The free trade agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom will alleviate the economic consequences of Brexit. A German bike manufacturer has an unconventional way of outsmarting thieves. Successful trials with the first self-driving trucks in Sweden. Read about all this and more in the IAA Weekly.
As 2020, a year of global disaster, came to an end there were actually a few silver linings to the otherwise depressing clouds. The European Union and the British Government concluded a free trade agreement. The long overdue political question of “deal or no deal” was answered, and in the end pure reason carried the day. What followed was universal relief, especially at the German auto makers. Hildegard Müller, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), declared in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt: “This result has eliminated the risk of ‘no deal,’ and the companies can finally prepare for implementation of a free trade agreement.”
This was at least a small Christmas present for the automotive industry and the mobility sector in general. The United Kingdom is the most important European sales market. In 2019, a total of 592,600 vehicles were exported to the UK. In addition, German OEMs operate more than 100 production facilities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These ties have grown up over the years and were threatened by the ongoing Brexit cliff-hanger. Since Christmas Eve, business relations have been looking much more stable again.
They now cost a small fortune, have super-chic paintwork, and more and more of them have an electric motor: bicycles are more popular than ever before – also among thieves.
The growing market for expensive bicycles is also boosting the trade in stolen pedelecs. Insurance companies long ago introduced special policies for e-bikes. The Dutch manufacturer VanMoof now even promises to return every stolen bike to its rightful owner using GPS tracking. Its daring bike hunters have already traveled as far as Casablanca (Morocco) to recover stolen goods.
The German bicycle maker Möve from Mühlhausen is taking an unconventional approach. It recently unveiled its E-Fly Airy model, an “incognito bike” with slim optics making it less attractive to thieves. At first glance it looks like an ordinary trekking bike. Both motor and battery are so well camouflaged they are almost unrecognizable. The powerful battery is hidden in the down tube, while the motor is integrated to the rear wheel hub to make the bike less obvious to thieves on the look-out for an electric model.
More and more electric cars are appearing on Germany’s roads. Engineering consultants up and down the country regularly report innovations in batteries that run for longer and can be charged faster. So it was all the more surprising when last year the average range of e-cars fell from 377 km (2019) to 352 km. But there is no cause for alarm. The statistically decreasing ranges are caused by the greater volume of electric small cars that are especially popular with city-dwellers. The batteries in these vehicles are designed to be much smaller, catering to the shorter journeys the cars are typically used for. However, across all models electric autonomy is growing steadily and the range anxiety associated with EVs is gradually subsiding.
Children and teenagers eagerly – or sleepily – crushing to climb aboard their school buses… In January 2021 that is almost a distant memory. Schools and child day-care centers are closed. Children are expected to do their lessons on the kitchen table. The school buses stay in the depots, gathering dust.
But in New York State the popular yellow school buses are threatened by a fate other than loneliness. Governor Andrew Cuomo wishes to switch over to electric vehicles as soon as possible, to help tackle climate change. In a country where normally around 440,000 school buses are in service every day, maybe this marks the beginning of a major shift.
When the asphalt shows tarry streaks in the summer, the mood plummets. Motorists stressed by driving to and from vacation are annoyed by the endless queue of trucks blocking a whole lane. The truckers, for their part, are worried about making punctual deliveries and in the evenings they are often desperately looking for somewhere to rest. In the summer, Germany’s trunk roads get crowded. Possible solutions have been debated for eons. In Scandinavia there is now a smart scheme potentially with everyday application: self-driving trucks. The idea is that they should transport their freight from A to B at night, when the roads are deserted.
The Swedish vehicle maker Volvo is already running advanced trials of its “Vera” model. The self-driving semi-trailer truck does not need a driver’s cab. “Vera” carries goods on a test route between a logistics center and a port terminal near Gothenburg. The magazine Innovation Origins reports on how far engineers are worldwide in developing Level-5 trucks.
Did you know… that carsharing works in villages? In Germany’s Rhein-Hunsrück district a total of 24 municipalities are taking part in a pioneering project. They are offering residents free use of a choice of eight electric vehicles in a carsharing scheme. The aim is to familiarize residents with e-mobility and establish an alternative to buses and trains. The scheme has gone down well with the locals, who are enthusiastically using the vehicles on offer. In some places 60 percent of driver’s license holders have already registered on the relevant platform.