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You were promised electric cars – but makers may not deliver

By NUNBEN DIXON, Head of Automotive: Gumtree Auto



The reduction of carbon emissions is high on the agenda for several countries, including the UK, India and China. The introduction of affordable electric vehicles (EVs) are held up as a panacea to the pollution problem governments around the globe are facing. In Norway, EV’s are exempt from acquisition tax, VAT, tolls, ferry fees and in some cities, they enjoy free parking.  The UK’s Road to Zero strategy aims to eliminate petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, France offers a €4,000 rebate to car owners trading in their diesel vehicles and Denmark has plans to ban petrol and diesel car sales within the next decade.

Most automakers have at least a version of a hybrid or electrical model intended for the mass market in the works and forecasts by the likes of DNV GL (Det Norske Veritas) believe that 50% of all cars sold in 2033 will be electric. ChargePoint, operator of the world’s largest charging station networks, predicts that they will see a 50-fold increase in the next six years.  

But while governments and industries are gearing up to go green, the reality is that the uptake has been, and could remain, slow, says Nunben Dixon, Head of Gumtree Auto.

“Despite more than half of consumers saying they would consider buying an EV, electric vehicles represent less than 1% of all vehicles sold globally. There is still a long way to go and many markets have realized that their projections were overly ambitious.”

In Australia, only 1350 of the 1.15 million cars sold in the country are electric despite initial predictions that fifty percent of new vehicles sold on the continent would be electric by 2020.

The most prominent reason for low sales remain the cost. A vehicle making use of a 90-100kWh battery pack is dependent on a cell costing between R250,000 to R350,000 – the average cost of an entire fossil fuel-powered car. In Australian, the cheapest EV is still priced around R700,000.

“Ordinarily, with economies of scale you can assume that mass production will always lower costs. However, these batteries are dependent on a number of materials which may actually see price increases – cobalt and lithium.”

While policies are encouraging the sale of EVs, raw material sourcing is largely unregulated and unstable. The politics surrounding the acquisition of these materials are also notable. 60% of lithium utility lies in non-battery applications but McKinsey suggests that EVs will cover 75% of the lithium requirements within the next six years – a sizeable shift. The control of the market lies within four companies which jointly hold 98% of the market, two of which are based in the US and one in China.

“Whether we like it or not, political control plays a significant role in the cost of your car. Consider the effects of the trade war between the US and China last year. China is the biggest market for EVs in the world. As the situation intensified, China imposed a 40% import tax on Tesla resulting in an overnight price hike of R280,000 per vehicle.”

The use of cobalt is considered another contentious issue. 65% of the world’s cobalt reserves are concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has been marred by instability. This could pose the next challenge for automakers: removing cobalt from batteries. Cobalt is critical in extending battery life after recharging, removing it leads to more electronic waste.

AlixPartners conducted a study that has found more than a quarter-billion-dollars in research and development and capital expenditures have been spent on EVs across the globe, with many models destined to be unprofitable.

“Automakers are in a tough position. EVs are lauded as the future of transportation, consumers are supportive of it, their competitors are working hard on it and they cannot afford to miss the opportunity. But they may also take on a significant financial loss because in pursuing that opportunity,” says Dixon.

“The lesson here is that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. Most R&D budgets are steering towards the development of EVs, rather than the improvement of petrol and diesel models. The solution that will lower emissions and replace fossil fuels may not have been invented yet.”


Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving



For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit

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Coronavirus to hit 5G



Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
Rest of Market13941165
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
Rest of Market99%85%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here:

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