Automotive News, March 2019

The Pininfarina Battista is reportedly the most powerful road-legal car ever to be built, with a 0-100 km/h in less than two seconds, and 0-300km/h in fewer than 12. More importantly though, it is electric.

Designed and built in Italy, the Pininfarina Battista was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland, which got underway in early March. Since its launch in 2005, the Bugatti Veyron has been regarded as the benchmark for the 21st century supercar.

It had tough specifications to meet: An output exceeding 1,000 horsepower, a top speed of more than 400 km/h and 0-100km in 2.5 seconds.

Now, the automotive industry is on the cusp of nearly doubling that output. But the crucial difference is that this power is coming from a zero-emission all-electric car. The 1,900 horsepower output of the Pininfarina Battista comes from a battery pack developed by Rimac.

The electric Battista, which will reportedly set you back more than £2m, claims to reach 0-100 km/h in less than two seconds and a top speed of at least 217mph. Infamous Italian design house, Pininfarina SpA will be designing the car for Automobili Pininfarina, a new company fully owned by Mahindra & Mahindra.

Only 150 Pininfarina Battista will be made in total; 50 allocated for Asia, 50 for Europe and 50 for the US.

 The electric revolution isn’t just about cars and charging points, says GYS CEO Bruno Bouygues. Golf carts, lawn mowers and even hospital beds are also part of it. The global electric vehicle market has enormous potential. Almost every day new products, applications, ideas and approaches are announced. There are, however, significant challenges.

The lack of infrastructure or a standard charging system; a bewildering variety of available chargers, charging speeds, wattage and connections; the limited distances that EVs can travel on one charge; and questions about electricity generation capacity.  All these make long journeys in an EV, whatever its range, still something of a calculated gamble.

Nevertheless, I’m confident these obstacles will be overcome eventually. The days of the diesel, and even the petrol hybrid, are definitely numbered.

But a second transformation in how we move people and things from one place to another is also taking place. Quieter, but just as profound, it has fewer impediments to success. And, in my opinion, its potential is even greater – I’m talking about electro mobility Lithium – the game changer.  The lead-acid battery was invented 160 years ago. It has done a sterling job since then, but the continuing development of the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery has been a game-changer.

In the worlds of sport, industry and healthcare, for example, anything that was previously powered by lead-acid batteries will eventually change to lithium. This will improve performance and influence design, reducing weight and boosting efficiency.

Lighter, low-maintenance and reliable, with high energy density and low self-discharge, lithium batteries can provide very high current to energy-hungry equipment.

Golf carts, forklift trucks, cherry-pickers, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, powered tugs and lawnmowers are just a few examples of equipment making the switch. Not to mention electric motorcycles, bin-lifters and hospital bed movers.

This exciting new market is not without its issues. It is fragmented. Advanced technology will be needed to support its growth. Charging lithium batteries is complex, they need an electronic protection circuit to keep voltage and current within safe limits and the chargers themselves require up to 50-times more software code. Nevertheless, the opportunity is enormous.

Morgan Motor Company has announced that Italian investment firm, Investindustrial, will take over majority ownership of the car company in April. The announcement was made at the Geneva Motor Show, alongside the company unveiling its latest Morgan Plus Six.

The Malvern-based sports car manufacturer began in 1909, and has been owned by the Morgan family for 110 years. The family will keep a minority shareholding of the company, as well as being “stewards” for the brand. The management team and all staff will also become shareholders in the move.

Morgan currently produces around 850 cars a year. Due to their hand-built nature, wait times for delivery of a vehicle can be up to six months. Last year saw Morgan generate a revenue of £33.8m, with a net profit of £3.2m.

Investindustrial is backed by businessman Andrea C. Bonomi, and has invested in several automotive companies, including a current stake in Aston Martin.

Granddaughter of founder Henry Morgan, and longest-serving Morgan family director, Jill Price said the choice came after much consideration.

“Having very carefully considered all options for the future success of Morgan, the family concluded that this new ownership structure, and Mr Bonomi and Investindustrial, have the pedigree and resources to secure the long-term future of Morgan,” she said.

“It was important for the family to retain a shareholding, and we are delighted that our loyal management team and workforce will now also have a stake in the business.”

Commenting on the acquisition, Investindustrial Chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board Andrea C. Bonomi said: “We have followed the company and seen its progress for some time, and see significant potential for Morgan to develop internationally while retaining its hand-built heritage, which is at the heart of the Morgan Motor Company.”

“We share with the Morgan family the belief that British engineering and brands are unique and have an important place in the world.”

This could signal a very exciting time for Morgan enthusiasts, as Investindustrial has stated it will increase global distribution for the brand, as well as supporting them to accelerate development of new products.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said “UK Automotive is on red alert” ahead of a feared no-deal Brexit which would put “thousands of jobs on the line”. UK car production hit a five-year low in 2018, with 150,000 fewer cars manufactured than a year before. The SMMT’s data also revealed that fresh inward investment in the sector plummeted in the year – down almost half on 2017 to £589m.

Overall car production was down 9.1% last year, although domestic demand fell at a much faster rate, plunging 16.3%. Four out of every five cars made in the UK are exported.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which is responsible for three out of every 10 cars manufactured in the UK, produced 83,000 fewer vehicles while the second-largest manufacturer Nissan reduced its output by 53,000. Vauxhall, in Ellesmere Port, had the largest percentage drop of the large manufacturers, down 15.9%, as it produced nearly 15,000 fewer cars. JLR, which has manufacturing sites across the West Midlands and in Merseyside, has already revealed thousands of job cuts as it responded to the slowdown in sales. It has already faced difficulties because of a big drop in demand from China and consumers’ wariness of buying diesel cars.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With fewer than 60 days before we leave the EU and the risk of crashing out without a deal looking increasingly real, UK Automotive is on red alert. Brexit uncertainty has already done enormous damage to output, investment and jobs.

“Yet this is nothing compared with the permanent devastation caused by severing our frictionless trade links overnight, not just with the EU but with the many other global markets with which we currently trade freely.

“Given the global headwinds, the challenges to the sector are immense. Brexit is the clear and present danger and, with thousands of jobs on the line, we urge all parties to do whatever it takes to save us from ‘no deal’.”

The decline in UK car manufacturing in 2017 and 2018 follows seven years of unprecedented growth for the sector as it emerged from recession faster than any other major EU market, with output rising more than 70% in that time.

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