic cornering.

“This is definitely a story where the sum is greater than the parts,” said Tom Rucker, President, Magna Powertrain. “The EtelligentReach reduces range anxiety and improves driving dynamics, providing automakers with a complete all-electric powertrain system with AWD that is exciting and efficient. We can create maximum efficiency by precisely orchestrating how every component works in concert to achieve the best possible performance.”

Besides EtelligentReach for passenger cars, Magna also has EtelligentForce technology for light commercial vehicles (LCVs) like pick-up trucks. Also using the eDS Mid+ DCU at the front drive, there is a game-changing eBeam electrified beam axle at the rear, with an electric locking differential.

This eBeam technology is a direct replacement for traditional beam axles, requiring no restructuring to existing architectures. It utilizes existing suspension and brake systems designs, resulting in no compromise of payload or towing capacities. It is thus a structure-oriented design for high-payload vehicles with continuous-duty usage, a requirement of LCV operators.

With the shift to electrified vehicles speeding up in the industry’s pursuit of cleaner and more efficient mobility, Magna is enabling global automakers to electrify their vehicle platforms with a full range of hybrid and fully electric powertrain solutions.

Magna’s powertrain expertise is supplying power to the wheels, regardless of the power source. The company is able to supply traditional products as well as electrified components and systems to automakers as they migrate their vehicle offerings toward hybrid and electric vehicles.

Magna HDT

The company will also supply a Hybrid Dual-Clutch Transmission (HDT) to Mercedes-Benz for its next generation compact and mid-size vehicles, another example of Magna’s continuing transformation in the electrification of mobility. Two other HDT programs will launch soon with other global carmakers as the company further extends its foothold into powertrain electrification.

Experience living with an electric vehicle for RM24.90 an hour

Ken Block is well known for his thrilling, heart-stopping gymkhana series of videos where he has pushed Fords and then Subarus to extreme limits to entertain viewers. Earlier this year, he parted company with Ford and teamed up with a new carmaker – Audi. So he can now say he’s worked with American, Japanese and now German carmakers… maybe one day with Chinese or Korean too?

A new Hoonitron
His move to Audi is going to see him drive not just another specially prepared car with a powerful engine. In fact, it will be a major change for him as he will be doing his driving sideways using electric power. Audi has developed a special S1 e-tron quattro ‘Hoonitron’ for the American drift specialist and with this car, a new video (the working title is ‘Elektrikana’)will be produced which we will see sometime in the first quarter of 2022.

Audi S1 e-ron quattro Hoonitron and Ken Block

New interpretation of Pikes Peak car
The entire development, including the technology, of the S1 Hoonitron was conducted by Audi Sport at its own facility. Audi Design was responsible for the styling, which has been anything but a run-of-the-mill job for the design team. The challenges were tremendous as they aimed to create a modern, all-electric interpretation of the legendary quattro S1 Pikes Peak car. This car, evolved from the successful World Rally Championship-dominating cars, raced to the summit in the famous Pikes Peak Hill Climb in America, boosting the level of performance in the event much higher.

The S1 Hoonitron has two powerful electric motors and all-wheel drive, a carbonfibre chassis, and the full safety standards as prescribed by the FIA. How Audi Sport has boosted output from the motors to give Block the kind of power he will need for his tyre-smoking stunts remains a secret.

Audi S1 e-ron quattro Hoonitron and Ken Block

A new experience going electric
Last month, he got to know the car for the first time. “Audi gave me the opportunity to test it for a few days in Germany,” he revealed. “I’m familiar with a wide variety of cars using internal combustion engines and transmissions, but there were a lot of new things for me to learn here. Spinning into a donut at 150 km/h directly from standstill – just using my right foot – is an all-new experience for me! Our work was focused on getting the car and I used to each other. My thanks go to the whole Audi Sport squad for their outstanding teamwork.”

“The S1 Hoonitron combines a lot of what Audi was already famous for in the 1980s,” added Block. “For instance, the car’s spectacular aerodynamics have now been translated into a totally modern form. I think it’s cool that the Audi designers have been inspired by their own past and uniquely transferred the car’s technologies and appearance into the present.”

“The collaboration with Audi is a very special partnership for me. The brand and its passion for motorsport motivated me to get into rallying,” Block revealed. “That Audi has now developed this car for me and my team, and has joined us in our next project, has made a dream come true for me. The Hoonitron is writing the next chapter in our history and taking our Gymkhana story into the future.”

The Audi S1 quattro racing up Pikes Peak in 1987 with Michele Mouton at the wheel.

We’re certainly looking forward to seeing the new video and wonder if Audi will be able to convince the German authorities to allow him to do his spectacular driving in the carmaker’s home city of Ingolstadt. With his Fords, he’s burnt rubber on the streets of cities like London and Detroit, right in front of the police (who blocked off roads just for him).

Insane action from Ken Block’s Gymkhana series of videos with Ford (above) and Subaru (below).

Audi aims to be first carmaker to win Dakar Rally with fully electric rallycar

2022 looks like the year of electric hypercars as some manufacturers will either unveil their products or start deliveries. Among them is Automobili Pininfarina which has announced that its Battista hyper GT – Italy’s most powerful production car ever – will start going to customer in early 2022. Final production prototypes have been running with test-drivers completing assessments of various systems.

Nick Heidfeld, ex-Formula One and Formula E driver, is a Test and Development Driver for Automobili Pininfarina who has been working with the engineers for the past 2 years. “From the first time I experienced Battista’s performance in 2019 in an advanced simulator, to today on road and track, I believe the Automobili Pininfarina team has successfully developed a unique hyper GT that is enormous fun, as well as incredibly fast,” he said.

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

Heidfeld has experienced the Battista on the road and track in Italy in production-intent form, accompanied by its emotive soundscape for the first time. “In this test, I was able to drive Battista with full power available. The effect under acceleration is completely mind-bending – drivers will never bore of the experience, no matter how many times they feel it. This roadcar sprints faster than a Formula 1 car, and in Furiosa mode, I was left with a huge grin on my face every time. Every client that experienced Battista with me was positively overwhelmed by the experience – there is simply nothing like it!” said Heidfeld.

The Furiosa mode mentioned unleashes the full 1,900 ps, which also utilises the full torque available from the 4 independent electric motors. Originally projected to produce 2,300 Nm of torque, the Battista is now developing an increased 2,360 Nm. This comes from two 250 kW motors at the front, and two 450 kW motors at the rear, with 280 Nm of torque for each front motor and 900 Nm at each rear motor. Their combined output makes it possible to go from 0 – 100 km/h in a claimed time of less than 2 seconds and reach a top speed of 350 km/h.

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

Besides the Furiosa mode, there are 4 others – Pura, Calma, Energica, and Carattere. Control of the driving experience is provided by a beautifully-milled rotary dial, ergonomically situated right next to the driver, allowing for quick changes in driving mode, each one lending a unique character to the Battista’s drive, perfectly adapted to a range of driving conditions.

Calibrated using thousands of kilometres of software simulation before being introduced to development cars, the driving modes allow the driver to fine-tune the driving experience and unlock both the full potential of the advanced torque vectoring system and honed characteristics of the Battista.


2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

The system recuperates and transfers electrical energy without using the brakes – the active energy shifting takes place directly via the 4 electric motors, resulting in a much faster, more precise and efficient shift of torque compared with torque vectoring by braking.

The motors are powered by a powerful 120 kWh lithium-ion battery and, depending on driving style and other conditions, the range is claimed to be up to 500 kms.

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

“The handling on open roads – even on unpredictable surfaces – proved Battista to be beautifully balanced. Just how a hyper GT should feel. Battista’s performance on track had already surprised and impressed me after I experienced it in Nardo earlier this year, so my expectations on this occasion were set high. This test however confirmed that the team has achieved its target of creating a new type of hyper GT which is rewarding on all surfaces. The ride quality and damping both feel excellent, and the steering feels natural and the perfect fit for what we want to achieve in Battista. I am very sensitive to steering feel as a racing driver, and the sweet spot here is for it to feel light yet connected, and direct yet smooth,” explained Heidfeld.

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

Paolo Dellacha, Automobili Pininfarina’s Chief Product and Engineering Officer, commended Heidfeld for his input which has helped the engineers to fine-tune the car. “Nick has been a brilliant partner throughout the whole development programme, not only for his driving skills and unique experience in both Formula 1 and Formula E, but also for his ability to evaluate and improve the programme in its various stages of development by delivering the anticipated view of our customers,” he said.

The Battista in production form made its global debut at California’s Monterey Week in August this year. Potential customers had an opportunity to experience the hypercar on the scenic coastal roads and listen to its ‘tailor-made exterior soundscape’. Those who decided they must own one would have to book a unit which will cost from €1.98 million (about RM9.37 million).

2022 Pininfarina Battista hypercar EV

NIO may not be known in Malaysia or even in most countries, but it is one of the steadily growing car companies from China which started business focusing on just electric vehicles. It’s a ‘new generation’ carmaker, just 4 years old, and already has at least 4 models on sale. Though most of its sales are in China, it has also entered Norway and next year, will be in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. By 2025, NIO expects to have a presence in over 25 countries and regions worldwide.

Joining the carmaker’s 4 models in 2022 will be a new model known as the ET5. It is the brand’s most compact car to date and used the concept of ‘Design for Autonomous Driving’ during its development. It has the latest NIO Autonomous Driving (NAD) systems with NIO Aquila Super Sensing and NIO Adam Super Computing. Additional NAD features will be gradually introduced after further development and validation.

2022 NIO ET5 EV

Having started off with electric vehicles, NIO has naturally gained much expertise in developing fully electric powertrains and now has various types for different models. For the ET5, it will use a high-performance powertrain with proven dual motor architecture. This consists of a 150 kW induction asynchronous motor in the front and 210 kW permanent magnet motor at the rear generating peak torque up to 700 Nm.

Straightline acceleration is impressive with 0 to 100 km/h achieved in a claimed 4.3 seconds. The range claims are also impressive: reaches over 550 kms with a 75 kWh Standard Range Battery; over 700 kms with the 100 kWh Long Range Battery; and over 1,000 kms with a 150 kWh Ultralong Range Battery.

NIO developed and promotes the battery-swapping concept which reduces some cost to the customer who can then pay for fresh batteries when swapping. Since opening the first battery-swapping station in China in 2018, it has set up over 500 stations and by the end of October this year, 4 million battery swaps had been done. The NIO Power Swap is an automatic process where the car parks itself inside a station and it takes less than 5 minutes. The company also has 6,000 Power Chargers and 10,000 destination chargers across China.

A NIO Battery-Swapping station in China.

With these new generation of carmakers, the question of experience in making cars safe is sometimes asked. They may be able to have great designs and advanced technology but what about the car’s performance in accidents? According to NIO, the ET5 has been designed to meet the stringent 5-star C-NCAP (China’s NCAP) and Euro NCAP standards. This is achieved using an ultra-high-strength steel-aluminium hybrid body with the very high torsional stiffness. The ultra-low centre of gravity, at 482.6 mm, and wheel track of 1685 mm, are also said to enable the ET5 to achieve a rollover-resistance rating of 1.7, above the US NHTSA’s 5-star criteria.

2022 NIO ET5 EV

The sleek 4.7-metre long body is aerodynamically efficient with a Cd of 0.24, important for an electric car. Contributing to this level of efficiency are the rear ducktail spoiler and details such as the air curtain, flush door handles and frameless windows that create cleaner lines. Its form draws on the fluid silhouette of the ET7 while the muscular haunches are inspired by the EP9 supercar.

Evolving NIO’s concept of the ‘second living room’, the cabin of the ET5 was inspired by trends in furniture, fashion, and footwear, so it’s a sophisticated space with a warm touch. A larger glasshouse and panoramic glazed roof create a bright interior complemented by natural and organic hues including the brand’s new Terracotta, a deep and fiery orange.

2022 NIO ET5 EV

Recycled and more sustainable materials are used as much as possible. The Clean+ sustainable fabric not only forms a relaxing cocooning ambiance but is also said to improve the acoustic performance of the cabin. Smart invisible air vents were developed for a neater and more cohesive design whilst a 256-color ambient light feature offers the chance to create an atmosphere to suit various moods. The standard audio system uses Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 surround sound system.

Set to be an industry first, the ET5’s PanoCinema is a panoramic and immersive digital cockpit with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. NIO partnered with NREAL, an AR device company, to jointly develop AR glasses (exclusive to NIO) which can project an effective screen size of 201-inch at 6 metres.

2022 NIO ET5 EV

NIO also collaborated with NOLO to jointly develop the VR Glasses that employ ultra-thin Pancake lenses, to create a binocular 4K display effect. The 10.2-inch HDR instrument cluster boosts the vividness of images.

The ET5 will be priced from RMB 328,000 in China (about RM216,700) but customers can also get subsidies to reduce the cost. First deliveries are expected to start in September 2022 although before then, the flagship ET7 will have started going to customers in March.

2022 NIO ET5 EV

China’s NIO Inc. launches all-electric ET7, its first autonomous car


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