Jaguar Land Rover, BMW sign EV partnership deal

The Jaguar I-Pace launched in SA in March.

Two automotive giants, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, have collaborated to develop electric drive units (EDUs) aimed at supporting the advancement of the electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem.

Through the motor industry alliance, the two car manufacturers say they will develop power electronics, electric motors and transmissions aimed at lowering the costs of developing electric cars through shared development, production planning and joint purchasing of electric car components.

Both companies say they will produce electric drivetrains in their own manufacturing facilities.

The partnership will also see a joint investment in research and development, engineering and procurement, providing the necessary economies of scale to support increased consumer adoption of EVs globally.

The global partnership seeks to form a central part of the automotive industry’s transition to an autonomous, connected, electric, shared (ACES) future.

Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover engineering director, explains: “The transition to ACES represents the greatest technological shift in the automotive industry in a generation. The pace of change and consumer interest in electrified vehicles is gathering real momentum and it’s essential we work across industry to advance the technologies required to deliver this exciting future.

“We’ve proven we can build world-beating electric cars, but now we need to scale the technology to support the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover products. It was clear from discussions with BMW Group that both companies’ requirements for next-generation EDUs to support this transition have significant overlap, making for a mutually beneficial collaboration.”

Last year Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors, launched its first ever EV, the Jaguar I-Pace crossover, after a six-year development period. The company also posted a loss in the previous financial year as sales slumped in the world’s biggest auto market, China.

Research firm TrendForce predicts in its Global Automotive Market Decode for 1Q report that EV shipments will reach 5.15 million in 2019, representing year-on-year growth of 28%.

EVs and hybrid EVs will account for an estimated 30% of all vehicle sales by 2025, it adds.

Ford forecasts that by 2030, one-third of vehicles around the world will be plug-in or all-electric, and another third will be hybrid.

To meet this anticipated EV demand, auto makers are scrambling from traditional fossil-fuelled development and production methods towards the zero-emissions future. Companies across the industry are partnering up in efforts to consolidate costs and share knowledge – in Europe, companies like Ford, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche are working together to extend the charging network across the continent.

In Japan Toyota is developing its next generation all-electric crossover together with Subaru and Suzuki. VW and Ford are thinking along the same lines.

SA market readiness

In March, Jaguar Land Rover became the third vehicle company to introduce an EV range in SA, with its new Jaguar I-Pace. The Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 have been around for a number of years.

SA has seen about 1 000 EVs being sold since 2015, with the pace being much slower than Europe and China.

Some of the factors limiting the growth of this market, according to Eskom, are the price of EVs – due to 45% import taxes and duties, the limited range that one can travel with an EV on one battery charge, and access to electricity and charging facilities.

Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with EV charging authority GridCars to build public charging stations across SA’s frequently travelled routes.

The company has invested R30 million in building local public charging points and in infrastructure that will allow EVs to drive through very long trips throughout the major routes.

“As a member of the motor vehicle body, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, Jaguar Land Rover is constantly working with other vehicle manufacturers to try and find common standards in EVs, to ensure we standardise certain things to be used across all EV brands,” explains Janico Dannhauser, product and pricing manager for Jaguar Land Rover SA and sub-Saharan Africa.

“For instance, all electric cars should be able to utilise the same charging plugs, the same repair centres, and in some instances, the same services, in spite of the brand. Creating an ecosystem is key to making the local EV industry successful.”

Independent motor vehicle expert and radio commentator Nico Smit believes that, while the local EV market is lagging behind global counterparts, it will see moderate growth over the next two years.

“The SA EV market is not a big one, with limited offerings; it is probably not as exciting as other markets which have a wide variety of brands. With the newly launched Jaguar I-Pace, and other manufacturers expected to launch locally next year, like the Audi E-tron and the Mercedes Benz EQC, we can anticipate an uptake as more buyers become interested in owning an EV.

“But the growth will be slow; even by 2020, EVs will make up a very small part of the overall local EV market.”

In terms of the intermittent power supply, Smit notes load-shedding will have as much impact on EVs as it does on a mobile phone.

“The EV is charged much like a mobile phone, typically at night when the owner goes to sleep. So, even if there is load-shedding, it usually lasts a maximum of four hours and it shouldn’t have a negative impact on your car, as you have the rest of the day to charge it.”