EV/AV Report: May 18, 2020

Tesla’s Canadian connection

A Canadian company is helping Tesla achieve its goal of developing a “million-mile” EV battery.

The battery will last “much longer,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a “Battery Day” in May.The technology was developed in partnership with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL), and a group of a Halifax, N.S.-based academic battery experts recruited by Musk.

In 2016, the automaker agreed to fund a group of scientists led for the past 24 years by Jeff Dahn, a pioneer in lithium-ion battery development and professor at Dalhousie University.

The work with Dahn’s team is now playing a key role in Tesla’s plans to introduce a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China by early next year, Reuters reported Thursday. The goal is to bring the cost of electric vehicles in line with gasoline models and allow EV batteries to have second and third lives in the electric power grid.

Tesla’s funding of Dahn’s work is public, and Dahn has talked about some of his group’s accomplishments at public and private forums, including a presentation in February at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Videos of that presentation and at least two others where Dahn discussed his work were posted on YouTube, but since have been removed.

Dahn began working on lithium batteries in the late 1970s as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, and chemistries developed by his Dalhousie team are used in one of 10 electric vehicles today, he said in a 2017 TEDx talk in Halifax. After conducting battery research for 3M and Medtronic, Dahn in 2015 signed a new research partnership with Tesla that runs through mid-2021.

EV Unbothered

Electric vehicle sales in Canada were only slightly affected by COVID-19 conditions, according to new vehicle registration data provided by IHS Markit Catalyst for Insight to Transport Canada.

The data says 8,412 battery-electric and 3,586 plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold between January 1 and March 31 of 2020. Those 11,998 sales accounted for roughly 3.8 percent of total light vehicles sold in Canada. 

This marks a slight drop from 2019’s fourth quarter, which saw 7,933 battery-electric and 4,303 plug-in hybrid vehicle sales, for a total of 12,236 EVs sold.

However, the 3.8 percent market share marks an increase from the three percent which EVs represented in Q4 2019. 

Latest layoffs

General Motors Co’s self-driving car unit Cruise announced on Thursday it was laying off about eight percent of its staff, according to an internal e-mail.

It is the latest autonomous vehicle technology firm to cut staff as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down the economy and dried up funding. Even before the pandemic, the autonomous driving industry faced challenges, with the promise of large-scale rollouts as early as 2022, as per Toronto’s Automated Vehicles Tactical plan.

“In this time of great change, we’re fortunate to have a crystal clear mission and billions in the bank. The actions we took today reflect us doubling down on our engineering work and engineering talent,” Cruise spokesperson Milin Mehta told Reuters.

Before the layoffs, Cruise had 1,800 full-time employees.

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