Another Volvo Move Toward EVs

It is shifting the structure of its traditional powertrain business to achieve more resources for EVs

By Gary S. Vasilash

Admittedly this is sort of confusing. Volvo Cars is owned by Geely Holding. The two companies have announced that they are creating a joint venture, Aurobay, which will be dedicated to powertrain operations.

Volvo Cars will wrap in the assets from Powertrain Engineering Sweden, which includes an engine plant in Skövde, Sweden, another engine plant in China, a R&D team, and other powertrain items.

The purpose of the creation of Aurobay is said to be to allow Volvo Cars to focus on developing electric vehicles. Volvo has announced it plans for 50% of its global vehicle sales to be full EVs by 2025, with the remaining half hybrids. And by 2030, all of its vehicles are to be fully powered by electricity.

The slightly confusing part about all this is if Geely owns Volvo, presumably that means it owns Volvo’s assets.

So this creation of the joint venture seems as though it is something that could have been executed by a memo from HQ.

One more thing about Aurobay: there is the potential to serve customers that aren’t Volvo or Geely.

Geely Taking to the Air in China

Let’s face it: there are plenty of traffic jams on the ground. Meanwhile, in the sky. . . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

While plenty of companies, including Geely, are showing off electric vehicles at the Shanghai Auto Show, there is one vehicle that is particularly intriguing in the Geely Technology Group exhibit: the Volocopter 2X.

The Volocopter 2X in the Geely booth at the Shanghai Auto Show. (Image: Geely)

It is an electric air taxi.

The category is called “urban air mobility” (UAM).

The objective is to provide transport services, like a cab, but in the air.

Geely, which invested in Volocopter in 2019, and Volocopter have agreed to a joint venture through which they’ll be offering UAM services in China.

Said Florian Reuter, CEO of Velocopter, “Geely’s market leadership in China and forward-thinking approach to expanding mobility options make them a great strategic investor. They are an invaluable partner for bringing urban air mobility to China—one of the most promising markets for the UAM industry globally.”

The 2X is a two seater.

It has flown test flights in China, and is the model that they’ll be starting service with.

It has 18 rotors and nine exchangeable batteries, which is said to provide redundancy in case of failure during service.

Volocopter is presently working on a fifth-generation model, the VoloCity, which has a speed of 110 km/h and a flight duration of 35 minutes.

Polestar: The Green Car Company You’ve Probably Not Heard of (Yet)

Polestar is a brand that you may not be familiar with at the moment. But that is likely to change, as it is dedicated to producing electric vehicles (EVs) that combine Swedish style with performance.

Polestar was established in 2017 as an independent brand by Volvo Cars and Geely Holding. (This is a little complicated because Volvo Cars in under the Geely umbrella, so the way to think about it is that it is a company that Volvo developed and that Geely is underwriting.)

The forthcoming Polestar Precept. Stylish. Electric. (Images: Polestar)

There are presently two models, that the company has on offer, the Polestar 1, a hybrid that is exceedingly limited in production, and the Polestar 2, a 2020 model that is a high-volume sedan that offers AWD and 300 kW from the motor. There will then be the Polestar 3, an SUV, and then the Precept, a car that emphasizes three definitional aspects of the brand: sustainability, digital technology and design.

Polestar has a factory in Chengdu, China. It calls it the “Polestar Production Centre.”

Inside the Polestar factory. Yes, factory.

But there’s something interesting about what they’re doing there: operating the plant on 100% renewable electricity. Some 65% of all of the electricity powering the factory comes from hydroelectric with the balance from solar, wind and other renewables.

What’s more, there is no industrial water discharge from the plant and they are establishing a circular approach to waste handling (including carbon fiber) so as to reduce landfill demands.

The factory, designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, has earned Gold status in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the only automobile plant in China to do so.

Said Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar, “For Polestar, sustainability is not just about the electric powertrain. It impacts everything we do. We want to promote sustainable manufacturing in China. This objective entails a relentless pursuit of circular and climate-neutral solutions, and also being a responsible employer and presence in the area.”–gsv

Baidu, Geely and a Sensible Approach

Baidu is somewhat like Google, inasmuch as it operates a search engine, by far the leading search engine in China. But there are other services as well, including maps (Google), an encyclopedia (Wikipedia) and cloud storage (AWS).

So it is fair to simply describe it as a significant tech company.

Like other tech companies, it is expanding its operations. And so it should come as no surprise that it is moving into automotive.

But it isn’t like the company just discovered the space. It has been operating Baidu USA since 2011 and has been conducting autonomous driving operations in Silicon Valley for more than five years.

In 2017 Baidu announced Apollo, the autonomous driving platform that it garnered an array of partners to participate with in on the development, partners ranging from Intel to Toyota.

It is running an autonomous taxi service in a few cities in China.

Geely SEA electric vehicle platform: EVs for everyone! (Image: Geely)

Geely Holding–parent company of brands including Volvo Cars, Lynk & Co and LEVC, and lead shareholder in Geely Auto, Proton and Lotus—and Baidu have announced the creation of a partnership for the development of highly automated electric vehicles.

Geely is going to be providing the platform—the Sustainable Experience Architecture, which it announced in September 2020 as an “open source” electric vehicle platform that it would offer to other global OEMs—and Baidu the digital horsepower.

Manufacturing vehicles is a different kind of hard than the challenges associated with developing AI systems.

It makes absolute sense that a digital company would partner with a hardware manufacturer—in this case, the hardware being a vehicle, not a smartphone.

In a market where there are some 21-million passenger vehicles sold per year, where there is a comparatively low penetration rate of vehicle ownership (on the order of 173 vehicles per 1,000 people, compared with 837 in the U.S.), even a small slice of the market is still damned large.

And neither Geely nor Baidu seems to be focused on the small.–gsv