Electric-vehicle entrepreneurs are working on the industry’s biggest bottleneck: charging infrastructure. Companies are building more chargers, but it may not be enough to make EVs work for people who can’t plug in at home. Photo illustration: Carlos Waters/WSJ
San Francisco-based Ample has brought electric vehicle battery swapping to the U.S. The company was in stealth mode for seven years before launching recently with five swapping stations in the Bay Area. Uber drivers in the area are Ample’s first customers.
The concept isn’t new. A start-up called Better Place launched an EV and battery swapping company after it raised $850 million in venture funding, but it ultimately went bankrupt in 2013. Tesla also demoed battery swapping in 2013 but only opened one station for about a year. Elon Musk said Tesla owners were not interested in it.
Battery swapping is already common in China. Electric vehicle maker Nio, for example, plans to double its network of swapping stations to 500 this year and plans to open stations in Norway as part of its expansion into Europe. Ample has a different approach, with modular batteries and a focus on fleets. CNBC got an inside look at its headquarters and battery factory in San Francisco to learn how the company plans to bring battery swapping into the mainstream.
It is hard to predict what the electric automotive future holds for us, but we say can one thing for sure: never again will the car designs be boring. To prove this statement, today we will cover the latest EV news and showcase the most prominent newcomers that not only have revolutionary propulsion systems, but also radical inside-out looks.
Heatherwick Studio’s concept electric car, Airo, launched at the Shanghai Motor Show today 19th April 2021. Designed for IM Motors, Airo is a fully electric vehicle with autonomous and driver-controlled modes. It will run on electric power, producing no fossil fuel pollutants as it moves around the city.
But the car goes further in its environmental ambition as it’s also equipped with a state-of-the-art HEPA filtering system that actively cleans the air from the pollution of other vehicles as it passes through the under-carriage, leaving the air around it cleaner.
Inside, the car’s customisable interior can be configured into multiple functional spaces that turn the car into a moving room or a space for your life. With so much attention to detail and choice of materials, this is clearly a space to spend time in even when you’re not on a journey. The seats rotate from a traditional forward-facing driving position to face each other for social activities such as dining on the four-leaf table which neatly folds away to transform the space into a lounge. A foldaway screen turns the interior into a perfect gaming-pod and when you’ve exhausted yourself, the beautifully contoured seats fully recline to form a spacious double bed.
Using the latest technology in glass, the fully glazed roof becomes opaque on command for total privacy. Alongside the car, the studio has also designed a charging station for IM Motors that will become part of the infrastructure of the city. Formed from industrial materials including weathered steel, the charging station aims to become part of the urban fabric for decades to come. It has a retractable wire and an ergonomic handle for easy connection to electric vehicles.
Thomas Heatherwick, Founder of Heatherwick Studio said: “Airo isn’t simply another electric car that doesn’t pollute the air. Instead, using the latest HEPA filter technology, it goes further by also vacuuming-up pollutants from other cars as it drives along. Designed to simultaneously address the global space shortage, Airo is also a multi-functional room with extra space for dining, working, gaming or even sleeping. As a new room for our lives, with a changing view, Airo is a car intended to transport us to a cleaner and better future.”
The concept for IM Motors Airo designed by Heatherwick Studio was launched today and the car is expected to go into production in 2023.
With global temperatures rising the threat of a climate crisis has never been closer. From carbon capture to driverless cars, these cutting-edge technologies have the promise to help us fight the impending climate crisis.
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere — in phones, laptops, tablets, cameras and increasingly cars. Demand for lithium-ion batteries has risen sharply in the past five years and is expected to grow from a $44.2 billion market in 2020 to a $94.4 billion market by 2025, mostly due to the boom in electric cars.
And a shortage of lithium-ion batteries is looming in the U.S. Former Tesla CTO and Elon Musk’s right-hand man, JB Straubel, started Redwood Materials in 2017 to help address the need for more raw materials and to solve the problem of e-waste. The company recycles end-of-life batteries and then supplies battery makers and auto companies with materials in short supply as EV production surges around the world. Straubel gave CNBC an inside look at its first recycling facility in Carson City, Nevada. Watch the video to learn why battery recycling will be an essential part in making EV production more sustainable.
Lucid, Fisker, Rivian and Canoo are among the well-funded startups racing to release new electric vehicles. WSJ asked CEOs and industry insiders how new auto companies plan to challenge Tesla’s market dominance and take on legacy car makers. Photo composite: George Downs