Renault plans to harness geothermal energy and help heat plant

A Renault logo photographed in Bavaria, Germany. The French automotive giant says it’s targeting carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.

Igor Golovniov/Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

The Renault Group is working with French utility Engie on the development of a geothermal energy project at the automaker’s Douai facility, with the collaboration set to last 15 years.

In a statement, Renault said Thursday a subsidiary of Engie would start drilling work at Douai — which was established in 1970 and focuses on bodywork assembly — in late 2023.

The plan centers around taking hot water from a depth of 4,000 meters, or more than 13,100 feet.

According to Renault, this water will be used to help meet the Douai site’s “industrial and heating process needs from 2025.” The temperature of the water will be between 130 and 140 degrees Celsius.

“Once implemented, this geothermal technology would provide a power of nearly 40 MW continuously,” the company said.

“In summer, when the need for heat is lower, geothermal energy could be used to produce carbon-free electricity,” it added.

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The Renault Group’s CEO, Luca de Meo, described the program planned for Douai as “one of the most ambitious decarbonisation projects on a European industrial site.”

According to the International Energy Agency, geothermal energy refers to “energy available as heat contained in or discharged from the earth’s crust” which can be utilized to produce electricity and provide direct heat.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Energy says geothermal energy “supplies renewable power around the clock and emits little or no greenhouse gases.”

News about Renault’s geothermal project with Engie was accompanied by details of other projects centered around decarbonizing operations at a number of the automotive giant’s industrial facilities.

Looking at the bigger picture, Renault says it’s targeting carbon neutrality in Europe by the year 2040 and globally by 2050.

Despite these aims, a top executive at the firm recently told CNBC that the firm saw the internal combustion engine as continuing to play a crucial role in its business over the coming years.

Earlier this month, it was announced the Renault Group and Chinese firm Geely had signed a non-binding framework agreement to establish a company focused on the development, production and supply of “hybrid powertrains and highly efficient ICE [internal combustion engine] powertrains.”

Speaking to CNBC’s Charlotte Reed, Renault Chief Financial Officer Thierry Pieton sought to explain some of the reasoning behind the planned partnership with Geely.

“In our view, and according to all the studies that we’ve got, there is no scenario where ICE and hybrid engines represent less than 40% of the market with a horizon of 2040,” he said. “So it’s actually … a market that’s going to continue to grow.”

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Renault’s continued focus on the internal combustion engine comes at a time when some big economies are looking to move away from vehicles that use fossil fuels.

The U.K., for example, wants to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030. It will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions.

The European Union, which the U.K. left on Jan. 31, 2020, is pursuing similar targets. Over in the United States, California is banning the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035.

China played a great game on lithium and we’ve been slow to react: CEO

This image, from March 2021, shows a worker with car batteries at a facility in China.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

China is leading the way when it comes to lithium — and the rest of the world has not been quick enough to respond to its dominance, according to the CEO of American Lithium.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Monday, Simon Clarke discussed how China had secured its position of strength within the industry.

“I just think the Chinese have — I mean you have to take your hat off, they’ve played a great game,” he said.

“For decades, they’ve been locking up some of the best assets across the world and quietly going about their business and developing knowledge on building lithium-ion technology, soup to nuts,” he added. “And we’ve been very slow to react to that.”

He added that the U.S.’ Inflation Reduction Act, and a number of other measures, meant people were “starting to wake up to it.”

Alongside its use in cell phones, computers, tablets and a host of other gadgets synonymous with modern life, lithium — which some have dubbed “white gold” — is crucial to the batteries that power electric vehicles.

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China is certainly a dominant force within the sector.

In its World Energy Outlook 2022 report, the International Energy Agency said the country accounted for roughly 60% of the world’s lithium chemical supply. China also produces three-quarters of all lithium-ion batteries, according to the IEA.

With demand for lithium rising, major economies are attempting to shore up their own supplies and reduce dependency on other parts of the world, including China.  

The stakes are high. In a translation of her State of the Union speech, delivered in September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas.”

As well as addressing security of supply, von der Leyen also stressed the importance of processing.

“Today, China controls the global processing industry,” she said. “Almost 90% … of rare earth[s] and 60% of lithium are processed in China.”

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With the above in mind, a number of companies in Europe are looking to develop projects centered around securing supply.

Paris-headquartered minerals giant Imerys, for example, plans to develop a lithium extraction project in the center of France, while a facility described as the U.K.’s first large-scale lithium refinery is set to be located in the north of England.

Looking ahead, American Lithium’s Clarke forecast continued geopolitical competition within the sector.

“There’s a real initiative to wrest back some of the supply chain from … China,” he said.

“I think China is in such a dominant position, it’s going to be very hard to do that. But … I think you’re starting to see that approach happening.”

How Sono, Aptera and Lightyear are making solar powered EVs a reality

The world’s first commercial solar electric vehicles are hitting the U.S. and European markets in the next few years. German company Sono Motors, Southern California-based Aptera Motors, and Dutch company Lightyear are all producing electric vehicles with integrated solar panels, which can harness the sun’s power to provide around 15-45 additional miles on a clear day.

These vehicles also have regular, lithium-based batteries that can be charged using electricity from the grid, so for longer drives these cars essentially function like a standard EV. But for commuters and other short-distance drivers, the majority of their miles could be fueled almost entirely from the sun, free of charge.

Dan Kammen, professor of energy at U.C. Berkeley, said he expects this tech will make good financial sense for many consumers.

“Solar panels are so inexpensive and integrating them into the skins is so easy that once you get over that initial learning curve, those initial couple thousand vehicles out there, it’s hard for me to envision that this won’t be cost-effective,” Kammen said.

The cars coming to market

The Sono Sion, which is expected to begin production in Europe in mid-2023, is priced starting at just $25,000. Its battery has a 190-mile range, and while the car also has 465 integrated solar half-cells on its exterior, the boxy, five-seat hatchback appears unassuming and practical.

“So this car gives you per year 5,700 miles free of charge, you know, free of any costs, because it comes from the sun. This is roughly 15 miles a day, which is perfect for commuters,” said Sono Motors co-CEO and co-founder Laurin Hahn. He said that when the Sion hits the U.S. market, it will make for an ideal second vehicle.

The Sono Sion is expected to begin production in Europe in mid-2023. The company says there are already 42,000 reservations for the vehicle.

Sono Motors

In terms of looks, Aptera’s vehicle is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Sono’s. Aptera’s zippy three-wheeler seats two, has motors in the wheels for greater efficiency, and is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. It’s set to begin production in the U.S. next year.

“When you start with aerodynamics as the basis for your vehicle, you end up with something that looks very different than everything else on the road. I mean, our vehicle looks more like a bird or a fish than it does almost anything else on the road today,” said Aptera CEO Chris Anthony.

Production of Aptera Motors’ solar electric two-seater vehicle is set to begin next year in Carlsbad, California. The company says there are 37,000 pre-orders for the vehicle.

Aptera Motors

Depending on range and other optional features, the Aptera costs between $26,000 and $48,000. Because it’s so lightweight, Aptera’s premium model has a lithium-ion battery with a 1,000-mile range. Its base model has a 250-mile range, before the 30 or so miles from solar that Anthony said you’ll get on an average Southern California day.

Then there’s the Lightyear 0, which is expected to hit the roads in Europe by the end of this year. Like Aptera, the Lightyear has in-wheel motors and was designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. But while the vehicle’s body is sleek, the Lightyear seats five and looks much more like a typical car. Its lithium-ion battery gets 390 miles per charge, with an average of 20 or so additional miles from solar, up to nearly 45 miles.

The Lightyear 0 is expected to hit the roads in Europe by the end of this year. A mass-market vehicle, the Lightyear 2, is expected sometime in 2025.

Lightyear

“A lot of the reasons why people are not switching to EVs are charging and range, and they’re not at the same level as a combustion car today,” said Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot. He said the company is targeting customers who would not normally have considered buying an electric vehicle. “So we’re going to a level where actually you have to recharge less than you would have to refuel when you had the combustion car.”

The Lightyear 0 will cost a whopping $250,000, but Hoefsloot said that’s because the initial model is a limited release. When production scales and the Lightyear 2 hits the market in 2025, Hoefsloot said, it will cost $30,000.

The future of solar electric cars

It may be awhile before we start seeing other automakers incorporating solar into their electric vehicles, though, since just slapping solar panels on many larger, heavier vehicles might not provide enough power to justify the added cost, however small.

Manufacturers nowadays have chosen the kind of lazy man’s approach to building electric cars, where if they want more range, they put in a bigger battery,” Hoefsloot said. “And more and more manufacturers are starting to realize that the bigger battery will still remain very expensive going into the future. So efficiency really is the way to increase that range without needing to pay for a large battery.”

Because top-of-the-line solar panels are only about 22% efficient, and the small surface area of these cars limits how many panels they can have, these first-generation solar electric cars won’t support long-distance drives. But as technologies such as solar glass, which can turn windows into solar panels, improve, Kammen sees a future where driving 80 or 100 miles on solar power alone is a possibility.

“It really builds into this idea that as we electrify transportation, we’re not actually going to be stressing the grid,” he said. “More vehicles themselves can be more and more autonomous. And in the end, I think we’re going to be selling electricity out of our solar cars back into the grid.”

Watch the video to learn more about the companies making solar cars a reality.

Lower operating loss, confirms guidance

Polestar 3

Courtesy: Polestar

Swedish electric-vehicle maker Polestar said Friday that its third-quarter operating loss narrowed from a year ago as revenue more than doubled, and it confirmed that it still expects to deliver 50,000 vehicles in 2022.

But the company warned that higher costs and supply-chain issues will continue to squeeze its margins into 2023.

Here are the key numbers from Polestar’s third-quarter earnings report, its first as a public company following its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company in June.

  • Revenue: $435.4 million, versus $212.9 million in the third quarter of 2021
  • Operating loss: $196.4 million, down from $292.9 million a year ago

Despite the operating loss, Polestar was able to report a net profit of $299.4 million, or 14 cents per share, thanks to an accounting credit related to the revaluation of future share payouts. (Because Polestar’s share price has fallen since it went public, it will have to pay out less than it had previously expected, hence the credit.)

Shares rose sharply after the report and ended Friday’s session up over 20%.

“I would like to reiterate: Polestar is a real car company,” CEO Thomas Ingenlath said during the earnings call. “We are putting cars on the road today and we are delivering on our ambitious growth plan.”

CFO Johan Malmqvist said that Polestar’s lower operating loss was helped by its efforts to reduce costs, specifically short-term reductions in advertising and marketing spending. On the other hand, foreign exchange headwinds exacerbated the loss, and those are expected to continue into next year.

“As our cars are produced in China, the majority of our costs are in renminbi, which has strengthened against European currencies, leading to a higher cost of sale,” Malmqvist said during the earnings call.

Malmqvist said that Polestar still expects to deliver 50,000 vehicles in 2022, generating about $2.4 billion in revenue for the full year, both in line with its prior guidance. Those numbers imply deliveries of about 19,600 vehicles in the fourth quarter, producing about $924 million in revenue – and those vehicles are already built and in transit to customers now, he said.

Polestar ended the third quarter with about $988 million in cash, and it has since secured a $1.6 billion credit line from its two main owners, Volvo Cars and Chinese automaker Geely. That’s enough to fund the company through 2023, Malmqvist said.

Lucid (LCID) earnings Q3 2022

Electric vehicle start-up Lucid on Sept. 28, 2021 said production of its first cars for customers has started at its factory in in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Lucid

Electric vehicle maker Lucid Group on Tuesday reported that it lost $530 million in the third quarter but confirmed that it’s still on track to make between 6,000 and 7,000 of its Air luxury sedans in 2022.

Shares were down 9% in after-market trading.

Here’s what the company reported:

  • Revenue: $195.5 million, versus $232,000 in the year-ago quarter, when it was beginning production of the Air sedan.
  • Loss per share: 40 cents, versus a loss of 43 cents in the year-ago period.

On Oct. 12, Lucid said that it produced 2,282 vehicles and delivered 1,398 vehicles to customers in the third quarter. CFO Sherry House told CNBC in an interview that many of the remaining vehicles are in transit to customers, and that the company’s production totals may exceed deliveries for the next few quarters as it ramps up production.

Lucid also confirmed that it plans to open reservations for its next vehicle, an electric luxury SUV previewed by its Project Gravity show vehicle, early next year.

Lucid said that it had “over 34,000” reservations as of Nov. 7. When it last reported its reservation total, on Aug. 3, it had “over 37,000” customer reservations. Lucid said in April that Saudi Arabia’s government had agreed to buy up to 100,000 of its vehicles over the next 10 years; those vehicles aren’t included in the reservation totals.

The company said it ended the third quarter with $3.85 billion of cash, down from $4.6 billion as of June 30.

Lucid confirmed that it’s still on track to meet the revised production guidance it first gave in August, when it said that it expects to produce between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles in 2022, despite ongoing supply-chain disruptions. CEO Peter Rawlinson told CNBC that Lucid now has the capacity to make 300 vehicles per week, and that it expects to further increase that production rate in the coming months.

Nikola (NKLA) earnings Q3 2022

Nikola Motor Company

Source: Nikola Motor Company

Electric heavy truck maker Nikola said that it produced 75 trucks in the third quarter, and delivered 63 to dealers before quarter-end, generating enough revenue to beat Wall Street’s expectations.

But the company trimmed its production guidance for the full year and declined to provide guidance for 2023. Nikola’s shares were down almost 3% in mid-morning trading.

The news was included in Nikola’s third-quarter earnings report, released on Thursday morning. Here are fthe key numbers, compared with Refinitiv consensus estimates:

  • Adjusted loss per share: 28 cents vs. 39 cents expected
  • Revenue: $24.2 million vs. $22.1 million expected

The 75 trucks built during the third quarter is an improvement over the 50 it built during the second quarter and brings the company’s year-to-date production to 125. But Nikola won’t build as many trucks this year as it had originally planned: It previously told investors that it planned to build between 300 and 500 trucks by the end of 2022, but on Thursday it said that it now expects to build between 255 and 305 trucks by year-end.

Nikola declined to give production guidance for 2023, citing uncertainties around the timing and costs of its planned factory expansions.

Michael Lohscheller, who officially became Nikola’s CEO on Thursday following Mark Russell’s retirement, said that Nikola made “significant advancements” in building out a hydrogen refueling network ahead of the planned launch of its fuel-cell-powered trucks next year. The company said last month that it’s working to have access to up to 300 metric tons of hydrogen gas per day, as it aims to have 60 refueling stations up and running by 2026.

Nikola said it’s on track to complete 17 “beta”, or pre-production, fuel cell trucks by the end of 2022. The company built 6 in the third quarter; those trucks will be used for pilot tests with Walmart and other truck-fleet operators.

Nikola said Thursday that it had about $404 million in cash on hand as of the end of the quarter, down from about $587 million as of June 30. The company said that total included $100.5 million raised via an “at-the-market” stock offering.

Nikola filed a registration statement in August that allows it to raise a total of $400 million via sales of new stock from time to time.

Nikola completed the acquisition of one of its battery-pack suppliers, Romeo Power, in October. Nikola said that bringing Romeo’s operations in-house could save it up to $350 million over the next four years. The truck maker paid $144 million in stock – no cash – for Romeo.

Fisker confirms Ocean SUV production will start on time

Henrik Fisker stands with the Fisker Ocean electric vehicle after it was unveiled at the Manhattan Beach Pier ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobilityLA on November 16, 2021 in Manhattan Beach, California.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Electric vehicle startup Fisker said Wednesday it is on track to begin production of its first model, the Ocean SUV, later this month as planned — and that it now has more than 62,000 reservations for the vehicle, up from over 56,000 as of early August.

CEO Henrik Fisker told CNBC the company plans to manufacture 42,400 Oceans by the end of next year. The Ocean will be built in Austria by a unit of Magna International, with production ramping up in four phases to allow Fisker’s suppliers to scale their manufacturing in line with Magna’s.

The majority of those vehicles will be built in the second half of 2023, Fisker said.

Fisker said that his team is exploring the idea of moving production of the Ocean to the U.S. before 2025, but as of now has no firm plans to do so.

We're on target to deliver the vehicle in November, says Fisker CEO

The automaker reported a net loss of $149.3 million for the third quarter, or 49 cents per share, versus a loss of $109.8 million or 37 cents per share in the year-earlier period. It had $824.7 million in cash remaining as of Sept. 30, including about $116 million raised from an “at-the-market” stock offering announced earlier this year.

Fisker said that work on its second model, a low-cost EV called the Pear, is progressing ahead of schedule.

The company said it now has over 5,000 reservations for the Pear, which will be built by Foxconn Technology Group in the former Lordstown Motors factory in Ohio, starting in 2024.

EV battery firm Britishvolt averts immediate collapse with short-term funding

Charging points for electric vehicles in London, England.

Jon Challicom | Moment | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K.-based electric vehicle battery firm Britishvolt said Wednesday it had secured short-term funding, a move that will enable it to stave off administration for the time being. The company said its employees had also agreed to a pay cut for November.

In a statement published by Sky News, the firm said: “While the weakening economic situation is negatively impacting much business investment at present, at Britishvolt we are continuing to pursue positive ongoing discussions with potential investors.”

“In addition, we have also received promising approaches from several more international investors in the past few days.”

“The result is we have now secured the necessary near-term investment that we believe enables us to bridge over the coming weeks to a more secure funding position for the future.”

“To further reduce our near-term costs, our dedicated employee team has also voluntarily agreed to a temporary salary reduction for the month of November.”

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Britishvolt is looking to build a gigafactory in the county of Northumberland, northeast England. The company has received backing from mining giant Glencore, among others.

So-called gigafactories are facilities that produce batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been widely credited as coining the term.

Britishvolt, which attracted attention due to its bullish plans, had previously said its plant would have the capacity to produce more than 300,000 EV battery packs each year.

In January of this year, it said the first phase of the gigafactory would begin production in the fourth quarter of 2023 or the start of 2024.

The U.K. is looking to increase the number of electric vehicles on its road in the years ahead.

Authorities wants to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030. They will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions.

The European Union, which the U.K. left on Jan. 31, 2020, is pursuing similar targets.

French project aims to supply Europe with lithium

A Lithium-ion battery photographed at a Volkswagen facility in Germany. The EU is looking to increase the number of electric vehicles on its roads in the coming years.

Ronny Hartmann | AFP | Getty Images

Paris-headquartered minerals giant Imerys plans to develop a lithium extraction project that it’s hoped will help meet demand and secure supply for Europe’s emerging electric vehicle market.

In a statement Monday, Imerys said its Emili Project would be located at a site in the center of France, with the company targeting 34,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide production each year from 2028.

According to the business, this level of production would be enough to “equip approximately 700,000 electrical vehicles per year.”

Alongside its use in cell phones, computers, tablets and a host of other gadgets synonymous with modern life, lithium — which some have dubbed “white gold” — is crucial to the batteries that power electric vehicles.

The project being planned by Imerys is taking shape at a time when major economies like the EU are looking to ramp up the number of electric vehicles on their roads.

The EU plans to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans from 2035. The U.K., which left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020, is pursuing similar targets.

With demand for lithium rising, the European Union — of which France is a member — is attempting to shore up its own supplies and reduce dependency on other parts of the world.   

In a translation of her State of the Union speech last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas.”

As well as addressing security of supply, von der Leyen, who switched between several languages during her speech, also stressed the importance of processing.

“Today, China controls the global processing industry,” she said. “Almost 90% … of rare earth[s] and 60% of lithium are processed in China.”

“So we will identify strategic projects all along the supply chain, from extracting to refining, from processing to recycling,” she added. “And we will build up strategic reserves where supply is at risk.”

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Back in France, Imerys said it was finalizing what it described as a “technical scoping study” in order to “explore various operational options and refine geological and industrial aspects relating to the lithium extraction and processing method.”

The site selected for the project has, since the end of the 19th century, been used to produce a type of clay called kaolin for use in the ceramics industry.

The construction capital expenditure of the proposed lithium project is estimated to be around 1 billion euros (roughly $980 million), Imerys added.

“Upon successful completion, the project would contribute to the French and European Union’s energy transition ambitions,” the company said. “It would also increase Europe’s industrial sovereignty at a time when car and battery manufacturers are heavily dependent on imported lithium, which is a key element in the energy transition.”

In recent years, a range of factors has created pressure points when it comes to the supply of the materials crucial for EVs, an issue the International Energy Agency highlighted earlier this year in its Global EV Outlook.

“The rapid increase in EV sales during the pandemic has tested the resilience of battery supply chains, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has further exacerbated the challenge,” the IEA’s report noted, adding that prices of materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel have soared.

“In May 2022, lithium prices were over seven times higher than at the start of 2021,” it added. “Unprecedented battery demand and a lack of structural investment in new supply capacity are key factors.”

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In a recent interview with CNBC, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz sketched out the current state of play, as he saw it when it came to the raw materials required for EVs and their batteries.

“Raw material prices have been quite volatile in the last 12 to 18 months — some have spiked and actually some have come back down again,” Ola Kallenius said.

“But it is true as we become electric, all-electric and more and more automakers go into the electric space, there is a need to increase mining capacities and refining capacities for lithium, nickel, and some of those raw materials that are needed to produce electric cars.”

“We have everything that we need now, but we need to look into the mid to long-term and work with the mining industry here to increase capacities.”

Chinese EV stocks Nio, BYD, Li Auto, Xpeng fall sharply amid selloff

Nio began deliveries of its new ET7, an upscale electric sedan, on Monday, March 28, 2022.

Nio

U.S.-traded shares of Chinese electric vehicle makers were among those hit by a dramatic sell-off Monday, as investors soured on non-state-run Chinese companies following a weekend of dramatic political developments in China.

Shares of Li Auto were down nearly 19%, Nio’s were down 17%, and Xpeng Motors’ plunged 13% in afternoon trading in New York, while shares of larger BYD were down about 9%. Other prominent Chinese companies including Alibaba and Tencent Music Entertainment suffered similarly dramatic declines.

The sell-off followed a weekend in which President Xi Jinping appeared poised for an unprecedented third term as China’s leader after naming a series of loyalists to the Politburo standing committee, the inner circle of power in China’s ruling Communist Party.   

Under Xi’s leadership, China’s government has increased restrictions on speech and movement and tightened regulations on technology companies. Analysts see further constraints ahead, with Bernstein’s Mark Schilsky writing in a Monday morning note that Chinese stocks are now “uninvestable.”

Xpeng separately on Monday debuted a new version of its advanced driver-assist system, called XNGP. The new system, a direct rival to Tesla’s Autopilot, allows for limited hands-free driving in some urban environments as well as on highways.