Citroën introduces a bold concept car for family electric mobility: less is more, thanks to the power of genius…

Right after having unveiled its new brand identity, Citroën stunned the international press last Friday, when it presented its OLI concept car in Paris.

You can judge yourself from the photos I took with my flagship Samsung S22 (I am getting increasingly used to it now) how completely groundbreaking the design and the whole concept of the car is actually.

I decided to bring the news of this concept car in different episodes, as thanks to the excellent PR people, I was able to have interviews with not only the CEO of Citroën, Vincent Cobée, but also with Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Development and Citroën’s Head of Design, Pierre Leclercq. I will bring this extensively in further reports, together with also a further interview with Laurent Barria, responsible for marketing.

So read on, and you can expect much more soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with lesssays Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée

In the footsteps of the Ami…now for mobility of the whole family.

Citroën already showed with its Ami (in a few days, we will also attend in Brussels the introduction of the Ami Buggy) that it believes strongly in offering affordable mobility, and it builds further on this concept, taking ‘unconventional’ to a new level with this conceptual oli [all-ë].

The Citroën oli concept is designed to do the same for family mobility that Ami achieved for personal urban mobility. Significantly, oli acts as a precursor to the concepts and innovations that will be available in future Citroën electric models.

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with less, first and foremost with less weight, how the inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process can lead to inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission vehicles that meet multiple lifestyles.

In his introduction speech, CEO Vincent Cobée  stated “Three societal conflicts are happening simultaneously – first is the value of and dependence on mobility, second is economic constraints and resource uncertainty, and third is our growing sense of desire for a responsible and optimistic future.”

Then he commented on the trend that cars are becoming bigger, heavier and more complex…

Styling language which is soon to be seen on new Citroën models…

“A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7 m long and 1.6m wide.” He continued. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, are at least 4.3 m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2500kg. Legal and safety requirements have driven some of this, but if the trend continues and we carry on parking these vehicles 95% of each day and driving 80% of journeys with a single occupant, the conflict between the need to protect our planet and the future promise of sustainable, electrified mobility will not easily be resolved.”

He concluded: ““Citroën believes electrification should not mean extortion, and being eco-conscious should not be punitive by restricting our mobility or making vehicles less rewarding to live with.  We need to reverse the trends by making them lighter and less expensive and find inventive ways to maximize usage.”

So true we would say, and it is this unerring vision which inspired Citroën to build this concept car.

They focused instead on creating a pure, honest vehicle that is above all lighter, less complicated and truly affordable, as well as inventive and joyful.

With oli, Citroën is raising the stakes for future family mobility by re-thinking every detail to reduce resources and needed materials without compromising on quality or versatility.

A car conceived and built for a (very) long life

Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Developmentnow we choose a lifestyle, and the car which responds to it…

Who does not crave for a car which becomes your classic, beloved, (life)long companion? Well, that’s the beauty of it, the oli will be at your side, no matter what or how long. This conceptual multi-activity family vehicle has  sustainability at its heart and demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved, from conception onwards with restrained, optimal use of lightweight and recycled materials, to sustainable production processes, and from durability for an extended ‘life in service’ to responsible end-of-life recyclability. The front and rear end parts can be easily changed, upgraded, customized, and the oli can within the family be passed from one generation to another…

 Thoughtful details…

Clever details are found throughout. The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80% less parts than a traditional seat. They are made of recycled materials and clever ‘mesh’ backrest designs enhance the natural light inside the vehicle.

They can also be easily upgraded or personalized to suit the taste of individual owners. It’s indeed the result of a chosen and adopted lifestyle, and the concept  car reflects that. Your servant also suggested to Citroën Head of Design Pierre Leclercq that in the aftermarket, a company like Ikea could offer their version of the seats to rejuvenate the interior after many years of use, for instance. Pierre Leclercq liked the idea…

Less weight means less power needed and more range…

 The oli offers reasonable, useable performance for many. Through the use of lightweight materials, oli can extend the range of the 40kWh battery on board to up to 248 miles between charges. Citroën has also limited the top speed of the oli to 68mph to maximise efficiency, while rapid charging capability ensures a charge from 20% to 80% takes just 23 minutes.

Extraordinary looks, harbinger of a total revolution…

The reasonable performance – read top speed – gave extra room for the designers to shape the concept car. Striking and clearly making a statement, oli’s unconventional stance and silhouette exude personality, productivity and positivity in a footprint similar to a compact SUV at 4.20m long, 1.65m high and 1.90m wide.

It defies traditional labelling. oli can be whatever it needs to be – family limo, urban explorer, adventure vehicle, workmate, or even an extension to the family home thanks to its ability to power everyday appliances.

The oli was presented in the stunning setting of a caserne de sapeurs pompiers in Paris…

Pierre Leclercq, believes oli embraces purity and geniality for families who don’t care for automotive status and stereotypes. I couldn’t agree more…

In the oli, the aesthetic approach has been deliberately exaggerated to reinforce functionality and versatility. And, like Ami, it is not afraid to show its simple and intuitive approach and distinguishes itself with its playful use of colour highlights, bright trim materials and vivacious patterns that advocate opportunities for personalisation.

Versatile

The oli truly threads new paths here. Oli’s flat bonnet, roof and rear ‘pick-up bed’ panels, as well as driving the vehicle’s unique silhouette, were chosen to meet the objectives for low weight, high strength and maximum durability.

Made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels, they have been co-created with partner BASF. They are coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat®, which is often used on parking decks or loading ramps, and painted with innovative, waterborne BASF R-M Agilis® paint.

The panels are very rigid, light and strong – so strong that an adult can stand on them – and weight is reduced by 50 per cent when compared to an equivalent steel roof construction.

The roof is quite strong, as is amply demonstrated by Laurence Hansen, with Pierre Leclercq and CEO Vincent Cobée applauding…

Load carrying versatility is not compromised either, as roof rails each side of the roof panel allow owners to attach accessories like bicycle racks and roof boxes for family vacations, while below the bonnet panel are neatly detailed storage areas including compartments for charging cables plus personal and emergency items.

Not afraid to go vertical…

All of the key design elements on oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, indeed, Citroën is looking for honesty and efficiency in the form language.

 The windscreen is vertical because it’s the shortest distance between top and bottom and uses the smallest amount of glass. As well as reducing weight and complexity, the smaller screen is less expensive to produce or replace.

To aid aerodynamic efficiency, oli features an experimental “Aero Duct” system between the front section of the bonnet and the flat top panel which blows air towards the screen, creating a curtain effect to smooth airflow over the roof.

The eye-catching windscreen frame is finished with a bright ‘infra-red’ wrap – a new signature colour Citroën will use in conjunction with its new brand identity.

The contrast between horizontal and vertical is evident in the rationally thought-through side panels and glass.

The front doors follow the example set by Ami and are identical on each side, though mounted differently. They are lighter, yet still strong, and much easier to make and assemble.

Reducing complexity and simplifying construction saves 20% in weight per door compared to a typical family hatchback. Half the number of components is required, and around 1.7kg per door is saved by the removal of the loudspeaker, soundproofing material and electrical wiring.

The external door panel is simpler to stamp and is designed to maximize interior storage. Gentle curvatures flow up the sides of the vehicle, and into the top of the side glass as it tumbles home to the roof.

Large, horizontal windows are tilted slightly towards the ground to help to reduce the effects of the sun, and manual, easy-to-operate “flip up” pantograph opening sections, similar to those used on Ami, provide fresh air ventilation.

The narrower rear doors are hinged at the rear of the vehicle and use vertical glass to give rear passengers more light and visibility. The change in form between the front and rear doors also gave an opportunity to add a passive air intake providing ventilation for rear seat passengers.

Access to the spacious cabin is wide, uncluttered and unhindered with both side doors open – ideal for when the driver needs to get straggling family members loaded efficiently.

Front and rear lighting modules are, again, uncomplicated but highly distinctive, and also play with the contrast between two horizontal lines and one vertical section. This approach will be evolved further as a distinctive Citroën lighting signature in future production vehicles.

A pick-up (load)bed in the boot…

Instead of a conventional boot, oli features an unexpected, inspired exercise in useful product design, and comes with a pick-up bed inside the boot for added practicality. The independent rear seat headrests pop up into the roof, the rear screen glass opens upwards, with the flat 994mm wide removable load bed expanding in length from 679mm to 1050mm.

The tailgate folds down and with the load bed panel removed there is up to 582 mm height between the vehicle floor and the rear glass. With the panel in place, 330 mm height of useful and secure trunk space is available below. The removable bed panel is light and flat, and made from the same recycled cardboard structure as the bonnet and roof panels.

But there is more, on the bodywork, the interior, the wheels and drivetrain. More soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes drives the luxury experience to new levels…

What is the most important desire for customers in the future of luxurious individual mobility?

 Mercedes found out that today’s customers are increasingly viewing luxury through the lens of values and benefits that extend beyond physical experiences. They are seeking priceless commodities such as time and want to show responsibility with their choices.

A LiDAR that sits in the radiator grille is essential for Mercedes-Benz for safe, conditionally automated driving.

As the leading luxury car brand, Mercedes-Benz is consistently driving the luxury experience to new levels. So it gives it new meaning for the electric and digital age – achieving more with less.

Driven by the innovative spirit firmly anchored in its brand DNA, and by its strategic goals of “Lead in electric” and “Lead in car software”, Mercedes-Benz is pioneering the electric and digital transformation of the global auto industry.

If the vehicle is in DRIVE PILOT mode, this is displayed in the instrument cluster with the corresponding assistance graphic.

The most recent proof of this is the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX. The most efficient Mercedes ever built is a blueprint for the future of efficiency of electric vehicles and also a masterclass in a radically new approach to the UI/UX driven by software and artificial intelligence.

If DRIVE PILOT is activated, the driver may take his hands off the steering wheel and turn to certain secondary activities.

With DRIVE PILOT, Mercedes-Benz became the first automotive manufacturer in the world to receive the world’s first internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving (SAE-Level 3).

Before DRIVE PILOT can be activated, the availability of the system is displayed via a white flashing in the control elements.

Mercedes recently released some photos about their latest research and already working solutions. We lift a glimpse here of this bold new future…

More (technical) and driving news soon from the brand with the iconic star!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Kia presents 2030 roadmap to become global sustainable mobility leader

Kia announced its key targets to transform into Sustainable Mobility Solutions Provider. This corporate vision is supported by three key pillars – ‘people’, ‘planet’ and ‘profit’. It did this in presenting the roadmap to 2030 at the company’s 2022 CEO Investor Day virtual event.

Under these pillars, Kia will strive to enhance customer value and nurture talents, reduce carbon emissions in consideration for the environment, and generate profits while working as a responsible corporate citizen.

Kia also announced its four key business targets for 2030. These core business aims include: accelerating electrification and achieving annual sales of 1.2 million battery electric vehicle (BEV) units by 2030; reaching 4 million annual vehicle sales by 2030, including over 2 million eco-friendly models; expanding the application of connected car feature and autonomous driving technologies to all new vehicles; and become the number one brand in the global purpose-built vehicle (PBV) market by 2030.

Kia to establish a line-up of 14 BEV models by 2027. Indeed, starting in 2023, Kia plans to launch at least two BEVs per year. Compared to its previous plan to release 11 models by 2026, Kia will add two electric pickup trucks – a dedicated electric pickup truck and a strategic model for emerging markets – and an entry-level BEV model.

 ‘AutoMode’, Kia’s new autonomous driving technology, to be launched in 2023 with first application in EV9…

Kia’s range of autonomous driving technologies, branded ‘AutoMode’, will be rapidly expanded throughout the line-up starting with the EV9 in 2023.

Kia AutoMode supports performance optimization through wireless updates and will be improved as the technology develops. It will also include Highway Driving Pilot feature which would enable driving without driver intervention on highway sections. Kia aims to expand connected car features to all vehicle lineup by 2025

Aims to become No.1 global PBV brand by 2030···first dedicated PBV model in 2025.

Indeed, As a customer-centered company, Kia will provide flexible mobility services that reflect the diverse needs of people and businesses. A core part of Kia’s work in this area will focus on PBV. (Purpose Built Vehicle)

Kia is the one of the first movers in the global PBV market and plans to become a market leader. The demand for delivery and logistics services has increased significantly following the acceleration in e-commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the mid-to long term, Kia will develop dedicated PBVs. The dedicated PBV will be developed as flexible structure that sits on a flat, skateboard EV platform, so that the size and shape can be adjusted according to the purpose and customer needs.

Kia will launch its first dedicated model in 2025 when the PBV market is expected to mature. The first dedicated PBV will be similar in size to a medium-sized vehicle, with inherent scalability.

Company announces financial targets for 2026···gross revenue of KRW 120 trillion; operating profit margin of 8.3%

The company plans to garner 39 percent of operating profit from BEVs in 2026 with the reduction of fixed costs through volume expansion and cost reduction from technology development.

Furthermore, Kia expects that by 2026, the contribution to operating profit from all eco-friendly models will reach 52 percent, exceeding that of internal combustion engine models.

To achieve these goals, Kia will not only expand sales of its eco-friendly models but also greatly improve profitability, securing additional sales and profit structures due to the commercialization of new businesses and technologies.

Kia will also actively participate in Hyundai Motor Group’s next-generation projects, such as Advanced Aviation Mobility (AAM), robotics. Specifically, Kia plans to focus on creating synergy between the Group’s AAM efforts and its own PBV business.

We keep you posted further on Kia soon as next week we will test the Kia EV6!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault Group, Valeo and Valeo Siemens eAutomotive join forces…to produce a new electric motor

When testing the Arkana Hybrid, we already mentioned the clever way Renault sources know how and expertise across boundaries. With the electric age coming upon us, further cooperation is growing to develop and produce ever more efficient drivetrains, using ever less resources. The news came that Renault is now joining forces with Valeo and Siemens… interesting!

Indeed, Renault Group, Valeo and Valeo Siemens eAutomotive have signed on February 10th a memorandum of understanding to form a strategic partnership for the design, co-development and manufacture in France of a new-generation automotive electric motor, eliminating the use of rare earths.

Under this partnership, each of the three partners will contribute to the development and production of the two key parts of the electric motor: the rotor and the stator.

Overall architecture comes from Renault…

Renault will develop and produce the EESM (electrically excited synchronous motor) rotor technology, designed without the use of rare earths, it offers enhanced energy performance.

In addition to the supply of components based on each company’s best expertise, the overall architecture of the all-in-one motor for Renault Group will also be designed by Renault.

Valeo and Valeo Siemens eAutomotive will develop and produce the stator, which is based on Valeo’s technological expertise in copper wire assembly. Thanks to its unique know-how in this field, which allows it to use a higher density of copper in the stator, Valeo is able to generate more power without having to use more electrical energy.

Renault Group, Valeo and Valeo Siemens eAutomotive will be the first to mass produce a 200kW electric motor without using rare earths, starting in 2027. Production of the motor for the automaker’s own needs will be based at Renault Group’s Cléon plant in Normandy, France.

More Renault news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Arkana E-Tech 145: when hybrid meets elegance…  

Renault is a brand which moves boundaries now and then. It brought a new definition of a roomy and timeless city car with the Twingo, built the legendary 4L and the “Cinq”, its Espace brought nothing less than a revolution in car concepts and design: the “space” car was born.

Then we don’t forget the Avantime. A car which was truly totally ahead of its time. We drove it at its introduction in the streets of modern, united Berlin. When you saw it on the road, you would expect a V6 formula 1 turbo engine under the hood, running on hydrogen of course, with a sweet voice softly telling you what the history is of the street and buildings you driving through, in the language of your choice. That car made us dream. Its stylish panache and the promise it embodied still has to be equalled.

Then Renault embarked on the E-path, opening it up to the masses with the ZOE and recently also putting a very clever full hybrid on the road, culminating in the E-Tech family of cars. Affordable with a touch of genius. And then we don’t forget Dacia…

Now its talented designer Laurens van den Acker took a long hard look at the BMW 4X and brings the stylish silhouette of the iconic fastback SUV to the wider public. The Arkana, a name derived from the Latin Arcanum, meaning secret, first made its entry in the Russian market, based on the Dacia Duster B0 platform. This allows the Russian built Arkana to offer 4WD, a must for the Russian market.

But this is not the E-Tech Arkana we meet on our shores. Renault needed here a platform which allowed electrification. Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

So “our” Arkana started life in South Korea in January 2020 as the… Renault Samsung XM3, and we find this again a fascinating story in itself, showing how cleverly big groups are combining talents and allocating resources found in their world wide organisations. Showing that they are truly unifying the world, having learned to work, cooperate and thrive across boundaries.

So Renault Samsung Motors is a reality, and they build the Arkana for us in their South Korean factory in Busan.

Renault is maybe also teaching politicians a lesson nowadays: the “Russian” Arkana is built both in Moscow by Renault Russia as well as in… Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, in South eastern Ukraine, at ZAZ, the most important (former) Russian Automobile Manufacturer.

The European Arkana runs on the more modern CMF-B platform, which we find also for the Clio V and the Captur II.

Stylish

Approaching the Arkana and walking around it, one is pleased by its excellent proportions and shape, from any angle. We liked also that it stands boldly on its wheels, with a ground clearance of not less than 20 centimeters. This allows you to negotiate sleeping policemen’s with ease of mind, as their dimensions always differ greatly from borough to borough, if not from street to street. The fact that this is not unified on a European scale, let alone not even on a national scale is utterly ridiculous. But the Arkana copes with all that, marvelous!

We found also the level of finish and paint quality of the bodywork top notch. The same can be said of the fit, look and feel of the panels in dashboard and cabin.

The layout is similar to what we find in the ZOE and Clio. The seating position is excellent, everything is logically within reach. Also the infotainment system with the large screen on the centre console is a breeze to use, and quite intuitive. Of course instrumentation is digital, and you can have also the road indications right in line with your eyesight if you prefer this.

The Arkana E-Tech is frugal: on the open road merely 4,7 l/100 km…

The learning curve to get acquainted with infotainment in this car is wonderfully short, and it is also very practical and wise to let the heating/airco ventilation system be controlled through three big round manual knobs.

A fully fledged hybrid…

The Renault Arkana uses the Renault “E-Tech” hybrid solution, consisting of a petrol engine delivering 94 HP, a starter generator which delivers 20 HP or15 kW, and last but not least an electric motor incorporated in the transmission, which is good for another 49 HP or 36 kW.

The gearbox has four speeds in store for the combustion engine, and reserves two speeds for the electric motors. These are no synchro rings or clutches, the electric motor within the gearbox synchronises everything. This uniquely clever system is derived from Formula 1 technology, Renault says.

It works wonderfully. Driving away is always on E-power for the first meters at least, the electric motor in the gearbox with its close to 50 HP has more than sufficient zest for its task. If the small 1,2 kW battery runs out of power, the engine sets in smoothly, helps to power the car further forward, and also charges the battery. Total system power is 143 HP.

Depending on the chosen driving mode, the system will also keep the battery more or less constantly charged, and so it happens more than often that when having accelerated on E-power to say a cruising speed of 70 km/h, the petrol suddenly engine starts up and gets eagerly to work recharging the battery. It does this at relatively high revs, and the recharging time is therefore rather short.

The higher revs seem to be a bit out of place, but soon one gets used to it, even more so because everything happens smoothly as the revs between gearbox and engine are exactly matched and you understand why this is happening.

We noticed that in city driving the Arkana runs often on E-power, and indeed, the consumption during our test hovered around the 5 litres/100 km. Performance is more than adequate for everyday driving, with a 0 to 100 sprint in 10,8 seconds and a top speed of 178 km/h.

Comfortable and well balanced

The suspension of the Arkana has a rather firm undertone, but is very well balanced and comfortable, and will never show any hint of harshness. On winding roads, the car stays flat with very little body roll despite its 20 cm ground clearance. Steering is responsive and pleasant. Indeed, the Arkana is an excellent Gran Turismo with also very good urban qualities, and a pleasure to steer and drive.

There is sufficient head- and legroom for the rear passengers, and the E-Tech configuration only costs some 33 liters of luggage space, which remains at 480 to 1263 liters, more than adequate we would say. Living with the Arkana is truly nice…

Conclusion

A stylish, frugal, future oriented Renault, roomy, well finished, easy to use and pleasant to drive in everyday life. It offers good interior space despite its elegant coupé silhouette. Indeed, Renault sets again new standards in offering to many car buyers the panache and zest of a modern four dour coupé combined with some distinct SUV touches. And it can be had as a hybrid, which is a strong selling point for today’s environmentally conscious buyers…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stellantis presents its software strategy of the future…

Times are changing in our electronic age, and fast. Manufacturers will have to build cars with an open software-defined platform, and three new platforms will arrive as early as 2024… says Stellantis.

Indeed, Stellantis N.V. today mapped out its software strategy to deploy next-generation tech platforms, building on existing connected vehicle capabilities to transform how customers interact with their vehicles, and to generate approximately €20 billion in incremental annual revenues by 2030.

This transformation will move Stellantis’ vehicles from today’s dedicated electronic architectures to an open software-defined platform that seamlessly integrates with customers’ digital lives. It greatly expands the options customers have to add innovative features and services via regular over-the-air (OTA) updates keeping vehicles fresh, exciting and updated years after they have been built.

“Our electrification and software strategies will support the shift to become a sustainable mobility tech company to lead the pack, leveraging the associated business growth with over-the-air features and services, and delivering the best experience to our customers,” said Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO. “With the three all-new AI-powered technology platforms to arrive in 2024, deployed across the four STLA vehicle platforms, we will leverage the speed and agility associated with the de-coupling of hardware and software cycles.”

Stellantis plans to invest more than €30 billion through 2025 to execute its software and electrification transformation.

The Stellantis software strategy works hand-in-hand with the Company’s vehicle electrification plans, detailed at EV Day in July 2021, which targets that more than 70 percent of its vehicle sales in Europe and more than 40 percent of vehicle sales in the United States will be low emission vehicles (LEV) by 2030. Each of the Company’s 14 iconic brands is committed to offering best-in-class fully electrified solutions.

More about this, and the strategic partnership with suppliers and software companies it implies, will follow soon!

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Europe pioneers the electrification within Nissan Ambition 2030 vision…

We will drive for you at the end of this year the latest Qashqai, and look forward to have a go next year at their new (EV powered) products; In the meantime, there is some interesting Nissan news.

Did you know that by 2026, this is merely within some four years, more than 75% of all Nissan passenger cars sold in Europe will be electrified?

Nissans “CHILL OUT” concept foreshadows the future 100% electric crossover to be built in Sunderland, and there is a new battery recycling facility planned in Europe…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Unveiled the Nissan Ambition 2030, the brand’s new long-term strategy that goes beyond mobility.

Earlier this year, Nissan launched the EV36Zero concept, the world’s first fully integrated EV production ecosystem, which connects mobility and energy management to help achieve carbon neutrality for Nissan. The future hub is centered around the production facility in Sunderland, UK, and will include the production of an EV, a new giga production facility and use of 100% renewable electricity. Initially, £1 billion will be invested.

The AMIEO Region, centered on the EV36Zero, will play a leading role in realizing the “Ambition 2030” vision, which will help Nissan achieve carbon neutrality across the entire lifecycle of its products by fiscal year 2050. Here are some key points:

By the end of fiscal 2023, Nissan will offer electrified versions of all models offered in Europe, and by fiscal 2026, more than 75% of all Nissans sold are expected to be electrified.

The now-unveiled CHILL OUT crossover concept, as announced in Sunderland in July as part of the EV36Zero project, uses the Renault-Nissan Alliance CMF-EV platform to deliver the European handling and performance customers expect. The model has a sleek and modern design, is both attractive and aerodynamically optimized, fun-to-drive, has advanced safety technologies and has a practical and comfortable interior, according to Nissan.

Nissan plans to expand battery recycling and reuse facilities outside of Japan with a new location in Europe during fiscal year 2022. This infrastructure will support a circular economy for energy management. Nissan plans to fully market its ‘vehicle-to-everything’ and ‘home battery’ systems in the coming years.

Building on the success of the Nissan LEAF, Nissan will soon introduce innovative e-POWER technology in the all-new Qashqai and X-Trail. With the 100% electric crossover Ariya and the future all-electric Townstar Van on the way, an electrified European model program is in the works.

‘In the past period, Europe has been leading in the transition to electrification. Our goal for the next decade is to accelerate this development, with new products and technologies that will enhance the driving experience for Nissan’s customers,” said Guillaume Cartier, President of Nissan AMIEO Region.

Not only will we be offering an electrified version of every Nissan model in Europe, our 360-degree vision of sustainable mobility also means using 100% renewable electricity in our EV Hub in the UK. New battery recycling and reuse facilities will also be built in Europe.

To spearhead the transition to full electrification and carbon neutrality, our teams and products in Europe will serve as a source of information and support for our plans for electrified cars in the rest of the AMIEO Region and other markets.”

Bold new plans… we will report on them regularly as they unfold!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A revolutionary project by Renault: its Refactory project, or industrial reconditioning of used cars…

At the end of January next year, we will test for you, dear reader, the Renault Arkana E-TECH Hybrid, and this will prove highly interesting indeed. But Renault has further stunning news in store, which your servant reserves for you in these columns.  

Renault Group presented namely the actual progress of its Refactory project, an initiative launched a year ago to transform the Flins site (Yvelines, France) into the first European factory dedicated to the circular economy of mobility. Circular here means re-using second hand vehicles…no less!  

On this occasion, the group is inaugurating its Factory VO (Used Vehicles), the first factory specializing in the reconditioning of used vehicles on an industrial scale. This conversion is part of the group’s overall transformation plan, focused on value creation and sustainable development. Just so interesting!

Read more about it here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A wonderful initiative…

Your servant can only applaud this bold initiative, which in my opinion is visionary to say the least. We just cite here Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group, on this project.

“We are keeping our promise: one year after its launch, the Refactory embodies an innovative and ambitious project for the Flins site, a new source of economic, social and environmental value. The Refactory is emblematic of the Renaulution, which engages the group in a deep, rapid and lasting transformation, driven by the creation of value. At the heart of this project, our 1st used vehicle factory demonstrates our ability to industrialize our know-how and activities linked to the circular economy. This Factory OV (or used vehicle factory) puts us in an excellent position on the growing used vehicle market, with a unique industrial tool capable of reconditioning up to 45,000 vehicles per year ”.

4 poles…

According to Renault, the Refactory is based on an ecosystem articulated around 4 poles:

RE-TROFIT: this division brings together the retrofit and reconditioning activities of used vehicles. Operational since September 2021, the Factory VO has already reconditioned more than 1,500 vehicles. In the next two years, it is planned to increase its capacities and introduce new activities, such as important body repair. A retrofit offer to convert commercial vehicles to electric will also be studied by 2023.

RE-ENERGY: this pole contributes to the development of applications around the second life of batteries and new energies. With the rise of electric mobility, Gaia, a subsidiary of the group specializing in battery repair, is preparing to change its scale of activities: by the end of 2021, 2,000 battery repairs will be carried out and this will grow to more than 20,000 repairs per year by 2030. In coordination with Mobilize, the Flins site hosted in 2021 a stationary energy storage device from batteries, with a capacity of 15 MWh (“Advanced Battery Storage” project). The development of mobile or stationary energy storage systems for multiple uses (construction sites, solar energy storage, on board ships, etc.) will represent a capacity of 30 MWh over the years 2021 and 2022. In the As part of the Hyvia joint venture dedicated to hydrogen mobility, the Flins site will also host, from 2022 onwards, the assembly activities of fuel cells, recharging stations and the supply of hydrogen.

RE-CYCLE: this division brings together recycling and re-use of parts and materials. The gradual arrival between 2021 and 2022 of the teams from the Choisy-le-Roi plant, experts in the remanufacturing of mechanical parts, will make it possible to maximize the use of reconditioned and spare parts within the Factory VO and the group. It is also planned to extend the strategic activity of repairing electronic boards (mechatronics) as part of this transfer of activity. The division is continuing to implement short loops for the recycling of materials and parts, such as catalytic converters or bumpers.

RE-START: this cluster encompasses the innovation and training center project. It brings together 3 entities: an innovation center at the service of Industry 4.0 to develop specifically prototyping, 3D printing, the retrofitting of our robots, a commercial vehicle prototyping activity, as well as a campus where professional training leading to diplomas are offered to employees of the Flins factory. At the start of 2022, this cluster will integrate an incubator dedicated to research and innovation in the circular economy, as well as new academic certifying training courses with the support of the region.

A state of the art factory, creating value…

To preserve product value and respond to the growth of the second hand vehicle market, the Flins used vehicle reconditioning plant is based on a unique model, designed to offer the best level of the market in terms of lead times, cost and quality.

The Factory VO is a 100% digitized site, which ensures excellent traceability and real-time monitoring of the repair stages. Developed to recondition all types of vehicles, of all brands, the site is mainly based on 4 major assets:

Economies of scale:

Spread over an area of ​​11,000 m2, the Factory VO in Flins is presently the largest reconditioning site in Europe. Organized into three teams, it can recondition 180 second-hand vehicles per day, or 45,000 vehicles per year by 2023, with the possibility of doubling this figure in the medium term.

Lower costs…

The site’s competitiveness is a result of the high productivity rate, driven by an online organization and optimized production systems for new vehicles. The Factory VO benefits from short delivery loops of parts and materials from group subsidiaries such as Gaia, Indra, and Choisy in order to limit the replacement of parts as much as possible, favouring repairs instead. Pooling logistic flows with those of new vehicles also cuts costs and reduces the impact on the environment.

Short repair and reconditioning times…

Equipped with 4 production lines, the Factory VO is organized in such a way that there is no going back. Carried out by SGS Automotive Services, technical inspection and control is integrated on the line in order to increase efficiency and reduce delays. The site is equipped with a photo and video studio installed on a turntable to generate automated shots (up to 10 vehicles per hour). This high-resolution scanner gives access to a virtual 360-degree inspection (interior, exterior, underbody and tires). Designed by specialist Twinner, this tool allows the vehicle to be offered again for sale immediately, without waiting for it to be returned to the dealership. On average, the Factory VO reconditions a vehicle in 8 days instead of 21 days.

“New vehicle” quality standards…

Reconditioned vehicles benefit from the same quality standards as the manufacture of new vehicles. An independent quality control device is integrated into the production, as well as a battery qualification system for electric vehicles. By 2022, 200 employees will have joined the Factory VO. These internal recruitments at the Flins plant are accompanied by a certified training program, made up of a general section (after-sales strategy, durability of materials, recycling, etc.) and more specific training geared to to the Factory VO (electromechanical, smart repair).

The Refactory project is, still according to Renault,  at the heart of the Group’s sustainable development strategy. It is a global industrial project, which is intended to be deployed more widely, recently also at the factory in Seville, Spain.

All this has a very good reason: these activities contribute, at their scale, to the decarbonisation trajectory to aim for the group’s carbon neutrality in Europe in 2040.

A very interesting initiative, which we will follow closely in the future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The new Mercedes full-electric EQB can now also be ordered in Belgium.

Recently, the new EQB has been added to the Mercedes full-EV fleet. An interesting car, which we hope to drive soon. In the meantime, we are looking forward to test for you from 7 December onwards the CLS 220d, and see what a modern Mercedes Diesel can still offer in these electrifying times. Also soon our faithful 1,6 litre petrol engined (now already more than 4 years old…) 180 B Class gets its Type A service at Hedin Automotive in Kontich, about which we will report too.

Then there is more intriguing company news about the Mercedes revolutionary production techniques they are unfolding in their Berlin factory, where they are rolling out electric motors for their EV cars. More about this in a forthcoming special report.

But now to some more news about the EQB. The EQB 300 4MATIC can be ordered now in our country, from € 63,041 VAT incl.

The EQB is quite roomy, and is optionally also available as a seven-seater. After the EQA, the EQB is already the second fully electric compact model from Mercedes-EQ.

The model range initially consists of the EQB 300 4MATIC (combined power consumption: 19.4-18.1 kWh/100 km). It has a motor developing 168 kW/228 hp. Then there is also the EQB 350 4MATIC (combined power consumption: 19.2-18.3 kWh/100 km) Its electric motor develops 215 kW/292 hp. The price of this more powerful version starts at € 65,945 VAT incl.

The sale price of the EQB includes one year of Mercedes me Charge. Mercedes-EQ customers have easy access to a network of more than 600,000 charging points worldwide via Mercedes “me Charge.” At the same time, they benefit from an integrated payment function with simple invoicing.

The EQB will be available as Edition 1 for a limited period after its launch. Externally, this limited edition combines elements from the “Night package” with AMG styling. But there is more: 20-inch AMG light-alloy wheels, matt copper and high-sheen finish complete the sporty look. Highlights of the Edition 1 interior are the upholstery in neva gray leather with CYBER CUT blue, the rear-illuminated trim in spiral look and air vents with the outer ring in silver chrome and the inner ring in energy blue.

Here are the main options and packages of this 4WD EQB, which is offered in Luxury Line and AMG line trims:

The third row of seats with two additional individual seats comfortably accommodates people up to 1.65 meters tall. The comprehensive safety equipment includes extendable head restraints, seat belts with belt tensioner and belt force limiter on all outer seats and a window bag that also protects the passengers in the third row of seats.

The Premium package further enhances comfort with the KEYLESS GO comfort package, the THERMOTRONIC 2-zone automatic air conditioning, a rich sound system and a wireless charging system for mobile terminals.

The EQB comes with intelligent driver assistance systems with cooperative driver support. The Driving Assistance package now includes additional functions. It includes for example the exit function, the emergency lane function, the exit warning function that warns the driver of passing cyclists or vehicles, and a warning when pedestrians are detected near a zebra crossing.

We show you here some photos of the EQB in the meantime. Stay tuned for, as said,  more news about the cars with the iconic star!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A visit to the Ford Lommel Proving Ground… a unique experience!  

As a member of the AJBA, or Association of Belgian Automotive Journalists we were kindly invited by the dynamic Ford PR department to spend a day at its Proving Ground in Lommel. Since 1965, FORD LPG is the only vehicle proving ground of Ford of Europe.

Impressive it is: its total track length is not less than 105 km, it operates 24 hours per day and this 7 days per week. The annual test mileage lies between 5 and 10 million km. Constant maintenance and further investments over the last 10 years cost some 50 million Euros.

The team is also considerable of course: not less than more than 90 engineers, more than 70 mechanics, close to 80 test drivers, more than 30 testers of electronic systems, 25 maintenance people and more than 20 supporting staff are active here.

It is good to know that the test track and its facilities can be hired by other manufacturers and suppliers for testing purposes and driver trainings can also be booked.

New models are subjected to a series of intense six-month durability tests at this Proving Ground in Belgium. As said, prototypes cover up to 10 million kilometres (6 million miles) – 250 round-the-world trips – in total, testing on the track, in Ford laboratories at temperatures ranging from -40 C to 50 C and at locations around the world.

The scope of what has to be tested on a car has of course also grown and widened over the years, as cars have now a wide array of driver assistance and aid systems, taking also further steps towards autonomous driving. Hence the ever growing team of testers of these electronic driving aid and of course also infotainment systems.

Testing the torsional rigidity, anti corrosion and mechanical solidity of the cars is of course still a very important part of the testing procedure. So the proving ground has every imaginable road surface in store to test all this, as well as corrosive salt spray tunnels and mud baths. A high speed oval is of course also present. Maximum speed in the banked curves is 220 km/h, on the straights a good 240 km/h. Of course one can go (much) faster, but then the tyres start to warm up too much, impairing test results and comparable measurements. We sum you here the main activities of the proving ground:

o             Durability & Corrosion Testing  

o             Functional Testing like vehicle performance, brake performance , etc.

o             Software & multimedia Testing  

o             Driver Assistance Technology Testing  

o             Vehicle Dynamics Testing & Development  

o             Noise, Vibrations & Harshness Testing & Development

o             Manufacturing Quality Fleet testing

o             Drive Training : internal only until 2021, external as from 2022  

But that is not all. Before a single new vehicle reaches a customer, prototype models cover more than 500,000 kilometres (300,000 miles) of tough simulated customer driving. Called Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) tests, these extensive evaluations are conducted by 100 members of the public who follow routes and operational procedures designed by engineers at Lommel that closely resemble those of target customers.

Fine handling is the hallmark of every Ford…

The DNA of every Ford car is embodied in its agility and fine, pleasurable handling, and therefore the proving ground has a wonderful handling course. An enormous circular skid path is also present and skid cars with hydraulic lifters which control and vary the grip on all four wheels are provided for test driver training.

Indeed, test driver training is understandably a very serious affair, tests have to be accurate, reliable, comparable with each other and identical in their procedure. The test drivers are helped in this by signals along the respective test tracks, indicating the speed to be driven and the gears to be chosen.

Driving is believing!

We were first taken along the various test tracks in Transit vans, being seriously shaken and stirred, but appreciating here already the enormous solidity and impressive road qualities of these vans. Then we had a stint on the training skid path with the skid cars, only to be treated after a light lunch to have a go behind the wheel of the Ford products. Your servant had the opportunity to put the hybrid Puma through its paces. We were invited to perform a high speed slalom test and braking test, in the wet of course. I must admit that the Puma was totally impressive for me, with excellent handling, enormous grip and power to match. A good reason to present you soon in these columns further test reports and driving impressions of Ford products!

Icing on the cake was a very fast tour along the handling course and the high speed oval with a Ford test driver at the wheel. Your servant jumped as passenger into the sleek Mustang 5 litre V8, and needless to say this was a very exhilarating drive, where the formidable handling qualities and balance of this Mustang were amply shown…

A wonderful day, which will be long remembered, and the DNA of Ford cars, its excellent handling and agility proved an eye opener for me…

Soon more driving impressions of Ford cars in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel