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From free electric bikes to new infrastructure, cities are changing

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The U.K.’s first “Dutch-style” roundabout, in Cambridge, prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians over motorists.

Joe Giddens | PA Images | Getty Images

In the latest example of how the cities we live and work in are changing, a city in northern England has launched a free trial of electric bikes in a bid to encourage commuters to ditch their cars and use two wheels instead.

The scheme, in Leeds, will enable people to use the bikes for as long as two weeks, providing they put down a £200 (roughly $256) deposit, and the trips people undertake can be up to 10 miles each way. In total, 15 bikes will be available: 10 of these are fixed-frame, while the other five are foldable.

Leeds’ electric bike scheme follows on from another trial in the city that gave charities and businesses the chance to use electric vans for free.

“Since launching the electric van trials scheme earlier this year, participants taking part have invested in cleaner and greener vans of their own so we’re excited to launch this similar offer for electric bikes,” James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader, said in a statement issued Monday.

“As part of our transport strategy, we’re working hard to make cycling an everyday choice for people in Leeds,” Lewis added. “Electric bikes have a really exciting potential to make it easier and more accessible to many.”

Leeds is not alone in its attempts to encourage the use of electric bikes. Parts of the U.K. capital, London, also offer a scheme in the same vein: This summer saw a firm called HumanForest roll out electric bike hire – free to use for 20 minutes a day before charging a fee of 0.12 pence per minute – in Islington and Camden.

Green travel

The desire of municipal and national authorities to develop greener infrastructure and encourage more sustainable forms of transport looks like it’s here to stay. Major cities such as New York, Paris and London, for instance, already boast well established and popular cycle hire programs.

On Tuesday the Scottish city of Aberdeen said it would work with experts from energy major BP to cut emissions and “become a climate positive city.”

The collaboration will focus on a number of areas such as: The use of hydrogen in transportation and for heat and power; the development of “solutions for clean, low emission vehicles”; and boosting energy efficiency within buildings.

The U.K. government on Wednesday announced £12 million in funding for electric vehicle research projects, including ones looking at the rapid charging of batteries. 

While the roll out of electric vehicles, as well as the infrastructure that’s required to make them run smoothly, is encouraging, much more needs to be done to reach climate goals.

In a statement sent to CNBC via email, Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism at Sustrans, a charity focused on walking and cycling, described electrification as being a “step in the right direction for urban mobility.”

“Electric cycles in particular open up cycling for last mile deliveries, people travelling further distances, along with those wanting to try cycling for the first time,” Narayanan said, highlighting a number of talking points. 

“However, if we really want to meet decarbonisation targets, we need to think beyond electrification, and in particular electric cars,” she said. “Whilst the air quality emissions from combustion are reduced, the brake and tyre emissions from electric cars can still result in dangerous levels of particulate matter.”

Changing layouts

With efforts underway to encourage both walking and the use of bicycles, the physical infrastructure of cities is also undergoing a change with the development of segregated cycle lanes and wider sidewalks taking place.

Even roundabouts, a big feature of roads in the U.K., are starting to look different. At the end of July, in the city of Cambridge, a “Dutch-style” roundabout was officially opened.

The roundabout, described by Cambridgeshire County Council as “the first of its kind in the U.K.,” has been designed to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over motor vehicles.

A system of pedestrian crossings and cycle lanes means that, on their approach to and exit from the junction, vehicles have to give way to pedestrians and cyclists.

Whether it is the introduction of electric vehicles or changes to the layout of roads, the cities and towns we live in are changing.

“Ultimately, we need fewer, not just cleaner cars on our streets, and solutions that have a better impact on urban space, liveability, congestion, and public health should be prioritised,” Sustrans’ Narayanan said. “Streets and places that invite people to walk and cycle will help us tackle air pollution from motor vehicles, and create healthier, happier cities.”

 

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Ford unveils new self-driving test vehicle for 2022 launch

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Ford Motor plans to launch its self-driving vehicle businesses in 2022 with vehicles based on its Escape Hybrid crossover.

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Ford Motor plans to launch its self-driving commercial business in 2022 with vehicles based on the Ford Escape Hybrid crossover, the company said Tuesday.

The vehicles are the automaker’s fourth-generation self-driving test vehicles in partnership with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle start-up. Ford and German automaker Volkswagen AG split an 80% majority stake in the company earlier this year.

Ford said the vehicles will begin testing this month alongside its current fleet of roughly 100 autonomous test vehicles that are based off the Fusion Hybrid sedan, which the company is no longer producing.

The next-generation vehicles include “launch-intent” technologies that are needed to support commercialization, according to John Davis, chief engineer of Ford’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary.

“With our fourth-generation test vehicle, we have everything we need from a vehicle to stand up our self-driving service,” Davis wrote in a Medium post Tuesday

The upgrades include higher resolution cameras, more capable radar sensors and more advanced Lidar technology, which uses lasers to map surrounding areas.

Ford plans to integrate the new vehicles into test fleets in Austin, Texas; Detroit; Miami; Palo Alto, California; Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Ford initially planned to launch a commercial self-driving vehicle business in 2021 but delayed it until 2022, citing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also previously announced plans to use a purpose-built autonomous vehicle without manual controls such as a steering wheel and pedals for its commercial fleet.

A Ford spokesman on Tuesday confirmed that those plans remain in tact but will be based on several factors, including safety, regulations and community acceptance of self-driving vehicles.


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MSSL signs strategic agreement to acquire Bombardier’s Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems business

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New Delhi: Auto component major Motherson Sumi Systems Limited (MSSL), via its Mexican subsidiary, Motherson Rolling Stocks S. de R.L. de C.V. (MRS), Tuesday said it has signed an asset sale and purchase agreement to acquire the activities of Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS) performed at Bombardier Transportation’s manufacturing site in Huehuetoca, Mexico (BT Ensambles México) .

MRS is part of the Motherson Rolling Stock Division which designs and manufactures electrical cabinets, power packs and electrical distribution systems for leading rolling stock manufacturers.

MSSL, through PKC Group (acquired in March 2017), is engaged in the manufacturing of wiring harnesses for rolling stock, mainly in Europe and the Americas region. In 2019, the company through its subsidiary Motherson Rolling Stock Systems GB Limited, UK (MRSS) acquired Bombardier’s UK rolling stock electrical component and systems business in Derby. Now, with the execution of this definitive agreement between MRS and Bombardier, the relationship will expand to Mexico.

The transaction includes the transfer of assets, employees and inventories, on a debt-free and cash-free basis and is valued at around $ 10 million approx. (subject to customary adjustments). The revenue of the said business was $ 25 million for calendar year 2019. The transaction is subject to customary closing events and expected to complete in Q4 FY20-21.

BT Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS) provides world-class harnesses and electrical assembly based on standard solutions. MRS will continue manufacturing the same electrical harnesses product as today at the Huehuetoca site in Mexico with enhanced efficiency in time-to-market, on-time delivery and cost structure. Both companies are now working on the smooth transition of employees and business, to mitigate any potential impacts and expect to close the transaction in Q4 FY20-21.

Vivek Chaand Sehgal, Chairman, MSSL said, “Our focus is always on adding value to our customers’ supply chain and catering to their requirements. This is another step forward in that direction. We are further strengthening the relationship with Bombardier under the global partnership agreement and our collective strength will position us as a preferred solutions provider to our customers in the rolling stock business.”

“The acquisition of the business will enable us to be a truly global partner to our customers as we get the opportunity to serve them in the North American market”, said Andre Gerstner, President, Rolling Stock Division, PKC Group.

“The global rail market is extremely dynamic and has become increasingly competitive. Bombardier Transportation aims to enhance its adaptability and agility to changing market conditions, in order to continue to increase its competitiveness and improve its global footprint. This divestiture is in alignment with our global transformation strategy of reducing the activities to our core- and integrating competencies”, said Jim Vounassis, Chief Operating Officer, Bombardier Transportation.

“The transaction is beneficial to both parties since Bombardier has been seeking to establish a long-term supplier partnership for electrical harnesses and assemblies in the Americas region and MRS is an excellent strategic partner for this”, added, Elliot G. Sander, President, Americas Region, Bombardier Transportation.


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GM to invest more than $2 billion in the U.S. to increase EV production

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Engines assembled as they make their way through the assembly line at the General Motors (GM) manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, August 22, 2019.

Harrison McClary | Reuters

General Motors is investing more than $2.2 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations, largely to increase production of electric vehicles, the company announced Tuesday.

The investment is the latest for the Detroit automaker as it pivots toward EVs under GM CEO Mary Barra’s “triple zero” vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion — an overarching goal for the company.

Since March 2019, GM has committed to invest more than $4.5 billion in three U.S. manufacturing sites to prepare for EV-related production. The company has previously said it plans to release at least 20 new electric vehicles globally by 2023, including the upcoming GMC Hummer EV, which will be unveiled Tuesday night.

“We are committed to investing in the U.S., our employees and our communities,” Barra said in a statement. “These investments underscore the success of our vehicles today, and our vision of an all-electric future.”

Shares of GM were up about 5% on Tuesday ahead of the Hummer unveiling and as BofA Securities said GM’s “sold business plan” is not reflected in the company’s stock price.

The more than $2.2 billion in new investments will occur in the coming years, according to the company.

Roughly $2 billion of that money will go toward a plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, for production of future electric vehicles, including the recently unveiled Cadillac Lyriq crossover. Renovation work at the facility, which will be GM’s third in the U.S. to produce EVs, will begin immediately, according to the automaker.

In connection with the announcement, GM will eventually move production of the GMC Acadia from the Tennessee plant to a facility in mid-Michigan. The company said it will invest more than $100 million at the Lansing Delta Township plant for assembly of the next-generation Acadia crossover at an undisclosed time.

Separately from EVs, GM on Tuesday also announced new investments of roughly $53.3 million at four plants in Michigan to increase production of its heavy-duty pickup trucks, self-driving Cruise AV test vehicles and 10-speed transmissions.


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