UK car sector accelerates toward electric future

Europe witnesses a growing trend for car consumers looking for more environmentally conscious and efficient products. (Reuters)
Updated 22 July 2019

UK car sector accelerates toward electric future

  • A total of 214 models will be available for purchase by 2021, up from 60 in late 2018

LONDON: Britain’s auto industry, seeking to swerve Brexit obstacles, is accelerating toward electrification as consumers shun high-polluting diesels, driven by rapid advances in technology and greener government policy.

Four famous car brands born in Britain but now foreign-owned — German-held Bentley and Mini, Indian-backed Jaguar Land Rover, and Chinese-controlled Lotus — have each this month outlined plans for purely electric models to sit alongside their petrol vehicles.
All-electric cars, which need to be charged from the mains, and hybrids, which combine electrics with petrol or gasoline engines, are gaining in popularity as more consumers turn away from the pollution-spewing internal combustion engine.
“You need to be into electrification,” Lotus Cars chief executive Phil Popham told AFP in an interview after unveiling the firm’s first all-electric sports car Evija — pronounced “E-vi-ya” — which the company will start making next year.
Lotus, 51-percent owned by Chinese auto giant Geely, plans an initial sale of only 130 of the supercars, which will each cost about £1.7 million ($2.1 million).

Heading toward future
“Electrification is absolutely part of our future,” said Popham. “In the not-too-distant future, all of our cars will offer electrification.”
Lotus’ plant in Hethel, eastern England, will see a £100-million investment over the next five years as it ramps up its sports car range with financial firepower and technical knowhow from Geely, which bought its majority stake two years ago. Etika Automotive of Malaysia holds the remaining 49 percent of Lotus.

NUMBER

200 mph will be the top speed of the lotus hypercar Evija.

Popham said the removal of large components, like the internal combustion engine and gearbox, will see the so-called hypercar Evija have an electric motor on each wheel.
It will reach 0-60 miles per hour in three seconds and have a top speed of 200 mph. Fully charged however, it will be able to drive a distance of only 250 miles.
In the more affordable premium market, Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, is planning a range of electric vehicles at its central England factory — starting with the next-generation Jaguar XJ luxury saloon model.
“The future of mobility is electric,” said JLR CEO Ralf Speth, whose company introduced its first electric vehicle I-PACE last year.
Elsewhere, BMW-division Mini recently launched plans for its first all-electric Mini Cooper at its factory in Cowley, southern England.
“We’ll be able to really react to demand from customers as we go forward because Mini electric (cars) go down exactly the same production line as the traditional combustion engine product,” David George, director of Mini UK, told AFP on a visit to the facility.

SPEEDREAD

In Europe as a whole, the number of electric car models, including hybrids, is set to triple by 2021.

In Europe as a whole, the number of electric car models, including hybrids, is set to triple by 2021, according to Brussels-based environmental lobby group Transport & Environment.
A total of 214 models will be available for purchase by 2021, up from 60 in late 2018, T&E said.
“There is a growing trend for consumers to be looking for more environmentally conscious and efficient products and technologies,” Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark told AFP.
He was speaking in July after the Volkswagen-owned luxury carmaker detailed its futuristic all-electric self-driving concept, the EXP 100 GT, at its facility in central England.
When Nissan unveiled its first mass-market electric car hatchback Leaf nine years ago, the Japanese carmaker described it as a “game-changer” for Britain’s biggest car plant in Sunderland, northeastern England.
Since then, more and more carmakers have sped up plans for more environment-friendly products — and also electrify their current offerings.
However, Cardiff University economics professor and auto specialist Peter Wells lamented the fact that many automakers were merely replicating electric versions of pre-existing models — rather than optimising how they deploy cutting-edge technology.
“The mindset is that the industry should simply replicate the existing petrol/diesel product ranges, only in hybrid and electric,” said Wells.
“In my view, this strategy can still result in less than optimized vehicle designs,” he noted.


Lebanon’s top banker linked to offshores with $100 million in assets

Updated 14 August 2020

Lebanon’s top banker linked to offshores with $100 million in assets

  • No question of criminality raised as scrutiny increases on country’s elite amid financial meltdown and Beirut explosion

DUBAI: Offshore companies linked to Lebanon’s central bank governor own assets worth nearly $100 million, a media group has said in a report, as his role in Lebanon’s economic turmoil comes under intense scrutiny.

The companies tied to Riad Salameh invested in real estate in the UK, Germany and Belgium over the past decade according to a report by a collective of European news outlets called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a nonprofit media organization, and its Lebanese partner, Daraj.com.

The report by the Sarajevo-based OCCRP does not allege any wrongdoing by Salameh, and Reuters has not reviewed any of the documents on which the report is based.

Responding to the report, Salemeh told Reuters he had declared during a TV interview in April his net worth prior to becoming a governor in 1993 and it was $23 million.

“I have shown the supporting documents as a proof. This to eliminate doubts on the origin of my net worth and that it was prior to holding office,” he said.

He said he had previously stated that he asked professionals and trustees to manage his net worth. “The origin of my net worth is clear, this is the important matter,” he said.

Salameh, previously seen as a guarantor of financial stability in the country, has become a focus of anger for street protesters since Lebanon’s financial system collapsed earlier this year under the weight of one of the world’s biggest public debt burdens.

The report into his personal wealth comes at a sensitive time for the country, as Lebanon grapples with the aftermath of an enormous chemical explosion that devastated the capital Beirut, fueling public anger with the country’s leadership.

The OCCRP report also comes after central bank accounts seen by Reuters last month revealed that Lebanon’s central bank governor inflated the institution’s assets by over $6 billion in 2018, showing the extent of financial engineering used to help prop up the Lebanese economy.

The governor told Reuters last month that the central bank accounting was in line with policies approved by the board.

A Lebanese judge last month ordered a protective freeze on some assets held by the governor after ruling in favor of a complaint that he had allegedly undermined the financial standing of the state.

By the end of 2018, Salameh’s assets were worth more than $94 million, the report said, citing balance sheets of Luxembourg companies controlled by the governor.

Salameh said his declaration on his net worth demonstrated he was not trying to escape public scrutiny and was the proof he has “nothing to hide.”