Auto industry pushes electric agenda

Global OEMs are in a race to develop electric vehicles (EVs).

Volvo has announced that all new models will have an electric motor from 2019. Their EVs will include fully electric, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrid cars.

“This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo's President and Chief Executive. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.” The company aims to sell one million EVs by 2025.

Volvo electric

Volvo plans to go all-electric Image: Volvo

Meanwhile, in a bid to speed up its development of EVs, Toyota has split from Tesla in order to consolidate its technology parts makers for greater production efficiency.

Toyota gained a 3% stake in Tesla in 2010 and two years later released the RAV4 EV, an SUV with Tesla-made batteries.

In 2014 the company stopped sourcing lithium-ion secondary batteries from Tesla and sold all of its Tesla shares at the end of 2016.

The Japanese automaker released the Mirai, the world's first production fuel cell vehicle, in 2014 and conducted trials of the i-Road, a single-seat electric vehicle which is unlikely to see mass production.  With the company's hybrid vehicles no longer receiving favourable treatment in the U.S. and China, Toyota is being forced to play catch-up in EV development.

Elsewhere, SAIC General Motors has revealed plans to spend 26.5bn yuan ($3.9bn) on development of a new generation of electrified vehicles over the next seven years. It will offer a range of electric vehicles, conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and standard vehicles equipped with stop-start systems. The partnership hopes to see 150,000 vehicles by 2020, and 500,000 by 2025, prompted by China's recent tough quotas and emissions regs forcing automakers to quickly ramp up EV sales in 2018.

China is also racing to dominate global EV battery production with many smaller players planning EV battery factories that would produce nearly 160 gigawatt-hours annually by 2021, overtaking Tesla's Nevada factory which is set to produce up to 35 gigawatt-hours of battery cells when it opens in 2018.