While Toyota has expressed a view that suggests it will not stop producing internal combustion engines so quickly – to provide customers with greater choice and not leave any customer behind – it is no less committed to electrification of its products in the quest to achieve carbon neutrality. As a pioneer in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technology, having introduced the first mass-produced car with a hybrid powertrain in the late 1990s, the carmaker has naturally been promoting the technology which also contributes to reducing toxic exhaust emissions and fuel consumption.

Long history of EV developments
However, in the longer term, fully electric vehicles are going to become mainstream products, beginning with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and progressing to fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). In fact, the company has an EV development division since 1992 and an early production EV that went on sale in 1996 was the RAV4 EV, Today, besides a wide range of HEVs, Toyota already offers BEVs and even FCEVs, the latter now in the second generation with the Mirai.

Toyota sold (in limited numbers) a fully electric model – the RAV4 EV – in 1996 and today, it has even begun selling electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells like the Mirai (below).

The crucial technology
Battery technology is obviously crucial for every carmaker and Toyota will invest greatly in R&D for this area as well as in the supply system. The carmaker has had a subsidiary fully involved in battery development and manufacturing and has aimed to bring about cost reduction of at least 50% per vehicle during this decade. At the same time, safety, longer service life and high quality will be advanced.

Battery technology is a crucial area for electric vehicles and Toyota will be spending heavily to develop more advanced technologies as well as push battery cost down.

“Over the past 26 years, we have invested nearly 1 trillion yen and produced more than 19 million batteries. We believe that our accumulated experience is an asset that gives us a competitive edge. Going forward, we will increase our new investment in batteries from the 1.5 trillion yen announced in September to 2 trillion yen, aiming to realize even more-advanced, high-quality, and affordable batteries,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, at a press conference in Tokyo this afternoon.

1 trillion yen = approximately RM37.2 billion
The bZ4x is the first of the new range of BEVs and production is now underway with sales set to begin in 2022.
Toyota’s range of BEVs by the end of the decade will look something like this.
As long as Akio Toyoda is leading Toyota, we will still get sportscars – even if they run on electricity instead of petrol (although the company is now exploring use of hydrogen as a fuel in combustion engines).

Sales volume of BEVs raised
Besides outlining the company’s BEV strategies, Mr. Toyoda also revealed 16 Toyota and Lexus BEV models that it is readying for market launch, starting with the Toyota bZ4X which has already had been shown in production form and will begin sales in 2022. By 2030, the company is going to roll out 30 BEV models and is anticipating sales of 3.5 million BEVs globally. This is an increase of 75% on the previous annual sales projection of 2 million BEVs mentioned in May this year. The Lexus brand aims to have BEVs, which will be in every segment, account for 100% of the total sales in Europe, North America, and China by 2030.

Lexus will develop a full range of electrically-powered models, including sportscars that may look like the one below.

Lexus RZ BEV prototype during development testing. First teaser image of production model shown below. It will go on sale in 2022.

In this diversified and uncharted era, it is important to flexibly change the type and quantity of products produced while keeping an eye on market trends. At the same time, energy plays a critical role in achieving carbon neutrality. For this reason, Toyota wants to provide a diversified range of carbon-neutral options to meet whatever might be the needs and situations in every country and region.

Toyota Hilux BEV of the future?
Just like today, Toyota will have something for every segment of the market to suit different requirements and conditions.

Markets and customers decide
“It is not us but local markets and our customers who decide which options to choose. As for why we try to keep so many options, in terms of business management, one might think it would be more efficient to focus on fewer choices. However, we believe that quickly adapting to changes in the future is more important than trying to predict the future, which is uncertain. That is why we want to keep options available for our customers until the right path is clear,” said Mr. Toyoda.

Toyota: “No customer is left behind” in quest for carbon neutrality

After a period of obscurity, Kia is ready to move forward with great determination and has formulated a plan to grow its volume in the ASEAN region. Having established a new business operation in April this year, the Korean carmaker has a partner – Bermaz Auto – which took over the brand from Naza (along with Peugeot as well). Bermaz Auto and Kia have formed a joint-venture company called Kia Malaysia which will manage the brand’s activities in the country. Distribution and retail operations will be handled by Dinamikjaya Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Bermaz Auto.

Kia Malaysia’s operations will include local assembly, the first time the carmaker is making a direct investment for assembly operations. It considers this to be a key factor for growth as it will enable Kia vehicles to be sold around the ASEAN region at competitive prices. This is because they can be assembled in Malaysia and exported to other markets without import duties imposed by those countries, a privilege accorded by the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) agreement.

Previously, there were some Kia models assembled locally but the volume was small and therefore not efficient. Now, Kia has set a target of 100,000 units in total from 2022 to 2026. The vehicles will be for the Malaysian market as well as export. The export plans are ambitious and will account for more than 50% of annual production each year. By 2026, the company expects to export up to 19,000 units from the 30,000 units targeted for that year.

The vehicles – comprising new generations of the Carnival, Sorento, Sportage and Niro – will be assembled at the Inokom plant in Kedah. This plant, which began operations in the 1990s, assembles for brands such as Mazda, BMW and MINI. Incidentally, among the plant’s shareholder’s is Hyundai Motor Company, which is affiliated with Kia in the Hyundai Motor Group. Hyundai’s share is 15% and it has been a shareholder since the plant started in 1997.

From what Kia Malaysia has revealed of the coming products, all four models will be produced with combustion engines as well as electrified powertrains. The Carnival and Sportage will be hybrid electric while the Sorento and Niro will also have plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains. A fully-electric version of the Niro will also be produced, and this would enjoy attractive incentives offered by the government for battery-electric vehicles.

ICE: Internal Combustion Engine | HEV: Hybrid Electric Vehicle | PHEV: Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle | BEV: Battery Electric Vehicle
The Inokom factory in Kedah which will assemble Kia vehicles. It began operations in 1997 assembling Hyundai and Renault vehicles.

Omitting passenger cars may not be a disadvantage as Kia’s past models have enjoyed limited success. Their SUVs have met with good response and the new Carnival is also a big leap from the previous generation. Now the task for Dinamikjaya will be to assure customers that it will offer the best aftersales support to those who buy a Kia. The company will examine all past promises to customers and see how to best move forward with existing owners.

Teaming up with Bermaz Auto is advantageous for Kia as the team in this company have long experience in all aspects of the auto industry. They are led by Dato’ Seri Ben Yeoh, whose career spans 5 decades, during which time he has been involved in brands like Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Daihatsu, Proton, Mazda, Skoda and Hyundai. Senior members of his team were even involved in setting up and running the Inokom factory before it was acquired by Sime Darby Motors.

Bermaz Auto takes over Kia business in Malaysia, with local assembly to commence in 2022.

With the duty-free incentive for fully electric vehicles (EVs) to start next month, there may be many who are wondering if they should switch to such vehicles. While the exemption of all duties and taxes will mean a lower price, don’t expect prices to drop to the same as a Nissan Almera Turbo just because they are duty-free. EV technology is still young and therefore expensive, which is why manufacturers hope governments will help by making them more ‘affordable’.

For those who are thinking of getting one, you can experience ownership for a short while with GoCar’s new GoEV programme. This programme, which requires first signing up as a GoCar member, offers affordable EV access with car-sharing and subscription options. It is available to all fully licensed drivers aged 18 and above.

GoCar GoEV Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF used
The members can select their preferred GoEV Share or GoEV Subs plans which have 25 units of Nissan LEAF fully electric vehicles. The sharing option is currently available only for round-trips (pick-up and return at the same zone) and short-term use – by the hour or by the day. Rates start from RM24.90 per hour or RM249 per day. From now until January 31, 2022, there will be a 25% reduction on rates for all GoEV Share bookings.

The GoEV programme will initially be offered in the Klang Valley where 3 GoEV zones are already in operation. Another seven will be added before this year ends.

GoCar GoEV Nissan LEAF

“Global warming is at the tipping point and the negative effects of climate change will continue to perpetuate for decades. As a top contributor to greenhouse gases emissions, the transport sector must transition to full electrification, which studies have shown significantly reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere,” said Wong Hoe Mun, CEO of GoCar Malaysia.

EV experience for more Malaysians
“Malaysia still has a long way to go to catch up on EV adoption and infrastructure. However, we believe that through car-sharing and subscription, we can help encourage mass adoption. We are so excited to be bringing affordable EV access to the general public. This way, everyone – not just the privileged few – can experience the EV lifestyle,” he added.

GoCar GoEV Nissan LEAF

Longer terms also available
Those who want a longer duration to experience what it is like to live with an EV can opt for a 36-month subscription at RM2,299 per month. These rates are inclusive of roadtax, insurance, regular servicing and a wall box home charger to allow more efficient recharging.

To ease any potential range anxiety for car sharing customers, GoCar is also providing complimentary ChargEV cards in each vehicle, which will give users access to almost 300 charging stations nationwide. Charging stations at the GoEV zones are free to use for all GoEV customers.

If you want to know more about the Nissan LEAF or purchase one, visit www.nissan.com.my.

GoCar GoEV Nissan LEAF

FIRST DRIVE: 2019 Nissan Leaf – “Simply Electrifying”

With Project MAYBACH, Mercedes-Benz pays tribute to the late Virgil Abloh who passed away recently. Designed as a showcar to inspire the next generation, it is being revealed at the wishes of Abloh’s family.

The artist, architect, creative director, fashion designer and philanthropist, who was also artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, had collaborated with Gordon Wagener, design chief of Mercedes-Benz, for this design study. It interprets Mercedes-Maybach’s luxury identity with a new design language and pushed the boundaries of function, style, and collaborative creativity.

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

Inspired by the great outdoors and recontextualizing a traditionally urban brand within a distinctly off-road environment, the 2-seater, fully-electric off-road coupe combines huge Gran Turismo proportions (almost 6 metres long), large off-road wheels and distinctive attachments. Under the transparent surface of the showcar’s bonnet are solar cells that increase the imagined range of the Project MAYBACH.

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

Like Project Gelandewagen in 2020, Project MAYBACH is a design unlike anything that has been developed by Mercedes-Benz, with every element built from scratch. Key for both Abloh and Wagener was a responsible vision of future design.  Complete creative freedom – unlimited by production requirements – enabled the design teams to conceptualize what the future of electric travel could look like.

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

The X-Factor nature of Project MAYBACH results not only from its imposing – almost 6 metres long – and characteristics, but also from its unique contrasts. ; most notably through how naturally authentic Mercedes-Maybach design elements are harmoniously combined with a new Outdoor Adventure design motif.

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

Project MAYBACH 2021 - Virgil Abloh

Project MAYBACH channels Abloh’s passion to challenge the status quo and re-write the rulebook of aspirational design. The power of his work is not only from the product design, but also the exploratory conversations that his work ignited. Whilst the showcar was inspired by how one could explore nature within a uniquely luxury context with Maybach, the Mercedes-Benz teams thank Virgil Abloh for the inspiration to explore every day the power of cross-industry dialogue to imagine a better, more inclusive future.

Project Gelandewagen, another car from Virgil Abloh, which was inspired by the G-Wagen.

Concept Mercedes-Maybach EQS for the new generation of customers

Vaccination does not make you immune to COVID-19 infection. You can still get infected and although you may not show symptoms, you could spread the coronavirus to others. Do not stop taking protective measures such as wearing a facemask, washing hands frequently and social distancing.

Although the first concept was shown back in 2013, the production Kia Niro only went on sale in 2016 so it is a fairly young model in the Korean carmaker’s range. However, it is one of the earlier electrified models and its BEV (battery electric vehicle) version uses the same electric powertrain as the Hyundai Kona Electric.

With increased emphasis on electrification, Kia has now updated the Niro with a second generation which has just made its debut in Korea. Completely redesigned, the new Niro has been developed under the company’s Opposites United design philosophy, fulfilling ‘Joy for Reason’ ethos. It takes inspiration from nature in design and the choice of colour, material, and finish strike a balance between an environmentally responsible approach and a future-oriented outlook. Efficient aerodynamics and sustainable materials are united through the cohesive design

2019 Habaniro concept

Influenced by Habaniro concept
The strong influence of the Habaniro concept, shown in 2019, is evident in the shape with bold crossover looks and a high-tech 2-tone finish. A wide pillar at the rear enhances airflow to improve aerodynamics and blends into the boomerang-shaped rear taillights.

Being a Kia, it does of course have that signature ‘Tiger Face’ which is constantly evolving. For the Niro, it extends from the bonnet right through to the rugged fender below. The contemporary front design is finished with striking ‘heartbeat’ LED DRLs (daytime running lights) for a striking look and visual signature.

The rear design blends simple surface treatments with dynamic sections to emphasize modernity. The unique vertical taillight design highlights aerodynamics and technology. It traces the vehicle’s wide and stable stance with its strong shoulders and upright windows.

Greenzone Drive Mode
With this new model, Kia introduces the ‘Greenzone Drive Mode’ which automatically transfers the (P)HEV into EV drive mode to meet the demand for sustainable mobility solutions. When driving in green zones such as residential areas, or nearby schools and hospitals, the vehicle automatically uses electric power based on navigation cues and driving history data. It also recognizes a driver’s favorite places, including home and office registered in the navigation system as a green zone.

2022 Kia Niro

Commitment to sustainability
Inside the new Niro, Kia shows its commitment to sustainability and the way it will carry out future model development. Many of the materials used are recycled materials, eg the headlining is made from recycled wallpaper, while the seats are made from Bio PU with Tencel from eucalyptus leaves. BTX-free water-based paint is used on the door panels to minimize the impact on the environment and reduce waste.

The off-centre dashboard curves around the front occupants with horizontal and diagonal lines opposing each other to create a calming, yet irregular aesthetic. The centre console is easy to operate and has an electronic dial-type shift lever. It is positioned on the wide high-gloss black surface for a simple and modern look.

2022 Kia Niro

The audio-visual screen and air vents are incorporated within the diagonal gaps of the modern dash design, while ambient mood lighting heightens the senses and creates a welcoming interior. The slim, contemporary seats enhance roominess, comfort and style by applying a high-tech lightweight seat mechanism. The headrests’ back cover incorporates a convenient coat hanger, while the slim dimensions of the headrest helps to increase the feeling of space.

2022 Kia Niro

Bermaz Auto takes over Kia business in Malaysia, with local assembly to commence in 2022.

Hyundai Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) has certainly been quick to start the EV (electric vehicle) ball rolling. Of course, this is not the first EV to be sold in Malaysia. Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia sold the i-MiEV in 2008 and Edaran Tan Chong Motor has already sold two generations of the Nissan LEAF, while Porsche, BMW and MINI have also introduced EV models in recent years.

However, this time things are different as there is exemption of all taxes for such vehicles which was announced during the proposed Budget 2022. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), ie fully electric and not hybrids, will be allowed to be imported and sold duty-free for a limited period and then those that start assembling them will also enjoy the duty-free incentive a bit longer. Exemption from paying roadtax has also been include in the proposed Budget 2022.

As Malaysians have long complained about taxes bumping up prices and making cars too expensive, the thought of not having to pay any tax would be exciting. Lower prices would be expected, and this was the case when the government gave the same exemption 10 years ago for hybrids and EVs.

However, the new Kona Electric is not exactly within the ‘affordable’ bracket for most people as even the cheapest of the three variants has prices (excluding insurance) starting from RM149,888. That’s for the e-Lite version and for the better equipped Kona Electric e-Plus, it will be RM169,888. A third variant is the e-Max which is priced at RM199,888.

In the UK, prices of the Kona Electric start from £27,950 which is about RM157,000 at today’s rates. Of course, those are retail prices which include applicable taxes over there. However, like many governments, the UK government also provides incentives to those who buy EVs and currently, purchasers can get a grant up to £2,500 (about RM14,000) on vehicles costing up to £35,000 to offset the cost. Additionally, EV owners can also get a grant of up to 75% (or maximum of £350) to pay for installing a charging point at their home.

The point here to note here is that EVs are not cheap at this time, so don’t expect ‘duty-free’ to bring prices down to the levels of models sold by the Malaysian brands. Wherever they are sold, EVS have high pricetags and manufacturers hope that governments will provide incentives to offset the high cost of purchase and help accelerate increase in numbers sold. The technology is still expensive but if volumes can quickly rise, then economies of scale will kick in and production costs can start to drop, with retail prices also being reduced.

Anyway, back to the Kona Electric in Malaysia which was officially launched today (but deliveries will only be in 2022). The difference in the prices of the three variants are largely related to their battery pack capacities and equipment levels. The e-LIte and e-Plus share similar lithium-ion polymer battery packs which have a capacity of 39.2 kWh whereas the e-Max at the top of the range has a battery pack with a greater 64 kWh.

2021 Hyundai Kona Electric EV

The different battery capacities have implications on range with the lower-capacity pack having a range of up to 305 kms while having more energy on board can take the e-Max up to 484 kms. Like fuel consumption, range figures depend on driving style and conditions. Faster speeds will draw more electricity faster as the motor needs more power. Regenerative braking helps to reclaim some wasted energy during braking which goes to the battery pack.

Besides range, the other thing that those planning to own an EV would want to know is the time it takes to recharge a battery pack. At this time, it is not as quick as refuelling petrol in a car though continuously advancing technology has been bringing the times down. But having to recharge will be something you need to get used to, just like recharging your phone every night.

In the case of the Kona Electric, the recharging time can take between 4.5 hours and 7.5 hours, depending on the type of charging outlet used. You can use the standard outlet at home but it will be slow (up to 31 hours) but if you have access to a high-powered DC fast-charging station, then the time to ‘refuel’ from 0% to 80% can be less than an hour. HSDM offers charging station installations for customers who have homes where a charging station can be installed.

There are differences in power output from the motors in the different variants. The e-Lite and e-Plus, with the 39.2 kWh packs, generate 136 ps/395 Nm to give a claimed 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.9 seconds and top speed of 155 km/h. Th e-Max has a more powerful motor generating 204 ps but also 395 Nm and this variant can go from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 167 km/h.

The nice thing about electric motors is that maximum torque is available from standstill so the car accelerates strongly off the line. However, deceleration characteristics are different as there is no conventional gearbox. To enhance braking, it is also possible to use the paddle on the steering wheel to slow down.

The other aspects of the Kona Electric are generally like the Kona with a petrol engine. But the Kona Electric also stands out with its EV-specific elements. The bumper, wheel and headlight designs are different and with no need for a traditional grille for cooling purposes, the front end is ‘sealed’.

The interior has a similar horizontal layout as the other versions with new ambient lighting. The instrumentation reflects the EV-nature of the vehicle, with the tachometer space occupied by a meter showing the battery charge and power levels. There’s also a gauge to let the driver know how much range is left with the energy in the battery pack.

2021 Hyundai Kona Electric EV

For the money asked, it’s only to be expected that HSDM will provide a comprehensive safety features as standard. The e-Lite has a few less systems (hence the lower prices) while the e-Plus and e-Max are similar. Hyundai’s active safety systems are packaged as the Smartsense suite which helps the driver to avoid accidents or reduce the severity when accidents (mainly collisions) do happen.

Besides a 2-year/50,000-km warranty on the vehicle, there is also a separate warranty of 8 years/160,000 kms for the battery pack. This is to give owners peace of mind as the battery packs are expensive – much more expensive than those small black ones in the engine bay of your car. HSDM also offers optional warranty extension for another RM10,000. This will extend coverage to 5 years or a maximum of 100,000 kms and they even include free service maintenance for 3 years or a maximum of 50,000 kms.

Older Hyundai models can now be covered under HSDM’s Extended Warranty programme

Roger Smith, the former General Motors Chairman and CEO from 1981 to 1990, introduced huge amounts of technology into the company in the 1980s to gain what he believed would be an advantage in vehicle production. He fantasized about a ‘factory of the future’ which would work 24 hours non-stop without needing lights as there would be no human workers. Everything would be automated so no worries about unions and strikes.

But total automation and high-tech have not proven to be the way to become an efficient and productive carmaker. In later years, after Smith had retired and GM formed a joint-venture with Toyota to operate a factory in California making cars of both brands, it would be discovered that the Japanese ‘secret weapon’ was not some advanced manufacturing equipment but something more human like training and having the right culture.

Three decades later, the new General Motors has created another high-tech factory though ‘future’ is no longer mentioned. It is actually the old Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant which received a massive US$2.2 billion investment to be fully renovated for building a new generation of battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

General Motors Factory ZERO
The signboard on the 110-year old General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck factory being taken down in September 2020 as work was underway to renovate it into Factory ZERO to build only electric vehicles.

General Motors Factory ZERO

The various meanings of ZERO
Recently opened, the factory is known as Factory ZERO and while ‘zero’ is today associated with ‘zero emissions’ from vehicles, the name also reflects the significant role the facility plays in advancing GM’s vision of a world with zero crashes and zero congestion. It will make models such as the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and HUMMER EV SUV, Chevrolet Silverado EV and Cruise Origin, an all-electric, self-driving, shared vehicle.

All Factory ZERO EVs will be built on GM’s Ultium Platform which is the core technology for the company’s EV product strategy. The Ultium Platform encompasses a common vehicle architecture and propulsion components like battery cells, modules, packs, drive units, EV motors and integrated power electronics, and is fundamental at plants where EVs are produced.

GM’s Ultium platform which will be used for the EV models of its different brands.
The GMC HUMMER EV SUV is one of the models to be built at Factory ZERO and will go on sale in 2023.

Through the Ultium Platform, GM can realize a strategic value chain shift across its network of vehicle assembly plants as the company is able to commonize and streamline machinery, tooling and assembly processes. This gives the company flexibility which huge corporations sometimes lose, and enables lower capital investments and greater efficiencies as additional assembly plant transformations occur.

GM’s competitive advantage
GM retooled Factory ZERO for BEV production for two-thirds the capital required to build a greenfield (brand new) plant, making the facility a model for future GM facility renovations. Some of the approaches taken during construction include reuse or recycling of almost every material that came out of the old facility during conversion. This included crushed concrete from the floor, which was repurposed for temporary roads around the facility. Storm water will be recycled and of course, solar power will contribute to the electrical needs.

General Motors Factory ZERO

As the company continues its transition into an all-electric future, GM will avoid up to US$15 billion in capital costs by 2030 through the renovation of existing manufacturing facilities versus ground-up construction. The figure grows to US$20 billion to US$30 billion at 100% transition of all manufacturing facilities to support EV production. That capital can be redeployed more strategically for additional customer-facing products, services and technologies.

“To meet our ambitious EV transition, GM’s North American EV vehicle assembly capacity will reach 20% by 2025, and then 50% by 2030,” said Gerald Johnson, GM’s Executive Vice-President of Global Manufacturing and Sustainability.

Shortened launch time
Using virtual tools and working in parallel with production engineering teams, GM cut the manufacturing launch time in half – from two years to less than one – also gaining a competitive advantage. By comparison, a brand new factory, with planning and construction, could take up to 4 years from site selection to vehicle production.

General Motors Factory ZERO

Along with the capital advantages, GM’s commitment to renovating its existing network of manufacturing facilities during the EV transition also saves time. An accelerated launch and production start allow the company to get new-generation EVs to customers sooner. The first vehicles from Factory ZERO will be delivered to customers by the end of this year.

GM estimates that 80% of the assembly process for an EV is the same as that for conventional vehicles. This is another driver of speed for GM. The company has refined and perfected its own standardized manufacturing processes over many decades, and will launch its expanding portfolio of BEVs faster, with superior quality and a lower cost.

People still matter in manufacturing
Roger Smith imagined a factory with robots and almost no human workers but Factory ZERO, when fully operational, will employ more than 2,200 people. “Our people are GM’s true competitive advantage — an advantage you simply can’t buy or quickly build,” said Johnson, echoing what Japanese carmakers have often said.

As a BEV factory, Factory ZERO plays a direct role in GM’s commitment to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035 and become carbon-neutral in its global products and operations by 2040. The company has already made a commitment to invest US$35 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles, with plans to introduce more than 30 BEV models by 2025.

General Motors Factory ZERO
Factory ZERO was officially opened by US President, Joseph Biden, recently.

GM looking forward to all-electric future with Ultium batteries

Henry Ford may have forced the colour black on all his Model T customers but even he knew that there was a need to offer different bodystyles to suit different tastes and purposes. The auto industry has continued to provide customers with a wide variety of shapes and sizes for cars, with designs evolving over different periods.

So it’s not surprising that Porsche’s all-electric Taycan family is growing with additional bodystyles. The original model was joined earlier by the Taycan Cross Turismo, and now comes a third body variant in the form of the Taycan GTS Sport Turismo.

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

“The Taycan model range has grown steadily since its world premiere in 2019. Three body variants with up to 5 engine options offer something for everyone,” said Kevin Giek, Vice-President Model Line Taycan. “I am particularly pleased that we now also have a Taycan with the legendary GTS moniker. It is positioned above the Taycan 4S and below the Taycan Turbo derivatives, so it represents a real sweet spot in the range.”

The new Taycan GTS and Taycan Cross Turismo (right).

The newcomer has a similar front end as the Taycan, but the rear half of the body and the silhouette with rearward-sloping roof line are similar to the Taycan Cross Turismo. There are numerous black or dark details on the exterior, such as the front apron, the bases of the exterior mirrors, black alloy wheels, and the side window trims – as is traditional on a GTS. However, the Taycan Sport Turismo does not have off-road design elements.

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

The electric powertrain generates up to 440 kW (598 ps) which goes to all four wheels. With Launch Control, this can send car from 0 to 100 km/h in a claimed 3.7 seconds, and reach a top speed of 250 km/h. A fully charged 93.4 kWh battery pack is said to be able to provide a range of up to 625 kms in town, with a combined range of up to 504 kms. It is the first Taycan to break the 500-km mark, thanks to a new more efficient drive strategy. The richer sound pattern of the modified Porsche Electric Sport Sound also underscores the character of the new model.

The adaptive air suspension, including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), is specifically adapted to the GTS, to the benefit of the lateral dynamics. A sportier set-up is available for the optional rear-axle steering.

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

The new variant is aimed at those who want a similar level of everyday practicality as offered by the Taycan Cross Turismo, but who also want the on-road performance of the Taycan sports saloon. The headroom in the rear is more than 45 mm greater than that in the Taycan, while the cargo capacity under the large tailgate is more than 1,200 litres.

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

Numerous Black Race-Tex features in the interior underscore the elegant, dynamic ambience, as does the standard brushed aluminium interior package with Black anodised finish.

The first deliveries start in early 2022, with Taycan GTS Sport Turismo prices starting from 132,786 euros in Germany.

2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo

Track-only Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport to debut at LA Auto Show


The Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) has many new models in the pipeline, virtually all electrified either as battery electric (BEV) or hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). It seems that HMG – which consists of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis – can’t wait to show the world what’s coming and throughout this year, we’ve seen production models being launched as well as concept cars that preview what’s to come.

The Hyundai SEVEN is one of those that will be coming and is described as the brand’s future sport utility electric vehicle (SUEV). It is likely to be a product in the IONIQ EV sub-brand and ‘SEVEN’ suggests that it would be somewhere at the top of the range, the same way the Kia Concept 9 is likely to be a flagship model.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

Next-generation customer experience
HMG has developed the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) that will be used by all three brands and is optimised for EVs. This includes the SEVEN which has interior architecture to provide greater freedom and comfort for passengers. Following the 45 concept in 2019 and the Prophecy concept in 2020, the SEVEN concept opens a new chapter for the IONIQ brand. It promises a next-generation customer experience with the most advanced technologies within a vehicle that is designed as an innovative living space on wheels.

“The SEVEN concept demonstrates Hyundai’s creative vision and advanced technological development for our electrified mobility future,” said Jose Munoz, President & CEO, Hyundai Motor North America. “Its innovative interior space, eco-friendly powertrain and cutting-edge safety and convenience technologies reveal an exciting future for Hyundai SUV customers.”

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

Aerodynamically redefining the SUV
The SEVEN concept makes full use of the flexible E-GMP to have a long wheelbase and flat floor beneath its an aerodynamically pure silhouette. The low, leading edge of the bonnet, a single, streamlined roofline and elongated wheelbase communicate a clear break from traditional SUVs powered by internal combustion engines. The pure volume of SEVEN’s minimal forms contrast with the powerful stance and commanding, rugged presence.

Aerodynamic efficiency and minimum wind resistance are vital for BEVs to go further, and the SEVEN is claimed to have a 480-km range. Thus every area on the bodywork is carefully shaped to allow air to flow smoothly. Even the wheels have integrated Active Air Flaps, which deploy or retract depending on brake-cooling or low-drag requirements.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

At night, the SEVEN is easily identified by IONIQ’s signature Parametric Pixel lights that deliver a Welcome Light Sequence on start-up. Parametric Pixels provide a common design thread, linking digital and analog styles, a reminder that its designers considered every aspect of SEVEN’s design, down to a single pixel.

Welcoming premium lounge
The concept SUEV’s interior design priority lies in the innovation of space and makes full use of the 3.2-metre wheelbase. With the flat floor, the designers have explored an alternative to the traditional row-based seat arrangements, creating a more fluid interior layout. The Pillarless Coach Doors offer a grand entrance to reveal a welcoming interior with a completely new dimension of space. The streamlined roofline, long wheelbase and flat floor that extends to the third row opens new opportunities to furnish the interior like a premium lounge.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

The SEVEN also embodies Hyundai’s future vision of autonomous mobility. The driver’s seat features a retractable control stick that hides away when not in use. Without the need for the usual driver’s equipment, the ultra slim cockpit and integrated screens create a lounge-like experience. The seat arrangement is unlike traditional SUVs, with swivelling lounge chairs and a curved bench seat. This seat arrangement can be customized depending on driver-controlled or autonomous driving modes.

Highlights of the vehicle are the Universal Island console, specially designed home appliances and a multi-functional Smart Hub graphic user interface. When the Smart Hub and front seats combine with the rear chaise-lounge seating, the SEVEN has an environment where the occupants can experience quality time alone or together in the glow of side-door ambient light. In transit, SEVEN’s built-in mini fridge provides chilled refreshment on the go and there are even shoe-care compartments to refresh passengers’ footwear.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

The vision roof features a panoramic screen that not only displays various content based on passengers’ tastes, but also changes the overall interior atmosphere to guarantee maximum relaxation and pleasure during the journey.

Eco-friendly materials
The SEVEN uses various eco-friendly materials while offering segment-leading hygienic features, such as Hygiene Airflow System and UVC Sterilization. The Hygiene Airflow System takes inspiration from the sophisticated airflow management of passenger aircraft. In its vertical mode, air is taken in through built-in air intakes in the roof rails from which the air travels inwards from above, and extracted through the exterior vent behind the rear wheels. In its horizontal mode, the air flows from the slim dashboard to the rear vents.

Most importantly, this system can activate independently whether the vehicle is in motion or not to reduce cross-contamination among passengers and isolates the airflow between front and rear occupants.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

Bio-paint is used for the exterior and hygienically-recycled and renewable materials throughout the interior. Mineral plaster, bamboo wood and carpet, bio resin and interior paint are based on renewable sources that can reduce pollution from the production process. Extensive use of copper and hygienically treated fabric with proven antibacterial functions ensure all surfaces inside the SEVEN remain clean at all times.

UV-C Sterilization activates once the vehicle is vacated of its passengers. The control stick, first-row storage drawer and speakers pop up and then, integrated sanitizing UV-C lights help clean the living space of bacteria and viruses. In addition, there are sanitizing storage compartments in the bench and Smart Hub console for personal belongings.

“SEVEN paves the way forward for what an SUV needs to become in the EV era with a unique aerodynamic pure form that does not compromise on its rugged personality. The interior opens up a new dimension of space that cares for its passenger as a family living space,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice-President, Head of Hyundai Global Design.

2021 Hyundai Motor SEVEN concept SUEV

IONIQ – from model name to brand name

During this decade, Kia will be electrifying its whole line-up as it aims to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the company’s value chain by 2045. Its popular SUV range is already partially electrified with some models having hybrid powertrains, and in due course, fully electric powertrains will be used.

Today, the Telluride is the biggest SUV that the Korean carmaker offers and the fully electric successor could look like the Concept EV9 which is on display at the Automobility LA motorshow in Los Angeles this weekend. The Concept EV9 follows the EV6 in Kia’s BEV (battery electric vehicle) range that will continue to grow with one new model each year.

2021 Kia Concept EV9
The Concept EV9 has similar proportions to the Telluride (below) which is Kia’s 3-row flagship SUV currently on sale. Could the Concept EV9 be the successor?

Platform optimised for EVs
Like the EV6, the Concept EV9 uses the Hyundai Motor Group’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) which is developed and optimised for BEVs. This means that the advantages of an electric powertrain can be fully utilised, compared to other platforms which have been designed for conventional combustion engine powertrains as well.

The design of the vehicle was inspired by nature with striking visual aesthetics derived from Kia’s ‘Opposites United’ design philosophy. The design team was especially influenced by the ‘Bold for Nature’ pillar of ‘Opposites United’, hence the bold form meshing logical and emotional qualities with informal, rugged features and styling cues.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

Tiger Face goes digital
The ‘Tiger Face’ has been used in every Kia model since 2007 and has constantly evolved. This iconic feature will continue into the BEV era and is reinterpreted appropriately on the Concept EV9. With no need for a traditional grille to let air flow in, the space houses an intricate star cloud pattern display that is completely hidden behind the body when not in use. Sequential patterns create a ‘welcome light’ for the driver and also function to appropriately position lights during driving.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

2021 Kia Concept EV9

The opportunities afforded with a re-styled grille and the Digital Tiger Face have resulted in a new air vent design that reduces the frontal mass of the vehicle and greatly improves aerodynamics.

Measuring 4930 mm in length, 2055 mm in width and 1790 mm height, the proportions of the vehicle outline a 3-row SUV interior. Mirroring the exterior design, the interior of the Concept EV9 offers the driver and passengers a transformative interior space. It is a comparable to a first-class lounge with a panoramic roof complementing the large glazing to give a sense of lightness and being in contact with the environment.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

Three interior modes
With a spacious 3.1-metre long wheelbase, the interior can be configured in 3 modes that capture different journey situations and requirements. Active Mode is when the Concept EV9 is on the move, making sure the driver and passengers have an optimal driving experience from within the all-electric SUV. The two other modes relate to when the Concept EV9 is not moving.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

Pause Mode modifies the interior space to be more akin to a first-class lounge, giving occupants the opportunity to directly interact with each other while benefiting from the light streaming in from above. In this mode, the seats switch around to enable occupants seated in the first row and third row to face each other. The second-row seats fold down and become a table, completing the lounge arrangement.

The second stationary mode is Enjoy Mode, which opens the interior into a downtime breakout space by turning around the 3-row seat configuration. In this mode, the tailgate opens, giving all occupants the opportunity to connect with the outside environment and gaze ahead and beyond the vehicle while sitting comfortable inside.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

A sense of ‘tomorrow’ can be seen in the steering wheel. The automotive industry today treats the steering wheel like a separate product, like a total standalone subsystem. In the  the Concept EV9, however, this element takes a radically different approach in which the pop-up steering pad is an extension of – and integrated and harmonized within – the interior space.

An interactive 27-inch ultra-wide display connects the Concept EV9 from the real-world to the virtual one, while serving as the nerve centre for all driver and passenger requirements, including media, climate control and comfort functionality features.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

480-km range
Details of the powertrain are not extensive and Kia says that it has a range of up to 480 kms. It is fitted with next-generation ultra-fast charging technology that uses a 350-kW charger for ‘refuelling’ the battery pack from 10% to 80% in 20 – 30 minutes.

The bonnet vent duct area is utilized as a solar panel that helps recuperate some of the electric energy for the vehicle. This gives owners an alternative source of energy when they are not close to a charging station.

2021 Kia Concept EV9

Bermaz Auto takes over Kia business in Malaysia, with local assembly to commence in 2022.


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