Weekly Brief: EV investments ignore Trump’s retreat from climate change agreement

The world doubles down on ‘clean’ energy mobility in the face of Donald Trump wanting to leave Paris Climate Agreement. Andrew Tolve reports.

President Donald Trump will pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, calling into question whether other large countries would back away from the landmark climate pact and imperil the green energy economy. Instead, most countries reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement. Germany and China, the second and fourth largest economies in the world respectively, pledged to ramp up their efforts, starting specifically with electric vehicles.

At a special event in Berlin with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang watching on, Daimler announced that it’s acquiring a minority share in Beijing Electric Vehicle, a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, with the purpose of strengthening strategic collaboration with BAIC in the new electric vehicle (NEV) sector. Daimler will also invest in upgrading its production facilities at Beijing Benz Automotive so that it's prepared to manufacture electric vehicles on mainland China.

At the same media event, Germany's largest carmaker Volkswagen signed a joint venture agreement with the Chinese automaker Anhui Jianghuai Automobile (JAC). Each of the partners is to hold a 50% stake in the new company, which is to develop, produce and market EVs and mobility services for the Chinese mass market. The agreement provides for the construction of a new factory as well as a research and development centre focusing on NEVs.

In the US, two of Detroit's Big Three carmakers released statements in opposition of President Trump's move. “GM will not waver from our commitment to the environment and our position on climate change has not changed. International agreements aside, we remain committed to creating a better environment,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra. “We believe climate change is real and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities,” seconded Ford, although neither company announced new investments in electric vehicles to back their statements.

In other news, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, the star self-driving-car engineer who has been accused of swiping 14,000 files of proprietary information from his former employer, Waymo. The case is now headed to court this autumn and Levandowski may be headed to criminal court to defend himself. Still Levandowski has refused to talk to anyone, including Uber, which is why it, ultimately, sacked him. Don’t expect the Waymo court case to go away, however. If anything, this only makes Uber look questionable, even if it were in the dark to Levandowski’s actions.

Further souring the week for Uber, its head of finance Gautum Gupta has confirmed that he’s leaving the company for another San Francisco start-up this July. That departure follows Sherif Marakby’s exit in April (Marakby was Uber’s vice-president of global vehicle programmes and played a senior role in its self-driving car programme) and president Jeff Jones’ departure in March. Turbulent times in Uberland.

Self-driving cars are coming to the Empire State. Governor Andrew Cuomo approved Audi of America to perform the first autonomous vehicle testing in the state. The first demonstration will take place in Albany in mid-June with subsequent trials to play out on New York highways with Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) Level 3 automation.

The long-awaited Automotive Grade Linux(AGL) infotainment platform will debut on the 2018 Toyota Camry and will be available across Toyotavehicles in the US beginning in late summer 2017. AGL is an open source project with more than 100 members working to develop a common, standardised platform for infotainment that carmakers can customise as they please. Sharing an open platform allows for code reuse and a more efficient development process for developers and suppliers.

Volkswagen may be late to the ridesharing party but its new mobility company MOIA is making moves like its ready to be a serious player. Last week it acquired Finnish ride-pooling pioneer Split Finland Oy, which first brought the mobility model to Helsinki. As a wholly owned subsidiary, the new MOIA Finland Oy will be tasked with developing the pooling algorithms that will be used to manage MOIA's shuttle-on-demand concept. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Finally, Continental announced a pair of partnerships with Chinese companies targeting self-driving cars and electric mobility. Continental and Chinese search giant Baidu will work together to apply artificial intelligence to automated driving. Continental will supply the automotive components, Baidu the internet technology chops. They hope the end product is faster commercialisation of smart transportation solutions with automated driving at the core.

Continental will also work with Chinese EV start-up NIO in the field of fully electric vehicles, as well as intelligent transportation systems and automated driving. In practical terms, the partnership means that Continental will supply automotive parts related to charging and battery technology, as well as more traditional parts like wheels and air suspensions systems for the EV start-up. In a first step, Continental will supply vehicle technology for NIO’s first mass market car, the ES8 electric SUV.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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