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Merc joins the battery push

A new interactive sculpture in Cape Town symbolises rapid advances in car technology, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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First there was IQ, or intelligence quotient, to test how clever we are. Then came EQ, for emotional intelligence, to test how well we engage with the world. Now, Mercedes Benz is introducing a new form of EQ, for electric intelligence, or how well our cars prepare us for the future.

That will be the branding for a new range of vehicles being developed now by the world’s leading luxury vehicle maker, as it aims to drive automotive technology beyond connected and self-driving cars.

Last week, it unveiled the Concept EQA, a compact, sporty electric car that is expected to have a range of 400km on one charge. It has one electric motor on the front axle and one at the rear, allowing for greater flexibility in driving settings. More important, though, it will have zero carbon emissions, and is part of Mercedes-Benz’s push into the electric car market.

According to Johannes Fritz, the company’s co-CEO in South Africa, battery-electric models will account for 15-25 percent of total unit sales by 2025. The big variation in forecasts is a result of uncertainty around both customer preferences and public infrastructure. 

Johannes Fritz, Mercedes-Benz South Africa co-CEO.

The common perception is that the lack of government interest in an electric vehicle future will hamper roll-out of a charging network, and that lack of public interest means there is little incentive for car makers to increase production.

To counter this perception, and advance its vision of EQ, Mercedes-Benz combined the unveiling of the Concept EQA with the opening of a unique pavilion at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Continue reading about the electric vehicle push in South Africa. 

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Cars

Where is the pickup truck emoji?

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With billions of emoji sent daily and nearly every mode of transportation including cars, scooters, boats, spaceships and ski lifts among the 3,000 approved icons available to emoji users, truck fans noticed a glaring omission: There is no pickup truck. Ford decided it was time to do something about this and is celebrating World Emoji Day with the debut of the pickup truck emoji.

“When customers started demanding a truck emoji, our drive for continuous innovation meant we knew we had to help make it happen,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Given F-Series’ status as America’s best-selling truck for 42 consecutive years, there’s no one better than Ford to help bring an all-new pickup truck emoji to hard-working texters around the globe.”

The Ford Ranger is one of the top three best-selling vehicles in South Africa having sold 12 784 units in the country in the first half of 2019.

In 2018, Ford submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium – the organization that reviews and approves proposals for new emoji – to add a truck to emoji keyboards everywhere. Now, the pickup truck emoji has been short-listed as a candidate for inclusion in a future version of Unicode.

The concept emoji’s capable styling has been tuned to meet current trends. “Our team spent a lot of time digging through message boards, texting influencers and watching social media feeds to really understand our customers’ needs,” said Eric Grenier, Ford social media manager. “People want a truck emoji that’s fresh, stylish, carries their ideas, and ‘tows’ the line on what a truck means. The end result is a modern icon that should give all truck fans a smiley face emoji.”

If the pickup truck emoji is approved in early 2020, the design will be customized for all mobile platforms to meet the needs of customers – from skilled tradespeople to active families and emoji lovers alike.

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Cars

Make cars, not waste

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Jaguar Land Rover is trialling an innovative recycling process which converts plastic waste into a new premium grade material that could feature on future vehicles. 

It’s estimated that the amount of waste plastic is predicted to exceed 12 million tonnes globally by 2050*. Today, not all of this plastic can be recycled for use in automotive applications – especially in vehicle parts that are required to meet the most exacting safety and quality standards.

Working in conjunction with chemical company, BASF, Jaguar Land Rover is part of a pilot project called ChemCycling that upcycles domestic waste plastic, otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators, into a new high-quality material. 

The waste plastic is transformed to pyrolysis oil using a thermochemical process. This secondary raw material is then fed into BASF’s production chain as a replacement for fossil resources; ultimately producing a new premium grade that replicates the high quality and performance of ‘virgin’ plastics. Importantly, it can be tempered and coloured making it the ideal sustainable solution for designing the next-generation dashboards and exterior-surfaces in Jaguar and Land Rover models.

Jaguar Land Rover and BASF are currently testing the pilot phase material in a Jaguar I-PACE prototype front-end carrier overmoulding to verify it meets the same stringent safety requirements of the existing original part.

Pending the outcome of the trials and progression in taking chemical recycling to market readiness, adoption of the new premium material would mean Jaguar Land Rover could use domestically derived recycled plastic content throughout its cars without any compromise to quality or safety performance**. 

Chris Brown, Senior Sustainability Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Plastics are vital to car manufacturing and have proven benefits during their use phase, however, plastic waste remains a major global challenge. Solving this issue requires innovation and joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers and suppliers.

“At Jaguar Land Rover, we are proactively increasing recycled content in our products, removing single-use plastics across our operations and reducing excess waste across the product lifecycle. The collaboration with BASF is just one way in which we are advancing our commitment to operating in a circular economy.”

This is the latest example of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to addressing the challenge of waste plastic. The company has collaborated with Kvadrat to offer customers alternative seat options that are both luxurious and sustainable. The high-quality material, available initially on the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque, combines a durable wool blend with a technical suedecloth that is made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. 

Jaguar Land Rover has already met its 2020 target for Zero Waste to Landfill for UK operations. This includes the removal of 1.3 million m2 – equal to 187 football pitches – of plastic from its manufacturing lineside and replacing 14 million single use plastic items in business operations. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Jaguar Land Rover’s vision for Destination Zero; an ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner. Delivered through relentless innovation to adapt its products and services to the rapidly-changing world, the company’s focus is on achieving a future of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Editor’s notes:

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full

** All Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles tested have achieved a Euro NCAP 5* rating.

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